Recently in ISS News Category

https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.spaceref.com/news/2018/RidleyFinalPatch.jpg

Filmmaker Ridley Scott Creates 2018 International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory Mission Patch

"The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) today announced the unveiling of its latest mission patch, designed by award-winning filmmaker and producer, Sir Ridley Scott. The mission patch represents all payloads intended for the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory in calendar year 2018."

Keith's note: The folks at CASIS seem to be preoccupied with SciFi. In the past they have created patches featuring Groot, Rocket Raccoon, and Star Wars droids. Yet the SciFi thing has not really helped them fill up the ISS with science goodness. After 7 years they have yet to fully utilize the resources NASA has been made available to them. That said, they like SciFi, and that's just fine so long as they remember what it is NASA is paying them $15 million a year to do. When I originally got this press release a small graphic was attached. It is supposed to be a Ridley Scott design but I could not really get a Ridley Scott vibe. So I fixed it. Which one do y'all like better?

- CASIS Has A New Patch: May The Farce Be With You
- CASIS and NASA Ignore Each Other at #ComicCon2016 Over A Raccoon and Groot
- Earlier CASIS posts

Examining the Future of the International Space Station: Stakeholder Perspectives (Webcast)

"U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness will convene a hearing entitled 'Examining the Future of the International Space Station: Stakeholder Perspectives,' at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 6, 2018. The second in a series of hearings to examine the role of the International Space Station (ISS), this hearing will provide ISS stakeholders the opportunity to discuss the value of the ISS to our national space program and the future of human space exploration."

- Bill Nelson [Statement]
- Cynthia Bouthot, CASIS [Statement]
- Jim Chilton, Boeing [Statement]
- Bob Mitchell, Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership [Statement]
- Michael Suffredini, Axiom Space [Statement]

Soyuz Launches from Baikonur Cosmodrome with Three New ISS Crew Members (with video)

"Three crew members are on their way to the International Space Station after launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 7:12 a.m. EDT Wednesday (5:12 p.m. Baikonur time)."

"The Soyuz spacecraft carrying Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA, Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency), and Sergey Prokopyev of the Russian space agency Roscosmos is scheduled to dock to the space station's Rassvet module at 9:07 a.m. Friday, June 8. Coverage of docking will begin at 8:15 a.m. on NASA Television and the agency's website, followed at 10:30 a.m. by coverage of the opening of hatches between the spacecraft and station."

NASA's new administrator says he's talking to companies about taking over operations of the International Space Station, Washington Post

"NASA is talking to several international companies about forming a consortium that would take over operation of the International Space Station and run it as a commercial space lab, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in an interview."

"'We're in a position now where there are people out there that can do commercial management of the International Space Station,' Bridenstine said in his first extensive interview since being sworn in as NASA administrator in April. 'I've talked to many large corporations that are interested in getting involved in that through a consortium, if you will.'"

Marc's note: The annual maintenance cost of the ISS per the article is about $3 - $4 billion in today's dollars. While the idea of the commercial sector taking over operations of the space station isn't a bad idea, I've yet to hear anyone present a business case that makes this work. I look forward to reading and evaluating any credible plan put forward.

Keith's Note: There is nothing new in this article other than a Bridenstine quote or two. This topic has been openly debated since the FY 2019 budget proposal was issued by the White House in January. Here are a few of our posts:

- Senators Tell White House: We Decide The Future Of ISS, earlier post
- If CASIS Is How NASA Will Commercialize ISS That Plan Will Fail, earlier post
- NASA OIG Delivers Blunt Reality Check On NASA's Faith-Based ISS Plans, earlier post
- NASA Quietly Submits ISS Transition Plan To Congress (Update), earlier post
- Senators Blast NASA and OMB Over Future Of ISS, earlier post
- Is Privatizing ISS A Smart Thing To Do?, earlier post
- NASA Budget Document Overlooks Multiple Advisory Group Findings and Recommendations on the ISS, earlier post
- ISS After 2025: Is CASIS The Solution Or The Problem?, earlier post
- White House Plan To Defund ISS By 2025 Moves Ahead, earlier post
- China Is Seeking Users For Their New Space Station, earlier post

Expedition 55 Astronauts Return Safely Back to Earth

"Three members of the International Space Station Expedition 55 crew, including NASA astronaut Scott Tingle, returned to Earth Sunday after 168 days of living and working in low-Earth orbit."

"Tingle, astronaut Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos landed at 8:39 a.m. EDT (6:39 p.m. in Kazakhstan) southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan."

United Nations and China invite applications to conduct experiments on-board China's Space Station

"The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and China's Manned Space Agency (CMSA) have invited applications from United Nations Member States to conduct experiments on-board China's Space Station (CSS). In 2016 UNOOSA and CMSA signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work together to develop the space capabilities of United Nations Member States via opportunities on-board the CSS, which is expected to be operational from 2022. The Announcement of Opportunity for this initiative, as well as application instructions, were released at a ceremony hosted by UNOOSA and the Permanent Mission of China to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Vienna on 28 May."

NASA Sends New Research on Orbital ATK Mission to Space Station

"Astronauts soon will have new experiments to conduct related to emergency navigation, DNA sequencing and ultra-cold atom research when the research arrives at the International Space Station following the 4:44 a.m. EDT Monday launch of an Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft. Cygnus lifted off on an Antares 230 rocket from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Orbital ATK's ninth cargo mission under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services contract. The spacecraft is carrying about 7,400 pounds of research equipment, cargo and supplies that will support dozens of the more than 250 investigations underway on the space station."

Cruz, Nelson: Congress, And Only Congress, WIll Decide When To End Funding For ISS, Space Policy Online

"Cruz grilled Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, on why NASA missed the statutory deadline to submit the ISS Transition Report. He also demanded to know why NASA had not provided all drafts that were sent from NASA to the White House and rejected as he and Nelson requested in a February letter. The implication is that OMB, not NASA, picked the 2025 date. Cruz's effort to get Gerstenmaier on the record as to who chose the date were unsuccessful. Gerstenmaier carefully navigated the intense questioning without implicating any particular part of the Administration."

Statement by William Gerstenmaier - Hearing Examining the Future of the International Space Station: Administration Perspectives

"NASA is preparing to secure the Nation's long-term presence in LEO by partnering with industry to develop commercial orbital platforms, and capabilities that the private sector and NASA can utilize after the cessation of direct U.S. Federal funding for ISS by 2025."

- NASA Quietly Submits ISS Transition Plan To Congress (Update), earlier post
- What About That Space Station Transition Plan NASA?, earlier post
- Did NASA Deliver The ISS Transition Plan To Congress Required By Law? Update: No, earlier post
- Is NASA Going To Break The Law By Not Delivering An ISS Transition Plan To Congress?, earlier post

Statement by William Gerstenmaier - Hearing Examining the Future of the International Space Station: Administration Perspectives

"The Center for the Advancement of Science In Space (CASIS) manages the activities of the ISS National Laboratory to increase the utilization of the ISS by other Federal entities and the private sector. CASIS works to ensure that the Station's unique capabilities are available to the broadest possible cross-section of U.S. scientific, technological, and industrial communities. The ISS National Laboratory is helping to establish and demonstrate the market for research, technology demonstration, and other activities in LEO beyond the requirements of NASA. Commercial implementation partners are now bringing their own customers to LEO through the National Laboratory, as well."

Examining The Future of the International Space Station, Statement of NASA IG Paul Martin

"Candidly, the scant commercial interest shown in the Station over its nearly 20 years of operation gives us pause about the Agency's current plan. This concern is illustrated by NASA's limited success in stimulating non-NASA activity aboard the Station through the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, Inc. (CASIS). Established in 2011 to facilitate use of the ISS by commercial companies, academia, and other Government and non-Government actors for their research or commercial purposes, CASIS's efforts have fallen short of expectations. Apart from these privatization challenges, the amount of cost savings NASA may realize through commercialization of the ISS may be less than expected given that significant expenditures - particularly in crew and cargo transportation and civil servant costs - will likely continue even if many low Earth orbit activities transition to a privatized ISS or another commercial platform."

NASA's Management of the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), NASA OIG

"... With respect to crew utilization, between September 2013 and April 2017 CASIS was allocated 2,915 crew research hours on the National Lab, but CASIS-managed projects used only 1,537 (52.7 percent) of these hours. Although CASIS officials attributed the organization's limited success in this area to three failed ISS resupply missions in FY 2015, given its performance to date, CASIS utilization rates for the National Lab will likely further diminish when NASA adds an additional crew member to the Station in late 2018."

Keith's note: CASIS still depends on NASA for 99.7% of its $15 million annual budget from NASA. After 7 years it is still unable to fully utilize all of the crew and ISS resources that have been allotted to it. Yet NASA expects that CASIS will lead the way in all of its plans to end funding of ISS in 2025 and transferring ISS operations to the private sector. Good luck with that.

Study for Commercialization of Low Earth Orbit

"In May of 2018, NASA will be releasing a NASA Research Announcement (NRA) for Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Commercialization. The purpose of this NRA is to inform NASA's strategy for enabling the commercialization of human spaceflight in LEO and meeting NASA's long-term LEO needs."

Questions and Answers Set #3

"79. Can the Center for Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) propose?
A: The NRA is open to all U.S. organizations, including industry, educational institutions, and nonprofit institutions."

- ISS After 2025: Is CASIS The Solution Or The Problem?, earlier post
- Previous CASIS postings

Examining the Future of the International Space Station: Administration Perspectives, Archived webcast

Statement by William Gerstenmaier - Hearing Examining the Future of the International Space Station: Administration Perspectives, NASA

Examining The Future of the International Space Station, Statement of NASA IG Paul Martin, NASA OIG

"While all of these actions are positive steps, NASA's current plan to privatize the ISS remains a controversial and highly debatable proposition, particularly with regard to the feasibility of fostering increased commercial activity in low Earth orbit. Specifically, it is questionable whether a sufficient business case exists under which private companies can create a self-sustaining and profit-making business independent of significant Government funding. In particular, it is unlikely that a private entity or entities would assume the Station's annual operating costs, currently projected at $1.2 billion in 2024. Such a business case requires robust demand for commercial market activities such as space tourism, satellite servicing, manufacturing of goods, and research and development, all of which have yet to materialize.

Candidly, the scant commercial interest shown in the Station over its nearly 20 years of operation gives us pause about the Agency's current plan. This concern is illustrated by NASA's limited success in stimulating non-NASA activity aboard the Station through the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, Inc. (CASIS). Established in 2011 to facilitate use of the ISS by commercial companies, academia, and other Government and non-Government actors for their research or commercial purposes, CASIS's efforts have fallen short of expectations. Apart from these privatization challenges, the amount of cost savings NASA may realize through commercialization of the ISS may be less than expected given that significant expenditures - particularly in crew and cargo transportation and civil servant costs - will likely continue even if many low Earth orbit activities transition to a privatized ISS or another commercial platform."

"Even if the Agency ends direct funding of the ISS in 2025 as envisioned in the President's FY 2019 budget request, it is unlikely that the bulk of the funding currently devoted to the ISS Program could be immediately diverted to these and other exploration activities. Even with termination of most Station activities, NASA expects to retain a presence in low Earth orbit and therefore would need to fund related crew and cargo transportation costs. Furthermore, significant funding would be required to maintain offices and infrastructure currently funded by the ISS Program such as the Mission Operations office, which is expected to be needed by future exploration programs."

"In January 2017, NASA completed a draft plan to address various deorbit scenarios; however, the plan has not been finalized and is pending review by the Russia Space Agency. And, while NASA engineers continue to work on the technical details of deorbit scenarios, the Agency presently does not have the capability to ensure a controlled deorbit of the ISS in the event of an emergency."




Keith's update: NASA quietly posted the International Space Station Transition Report pursuant to Section 303(c)(2) of the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 (P.L. 115-10) a few days ago.

"This report responds to direction in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017 (P.L. 115-10, hereafter "the Act"), Section 303(c)(1), to submit to Congress a report evaluating the International Space Station (ISS) as a platform for research, deep space exploration, and low-Earth orbit (LEO) spaceflight in partnership with its four foreign space agency partners, and the commercial space sector (see Appendix for text of the reporting requirement, excerpted from the Act)."

House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Markup NASA Authorization Act of 2018

"TUESDAY, April 17, at 10 a.m. EDT, the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology will meet to consider the following legislation: H.R. 5503, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2018, introduced today by Rep. Brian Babin (R- Texas). The legislation authorizes the programs of NASA for fiscal years 2018 and 2019."

Keith's 13 April note: According to this text of HR 5503 the ISS Transition Report has been submitted to Congress. So when will NASA release it to the public?

Sec. 202. ISS Transition (a) Findings

"(4) The ISS transition report, submitted pursuant to section 50111(c)(2) of title 51, United States Code, provides an explanation of NASA's plans to foster the development of private industry capabilities and private demand with a goal of ending direct NASA support for ISS operations by the end of fiscal year 2024.

(5) The plans laid out in the ISS transition report are conditionally flexible and require feedback to inform next steps. In addition, the feasibility of ending direct NASA support for ISS operations by the end of fiscal year 2024 is dependent on many factors, some of which are indeterminate until the Administration carries out the initial phases of the ISS transition plan."

- What About That Space Station Transition Plan NASA?, earlier post
- Did NASA Deliver The ISS Transition Plan To Congress Required By Law? Update: No, earlier post
- Is NASA Going To Break The Law By Not Delivering An ISS Transition Plan To Congress?, earlier post
- Senators Blast NASA and OMB Over Future Of ISS, earlier post
- Is Privatizing ISS A Smart Thing To Do?, earlier post
- White House Plan To Defund ISS By 2025 Moves Ahead, earlier post
- Reaction To Proposed OMB Space Station Funding Cuts, earlier post

Putin Says Space Exploration With U.S. Will Go On Amid Sanctions

"Russia wants to continue international cooperation in space and won't break off programs with the U.S. in retaliation for its latest economic sanctions, President Vladimir Putin said."

Putin says Russia will not quit international space cooperation programs, TASS

""We are not going to upset anything or to quit these programs. We are determined to complete them. We have partners in the exploration of Mars and the Moon - the United States, Canada, Japan, and the European Union," Putin said during a visit to the Kosmos (Space) pavilion at the VDNKh exhibition center."

US imposes sanctions against Russian oligarchs and government officials, CNN

"The Trump administration is unleashing additional sanctions against seven Russian oligarchs with ties to President Vladimir Putin along with 12 companies they own or control. The measures announced by the Treasury Department on Friday were also aimed at 17 senior Russian government officials and the state-owned Russian weapons trading company, Rosoboronexport, which has long-standing ties to Syria and its subsidiary, Russian Financial Corporation Bank."

Russia says it will respond firmly to new US sanctions, CNBC

"Moscow said on Friday it would respond firmly to new U.S. sanctions imposed against Russian businessmen, companies and government officials. Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that no pressure could make Russian change its course and that the sanctions will only unite Russian society."

NASA And Boeing May Change Commercial Crew Flight Test Strategy

"The change includes the ability to extend Boeing's CFT from roughly two weeks to up to six months as well as the training and mission support for a third crew member. Cargo capabilities for the uncrewed and crewed flight tests were also identified."

Keith's 6 April note: The U.S. has imposed new sanctions on Russia and Russia is threatening to respond in kind. So far the oligarchs and companies sanctioned by the U.S. have not directly affected Russia's space activities. But this cannot be expected to remain the case forever since the U.S. will be seeking new pressure points to exploit on RUssia and vice versa - and there are only so many oligarchs and large companies to sanction. As we all know the only way for Americans to reach ISS is on Russian Soyuz flights. That is an obvious choke point that Russia could exploit, should it so desire. There are other things that RUssia could do as well. There are various reasons behind NASA's interest in transforming Boeing's CFT into something more than a simple visit to the ISS. Gaining a Soyuz replacement capability sooner is one of them - even if NASA won't say so.

How long is the ISS going to be able to remain an orbital, Antarctic-like, politics-free zone? On the bright side, the longer it manages to remain apart from terrestrial turmoils, the more space exploration speaks to a loftier way to transcend such ephemeral political threats. But there has to be a breaking point sooner or later. There are contingency plans, to be certain. But given the state of flux that NASA finds itself within - without an Administrator - and in the midst of yet another space policy formulation - while the future of ISS is TBD and commercial crew services are delayed - threats to the future of the ISS could not come at a worse time.

Keith's 12 April update: And then there's this additional factor that will inevitably have an impact on US/Russia cooperation in space.

- Growing Hints That Russia Might Sanction NASA?, Earlier post
- Will U.S. Sanctions On Russia Impact ISS Operations?, Earlier post
- How Long Will ISS Remain Isolated From Terrestrial Politics?, Earlier post
- Earlier posts on Russia

Keith's note: You may have seen a lot of stories recently in major news publications over the past week or so stating that the Kelly brothers now have different DNA or something to that effect. Not true. Another example of reporters writing stories about something that they simply do not understand (I am an actual biologist so I can say that). Scott Kelly's DNA did not change. How some of his DNA is expressed (or not expressed) changed as a result (apparently) of spending nearly a year in space. But again, his DNA did not change. He and his brother are just as identical genetically as they were before he left Earth. Here is what NASA JSC PAO sent to some news media (but not others) on this topic:

"Mark and Scott Kelly are still identical twins; Scott's DNA did not fundamentally change. What researchers did observe are changes in gene expression, which is how your body reacts to your environment. This likely is within the range for humans under stress, such as mountain climbing or SCUBA diving. The change related to only 7 percent of the gene expression that changed during spaceflight that had not returned to preflight after six months on Earth. This change of gene expression is very minimal. We are at the beginning of our understanding of how space flight affects the molecular level of the human body. NASA and the other researchers collaborating on these studies expect to announce more comprehensive results on the twins studies this summer."

NASA Twins Study Confirms Preliminary Findings, NASA

"Another interesting finding concerned what some call the "space gene", which was alluded to in 2017. Researchers now know that 93% of Scott's genes returned to normal after landing. However, the remaining 7% point to possible longer term changes in genes related to his immune system, DNA repair, bone formation networks, hypoxia, and hypercapnia."

Keith's note: Scott Kelly's genes i.e. the DNA sequence in his genome did not change so genes could not "return to normal". Nor are there any "changes in genes related to his immune system, DNA repair, bone formation networks, hypoxia, and hypercapnia." Rather, how the genes are expressed was changed and that expression changed over time with some changes reverting to preflight expression while others have not. But the genes are not changed.

No, Scott Kelly's Genes Were Not Changed, earlier post

Astronaut's DNA no longer matches that of his identical twin, NASA finds, CNN

"Spending a year in space not only changes your outlook, it transforms your genes. Preliminary results from NASA's Twins Study reveal that 7% of astronaut Scott Kelly's genes did not return to normal after his return to Earth two years ago. The study looks at what happened to Kelly before, during and after he spent one year aboard the International Space Station through an extensive comparison with his identical twin, Mark, who remained on Earth. NASA has learned that the formerly identical twins are no longer genetically the same."

Keith's 14 March note: NO NO NO NO. The Kelly brothers are exactly the same genetically as they were the day they were born. No genes were "transformed". Their genes are the same as they were the day they were conceived. What changed during space travel was how some genes were expressed. Some genes were shut off. Some genes were activated, Some genes were expressed at different levels. I wish that science writers would take the time to talk to people who actually understand the topic. There are dozens of articles like this circulating right now that get the fundamental aspect of this research wrong. Also, FWIW, NASA needs to spend more time explaining what it is they are trying to say. As an actual space biologist I find all of this rather frustrating.

Senators Blast NASA and OMB Over Future Of ISS, earlier post

"In fact, Congress specifically required that the transition plan include cost estimates for extending operations of the ISS to 2024, 2028, and 2030, and an evaluation of the feasible and preferred service life of the ISS through at least 2028 as a unique scientific, commercial, and space exploration related facility. P.L. 115-10 specifically required the NASA Administrator to deliver a report to Congress no later than December 1, 2017. As of today, that report has not been delivered to Congress as required by federal statute."

Did NASA Deliver The ISS Transition Plan To Congress Required By Law? Update: No, earlier post

"I did not hear back from NASA so I sent a second request. Stephanie Schierholz at NASA HQ PAO just sent this reply to my second request: "NASA is keeping Congress apprised as to the progress of the ISS Transition Report and plans to provide this report to the Committee as soon as possible. Please reach out to the Committee about obtaining a copy of the report once it is submitted." In other words the report is late, has not been delivered, NASA does not know when it will be delivered. NASA is not going to tell anyone when it has been delivered and people will have to go ask Congress where the report is - whenever NASA gets around to delivering it."

Returning To Earth At Dawn

"The Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft is seen as it lands with Expedition 54 crew members Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei of NASA and cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018 (February 27 Eastern time.) Acaba, Vande Hei, and Misurkin are returning after 168 days in space where they served as members of the Expedition 53 and 54 crews onboard the International Space Station. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)"

Keith's note: Every month or so I open my morning copy of the Washington Post to be greeted by a 8 page, full color insert - called "China Watch" ;-) - that China Daily pays to shove inside my paper - the same one that everyone in DC reads (larger image). Today's insert had an above-the-fold headline story titled "Astronauts Prepare For a New Era of Exploration". This certainly sounds like a headline that this White House would issue, right? But its not. China's state media editors who write the text for these things do not mince words when it comes to what they see lying ahead: "If the United States-led International Space Station is retired as planned in 2024, the new, yet unnamed, Chinese facility will become the only permanent space station."

