Exploration: November 2013 Archives

Statement of NASA Spokesman David Weaver Regarding Commercial Space and Inspiration Mars

"NASA has had conversations with Inspiration Mars to learn about their efforts and will continue discussions with them to see how the agency might collaborate on mutually-beneficial activities that could complement NASA's human spaceflight, space technology and Mars exploration plans. Inspiration Mars' proposed schedule is a significant challenge due to life support systems, space radiation response, habitats, and the human psychology of being in a small spacecraft for over 500 days. The agency is willing to share technical and programmatic expertise with Inspiration Mars, but is unable to commit to sharing expenses with them. However, we remain open to further collaboration as their proposal and plans for a later mission develop."

Millionaire revises plan for Mars flyby in 2018: Now it's up to NASA, NBC

"Tito initially envisioned the flyby as an effort primarily backed by private contributions, but the 90-day study determined that the mission had to be done with NASA hardware. "This is really a NASA mission," Taber MacCallum, Inspiration Mars' chief technology officer, told NBC News. "This is a mission we believe NASA should do."

Inspiration Mars pivots, seeks government support and backing, Space Politics

"Are you suggesting that the mission couldn't be undertaken without additional NASA funding?" asked Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD), ranking member of the space subcommittee. "Right now, I don't see a lot of evidence that money is available," Tito responded."

Keith's note: In a media interview today Dennis Tito and Taber MacCallum said that they viewed the Inspiration Mars mission as a "NASA mission" and that Congress and the White House would need to direct NASA to do this mission as part of their SLS program. Tito also said that there would be legislation submitted on their behalf soon but declined to say who the sponsor was. Tito and MacCallum also said that they had briefed the White House on the Inspiration Mars concept and that the White House was supportive. Administration sources contacted tonight note that it has been many months since Inspiration Mars briefed them and that the mission that they were briefed on was a wholly private venture that did not require NASA funds - certainly not a "NASA Mission". Administration sources add that it would be incorrect to state that Administration supports the Inspiration Mars mission as a "NASA mission" requiring NASA funds or hardware.

- Inspiration Mars Foundation Chairman Dennis Tito testifies before House Subcommittee on Space
- Tito prepared statement
- Inspiration Mars Architecture Study Report Summary
- Inspiration Mars: Some Thoughts About Their Plan, earlier post
- Inspiration Mars: Some Thoughts About Our Plan, earlier post

Subcommittee on Space Hearing - Commercial Space

Nov 20, 2013 10:00am

Panel I
Rep Kevin McCarthy, House Majority Whip

Panel II
Patricia Cooper - President, Satellite Industry Association
Stu Witt - CEO and General Manager, Mojave Air and Space Port
Dennis Tito - Chairman, Inspiration Mars Foundation Prepared statement

- Hearing Charter
- Watch live
- Inspiration Mars: Some Thoughts About Their Plan, earlier post
- Inspiration Mars: Some Thoughts About Our Plan, earlier post

Recognizing Giant Leaps: Google Lunar XPRIZE Establishes Milestone Prizes, Alex Hall, Space.com

"Two years ago, XPRIZE began a dialogue with teams to better understand the challenges that they were facing and to determine what steps we might take to better nurture and support this prize ecosystem. As a result, we determined that we needed to find a way to recognize and support the teams that were making substantial technical progress toward the requirements of the competition."

Keith's note: All of the Google Lunar X Prize competitors really need money. By creating these smaller prizes that are easier to achieve, the competitors have a chance to get some much-needed funding to keep their doors open. Of course, if Chang'e 3 lands on the Moon and deploys its rover, the Google Lunar X Prize automatically reduces by a significant amount. Add in the fact that none of the GLXP competitors have exhibited actual flight hardware or raised the funds to build and launch their vehicles and the chances for pulling this off by the December 2015 deadline are really starting to fade. This effort tosses some cash their way but also allows GLXP to proclaim "winners". Whether this will actually improve the odds that the teams launch anything remains to be seen.

