Keith Cowing: July 2013 Archives

Differential Effects on Homozygous Twin Astronauts Associated with Differences in Exposure to Spaceflight Factors

"NASA's Human Research Program (HRP) has released solicited research response area NRA NNJ13ZSA002N-TWINS "Differential Effects on Homozygous Twin Astronauts Associated with Differences in Exposure to Spaceflight Factors" that solicits applied research in support of HRP goals and objectives. This response area is Appendix D of the Human Exploration Research Opportunities (HERO) NRA (NNJ13ZSA002N)."

Funding Opportunity Description

"There is a singular opportunity to propose limited, short-term investigations examining the differences in genetic, proteomic, metabolomics, and related functions in twin male monozygous astronauts associated with differential exposure to spaceflight conditions. This opportunity has emerged from NASA's decision to fly veteran NASA astronaut Scott Kelly aboard the International Space Station (ISS) for a period of one year commencing in March 2015, while his identical twin brother, retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, remains on Earth. Scott Kelly, a veteran of two Space Shuttle flights as well as a six-month ISS mission, will have a cumulative duration of 540 days in low Earth orbit at the conclusion of the one-year flight, while Mark Kelly, a veteran of four Space Shuttle flights, has a cumulative duration of 54 days in low Earth orbit. This opportunity originated at the initiative of the twin astronauts themselves."

Keith's note: I have to say this is a cool idea. Hats off to the Kelly brothers for making this offer.

Small Bodies Assessment Group FIndings

"While the SBAG committee finds that there is great scientific value in sample return missions from asteroids such as OSIRIS-Rex, ARRM has been defined as not being a science mission, nor is it a cost effective way to address science goals achievable through sample return. Candidate ARRM targets are limited and not well identified or characterized. Robotic sample return missions can return higher science value samples by selecting from a larger population of asteroids, and can be accomplished at significantly less cost (as evidenced by the OSIRIS-REx mission). Support of ARRM with planetary science resources is not appropriate."

Extracting Public and Stakeholder Opinions: Unusual Suspects Need Not Apply, ECAST

"Public opinion in this country is everything," stated President Abraham Lincoln in 1859. Fast-forward 154 years to the age of trending Twitter topics and 24-hour cable news. Public opinion seems to have a significant effect on social issues and in some cases, like the recent DOMA Act repeal, triggers changes in policy. However, its influence over science and technology policy is far less, where stakeholder opinion reins supreme. The general public is largely excluded, on the grounds that they are uninformed and therefore their opinions are not particularly useful for policymaking.
This de facto policy of exclusion was recently demonstrated at the National Research Council Committee On Human Spaceflight's meetings. The meetings on public and stakeholder opinions were closed to the public, with the exception of the first 30-minute, early morning session."

Yet Another Slow Motion Advisory Committee on Human Space Flight

"... 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."

Keith's note: This committee had a meeting in the vacation community of Woods Hole, MA from 24-26 July 2013. No agenda was posted - and apparently none will be posted. The entire meeting - one that dicussed public input - was closed. Indeed this web page says "No outside materials were distributed to the committee.", Go figure.

NASA OIG: NASA's Progress in Adopting Cloud-Computing Technologies

"The OIG review found that weaknesses in NASA's IT governance and risk management practices have impeded the Agency from fully realizing the benefits of cloud computing and potentially put NASA systems and data stored in the cloud at risk. For example, several NASA Centers moved Agency systems and data into public clouds without the knowledge or consent of the Agency's Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO). Moreover, on five occasions NASA acquired cloud-computing services using contracts that failed to fully address the business and IT security risks unique to the cloud environment. Finally, one of the two moderate-impact systems NASA moved to a public cloud operated for 2 years without authorization, a security or contingency plan, or a test of the system's security controls. This occurred because the OCIO lacked proper oversight authority, was slow to establish a contract that mitigated risks unique to cloud computing, and did not implement measures to ensure cloud providers met Agency IT security requirements."

Previous IT Stories

New Uses For Launch Pad 39A: Threatening The Status Quo

"While news stories focus (inaccurately) on a contrived rivalry between space billionaires Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, entrenched interests in Florida are seeking to keep new players away from using launch facilities at Kennedy Space Center. These efforts could well backfire and cause these potential employers to pick locations other than Florida to conduct their growing commercial space activities.

Predictably, It is the possible commercial use of pad 39A that has caused a lot of concern for the powers that be in the Cape Canaveral are specifically United Launch Alliance (ULA). ULA launches Boeing's Delta II/IV family and Lockheed Martin's Atlas V under a de facto monopoly on EELV-class missions sanctioned by the U.S. government. Companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin pose a threat to this status quo - especially when they bring their decidedly new ways of doing things and lower costs to the half century old rocket launching world of the Space Coast."

- Letter from Rep. Wolf and Rep. Aderholt Regarding NASA's Leasing of Pad 39A
- Memo From Rep. Aderholt Staffer Mark Dawson: "NASA Launch Pad 39A; what's the big deal?"

Keith's note: Care to guess where this donation box is? Note the diversity of currencies. This diversity is quite normal for this location. Click on image to enlarge.

