"Quantum computing may be the key to solving some of the most challenging computer science problems. This is why Google in collaboration with NASA and the Universities Space Research Association today announced that they will launch the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab."
Recently in News Category
"NASA will commemorate the 40th anniversary of America's first space station Monday, May 13, with a televised roundtable discussion featuring Skylab astronauts, a current astronaut and agency managers planning future space missions."
Participants will include:
- Owen Garriott, science pilot, Skylab 3
- Gerald Carr, commander, Skylab 4
- Kevin Ford, commander, International Space Station Expedition 34
- D. Marshall Porterfield, director, Space Life and Physical Sciences Research and Applications Division, NASA Headquarters
- Jason Crusan, director, Advanced Exploration Systems, NASA Headquarters
"The device looks like a large red velvet doughnut with wires tightly wound around a core, and it's one of two initiatives Eagleworks is pursuing, along with warp drive. It's also secret. When I ask about it, White tells me he can't disclose anything other than that the technology is further along than warp drive ... Yet when I ask how it would create the negative energy necessary to warp space-time he becomes evasive. "That gets into . . . I can tell you what I can tell you. I can't tell you what I can't tell you," he says. He explains that he has signed nondisclosure agreements that prevent him from revealing the particulars. I ask with whom he has the agreements. He says, "People come in and want to talk about some things. I just can't go into any more detail than that."
"The vacuum chamber at Plum Brook, called the Space Power Facility, measures 863,000 cubic feet. To get an idea of its vastness, check out the opening minutes of "The Avengers" movie, filmed inside the chamber. The one at Johnson, called Chamber A, is 400,000 cubic feet."
"The world's largest thermal-vacuum chamber will be open to news media at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston on Thursday, April 4."
Keith's 9 April update: The JSC Vs GRC competition claiming that they both host "the world's largest thermal vacuum chamber" continues despite the fact that GRC's has a volume twice the size of JSC's. According to This week at NASA, 8 April 2013 at 5:20 into the video JSC has "...the world's largets thermal vacuum chamber ..." I guess facts are irrelevant to JSC PAO. Odd that this video still makes this claim when NASA PAO quietly modified its original release to say something else (see below).
Keith's note: As you have probably noticed by now I have been helping the AIA folks get the word out about their crowd funding campaign. Now the Challenger Center for Space Science Education has joined the effort. This is a chance for all NASA Watch readers to put their money where their mouths are so as to put a simple message about space in front of a movie audience inclined to be interested - and then offer them a suggestion as to what to do with that interest. No donation is too small. Every tweet or Facebook post helps. Indeed, more than half of the ~1,400 donors to date have given $10 - and the tally already stands at $44,000. What you see below is just the beginning of the media's interest in this project.
What NASA is unable to do due to silly government restrictions taxpayers are trying to circumvent - with their wallets. Its gone "viral" folks. It deserves your support.
"Now for the next "giant leap." With still weeks to go, we can expand our reach to the whole country. If we raise $94,000, our space program trailer will appear in at least one theater in every state in America. This new goal will expand our reach from 59 movie theater screens to 750 screens! If we raise more than the $94,000 goal, those additional proceeds will be used to enhance and grow Challenger Center's programs (see below) for space science education."
NASA Marketing Video to Run Before New 'Star Trek' Film, Bloomberg Business Week
"Crowdfunding campaigns are becoming increasingly popular in the space community," says AIA Director of Space Systems Dan Hendrickson, pointing to a recent fundraising effort to recover Lunar Orbiter mission data. "The original idea behind this campaign wasn't a response to budget cuts," he insists. "This is a campaign to highlight to our students and young people that human spaceflight is alive and well in the United States in the post-Space Shuttle era." Citing "immediate and overwhelming financial support," Hendrickson considers the experiment a success.
HiRISE is set to capture MRO's laser weapon test on Phobos. Should be a great image.— HiRISE (@HiRISE) April 1, 2013
"Restarting science operations after 3 weeks of computer problems, the Mars rover Curiosity will be using its robotic arm and the Goddard Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) laboratory to process a triple-dose of drilled subsurface rock in a more intense search for organic carbon before April 4, when Mars will move behind the Sun blocking communications until May 1."
"Scientists with the $2.5 billion Mars rover Curiosity will reveal potentially historic discoveries about Mars next week in Washington D. C."
"There are indications that the planned March 12 NASA Headquarters briefing could reveal the finding of organic carbon on Mars - "key ingredients" for life on Mars, as the space agency reinforced this week."
Chris Hadfield Quote Turned Into Cartoon By Zen Pencils, Huffington Post
"More than a few of us Earthlings have found ourselves thoroughly inspired by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield as he zooms around our planet aboard the International Space Station, tweeting all the way.
Aside from providing us with breath-taking photos of the Earth and a gravity-free cooking lesson, Hadfield has been doling out advice to his young fans with off-planet ambitions.
During a recent Reddit AMA, Hadfield was asked to give advice for young people considering a career in space science, and his heartfelt answer hit Australian artist Gaving Aung Than hard."
Marc's note: Chris Hadfield is not the first astronaut to inspire a younger generation. However with the social media tools available now along with almost weekly live interactions with youth, has fostered a following like no astronaut before him. The repeated messages, of which the central one has been turned into this cartoon, is hitting home. Keep up the good work @cmdr_hadfield.
"The Mars rover Curiosity is this week in the midst of potentially historic discoveries as the full range of its capabilities are brought to bear for the first time on a gray powdered Martian subsurface rock sample."
"The sample, drilled from within a mudstone type rock, was totally unexpected this early in the mission and could reveal whether this once water soaked region of Mars preserved organic carbon pertinent to past life on Mars."
House Renames Flight Center After Neil Armstrong
"The House of Representatives today approved a resolution to rename the Dryden Flight Research Center, located in southern California, the "Neil Armstrong Research Center." H.R. 667 also re-designates the surrounding test range to honor Hugh Dryden, a prominent aeronautical engineer."
House Republicans are over the moon about sequestration, Washington Post
"The lone Democrat to speak, Rep. Donna Edwards (Md.), noted the irony in the vote. "We will do our renaming today," she said, and then "we will take an ax hammer to NASA's budget on March 1, at the end of this week, taking out $894 million from an already strapped budget. I dare say future generations will not be inspired by what this Congress will do."
Keith's update: What are the acronym implications of this? There is already an "ARC" at NASA. I do not think "NARC" will be used too often ...
Vulcan Tops Online Voting to Name Pluto's Moons', PC Magazine
"Vulcan was the only candidate in the contest run by the SETI Institute to top 100,000 votes, garnering 174,062 votes out of about half a million cast in online voting that ended Monday at 6 a.m. Eastern. "Cerberus" was the other winning name with 99,432 votes, according to the Los Angeles Times."
"And with Starfleet's favorite son leading the charge, Vulcan quickly won the vote. "174,062 votes [out of nearly 450,000 cast] and Vulcan came out on top of the voting for the naming of Pluto's moons. Thank you to all who voted!" Shatner tweeted. Leonard Nimoy, who as Spock is probably Vulcan's best known ambassador, told the Associated Press, "If my people were emotional they would say they are pleased."
Name Pluto's Moons P4 and P5, earlier post
"Instead, a low-energy nuclear reactor (LENR) uses common, stable elements like nickel, carbon, and hydrogen to produce stable products like copper or nitrogen, along with heat and electricity.
"It has the demonstrated ability to produce excess amounts of energy, cleanly, without hazardous ionizing radiation, without producing nasty waste," said Joseph Zawodny, a senior research scientist with NASA's Langley Research Center."
Keith's note: When you ask the technology people at NASA HQ about this they throw up their arms and say that they have nothing to do with this - and that its all run by NASA LaRC. As such, it seems that Lesa Roe apparently makes these technology decisions for the agency by default. Funny thing: if the potential for this LENR research is so great, why is there never any mention in NASA Spinoff documents or speeches and publications by NASA's Chief Technologist?
Cold Fusion Update From LaRC (Update), earlier post
"7. Did anyone at NASA headquarters have a role in deciding whether this research was to be funded?
"The Mars rover Curiosity's team is beginning to amass enough diverse science data to actively consider whether the area around its first drilling site was potentially habitable.
At the same time the science team is readying the rover's most powerful instruments to search for organic carbon and minerals supportive to life in its first sample of gray powdered subsurface rock."
Keith's note: Apparently the NASA webcast of the asteroid flyby last week may have set some all time records. Funny thing: NASA is supposed to be planning a mission to visit an asteroid (or so the White House says). Did anyone see ANY mention by NASA on the asteroid flyby video webpage of that asteroid mission while all that attention was focused on the flyby? Its so hard to slip a pre-prepared comment in front of the narrator and post those pesky URLs, isn't it? Oh yes - another object slammed into Russia the same day. Did NASA use that PR opportunity to focus collateral public interest on their human mission to an asteroid? Of course not. That's because NASA does not want to do that asteroid mission. So why would they want any undue attention focused on that mission?
Bolden: NASA Does Not Have To Actually Go To An Asteroid, Earlier post
"Bolden said that when the President announced that an asteroid would be the next destination for NASA's human spaceflight program, he did not say NASA had to fly all the way to an asteroid. What matters is the "ability to put humans with an asteroid," Bolden said."
NASA Really Doesn't Want to Do That Whole Asteroid Thing, Earlier post
"A current stated interim goal of NASA's human spaceflight program is to visit an asteroid by 2025," said Albert Carnesale, chancellor emeritus and professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, who chaired the committee that wrote the report. "However, we've seen limited evidence that this has been widely accepted as a compelling destination by NASA's own work force, by the nation as a whole, or by the international community. The lack of national consensus on NASA's most publicly visible human spaceflight goal along with budget uncertainty has undermined the agency's ability to guide program planning and allocate funding."
"The $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover is beginning detailed analysis of the first subsurface rock sample acquired on another planet, keeping researchers on "pins and needles" about whether Curiosity has struck Martian paydirt 216 million miles (348 million km) from Earth."
"Preliminary examination of the greenish, mudstone-like sample is peaking interest and debate about whether the flat rocks under Curiosity's wheels could be a type that perhaps preserved organic carbon relevant to potential past life on Mars, JPL geologist Robert C. Anderson told CuriousMars."
Orbital Schedules Antares Engine Test for February 12th, SpaceRef Business
"Orbital announced today that on Tuesday, February 12th they will perform a hot-fire test at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport's Pad-0A for their new Antares rocket. The window for the engine test is 6-9 p.m. EST. NASA's Wallops Flight Facility will provide launch range support."
Marc's update: The hot-fire has moved to Wednesday though weather is moving in and could delay the test further. The test window will remain the same. Orbital informed me this morning that no live video of the test will be available. However, results of the test will be posted to their web site as soon as possible including "hopefully" good images and video. We'll get it as soon as we can.
"NASA's progress toward a return to deep space missions continues with a new round of upcoming tests on the next-generation J-2X rocket engine, which will help power the agency's Space Launch System (SLS) to new destinations in the solar system.
Beginning this month, engineers will conduct a series of tests on the second J-2X development engine, designated number 10002, on the A-2 Test Stand at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. Once the series is completed, the engine will be transferred to the A-1 Test Stand to undergo a series of gimbal, or pivot, tests for the first time."
