Exploration: July 2009 Archives

Forty Years Later, Rekindling The Character Of A Generation, Calvin Turzillo, SpaceRef

"Everyone who works for the United States Space Program always feels a certain sense of pride about what we do. We definitely don't do what we do for the money, we are probably some of the lowest paid scientific professionals in the country. We don't do what we do for job security, congress cuts our budgets and we have to lay off hard working people every year. We don't do what we do for the cushy hours, we often work extreme overtime and late nights to make sure the job gets done. We don't do what we do because of the fame and notoriety, no one knows who we are with the exception of the astronauts, and even then I doubt anyone in the general public could name a recent one.

We do what we do because we believe in what we do, we dream of a bright future, and we live for exploring the unknown."

Space Shuttle Crew Set To Return To Earth Friday

"Space shuttle Endeavour and its seven-member crew are scheduled to return to Earth on Friday after a 16-day mission. There are two landing opportunities at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 10:48 a.m. and 12:23 p.m. EDT."

Endeavor returns from research mission, WPRI

"The main goal of the 13-member crew was to measure ocean currents. Endeavor, which spends an average of 240 days at sea each year, is owned by the U.S. National Science Foundation and is operated by URI's Graduate School of Oceanography. The ship was originally built in 1975 and went through a mid-life refit in 1993."

Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee Meeting: MSFC

Keith's note: 8 a.m.-4 p.m. CDT. Watch it on USTREAM TV and the NASA TV Media Channel

You can track Twitter posts on this meeting - live - here

Former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin presents case for Ares rockets and NASA moon program to review panel, Huntsville Times

"Former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin made a private pitch this morning to continue with the Marshall Space Flight Center-managed Ares rocket programs and to fund NASA's ultimate plan for returning to the moon."

Statement by Michael Griffin to The Augustine Committee

"So I would say to the Commission: do not close off options. Do not allow the parochial voices of the small-minded, the self-interested, and the uninformed to prevail. Choose the future."

Keith's note: These webcams are now online at the Haughton Mars Project Research Station on Devon Island. They wiill be online until the first week of August. These webcams make use of new PlanetNet wireless technology, a Canadian Space Agency funded experiment, led by Simon Fraser University. These webcams are sponsored by NASAWatch's sister website, SpaceRef.com.

Webcam 1 inside the HMP office tent. Note that large coolers are used as seats.
Webcam 2 outside looking east toward "The Fortress" (rock outcropping) and the landing strip.

Video: Ad Astra VASIMR Full-Power, Full-Field Firing

"This image shows our achievement of full-power full-field for the 1st stage of VASIMR. In addition, here are some recent video posts documenting this achievement with our new superconducting magnet. The maximum magnetic field within the core of VASIMR is around 2 Tesla, about the same as most MRI machines."

Nonreimbursable Space Act Agreement Between Ad Astra Rocket Company and NASA, signed 5 Dec 2008.

"This Agreement becomes effective upon the date of the last signature below and shall remain in effect for a period of four (4) years from the date of the last signature."

Earlier posts

Ad Astra VX-200 Plasma Engine Demonstrates Superconducting First Stage at Full Power
Superconducting Magnet Delivered for Ad Astra's VASIMR Engine
NASA and Ad Astra Rocket Company sign Agreement for flight test of the VASIMR rocket engine aboard the International Space Station.
Ad Astra Rocket Company and NASA sign second collaborative agreement relating to the VASIMR engine

51% Oppose U.S. Manned Mission to Mars, Rasmussen Reports

"Buzz Aldrin, one of the three U.S. astronauts who first walked on the moon in 1969, says America's next goal should be sending a manned mission to Mars, but just 29% of Americans agree. Fifty-one percent (51%) of adults are opposed to sending someone to Mars as one of the current goals of the U.S. space program, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Twenty-one percent (21%) are not sure."

Keith's note: While addressing NASA employees yesterday Charlie Bolden asked the audience before him at NASA HQ "Is there anyone here who does not want to see humans go to Mars?" No hands were raised. It would seem that NASA employees are not in synch with the rest of the population - if you believe in polls. Apparently NASA does believe in polls because there was mention of NASA having recently done some polls in yesterday's employee address. So ... maybe Mr. Bolden should tone down the Mars talk. Or, if he is going to continue pushing Mars, perhaps he should start making a compelling case to that 51% who oppose it - and explain to them why it is important.

