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Keith's noteThe NASA Advisory Committee is meeting 14-15 January 2015 at NASA Stennis. NASA staff have managed to find a unique way to format Federal Register notices so as to be all but useless. No one proof reads these things any more.

The nuclear reactor in your basement, NASA Global Climate Change

"Several labs have blown up studying LENR and windows have melted," according to Dennis Bushnell, Langley's chief scientist, in an article he wrote for NASA's Future Innovation website. This, he wrote, indicates that "when the conditions are 'right' prodigious amounts of energy can be produced and released." But it's also an argument for the approach that the Langley researchers favor: master the theory first."

Keith's note: Looks like Bob Silberg at JPL fell for the Cold Fusion story - using only LaRC web postings as a source. LaRC even took down the links that Silberg cited. This post has been sitting online at NASA for more than a year and no one noticed.

- NASA Cold Fusion Update, 2013
- Cold Fusion Update From LaRC (Update), 2012
- Why is NASA Langley Wasting Time on Cold Fusion Research?, 2011

International Astronautical Congress Opens with Fanfare But Russia and China Have Visa Issues, SpaceRef

"Delegates from around the world were treated to Canadiana during the opening ceremonies of the 65th International Astronautical Congress in Toronto. Highlights included a love story on ice, a cross country taste of Canadian music including fiddlers from Nova Scotia and First Nations from British Columbia and of course an appearance by former Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield who galvanized the world with his social media presence during his stay aboard the International Space Station."

SpaceX Workers Launch 3rd Suit, Allege Racist Policies, Law 360

"Space Exploration Technologies Corp. employees on Monday launched a putative class action suit in California court accusing it of fostering a racist working environment in which certain workers were subjected to slurs and passed over for promotions, making this the third employee suit to befall the rocket manufacturer in less than a month."

Marc's note: I reached out to SpaceX for a comment on this new lawsuit. Here's the response from John Taylor their Communications Director.

"SpaceX rejects these allegations and will vigorously defend itself in court. At SpaceX, we don't care about your gender, race, ethnic background, sexual orientation, age or anything else of that nature--to succeed here, the only requirement is to work hard and produce outstanding results.

"Earlier this year SpaceX completed its annual review cycle and as a result of those reviews, approximately 4% of our workforce were let go. Given the ambitious goals of the company, the standards for work performance at SpaceX are very high. It is critical that all employees meet this standard."

Northrop Grumman Developing XS-1 Experimental Spaceplane Design for DARPA

"Northrop Grumman Corporation (NOC) with Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic is developing a preliminary design and flight demonstration plan for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) Experimental Spaceplane XS-1 program.

XS-1 has a reusable booster that when coupled with an expendable upper stage provides affordable, available and responsive space lift for 3,000-pound class spacecraft into low Earth orbit. Reusable boosters with aircraft-like operations provide a breakthrough in space lift costs for this payload class, enabling new generations of lower cost, innovative and more resilient spacecraft."

Failed Intercept Attempt in Huntsville: Conference Bungles Press at SMD 2014, Aviation Week

"In the next session, with USNORTHCOM chief Adm. Charles Jacoby, Stewart approached the three of us media and said she'd heard we were taking pictures of the presentations and slides. This is not allowed, she said, and she would have officers compel us to remove these files from our phones. The three of us noted her concerns but declined; she eventually walked away. Anticipating a phone show down, I tweeted the slides."

'Ham-handed' treatment of national media at Huntsville Space and Missile Defense conference sends a bad message: opinion, Huntsville Times

"During his presentation to the full room of SMD attendees, [Vice Admiral James Syring, Director of the Missile Defense Agency] showed a series of slides detailing work done by MDA. Using slides is a common procedure at such conferences and it's typical for reporters and others to take pictures and post the slides to social media or use them for future reference when writing about the presentation. At the bottom of Syring's slides were the words "Approved for Public Release." [Amy Butler senior Pentagon editor for Aviation Week] started tweeting images of 12 slides in succession. At the bottom of Syring's slides were the words "Approved for Public Release." Butler started tweeting images of 12 slides in succession. That's when things took a turn for the worse."

Essay: Censorship, Police Intimidation at Missile Defense Conference, Defense News

"Reporters and even patrons were sternly warned by on-site security not to take photos anywhere in the Von Braun Center, even though there was no mention of such a policy in writing, on signs or on the conference website. During Syring's speech, a number of reporters tweeted pictures of his briefing slides that contained historical information about US missile defense tests conducted over the past 20 years. The slides were marked "Approved for Public Release."

Don't Get Too Excited About NASA's New Miracle Engine, io9

"Earlier this week, Wired reported on an unusual engine designed and tested by researchers at NASA's Johnson Space Center. Dubbed the "Cannae drive," the propulsion system is similar to the so-called EmDrive, a "reactionless" engine proposed years ago by british engineer Roger Shawyer and popularized in a 2006 writeup in New Scientist. Both space drives are designed to convert electric power into thrust by bouncing microwaves around in a closed container, thereby eliminating the need for onboard propellant. The concept has beenroundly criticized for appearing to violate the law of conservation of momentum."

NASA: New "impossible" engine works, could change space travel forever, Gizmodo

"Now, American scientist Guido Fetta and a team at NASA Eagleworks--the advanced propulsion skunkworks led by Dr Harold "Sonny" White at the Johnson Space Center--have published a new paper that demonstrates that a similar engine working on the same principles does indeed produce thrust. Their model, however, produces much less thrust--just 30 to 50 micronewtons. But it works, which is amazing on its own. They haven't explained why their engine works, but it does work."

Anomalous Thrust Production from an RF Test Device Measured on a Low-Thrust Torsion Pendulum, NASA Technical Reports Server

"This paper describes the eight-day August 2013 test campaign designed to investigate and demonstrate viability of using classical magnetoplasmadynamics to obtain a propulsive momentum transfer via the quantum vacuum virtual plasma. This paper will not address the physics of the quantum vacuum plasma thruster, but instead will describe the test integration, test operations, and the results obtained from the test campaign."

Nasa validates 'impossible' space drive, Wired UK

"Nasa is a major player in space science, so when a team from the agency this week presents evidence that "impossible" microwave thrusters seem to work, something strange is definitely going on. Either the results are completely wrong, or Nasa has confirmed a major breakthrough in space propulsion."

Improbable Thruster Seems to Work by Violating Known Laws of Physics, PBS

"In the paper, NASA seemed reluctant to dive into the drive's mysterious physics. They wrote nothing to suggest how, exactly, the force was produced. In fact, the mysterious drive actually worked even when they modified it in such a way it shouldn't have produced any thrust, suggesting the mechanics of the system are hazily understood. The one exception was a reference, in the paper's abstract, to a possible interaction with the "quantum vacuum virtual plasma."

Keith's note: JSC sure has some far out stuff under development. You'd think that they'd want to talk about it. But they don't. You'd think that they'd feel some compulsion to tell taxpayers what their money is being spent on - especially if it is cool. Guess again.

Could it be that this thing does not actually work - and NASA is afraid to admit that it doesn't work? This is a much more plausible explanation.

I asked some questions about all of this exotic propulsion stuff going on behind closed doors at JSC last year and got this semi-responsive reply back. The researcher behind all of this secret stuff is Harold G. White. According to people.nasa.gov here is how you contact him: email: harold.white-1@nasa.gov Phone: 281.482.0178. Every time this guy's research pops up in the news JSC PAO hides under their desks.

-"Interstellar": A (Missed) Opportunity for NASA to be Relevant?, earlier post
- Clarifying NASA's Warp Drive Program, earlier post
- NASA's Super Secret Warp Drive Program, earlier post
- Warp Drive Research at NASA JSC, earlier post
- JSC's Warp Drive: Fact or Fluff?, earlier post

"We used to look up in the sky and wonder - at our place in the stars. Now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt."

Keith's note: What will NASA do in terms of public outreach when "Interstellar" is released? They dropped the ball when it came to "Avatar" and the producers of "Gravity" never bothered to seek out NASA's help. This film is expected to touch deeply upon themes that point to the core of what NASA does - and will do so in a manner that leaps beyond the usual preaching to the choir that NASA does inside its own self-reinforcing echo chamber.

What (if anything) do you think NASA should do?

Oh yes, NASA is funding a warp drive project. But they do not want to talk about it.

Why? What are they afraid of?

The researcher behind all of this is Harold G. White. According to people.nasa.gov here is how you contact him:email: harold.white-1@nasa.gov Phone: 281.482.0178

- Clarifying NASA's Warp Drive Program, earlier post
- NASA's Super Secret Warp Drive Program, earlier post
- Warp Drive Research at NASA JSC, earlier post
- JSC's Warp Drive: Fact or Fluff?, earlier post

Access to Rosetta Data, ESA

"However, it is important to know that such an "open data" policy is not the norm for most ESA and NASA missions. Data from the Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-Ray observatory, the MESSENGER mission to Mercury, or for that matter, the NASA Mars orbiters, are all subject to a so-called "proprietary period", as are the data from ESA's Mars Express, XMM-Newton, and Rosetta, for example. This period, typically 6-12 months, gives exclusive access to the data to the scientists who built the instruments or to scientists who made a winning proposal to make certain observations. In ESA's case, the length of the period is decided by our Member States when a mission is selected, although in some cases, the period is made shorter when a mission has been in operation for some time."

Would-Be Rescuers of Wayward Spacecraft Previously Solved a NASA Mystery, New York Times

"Before reviving a zombie spacecraft, Dennis Wingo and Keith Cowing traveled to the past to rescue a trove of early moon photographs that otherwise would have been destined for oblivion. They did not actually time travel, but that might have been easier. Mr. Wingo, an entrepreneur and an engineer, and Mr. Cowing, the editor in chief of the NASA Watch website, had confidence that they could decipher decades-obsolete NASA equipment, because, as Mr. Cowing said, "we've done this before." ... The earlier project involved 1,500 magnetic tapes and a couple of old, broken tape drives. In 1966 and 1967, NASA sent five robotic spacecraft, the Lunar Orbiters, to photograph the moon's surface to help find safe landing sites for the Apollo astronauts. The tapes, which recorded the original high-resolution images, and the tape drives ended up in the garage of a former NASA employee, and Mr. Wingo and Mr. Cowing embarked on a quixotic mission to retrieve the images."

U.K. Government Paves Way for Spaceport [With Video], SpaceRef Business

"The UK's bid to become Europe's leading space nation took a giant leap forward today as government revealed the 8 locations now under consideration to base Britain's first spaceport.

Speaking at Farnborough Air Show's 'Space Day', Aviation Minister Robert Goodwill and Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency Dr David Parker unveiled the findings of a recent Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) report highlighting 8 possible airfields that could host a spaceport and the economic opportunities it could open up for the UK."

Keith's note: I have seen some lazy PAO staff but this one takes the cake. Are there any pros at Wallops PAO? How about picking up a telephone and calling Orbital?

Keith's update: Earlier today I sent the original response out via @ISEE3 Reboot - obviously by mistake since I thought I was using @NASAWatch. My apologies. I was live tweeting while sitting in a hospital room with a familiy member in critical condition and did not click the correct button on a small computer screen. I made a mistake just like the NASA Wallops PAO team did.

Keith's update: Someone deleted the tweet. This is what it looked like.

This Week at NASA: Mid-Year Report, NASA

"The This Week At NASA crew is on a short mid-year hiatus -- but we thought we'd leave you with a quick look back at some of the big and exciting news featured so far in 2014 on This Week at NASA."

Marc's note: Ok, we'll forgive them for issuing a mid-year report five months into the year. Just take it for what it is, a condensed look back at the first five months highlights in five minutes. Enjoy!

Giant asteroid possibly on collision course with Earth, CNN

"Using their Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE), the 10-mile wide object was found approximately 51 million miles from Earth. Scientists believe that during a close encounter with Mars, the asteroid was nudged slightly off its usual orbit and may currently be on a high speed collision course with our fragile planet. The asteroid is calculated to have a potentially lethal encounter with the Earth on March 35, 2041. Astronomers have placed the odds of an impact at 1 in 2.04, which is by far the most unprecedented risk ever faced to humanity, let alone from asteroids. Such an impact could potentially end civilization as we know it."

Keith's note: March 35? No comment from NASA. Love the tags: "beiber, war, gaming, stocks, science, cyrus, space, obama, earth, states" Screen grab

Keith's update: This news story was removed after being online for nearly 24 hours.