Watson Hops On Board Human Space Flight, IBM

"CIMON is currently being developed by Airbus on behalf of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) as an intelligent, mobile and interactive astronaut assistance system. This new technology will be tested on the ISS as part of the Horizons mission of the European Space Agency. CIMON's digital face, voice and use of artificial intelligence make it a "colleague" to the crew members. This collegial "working relationship" facilitates how astronauts work through their prescribed checklists of experiments, now entering into a genuine dialogue with their interactive assistant. The developers responsible for CIMON predict that this will help reduce astronauts' stress and at the same time improve efficiency."

Keith's note: http://images.spaceref.com/news/2018/HAL.watson.jpgSounds like a cool project. Alas, the user interface could have probably used a larger budget and not a pixelated Gameboy face. Maybe some quality time from a human who has interacted with droids before would have helped. Since this droid can "learn" maybe it can learn to grow a face that isn't so creepy looking.

I'm not certain I'd take a bot that looks like this seriously in an emergency or make friends with it. It sort of looks like a dazed Teletubby. Or maybe its a new head for Robonaut. At least they did not use the HAL 9000 facial interface design. That said, don't say "open the pod bay doors" to this one, Dave.

Cruz, Nelson: Future of ISS Should be Determined by Emergence of a Viable and Proven Commercial Alternative and Needs of Our National Space Program

"While we have been strong proponents of the U.S. commercial space sector, prematurely ending direct U.S. Government funding of ISS could have disastrous consequences. The future of ISS should be determined by the emergence of a viable and proven commercial alternative and the needs of our national space program." The Senators continued, "In fact, Congress specifically required that the transition plan include cost estimates for extending operations of the ISS to 2024, 2028, and 2030, and an evaluation of the feasible and preferred service life of the ISS through at least 2028 as a unique scientific, commercial, and space exploration related facility. P.L. 115-10 specifically required the NASA Administrator to deliver a report to Congress no later than December 1, 2017. As of today, that report has not been delivered to Congress as required by federal statute."

Did NASA Deliver The ISS Transition Plan To Congress Required By Law? Update: No, earlier post

Astronaut: Trump's plan for the space station a huge mistake, op ed, Leroy Chiao, CNN

"What about privatizing the ISS? That idea is barely worth mentioning. The ISS was designed to operate with two big mission control centers, in Houston and Moscow. They each need standing armies of onsite engineers and technicians around the clock to monitor and send commands to the station. Estimates of the cost of launching spacecraft to the ISS vary, but they are certainly in the range of $100 million or more. Let's not even consider maintenance costs. Tell me with a straight face how a commercial entity is going to make money operating ISS? The Trump administration's thoughts to cancel ISS and send the savings to the moon is déjà vu. The actual savings will likely be again around 50% of the ISS program cost, and all we are likely to end up with is an inadequately funded moon program, as we have had for the last nine years. And no ISS, either. This path would likely leave us with nothing but a bare-bones spacecraft and rocket and no funding to go anywhere. Unless, of course, we decide to fly American astronauts on Chinese spacecraft to the coming Chinese space station. This would be a national travesty. What we need is a real commitment to maintain US leadership in human spaceflight."

Bigelow Space Operations Announces Partnership with CASIS to Fly Payloads to the International Space Station

Bigelow Aerospace Announces the Creation of Bigelow Space Operations

Keith's note: I submitted a series of questions to NASA PAO and NASA HEOMD this morning (the same questions I sent to Bigelow after the press event) in advance of this story's posting at 5:00 pm ET. Bigelow responded. NASA decided not to say anything other than what one of their PAO officers sent me by email at 5:12 pm "most of the questions seem better suited to Bigelow and/or CASIS, and I would recommend following up with them. Below is our statement. If I hear anything additional, I'll be sure to pass it along: "NASA supports entrepreneurial efforts as the marketplace in low-Earth orbit matures and we work to expand private interest in the lunar vicinity. NASA is proud of the role it plays in enabling companies to explore space."

In other words "we're not really involved in any of this - so go ask someone else."

Full Story below

CASIS Announces Change of Leadership

"The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) today announced that President and Executive Director Gregory H. Johnson plans to leave the nonprofit organization effective March 10, 2018, after serving in that position for nearly five years. Johnson was named to the position in August 2013 with a mission to lead a diverse team of professionals in the unprecedented challenge to establish a national laboratory in space, the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory, and to foster the growth of a community of users and facilities on the lab for Earth benefit."

Keith's note: In the NASA FY 2019 Budget Estimates document released by NASA today, there is a claim that both the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) or Aerospace Advisory Panel (ASAP) have "No new formal recommendations or findings for the ISS". This is incorrect as listed below.

It is also important to note that this budget document makes no mention of the 2018 NASA OIG report "NASA's Management of the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS)" which notes that CASIS has been unable to fully utilize the ISS resources given to it by NASA and casts doubts on CASIS' ability to allow NASA to utilize the full future potential of the ISS; the OIG report "NASA's Plans for Human Exploration Beyond Low Earth Orbit" which questions NASA's ability to maintain the ISS, and the GAO Report "NASA Commercial Crew Program: Continued Delays Pose Risks for Uninterrupted Access to the International Space Station" which questions NASA's ability to access the ISS.

Nor did the document mention that NASA has refused to deliver an ISS Transition report to Congress no later than 1 Dec 2017 as specified by Public Law No: 115-10. The clear intention of this budget document is to gloss over the facts and give the impression that there is no disagreement with regard to NASA policy regarding the ISS - and its future.

Discrepancies with regard to FY 2019 NASA budget document statements about NAC and ASAP statements regarding ISS issues are below:

Keith's note: Yesterday NASA held a briefing with Acting CFO Andrew Hunter. When asked about how NASA plans to operate the ISS after 2025 when funding by NASA will cease, Hunter had no answer. The only clue he offered was that CASIS would continue to be part of the NASA space station utilization plan until 2025. Somehow, between now and 2025, NASA claims that it will be handing over all of its operational responsibilities to some yet to be defined private sector entities. It would seem, therefore, by default, that NASA intends to use CASIS to develop the multi-billion dollar customer base that will take over U.S. operations on the ISS and that NASA would be just another customer. How anyone can expect CASIS to complete a task several orders of magnitude greater than the one that they have failed to accomplish thus far is baffling in the extreme. All you have to do is read recent GAO and NASA OIG reports to see that there is extreme doubt with regard to CASIS' abilities.

Of course, NASA has still refused to deliver the ISS Transition Plan mandated by law and due last year. Based on this budget briefing NASA clearly has no plan and they have only begun to work on it.

Did NASA Deliver The ISS Transition Plan To Congress Required By Law? Update: No, earlier post

NASA's Management of the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), NASA OIG

"... With respect to crew utilization, between September 2013 and April 2017 CASIS was allocated 2,915 crew research hours on the National Lab, but CASIS-managed projects used only 1,537 (52.7 percent) of these hours. Although CASIS officials attributed the organization's limited success in this area to three failed ISS resupply missions in FY 2015, given its performance to date, CASIS utilization rates for the National Lab will likely further diminish when NASA adds an additional crew member to the Station in late 2018."

"... In its FY 2016 assessment memorandum, NASA noted that absent growth in the project pipeline, the crew utilization rate for three crewmembers could drop below 50 percent. NASA intends to increase the number of crew aboard the U.S. segment of the ISS from three to four in late 2018 and plans to allocate a portion of the additional crew hours available to CASIS who, in turn, will need to recruit additional users. Consequently, without sustained increases in the number of new and repeat users, CASIS's crew time utilization could fall even further when the fourth crew member is added."

"... Even though in recent years NASA has become more involved in measuring CASIS's performance, the Agency still has not developed a performance strategy for the remaining 7 years of the agreement or provided quantifiable metrics by which to assess CASIS and help improve the organization's performance."

"... Despite CASIS's recent progress, FY 2017 fundraising is still far below the amounts discussed in the original CASIS proposal. CASIS officials stated that they replaced the fundraising model in the reference model and original proposal with a sponsored program model, which focuses on obtaining external funding to directly support research and STEM projects. Officials explained that CASIS was not able to pursue all fundraising sources described in the reference model and proposal such as royalty fees, which were prohibited in the agreement, and the membership structure that was found to be unsuccessful."

"... CASIS met only one of nine metrics related to outreach publicizing the unique benefits of using the National Lab to potential users, the White House, Congress, non-NASA Government agencies, commercial companies and researchers, media, kindergarten through grade 12 educators and students, and the general public."

"... By 2024, NASA will have invested $196 million in CASIS. In our opinion, weaknesses in performance measurement and the lack of an overall strategy have created an environment in which NASA continues to accept incremental improvement rather than more tangible attainment of agreed-upon goals. Consequently, without significant change, CASIS likely will fall short of advancing NASA's goal for a commercial economy in low Earth orbit. NASA needs to engage more substantively with CASIS and exercise more effective oversight of the cooperative agreement to clarify CASIS's role in helping build a robust economy in low Earth orbit."

- Earlier posts on CASIS

The Trump administration wants to turn the International Space Station into a commercially run venture, NASA document shows., Washington Post

"The Trump administration wants to turn the International Space Station into a kind of orbiting real estate venture run not by the government, but by private industry. The White House plans to stop funding for the station after 2024, ending direct federal support of the orbiting laboratory. But it does not intend to abandon the orbiting laboratory altogether, and is working on a transition plan that could turn the station over to the private sector, according to an internal NASA document obtained by The Washington Post. "The decision to end direct federal support for the ISS in 2025 does not imply that the platform itself will be deorbited at that time - it is possible that industry could continue to operate certain elements or capabilities of the ISS as part of a future commercial platform," the document states. "NASA will expand international and commercial partnerships over the next seven years in order to ensure continued human access to and presence in low Earth orbit."

Trump mulling privatization of International Space Station: report, The Hill

"The space station program manager of Boeing, which has been involved with the ISS for over 20 years, warned of privatizing the station. "Walking away from the International Space Station now would be a mistake, threatening American leadership and hurting the commercial market as well as the scientific community," Mark Mulqueen said in a statement to The Post."

NASA Budgets for a Trip to the Moon, but Not While Trump Is President, NY Times

"According to excerpts from NASA documents obtained by The New York Times before the budget's release, the administration will propose $19.9 billion in spending for the space agency in fiscal year 2019, which begins on Oct. 1. That is a $370 million increase from the current year, the result of the budget deal reached in Congress last week and signed by Mr. Trump. The budget numbers were confirmed by a person who was not authorized to talk publicly about them. In future years, the administration would like NASA's spending to drop to $19.6 billion and stay flat through 2023. With inflation, NASA's buying power would erode, effectively a budget cut each year."

NASA FY 2019 Budget Hints: ISS Lifespan To Be Limited (Update), earlier post

"- Ending direct federal government support of the ISS by 2025 and transitioning to commercial provision of low Earth orbit (LEO) capabilities;"

Keith's note: You have to wonder what sort of feedback NASA is allowed to give to the White House on important decision like this given that NASA has had an acting Administrator for over a year. The feedback usually reverts to political appointees at NASA. Jonathan Dimock is one of the people who does this. Last year he listed his qualifications for this job below (Letter posted verbatim):

How Jonathan Dimock Auditioned To Be NASA White House Liaison, earlier post

"? National Aeronautic Space Administration (NASA or Deep Space Exploration Administration or DESA)

o Aside from understanding the technical aspect of NASA and the components that goes into it. I can also understand the economics of launching satellites and supplies into space for both private and government entities. We all know that Richard Branson with Virgin Galactic, Elon Musk with Space-X and various investors including Shaun Coleman with Vector Space are racing for more contacts with NASA and others. This is a time when NASA can scale back without huge loss to their operation and we can continue to provide suitable funding for suitable research that benefits the citizens both scientifically and economically. It is not outrageous to believe that a small cut in the $105.5b budget cannot be cut by even a small percentage for a large gain to the taxpayers while providing a big win for the administration."

- Ted Cruz On NASA, ISS, Star Trek, Bridenstine and "OMB Numbskulls", earlier post
- Trump Advisors Send Mixed Signals On ISS Support, earlier post
- Reaction To Proposed OMB Space Station Funding Cuts, earlier post
- NASA OIG Flunks CASIS - And NASA's Management of CASIS, earlier post

Keith's note: Meanwhile former Trump Transition Team member Charles Miller can barely contain his enthusiasm for this "leadership" which involves abandoning ISS - all with another Transtion Team member's (Greg Autry) approval. Meanwhile other Trump advisors tell say that such a plan to prematurely abandon support for ISS is exactly the opposite advice that they have been giving the Administration at the highest levels with regard to encouraging the commercialization of Low Earth Orbit.

NASA FY 2019 Budget Hints: ISS Lifespan To Be Limited (Update), earlier post

Keith's update: I engaged in a Twitter exchange via @NASAWatch with @GregWAutry. Try as I did, I could not get this Trump Transition Team member to answer a simple question about the defunding of ISS after 2025.

Statement by Sen. Bill Nelson Regarding Administration Space Station Plans

"If the Administration plans to abruptly pull us out of the International Space Station in 2025, they're going to have a fight on their hands. Such a move would likely decimate Florida's blossoming commercial space industry, which is one of the reasons why Congress directed NASA to look at extending the ISS to 2028 and to provide a plan to help scientists and researchers continue experimenting in low-Earth orbit beyond that."

Statement from Robert Bigelow on reports of the International Space Station being defunded by 2025, Bigelow Aerospace

"It doesn't have to be a zero-sum game. ISS operations should continue provided there are aggressive initiatives to use commercial platforms for human space operations in parallel with the continued use of the ISS until such time that NASA can safely relieve itself of the enormous financial burden."

White House starts debate on when NASA should leave the space station, Ars Technica

"Without somewhere to operate and a predictable way of getting there, operations are not possible and expansion of American free enterprise in space is stifled," the chief executive officer of Made in Space, Andrew Rush, testified in 2017. Companies like Made in Space, as well as Orbital ATK, Sierra Nevada, Boeing, SpaceX, and other commercial service providers oppose an end to station support before 2028. However, the counter argument being advanced by Scott Pace, executive secretary of the National Space Council, is that at some point these "commercial" companies need to begin standing up on their own and making profits beyond just government contracts. "He doesn't want them lining up for government programs like everyone else," one aerospace industry source told Ars."

Trump administration wants to end NASA funding for the International Space Station by 2025, The Verge

"... a NASA spokesperson said in a statement to The Verge. "We will not comment on any leaked or pre-decisional documents prior to the release of the President's FY19 budget, which is scheduled for February 12."

Keith's uodate: Excerpt from OMB FY 2019 Budget Plan for NASA

"Passback provides $10,013.1 million for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. Within this funding level, and consistent with the outyear guidance provided in the passback's front matter section, the HEOMD guidance is intended to support the following strategic human space exploration objectives:

- Pursuing a cislunar campaign that will establish U.S. preeminence to, and around, and on the Moon;
- Engaging non-traditional U.S. industrial partners and sectors in the space program;
- Using innovative approaches to combine lunar robotics, a cislunar presence, and human sorties possibilities, involving commercial and international participation to enhance U.S. leadership;
- Ending direct federal government support of the ISS by 2025 and transitioning to commercial provision of low Earth orbit (LEO) capabilities;
- Achieving an early milestone in human space exploration by launching the Power Propulsion Element in 2022 using a commercial launch vehicle;
- Supporting public-private partnerships that enable transportation services and landers to the moon by the early 2020s (See Science Passback for more details and ..."

Did NASA Deliver The ISS Transition Plan To Congress Required By Law? Update: No, earlier post

"Keith's 11 Dec update: I did not hear back from NASA so I sent a second request. Stephanie Schierholz at NASA HQ PAO just sent this reply to my second request: "NASA is keeping Congress apprised as to the progress of the ISS Transition Report and plans to provide this report to the Committee as soon as possible. Please reach out to the Committee about obtaining a copy of the report once it is submitted."

Keith's note: It will be interesting to see what happens when Congress gets wind of OMB's ISS plans since NASA never delivered the ISS Transition plan required by law - the plan that explains how NASA intends to end its use of ISS.

CASIS and Marvel Entertainment Unveil Guardians of the Galaxy Space Station Challenge

"The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and Marvel Entertainment today announced the Guardians of the Galaxy Space Station Challenge is open for American students ages 13-18 to submit microgravity flight experiment concepts that could be conducted on the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory. The contest focuses on Rocket and Groot, characters from the Guardians of the Galaxy comic book franchise, and students are encouraged to develop flight proposals based on the attributes of these Super Heroes. The contest will run through January 31, 2018."

- CASIS and NASA Ignore Each Other at #ComicCon2016 Over A Raccoon and Groot
- CASIS Has A New Patch: May The Farce Be With You

OIG: NASA's Management of the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS)

"In addition, we found NASA failed to actively oversee CASIS's technical performance and instead took a largely "hands-off" approach to managing CASIS that has contributed to the organization's inability to meet expectations. For example, NASA has not developed an overall strategy identifying the achievements or outcomes expected from CASIS through the end of its cooperative agreement nor has the Agency provided guidance or set expectations for CASIS's performance."

Keith's note: Once again CASIS takes the comic book approach to its outreach efforts for NASA's portion of the International Space Station. But in the press release they issued, yet again, the word "NASA" appears nowhere. No mention is made by @NASA or @NASAedu Twitter accounts. No mention is made on the NASA ISS home page or the NASA Education home page. When you ask NASA or CASIS for metrics as to how well this comic book character approach works they cannot provide that information. If you doubt my observations, just read the newly released report on CASIS by the NASA OIG.

- NASA OIG Flunks CASIS - And NASA's Management of CASIS
- Prior Posts on CASIS

OIG: NASA's Management of the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS)

"Although CASIS awarded $21.7 million in grants to 140 projects between fiscal years (FY) 2013 and 2016, the organization has underperformed on tasks important to achieving NASA's goal of building a commercial space economy in low Earth orbit. From 2011 through 2014, CASIS concentrated on standing up its organization and filling leadership positions. Consequently, after more than 5 years of operation CASIS has not fully met a majority of the goals and expectations set out by NASA. Of the nine performance categories we assessed, CASIS met expectations in only two: research pathways and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. For example, the STEM education performance category required CASIS to increase interest in using the National Lab as a platform for STEM education. CASIS met expectations for this performance category by funding 14 STEM education programs in FY 2016 with more than 325,000 participants.

For five of the remaining seven performance categories - grant awards and project portfolio, recruitment of National Lab users, matching research projects and investors, Implementation Partners, and fundraising - CASIS only partially met expectations. For example, in the grant awards and project portfolio performance category, CASIS awarded more than $3 million annually in research grants between FYs 2013 and 2016 but failed to ensure a balanced portfolio of research projects from theoretical to basic to applied research as required by the cooperative agreement. CASIS failed to meet expectations in the remaining two categories: utilization of crew time for National Lab research and outreach. With respect to crew utilization, between September 2013 and April 2017 CASIS was allocated 2,915 crew research hours on the National Lab, but CASIS-managed projects used only 1,537 (52.7 percent) of these hours. Although CASIS officials attributed the organization's limited success in this area to three failed ISS resupply missions in FY 2015, given its performance to date, CASIS utilization rates for the National Lab will likely further diminish when NASA adds an additional crew member to the Station in late 2018.

In addition, we found NASA failed to actively oversee CASIS's technical performance and instead took a largely "hands-off" approach to managing CASIS that has contributed to the organization's inability to meet expectations. For example, NASA has not developed an overall strategy identifying the achievements or outcomes expected from CASIS through the end of its cooperative agreement nor has the Agency provided guidance or set expectations for CASIS's performance. Instead, NASA has accepted CASIS's slow improvement over the first 5 years of the cooperative agreement without requiring corrective action plans or offering suggestions to improve performance. Although FY 2016 marked the first year CASIS's performance plan included metrics and quantifiable targets for several performance categories, these metrics and targets were not included for all performance categories."

Prior Posts on CASIS

The astronaut fighting to save our home in space, BBC

"Draw up a list of the world's most accomplished and experienced astronauts, and astrophysicist Dr Michael Foale's name is going to come pretty near the top. ... Now more than 20 years after saving one space station, Foale wants to save another: the ISS. ... Foale is formulating his campaign to save the ISS and says he plans to launch websites to gather support to help save the space station. He says he intends to keep pressure on the space agencies to continue to fund the programme. "Every engineer, manager, astronaut or cosmonaut who's worked on the ISS, we all think the space station is such an achievement on behalf of humanity that it should continue," he says. "I'm still giving Nasa a chance to tell me how they're going to do it."

The International Space Station Is The Undiscovered Country, earlier post

http://images.spaceref.com/news/ooenterprise.iss.jpg

Why The International Space Station Is The Single Best Thing We Did, Wired

"The International Space Station is one of the few nonstellar things up there that we can see from down here without instruments. It's a prefab home the size of a football field, 462 tons and more than $100 billion worth of pressurized roomlike modules and gleaming solar arrays, orbiting 250 miles above the surface of the Earth. Its flight path is available online, and you can find out when it will make a nighttime pass over your backyard. Right on schedule, you'll spot an unblinking white light that's moving at 17,500 miles an hour. It will cross your field of view, on a line straight enough to have been drawn with a ruler, in only a few seconds. A few minutes more and the men and women inside that light will be over Greece. A few minutes more, Mongolia. There have been 53 expeditions to the ISS; 53 long-duration crews have called it home since Expedition 1 floated aboard in 2000. They've been mostly from America and Russia, the two principal and unlikely partners in one of the most expensive and challenging construction projects ever completed. (The ISS rose out of the ashes of two previous space stations: Russia's Mir, last occupied in 1999 before it fell out of the sky in 2001, and Ronald Reagan's proposed Freedom, which never got past the blueprints.) Its first few residents came and went largely without incident, conducting scientific experiments in everything from fluid dynamics to zero-G botany while studying what month after weightless month can do to the human body."