"In the wake of the wildly successful landing of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover on Aug. 6, 2012, it may come as no surprise that the American public are currently feeling rather enthusiastic about exploring Mars. This sentiment has now been bolstered by a recent poll carried out for the non-profit corporation Explore Mars by the global communications company Phillips & Company. After surveying 1,101 people, 71 percent of the participants said they feel confident the U.S. will land a human on Mars within the next two decades."
"On average, the same sample said they believed the U.S. government spends 2.4 percent (with a standard deviation of 1.68 percent) of the federal budget on NASA after they were told the agency currently has two operational rovers on the Martian surface. This, sadly, is woefully overoptimistic."
Related: Americans Confident Humans Will Walk on Mars Within Two Decades, Explore Mars
NASA Releases Strategic Space Technology Investment Plan, SpaceRef Business
"NASA today released its strategic space technology investment plan. The plan, outlined in a 92 page document, is meant to be a comprehensive strategic plan prioritizing technologies for NASA to achieve its mission."
"Technology enables discovery and advancement," NASA Chief Technologist Mason Peck said. "We look forward to working with our stakeholders to grow our technological base and take the journey to expand scientific understanding, explore the universe, and make a positive impact on the lives of all."
"NASA's Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) roared into space at 1:02 p.m. EST (10:02 a.m. PST) Monday aboard an Atlas V rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The LDCM spacecraft separated from the rocket 79 minutes after launch and the first signal was received 3 minutes later at a ground station in Svalbard, Norway. The solar arrays deployed 86 minutes after launch, and the spacecraft is generating power from them. LDCM is on course to reach its operational, sun-synchronous, polar orbit 438 miles (705 kilometers) above Earth within two months."
- VIDEO: An Atlas V Launches NASA's Newest Landsat Satellite
- VIDEO: Landsat Data Continuity Mission Spacecraft Separation
- VIDEO: Press Briefing: New Landsat Satellite Set for Launch
- VIDEO: Press Briefing: Landsat Data Continuity Mission Science Goals
- VIDEO: Landsat Launch a NASA Social Occasion
- SpaceRef Earth
"Landsat 5 successfully set the new Guinness World Records title for 'Longest-operating Earth observation satellite' as stated in an e-mail from Guinness World Records sent to NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. Outliving its three-year design life, Landsat 5 delivered high-quality, global data of Earth's land surface for 28 years and 10 months."
"It was seven months ago that Mark Showalter and a team of researchers at the SETI Institute discovered two new moon around Pluto. Named P4 and P5 the astronomers decided that the formal names should be open to public selection through a contest."
"NASA's Curiosity rover has, for the first time, used a drill carried at the end of its robotic arm to bore into a flat, veiny rock on Mars and collect a sample from its interior. This is the first time any robot has drilled into a rock to collect a sample on Mars.
The fresh hole, about 0.63 inch (1.6 centimeters) wide and 2.5 inches (6.4 centimeters) deep in a patch of fine-grained sedimentary bedrock, can be seen in images and other data Curiosity beamed to Earth Saturday. The rock is believed to hold evidence about long-gone wet environments. In pursuit of that evidence, the rover will use its laboratory instruments to analyze rock powder collected by the drill."
"This fueled speculation in the press on Virgin Galactic's future plans regarding their lease agreement with Spaceport America. I turned to Steve Isakowitz, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at Virgin Galactic for an updated statement on the lease matter."
GAO Releases Report on Launch Services New Entrant Certification Guide, SpaceRef Business
The GAO found that "while potential new entrants stated that they are generally satisfied with the Air Force's efforts to implement the Guide, they identified several challenges to certification, as well as perceived advantages afforded to the incumbent launch provider."
Marc's note: The guide was designed for new entrants in the EELV marketplace including: SpaceX Falcon 9 and Heavy, Orbital Antares and ATK Liberty II.
"Two powerful laboratories inside the Mars rover Curiosity are being readied to process the first powdered samples of subsurface Martian rock obtained by the rover's drill during the most complex series of Curiosity operations since its Sky Crane landing last August."
Marc's note: This is the latest in-depth story about Mars exploration from Craig Covault. This weekly update is part of the CuriousMars series of stories Craig is writing for SpaceRef.
Earth-like Planets Are Right Next Door, SpaceRef
"Using publicly available data from NASA's Kepler space telescope, astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) have found that six percent of red dwarf stars have habitable, Earth-sized planets. Since red dwarfs are the most common stars in our galaxy, the closest Earth-like planet could be just 13 light-years away."
"Using publicly available data from NASA's Kepler space telescope, astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) estimate that six percent of red dwarf stars in the galaxy have Earth-size planets in the "habitable zone," the range of distances from a star where the surface temperature of an orbiting planet might be suitable for liquid water."
"NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center released the following list of highlights for the James Webb Telescope for 2012 marking the progress of the project. However while the project is making progress, it has created budgetary problems for NASA and will launch several years later than planned."
"The White House response to a petition on building a Death Star (and the resulting media attention) led to some pretty interesting data here at NASA.gov. While the petitioners wanted to focus on a big project done a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, the response led to thousands of Americans finding out about projects NASA is currently working on right here on Earth and in our Solar System."
White House Deletes Death Star Funds from NASA's FY2014 Budget, Earlier post
Hey - Let's Make NASA Build a Deathstar! (Update), Earlier post
Marc's note: Jim Wilson points out the upside of the failed petition, increased awareness.
"In November 2012 the people asked for a death star. The government said NO! In light of continuing threats we should build it ourselves."
"Ten years ago, seven brave astronauts gave their lives in the name of exploration when America's first flight-ready space shuttle, Columbia, failed to return safely to Earth. Each year, on NASA's Day of Remembrance, we honor the crew of that Columbia flight, as well as those of Challenger and Apollo 1, and all the members of the NASA family who gave their lives in the pursuit of expanding our Nation's horizons in space-a cause worthy of their sacrifice and one we must never forget."
Challenger Center and NASA Day of Remembrance, Challenger Center for Space Science Education
"As we honor the memories of those lost in the Challenger, Columbia and Apollo 1 tragedies, we cannot help but to feel immensely grateful for the sacrifice each one of these individuals made when they chose to commit their lives to exploration and discovery. This sacrifice inspires us to strengthen the impact we make in the lives of students so they, in turn, will have the knowledge and interest to pursue meaningful and exciting STEM careers and become the next generation of inspirational leaders."
Coalition for Space Exploration Remembers Fallen NASA Astronauts, Coalition for Space Exploration
"Today, the Coalition for Space Exploration joins NASA in observing a Day of Remembrance as the world pays tribute to the men and women who lost their lives while pursuing the development and exploration of space. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Columbia space shuttle disaster, which resulted in the untimely deaths of seven brave astronauts. We remember their sacrifice and mourn the devastating loss of these crew members, along with the fallen heroes who were aboard Apollo 1, Challenger, and other NASA endeavors. While we grieve because their lives were taken too soon, we are also inspired by their passion and dedication to this commendable program. Their legacy will continue to touch the lives of generations to come, encouraging the exploration of uncharted territory."
CuriousMars: California Dreamin' on a Martian Day, Craig Covault, SpaceRef
"There are already plenty of stars around Malibu, California, but could the place be actually like the planet Mars? The NASA rover Curiosity is about to find out.
Two California locations, including an area near the Santa Monica Mountains stretching north from Malibu, were searched in late January for rocks strikingly similar to the Martian rocks that Curiosity is about to drill into on Mars. The samples found are completing final tests for use in assessing the success of the first rock drilling and sampling on another planet.
The drilling and analysis of samples from the inside of a Martian rock should be underway next week with the first shallow drilling tests as early as Feb. 2-4, according to Robert C. Anderson, a member of the Surface Sampling System (SSS) Team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif."
"We are sad to let you know that Adrian Hooke died on January 7. He was at home in Malibu with his wife. In his classic fashion, he continued his work on CCSDS and DTN right up through early December."
"Adrian was an admitted Space geek for 46 years. He worked on the Lunar Modules for Apollo 9, 10, 11, and 12, from 1966 to 1969. He was on the flight control teams for the Mariner 9 and 10 missions that visited Mars, Venus, and Mercury. He worked on Voyager and SEASAT, and in 1976-77 he spent a year at the European Space Agency helping with the Shuttle-SpaceLab program."
Marc's note: I just learned about Adrian's death today. I can't say I knew him well, but I briefly worked with him about 10 years ago as part of the InterPlanetary Networking Special Interest Group. He welcomed me to JPL and was willing to listen to a newbie such as myself. If you read the note on his passing you'll see how much he contributed to the community. He will be missed.
"According to Iran state media, Iran launched a suborbital rocket last week with a monkey onboard and recovered the capsule a short time later with the monkey still alive. The space capsule was code-named Pishgam (Pioneer)."
"The NASA Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is beginning its 10th year roving Mars, completing nine years of "shocking" performance and historic discoveries that began with a bouncing airbag roll into tiny Eagle crater on Jan. 24, 2004."
"It's amazing, we never expected these kind of results!", says Pete Theisinger, the original MER project manager at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. Calif. He also led JPL's Curiosity rover development in the same role."
"Virgin Galactic and the New Mexico Trial Lawyers Association have agreed on liability issues that will form the basis of legislation that Senator Mary Kay Papen will introduce tomorrow and which is expected to have broad bipartisan support."
Deep Space Industries Unveils Mining and Manufacturing Plans, SpaceRef Business
"Deep Space Industries (DSI) is another new entry in the asteroid mining field who want to go beyond just mining asteroids and into manufacturing products in space. As with another recent new commercial space venture, Golden Spike, DSI showcased some savvy space veterans but lack the resources to execute their plans to completion."
"In fact both companies made a point of going public so that potential investors might take notice. Unfortunately they and other like minded companies are all after the same investors who don't seem to be interested at this stage."
"Keith Cowing, editor of NasaWatch.com, said he was not yet convinced by Deep Space Industries' plans. "Is the prospect of using asteroid resources crazy? No it's not. Is if difficult? Yes it is. Can you make a business case for it? People are trying, and making progress." But he said any company must have a product, experienced people and a business case. "This is like a three-legged stool. You need all three legs, otherwise it's not a business, it's a hobby," he said."
"Senior leaders at NASA have been briefed on DSI's technologies, which would make eventual crewed Mars expeditions less expensive through the use of asteroid-derived propellant."
Keith's note: I asked NASA PAO for a statement regarding DSI's claim. This is NASA's official response this morning - no mention of any briefings by Deep Space Industries, just the same sort of generic but positive comentary about space commerce that they have issued on other occassions.
"President Obama's space policy is aimed at creating an environment where commercial space companies can build upon past successes, allowing NASA to focus on the Administration's ambitious path for deep space human exploration, which includes sending humans to an asteroid for the first time and ultimate to Mars. The increasing number of private U.S. companies attempting to push the boundaries of space shows the wisdom of that policy."
During their press conference yesterday, DSI stated that they had briefed the White House (OSTP). I haven't seen any commentary on this from OSTP.
"Astronauts on board the International Space Station captured this view of Washington, D.C. and the surrounding area on Sunday, Jan. 20, one day before the public Inauguration of President Barack Obama."