Keith's update: But wait, there are polls that show a slight majority in favor of sending humans to Mars. Given that the NASA audience was 100% in favor and these polls hover around 50% and the numbers tend to jump around from moment to moment there is still a substantial amount of distance between internal NASA thinking and what everyone else thinks. As such, Mr. Bolden still needs to get out and explain his interest/preference for Mars. Also, with regard to polls, It is one thing to poll people about "if" something should be done (that has not been undertaken yet). It is quite another to ask them about something that is actually under way.

Poll: Americans Say U.S. Should Go To Mars, CBS

"Fifty-one percent of those surveyed back the journey to Mars. Forty-three percent opposed it. In 2004, 48 percent said the U.S. should send astronauts to Mars, while in 1999 that figure was 58 percent."

Majority of Americans Say Space Program Costs Justified, Gallup

"Americans remain broadly supportive of space exploration and government funding of it. In fact, Americans are somewhat more likely to believe the benefits of the space program justify its costs at the 40th anniversary of the moon landing than they were at the 10th, 25th, and 30th anniversaries."

Column: Maybe it's time to rethink our spending on NASA and space exploration, opinion, Kalamazoo Gazette

"This year, NASA is costing each American household about $150. If that was put on a ballot, I wonder, would it pass? Maybe I'm missing something. Maybe the agency that helped invent Tang and Teflon really is more critical or more popular than I imagine. Or maybe it's time to regroup and rethink. Lots of people are wringing their hands these days about wasteful government spending. Should we be turning that attention to NASA?"

America needs the right stuff, The Leader

"President Barack Obama has vowed to continue the "inspirational mission" that the Apollo 11 crew started four decades ago. But that commitment is going to need more than just financing. The public needs to fall in love with space again. We need to play out the dramas of shuttle launches, waiting with bated breath to make sure our men and women come back safely. We need to carry on the torch that the rock-star astronauts of the past handed on to the lesser-known explorers of today. We need to care about the pursuit to change the question marks of the universe into definitive exclamation points. We need to believe that our living rooms are not the final frontier."

NASA's Second Chance

Keith's note: Charlie Bolden is no stranger to space exploration but he is a newbie in the Administrator's suite and the strange ecology of Washington, DC interactions that the job entails. His first three days on the job have been abnormal with all the Apollo hoopla swirling through everyone's heads. Most of the time it is going to be far less glamorous.

Without taking anything away from the refreshing enthusiasm that he brings to the job or his attempt to rekindle a spark in his employees today, one should consider the thinking that might be going on inside the heads of President Obama's staff, Congress and its staff, and other policy wonks here in Washington.

If NASA is already having all of the technical problems it is currently having just to recreate a steroidal version of a capability it once had decades ago, one might question whether it can reliably tackle larger tasks such as those involved in going to Mars. And it is Mars - not the Moon - that has been what Charlie Bolden has been talking about almost non-stop.

In addition to the technical challenges, given that the budget for NASA's current return to the Moon program has been underfunded in the extreme, one has to wonder what assurance Bolden will have that a much larger and more expansive program such as sending human to Mars is not going to be any more or less prone to underfunding? Yes the two are related - but NASA cannot blame all of its technical problems (i.e. Ares 1) on lack of funding.

Personally, I think NASA is up to the task - and that a solution set can be found - so long as the task is clearly specified, agreed to by Congress, and then funded by both the White House and Congress commensurate with agreeing to such a large scale program in the first place. At the same time, NASA must truly be held accountable for schedule and costs. The embarrassing, ever-mounting, bloated, cost estimates for Ares 1 as it continues to slip to the right are precisely the wrong thing to inspire confidence in those who have to make the big decisions and then keep their pledge to support them for the next 4 or 8 years.

The Augustine Committee will provide the Obama administration with a snapshot of where NASA is and where it could be going. It is then up to NASA to convince the White House that problems with the current approach can be fixed or that a new plan - perhaps a new architecture - or new goals are needed. The White House and Congress then need to be sold on the new course and commit to provide the resources and oversight required for NASA to make it happen.