Keith's note: After spending decades and tens of billions of dollars NASA still cannot implement a strategic plan for the use of the ISS or explain how it plans to transition from the ISS to future facilities. If NASA cannot get it right in low Earth orbit, how can they expect to build even more complex facilities near the Moon or at Mars?

Did NASA Deliver The ISS Transition Plan To Congress Required By Law? Update: No, earlier post

"In other words the [ISS Transition Plan Congress requires - by law] is late, has not been delivered, NASA does not know when it will be delivered. NASA is not going to tell anyone when it has been delivered and people will have to go ask Congress where the report is - whenever NASA gets around to delivering it."

NASA Makes Progress Toward Space Exploration Science Priorities Outlined in 2011 Decadal Survey, Should Develop U.S. Strategy for International Space Station Beyond 2024, NAS

"Although NASA has made progress toward the overall space exploration science priorities recommended in a 2011 decadal survey by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the space agency should raise the priority of scientific research that addresses the risks and unknowns of human space exploration. This heightened priority is particularly important given the limited remaining lifetime of the International Space Station (ISS) - the most significant destination for microgravity research - and because the U.S. currently does not have a strategy for the station beyond 2024, says a new midterm assessment report by the National Academies."

A Midterm Assessment of Implementation of the Decadal Survey on Life and Physical Sciences Research at NASA, NAS

"... In assessing the progress of implementation of the decadal survey portfolio, the committee found difficulty in navigating the research tracking within various parts of the Agency that report on research alignments with the decadal recommendations. While overall programmatic attention to space life and physical sciences was readily apparent in the many presentations from NASA to the committee, a cumulative alignment or mapping of agency research projects to specific decadal survey recommendations proved problematic."

"... It is essential that NASA as quickly as possible develop a International Space Station-post-2024 strategy. This development factors strongly in the overall exploration strategy, space life and physical sciences research priorities, and resource allocation in terms of crew time, cargo delivery, and funding. This post-2024 strategy should address clear cost allocation among the various research activities and partners."

"... The committee has seen that microgravity research is included in the SBIR and STTR topic areas. However, NASA does not track the SBIR or STTR projects against the decadal survey priorities, and therefore neither NSBRI, SBIR, nor STTR research results entered into any attempts to map inputs to specific decadal survey recommendations."

"... The committee was further briefed on approximately 2,000 ground-based studies reported through the SLPSRA Task Book database: nearly 200 studies reported by CASIS; a large, yet undetermined, amount of funding for intramural directed intramural research projects; and hundreds, perhaps thousands, of ground- and space-based studies sponsored by NASA's international partners. Through individual queries to representatives of SBIR/STTR, the committee also learned of potentially hundreds of relevant SBIR/STTR research projects. Unfortunately, no mechanism currently exists, particularly in the Task Book, to summarize this vast body of research in a manner that allows mapping to specific priorities."

"... This allocation of resources can lead to allocation difficulties, because the various entities having different, and sometimes competing, priorities negotiate for resources. As in the case for Space Biology, shown in Figure 2.9, while both CASIS and NASA may start off with similar fundamental science needs, the NASA needs for flight medicine to enable humans to go to Mars can pull research in a very different direction than the CASIS need to produce medicinal results relevant back on Earth. Sometimes research can synergistically serve both needs; however, this creative tension between legitimate end goals does not always result in commonality of science needs or resource utilization."

Earlier posts on ISS and CASIS

Keith's 11 Dec update: I did not hear back from NASA so I sent a second request. Stephanie Schierholz at NASA HQ PAO just sent this reply to my second request: "NASA is keeping Congress apprised as to the progress of the ISS Transition Report and plans to provide this report to the Committee as soon as possible. Please reach out to the Committee about obtaining a copy of the report once it is submitted."

In other words the report is late, has not been delivered, NASA does not know when it will be delivered. NASA is not going to tell anyone when it has been delivered and people will have to go ask Congress where the report is - whenever NASA gets around to delivering it.

Keith's 8 Dec update: Several sources report that the congressionally-mandated "ISS Transition Plan" (or whatever NASA decides to call it) may be part of the Administration's FY2019 budget proposal package that is sent to Congress in the January/February 2018 time frame. This does not mean, however, that NASA will publicly release the report at that time - if they ever release it at all.

Keith's note: NASA HEOMD AA Bill Gerstenmaier was speaking at the NASA Advicory Council Human Exploration and Operations Committee meeting today. It certainly seems that he has decided that NASA is not going to comply with S.442 - National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017 - which is now law. In that law Congress told NASA that they are to deliver a ISS Transition plan no later than 1 December 2017 - this Friday. All indications I get from NASA - and Gerstenmaier's statement - make it clear that there is no plan to be delivered.

According to S.442 - National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017 (Public Law No: 115-10 (03/21/2017))

"(1) ((NOTE: Coordination.)) In general.--The Administrator, in coordination with the ISS management entity (as defined in section 2 of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017), ISS partners, the scientific user community, and the commercial space sector, shall develop a plan to transition in a step-wise approach from the current regime that relies heavily on NASA sponsorship to a regime where NASA could be one of many customers of a low-Earth orbit non-governmental human space flight enterprise.

(2) Reports.--Not later than December 1, 2017, and biennially thereafter until 2023, the Administrator shall submit to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate and the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology of the House of Representatives a report that includes--"

Full section below

Why Does Russia Have a Secret ISS Experiment?, Popular Mechanics

"Russia's seven-ton Progress MS-07 tanker will be carrying a secret, a previously unseen instrument attached to the exterior front section of the spacecraft. NASA has no idea what it is. NASA specialists spotted the unknown gizmo in official photographs of the Progress ship released during mission preparation. Since then, a number of pictures documenting the work on Progress MS-07 in Baikonur also showed the unidentified device, indicating that Russian authorities aren't really keeping it secret. But when NASA asked about the hardware, Russian officials said only that it would be a scientific payload intended for a one-time trip aboard the cargo ship. They provided no further details."

Launch of Russian Cargo Mission Scrubbed, NASA

"Launch of the Russian Progress 68 cargo craft has been scrubbed for today. The next launch attempt will be no earlier than Saturday Oct. 14 at 4:46 am EDT (2:46 p.m. local time in Baikonur)."

Keith's note: This notice "A Year of Education on Station" appeared with no fanfare on the NASA education audience page: "September 2017 - September 2018: Although on different crews, astronauts Joe Acaba and Ricky Arnold - both former teachers - will work aboard the International Space Station. K-16 students and educators can do NASA STEM activities related to the station and its role in NASA's journey to Mars."

Cool stuff. Another year long thing on the ISS. Too bad NASA is going out of its way not to tell anyone about this. There is no mention on the NASA.gov homepage, nothing on the main ISS page, no mention on the NASA Education page, and zero mention on the CASIS website (not a surprise since they try to ignore any mention of "NASA" these days). Nothing has appeared on @NASA, @Space_Station, @NASAedu, @astroacaba, @ISS_CASIS or @ISS_Research either.

Apparently NASA just assumes that people will find this page within NASA's website. This is called the "if you build it they will come" approach. Or maybe people will notice that Joe Acaba has started to give out homework assignments.

Lucasfilm Creates Mission Patch Representing International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory Research, CASIS

"The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) today announced the unveiling of its latest mission patch, designed by Lucasfilm, featuring characters and space ships from the Star Wars franchise. The mission patch represents all payloads intended for the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory in calendar year 2017. CASIS is the organization that oversees research on the ISS U.S. National Laboratory benefitting life on Earth."

Keith's note: Nowhere in this press release does CASIS mention "NASA". Yet NASA pays 99.97% of CASIS' budget - year after year. Its almost as if CASIS wants you to think that they built and now operate the space station - not NASA. As to their latest logo, I totally understand the interest in wanting to reach a broader audience. But CASIS seems to be obsessed with things like this - almost as much as they avoid mentioning NASA.

First there was their strange fascination with co-branding golf research on the ISS - research that never actually happened with the exception of some golf clubs that claimed to be " inspired" by space research. Then there was getting actor Seth Green to design a logo. Then they made "Groot" from "Guardians of the Galaxy" a mascot in another logo. Now there's a "Star Wars" logo. CASIS never answers my questions on things like this. So I file FOIA requests. I have a lot of stuff received via FOIA that I have been analyzing and hope to publish soon.

In a nutshell CASIS just makes this stuff up as they go. They have no strategic plan and have virtually no means of collecting and analyzing metrics from things such as these Sci Fi mission patches. If CASIS cannot determine if these things have a real value (one that can be expressed in numbers) then why does CASIS continue to do these things? How many Twitter impressions and social media mentions have these logos created? How many people first learned of the ISS as a result of these logos? How many business partners came to CASIS as a result of these logos? How much employee time has CASIS put into the development and use of these logos?

Again, its great when CASIS, who only has money because NASA pays 99.97% of their budget, tries to reach out to new audiences. But when they have no way to determine if an approach even works, you have to wonder if they truly understand how any of their NASA-funded efforts have actually, tangible,concrete results that represent a worthy return on investment for taxpayer dollars.

Below is just a small sample of all of the missteps that CASIS has made. More soon.

A Closer Look At The CASIS "Space Is In It" Endorsement, earlier post

"Oddly, if you look at SPACE IS IN IT, CASIS APPROVED - Trademark Details you'll see that the trademark is classified as being "International Class 028 - Games and playthings; gymnastic and sporting articles not included in other classes; decorations for Christmas trees. - Games and playthings; gymnastic and sporting articles not included in other classes; decorations for Christmas trees." Sounds like a perfect category for golf-related stuff."

CASIS Announces Significant ISS News But Forgets To Mention NASA, earlier post

"Very cool news which demonstrates the true potential for the ISS to host cutting edge research with the potential for real benefits back on Earth. Oddly, "NASA" is mentioned nowhere in this press release - you know, the agency that built and operates the ISS - and provides 99.99% of CASIS' income. You have to wonder if the PR people at CASIS even bother to think about how to best inform the public of what they are doing."

CASIS and NASA Ignore Each Other at #ComicCon2016 Over A Raccoon and Groot, earlier post

"CASIS issues a press release that mentions that Marvel comic book/movie characters at ComicCon are now ISS mascots or something. Alas NASA is there too - as @NASASocial - at the Marvel booth - and neither @NASASocial or @ISS_CASIS mention one another's presence. Apparently CASIS thinks that Groot, a giant tree man thing, and a foul-mouthed raccoon are better poised to explain ISS science than ISS scientists. So - the movie director whose characters are being featured refers to "CASIS" as "OASIS" and doesn't seem to know that this is all about the International Space Station - referring instead to "the mission to Mars". Meanwhile NASA makes no mention of this news and NASA is never mentioned in the CASIS press release. Yet news stories say that NASA is behind all of this. NASA only gets the credit from third parties - and when they get mention it is factually mangled. Nice job CASIS."

CASIS Recycles NASA Hype In Its Quarterly Reports To NASA, earlier post

"Oh yes: the CASIS website visitor target for FY 2017 is 129,000. That's pathetically small. NASA.gov blasts that out every second. Indeed, the website you are reading does that traffic in a matter of days. CASIS also seeks to have 114,000 Twitter followers by the end of FY 2017 [Update as of 6 Sep 2017 @iss_casis account has 114,000 followers].
. By comparison @NASAWatch and @spaceRef have more than 110,000 followers. Other space websites have many more followers. Indeed @NASA has nearly 25,000,000 followers. At yesterday's ISS R&D Conference (sponsored by CASIS) everyone was moaning about how the public does not know what the ISS is doing. With such a tiny web presence CASIS is certainly not doing much to alleviate this situation."

More CASIS postings

SpaceX Launches Cargo Resupply Mission to the Space Station (With multiple videos)

"Experiments seeking a better understanding of Parkinson's disease and the origin of cosmic rays are on their way to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft following today's 12:31 p.m. EDT launch."

"Carrying more than 6,400 pounds of research equipment, cargo and supplies, the spacecraft lifted off on a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on the company's 12th commercial resupply mission. It will arrive at the space station Wednesday, Aug. 16, at which time astronauts Jack Fischer of NASA and Paolo Nespoli of ESA (European Space Agency) will use the space station's robotic arm to capture it."

Russian official on new US sanctions and NASA: "Nothing lasts forever"

"However, Russia's chief space official, Dmitry Rogozin, warned Saturday that such a situation may not be tolerable forever. "They (the United States) have an interesting approach, they try not to harm areas in which they are interested," he said in a television interview. "They say that 'space is outside politics.' We take the 'space is outside politics' slogan into account, but nothing lasts forever."

Putin orders cut of 755 personnel at U.S. missions, Washington Post

"It is not yet clear how the State Department will reduce its staff in Russia. Some of the local staff were hired to help with a significant expansion of the U.S. embassy compound in Moscow. ... The Library of Congress had two U.S. staff and two foreign staff, and NASA had eight U.S. staff and four foreign staff members."

The Kremlin is done betting on Trump and planning how to strike back against U.S. sanctions, Washington Post

"Of course it's very difficult for Russia to do anything to harm the U.S. interests unless Russia is ready to take steps which will harm ourselves," said Fyodor Lukyanov, chairman of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policies, an influential group of Russian foreign policy experts. Hawks poring over the U.S. sanctions say Moscow needs to break the rules. "It says that by no means shall sanctions apply to NASA projects," said Nikolay Platoshkin, a former Russian diplomat and professor at the Moscow University of the Humanities, referring to the bill passed by the Senate. "Here we go, a perfect tip, let them apply [to NASA], let American astronauts ride horses to the International Space Station."

H.R.3364 - Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act

"SEC. 237. EXCEPTION RELATING TO ACTIVITIES OF THE NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION.

(a) In General.--This Act and the amendments made by this Act shall not apply with respect to activities of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

(b) Rule Of Construction.--Nothing in this Act or the amendments made by this Act shall be construed to authorize the imposition of any sanction or other condition, limitation, restriction, or prohibition, that directly or indirectly impedes the supply by any entity of the Russian Federation of any product or service, or the procurement of such product or service by any contractor or subcontractor of the United States or any other entity, relating to or in connection with any space launch conducted for--

(1) the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; or

(2) any other non-Department of Defense customer.

SEC. 238. RULE OF CONSTRUCTION.

Nothing in this part or the amendments made by this part shall be construed--

(1) to supersede the limitations or exceptions on the use of rocket engines for national security purposes under section 1608 of the Carl Levin and Howard P. "Buck" McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 (Public Law 113-291; 128 Stat. 3626; 10 U.S.C. 2271 note), as amended by section 1607 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (Public Law 114-92; 129 Stat. 1100) and section 1602 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (Public Law 114-328; 130 Stat. 2582); or

(2) to prohibit a contractor or subcontractor of the Department of Defense from acquiring components referred to in such section 1608."

Keith's note: H.R.3364 was passed by the House, then the Senate, and has now been sent to the President who has said that he will sign it into law. According to the bill NASA and space activities are specifically exempted from being part of any sanctions that the U.S. might impose upon Russia. Yet the people quoted by the Washington Post suggest that by saying that these things are exempt from our sanctions, we're actually saying that these things are vital and that upsetting them would damage our interests. Russia is now talking about the actions that they will take in response to the impending implementation of this legislation. Has the United States given Russia a roadmap of things they can focus their responses at - even if it results in damage to Russia itself?

How long is the ISS going to be able to remain an orbital, Antarctic-like, politics-free zone? The longer it manages to remain apart from terrestrial turmoils, the more space exploration speaks to a way to transcend such things. But there has to be a breaking point sooner or later.

- How Long Will ISS Remain Isolated From Terrestrial Politics?, earlier post
- Will U.S. Sanctions On Russia Impact ISS Operations?, earlier post
- Cold War Echoes On Earth And In Space, earlier post
- Watching Turmoil On Earth From Serene Vantage of Space, earlier post
- Russia, earlier posts

Soyuz Launches to the International Space Station With Expedition 52/53 Crew (With video)

"About four minutes prior to launch, the space station flew over the launch site and was flying about 250 miles above south central Russia, just over the northeast border of Kazakhstan, at the time of launch. NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik, Sergey Ryazanskiy of Roscosmos and Paolo Nespoli of ESA (European Space Agency) are now safely in orbit."

"The crew will orbit Earth four times en route to the spacecraft's arrival and docking to the space station's Rassvet module, at 6 p.m. Tune in at 5:15 p.m. to NASA Television or the agency's website to watch the docking live."

Michael J. Fox Foundation and CASIS Announce Partnership to Grow Key Parkinson's Protein on International Space Station

"The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research (MJFF) and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) today announce a partnership to send a key Parkinson's protein to the International Space Station for growth under microgravity conditions. Microgravity may allow bigger, more regular LRRK2 protein crystals to grow, which helps solve the protein's structure. That information could help scientists design optimized therapies against LRRK2, a key target in the pursuit of a Parkinson's cure."

LRRK2

"Leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2), also known as dardarin (from the Basque word "dardara" which means trembling), is an enzyme that in humans is encoded by the PARK8 gene. LRRK2 is a member of the leucine-rich repeat kinase family. Variants of this gene are associated with an increased risk of Parkinson's disease and also Crohn's disease."

Keith's note: Very cool news which demonstrates the true potential for the ISS to host cutting edge research with the potential for real benefits back on Earth. Oddly, "NASA" is mentioned nowhere in this press release - you know, the agency that built and operates the ISS - and provides 99.99% of CASIS' income. You have to wonder if the PR people at CASIS even bother to think about how to best inform the public of what they are doing. Even if CASIS is trying to distance itself from NASA, anyone with an ounce of Internet savvy would know that "NASA" is a search term that would heighten the visibility of this press release as it is posted elsewhere on the Internet. Again - this is significant news and CASIS should be congratulated for pulling it off. I'm just not sure they have a full grasp of the responsibility that they have been given by NASA.

CASIS Quarterly Report for the Period January 1 - March 31, 2017

"Executive Summary: The second fiscal quarter (Q2) of 2017 (FY17) brought forward meaningful progress for the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory and demonstrated signals of opportunity for future space science platforms. From a big picture perspective, key developments in commercial space outside of the ISS National Lab are noteworthy for our stakeholder community. In March, SpaceX achieved a historic milestone on the road to reusability in space transportation with the world's first reflight of an orbital class rocket. This achievement in reusability signals the tangible progress that the industry is making toward lowering the cost of transportation, a well-established barrier for space research and development. In addition to this milestone, commercial companies publicly announced this quarter intent to develop standalone, privately funded space stations within the decade. Finally, Congress' actions to pass the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 provide a firm foundation for continuity of progress toward America's leadership in commercial space. These developments are encouraging to both traditional and nontraditional users of the ISS National Lab as our nation looks to develop long-term research initiatives in space. Adding to this renewed excitement in commercial space, momentum with space research development on the ISS National Lab continues to accelerate and expand."

Keith's note: What's really bizarre is that CASIS is feeding this overt NASA PR hype back to NASA as part of a quarterly report to its (sole) customer. As if NASA had not already read its own hype without the need for CASIS to regurgitate it as part of a contract deliverable. Or maybe CASIS is just trying to make NASA feel better and simultaneously inflate its on value by aligning itself with the NASA spin machine. Hard to tell. Maybe they hope the new White House staff are reading these things. There's actually a lot of really important updates in these quarterly reports (more to follow) that are worthy of wider dissemination. Valuable research is being accomplished on the ISS. I am just baffled as to why CASIS feels the need to puff it all up with hype.

Oh yes: the CASIS website visitor target for FY 2017 is 129,000. That's pathetically small. NASA.gov blasts that out every second. Indeed, the website you are reading does that traffic in a matter of days. CASIS also seeks to have 114,000 Twitter followers by the end of FY 2017. By comparison @NASAWatch and @spaceRef have more than 110,000 followers. Other space websites have many more followers. Indeed @NASA has nearly 25,000,000 followers. At yesterday's ISS R&D Conference (sponsored by CASIS) everyone was moaning about how the public does not know what the ISS is doing. With such a tiny web presence CASIS is certainly not doing much to alleviate this situation.

CASIS Announces Cotton Sustainability Challenge

"The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) today announced a cotton sustainability challenge, sponsored by Target Corporation, where researchers and innovators will have the ability to propose solutions to improve crop production on Earth by sending their concepts to the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory. The challenge will leverage a broad range of disciplines to find breakthrough solutions that can be implemented affordably and benefit the cotton production community."

Keith's note: I was at the ISS R&D Conference today in Washington, DC (I'll be there all week). One of today's events was a panel that discussed the role of the National Academy of Science in advising NASA - specifically the Decadal Survey done on human spaceflight back in 2011. To be certain, as I have noted before, a lot of the NASA/NAS interaction is akin to choir practice in an echo chamber. But there is a lot of useful observation and advice embedded in these NASA reports that NASA would be wise to consider with regard to human spaceflight.