Oops. CNN runs bogus story saying asteroid has 1 in 2.04 odds of destroying Earth, Knight Science Journalism at MIT

"I emailed Keith Cowing to find if there was any NASA announcement that might have been misinterpreted or distorted. It looks more like a prank that was way too easy to pull off. "As for what happened: (my guess) long weekend combined with lax review standards," he said. The post is pretty cleverly written. Marcus575 put some thought into making it read like a real news story. And like most hoaxes, there's a lesson in it.  CNN has not responded to a request for comment. The Tracker would also welcome comments from Marcus575."

Oops now the link says this: "CNN PRODUCER NOTE NASA has confirmed via email that this story is false. A spokewoman for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory says that the largest object detected by NEOWISE measures 3 km in diameter and poses no risk to Earth. The iReport has been removed. - davidw, CNN iReport producer"

- CNN destroyed by huge asteroid, Salon
- CNN Asteroid Hoax: No, An Asteroid Will Not Extinguish All Life In 2041, Huffington post UK
- Wait, So There's Not a Giant Asteroid Hurling Toward Us After All?

NASA Inspector General Testimony on NASA FY 2014 Budget Request

"While acknowledging these and other achievements, we believe that NASA will continue to be challenged to effectively manage its varied programs in the current budget and political environment. We agree with the observation made by the National Research Council in its 2012 report examining NASA's strategic direction and management that, in effect, too many programs are chasing too few dollars at NASA. Accordingly, we continue to view declining budgets and fiscal uncertainties as the most significant external challenges to NASA's ability to successfully move forward on its many projects and programs."

- NASA's Top Management and Performance Challenges 2013

Keith's note: NASA OIG dumps on NASA for IT issues but they can't even post documents such that their text can be copied and pasted.

Santa Susana Residents Clamor to Have NASA Clean Toxic Site, NBC 4

"After NASA this week announced it would delay its decision to clean up a long-contaminated Santa Susana lab site, neighbors began calling foul, claiming the tainted area is making them sick. Years of rocket engine testing has made roughly 450 acres of land -- located between Simi Valley and Canoga Park -- toxic. NASA also tested nuclear reactors in the area more than 50 years ago, and nearby residents say radiation has seeped from the site for years without them knowing."

Keith's note: NASAWatch turns 18 on 1 Apr 2014. It started as "NASA RIFWatch" on 1 Apr 1996 and was first hosted on a Mac Classic II on an ISDN line. Here a few things from those early days that are still online:

- Rogue Webmasters, Government Executive, i Oct 1996

"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."

- NASA's Most Important Asset, Gerry Griffin, 31 December 1996
- Dan Goldin Comments to the Space Science Advisory Committee (SSAC) Meeting, 6/17/96
- Changes in Thinking At NASA November 29, 1996, PBS News Hour

Just to show you how things have changed, this photo should shock a few of you ... (well worth a click) - and no, it is not an April Fool's joke. Today, some up and coming bloggers and Twitterati throw snark at me just like I threw it at Dan Goldin back in the day. Life is funny like that.

And those of you who have followed my 'other' exploits will know that I have had a certain interest in doing websites from distant and extreme locations (Devon Island, Everest Base Camp, etc.). This website (still online), "The McMurdo Dry Valleys Long-Term Research Project - Life in Extreme Environments; An Antarctic Field Journal", done with my friend Dale Andersen, was one of the very earliest websites actually updated from Antarctica.

Marketing the Moon: How NASA Sold Space to Earth, Brain Pickings

"One year after the surprise launch of Sputnik, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was founded. The U.S. space program was determined to be markedly different from the Soviets -- it would be an "open program" in which facts and data would flow freely between the agency and the public using an extensive public relations program, explain authors David Meerman Scott and Richard Jurek in Marketing the Moon: The Selling of the Apollo Lunar Program (public library). It was a radical proposition: NASA, not the military, would release information and information would be released before, not after, a mission -- an antithesis to the typical military strategy of confidentially. Tragedy would be reported alongside success."

Inspiration Mars Sets Sights on Venus/Mars Flyby in 2021, Dennis Tito, opinion, SpaceNews

"Today, the IMF remains fully committed to its vision to help provide America with a viable, challenging and inspirational mission to Mars as a way to help accelerate our nation's plans for space exploration. However, given the extensive use of NASA assets that are already funded and under development, the strategy to pursue the mission opportunity in 2021 would clearly be the purview of the Congress, the Obama administration and NASA."

Keith's note: Tito's op ed is, at a minimum, disingenuous. Actually it is outright deceptive. This is bait and switch, plain and simple. As if no one would notice. Tito seems to want everyone to think that his original wholly-private funded Falcon-9 based plan for 2017 is somehow just a different flavor of his new 2021 SLS/Orion-based, NASA-funded plan. Ho hum. All that needs to be done is change the computer graphics, write some op eds, update the calendar app on your smartphones, and off we go to Mars. He says that it's all "Inspirational" so who cares, right?

Mr. Tito is asking NASA, Congress, and the White House to find billions of dollars on top of a budget that is going to be flat for the next few years, and launch the very first SLS/Orion mission on a trip to Mars with zero chance of return should anything go wrong. ANYTHING. Even the gutsy Apollo 8 had precursor shakeout flights of its launch vehicle and main spacecraft systems. No advisory committee has called for this mission.

And unless these extra billions are found the ISS will need to be abandoned by the U.S. There is simply no money to do both under the budget that everyone in Washington seems to want NASA to have. By going from the laudable notion of a privately-funded mission to one paid for by tax dollars Inspiration Mars is now simply an advertisement for more SLS funding. No "inspiration" there.

Tito just wants us all to do it as part of his legacy and he wants the rest of us to foot the bill. Has he disclosed how much of his own millions he will commit?

The 5 best real-time marketing moments of the Oscars, Digiday

"3. NASA's real-life gravity tweets "Gravity" was awarded a handful of Oscars, and no brand was a bigger cheerleader than NASA. The space agency spent the night cleverly tweeting out real facts and cool images relating to gravity using the hashtag #RealGravity -- totally on-brand for NASA. The tweets generated a good amount of engagement, like this tweet which got more than 8,100 retweets and more than 3,900 favorites."

NASA Uses Gravity Oscar Wins for Promo Opp, Media Bistro

"While the film didn't win Best Picture, it did score seven statues--andNASA took the opportunity to show us once again why it rules social. The team clearly predicted at least one win for Cuaron's space odyssey, using the hashtag #RealGravity to remind the public once again that it does some pretty cool stuff out there in space with another set of impressive images."

NASA releases 'Gravity'-inspired photo set ahead of the Oscars , Marketing Gum

"Just in time for the Academy Awards, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center has released a new photo set inspired by Gravity. The movie makes heavy use of computer-generated imagery, but NASA's photos show space as it really looks to the astronauts lucky enough to leave the earth's orbit. Using photos taken over the last several years, "NASA's Real-Life Images from Space" showcases astronauts, space shuttles, and some jaw-dropping views of earth. It should..."

Forget the Oscar-winning film - Nasa's real-life Gravity images of Earth, shuttles and astronauts will take your breath away, Computer Magazine

"Nasa has just outdone Hollywood by releasing these mind-blowing real life 'Gravity' images revealing incredible scenes of Earth, astronauts and space shuttles."

The 2014 Oscars Social Media Highlights, Business2community

"- Social media favors Gravity. With the film picking up a good tally of awards especially for its cinematography which is literally out of this world.
- To help out, Nasa joined in with #Gravity to share a selection of #RealGravity images taken from Space that are simply breathtaking, such as this one below."

NASA's Real 'Gravity' Photos Will Blow You Away, Mashable

"NASA sure knows how to capture the endless beauty of real space. And on Sunday, the space agency decided to connect some of that epic reality with one of the films nominated for this year's Academy Awards. Hours before the ceremony, NASA tweeted out a couple of its #RealGravity images from life in space, as a way of helping the public connect its real work with the fictional images portrayed in the Oscar-nominated film, Gravity."

Honoring Neil Armstrong

NASA Honors Astronaut Neil Armstrong with Center Renaming

"Two generations of aerospace engineering excellence will come together March 1 when NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif., is redesignated NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center.  The agency's center of excellence for atmospheric flight research is being renamed in honor of the late Neil A. Armstrong, a former research test pilot at the center and the first man to step on the moon during the historic Apollo 11 mission in 1969."

Dakota Creek launches R/V Neil Armstrong

"Dakota Creek Industries (DCI) launched the oceanographic research ship R/V Neil Armstrong (AGOR 27) at its Anacortes, WA, shipyard on February 22nd, 2014. Construction of the  R/V Neil Armstrong and her sister vessel R/V Sally Ride (AGOR 28), also well under way at DCI, have progressed according to plan, meeting original schedule and cost baselines."

One. Amazing. Person.

"Just a Flesh Wound", Miles O'Brien

"I wish I had a better story to tell you about why I am typing this with one hand (and some help from Dragon Dictate). A shark attack would be interesting. An assassination attempt would be intriguing. Skydiving mishaps always make for good copy. An out-of-control quad copter that turns on its master would be entertaining (and would come complete with a grim, potentially viral, video). No, the reason I am now one-handed is a little more prosaic than those scenarios."

Keith's note: I was stunned, then horrified, then ... well, not at all surprised about my friend Miles O'Brien's recent mishap and how he has been dealing with it. I am in complete awe of him right now.

Blood-Moons Fallout NASA Goes Hiding, WND

"On Wednesday, Feb. 12, WND published a story titled "Rare phenomenon to shake Planet Earth." The story focused on a cycle of four upcoming lunar eclipses, also called blood moons because of the color the moon often appears when it becomes darkened. Mark Biltz, an American pastor with El Shaddai Ministries in Bonney Lake, Wash., used NASA's Eclipse Website to correlate the celestial events with God's holy days mentioned in the Bible, discovering the four blood-moon eclipses in 2014 and 2015 actually coincide with the feasts of Passover and Tabernacles. On the same day as WND's report, Feb. 12, NASA took down its site which for years provided detailed information and schedules about upcoming eclipses."

Keith's note: I have a sneaking suspicion that God is not dumb enough to allow a website at NASA to be online in the first place - for years - if it really revealed his secret plans since this sort of astronomy stuff is not exactly a secret (ask Google). If NASA was really trying to make things disappear to avoid heavenly wrath then they'd ask the Internet archive to purge their record of the site. The real reason that it is offline is that the guy who used to update it retired from NASA several years ago and it was out of date. But who wants a simple explanation, eh?

Keith's note: According to this high level analysis of the impact of Twitter using the hashtag #WhatIsNASAFor between 7-10 February, a total of 17,597,370 impacts were made. On this chart Twitter impacts are calculated by multiplying the number of tweets someone makes times the number of followers they have. Personally I think "reach" and "impact" are more complex than this - but this gives you a general idea of the relative scale of impacts.

@NASA tweeting resulted in 17,597,370 impacts. @NASASocial produced 7,627,023. @NASAWatch produced 5,296,071 and @SpaceRef produced 1,632,662. However members of the NASA Social community and others were also responsible for a substantial number of impacts on Twitter as well. Of note is @AgilistaAG (Angela Gibson) who was the main power behind the mobilization of the NASASocial community. This is a new and growing trend.

This response is similar to what happened during the government shutdown when NASA was unable to talk about itself but Twitter users with the #WhatNASAMightTweet hashtag mounted a similarly large response. Its one thing to respond to matters of an urgent nature with surges of interest and support.

Also, FYI NASA did very little tweeting in response to #WhatIsNASAFor (@NASA only made 3 Tweets, @NASASocial made 7). Indeed, PAO and mission staff around the agency more or less totally ignored this activity on social media even though they were made aware of it internal to NASA. Had NASA gotten off its collective butt and engaged in a more aggressive presence on Twitter, the the "impact" would be measured in hundreds of millions. Now that Charles Seife has released a more detailed rant - one that openly mocks NASA's initial response, it will be interesting to see if NASA and its supporters step up or sit this out.

If NASA cannot be bothered to defend and explain itself, then why should anyone be inclined to do so? Maybe Siefe is right after all and NASA is an endangered species.

Straight from the panda's mouth: What NASA thinks it's for, Charles Seife

"What's left is science -- and science is where NASA's greatest achievements lie. NASA spacecraft are helping us answer some of the biggest questions in the universe. (Heck, I wrote an entire book describing a revolution in cosmology sparked, in part, by NASA programs like Hubble, WMAP, and COBE.) But that drive is fundamentally incompatible with the agency's perceived need to hype bad science and trying to convince the world that its astronautic boondoggles are producing world-class scientific achievements. That's NASA's dilemma in a nutshell: despite all the agency has done, despite all it has to offer, so long as human spaceflight is at the core of NASA's existence, it will never evolve beyond a faint echo of its prior self."