There is a bit of gossip going around Washington that President Obama once mused that he'd give NASA money - a lot more money - if only they'd do something inspiring and relevant once again. The President talks repeatedly about sending humans to the Moon in the 1960's as an example of what America can do when it puts its collective mind to something. He supposedly sought out Leonard Nimoy in a hotel once so he could give him the Vulcan salute. He talks about sitting on his grandfather's shoulders watching Apollo crews welcomed home. There is no need to instill any notions about the inspirational value of space exploration in this man's head. He's got plenty of it already.

It is up to NASA and its people - with Charlie Bolden and Lori Garver at its helm - to take these blatant cues from the President and, in a post-Augustine Report world, to make the pieces fit and move forth once again.

NASA stumbled on its first leap out of the gate. NASA is now getting a second chance. NASA won't get a third. NASA really needs to get it right this time. If NASA does not, then it has no one but itself to blame.

Everyone seems primed and ready to help Charlie Bolden reorient things and to take advantage of this second chance. All too soon, however, that effort will collide with the lingering status quo. NASA may be called upon to cancel some things and dramatically alter others. It will be up to Bolden to push through that resistance and the formidable political forces that power that resistance. While his personality and enthusiasm are inspiring to many, it will take much more than that to prevail over the forces that will seek to hold him back.

Apollo 11 is now past us. Now the real work begins. Stay tuned.

Frank's note: Keith's observations here are timely and should be read by everyone new at the civil space agency. To me, there are two major issues before NASA: management and the direction of the VSE (vehicles and goals, too) and explaining their existance to the world. I'm not an engineer, but have spent nearly three decades trying to understand and explain NASA. To survive, NASA must reform its communication strategies and processes-nothing short of a fundamental restructuring of Public Affairs and Strategic Communications is needed-and needed now. Clarity and transparency are the keys to widening the outreach and interactions and interest levels of the public with the agency. More of the same won't do. It will require courage to make these contentious changes. Are these new leaders ready? For the future of civil space in my lifetime, I dearly hope so!

A Real Astronaut Reflects on America's Moon Landings, Past and Future, Leroy Chiao, Gizmodo

"Should we look back at the last forty years and be disappointed? I believe that would be a mistake. Skylab was a resounding success. Despite the challenges, the Space Shuttle and ISS are marvelous flying machines. We started down the road of international cooperation with the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, and led the formation and maturation of the current, highly successful international partnership. We have not had the big home run since Apollo, but we have made steady progress."

New NASA boss: Astronauts on Mars in his lifetime, AP

"NASA's new boss says he will be "incredibly disappointed" if people aren't on Mars -- or even beyond it -- in his lifetime. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Jr., who's 62, told The Associated Press that his ultimate goal isn't just Mars -- it's anywhere far from Earth. "I did grow up watching Buck Rogers and Buck Rogers didn't stop at Mars," Bolden said in one of his first interviews since taking office last Friday. "In my lifetime, I will be incredibly disappointed if we have not at least reached Mars." That appears to be a shift from the space policy set in motion by President George W. Bush, who proposed first returning to the moon by 2020 and then eventually going to Mars a decade or two later. Bolden didn't rule out using the moon as a stepping stone to Mars and beyond, but he talked more about Mars than the moon."

Bolden: NASA 'cannot continue to survive on the path that we are on right now', Orlando Sentinel

"And so what all of us need to understand is that we all agree that we want to go there. What we don't agree on is how we get there. And so there are some of you sitting in this audience that think we are wasting time talking about the moon. I know there are. And there are some of you who may even say, 'Yeah, we may need to go to Mars but we can go there the next thousand years, I really don't care as long as we go back to the moon.' And there are some of you who say, 'Hey, I really like the International Space Station. So let's make sure that's really beefed up and then we can go to the moon and Mars when we can do it in good time.' "Those are all ways, they are all paths to get to where we collectively want to go. And so the challenge for us in the next few months is to figure out the single most efficient, most cost-effective path is to get there. We can't get there the way we are doing it right now."

