Keith Cowing: March 2018 Archives

NASA Announces Senior Leadership Changes to Refocus Launch Readiness Efforts for Webb Telescope

"NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD) is taking essential steps to refocus efforts to ensure a successful mission for the agency's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) after an independent assessment of remaining tasks revealed more time is needed for testing and integration to meet a new launch window of approximately May 2020. Webb is SMD's highest priority project and the largest international space science project in U.S. history. All of the observatory's flight hardware is now complete. To best assure launch readiness, SMD has made the following personnel changes:"

Keith's 29 March update: NASA HQ sources report that Jeff Waksman was escorted out of the building by NASA security. Greg Autry was similarly escorted out of the building last year. Erik Noble did not get a golden watch either. But at least they were not fired by Twitter. FWIW no one who has devoted their time to NASA really deserves this sort of treatment. The Trump politicals at NASA are not a friendly bunch. Its like Game of Thrones. Tick tock.

Keith's 28 March note: Sources report that Trump political employee Jeff Waksman, Special Assistant to the Administrator, has been fired. There has been a certain amount of in-fighting amongst the Trump political appointees on the 9th floor at NASA HQ. Waksman is the third one to be fired in the past year. There will probably be at least one more departure in the near future.

- How Jonathan Dimock Auditioned To Be NASA White House Liaison, earlier post
- Chief of Staff Erik Noble Has Left NASA, earlier post
- Palace Intrigue On The 9th Floor At NASA HQ, earlier post
- Beachhead Team Members At NASA HQ, earlier post
- NASA Headquarters Transition Update - New 9th Floor Faces, earlier post

- Jeff Waksman, LinkedIn

"Member of President's "Beachhead" team at NASA, with a focus on policy/strategy/budget. Tasks include:

• Work with NASA's Strategy & Policy team, as well as both internal and external stakeholders, to develop policy and budget options for the incoming Administrator.
• Coordinate with the Executive Office of the President to ensure consistency of purpose, and to make sure that the White House's vision of space exploration and science/technology development is fulfilled.
• Assist NASA leadership with development of the President's FY2018 budget request and NASA's updated Strategic Plan.
• Work to increase efficiency within NASA, including both government reform and also helping the various NASA centers and NASA mission directorates to work more closely together.

As part of this role, served as a member of the President-elect's transition team on the NASA Landing Team from December 2016-January 2017, working with a highly skilled and experienced team to craft an agency policy plan for NASA."

President Trump went to Ohio today to talk about infrastructure. At one point he talked about space.

"We must recapture the excitement of creation, the spirit of innovation, and the spark of invention. And we're starting. You saw the rocket the other day, what's going on with cars, what's going on with so much. You see what's going on ... NASA space agency. All of a sudden it's back. Did you notice? It was dormant for many, many years. Now, it's back. And we're trying to have the private sector to invest the money. Why the hell should we do it, right? Let them invest. If they want to send rocket ships up, they're rich, let them do it. When I looked at the rocket that went up three weeks ago, where the tanks came back. Nobody's ever seen that. It looks like, like Star Wars. But I looked at it and I heard the cost. I think they said 85 million dollars. If the government did, you're talking about billions of dollars and maybe it wouldn't work so well. But I thought it was a fantastic thing. But we're working with the private sector and NASA, and we're, we're doing a great job. We've made so much progress in the last year. Don't forget. It's just been a little bit more than a year. But we've made so much progress. And other people are putting up a lot of money. And, they're using our facilities. I feel like a landlord, again. We're leasing them facilities. Not so bad. Not a bad idea. And they're doing a great job."

Keith's note: NASA has hardly been "dormant". Everything NASA is doing now was underway before Donald Trump took office. He has started nothing new. Yet. Indeed he has tried to cancel things. Plans by commercial space companies were also already in place and continue with no apparent impact by the Trump Administration. Yet. Just sayin'

The American Space Exploration Narrative from the Cold War through the Obama Administration, Dora Holland and Jack O. Burns

"We make three observations: (1) there is a disconnect between stated U.S. policy goals and the implementation of those goals, (2) the U.S. communicates mixed messages regarding its intent to be both the dominant leader in space exploration and also a committed participant in international collaborations, and (3) the U.S. cannot remain a true pioneer in space exploration if it does not embrace the realities of globalization and the changing dynamics within space exploration. We conclude with three suggestions: (1) the U.S. government and NASA should critically examine space exploration priorities and commit to implementing a program that will further realistic policy and goals, (2) the U.S. should re-examine its intention to play a dominant leadership role in space exploration and consider emphasizing a commitment toward active participation in international collaboration in space, and (3) the U.S. should fully embrace the new paradigm of space exploration by lowering barriers that hinder competitiveness."

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2018/america.first.jpg

President Donald J. Trump is Unveiling an America First National Space Strategy

"AMERICA FIRST AMONG THE STARS: President Trump's National Space Strategy works within his broader national security policy by putting America's interests first."

