News: May 2013 Archives

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.


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