Keith's note: Some NASASocial alumni have adopted an "angy panda" in response to Seife's characterization of NASA as a panda. We'll see if this catches in on a substantive way.

- Today's NASA Propaganda Accusation by a Journalism Professor, earlier post
- Today's Gratuitous Dump on NASA By A Journalism Professor, earlier post

NASA Tries to Rewrite the Book on Science Fiction, Wall Street Journal

"Getting a message across embedded in a narrative rather than as an overt ad or press release is a subtle way of trying to influence people's minds," says Charles Seife, author of "Decoding the Universe," who has written about NASA's efforts to rebrand itself. "It makes me worry about propaganda." Enidia Santiago-Arce, a NASA official who is coordinating the author-scientist exchanges, says the agency isn't pushing pro-NASA story lines. The collaboration doesn't include any NASA funding. "They write whatever they want," she said. "We provide them with people who have the expertise to help make it as accurate as it can be within the realms of science fiction."

Keith's note: (Sigh) now NASA hater and journalism professor Charles Seife thinks NASA is mounting a "propaganda" effort via SciFi writers. WIth regard to bias and propaganda, I wonder how he'd describe his inaccurate rant from last week. Was he trying to sway people's opinions about NASA? Tsk tsk. Had he bothered to read the language of recent NASA authorization legislation - which is now signed into law - Seife would know that NASA is overtly and specifically prohibited from things such as propaganda, advertising, etc.

If Seife had any powers of observation, or had done just a little research before commenting, he'd know that SciFi has been inspiring NASA - and NASA has been inspiring SciFi - and both have been inspiring the rest of us for more than half a century - perhaps even longer. That relationship is not going to go away any time soon.

Indeed, the painting on the right, by Norman Rockwell, is one of many artistic compositions commissioned and enabled by NASA with the intent of conveying the Apollo program to a wider audience. At the time, as a young boy, I saw this image as future reality. That's what SciFi often does, right? Then NASA makes it real.

Today's Gratuitous Dump on NASA By A Journalism Professor

Canada Unveils New Space Policy Framework Taking a Step in the Right Direction, SpaceRef Canada

"The Canadian government unveiled a new space policy framework today that reinforces what many within the space sector already new, space is an integral part of Canadian's everyday lives and its importance will only grow."

"The fact that the government recognizes this and is releasing a new policy framework is a step in the right direction. The new framework also implements some of the recommendations as outlined in the Aerospace Review conducted in 2012."

What Is NASA for?, Slate

"This isn't to say that all of NASA's research is worthless. Far from it. But NASA's need to find a justification for its existence has damaged its integrity. The agency reeks of desperation as it gropes for some rationale for human spaceflight beyond the weirdly circular we-need-to-put-humans-in-space-to-study-what-happens-to-humans-when-we-put-them-in-space logic it's used for the past four decades. As NASA attempts to peg its future to will-o-the-wisp projects to the moon, to Mars, to a local asteroid, each of which has a less-than-even odds chance of coming to fruition, NASA's science slowly deteriorates."

"The ISS cost upward of $100 billion and probably more than $200 billion--so huge that I'm not sure anyone has a valid accounting."

Keith's note: This article by Charles Seife is full of claims of a far smaller magnitude wherein specific papers or sources are semi-quoted. But none is mentioned for the largest claim of all - the $100 billion ISS cost claim. Saying that it might cost $200 billion is sheer unsubstantiated fantasy on the part of the author. But hey, this was a slam piece from its very first sentence, so why bother checking facts, eh?

This article by Slate is a classic example of how a whole imaginary history of HSF and the ISS can be allowed to circulate - as if it was fact.  The more it circulates the more successive authors cite the previous faux history. NASA never challenges this stuff - it just lets millions of people read or hear things like this hoping that it will go away. If this article and others like it are inaccurate then it behooves NASA (as the public's funded space agency) to set the record straight. If they do not then they forfeit the right to whine and complain when subsequent inaccuracies are published. If NASA can't/won't refute these points, then maybe these authors are right - why do we need a space station if we cannot explain what it does?

Slate's Misleading Hit Piece on the Future of NASA, Planetary Society

"Seife's logic is fuzzy and his solutions non-existent. He wraps his screed in a veneer of respectability by saying that he wants to have a conversation about why we have humans exploring space, but the tone of his writing and the quality of his arguments would barely pass muster in the comment threads on space policy forums. After reading this article, I have no idea what Seife wants NASA to do, what he wants us to think, or what his solution would be, beyond that "NASA must adapt or die."

Day of Remembrance

NASA Observes Day of Remembrance Jan. 31

"NASA will pay will tribute to the crews of Apollo 1 and space shuttles Challenger and Columbia, as well as other NASA colleagues, during the agency's Day of Remembrance on Friday, Jan. 31. NASA's Day of Remembrance honors members of the NASA family who lost their lives while furthering the cause of exploration and discovery. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and other agency senior officials will hold an observance and wreath-laying at Arlington National Cemetery Friday morning."

NASA's Decision Process for Conducting Space Launch System Core Stage Testing at Stennis, NASA OIG

"Similar to the OIG's conclusions 5 years ago, the OIG found that NASA failed to follow its internal policies or its agreement with the DOD when it decided to spend approximately $352 million to refurbish and test the SLS core stage on the B-2 test stand at Stennis. Moreover, the OIG found that NASA did not adequately support its decision given that refurbishing the B-2 stand will be more costly and take longer than two other possible options: an Air Force test stand at Edwards Air Force Base in California and a test stand at the Marshall Space Flight Center. In addition, although SLS Program managers spent considerable time and money studying the B-2 option, they gave the joint NASA-DOD testing board minimal time to assess the cost, schedule, and risks of the other test stand options."

NASA OIG: Final Memorandum on the Review of NASA's Plan to Build the A-3 Facility for Rocket Propulsion Testing (2008)

"We found that NASA's Upper Stage Engine (USE) Element Manager, located at Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, reviewed the J-2X rocket propulsion testing options and selected the A-3 test stand to be built at Stennis without the required formal reviews or recommendations of the NRPTA, or NASA's RPTMB."

NASA's Defunct Project Survives on Mississippi Pork, Bloomberg

"NASA will complete a $350 million tower to test rocket engines for a program that was canceled in 2010. The A-3 test stand will be finished early this year at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. Its funding survived thanks to Senator Roger Wicker, a Republican from that state who supported the test stand's completion even though NASA doesn't need it."

The NASA Launchpad To Nowhere, Time

"Congress ordered NASA to complete a $350 million rocket-testing structure that may never be used, Bloomberg News reports. The 300-foot tower at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi was designed to test how the Ares I and Ares V engines would work at high altitudes, for rockets under development that would send people into space and up to the moon. But the project was scrapped after the Constellation program spearheaded by former President George W. Bush was cancelled in 2010."

Watchdogs hit NASA for spending $352 million in Mississippi on test stand already in Huntsville, Huntsville Times

"Federal watchdogs today criticized NASA for spending $352 million to refurbish a Mississippi test stand for critical upcoming tests on the Space Launch System when cheaper test stands were available faster in Huntsville and California. NASA responded by admitting it didn't follow its own rules and agreements, but "is confident it made the right decision."

Keith's note: NASA JSC's Project Morpheus is planning a second free flight today at around 1 pm 1:30 pm EST. Status reports can be found in real time at @MorpheusLander.

You can watch the test here.

Keith's update: As far as I can tell, the flight was apparently flawless.

Keith's note: In response to one of my queries about JSC's Valkyrie robot, David Steitz from NASA HQ PAO replied "Keith, as the recipient of numerous NASA "exclusives" over the years, including private budget briefings and policy discussions with previous NASA Administrators, I'm amused by your feigned outrage over our unintentional exclusive to IEEE Spectrum on R5."

My response: "In watching the video that you allowed IEEE to shoot - including NASA personnel - and the obvious time spent with them - I have to say that nothing I might ever have gotten under any exclusives (I am not going to confirm that) comes remotely close to this. I still have seen no NASA media advisory as to how media can cover this event that NASA is participating in. You are doing a disservice to the media - and the taxpayers who pay for all the toys - in not doing your utmost to make this activity known as widely as your resources could allow you to do. But then again, you just don't care, do you?"  

NASA JSC does whatever it wants to do - even when NASA HQ tells them not to - and then NASA HQ PAO is forced to tow the party line and not admit the obvious - and hope that you do not notice what is actually going on. Charlie Bolden's control over NASA is much more tenuous than many people imagine - and it is steadily evaporating at a growing pace. HQ direction to field centers is seen as a "suggestion" these days. As the budget battles heat up next Spring - ISS & Commerical Vs SLS; HSF Vs Planetary - that will become abundantly clear.

No one is in the driver's seat at NASA. Maybe the girl robot can drive.

NASA JSC Has Developed A Girl Robot in Secret (Revised With NASA Responses), earlier post

P.S. Google just bought Boston Dynamics - NASA's biggest competitor.

Iran hails voyage of Fargam the space monkey, Telegraph

"Iran said on Saturday that it had safely returned a monkey to Earth after blasting it into space in the second such launch this year in its controversial ballistic programme.
President Hassan Rouhani congratulated the scientists involved in the mission, in a message carried by the official IRNA news agency. The report added that the rocket reached a height of 120 kilometres (75 miles)."

Keith's note: I am not at all certain what the point of flying this monkey was. When the U.S. and U.S.S.R. first did it in the 50s and 60s it was because no one knew exactly what would happen. Well, they found out and all of that research has been in the public sphere for half a century. The Iranians could have easily availed themselves of that research and avoided scaring they daylights out of this poor monkey.

NASA OIG: 2013 Report on NASA's Top Management and Performance Challenges

"Looking forward to 2014, we identified the following as the top management and performance challenges facing NASA:

- Considering Whether to Further Extend the Life of the International Space Station
- Developing the Space Launch System and Its Component Programs
- Securing Commercial Crew Transportation Services
- Maintaining Cost and Schedule for the James Webb Space Telescope
- Ensuring Continued Efficacy of the Space Communications Networks
- Overhauling NASA's Information Technology Governance Structure
- Ensuring the Security of NASA's Information Technology Systems
- Managing NASA's Infrastructure and Facilities
- Ensuring the Integrity of the Contracting and Grants Processes"

Virgin Galactic Could Bring Jobs to Rural NM, Public News Service

"PHOTO: New Mexico's rural economy could get a boost after Virgin Galactic starts its flights into outer space. Photo courtesy of NASA."

GOCE Reenters Earth's Atmosphere

"Close to 01:00 CET on Monday 11 November, ESA's GOCE satellite reentered Earth's atmosphere on a descending orbit pass that extended across Siberia, the western Pacific Ocean, the eastern Indian Ocean and Antarctica. As expected, the satellite disintegrated in the high atmosphere and no damage to property has been reported."

Dream Chaser has rough landing in test flight, but firm hails 'successful day' for space plane

"Sierra Nevada is perhaps the underdog in the competition to win the NASA contract to haul astronauts to the international space station."

Keith's note: You just toss this out there, Joel Achenbach, and never provide a source or data to substantiate your statement. Why is SNC the "underdog"? Boeing has yet to fly their CST-100 in space. Why aren't they "underdogs" too? There's a pattern to your reporting.

Keith's note: Bernard Edwards, A NASA employee, is making a presentation "Overview of the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration Project" during the work day on a telecon co-sponsored by NASA - yet the agency won't publish the invitation online such that taxpayers can participate. But if you go to this webpage it states "Note: This is NOT a public telecon. You may share this link only with qualified participants." This is the link that can only be shared with "qualified" participants. Taxpayers are paying for this presentation, as such all taxpayers are quailfied, right? Are you "qualified"? Of course you are.

Here is how to dial into this stealth NASA telecon (but only if you are "qualified" !): Future In-Space Operations (FISO) Working Group Telecon Presentations Co Chairs: Harley Thronson Harley.A.Thronson@nasa.gov & Dan Lester dfl@astro.as.utexas.edu Wednesdays, 3pm EDT Dial in: 877 921 5751 Passcode: 623679

Oh yes, they still tell people to go to this website http://futureinspaceoperations.com/ which still features the article "Skin Lightening Options For Those On A Budget".

- NASA FISO Telecon Organizers Are Confused, earlier post
- Stealth Future In-Space Operations (FISO) Working Group Telecons, earlier post

NASA ROSES 2013 Amendments 23-27: new proposal due dates for MDAP, PMDAP, HGCR, OVWST, and OPR

"During the Government shutdown, the proposal due dates for three ROSES programs were set to TBD in order for Government proposers to have time to prepare their submissions. Now that the Government has resumed work, new due dates have been set for these programs. In addition, new proposal due dates have been set for two programs with original due dates in the near future. Updated due dates are as follows:"

NASA Research Opportunities in Fundamental Physics: Due Date Extended

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has set a new due date for proposals submitted to the NASA Research Announcement (NRA) NNH13ZTT002N, entitled "Research Opportunities in Fundamental Physics."