"On Saturday morning, Jan. 19, 2013, at Joint Base Anacostia Bolling (JBAB) in Washington, Steve LaDrew, with Capitol Exhibit Services, adjusts the Mastcam on a replica of the Mars Curiosity Rover."
@SpaceArtAl: @tweetsoutloud's special hair tattoo for #inaug2013 parade. I always loved the @NASA worm logo. bit.ly/WAO4Ry
"@Cmdr_Hadfield - Chris Hadfield - Washington D.C. on Saturday night of the Inaugural Weekend. You can even follow the parade route."
"@SpaceArtAl [Alan Ladwig] NASA is the only Federal Agency [Other than DoD] in the Inaugural Parade. Still think this Administration doesn't support space? #inaug2013"
S.Korea: North's missile parts from China, NHK World (With video)
"The South Korean military says part of the North Korean missile launched last month were made in China. South Korea's military has analyzed pieces of the debris from the three-stage rocket, including a fuel tank that were salvaged in the Yellow Sea. A military official says some of the parts appear to have been imported from five countries including China."
"As the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) science team completes final assessments of the mission's first drilling target in the bedrock at Yellowknife Bay, Curiosity is roving through "a whole different world," uncovering evidence for rocks saturated with water and other diverse and unexpected aqueous clues that hint of an ancient and very wet environment at Gale Crater.
It's a world of conglomerate rocks, sandstones, siltstones, spherules - known as "blueberries" to MER followers - lustrous pebbles, cross-bedding, tiny grains and filled veins, cracks, and fractured rocks - and, it appears, no end of evidence for past water. "We wouldn't have predicted any of this stuff from orbit," said John Grotzinger, MSL project scientist, of Caltech during a telebriefing on January 15th. "This is a great example of the occurrence of serendipity in scientific discovery."
"NASA will participate in the inauguration of President Obama with several events, including an open house, a star party and a NASA Social; exhibits on the National Mall and at NASA Headquarters; and with two floats and marchers in the inaugural parade. During the events Jan. 18 - 21, members of the public will have an opportunity to meet and mingle with several astronauts and members of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory team responsible for the Curiosity rover, which is five months into a two-year mission on the Red Planet."
"After weeks of searching, the Mars rover Curiosity's science and engineering teams have selected a fine-grained slab of Martian rock as the candidate target for the first rock drilling on Mars, a significant first in planetary exploration."
"The rock was selected Jan. 7 based on data about its composition, hardness, likelihood of generating powder needed to coat internal surfaces, and the safety of the drilling mechanism and rover when drilling this particular slab."
"Mars will be thrust into international politics during 2013 as India builds toward the planned November launch of its first Mars mission, an orbiter to study the Martian atmosphere and challenge China in a surging Asian space race."
"NASA Television shares this inspiring production by Italian videomaker, Giacomo Sardelli, about the International Space Station, its inhabitants, and its role in space exploration. Sardelli writes of the video, "I'm not the first one to use NASA's pictures taken from the International Space Station to craft a Timelapse video. You can find many of them on the Internet, that's where my inspiration came from. What I wanted to do, though, was to look beyond the intrinsic beauty of those pictures, and use them to tell a story and share the messages sent by the astronauts who worked on the station in the last 11 years."
Keith's note: NASA Watch is (more or less) on hiatus until 2 Jan 2013. Happy holidays.
If you are reading this over the holidays, then shame on you - unless you are a NASA contractor employee. If so, you have reason to be checking on the news. With the collapse of the budget deal with Congress, your government has failed you - and it looks like the fiscal cliff is something to really worry about. As we all know, when budget issues like this arise, NASA contractor employees are the first to feel it. This is completely above Charlie Bolden's pay grade and he has little (if any) flexibility as to how he deals with this.
From Craig Covault and A.J.S. Rayl "The first use the rover Curiosity's drill to obtain subsurface samples from inside a rock on Mars will be delayed until mid to late January to reduce risk to the rover during its first drilling operations."
"The delay is needed to complete extensive target rock "triage" to ensure that the heat from drilling friction will not cause the pounded rock sample to turn into a kind of gooey "Martian honey" that would foul rover components, perhaps fatally."
"A look back at the year that was at NASA in 2012. Highlights include the successful landing of the Mars Curiosity rover, the flight of the SpaceX Dragon to the International Space Station and much more."
"The Obama administration's Asia team was caught so off guard by North Korea's Dec. 11 rocket launch, several of them actually had to put down their drinks and suddenly leave a holiday party being held in honor of the Japanese emperor's birthday."
Vietnam, US boost space technology cooperation, Vietnamnet.com
"At an exchange with senior high school students in Hanoi on December 11, Charles Bolden, Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the US, attributed his success to hard work, study and not being afraid of failure."
Keith's note: Bolden is also slated to visit Japan. Nothing has been posted by NASA about this trip. Now that North Korea's satellite has been launched, Bolden's activities in Japan have fallen completely off the radar.
CuriousMars: Opportunity Hunts for Clay Minerals on Matijevic Hill, A.J.S. Rayl and Craig Covault, SpaceRef
"The Mars rover Curiosity has been commanding headlines with its every move from its historic, breathtaking landing last August to its first major discovery of an ancient stream bed formed by fast flowing water. In recent week's rumors, speculation, and wild conspiracy theories about what Curiosity has found have demonstrated, if nothing else, just how much the public is interested in Mars.
Curiosity is this week zeroing in on its first drilling target, but driving downhill toward it slower than planned because of difficult terrain, said Rick Welch mission manager at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
But on the other side of the planet, the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) Opportunity has been quietly soldiering on in her younger sibling's shadows."
India Races China in Space For Asian Prestige, Military Security, Space Quarterly Magazine
"A surging space race between India and China is underway amidst nearly a dozen other Asian nations, like India, trying to avoid a loss of prestige or military security to China's aggressive space program."
Marc's note: A timely piece in light of North Korea's launch. You'll find more timely and thought provoking articles in the December issue of Space Quarterly Magazine which we just released. The following article is a free sample. It is our hope that if you enjoy this article you will consider subscribing to the magazine.
"Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds is the fifth installment in the National Intelligence Council's series aimed at providing a framework for thinking about the future. As with previous editions, we hope that this report will stimulate strategic thinking by identifying critical trends and potential discontinuities. We distinguish between megatrends, those factors that will likely occur under any scenario, and game-changers, critical variables whose trajectories are far less certain. In this volume, we expanded our coverage of disruptive technologies, devoting a separate section to it in the work. To accomplish that, we engaged with research scientists at DoE laboratories at Sandia, Oak Ridge, and NASA in addition to entrepreneurs and consultants in Silicon Valley and Santa Fe. We have also devoted strong attention to economic factors and the nexus of technology and economic growth."
Keith's note: Funny how NASA constantly gets tapped by other agencies when it comes to blueskying futuristic out of the box ideas - but when it comes to implementing these ideas inside of NASA ... well, that's another story.
"North American Aerospace Defense Command officials acknowledged today that U.S. missile warning systems detected and tracked the launch of a North Korean missile at 7:49 p.m. EST. The missile was tracked on a southerly azimuth. Initial indications are that the first stage fell into the Yellow Sea. The second stage was assessed to fall into the Philippine Sea. Initial indications are that the missile deployed an object that appeared to achieve orbit."
"The second version of satellite Kwangmyongsong-3 successfully lifted off from the Sohae Space Center in Cholsan County, North Pyongan Province by carrier rocket Unha-3 on December 12. The satellite entered its present orbit."
"The object that North Korea sent into space early Thursday appears to be "tumbling out of control" as it orbits the earth, U.S. officials told NBC News. The officials said that it is indeed some kind of space vehicle but they still haven't been able to determine exactly what the satellite is supposed to do."
CuriousMars: Martian Science Detectives Aid Curiosity and Opportunity, SpaceRef Mars Today
"Mysteries on opposite sides of Mars are drawing the Curiosity and Opportunity rover science teams closer together in a search for habitable environments that could have supported Martian life early in the planet's history."
Marc's note: Today SpaceRef debuts CuriousMars by Craig Covault and A.J.S. Rayl. CuriousMars is a major new weekly feature with authoritative and insightful reporting and analysis on all aspects of current and future robotic operations on the Martian surface and in Martian orbit. CuriousMars will report on the adventure of exploration and science combined with the realities of policy, cost, politics and international cooperation.
Also of note the new features coincides with the relaunch of Mars Today (http://spaceref.com/mars/), SpaceRef's dedicated site to Mars with over 5700 Mars mission reports categorized by mission and at times by instrument.
Keith's note: Last month NASA Administrator Bolden spent 6 days on a trip to Hawaii. He was guest of honor at a fancy Marine Corps party. NASA PAO has declined to explain what he did during the rest of his trip. Given that political employees of Bolden's rank do not actually get vacation time (they are considered on duty at all times) Bolden's salary during this trip was charged to NASA - even if the Marine Corps paid his travel expenses.
Now Bolden is preparing for a 10 day trip to Asia - to Japan and Vietnam. NASA has not explained where he is going or how this trip is related to NASA. Given that NASA is going to get its budget passback from OMB soon (Bolden is not going to like a lot of what he sees), the lingering problems with the looming fiscal cliff (and how it could impact NASA), and other headaches such as the stolen laptop with NASA employee personal information on it, you'd think that Bolden would hang out a little closer to home.
In this week's telecon with NASA center directors, Bolden ended the telecon by asking if any of the participants had anything to add. When no one did, Bolden volunteered the comment that people should not believe everything that they read in the news and that he is still interested in being NASA Administrator so long as the President desires that he serve in this capacity.
Bolden's future as NASA chief uncertain, Orlando Sentinel
"The senior White House staff is aware of the [NASA] administrator's inability to advance their agenda and will have to decide whether they make an adjustment in a second term," said a senior administration official not authorized to speak on the record. ... "No one can deny, though, there has been an accumulation of distractions, and in order to maximize NASA's opportunities, the U.S. civil space program would benefit from a leader fully committed to implementing the bold policy put forth by the president and his administration".
Keith's update: Multiple sources (some close to Charlie Bolden) report that the possibility of Bolden becoming the next ambassador to Japan have been floated around. That would explain the purpose of this trip. Stay tuned.
"Congressman Kevin McCarthy today announced legislation to redesignate the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Dryden Flight Research Center as the Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center and the Western Aeronautical Test Range as the Hugh L. Dryden Aeronautical Test Range. Joining Congressman McCarthy in introducing this legislation are Congressman Buck McKeon, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, Congressman Ken Calvert, Congressman Lamar Smith, Congressman Steven Palazzo, and Congressman Adam Schiff."
Bolden's future as NASA chief uncertain, Orlando Sentinel
"Sources inside Congress and the administration said it's wholly possible Bolden, 66, stays at NASA into 2013 and beyond. They caution, however, that his return is an open question, as the White House remains concerned whether the former astronaut and Marine Corps major general is committed to Obama's vision for the space agency. "The senior White House staff is aware of the [NASA] administrator's inability to advance their agenda and will have to decide whether they make an adjustment in a second term," said a senior administration official not authorized to speak on the record. ... No one can deny, though, there has been an accumulation of distractions, and in order to maximize NASA's opportunities, the U.S. civil space program would benefit from a leader fully committed to implementing the bold policy put forth by the president and his administration".
