Space & Planetary Science: June 2011 Archives

Internal NASA GSFC Report: Weekly Input May 14, 2011- May 21, 2011 Submitted to Code 550

"JWST ISIM - Davila and Mehalick/551: The JWST Standing Review Board (SRB) outbrief to the project was held last Friday. The SRB heard from the project regarding the new baseline plan (including budget and schedule) for a launch date of fy18. The SRB reported that the new baseline plan for JWST was not viable due to lack of sufficient funding in fy11 and fy12, rapid ramp-up of support planned for fy13 and marginal reserves for the years fy13 fy18. The SRB was very complimentary of the new OTIS testing structure, and systems engineering take-over by GSFC."

Webb telescope delayed past 2018?, Nature

"Hubble's successor -- the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) -- is in a heap of trouble. Things were already bad in October, when it was supposed to launch in 2014 and its price tag stood at $5 billion. Then in November, an independent review said its costs had risen to $6.5 billion and that it would not launch until 2015. Now, a review board says the 6-metre segmented telescope may not even get off the ground in 2018. A baseline plan that includes the telescope launching in fiscal year 2018 is "unfeasible", according to an internal memo from Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, that was first disclosed today by NASAWatch."

Keith's note: According to NASA PAO: "NASA is still developing and discussing a new cost and schedule baseline plan for JWST. It's simply premature to make any conclusions until a plan is completed and reviewed within the agency and by an outside team of experts. This will ensure adequate levels of both cost and schedule reserves are in the appropriate years to successfully complete JWST development."

More Webb Problems

Keith's note: Sources report that project management for the Webb Space Telescope's OSIM (Optical SIMulator), over budget due to not meeting the BIA (Beam Image Analyzer) schedule, has decided to save money by capping charge time for all contractors (not government employees). There are approximately 15 employees working on OSIM. Their time is being cut to 20 hours per week from 1 July to 1 October 2011. This terminates insurance and benefits for the contractor employees involved because they are forced to be part-time employees. Civil servants keep their full salaries.

Prox Ops At Vesta

Dawn Nears Start of Year-Long Stay at Giant Asteroid Vesta

NASA's Dawn spacecraft is on track to begin the first extended visit to a large asteroid. The mission expects to go into orbit around Vesta on July 16 and begin gathering science data in early August. Vesta resides in the main asteroid belt and is thought to be the source of a large number of meteorites that fall to Earth.

First TV Image of Mars From Mariner IV in 1964 - Hand Colored

"A 'real-time data translator' machine converted a Mariner 4 digital image data into numbers printed on strips of paper. Too anxious to wait for the official processed image, employees from the Voyager Telecommunications Section at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, attached these strips side by side to a display panel and hand colored the numbers like a paint-by-numbers picture."

Keith's note: According to NASA HQ PAO a movie compilation of Dawn approach imagery for Vesta will be released on Monday. The original plan had been to release this video on Friday but the delay in the launch of Aquarius pushed this back until next week. A plan is also being assembled whereby JPL releases one image per week until Dawn arrives at Vesta. This is a great start - but given that Cassini [example] - and MER [example] teams post raw stuff - warts and all - almost the instant they get it, one would hope that JPL PAO could be internally consistent and do the same with Dawn imagery as they do for other missions. The more they release, the more the public will come to understand just how it is that NASA does what it does - and do so by looking over robotic shoulders as a new world comes into view for the very first time.

Why is JPL Sitting on Dawn Images? (Update: Still Waiting), earlier post

Mars Mission May Be In Jeopardy, NPR

"NASA's inspector general issued a significant list Wednesday of items that need to be resolved before the next mission to Mars can be launched in November. Some say the challenges won't be resolved in time, causing the Mars team to miss their launch window. That's a problem because the next window for sending a craft to Mars isn't for two years -- and the cost of rejiggering the program to fit that window might be too high for NASA to stomach."

Mars rover faces contamination issues, Nature

"Furthermore, the report notes concerns with the way that the rover's plutonium-238 power supply has degraded in the two years since the rover's launch was delayed from 2009 to the current window, between October and December of this year."

Next Mars rover faces bumpy ride to launch, New Scientist

"Hundreds of unsolved problems could delay the launch of NASA's ambitious new Mars rover by two years and add more than $500 million to its budget, according to a report from the agency's inspector general. But NASA is downplaying the concerns, saying it is "very confident" that it will meet its intended launch window, which begins in November."

NASA OIG: Final Report: NASA's Management of the Mars Science Laboratory Project

"Our analysis of the Project's current estimate to complete development indicates that even the $537 million figure may be too low. Our analysis is based on the earned value management system budget data and estimates of the additional work that will be needed to address unknowns. We estimate that $581 million may be required - $44 million more than management's latest estimate. Based on our calculations, unless managers request additional money the Project may have insufficient funds to complete all currently identified tasks prior to launch and may therefore be forced to reduce capabilities, delay the launch for 2 years, or cancel the mission."

Keith's note: A media teleconference is now getting underway with NASA PAO and SMD's Dave Lavery.. Replays of this conference will be available at 888-567-0444. Notes below.