There was an odd interaction toward the end of the session when ISS Director Sam Scimemi asked if there was anything that the NAS could do to interest other federal agencies in spending money on space activities - which is an odd thing to consider even asking the NAS since they simply do not do that sort of advocacy. They are supposed to be impartial. As such its rather strange for the senior NASA civil servant running the ISS to be thinking - much less to say something like this in a public forum. Does he not know what role the NAS plays? Maybe someone should explain this to him. Its even odder that Scimemi would be out trying to drum up more funds for space given how well NASA did in the FY 2018 White House budget when compared to how badly other science agencies did in that same budget proposal. This makes NASA seem greedy and/or clueless.

SpaceX Dragon's second splashdown is a historic first, CNET

"Until now, no single craft has visited the ISS and returned to Earth more than once. In fact, all other non-SpaceX vehicles that visit the space station are designed to burn up in the atmosphere after a single flight. SpaceX has been recovering its Dragon capsules via splashdowns in the ocean, but this is the first time that one of those recycled craft has completed a second re-supply mission."

NanoRacks Prepares Activation of Historic Chinese Research, 25+ Experiments Onboard International Space Station, Nanoracks

"After Saturday's launch to the International Space Station (ISS), SpaceX's Dragon was successfully berthed and installed, bringing over 25 of NanoRacks' customer payloads to the ISS, including the first-ever Chinese experiment to be brought aboard Station. The launch of the Chinese experiment from the Beijing Institute of Technology (BIT), led by Professor Deng Yulin, has been in work for over two years now. Following complete U.S. government compliance, this fully commercial, educational Chinese experiment will study the effects of the space radiation environment on DNA and the changes in mutation rate. The experiment will run on Station for about 30 days and then return back to Earth aboard the Dragon spacecraft. The BIT NanoLab will remain confined to the NanoRacks platform on Station, and can in no way interface with the International Space Station or NASA's IT infrastructure and systems. There is no transfer of technology between NASA and China."

Keith's note: There is always a clever technical solution to overcome cumbersome political policies. People just have to want to find the solutions. Every time you do something like this, the original problem becomes less of a hindrance and is eventually replaced by new, usually unexpected, opportunities. Congratulations to everyone who made this happen. If we can calmly and professionally share a space station with the country who tried to steal our election then we can certainly share it with the country that makes our iPhones.

Reusing Old Dragons

SpaceX set to join rare company by re-flying an orbital spacecraft, Ars Technica

"Although the company has never placed a hard dollar value on the Dragon, the savings could be considerable. SpaceX received a contract worth $1.6 billion from NASA for 12 cargo supply missions to the station in 2008--about $130 million per flight. That would have included the cost of the booster, of course, so therefore an individual Dragon spacecraft is likely valued at between $20 million to $60 million."

NASA Won't Pay You to Smoke Weed

"Q: Does NASA pay $18,000 for people to stay in bed and smoke weed for 70 straight days?

A: No. NASA conducts bed-rest studies, but it does not allow participants to smoke marijuana or even drink alcohol."

Facebook users flagged a story with the captivating headline "NASA Will Pay You $18,000 To Stay In Bed And Smoke Weed For 70 Straight Days." Don't get too excited. It's false."

Astronauts Prepare For Contingency Spacewalk

"Astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer are getting ready for a contingency spacewalk Tuesday morning. Whitson and Fischer are set to begin the spacewalk at 8 a.m. Tuesday for about two hours of maintenance work. The spacewalk's primary task is the removal and replacement of a data relay box, known as a Multiplexer-Demultiplexer (MDM), which failed Saturday morning. The MDM controls the functionality of station components such as the solar arrays, radiators, cooling loops and other systems."

Keith's note: Reading NASAWatch you might think that this site has a preoccupation with clumsy projects (like SLS) that are over budget, behind schedule, and lacking in terms of mission focus. That is not representative of NASA as a whole. Here is one example - I saw this article in Science last week and thought that this research was worth re-featuring - especially given that a bunch of science is headed for ISS in a week or so. When I worked at NASA helping to design Space Station Freedom, my focus was life and materials science payloads. These little DNA sequencing devices (which will fit in your pocket) were impossible back then - and if they were, would have required several payload racks and a lot of power and crew time. While NASA has problems with its rockets, payload technology is moving ahead at warp speed.

Pocket-sized sequencers start to pay off big, Science

"Aaron Burton, an astrobiologist at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, who is exploring how nanopore devices could help search for life elsewhere in the solar system, agrees: "The rapid improvements have made it a viable technology right now, rather than an emerging technology that 'could be good in a few years.'" ... MinION's portability continues to prove its value. With the aid of warming packs that kept the machine's chemistry working, Sarah Johnson, a planetary scientist at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., used one to generate long reads of DNA while collecting specimens in an Antarctic dry valley, a setting sometimes used as a proxy for Mars."

Sequencing DNA in Space, earlier post SpaceRef

"NASA is not often known for making the best use of existing COTS (commercial off the shelf technology) aboard the ISS. Then again, sometimes they are. This is an example of when the agency really grabs cutting edge biotech and sends it into space. There's usually quite a lag time. The reasons range from slogging through the often cumbersome payload safety and integration process to people at NASA who are simply not up to date with what the ral world is doing in their field. In this instance a rather remarkable gizmo is being flown in space that truly puts genetic sequencing in the palm of your hand. Indeed, its almost as if NASA was flying part of a version 1.0 Tricorder in space. This is cutting edge technology folks."

- First DNA Sequencing Conducted in Space, earlier post
- One Billion Base Pairs Sequenced on the Space Station, earlier post

Keith's 4 May update: @DanaPerino deleted this tweet (but it is still on her Instagram page). Why would she do that - unless she did something wrong? This is what the tweet looked like - before it was deleted.

Keith's 5 May update: Now @Astro2fish has deleted his tweet as well. Why would he do that - unless he also did something wrong? This is what the tweet looked like - before it was deleted.

The only reason that the text of these embedded tweets still appears is that I embedded them before deletion and the words are in the embed code. If you click on the date/time you will get a deletion message. This is what they both looked like - with pictures - before Dana Perino and Jack Fischer deleted them.

Keith's 4 May update: I sent an inquiry to NASA HQ and JSC PAO and got this response:

"- Is there a Space Act Agreement or MOU in place between NASA and Dana Perino and/or Fox News that allows a NASA civil servant on board the ISS to use their NASA position and work place to promote Dana Perino's book?
- Can you provide me with a copy of the official NASA process whereby book authors/publishers can apply to have astronauts conduct promotional activities while aboard the ISS? Have other book authors applied for this promotion aboard ISS?
- What cost to NASA is associated with these on-orbit book promotions? (What is the cost of launching this Felt Jasper, NASA personnel time to coordinate with Perino/Fox, TDRSS bandwidth etc.)
- Did the NASA OGC at JSC or NASA HQ issue a waiver and/or give formal written permission to Jack Fischer to conduct these commercial promotion activities with Dana Perino and Fox News while on board the ISS?
- Under what payload allocation was the "Felt Jasper" flown to the ISS? Did Jack Fischer carry it with him on his Soyuz flight or was this launched on a cargo vehicle? Is this a personal item or is it a NASA PAO-endorsed activity?
- Did NASA PAO interact directly with Fox News to coordinate the coverage given on Dana Perino's Twitter account and/or provide NASA imagery of the Felt Jasper on "The Five" segment that aired last night on Fox News?
- What will be done with the Felt Jasper that Fischer has in orbit? Will it be returned to Earth and used for commercial purposes?
- Will Jack Fischer and Dana Perino be doing any further commercial promotion activities for Perino's book on-orbit or when he returns to Earth?
- Did Jack Fischer personally send the following tweet from the ISS? If he did not, who sent it? "@Astro2fish Well, finally got a chance to show Felt Jasper the office @DanaPerino & pretty sure he dug the view-I know I did! #SpaceDogWalks #NASARocks 5:59 PM - 2 May 2017"

This is what I got back:

"Hi Keith, Astronauts are permitted to take personal mementos to space. Jack Fischer's flight of a "Felt Jasper" as a personal memento and his subsequent release of imagery of that memento via his social media does not imply an endorsement of any commercial activity. Thank you, Jenny, Norma Jennifer Knotts, Public Affairs Specialist"

Apparently Trumpish commercial endorsement behavior is the new normal at NASA. An astronaut is allowed to use his official government position and work place to give significant social media visibility to a book written by a former Bush press spokesperson who appears on the President's favorite news channel (Fox). And that visibility is repeated on Fox News. Yet none of the Trump political appointees on the 9th floor at NASA HQ see anything wrong with this and are OK with a two sentence non-response. Tick tock.

Keith's 2 May note: Now it is apparently acceptable for NASA astronauts to do on-orbit promotion tie-ins for books written by Fox News celebrities like @DanaPerino who has a book out titled "Let me tell you about Jasper". Since Fischer has the mini-Jasper in orbit this promotion had to have planned this ahead of time. How much did Perino pay for this - or did NASA give this orbital PR away for free? Check out her Twitter banner. This a rather overt tie-in. Apparently Fischer and Perino already knew each other prior to his departure - here he is holding a copy of her book at some event they both attended. The "felt Jasper" is something that is used to promote Perino's book.

Keith's update: Fox Five just aired a piece about the Felt Jasper book promotion dog in space and Perino's book. Of course all of this PR and product promotion stuff was coordinated and approved by NASA PAO, right?

Keith's note: People who engage on expeditions to risky and dangerous places on Earth regulary waive certain safety and medical regulations in order to participate. I have done it more than once in the arctic and at Everest. You consider the risks, weigh the benefits, and then sign the forms. There are lifetime radiation exposure limits for astronauts that are supposed to be used to guide the selection of ISS crews. Now, these limits are apparently subject to selective waiver. So are these "limits" now becoming "guidelines"? Are astronauts now doing something similar to what terrestrial explorers do in order to spend more time in space? What is the process whereby NASA makes this waiver decision? What are the implications for the whole #JourneyToMars thing?

Marc's note: At 10:00 a.m. ET President Trump, Ivanka Trump and NASA Astronaut Kate Rubins will call the ISS from the White House to speak with Commander Peggy Whitson and Flight Engineer Jack Fischer of NASA. Will we hear anything of substance? With This President you never know. You can watch the event LIVE on SpaceRef.

Updated: NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson Talks STEM Education with President Trump

Updated: Remarks by President Trump in Video Call with NASA Astronauts Aboard the International Space Station

President Trump Calls Space Station Crew on Record-Setting Day

Interstellar Docking

Keith's note: You have got to watch this. Full screen. Sound turned up - footage of the docking of Soyuz with ISS using the docking sequence from the "Interstellar" soundtrack. (Corrected, it was not a Cygnus.)

No, Russia isn't sending a Terminator robot to the space station, Ars Technica

"The reports this weekend were breathless. Mashable said Russia was sending a "death dealing" robot with the power to shoot guns to the International Space Station. Pravda reported that the Russian cyborg, Fyodor, had frightened the West. It was like the Terminator, only in space, and only for reals. In reality, probably not. The stories were written after the Russian deputy prime minister overseeing military and space activities, Dmitry Rogozin, posted on Facebook and Twitter about the country's humanoid robot, Fyodor."

Russian space robot bound for ISS given power to shoot handguns, for some reason, Mashable

"Just in time for the rise in global military tensions, Russian officials have released video that's sure to calm fears all around: a death dealing humanoid robot that shoots handguns. Posted to Twitter on Friday by Russia's deputy Prime Minister, Dmitry Rogozin, the video shows the country's space robot FEDOR (Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research) accurately shooting twin pistols in a scene chillingly similar to images from The Terminator."

Earlier Robonaut and R5 postings

Space Station Crew Including NASA Astronaut Shane Kimbrough Return to Earth

"Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA is among three crew members from the International Space Station (ISS) who returned to Earth Monday, after 173 days in space, landing in Kazakhstan at approximately 7:20 a.m. EDT (5:20 p.m. Kazakhstan time). Also returning were Flight Engineers Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko of the Russian space agency Roscosmos. The three touched down southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan."

Russia may abandon International Space Station to join forces with China, Pravda

"The Russian segment of the International Space Station may separate from the station. Russia's Federal Space Agency Roscosmos is also currently looking into the need for the presence of people in orbit. Do people still have to live on board the ISS or is it possible to entrust space exploration to robots? These issues were put on the agenda of the meeting of the Military Industrial Commission for the development of Roscosmos until 2030."

Russia open to extending international space station partnership: agency chief, Reuters

"Moscow has an alternative if relations with the United States sour. Russia last year unveiled a plan to detach some of its modules and use them to create a new, independent outpost in orbit. "We adjusted and made some minor changes in our programs ... but it doesn't mean that we don't want to continue our cooperation," Komarov said. "We just want to be on the safe side and make sure we can continue our research." The United States is dependent on Russia's propellant module to keep the station in orbit."

Somebody Just Buy the ISS Already, Wired

"Officially, Congress must make a decision on the ISS by 2024, when its funding expires. But beyond routine maintenance and the occasional orbital boost, the station needs no major repairs. "As it happens, some stuff is functioning vastly better than imagined," says Keith Cowing, editor of NasaWatch (a NASA watchdog), who helped design the station as a NASA employee in the 1990s. "Maintenance is little things like replacing batteries when they die or tightening valves when they need it."

... Even with a government-mandated nonprofit charged specifically with ginning up business, nobody has found a killer app for low Earth orbit. Yet. Cowing sympathizes with NASA's funding plight, and says it shouldn't indefinitely tie up resources on a mission barely beyond the stratosphere. But he doesn't think that should seal ISS's fate. "NASA has spent decades building and operating this thing, has gotten it just to the point where it can actually start doing things, and all of a sudden you want to scrap it all and start building something else," he says. What a waste.

... Plus, buying it lets you do whatever the hell you want. "I like to refer to the ISS as the Undiscovered Country, both in the Shakespearean and Star Trek-ian sense," says Cowing. "It's completely underutilized."

UK schoolboy corrects NASA data error, BBC

"A-level student Miles Soloman found that radiation sensors on the International Space Station (ISS) were recording false data. The 17-year-old from Tapton school in Sheffield said it was "pretty cool" to email the space agency. The correction was said to be "appreciated" by Nasa, which invited him to help analyse the problem. "What we got given was a lot of spreadsheets, which is a lot more interesting than it sounds," Miles told BBC Radio 4's World at One programme. The research was part of the TimPix project from the Institute for Research in Schools (IRIS), which gives students across the UK the chance to work on data from the space station, looking for anomalies and patterns that might lead to further discoveries. During UK astronaut Tim Peake's stay on the station, detectors began recording the radiation levels on the ISS."

TimPix Project

"In partnership with Professor Larry Pinsky at the University of Houston, and in collaboration with NASA, the Institute for Research in Schools is able to release data from the Timepix detectors on board the ISS and give students and teachers the opportunity to take part in this research."

Space Subcommittee Hearing- The ISS after 2024: Options and Impacts

"It is the policy of the United States to support full and complete utilization of the International Space Station through at least 2024. What happens to the ISS after that date remains an open question. The hearing will examine the range of choices facing our nation and the impacts of those various options."

Witnesses
- [Statement] William Gerstenmaier, NASA
- [Statement] Mary Lynne Dittmar, Coalition for Deep Space Exploration
- [Opening Statement] Eric Stallmer Commercial Spaceflight Federation
- [Statement] Robert Ferl University of Florida
- Rep. Babin Opening Statement
- Rep. Bera Opening Statement
- Rep. Johnson Opening Statement
- Hearing Charter

Watch live

US astronaut's spaceflight to be financed by Russian corporation as debt repayment, TASS

"U.S. astronaut Joseph M. Acaba will fly to the International Space Stations (ISS) as a third crew member of the Soyuz MS-06 spaceship. His flight will be financed by Russia's Rocket and Space Corporation Energia as debt repayment to US' Boeing under the joint project Sea Launch, a source in the Russian space industry told TASS on Monday. ... According to earlier reports, under an amicable agreement reached by Energia and Boeing as part of debt repayment under the Sea Launch project, the Russian corporation will give the American side five seats aboard Soyuz spacecraft, in particular one seat in 2017, one seat in 2018, and an option on three seats in 2019. Energia's debt to Boeing was 330 million US dollars, as was ruled by a California court in 2015. In the summer of 2015, the sides reached an amicable agreement where Energia undertook to repay its debt by means of works and new projects."

NASA Uses Bait and Switch Tactics To Buy Soyuz Seats, earlier post

Keith's note: How sneaky. Neither SpaceX or Boeing are going to have their crew services ready in time to replace Soyuz in the near term. So NASA uses Boeing to buy more Soyuz seats. Its not the first time that they have bought Soyuz seats. But NASA omits mention of the word "Soyuz" in the title of the presolicitation notice. No one will notice, right NASA? But wait - there's more - RSC Energia gave Boeing 5 Soyuz seats to settle a business deal gone sour (Sea Launch) - and Boeing can charge NASA whatever whatever they want for these seats. And if CST-100 flights are delayed further and more Soyuz seats are needed then Boeing can sell extra seats to NASA. Boeing makes money from NASA one way - or the other - unless SpaceX gets into space with their crewed Dragon.

Shotwell to GAO: "The [heck] we won't fly before 2019", SpacePolicyOnline

"SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell reacted to GAO's report yesterday that commercial crew flights may slip from 2018 to 2019 by expressing utmost confidence in her company's schedule. At a Kennedy Space Center (KSC) press conference today in advance of SpaceX's commercial cargo launch tomorrow, she said the company's response to GAO is "The [heck] we won't fly before 2019."

NASA Commercial Crew Program: Schedule Pressure Increases as Contractors Delay Key Events

"Both of the Commercial Crew Program's contractors have made progress developing their crew transportation systems, but both also have aggressive development schedules that are increasingly under pressure. The two contractors - Boeing and Space Exploration Technologies, Corp. (SpaceX) - are developing transportation systems that must meet the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) standards for human spaceflight - a process called certification. Both Boeing and SpaceX have determined that they will not be able to meet their original 2017 certification dates and both expect certification to be delayed until 2018. The schedule pressures are amplified by NASA's need to provide a viable crew transportation option to the International Space Station (ISS) before its current contract with Russia's space agency runs out in 2019. If NASA needs to purchase additional seats from Russia, the contracting process typically takes 3 years. Without a viable contingency option for ensuring uninterrupted access to the ISS in the event of further Commercial Crew delays, NASA risks not being able to maximize the return on its multibillion dollar investment in the space station."

NanoRacks and Boeing Building First Commercial Airlock on ISS, NanoRacks

"NanoRacks, LLC will partner with Boeing on the building and installation of the first commercial airlock module, which will attach to the U.S. segment on the International Space Station (ISS). In May 2016, NanoRacks and NASA signed a Space Act Agreement in order to install a private airlock module onboard the International Space Station - the first in station history. The NanoRacks Airlock Module will be both a permanent commercial uncrewed module onboard International Space Station, and also a module capable of being removed from the space station and used on a future commercial platform."

Station cargo flight leapfrogs commercial satellite launch on SpaceX manifest, Spaceflight Now

"SpaceX said Sunday that the first Falcon 9 rocket launch from pad 39A, a former shuttle-era complex at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is scheduled to send a Dragon supply ship to the International Space Station in mid-February, deferring a mission with an EchoStar communications satellite that was set to take off this month."

Procurement of Crew Transportation and Rescue Services From Boeing, NASA

"NASA is considering contracting with The Boeing Company (Boeing) for crew transportation services to and from the International Space Station (ISS) on the Russian Soyuz vehicle. This transportation would be for one crewmember in the Fall of 2017 and one crewmember in the Spring of 2018. NASA is considering purchasing these services from Boeing, without competition, because no other vehicles are currently capable of providing these services in Fall 2017 or Spring 2018. NASA has contracts with two U.S. commercial companies for crew transportation to the ISS. However, these vehicles are still in the developmental stage, and not expected to begin fully operational flights to the ISS until 2019. NASA also is considering an option to acquire crew transportation from Boeing for three crewmembers on the Soyuz in 2019, to ensure the availability of back-up transportation capability in the event the U.S. commercial contractor vehicles are delayed or to augment future ISS operations and research."

"Russia recently announced its plans to decrement the Russian crew count onboard ISS from three to two, beginning in CY 2017. As a result of Russia reducing its crew count by one crewmember, there is now an available Soyuz seat in the 2017-2018 timeframe on each of the two planned spacecraft that would have otherwise had two Russian crew aboard. Of the 24 total Soyuz seats available in 2017-2018, the three seats resulting from the Russian crew decrement are the only available means of transporting additional US crewmembers to ISS during this period."

"An agreement was recently reached between the Boeing Company and S.P. Korolev Rocket and Space Public Corporation, Energia ("RSC Energia"), who is the manufacturer of the Soyuz spacecraft and has the legal rights to sell the seats and associated services. As a part of this agreement, Energia agreed to provide to Boeing two specifically identified seats on the Soyuz spacecraft for long-duration travel to and from the ISS, one on a flight to occur in the Fall 2017 timeframe and another on a flight to occur in the Spring 2018 timeframe. Additionally, Energia provided Boeing three additional specifically identified seats in the Spring 2019 timeframe on two Soyuz spacecraft. Finally, Boeing and RSC Energia agreed that each of these five seats will include a launch of an individual to and from the ISS, including all services normally provided during launches to ISS. Boeing and RSC Energia have represented that Boeing has the full rights to these seats and can sell them to any third party."

