"The Office of Inspector General (OIG) audit released today found that NASA cannot identify the cost incurred or effectively measure the benefits derived from nonreimbursable Space Act Agreements because it lacks a close-out process or similar mechanism to document results. Although these agreements involve no exchange of funds, NASA nevertheless bears the expense associated with any personnel, facilities, expertise, or equipment it contributes. Consequently, objectively assessing the value these agreements bring to the Agency and to the broader aeronautical, scientific, and space exploration communities is difficult. In addition, the OIG concluded that NASA could better ensure equal access to its facilities and capabilities and increase interest in Space Act opportunities by expanding its efforts to solicit a broader number of potentially interested parties. The OIG also found that NASA has unclear guidance regarding when it is appropriate to use Space Act Agreements as opposed to leases and how the agreements must align with the Agency's mission."
Recently in Policy Category
"John Logsdon, professor emeritus of George Washington University's Space Policy Institute, said the report has a familiar ring to it. "They go through all this negative analysis and still conclude we ought to go to Mars. No one ever says, 'Let's lower our ambitions.' It's always, 'Increase the budget,' not 'Lower ambitions,'" he said. As for going to Mars: "It's a dream. It's been a dream forever. And will remain a dream unless something changes."
"But the report said that if the U.S. is to take its space program to the next level, it will require more funds for the step-by-step missions that will lead to the Martian surface. It will also require, the authors said, more international cooperation -- including with China. Current federal law blocks NASA from working on bilateral projects with the Chinese."
New report: NASA Mars goal is not viable, Houston Chronicle
"There is also concern because, critics say, NASA is building this rocket without a clear path to Mars. As the report notes it is difficult to sustain a rocket program, absent a concrete, widely accepted goal, over multiple presidential administrations, and Congresses. "I would say the SLS is very vulnerable," said Mark Albrecht, an aerospace executive and principal space adviser to President George H.W. Bush, this year. "The wrong way to think about spaceflight is to build a bunch of stuff and then find an objective for it to achieve."
Keith's note: NRC says NASA Is on the wrong path to Mars. That's about the only thing they took a clear position on in their report. In writing their report the committee dodged all of the big questions with the excuse that it was beyond their scope/charter. Trivial mention was made of commercial alternatives or whether the SLS-based model is the right way to get to Mars. In the briefing yesterday Mitch Daniels said that funding for all of this is "the secondary question". So there you go - yet another space policy report - one that cost $3.6 million and is being delivered more than 3 years after it was requested. The White House and NASA will ignore it. Congress will wave it around and then ignore it too. In the end we'll all be where we are now - with incomplete plans, no strategy, a big rocket with no payload, and nothing close to a budget to make any of it happen.
"The technical analysis completed for this study shows that for the foreseeable future, the only feasible destinations for human exploration are the moon, asteroids, Mars, and the moons of Mars," Lunine added. "Among this small set of plausible goals, the most distant and difficult is putting human boots on the surface of Mars, thus that is the horizon goal for human space exploration. All long-range space programs by our potential partners converge on this goal."
"NASA welcomes the release of this report. After a preliminary review, we are pleased to find the NRC's assessment and identification of compelling themes for human exploration are consistent with the bipartisan plan agreed to by Congress and the Administration in the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 and that we have been implementing ever since."
"Over the past four years, NASA has been implementing the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, which was enacted on a broad bipartisan basis and reflects agreement between Congress and the Administration on the nation's next steps in space. A new paper from our Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD) explains NASA's roadmap to send astronauts to an asteroid by 2025 and Mars in the 2030s."
SpaceX to Sue Over EELV Sole-Sourced Contract, SpaceRef Business
"In a news conference held at the National Press Club in Washington SpaceX CEO Elon Musk started off by outlining the recent success of the soft landing of the Falcon 9 first stage off the coast of Florida. He then dropped a bombshell aimed straight at the heart of Washington with news that he was going to protest and sue over the recent sole sourced Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) contract won by United Launch Alliance (ULA)."
Marc's note: I've included the full audio from the news conference. The first half of the news conference relates to the soft landing of the Falcon 9 first stage. Then Elon Musk begins to discuss the legal action started by SpaceX.
I have been listening to this space advocacy rah rah stuff since 1974. Its getting stale. And it doesn't work. New reasons are needed. #H2M— Keith Cowing (@KeithCowing) April 23, 2014
Here we go again for the 10,000th time - space guys are designing a spacecraft on a podium at some space conference. #H2M— NASA Watch (@NASAWatch) April 23, 2014
"The six new members are Wanda Austin, Wayne Hale, Scott Hubbard, Miles O'Brien, Thomas Young, and Kathryn Schmoll. The group has a wide range of expertise in the aerospace field. They are joining NAC Chair Steven Squyres and continuing members Marion Blakey, Kenneth Bowersox, David McComas, William Ballhaus, Charles Kennel (ex officio) and Lester Lyles (ex officio)."
"We stand at a pivotal moment in space exploration and our ability to improve life on our planet. Humankind is making plans to further extend its reach into the solar system, and NASA is leading the way. Our orbiting outpost, the International Space Station (ISS), is home to a crew of astronauts from across the world conducting research and learning how to live and work in space. "
Keith's note: This thing reads like an annual report - there is no "plan" in this strategic plan. The authors are utterly confused as to what a "goal", "objective", and "strategy" are and confusingly use the terms interchangeably. It is almost as if they say "it is important that we do what we are doing because we are already doing it". Also, doing things in a cost-effective and innovative way seems to be some sort of strategic objective preoccupation with the reports' authors. Well, DUH, you should always do such things in a cost-effective and innovative way as a matter of course in ANY project - government or otherwise - not do so as an end in and of itself.
It is like saying "our goal is to drive under the speed limit on the right side of the road" as an objective - when your real objective is to travel to a specific location. NASA is bafflingly confused when it comes to form and function, cause and effect, and that the specific managerial process of doing something and actually achieving a specific goal are not the same thing.
Then again NASA people often cannot tell the difference between nouns and verbs. Ever hear a NASA person say they are going to "action something"?
Keith's note: There has been a flurry of comments via Twitter and press releases over the past 24 hours about going to Mars - and what things we can do now to help us to get there. It all started with NASA Administrator Bolden telling an advisory group yesterday that "Inspiration Mars is not Inspirational". He was referring the the latest incarnation of the ever-changing mission idea first proposed by Dennis Tito. This is part of a larger discussion regarding the SLS (Space Launch System), destinations in space, the value of commercial space - all of which was turbocharged by NASA's stealthy direction to its staff to cut off all ties with Russia except those involving the International Space Station.
Bolden, the White House, and some Democrats want to do the ARM (Asteroid Retrieval Mission) as a first test of the Orion/SLS system. Republicans and members of Congress from states where SLS/Orion hardware is made want a more robust Mars flyby mission using additional SLS hardware. All of this is fueled behind the scenes by partisan politics and the puppetry by former NASA employees scorned by the cancellation of the Constellation program.
And no one in this food fight can point to a clear, cohesive space policy proposal - one with budgets, milestones, and overall goals. Indeed everyone's notional policy is deeply flawed and wholly out of synch with the realities of using the same old approaches to conduct a program of human exploration mandated by the government. But when has that stopped anyone from having a good argument about what the current Administration's policy is - or is not? Indeed that is what this is all about. No one wants to really explore space any more. They just want to argue about it.
The argument currently finds itself focused on asteroids Vs Mars. So lets start there.
ARM is not without its fiscal problems and fundamental flaws. If the whole idea of ARM is to give Orion/SLS system a test in deep space then they should actually send a crew *to* an asteroid IN DEEP SPACE. Grabbing an asteroid and then bringing it back to a location close to Earth via robot such that Orion can visit it totally undermines the purpose of a deep space test. Its like lowering a basketball hoop to make it easier for you to sink the ball. Your test now becomes a stunt. It would be vastly simpler and less expensive to send a robotic mission to characterize the target asteroid - if asteroid characterization was the main goal.
If a true test of Orion/SLS systems in a risky environment - for a first flight - was the goal, then NASA should do just that. But to suggest that a Mars Flyby is a good way to do this test is to run in the exact opposite direction - for a first mission. Operating much closer to Earth ARM has the virtue of providing a contingency return if any critical systems fail on their first flight. Mars Flyby commits to everything with no way to abort. The crew is along for a 500+ day ride no matter what.
So ARM is too wimpy and Mars Flyby is too risky. How do we test Orion/SLS? And oh yes, everyone is waving their arms as to whether either mission "helps us get to Mars". Well, if you have already decided that Orion/SLS is the only (preferred) way you want to send humans to Mars then ANY flight has to provide some value. Of course some missions provide more bang for the buck than others. So people saying that it doesn't help us get to Mars are simply playing politics with their preferred mission.
The issue as I see it is how you use this absurdly expensive system in a strategic, systematic way that reduces real risk without taking unreasonable risks and demonstrates systems and technologies specifically needed to land people on Mars. You need a firm goal, and a long term plan for what you do once you get to Mars and build backward from what it takes to meet those goals.
Here's the problem: NASA has no firm plan, goals, destinations, and it doesn't even have the slightest hint of any evidence that a budget significant enough to make Mars exploration possible is in the cards. "Some time in the 2030s" is not a policy to send humans to Mars. Its a punchline for policy wonks to use.
Indeed there is not enough money NOW in order to get started. Moreover, we have one singular government solution (Orion/SLS) irreparably mandated by a collision of meandering policies from successive White Houses with overt pork preservation tactics by Congress. No discussion of alternate approaches is possible. And when one private sector alternate approach appeared (the original Inspiration Mars) it was immediately abducted by big aerospace companies and morphed so as to now justify the Orion/SLS - the very thing it originally sought to eclipse.
Have I missed anything?
- Bolden: Inspiration Mars is Not Inspirational, earlier post
- Is Inspiration Mars a "NASA Mission"? It Depends Who You Ask, earlier post
Surrendering in Space, Paul Spudis
"The program was divided into four segments, one for each area of national concern. A five-minute news overview preceded each segment, followed by a four-member panel discussion of each report's content. Space advocates should take sober notice that the panelists - all well-read, highly regarded Beltway pundits (from both ends of the political spectrum) - appear to be fairly uninformed about many of the space policy issues. But consider: they are representative of the intelligent general public, to whom we wish to convince of the value and importance of space."
Keith's note: And of course, this aired on Fox so everyone blamed President Obama for implementing the decision made by President Bush to retire the Space Shuttle and none of them has ever heard of SpaceX. And none of them could smell the pork aspect of the SLS. Again, this program aired on Fox. That said, Paul Spudis manages to distill what these talking heads said, or might have said, or should have said, and thus explains why U.S. space policy is adrift and is a pale reflection of what it once was or could be - minus the Fox snark. Not that MSNBC or CNN can do much better with their own flavor of clueless snarkiness, of course.
Walker and Logsdon debating what Columbia Acdnt Inv Bd said about shuttle. Logsdon: Bush decision to kill shuttle was "stupid" #AsimovDebate— Marcia Smith (@SpcPlcyOnline) March 20, 2014
Logsdon on the decision by Bush Administration in 2004 to retire shuttle: "It was a stupid decision." #asimovdebate— Jeff Foust (@jeff_foust) March 20, 2014
It's Time To Retire The Shuttle, John Logsdon, 16 October 2008, Washington Post
"The shuttle is also very expensive to operate; this year's shuttle budget is close to $3 billion. If the United States continues to spend that money on flying the shuttle beyond 2010, it will take even longer to develop a replacement vehicle, further delaying U.S. plans to venture beyond low Earth orbit. ... The space shuttle is a remarkable technological achievement, but replacing it soon is the best path to the future. We should not let false pride or international tensions get in the way of an intelligent approach to exploring the final frontier."
Keith's note: John Logsdon was for shutting down the Space Shuttle program - before he thought it was "stupid".
"The Space Frontier Foundation believes that space settlement is the real reason to have a space program, and therefore we insist on measuring every policy or project against that purpose ...
... A lot of people are perfectly content on using ever more powerful telescopes and robotics to explore the universe - and maybe sending people - later. And these perfectly rational people can make a logical, cogent argument for that as the purpose for funding NASA - and for deciding what to fund or not to fund. That's the problem with idealistic space goals that proceed from a single personalized and narrow premise (bias): they mean nothing if the person you are talking to does not agree with you within the first few sentences. Its like looking at the world (or the universe) through a straw and then trying to proclaim policies that apply to everything outside the narrow field of view of the straw. You don't see what other people see or incorporate it into your world view. In a slightly larger sense this is the problem that all space advocacy groups have. They just assume a priori that everyone thinks space is cool in and of itself and that money should therefore be spent on things that space advocates think are cool. The real world takes a back seat. Small wonder space advocates have not made much headway in the past few decades."
"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."
Garver Drove Shift In Space Policy, Aviation Week Person of the Year (#2)
"Lori Garver does not inspire ambivalence. Few who worked with her when she was deputy NASA administrator came away from the experience with a neutral opinion. To some, she is a ruthless powerhouse whose abrasive ego has run roughshod over opponents, leaving in her wake lost careers and hurt feelings as she trashed policy adversaries among the U.S. space agency's civil servants and congressional backers. To others, she labored tirelessly to put the U.S. space program on a more realistic footing, redirecting it from its role as an overtasked, underfunded government pork barrel. In this view, Garver has been key in moving NASA toward a true public-private partnership where the government will only take on pre-commercial projects before they generate any profit."
"SUMMARY: This is an amended version of NASA's earlier Federal Register Notice (13-153) previously published on December 23, 2013 (78 FR 77501). A USA toll free conference call number has been added to SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION."
"Notice anything missing? NASA is not offering Webex or dial in access to these meetings - something that the NAC has been offering for the past several years for its activities (these three are non-NAC committees). Several of these committees have had remote access before. By denying such access to these meetings, NASA is deliberately inhibiting the the public's ability to observe these meetings thus decreasing openness and transparency - something that all government agencies have been directed to do."
"Although we understand that our ISS Partners' governments may not yet be ready to make a decision with respect to ISS extension to at least 2024, we hope that each of the ISS Partners will come to a similar decision through its own government process."
"The ISS is a unique facility that offers enormous scientific and societal benefits," said Holdren. "The Obama Administration's decision to extend its life until at least 2024 will allow us to maximize its potential, deliver critical benefits to our Nation and the world, and maintain American leadership in space."
"The space station has plenty of supporters -- not least because of the economic angle. In 2011, NASA bought goods and services in 396 of the 435 congressional districts. One example: Florida's space industry took a big hit after the end of the space shuttle program in 2011. So it's no surprise that Florida Sen. Bill Nelson is in favor of keeping the space station aloft: "This means more jobs at the Kennedy Space Center as we rebuild our entire space program." But there are other arguments, too. Rep. John Culberson (R-Tex.), a member of the House appropriations committee in charge of NASA funding, applauded the move on national-interest grounds. ""It's inevitable and I'm delighted that NASA understands the value of ensuring that America continues to hold the high ground."
