Exploration: April 2013 Archives

Suits in space? A North Las Vegas company is working with NASA to recruit executives for space missions, Vegas Inc.

"Just months after reaching a deal with NASA to build an inflatable space room, local entrepreneur Robert Bigelow is working with agency officials to find ways for business executives to take part in human space missions. His company, Bigelow Aerospace, signed a deal with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration last month to explore how the private sector can contribute to missions beyond the area known as "Low Earth Orbit," about 1,200 miles above sea level. That could include missions to the moon, which is about 240,000 miles away, and Mars, which is at least 33.9 million miles from Earth."

Keith's note: So why won't NASA openly admit that it has signed this Space Act Agreement? Where is the press release? I asked for a copy of ths SAA weeks ago and NASA never sent it to me - despite the fact that these agreements are supposed to be made public and are usually provided by NASA PAO upon request. Alas, I obtained it through other means. Baffling PR tactics at work.

- Full Text of the NASA/Bigelow Space Act Agreement, earlier post
- Is NASA Going to Buy a Moon Base From Bob Bigelow?, earlier post

Keith'snote:The following statement was read by NASA Advisory Council member Lars Perkins, as an individual, at today's NAC meeting. Perkins' term is expiring and new nominees/renominations have not been announced - yet.

"The administration's proposed FY '14 budget contains drastic and unprecedented cuts to NASA's education funding. NASA has been uniquely effective in engaging the public in science and exploration, and to cut these important programs at a time when the nation is facing an unprecedented crisis in in its ability to satisfy the nation's need for engineers and scientists. The entire NASA budget, at approximately $17 billion, constitutes only $.005 per tax dollar, and the education budget prior to the proposed cuts represents only about 1% of that, or one two-hundredth of a penny per tax dollar. To cut these programs now is short-sighted and counterproductive.

Why has NASA been able to so compellingly engage the public's imagination? We are part of a species that looks the sky and wonders, "where did we come from?", "Where are we going?", "what's out there?" A species that - so far - we know only to exist on our blue marble. And we are part of a country that cares enough to ask questions, the answers to which have unknown value. And still we ask, and because we do, because the country, NASA does, everyone who toils day-to-day, driving a cab, flipping a burger, teaching a child, are all explorers. All part of a community, a society, a country that dares to ask questions in the same spirit that a child asks "why is the sky blue?"

Text of the NASA/Bigelow Space Act Agreement

"The purpose of this Agreement is to facilitate and explore, in a manner that meets both national and commercial goals and objectives, joint public/private arrangements that would continue to build the ability for humans to live and work in space through the expansion of exploration capabilities beyond low Earth orbit. By conducting this joint effort, the Parties build on their experience and their mutual recognition of the value of a human presence and exploration development in low Earth orbit, ranging outward from Bigelow Aerospace's existing contract with NASA to conduct a technology demonstration of expandable structures on the International Space Station ("ISS") to significant private sector involvement and operations in beyond low Earth orbit including cislunar space and beyond."

Message from the Administrator NASA and the Importance of Risk

"Much of the time, we work in an environment where the consequences of not getting things exactly right are very high. The good news is that our processes and culture are well adapted to doing these things very well. We must not lose that. Human spaceflight and flagship science missions can sometimes be a dangerous business. But, as I have said before, when you do stuff that nobody else has ever done, you have to be willing to accept risk. We have to be willing to do daring things. Put another way, risk intolerance is a guarantee of failure to accomplish anything of significance."

Volunteers Line Up For Tito's Mars Flyaround, Aviation Week

"Doug Cooke, a recently retired top NASA manager who spearheaded exploration-systems development for the agency, has joined the private group's board advisors, MacCallum said. ... MacCallum said work has already started on ground facilities to test the life support hardware, which will be largely crew tended for simplicity, but will be designed effectively to give two-fault-tolerant redundancy comparable to NASA safety standards. Eventually some components and subsystems probably will be tested on the International Space Station."

Keith's note: Not that this is a bad idea (its actually a smart one since ISS is a great testbed), but who is going to pay to fly these systems to the ISS? Flying racks of hardware to the ISS is not exactly cheap.

Keith's update: Out of curiosity, I have checked online sites for the State of California and IRS for non-profits - or regular companies named "Inspiration Mars Foundation" or variations thereof. Nothing results from these searchs. One might conclude that the organization does not yet exist despite what is on their website.

Keith's update: Update: Inspiration Mars was incorporated in Delaware on 25 Jan 2013 as a Non-profit corporation - File #5279943 - but still no evidence of its 501(c)(3) status (probably in application phase).

Earlier posts

NASA Warp Drive Update

Clarifying NASA's Warp Drive Program

"Few people know this but NASA actually has a warp drive program underway at Johnson Space Center. A recent article on the program created some open-ended questions that needed to be answered. The article seemed to imply that Harold White (who heads the project) had signed non-disclosure agreements such that he could not discuss public-funded research. That's a little unusual for NASA. So I sent a series of questions to Harold White and NASA PAO."