Keith's note: At the USRA/SPI Moon exploration event yesterday in Washington D.C, I asked NASA HEOMD's Jason Crusan about the apparent mismatch between NASA policy and the recently-released White House Policy titled "America First National Space Strategy". I noted that HEOMD AA Bill Gerstenmaier told a NASA Advisory Council committee the other day said the whole Lunar Outpost Gateway thing can be done on a flat budget with no adjustment for inflation. Of course, NASA never does big projects on time or within budget - Space Station, Webb, SLS being prominent examples. But NASA sells the Gateway concept with a significant role for international partners and the private sector with lots of cooperation i.e. NASA does not call all the shots. This global approach does have some positive aspects for many people.

Yet the White House's "America First" space policy is rather blunt in its intention that it wants a space policy that "prioritizes American interests first and foremost, ensuring a strategy that will make America strong, competitive, and great" and "ensures that international agreements put the interests of American people, workers, and businesses first." This does not sound too much like cooperation. I asked Crusan how he reconciled these two different approaches. Crusan tossed lots of pop management phrases out (he was clearly unprepared to talk about this White House policy document). Then he made one cogent observation: "it's a balancing act".

Oh yes: There is no mention of this official White House space policy document at NASA.gov. Nor has NASA released anything about it to the media. Stay tuned for more "balancing".

Keith's note: Former Senator, Geologist, and Apollo 17 Astronaut Jack Schmitt spoke at an event in Washington, DC today on lunar exploration. I can recall sitting in a Senate hearing in 1978 hearing Sen. Schmitt worrying about this topic, saying "we are eating our seed corn". His concern is even more poignant now.

NASA chief explains why agency won't buy a bunch of Falcon Heavy rockets, Ars Technica

"Since the launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket in February, NASA has faced some uncomfortable questions about the affordability of its own Space Launch System rocket. By some estimates, NASA could afford 17 to 27 Falcon Heavy launches a year for what it is paying annually to develop the SLS rocket, which won't fly before 2020. Even President Trump has mused about the high costs of NASA's rocket. On Monday, during a committee meeting of NASA's Advisory Council, former Space Shuttle Program Manager Wayne Hale raised this issue. Following a presentation by Bill Gerstenmaier, chief of human spaceflight for NASA, Hale asked whether the space agency wouldn't be better off going with the cheaper commercial rocket. ... One difficulty with Gerstenmaier's response to Hale's question is that NASA does not, in fact, yet have any "large-volume, monolithic pieces" that could only be launched by the Space Launch System."

NASA Hosts Media Teleconference on Status of James Webb Space Telescope

NASA's Webb Observatory Requires More Time for Testing and Evaluation; New Launch Window Under Review

"NASA's James Webb Space Telescope currently is undergoing final integration and test phases that will require more time to ensure a successful mission. After an independent assessment of remaining tasks for the highly complex space observatory, Webb's previously revised 2019 launch window now is targeted for approximately May 2020."

Making Life Multi-Planetary, Elon Musk

"We are targeting our first cargo missions in 2022 - that's not a typo, although it is aspirational. We've already started building the system - the tooling for the main tanks has been ordered, the facility is being built and we will start construction of the first ship around the second quarter of next year. In about six to nine months we should start building the first ship. I feel fairly confident that we can complete the ship and be ready for a launch in about five years. Five years seems like a long time to me. The area under the curve of resources over that period of time should enable this time frame to be met, but if not this time frame, I think pretty soon thereafter. But that is our goal, to try to make the 2022 Mars rendezvous. The Earth-Mars synchronization happens roughly every two years, so every two years there is an opportunity to fly to Mars. Then in 2024 we want to try to fly four ships - two cargo and two crew."

NASA Leadership Update

President Donald J. Trump is Unveiling an America First National Space Strategy

"AMERICA FIRST AMONG THE STARS: President Trump's National Space Strategy works within his broader national security policy by putting America's interests first.

- The Trump administration's National Space Strategy prioritizes American interests first and foremost, ensuring a strategy that will make America strong, competitive, and great.
- The new strategy emphasizes dynamic and cooperative interplay between the national security, commercial, and civil space sectors.
-- The United States will partner with the commercial sector to ensure that American companies remain world leaders in space technology.
- The new strategy ensures that international agreements put the interests of American people, workers, and businesses first.
- The National Space Strategy prioritizes regulatory reforms that will unshackle American industry and ensure we remain the leading global provider of space services and technology."

Keith's note: SpaceX, Blue Origin and ULA are focusing on reusable launch technology while NASA is doing the exact opposite. What do they know that NASA does not? I realize that this is a tweet, but this has to be one of the weirdest things NASA PAO has ever said: "The first flight of #NASASLS and @NASA_Orion will go farther into deep space than any rocket has ever gone." For starters most of the SLS "rocket" will be dumped into the ocean immediately after launch or will burn up upon reentry and then pieces will land in the Pacific. Second, rockets have been sent out across our solar system - its how we send things to - and then land on Mars for example. So "rockets" have already been "farther into deep space" than SLS will likely go.