Keith's note: The Daily Mail is running with this absurd headline: "Revealed: How the U.S. planned to blow up the MOON with a nuclear bomb to win Cold War bragging rights over Soviet Union"
But when you read their own story it actually says: "Under the scenario, a missile carrying a small nuclear device was to be launched from an undisclosed location and travel 238,000 miles to the moon, where it would be detonated upon impact."
If America - or anyone - were going to "blow up the Moon" it would take a lot more than a "small nuclear device" to do so.
Elon Musk - the Future of Energy & Transport
On November 14 Elon Musk participated in a 90 minute Q&A at the Oxford Martin School with the topic the Future of Energy and Transport. From the abstract, Musk "will talk from his own experiences at the forefront of technology and innovation about what kind of technological transformations are just around the corner and how these can help address the world's critical challenges."
"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) 10 major spaceflight projects discussed in this report have not yet fully implemented earned value management (EVM). As a result, NASA is not taking full advantage of opportunities to use an important tool that could help reduce acquisition risk. GAO assessed the 10 projects against three fundamental EVM practices that, according to GAO's best practices cost guide, are necessary for maintaining a reliable EVM system. GAO found shortfalls in two of three fundamental practices. Specifically, we found that More than half of the projects did not use an EVM system that was fully certified as compliant with the industry EVM standard."
Keith's note: I just got this email from the NASA OIG:
The NASA Office of Inspector General (OIG) today released its Semiannual Report to Congress highlighting the OIG's activities and accomplishments from April 1 -September 30, 2012. View the full report and video summary at: http://oig.nasa.gov/SAR/sar0912.pdf and http://oig.nasa.gov/Video/OIGPaulMartin_SAR_10-26-12.html
Renee N. Juhans
NASA Office of Inspector General
! WARNING ! This email including any attachments is intended only for authorized recipients. Recipients may only forward this information as authorized. This email may contain non-public information that is "Law Enforcement Sensitive," "Sensitive but Unclassified," or otherwise subject to the Privacy Act and/or legal and other applicable privileges that restrict release without appropriate legal authority and clearance. Accordingly, the use, dissemination, distribution or reproduction of this information to or by unauthorized or unintended recipients, including but not limited to non-NASA recipients, may be unlawful.
Did anyone stop and think about adding this legal language to emails sent to the media - or the public? How am I supposed to interpret the scary and somewhat threatening warning? Seriously. Am I an "authorized recipient"? If so when did I become one? Who are "unauthorized or unintended recipients"? I am going to post this on a website read globally by people I will never be able to identify. I did not agree to these security issues - indeed, this email was sent to me unsolicited. The warning also says "may contain ..." Well, does it or doesn't it - how am I supposed to know? Can the sender change their mind after it is sent?
"The year was not without challenges, however. For example, due to cost overruns in the James Webb Space Telescope and other projects, NASA had to reprogram funds away from several Agency initiatives. This resulted in developmental delays in some ongoing projects and cancellation of other planned projects, including the ExoMars/Trace Gas Orbiter missions to Mars. Moreover, the congressional decision to provide NASA's Commercial Crew Program (CCP) with less than half the funding requested by the President in FY 2012 extended to 2017 the earliest date that NASA expects to obtain commercial crew transportation services to the ISS, which is significant if NASA is unable to maintain and utilize the Station beyond its currently scheduled retirement date of 2020."
"Many of us working in or with NASA recognized that the 2004 Vision for Space Exploration (VSE) was a breakthrough, the necessary fulcrum needed to change our approach and direction to spaceflight. It was a program that would have opened the door to a wide variety of previously unobtainable missions. In this five-part series to establish and clarify the history and intent of the VSE, I've shared my insider's perspective on why and how it was conceived, executed and eventually terminated - a cautionary tale, if you will, and hopefully, an instructive one. In this last post, I want to examine what lessons should be drawn from this history and how we should move forward in a positive way to have and to build a U.S. space program truly "worthy of a great nation."
Felix Baumgartner Jump Imitated By First Burger In Space (with video). Huffington post
"Filling those space shoes and performing anything near as death-defying is a difficult task, but an unassuming, unlikely and altogether tastier contender has stepped up to the plate. The latest intrepid space explorer is, in fact, a burger. Using a large helium balloon and a cheap digital camera, five students from Harvard University launched "Operation Skyfall", the first burger in space."
"Supersonic skydiver Felix Baumgartner has been found guilty of punching a Greek lorry driver in the face in a road rage incident in his home town of Salzburg, Austria two years ago. Baumgartner, who last month broke the world record altitude for a parachute jump in the Red Bull Stratos project, had appealed against the conviction for assault but a three-judge appeals panel today upheld the verdict."
Keith's note: Charlie Bolden held his SES summit the other day. This time it was done virtually so as to save travel funds. 400-500 people were on the telecon from across the agency. According to participants, at one point Bolden was asked a question about the election and what he thought as a political appointee. Bolden replied "I do not see myself as a Democratic political appointee." He then went on to talk about how he often did not agree with what the White House wanted him to do at NASA and how he had brokered some political deals with republicans. He added "if I had done what the President had wanted then NASA would just be a technology program".
Keith's update: According to NASA PAO this is a transcript of what Charlie Bolden said (in contrast to what multiple sources who listened in on the telecon have told NASA Watch):
"Let me make a subtle correction to something you said. I'm appointed by the president. I work for the president. I have the utmost respect for the president. My job, however, is to add advise the president on what force the agency should be. I like our priorities because I think we help develop those and they may not be -- they may not be exactly where somebody else sitting in this seat would have been. We helped to develop those priorities and so that's where I'm trying to keep the agency aligned. I don't view them as democratic or Republican priorities. I emphasize that these -- they represent significant compromises. If the president had gotten his way, the number 1 priority for the agency probably would have been something like technology development. That is something about which he is passionate and if you notice, it is not one of the three major priorities. But it is -- it is the underpinning of everything we do."
I asked NASA PAO for a full transcript of Bolden's remarks but NASA PAO has declined to provide one. Note that the question that Bolden is responding to was not transcribed by NASA - only his response. i.e. "Let me make a subtle correction to something you said." OK, what was it that the questioner said? My sources say that Bolden was asked about the political implications of the election as a political appointee aligned with a Democrat affiliation.
Keith's note: This image was taken this morning by GOES-13. More recent images and animations can be found here.
"Europe's polar orbiting weather satellite, MetOp-A, captured this image of Hurricane Sandy just as the huge storm hit the east coast of the US yesterday."
"NOAA's GOES-13 satellite captured a visible image of Hurricane Sandy battering the U.S. East coast on Monday, Oct. 29 at 9:10 a.m. EDT that showed the immense extent of the storm."
Marc's note: NASA Goddard is still under a code red for today. We'll update you with any changes as we hear them. Please send in your news, tips, pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The headline on the New York Times says it all: A REGION CRIPPLED
- Potential Weather Satellite Gap Finally Getting Media Attention Thanks to Hurricane Sandy, Space Policy Online
"Perhaps one silver lining from Hurricane Sandy is that the storm is raising awareness of the long-known likelihood that there will be a gap in weather satellite coverage a few years from now because new satellites are not ready to launch before older satellites cease functioning."
"Hurricane Sandy has slammed onto the eastern seaboard. There's been widespread damage and flooding across more than six states. There's been loss of life. But at NASA, researchers are developing a pair of experimental unmanned drones to track future storms in the hope of being better prepared for when they strike."
Keith's note: Power will eventually go out here in the metro DC area as hurricane Sandy strikes. When I go offline Marc Boucher will keep NASA Watch up to date from Toronto, Canada until such time as I get power back. Of course Toronto is going to get hammered too at some point so we may not update for a while. Who knows. Stay safe.
Keith's note: Amazingly we did not lose power and had no damage but others were not so lucky.
What's Happening to the Russian Space Industry?, Commercial Space Watch
"On the morning of August 6, the Russian space industry woke up to yet another failure in a long list of failures over the last 2 years. 2 months later, on October 16th that failure became a catastrophe with the explosion of the Briz-M upperstage. Are we witness to the end of the dominance of the Russian space industry?"
Marc's note:Further down in the article when discussing the Briz-M "break-up" and the ISS.
"The differing rates at which the two orbits precess around the Earth's polar axis mean that the ISS orbital path will periodically move in and out of the debris cloud, and will sometimes spend several days at a time with a large part of its orbit within the cloud.
Depending on the actual number of fragments, this event may eventually be considered to be the most dangerous fragmentation event ever to have occurred in space."
""This historic mission signifies the restoration of America's ability to deliver and return critical space station cargo," said SpaceX CEO and Chief Technical Officer Elon Musk. "The reliability of SpaceX's technology and the strength of our partnership with NASA provide a strong foundation for future missions and achievements to come.""
"A Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) Dragon spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 2:22 p.m. CDT Sunday a few hundred miles west of Baja California, Mexico. The splashdown successfully ended the first contracted cargo delivery flight contracted by NASA to resupply the International Space Station."
Keith's note: Charlie Bolden will be speaking at "Charles Bolden Speaks at The Future of Strategic Partnerships in Space" hosted by the Atlantic Council on 23 October. According to the Atlantic Council this event will be "closed to press and off-the-record". But apparently anyone can ask to attend but they waive their right to free speech in so doing, it would seem. Why is the NASA Administrator having a discussion with a private organization about matters that the media cannot report on - and that no one in attendance can reveal? How did NASA public affairs sanction Bolden's participation in such an exclusive, elitist, and clearly non-transparent activity? With China's space program being one of the stated issues of concern for this event it is rather baffling that Bolden's comments would be declared unrepeatable by/to the public. I wonder what a FOIA request for Bolden's prepared comments would get as a response from NASA.
Keith's update: NASA PAO has declined to respond to a request made yesterday morning seeking clarification on this issue.
"Austria's Felix Baumgartner earned his place in the history books on Sunday after overcoming concerns with the power for his visor heater that impaired his vision and nearly jeopardized the mission. Baumgartner reached an estimated speed of 1,342.8 km/h (Mach 1.24) jumping from the stratosphere, which when certified will make him the first man to break the speed of sound in freefall and set several other records while delivering valuable data for future space exploration."
Keith's note: The non-proft organization Quest for Stars has simultaneously launched a high altitude balloon that sent back live images of Felix Baumgartner's ascent. More information here.
Marc's note: As some of you have noticed NASA Watch was offline for nearly a day. This was the result of a Denial of Service attack that was directed specifically at NASA Watch (it would appear) and not our other websites. We are working with our ISP to determine the source of the attack.
Warp Field Mechanics 101, NASA JSC
"Finally, an overview of the warp field interferometer test bed being implemented in the Advanced Propulsion Physics Laboratory: Eagleworks (APPL:E) at the Johnson Space Center will be detailed. While warp field mechanics has not had a "Chicago Pile" moment, the tools necessary to detect a modest instance of the phenomenon are near at hand."
The Warp Drive Could Become Science Fact, Space.com via Disovery
"White and his colleagues have begun experimenting with a mini version of the warp drive in their laboratory. They set up what they call the White-Juday Warp Field Interferometer at the Johnson Space Center, essentially creating a laser interferometer that instigates micro versions of space-time warps. "We're trying to see if we can generate a very tiny instance of this in a tabletop experiment, to try to perturb space-time by one part in 10 million," White said."