New NASA administrator optimistic about reviews, CNet

"The space policy review is "totally different from everything else you hear about," Bolden told agency workers Tuesday. "The nation needs to have a coherent idea about what it's going to use space for. And that's military space, that's commercial space, that's NASA space, that's everything, satellites, people, all that stuff. And there needs to be a coherent policy."

One small step for cruising: Neil Armstrong to join Lindblad voyage to Antarctica, USA Today

"Neil Armstrong may have walked on the moon, but he hasn't steppedfoot on that most remote of continents on Earth, Antarctica. So perhaps it should come as nosurprise the legendary astronaut has signed on to accompany a Lindblad Expeditionsvoyage to the icyregion. In an announcement timed to coincide with today's 40th anniversary of the first moon landing, Lindblad saysArmstrong will be on board the line's National Geographic Explorer in November as it sets off on an epic, 26-night journey to the far-flung continent."

"Apollo Was A Good Thing To Do."

Keith's note: Buzz Aldrin showed this slide during his presentation at the National Air and Space Museum Sunday evening. It is supposed to be online at buzzaldrin.com (I cannot find it there). Thanks to David Legangneux in France for sending me this screen grab (from an event I could not get tickets for 23 miles from my home!)

Image below.

Let's Reach for The Stars Again, Mike Griffin, Washington Post

"The words are great, but the actions aren't. In early 2005, about $110 billion was allocated to the task of returning American and international partner astronauts to the moon by 2020. Less than five years later, that figure has been slashed to about $70 billion, not enough to do the job. We're willing to spend hundreds of billions of dollars bailing out failed enterprises, but we're not willing to spend more than a half-penny of the federal budget dollar to support one of the greatest enterprises in history."

One Giant Leap to Nowhere, Tom Wolfe, NY Times

"July 20, 1969, was the moment NASA needed, more than anything else in this world, the Word. But that was something NASAs engineers had no specifications for. At this moment, that remains the only solution to recovering NASAs true destiny, which is, of course, to build that bridge to the stars."

'A monument to the triumph of the human spirit', Orlando Sentinel via Daily Press

Two months ago, former NASA astronaut Scott Parazynski ascended Mount Everest, carrying a lunar rock brought back by the Apollo 11 mission that landed on the moon 40 years ago tomorrow.

Along the way, he endured hardships like those experienced by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin: bulky equipment, rocky terrain and a lack of oxygen. The effort made Parazynski the first astronaut to summit the world's highest peak. It also gave him a deeper understanding of why his boyhood heroes Armstrong and Edmund Hillary sought the unknown.

"Any time you explore ... you learn things you never expected," Parazynski said. "Any country that doesn't explore is going to ultimately recede."

Apollo LEMS on The Moon

Damaged Tape and Murky Moon Views, LOIRP

"We recently released two Apollo landing site images - Apollo 12 and Apollo 14 and had embarked upon getting an nice crisp image of the Apollo 11 landing site in time for the anniversary. Alas, unlike the unprecedented resolution we obtained for these two sites, Apollo 11 was a let down. The image is murky and far less clear than previous images. This is not due to the Lunar Orbiter spacecraft or our restored hardware. Rather, we expect, it had to do with someone playing this tape years ago and getting it jammed for an instant. Alas, the interesting part of this tape is Framelet 411 which shows the Apollo 11 landing site. So, if there was a natural place on this tape to be paused, rewound, and played again and again and again, it is this location. Little surprise that damage to this portion of the tape occurred."

LRO Sees Apollo Landing Sites

"NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, has returned its first imagery of the Apollo moon landing sites. The pictures show the Apollo missions' lunar module descent stages sitting on the moon's surface, as long shadows from a low sun angle make the modules' locations evident."

NASA Briefs Media on New Images of Apollo Lunar Landing Sites

"NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, has sent back its first images of Apollo lunar landing sites. The agency will release the images Friday, July 17, at noon and hold a teleconference at 2 p.m. EDT to discuss the photos and future plans for the LRO mission."

Deleting History

Moon landing tapes got erased, NASA admits, Reuters

"The original recordings of the first humans landing on the moon 40 years ago were erased and re-used, but newly restored copies of the original broadcast look even better, NASA officials said on Thursday."