House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Approves Space Exploration and Entrepreneurship Bills

"The American Leadership in Space Technology and Advanced Rocketry Act, or the ALSTAR Act, (H.R. 5345) was introduced Tuesday by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), vice chairman of the Space Subcommittee. The Commercial Space Support Vehicle Act (H.R. 5346) was introduced Tuesday by Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.), a member of the Space Subcommittee. The Innovators to Entrepreneurs Act (H.R. 5086) was introduced on February 26, 2018, by Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), ranking member on the Research and Technology Subcommittee, and cosponsored by Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.), a member of the Research and Technology Subcommittee."

DIVISION B-COMMERCE, JUSTICE, SCIENCE, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2018

NATIONAL SPACE COUNCIL This Act includes $1,965,000 for the activities of the National Space Council.

NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION This Act includes $20,736,140,000 for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Page 31-34

"Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST).-In lieu of House and Senate language regarding WFIRST, the agreement includes $150,000,000 for WFIRST, which is the highest priority of the 2010 Astrophysics Decadal Survey. In October 2017, NASA received the findings from the WFIRST Independent External Technical/Management/Cost Review (WIETR), which found in part that the current science management strategy is appropriate and that the Class B risk classification for the WFIRST mission is not consistent with NASA policy for strategically important missions with comparable levels of investment and risk, most if not all of which are class A missions. Accordingly, NASA shall provide to the Committees within 60 days of enactment of this Act a preliminary life cycle cost estimate, including any additions needed to achieve Class A classification, along with a year by year breakout of development costs."

"SPACE TECHNOLOGY This Act includes $760,000,000 for Space Technology. Within this amount, $130,000,000 is for RESTORE; $75,000,000 is for nuclear thermal propulsion activities; up to $20,000,000 is for the Flight Opportunities Program; and no less than $25,000,000 is for additive manufacturing research."

EXPLORATION The bill provides an additional $350,000,000 for launch capabilities and infrastructure associated with constructing a second mobile launch platform, as recommended by the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, which will enable an acceleration in the launch schedule for Exploration Mission-2. The funds also will allow flexibility for future NASA and other Federal agency missions that will require heavy-lift capabilities beyond those of current launch vehicles as well as enable a sustainable Space Launch System (SLS) launch cadence.

"EDUCATION This Act includes $100,000,000 for Education, including $18,000,000 for the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research; $40,000,000 for Space Grant; $32,000,000 for the Minority University Research and Education Project; and $10,000,000 for STEM Education and Accountability Projects. The agreement adopts Senate language regarding future placement of this program and direction regarding administrative costs."

Message from the Acting NASA Administrator: Planning for Potential Lapse in Funding

"As you know, the current continuing resolution funding the government expires on March 23. While we hope it won't be necessary, we need to once again make preparations in the event an orderly shutdown is required and are updating our contingency plans. I share your frustration that we find ourselves here once again, but I also want to thank you for your continued hard work. You haven't missed a beat in executing all the functions of our agency."

Keith's note: Meanwhile all government offices in the Washington, DC area (NASA HQ, GSFC) are closed due to several inches of snow.

What NASA loses without a permanent leader, The Verge

"Despite the backlash to Bridenstine's politician status, being the NASA administrator means mostly working with politicians, says Garver. "I do think it is more a political job than an engineering job. Neither Charlie [Bolden] nor I did any engineering," she says. "You can't be an astrophysicist and a propulsion engineer; you got to trust your people to do that. Being able to advocate for your agency on the hill is a big part of it." .. "Because [Lightfoot] isn't the president's person, there is a loss of accountability," Jim Muncy, founder of PoliSpace, a space policy consulting agency, tells The Verge. "Having the president's own representative to guide the day-to-day implementation of the policy is part of that accountability."

- Shh! Bill Nelson Openly Champions Space Legislation Co-authored By Jim Bridenstine, earlier post
- This Is What Happens When People Try To Work Together in DC, earlier post
- Sen. Nelson's Effort To Undermine NASA, earlier post
- Why Should One Senator Boss NASA Around?, earlier post

Letter From House Members to Senate Leadership Regarding NASA Administrator Nominee Bridenstine

Keith's note: This letter was circulated by Rep. Babin and was signed by 61 members of the House - 12 of whom are Democrats. This would certainly seem to undermine Sen. Nelson's contention that Jim Bridenstine would be too political.