NAI Cycle 7 CAN Amendment 1: Step-1 and Step-2 proposal due dates changed

"The NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) Cycle 7 Cooperative Agreement Notice (CAN) provides an opportunity for the submission of team-based proposals for membership in the NAI. The goal of CAN Cycle 7 is to maintain a multidisciplinary institute by selecting focused, interdisciplinary teams that complement without replicating the strengths of the continuing teams. The teams selected in Cycle 7 will replace the teams selected in Cycle 5, whose five-year Cooperative Agreements are expiring."

Lost in space -- and on Earth, David Ignatius, Washington post

"The world of 2013 is different: We don't even attempt manned space programs anymore. They are too expensive, and what's the point? Thank goodness for the plucky little Voyager I probe, which has just left the solar system, 36 years after it was launched, carrying sounds of Earth, including a baby crying, a whale's song and Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode."

Keith's note: Nothing is more annoying than uninformed and pontificating op eds by know-it-alls prominently displayed on the editorial pages of a large national newspaper such as the Washington Post. This quote by David Ignatius really makes that point: "The world of 2013 is different: We don't even attempt manned space programs anymore. They are too expensive, and what's the point?"

It would seem that Ignatius is unaware of the fact that the International Space Station, built and maintained mostly with American funds, is in orbit - with 2 Americans on board - and that there are plans to extend its lifetime well into next decade. Nor is Ignatius apparently aware of the multiple commercial firms, spurred on by heavy NASA Investments, who are looking to provide new and less expensive ways to put more Americans into orbit.

Ignatius is also clearly oblivious to America's Orion program that is building a human-rated spacecraft that will be test launched next year or the plans already being formulated for Americans to travel to - and capture an asteroid and bring it back to near-Earth space. Of course there's also Dennis Tito's plan to send a human crew to Mars and back and Virgin Galactic, XCOR, and Blue Origin who seek to send an exponentially larger number of people into space for a similarly cheaper cost. Ignatius is oddly silent about these efforts as well.

If anything, people - from both government and the private sector - are more interested in going into space than at any time in the past. Not only is their space agency putting its money where citizens want it to be, but citizens are putting additional money down in terms of spaceflight deposits and propelling "Gravity" to the top of the box office for yet another week.

Doesn't the Washington Post have a research staff to fact check these op eds before they are published? Obviously not.

Keith's note: I just got a press release from the Alaska Aerospace Corportation (as did 53 others) with this legal disclaimer on it:

"The U.S. Export Control Laws regulate the export and re-export of technology originating in the United States. This includes the electronic transmission of information and software to foreign countries and to certain foreign nationals. Recipient agrees to abide by these laws and their regulations -- including the U.S. Department of Commerce Export Administration Regulations and the U.S. Department of State International Traffic in Arms Regulations -- and not to transfer, by electronic transmission or otherwise, any content derived from this email to either a foreign national or a foreign destination in violation of such laws."

Since no one has told me what might be ITAR sensitive in this email - or the citizenship/nationality of everyone who might read anything I might write/post, I guess that I cannot "transfer, by electronic transmission or otherwise, any content derived from this email to either a foreign national or a foreign destination in violation of such laws." Why do people put wording like this on press releases contained in emails which are, by their very nature, supposed to spur the republishing of their content as widely as possible by the news media? Goofy.

NASA's Compliance with Executive Order 13526: Classified National Security Information

"However, while the Agency's procedures meet Federal requirements, its implementing directive does not require Agency personnel with classification authority to receive all necessary training. Additionally, we found instances in which Agency personnel were not consistently following these NASA policies. Specifically, we found classified documents that were improperly marked,training requirements that were not met, and self-inspections that were not fully implemented. Although these deficiencies were relatively minor in nature, failure to comply with these requirements increases the risk that personnel may inadvertently misclassify material."

NASA Infrastructure: Enabling Discovery and Ensuring Capability, Testimony of NASA OIG Paul Martin

"NASA is the ninth largest Federal Government property holder, controlling approximately 4,900 buildings and structures with an estimated replacement value of more than $30 billion. More than 80 percent of the Agency's facilities are 40 or more years old and beyond their design life. However, NASA has not been able to fully fund required maintenance for its facilities and in 2012 estimated its deferred maintenance costs at $2.3 billion. Moreover, a 2012 Agency study estimated that NASA may have as many as 865 unneeded facilities with associated annual maintenance costs of more than $24 million."

NASA Desperately Needs Road Map to Manage Aging Assets, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

"According to NASA's own study, the agency has a backlog of nearly $2.2 billion in deferred maintenance. NASA is the ninth largest real property holder in the federal government. However, nearly 80 percent of the agency's facilities are 40 or more years old."

Testimony of NASA AA Richard Keegan on NASA's Aging Infrastructure

Keith's note: Summary: NASA does not admit that there are any problems and wants you to think all is well. NASA does not really do anything to address the issues raised by everyone else, but they sure do a lot of studies.

NASA Internal Memo: Do Not Access Public Web Sites Containing Classified Information

"Individuals with a security clearance have agreed to certain restrictions regarding classified information. Accessing classified information on Wikileaks, even from home, constitutes a security violation. Viewing classified information from a computer that isn't authorized to access classified information, and/or viewing classified information that he or she is not authorized access to, is a security violation. And, use of official Government computers for other than authorized purposes is prohibited by federal ethics laws."

Bad News From Earth

11 September 2001: Bad news from Earth

"The news from Earth that morning wasn't good. Frank Culbertson would soon find that some of the day's pre-planned routine would be altered. As soon as he was told of the attacks, Culbertson checked to see when they would be passing over the east coast of the U.S. Discovering that this was only some minutes away, Culbertson grabbed a camera. The window in Mikhail Tyurin's cabin turned out to be the one with the best view."

Keith's note: A farewell reception was held at NASA Headquarters on Thursday for NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver. In addition to the long list of thank yous to staff and friends, Garver had some parting observations and recollections to share.

Garver said that she had three personal objectives while at NASA: "to try and align NASA with national objectives; to provide value to taxpayers; and to try and be a consistent leader."

Responding to criticism she said that people had characterized her as just pushing change for the sake of change, being the "commercial crew girl" or "asteroid girl". She chalked this off as being the outcome of having worked to advance her overall goals.

As for her relationship with Charlie Bolden she said they they had "the best relationship team of any NASA Administrator and Deputy in my history and I've seen a lot of them", that she "learned so much from Bolden".

Garver reflected back to her efforts before being nominated to be Deputy Administrator - specifically leading the Obama transition team in 2008 following the election. She noted that she and her team had a "rocky start" and that she was "the only member of the entire transition team that had to deal with an agency head (Mike Griffin) who was openly hostile to the team and who had instructed his folks not to share information with us." Garver noted that Griffin "had a campaign headed by his wife that sought to try to keep him in his position." She joked that this whole drama ended up giving her more visibility within the senior leadership of the transition team than might otherwise have been the case.

Garver closed with a top ten list of things she had learned as NASA's Deputy Administrator:

Much at Stake for Proton, Antares as September 15 Nears, Space Policy Online

"Purely by coincidence, if all goes according to plan September 15 will be a big day for a venerable Russian rocket recovering from a recent spectacular failure as well as a new U.S. rocket that is powered by Russian engines. A lot is at stake for both.

... A successful Proton launch could help restore confidence in the Russian space launch industry. A failure would add to the gloom and potentially drive commercial customers to competitors like Ariane, Sea Launch, and SpaceX.

Quite separately, the U.S. company Orbital Sciences Corporation is targeting September 15 for the first launch of its new Antares rocket to the International Space Station (ISS). Antares will launch Orbital's Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the ISS as part of NASA's commercial cargo program."

ISRO Scrubs GSLV-D5 Launch Due to Leak, SpaceRef Business

"India's attempt at launching the GSLV-D5 rocket today with the GSAT-14 satellite was postponed due to a leak found in the second stage. The mission is a critical one for India as it is their second attempt at launching a rocket with an indigenous cryogenic engine. The first attempt failed."

Meteor Show Media Mayhem

The XKCD Guide to Meteor Showers (Spoof), XKCD

"This comic spoofs the way that astronomical events are often reported in the mass media -- events are often tagged with undeserved superlatives or described as being more dramatic than they actually are. In some cases, outright misinformation is spread. This phenomenon occurs in part the result of over-eager scientists, and in part because of journalists misunderstanding the subject."

Air Force X-37B support might be included in KSC renovation, Florida Today

"Space Florida on Wednesday advanced plans to renovate two former shuttle hangars that might eventually house a secretive military space plane program.

The agency's board approved spending up to $4 million more to overhaul Orbiter Processing Facilities 1 and 2 at Kennedy Space Center, on top of $5 million committed last year from funds provided by the state Department of Transportation.

As before, the future tenant was not identified, but is believed to be the Air Force's X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, a reusable unmanned system that resembles a small space shuttle. Previously, the Air Force has confirmed it is studying consolidation of X-37B operations at Kennedy or the Cape to save money."

Astro Mad Men: NASA's 1960s Campaign to Win America's Heart, The Atlantic

"In some ways, NASA's tentacular publicity efforts are unique to the NASA -- and to the world -- of 2013. All the truisms that the Internet has brought to the worlds of advertising and publicity -- direct user engagement! authenticity! -- have found their way, inevitably, to the space agency. NASA's contract with Life ended in 1970, 11 years after it had begun. It lives on, though, in some sense, in every story we tell ourselves about space and humans' place in it. It lives on in every tweet and Tumblr post and Facebook update and email blast, in every attempt to capture and then maintain our attention and our love. It lives on in the fact that, when we talk, still, with wonder about humans' success in putting a man on the moon, we're less inspired by the moon itself, and much more inspired by the man."

Oculus Rift hires Doom co-creator John Carmack as Chief Technology Officer, engadget

"It turns out that Doom co-creator John Carmack is more than just a virtual reality fanatic -- he's joining the company that's leading the most recent VR revolution, today announcing that he's taking the reins as Chief Technology Officer at Oculus Rift. In an email from the folks at Oculus, Carmack was confirmed to be out at the company he helped found -- id Software -- and joining Oculus full-time as CTO. He will apparently still serve some role at id, as id's parent company told Engadget, "The technical leadership he provides for games in development at id Software is unaffected." We've asked both Oculus and id's parent company for clarification."

Marc's note: Carmack tweeted this: "My time division is now Oculus over Id over Armadillo. Busy busy busy!" indicating exactly where his priorities are. Unfortunately with his new gig as CTO of Oculus Rift it would appear Armadillo Aerospace is truly out of business until such a time as some funding comes it way.

Shelton Orders Shutdown of Space Fence, Space News

"The U.S. Air Force is shutting down a key part of its space surveillance network for tracking orbital debris, possibly as soon as Oct. 1, according to an Aug. 1 memo obtained by SpaceNews.

Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command, "has directed that the Air Force Space Surveillance System be closed and all sites vacated" effective Oct. 1, the memo said. "This is your notice to begin preparing the site for closure."

Marc's note: Just as this project was about to go full-scale it's getting shutdown in a cost cutting move.

The Onion Predicts Real Life: Republicans Block NASA's Asteroid Plan, Mother Jones

"President Obama's plan to have NASA lasso an asteroid, tow it toward Earth, place it into the moon's orbit, and claim the space rock for the United States of America has hit a congressional snag. The New York Times reports:...

...In a way, the Times got scooped on this story. By the Onion. More than two years ago:..."

Marc's note: What to say ...

NASA defends Space Launch System against charge it 'is draining the lifeblood' of space program, Huntsville Times

"NASA is defending its Space Launch System against a new analysis arguing that SLS is too expensive to fly and is "draining away the lifeblood - funding - of the space program."

"I understand the premise of the article," NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development Dan Dumbacher told al.com and The Huntsville Times in a July 23 interview, "but I think we need to realize there's a broader set of trades that really form up the decision process."

Dumbacher referred to "Revisting SLS/Orion launch costs" by John Strickland published July 15 on the website The Space Review. Strickland is a member of the board of directors of the National Space Society, but wrote the article independently."

Update: The Congressional debate over NASA's asteroid capture mission ignores the ageny's real spaceflight problem, Houston Chronicle

"Being the subject of congressional infighting, of course, does NASA no good. But this battle is a distraction from NASA's real problem, which neither Democrats nor Republicans are willing to acknowledge. Namely, the space agency is being tasked with building a huge and powerful rocket it will not be able to afford to fly."