Keith's note: How sneaky. Neither SpaceX or Boeing are going to have their crew services ready in time to replace Soyuz in the near term. So NASA uses Boeing to buy more Soyuz seats. Its not the first time that they have bought Soyuz seats. But NASA omits mention of the word "Soyuz" in the title of the presolicitation notice. No one will notice, right NASA? But wait - there's more - RSC Energia gave Boeing 5 Soyuz seats to settle a business deal gone sour (Sea Launch) - and Boeing can charge NASA whatever whatever they want for these seats. And if CST-100 flights are delayed further and more Soyuz seats are needed then Boeing can sell extra seats to NASA. Boeing makes money from NASA one way - or the other - unless SpaceX gets into space with their crewed Dragon.

As leadership departs, NASA quietly moves to buy more Soyuz seats, Ars Technica

"Last September, based upon anonymous sources, Ars reported that NASA had begun considering buying additional seats in 2019 as a hedge against further delays with the commercial crew program. Both NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and the agency's head of human spaceflight, Bill Gerstenmaier, subsequently denied this report."

NASA considering Boeing offer for additional Soyuz seats, SpaceNews

"NASA officials previous indicated that there were no plans by the agency to purchase additional Soyuz seats directly from Roscosmos. William Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said in an October interview that the deadline had passed for NASA to purchase additional Soyuz seats from Roscosmos for 2019 missions."

Keith's note: Have a look at the board of directors of RSC Energia. Five of the Eleven members work for Roscosmos including Yuri Vlasov "deputy general director for rocket and space industry of State Corporation for space activities Roscosmos". RSC Energia is owned by the Russian government. Buying Soyuz seats from RSC Energia instead of Roscosmos is a distinction without a difference. Boeing has not disclosed what the value of these seats are or what they will charge NASA for them.

Obama orders Russia expulsions, sanctions for interference in 2016 election, Reuters

"President Barack Obama on Thursday ordered the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats and sanctioned Russian intelligence officials who Washington believes were involved in hacking U.S. political groups in the 2016 presidential election. The measures, taken during the last days of Obama's presidency, mark a new low in U.S.-Russian relations which have deteriorated over serious differences on Ukraine and Syria. "These actions follow repeated private and public warnings that we have issued to the Russian government, and are a necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm U.S. interests in violation of established international norms of behavior," Obama said in a statement from vacation in Hawaii."

Joint DHS, ODNI, FBI Statement on Russian Malicious Cyber Activity, FBI

"This activity by Russian intelligence services is part of a decade-long campaign of cyber-enabled operations directed at the U.S. government and its citizens. These cyber operations have included spearphishing, campaigns targeting government organizations, critical infrastructure, think tanks, universities, political organizations, and corporations; theft of information from these organizations; and the recent public release of some of this stolen information."

- Cold War Echoes On Earth And In Space, Earlier post
- How Long Will ISS Remain Isolated From Terrestrial Politics?, Earlier post

Commercial Crew Flight Dates Delayed To 2018

"The next generation of American spacecraft and rockets that will launch astronauts to the International Space Station are nearing the final stages of development and evaluation. Targeted Flight Dates:
Boeing Orbital Flight Test: June 2018
Boeing Crew Flight Test: August 2018
SpaceX Demonstration Mission 1: November 2017
SpaceX Demonstration Mission 2: May 2018"

Progress Launch Fails

Problem Occurs During Launch of Progress 65 Resupply Mission to the ISS - Vehicle Burns up in Atmosphere (with video)

"A launch that seemingly was going perfect, quickly became a concern to Russian mission controllers when the third stage of the Soyuz rocket apparently shut down early, possibly leaving the Progress resupply spacecraft in a improper orbit. To make matters worse mission controllers have been unable to confirm at this point if the solar arrays are fully deployed. Contact was lost at T+ 6:23 just before it was supposed to achieve orbit."




U.S. Govt. Hackers Ready to Hit Back If Russia Tries to Disrupt Election, NBC

"U.S. military hackers have penetrated Russia's electric grid, telecommunications networks and the Kremlin's command systems, making them vulnerable to attack by secret American cyber weapons should the U.S. deem it necessary, according to a senior intelligence official and top-secret documents reviewed by NBC News."

The Curious Geopolitical Immunity of the International Space Station, earlier Post

"Interestingly, every time the bad relationship between the U.S. and Russia gets worse there is no mention of altering U.S./Russian cooperation in space. Indeed, when U.S./China tensions are mentioned, you hear increased talk of cooperation between the U.S. and China in space. Oh wait: the Chinese are going to visit their new space station in a few weeks. Why is space seen as a venture that seemingly transcends terrestrial politics - indeed, one where peaceful collaboration regularly prevails over less desirable behavior? There is a precedent: Antarctica."

Keith's note: How long is the ISS going to be able to remain an orbital, Antarctic-like, politics-free zone? The longer it manages to remain apart from terrestrial turmoils, the more space exploration speaks to a way to transcend such things. But there has to be a breaking point sooner or later.

The weak pull of artificial gravity, The Space Review

"Gerstenmaier, while skeptical of the need for and ability to accommodate artificial gravity, didn't rule it out entirely. He noted that there's very little information on the effectiveness of partial gravity, including the minimum levels needed to offset the deleterious effects of microgravity. Some of that research is being done with a small rodent centrifuge on the station's Kibo module. "We'll take a look and see if there's some magic partial gravity that actually mitigates most of the concerns of the zero-gravity levels," he said. Until then, astronauts on the ISS and future exploration missions will have to learn to take the good with the bad when it comes to weightlessness--and hope they love to exercise for a couple hours every day."

Keith's note: Well, DUH, Bill. You guys cancelled the 2.5 meter centrifuge facility that was supposed to fly on ISS to answer those exact same questions. Gee, I wonder why they have not been addressed? Don't try and duck the issue: I can remember sitting in meetings where it was discussed that you attended back in the day ;-)

Expedition 49 Is Back On Earth (with video)

"NASA astronaut and Expedition 49 crew member Kate Rubins, who became the first person to sequence DNA in space, returned to Earth Saturday after a successful mission aboard the International Space Station. Rubins and her crewmates Anatoly Ivanishin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos and Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, touched down in their Soyuz MS-01 at 11:58 p.m. EDT (9:58 a.m. Oct. 30, Kazakhstan time) southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan."

Keith's note: When "Interstellar" came out there was an Oculus Rift "experience" that toured a few locations around the country. The Oculus Rift tour inside the "Endurance" was pretty cool. If only NASA could find a way to take this ISS footage and convert it for use with Play Station VR, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard. etc. I am sure it would be a hit. Nice for training astronauts too.

NASA FISO Presentation: An ISS Space Ambulance Based on X-37B Technology

Now available is the October 19, 2016 NASA Future In-Space Operations (FISO) telecon material. The speakers was Steve Robinson (UC Santa Cruz) who discussed "An ISS Space Ambulance Based on X-37B Technology."

Note: The audio file and presentation are online and available to download.

Marc's note: An interesting concept. Is there a future commercial application for this concept should other space stations come online (Bigelow etc.)?

After Month Long Delay Soyuz Rocket Launches Astronauts to the International Space Station [With video]

"Three crew members representing the United States and Russia are on their way to the International Space Station after launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 4:05 a.m. EDT Wednesday (2:05 p.m. Baikonur time). The Soyuz spacecraft carrying astronaut Shane Kimbrough of NASA, and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, is scheduled to dock to the Poisk module of the space station at 5:59 a.m. Friday, Oct. 21. NASA Television coverage of docking will begin at 5:15 a.m. Hatches are scheduled to open about 8:35 a.m., with NASA TV coverage starting at 8 a.m."

- ISS Crew Could be Short Staffed for Another Month and a Half, earlier post

Orbital ATK Successfully Launches the Antares Rocket on its Return to Flight (with video), SpaceRef

"In a successful return to flight, Orbital ATK launched the upgraded Antares rocket with the Cygnus spacecraft on a resupply mission to the International Space Station. The launch scheduled for 7:40 pm EDT (2340 GMT) was delayed briefly due to a minor engine anomaly. Mission launch control cleared the rocket to launch which it did at 7:45 pm EDT, right as launch window was closing."

Keith's note: It has been 2 years since I tried to watch a launch from the street in front of my house in Reston, VA. Not an easy thing to do in a town that is certified as a 'tree city'. Luckily the notch in the trees in the direction of Wallops is still there. About 2 minutes after launch a steady red light appeared and I could see it for another minute or so.

Shenzhou-11 Is In Orbit, SpaceRef

"China placed the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft with two astronauts aboard into orbit today. The launch happened exactly on time at 7:30 am local time at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. Shenzhou-11 is in its planned orbit and will dock with China's second space station Tiangong-2 on Tuesday. The two astronauts will remain onboard Tiangong-2 for a month."

Upcoming Space News

China to launch manned space mission Shenzhou 11 on Monday

"China will launch a two-man space mission, Shenzhou 11, on Monday, officials with the space program said, taking the country closer to its ambition of setting up a permanent manned space station by 2022. After Monday's launch at 7:30 a.m. (2330 GMT) in the remote northwestern province of Gansu, the astronauts will dock with the Tiangong 2 space laboratory, where they will spend about a month."

Schiaparelli Released From Trace Gas Orbiter and Begins Its Descent to Mars

"Today, three days before gravity will ensure the arrival of ExoMars 2016 at Mars, the Schiaparelli Entry, Descent & landing demonstrator Module separated from the TGO orbiter and is now en route on a ballistic trajectory to reach the Red Planet, enter its atmosphere and land softly in an area close to the equator known as Meridiani Planum."

Antares OA-5 Launch Delayed to October 17, 2016

"Today's launch of Orbital ATK's Antares rocket is postponed 24 hours due to a ground support equipment (GSE) cable that did not perform as expected during the pre-launch check out. We have spares on hand and rework procedures are in process."

Keith's note: I will be on BBC World News live tonight at 8:00 pm and 9:00 pm 11:15 pm EDT to discuss these three mission events.

White House says U.S. will retaliate against Russia for hacking, Politico

"White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest promised on Tuesday that the U.S. would deliver a "proportional" response to Russia's alleged hacking of American computer systems. In addition to pledging that the U.S. "will ensure that our response is proportional," Earnest told reporters flying on Air Force One that "it is unlikely that our response would be announced in advance."

China, Russia consider joint defense response to U.S. missile shield

"Amid escalating U.S.-Russia tensions, the Russian military said Tuesday it will cooperate with China on efforts to fend off a threat posed by the U.S. missile defense program. Lt. Gen. Viktor Poznikhir of the Russian military's General Staff accused the Pentagon of developing the shield as part of planning for a possible first nuclear strike. "The missile defense system considerably shifts the balance of offensive weapons, allowing the planning of a more efficient pre-emptive strike," he said at a security conference in China."

Keith's note: Interestingly, every time the bad relationship between the U.S. and Russia gets worse there is no mention of altering U.S./Russian cooperation in space. Indeed, when U.S./China tensions are mentioned, you hear increased talk of cooperation between the U.S. and China in space. Oh wait: the Chinese are going to visit their new space station in a few weeks. Why is space seen as a venture that seemingly transcends terrestrial politics - indeed, one where peaceful collaboration regularly prevails over less desirable behavior? There is a precedent: Antarctica.

Larger image

Roscosmos Sets October 19th as Launch Date for Next Space Station Crew, Roscosmos

"Based on quality assurance tests of MTV Soyuz MS-02, the specialists of Rocket and Space Corporation Energiya determined that the control equipment was activated by the landing system cable, which was jammed during the test operations. After the cable malfunction was fixed, engineers ran a full trial of the space ship.

Based on trial results, the Commission resolved to launch MTV Soyuz MS-02 (decree #732) on October 19, 2016, at 11:05 AM MT."

Manned flights to ISS to be rescheduled -- Roscosmos, TASS

"The schedule of manned flights to the International Space Station (ISS) will be changed after the launch of Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft was postponed due to technical malfunction, the press service of Russian space agency Roscosmos told reporters on Tuesday."

Marc's note: Originally scheduled for this Friday, the launch of the Soyuz MS-02 has been delayed until November 1 though it has also been reported by Interfax that October 12th was also considered.

There is an unspecified issue with the Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft. Plans for a November 16th launch of the follow-on Soyuz MS-03 are proceeding as planned with no issues. So is this a one-off issue? Or could the issue crop up on Soyuz MS-03?

Marc's update: According to RIA Novosti and other media reports from Russia the issue with the Soyuz MS-02, a short circuit, has been traced to a faulty part that will be replaced.

Marc's September 22nd Update update:

Soyuz MS- 02 Team Faces Dangerous Repairs of Improperly Bent Electric Cable., Russian Space Web

"Replacing the damaged cable is relatively straight forward, but it now has to be conducted on the vehicle fully loaded with toxic propellants and pressurized gases. Such an attempt would violate usual safety rules, but draining the spacecraft off its propellants and gases would likely be even more unprecedented and require lengthy repairs."

US expert: Launch of Tiangong-2 a 'great leap', CCTV (with video)

"Tiangong-2 is very important because it's the 2nd space station that China has launched. It's improved on the earlier version. This will be used for several years, and then it will be followed by a larger and more complex space station. This is how you learn to do things in space. This is the way the US did it, Russia did it. This is a very significant space station because it can also be refueled, which the earlier one could not. The Tiangong 2 also will last a lot longer. It has a matter of fact, the first mission, Shenzhou 11 is going up in October, and they will be up there for over a month. So, that now is twice the length of the previous mission. Every mission gets longer and more complex, that's what China is doing. China, within 2 or 3 years, could be seen as an equal competitor to the Russian goverment's space manned program, and the US's, the European's, and the Japanese space program," said Keith Cowing, former NASA employee."

The Future of the International Space Station Is Up to a Weird Little Florida Nonprofit, Wired

"Which brings us to March, when the NASA Advisory Council released a memo that included this: The Council has also been told by NASA that a successful transition from the "Earth Reliant" phase to the "Proving Ground" is dependent at least in part on the success of attracting future commercial users of the ISS and/or the availability of commercial LEO laboratory capability that NASA could use. The Council therefore feels that it would be beneficial for the agency to better understand the effect that the resources being devoted to the ISS National Laboratory might have on the important research needed to reduce technology and human health risk for the Journey to Mars."

Ken Shields, director of operations for Casis, takes issue with the assessment. "This is one man's opinion, but there were a few vociferous members of NAC who didn't do a lot of due diligence on what we do, our history," he says. "They read some news stories, brought some gotcha information, and I wish I had been there in person."

Keith's note: This is strange. With regard to this NASA Advisory Council meeting on 31 March/1 April 2016 CASIS employees Greg Johnson, Michael Roberts, and Brian Talbot from CASIS were physically in attendance. In addition, CASIS employees Ken Shields, Warren Bates, Patrick O'Neill, and Cindy Martin Brennan attended via dial-in. So Ken Shields should have heard the entire conversation, right? He could have sent a text to his boss and asked to say something if his ears were burning. NASA Advisory Council meetings are open to the public, available for free via dial-in and Webex. The words Shields takes issue with were blessed by the entire NAC.

At this meeting the NAC decided that a team should make a site visit to CASIS to look into these issues. Shortly thereafter the NAC chair, Steve Squyres resigned and NAC leadership was thrown into disarray. CASIS objected to the whole idea of a NAC site visit. During the leadership vacuum CASIS, NASA, and a sympathetic NAC member made certain that site the visit and further consideration of NAC were buried. It is quite clear that CASIS is afraid of external scrutiny and does not think that it should be help publicly accountable for what it does with $15 million of NASA money every year.

CASIS Had A Bad Week In Washington, earlier post, earlier post

"The next day the CASIS entourage, led by President and Executive Director Greg Johnson, showed up at the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) meeting. Things did not go so well for them at the NAC. Within minutes of starting to talk, NAC members started to pepper Johnson with questions- questions that he was unable and/or unwilling to answer. It went downhill from there."

A Closer Look At The CASIS "Space Is In It" Endorsement, earlier post

"On 31 March 2016 NASA International Space Station Director Sam Scimemi sent a letter to Greg Johnson on a number of topics. One of the issues Scimemi raised had to do with how CASIS hypes/promotes the research that it takes credit for having facilitated onboard the ISS. "

Letter From NASA to CASIS 31 March 2016, earlier post

"We would advise caution in the lending of the ISS National Lab brand (via your "Space is in it" certification) too freely; care must be taken to that research performed on the ISS has actually influenced product development in advance of awarding the certification. Failure to do so weakens the brand and may lend an air of being nonserious in our mutual quest to fully utilize the ISS as a national lab.

First DNA Sequencing Conducted in Space, NASA

"For the first time ever, DNA was successfully sequenced in microgravity as part of the Biomolecule Sequencer experiment performed by NASA astronaut Kate Rubins this weekend aboard the International Space Station. The ability to sequence the DNA of living organisms in space opens a whole new world of scientific and medical possibilities. Scientists consider it a game changer."

In Depth Look: Sequencing DNA in Space, SpaceRef

"NASA is not often known for making the best use of existing COTS (commercial off the shelf technology) aboard the ISS. Then again, sometimes they are. This is an example of when the agency really grabs cutting edge biotech and sends it into space. There's usually quite a lag time. The reasons range from slogging through the often cumbersome payload safety and integration process to people at NASA who are simply not up to date with what the ral world is doing in their field. In this instance a rather remarkable gizmo is being flown in space that truly puts genetic sequencing in the palm of your hand. Indeed, its almost as if NASA was flying part of a version 1.0 Tricorder in space. This is cutting edge technology folks."

Keith's note: Of course, do you see any mention of this groundbreaking accomplishment inside the ISS National Laboratory on the CASIS website? Of course not. But the NASA ISS National Lab webpage and NASA.gov mention it. CASIS seems to be totally unaware of what is going inside the facility it is supposed to manage. More on that in the weeks ahead.

SpaceX Dragon Splashes Down with Crucial NASA Research Samples, NASA

"SpaceX's Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 11:47 a.m. EDT Friday, Aug. 26, southwest of Baja California with more than 3,000 pounds of NASA cargo, science and technology demonstration samples from the International Space Station. The Dragon spacecraft will be taken by ship to a port near Los Angeles, where some cargo will be removed and returned to NASA immediately. Dragon then will be prepared for a return trip to SpaceX's test facility in McGregor, Texas, for processing."

Roscosmos plans to reduce Russian ISS crew to two, TASS

"Russia's state space corporation Roscosmos plans to reduce Russia's crew at the International Space Station (ISS) from three to two cosmonauts, the Izvestia newspaper writes on Thursday, citing Roscosmos manned programs director Sergei Krikalev. "Plans to reduce the crew stem from the fact that less cargo ships are sent to the ISS and from the necessity to boost the efficiency of the program," the newspaper quotes Krikalev. Apart from that, it will make it possible to lower expenses on the space station's maintenance."

Space station crew may drop to five because of Russia, Ars Technica

"In a statement on Monday, NASA confirmed that Russia is considering dropping back to two crew members. However, the agency did not provide any additional information. According to NASA: "Any questions about the near-term Russian Space budget or Russian ISS expedition size should be directed to the Roscosmos press office. Roscosmos has joined NASA and other International Space Station partners in extending support for the orbiting laboratory to at least 2024, and the current level of research of both NASA and the international partners on ISS is at an all-time high."

NASA Wants to Bring Enterprise to the Space Station

"In its RFI, NASA stressed that that for the moment, it just wants to hear ideas. It doesn't have a budget to help spur any proposed projects, or plans to release them for public perusal. NASA received 11 submissions "from a broad range of respondents including individuals, small companies and large companies," Sam Scimemi, division director for the ISS program, said in an e-mail."

NASA hopes to hand the International Space Station to a commercial owner by mid 2020s, TechCrunch

"NASA's trying to develop economic development in low-earth orbit," [NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development Bill] Hill said, speaking on a panel of NASA staff assembled to discuss the upcoming Mars mission. "Ultimately, our desire is to hand the space station over to either a commercial entity or some other commercial capability so that research can continue in low-earth orbit, so that research can continue in low-earth orbit. ... NASA didn't specify any potential buyer, but two commercial entities are about to add significant real estate to the ISS: a new docking adapter is being put in place to support crew shuttle missions from Boeing and SpaceX, both of which are set to start shuttling personnel to the station in 2017."

Keith's note: Every time someone from NASA talks about the future of ISS and the #JourneyToMars thing they contradict themselves and further muddy the issue.

1. CASIS is supposed to be doing this commercial stuff already with the U.S. portion of the ISS - NASA doesn't mention that very often.
2. The ISS is owned by more countries/agencies than just NASA. So how can NASA hand the ISS over to anyone?
3. "Buyer"? NASA is going to sell the ISS? (see #2)
4. Boeing and SpaceX own their visiting spacecraft - "real estate" that comes and goes.

NASA's Plan For Commercializing Low Earth Orbit Is Still A Mystery, earlier post
NASA: We're on a #JourneyToMars - But Don't Ask Us How, earlier post
Dazed and Confused About Space Commerce At NASA, earlier post
A Closer Look At The CASIS "Space Is In It" Endorsement, earlier post

Mouser Electronics and Grant Imahara Launch Groundbreaking Contest to 3D-Print Design Aboard International Space Station

"Imagine how exciting it would be to see your design made in space," said Glenn Smith, President and CEO of Mouser Electronics, a leading global distributor of the newest semiconductors and electronic components. "We are really excited to present this unique contest. We hope our wide range of electronic components will enable people to create whatever their imagination sparks." For the I.S.S. Design Challenge, Mouser has partnered with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and Made In Space, along with Hackster and MacroFab. The winner of the I.S.S. Challenge will receive a 3D printer, a consultation with Made In Space - pioneers in additive manufacturing technology for use in the space environment - and the prestige of seeing their design 3D-printed aboard the I.S.S."