"We may have different flags patched to our space suits, and different cultures, traditions, and political systems. But as the success of the ISS has shown, we can transcend these differences in space."
Never Give Up, Never Surrender!, opinion, Clay Anderson
"It is time for all of us to step up and proclaim that we will "never give up and never surrender" our pre-eminence in space leadership. It is time for us to contact our representatives and voice our opinions that NASA is worth it. Yes, there are naysayers out there; people who believe that NASA is its own intergalactic "collapsing star," where U.S. tax dollars disappear like rays of light into a black hole's event horizon, with little to no visible benefits."
"First, we should encourage more countries to participate in the activities of the International Space Station. The Station remains the leading space platform for global research and development. The Station is the foundation for future human exploration to an asteroid, the Moon, and ultimately Mars. And it is a lasting testament to how much more we can accomplish together than we can on our own. Second, we should explore ways to encourage entrepreneurial ventures and support the kind of robust and competitive commercial space sector that is vital to the next era of space exploration. Already, two U.S. companies - Space X and Orbital Sciences - have become the first private sector entities to send missions to the International Space Station, allowing NASA to focus on cutting edge missions beyond low earth orbit."
Keith's note: Have a look at the Federal Register notices for these upcoming advisory committee meetings at NASA in January:
Notice anything missing? NASA is not offering Webex or dial in access to these meetings - something that the NAC has been offering for the past several years for its activities (these three are non-NAC committees). Several of these committees have had remote access before. By denying such access to these meetings, NASA is deliberately inhibiting the the public's ability to observe these meetings thus decreasing openness and transparency - something that all government agencies have been directed to do.
As noted in "Unexplained NASA Advisory Council Changes (Update)" posted last month, NASA said "Under the 2013 NAC Charter, the number of NAC meetings per year is approximately three. Under the 2011 NAC Charter, it was approximately four. The decision to reduce the number of NAC meetings per year was driven by budget considerations."
Is NASA really trying to save money by not offering Webex or dial-in access to some of its advisory meetings? If so, there are ways to do simple audio streams and posting of presentations that should cost virtually nothing - in the real world, that is. Indeed, if NASA finds physical meetings too expensive, the easiest and most cost effective thing for them to do is use remote access whenever possible!
Indeed, the ASAP and ISS committee meetings are only an hour long. Think of all the money NASA is spending to fly people in for a one hour meeting when they could dial in or participate via WebEx.
Keith's note: Lori Garver, Scott Pace, Mike Gold, and Joel Achenbach were guests on Diane Rhem Show (radio) today at 11:00 am EST
Lori Garver said that she favored cancellation of SLS and Mars 2020 rover. Scott Pace spoke enthusiastically about SpaceX launching commercial satellites and bringing that service back to America. Mike Gold tried to explain Bob Bigelow's recent statements about private propery ownership of things on the Moon. And Joel Achenbach said he does not think we should become a multiplanet species until we have fixed all of our problems on Earth (in other words, never).
"The Obama Administration has proposed a record five-year investment of nearly $92 billion in NASA to maintain America's leadership in space exploration and spur scientific and technical discovery here on Earth. Although not all of this funding has been approved, NASA has still been racking up extraordinary accomplishments, including: ... "
"The United States has long been a leader in space, and President Obama remains committed to maintaining America's competitiveness in the aerospace sector. The National Space Transportation Policy the President signed today will ensure that the United States stays on the cutting edge by maintaining space transportation capabilities that are innovative, reliable, efficient, competitive, and affordable, and that support U.S. interests."
- President Obama's National Space Transportation Policy: A Bold Vision for Space, NASA
- Boeing Statement on President's National Space Transportation Policy, Boeing
- New National Space Transportation Policy Reaffirms that Investment in Space is a Good Investment for the Future of Our Nation, Coalition for Space Exploration
- Committee Democrats Comment on the National Space Transportation Policy, House Science Committee
Lots of Meetings But No Unified Message on Future Space Exploration, SpacePolicyOnline (Marcia Smith)
"Four meetings in Washington, D.C. over this past week addressed the future of space exploration, but no unified message emerged. There was a focus on the role of the entrepreneurial NewSpace private sector and public-private partnerships, but also on the traditional model of government contracting with major aerospace companies. Integrating what all of the prominent individuals involved in these events wanted the public and policymakers to hear is challenging. That is not to imply that the organizers - a potpourri of government and non-government institutions -- intended there to be an integrated message from four separate events, but in an era when a cohesive rationale for and approach to space exploration is needed, such an outcome would have been helpful. Instead, it was more of a scattershot experience. Four events featuring a variety of new and established players arguing in favor of space exploration from various viewpoints. Here's a quick rundown."
"By spreading its funds across the country, and having 10 field centers, NASA can count on a broad political base. But by having so many fiefdoms (the NASA centers), and feeling compelled to spread contracts across the country, the space agency ends up being horribly inefficient and accomplishing significantly less than it could. I'm not sure there's the political will to fix a problem that's been evident for four decades any time soon."
Notice of renewal and amendment of the charter of the NASA Advisory Council
"Pursuant to sections 14(b)(1) and 9(c) of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (Pub. L. 92-463), and after consultation with the Committee Management Secretariat, General Services Administration, the NASA Administrator has determined that renewal and amendment of the charter of the NASA Advisory Council is in the public interest in connection with the performance of duties imposed on NASA by law. The renewed charter is for a two-year period ending October 24, 2015. It is identical to the previous charter in all respects except with regard to information pertaining to annual operating costs and number of meetings per year."
Keith's note: This item appeared in yesterday's Federal Register. I asked the NAC and NASA PAO:
- Has the cost of the NAC gone up or down? How much does the NAC cost NASA per year?
ANSWER: The annual operating cost for NAC has gone down. In the 2011 NAC Charter, the cost was estimated at $1.8M and in the 2013 NAC Charter, the cost is estimated at $1.1M.
- How many NAC meetings will there be under the new charter? What is the rationale for changing the number of meetings?
ANSWER: Under the 2013 NAC Charter, the number of NAC meetings per year is approximately three. Under the 2011 NAC Charter, it was approximately four. The decision to reduce the number of NAC meetings per year was driven by budget considerations.
- Can you send me the full text of the new charter - as amended?
ANSWER: A PDF of the 2013 NAC Charter is attached.
NASA Wants You To Nominate New Advisors For It To Ignore, earlier post
Keith's note: The NAS Space Studies Board is meeting today. Here is the webex Link that the NAS doesn't want you to know about. Their PR office told me several weeks ago that they would be letting media know about webcasting in advance of their meetings. They never sent me anything despite their pledge to do so. You have to know which internal NASA webpage to go to in order to download an agenda that has the links on them. Alas when you dial in the audio is so faint that you can't really hear what people are saying. Here are the presentations (not that there is anything interesting)
- Space Studies Board is (Not Really) Interested In What You Think, earlier post
"Newt Gingrich was famously ridiculed during his 2012 presidential campaign for declaring that he would work toward establishing a colony on the moon if he were elected president. But the former Republican presidential candidate and Speaker of House is still dreaming about space exploration and told "Top Line" he would like to travel to space, "if I get the chance." "This is a good example of what's wrong with the current political system," Gingrich said. "I gave a serious speech in Florida at the Space Coast outlining a very bold strategy. ... I got savaged by two of my competitors, Romney and Santorum, who deliberately distorted the speech. I got ridiculed by 'Saturday Night Live.'" Gingrich, who now hosts a show on CNN, writes in his newest book "Breakout" that Washington is a city full of "prison guards of the past," who are slowing the pace of innovation in fields like space exploration."
- Different Takes on Newt Gingrich's Space Ideas, earlier post
- Gingrich Talks About Space Policy in Florida (Update), earlier post
- Other posts on Newt Gingrich
"What is sad to me is that NASA has always been above politics," says Nelson, who flew aboard Shuttle Columbia for six days as a payload specialist in 1986. "Now it's gotten to be a partisan issue and that is a sad day for the country."
Keith's note: Politics? Senator Nelson laments the appearance of politics in space policy?! Stunning news. But wait:
A. How did Nelson get to ride on the Space Shuttle?
B. Who forced the White House to pick Charlie Bolden?
C. Who forced the Administration's hand on SLS aka "the big rocket"?
- and so on. What a hypocrite.
A Last Chance to Tell the NRC *YOUR* Ideas for Human Spaceflight -- Via Twitter, Space Policy Online
"The National Research Council's (NRC's) Committee on Human Spaceflight is offering everyone a last chance to provide their ideas on the future of the human spaceflight program via a Twitter chat tomorrow, October 29, 2013. This is the first time the NRC is using social media to obtain input from the public. Anyone who wants to participate should tweet their ideas using the hashtag #humansinspace. Input will be accepted during a 27 hour period on October 29 -- from midnight Eastern Daylight Time through the next midnight Pacific Daylight Time."
Keith's note: "Everyone"? I don't think so. The SSB only told a handful of people about this last minute Twitter thing. What is really odd is that they did not even bother to inform the media or larger websites that could help spread the word. Indeed, they only told their panel members at the last minute. Oddly, just last week, NAS SSB staff specifically asked me to come in to talk to them on this topic and promised to keep me in the loop on things like this. So much for that.
I am not certain how the NAS SSB expects to get much input if they hide notices on their website and only drop a hint on one or two inside the beltway websites and tweet once to accounts with a hundred or so followers. Yes, I know things go viral easily - but a little strategic thinking and some serious visibility could have been achieved. Indeed, what about the rest of the 300 million people (i.e. "everyone") who pay to operate NASA - and also pay the NAS SSB for their $3.6 million studies?
"NASA invites nominations for service on NASA science advisory subcommittees of the NASA Advisory Council. U.S. citizens may nominate individuals and also submit self-nominations for consideration as potential members of NASA's science advisory subcommittees. NASA's science advisory subcommittees have member vacancies from time to time throughout the year, and NASA will consider nominations and self-nominations to fill such intermittent vacancies. NASA is committed to selecting members to serve on its science advisory subcommittees based on their individual expertise, knowledge, experience, and current/past contributions to the relevant subject area."
"NASA announces its annual invitation for public nominations for service on NASA Federal advisory committees. U.S. citizens may nominate individuals and also submit self- nominations for consideration as potential members of NASA's Federal advisory committees."
"At a public event today at New York's American Museum of Natural History, the Association of Space Explorers (ASE), a professional society of astronauts and cosmonauts, issued a challenge to the global community to take the next vital steps to confront the threat from dangerous asteroids. The ASE Committee on Near-Earth Objects statement follows the United Nations General Assembly adoption if a suite of proposals to create an international decision-making mechanism for planetary asteroid defense."
Keith's note: Neil Tyson will be talking about "Delusions of Space Enthusiasts" on Wednesday from 9:00 - 10:00 am EDT at the National Academy of Sciences' Human Spaceflight panel. WebEx Access Call-in toll-free number: 1-(866) 668-0721 Conference Code: 448 560 9647. If none of these things work check here.
NAS will only allow 150 people to watch on WebEx. What is baffling is why the NAS can't simply do a Google Hangout. All you need is a laptop and the potential reach of their "public" events would be vastly enhanced. And it is free too. Of course, the NAS goes out of its way not to tell anyone about this "public" presentation. Only wonks and media can usually figure out what's going on in these meetings.
Keith's update: If you did not tune in to Tyson's presentation you did not miss much. He referred to slides a lot - but the NAS did not show his slides. Nor did the NAS capture the presentation for posting on YouTube. Based on his somewhat rambling presentation this morning, it is clear Tyson is not a big fan of commercial space. He thinks that only governments can lead the way in space and that commerce can only follow. He said that due to risk and expense one cannot valuate space from a commercial perspective. He also more or less dismissed the notion out of hand that America has ever really done anything in space for scientific, exploratory, or inspirational purposes and thinks that everything done in space can be traced back to war funding. He also dismissed the notion that investing in NASA has significant economic payback.
Thoughts on @neiltyson ? Disagree w pessimistic view on commercial space future & we have the extraordinary members to back it up!— CSF Spaceflight (@csf_spaceflight) October 23, 2013
Keith's note: Only after today's event began did the NAS Space Studies Board bother to tweet that there was a Webex feed for this meeting - something they only added to the event's page after the fact. Bill Gerstenmaier is speaking on "Status on HSF Plans and Challenges" . Call-in toll-free number: 1-(866) 668-0721 Conference Code: 448 560 9647
Attendees in the audience at the event were unaware that this event was being webcast or available on telephone dial-in. Indeed, I asked the SSB ahead of time and they said it would not be webcast or audiocast so I came into town only to learn that I could have listened from my office. Thanks guys. The National Academy of Sciences' Space Studies Board has been chronically uninterested in making these "public" meetings truly "public" - as are other NAS events, Congressional hearings, and NASA Advisory Council meetings. Is this Webex visibility a trend - or a fluke? We'll see.
Neil Tyson will be talking about "Delusions of Space Enthusiasts" on Wednesday from 9:00 - 10:00 am EDT. WebEx Access Call-in toll-free number: 1-(866) 668-0721 Conference Code: 448 560 9647. Otherwise, this committee's efforts tomorrow and part of Wednesday will be devoted to closed door sessions that SSB doesn't seem to feel that anyone needs to know about (who is speaking etc.) - even though 100% of the cost of these meetings is paid for by NASA.
"Net result: the committee's advice will be out of synch with reality and somewhat overtaken by events having taken a total of 3 years, 7 months to complete. Oh yes: the cost of this study? $3.6 million.. The soonest that a NASA budget could be crafted that took this committee's advice into account would be the FY 2016 budget request. NASA and OMB will interact on the FY 2016 budget during Fall 2014 and it won't be announced until early 2015 - 4 1/2 years after this committee and its advice was requested in the NASA Authorization Act 2010."
"This self-perpetuating space policy echo chamber existed before sequesters, shutdowns, and CRs and it will continue to exist once this current budget nonsense is resolved - and it will survive as future congressional calamities ensue. Yet people still wonder why, after all these years, the process whereby space policy is developed sucks so very much - and why NASA finds it harder and harder to do what it is chartered to do."
American Human Spaceflight Floundering, Opinion, Mark Sykes, SpaceNews
"A workshop of experts met recently in Washington to review and discuss the Asteroid Retrieval Mission (ARM). It is apparent that the mission is poorly conceived and lacking in basic planning, and carries huge cost and schedule risk that is more dumb than heroic. NASA may not know it yet, but ARM is dead, and the future of American human spaceflight is again in question. Perhaps it is time to move away from stunt as policy -- a tragic legacy of the Apollo program. If we are going to confront a true frontier like space, we need to ask some basic questions to find out what is possible or at least practical. Then we can define long-term goals with a real plan to achieve them."