Tropical Storm Flossie Headed for Hawaii, NASA

"The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua satellite acquired this image of Tropical Storm Flossie at 1:10 p.m. local time (23:10 Universal Time) on July 28, 2013. The storm was moving westward across the Pacific Ocean, headed for the Hawaiian Islands. It is expected to be the first tropical storm to make landfall on the islands in nearly 20 years."

Hot-Fire Tests Show 3-D Printed Rocket Parts Rival Traditionally Manufactured Parts, NASA

"What can survive blazing temperatures of almost 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit without melting? What did not break apart at extreme pressures? What is made by a new process that forms a complex part in just one piece? What takes less than three weeks to go from manufacturing to testing? What can reduce the costs of expensive rocket parts by 60 percent or more?

Answer: 3-D printed parts

Engineers know that 3-D printed rocket parts have the potential to save NASA and industry money and to open up new affordable design possibilities for rockets and spacecraft. But until recently, no one had tested rocket parts critical to engine combustion in a hot-fire environment."

Marc's note: I believe SpaceX has already tested 3D printed parts in a hot-fire. Nonetheless, the premise of saving money by using 3D printed parts is the focus of the story and is a cost-saving measure that will reduce the cost of flight.

Dramatic Changes to Google Lunar X Prize Cash Prizes Under Consideration, SpaceRef Business

"The plans laid out in this draft document embody a radical departure from the current approach to awarding prizes i.e. one winner, one big prize with several smaller runner-up prizes. Now, multiple teams will be able to get even smaller cash prizes for efforts already completed or near completion - but far short of actually sending a mission to land on the Moon.

If approved, this approach would help inject some much needed cash into the coffers of several competitors. No word yet on whether this plan will be formally adopted or when it will be adopted but a quick turn around time for comments suggests that there is an interest in getting these new rules in place soon."

Keith's note: This document has been widely circulated among several hundred people inside and outside of the Google Lunar X Prize community for several weeks. No markings were placed on this document to note that it is either confidential or proprietary. Indeed, the cover memo encouraged its wider distribution for review and comment.

Marc's note: Changes to the Google Lunar X Prize have been rumored for some time. It should be noted that the competition deadline of end of 2015 has not changed. The changes should they go forward will energize a competition which seemingly had stalled. While some teams have had some success in raising funds, none to my knowledge, had raised enough to actually launch and successfully land on the money.

2013 NASA Advanced Technology Phase I Concepts Selected For Study, NASA

"NASA has selected 12 proposals for study under Phase I of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program, which aims to turn science fiction into fact.

The selected proposals include a wide range of imaginative concepts, including 3-D printing of biomaterials, such as arrays of cells; using galactic rays to map the insides of asteroids; and an "eternal flight" platform that could hover in Earth's atmosphere, potentially providing better imaging, Wi-Fi, power generation, and other applications."

Audit of Selected NASA Conferences in Fiscal Years 2011-2012, NASA OIG

"NASA May Have Augmented its Appropriations at the 2011 IT Summit. Donations of goods and services by outside entities can lead to an augmentation of an agency's appropriations and a violation of the Antideficiency Act unless they are authorized under a gift acceptance statute or other statutory authority. ... The 2011 IT Summit steering committee members did not consult with the OGC or OCFO about NIA's contributions to the Summit and therefore did not follow NASA policy regarding the acceptance of gifts from outside entities. We believe this occurred because the steering committee members viewed the awards luncheon and other meals and receptions NIA paid for as NIA events rather than NASA events and therefore did not interpret NASA policy to require consultation under such circumstances. In January 2013, NASA clarified its policy to make clear that the consultation requirement applies to "complimentary activities" like the NIA-sponsored events.

... Reported Conference Costs Were Underreported. NASA estimated the 2011 IT Summit would cost $1,176,307, and reported actual costs of $1,291,889, a difference of approximately $116,000. We found that NASA did not include in the estimated cost figure $548,209 incurred by contractors who attended the event and billed NASA for their attendance and travel costs or an additional $128,439 in miscellaneous expenses."

In this video "NASA CIO Linda Cureton's NASA IT Summit Reception speech is attacked by a flash mob". Here is Another view. Then there was the Smashcast at 2011 NASA IT Summit. Too bad they could not get the actors who did the Star Trek thing for that IRS conference.

- Earlier NASA CIO and NASA IT postings

NASA Administrator Message: Audit of Selected NASA Conferences in Fiscal Years 2011-2012

"I welcome this review as part of NASA's culture of continuous improvement and our commitment to transparency and good stewardship of taxpayer money. In fact, as noted in the report, we began taking steps to improve our conference policies and procedures several years ago and have significantly enhanced our conference oversight review processes. It is also important to note that we further strengthened those processes in the two years since the conferences described in the IG's report."

Keith's Note: Truth be known Bolden et al have been very familiar with this ongoing OIG activity and these cost excesses and procedural abuses for years and have been dreading the inevitable release of this report. NASA HQ knew damn well that this CIO event was out of control even as it was being planned and they chose to just look the other way. Earlier NASA efforts with regard to travel and meetings are, of course, mere window dressing under the guise of sequestration issues, and were applied often without much thought given to logic or actually controlling costs. Mr. Bolden is not interested in fixing anything. Rather, he just wants to stay out of the news - and when NASA gets in the news for doing bad things, he wants NASA to exit the news as fast as possible.

UK Space Agency to Develop World's First Air-Breathing Rocket Engine [Watch], UKSA

"Through the UK Space Agency, the Government is set to invest £60 million ($90.5) in the development of the SABRE - a British-designed rocket engine which could revolutionize the fields of propulsion and launcher technology, and significantly reduce the costs of accessing space.

SABRE has the potential to create 21,000 high value engineering and manufacturing jobs; maximise the UK's access to a conservatively estimated £13.8 billion ($20.8) launcher market over the next thirty years; and provide economic benefits from spill-over technology markets.

Built by UK company Reaction Engines (REL), the unique engine is designed to extract the oxygen it needs for low atmosphere flight from the air itself, paving the way for a new generation of spaceplanes which would be lighter, reusable and able to take off and launch from conventional airport runways."

No Contest for Pad 39A? SpaceX Appears To Be Only Bidder, Space News

"Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) appears to be the only company that put in a proposal to NASA to take over one of the space shuttle's mothballed launch pads at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida.

NASA declined to comment on how many bids it received in response to a solicitation that closed on July 5, but a survey of U.S. launch companies by SpaceNews shows only SpaceX saying it put in a proposal to take over Launch Complex 39A."

UPDATE: Blue Origin Bids for Shuttle Launch Pad, Space News

"At least one other company is competing against Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) to take over a decommissioned space shuttle launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) here.

Privately owned Blue Origin of Kent, Washington, also responded to a NASA solicitation for proposals for Launch Pad 39A, company president Rob Meyerson told SpaceNews July 16."

Asteroid retrieval is costly and uninspiring, Lamar Smith Op-ed, The Hill

"The proposed asteroid retrieval mission would contribute very little to planetary defense efforts. The size of the target asteroid for this mission is only 7-10 meters in diameter, too small to cause any damage to Earth. Any insight gained by such a mission would have little relevance to protecting against larger "city-killer" asteroids. Congress directed NASA in 2005 to identify and track 90 percent of asteroids larger than 140 meters by 2020. Asteroids of this size are ones that could cause significant damage, and NASA still has work to do to accomplish this goal. Asteroids that are 7-10 meters simply disintegrate in our atmosphere."

Russian Meteor's Origin and Size Pinned Down, Space.com

"The asteroid was about 17 meters in diameter and weighed approximately 10,000 metric tons," Peter Brown, a physics professor at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, said in a statement. "It struck Earth's atmosphere at 40,000 mph and broke apart about 12 to 15 miles above Earth's surface. The energy of the resulting explosion exceeded 470 kilotons of TNT." That's 30 to 40 times more powerful than the atomic bomb the United States dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima during World War II. The Russian fireball likely produced the most powerful such space rock blast since a 130-foot (40 m) object exploded over Siberia in 1908, flattening 825 square miles (2,137 square km) of forest.

The asteroid mission: Why we choose to go, The Hill

But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask, why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?" -- John F. Kennedy

"Fifty-one years ago, a young president asked a question that cut to the heart of the American explorer spirit. For me, NASA's vision statement says it all. Why do we choose to go? To reach for new heights and reveal the unknown so that what we do and learn will benefit all humankind.

NASA astronauts, from the original Mercury 7 to our newest class of eight -- 4 men and 4 women -- have embodied that vision. They have been on the front lines of service to humanity in myriad ways and have lived lives of exploration and adventure.

It is hard to imagine anything more beneficial to humankind than protecting our planet from a dangerous asteroid that could strike Earth with devastating force, something we don't currently have the ability to do. In addition to developing technologies that will aid in our planning for the first human journey to Mars, an asteroid mission will help us learn more about how to prevent an impact from one of these mysterious objects."

Update on Russian Federal Proton Glonass Mission Failure, ILS

"Personnel: Our number one priority at ILS is safety, and we are pleased to report that all personnel associated with the Astra 2E campaign were a safe distance away at the ILS safety area, and are all safe. Additionally, we have been told that there were no injuries or casualties to Russian or Kazakh personnel.

Launch Pad facilities: The impact area was a far enough distance from LP24 and LP39 and we understand that neither launch pads were damaged.

Russian Launch Investigation: ...There are many rumors and much speculation on the internet and through other sources, and you may have your own thoughts and questions as well. The Russian State Commission will complete their work and release their findings in due time."

Previous: Russian Proton-M Launch Failure

Letter to Congress From Space Companies Regarding NASA Space Technology,

"On behalf of our nation's universities, small and large businesses in the aerospace industry, and those of us in the space-science research community, we write in support of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Space Technology account for FY 2014. Space Technology creates critical capabilities required for NASA's future science and exploration missions, enables a vibrant and competitive U.S. space industry, and forges technology-based partnerships across government agencies. To remain the leader in space exploration, space science and space commerce, we are convinced that NASA must invest in new technologies and capabilities. As such, we urge the Congress to provide $740 million for the Space Technology account."

Russia's Proton Crashes with a Trio of Navigation Satellites, Russian Space Web

"A Proton-M with a Block DM-03 upper stage lifted off as scheduled from Pad No. 24 at Site 81 in Baikonur Cosmodrome on July 2, 2013, at 06:38:22 Moscow Time (on July 1, 10:38 p.m. EDT).

The rocket started veering off course right after leaving the pad, deviating from the vertical path in various directions and then plunged to the ground seconds later nose first. The payload section and the upper stage were sheered off the vehicle moments before it impacted the ground and exploded. The flight lasted no more than 30 seconds."

New spectacular video:

John Kelly: Private launchers fear new US rules, Florida Today

"Case in point: The U.S. State Department is proposing new rules that would add private manned spacecraft to a Department of Defense list of "munitions" technology that some in the industry fear would all but prevent any use of those vehicles on foreign soil.

... The rule is getting a cold reception from private space startups such as XCOR, a space tourism company that just this week said it plans to start suborbital test flights from Kennedy Space Center by 2015. "

Marc's note: July 8th is the last day for public comment on the proposed new rules. If the proposed rule change is enacted there's no doubt in my mind it will have a negative effect on the industry. As Kelly states; "While there are likely valid concerns about protecting technology from falling into the wrong hands, overdoing it could also hurt the space industry's long-term future."


Space Shuttle Atlantis - World's Most Comprehensive Attraction Devoted to NASA's 30-Year Space Shuttle Program - Opens June 29 at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex , KSC Visitors Complex

"Of the three space-flown orbiters distributed by NASA to science centers and museums throughout the country, only Atlantis is the focal point of a $100 million, 90,000-square-foot attraction containing four multimedia and cinematic productions and more than 60 interactive experiences that invite guests to "be the astronaut" and to celebrate the people, passion and patriotism behind the shuttle program."

Chinese Manned Shenzhou-10 Spacecraft Lands Safely in Inner Mongolia [Watch], SpaceRef

"The Chinese Shenzhou-10 landed safely in Inner Mongolia at 8:08 p.m. ET (8:08 a.m. Beijing time) returning the three astronauts to Earth after a 15 day mission. The astronauts were reported to be in good shape and feeling well. Nie Haisheng, Zhang Xiaoguang and Wang Yaping performed experiments and did two docking tests with the orbiting Chinese space lab module Tiangong-1, one automatic and the other manual."