Keith's note: How cool. A bunch of companies are offering a competition where the winner gets to print something on a commercial device on board the ISS. Isn't this the sort of thing that NASA and CASIS should be promoting? Sam Scimemi from NASA and Greg Johnson from CASIS constantly proclaim their intent to bring education and commerce to Low Earth Orbit on board the ISS. But when it starts to happen in LEO on ISS - on its own - NASA and CASIS could not be bothered to even mention it. One would think that any news like this is good news for everyone involved with the promotion of ISS commercial capabilities. CASIS has signed agreements and has flown Made in Space hardware. But in this case, CASIS prefers to play around with comic book illustrators instead of highlight how its efforts and those of NASA are actually resulting in novel private sector interest in the ISS.

Yet just last week NASA put a notice out seeking new ideas for commercial activities in LEO - activities that involve both NASA and CASIS. If they ignore current efforts already underway, what confidence do we have that they will be able to identify new ones?

Advancing Economic Development in LEO via Commercial Use of Limited Availability Unique ISS Capabilities, NASA

"This is a Request for Information (RFI) only and does not constitute a commitment, implied or otherwise, that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will take action in this matter. NASA is investigating options and approaches to expedite commercial activity in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Specifically, NASA is looking to increase private sector demand for space research and expand on the work of Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the manager of the ISS National Laboratory. NASA is not only interested in technical solutions to advance these goals, but also in contract or agreement structures that potential offerors would see as beneficial to advance private sector demand for low Earth orbit research."

NASA Will Put Rocket Raccoon And Groot On Its New Mission Patch, Gizmodo

"A major mission for us here at CASIS is to find unique and innovative ways to bring notoriety to the ISS National Laboratory and the research that is being conducted on our orbiting laboratory," said CASIS Director of Operations and Educational Opportunities Ken Shields. It's also part of a secret mission that might help us get a Rocket and Groot of our very own. "The reward for us [is that] we'll actually have two characters go into space," said Mitch Dane, director of custom publishing. Then he joked, "With a little luck, there'll be a little cosmic radiation going on, they'll come back alive."

'Guardians of the Galaxy' team up with NASA: Groot, Rocket Raccoon on mission patch, Washington Times

"Director James Gunn, whose "Guardians of the Galaxy" grossed $773 million worldwide in 2014, was awed by the decision. "So cool. NASA Oasis has paired with Marvel and is using Rocket & Groot as an official emblem for the mission to Mars," Mr. Gunn wrote."

A Closer Look At The CASIS "Space Is In It" Endorsement, earlier post

"On 31 March 2016 NASA International Space Station Director Sam Scimemi sent a letter to Greg Johnson on a number of topics. Scimemi said: "We would advise caution in the lending of the ISS National Lab brand (via your "Space is in it" certification) too freely; care must be taken to that research performed on the ISS has actually influenced product development in advance of awarding the certification. Failure to do so weakens the brand and may lend an air of being nonserious in our mutual quest to fully utilize the ISS as a national lab."

Keith's note: CASIS issues a press release that mentions that Marvel comic book/movie characters at ComicCon are now ISS mascots or something. Alas NASA is there too - as @NASASocial - at the Marvel booth - and neither @NASASocial or @ISS_CASIS mention one another's presence. Apparently CASIS thinks that Groot, a giant rock tree man thing, and a foul-mouthed raccoon are better poised to explain ISS science than ISS scientists. So - the movie director whose characters are being featured refers to "CASIS" as "OASIS" and doesn't seem to know that this is all about the International Space Station - referring instead to "the mission to Mars".

Meanwhile NASA makes no mention of this news and NASA is never mentioned in the CASIS press release. Yet news stories say that NASA is behind all of this. NASA only gets the credit from third parties - and when they get mention it is factually mangled. Nice job CASIS.

CASIS and NCATS Collaborate to Promote Human Physiology Research on the International Space Station, CASIS

Keith's note: Senior managers and PR people at CASIS have been heard to complain that they wish NASA would do more to promote them. So what does CASIS do to encourage more interaction with NASA? Why, they ignore NASA, of course. This press release is about research aboard the ISS that NASA paid billions to build and operate. NASA pays 99.97% or more of CASIS' budget every year. So everything that CASIS does is paid for with NASA money. Yet, if you read this press release, you will see that the word "NASA" is not even mentioned. This may sound trivial but CASIS is constantly taking credit for things without acknowledging NASA's role. And then they whine when NASA doesn't show them enough love. If the management of CASIS had half a brain they'd be trying to be NASA's best friend. Instead, all they do is throw them shade.

Keith's note: Based on a recent NASA Freedom of Information Act response CASIS has been operating for two years without the Annual Program Plan it is required to have. Or maybe it is. Either way NASA doesn't seem to care.

On 5 April 2016 I submitted a FOIA request to NASA for information related to CASIS. CASIS (Center for the Advancement of Science in Space) is the non-profit organization that NASA relies upon to operate its research facilities aboard the International Space Station. CASIS gets $15 million a year from NASA to do this and relies on this funding for 99.97% of its annual budget.

At first the NASA HQ FOIA refused to even consider my FOIA request as a "media" request despite the fact that I have been accredited as media by NASA for more than 15 years. After a lot of emails, complaints, and foot dragging, NASA HQ's FOIA office finally complied with my FOIA request. To their credit they provided a lot of information which is going to take some time to analyze. My request was focused and straightforward:

"I am requesting the full text of NASA cooperative agreement NNH11CD70A between NASA and CASIS including any revisions, annexes, modifications, or associated contractual amendments made by NASA from the inception of this agreement with CASIS until the date of this FOIA request. I am also requesting all progress and status reports and memos provided by CASIS to NASA from the onset of NASA Cooperative Agreement NNH11CD70A until the date of this FOIA request as well as all correspondence/memos from NASA to CASIS in response to CASIS progress and status reports from the onset of NASA Cooperative Agreement NNH11CD70A until the date of this FOIA request."

Let's start with the means whereby NASA and CASIS agree on what CASIS should be doing i.e. the CASIS Annual Program Plan. In response to the FOIA request NASA provided CASIS Annual Program Plans for FY 2012 (submitted 31 October 2011); 2013 (submitted 21 March 2013); and 2014 (submitted 20 October 2013). However NASA did not provide a copy of the CASIS Annual Program Plan for FY 2015 (FY 2015 began on 1 October 2014) or the plan for FY 2016 (FY 2016 began on 1 October 2015). Both Annual Program Plans clearly fall within the period of time and scope specified in my FOIA request.

These reports are required to be prepared and submitted annually. According to the Cooperative Agreement between NASA and CASIS:

Russian ISS docking system test doesn't go as planned, SpaceRef (With video)

"According to veteran Russian space program reporter Anatoly Zak an ISS test of the cosmonaut-operated docking system on the Progress 62 cargo spacecraft didn't quite go as expected earlier this morning."

Marc's note: Despite a statement from Roscosmos saying the test was successful you can watch the video yourself and see docking with considerable pitch at the end. And yes, there's a reason these tests are performed and I'm sure there will be another scheduled not in the too distant future.

Ruexit For ISS?

Russia's Plan To Spin Off a New Space Station From the ISS, Popular Mechanics

"According to RKK Energia, the prime Russian contractor on the ISS, the new outpost would begin with the separation of the Nauka from the rest of the old station in mid-2020s. By that time, Nauka should have two even newer modules in tow. One would be the so-called Node Module, a tinker-toy-like component that could connect to six other modules, crew ships, cargo tankers, structural elements, you name it. The Node Module is already in RKK Energia's garage and ready to go within a few months after the Nauka. Next would be the new Science and Power Module (NEM) which, as it name implies, will finally give cosmonauts a state-of-the-art science lab and a pair of large solar arrays, making the Russian segment fully independent from the rest of the ISS in terms of power, communications, and other resources."

Keith's note: As readers of NASAWatch have noted by now, I have an interest in the utilization of the International Space Station. When the amazing capabilities of ISS are used to their fullest potential we all benefit. When those resources are under-utilized our tax dollars and the finite utility of the ISS are wasted. CASIS has been given responsibility for managing the U.S. assets aboard the ISS that have been collectively proclaimed as being the ISS National Laboratory. I've already written a lot about CASIS. I'll be writing much more in the weeks to come.

Let's start with a clear-cut example of how CASIS has stumbled: its preoccupation with golf and its relationship with Cobra Puma Golf, a large and very successful golfing gear manufacturer. If you look at the LinkedIn page of Patrick O'Neill, CASIS Marketing & Communications Manager, you will see that he was an account executive for VitroRobertson. Between 2008-2009 he was "Account Executive on the Cobra Golf Account. Managed the day to day operations of all Brand Marketing efforts and assisted in the production of all Advertising efforts for Cobra Golf." If you read CASIS President/Executive Director Greg Johnson's astronaut bio you'll see that he lists golf among his recreational interests. So, senior CASIS management likes golf. "Go with what you know", so they say.

On 31 March 2016 NASA International Space Station Director Sam Scimemi sent a letter to Greg Johnson on a number of topics. One of the issues Scimemi raised had to do with how CASIS hypes/promotes the research that it takes credit for having facilitated onboard the ISS. In that letter Scimemi notes: "We would advise caution in the lending of the ISS National Lab brand (via your "Space is in it" certification) too freely; care must be taken to that research performed on the ISS has actually influenced product development in advance of awarding the certification. Failure to do so weakens the brand and may lend an air of being nonserious in our mutual quest to fully utilize the ISS as a national lab." Coincidentally this letter was sent on the same day that CASIS staff made a rather awkward presentation to the NASA Advisory Council.

The "Space Is In It" designation that CASIS calls an "endorsement" has apparently only been awarded once - to Cobra Puma Golf. As such it would be illustrative to examine how that whole process came about and what it says about the ability of CASIS to recognize the actual commercial research potential of the ISS.

NASA Administrator Bolden Addresses ESA Council

"The third phase is becoming "Earth Independent" by building upon what we are learning on the Space Station and what we will learn in the "Proving Ground" of the lunar vicinity to enable human missions to Mars. It is with this plan in mind that I'm here today to encourage you to continue your support for human exploration, starting with an ESA Council decision this coming December to extend ISS operations to at least 2024, a critical step to continue advancing humanity's presence farther into the solar system and, ultimately, completion of the Journey to Mars."

Hearing - Human Spaceflight Ethics and Obligations: Options for Monitoring, Diagnosing, and Treating Former Astronauts - Hearing Charter

"The hearing will evaluate the impacts of long duration human spaceflight on astronaut health; federal obligations and ethical considerations related to those impacts; as well as potential options for monitoring, diagnosing, and treating retired and management NASA astronauts for conditions resulting from their federal service."

- Subcommittee Discusses Healthcare for Former Astronauts, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democrats
- Subcommittee Seeks Better Health Care for Former Astronauts, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
- Prepared Statement: Scott Kelly
- Prepared Statement: Richard Williams
- Prepared Statement: Chris Cassidy
- Prepared Statement: Michael Lopez-Alegria
- Prepared Statement: Jeffrey P. Kahn

Keith's note: It has been interesting to listen to astronauts and medical professionals talk about the various medical aspects of flying in space - especially what Scott Kelly has gone through as he re-adapts to life on Earth after his long flight. There is still so much we do not know. My first job at NASA in 1986 was at the Life Sciences Division at NASA Headquarters working on a large report documenting life science issues in space. A lot of the work had to do with crew health and safety. A lot of good research has been accomplished in the decades that have followed. We now know a lot more about how long duration spaceflight affects human health - but we do not know everything. Nor do we know how to deal with all of the potential risks - yet. As more research is done on the ISS, these issues will be better understood. When NASA sends humans on the #JourneyToMars they're going to need to understand just what the risks are for a trip that could last years before they sign off on the missions. Some risks simply have to be accepted. Yet others can be avoided - easily. Like being pregnant.

There is a movie coming out in August called "The Space Between Us". Based on the movie trailer and the film's website a pregnant astronaut files all the way to Mars and gives birth to a child - on Mars, dying in the process of childbirth. After lots of talk about how the boy could never adapt to Earth, they go ahead and fly him back to Earth anyway. Go figure. I just do not understand how any individual astronaut - or anyone at NASA - could ever allow a pregnant person to do this given how little we know about mammalian reproduction in a spaceflight environment. We do not fly pregnant astronauts now. This movie (based on what has been released) is going to be bioethics nightmare for any space life science expert who will be called upon to comment.

Had they changed the plot such that conception, development and birth all happened on Mars, they'd have been in much less risky territory since the 0.38G gravity on Mars may well be enough for normal development to proceed. Maybe. But having a pregnant woman - probably very close to term - do a multi-G entry and landing after 9 months of zero G gestation is just pushing the limits of ethics and credibility.

NASA Centennial Challenges Vascular Tissue Challenge

"The Vascular Tissue Challenge is open and teams that wish to compete may now register. Centennial Challenges is a program of prize competitions to stimulate innovation in technologies of interest and value to NASA and the nation. The Vascular Tissue Challenge is a prize competition with a $500,000 prize purse for teams that can successfully create thick, human vascularized organ tissue in an in vitro environment while maintaining metabolic functionality similar to their in vivo functionality throughout a 30-day survival period. NASA is providing the prize purse. The Methuselah Foundation's New Organ Alliance is the Allied Organization managing the competition."

Keith's 12 June note: I sent NASA STMD AA Steve Jurczyk, NASA PAO, and HEOMD an email inquiry on this Challenge asking: "Can you tell me why NASA is providing $500,000 in award money for a competition to "create thick, human vascularized organ tissue in an in vitro environment while maintaining metabolic functionality similar to their in vivo functionality throughout a 30-day survival period"?

According to this partner organization link referenced by this notice: "Specifically, innovations may enable the growth of de novo tissues and organs on orbit which may address the risks related to traumatic bodily injury, improve general crew health, and enhance crew performance on future, long-duration missions."

That said, is there an existing NASA mission/medical/safety requirement for ISS or NASA's human spaceflight activities to develop such a capability in space - or on Earth? If so can you provide me with the specific justification and the expected specific application of technology developed from the results of this challenge? When is this capability planned for implementation in space? Is NASA's participation in the topic of this specific challenge reflected in existing NASA plans for human health and countermeasures research? If there is no specific plan to implement this technology on space missions, can you explain why NASA is spending half a million dollars on research that is clearly much more relevant to NIH's or DoD's respective research portfolios? How (specifically) is this line of research "of interest and value to NASA"? This research has a clear overlap with the biotech research being conducted by the ISS National Laboratory. Is CASIS involved in this challenge?

As a biologist and former NASA life science division employee I am both intrigued and puzzled by this announcement."

Keith's 13 June update: By coincidence CASIS announced yet another cool biotech challenge today. Organs-on-chips have broad utility on Earth and in space - within and outside of space research. Cool, cutting-edge stuff, yes? But the rest of NASA (most notably NASA's Centennial Challenges) makes no reference to the CASIS biotech challenge announcement - and CASIS makes no announcement of the STMD Vascular Tissue Challenge. And NASA HEOMD does not mention either despite obvious linkages to human health and disease. So I forwarded this to the folks at STMD and HEOMD and asked if there is an agency-wide strategic plan that governs things like this. i.e. who does what - and why.

CASIS Announces $1 Million In Grant Awards For Organs-On-Chips Challenge

"The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) announced it has awarded $1 million in grant funding to two research entities stemming from its 3D Microphysiological Systems for Organs-On-Chips Grand Challenge. CASIS is the organization tasked with managing and promoting research onboard the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory."

Keith's 13 June update: Here's the response I got from Sarah Ramsey at NASA PAO:

Launch of new series manned spacecraft rescheduled due to risk of docking disruption, TASS

"The launch has been rescheduled for July 7," he said. "The crew is expected to come to Baikonur (the Russian space center located is Kazakhstan TASS) on June 24." "Experts have established the ship will be rolling as it docks the ISS and they are unable to stop this rolling motion so far," the source said.

NASA Inflates BEAM

Bigelow Module Fails First Expansion Attempt

"NASA is working closely with Bigelow Aerospace to understand why its module did not fully expand today as planned. Engineers are meeting at the Johnson Space Center in Houston to discuss a path forward for the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM)."

Packing for space flattened NASA's Space Hotel, New Scientist

"The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, was installed on the space station on 16 April and was supposed to be inflated on Thursday. But like a stubborn air mattress that stays flat, folds in the soft fabric kept it from expanding even as astronaut Jeff Williams tried to pump in air. In a 27 May teleconference, representatives from NASA and Bigelow Aerospace discussed what went wrong. "We went through a sequence, stepping up the pressure," said NASA's Jason Crusan. After some initial growth, the habitat stopped expanding even as pressure built up. "We ran into higher forces than our models predicted," he said."

miniPCR announces first DNA amplification in space

"miniPCR announced the first successful DNA amplification on the International Space Station (ISS). Using a miniPCR thermal cycler, astronauts performed Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) on DNA samples on April 19th. Analysis performed today on Earth confirms that DNA amplification done in microgravity was successful, ushering in a new era in space exploration."

miniPCR, GenesInSpace

Keith's note: This is really cool news. But does CASIS make any mention of this major accomplishment on their website or @ISS_CASIS? Of course not.

Boeing falls behind SpaceX in next space race, CNN Money

"Boeing said Tuesday that it has pushed the date of its first manned space mission back from 2017 to 2018. Boeing's CST-100 Starliner, which will carry the astronauts, is still under development. SpaceX, led by Tesla Motors (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk, says it intends to have a manned mission in 2017 using its Dragon space capsule. Unlike the Starliner, Dragon is already built and in use, delivering supplies to the International Space Station with unmanned missions. But it will need to go through further testing before it can carry humans."

Boeing's Starliner schedule for sending astronauts into orbit slips to 2018, GeekWire

"However, if both companies stick to their stated schedules, SpaceX would become the first U.S. commercial venture to send astronauts to the space station and as a result would take possession of a highly prized trophy: a U.S. flag that was left aboard the station by the last space shuttle crew in 2011."

Ask the Astronaut: Why not build and launch spacecraft from the ISS?, Tom Jones, Air & Space

"We won't use the ISS as a departure point for cost reasons. First, the ISS today is a microgravity research lab, not a spacecraft assembly hangar. Modifying it for assembly, checkout, and propellant storage would cost billions of dollars NASA does not have. A second, more serious problem is that the ISS orbit is inclined to the equator at 51.6 degrees, as opposed to a 28.5-degree orbit reached by launching straight east from Kennedy Space Center. (We chose the ISS orbit so the Russians could reach it from their launch sites farther north.) To haul spacecraft parts and propellant to ISS for assembly in that high-inclination orbit, we would lose about 20 percent of each rocket's payload capacity, since we can't use as much of the Earth's eastward rotation to give us a free boost to orbital velocity. That payload penalty would add billions to the costs of any deep space expedition assembled at ISS (e.g., a Mars expedition will need many hundreds of tons of propellant for Earth departure)."

Keith's note: This is a classic example of the old way of thinking. Tom Jones apparently cannot imagine an alternate future where things change.

1. He assumes that everything that we do in the future will be done by NASA - the way that NASA always does things - and that it will be equally as expensive as NASA stuff always is. Narrow thinking.

2. The penalty for launching to 51.6 degrees - yea its real. Launching to 28.5 degrees like the Shuttle did had a penalty when compared to launching from the equator. So we moved the station to make it easier for the Russians - and harder for ourselves. As NASA did at the time, you just factor launch capabilities into the overall equation - one wherein you factor in the counterbalancing benefit of being able to assemble large things in space and test them out from an existing location that has the benefit of generous resources already in place. That's how we built the space station, Tom - remember? Oh yes: NASA also still "hauls spacecraft parts and propellant" to ISS routinely - and a lof the stuff is launched from Virginia and Florida not Kazakhstan. If NASA plans hold up we'll be doing even more of that - with crew too. But that's inefficient, right? So why are we doing it?

3. The inclination issue as it relates to where you want to send things - yea, if you want to use big rockets all the time and get everywhere in a hurry. But if you simply exercise a little advanced planning, be patient, and plan longer delivery times using solar- or nuclear-electric propulsion then time will solve these problems - and you can factor the lower costs of such systems into your overall cost equation.

4. ISS is a microgravity lab - this is something I had to deal with every day when I worked on space station at NASA in the 90s. I had experts telling me that anything the astronauts did would ruin everything that the scientists wanted to do - and vice versa. So NASA came up with rack level vibroacoustic isolation and used scheduling to manage noisy activities. Problem solved. BTW, Tom you have seen the video of how the entire space station flexes when its exercise time for the crew, yes? I do not hear scientists screaming how this makes their research impossible. Crew and cargo vehicles arrive and depart on a regular basis. How is that any different than "launching" a spacecraft from ISS? But wait: Nanoracks is actually launching cubesats from the ISS on a regular basis. Again, no complaints.