Bolden's Confusing Asteroid Mission Rationale (Revised), earlier post
"To be blunt, there is no compelling rationale for the Asteroid Redirect & Return Mission (ARRM). There never has been. Based on the way that Charlie Bolden continually stumbles through his conflicting explanation of what the mission is and is not, there never will be a clear reason why it needs to be done."
- Asteroid Experts Are Not Very Fond of NASA's Asteroid Mission, earlier post
"This meeting is closed in its entirety."
Keith's note: Sigh, yet another NAS SSB meeting on "public and stakeholder Opinions" that is closed to the "public" and "stakeholders" i.e. the taxpayers who paid for it. As previously noted on NASA Watch, these expensive ($3.6 million) panels, composed of the usual suspects plus a few newbies, take years to churn out an end product. The product is watered down and is biased toward the pre-ordained opinions of Congress, the committee, and the select consultants that the SSB consults. No description is ever presented to the public as to how input is solicited, processed, or collated - nor does the public have any recourse whereby they can find out how the committee conducted itself.
The end result is presented to Congress. Congress reads the cover page, holds a hearing, and asks NASA to respond within 90 days to questions that miss the original point that the NAS committee was chartered to discuss. The White House then ignores the report - as does NASA - and Congress. Everyone then pats themselves on the back - and the process starts all over again - ignoring everything that the NAS SSB just did.
Because that is how it is done.
This self-perpetuating space policy echo chamber existed before sequesters, shutdowns, and CRs and it will continue to exist once this current budget nonsense is resolved - and it will survive as future congressional calamities ensue.
Yet people still wonder why, after all these years, the process whereby space policy is developed sucks so very much - and why NASA finds it harder and harder to do what it is chartered to do.
"Net result: the committee's advice will be out of synch with reality and somewhat overtaken by events having taken a total of 3 years, 7 months to complete. Oh yes: the cost of this study? $3.6 million.. The soonest that a NASA budget could be crafted that took this committee's advice into account would be the FY 2016 budget request. NASA and OMB will interact on the FY 2016 budget during Fall 2014 and it won't be announced until early 2015 - 4 1/2 years after this committee and its advice was requested in the NASA Authorization Act 2010."
"Charlie Bolden listens (I guess) to what the committee members have to say and then ignores 99% of what is said. Its mostly a slow-motion Kabuki theater: NASA people moving in the shadows - but little real substance up front."
"Bolden, a retired Marine Corps major general and former shuttle commander loyal to his troops and trusted by lawmakers, had quickly lost the White House's confidence in his ability to explain and defend administration policy. During his first week on the job, NASA abruptly canceled a long list of scheduled media interviews with Bolden after the White House took issue with his performance during a televised all-hands meeting. Among the causes for concern, current and former administration officials have told SpaceNews, was Bolden's off-script comments about the Moon and Mars and the role NASA would play in a National Security Council-led space policy review then getting underway. "When the budget came out, they were not comfortable he could defend it," one official said. Subsequent NASA press briefings often were held via teleconference with Bolden reading an opening statement before turning it over to Garver or another official to field questions. It is Garver who will forever be known as the champion of NASA's Commercial Crew initiative, which aims to outsource crew transportation to and from the international space station."
"NASA announces its annual invitation for public nominations for service on NASA Federal advisory committees. U.S. citizens may nominate individuals and also submit self- nominations for consideration as potential members of NASA's Federal advisory committees. NASA's Federal advisory committees have member vacancies from time to time throughout the year, and NASA will consider nominations and self-nominations to fill such intermittent vacancies. NASA is committed to selecting members to serve on its Federal advisory committees based on their individual expertise, knowledge, experience, and current/past contributions to the relevant subject area."
Keith's note: Having sat through more NAC meetings and subcommittee meetings than I can count over the past 25 years, I have to say that while there is some useful discussion, most of what is presented is rewarmed content that has been heard or discussed elsewhere. Once in a while someone climbs on a soapbox and rants (sometimes about something important) but the issue fades as soon as they are on the plane headed home. Charlie Bolden listens (I guess) to what the committee members have to say and then ignores 99% of what is said. Its mostly a slow-motion Kabuki theater: NASA people moving in the shadows - but little real substance up front.
Further, by the time anything ends up in a formal letter or report most of the teeth have been removed. Only the National Academy of Sciences does a better job at watering down real issues than the NAC. That said, it is good to have people on these committees who will sometimes try and do the right thing. These committees are only as good as the people who serve on them - so please nominate some good people - so they can try.
"George Washington University (GWU) space policy experts John Logsdon and Scott Pace agree NASA is adrift today, particularly with regard to the human spaceflight program, and blame the White House for a lack of leadership. ... Both believe NASA is adrift today and criticized the Obama Administration for its lack of leadership. Logsdon stressed that when he talks about a lack of leadership he is referring more to the White House than to NASA itself."
NRC Warns Landsat-Type Data Not Sustainable Under Current Practices, Space Policy Online
"The National Research Council (NRC) today issued its much-anticipated report on how to ensure continuity of Landsat-type land imaging data. The bottom line is that a sustained program is not viable under current mission development and management practices. Instead, the NRC calls for a "systematic and deliberate program" instead of the "historical pattern of chaotic programmatic support and ad hoc design and implementation of spacecraft and sensors" that has characterized the Landsat program to date.
... In short, the report calls for a "systematic and deliberate program with the goal of continuing to collect vital data within lower, well-defined, manageable budgets" to "replace the historical pattern of chaotic programmatic support and ad hoc design and implementation of spacecraft and sensors in the Landsat series.""
At anniversary of Curiosity landing, recommit to planetary science: Adam Schiff (D-CA), Op-Ed Los Angeles Daily News
"One might think that the latest round of draconian cuts are driven by reductions to the federal budget -- and, in turn, to NASA's budget -- necessary to reduce our debt and deficit. But that isn't the case. To the president's credit, NASA's overall budget hasn't been targeted and remains largely flat, a signal achievement when domestic discretionary spending is at its lowest levels since the Eisenhower Administration. Instead, time and again, deficit hawks in the Office of Management and Budget have targeted specific parts of the NASA portfolio for disproportionate cuts, and none more so than arguably the most successful of all NASA's recent achievements -- planetary science.
And for whatever reason, the "crown jewel" of the planetary science program, Mars, is in the crosshairs and the men and women of JPL know it. Last year, as a way to highlight the budget cuts, some workers hosted a bake sale, and in an effort to cut back non-essential programs and activities in the wake of sequestration, popular outreach programs like the JPL's annual open house have been cancelled, as have visits to classrooms and other educational activities."
"Dear. Sr. Squyres:
Enclosed are NASA's responses to the nine recommendations from the NASA Advisory Council meeting held April 24-25, 2013, at NASA Headquarters. Please do not hesitate to contact me if the Council would like further background on the responses. I appreciate the Council's thoughtful consideration leading to the recommendations and welcome its continued findings, recommendations, and advice concerning the U.S. civil space program.
Charles F. Bolden, Jr. Administrator"
"(2) Draft Finding - Travel Restrictions
The current NASA and government restrictions on travel and attendance at workshops, conferences, science team meetings, etc. is severely impacting the ability of the planetary science and engineering communities to conduct their work. The increased level of oversight forces a disproportionate amount of time and effort by agency personnel to comply with the necessary waivers and forms to attend such functions at the expense of focusing on NASA goals and objectives. In addition, these travel restrictions undermine the effective planning of domestic and international meetings by suppressing attendance in a manner that is difficult to predict, limiting vital interactions of individuals working on projects and missions relevant to NASA interests.
(9) DRAFT FINDING - Relevance of ARRM to Planetary Defense
Given the size of the ARRM target (< 10m), ARRM has limited relevance to planetary defense. Retrieving a NEO this small only tangentially benefits planetary defense, as the stated target body may not be representative of the larger, hazardous bodies."
Keith's note: Although this document has been widely circulated, these are DRAFT findings and are subject to change. A final version will be issued next week and will replace this draft version.
Marc's note: I've only highlighted two of the findings here but there are several others worth reading.
Loony or logical? Bill favors national park on moon, Florida Today
"Imagine a U.S. National Park like Yellowstone or the Great Smoky Mountains on the moon, one that would protect artifacts left behind by the Apollo astronauts. Sound crazy? It's not as far-fetched as it seems.
A bill introduced in Congress recently would "endow the artifacts as a National Historic Park, thereby asserting unquestioned ownership rights over the Apollo lunar landing artifacts."
U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., and Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, are co-sponsoring "The Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act" -- also known as H.R. 2617."
Marc's note: Protecting the Apollo sites within the legal framework of the U.S. is one thing, and might makes sense. Using UNESCO to make the sites "World Heritage Sites" is an international legal conundrum. While the U.S. is a signatory of the 1969 Outer Space Treaty it has not signed the 1979 Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies. The Bill might protect the sites from U.S. citizens disturbing them but has no international legal standing. However, merely passing the Bill might deter other nations citizens from disturbing the sites.
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."
"As you may know, last week the United States Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and extended equal protection to all legal marriages in America, regardless of gender. This will affect the Federal benefits available to legally married same-sex couples. For the purposes of Federal benefits, legally married means that the marriage was celebrated in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage.
... Today, NASA will begin a series of communications on Qualifying Life Events inclusive of all legally married NASA employees, their spouses, and their children."
"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."
Space Exploration Dollars Dwarf Ocean Spending, National Geographic
"In fiscal year 2013 NASA's annual exploration budget was roughly $3.8 billion. That same year, total funding for everything NOAA does--fishery management, weather and climate forecasting, ocean research and management, among many other programs--was about $5 billion, and NOAA's Office of Exploration and Research received just $23.7 million. Something is wrong with this picture. Space travel is certainly expensive. But as Cameron proved with his dive that cost approximately $8 million, deep-sea exploration is pricey as well. And that's not the only similarity between space and ocean travel: Both are dark, cold, and completely inhospitable to human life. ... This imbalance in pop culture is illustrative of what plays out in real life. We rejoiced along with the NASA mission-control room when the Mars rover landed on the red planet late last year. One particularly exuberant scientist, known as "Mohawk Guy" for his audacious hairdo, became a minor celebrity and even fielded his share of spontaneous marriage proposals. But when Cameron bottomed out in the Challenger Deep more than 36,000 feet below the surface of the sea, it was met with resounding indifference from all but the dorkiest of ocean nerds such as myself."
"We understand why it's important to reach for the stars, to look at ourselves in perspective of the universe, ask big questions such as where did we come from, how is it that we're here in this blue speck in space, and where are we going? And we've devoted a great amount of time and resources to moving forward, but meanwhile we've neglected understanding how this part of the solar system - our home - our life support system - how this really functions."
The Call of Mars, Buzz Aldrin Op-Ed, New York Times
"I am calling for a unified international effort to explore and utilize the Moon, a partnership that involves commercial enterprise and other nations building upon Apollo. Let me emphasize: A second "race to the Moon" is a dead end. America should chart a course of being the leader of this international activity to develop the Moon. The United States can help other nations do things that they want to do, a fruitful avenue for U.S. foreign policy and diplomacy."
"A step in the right direction is creating an International Lunar Development Corporation, customized to draw upon the legacy of lessons learned from such endeavors as the International Geophysical Year (whose purpose was to get scientists all over the world to focus on the physics and atmosphere of the Earth), the International Space Station program, as well as model organizations such as Intelsat and the European Space Agency. Space collaboration should be the new norm, including the tapping of talented Chinese, Indian and other space experts from around the globe."
"In my view, U.S. resources are better spent on moving toward establishing a human presence on Mars. I envision a comprehensive plan that would lead to permanent human settlement on Mars in the next 25 years. "
Marc's note: Buzz, I like it in a big picture kind of way. However, I see a few practical problems with your plan. 1) The economics of it. How are you going to sell this grand vision? And who's going to pay for it? We've got ventures trying to get to the moon now, but no ones got there yet and funding is very hard to come by. 2) Some in Congress won't like the idea of working with China, so how are you going to sell that. 3) What's the cost of implementing your Mars settlement plan? And who'se going to pay for it?
The public needs more than to be inspired by grand visions. They need to be sold on the economics of it and how it will benefit them. The Collins and Lampson op-ed below, "Space Exploration Is Imperative to Innovation and Inspiration", has part of the answer, but people need to be convinced that the investment for innovation will lead somewhere. They certainly don't want to pay for someone else to settle on Mars.
AIP FYI #102: The AIP Bulletin of Science Policy News - Update on OMB Travel Restrictions, American Institute of Physics
"The OMB recently issued a 3 1/2 page "Controller Alert: Travel and Conferences" document recognizing the important role that meetings play in the conduct of scientific research. The unsigned and undated memorandum advises that the previously announced spending reductions will continue and details implementation procedures for acceptable travel expenses. This alert, which appears on the website of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), states:"
Suborbital Research Enters a Time of Transition, The Space Review
"Several years ago, the idea of using the new generation of suborbital reusable launch vehicles under development, like Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo and XCOR Aerospace's Lynx, for research applications was not widely accepted. These and other vehicles were seen primarily as serving the space tourism market."
"Scientists, vehicle developers, and others did come to that NSRC, and the three that followed, including the one last week in the Denver suburb of Broomfield, Colorado. With a community of researchers now sold on the potential benefits of using suborbital reusable launch vehicles--low cost, high flight rates, and in some cases human-tended payloads--versus sounding rockets or orbital platforms, the challenge apparent at last week's meeting was keeping the timelines for developing experiments and the vehicles that will fly them in sync."
Download This One-Page Summary on the Threat to Planetary Science, Planetary Society
"When we visit legislators or staff members in Congress we always provide them with a "leave-behind" to reinforce our position. This tends to be a one page summary of our reason for visiting, which right now is about stopping the proposed cuts to NASA's Planetary Science Division in next year's budget."
And here's the Planetary Society's solution to the issue: "Implement the science priorities of the NRC decadal survey. Provide $1.5 billion annually (same as FY12) to NASA's Planetary Science Division, a re-balance of less than 2% of NASA's total budget."
Back to the Moon? Not any time soon, says Bolden, Space Politics
"However, [Bolden] made it clear NASA has no plans to lead its own human return to the Moon under his watch. "NASA will not take the lead on a human lunar mission," he said. "NASA is not going to the Moon with a human as a primary project probably in my lifetime. And the reason is, we can only do so many things." Instead, he said the focus would remain on human missions to asteroids and to Mars. "We intend to do that, and we think it can be done."
"At one point, Bolden teared up and said that "Mars is the Goal". Bolden claimed that he was intent upon going to the White House, "pounding his shoe on the table", and demanding a commitment from President Obama to direct NASA to send humans to Mars. Bolden said that he needs that commitment to allow him to decide what to do (not do) with regard to extending the ISS."
Keith's note: There is no mention of an Administration committment to a human mission to Mars in the NASA FY 2014 Budget. Either Charlie Bolden never pounded his shoe at the White House - or (more likely) they were not listening when he did.