"We are keenly aware of how valuable NASA is, not only to our nation, but also the entire world. It would be a travesty to America's space program for it to remain leaderless at this critical time when America's space industry is making rapid advances that will set the course of space leadership for decades to come. This is why it is vitally important that the Senate take up and approve Jim Bridenstine's nomination. Jim Bridenstine has spent the bulk of his adult life in service to his country. His background is in naval aviation, flying the E2- C Hawkeye in Afghanistan and Iraq, and later the F-18 while also serving as an instructor at the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center. He has been responsible for coordinating command and control of the battlefield from an airborne platform, with thousands of lives and billions of dollars affected by his decisions. In this service to his nation he has demonstrated both the technical capacity and leadership experience necessary to lead NASA."

"From: James Green, Director, NASA's Planetary Science Division via Lunar and Planetary Institute: After analysis and consultation with the Department of Energy, NASA's Planetary Science Division is pleased to announce that the ban on the use of Radio-isotope Power Systems (RPS) by proposers responding to the upcoming Discovery 2018 Announcement of Opportunity (AO) has been removed. Proposers will be able to include the use of up to two (2) Multi-mission Radio-Isotope Thermal Generators (MMRTG's) to enable or significantly enhance their mission concept. Costs to be borne by proposers for the MMRTGs, the related environmental impact assessments, and the required Nuclear Launch Approval process will be announced once determined."

Keith's note: The White House has submitted a budget request for FY 2019 which calls of the elimination of the NASA Education Office. They seem to think that education is not worth an emphasis. Take a look at this article (in French). A teacher in Ghana was so intent upon teaching his students about computers - without computers to use - that he drew screen shots on a blackboard that is not even a blackboard but a painted wall. While we toss aside the value of education for no cogent reason others on this planet go to extraordinary lengths to educate the next generation. Some countries know what is important for the future.

Ghanaian teacher becomes a hero of the web with this drawing on a board, Les Observateurs

"A Ghanaian teacher has become a star on the web after publishing these photos: we see him reproduce very accurately on a table the word processor "Word". Due to lack of means, Owura Kwadwo Hottish is forced to teach his students computer science on this board. But his photos, which sparked a wave of sympathy on social networks, could help change things."

Keith's note: You may have seen a lot of stories recently in major news publications over the past week or so stating that the Kelly brothers now have different DNA or something to that effect. Not true. Another example of reporters writing stories about something that they simply do not understand (I am an actual biologist so I can say that). Scott Kelly's DNA did not change. How some of his DNA is expressed (or not expressed) changed as a result (apparently) of spending nearly a year in space. But again, his DNA did not change. He and his brother are just as identical genetically as they were before he left Earth. Here is what NASA JSC PAO sent to some news media (but not others) on this topic:

"Mark and Scott Kelly are still identical twins; Scott's DNA did not fundamentally change. What researchers did observe are changes in gene expression, which is how your body reacts to your environment. This likely is within the range for humans under stress, such as mountain climbing or SCUBA diving. The change related to only 7 percent of the gene expression that changed during spaceflight that had not returned to preflight after six months on Earth. This change of gene expression is very minimal. We are at the beginning of our understanding of how space flight affects the molecular level of the human body. NASA and the other researchers collaborating on these studies expect to announce more comprehensive results on the twins studies this summer."

NASA Twins Study Confirms Preliminary Findings, NASA

"Another interesting finding concerned what some call the "space gene", which was alluded to in 2017. Researchers now know that 93% of Scott's genes returned to normal after landing. However, the remaining 7% point to possible longer term changes in genes related to his immune system, DNA repair, bone formation networks, hypoxia, and hypercapnia."

Keith's note: Scott Kelly's genes i.e. the DNA sequence in his genome did not change so genes could not "return to normal". Nor are there any "changes in genes related to his immune system, DNA repair, bone formation networks, hypoxia, and hypercapnia." Rather, how the genes are expressed was changed and that expression changed over time with some changes reverting to preflight expression while others have not. But the genes are not changed.

No, Scott Kelly's Genes Were Not Changed, earlier post

Keith's note: NASA CFO nominee Jeff Dewitt has been confirmed by the Senate.

NASA Statement on Nomination for Agency Chief Financial Officer, earlier post

"The following is a statement from acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot on Wednesday's announcement of the intended nomination by President Donald Trump of Jeffrey DeWit to serve as the agency's Chief Financial Officer: "It is encouraging to see more members of the agency's leadership team being named. Jeff's solid financial background will be a tremendous addition as we continue to advance our nation's aeronautic and exploration initiatives."

Astronaut's DNA no longer matches that of his identical twin, NASA finds, CNN

"Spending a year in space not only changes your outlook, it transforms your genes. Preliminary results from NASA's Twins Study reveal that 7% of astronaut Scott Kelly's genes did not return to normal after his return to Earth two years ago. The study looks at what happened to Kelly before, during and after he spent one year aboard the International Space Station through an extensive comparison with his identical twin, Mark, who remained on Earth. NASA has learned that the formerly identical twins are no longer genetically the same."

