Exploration: June 2009 Archives

NASA pitches cheaper moon plan, AP

"They are hedging their bets," agreed Keith Cowing, a former NASA engineer who runs the Nasawatch.com web site, which acts as a watchdog on the space agency. "It clearly reflects some doubts among senior agency folks in the overall veracity of their current approach." NASA spokesman Michael Curie said Shannon was encouraged to make the presentation "in the spirit of sharing the options we've studied in the past." But he added: "NASA believes the best plan is to fully fund the current architecture ... This does not indicate a lack of confidence in or support for the current program."

Keith's note: John Shannon's presentation represents more than just what ESAS "studied in the past". If that was the case, then why not just have Shannon use old ESAS charts? Why have people go off and restudy it and make fancy (expensive) new graphics and animations? Shannon's presentation represented a contemporary analysis of the sidemount shuttle option in the light of what progress Ares has made, the problems that it has encountered, and the current funding and political climate NASA finds itself in.

Video: NASA Shuttle-derived Sidemount Heavy Launch Vehicle Concept, previous post

Going Beyond The Status Quo In Space, Dennis Wingo, Paul Spudis, and Gordon Woodcock

"Why the Moon? While appearing barren, the Moon has the resources upon which to build a prototype space civilization. It is a power-rich environment, permitting initial steps to be undertaken using proven, inexpensive solar power generation technology. The Moon is readily accessible from Earth at almost any time. This accessibility makes it a practical site for such a pioneering development - one that is convenient enough to Earth so as to enable trade, travel and telepresence operation. In contrast, Mars and the inner solar system asteroids have infrequent travel opportunities and comparatively long trip times. They won't work for first steps towards economic development of the solar system. With experience and technology from developing the Moon in hand, Mars can then be settled and the rest of the inner solar system can be developed in a cost effective manner."

Lessons for the future of human space flight, Wes Huntress, SpaceReview

"Sixth, the rationale for the program must be articulated for the public. A question from the very first public commenter at the Committee's opening meeting hit the mark. "NASA's focus is on engineering and vehicles. There has been no explanation of what we are going to do when we get there. What's the plan and are we going beyond the Moon? You won't get public interest and sustain it until we know these things." NASA has proven itself technically competent but publicly impotent in spite of many studies internal and external that have articulated the imperatives for exploring space. Ironically, the administration's 2004 Vision for Space Exploration did it quite well in very few words. The Committee would serve the nation and its space program well by expressing these imperatives for the public and its representatives in the Congress and the administration."

Everest +30

Preview: Confessions of a Moon Rock Courier

"I have been home from my trip to Mt. Everest in Nepal for a month. That trip lasted for a month and a half. I was gone longer than I have been back. While I have readjusted to my life here, part of me is very much still there. And to be honest, I like that situation. That said, I am still trying to process all that happened at Everest.

I watched a friend prepare and then depart for a trip to the summit of Mt. Everest. I witnessed two incredible avalanches, one of which killed someone. I suffered severe dehydration and food poisoning which put me, at one point, in a rather hazardous situation. I hiked 14,000 feet across difficult terrain. I then lived in a cold tent atop an active glacier with half the oxygen I had spent 53 years breathing, losing 21 pounds in 6 weeks. I watched a steady stream of people try - and turn back from - their attempt at the summit while others were evacuated with severe medical issues. "

Keith's note: The Augustine Committee hearing held last week is now archived for viewing on USTREAM.

Painting The Moon

An Astronaut Goes From Walking on the Moon to Painting It, NY Times

"Becoming a painter has been a long slog for Mr. Bean, who describes himself as a slow learner. He has had to give up the hyper-rational way of seeing the world he had learned as a Navy test pilot and engineer. He has trained himself to see things not as they are but as they feel to him, to translate emotions into colors and to resist his scientific urges. "When I left NASA, I made up my mind I was not going to be an astronaut who painted, but an artist who used to be an astronaut," he said. "It takes a while to change the heart."

A Passion For Space

A Passion For Space, Major Jack Fisher

"Several weeks ago, I saw my first space shuttle launch. STS-125 majestically rose to the heavens with crackling defiance, leaving behind a massive trail of fire and smoke - proof that man had once again slipped the surly bonds and bested Newton's hold. It was a re-awakening for me, and hearkened back to a young boy standing beneath the behemoth Saturn V, filled with post-Apollo euphoria and brimming with an unbridled passion for space. Thirty years later, space exploration is plagued with dated paradigms, abysmal acquisition performance, a growing list of hazards, and a history of administrations buying into the false economy of slashing NASA budgets - cutting the fuel line for the very engine that can drive our future."