The Heliophysics System Observatory [Large version]

"This image shows the Heliophysics System Observatory (HSO). The HSO utilizes the entire fleet of solar, heliospheric, geospace, and planetary spacecraft as a distributed observatory to discover the larger scale and/or coupled processes at work throughout the complex system that makes up our space environment."

Marc's note: This image was released as part of the IRIS science briefing today. All the briefing material can be accessed here.

Launch Update: Due to a power outage at the 30th Space Wing the IRIS mission is delayed 24 hours to 7:27 p.m. PDT Thursday, June 27. (Corrected)

UPDATE: IRIS Mission and Science Briefings [Watch]


Matt Reed: One is a boondoggle, the other ..., Florida Today

"A mars mission remains unfunded and biologically impossible for people. And as Dean pointed out, the Space Launch System rocket will carry an Orion capsule that can't land anywhere."

Marc's note: Context. Read the above statement and what do you think? Now put it in context with the rest of the editorial. Matt Reed is "Florida Today's editorial page editor and politically independent columnist."

The article starts with a rant on Senator Rubio's immigration reform which he says funding could be better used on the Space Coast. He then picks on an article he wrote last week supporting NASA's asteroid mission and it he seems to just casually throw out the statement above as if it was just a fact and hey that's one reason we need to do the asteroid mission. For the casual Florida Today reader with little or no knowledge they might take this "fact" at face value. It's one thing to make a point, it's another to throw out an inaccurate statement and try to pass it as fact. Florida Today should know better.

Ten Thousandth Near-Earth Object Unearthed in Space [Watch], NASA JPL

"More than 10,000 asteroids and comets that can pass near Earth have now been discovered. The 10,000th near-Earth object, asteroid 2013 MZ5, was first detected on the night of June 18, 2013, by the Pan-STARRS-1 telescope, located on the 10,000-foot (convert) summit of the Haleakala crater on Maui. Managed by the University of Hawaii, the PanSTARRS survey receives NASA funding."

Station Crew Members Take a Walk in Space [Watch], NASA

"Outside the International Space Station, Expedition 36 Flight Engineers Fyodor Yurchikhin and Alexander Misurkin conducted a 6 hour, 34 minute spacewalk in Russian Orlan suits outside the Pirs Docking Compartment June 24."

ULA Troubles Continue

Orbital Sues ULA, Seeks RD-180 Engines, $515 Million in Damages, SpaceNews

"Orbital Sciences Corp., which wants to buy Russian-made RD-180 engines for its medium-lift Antares rocket, is suing rocket maker United Launch Alliance (ULA) for blocking any such sale, according to court papers dated June 20.

Orbital of Dulles, Va., claims Denver-based ULA has not only illegally prevented open-market sale of the RD-180, but also has monopolized the launch-services market for certain satellites in violation of U.S. antitrust laws, according to a complaint filed June 20 with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Alexandria."

Related: FTC Investigating United Launch Alliance

"The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is investigating whether United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co, violated federal antitrust laws by "monopolizing" or restraining competition through an exclusivity agreement with the maker of the engines used in its rockets, according to a FTC document obtained by Reuters."

Supermoon Images

Supermoon in Washington [Large version], NASA

"A supermoon rises behind the Washington Monument, Sunday, June 23, 2013, in Washington.

This year the supermoon is up to 13.5 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than a typical full moon is. This is a result of the Moon reaching its perigee - the closest that it gets to the Earth during the course of its orbit. During perigee on June 23, the moon was about 221,824 miles away, as compared to the 252,581 miles away that it is at its furthest distance from the Earth (apogee). "

- More Supermoon images on Flickr.

JAXA President Monthly Regular Press Conference May 2013, JAXA

"Now, I really perceive that JAXA has graduated from the technological verification phase that has been a goal of JAXA's assignment in the last 10 years, and entered into the next phase as JAXA has successfully performed 19 consecutive launches of H-IIA and H-IIB launch vehicles combined.

That is also backed politically by the government's new "Basic Plan for Space Policy" and also by JAXA's new mid-term plan; therefore, I acknowledge that the technological backbone was confirmed and we can move to the next step."

ESA's Intermediate Experimental Vehicle Safe Splashdown, ESA

"ESA's experimental reentry vehicle passed its milestone descent and landing test on Wednesday at the Poligono Interforze Salto di Quirra off the east coast of Sardinia in Italy.

The full-scale Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) prototype was released from an altitude of 3000 m by a helicopter, falling to gain speed to mimic a space mission before parachute deployment. The parachute slowed IXV for a safe splashdown in the sea at a speed below 7 m/s."

NASA Sounding Rocket Launch Successful Next Scheduled for June 24, OnOrbit

"Following the successful launch today, June 20, of a NASA Terrier-Improved Orion sounding rocket, launch teams are now preparing for a two-rocket salvo June 24 from the Wallops Flight Facility, Va.

Live coverage of the launch is available via UStream beginning at 8:30 a.m. on launch day."

Stratolaunch Systems New Design Concept [Watch], SpaceRef Business

"Stratolaunch Systems unveils a new design concept for its space transportation system. With a wingspan of 385 feet, greater than the length of a football field and powered by six 747 engines, a mission range of 1,000 nautical miles and with a gross weight of 1.3 million pounds, the Stratolaunch can deliver 13,500 pounds to low earth orbit and into any orbit, any time."

NASA, Deloitte To Bring Space-Age Risk Management To Oil And Gas Industry, NASA JSC

"NASA Johnson Space Center and Deloitte will enter into a strategic alliance offering advanced risk-management services to oil and gas companies. The Space Act Agreement commencement ceremony is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Central, Thursday, June 27.

These capabilities include several operational risk-management approaches aimed at companies seeking to minimize the risk of catastrophic failures - the kinds of dramatic mishaps that, while highly unlikely, can occur in remote and harsh environments."

Marc's note: You would think companies in the Oil and Gas industry would already be well versed in this area but perhaps JSC can provide risk-modeling and simulation tools they don't already have.

NASA and Italian Space Agency Sign Agreement on Exploration of Mercury, NASA

"At a meeting in Rome Thursday, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Italian Space Agency (ASI) President Enrico Saggese signed a Memorandum of Understanding for cooperation on the European Space Agency- (ESA) led BepiColombo mission to Mercury, strengthening mutually beneficial cooperation between NASA and ASI in planetary exploration."

Hot-Fire Tests Steering the Future of NASA'S Space Launch System Engines, NASA

"Engineers developing NASA's next-generation rocket closed one chapter of testing with the completion of a J-2X engine test series on the A-2 test stand at the agency's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi and will begin a new chapter of full motion testing on test stand A-1.

... The March 7 test, which set the short-lived duration record, was remarkable for another reason in that it marked the first time a 3-D printed part was hot-fire tested on a NASA engine system.

The prime contractor for the liquid engine, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne of Canoga Park, Calif., built a maintenance port cover for the 10002 engine using an advanced manufacturing process called Selective Laser Melting. This construction method uses lasers to fuse metal dust into a specific pattern to build the needed part."


Billion-Pixel View of Mars Comes From Curiosity Rover, NASA JPL

"A billion-pixel view from the surface of Mars, from NASA's Mars rover Curiosity, offers armchair explorers a way to examine one part of the Red Planet in great detail.

The first NASA-produced view from the surface of Mars larger than one billion pixels stitches together nearly 900 exposures taken by cameras onboard Curiosity and shows details of the landscape along the rover's route."

Marc's update: It seems folks at JSC can't access NASA's own the Billion-Pixel View of Mars web page due to an automated program which has deemed the page "non-job related" viewing and is blocking access to. Now there's an algorithm that needs updating.

NASA's Space Launch System Program Kicks Off Preliminary Design Review, NASA

"NASA is beginning a preliminary design review for its Space Launch System (SLS). This major program assessment will allow development of the agency's new heavy-lift rocket to move from concept to initial design.

The preliminary design review process includes meticulous, detailed analyses of the entire launch vehicle. Representatives from NASA, its contractor partners and experts from across the aerospace industry validate elements of the rocket to ensure they can be safely and successfully integrated.

... We are on track and meeting all the milestones necessary to fly in 2017."

Media Invited to View UP Aerospace SpaceLoft 7 Launch for NASA, NASA ARC

"News media representatives are invited to witness the first research flight on a suborbital rocket funded by NASA's Flight Opportunities Program when UP Aerospace Inc.'s SpaceLoft 7 vehicle lifts off June 21, 2013, at Spaceport America near Las Cruces, New Mexico. Liftoff is scheduled to occur between 6 and 9 a.m. PDT.

NASA has funded the flight for seven space-technology experiments to be flown in a space-relevant environment aboard the UP Aerospace sounding rocket. The sub-orbital flight is expected to provide up to four minutes of weightlessness for testing of the experiments. The flight is expected to last about 15 minutes and reach an altitude of 74 miles, with landing targeted about 320 miles downrange on the U.S. Army's White Sands Missile Range."

Mars base added to moon plan Politico

"Republicans in Congress are pushing for major cuts across the federal budget, but so far, they're not willing to sacrifice a plan to build a moon colony."

In fact, Republicans on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee are eyeing an even more ambitious goal: building a base on Mars, too.

"... The [NASA] Administrator shall establish a program to develop a sustained human presence on the Moon and the surface of Mars," states a recent discussion draft obtained by POLITICO."

Marc's note: Wow, what can I say, go for it! Oh hold on, there's no budget for this "go-as-we-can-afford-to-pay" plan. The rhetoric out of Congress is at an all time high and who can take anything they say seriously anymore. I suppose the only way to make them accountable, is to vote them out.

J-2X Update

LEO Progress: J-2X to Test Stand A1, NASA Blog (Liquid Rocket Engines)

"Recently, J-2X development engine 10002 was on the road. If you remember, E10002 went through a six-test series on test stand A2 that began in February and finished up in April. The next planned phase of E10002 testing is on test stand A1. In between these series, the engine was back in the assembly area of NASA Stennis Space Center Building 9101.

This respite between test series allowed for a complete series of inspections of the engine hardware. This is vital piece of the learning process for engine development. The basic truth is that a rocket engine is just darn tough on itself when it fires. The reason that we test and test and test is to make sure that our design can stand up to the recurring brutal conditions. The chance to look for the effects of that testing through detailed inspections away from the test stand is an opportunity to collect a great deal of useful information. "

NASA Announces Asteroid Grand Challenge, NASA

"NASA announced Tuesday a Grand Challenge focused on finding all asteroid threats to human populations and knowing what to do about them. The challenge is a large-scale effort that will use multi-disciplinary collaborations and a variety of partnerships with other government agencies, international partners, industry, academia, and citizen scientists. It complements NASA's recently announced mission to redirect an asteroid and send humans to study it."

"NASA also released a request for information (RFI) that invites industry and potential partners to offer ideas on accomplishing NASA's goal to locate, redirect, and explore an asteroid, as well as find and plan for asteroid threats. The RFI is open for 30 days, and responses will be used to help develop public engagement opportunities and a September industry workshop."

- Statement by Ed Lu - CEO, B612 Foundation

Women in Space Part One, Female Firsts in Flight for Space Exploration and Research, NASA Blog - A Lab Aloft (International Space Station Research)

"In today's A Lab Aloft, guest blogger Liz Warren, Ph.D., recalls the inspirational contributions and strides made by women in space exploration and International Space Station research.

This month we celebrate the anniversaries of three "firsts" for female space explorers. On June 16, 1963, Valentina Tereshkova of the Soviet Union became the first woman in space. Then on June 18, 1983, Sally Ride became America's first woman in space, followed by Liu Yang as China's first woman in space on June 16, 2012. Though their flight anniversaries are not in June, I would be remiss if I did not mention the first European woman in space: Helen Sharman in 1991; the first Canadian woman: Roberta Bondar in 1992; and the first Japanese woman: Chiaki Mukai in 1994."

Marc's note:Well worth reading.

Satellite Industry Report Shows Satellite industry Growth of 7% in 2012 [Download report], SpaceRef Business

"The Satellite Industry Association (SIA) today released its 2013 State of the Satellite Industry Report, showing a 7% growth in world satellite industry revenues in 2012, up from 5% growth in 2011. Globally, 2012 revenues for the satellite industry totaled $189.5 billion, up from $177.3 billion the previous year.

All four industry sectors grew, led by satellite services, the traditional driver for the industry. Both satellite manufacturing and launch services saw significant revenue increases, and satellite ground equipment revenues also continued to expand."

NASA Selects Next Generation of Space Explorers [Watch], NASA

"After an extensive year-and-a-half search, NASA has a new group of potential astronauts who will help the agency push the boundaries of exploration and travel to new destinations in the solar system, including an asteroid and Mars.