Keith's 14 March note: NO NO NO NO. The Kelly brothers are exactly the same genetically as they were the day they were born. No genes were "transformed". Their genes are the same as they were the day they were conceived. What changed during space travel was how some genes were expressed. Some genes were shut off. Some genes were activated, Some genes were expressed at different levels. I wish that science writers would take the time to talk to people who actually understand the topic. There are dozens of articles like this circulating right now that get the fundamental aspect of this research wrong. Also, FWIW, NASA needs to spend more time explaining what it is they are trying to say. As an actual space biologist I find all of this rather frustrating.

ICE spokesman resigns, citing fabrications by agency chief, Sessions about California immigrant arrests, Washington Post

"A spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has resigned over what he described as "false" and "misleading" statements made by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and ICE acting director Thomas D. Homan. James Schwab worked out of the agency's San Francisco office until he abruptly quit last week. ... "I quit because I didn't want to perpetuate misleading facts," Schwab told the San Francisco Chronicle. "I asked them to change the information. I told them that the information was wrong, they asked me to deflect, and I didn't agree with that. Then I took some time, and I quit."

Keith's note: James Schwab worked for a number of years at NASA Ames PAO. I got to know him during his time at NASA. I have to assume that his NASA tenure helped to fortify his propensity to tell the truth - no matter what.

Stephen Hawking, science's brightest star, dies aged 76, The Guardian

"Stephen Hawking, the brightest star in the firmament of science, whose insights shaped modern cosmology and inspired global audiences in the millions, has died aged 76. His family released a statement in the early hours of Wednesday morning confirming his death at his home in Cambridge. Hawking's children, Lucy, Robert and Tim, said in a statement: "We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today. He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years. His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humour inspired people across the world. "He once said: 'It would not be much of a universe if it wasn't home to the people you love.' We will miss him for ever."

Professor Stephen Hawking Experiences the Freedom of Weightlessness During Historic Zero-Gravity Flight Out of Kennedy Space Center erlier post (2007)

Keith's note: President Trump spoke to military personnel at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego and starting talking about a new "Space Force". [Video] [Larger image]

"My new national strategy for space recognizes that space is a war fighting domain. Just like the land, air, and sea. We may have a Space Force. Develop another one. Space Force. We have the Air Force - we'll have a Space Force. We have the Army, the Navy. You know I was saying it the other day because we are doing a tremendous amount of work in space. I said 'maybe we need a new force - we'll call it the Space Force - and I was not really serious - and then I said what a great idea - maybe we'll have to do it. That could happen. That could be the breaking shore. Look at all those people back there. Look at that. Ahhh - that fake news. Ugh. They know - they understand. So think of that: Space Force. Because we're spending a lot - and we have a lot of private money coming in - tremendous. You saw what happened the other day - tremendous success. From the very beginning many of our astronauts have been soldiers and sailors, airmen, coast guardsmen, and marines. And our service members will be vital to ensuring that America continues to lead the way into the stars. It will lead the way in space. We're way, way behind - and we're catching up fast - so fast that nobody even believes it."

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2018/spaceforce.jpg

NASA Watch on CGTN

China sets sights on first manned space station in 2022, CGTN America

"The next frontier of China's space exploration program - a permanent, manned space station - is expected to be ready for service in 2022. But as this new station readies for launch, another is set to come crashing back to Earth. Keith Cowing, an astrobiologist and editor of NASAWatch.com, discusses this and other Chinese space developments with CGTN's Elaine Reyes."

Keith's note: I need to get some better lighting in my man cave. I look like a tired raccoon.

Keith's note: Acting NASA Administrator has just announced that he is retiring effective at the end of April. No Successor has been named.

NASA team,

It is with bittersweet feelings that I am announcing I will be retiring from the agency on April, 30, 2018. I will work with the White House on a smooth transition to the new administrator.

I cannot express enough my gratitude to the entire NASA team for the support during my career and especially the last 14 months as your acting administrator. The grit and determination you all demonstrate every day in achieving our missions of discovery and exploration are simply awe inspiring. I leave NASA blessed with a career full of memories of stunning missions, cherished friendships, and an incredible hope for what is yet to come.

When I look back on my time at NASA, I can't help but think about the people. From my friends in the test areas at Marshall and Stennis, to the folks that I sat with on console launching shuttles, to the Marshall team when I was the center director, and now as the acting administrator to the entire NASA team - what a privilege to work with such dedicated and passionate people every day.

There is no way I would be where I am today without having had such amazing opportunities and such a great set of colleagues. I've learned in so many ways that at NASA we make the impossible possible - whether it is with the missions we do or whether it is a small town kid who was able to lead the greatest agency in the world.

NASA's history has many chapters with each of us having a part. I've written my part and now the pen is in your hands - each one of you. I know you will make this nation proud as you accomplish the many missions you have in front of you. For me, I look forward to more time with my family and closest friends, and cheering the NASA team on from the outside.

God speed to all of you and thanks for the opportunity to be part of something truly bigger than each of us individually! It's been an unbelievable ride!