I remember back in the 90s when the orbit was shifted to 51.6 - and the implications that had for Shuttle launch windows. I sat in meetings where experts emphatically stated that NASA could never work with 5 minute launch windows. Well, they did. Now SpaceX has managed to design hardware and operations such that they can recycle multiple times within a single launch window. I remember people saying that you could not dock a Soyuz to the space station due to the somewhat brutal way it docks and how fragile the U.S. structure was. So they docked to the Russian segment instead. Problem solved. I remember asking why we couldn't leave logistics modules on the ISS permanently for simple storage. Everyone said "no" because of super high costs to make them meet requirement. Now they do - because they decided to - with only minimal mods. NASA wanted a reusable Space Shuttle that would fly like an airline. It never actually happened. Now Blue Origin and SpaceX are on the cusp of doing it. Just because the same group of experts says that something is not possible or practical doesn't mean that you can't go out and find other experts who can make it work.

Who knows, maybe we will just shift the future role of ISS at some point to focus on on-orbit assembly of larger expeditionary vessels and do the science stuff on the next generation of space stations built by the private sector. Look at Antarctica - there are bases there that have been operating continuously for more than half a century. They are constantly being readjusted to do new things and not do other things. Some are decommissioned. Some are disassembled. New ones now move or raise their height when conditions warrant. Some are rebuilt using parts from older facilities. Fragile cargo and people fly in on planes. Other supplies arrive on slow-moving ships that depart weeks or months in advance of when their cargoes are actually needed. One would hope that we try and instill similar flexibility in what we build in low Earth orbit and beyond. If we don't adopt expeditionary thinking and pragmatism then none of this commercial LEO stuff NASA is praying for is going to happen since no commercial effort will ever be able to afford things that are mired down with outmoded NASA costing and operational mindsets.

Oh yes: then there's Mark Watney and "The Martian". What better way to make sure a Mars ship works than to run it for a year or two in LEO after being assembled from smaller subunits launched by a variety of existing ISS cargo carrier. If we do not promote flexibility and long-term thinking in LEO and cis-lunar space so as to guide the whole #JourneyToMars thing we'll just be begging for something bad to happen because no one thought to equip our Mars crews with the ability (and experience) to fix things that are not supposed to break.

Just because we've done things a certain way in space doesn't mean that this is the only way to do things.

Keith's note: I am not sure what to make of this comment by Charlie Bolden. Either he is very confused or someone is giving him really stupid talking points. Let's see, where do I start: how "old" is SLS technology? The Solid Rocket Boosters SLS uses are stretched and improved versions of the same design that Space Shuttles flew beginning in 1981 - but were designed in the 1970s (source). Oh, and SLS uses re-flown Space Shuttle Main Engines (RS-25) which were also designed in the 1970s (source). And, FWIW Bolden flew these vehicles multiple times in the 80s.

SpaceX vehicles and engines were designed in the 21st century, use advanced manufacturing technology and require an ever-shrinking number of people to launch. Instead of re-using the reusable SSMEs on SLS, NASA will throw them away whereas SpaceX can use their first stages over and over and over again - after they wash the soot off the rocket, that is.

Keith's note: JSC announced recently they were terminating the Oral History Project that has been ongoing for several decades. People working on the project have received lay-off notices. Have a look at the first recently completed ISS oral history reports. Some of these recollections are rather blunt. One NASAWatch reader notes:

"Especially eye-opening, the Suffredini oral history where he says his greatest challenge was taking $3.5 billion from research and technology (Code U, C and T budgets?) to put into hardware development. This and its effects is confirmed by Julie Robinson (Chief Scientist) and Mike Read (National Lab Manager) in their histories (was the change of funding use authorized?) Or Mike Read's history, where he was put in charge of payload integration, national lab and commercialization but without what he felt was the requisite experience or knowledge (both areas that have been suffering from lack of experience. Or John Charles, Chief Scientist for the 1 year mission, in his interview where he told the program manager, prior to the beginning of the one year mission, that ISS needed to get its house in order in terms of how they integrate payloads and science because the effort was totally disjointed. Gerstenmaier earlier pulled all funds for "lessons learned" beginning FY2014. There apparently is no interest in learning what is happening and why we wind up in the sort of shape we are in."

Will ISRO Participate in the International Space Station?, The Wire

"From a partner-country perspective, let's take the example of Japan. The annual running costs for the Japanese Experiment Module will be totally around $350-400 million (almost half of ISRO's annual budget). Which means that if India has to participate meaningfully and do some interesting science, ISRO will need an almost 50% hike (to Rs.3,500 crore) in its budget. Although this is one-tenth of the cost of having our own manned space programmes, this is also the cost of having 50 Mars Orbiter Missions a year!"

Groundbreaking Epigenetics Research to be Conducted on International Space Station, Zymo Research Corporation

"Zymo Research Corporation is taking epigenetics research to the next level outer space. DNA, that was bisulfite converted using the EZ DNA Methylation-Lightning Kit manufactured by Zymo Research Corporation, will be sent to the International Space Station (ISS), as part of the inaugural "Genes in Space" challenge. The contest invites young scientists to design a DNA experiment that uses PCR to test their scientific hypothesis."

Keith's update: This is a really cool project that taps the unique research capabilities of the ISS as well as stimulates students to pursue a career in science. I hope this is just the beginning and that there will be more payloads like this. But there is no mention in this press release of CASIS who underwrites experiments like these to the tune of $7.5 million - or of NASA who pays all of CASIS' bills. It is somewhat odd that CASIS has not made certain that they - and NASA - get some credit for underwriting things like this.

Keith's update: At a NASA press conference on Thursday a senior representative from CASIS refused to provide basic cost numbers for the space station payloads it funds. Yet last week another senior CASIS representative volunteered specific ISS payload cost information. Why is CASIS leadership so confused about the basic services that it provides?

The press conference was about the science payloads on the upcoming CRS-8 SpaceX flight, Ken Shields, CASIS' Director of Operations (on the right) appeared with 3 employees from Eli Lilly (in lab coats). Shields was asked what the costs associated with the CASIS-sponsored payloads aboard CRS-8 provided by pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly are. Shields declined to provide specifics other than to say that CASIS supports these payloads. When pressed again for a dollar amount, Shields again declined to provide a clear answer as to the cost borne by CASIS or NASA and punted to Lilly who then declined to say how much money they had put into this research. NASA PAO did not inform off-site media in advance that there was a dial-in number for this press event, so I tried using the #askNASA option via Twitter (which of course was ignored).

Keith's update: NASA held a press conference on CRS-8 SpaceX cargo flight. Jason Crusan was talking about the Bigelow Module that is being flown up to the ISS. Don't call it "inflatable". Call it "expandable". This strange insistence by Crusan et al at NASA with regard to BEAM not being an "inflatable" module but rather being an "expandable" module instead is weird since it can only "expand" if it is "inflated" and it is a module that is capable of being inflated ergo it is an "inflatable" module. Then again "NASA" = "Never A Straight Answer".

Keith's note: It is time to examine how NASA and CASIS have interacted since 2011. Little, if anything, has ever been publicly released with regard to how CASIS reports its progress to NASA or how NASA measures or responds to CASIS about their performance. The OIG and GAO have mentioned this matter in prior reports. Last week the NASA Advisory Council spent a lot of time trying (with little success) to figure out what CASIS does. So I just submitted a FOIA request.

Keith's update: Despite my voluminous FOIA request, NASA once again does not accept my claim to be news media even though they themselves granted me news media accreditation 16 years ago. See "NASA Refuses To Accept Its Own News Media Accreditation"

Despite their constant harping about the procedures that they have to follow the letter they sent me to deny my request was dated a year ago. So much for their attention to detail.

This FOIA request is long due to the fact that the last time I submitted a FOIA request in late 2015 NASA decided that I had to prove that I was a member of the news media after more than 15 years of being credentialed by NASA PAO and after having submitted multiple FOIA requests which were processed without incident for more than a decade. Indeed, some of my simple emails to PAO requesting information from NASA were converted into FOIA requests and then promptly processed as such without me even asking that they be considered as FOIA requests. The following is the full text of my FOIA request (click on the link below to read it all):

I am requesting the full text of NASA cooperative agreement NNH11CD70A between NASA and CASIS including any revisions, annexes, modifications, or associated contractual amendments made by NASA from the inception of this agreement with CASIS until the date of this FOIA request.

I am also requesting all progress and status reports and memos provided by CASIS to NASA from the onset of NASA Cooperative Agreement NNH11CD70A until the date of this FOIA request as well as all correspondence/memos from NASA to CASIS in response to CASIS progress and status reports from the onset of NASA Cooperative Agreement NNH11CD70A until the date of this FOIA request.

Keith's note: CASIS (Center for Advancement of Science in Space, Inc.) came to Washington this past week to talk about their management of science and commercial activity aboard the International Space Station National Laboratory. The first stop for CASIS was an event at the National Academy of Sciences on low Earth orbit commerce on Wednesday. The presentation that CASIS gave was their standard Powerpoint chart collection totally lacking in any meaningful information other than what you'd expect to see in a brochure.

As it always does, the presentation glossed over some important facts yet contained some outright inaccuracies about funding that CASIS avoided discussing. Since the Academy audience - as well as most of the other audiences that CASIS presents to - was not inclined to ask probing questions, CASIS sailed through their presentation and then sat down.

The next day the CASIS entourage, led by President and Executive Director Greg Johnson, showed up at the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) meeting. Things did not go so well for them at the NAC. Within minutes of starting to talk, NAC members started to pepper Johnson with questions- questions that he was unable and/or unwilling to answer. It went downhill from there.

The CASIS presentation to the NAC did not provide the basic answers that the NAC membership sought. Committee members repeatedly asked CASIS' Johnson what the CASIS budget was, where it came from, and how much money CASIS had raised. You could hear the growing frustration in the voices of the NAC members the more that CASIS dodged their questions. Eventually CASIS' Johnson admitted that their budget was $15 million a year and that it all comes from NASA. When probed about fundraising that they had been so overt about in their presentation charts, Johnson eventually admitted that philanthropy had not worked for CASIS (in other words simply asking for money was not working). Johnson, with help from David Roberts, their lead scientist, then immediately started to crow again about all the money that CASIS had raised. This contradicted their prior statements. Further questioning eventually got Johnson and Roberts to admit that the money that they raised did not go to CASIS but rather, that funds from a sponsoring company went directly to the payload developer (which is not a bad thing).

CASIS' repeated refusal to speak clearly on the topic of its income, funding, grants, and operations became problematical for the NAC. When pressed further on their income CASIS said that they were not allowed to generate "revenue" (even though their IRS returns clearly show that they did generate revenue albeit only a little). When the NAC members asked for more details on what CASIS was funding CASIS emphatically stated that they are not a "funding" organization. Moments later CASIS staff showed slides that talked about funding.

China wants to mine the moon for 'space gold', PBS NewsHour

"At a cost of more than $150 billion, the International Space Station is the most expensive object ever built. This price tag is more than double the combined costs of China's Three Gorges Dam, Boston's Big Dig and the Chunnel. But as noted by CNN, funding for the International Space Station may run out in the early 2020s."

Keith's note: $150 billion? Where did that number come from? The cost reference is a Wikipedia article that cites a 2010 post on some website called "Zidbits" (that says ISS cost $160 billion) and a 2010 SpaceReview article by some french journalist who cites old NASA budget charts and cost estimates from other news stories.The Wikipedia article has separate numbers for ISS construction and shuttle flights that simply do not jive in any mathematical way with what NASA OIG says - they overstate NASA's costs by $50 billion when compared to a more recent NASA OIG report - that's a 33% difference in the overall cost.

Keith's note: The National Academy of Sciences held a "Full-Day Mini Symposium: NASA Intentions for Commercial LEO" on Wednesday. Below are some Tweets regarding the opening session with Sam Scimemi. Among other things we learned that the 2024 ISS retirement date for NASA is, well, not a retirement date after all. Something different will happen. What? No one knows. P.S. sorry for the typos: the tweets were done rapid fire in real time.

Keith's note: On Saturday a Cygnus cargo vehicle arrived at the International Space Station (ISS). On board: a variety of experiments. Some of the experiments made it to the ISS via CASIS - a non-profit organization that relies on NASA for 99.9%+ of its income.

Yet if you look at the press release issued to news media by CASIS about Cygnus' arrival, there is no mention whatsoever of "NASA" - even though NASA paid for Cygnus - and all of CASIS' payloads on board.

Last Fall I posted a series of articles that looked into how CASIS operates. I am told that this exercise caused some consternation within CASIS and, to some extent, within NASA as well. I was also told that changes were being made at CASIS - by CASIS staff themselves. So I thought I'd wait a bit and see if anything started to change. It has been 6 months since I started posting this series. I detect no change in CASIS whatsoever. They are as oblivious to their long-standing problems - and equally as clueless as to the need to change - as they were last year.

CASIS is making a presentation at a National Academy of Sciences event on Wednesday and at a NASA Advisory Council meeting on Thursday. Since they're going to be explaining themselves to several influential audiences here in Washington, let's pick up where I left off - starting with a recap.

Orbital ATK's Cygnus Spacecraft Successfully Launched to ISS

"The launch marks the beginning of the company's fifth operational cargo resupply mission (OA-6) for NASA, and the first Cygnus to conduct scientific experiments onboard the spacecraft. Cygnus will deliver vital equipment, supplies and experiments to astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) as part of its Commercial Resupply Services-1 (CRS-1) contract with NASA."

Video: ULA Atlas V Launches Orbital ATK CRS-6 Mission to the International Space Station

New Crew Leaves Earth For The Space Station (with video)

"NASA astronaut Jeff Williams is now the first American to become a three-time, long-term resident of the International Space Station. He arrived at the orbiting laboratory at 11:09 p.m. EDT Friday, with cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka of the Russian space agency Roscosmos. The trio launched aboard a Soyuz TMA-20M spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 5:26 p.m. (3:26 a.m. Saturday, March 19, Baikonur time), orbited Earth four times, and docked at the station. The hatches between the spacecraft and station opened at 12:55 a.m. Saturday, March 19."

Sequencing DNA in Space, NASA/SpaceRef

"NASA is not often known for making the best use of existing COTS (commercial off the shelf technology) abord the ISS. There's usually quite a lag time. The reasons range from slogging through the often cumbersome payload safety and integration process to people at NASA who are simply not up to date with what the real world is doing in their field. In this instance a rather remarkable gizmo is being flown in space that truly puts genetic sequencing in the palm of your hand. Indeed, its almost as if NASA was flying part of a version 1.0 Tricorder in space."

Keith's note: This article is an original NASA.gov posting enhanced with additional illustrations and reference links. I have sent NASA the following request for additional information. "This is very cool stuff and using the MinION DNA sequencer is a paradigm shifting move on NASA's part. This technology has applicability not only to crew health/safety and life support but also advanced technology development and astrobiology (life detection/characterization). Can you provide me with pictures of the actual flight hardware that NASA will be flying to ISS? Can you also tell me when this device will be activated and specifically what organisms you intend to sequence? When will results from this investigation be published - and where will they be published? Will interim results prior to the completion of the investigation be released - and if so when/where will they be released? Is CASIS involved in this activity? Is the NASA Astrobiology Institute involved?"

Meanwhile CASIS has a competing system "Genes in Space" to do genomics on orbit using minipcr proprietary technology. As best I can tell (and I have asked for more information) the NASA JSC minIOn and CASIS minipcr based efforts are separate. They make no mention of each other. The NASA Genelab web portal makes no mention of either genomic project. Yet Genelab does have interaction with Twins in Space effort which includes genomics studies. When I asked the Genelab folks at the recent American Society for Gravitational and Space Research meeting why NASA's various genomics projects are not coordinated no one had an answer. And NASA's Astrobiology Institute (which has a great interest in genomics) has zero interactions - at least none that have been made public. More stove piping at NASA.

Keith's update: I got very informative responses to my inquiry from Aaron Burton at the NASA JSC Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Division and from Sarah Castro, NASA JSC Biomedical Research and Environmental Sciences Division. Check the article link for those updates. Cool stuff. These folks are clearly appreciative of what this technology has to offer. They're also using minipcr which complements the CASIS work.

Soyuz Crew Arrives Back on Earth

"NASA astronaut and Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly and his Russian counterpart Mikhail Kornienko returned to Earth Tuesday after a historic 340-day mission aboard the International Space Station. They landed in Kazakhstan at 11:26 p.m. EST (10:26 a.m. March 2 Kazakhstan time). Joining their return trip aboard a Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft was Sergey Volkov, also of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, who arrived on the station Sept. 4, 2015. The crew touched down southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan."

Scott Kelly's giant step for mankind: James Lovell, USA Today

"Even an old astronaut like me can still marvel at the power of President Kennedy's declaration more than a half-century ago that space was the "new ocean" and one we must "sail on." Sailed we have. For more than 50 years, we have explored those dangerous and unknown waters to become a leader in space: Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, the space shuttle, the Hubble Space Telescope, the Mars rovers and the International Space Station an orbiting base occupied for the past 15 years by an international crew. Now we have another American achievement and milestone in our space program: One of our countrymen has spent nearly a year off of our planet. Astronaut Scott Kelly has orbited our planet more than 5,000 times, traveling well over 100 million miles aboard the International Space Station."

Keith's Update: Nearly 3 days after I originally submitted my Gorilla suit request to NASA PAO (long after foreign publications had already gotten answers from NASA PAO on this topic) I finally got my response back from NASA. What is hilarious is that NASA says officially that it has no idea what the suit is made out of (or how much it weighs or what volume it uses) but states that it meets all safety requirements. How does one say that a safety certification has been made unless you know what the suit is made out of? In addition, no one at JSC approved it for shipping. It just got stuck in there.

I am all for the health and well being of the crew, but when NASA drags its feet on such a simple set of questions and then issues replies that are inherently contradictory, you have to wonder if there actually is a "process" in place or if they just make this all up as they go. As for the cost: well, it costs money to send things up, and even if there is an allocation for these things, it still costs the same amount to ship a pound of science as it does to ship a pound of gorilla suit. Just sayin'

Here is the official NASA response (below) from Brandi Dean at NASA JSC, verbatim:

Keith's 4:38 pm Update: Well, if nothing else, PeTA finally got a protester inside the International Space Station. As readers of NASA Watch know, I am all for making the ISS relevant to the public in new ways and for making childish jokes at NASA's expense whenever possible. But given the immense cost of the ISS, its untapped potential for research, and complaints from potential users that there is not enough upmass or crew time, I have to wonder why NASA goes out of its way to highlight such stuff - especially when people like Sen. Grassley already criticize some of the real science done on ISS.

I did not hear back from NASA PAO on my initial request so I sent the following questions to NASA PAO. Someone will tell me to go file a FOIA request and then NASA will try to weasel out of answering that request. But if they can spend money flying a gorilla suit into outer space then they can waste some more time explaining why they did it. The answer may well be simple and routine but NASA will make the process as complicated as they possibly can.

- Can you tell me what the Gorilla suit is made out of i.e. what kind of material(s)?
- Is this Gorilla suit COTS (where was it purchased?) or was it specially made? How much did it cost?
- Was the Gorilla suit subjected to standard outgassing, flammability, microbial, and particulate standards? Did it meet those requirements or was a waiver granted?
- How much does the Gorilla suit weigh and how much volume did it use inside the cargo vehicle that carried it up?
- Is the suit considered "crew preference", "crew clothing", or "education and outreach"?
- Will the Gorilla suit remain on the ISS after Kelly leaves? If so where will it be stored?
- Did the shipping of the Gorilla suit to orbit bump anything off the manifest - if so, what was bumped?
- Was this manifested by JSC or CASIS?
- Who approved of the shipping of the gorilla suit to the ISS? Was NASA HQ involved in the decision making process?

Keith's 6:23 pm update: ULA says that it charges something around $100 million for an Atlas V launch. ULA also says that it charges $164 million for a Atlas V launch. Lets go with the lower number. The most recent Cygnus OA-4 carried 7,745 pounds of cargo. Lets not even bother to include what it cost to build the Cygnus. Assuming a $100 million launch cost simple math shows a per pound cost of $12,911. If you use the higher number its $21,174 per pound. This amazon.com gorilla suit weighs 4.3 pounds. Lets assume that the gorilla suit in space is a generic gorilla suit. That means that NASA probably spent between $55,517 and $91,052 to ship a gorilla suit to the ISS that will probably only be worn once - and only for an hour or two. In other words it will probably end up as trash at some point and be thrown away. Then, of course, there was the personnel cost to certify that it could fly safely, pack it, etc. etc. So the real cost goes up a lot - certainly close to $100,000. Scott Kelly has already completed more than 99% of his mission. He could have waited another week to wear the gorilla suit and saved NASA a lot of money. Just sayin'

Keith's 24 Feb 2016 8:07 pm update: Still nothing from NASA.

Keith's 25 Feb 2016 4:04 pm update: Still nothing from NASA.

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2016/iss.silent.jpg

Silent Running on the International Space Station (with pictures and video)

Keith's note: I was looking at Scott Kelly's Flickr page today and was immediately struck by several photos that were hauntingly familiar. More flower pictures. I am a biologist and spent a lot of time studying (and teaching about) plants in college and grad school so I like to look at things like this. In particular the close-up, high resolution pictures of his zinnias really caught my attention. Then I realized why this looked so familiar. "Silent Running" - a cult classic film released in 1972. I first saw the when I was at the impressionable age of 16 and it has been stuck in my head ever since. Decades later it inspired me to build a spacecraft-inspired green house on a remote arctic island. Look at these two pictures - and then watch the opening of the film. Scott Kelly was most channeling his inner Freeman Lowell.