NASA Head Bolden: Warp Speed Ahead, US News & World Report
"Former astronaut and NASA head Charles Bolden says the agency wants to one day design a vehicle that goes faster than the speed of light. "One of these days, we want to get to warp speed," he told a group at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Tuesday. Bolden was discussing the future of American space exploration. "We want to go faster than the speed of light, and we don't want to stop at Mars."
Keith's note: I wonder who is paying for this ... JSC? OCT? HEOMD? Where (specifically) does this research fit into the agency's overall strategic plan? No one at NASA ever bothers to explain this.
"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Small Business Administration Administrator Karen Mills will speak about the contributions of small businesses to the success of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover mission during a Google+ Hangout at 10:30 a.m. EDT Wednesday, Sept. 19. "
Marc's update: It's good to see NASA using social media tools like Google+ Hangout. I hung out in a recent sessions and it proved to be very informative. What's more, you can ask Bolden questions in this one. Now whether your question is passed on and answered is another matter. But it is a cost effective way of getting your message out and interacting with the public. We'll see if these sessions catch on.
"The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) is pleased to announce that the 2012 AIAA von Braun Award for Excellence in Space Program Management has been won by Maj. Gen. James B. Armor, U.S. Air Force (retired), AIAA Associate Fellow, and vice president, strategy and business development, ATK Space Systems Division, Beltsville, Md."
Marc's note: Coincidentally the current issue of Space Quarterly has an interview with Maj. Gen. Armor. Here's an excerpt. You can read the full interview by subscribing.
"You might be surprised that as part of the Defense Department's mission to protect Americans, your tax dollars funded a workshop about aliens from "Star Trek" entitled: Did Jesus Die for Klingons, Too? It's just one questionable projects under the microscope of fiscal conservative Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who's taking his red pen to cuts that he sees as no-brainers."
Not Such a Stretch to Reach for the Stars, NY Times (2011)
"... the government's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or Darpa, drew hundreds this month to a symposium on the 100-Year Starship Study, which is devoted to ideas for visiting the stars. ... Other talks ruminated on theological and philosophical questions. "Did Jesus Die for Klingons, Too?" was the title of one."
"On 28-29 August 2012, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) held a Systems Engineering Review for a potential geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO) servicing mission. Despite stating that "Interested parties must register in order to attend" a number of participants have told me that they did not register in advance and just showed up. According to attendees, during the meeting, participants were openly encouraged to use their cellphones to take pictures of the materials shown on the screen - some (but not all) of which were labeled "predecisional". None of the charts shown had any marking denoting that they were ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) sensitive in nature."
"NASA announces its annual invitation for public nominations for service on NASA Federal advisory committees. U.S. citizens may nominate individuals and also submit self-nominations for consideration as potential members of NASA's Federal advisory committees. NASA's Federal advisory committees have member vacancies from time to time throughout the year, and NASA will consider nominations and self-nominations to fill such intermittent vacancies. NASA is committed to selecting members to serve on its Federal advisory committees based on their individual expertise, knowledge, experience, and current/past contributions to the relevant subject area."
"NASA/JSC intends to purchase research and development services from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) for a continuation of an aneutronic fusion research project currently being conducted at the Johnson Space Center."
Aneutronic Fusion Spacecraft Architecture, OCT
"The proposed design is based on neutron-free nuclear fusion as the primary energy source. An innovative beam conditioning/nozzle concept enables useful propulsive thrust directly from the fusion products, while some fraction of the energy is extracted via direct conversion into electricity for use in the reactor and spacecraft systems."
"Instead of using deuterium and tritium as the fuel stocks, the new motor extracts energy from boron fuel. Using boron, an "aneutronic" fuel, yields several advantages over conventional nuclear fusion."
Neil Armstrong's lasting legacy, Dan Goldin, Washington Post
"This summer I witnessed the landing of Curiosity on Mars from mission control at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. After the "seven minutes of terror" and Curiosity's successful arrival, I knew that NASA still has the right stuff. NASA is filled with future Neil Armstrongs -- outstanding rocket engineers, scientists and dreamers. I can think of no greater testimony to the entire Apollo team than to undertake another audacious activity that, although risky, will raise the American spirit and create opportunities for future generations. This next challenge will be the catalyst for the scientific and engineering breakthroughs central to the future vitality of our nation. We must reach for the stars."
"The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Foundation (AIAA Foundation), at the request of the family of Neil A. Armstrong, who was the first person to set foot on the Moon, and an AIAA Honorary Fellow, has established the Neil A. Armstrong Scholarship Endowment Fund."
Keith's update: There will be a Huffington Post Google Hangout [revised link] discussion about space at 2:30 pm EDT today. Guests:
- Andrew Chaikin, Author of "A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts"
- Andrew Kessler, Space Enthusiast and author of "Martian Summer"
- Dave Brody, Science & Technology Writer at SPACE.com
- Edward Hudgins, Author of "Space: The Free Market Frontier"
- Keith Cowing, Founder of NASA Watch, Former NASA Scientist
This discussion was spawned by an article by Wayne Hale. Alas, Wayne was unable to join in at the last minute:
Space Exploration - A Presidential Priority, Huffington Post
"The real destination goal for America's space program should encompass all of the potential destinations, with the priority and order set by the needs and capabilities of the developing infrastructure. This will not be a short-term, one administration, or one party goal, but neither was America's westward expansion over a century ago."
THIS SERVICE IS CLOSED TO THE MEDIA--WITH NO EXCEPTIONS
"To everyone who has so graciously remembered Neil Armstrong: The outpouring of condolences and kind wishes from around the world overwhelms us and we appreciate it more than words can express."
Plans are underway to conduct a national service in Washington in the next two weeks.
"During the 35-second run, the vehicle was "open loop" -- navigating autonomously without the command of the onboard camera and flying on a preprogrammed flight profile. Once it reached the 100-foot mark, the "Mighty Eagle" identified a new, larger target on the ground about 100 feet away, took pictures, processed the images and safely landed."
Keith's note: Interestingly, Oreo (Nabisco) paid for promotional placement of this tweet on Twitter for the popular, Armstrong-themed hashtag #WinkAtTheMoon: "Celebrate the man that made dreams a reality #dailytwist pic.twitter.com/6LO4vqSt" - thus ensuring even greater visibility.
"Starting today, Clear Channel Outdoor will honor one of our nation's greatest heroes and a man who lived a humble, yet heroic life, with a memorial on every one of the company's 963 digital billboards in 37 different metropolitan areas - including Columbus and Cleveland in Mr. Armstrong's home state of Ohio. Neil Armstrong passed away on Saturday at his home in Cincinnati, Ohio. The memorial honors him using his most famous quote when he first stepped onto the moon; "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." The memorial makes one small edit to honor Mr. Armstrong, "That's one small step for a hero, one giant leap for mankind."
Keith's note: This is how the exit sign for JPL looked yesterday. Larger image.
"Neil will always be remembered for taking humankind's first small step on a world beyond our own, but it was his courage, grace, and humility before, during, and after his historic Apollo 11 mission that has continued to lift him and all of us far beyond that breakthrough achievement."
Passing of an Era, Paul Spudis, AIr & Space
"It's become cliche to say that Neil Armstrong holds a unique place in history. On this occasion, we should pause to consider just how singular his place is. No one - not the first human to Mars nor the first crew to venture beyond the Solar System - will ever achieve the same level of significance as the first human to step onto the surface of another world. The flight of Apollo 11 was truly a once in a lifetime event - and by that, I mean in the lifetime of humanity. That first step was indeed one to "divide history," as the NASA Public Affairs Office put it at the time."
"The outpouring of condolences and kind wishes from around the world overwhelms us and we appreciate it more than words can express. Many have asked if a memorial has been designated. If anyone wishes to make a memorial in his name, we suggest, in lieu of flowers, memorials be sent to one of these worthy organizations:"
Keith's note: A private family memorial is planned in Cincinnati on Friday. A public event is in the planning stages.
Keith's 3:14 pm note: Multiple sources in and around NASA and the space community confirm to NASA Watch that Neil Armstrong, the first human to walk on another world, has died at the age of 82. More to follow. This is a hinge in history. More information at http://neilarmstronginfo.com
"The Secure World Foundation and Space Foundation co-hosted a Congressional briefing to discuss current international initiatives aimed at outer space security and sustainability. The luncheon panel discussion featured leading defense and industry perspectives."
FOIA Front: Space agency on different planet with FOIA response?, Washington Examiner
"Rep. Darrell Issa, the California Republican who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, also demanded detailed records of conference spending by agencies in April. So knowing of those requests to NASA, The Washington Examiner submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request earlier this month seeking all documents the agency prepared in response to the OMB memos and the Issa letter. The newspaper also requested databases or other documents showing agency spending on conferences over the past five years, information similar to what the agencies must begin posting on their web sites in January. NASA officials responded that they are unable to process the request because they are not sure what documents the Examiner seeks."
"The X-51 safely separated from the B-52 and the rocket booster fired as planned. However, after 16 seconds, a fault was identified with one of the cruiser control fins. Once the X-51 separated from the rocket booster, approximately 15 seconds later, the cruiser was not able to maintain control due to the faulty control fin and was lost."
"CubeSats are a class of research spacecraft called nanosatellites. The cube-shaped satellites are approximately four inches long, have a volume of about one quart and weigh about 3 pounds."
Keith's note: Inches? Quarts? Pounds? What happened to the NASA policy directing the use metric units? Curiously, if you read the official CubeSat Design Specification Rev. 12, from California Polytechnic State University (an American educational institution) the specs are in metric units. So has someone@NASA.gov gotten yet another waiver to not use of metric units in their program? Or is this another PAO author being lazy? Then again, it was this confusion over units of measure that allowed Mars Climate Orbiter to make a surprise landing on Mars.
"Following the loss of the Mars Climate Observer, the NASA Office of Inspector General initiated a review of the Agency's use of the metric system. By law and policy, the metric system is the preferred system of measurement within NASA. However, our review found that use of the metric system is inconsistent across the Agency. A waiver system, which was required by law and put into effect to track metric usage and encourage conversion, is no longer in use."
NASA Still Can't Get That Metric Stuff Right, earlier post
"During its first attempt at free flight today at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, NASA's Morpheus lander crashed and caught on fire. According to NASA PAO: "During today's free-flight test of the Project Morpheus vehicle lifted off the ground and then experienced a hardware component failure, which prevented it from maintaining stable flight. No one was injured and the resulting fire was extinguished by KSC fire personnel. Engineers are looking into the incident and the agency will release information as it comes available."
Keith's 6:25 pm EDT 12 Aug update: An update has now been posted on the Morpheus Lander website. Looks like they're going to push ahead.
Keith's 7 Aug note: In its 30 July press release listing all MSL media activities and opportunities, no mention is made by NASA that offsite media would be allowed ask questions during press briefings - other than the vague "Two-way question-and-answer capability will be available for some of the news briefings from participating NASA locations". Yesterday (Tuesday) a number of media asked questions by telephone. Yet no formal media advisory was sent out by NASA noting that this was an option and how/where to participate. So early yesterday afternoon I sent a request for dial-in/off-site procedures to multiple people at JPL PAO, SMD PAO, and HQ PAO. No one from PAO ever replied.