Sincerely, Robert

NASA Independent Review Team SpaceX CRS-7 Accident Investigation Report Public Summary

"The SpX CRS-7 mission consisted of a SpaceX Falcon 9 version 1.1 launch vehicle and a Dragon spacecraft loaded with 4303 lbs (1952 kgs) of cargo. At approximately 139 seconds into flight, the launch vehicle experienced an anomalous event in the upper stage liquid oxygen (LOx) tank, resulting in the loss of the mission. The first stage of the vehicle, including all nine Merlin 1D engines, operated nominally. The Dragon spacecraft also indicated no anomalous behavior prior to the mishap, and survived the second stage event, continuing to communicate with ground controllers until it dropped below the horizon."

Elon Musk, speaking at SXSW, projects Mars spaceship will be ready for short trips by first half of 2019, CNBC

"Musk held a surprise question and answer session at the annual technology and culture festival in Austin, Texas on Sunday. The billionaire told attendees that "we are building the first Mars, or interplanetary ship, and I think well be able to short trips, flights by first half of next year." Mindful of elevating expectations too high, Musk hedged a bit. "Although sometimes, my timelines are a little, you know..." he said to laughter."

Keith's note: Steve Jurczyk has been named as NASA Acting Associate Administrator. This is the position that Robert Lightfoot held before being named as Acting NASA Administrator. NASA currently has no Acting Deputy Administrator or Chief of Staff. James Reuter will replace Jurczyk as Associate Administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate. This webpage at NASA HQ was quietly changed on 9 March. But NASA HQ does not seem to think anyone needs to be told about these management changes.

FCC Accuses Stealthy Startup of Launching Rogue Satellites, IEEE Spectrum

"The only problem is, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had dismissed Swarm's application for its experimental satellites a month earlier, on safety grounds. The FCC is responsible for regulating commercial satellites, including minimizing the chance of accidents in space. It feared that the four SpaceBees now orbiting the Earth would pose an unacceptable collision risk for other spacecraft. If confirmed, this would be the first ever unauthorized launch of commercial satellites. On Wednesday, the FCC sent Swarm a letter revoking its authorization for a follow-up mission with four more satellites, due to launch next month. A pending application for a large market trial of Swarm's system with two Fortune 100 companies could also be in jeopardy."

Judge wants Trump to mute Twitter users who bug him, not block them, Mashable

"The Trump administration contends that his Twitter account is a personal platform and not a public one. "

Keith's note: The following comments were made this morning by President Trump:

"Before me are some rocket ships [there were rocket models in front of him on the table]. You haven't seen that for this country in a long time...Many of the jobs we're doing are privately financed. We're letting them use the Kennedy Space Center for a fee and, you know, rich guys, you know, they love rocket ships. That's good. That's better than us paying for them. And I noticed the prices of the last one they say cost $80 million. If the government did it, the same thing would have cost probably 40- or 50-times that amount of money...I'm so used to hearing different numbers with NASA."

"But NASA is making tremendous strides and we're using a lot of private money, a lot of people that love rockets and they're rich. So they're going to be a little less rich probably, but a lot of rockets are going up. And we're really at the forefront -- nobody's doing what we're doing. And I don't know if you saw last -- with Elon -- with the rocket booster where they're coming back down. To me, that was more amazing than watching the rocket go up, because I've never seen that before. Nobody's seen that before, where they're saving the boosters, and they came back without wings, without anything. They landed so beautifully. So we're really at the forefront and we're doing it in a very private manner."

"At the same time NASA is very much involved and doing their own projects, but we're bringing that whole space flight back. We'll be sending something very beautiful to Mars in the very near future, and we're going to areas that nobody thought possible, certainly not this quickly. So we're very proud."

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2018/trump.wordcloud.jpg

Scientists Share Ideas for Gateway Activities Near the Moon, NASA

"In late 2017, the agency asked the global science community to submit ideas leveraging the gateway in lunar orbit to advance scientific discoveries in a wide range of fields. NASA received more than 190 abstracts covering topics human health and performance, Earth observation, astrophysics, heliophysics, and lunar and planetary sciences, as well as infrastructure suggestions to support breakthrough science. Although it is too early to select specific research for the gateway, the workshop marks the first time in more than a decade the agency's human spaceflight program brought scientists from a variety of disciplines together to discuss future exploration."

Keith's note: This short blog posting is apparently all that the public will ever see as a result of the Deep Space Gateway workshop that NASA and LPI held in Denver last week - the one where media participation was hidden from the media and no one cared enough to even bother to webcast for others to hear.