"A bipartisan Senate Appropriations Committee budget for the rest of fiscal year 2013 continues strong funding for NASA's Space Launch System and calls on the agency to speed up its construction. The measure released by committee leadership Monday night gives the overall SLS program $2.1 billion for the rest of the fiscal year, including $260 million for ground-related launch support construction, and also provides $515 million for NASA's commercial crew program."
"This Act includes $17,862,000,000 for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). A table of specific funding allocations for NASA is delineated below, and additional detail may be found under the relevant account headings."
"The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) hereby directs each Federal agency with over $100 million in annual conduct of research and development expenditures to develop a plan to support increased public access to the results of research funded by the Federal Government."
"So why is the AAS supportive of open access? "Because we're already in compliance with the administration's new guidelines," says AAS Executive Officer Kevin B. Marvel. "Research articles from all AAS journals are available online, without charge, 12 months after their original date of publication, and they've been available that way for years."
Keith's update: Why NASA hasn't said anything about this? No mention at the NASA Open Government Initiative.
NASA Says It Cannot Advertise - and Then Buys Advertisements, (NASA Watch posting referenced in this NASA Advisory Council Chart).
Keith's 25 August 2011 note: I have lost count how many times people at NASA have told me that they cannot self-promote, advertise, lobby, or otherwise try to use standard marketing tools to inform the public of the things that they do. They always cite dire Congressional prohibitions against such activities. Then they go off and totally violate these prohibitions with advertising procurements such as this one. I am not certain that they actually know what it is they are allowed or not allowed to do and just throw this answer out when they do not want to do something.
Keith's update: This story has not changed. If you ask, NASA tells you that it cannot advertise. And then they do.
"Sustainable public advocacy will depend upon around bold goals and clear plans that warrant substantial investments. Writing in Reason magazine, Gregory Benford correlated public interest in space exploration with a natural desire for vicarious adventure. Benford observed that: "Much of the passion in science fiction springs from a deep-rooted human need: to reach out, to prefer movement to stasis, to understand." Accordingly, he concludes that NASA has a choice: "swing for the bleachers or die."
"On Thursday, the children arrived in the big recreation room and found a spacesuit waiting for them. "There's no one inside. That's fake!" one girl insisted. "I"m right here," said Leland Melvin, standing behind her, delighted at her defiant challenge. Melvin is an astronaut. "What do you think I do in this blue suit?" he asked, pointing to his flight suit. "Nothing," a bunch of kids wisecracked. It's a tough crowd. Every year, Melvin brings a NASA spacesuit and a slide show of his adventures in space. It doesn't hurt that he also tells the kids about his time in the NFL, getting drafted to play with the Detroit Lions. And then getting injured."
Keith's note: If you ask NASA for their plan - i.e. their strategy - guidance - goals - for engaging the public in education and public outreach activities they cannot provide you with one. Yet they always tell you (they think) that some one is working on one - but it doesn't cover everything that NASA does because NASA is incapable of adopting an agency-wide strategy or plan. And even if something resembling a plan starts to emerge, it never goes beyond draft stage due to infighting and turf disputes. After 4 years the NASA Advisory Council Committee on Education and Public Outreach has done absolutely nothing to address this situation. They are meeting in Washington in a week or so. Not sure why they even bother.
All this being said, you still see poignant attempts to go beyond the normal audiences such as Leland Melvin did at this homeless shelter. Alas, these activities go unnoticed since NASA is clueless as to how to inform others that they even take place. Oh yes - OMB is going to significantly cut NASA's Education budget for FY 2014 - again. And yet they will tell you with a straight face that the White House supports education blah blah blah. I guess its hard to totally blame NASA when the White House won't even stand behind its own rhetoric.
"At one point, Bolden teared up and said that "Mars is the Goal". Bolden claimed that he was intent upon going to the White House, "pounding his shoe on the table", and demanding a commitment from President Obama to direct NASA to send humans to Mars. Bolden said that he needs that commitment to allow him to decide what to do (not do) with regard to extending the ISS."
Keith's note: It has been more than 3 months since Bolden proclaimed his intent to go to the White House and bang his shoe if he did not get his way. In addition to not approving the L2 station, there is nothing in the FY 2014 budget passback regarding any additional, strong Mars commitment that Charlie Bolden declared must be in the budget (other than what the President has already said, that is). No word yet as to whether Bolden has requested a meeting at the White House for his shoe pounding event - although he was there last week and was told that he could not do some of the other things that he wanted to do. Stay tuned.
- Bolden Seeks To Force Mars Goal Commitment From Obama, earlier post
- Is It Time For Charlie Bolden To Pound His Shoe?, earlier post
"NASA Inspector General Paul K. Martin today released a report evaluating NASA's efforts to reduce unneeded Agency infrastructure. NASA is the ninth largest Federal Government real property holder, with over 124,000 acres and 4,900 buildings and other structures that have a replacement value of more than $30 billion. Primarily located at 10 Centers in Alabama, California, Florida, Maryland, Mississippi, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia, this property includes such technical facilities as wind tunnels, rocket test stands, and launch complexes and such non-technical facilities as office buildings, roads, fences, and utility systems."
"Guest List for the First Lady's Box State of the Union Address"
"Bobak Ferdowsi (Pasadena, CA) Flight Director, Mars Curiosity Rover
Bobak Ferdowsi, aka NASA's "Mohawk Guy," is a member of the Mars Curiosity rover team at NASA and Caltech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. After the successful landing of the Curiosity rover in August 2012, President Obama called to congratulate the team on their success, and singled out Bobak for his unique haircut that captured the imagination of millions of people around the world. The Curiosity rover is a car-sized robot equipped with a laser, chemistry set, and drill for assessing whether Mars ever had an environment able to support small life forms. Bobak is an Iranian-American and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) professional who, in addition to his inspiring day-to-day work on the Mars Curiosity mission, volunteers as a FIRST robotics mentor to get more boys and girls excited about STEM education."
Keith's note: Here's my audio interview with Bobak Ferdowsi, aka NASA's "Mohawk Guy", about his upcoming attendance of the President's State of the Union Speech as a guest of Mrs. Obama.
"During the last year in this role it has become abundantly clear, however, that as long as elements of the existing leadership of the NSS continue to pursue courses of action-- and perpetuate an atmosphere-- that are not in the best interests of the Society, the challenges the organization face will become insurmountable. For both professional and personal reasons, I have decided to pursue other opportunities."
Keith's note: The NSS really needs to get its act together. This organization is already on the borderline of irrelevancy. When good, talented people like Paul Damphousse leave, you know that something is very broken.
"...The above sentence in its implication says that a scientifically justifiable space program is the only means to continue its international leadership in space. This has been the underpinning of all NASA related strategic thinking for the past thirty years but is it still tenable, is it still complete to say so? It is my opinion that the answer is no and indeed it has never truly been the case and to think of space through this narrow lens is actually the reason that we have been unable to come to any kind of national consensus on space. The key word in their mandate is national consensus, not just a presidential fiat or even a consensus between the congress and the president. If we are to move forward toward a national consensus we must look beyond the scientific justifications for a space program and look at the broader aspects of national interest to underpin our reasoning."
NASA's Strategic Direction and the Need for a National Consensus, Briefing to FISO Telecon Jan. 30, 2013 Marcia Smith, SpacePolicyOnline.com, NRC Committee Member (link fixed)
"- NASA does not and cannot set its own strategic direction.
-- A national consensus is required
-- There is no national consensus at this time
- The administration should lead in developing that consensus, working with Congress, and holding technical consultations with potential international partners
- President Obama's proposal that an asteroid be the next destination for human spaceflight has not won broad support within or outside NASA, undermining the ability to establish a strategic direction.
- There is a mismatch between the programs Congress and the White House have directed NASA to pursue and the resources provided to accomplish them."
Keith's note: NASA's Future In-Space Operations (FISO) Working Group Telecons are held on a regular basis. But NASA doesn't really want to share the information with the public until after the fact (try and find links to this on NASA.gov). To further obscure access, they post presentations on a webserver at the University of Texas at Austin (not NASA.gov). This caveat is posted "Note: This is NOT a public telecon. You may share this link only with qualified participants. Feel free to share publicly our archive site, which is at http://spirit.as.utexas.edu/~fiso/archivelist.htm".
Here is how to listen in (until they change it): Future In-Space Operations (FISO) Working Group Telecon Wednesdays, 3pm EST Dial in: 877 921 5751 Passcode: 623679" Next week's topic is "CST-100 Program Status" Keith Reiley, Boeing". But you are not supposed to know that since most of us are not "qualified participants".
What is especially odd is this statement: "The content of these FISOWG telecon presentations are considered the intellectual property of the person who gave that presentation." Since when are NASA employee presentations not in the public domain when they pertain to the person's official responsibilities? Oh yes, then there is this: "Presentations, papers, visualizations, and graphics produces by the FISOWG and collaborators are archived here -- http://www.futureinspaceoperations.com/". Click on the link. It goes to "Future In-Space Operations Hints on dealing with aging difficulty related to physical attractiveness". Wow. The future of space has to do with physical attractiveness. Who knew?
Oh yes, I almost forgot. All of these FISO presentations are very cool. Too bad NASA has no idea how to make all of this more widely available and accessible.
NASA mulls plan to drag asteroid into moon's orbit, New Scientist
"Researchers with the Keck Institute for Space Studies in California have confirmed that NASA is mulling over their plan to build a robotic spacecraft to grab a small asteroid and place it in high lunar orbit. The mission would cost about $2.6 billion - slightly more than NASA's Curiosity Mars rover - and could be completed by the 2020s. .. Robotically bringing an asteroid to the moon instead would be a more attractive first step, the Keck researchers conclude, because an object orbiting the moon would be in easier reach of robotic probes and maybe even humans."
Keith's note: This study has not been released yet so we don't know what is in it. All we hear is how to go get an asteroid and bring it back to Earth - but not why. If the idea is to study an asteroid close up, I would think that you could send a swarm of satellites, large antennas, etc. based on existing hardware to an asteroid and allow high fidelity telepresence capability for the same/less cost and less complexity than using brute force to bring it to Earth. The only possible rationale for bringing an asteroid back to Earth would be to use the materials in it. I have yet to see any mission statement that charters NASA to mine asteroids. Indeed, the White House doesn't even support the more modest L2 station that Charlie Bolden (sometimes) wants to build using traditional engineering.
The last time I checked, one of the main reasons why the White House tasked NASA to send humans to an asteroid in the first place was to test out long duration deep space human capabilities as a prelude to sending humans to Mars. Bringing their asteroidal destination to Earth sort of defeats that initial intent. Who knows: maybe Charlie Bolden wants to bring Mars closer to Earth to cut down on travel time.
Keith's update: the original report has indeed been released previously. But the specific mission proposal that NASA has sent to the White House has not been released - nor will it be any time soon since this is all "predecisional" stuff.
"Nasa scientists are planning to capture a 500 ton asteroid, relocate it and turn it into a space station for astronauts on their way to Mars. The White House's Office of Science and technology will consider the 1.6bn plan in the coming weeks as it prepares to set its space exploration agenda for the next decade. Nasa declined to comment on the project because it said it was in negotiations with the White House, but it is believed that technology would make it possible within 10-12 years."
"Bolden also said "on our way to an asteroid or Mars we may find a way to get people to the Moon or a LaGrange point .... some reporter in the back of the room is going to write saying that we are going to a LaGrange Point. I did not say that"
"At one point, Bolden teared up and said that "Mars is the Goal". Bolden claimed that he was intent upon going to the White House, "pounding his shoe on the table", and demanding a commitment from President Obama to direct NASA to send humans to Mars. Bolden said that he needs that commitment to allow him to decide what to do (not do) with regard to extending the ISS."
Is It Time For Charlie Bolden To Pound His Shoe?, earlier post
"When NASA gets its FY 2013 budget passback from OMB they will see that in addition to not approving the L2 station, there is none of the additional, strong Mars commitment that Charlie Bolden declared must be in the budget (other than what the President has already said, that is). No word yet as to whether Bolden has requested a meeting at the White House for his shoe pounding event."
Keith's note: The President directs NASA to send a human mission to an asteroid and prepare for a trip to Mars in the 2030s. NASA responds with plans to build a space station at L2 and Charlie Bolden says he'll bang his shoe on the table if the President does not give NASA a mandate to go to Mars and says that a mission to an asteroid doesn't need to actually go to an asteroid. Now NASA wants to bring an asteroid back to Earth. You can get whiplash if you follow Charlie Bolden's strategic planning too closely. When it comes to having a coherent, consistent, strategic plan, NASA doesn't have one. Instead, it spins around in 10 directions at once - as if it has institutionalized Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Someone needs to hit the reset button.
Bolden: Don't Have to Travel Far to Asteroid to Meet President's Goal, Space PolicyOnline
"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. An NRC report released earlier this month concluded that sending people to an asteroid has not won wide support in NASA or the nation. Bolden did not criticize that report directly, but said that NRC committee had only a short time to complete its study and it was done at a time of "relative silence" from NASA because of the election and did not have the benefit of the information he was presenting this morning. The only new material he presented this morning was this information about the asteroid mission and the news that NASA will soon stand up a Space Technology Mission Directorate."
Keith's note: Bolden also said "on our way to an asteroid or Mars we may find a way to get people to the Moon or a LaGrange point .... some reporter in the back of the room is going to write saying that we are going to a LaGrange Point. I did not say that"
NASA Really Doesn't Want to Do That Whole Asteroid Thing, earlier post
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
"The NASA Authorization Act of 2010 was signed into law on 11 October 2010. It has taken more than 2 years for everyone to get around to starting this study. The start date listed for this committee is November 2012 and its report is due for delivery in May 2014. That's 1 year, 7 months. This NRC is responding to authorizing legislation passed in 2010 by the 111th Congress, with a committee now being requested by the 112th Congress, and its report will be presented to yet another Congress (113th) during the second year of a new presidential administration in mid-2014 - one where policies are in place that will differ from those in place when the task was assigned, with budgets that differ from initial conditions under which the study was undertaken.
Net result: the committee's advice will be out of synch with reality and somewhat overtaken by events having taken a total of 3 years, 7 months to complete. Oh yes: the cost of this study? $3.6 million."
Secure resources and funding, and begin construction of a Death Star by 2016, We The People, White House
"Those who sign here petition the United States government to secure funding and resources, and begin construction on a Death Star by 2016. By focusing our defense resources into a space-superiority platform and weapon system such as a Death Star, the government can spur job creation in the fields of construction, engineering, space exploration, and more, and strengthen our national defense."
Keith's 7 Dec note: It would seem that the vast majority of the
5,118 6,111 8,709 10,823 14,108 25,000 signers of this petition are male.