NASA JSC PAO Internal Memo: Space Station Live Placed on Hiatus

"However, in order to have the time to ensure that our products align to our ERO BHAG and align with the desires of our partners, we can't just keep piling on additional work. To that end, after extensive discussions, we're placing Space Station Live on hiatus at the end of the week. And, we're working with the ISS Program to consider other things as well - using a new, regular meeting where leaders from ERO and ISS share updates and collaborate together. For example, we'd use this forum to discuss a pilot effort where we support uncrewed vehicle launches, dockings and undockings differently--perhaps providing commentary only through social media."

Keith's update: I just got a call from NASA JSC PAO to clarify things. They are not looking to shut down the ISS live App or website - (the email was a little confusing) rather they are looking to halt the creation of an hour long daily update about ISS events and the weekly posting of a summary thereof. I asked if they had metrics on what their viewership/readership was and they said that they were not allowed to track such information. This is odd given how much NASA just loves to crow about the number of people who visit their websites. No attempt has been - or apparently will be - made to ask users/viewers of these discontinued features as to whether they like things, if things can be improved - and how. Rather, they will just shut things off and see who (if anyone) complains. As for the use of the word "partners" JSC PAO tells me that this refers to internal partners at JSC.

To be certain, it is good that NASA periodically revisits the things that it does - especially when funds are tight - to see if they are offering the best value to their audience based on their needs and interests. I am just baffled as to why NASA spends so little time actually talking to - or consulting with - actual audience members before they make these decisions. Charlie Bolden loves to babble on about "metrics" when it comes to how he makes decisions about NASA education programs. But in reality NASA has very few audience metrics when it comes to its overall education and public outreach. And when they do have metrics, they just ignore them or bungle their interpretation of what the metrics are saying.

As for my rant about JPL's three websites for MSL. I still think that such efforts are wasteful. Back to my vacation.

Audit of Selected NASA Conferences in Fiscal Years 2011-2012, NASA OIG

"NASA May Have Augmented its Appropriations at the 2011 IT Summit. Donations of goods and services by outside entities can lead to an augmentation of an agency's appropriations and a violation of the Antideficiency Act unless they are authorized under a gift acceptance statute or other statutory authority. ... The 2011 IT Summit steering committee members did not consult with the OGC or OCFO about NIA's contributions to the Summit and therefore did not follow NASA policy regarding the acceptance of gifts from outside entities. We believe this occurred because the steering committee members viewed the awards luncheon and other meals and receptions NIA paid for as NIA events rather than NASA events and therefore did not interpret NASA policy to require consultation under such circumstances. In January 2013, NASA clarified its policy to make clear that the consultation requirement applies to "complimentary activities" like the NIA-sponsored events.

... Reported Conference Costs Were Underreported. NASA estimated the 2011 IT Summit would cost $1,176,307, and reported actual costs of $1,291,889, a difference of approximately $116,000. We found that NASA did not include in the estimated cost figure $548,209 incurred by contractors who attended the event and billed NASA for their attendance and travel costs or an additional $128,439 in miscellaneous expenses."

In this video "NASA CIO Linda Cureton's NASA IT Summit Reception speech is attacked by a flash mob". Here is Another view. Then there was the Smashcast at 2011 NASA IT Summit. Too bad they could not get the actors who did the Star Trek thing for that IRS conference.

- Earlier NASA CIO and NASA IT postings

NASA Administrator Message: Audit of Selected NASA Conferences in Fiscal Years 2011-2012

"I welcome this review as part of NASA's culture of continuous improvement and our commitment to transparency and good stewardship of taxpayer money. In fact, as noted in the report, we began taking steps to improve our conference policies and procedures several years ago and have significantly enhanced our conference oversight review processes. It is also important to note that we further strengthened those processes in the two years since the conferences described in the IG's report."

Keith's Note: Truth be known Bolden et al have been very familiar with this ongoing OIG activity and these cost excesses and procedural abuses for years and have been dreading the inevitable release of this report. NASA HQ knew damn well that this CIO event was out of control even as it was being planned and they chose to just look the other way. Earlier NASA efforts with regard to travel and meetings are, of course, mere window dressing under the guise of sequestration issues, and were applied often without much thought given to logic or actually controlling costs. Mr. Bolden is not interested in fixing anything. Rather, he just wants to stay out of the news - and when NASA gets in the news for doing bad things, he wants NASA to exit the news as fast as possible.

Milt Silveira

Obiturary, Washington Post

"Dr. Milton Antone Silveira, former Chief Engineer of NASA passed away July 11, 2013, at his residence in McLean, Virginia. He worked on all USA manned spacecraft programs in pursuit of putting a man on the moon: Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo. He was the Program Manager of Little Joe II in support of the Apollo Program and supported the Skylab Program. Later he was Manager of the Space Shuttle Engineering Office and then Deputy Manager of the Orbiter Project Office at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. He left JSC to go to NASA Headquarters becoming the Assistant to the NASA Deputy Director and later NASA Chief Engineer."



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