NASA's Super Secret Warp Drive Program, earlier post

George Knapp: To infinity -- and beyond!, Las Vegas City Life

"Business deals don't get much bigger than this one. Have you ever read a contract that gives a governmental green light to a program to "place a base on the surface of the moon?" Ever see an agreement signed by the U.S. government that declares a specific goal "to extend and sustain human activities across the solar system?" Me, either. Yet that is essence of an adventurous deal already reached between NASA and Las Vegas space entrepreneur Robert Bigelow. An official announcement is still a few days away and will likely happen during a news conference at NASA headquarters."

Keith's note: Something is in the works. Stay tuned. This will be a rather odd turn of events given that just a week ago Charlie Bolden said "NASA will not take the lead on a human lunar mission ... NASA is not going to the Moon with a human as a primary project probably in my lifetime. And the reason is, we can only do so many things." Then again, Charlie Bolden first said NASA was going to go to an asteroid. Then he wanted to go to L2. Then he said that you did not have to go all the way to an asteroid to visit one. Then he said he'd bring the asteroid back to Earth (L2). Things change quickly in Charlie Bolden's strategy, it would seem.

Bipartisan Legislation Sets NASA's Focus on the Moon

"U.S. Representatives Bill Posey (R-FL), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Chairman Frank Wolf (R-VA), Robert Aderholt (R-AL), John Culberson (R-TX), Steve Stockman (R-TX), Pete Olson (R-TX), Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Ted Poe (R-TX) have once again reintroduced bipartisan legislation directing NASA to develop a plan for returning to the Moon and establishing a human presence there. The RE-asserting American Leadership in Space Act, or REAL Space Act, sets a clear course for NASA toward human space flight while keeping within current budgetary constraints."

Back to the Moon? Not any time soon, says Bolden, Space Politics

"However, [Bolden] made it clear NASA has no plans to lead its own human return to the Moon under his watch. "NASA will not take the lead on a human lunar mission," he said. "NASA is not going to the Moon with a human as a primary project probably in my lifetime. And the reason is, we can only do so many things." Instead, he said the focus would remain on human missions to asteroids and to Mars. "We intend to do that, and we think it can be done."

Asteroids and Budgets

NASA Budget Priority: Asteroid Defense, Wall Street Journal

"Once again, NASA likely faces a stiff fight over its desire to ramp up funding to $820 million annually to help subsidize work on private taxis to transport astronauts to the orbiting space station. Congress has kept a lid on such appropriations at around $500 million. While seeking to increase investment in cutting-edge spacecraft propulsion and on-orbit refueling, NASA would lose nearly one-third of its current funding to foster interest and education in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. The proposed cuts are part of a governmentwide bid by the White House to consolidate so-called STEM education in three other agencies."

NASA mulls asteroid capture mission, eventual manned visits, CBS

"I hope it goes forward," said Rusty Schweickart, a former Apollo astronaut who helped found the B612 Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to building and launching a privately funded space telescope to search for threatening asteroids. "Asteroids are a very, very interesting area," he told CBS News in a telephone interview. "They're a hell of a resource, and I think the potential for long-term resource development for use in space is going to be a very big thing. And this is sort of step one. It's a baby step in a way, but it should be very interesting."

Senator: NASA to Lasso Asteroid, Bring it Closer, AP

"The ship would capture the 500-ton, 25-foot asteroid in 2019. Then using an Orion space capsule, a crew of about four astronauts would nuzzle up next to the rock in 2021 for spacewalking exploration, according to a government document obtained by The Associated Press."

NASA Asteroid Capture Mission: First Real Step in Utilizing Extraterrestrial Resources, SpaceRef earlier post

"Charlie Bolden made his cryptic comments at the NAS in December 2012: "when the President announced that an asteroid would be the next destination for NASA's human spaceflight program, he did not say NASA had to fly all the way to an asteroid. What matters is the ability to put humans with an asteroid.". Well, Bolden was referring to this idea which was still in flux as part of the budget process."

Senator: NASA to Lasso Asteorid, Bring it Closer, AP

"George Washington University Space Policy Institute Director Scott Pace, a top NASA official during the George W. Bush administration, was critical of the plan, saying it was a bad idea scientifically and for international cooperation. Instead, NASA and other countries should first join forces for a comprehensive survey of all possible dangerous space rocks, Pace said."

Russia may join asteroid retrieval mission, UPI

"Russia says its Roscosmos space agency may join NASA in an ambitious mission to capture an asteroid and bring it to a lunar orbit for exploration. ... [It is] a very interesting project, which NASA proposes to carry out jointly with Roscosmos specialists," Roscosmos head Vladimir Popovkin said."

Keith's note: It certainly seems like Russia is interested in this in contrast to what Scott Pace would have you think. Other countries will soon line up as well. Scott Pace should know that there is no technical or political reason not to do this mission and and asteroid survey in parallel i.e. simultaneously. It comes down to money (there seems to be some) and sources report that this mission will also see an enhancement in a variety of activities associated with NEO detection.

When it comes to Obama space policy and Scott Pace there always seems to be a lingering "what if" bitterness - of the sort often associated with talking about having lost some big game way back in high school. You have to know that if President Romney told Scott Pace to do this mission he'd have been absolutely thrilled at being given the opportunity.

- The Romney Campaign has a Space Policy Etch-A-Sketch, earlier post
- Double Standards and Sour Grapes From the Romney/Griffin Camp



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