Keith's 3 June note: Ever wonder why those Dawn approach images are so few and far between? After a series of frustrating emails with NASA HQ SMD PAO all I can get is "We may be able to release some time in June. Working with JPL to get an exact date.". At least NASA HQ PAO responds. JPL PAO and project staff simply refuse to reply to formal requests/inquires. What an amazing mission this will be - two worlds revealed for the first time - but already the NASA team seems to be sitting on the cool stuff. Not a good sign.

NASA Dawn Spacecraft Captures First Image Of Nearing Asteroid, earlier post

Keith's 6 June update: Still waiting for the release information - and images - from JPL. Actually, Veronica McGregor et al do not reply to email inquiries - only (to his credit) Dwayne Brown at NASA HQ PAO does.

A plea for more pictures from Dawn, Planetary Society

"I'm glad he replied to my email but I felt that [Dawn PI principal investigator, Christopher Russell] was missing the point of why members of the public would want to see approach images. It is not to enjoy pretty pictures. It is to "ride along" with the mission, to enjoy that thrill of discovering a new place for the first time. The Internet permits the public to participate vicariously in space missions, looking over the shoulders of the privileged few who get to (and get paid to!) explore the solar system through the eyes of robots."

Dawn Begins Approach to Asteroid Vesta and Snaps First Images, Universe Today

"Jim Adams, Deputy Director of Planetary Science, told me that the images from Dawn's Framing Camera will exceed those from Hubble in a few weeks."

Keith's 7 June update: The article was published on 11 May. 27 days later and it is 7 June. That certainly counts as "a few weeks". Indeed it almost a month. JPL is sitting on imagery that is due to "exceed those from Hubble" - and they won't release any of it? Why?

Telescope debacle devours NASA funds, Florida Today

"Alan Boss, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington who chairs NASA's independent advisory committee on astronomy research, worries the project could eat up a growing share of the nation's funding for astronomy and space science. He's gone so far as to call the telescope's woes "NASA's Hurricane Katrina." NASA has since removed the project from its astrophysics budget, making it a higher priority and less of a drain there. But it's still part of the overall science portfolio, drawing from a limited pot of money. Cash spent on Webb can't be spent on other science, Boss said. NASA concedes Webb will be a priority. Until the issues with Webb are resolved, Boss said, "everything is on hold with regard to funding for any major new projects."

-Scolese: Webb Launch Could Slip to 2022-2024 (Updated), earlier post
-Earlier stories

Lee Scherer

Lee Scherer, KSC's 2nd leader, dies at 91, Florida Today

"Lee Scherer, who led Kennedy Space Center through its last major transition between human spaceflight programs, will be remembered in a service later this month near his home in San Diego, Calif. Scherer, KSC's second center director from 1975 to 1979, died May 7 at age 91. ... Joining NASA in 1962 on loan from the Navy, Scherer managed a program that launched five lunar orbiters mapping Apollo landing sites."

Keith's note: We were beyond thrilled to have Lee Scherer visit our Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) operation at NASA Ames in November 2008 as we released the newly retrieved and restored "Earthrise" image taken by Lunar Orbiter 1 in 1966. As he walked into Building 596 (aka "McMoons" - it used to be a McDonalds) Lee was clearly stunned to see that we had found all of this old stuff and got it working again. We all had a tear in our eyes - it was like being in a Star Trek episode where something comes back from the past to a future where it simply should not exist.

At one point Lee told a story about some kids in his neighborhood who asked about an old picture he had hanging in his garage. Of course, it was the famous Earthrise image. You can imagine his reaction to seeing it presented in all its glory in a way not possible (technically) in 1966 - but in a way that now truly matched what one's mind's eye saw when this image first went viral in 1966. More than a generation later this image inspired the mission patch
for STS-130 - the shuttle flight that carried a piece of the summit of Mt. Everest and four small Apollo 11 moon rocks that had been to the summit up to the International Space Station. The past meets the future once again.

Ad astra Lee.

Photos of Lee's visit to McMoons and LOIRP here.

NASA OIG: NASA's Management of the NPOESS Preparatory Project

"NASA Inspector General Paul Martin today released a report that found NASA has incurred approximately $304 million in additional costs for an important meteorological satellite due to failures by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Air Force to deliver instruments and other critical components to NASA in a timely manner. As a result, the project has experienced a 5-year launch delay and cost increases of 54 percent. Moreover, failure to launch the satellite as scheduled in October 2011 will cost NASA an additional $35 million."

PCAST Meeting Featured Bolden, Earlier post

Bolden also refered to NPOESS as "one of my nightmares" and that it is "also one of John Holdren's nightmares" and "we won't talk about that unless you really want to.".

Photo: Titan And Another Moon Set Against Saturn's Rings

"This image was taken on May 21, 2011 and received on Earth May 22, 2011. The camera was pointing toward Titan at approximately 2,313,374 kilometers away, and the image was taken using the CL1 and GRN filters. This image has not been validated or calibrated."


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This page is an archive of entries in the Space & Planetary Science category from June 2011.

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