Keith's update: The rules used to say "The competition's grand prize is worth $20 million. To provide an extra incentive for teams to work quickly, the grand prize value will change to $15 million whenever a government-funded mission successfully explores the lunar surface, currently projected to occur in 2013." Well, the prize decrease that would have resulted from a government-funded mission (e.g. Chang'e 3) has been removed. You can read the new rules here. Clearly the Google Lunar X Prize is quietly trying to get money to some of their teams much more easily - and sooner - and they are moving (or removing) the older goal posts so as to make it easier for teams to win these smaller prizes.

- Google Lunar X Prize: Changing Rules - and Fewer Entrants?, earlier post
- Dramatic Changes to Google Lunar X Prize Cash Prizes Under Consideration, earlier post

NASA Selects Research Teams for New Virtual Institute

"NASA has selected nine research teams from seven states for a new institute that will bring researchers together in a collaborative virtual setting to focus on questions concerning space science and human space exploration. The teams participating in the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) will address scientific questions about the moon, near-Earth asteroids, the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos, and their near space environments, in cooperation with international partners."

NASA, Harvard & TopCoder Partner to Develop a Secure Solar System Internet Protocol

"TopCoder, the world's largest professional development and design community, with NASA and the Harvard-NASA Tournament Lab (at Harvard's Institute for Quantitative Social Science), today announced the launch of a series of innovation challenges that will develop foundational technological concepts for disruption tolerant deep space networking. NASA has made significant progress in developing Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN) protocols that aide in deep space communication. DTN protocols are an approach to network architecture that seeks to address the potential for lack of continuous connectivity in deep space. It is meant to aid NASA in the exploration of the solar system by overcoming communication time delays caused by interplanetary distances, and the disruptions caused by planetary rotation, orbits and limited transmission power."

Keith's note: This sounds pretty cool builds upon the Interplanetary Internet work that NASA has engaged in over the past decade or so. You'd think that extending the Internet (so to speak) to allow interaction between other worlds and spacecraft traversing our solar system would be something that all of NASA's IT and Technology, and Innovation people would want to crow about - especially since this effort is geared to engage the public via crowd sourcing. In this wired world, this is something that almost everyone in the public can relate to. Indeed, utilized crowd sourced efforts and making the results widely known is something that the Open Government Initiative is supposed to be promoting.

This effort is being coordinated by the NASA Tournament Lab at TopCoder. No specific sponsoring office or organization at NASA is mentioned. TopCoder put out a press release last week. Alas, despite the obvious nexus of interest you'd expect, NASA has been totally silent:

- NASA Public Affairs (no press release issued)
- NASA Chief Information Officer (no mention)
- NASA Space Technology Directorate (no mention)
- NASA - Office of the Chief Technologist (no mention)
- NASA Space Communications and Navigation (no mention - they also make no mention of LADEE's recent laser comms test)
NASA Open Government Initiative (no mention)

Curiously, NASA PAO did promote NASA's Interplanetary Internet efforts last year when someone commanded Robonaut to do something on the ISS. A week prior to this recently announced Interplanetary Internet challenge NASA posted this:

NASA Engages the Public to Discover New Uses for Out-of-this-World Technologies

"Now NASA has joined forces with the product development startup Marblar (www.marblar.com) for a pilot program allowing the public to crowd source product ideas for forty of NASA's patents. This initiative will allow Marblar's online community to use a portion of NASA's diverse portfolio of patented technologies as the basis of new product ideas."

Again, for the most part, NASA's Technology and Information organizations have been mostly mute:

- NASA Public Affairs (no press release issued - just an online feature)
- NASA Chief Information Officer (no mention)
- NASA Space Technology Directorate (no mention)
- NASA - Office of the Chief Technologist (posted a link)
- NASA Open Government Initiative (no mention)

Add in the curious case of innovate.nasa.gov which is apparently now "under construction, but we will be re-launching soon" after being online for a year and doing absolutely nothing to warrant its existence (or expense), and you really have to wonder what NASA is planning to do with all this Technology money that is heading their way. If the agency cannot internally coordinate a simple mechanism to organize this technology stuff - and then share it with the public - then maybe that technology money belongs elsewhere.


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This page is an archive of entries in the Exploration category from November 2013.

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