Space & Planetary Science: July 2018 Archives

Keith's note: (Sigh) This had to happen. Now there are planetary scientists who actually think that use of the term "Planet 9" is "insensitive" - and they even have a petition urging support for their barely-contained outrage. If the Pluto huggers were serious about the responsibility that goes with naming things on worlds they should have thought twice about naming surface features on Pluto after things such as a SciFi monster named "Cthulhu" whose head is shaped like calamari. And they were all nicknaming features like crazy before the IAU even had a chance to weigh in. But wait - weren't many of the same undersigned complainers recently complaining about the IAU naming process - and demanding a greater role for public input in this process? Well, that is what is happening: there may be a large planet lurking in the outer solar system and some scientists and the public want to call it "Planet 9". And they are. C'mon Alan Stern. You can't have it both ways. Just sayin'

"ON THE INSENSITIVE USE OF THE TERM "PLANET 9" FOR OBJECTS BEYOND PLUTO: We the undersigned wish to remind our colleagues that the IAU planet definition adopted in 2006 has been controversial and is far from universally accepted. Given this, and given the incredible accomplishment of the discovery of Pluto, the harbinger of the solar system's third zone - the Kuiper Belt - by planetary astronomer Clyde W. Tombaugh in 1930, we the undersigned believe the use of the term "Planet 9" for objects beyond Pluto is insensitive to Professor Tombaugh's legacy. We further believe the use of this term should be discontinued in favor of culturally and taxonomically neutral terms for such planets, such as Planet X, Planet Next, or Giant Planet Five."

Petition signers below:

House Science Committee Demands Answers on James Webb Space Telescope Delays

"In questioning, Smith asked whether Northrop Grumman had taken responsibility for the problems listed in the IRB report. "In Mr. Young's report there were several instances of preventable human error that were pinpointed that led to millions of dollars in cost overruns. I'm wondering if those employees are still employed by Northrop Grumman," Smith asked. Bush could not confirm that anyone had been fired as a result of the human errors that have delayed JWST. Smith asked if Northrop Grumman was planning to pay the $800 million in above-cap expenses, and the answer was also no. "I wish that Northrop Grumman would take responsibility and show a little bit more good faith both for the taxpayer and for the cost overruns," Smith said."

Mars Express Detects Liquid Water Under Mars' South Pole, ESA

"Evidence for the Red Planet's watery past is prevalent across its surface in the form of vast dried-out river valley networks and gigantic outflow channels clearly imaged by orbiting spacecraft. Orbiters, together with landers and rovers exploring the Martian surface, also discovered minerals that can only form in the presence of liquid water. But the climate has changed significantly over the course of the planet's 4.6-billion-year history and liquid water cannot exist on the surface today, so scientists are looking underground. Early results from the 15-year-old Mars Express spacecraft already found that water ice exists at the planet's poles and is also buried in layers interspersed with dust."

NASA's next great space telescope is stuck on Earth after screwy errors, Washington Post

"Mission success is the cornerstone of everything we do. Getting it right is the most important thing," said Scott Willoughby, program manager for the Webb at Northrop Grumman. "No, we don't need a culture change. We need people to understand how hard it is. We need people to know that we're going to get it right."

Keith's note: Given the immense cost overruns and delays with Webb, this has to be the most clueless, tone deaf comment I have ever heard from an aerospace company. "No, we don't need a culture change." Seriously? This week there will be an unusual pair of hearings - same committee, same topic, but a different witness lineup. Have a look:

Panel 1 - Wednesday July 25, 2018 at 10:00 a.m.
Hon. Jim Bridenstine, administrator, NASA
Mr. Tom Young, chairman, JWST Independent Review Board

Prepared statements: Thomas Young; Jim Bridenstine; Rep. Babin; Rep. Smith;
Rep. Johnson; Rep. Bera

Panel 2 - Thursday, July 26, 2018 at 9:00 9:30 a.m.
Mr. Wesley Bush, chief executive officer, Northrop Grumman Corp.
Mr. Tom Young, chairman, JWST Independent Review Board

Watch live

Hearing charter

"Since the JWST program has now breached under 51 USC 30104 notification conditions, the hearing discussion on July 25 will explore NASA program management effectiveness, program continuation and reauthorization, and budgetary implications across NASA's entire science portfolio, to include the WFIRST program. The second part on July 26 will explore contractor issues and recommended improvements regarding contractor accountability."