- Deep Space Gateway Event Ends But No One Knows It Ever Happened, earlier post
- Stealthy NASA Deep Space Gateway Meeting Underway, earlier post

Letter From Bobby Braun to House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Regarding NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate

"Specifically, the proposed re-organization of the "Space Technology Mission Directorate" into "Human Exploration" within NASA is among the most devastating long-term aspects proposed. Past history has shown that large development programs and technology development activities cannot and should not exist together, as a small hiccup in the development programs eats the budget of the basic research and technology advancement needed to accomplish more in space. In fact, when integrated in this manner approximately a decade ago, NASA's space technology activities were eviscerated. Most striking, the Administration is proposing this re-organization without any discussion with Congress, industry or the university community, and without a NASA Administrator in place. This can only be described as an egregious over-reach by political appointees without an appreciation for the long-standing scope of the Agency. This proposal contradicts Title 7 of the space policy put forward by Congress and signed by President Trump in March 2017. Burying this proposed organizational change in the FY19 budget request, while simultaneously proposing other major cancelations and changes to the NASA portfolio, is an attempt to curtail community discussion of the importance of the Space Technology Mission Directorate to the nation's future in space."

Senators Blast NASA and OMB Over Future Of ISS, earlier post

"In fact, Congress specifically required that the transition plan include cost estimates for extending operations of the ISS to 2024, 2028, and 2030, and an evaluation of the feasible and preferred service life of the ISS through at least 2028 as a unique scientific, commercial, and space exploration related facility. P.L. 115-10 specifically required the NASA Administrator to deliver a report to Congress no later than December 1, 2017. As of today, that report has not been delivered to Congress as required by federal statute."

Did NASA Deliver The ISS Transition Plan To Congress Required By Law? Update: No, earlier post

"I did not hear back from NASA so I sent a second request. Stephanie Schierholz at NASA HQ PAO just sent this reply to my second request: "NASA is keeping Congress apprised as to the progress of the ISS Transition Report and plans to provide this report to the Committee as soon as possible. Please reach out to the Committee about obtaining a copy of the report once it is submitted." In other words the report is late, has not been delivered, NASA does not know when it will be delivered. NASA is not going to tell anyone when it has been delivered and people will have to go ask Congress where the report is - whenever NASA gets around to delivering it."

Hearing On NASA Budget

Hearing charter

"The purpose of the hearing is to review the Administration's fiscal year 2019 (FY19) budget request for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)."

Statements by Rep. Bera, Rep.Johnson, Rep. Babin

Peters, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan Bill Supporting U.S.-Israel Space Cooperation

"U.S. Senators Gary Peters (MI), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Cory Gardner (R-CO) today introduced bipartisan legislation to support the longstanding partnership between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Israel Space Agency (ISA). Cooperation between the two agencies has resulted in a host of beneficial achievements, including work on global positioning systems (GPS) and the Mars Curiosity Rover. ... The U.S.-Israel Space Cooperation Act directs the NASA Administrator to continue working in cooperation with the ISA to further peaceful space exploration and scientific discovery while taking appropriate measures to protect U.S. intellectual property and other sensitive information. The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved companion legislation in December 2017."

Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Encourage U.S. and Israeli Collaborations on Space Exploration Breakthroughs (9 Sep 2016)

"Representatives Derek Kilmer (D-WA-06) and Jim Bridenstine (R-OK-01) introduced bipartisan legislation to encourage U.S. and Israeli scientists to continue collaborating on breakthroughs in space exploration. The United States and Israel Space Cooperation Act would direct the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to work with the Israel Space Agency to identify and together pursue new potential scientific discoveries in space."

Keith's note: The "United States and Israel Space Cooperation Act" was originally introduced in the House as H.R. 5989 by Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) with co-author Rep. James Bridenstine (R-OK) as the first cosponsor in 2016. It was reintroduced in 2017 by Kilmer (with Bridenstine as the first co-sponsor) as H.R.1159 - United States and Israel Space Cooperation Act. HR 1159 was passed by the house on 21 December 2017 and sent to the Senate. The Senate bill is not yet online but given the bipartisan support it is likely to be identical to the House version.

Sen. Bill Nelson has been quick to criticize Rep. Bridenstine's choice to be NASA Administrator because Bridenstine would somehow inject politics into the way that NASA operates and that would be truly awful or something. Yet Sen. Nelson is now openly crowing about space legislation that he is co-sponsoring - legislation originally co-authored by Rep. Bridenstine. So one would conclude that Nelson likes Bridenstine's space politics (at least in some instances). Who knows. Maybe they agree on other things too.

Gerstenmaier: U.S. Leadership in Space is "Ours to Lose" If Direction Changes Too Many Times, Space Policy Online

"Bill Gerstenmaier, the head of NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, said today that the United States is the "partner of choice" for countries wanting to engage in international space cooperation, but that leadership is "ours to lose" if too many changes in direction drive partners away."