NASA lost moon footage, but Hollywood restores it, AP

"How did NASA end up looking like a bumbling husband taping over his wedding video with the Super Bowl? Nafzger, who was in charge of the live TV recordings back in the Apollo years, said they were mostly thought of as data tapes. It wasn't his job to preserve history, he said, just to make sure the footage worked. In retrospect, he said he wished NASA hadn't reused the tapes. Outside historians were aghast."

Where Next?

Time to Boldly Go Once More, Buzz Aldrin, Washington Post

"I propose a new Unified Space Vision, a plan to ensure American space leadership for the 21st century. It wouldn't require building new rockets from scratch, as current plans do, and it would make maximum use of the capabilities we have without breaking the bank. It is a reasonable and affordable plan -- if we again think in visionary terms."

Moon Orbiter to Photograph Apollo 11 Landing Site, Space.com

"Taking the something old, something new approach is the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project, located at the Ames Research Center in the heart of California's Silicon Valley. This team effort is led by Dennis Wingo of SkyCorp, Inc. in Huntsville, Alabama and Keith Cowing of SpaceRef Interactive, Inc. of Reston, Virginia.

The recovery project involves culling through some 1,700 images taken by NASA Lunar Orbiter missions from the 1960's, convert that data into digital form and then reconstruct the images to yield 21st century pictures far superior than the originals.

Ideally, upgrading an old Lunar Orbiter image taken of the Apollo 11 landing zone before Armstrong and Aldrin set foot there, contrasted to a new LRO overhead shot, would present a unique before/after look-see of the historic Tranquility Base site, said Greg Schmidt, deputy director of the NASA Ames-based Lunar Science Institute.

The Apollo sites themselves are extremely well characterized thanks to human explorers dispatched to those individual locales, Schmidt noted. LRO images of these areas will let us see the landers -- and likely other artifacts such as the lunar buggies used in the Apollo 15, 16, and 17 missions - all of which will no doubt be very powerful in ways beyond mere science, he said."

A Month of Moon Events at the Smithsonian, Washington Post

NASA, moon at Hands on Children's Museum, The Olympian

Apollo 11 One Small Step, NASA

Voices: Recalling July 20, 1969, NY Times

Keith's note: What do you remember about Apollo 11? I was 14 years old and was standing right here at Boy Scout camp (the Deer Lake Scout Reservation in Connecticut) when the mission was launched. All of the car horns, bugles, and fire sirens seemed to go off at the same time in celebration. I could not wait to get home to see the actual landing. I was so absorbed in what was unfolding that I sewed the wrong soles on the Boy Scout moccasins I was making. My parents actually made mention of "Buck Rogers".

I had grown up in the 60's being told that we'd land on the moon "by the end of the decade". And we did. I had one data point - and it was in the affirmative. We were also told that we'd be on Mars by 1981. I believed that too - for a while. Well, 40 years later and we haven't seen humans on the Moon for more than a generation much less anyone walking on Mars. Many think the Apollo lunar missions were all just a hoax and logic won't sway them.

Now we are trying to go back, but today it seems to be hard to do what we once did so swiftly. Curiously, as our enthusiasm for such things seems to be on the decline, other nations such as India and China are utilizing their scarce resources to go there. What have they discovered that we once knew - and have now lost?

Thoughts?

Voices From the Moon

Book Review: Voices From the Moon

"As we descend upon the 40th anniversary of the first humans to stand on the moon, the books, and movies, and DVDs, and websites all seem hell bent on a collision - each one trying to best encapsulate the Apollo experience. While Apollo 11 was the first mission to put people on the moon - other missions followed. And while the experience of walking on the Moon was shared by a precious few, the opinions of the moonwalkers are remarkably diverse so as to allow everyone to identify with what it must have been like to be there.

Once again, in his book "Voices From the Moon: Apollo Astronauts Describe Their Lunar Experiences", author Andy Chaiken has managed to distill and then capture the essence of Apollo. Indeed, if there is anyone who has lived and breathed Apollo for the past 40 years, it has been Andy. He kept the flame alive when most of us looked at Apollo as old hat. Now, suddenly, it is new again."