Keith's 8 Aug update: JPL PAO sent me dial-in information 14 minutes before the press briefing began. A minute after I got this email I also got a general email from JPL PAO to news media alerting us of a dial-in capability. This was the first such note they sent out. Several other space media colleagues had told me that they were unaware of the dial-in option - until they saw my note or got this email. Annoying - its not as if JPL PAO has never done this before.
NASA Is the Government's One True Viral Hit Factory, Atlantic Wire
"NASA may only consume0.5 percent of the federal budget, but it generates practically all of Uncle Sam's viral marketing buzz.Never was that more apparent than on Monday morning following the successful Mars landing of Curiosity, the biggest and most advancedspacecraft ever dispatched to another planet. In an explosion of tweets, Tumbls, status updates, and blog posts, the Internet showed its love of NASA in a way other parts of the government could only dream of. So what's NASA's secret?"
"Today, July 25, 2012, Felix Baumgartner completed the final milestone remaining before he attempts to achieve his dream of becoming the first person to break the speed of sound in freefall. According to preliminary data, his test jump from a 5.3 million cubic-foot / 150,079 cubic-meter balloon achieved an altitude of over 96,640 feet / 29,455 meters, seeing Baumgartner execute a 3 minute, 48 second freefall jump reaching speeds of 536 mph / 862 kmh."
"A large inflatable heat shield developed by NASA's Space Technology Program has successfully survived a trip through Earth's atmosphere while travelling at hypersonic speeds up to 7,600 mph. The Inflatable Reentry Vehicle Experiment (IRVE-3) was launched by sounding rocket at 7:01 a.m. Monday from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va. The purpose of the IRVE-3 test was to show that a space capsule can use an inflatable outer shell to slow and protect itself as it enters an atmosphere at hypersonic speed during planetary entry and descent, or as it returns to Earth with cargo from the International Space Station."
"We've put together some materials that will help you tell this fascinating story to your family, friends, and neighbors, because no doubt, they'll be asking you as the NASA expert, no matter what your job is with the agency. "It's a pretty straightforward story, and we should all be happy and proud to talk about it. So we've sent your supervisors some materials that you can use to answer questions and relay your excitement about working for NASA."
Keith's note: If Charlie Bolden really trusts all of his employees to honestly and openly convey their exctement about MSL, then why are these materials only sent to supervisors - and not sent directly to all NASA employees? In addition, this website communications.nasa.gov/marstoolkit is mentioned but taxpayers are not allowed to access it. Why is Charlie being less than open about what these materials are?
"According to NASA it's pure science and not art. But when Nicholeen Viall, a solar scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center created a new data visualization technique, the resulting solar images were reminiscent of a Van Gogh painting."
Resolve Rover Begins Testing, NASA KSC
Marc's note: With the Shuttle retirement the Kennedy Space Center has been active in promoting itself and what it can offer. That's good and as it should be. However its latest video promoting a rover "NASA is developing" at KSC is misleading in that it does not mention once its partner in the project, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). The video makes it sound like it's an all NASA project being worked on at KSC. Most of the video was shot during a media opportunity last month at KSC which included CSA personel, one of which appears in the video. Currently the RESOLVE mission is in Hawaii conducting tests on Mauna Kea through July 20. What is the CSA contributing? Well here's the list:
- The Artemis Junior terrestrial rover will serve as the semi-autonomous mobile platform for payloads, including NASA instruments designed to prospect for water ice and other lunar resources; Destin, a versatile onboard drill and sample transfer system; and Q6 Stack, an avionics suite consisting of a powerful, low-mass and low- power hybrid processors and interface modules, which will control the RESOLVE system.
Whoever wrote the script at KSC PAO has some explaining to do.
Earlier press releases:
- Rover's Exploration May Lead to Deep Space, NASA
- The Canadian Space Agency and NASA Test Lunar Technologies, Canadian Space Agency
"While reports had been circulating in the media today claiming that space agency NASA had selected Ireland as its first international research partner, it appears that NASA is not set to make an official announcement on this scientific alliance this week."
"Following two years of negotiations, the initiative will be officially announced tomorrow at Trinity College by Nasa administrator Gen Charles Bolden. Tim Quigley, a retired naval officer and former commander of Moffet Airfield at the Ames base in California, was the go-between who pushed to ensure that this State leads the project."
U.S. Embassy in Dublin Tweets: #AskCharlie A Question, earlier post
"NASA PAO says that Bolden is "in the UK now for Farnborough and is going [to Ireland] tomorrow."
Keith's note: The U.S. Embassy Dublin @usembassydublin recently tweeted "Some weird and wonderful #AskCharlie questions still coming in! Its your opportunity to quiz the head of NASA! pic.twitter.com/n45uZxox" Here is what people have asked thus far.
So ... I guess Charlie Bolden is going to be visiting Ireland, right? Otherwise, why do this? What is curious is why NASA PAO has said nothing about this official government contest such that people can participate. Larger image.
Keith's update: NASA PAO says that Bolden is "in the UK now for Farnborough and is going [to Ireland] tomorrow."
"This month, Raytheon Company celebrates its 90th anniversary as a technology and innovation leader. Founded July 7, 1922, as the American Appliance Company in Cambridge, Mass., Raytheon through the generations has developed solutions for some of the most challenging requirements by tapping into a spirit of perpetual innovation and dedication to core values and customer success."
"A Raytheon-MIT guidance computer enabled Apollo 11 in its journey, and its on-board microwave tube transmitted radio and TV signals to Earth, enabling millions to witness history live when astronauts Neil Armstrong and Colonel Edwin Aldrin stepped onto the moon."
"Federal agencies in the Washington, DC, area are OPEN and employees have the OPTION for UNSCHEDULED LEAVE OR UNSCHEDULED TELEWORK."
Marc's update: NASA Goddard is now under Code Blue.
"To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) NASA has released this video montage of highlights. From Kennedy's speech, Glen's Friendship 7 flight, the Apollo years, unmaned launches, the Shuttle era and through to the transformation of KSC for the next era of U.S. human spaceflight, watch it all."
Keith's note: On 8 June 2012 I got an email update from Planetary Resources. This portion got my attention:
"Here's a quick summary of the highlights:
. Over 70 Million US television viewers
. 5 Billion Unique Monthly visitors with front page headlines on Huffington Post, Drudge Report, Twitter, CNN.com, Yahoo, Washington Post ..."
Hmm. "5 Billion Unique Monthly visitors". That's more traffic than Google gets and represents more than half of the population on Earth. Wow.
"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer Elon Musk will participate in a media availability at 11:30 a.m. CDT Wednesday, June 13, in the SpaceX facility at 1 Rocket Rd. in McGregor, Texas. Bolden and Musk will be there to view the Dragon spacecraft that returned to Earth May 31 following the first successful mission by a private company to carry supplies to the International Space Station."
Marc's note: According to a tweet by NASA Spaceflight there was a micrometeoroid strike on the Cupola. According to the tweet it is minor impact and "doesn't look bad." The shutter was closed and impact is being evaluated. Details to follow when available.
Update: Cupola hit by minor MMOD strike, shutter closed for evaluations, NASA Spaceflight
"Window 2 on the Cupola module has been hit by a minor MicroMeteoroid and Orbital Debris (MMOD) strike. With the window's protective shutter closed, per flight rules, ISS managers are evaluating photos of the damage - downlinked from the International Space Station (ISS) - before they are expected to give the crew clearance to reopen the shutter."
Next Generation MERs for Mars?, Future Planetary Exploration Blog
Marc's note: Van Kane, the author of the post has for several years posted interesting observations of various exploration missions. As someone not affiliated with the space program, but speaking strictly as an enthusiast, his comments are at times worth reading including this post which deals with NASA's Concepts and Approaches for Mars Exploration conference this week. BTW parts of the conference are being streamed live starting at 9:00 a.m. EDT.
"Example of proposed upgrades to the basic Mars Exploration Rover design for missions to Mars in 2018 and beyond. This particular upgrade would enhance the rover with next generation instruments and add capabilities to collect and cache samples for eventual return to Earth. "
Keith's note: On 26 May 2012 I posted "NASA LaRC now has its official cold fusion video online titled "Abundant Clean/Green Energy" which refers to a new form of "nuclear energy". How do NASA's Chief Technologist and Chief Scientist allow this stuff to be funded with taxpayer dollars without going through any of the agency's standard peer review processes? Or do Rich Antcliff and Lesa Roe just fund this stuff with local center director's discretionary slush funds and not tell HQ what they are doing?" I submitted a number of questions to LaRC regarding this research. I received a reply from LaRC yesterday and it is posted below.
Keith's update: These are the most troubling parts of the LaRC response - apparently there are no publications related to this taxpayer-funded research. I asked. This is all they would tell me about: only a patent application is listed. FYI, anyone can file a patent application - about anything. People do it all the time. That said, after 3.5 years no one from NASA LaRC has published anything about this research - anywhere?
"2. How much has been spent to date on this LENR research and how much will be spent?: The average yearly cost for the approximately 3.5 years of the research thus far is about $222,000 for a total of about $778,000. The research is ongoing, and another $212,000 is budgeted for the remainder of FY 2012.
9. What publications have resulted from this NASA-funded research? (references/links
requested): A patent application has been published. Reference U.S. Patent Publication Number 2011/0255645."
Full (official) LaRC response below
Keith's note: NASA LaRC now has its official cold fusion video online titled "Abundant Clean/Green Energy" which refers to a new form of "nuclear energy". How do NASA's Chief Technologist and Chief Scientist allow this stuff to be funded with taxpayer dollars without going through any of the agency's standard peer review processes? Or do Rich Antcliff and Lesa Roe just fund this stuff with local center director's discretionary slush funds and not tell HQ what they are doing?
- Quack Science: Why Are NASA Glenn and Langley Funding Cold Fusion Research?, earlier Post
- Why is NASA Langley Wasting Time on Cold Fusion Research?, earlier Post
"First reported in Government Executive, the contract opening was posted on the Federal Business Opportunities website earlier this week. The opening sought to hire performers to deliver presentations that include "experiential exercises, physical energizers, magic tricks, puzzles, brain teasers, word games, humor and team-building exercises, designed to demonstrate how to stimulate creativity, encourage active participation, and practice needed skills and competencies."
Shots fired into the Davidson Center at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Huntsville Times
"Someone fired three shots into the Davidson Center for Space Exploration at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center at about 10 a.m., but no one was injured, space center officials said. The shots, which appear to have come from somewhere along Interstate 565, police said, put a hole in the Saturn V rocket on display inside and broke three windows."
"On Thursday, May 3, Stephen Colbert will be presented with the National Space Society's 2012 Space Pioneer Award for Mass Media on his popular show, The Colbert Report, on the Comedy Central cable network. The award will be presented by Apollo XI Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, a member of the NSS Board of Governors and friend of Colbert's."
"Planetary Resources, Inc. announced today its plan to mine Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) for raw materials, ranging from water to precious metals. Through the development of cost-effective exploration technologies, the company is poised to initiate prospecting missions targeting resource-rich asteroids that are easily accessible."
A Conversation with Wayne Hale (Video), SpaceRef
"SpaceRef had the opportunity to sit down with Wayne Hale at the 28th National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. Mr. Hale is a former NASA space shuttle mission controller, flight director, space shuttle program manager, Deputy Associate Administrator for Strategic Partnerships and currently the Director of Human Spaceflight / International Programs with Special Aerospace Services. Wayne share his thoughts on the current status of the space program, the future and his current work."
