ISS News: July 2017 Archives

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."


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