NASA Holds Briefing to Release Restored Apollo 11 Moonwalk Video

"NASA will hold a media briefing at 11 a.m. EDT on Thursday, July 16, at the Newseum in Washington to release greatly improved video imagery from the July 1969 live broadcast of the Apollo 11 moonwalk. The release will feature 15 key moments from Neil Armstrong's and Buzz Aldrin's historic moonwalk using what is believed to be the best available broadcast-format copies of the lunar excursion, some of which had been locked away for nearly 40 years. The initial video released Thursday is part of a comprehensive Apollo 11 moonwalk restoration project expected to be completed by the fall. The Newseum is located at 555 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W. The news conference will be broadcast live on NASA Television and streamed on the agency's Internet homepage."

NASA Solicitation: Biography of Dr. Thomas Paine

"This notice is being issued as a Request for Proposal(RFP) NNH09291335R for the NASA History Division. The NASA History Division has a requirement for the commercial service of writing a complete scholarly book-length biography of Dr. Thomas Paine, NASA's third Administrator. This biography shall focus on Dr. Paine's time at NASA (as Deputy Administrator, Acting Administrator, and finally Administrator) and the time afterward when he served as chairman of the National Commission on Space (1985-1986) and as a member of the Augustine Commission on the Future of the U.S. Civil Space Program (1990). Period of Performance and Contract Type: The period of performance for this contract is thirty six (36) months from the date of award. NASA intends to award a firm fixed price contract."

Official Bio

"During his leadership the first seven Apollo manned missions were flown, in which 20 astronauts orbited the earth, 14 traveled to the Moon and four walked upon its surface."

Pioneering the Space Frontier, "Paine Commission", 1986

"For cargo transport, we propose that a new vehicle be put into operation by the year 2000 with a goal of achieving operation costs of $200 per pound delivered into orbit. ... For destinations beyond Earth orbit, a new transfer vehicle will be required. In the coming era of fully reusable Earth-to-orbit vehicles, the needs of Government and industry for the reliable emplacement of expensive satellites beyond low Earth orbit will require new space-based "workhorse" vehicles designed for flexibility through modular systems. Basic components should be capable of being ganged, or provided with extra tankage, for higher energy missions."

Ad Astra VX-200 Plasma Engine Demonstrates Superconducting First Stage at Full Power

"Ad Astra Rocket Company has successfully demonstrated operation of its VX-200 plasma engine first stage at full power and under superconducting conditions in tests conducted today at the company's Houston laboratory. This achievement is a key milestone in the engine's development and the first time a superconducting plasma rocket has been operated at that power level."

Keith's note: During his confirmation hearing today, Charlie Bolden noted that: "Franklin Chang Diaz is my idol - he has a VASIMIR rocket that will take us to Mars in 39 days."

NASA has successfully demonstrated an alternate system for future astronauts to escape their launch vehicle. A simulated launch of the Max Launch Abort System, or MLAS, took place Wednesday morning at 6:26 a.m. at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Va.

Video below

"This was my first Deepworker flight since last year, and I was pleased that flying the submersibles came back similar to skiing or riding a bicycle. We have been planning the science and operational metrics for this expedition for many months now, and it was both fun and exciting to get back into the water and execute the plan for real. I was constantly marveling at how cool it was to be seeing things that human eyes have never seen before, like exploring Mars or time warping back to pre-Cambrian oceans with today's technology."

Video below

What Is Norm Up To?

See What The Committee Is Doing, Augustine Committee

"07.01.2009 - If you were at the June 17 public meeting (or watched it on NASA TV), you heard Chairman Norm Augustine announce that the committee had organized into subgroups in order to accomplish their work. Since that time, we have received several questions about the subgroups. Thus, we have posted a graphic showing the structure and membership of the subgroups.

06.26.2009 - In case you did not notice, we just implemented a major upgrade to our website. Navigation was improved, new icons were introduced, a Facebook link was added, a bunch of photos were added to our Flickr page, and a video file of the committee's first public meeting in Washington DC was posted. In addition, there is much new content on the "Related Documents" page and more answers to your questions on the "Provide a Question, Get an Answer" page. We hope these upgrades enhance your experience with the website. Feel free to drop us a "Comment or Suggestion" if you like."


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

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