Trends in ISS Anomalies

International Space Station (ISS) Anomalies Trending Study, NTRS

"The NASA Engineering and Safety Center (NESC) set out to utilize data mining and trending techniques to review the anomaly history of the International Space Station (ISS) and provide tools for discipline experts not involved with the ISS Program to search anomaly data to aid in identification of areas that may warrant further investigation. Additionally, the assessment team aimed to develop an approach and skillset for integrating data sets, with the intent of providing an enriched data set for discipline experts to investigate that is easier to navigate, particularly in light of ISS aging and the plan to extend its life into the late 2020s. This report contains the outcome of the NESC Assessment."

Source Selection Statement for the ISS Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS2) Contract, NASA (PDF)

Scores:
SpaceX: 992/1000
Orbital ATK: 880/1000
Sierra Nevada: 879/1000

Buzz Aldrin: The next giant leap for space exploration, Washington Post

"Thus, taking our trajectory deeper into space is about more than just the United States. We must explore our solar system with the entire community of current and future space-faring nations. To this point, China should be a part of a global space outreach, as should the 16 nations that currently participate in the International Space Station. We should also look to include the emerging space-faring countries, such as India, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates. Nothing will do more to promote international understanding, particularly when it comes to developing norms of behavior in space."

Keith's note: Beautiful pictures of flowers in space have been posted by Scott Kelly on Twitter - and they're very popular. Alas, NASA does not post these high resolution images online. There's no mention at Scott Kelly's flickr, JSC's Flickr, etc. But more importantly this "First ever flower grown in space" claim is totally bogus - just ask Google. It has been done more than once - and many years ago. Score another failed tagline for PAO's fact checking folks.

First species of plant to flower in space, Guinness

"In 1982, the then Soviet Union's Salyut-7 space station crew grew some Arabidopsis on board. During their 40-day lifecycle, they became the first plants to flower and produce seeds in the zero gravity of space."

Plant growth, development and embryogenesis during Salyut-7 flight, Adv Space Res. 1984;4(10):55-63.

"The seeds sown during the flight germinated, performed growth processes, formed vegetative and generative organs and, judging by the final result, they succeeded in fecundation, embryogenesis and ripening."

Modification of reproductive development in Arabidopsis thaliana under spaceflight conditions, Planta, April 1996, Volume 198, Issue 4, pp 588-594

"Reproductive development in Arabidopsis thaliana (L.) Heynh. cv. Columbia plants was investigated under spaceflight conditions on shuttle mission STS-51. Plants launched just prior to initiation of the reproductive phase developed flowers and siliques during the 10-d flight."

June 17-26 - Diary of a Space Zucchini, Don Pettit (2012)

"Sunflower is going to seed! His blossom is wilted-brown and has a few lopsided packed seeds. This is not quite normal, but then, we are living on the frontier and things are different here. They are not ready now; I wonder if they will be by the time Gardener is with his seed pod?"

NASA astronauts just made flowers bloom in space - but they're not actually the first, Washington Post

"And according to the website NASA Watch, cosmonauts produced flowers several times in the pre-ISS days of spaceflight. It seems that in at least one case, the entire growth process occurred during flight. That was a lettuce plant, but lettuce plants can flower - and according to research published on the subject, it appears the Russian lettuce did."

NASA Awards International Space Station Cargo Transport Contracts

"NASA has awarded three cargo contracts to ensure the critical science, research and technology demonstrations that are informing the agency's journey to Mars are delivered to the International Space Station (ISS) from 2019 through 2024. The agency unveiled its selection of Orbital ATK of Dulles, Virginia; Sierra Nevada Corporation of Sparks, Nevada; and SpaceX of Hawthorne, California to continue building on the initial resupply partnerships with two American companies."

Building a Robust Commercial Market in Low Earth Orbit En Route to Mars, NASA

"NASA is on a Journey to Mars and a new consensus is emerging around our plan, vision and timetable for sending American astronauts to the Red Planet in the 2030s. Our strategy calls for working with commercial partners to get our astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station while NASA also focuses - simultaneously -- on getting our astronauts to deep space."

- CSF Congratulates ISS Commercial Resupply Awardees and Partners
- NASA Selects Orbital ATK For Space Station Cargo Contract
- NASA Selects Sierra Nevada Corporation's Dream Chaser Spacecraft for CRS2 Contract
-Smith, Babin Congratulate NASA Commercial Cargo Awardees

ISS Solar Panel Rip, Secret Space Escapes, (Video) Science Channel

How Astronauts Cope When Things Go Wrong in Space, Mental Floss

"Scott Parazynski is no stranger to dangerous situations and extreme environments. The astronaut/doctor/inventor/pilot has summited Mount Everest and gone SCUBA diving in a volcano. But it's his last spacewalk that sticks in his mind. Parazynski was up on the International Space Station in 2007 when a hole appeared in one of the station's electrified solar panels. "As this thing was being unfurled, it began to rip apart," he tells mental_floss. "So we had to go and physically repair a live, fully energized solar panel." It was a dangerous mission, but the crew didn't really have a choice. "If we weren't able to repair the solar panel," Parazynski says, "we would have had to [throw] away a billion-dollar national asset. It would have limited the work that could have been done aboard the International Space Station. It certainly was a huge amount of pressure on my shoulders and on the rest of the team."

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2009/IMG_3918.s.jpg Keith's note: Scott likes to fiddle with things. The technical term is "McGyvering". In this video on the STS-120 solar panel repair you can see him using a bent item called the "Hockey Stick" made by wrapping lots of Kapton electrical insulating tape. When Scott and I were at Everest in 2009 we needed to come up with a way for him to handle a small lucite hemisphere (the size of a large gumdrop) filed with 4 little flecks of Apollo 11 moon rocks. Our code word for this little collection of moon rocks (which had been in my chest pocket for 3 weeks) was "The Nugget". Given that we wanted Scott to hold the Nugget up on the summit with the Moon in the background - and then bring it back we needed to make it bigger to handle. Five miles in the sky with little oxygen and brutally cold temperatures we needed for Scott to handle the sample without dropping it and if he did drop it we had to make it more readily findable. Losing a moon rock on the summit of Mt. Everest was not an option. Using the resources at hand we got two lids from some Pringles cans (a favorite food there) and some duct tape. Space Nerds that we were we called the completed McGyvered item the "Nugget Containment Device". And it worked perfectly. For me down below it was also fun to stand at Everest Base Camp and hold the Nugget Containment Device up to the sky and eclipse the Moon - with piece of the Moon. The Nugget plus a piece of the summit of Everest are now aboard the ISS.

In your face Mark Watney.

More on the Moon rocks and Everest at "Playing With Moon Rocks and Duct Tape at the Dinner Table" and "Moon and Everest Rocks At Home in Space"

Station Managers "GO" For Monday Morning Spacewalk

"The International Space Station Mission Management Team met Sunday and gave its approval to proceed with a spacewalk Monday out of the Quest airlock by Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly and Flight Engineer Tim Kopra of NASA to assist in moving the Mobile Transporter rail car a few inches to a worksite on the station's truss where it can be latched in place and electrically mated to the complex. The green light for the unplanned spacewalk to take place Monday came three days after the Mobile Transporter stalled just four inches away from its embarkation point at worksite 4 near the center of the station's truss as it began to move to another worksite to support robotic payload operations with its attached Canadarm2 robotic arm and the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator (Dextre)."

Marc's note: Watch it live.

Marc's update: The mobile transporter rail car was successfully moved and is in place for the Progress 62 cargo resupply spacecraft arrival scheduled for Wednesday.

Related: Video: Russian Cargo Ship Sets Sail for the International Space Station

NASA Astronauts to Conduct Spacewalk as Early as Monday, Dec. 21

"Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly and Flight Engineer Tim Kopra of NASA are preparing for a previously unscheduled spacewalk outside the International Space Station on either Monday, Dec. 21, or Tuesday, Dec. 22. The pair will move the station's mobile transporter rail car so it can be latched in place ahead of the Wednesday, Dec. 23 docking of a Russian cargo resupply spacecraft.

The mobile transporter -- used to position the station's robotic Canadarm2 -- stalled on Dec. 16, just four inches (10 centimeters) from where it began its move, while flight controllers in the Mission Control Center at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston were attempting to reposition it robotically. The cause of the stall still is being evaluated."

CASIS and NSF Announce Joint Solicitation in Fluid Dynamics on International Space Station

"The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) today announced a joint solicitation wherein researchers from the fluid dynamics community will have the ability to leverage resources onboard the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory. Up to $1.8 million will be awarded for multiple research investigations to support flight projects to the ISS National Laboratory. Through this partnership, CASIS will facilitate hardware implementation and on-orbit access to the ISS National Laboratory. NSF will fund the selected projects to advance fundamental science and engineering knowledge. CASIS is the nonprofit organization responsible for managing and promoting research onboard the ISS National Laboratory. NSF supports transformative research to help drive the U.S. economy, enhance national security and maintain America's position as a global leader in innovation."

Keith's note: First and foremost, this is good news - and interesting since NSF (another government agency) is putting money into ISS research. NSF is paying the bills here - CASIS only does the paper work. But still, new users are new users - the more the merrier. What is odd about this CASIS press release is that "NASA" is mentioned nowhere. Of course, CASIS is obsessed with their whole branding thing - but instead of building upon a world-wide brand like NASA's, they just ignore it and grasp at straws to build their own identity.

More interesting (at least to me) is how a non-profit organization like CASIS can have a peer-to-peer interaction with a Federal Government agency - an agency that is on a par level with NASA - without NASA in the loop such that NASA does not even need to be mentioned. Indeed, NASA has not made any mention of this on its ISS National Labroratory website. Oddly, NSF makes no mention of this on their news page either. It is interesting news when another government agency signs on to the ISS. NASA's overt omission points to dysfunction on both sides of the NASA/CASIS relationship.

- Are CASIS Funding "Commitments" Just Smoke and Mirrors?, earlier post
- Examining Staff and Board Member Salaries at CASIS, earlier post
- CASIS Has No Idea How To Raise Money - Only How To Spend It, earlier post
- Trying To Understand CASIS Press and Social Media Impact, earlier post
- Previous CASIS posts

Keith's note: There is no mention of this amazing photo (or many other stunning photos) to be found at this NASA.gov ISS gallery page or at Scott Kelly's Flickr, NASA2Explore Flickr, NASA_JSC_Photo Flickr, NASA Earth Observatory Flickr, etc. No higher resolution version, no mention of what part of Earth's surface is shown, when it was taken, etc. To be certain having crew members tweet things from orbit to 13.5 million people is great - but so many chances to vastly enhance this reach are missed every day.

Yes, I am complaining about the way NASA sends pictures from space (more or less directly) to my iPhone many times a day. NASA could be spreading this magic elsewhere so very easily.

Soyuz Lands With ISS Crew

Space Station Crew Returns to Earth

"Expedition 45 Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren of NASA is among three crew members who returned to Earth Friday after a 141-day mission aboard the International Space Station, landing in Kazakhstan at approximately 8:12 a.m. EST (7:12 p.m. Kazakhstan time). Also returning were Flight Engineers Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos (Russian Federal Space Agency) and Kimiya Yui of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The crew touched down northeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan, marking the first crew landing to occur after sunset and only the sixth nighttime Soyuz spacecraft return from the space station."

Cygnus Berthed To International Space Station

"The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo ship was bolted into place on the International Space Station's Earth-facing port of the Unity module at 9:26 a.m. EST. Cygnus is the first cargo ship to be berthed to the Earth-facing port on the Unity module."

ULA Successfully Launches OA-4 Cygnus to International Space Station

"A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the OA-4 Cygnus resupply spacecraft to the International Space Station lifted off from Space Launch Complex-41 Dec. 6 at 4:44 p.m. EST. The mission, flown for Orbital ATK under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services contract, marks the first time the Cygnus has flown on an Atlas V rocket. This was ULA's 12th launch in 2015. At just over 8 tons, Cygnus is the heaviest payload to launch atop an Atlas V rocket."

Cygnus Launch Seen From Orbit, NASA

@StationCDRKelly Day 254. We got our candle lit. #HappyHanukkah and #GoodNight from @Space_Station!

NASA Orders SpaceX Crew Mission to International Space Station

"NASA took a significant step Friday toward expanding research opportunities aboard the International Space Station with its first mission order from Hawthorne, California based-company SpaceX to launch astronauts from U.S. soil. This is the second in a series of four guaranteed orders NASA will make under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts. The Boeing Company of Houston received its first crew mission order in May."

Keith's note: CASIS is tasked to manage the portion of the International Space Station designated as the ISS National Laboratory. But other than NASA funding, CASIS has failed to attract any significant income other than that provided - by NASA. Yet they want you to think that people beating a path to their door with multi-million dollar "commitments" in hand. Exactly what are these CASIS "commitments"?

According to the CASIS Strategic Plan, page 11, CASIS says that it will "Develop a robust financial model to supplement government funding. CASIS funding from NASA is currently projected at $15M per year, to cover operating costs and to provide seed money for promising R&D. To meet the variety of demands on personnel, infrastructure, business processes and outreach that will grow over time, CASIS must develop additional resources in the form of partnerships and funding and create rigorous business and economic models in order to sustain these. Sources will include private financiers, corporate sponsorship, philanthropists and federal grants that may leverage cost sharing and equity investment in new ventures. Additionally, CASIS will practice management excellence in its operating models to ensure costs are minimized while ISS utilization is maximized effectively toward mission success."

In its April 2015 report "International Space Station: Measurable Performance Targets and Documentation Needed to Better Assess Management of National Laboratory" the GAO noted (page 7) "According to the cooperative agreement, CASIS will solicit non-NASA funding for research by targeting various sources such as government grants, foundation funding, charitable contributions, private equity, venture financing, and private investors and facilitate matching of projects that meet the research objectives with those qualified funding sources."

So it is quite clear that CASIS is supposed to be out beating the bushes looking for funding and contributions. So far their success is puzzling to say the least. On one hand they claim to be making all manner of agreements and relationships with the private sector but when it comes to documenting actual contributions, well. There really are none - at least not the kind that a non-profit organization usually documents i.e. cash or in-kind donations.

Genes in Space Competition Launches, New England Biolabs

"Genes in Space, a competition aimed at fostering creativity, collaboration and critical thinking among young innovators opened a call for entries today. The competition challenges U.S. based students in grades seven through 12 to design an experiment that can solve a space exploration problem through DNA analysis. The competition is sponsored by miniPCR, Math for America (MA), Boeing, The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and New England Biolabs, Inc. (NEB). The winning experiment will be flown to the International Space Station (ISS)."

Keith's note: If you go to the CASIS website there is no mention of this competition. There is no mention of this cool idea at the NASA ISS National Laboratory website. No mention on Twitter at @ISS_CASIS or @ISS_Research. When it says that CASIS has sponsored this activity does that mean that they wrote a check? $15,000,000 a year and CASIS can't even tell people what they are doing with all this money?

CASIS is going to be briefing Mike Suffredini's replacement Kirk Shireman. Maybe they can explain their chronic under-performance to Shireman on simple things such as this.

Keith's update: @ISS_CASIS tweeted something late in the day - still nothing on their website etc.

Keith's note: Let's look at the media reach CASIS claims to have achieved in FY 2014. Page 32 of their FY 2014 Annual Report gives a summary (Larger image). This report represents what CASIS was capable of doing after being in operation for more than 3 years - after having received more than $42 million from NASA. Prior to this CASIS did not include these metrics in their reports. So this is the only snapshot we have.

In this 2014 summary CASIS claims to have issued 30 news releases. That's one release issued a bit more often than once every 2 weeks. They also claim to have had 30 media events in FY 2014 but do not explain what constitutes an "event". This could be a telecon or a full blown press conference. Hard to tell. They also claim to have had 3,891 "news mentions - clips, blogs". If you go to this page and click on "Media Reach" you get a page that shows for 2015 CASIS has (first 3 quarters) had 18 press releases, 19 media events, 3,065 news mentions, and 2,711 Twitter mentions. Not much has changed.

This is not very revealing. There are lots of news services that have automated systems that grab and repost press releases without any thought given to what the releases say. But the word "CASIS" gets counted none the less. 30 press releases automatically (and mindlessly) posted by several dozen of these automated systems each time one of these releases is issued could easily explain a large portion of these "news mentions".

Keith's note: The American Society for Gravitational and Space Research is holding its 31st annual meeting in Alexandria, VA this week. Topics covered span the range of life science and microgravity research conducted on the ISS, on suborbital rockets, and on the ground. It is the largest such meeting of space station life scientists in the world. I covered yesterday's session on Nanoracks and Genelab and will be covering session on Thursday and Friday.

- Program
- Webcast info

Final NASA Cooperative Agreement Notice (CAN): Translational Research Institute Issued

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Human Research Program (HRP) is establishing a Translational Research Institute. The Institute is aimed at translating promising cutting edge human health and performance methodologies into validated space flight human health and performance prediction, prevention, monitoring, detection, maintenance and treatment capabilities for exploration missions. In addition, the Institute will provide a translational workforce, providing opportunities for scientists to propose new NASA research, gain experience in cutting edge research laboratories within and external to NASA, and apply their knowledge and expertise to reducing human exploration risks. The Institute will be a virtual institute (no brick & mortar) responsible for the solicitation, selection, funding, and translation of results from interdisciplinary project teams."

- NASA Presolicitation: Translational Research Institute
- Doubts About Crew Health on NASA's #JourneyToMars, earlier post

Keith's note: The music in this official "He Haw"-style shout out is the theme from the old TV show "Beverly Hillbillies". I do not see that it is credited to writer/composer Paul Henning. Just sayin' Y'all come back now.

Keith's note: CASIS (The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization chosen by NASA in 2011 to manage the portion of the International Space Station that has been designated as a U.S. National Laboratory. Non-profit organizations are established to do things in the public interest and not to generate a profit - or enrich their employees or advisors. Recently the IRS has started to look more deeply into compensation of non-profit executives and staff. CASIS likes to pay a lot of its employees hefty salaries - the top ten employees make much more than virtually everyone at NASA - including the NASA Administrator.

According to the Foundation Group: "There are legitimate, charitable organizations whose executives make up to, and sometimes more than, $250,000. For a very select few, a lot more. But let me put it like this if you have an employee whose compensation package exceeds $100,000, you better be prepared to defend it. Needless to say, Wall Street-style perks and bonuses are out of the question. And, depending on your organization's budget, a $10,000 salary package could be considered unreasonable."

According to a report "Nonprofit Organizations Salary and Benefits Report", published in 2014 by the NonProfit Times "The average salary for a nonprofit chief executive officer/president last year was $118,678. The median salary was $100,000 while the maximum found was $666,266. The average tenure for a nonprofit CEO was almost 12 years and almost 40 percent of participating organizations paid their CEO some type of bonus."

Let's look at the reportable compensation and nontaxable benefits for the top employees at CASIS as listed on their 2013 Form 990, Part VII: Gregory Johnson, President and Executive Director: $148,333 + $5,375; Duane Ratliff, Chief Operating Officer: $225,000 + $31,689; Jorge Fernandez, Chief Financial Officer: $200,000 + $18,689; Charles Resnick, Chief Economist: $220,000 + $30,701; Warren Bates, Director of Portfolio Management: $200,008 + $19,370; James Royston, Interim Executive Director (Until 9-9-14): $228,012 + $11,312, Eddie Harris, Director of Development: $197,000 + $29,986; Melody Kuehner, Director of Human Resources, $160,000 + $27,277; Brian Harris, Director of Business Development, $153,000 + $26,756, and Kenneth Shields, Director of Operations and Education: $131,220 + $32,117. That's 6 employees making over $200,000 a year and 4 others making over $170,000 a year. By comparison the NASA Administrator made $179,700 in 2014. 99.96% of CASIS funds come from NASA. Note: The fiscal year for CASIS ends on 30 September - so they have a while to file their next return with the IRS. Sources report that the 2014 Form 990 for CASIS will show a salary for Greg Johnson in the $300,000 range.

NASA Review of Orbital ATK Accident Released, NASA

"The team determined the proximate cause of the Antares launch vehicle failure was an explosion within the AJ-26 rocket engine and identified three credible technical root causes, any one or combination of which could have resulted in the engine failure. The team outlined six technical findings and made seven recommendations to address those technical findings. In addition, since Orbital ATK was in the process of procuring and testing new engines to replace the AJ-26 for future Antares flights while the investigation was ongoing, the team provided several recommendations for Orbital ATK and the ISS Program that were used to support those testing activities and to reduce overall risk for Antares return-to-flight and follow-on mission efforts. The NASA team's findings are consistent with the AIB's findings."

Keith's note: On Wednesday 21 October there will be another unpublicized NASA-funded/supported FISO telecon "CASIS: Enabling Research on the ISS National Lab for the Benefit of Earth". There is no mention of this telecon at the GSFC website (where telecon sponsor Harley Thronson works), at NASA HQ's Calendar (which is empty for October anyway), at the ISS national Laboratory's webpage - or (no surprise) at CASIS. How strange: CASIS spent $862,234 on advertising in 2013 and yet it has yet to find a way to send an email out to these obvious websites (and news media, "stakeholders", etc.) to notify them of public events wherein the topic of using the ISS will be discussed? What are they spending all of this advertising money on since no one seems to know what they are doing?

- CASIS Has No Idea How To Raise Money - Only How To Spend It, earlier post





Loading

 



Monthly Archives

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the ISS News category.

ISEE-3 is the previous category.

IT/Web is the next category.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.