"The petition, which calls for the administration to "begin construction of a Death Star by 2016, crossed the mark Thursday for 25,227 signatures, which is the level the White House requires before it will respond."
Just as the Pacific Railway Act of 1862 did not put the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads in charge of the economic development of California and the yet to be formed states in between, there is no reason for NASA to be in charge of the economic and industrial development of the solar system. Thus the vision statement for a national space policy short and succinct could be: "The economic and industrial development of the resources of the solar system for the benefit of the United States of America and all mankind is the goal of our national space efforts."
Wednesday, December 12, 2012 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
- What steps could the government take over the next 3 to 5 years to help maintain America's capabilities and retain world leadership in space?
- What are the priorities that policy makers should consider when evaluating future NASA plans?
- How best can NASA and its stakeholder community reach consensus on identifying and preserving critical capabilities necessary for future space science, aeronautics, and exploration programs and missions?
- What steps can NASA, Congress, and the White House take to promote greater overall efficiency at the agency, as well as maintain programmatic and funding stability for projects and programs?"
"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is widely admired for astonishing accomplishments since its formation in 1958. Looking ahead over a comparable period of time, what can the nation and the world expect of NASA? What will be the agency's goals and objectives, and what will be the strategy for achieving them? More fundamentally, how will the goals, objectives, and strategy be established and by whom? How will they be modified to reflect changes in science, technology, national priorities, and available resources?"
"A bunch of tech wonks and nerds issued a report last week that provided a shockingly accurate conclusion about NASA's Strategic Plan: it's vague, generic, and there's no national consensus for taxpayer support. Now it's time for the agency to look beyond its comfy fishbowl of geeks and contractors to fix its problem."
Report: NASA is broken and it's up to us to fix it, Ars Technica
"Again, the lack of a consistent vision has been a problem. The manned program is specifically called out as a paragon of confusion. "Other than the long-range goal of sending humans to Mars," notes the report, "there is no strong, compelling national vision for the human spaceflight program, which is arguably the centerpiece of NASA's spectrum of mission areas."
Duelling visions stall NASA, Nature
"There is no broad acceptance of the asteroid as the next principal destination for space flight, despite the fact that the president has indeed said so several times," says Albert Carnesale, chairman of the committee behind the report and a former chancellor of the University of California, Los Angeles. For its part, NASA -- whether through inertia or out of practicality -- seems unwilling to shift the focus of its human space-flight efforts away from the Moon.
"The report recommends that Congress, the White House, and NASA pursue one or more of a number of options to set things straight. Options include restructuring the space agency's programs so as to reduce infrastructure and personnel costs; finding ways to partner with other agencies, the private sector, and international partners; and increasing NASA's budget or shedding programs that don't fit NASA's current budget profile."
Direction for Space Needed, Paul Spudis, spudislunarresources.com
"Interestingly, the report does not state the obvious conclusion - that if the first option has any validity, the last two options are not only pointless but actually undesirable from the standpoint of wise governing practice. Why should we spend more money on something perceived to be of marginal value? On the other hand, if the agency could be "restructured" to accomplish its mission with the current budgetary profile, why wouldn't it be?"
"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."
National Disagreement Over NASA's Goals and Objectives Detrimental to Agency Planning, Budgeting Efforts, National Research Council
"Without a national consensus on strategic goals and objectives for NASA, the agency cannot be expected to establish or work toward achieving long-term priorities, says a new report from the National Research Council. In addition, there is a mismatch between the portfolio of programs and activities assigned to the agency and the budget allocated by Congress, and legislative restrictions inhibit NASA from more efficiently managing its personnel and infrastructure. The White House should take the lead in forging a new consensus on NASA's future in order to more closely align the agency's budget and objectives and remove restrictions impeding NASA's efficient operations."
"In his statement, NASA's [David] Weaver said: "We're fully utilizing the International Space Station; developing a heavy-lift rocket and multi-purpose crew vehicle capable of taking American astronauts into deep space; facilitating development of commercial capabilities for cargo and crew transport to low Earth orbit; expanding our technological capabilities for the human and robotic missions of today and tomorrow; pursuing a robust portfolio of science missions such as the James Webb Space Telescope; developing faster and cleaner aircraft and inspiring the next generation of exploration leaders."
[Panel member Marcia] Smith said that statement itself shows the problem: "If it takes you that many phrases to explain it, then you do not have a crisp, clear strategic vision."
"In a report released today, the Space Foundation made a number of recommendations for strengthening the focus, oversight and funding of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and strengthening the U.S. civil space program. The 70-page report and a separate executive summary are now being distributed to policymakers, industry leaders and media by the Space Foundation, an independent non-profit advocacy and education organization committed to advancing space exploration and utilization."
"Many of us working in or with NASA recognized that the 2004 Vision for Space Exploration (VSE) was a breakthrough, the necessary fulcrum needed to change our approach and direction to spaceflight. It was a program that would have opened the door to a wide variety of previously unobtainable missions. In this five-part series to establish and clarify the history and intent of the VSE, I've shared my insider's perspective on why and how it was conceived, executed and eventually terminated - a cautionary tale, if you will, and hopefully, an instructive one. In this last post, I want to examine what lessons should be drawn from this history and how we should move forward in a positive way to have and to build a U.S. space program truly "worthy of a great nation."
"Whatever the truth, I hope that Nasa is aiming big, because its current ambitions are - by its own scientists admissions - somewhat lacking. Although we now have the capability to return humans to the Moon, and travel beyond with manned missions to Mars, the world's leading space-faring nation has another destination in its sights: an asteroid. A small lump of rock."
"Congress was all for ditching the moon and Mars plans but decided to keep building the shiny new rocket (maintaining employment in many of their constituent districts). The Space Launch System, which is scheduled to be ready for human crews in 2019, will be the most powerful rocket ever built, capable of bringing astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit, where the space station sits, for the first time since the Apollo days. This puts NASA in a conundrum. "Once you're out there, then what do you do?" said astronomer Jack Burns from the University of Colorado. Within a decade, we may be able to get people in the vicinity of the moon but "there's not enough money in the budget to build a human lander."
A glimpse at a gateway, Space Review
"This is a multi-center team that's been working on trying to figure out what the agency's going to be doing next," [Harold White] said in a presentation that was part of a panel session on advanced concepts at the conference. "In principle, this is an incremental approach to human space exploration. We're trying to take small steps and use as much of the stuff that we have in hand, and incorporate advanced technologies where appropriate to close the architecture."
Keith's note: The President directed NASA to send humans to an asteroid and eventually (in the 2030's) to Mars. But with talk of L2 or L1 bases, Moon missions, etc. it would seem that some parts of the agency have engaged in mission creep beyond what the White House directed them to do. Then again, the President did say "Mars in the 2030s" and planning for that has to start sooner or later. Regardless of what destination(s) that different parts of NASA think they are aiming for, there is no money for the payloads needed to accomplish any of the missions. With Thanksgiving looming, so is NASA's "passback" on the FY 2014 budget to OMB. Word has it that there will be some of Bolden's Mars shoe pounding included in NASA's budget response. Stay tuned.
Keith's note: President Obama has won re-election. What will this mean for space policy? Will (should) NASA have a new administrator? - if so, then who? Should NASA's budget be increased? Should there be more commercial focus? Does the planetary science budget need to be increased? Will Congress be more or less cooperative with the White House? Thoughts?
Oh yes: Charlie Bolden is on a trip to Hawaii for 6 days for the local 237th Marine Corps Birthday Ball. He's the guest of honor at this event.
Keith's note: The National Research Council has created the Committee on Human Spaceflight - yet another semi-annual effort to study and advise Congress on NASA's human space flight activities: "In accordance with Section 204 of the NASA Authorization Act 2010, the National Research Council (NRC) will appoint an ad hoc committee to undertake a study to review the long-term goals, core capabilities, and direction of the U.S. human spaceflight program and make recommendations to enable a sustainable U.S. human spaceflight program."
Do these congressionally-mandated NRC policy committees ever really say anything useful or new about space policy? These NASA efforts are quasi-regular exercises where a group of familiar names an a few new ones are brought together for a series of sedate meetings that last for more than a year. You see, congressional authorization committees direct NASA to pay for these studies when they feel that Congress needs a blue ribbon panel to produce verbiage that they can use to beat NASA and the current administration over the head when Congress feels that they are not being listened to.
Once completed, the policy reports are only cited if the have useful sentences that support (or seem to support) a niche position that one politician or committee may take. By definition, NRC reports are never controversial but rather embody lots of slow-motion consensus and inevitable watering down of important issues. Its not that these are substandard efforts by any means since the NRC is an impressive, competent organization. At most, however, these studies take a long time to conduct and are usually a blip on the radar when they issue their final document.
The NASA Authorization Act of 2010 was signed into law on 11 October 2010. It has taken more than 2 years for everyone to get around to starting this study. The start date listed for this committee is November 2012 and its report is due for delivery in May 2014. That's 1 year, 7 months. This NRC is responding to authorizing legislation passed in 2010 by the 111th Congress, with a committee now being requested by the 112th Congress, and its report will be presented to yet another Congress (113th) during the second year of a new presidential administration in mid-2014 - one where policies are in place that will differ from those in place when the task was assigned, with budgets that differ from initial conditions under which the study was undertaken.
"This long term ISS operations plan did not sit well will NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden. Bolden said that he needed to know directly from President Obama whether or not missions to Mars starting in the 2030s was to be NASA's ultimate goal. If this is not the President's goal for NASA, then Bolden wondered why NASA should be expected to continue funding the ISS for another decade and a half. At one point, Bolden teared up and said that "Mars is the Goal". Bolden claimed that he was intent upon going to the White House, "pounding his shoe on the table", and demanding a commitment from President Obama to direct NASA to send humans to Mars. Bolden said that he needs that commitment to allow him to decide what to do (not do) with regard to extending the ISS."
"Near the end of my recent two hour co-appearance with Dr. Jim Vedda on The Space Show (October 19, 2012), an ongoing misconception emerged about the Vision for Space Exploration (VSE) and prompts me to detail some of the history of the VSE and its original intent. Such a review is timely as discussions rage about NASA's current and future direction."
"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden dismissed rumors that the future of U.S. space exploration is in jeopardy and rejected speculation that his agency has no plans for future human spaceflight. "Those who perpetuate that myth only hurt the space program," Bolden told businessmen, academics and journalists Tuesday afternoon at the National Press Club. "Such talk undermines our nation's goals at a very critical time," he said. "The truth is we have an ambitious series of deep space destinations we plan to explore and we are hard at work exploring the hardware and the technologies to get us there."
President Obama: "Making sure we stay at the forefront of space exploration is a big priority for my administration. The passing of Neil Armstrong this week is a reminder of the inspiration and wonder that our space program has provided in the past; the curiosity probe on mars is a reminder of what remains to be discovered. The key is to make sure that we invest in cutting edge research that can take us to the next level - so even as we continue work with the international space station, we are focused on a potential mission to a asteroid as a prelude to a manned Mars flight."
"In the FY2012 appropriations bill that funds NASA, Congress requested an independent study of NASA's strategic direction. The study is being conducted by a committee of the National Research Council. The study statement of task directs the committee to "recommend how NASA could establish and effectively communicate a common, unifying vision for NASA's strategic direction that encompasses NASA's varied missions." Strategic direction can be thought of as the steps NASA needs to take over time to accomplish its vision and mission."
Can NASA keep public's curiosity piqued?, Houston Chronicle
"Paul Spudis, a senior scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, said Curiosity's success doesn't change the fact that the agency is still looking for a vision. "It's tangential to the agency's fundamental problem - where is it going and why?" Spudis asked. "Since (2010) NASA has been floundering in strategic aimlessness and national irrelevance. Only the momentum of existing programs started long ago, like the International Space Station and Mars Science Laboratory, are keeping it alive at all."
"Those who would slash space program budgets apparently haven't learned history's lessons and don't see the great possibilities that the future presents -- possibilities reflected in every image transmitted back from the rover."
Editorial: NASA scientists nail gold medal Mars dismount, Ventura Star
"President Barack Obama, who has been accused by Republicans of being insufficiently ardent about "American exceptionalism," called the landing an "unprecedented feat of technology that will stand as a point of national pride far into the future."
"U.S. astronauts won't land on Mars by themselves but with international partners in the 2030s, NASA's chief said Wednesday. "I have no desire to do a Mars landing on our own," Bolden said. "The U.S. cannot always be the leader, but we can be the inspirational leader through international cooperation" in space exploration. Obama administration plans are for the $17.7 billion space agency to land an astronaut on an asteroid in 2025, then go to Mars by the middle of the 2030s."
Keith's note: Given these time frames - "2025, middle 2030s", no one presently working in the White House or on the 9th floor of NASA Headquarters will be in a position to implement - or even do the initial planning for - a human mission to Mars. Indeed, for missions more than a decade or two in the future, they will have little if any impact on what is or is not done. As such, this commentary by Charlie Bolden is simply pointless - including his "desires". Charlie Bolden needs to focus more on the near future where he can actually have some impact.
As for Bolden's statement that "The U.S. cannot always be the leader", gee, that sounds preemptively defeatist. Why bother trying? If Bolden is already thinking that way, then all this future stuff he pontificates about is really beyond his influence. Time for a leadership reboot.
"In the FY2012 appropriations bill that funds NASA, Congress requested an independent study of NASA's strategic direction. The study is being conducted by a committee of the National Research Council. The Strategic Directions Committee is listening to a wide variety of experts in aeronautics and space science and technology, space policy and programs, and communications strategy, and it wants to hear from other stakeholders, including the public, as well."
For NASA, there's no liftoff from politics, USA Today
"The glass is either half-full or half-empty at NASA," says space policy expert John Logsdon, author of John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon. The agency won approval to proceed with building the SLS last year but faces doubts in Congress over the lack of a long-term vision. "NASA's budget only supports a program that is fragile and doesn't make long-term sense," Logsdon says. As an example, he points to the SLS, which will launch in 2017 and carry astronauts only in 2021, with a less-defined schedule thereafter."
There's still hope for NASA, editorial, Houston Chronicle
"But the going gets tougher in the political arena, where NASA and JSC have taken some serious hits in their budgets and faced even more serious questioning of their mission over the past few years. The results are obvious and troubling. It galls Mike Coats that "we're not a space-faring nation right now" because of the retirement of the space shuttle. Instead, he laments, "we're paying the Russians a lot of money to fly our people up there." He's galled because we're paying a lot of Russian engineers when he'd like to be hiring American engineers."
Keith's note: If you look over at the calendar on the right side of NASA Watch you'll note that the NASA Advisory Council and all of its committees are meeting toward the end of July. NASA has expanded the audience for these public meetings by putting them on Webex and dial-in audio feeds - live. A good use of technology - with one exception: the only committee that will not be available live via Webex or dial-in is the Technology and Innovation Committee which focuses on the NASA Chief Technologist's Office. Go figure.