Keith's note: this article was suggested to me by my old friend Gil Moore. It was given by Air ForceLt. Col. (Sel.)Jack Fischerpresented in April at the Aerospace Corporation-sponsored Space Power Workshop at Manhattan Beach, CA.

Back to the Moon

Tom Hanks and Ron Howard: Space geeks, New Scientst

"So what does excite you?

TH: I want to go back and relive the Apollo 17 mission, when Harrison Schmitt and Eugene Cernan lived on the moon for three days. They drove an electric car and it was a flawless mission. As Schmitt was a geologist, they got so much good science done. Alas, it was the last Apollo mission. Neil and Buzz just walked around for an hour and a half, got back in and took a nap. That's all they did. Don't write that down [laughs] - I just saw Buzz two nights ago. I don't want to rag on what they did. Here's what they did: they proved it was possible. Neil and Buzz did not die and made it back safe. They cheated death!"

NASA Solicitation: NASA 40th Anniversary "Salute to Apollo: The Kennedy Legacy"

"NASA Headquarters (HQ), Office of Strategic Communications, plans to host the NASA 40th Anniversary of Apollo "Salute to Apollo: The Kennedy Legacy", July 18, 2009, at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts with the National Symphony Orchestra. The Kennedy Center is renowned worldwide for its unique premiere location for distinctive special events. As the national center for the performing arts, the Kennedy Center honors the memory of President Kennedy and since President Kennedy is largely responsible for the Apollo program and human's first steps on the moon it is crucial for this particular performance to take place at the Kennedy Center. The Center has agreed to host the National Symphony Orchestra to perform a concert of works including Holst's "The Planets", popular, film and television music about space."

The evening event on this date is still listed as TBD at the Kennedy Center

AP Interview: Ex-NASA head critical of Obama move, AP

"But Griffin doesn't have the same warm feelings about the administration's decision to study NASA's plan for the manned spaceflight program. Critics both outside and inside the agency have questioned NASA's plans for returning to the moon and, eventually, traveling to Mars. "This review is not, in my judgment, necessary from a technical point of view," he said. "But it does seem to be necessary if we are going to quiet some of the criticism of what NASA is doing, and if we are going to get the new administration on board."

Keith's note: Gee Mike, where do I start - how about the rocket you designed (Ares 1) - one that still does not have a workable design after a PDR that is still not complete; cannot launch the Orion vehicle it was supposed to be able to launch (requiring a crew reduction); risks crew injury during use of its launch escape system (as currently designed); and despite misinformation from MSFC to the contrary (as currently designed), still exposes crews to unacceptable vibrations (JSC report on its way to HQ). I'd say there is ample doubt to fuel a re-examination of your plans.

You can catch up with Mike and Becky at GriffinSpace LLC - when they get their website online, that is.

Feasibility of using Constellation Architecture for Servicing Existing and Future Observatory-Class Scientific Spacecraft, NASA SMD

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is soliciting information through this Request for Information (RFI) to improve its understanding of using the capabilities of its Constellation System, adaptations of the Constellation System architectures, and/or robotic technologies to service a wide range of notional science observatory-class spacecraft. The NASA-defined notional missions studied will be consistent with NASA's current portfolio of future space science missions and/or conceptual mission ideas that were presented to the National Research Council's (NRC's) Committee on Science Opportunities Enabled by NASA's Constellation System during the spring of 2008. These notional missions include observatories designed to operate in Low-Earth Orbit (LEO), at Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO), and at Earth-Sun Lagrangian points L1 and L2."

Keith's note: You know, after 3 stints on Devon Island - two of which were for a month on site, I have gotten to be very good at doing the mental adjustment to expeditionary life. I just fall into it and go with the flow. Life in a tent, working with electronics and frozen fingers in a tent, eating awful food in a tent, separation from my wife ... been there, done that.

[Image: outside my tent packing my bags for the trip down to Kathmandu collecting some rocks for the folks back home enlarge]

But .... so much happened so fast at Everest that I just surfed over it - with the focus on getting the tasks at hand accomplished. When I got sick with food poisoning down at Periche, I focused like a laser beam upon dragging my dehydrated body back to Everest Base Camp - undaunted - to complete my "mission".

And then Scott summited and a day later we were gone.

Now things are flooding back ... my physical summit was Kala Pattar - 18,600 feet - but my emotional summit is still in formulation.

All very strange - but enjoyably strange - its uncharted territory for me.

I need to write the story "Confessions of a Moon Rock Courier" this week. The impression that Sherpas have of holding a moon rock in their hands is ... humbling - and instructive. If only we Westerners could be so simple and pure in our appreciation as to what these moon rocks represent.

Clueless on Mars

Keith's note: Based on this message being circulated by Washington DC area Mars Society members, it would seem that the organization needs to provide some better information to its membership. The author asks "Who is Mr Augustine anyway, and why was the fellow considered a good lead for this effort?". Perhaps NASA Watch readers can fill them in on Mr. Augustine's background.

