Keith Cowing: April 2013 Archives

Suits in space? A North Las Vegas company is working with NASA to recruit executives for space missions, Vegas Inc.

"Just months after reaching a deal with NASA to build an inflatable space room, local entrepreneur Robert Bigelow is working with agency officials to find ways for business executives to take part in human space missions. His company, Bigelow Aerospace, signed a deal with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration last month to explore how the private sector can contribute to missions beyond the area known as "Low Earth Orbit," about 1,200 miles above sea level. That could include missions to the moon, which is about 240,000 miles away, and Mars, which is at least 33.9 million miles from Earth."

Keith's note: So why won't NASA openly admit that it has signed this Space Act Agreement? Where is the press release? I asked for a copy of ths SAA weeks ago and NASA never sent it to me - despite the fact that these agreements are supposed to be made public and are usually provided by NASA PAO upon request. Alas, I obtained it through other means. Baffling PR tactics at work.

- Full Text of the NASA/Bigelow Space Act Agreement, earlier post
- Is NASA Going to Buy a Moon Base From Bob Bigelow?, earlier post

Letter from Rep. Lamar Smith, Chairmain, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology to NSF Director Cora Marrett

"During the course of the hearing, I asked Dr. Holdren about taxpayer funding for social, behavioral and political science studies at the National Science Foundation (NSF), and how we can better prioritize research spending. During that discussion, Dr. Holdren said that there is "room for improvement" in how NSF prioritizes research initiatives based on the potential value to the national interest. Based on my review of NSF-funded studies, I have concerns regarding some grants approved by the Foundation and how closely they adhere to NSF's "intellectual merit" guideline. To better understand how NSF makes decisions to approve and fund grants, it would be helpful to obtain detailed information on specific research projects awarded NSF grants."

Letter from Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, Ranking Member, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology to. Rep. Lamar Smith

"Your letter of April 25 to the Acting Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), Dr. Cora Marrett, has provoked me to write to you. At our hearing on April 17, both Dr. Marrett and the Chairman of the National Science Board (NSB), Dr. Dan Arvizu, offered to engage with the Committee in a meaningful discussion of the mission of NSF and how the agency's merit review process can best be constructed to support that mission. Rather than entering into that dialogue, your letter marks the beginning of an investigative effort, the implications of which are profound. This is the first step on a path that would destroy the merit-based review process at NSF and intrudes political pressure into what is widely viewed as the most effective and creative process for awarding research funds in the world. ... I cannot stand by silently as you continue this political intrusion into one of our Nation's and indeed, one of the world's most important scientific organizations. I ask that you withdraw your letter to Dr. Marrett. I stand ready to work with you to identify a less destructive, but more effective, effort to hold NSF accountable to the requirements laid out in law."

Congress tries to reset science grants, wants every one to be "groundbreaking", Ars Technica

"The other two requirements, however, completely misunderstand both basic research and the role of the National Science Foundation. Basic research is largely about exploring the unknown; by definition, it's almost impossible to tell which areas of research will end up being groundbreaking or have commercial applications. And the NSF is specifically tasked with funding basic research and science education."

U.S. Lawmaker Proposes New Criteria for Choosing NSF Grants, Science Insider

"The new chair of the House of Representatives science committee has drafted a bill that, in effect, would replace peer review at the National Science Foundation (NSF) with a set of funding criteria chosen by Congress. For good measure, it would also set in motion a process to determine whether the same criteria should be adopted by every other federal science agency."

Discussion Draft (via ScienceInsider)

Keith's note: Rest assured, Rep. Smith and his staff will soon start to poke around NASA funding decisions as well looking for things that they have ideological objections to.

Charles Bolden: Launching American Astronauts from U.S. Soil

"Three years ago, the Administration put forward a public-private partnership plan, the Commercial Crew Program (CCP), to ensure that American companies would be launching our astronauts from U.S. soil by 2015. It's a plan that supports the U.S. human spaceflight program, boosts our economy, and helps create good-paying American jobs. If NASA had received the President's requested funding for this plan, we would not have been forced to recently sign a new contract with Roscosmos for Soyuz transportation flights. Because the funding for the President's plan has been significantly reduced, we now won't be able to support American launches until 2017."

NASA Extends Crew Flight Contract With Russian Space Agency

Virgin Galactic Breaks Speed of Sound in First Rocket-powered Flight of SpaceShipTwo (with video)

"Today, Virgin Galactic, the world's first commercial spaceline owned by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi's aabar Investments PJC, completed the first rocket-powered flight of its space vehicle, SpaceShipTwo (SS2). The test, conducted by teams from Scaled Composites (Scaled) and Virgin Galactic, officially marks Virgin Galactic's entrance into the final phase of vehicle testing prior to commercial service from Spaceport America in New Mexico."

Keith's note: NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for Communications - Public Outreach Alan Ladwig will be retiring from NASA on 31 May 2013.

Message from the NASA Administrator: Preparing Our Workforce for the Future

"Instead of resting on past achievements, NASA has always been about reaching for the future. As I look ahead, I see a NASA that is a model organization operating even more effectively than today - a seamless organization that applies resources and talents across our agency as needed. I see an agency that is not constrained by stovepipes or traditional boundaries. Agility and versatility are encouraged, and being good stewards of taxpayer dollars while using the best tools to accomplish our bold mission is a part of everything we do."

Keith's note: I find it to be somewhat ironic to hear this from someone who has done more to foster the implementation of stovepipes (and the installation of protective fences around existing stovepipes) than any of his recent predecessors. Much of this resulted from his chronic inability to make tough decisions or stay "on message" with any degree of consistency. After 4 years, and ongoing talk of who his replacement will be, I guess Charlie finally got the message. Or at least he wants you think that he has.



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This page is an archive of recent entries written by Keith Cowing in April 2013.

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