"This memorandum outlines the Administration's multi-agency science and technology priorities for formulating FY 2014 Budget submissions to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). These priorities require investments from and cooperation among multiple Federal agencies for success. They build on priorities reflected in this Administration's past budgets and documents, such as the President's Strategy for American Innovation."
Government and Space: Lead, Follow, and Get Out of the Way, Rick Tumlinson, Huffington Post
"2012 will see those committed to settling space (O'Neillians) begin orbital delivery operations, private microgravity experiments on the space station, and sub-orbital, commercial, human space-flight tests. Recently, the revolution jumped another level, as a commercial space-station company announced it is partnering with a commercial spaceflight firm, thus completely eliminating the government from the equation. And yet, even as some of today's savviest and wealthiest business leaders begin to dive into this new ocean of possibility, many of yesterday's space heroes, our government and political class, don't get it. The irony should not be lost that this same year, a presidential candidate got laughed off the campaign stage for suggesting a human colony on the Moon -- just days before a group of American entrepreneurs worth tens of billions of dollars announced plans to mine asteroids."
Keith's note: Not to single you out, Rick, but people are out of work. They do not want moon bases or asteroid mines, they want jobs. And people do not really get to worried about whether or not the government is involved in things or not. They do not really waste a whole lot of time on the "D" or "R". They just want whatever is broken to be fixed i.e. they want results. They are going to vote for the politicians who they think will accomplish that task. The fact that the current Democratic Administration is pro-space business and Congressional Republicans are often adamantly opposed to the support of space commerce by NASA just confuses this discussion further.
Space cadets unite! Otherwise we're irrelevant, Jim Banke, Orbital Inclinations
"While I often bristle at Cowing's blunt style, I completely agree with the substance of his response to The Moon Society's president. And believe me, I wish it weren't the case because actually moving the needle on space policy is really the key challenge we face in the space advocacy community. We have yet to find a way to turn all that outstanding public outreach into viable political currency such that every Senator, every member of the House of Representatives, and each occupant of the White House - no matter what party they represent - will support a robust national space policy."
"More broadly, the Obama administration has pushed prizes for technological advances, sponsoring 150 contests across 40 agencies since 2010. NASA has helped lead the way, handing over $6 million to 23 prize-winning companies since 2005 for such items as better astronaut gloves and more fuel-efficient airplanes. From 2000 to 2007, philanthropic groups have put up some $250 million to spur technologies as varied as robotic moon rovers and cheaper tests for tuberculosis, according to a recent report from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy."
NASA Simply Stopped Being a Priority, Huffington Post
"For the past four decades, America's budget made it clear that space was not a top priority. As we think of America over the span of centuries and not from budget cycle to budget cycle, will we look back and ask ourselves whether the decision to abandon space was a wise decision? Or will historians look back and identify this decision as a textbook example of when America sacrificed long-term strategic goals for short-term interests?"
"Another recent prize was NASA's Green Flight Challenge that called upon aviation innovators to build and demonstrate a super-fuel efficient full-scale aircraft. The cash prize purse of $1.65 million offered by NASA attracted 14 teams, which collectively invested more than $6 million. In a historic achievement, the two winning teams exceeded the performance requirements by nearly a factor of two, flying more than 200 miles on the energy equivalent of just half a gallon of gas, all while averaging 100 mph with two people on board. NASA further leveraged taxpayer dollars, by partnering with the CAFE Foundation, which invested over $1 million in rigorous evaluation and publicity - extending the impact of the prize. The high-profile demonstration of safe, low-emission technologies may spark a new electric airplane industry."
Keith's note: NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson both testified before the Senate on NASA's FY 2013 budget the other day. Simple word clouds reveal starkly different messages. Click on word cloud image to enlarge.
"Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, today it is my privilege to discuss the President's FY 2013 budget request for NASA. Our requested budget of $17.7 billion will enable NASA to execute the balanced program of science, space exploration, technology, and aeronautics agreed to by the President and a bipartisan majority of Congress."
"Currently, NASA's Mars science exploration budget is being decimated, we are not going back to the Moon, and plans for astronauts to visit Mars are delayed until the 2030s --on funding not yet allocated, overseen by a congress and president to be named later."
Keith's note: I had planned on listening in on the NASA Advisory Council's Education and Public Outreach Subcommittee meeting today via Webex. But I changed my mind and decided that it would be a waste of time - time better spent on doing real work (and cleaning out my garage). I am not sure that what the NAC or any of its subcommittees does or says actually matters in any significant way. NASA clearly ignores them. The NAC is actually rather passive (more so than ever in the past) and never actually says anything strategic or insightful. And they never, ever push NASA hard on the things that are clearly screwed up. Indeed, all the NACsters ever say is "nice job", "what would you do with a bigger budget?", "thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to visit with us", or "there's a typo on your chart". Check the calendar on the right for their other meetings over the coming days. Or not. Yawn.
Keith's update: Let me add that the new NAC Chair, Steve Squyres should be a breath of fresh air. He is an explorer's explorer and, contrary to a lot of NAC members, he does not dwell behind a desk or reflexively seek a TV camera. Instead he goes to remote and dangerous places to explore and to make sure that the Mars rovers that he helps to build will be able to do their job. Whether he can inpsire his fellow NACsters to show a little spine and advise NASA in a more pointed and strategic fashion remains to be seen. I wish him luck.
Double the Space Budget?, Paul Spudis, Air & Space
"More funding would enable more activity, but to do what? As we no longer have a reasonable, near-term strategic goal (and I do not count empty promises of human Mars missions 30 years in the future as such), more money might accelerate progress on some programs, but money alone will never establish a healthy and vigorous space program. What has held us back from creating a strong space program? I contend that it is the lack of any strategic direction, by which I mean not simply a goal, but a believable goal, one that combines clear and pressing societal value with attainable, decadal timescales, at costs at or less than their projected budget line. Under the existing operational template, most proposed space goals satisfy one or two, but not all conditions."
"Develop a space transportation system using existing assets to the extent possible, build new reusable vehicles to transit cislunar space, develop lunar resources with the aim of propellant production, emplace staging nodes in LEO (use existing ISS), geosynchronous orbit (GEO), Earth-Moon L-1, low lunar orbit (LLO) and on the lunar surface."
"According to NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden in yesterday's budget press conference, "The time for debate about our future is over. We have a solid plan, a sustainable plan, and we are moving out to implement it, opening the next great chapter of American exploration." "Solid plan"? Quite the contrary."
"In 2010 NASA created 14 draft technology roadmaps to help guide and prepare for the agency's future space exploration and mission needs. Using these draft roadmaps as a point of departure, a new National Research Council report, NASA SPACE TECHNOLOGY ROADMAPS AND PRIORITIES: RESTORING NASA'S TECHNOLOGICAL EDGE AND PAVING THE WAY FOR A NEW ERA IN SPACE, identifies and prioritizes key technologies needed for NASA to make advances in earth and space sciences. It also details how the effectiveness of the technology development program can be enhanced in the face of scarce resources."
"Space is no longer an environment accessed nearly exclusively by two superpowers or a few countries. Barriers to entry are lower than ever, and many countries are enjoying access to and the benefits of space in unprecedented numbers. Today, space is the domain of a growing number of satellite operators; approximately 60 nations and government consortia operate satellites, as well as numerous commercial and academic satellite operators. Paradoxically, while it is becoming increasingly easier to access as well as to benefit from space, space is also becoming increasingly congested and contested. This situation means we need to think carefully through how we can all operate there safely and responsibly. Our goal is to ensure that the generations that follow us can also benefit from the advantages that space offers."
"This proposal requests funding for the NRC's Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences to organize an ad-hoc study to determine whether the strategic direction of NASA remains viable and if the agency's activities and organization efficiently and effectively support that direction in light of the potential for constrained budgets in the foreseeable future. The study will be carried out by staff from the division's Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board and Space Studies Board. The amount requested is $834,104 for the period January 15, 2012 to January 14, 2013."
"The long-term sustainability of our space environment is at serious risk from space debris and irresponsible actors. Ensuring the stability, safety, and security of our space systems is of vital interest to the United States and the global community. These systems allow the free flow of information across platforms that open up our global markets, enhance weather forecasting and environmental monitoring, and enable global navigation and transportation."
"The Obama Administration is committed to ensuring that an International Code enhances national security and maintains the United States' inherent right of individual and collective self-defense, a fundamental part of international law. The United States would only subscribe to such a Code of Conduct if it protects and enhances the national and economic security of the United States, our allies, and our friends. The Administration is committed to keeping the U.S. Congress informed as our consultations with the spacefaring community progress."
Keith's note: This statement and the Fact Sheet was sent to me by the State Department Press Office in separate emails - both with this same note: "This email is UNCLASSIFIED."
Where is U.S. Space Policy Headed?, Marcia Smith, Space Quarterly
"President Obama released his National Space Policy (NSP) in June 2010. Although it made few national headlines, it was big news for the space community. Broad national policies that cross interagency borders are by necessity generalized documents. Getting everyone to agree on virtually any topic is a Herculean task. This policy was coordinated across the government by Peter Marquez, then the Director of Space Policy for the White House National Security Council (NSC) and now with Orbital Sciences Corp. Marquez always credits Damon Wells, his counterpart at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), as his teammate in getting the policy out just 17 months after the President took office. In Washington, that's lightning fast. Is it important, either that the NSP came out so quickly or that it came out at all? As with most things, the answer is both yes and no."
Congress Slashes Budget of White House Science Office, AAAS/Science Insider
"First words, then deeds. Frustrated that White House officials have ignored congressional language curtailing scientific collaborations with China, legislators have decided to get their attention through a 32% cut in the tiny budget of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Science lobbyists say that's a bad idea. A 2012 spending bill expected to be approved later this week slashes OSTP's current $6.6 million budget to $4.5 million. The cuts won't mean layoffs or furloughs for the office's 90-person staff, many on loan from other agencies or outside institutions. But it "will have real consequences on OSTP's operations," says OSTP spokesperson Rick Weiss, forcing OSTP "to prioritize existing activities" in fields ranging from science education to sustainable energy."
- Report on U.S. - China Security Issues Published, earlier post
- Hearing on China, OSTP & NASA (Political Theater Synopsis), earlier post
- Did China Hack U.S. Satellites? (NASA Update), earlier post
- Hearing: Wolf Vs NASA/OSTP on China, earlier post
- NASA Astronaut Andy Thomas is Still Bashing China On The Job, earlier post
- -Other posts on China
State Department: Leading with Diplomacy to Strengthen Stability in Space
"Remarks by Frank A. Rose Deputy Assistant Secretary U.S. Department of State at the USSTRATCOM Cyber and Space Symposium: The space environment is at serious risk from a number of sources, including space debris and a lack of transparency in the conduct of space activities. It is our belief that one of the most beneficial multilateral TCBMs for strengthening stability in space could be the adoption of "best practice" guidelines or an international "code of conduct." A code of conduct could help establish guidelines for safe and responsible use of space, avoid collisions, reduce radiofrequency interference, and call out irresponsible behavior."
Funding hinges on clearer NASA vision, Posey warns, Florida Today
"NASA faces an uphill battle for funding in Congress unless it clarifies vague exploration plans, U.S. Rep. Bill Posey said Tuesday.
Absent a clear mission, human spaceflight, I'm afraid, will be very vulnerable, he said. Out of sight, out of mind."
"In 2007, I published an article in The Space Review titled "Sustaining Exploration: Communications, Relevance, and Value" that described NASA as a value delivery system (VDS). In it I made a case for re-alignment of the agency and its activities by means of a "value discovery process". (The reader is directed to the previous paper for an explanation of value systems as applied to NASA and links to reference material.) The article identified some issues driving resistance to change within the agency and warned of the possibility of "organizational obsolescence" if NASA continued to hold tight to past successes as a raison d'tre for activities in the present and future."
"This week the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) and its various committees are meeting. This body is federally chartered to formally advise NASA - yet the public knows little - if anything about what this committee does. By law the public is supposed to be informed of these meetings, allowed to attend, and offered means whereby they can present their views to the committee. By law, these meetings are announced in the Federal Register. But unless you are a policy wonk, you are not likely to read these notices. That is why I post them on NASA Watch (look to the calendar) and on SpaceRef. Alas, beyond the formal notification process, NASA does not lift a finger to make certain that the public is aware of these activities and the means whereby the public is supposed to be encouraged to participate. NASA's NAC staff and PAO have done a pitiful job informing the public of these meetings."
Keith's 3 Aug note: The NASA Advisory Council is meeting on Thursday and Friday. Charlie Bolden will be there. The meeting will be available to the public on WebEx and via telecon (info). Given NASA's previous shyness/ambivalence with regard to encouraging public appreciation of - and participation with - the NAC, you can expect continued silence from the NAC and PAO.
Imagine the visibility that the NAC - and the topics it wil be discussing - would get if NASA used its Twitter account to reach its 1.3 million followers. Imagine also if NASA used one of its 4 TV channels to webcast the meeting. Alas, NASA PAO is focusing today on sending LEGO dolls to Jupiter.
Keith's 4 Aug update: Interestingly, unlike nasa.gov, the open.nasa.gov folks are paying attention to the interests of the public and are letting their readers know that there is a NAC meeting - and how to participate. Well done!
America's space program is crashing, opinion, Mark Albrecht, Washington Times
"The conventional wisdom in the federal bureaucracy is that you can reduce spending or you can restructure, reprioritize and reorganize. You can cut programs or start new programs. But you can't do both. Now, our backs are to the wall. To re-establish our leadership in space, we must defy conventional wisdom and cut spending, start new initiatives and radically restructure a mature agency - all at the same time. It won't be pleasant, and it won't be easy, but neither was putting a man on the moon."
NASA's new journeys, opinion, John Holdren and Charles Bolden, Politico
"One misimpression is that the U.S. human spaceflight program is stalled. The truth is quite the opposite. Soon after President Barack Obama took office, an independent commission concluded that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's then-existing plan for the post-Shuttle era was not viable under any feasible budget scenario."
"As part of its implementation of Executive Order 13563, Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review, issued by the President on January 18, 2011, NASA is seeking comments on the Agency's preliminary plan to conduct a retrospective analysis of its existing regulations. The purpose of this analysis is to make NASA's regulatory program more effective and less burdensome in achieving its regulatory objectives."
"Is there a path forward for United States' space policy? When a new President takes office in 2013, he or she should propose to Congress that we start space policy and its administration from scratch. A new agency, the National Space Exploration Administration (NSEA), should be charged with specifically enabling America's and its partners' exploration of deep space, inherently stimulating education, technology, and national focus. The existing component parts of NASA should be spread among other agencies with the only exception being activities related to U.S. obligations to its partners in the International Space Station (ISS)."