Eight candidates have been selected to be NASA's newest astronaut trainees, hoping to be among those who are the first to launch from U.S. soil on commercial American spacecraft since the retirement of the space shuttle."

- NASA will discuss the selections at 3 p.m. CDT Monday via a Google+ Hangout.

Marc's note: Call me skeptical, but perhaps some of these astronauts will make a fly-by of Mars or to its moons, but to land, I don't see that in the next 20 years with the current political situation. If a private-public attempt was made, say SpaceX teaming up with NASA, then maybe. And while there's ongoing "big picture" work for an international effort, until a decision is made by a President that it will happen and Congress buys into, it's just a dream.

New Horizons Team Sticking to Original Flight Plan at Pluto, JHUAPL

"Unless significant new hazards are found, expect NASA's New Horizons spacecraft to stay on its original course past Pluto and its moons, after mission managers concluded that the danger posed by dust and debris in the Pluto system is less than they once feared."


Subcommittee on Space Hearing - NASA Authorization Act of 2013, House Science Committee

The House Science Committee's space subcommittee has scheduled a hearing for 10:00 a.m. ET next Wednesday, June 19 on the "NASA Authorization Act of 2013." The House version of the bill has not been released yet but should be soon and possibly before the hearing.

The scheduled witnesses are:
- Dr. Steven W. Squyres, Goldwin Smith Professor of Astronomy, Cornell University
- Mr. A. Thomas Young, Former Executive Vice President, Lockheed Martin Corporation

UPDATE: Draft NASA Authorization Bill Nixes Asteroid Retrieval Mission, Space News

"The House Science, Space and Technology Committee has begun drafting a NASA authorization bill that would hold the agency to a top line of about $16.87 billion, bar funding for a planned asteroid rendezvous mission, and divert money for Earth observation into robotic missions to other parts of the solar system, according to an official summary of the bill obtained by SpaceNews.

The bill also would authorize NASA to spend $700 million annually on the Commercial Crew Program -- up from the $500 million Congress authorized in 2010 -- and require the agency to report every 90 days on the effort."

FUTHER UPDATE: NASA Invites Media to Asteroid Initiative Industry and Partner Day (June 18) , NASA

Northrop Grumman, ATK Complete Backbone of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, Northrop Grumman

"Northrop Grumman Corporation and teammate ATK have completed manufacturing of the backplane support frame (BSF) for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope. Northrop Grumman is under contract to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., for the design and development of the Webb Telescope's optics, sunshield and spacecraft."

Shenzhou-10 completes automated docking with space module, Xinhua

"China's Shenzhou-10 manned spacecraft successfully completed an automated docking procedure with the orbiting Tiangong-1 space module at 1:18 p.m. Thursday, according to the Beijing Aerospace Control Center.

The docking procedure was the fifth to take place between Shenzhou-type spacecraft and the space module. Previous dockings include two automated operations by the unmanned Shenzhou-8 in 2011 and both an automated and manual docking by the manned Shenzhou-9 in 2012."

Beyond the Politics: Space Exploration Is Imperative to Innovation and Inspiration, Eileen M. Collins and Nick Lampson for the Huffington Post

"As a nation, we must put politics aside to ensure that expanding the space frontier occupies a prominent place on our national agenda. We need strategic, adequately funded and aggressively paced programs to keep America at the summits of technical innovation and exploration."

"... Unfortunately, we've begun to pull back, as though the nation can prosper without the kinds of strategic commitments that have historically assured us economic as well as intellectual return."

Marc's note: There's nothing new in what Collins and Lampson write. Will Congress pay attention? Will this appeal to the public and cause some action? Call me cynical, but I don't think Congress or the public are paying attention.

Detailed Satellite Imagery of Severe Storm (Large image and video), NASA

"A powerful storm swept across the Midwestern U.S. late on June 12, 2012 and is continuing to move across the Mid-Atlantic. Around 0700z (3am EDT), the Suomi NPP satellite passed over the storm as the most intense areas were along the Ohio-West Virginia-Pennsylvania border."

Cash-Strapped Space Tourists May Find Friend in PayPal, Wall Street Journal

"The payments company is set to announce a payment program for space tourists later this month, known as PayPal Galactic. PayPal has been working with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Space Tourism Society and the SETI Institute, whose mission is to search for extraterrestrial intelligence, on the program, said a person familiar with the details."

"... Billionaires Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are also building space craft in their spare time."

Marc's note: Hmm I wonder what, if any, advantage there will be for the "space tourist" in this rumoured program? And I didn't realize Musk was building SpaceX in his spare time.

Exclusive: Antitrust probe of Lockheed-Boeing rocket venture

"The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is investigating whether United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co, violated federal antitrust laws by "monopolizing" or restraining competition through an exclusivity agreement with the maker of the engines used in its rockets, according to a FTC document obtained by Reuters on Wednesday.

RD Amross, a joint venture of Russia's NPO Energomash and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, a unit of United Technologies Corp, provides RD-180 engines for ULA rockets.

Industry sources say ULA is preventing RD Amross from selling the engines to other rocket makers, including Orbital Sciences Corp, which is trying to break into the lucrative market for government rocket launches."

United Launch Alliance Completes Dual Engine Centaur Preliminary Design Review and Development Testing in Support of Commercial Crew Program, ULA

"United Launch Alliance (ULA) successfully completed the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) and initial round of development testing for the Dual Engine Centaur in support of NASA's Commercial Crew Program.

Under Independent Research and Development (IRAD) funding, ULA is re-establishing the Dual Engine Centaur (DEC) configuration for performance and human space flight safety. Atlas V is capable of flying both a single and dual engine on the Centaur second stage, but most satellite missions require only a single engine due to the powerful capability of the Atlas V booster to loft the payload into orbit."

Preparing NASA's Next Solar Satellite for Launch, OnOrbit

"Orbital Sciences team members move the second half of the payload fairing before it is placed over NASA's IRIS (Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph) spacecraft. The fairing connects to the nose of the Orbital Sciences Pegasus XL rocket that will lift the solar observatory into orbit. The work is taking place in a hangar at Vandenberg Air Force Base, where IRIS is being prepared for launch on a Pegasus XL rocket."

FTC Approves Concludes Investigation of GenCorp's Purchase of Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, FTC

"Although the FTC concluded that the deal will give GenCorp a monopoly in the market for a type of advanced missile defense interceptor propulsion system, the Commission decided not to challenge the transaction, primarily because the Department of Defense wishes to see the transaction go forward for national security reasons."

IRIS Televised Launch Viewing at NASA's Ames Research Center, NASA Ames

"On Wednesday, June 26, NASA's newest mission, the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph or IRIS, will launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. IRIS will take flight using a Pegasus XL rocket, carried aloft by an Orbital Sciences L-1011 aircraft from Vandenberg. This exciting launch will broadcast live at the NASA Ames Visitor Center at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

Registrations for attendance are available now!

Tickets are free and are first-come, first-serve. Space is limited and only ticketed guests will be admitted."

Commercial space companies expect Brevard push, Space Florida

"Three companies competing to fly NASA astronauts to the International Space Station expect to increase their local activity in the second half of this year, executives said Tuesday.

The Boeing Co. soon will start moving into a former shuttle hangar at Kennedy Space Center, where it will assemble a test article of its CST-100 capsule.

SpaceX hopes to launch a pad abort test of its Dragon capsule in December from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, after potentially several more Cape rocket launches.

And Sierra Nevada Corp., developer of the Dream Chaser mini-shuttle, plans to staff a local office this year to prepare for future flight operations."

SMC Enters into Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with SpaceX, Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center

"The Space and Missile Systems Center has signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with Space Exploration Technologies Corp., better known as SpaceX, as part of the company's effort to certify its Falcon 9 v1.1 Launch System for National Security Space (NSS) missions. This cooperative agreement facilitates data exchanges and protects proprietary and export-controlled data. The CRADA will be in effect until all certification activities are complete."

How Twitter Changed NASA Communications, Mediabistro

"At Mediabistro's AllTwitter Marketing Conference, NASA's social media manager said that Twitter has created a once-in-a-lifetime change in the way the space agency communicates with the world."

Marc's note: I remember attending the Participatory Exploration Summit at NASA Ames in 2007 where Biz Stone introduced Twitter to the audience. Ironically the conference was using now-defunct Jaiku for social participation. But afterwards Twitter began to catch on, including at NASA. NASA now has million of followers. SpaceRef and NASA Watch have grown to over 125,000+ followers for our Twitter accounts.

Opinion: The Future Now

The Myopia Problem, Space News

"It is the year 3013, one thousand years into the future. Looking up into the night sky, you see a crescent Moon that is crisscrossed by a sparkling web of city lights. Millions of people are routinely working, living, and playing on the Moon. Billions live on Mars.

Many would agree that such a bright, promising future is probable. Some would contend that it is inevitable. What cannot be argued is that it is impossible, for we have already slipped the surly bonds of Earth.

The question is "when," rather than "if."

We don't need to wait a millennium in order to get started. Fundamental new breakthroughs in physics are not required. Just as the hang glider and sailplane could have been developed and refined hundreds or thousands of years ago, we already have the needed technology to begin pioneering exploration of the Moon and Mars."

NOAA Returns a Healthy GOES-13 to Normal Operations as GOES-East, NOAA

"NOAA today officially returned the GOES-13 spacecraft to normal operations, after tests showed a micrometeoroid, likely hit the arm for the solar array panel on May 22, knocking the spacecraft off its delicate, geostationary balance."

China's latest 'sacred' manned space mission blasts off, Reuters

"A Chinese manned spacecraft blasted off with three astronauts on board on Tuesday on a 15-day mission to an experimental space lab in the latest step towards the development of a space station.

The Shenzhou 10 spacecraft was launched from a remote site in the Gobi desert in China's far west at 5:38 p.m. (0938 GMT) under warm, clear blue skies, in images carried live on state television."

Watch the launch:

"The NASA It Gets Better video is a video project created by the "Out & Allied @ JSC Employee Resource Group" of NASA's Johnson Space Center. It was created as an outreach tool primarily directed at high school and college-aged lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) individuals who are victims of bullying and/or have been affected by bullying. This video sends the message to current and future NASA employees that it is OK to be LGBTQ, and that NASA supports and encourages an inclusive, diverse workforce in our workplace."

NASA Announces 2013 Space Technology Research Grants, NASA

"NASA has selected 65 graduate students as the 2013 class of Space Technology Research Fellows. This third class of space technology graduate students will conduct research relevant to agency technology challenges aligned with NASA's space technology roadmaps, while pursuing degrees in related disciplines at their respective institutions."

Mars Rover Opportunity Trekking Toward More Layers, NASA

"Approaching its 10th anniversary of leaving Earth, NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is on the move again, trekking to a new study area still many weeks away.

The destination, called "Solander Point," offers Opportunity access to a much taller stack of geological layering than the area where the rover has worked for the past 20 months, called "Cape York." Both areas are raised segments of the western rim of Endeavour Crater, which is about 14 miles (22 kilometers) in diameter.

"Getting to Solander Point will be like walking up to a road cut where you see a cross section of the rock layers," said Ray Arvidson of Washington University, St. Louis, deputy principal investigator for the mission."

Production of Key Equipment Paves Way for NASA SLS RS-25 Testing, NASA Marshall

"NASA plans to begin testing RS-25 engines for its new Space Launch System (SLS) in the fall of 2014, and the agency's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi has a very big -- literally -- item to complete on the preparation checklist.

Fabrication recently began at Stennis on a new 7,755-pound thrust frame adapter for the A-1 Test Stand to enable testing of the engines that will provide core-stage power for NASA's SLS. The stand component is scheduled to be completed and installed by November 2013."

NASA to Host June 7 Mars Rover Opportunity Teleconference, NASA

NASA will hold a media teleconference at 9 a.m. PDT (noon EDT) on Friday, June 7, to provide an update about the long-lived Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity. The 10th anniversary of this rover's launch is next month.

The briefing participants will be:
-- John Callas, project manager for Opportunity, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
-- Steve Squyres, principal investigator for Opportunity, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.
-- Ray Arvidson, deputy principal investigator, Washington University, St. Louis, Mo.

NASA Satellite Sees Strong Thunderstorms in Developing Gulf Low, NASA

"NASA's Aqua satellite passed over low pressure System 91L in the Gulf of Mexico and captured infrared imagery that revealed a lot of uplift and strong thunderstorms in the eastern part of the storm despite a poorly organized circulation. NOAA's GOES-East satellite showed the large extent of the low pressure area stretching from Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula to Florida.

System 91L is a tropical low pressure area that has been lingering in the northwestern Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico for several days. The low pressure area is located in the central Gulf of Mexico and covers a large area. It has a large area of disorganized thunderstorms and strong gusty winds over the southeastern Gulf."