Full message below

NASA Solicitation: Armstrong Oil Painting

"[SPECIFICATIONS] The specifications are: (1) One (1) each: The artist will prepare a prototype study/concept sketch for approval of content and concept prior to executing the large oil painting. (2) One (1) each: The artist will deliver one large oil painting on canvas, approx. 5ft in height and 6 ft in width of Neil Armstrong. [SOLE SOURCE EXPLANATION] NASA/DFRC intends to purchase the item from Dr. Robert T. McCall. Dr. McCall has the unique expertise as a renowned artist and is a pre-eminent expert in communicating NASA Agency themes. He has been chosen as an artist for NASA, documenting the progress of American space history. Dr. McCall has done several other large paintings that are currently on display at this center, the Pentagon, the National Air and Space Museum, Johnson Space Center, and many others. He has technical familiarity with the subject matter and it establishes visual continuity with present works at NASA-DFRC."

Star Trek Designer to Receive NASA Public Service Medal, Wired

"A long-time Star Trek designer is being recognized by NASA for his longtime contributions to the look of the U.S. space program. Michael Okuda will receive the NASA Exceptional Public Service Medal for his work on multiple exploration missions. According to the space program, the medal recognizes "exceptional contributions to the mission of NASA." ... Over the years, Okuda did design work for Johnson Space Center, the Kennedy Space Center and the NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC. He also worked with Ground Control officer Bill Foster to design designed the "Spaceflight Memorial Patch," honoring the fallen astronauts of Apollo 1 and the lost Space Shuttle Challenger and Columbia crews. Okuda will receive the medal at a ceremony July 9 at Houston's Johnson Space Center."

Keith's note: As some of you may know, Mike has been a silent contributor to NASA Watch for years - often as the source of "vulcanized" science officers on the ISS. But he has had a much more overt role over the years as the designer of many of NASA's iconic logos. Indeed, Scott Parazynski and I were pleased to be able to put an autogaphed version of the Spaceflight Memorial Patch that Mike and Bill Foster designed on Scott's summit suit. In addition, another copy of that patch went to the summit of Mt. Everest on 20 May 2009.

The image below shows the patch prior to packing into Scott's "summit bling" kit.

Keith's note: Twitter note from Augustine Commission member Leroy Chiao (AstroDude) "In what direction should US NASA human spaceflight proceed? Let me know at: leroychiao.blogspot.com"

NASA Announces Members of Human Space Flight Review Committee

"NASA announced Monday the members of the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee. They are:

- Norman Augustine (chair), retired chairman and CEO, Lockheed Martin Corp., and former member of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush
- Dr. Wanda Austin, president and CEO, The Aerospace Corp.
- Bohdan Bejmuk, chair, Constellation program Standing Review Board, and former manager of the Boeing Space Shuttle and Sea Launch programs
- Dr. Leroy Chiao, former astronaut, former International Space Station commander and engineering consultant
- Dr. Christopher Chyba, professor of Astrophysical Sciences and International Affairs, Princeton University, and member, President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology
- Dr. Edward Crawley, Ford Professor of Engineering at MIT and co-chair, NASA Exploration Technology Development Program Review Committee
- Jeffrey Greason, co-founder and CEO, XCOR Aerospace, and vice-chair, Personal Spaceflight Federation
- Dr. Charles Kennel, chair, National Academies Space Studies Board, and director and professor
emeritus, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego
- Retired Air Force Gen. Lester Lyles, chair, National Academies Committee on the Rationale and Goals of the U.S. Civil Space Program, former Air Force vice chief of staff and former commander of the Air Force Materiel Command
- Dr. Sally Ride, former astronaut, first American woman in space, CEO of Sally Ride Science and professor emerita at the University of California, San Diego"

Waiting for Augustine, Space Review

"In an interview after his speech, Zubrin said that he expected the Augustine panel to look at broader goals for human spaceflight rather than tackle a detailed technical analysis of Constellation and competing architectures, given the names associated with the panel to date. "Either they say going to the Moon is stupid and we should keep going up and down to the space station, or going to the Moon is stupid and we should set ourselves a real goal, and that is to aim for Mars," he said."

"But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may ask, why climb the highest mountain? Why thirty five years ago fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas? We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy but because they are hard. Because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills. Because that challenge is one we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win."

This is the anniversary -- you know I'm big on anniversaries -- of the first ascent of Mt. Everest by Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary. Even JFK compared going into space with climbing the highest mountain. Since a good friend and college, Scott Parazynski, just completed his personal conquest of that mountain, it seems timely to review the comparison."


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This page is an archive of entries in the Exploration category from June 2009.

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