"I think with regard to this year's budget, the match is reasonable," [Norm] Augustine said. "But if we're to have a program of the type that we described as attractive in the report that we put out, there's not enough money in the out years to do it. The question is whether we'll add that money in the out years or not. If we don't have it, then we're probably pursuing the wrong program. If we add the money, then this will be the right program, in my judgment." What does he think it will take? "Unless that money is increased by about $3 billion a year, real dollars, over what it was at the time we did our study, then this whole thing is very tenuous," he said. "But if that funding is made available ... the path we're on so far is very consistent with what I think most of us would see as a sensible program."
"We will foster a growing commercial space transportation industry that will allow NASA to focus our efforts on executing direction in the act to start work on a heavy-lift architecture to take astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit and to develop a multipurpose crew vehicle for use with our new space launch systems."
"The passage of this legislation is a testament to our Congressional system," said Glenn Mahone, chairman of the Coalition. "Those who championed this bill obtained unprecedented, unanimous support in the Senate and advanced it through the House. With the President's signature, we enter a new chapter in 21st-century space exploration."
Keith's 6 Oct. note: NASA Watch sources report that this upcoming trip to China and then Indonesia is Charlie Bolden's idea first and foremost. The White House did not ask him to go to either country - nor do they want him to go. But he is going anyway. The trip to Saudi Arabia was similarly unrequested and unsanctioned as far as the White House was concerned. This begs the question in the White House and elsewhere as to why Bolden is focusing his energy on foreign trips at a time when NASA's domestic support is sagging. Moreover, there is growing concern within the White House as to why Bolden is not getting the message that the White House has been sending to him. Bolden's recent gaffs in the Middle East and ethics issues with Marathon Oil haven't exactly helped his relationship with the White House. Stay tuned.
"But it remains unclear whether Bolden is making his trip at the behest of the White House or on his own initiative. White House spokesman Nicholas Shapiro declined to comment on Bolden's China visit and referred media queries to NASA. When asked about Bolden's trip NASA spokesman Michael Cabbage referred to last November's joint U.S.-China communique that calls for expanded discussions on human spaceflight cooperation. Cabbage said the trip "is being coordinated with all appropriate government agencies," even as a senior Republican lawmaker requested a security briefing on the visit before it happens."
"In an Oct. 5 letter to the NASA chief, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) said he strongly opposes any partnership with Beijing that involves human spaceflight, including efforts to involve China in the international space station. "I need not remind you that no such planning or coordination has been approved by the Congress," wrote Wolf, the ranking member on the House Appropriations commerce, justice, science subcommittee that oversees NASA spending. "In fact, several recent NASA authorization bills have explicitly sought to place strict limitations on coordination with China."
Keith's 9 Oct. update: That's rather odd. The White House is normaly much more forthcoming on commenting on matters such as this given that a senior government official such as Bolden is going to China (and Indonesia and Viet Nam). Unless, of course, as is the case with this trip, this is not their idea and they'd rather that he not go on the trip in the first place. Relations between the U.S. and China are rather frosty right now. As such, you don't really want someone prone to public gaffs making a highly visible trip with media dogging him the entire time. Stay tuned.
ChasingAugustine, Wayne Hale
"A couple of months later I was notified that I would receive a Group Achievement Award for helping with the [Augustine] committee. I told them I did not want the award and would not accept it. They didn't know how to handle that request. I boycotted the awards presentation but they still sent me the certificate in the mail. My first impulse was to burn it. I still may. A fair question to ask is what about the committee's work so thoroughly upset me? There were a number of factors, far more than I can explore in one short post. So I will deal with the #1 reason: the committee was snookered by OMB."
Obama Space Adviser Leaves White House, Space News
"Peter Marquez, director of space policy for the White House National Security Council, stepped down Sept. 27 to pursue new opportunities. Marquez, who was appointed to the post in 2007 by then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, played a central role in shaping U.S. President Barack Obama's new national space policy issued by the White House in June."
Back to the Past, editorial, NY Times
"President Obama's call for sweeping changes in the space program got mugged by lobbyists and pork-minded legislators. An authorization bill for NASA -- the National Aeronautics and Space Administration -- that cleared Congress will leave the agency mired in past technologies. ... A primary goal of those who drafted the legislation was to provide money and save jobs at existing NASA centers and their contractors. At a time of high unemployment, it's hard to argue with that impulse. But the result will be to postpone -- possibly for decades -- the development of the new technologies that could revolutionize long-distance space travel."
Congress's budget battle leaves NASA without a clear mission, editorial, Washington Post
"This flawed bill only proves that the biggest challenges now facing NASA are on the ground. Members of Congress, hoping to protect jobs in their districts, have fought against the shutdown of the Constellation manned spaceflight program, which a blue-ribbon commission on the future of human spaceflight found to be doomed by excessive ambition and insufficient funds."
KillingConstellation, Wayne Hale
"There are probably any number of factors which have wounded the Constellation program, perhaps mortally. But taking longer to return the shuttle to flight, costing more to return the shuttle to flight, and delaying the completion of the ISS and the retirement of the shuttle; those were major causes too. Coupled with the top-level decisions not to ask the Congress for more money, the squeeze was well-nigh intolerable. From my standpoint the consequences were unintentional. But unintentional or more precisely with the best of intentions, the result was severe. So yes, I had a role in the killing of Constellation; a long time before February 1, 2010."
A Pledge to America (Draft), full text, MSNBC
"- Cut Government Spending to Pre-Stimulus, Pre-Bailout Levels: With common-sense exceptions for seniors, veterans, and our troops, we will roll back government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels, saving us at least $100 billion in the first year alone and putting us on a path to begin paying down the debt, balancing the budget, and ending the spending spree in Washington that threatens our children's future.
- Establish a Hard Cap on New Discretionary Spending: We must put common-sense limits on the growth of government and stop the endless increases. Only in Washington is there an expectation that whatever your budget was last year, it will be more this year and even more the next. We will set strict budget caps to limit federal spending on an annual basis. Budget caps were used in the 1990s, when a Republican Congress was able to bring the budget into balance and eventual surplus. By cutting discretionary spending from current levels and imposing a hard cap on future growth, we will save taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars."
Keith's note: So much for the Obama Administration's plans to increase NASA's budget ...
"I would like to talk about four things today. First, I will briefly describe what we have been doing to implement the space policy since its release in late June. Second, I will discuss some challenges and opportunities we face in international cooperation and collaboration in space, and how we are tackling those challenges. Third, I will point to some of the continuing critical issues facing the United States and the international community as we expand our utilization of the space environment and work to strengthen stability in space. Finally, I'd like to challenge you in the audience to think about how we can work together across space sectors and interests to solve these difficult issues in the years ahead."
NASA administrator draws an ethics reprimand, Orlando Sentinel
"Administrator Bolden continues to be not only a distraction for the administration, but most importantly to the mission of NASA," said an administration official, who is not authorized to speak on the record, about Monday's reprimand. The official could not recall another incident in which a similarly high-level leader was so publicly reprimanded."
NASA Chief Erred in Call, Report Says, New York Times
"The episode was the latest in a series of missteps by General Bolden. Over the summer, he said in an interview with the Middle Eastern news network Al-Jazeera that one of NASA's main tasks was to reach out to the Muslim world and help Muslims feel good about their historical contributions to science. NASA and the White House spent a good part of July trying to defend and explain his comments."
Keith and Frank's note: [Revised] It looks like Charlie Bolden may be headed back to the Middle East soon - this time, to Saudi Arabia.The purpose? Some would say that he is trying to get the Saudis more involved in ongoing peace negotiations at the behest of the Obama White House. But others note that he has some personal agenda items at work as well - all under the excuse of commemorating a Space Shuttle flight 25 years ago.
The excuse being used for this trip is the 25th anniversary of the flight of Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, a nephew of the King of Saudi Arabia, on STS-51G in 1985.
Keith's note: Sources report that Charlie Bolden is bringing his wife along on this trip and that Associate Administrator for International and Interagency Relations Michael O'Brien will be travelling with Bolden - also with his wife. Spouse travel costs are all (apparently) being covered by NASA.
Conflict over NASA spaceflight program complicates funding, Washington Post
"NASA's human space program, long the agency's biggest public and congressional asset, has become instead its biggest headache. As never before, NASA watchers say, an agency that generally is funded and directed through White House and congressional consensus has become the focus of a brutal, potentially crippling and politically topsy-turvy battle for control that is likely to come to a head next week. NASA politics have always defied labels. But now a series of unlikely alliances and negotiating positions have left Congress in an especially difficult bind, with the distinct possibility that the fiscal year will end this month without an approved 2011 budget. The result, congressional negotiators and observers say, would be layoffs and a very unpredictable agency future."
"NASA needs to evolve for the future, not get stuck in the past, the agency's deputy chief said this week. Speaking at a TEDxMidTownNY event at Manhattan's Explorers Club, NASA's second in command, Lori Garver, said it was time to kick-start commercial spaceflight to low Earth orbit and shift NASA's focus to more ambitious exploration missions. "Our space program needs to not be reliving the space program of the past," she said. "We have been trying to relive Apollo for 40 years now." Instead of sending astronauts back to the moon, Garver espoused the new plan put forward by President Barack Obama to pursue trips to an asteroid and Mars. Meanwhile, NASA would try to shift the responsibility for transporting people to the International Space Station to the private sector, which has already made some strides toward commercial spacecraft capable of reaching orbit."
Frank's note: In these pages we have seen one disconnect after another on how poorly NASA sometimes produces its own message. An overwhelming majority of people have no idea what NASA does, other than Shuttle missions and the Hubble. Strangely enough though, according to a focus group done for NASA in 2008, when people are told some details about the space program, belief that it is important to the nation soars.
If you have had the need to interact with NASA Public Affairs folk, like Keith and I have done for years, the results are a mixed bag. Some are incredibly industrious, hardworking and endeavor to get you what you need when you need it. Others could care less, and act as if their job is to make it hard to get at information. Like it is a dwindling resource. One has to wonder if this extends to briefing members of Congress or even the White House. One thing is sure: if this doesn't change for the better and soon, NASA may have missed an historic opportunity to galvanize public support at a critical time in its history.
My question for NASA Watch readers: Let's say you were in charge of NASA Public Affairs for one month. And were given free reign by the Administrator. What or how would you improve things? Or is the situation too far gone?
Frank's note: Of all of the recent NASA Administrators (Goldin, O'Keefe, Griffin) former Marine General Charles F. Bolden, Jr. has given the fewest public appearances of them all. Excluding college commencements and STEM talks to school children, Bolden has been largely AWOL from the public square this summer. The face of NASA leadership, to the public, agency employees and the press has been that of Deputy Administrator Lori B. Garver. The last time Bolden went before the press it was Al Jazeerra. Need we say more?
The question of his advocacy's absence has raised, rightly or wrongly, questions about the support for the Obama Administration's own space plan, and that of the Administration for him as leader. All of this could change tomorrow, but as for now there is a perception of a rudderless NASA adrift waiting for Congress to decide how much of Project Constellation to cram down the agency's throat. Central to the heart of this issue is just how important is the NASA Administrator in today's political climate. Sandwiched between the President's policy (as directed under this President by the Office of Science and Technology Policy OSTP) and the priorities of the Congressional space committees, a NASA Administrator has little leeway for his or her own direction. If there are clear lines of authority, strong center and directorate managers, much of what an administrator does on a day-to-day basis seems perfunctory. In such a climate, the Deputy Administrator's portfolio, directing institutional change in the agency's structure and messaging, seems the more interesting lot.
My question for NASA Watch readers: If you were the Administrator of NASA, what would be your priorities, given the President's overall space plan? (no, you can't change the plan) How visible would you or should you be? And how would you go about educating the public on your agency's vital functions? Ideas?
Bolden Is Operating In Cloaked Mode These Days, earlier post
"NASA's Moon program, known as Constellation, has been hamstrung. Although pieces of it could survive in bills under consideration in Congress, it remains unclear what rockets NASA is to build, what their destinations would be and how long it would take to get there. Without the space station, NASA's financing of commercial rockets to take crew and cargo there would almost certainly evaporate. And without government financing, companies would be unlikely to invest billions of dollars to pursue a speculative market."
Cape Canaveral reverberated with the effects of politics this week. One of the Republican candidates for Florida governor stumped around the area as space contractor giant United Space Alliance (USA) laid off another 900 employees.
This however did not dissuade Kennedy Space Center Director from predicting a bright future for the space center.
Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) announced this week that they would shoot for a September launch for the next flight of their Falcon 9 rocket. Space Florida announced it had signed an agreement with a United Kingdom group to help further international commercial space cooperation. Over at OPF-3, Discovery was being readied for what could be her final flight. This week also marks the anniversary of rockets exploring the heavens from Cape Canaveral.
Frank Sietzen Jr.: Last week, the Senate Commerce, Science and Space Committee marked up a draft of a proposed FY2011 Authorization bill for NASA. That bill maintains the Obama administration's top line budget for the civil space agency, but otherwise it contains virtually none of the individual funding areas for human spaceflight that the administration had sought.
But it's my contention that the bill, whether or not it ever gets passed into law, is an historic development in legislative space affairs. Back in 2004, in our book "New Moon Rising", Keith Cowing and I used the phrase "opening a hinge of history" to describe how the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster provided an opening for an historic new direction in space policy. We initially perceived that direction as being the first era of human spaceflight since 1972 that was not to be dominated by the Shuttle program. But what really emerged would eventually become the so-called "Vision for Space Exploration".
Diplomacy: Nothing new about NASA outreach, editorial, Houston Chronicle
"Bolden's comments are a reminder of what we could do, what we could be and how we could continue to help create a better world. He could make it happen if he had the political backing of national will. That his comments ring hollow and make him appear nearly foolish to many shows the tragedy of having an American president who thinks we are unexceptional, arrogant to assume we can lead and too poor to tell our children there is more to see, to do and to learn. What he said was, "Yes, we can!" What he did was, no, we can't. So, it makes me sad for my friend Charlie. And, it makes me sad for my country."
"NASA should develop a broad, integrated strategy to contain costs and maintain schedules as earth and space science missions are planned and designed, says a new report by the National Research Council. The report also calls on NASA, Congress, and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to consistently use the same method to quantify and track costs."
"As former board members of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB), we agree with your view that assuring crew safety is an essential element in the discussion of future U.S. crew transportation systems. As members of the CAIB, we have also noted with interest recent space policy discussions where our report has been cited. In particular, we have been somewhat surprised to learn that some people, both within and outside of the Congress, have interpreted the new White House strategy for space which gives a greater role to the commercial sector in providing crew transportation services to the International Space Station, as being not in line with the findings and recommendations of the CAIB report. Our view is that NASA's new direction can be a) just as safe, if not more safe, than government-controlled alternatives b) will achieve higher safety than that of the Space Shuttle, and c) is directly in line with the recommendations of the CAIB."