NASA Reaching for New Heightsm Charles Bolden and Dr. John P. Holdren:
"In his gloomy Washington Post commentary today on yesterday's ceremony transferring ownership of the Space Shuttle Discovery from NASA to the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, Charles Krauthammer urged readers to think of that transfer as the funeral for U.S. leadership in space. Nothing could be further from the truth. The United States remains far and away the world leader in space technology and exploration. As long as appropriate support continues to be forthcoming from Congress, this will remain the case indefinitely. "
"The Skylab trainer built to train astronauts has been sitting outside at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center (USSRC) in Huntsville for a long time. Right now, as can be seen in the photo below, it is simply rotting away when simple measures to protect it could at least slow down the destruction."
"Amid the talk of international collaboration and co-operation at a panel of space leaders, NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver found herself answering questions about the cancellation of NASA's commitment to ExoMars, and the lack of launch capability for astronauts on American soil."
"SpaceRef had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson at the 28th National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. The conversation centered around his idea of doubling NASA's budget as it would spur innovation and fuel the economy. We also discussed his latest book, Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier."
Marc's note: Tyson gave memorable speech on Tuesday. It was similar to some of what he said to Congress last month. Our conversation touches on all of the highlights from his speech. It's 20 minutes worth watching.
"At the 28th National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs SpaceRef sat down with NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver for a short conversation."
Additional SpaceRef coverage of the National Space Symposium
"The significance of the launch, of course, is the booster itself. The booster is bigger than it has to be. It's based on Han missiles. It's not a military missile ... but it's darn close. Like we've said on TV, this rocket is not a weapon, but it's maybe 98 percent of one. It can be converted all too easily and all too frighteningly into a weapon, and they don't need it. They don't need a booster of this size, of this cost, to launch a satellite they say they want to. They seem to be overdoing it, and that can hurt a country, not help it."
Keith's note: North Korea's rocket launch - like the rest of the country - was a total failure. It broke apart a minute or so after launch. Now they can get back to starving their population to pay for it.
"The Space foundation today announced the availability of the 2012 edition of the Space Report to media today and to the public next week. According to the report the global space economy grew to $289.77 billion in 2011, reflecting a surprisingly robust single-year expansion of 12.2 percent and five-year growth of 41 percent* in a global economy that has been suppressed in many other sectors."
"Taken 2/29/12 in the Oval Office - Live Long & Prosper!"
Keith's note: So ... where's Charlie?
"Orbital Sciences Corporation celebrated the company's first three decades in the space business today as it completed 30 years of operations since the enterprise's founding on April 2, 1982. At anniversary events at the company's Dulles, Virginia headquarters and at other sites in Arizona, California, Maryland and Virginia, Orbital executives thanked employees and customers for making possible the company's successes to date, and for providing exciting opportunities for future achievements."
Marc's note: We've included the video address by David W. Thompson, Orbital co-founder.
"The National Space Society (NSS) is pleased to announce Dr. Stephen Hawking as the 14th recipient of NSS's Robert A. Heinlein Memorial Award. The award [was] be presented to Dr. Hawking at a special ceremony at the Cooks Branch Conservancy in Montgomery, Texas on Wednesday, March 28 and is given in recognition of his outstanding and continuing public efforts in support of human space development and settlement."
F-1 Engine Recovery, Bezos Expeditions
"I'm excited to report that, using state-of-the-art deep sea sonar, the team has found the Apollo 11 engines lying 14,000 feet below the surface, and we're making plans to attempt to raise one or more of them from the ocean floor. We don't know yet what condition these engines might be in - they hit the ocean at high velocity and have been in salt water for more than 40 years. On the other hand, they're made of tough stuff, so we'll see."
Marc's note: it will be very interesting to see what condition the engine(s) are in if they are able to raise one or more of them.
Evacuation? Surely we can do better!, B612 Foundation
"The other day we had a couple of small asteroids narrowly miss hitting the Earth, and we only discovered them about a day before they flew by. This is actually a fairly common occurrence (and these particular asteroids are like most of these cases quite small and relatively harmless). But consider what would happen if a larger asteroid like the one that hit Tunguska in 1908 was found to be on a collision course just a day or so ahead of impact. Our only option would be to evacuate the impact area."
"NASA's activities in social media were recognized on Monday in New York when the agency's official Twitter feed, @NASA, received a Shorty Award for the best government use of social media. The Shorty Awards honor the best of social media across sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube, Foursquare and others. NASA's nomination cited multiple aspects of the agency's social-media efforts, including the popular Angry Birds in Space game and encouragement of science among young people."
"As a condition of his plea agreement, which lowered his sentence recommendation from 262 months to 156 months, Nozette was debriefed by law enforcement and intelligence officials. But "the value of these debriefings was limited. Defendant provided no actionable information. There were times that defendant's professed lack of recollection was baffling."
Keith's note: Here's a Video of creepy convicted traitor Stu Nozette giggling and shoving food into his mouth while talking about being a super secret man of mystery with fake identities, offshore bank accounts, escape routes, places to hide out, extradition restrictions, taking lessons from 9-11 terrorist Mohammed Atta on how to get out of the U.S. - and that this decision to betray the U.S. was a "career decision".
"Neither the Constitution nor employee-protection laws can regulate feelings -- no more than they can or should regulate belief systems. They can, however, circumscribe behavior on both sides of that faith-divide. From the filings at least, JPL appears to have stayed well within those boundaries. Coppedge appears to have jumped the rails entirely."
"The meeting will wrap up tomorrow [Thursday] with a press conference at 1:00 pm ET where a group communiqu will be released. The substance of that communiqu will likely not contain any new developments other than a continued commitment to using the space station to its fullest capability."
Keith's note: NASA PAO never bothered to tell media that there was a press conference today.
LAUNCH: Innovating the Way We Create, Beth Beck
"The amazing LAUNCH core team is gathering in San Francisco to host a brainstorming session with thought leaders in the field of "sustainable waste" -- creating less and creating more value from existing and future waste. We call this brainstorming session, LAUNCH: Big Think."
Keith's note: NASA HEOMD's EPO lead, Beth Beck is off on yet another fun trip - one whose value to NASA is hard to fathom. But apparently that isn't important - even as NASA struggles to inform the public and its "stakeholders" of what it does - and why. What does this event have to do with NASA human spaceflight i.e. the part of NASA where Beth works? As far as I can tell, nothing has been published, released, or otherwise discussed wherein value to the agency has been described resulting from Launch.org activities. There seems to be no description of what has been provided of value to NASA human spaceflight efforts. Nor is there any mention of what NASA's human spaceflight programs have provided of value to launch.org. Why isn't NASA External Relations doing this? Or perhaps the CTO? It is pointless junkets like this that get Congress angry and force them to issue those "no travel" edicts.
Quebec City to Host Space Agency Leaders This Week, SpaceRef Canada
"Starting today Quebec City is hosting approximately 80 delegates for the International Space Agency Heads of Agency meeting. Attending will be representatives from NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the Russian Federal Space Agency (ROSCOSMOS) along with the hosts the Canadian Space Agency."
Marc's note: The Canadian Space Agency plans to issue a release for the event but this event has already started. It should be noted however that it is traditional for the ISS Head of Agency meeting to take place in March each year. However there usually is some heads up.
Keith's note: "Rocket Boys" author and former NASA employee Homer Hickam has a new book coming out titled "Crater". According to his website: "A mining colony on the moon. A teen sent on a deadly mission. And a secret bigger than two worlds. It's the 22nd Century. A tough, pioneering people mine the moon for Helium-3 to produce energy for a desperate, war-torn Earth. Sixteen-year old Crater Trueblood loves his job as a Helium-3 miner. But when he finds courage he didn't know he had and saves a fellow miner, his life changes forever. Impressed by his heroism, the owner of the mine orders Crater to undertake a dangerous mission. Crater doubts himself, but he has no choice. He must go." Check out the nicely done trailer for the book.
New Angry Birds game blasts off March 22, will team with NASA, Orlando Sentinel
"[Andrew] Stalbow also mentioned that National Geographic and NASA have signed on as launch partners. "Science and education are very important to us, and we're very excited to have NASA and National Geographic as launch partners on Angry Birds Space," he said. Unfortunately, the Yahoo story was short on details about the nature of the collaboration and neither Rovio nor NASA responded to a Los Angeles Times request for comment Monday morning."
Keith's note: New Trailer. Yea, this video nails it. NASA would do it this way. Meanwhile, I wonder if the angry birds will make those horrid noises in the vacuum of space ... Oh well - it will certainly be more interesting than those banal PAO people talking over boring ISS video ...
"Funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Magnetosphere-Ionosphere Coupling in the Alfven resonator (MICA) mission sent a 40-foot Terrier-Black Brant rocket arcing through aurora 186 miles above Earth. The rocket sent a stream of real-time data back before landing some 200 miles downrange shortly after the launch."
Rocket Launched into Northern Lights To Illuminate GPS Effects, Cornell University
"A NASA-funded collaborative research team led by Steven Powell, Cornell senior engineer in electrical and computer engineering, launched a sounding rocket from Alaska's Poker Flat Research Range on Saturday, Feb. 18 at 8:41 p.m. Alaska Standard Time (Sunday, Feb. 19, 2012 at 12:41 a.m. EST) to collect data straight from the heart of the aurora."
Keith's 20 Feb note: While these two universities are obviously excited about this launch, NASA certainy isn't. All that was announced by Poker Flat (on their webpage only) was a long launch window. No press release, media advisory before or after the launch. Nothing whatsoever from NASA or any of its field centers either. According to the Poker Flat website "Poker Flat Research Range is the world's only scientific rocket launching facility owned by a university. Poker Flat is located approximately 30 miles north of Fairbanks, Alaska and is operated by the University of Alaska's Geophysical Institute under contract to NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, which is part of the Goddard Space Flight Center."
Ah, that should explain the situation: Wallops is apparently mentoring Poker Flats on PR. Not a good sign since NASA Wallops PAO is barely capable of even the most rudimentary launch event public awareness itself.
Keith's 21 Feb update: CNN just spent 30 seconds showing this pretty picture. Too bad NASA doesn't seem to think enough to post it.
Keith's 22 Feb update: NASA is still ignoring this NASA rocket launch. Very odd.
"February 20th marks the 50th anniversary of the day in 1962 when U.S. Senator John Glenn piloted his Friendship 7 spacecraft on the first U.S. orbital mission. This video recounts that event in history."
John Kelly: NASA needs to power up PR machine, Florida Today
"The solution is for NASA to use its broad, and well-funded, public relations arm to make sure that the public does hear about its successes and its progress. NASA must make it known that the new super rocket is being built, tests are being completed, and progress is being made toward test flights."
Keith's note: I am a chronic critic of NASA PAO, but this throwaway line by John Kelly begs a response. NASA's "public relations arm" is anything but "well-funded". Quite the contrary: overall PAO resources have been reduced nearly 75% since 2006. That does not mean NASA does not spend a lot of taxpayer's dollars on various communications activities. As the agency's corporate communications ability shrinks (thanks in large part to a $10 million OMB mandated reduction for a project wrongfully credited to NASA PAO), individual NASA projects and mission directorates make up the difference through independent PR efforts executed under an umbrella known as "public outreach".