Keith's note: Northrop Grumman has a big Webb Space Telescope Charm offense underway. Their ads are everywhere. First they took out that huge $200,000 full page ad in the Washington Post. Now they have a companion website using this code under ad links that pop up all over the place: http://www.northropgrumman.com/MediaResources/MediaKits/JWST/Home.aspx?utm_source=PrintAd&utm_medium=Redirect&utm_campaign=FromOrigJWSTurl+Redirect When you get to the website you are treated to nothing but happy aerospace banter. No mention of launch dates and delays, more than a decade of multi-billion dollar cost overruns, the need for Congressional reauthorization due to cost overruns, anger by NASA managers, dumb engineering mistakes, etc. Instead, NorthropGrumman just pounds out their oxymoronic tag line "Making History Requires Mission SUccess".

Clueless Webb Telescope Advertisement From Northrop Grumman

"Northrop Grumman just wants you to know that "mission success" is important. Duh. I am not certain they care so long as they get paid. This is not how America is going to do that whole leadership-in-space thing. If this is an example of how we do that leadership thing we won't be able to afford to lead the way."

Brad Smith

Planetary Exploration Newsletter: "Brad Smith was a pioneer in the exploration of the solar system. He participated in a number of US and international space missions, including Mars Mariners 6 and 7, the Mars Viking mission, the Soviet Vega mission to Halley's Comet, the Soviet Phobos mission to Mars, and the Wide Field/Planetary Camera team for the Hubble Space Telescope. He was the deputy team leader of the imaging team on the Mariner 9 Mars Orbiter, and was chosen by NASA to lead the camera team on the Voyager missions to Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. He co-discovered a circumstellar disk around the nearby star, Beta Pictoris, the first direct evidence of a planetary system beyond our own, and continued these studies as a member of the infrared camera (NICMOS) experiment on the Hubble Space Telescope. For the full obituary and memorial service information, go to: http://shorelips.net/bradsmith The memorial service for Brad will be held from 2 to 5 PM on Saturday, September 22, 2018 at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, Room 308, at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Please RSVP to Amy Phillips (amy_p -at - mac.com). More information will be posted at the above site as it becomes available."

Keith's note: The following full page color advertisement by Northrop Grumman appears on page A5 of today's Washington Post (larger image).

"MAKING HISTORY REQUIRES MISSION SUCCESS.

Northrop Grumman is proud to lead the industry team of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope - the largest, most complex and powerful space telescope ever built. Webb will fundamentally alter our understanding of the universe, and we are focused on ensuring that this once-unthinkable achievement becomes a reality. Webb pushes the limits of technology. We only get one chance to get it right - and we take that responsibility seriously. From putting men on the moon to seeing he first images from Hubble, there are many great firsts in space. When Webb travels one million miles from Earth and peers back over 13.5 billion years to see the first stars and galaxies forming out of the darkness of the early universe, we will marvel at its discoveries and write the next chapter of great firsts in space. Making history requires mission success and we are all in."

Yea, Northrop Grumman is "all in" on this. Non-stop cost increases and schedule delays for 16 years have turned this project into a cash cow for the company. You bet they're "all in" - even if they can't seem to attach fasteners properly and don't read the instructions on what solvents to use to clean hardware. But that's OK since NASA will just keep paying those invoices.

Advertisements like this in the Washington Post like this can easily cost between $100,000 to $200,000. At a minimum you'd hope that the money for ads (which should be spent on fixing Northrop Grumman's dumb mistakes) would at least be used for public commentary that is a little more honest about the situation. Instead, you see no mention of any of these screw ups or obscene cost increases - problems that are so bad that Congress now has to reauthorize this project.

Northrop Grumman just wants you to know that "mission success" is important. Duh. I am not certain they care so long as they get paid. This is not how America is going to do that whole leadership-in-space thing. If this is an example of how we do that leadership thing we won't be able to afford to lead the way.

More Cost Increases And Delays For Webb Space Telescope

"As a result of the delay, Webb's total lifecycle cost to support the March 202l launch date is estimated at $9.66 billion. The development cost estimate to support the new launch date is $8.8B (up from the $8B development cost estimate established in 2011)."

NASA Announces Contract for Next-Generation Space Telescope Named after Space Pioneer (2002)

"The James Webb Space Telescope is scheduled for launch in 2010 aboard an expendable launch vehicle. NASA today selected TRW, Redondo Beach, Calif. [Bought by Northrop Grumman 2 months earlier], to build a next-generation successor to the Hubble Space Telescope in honor of the man who led NASA in the early days of the fledgling aerospace agency. Under the terms of the contract valued at $824.8 million, TRW will design and fabricate the observatory's primary mirror and spacecraft. TRW also will be responsible for integrating the science instrument module into the spacecraft as well as performing the pre-flight testing and on-orbit checkout of the observatory."


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This page is an archive of entries in the Space & Planetary Science category from July 2018.

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