News: February 2014 Archives

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."



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This page is an archive of entries in the News category from February 2014.

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