However, those public outreach efforts are rarely coordinated with each other or with the agency's corporate communications arm at NASA PAO. As such, PAO often watches in frustration as money is spent on websites, philanthropic efforts, videos, and toys that have little overall value to NASA while resources for the agency's primary communications efforts dwindle due constant Congressional cuts.
If you want to send a message to the managers of SLS and Orion and other spaceflight projects, tell them to worry about completing their projects on time and on budget, and stop trying to figure out how to make these vital programs popular with the American people. They may be terrific engineers but they often make lousy decisions when it comes to executing PR activities and almost always ignore in-house expertise, thus duplicating efforts and wasting money.
Instead, the programs and projects should turn over the resources, responsibility, and accountability to the agency's communications professionals and empower them to execute the kind of coordinated and strategic efforts suggested in Kelly's article. And of course, if NASA gets too good at the sort of PR Kelly would like to see, then he and the rest of the news media will invariably start to dump on NASA - but this time for spending too much money on PR.
Keith's note: A note for all of the "citizen journalists" who will be participating in the budget briefing on Monday at NASA HQ. This is a great idea - but this is by no means a "first". There is a long road - one traveled by others before you to where you will be - and it started more than 10 years ago, before "blogging" was even a word, when there were no Tweetups, and the first citizen journalists dared to claim that they were legitimate media and demanded access to their government. As such, for those of us who helped pave the way (inside and outside of NASA), do us proud. Don't waste the opportunity. Ask something useful.
Brian Welch would find this all to be rather fascinating. He had his hands full just dealing with only me ...
Questions at this afternoon's budget press conference can be tweeted with the hashtag #askNASA NASA will try and answer some of them.
Letter from the NASA Inspector General to Rep. James Sensenbrenner, 4 February 2000. Topic: NASA Watch's application for press accreditation. Note: by this point NASA "RIF" Watch had been online for more than 3 years.
"The editor of NASA Watch has twice applied for press accreditation from NASA and was rejected both times. The first application was a verbal request to NASA Headquarters PAO for credentials to attend the launch of the Mars Pathfinder spacecraft in June 1997. That request was verbally rejected on the grounds that NASA Watch was not legitimate press but rather was closer to a "vanity press." The editor of NASA Watch again applied (via email) for press credentials to NASA Headquarters PAO in July 1999 (see Appendix B) and was again rejected (see Appendix C) on the grounds that NASA Watch did not meet the PAO's new policy for press accreditation (see Appendix D). NASA has no formal process for appealing rejection of press credentials."
Rogue Webmasters, Government Executive, October 1996
"Donald Teague, president of the NASA Headquarters Professional Association, says the RIF Watch site provides invaluable information. "You have to turn it on each morning to see what's going on," he says. A committee of headquarters employees nominated Cowing for an agency award for running the RIF Watch site. But NASA Associate Administrator for Headquarters Operations Michael Christensen, rejected the idea. "The tone of the page is unacceptable," says Christensen. "None of us dispute his right to run the Web site. My own personal decision was that it would be inappropriate to honor him for it."
Keith's note: There was supposed to be an embargoed press briefing on the FY 2013 budget at NASA HQ today at 2:00 pm EST. That has now been cancelled. I do not know who cancelled it but Brian Berger at Space News is reporting that this was done on orders from the White House - and that's a good enough source for me. I was not planning on attending this event (I have in the past) since these things tend to be high level, no policy questions allowed, no quotes, and you have to decide between listening to the off the record briefer or furiously write down the budget numbers they flash on a screen (no handouts). Of course, if you attend you are then under an embargo until the budget is released on Monday - and I honor embargoes when I agree to be under them. But now the White House has clamped down on this so its a moot point. That said, I really do appreciate NASA PAO for taking the time to try and do this and for inviting me and others.
Keith's note: Too bad that NASA OCT does seem to know how to feature - or at least make people aware of - articles like this - and do so in real time. Articles like this on prominent blogs such as Gizmodo point to the true potential - and real spinoffs - that NASA has already created - ones that await promotion and full utilization. Gizmodo gets 5.9 million page views per day and has approximately 3 million unique visitors - daily. Funny thing, NASA ARC and JPL PAO have been helping Gizmodo with this series of articles. But no one at NASA PAO seems to talk to anyone at NASA OCT (or vice versa). Free PR, y'all.
Keith's note: Of course, video has been shot from lunar orbit before and there is no "dark side" of the Moon - all portions of the surface are dark or sunlit at one point or another depending on where the Moon is in its orbit. The only exceptions are some craters in the polar regions which have areas that are always "dark". But if there actually was a "dark" side of the Moon, how would you be able to take a video of it? Alas, despite the inaccurate headline that some genius at Fox came up with, the article itself, written by Space.com's Tariq Malik is completely accurate.
"GOP hopeful Mitt Romney says that he'd fire anyone who suggested spending hundreds of billions of dollars to build a moon colony -- but what about tens of billions of dollars? A former NASA adviser says he and others at the space agency drew up an approach that could put astronauts on the moon for $40 billion, as a "Plan B" for future exploration. "We figured out at NASA how to do it in about 10 years for $40 billion," said Charles Miller, who recently left his position as NASA Headquarters' senior adviser for commercial space and is now president of NextGen Space. "The question is, would Mitt Romney fire me for a proposal to return to the moon for $40 billion?"
"I asked NASA Watch's Keith Cowing about this, and he explained that this is just an urban legend. The schematics are all still around, mostly on microfiche, and any ancient computer files just hold images of the original plans as opposed to now unreadably obsolete data. Still, while the knowledge wasn't lost, it was certainly forgotten, and worse, it was badly organized. As Cowing - himself working on the rediscovery of old NASA documents with the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project - told me, all this archival information was basically abandoned until NASA's started working on the Constellation program last decade, and now that that project has been forgotten the information is again beginning to gather dust. If there is a point of disconnect, it's more in terms of how we understand the information and the different ways in which we approach science forty-five years on"
"... while he was aboard the ISS, Garriott shot an eight-minute movie called Apogee of Fear, which he says is the first science fiction movie ever shot in space. And NASA won't let us see that film. Why not? .. the light-hearted film may be too playful for NASA, Garriott surmises. Until NASA gives permission, Garriott can't release his film -- which is easily the best science fiction film ever made in space! -- to the public. Or put it in the Smithsonian, which has requested a copy due to its historical importance."
Keith's update: I have seen a portion of this film. It is funny - and harmless. I am baffled as to why NASA flies SciFi toys like Buzz LightYear in space and openly cooperates with films such as "Transformers" and "Armageddon" - but they won't allow Garriott to release "Apogee of Fear". Once again we have evidence of a lack of any cohesive communications policy or process at NASA. They just make it up as they go - and in cases such as this, it shows.
Keith's update: Apparently the problem stems from NASA JSC where the default answer from the Astronaut Office and JSC lawyers is always "no". My understanding is that there will be some discussions in the coming days to discuss how this fun little SciFi flick can be shown to people - even if NASA JSC's lawyers continue to try and stop it.
Curiously, the Astronaut Office and JSC Lawyers also look the other way when astronauts do product placement for books written by JSC employees - at no charge to the author - but totally at taxpayer's expense (see "Product Placement on the ISS").
"Now I am pleased to report that things have changed for the better. In response to a query to NASA on the subject, I received the following reply from Bob Jacobs, deputy for communications at NASA: NASA is working with Richard Garriott to facilitate the video's release. While the project was not part of his original Space Act agreement with NASA, everyone involved had the best of intentions. We hope to resolve the remaining issues expeditiously, and we appreciate Richard's cooperation and his ongoing efforts to get people excited about the future of space exploration."
Keith's 23 January update: According to a Twitter posting by Richard Garriott: Friday I received the signed authorization to release Apogee of Fear! Consulting with my crew mates now..."
U.S. Removes Phobos-Grunt Data from Web, Aviation Week
"The U.S. military has removed links to Phobos-Grunt tracking data posted on a public website detailing orbital parameters of the ill-fated Russian Mars mission that Russia says reentered Earth's atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean Jan. 15. .. But the military deviated from normal practice when it removed links to the spacecraft's reentry predictions while neglecting to publish final reentry data for the defunct probe Jan. 15. Instead, the site posted a vague statement asserting Phobos-Grunt "decayed within the forecast period of 16:59-17:47" GMT."
"James R. Arnold, founding chairman of UC San Diego's chemistry department and first director of the California Space Institute whose contributions to science spanned the study of cosmic rays to the future of manned space flight, died Friday, Jan. 6. He was 88. A longtime consultant to NASA, Arnold helped to set science priorities for missions, including the Apollo flights to the moon. He first served on a NASA committee in 1959, just three months after the space agency was established."
"The long-term sustainability of our space environment is at serious risk from space debris and irresponsible actors. Ensuring the stability, safety, and security of our space systems is of vital interest to the United States and the global community. These systems allow the free flow of information across platforms that open up our global markets, enhance weather forecasting and environmental monitoring, and enable global navigation and transportation."
"The Obama Administration is committed to ensuring that an International Code enhances national security and maintains the United States' inherent right of individual and collective self-defense, a fundamental part of international law. The United States would only subscribe to such a Code of Conduct if it protects and enhances the national and economic security of the United States, our allies, and our friends. The Administration is committed to keeping the U.S. Congress informed as our consultations with the spacefaring community progress."
Keith's note: This statement and the Fact Sheet was sent to me by the State Department Press Office in separate emails - both with this same note: "This email is UNCLASSIFIED."
Wallops Island may become premier tourist attraction, DelmarvaNow
"As we start to look at more orbital launches at Wallops, we start to see more potential for tourism," said Lisa Challenger, director of Worcester County Tourism. "I've never been to a rocket launch in Florida, but apparently, it's huge. We have the potential to attract a lot of people, so we want to be prepared for that." Tourism officials also need to prep for the inevitability that a launch could get scratched, and setting up ways to redirect visitors if that happens, Challenger added. She said rocket launches, whenever they arrive to Wallops, would be so spectacular that they would be visible along the coast from Delaware to Virginia Beach -- the thrill that's at the root of making this a tri-state effort."
Keith's update: Great idea. Imagine this: people might actually get in their car and drive a fair distance just to watch something launched into space. Alas, NASA Wallops PAO and center management are incapable of conducting even basic public engagement activities surrounding launches. Most people only learn of launches after the fact - if at all. By far, residents in Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware are blissfully unaware of the fact that things have been launched into space from Wallops for half a century and that more activity lies ahead. NASA clearly does not seem to want to step up to this task, so it is up to the surrounding communities to do so. But unless NASA Wallops provides data on launches with sufficient lead time, these external efforts are doomed from the onset.
"A change to employee access at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton is having a negative impact on Poquoson businesses, and doesn't appear to be resolved. NASA Langley's back gate on Wythe Creek Road used to be open to both incoming and outgoing traffic from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. In October incoming access was changed to 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. only because budget cuts eliminated the gate guard, said NASA Langley spokesman Rob Wyman. The new traffic pattern added an additional two-mile drive for employees to get back into work via the front gate. Since then Poquoson businesses, and particularly restaurants, have seen a drop in lunchtime business."