Obama chooses path of submission, opinion, news-journal.com
"NASA is now primarily tasked with making people feel good about math and science, and in particular the Muslim world. No longer is it concerned with manned space flight, no longer is it charged with increasing our knowledge of the universe. It is charged with making everyone in the world and in particular Muslims feel good. The excellent news about that is it should not take nearly as much money to do this. We will no longer need to invest in rockets or spaceships. It is all about feelings. Perhaps, NASA can be combined into the Department of Education or the State Department."
Obama's Spaced-Out Mission, opinion, Richmond Times Dispatch
"Nowhere in the act was NASA assigned the responsibility to expand international relationships or reach out to "the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science and engineering." However, according to a recent interview NASA Director Charles Bolden gave to AlJazeera, that is exactly what President Obama informed him the space agency's foremost mission was to be."
Lost in space: Obama's NASA program, Daily Caller
"When did it become the NASA administrator's top job to "reach out" to the Muslim world and make them "feel good?" In the past, NASA administrators were busy managing their agencies, but not Mr. Bolden. He is our ambassador to the Muslim world, speaking for President Obama. In the interview, Bolden sounded more like a politician or a diplomat than a NASA administrator."
Debating NASA's mission, Letters, Houston Chronicle
"So President Obama has charged NASA chief Charles Bolden with the crucial mission of finding a way to reach out to the Muslim world to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math and engineering ("NASA's crucial missions hijacked by liberal agenda," Page B9, Thursday). How condescending. I have read that Arab schools stress these achievements and rightly so. They don't need the U.S. to tell them to be proud of their heritage. Let's let NASA get on with the mission for which it was created."
Obama's NASA Chief: Muslim Outreach is My Foremost Mission, Rush Limbaugh
"RUSH: That's right. That's precisely why it's wrong. Obama is the new chief executive and all of America's wrong. The original mission statement of America is wrong. That's the Constitution, and that's under assault, too. Not just the initial mission statement of NASA. If he's going to run around and say that NASA's purpose now is to spread science and math understanding to Muslim countries and to recognize their contributions to math and science, then you can imagine what this bunch thinks of the Constitution."
"GLENN: But imagine how condescending that is to say that NASA's going to go over and say, look who's been smart in the past, look what you've done. Who can take an abacus and turn it upside down? You can. I mean, that is the most condescending thing I've ever heard. Make them feel good about their history. And isn't that so very progressive. Make them feel good. That's the charge of NASA? That's what we're doing with NASA money?"
Does the 'S' In NASA Suddenly Stand for 'Stupid'?, Opinion, Fox News
"So don't fault Bolden, fault his commander in chief. Every time conservatives underscore the idea that Obama is not a Muslim, he does everything within his power to cozy up to the very powers that hate our guts and dominate the Muslim world."
"QUESTION: Can you speak to why the NASA administrator was doing outreach to the Muslim community? There was an article over the weekend.
MR. TONER: It's an excellent question. I do not have an answer for you on that. I can try to - or I encourage you to talk to our NASA colleagues. I mean, obviously, the new space policy has a more international approach, and we unveiled that, I believe, from the White House last week or a week ago - yeah, a week ago Monday, today. Today's Tuesday.
QUESTION: Isn't that the role of the State Department and not the space agency, obviously?
MR. TONER: Well, I mean, I think it's an interagency cooperative effort. And so obviously - but I - as to specific comments today, I think I saw it on TV, I didn't listen to them closely enough to have any response for you. I can just say that part of the new approach to space - this Administration's new approach to space is to engage in international partners and that would - obviously, that would include in the Muslim world."
Keith's note: Gee, of all places, why would anyone ask the State Department about a recent visit by a senior Administration official to several mideast countries - at the request of the White House?
This week at Cape Canaveral saw the red, white and blue honored by one of the most historic of American traditions. It also saw local leaders both working to improve the economic future of the Space Coast region and acknowledging the benefits of the shuttle era extending into another year.
"The most striking emphasis to me is something that is not at all new: a continued push to get the government out of the rocket business. Commercial space has been a clear focus of the new NASA ever since the presidential budget was released in February. But what's not clear is if it will end up happening, given Congressional intransigence."
"NASA junkies continue to howl at the Obama administration's plans for human space exploration, and with good reason: there's just no there there."
Obama reverses Bush's policy on space, NY Times
"The Obama administration Monday unveiled a space policy that renounces the unilateral stance of the Bush administration and instead emphasizes international cooperation, including the possibility of an arms-control treaty that would limit the development of space weapons."
"Space: to President Obama, it's an opportunity for nations to join gloved hands and perform a glorious multinational spacewalk, all for the good of science. But he's not ready to rule it out as a potential battlefield, either." W.H. releases National Space Policy, Politico
"NASA was not part of the press conference. Pavel said the space agency was just one of "a couple of dozen departments around the table," including the State Department, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Department of Energy, meeting to develop a policy that "reflected the president's priorities."
"Bretton Alexander, President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, stated, "The National Space Policy reinforces the President's new plan for NASA, particularly the use of commercial providers for transport of crew and cargo to the International Space Station. The National Space Policy recognizes the benefits of a robust commercial space industry and lays down a series of clear policies to enable further growth of this sector."
The End of the Apollo Era - Finally?, John Logsdon, Space News
"I interpret the new space strategy set out by the White House Feb. 1 to be at its foundation a proposal to move from the 20th century, Apollo-era approach to human spaceflight to a new approach consistent with 21st century national and international realities and future exploration and other strategic space objectives. It is not surprising that those with positive memories of Apollo and with vested interests in continuing the space status quo have been so strong in their opposition to the new approach; they are defending a space effort that to date has served them well. These critics have been met with a -- literally -- incoherent defense of the new strategy by its advocates inside and outside of the government. U.S. President Barack Obama confused the situation even further in his April 15 speech at the Kennedy Space Center. The result has been a polarized debate unprecedented in my more than four decades of close observation of space policymaking."
"SENIOR ADMINSTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: No, no. What it does is it sets up best practices for things like transparency, confidence building measures. I don't know if my colleagues want to add anything more on that.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TWO: No, I don't have anything to add.
SENIOR ADMINSTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah, it is not an arms -- a legally binding arms control agreement. What it is, again - is, again, set up best practices how responsible space-faring nations would act. And it would be politically binding, not legally binding. That is a confidence in transparency building measure. And I think in the near term that's where the focus of the Administration's efforts will be."
Keith's note: Yesterday, the space media got a 6 minute warning by email that White House officials were going to have a media telecon to discuss the new space policy. NASA PAO only found out at the last minute and did their best to alert us. Yesterday, the State Department also had a stealth press briefing - by telecon - about space and NASA apparently did not get a heads up - ergo no media advisory for the space media. But in addition to no advanced notice, no one at the State Department was willing to use their name or allow comments to be attributed to them. I am trying to decide if this is attributable to arrogance or cowardice. It is probably safe to assume both.
But the most post hypocritical part of this entire stealth exchange is when "Senior Administration Official One" and "Senior Administration Official Two" start to talk about "best practices for transparency." What could these two people possibly know about "transparency"? They won't even use their own name in an official State Department activity, a transcript of which is posted on an official website.
"Saying the U.S. is no longer "racing against an adversary," President Barack Obama called Monday for greater international cooperation in exploring space. Obama said in a statement that the U.S. seeks peaceful collaboration with other countries that will ward off conflict and make it easier to expand exploration. The United States must do more to address debris and other hazards in space, he said, and called for a "burgeoning commercial space industry."
"President Barack Obama called for greater international cooperation for space exploration and bolstering U.S. companies that build spacecraft. Obama vowed to maintain the U.S. competitive edge in space exploration and in systems that support national security operations. At the same time, the president said, U.S. policy must recognize that the world has changed since the end of the Cold War."
Obama calls for international cooperation in space, Orlando Sentinel
"President Barack Obama on Monday underscored his desire to turn space into a place for peace on Monday, releasing a policy paper that advocated international science missions and opened the door for future treaties that could limit space junk and weapons above Earth. But administration officials said the push for international cooperation does not mean the U.S. necessarily would ask its allies to join Obama's proposed mission to send NASA astronauts to an asteroid by 2025, which he outlined during a visit to Kennedy Space Center in April, or immediately seek a treaty that would ban space-based weapons."
Keith's note: I (and other space media) just got this White House Press Secretary advisory one minute ago from NASA PAO. I had a total of 6 minutes advanced notice. I can't think of a better way to cut down on questions:
"Today: Senior Administration Officials to Hold A Conference Call Briefing on the New National Space Policy
WASHINGTON--Today at 1:30 PM EDT, Senior Administration Officials will hold a conference call with reporters to discuss the administration's new National Space Policy.
WHAT: Conference call briefing to discuss the administration's new National Space Policy
WHO: Barry Pavel, NSC Senior Director for Defense Policy and Strategy,
Jim Kohlenberger, Chief of Staff of the Office of Science and Technology Policy,
Peter Marquez, NSC Director of Space Policy
WHEN: Today, Monday, June 28 at 1:30 PM EDT
Dial-in: United States: (877) 941-8639
Call Title: "White House Conference Call"
I will live tweet the content of this briefing here.
New National Space Policy Conciliatory, not Confrontational, Spacepolicyonline.com
"Whenever it is formally released, President Obama's new national space policy will have a very different tone than his predecessor's. Rumors remain rampant that the new policy will be released on Monday, but some of those in the know say that it more likely will be later in the week. Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley intimated on Wednesday that it might even be longer than that. Nevertheless, a one page summary of the policy's "Top Level Messages," dated June 25, is making the rounds. It says that the two major principles of the policy are "responsible use of space" and "nurturing the U.S. space industry."
New Space Policy Calls for Global Cooperation, Wall Street Journal
"The Obama administration as early as Monday is expected to call for significantly greater international cooperation than ever before in outer space, covering a wide range of civilian and national-security programs. The new policy, according to industry and government officials familiar with the details, also endorses the pursuit of verifiable arms-control proposals for space. And it envisions stepped-up U.S. government efforts to bolster domestic rocket and satellite manufacturers, making them more economically viable and competitive overseas."
Keith's note: OK, so the White House makes all sorts of budgetary and contractual changes to NASA programs with little or no advanced warning, questionable pre-coordination, bad rollout - all with no cogent space policy in evidence. Chaos ensues. And then they fiddle with it. Now they are going to actually release a space policy - but only after all of their earlier efforts at NASA have run into brick walls (Congress). Is this going to clarify things - or just make things even more confusing? Stay tuned.
Playing politics: President's NASA policy could haunt his party at the polls in Harris County, Editorial, Houston Chronicle
"A parade of administration officials, starting with the president, has gone to Florida to promise federal assistance. In a speech at KSC, where some 20,000 NASA and contract workers are affected, Obama pledged an additional $40 million in job assistance. No such consideration has been shown toward other NASA facilities around the country, including the Johnson Space Center in Clear Lake. It stands to lose up to 7,000 NASA and contractor jobs. We smell the stench of political favoritism in the consideration lavished by the administration upon Florida, a presidential swing state, while facilities in Alabama and Texas, two reliable GOP strongholds, are ignored."
"We the undersigned, a diverse group of organizations with a vital interest in our Nation's space program, make the following statements:
- We strongly support the top line FY2011 NASA budget.
- We believe an important goal of the NASA budget is to accelerate the development of the intellectual capital of the United States by investing in a high-cadence exciting program.
- We are excited by the increases in science, aeronautics and technology initiatives.
- We believe both human exploration and research are important: destination, milestones, engagement and story matter.
- We believe this is an opportunity for NASA to craft the exploration strategy in partnership with science and applied science that includes the International Space Station, safe and cost-effective access to low earth orbit, robotic precursors, and other missions. Heavy lift launch and in-space servicing enable new realms of exploration and science.
- We believe it is critically important that the American people can and must participate and be engaged in the journey of discovery and exploration."
Presentations From The Closed Space Organization Meeting (Update), earlier post
Meeting of Space Organizations, earlier post
"Approximately 20 percent of all NASA facilities are dedicated to research and development: on average, they are not state of the art: they are merely adequate to meet current needs. Nor are they attractive to prospective hires when compared with other national and international laboratory facilities. Over 80 percent of NASA facilities are more than 40 years old and need significant maintenance and upgrades to preserve the safety and continuity of operations for critical missions. ... The equipment and facilities of NASA's fundamental research laboratories are inferior to those witnessed by committee members at comparable laboratories at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), at top-tier U.S. universities, and at many corporate research institutions and are comparable to laboratories at the Department of Defense (DOD). If its basic research facilities were equipped to make them state of the art, NASA would be in a better position to maintain U.S. leadership in the space, Earth, and aeronautical sciences and to attract the scientists and engineers needed for the future."
"The panel found that NASA has systematically neglected research laboratories at six NASA centers -- the Ames Research Center and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, the Glenn Research Center in Ohio, Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, Langley Research Center in Virginia, and Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama."
NASA Boss Wants Innovation, Technology Review
"But [Bolden] called for a new era of invention at the agency. "We have not done anything in the past decade for basic research," he said. "The frustration for me is that when I go to Congress, all we talk about is Constellation and human spaceflight. We forget that the president's plan is to spend a lot of money on basic research."
"It makes no more sense to have a NASA with an under-emphasis on human spaceflight than it did to have a NASA with an over-emphasis. The strategic leadership of the United States in a rapidly evolving globalized world, the economic well-being of our people, and the sense in our society that our future is promising, all require a NASA that has breadth in science and technology, and accomplishments in both robotic and human spaceflight. The burden of proof thus now lies with Congress and NASA to define and to develop a human spaceflight program that does not re-inflict damage on the breadth of NASA's activities and that serves the nation well. It is possible to do this."
NASA Managers Push Plan In Congress, Academia, Aviation Week
"So far it does not appear the Obama administration's plan is winning many hearts and minds. A session with a range of space organizations produced a few tidbits, like word that the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate plans to release a bunch of requests for information in the next couple of weeks to get industry input as a Houston-based NASA study panel prepares road maps for human space exploration. Those would replace the Constellation Program, which refuses to lie down and die on Capitol Hill even though President Barack Obama wants to kill it. Deputy Administrator Lori Garver and other agency officials asked a gathering of mostly academic space organizations for help with the plan in Congress, after barring reporters from the meeting. But the groups decided not to form a coalition for that purpose, and as of the end of last week were still hammering out details of a joint statement that will endorse some -- but not all -- of the space policy changes embodied in NASA's Fiscal 2011 budget request."
"For company founder Elon Musk, it's showtime. "We're super excited to be launching from Cape Canaveral," Musk said. "It's like opening on Broadway." For others, the flight will be a measure of President Obama's plan to kill NASA's moon program, dubbed Project Constellation, and instead invest in developing commercial "space taxis" for astronauts traveling to and from low Earth orbit. The plan has encountered opposition in Congress. The odds of success on the first launch of any new rocket are about 50-50. "I hope people don't use us as a bellwether for commercial space," Musk said."