Update: NASA Sees Heavy Rainfall in Tropical Storm Andrea, NASA Goddard

NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover Nears Turning Point, NASA

"NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission is approaching its biggest turning point since landing its rover, Curiosity, inside Mars' Gale Crater last summer.

Curiosity is finishing investigations in an area smaller than a football field where it has been working for six months, and it will soon shift to a distance-driving mode headed for an area about 5 miles (8 kilometers) away, at the base Mount Sharp."

With the Public's Help NASA's Spitzer Telescope Sees Milky Way's Blooming Countryside, SpaceRef

"NASA has released new images the Spitzer Space Telescope which it characterizes as showing "blooming stars in our Milky Way galaxy's more barren territories, far from its crowded core" and the public, in part, helped NASA with these images.

The images are part of the Galactic Legacy Infrared Mid-Plane Survey Extraordinaire (Glimpse 360) project, which NASA says is mapping the topography of our galaxy."

Rocket Launch Scheduled June 4 From Wallops, NASA

"A Black Brant XII suborbital rocket carrying the Cosmic Infrared Background ExpeRiment (CIBER)is scheduled for launch between 11 and 11:59 p.m. EDT, June 4, from NASA's launch range at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

The NASA Visitor Center at Wallops will open at 9:30 p.m. on launch day for public viewing of the launch.

The mission will be available live on Ustream beginning at 10 p.m. on launch day at: http://www.ustream.com/channel/nasa-wallops"

Update: "The launch tonight of a Black Brant XII suborbital rocket from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia, has been postponed.

The mission was postponed due to difficulty in cooling the instruments on the payload down to the required temperatures before launch.

The launch is now scheduled between 11 and 11:59 p.m., June 5. The launch window runs through June 10. The rocket may be visible to residents in the mid-Atlantic region."

NASA Spacecraft Captures Swath of Destruction from Deadly Oklahoma Tornado, NASA

"On June 2, 2013, the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) instrument on NASA's Terra spacecraft captured this image showing the scar left on the landscape by the tornado's deadly track. In this false-color image, vegetation is red, water is dark blue, roads and buildings are gray and white, and bare fields are tan. The tornado track crosses the image from left to right as indicated by the arrows. The image covers an area of 6 by 8.6 miles (9.6 by 13.8 kilometers), and is located at 35.3 degrees north latitude, 97.5 degrees west longitude."

Marc's note: I just happened to turn on CNN as they began broadcasting live coverage of the tornado. It was surreal to be watching the destruction live. My heart goes out to those affected.

Space Storm Could Black Out US East Coast for Two Years - Expert, RIA Novosti

"Severe space 'weather' can knock out satellite communications and GPS systems, expose space tourists and astronauts to dangerous levels of radiation, and even cause massive blackouts on Earth that could last up to two years, scientists and NASA officials warned at a conference here on Tuesday.

The United States population that is at risk of an extended power outage from a Carrington-level storm is between 20-40 million, with an outage duration of possibly 16 days to one to two years, said Kathryn Sullivan."

Water on the Moon (video), NASA Goddard

"Since the 1960's, scientists have suspected that frozen water could survive in cold, dark craters at the Moon's poles. While previous lunar missions have detected hints of water on the Moon, new data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) pinpoints areas near the south pole where water is likely to exist."

Mars Express 10 Years of Highlights (Video), ESA

"The journey of the European Space Agency's Mars Express, from drawing board through launch, to its key science highlights during ten years of operations.

With its suite of seven instruments, Mars Express has studied the subsurface of the Red Planet to the upper atmosphere and beyond to the two tiny moons Phobos and Deimos, providing an in depth analysis of the planet's history and returning stunning 3D images."

- Also released today: Mars Mineral Globe (video), ESA

Marc's note: Congratulations to ESA and its partners for 10 years of great science by Mars Express.

The Front Burner: Plan shows agency still turns obstacles into opportunities, Orlando Sentinel op-ed by Frank DiBello, Space Florida

"This asteroid strategy will require much of this nation's technical brain trust and industrial base. It will demand new technology with serious and long-term applications, it will result in more launches, and sooner, of American astronauts beyond low Earth orbit, and it shrewdly taps into a growing public and scientific interest in near-Earth objects and planetary defense."

Kepler Delivers More Data for Exoplanet HuntersKepler Delivers More Data for Exoplanet Hunters, NASA Ames Research Center

"On May 28 NASA's Kepler mission delivered new data to the NASA Exoplanet Archive for Exoplanet hunters to dig into. At the same, NASA Ames Research Center's Michele Johnson sat down with Michael Haas, Kepler science office director, for an interview to find out more."

Marc's note: The data includes 1,924 Kepler Objects of Interest (KOIs) that have not been fully analyzed yet.

"MJ: If you haven't finished the analysis, why are you releasing this information now? It seems rather preliminary.

MH: You are right, it is preliminary, but it also represents a significant body of work and contains valuable information for the scientific community."

Heads Up Marshall

NASA Image of the Day - Huntsville, Alabama From Space (Large view and downloads), NASA

"The ISS SERVIR Environmental Research and Visualization System or ISERV - a camera aboard the International Space Station - captures an image of her hometown. ISERV was designed and built at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala."

Russians Propose Space Billiards for Planetary Defense

"The way out just might be to hit dangerous asteroids with other asteroids, Russian scientists say.

Several near-Earth asteroids can be towed into the vicinity of the planet to serve as a cache of celestial projectiles against incoming space threats, said Natan Eismont of the Space Research Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences.

'I was skeptical about it myself, until we actually tried to do computer modeling of the situation,' Eismont, one of the project's authors, told RIA Novosti in a recent interview."

Marc's note: Wasn't there a 1950's era movie with this plot? ;-)

Keith's note: My postings on NASA Watch are going to be far less frequent for a while. But I will post from time to time. I am taking the Summer off to work on other things and spend as much time possible in the woods or on my deck.

I will be trying to focus on things that do not involve watching the White House and Congress go back and forth on what they do/do not want NASA to do and how much they will/will not fund NASA to do/not do these things. I'll also be spending less time watching Charlie Bolden stumble through his daily tasks while a disinterested White House turns a blind eye to his haphazard management of the agency.

Of course its not all Charlie's fault since management and employees at headquarters and the field centers continue to undermine him while simultaneously erecting stove pipes and barriers to collaboration at every possible opportunity. In all the years I have either been employed by - or "watching" - NASA I have never seen things more screwed up than they are now.

And before you start typing, let's not get into commercial or so-called "new space" solutions to NASA's woes. New space is not really "new". Rather it is often just a bunch of disenfranchised people looking for a handout (many of them are outright charlatans). Despite some recent and undeniably astounding commercial successes America's existing approach to exploring and utilizing space is rotting at its core - and that core is NASA. That core needs fixing - otherwise private sector solutions will not work - indeed they will just make things worse by distracting people from what really needs to be done.

That said, some of the smartest people on Earth are at NASA and they still manage to explore our planet and the cosmos with incredible ingenuity, determination, and passion in spite of bungled and often inept "leadership" from above. What worries me now is how our nation's space agency is undermining what it will leave behind for the next generation.

To be blunt: I am tired of listening to all of you whine while you won't lift a finger to fix the things that you clearly know are in need of fixing. No one wants to compromise or take risks. I am tired of having to chronicle this incessant food fight in and around NASA - a food fight that none of you seem at all interested in ending.

Carry on. Enjoy your cubicles. You won't miss me.

Marc's note: While Keith is away NASA Watch will carry on. Besides getting my input I'll feature some thoughts from some of our loyal readers from time to time on all issues NASA.

Southwest Research Institute Team Calculates the Radiation Exposure with a trip to Mars, SwRI

"Energetic protons constitute about 85 percent of the primary galactic cosmic ray flux and easily traverse even the most shielded paths (reds) inside the MSL spacecraft. Heavy ions tend to break up into lighter ions in thick shielding, but can survive traversal of thin shielding (blues) intact."

The Asteroid Set to Make a Close Encounter with the Earth on Friday Has a Moon (Watch), NASA

"New radar data obtained by NASA shows Asteroid 1998 QE2 has a moon. The asteroid will get no closer than about 3.6 million miles (5.8 million kilometers), or about 15 times the distance between Earth and the moon.

The new radar data was obtained on May 29th when the asteroid was about 3.75 million miles (6 million kilometers) from Earth. 1998 QE2 measures approximately 1.7 miles (2.7 kilometers) in diameter."

Space and Art

Heaven and Earth, NASA

"There are patterns of beauty across our Earth and throughout the Universe."

Marc's note: You can watch a large version on SpaceRef's updated OnOrbit site.

Planetary Resources Embarks on First Crowdfunded Space Telescope, Planetary Resources

"Planetary Resources, Inc., the asteroid mining company, has launched a campaign for the world's first crowdfunded space telescope to provide unprecedented public access to space and place the most advanced exploration technology into the hands of students, scientists and a new generation of citizen explorers."

Planetary Resources Falls Back on Kickstarter For Funding, earlier post (2012)

"At the ISDC conference just a few weeks ago Eric Anderson from Planetary Resources was positively bragging about how much money they had."

Keith's note: It seems a little odd for a company like Planetary Resources to brag in public about its financial resources, list its billionaire investors at every given opportunity - and then hype a big announcement which was, in essence, "send us your money". Well, people have responded - in an impressive fashion. Thus far the current tally for a few hours' work is just under $150,000 - over $190,000 $235,000 $321,000 - that's more than 10% nearly 20% 25% 33% of their goal of $1,000,000.

Not bad at all - indeed its rather impressive - especially when you consider that the Golden Spike Company took 70 days to raise only $19,450 out of a planned $240,000. Planetary Resources has raised the entire sum Golden Spike originally sought - and they did so in less than 12 hours. They have 32 days left to reach their goal.

Having helped with the successful Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project and the AIA "We Are the Explorers" crowdfunding campaigns, I can suggest that the answer is simple: fire up people's imagination. Then tell them what you want to do, why it is important, explain how their contribution can help - and offer them something of value in addition to just thanking them for their money. When you get that balanced right, people will respond. However when you don't explain yourself, people won't give you much of anything. Not much of mystery there.

Oh yes - the Planetary Resources people really need to work on their media relations skills. At their first event last year they charged all invitees for their meal - all while promoting the billionaire backing they had. At today's event their webcast had no offsite media interaction (i.e. few questions) and the webcast backfired such that when there actually was a webcast the participants looked like they were doing Max Headroom impressions and sounded like they were stuttering underwater. Its not hard to do this stuff. I did it every day for several weeks from Everest Base Camp.

Space Florida Welcomes New Chair, Members of the Board, Space Florida

"Space Florida, the state's aerospace development organization and spaceport authority, has recently welcomed a new interim Board Chair and three new members to its Board of Directors.

Bill Dymond was appointed interim Chairman of the Board at the May 8, 2013 Space Florida Board of Directors meeting in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Dymond is the president, CEO and managing partner of Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed, P.A., a multi-practice law firm with more than 100 attorneys, located in Orlando."

NASA Collaborates with Google and USRA for Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab, SpaceRef

"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."

NASA to Mark 40th Anniversary of Skylab and Life Off Earth

"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

Watch live at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Warp Factor - A NASA scientist claims to be on the verge of faster-than-light travel: is he for real?, Popular Science

"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."

Clarifying NASA's Warp Drive Program

NASA Plum Brook vacuum chamber in Sandusky is the largest in the world, despite what NASA folks in Texas claim, Cleveland.com

"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."

NASA Invites Media Inside World's Largest Vacuum Chamber, JSC

"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.

WE ARE THE EXPLORERS: A movie trailer for our space program

"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.


CuriousMars: Triple Sample Set for SAM, as NASA Cheers Revived Plutonium Production

"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."

CuriousMars: Rover's SAM organic and CheMin Labs Outrun Computer Snafu For Extra Rock Analysis, SpaceRef

"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.

CuriousMars: SAM and CheMin Ace Rock Analysis, Ready for More, SpaceRef

"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."

William Shatner's Campaign to Name One of Pluto's Moons 'Vulcan' Has Highly Logical Outcome, Hollywood.com

"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

NASA Cold Fusion Update

NASA: A Nuclear Reactor To Replace Your Water Heater, Forbes

"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?

No."

Earlier NASA Cold Fusion news

Testing for Mars Organics

CuriousMars: Rover Poised to Test For Organics Where Habitability Potential is High, SpaceRef

"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."

CuriousMars: Scientists Disagree on Timing of Departure from Drilling Site, SpaceRef

"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."


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