Keith's note: Sage advice. And of course Gerst is totally faultless when it comes to all of the changes in direction. right? Lets dial back a decade or so. First Gerst was behind the Ares I/V/Orion Constellation thing. Then he was behind the SLS/Orion thing when the Constellation thing was turned upside down. Then he pushed the Journey to Mars thing. Then he jumped in behind the Asteroid Retrieval thing which eventually became the grab the small boulder thing. When no one liked the asteroid thing any more, he picked up the pieces and jumped behind the Deep Space Gateway thing. Then, to pay for the Deep Space gateway thing he jumped behind the commercialize ISS thing (with no one lined up to pay the bills). Then when the Mars thing was fading he pivoted to the Back to the Moon thing but he still wants to walk away from ISS in LEO to build a mini-ISS with no as-yet determined purpose out near the Moon.

Gerst is certainly flexible and adaptable. And he has kept a lot of important things alive that others sought to kill. But consistent in his direction? No. Not surprisingly, year after year he'll tell you that the Ares V/SLS is the perfect rocket for all of these ever-changing missions and destinations - even if he can never give a consistent cost of what an SLS costs to launch as the schedules continue to slip to the right. Of course he'll tell you that all of these pivots were all due to White House and/or Congressional direction and re-direction. He's correct. But behind the scenes in all of those scenarios, Gerst and HEOMD were constantly pitching their ideas to impressionable staffers - always trying to pivot to stay in synch with the space flavor of the month and stay one step ahead of the budget axe to keep the marching army employed. And of course no one has money for any of the payloads that SLS will fly. But its all notional anyway, so why bother with the actual budget thing.

Now, NASA can buy Falcon Heavy launches at 1/5 (or cheaper) the cost of an SLS with roughly 70% of a SLS launch capability online. And more cheap heavy lift is on the way from other suppliers coupled with nimble, small launchers from another suite of suppliers. Gerst is quite correct to warn that constant changes in direction can sour current and potential partners on future projects. But he seems to not see that this very problem he cites has been happening under his watch. Possible partners are now looking to China because China offers them what they want - while NASA offers potential parters what they can have. These two things are not the same.

The old way of exploring space no longer works. If NASA doesn't everyone else will. In fact, they already are. The agency is stuck in outdated subroutines that run in circles that result in increasingly inefficient output. Its time to hit the reset button.

Trump threatens to slap retaliatory tariff on European cars as trade war talk heats up, CNBC

"Trump's hasty decision to impose tariffs on steel imports has stoked talk of a brewing trade war, roiling both the political establishment and the global economic order. The move also prompted E.U. trade chiefs to weigh hitting a broad array of U.S. imports with a 25 percent tax, Reuters reported this week."

New Tariffs Could Harm Industry Critical to American Economic Security, Aerospace Industries Association

"Friday morning on CNBC, AIA President and CEO Eric Fanning was featured immediately following Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, emphasizing: "This is going to impact companies big and small in the aerospace and defense world. More importantly, we're concerned about retaliation. The aerospace and defense industry generates the largest net surplus in the manufacturing sector - over $86 billion a year. These companies thrive on the exports of their products."

Why Europe and Canada may retaliate against bourbon, Harleys and Levi jeans, Washington Post

"Another alternative would be to ban U.S. companies from bidding on Canadian defense and infrastructure contracts, Mendes, the economist, said. The advantage to that approach would be that Canadian consumers wouldn't feel the impact in their wallets. When Boeing launched a complaint against Bombardier, claiming the Canadian company had benefited from unfair government subsidies in the production of its C Series jet, the Canadian government retaliated by saying it wouldn't consider buying fighter jets from Boeing. That dispute was effectively settled in January, when the U.S. International Trade Commission voted that Boeing was not harmed by Bombardier."

Keith's note: I am waiting to see how the trade war that the White House has started will affect willingness of affected nations to cooperate with U.S. on future human spaceflight and on U.S. commercial space sector - and example of both being the Deep Space Gateway. Protectionism and isolationism do not seem to be synonymous with such an expansive endeavor as the exploration and utilization of space.

NASA Heads Back to Space Leaderless, Bloomberg

"NASA observers, including some Democrats with ties to the agency, contend that Bridenstine's political background would be beneficial to a NASA administrator, who must navigate the shoals between the White House and Congress, which appropriates the agency's budget. "I'm still fairly bullish on what Jim Bridenstine would do for the agency," said Phil Larson, a former senior adviser in President Barack Obama's Office of Science and Technology Policy. "The main point now is NASA needs a leader as soon as possible, and leaving a nominee in question--I don't care what side of the aisle you're on--leaving a nomination open as these types of policies and questions and meetings are being hashed out helps no one."

Keith's note: Yesterday I sent the following email to NASA JPL employee Ron Baalke yesterday about two inaccurate tweets he has posted (and retweeted) regarding the Challenger accident. I cc:ed JPL and NASA HQ PAO. The tweets are still out there misinforming people. No one at NASA seems to care that a NASA employee is perpetuating misleading information. Yes, its a "private" Twitter account - one that goes out of its way to identify the owner as a JPL employee. This account is also used for work-related promotion of JPL projects. This account is otherwise a very useful one full of space facts - with these two glaring exceptions. When other people circulate inaccurate information like this about NASA events NASA PAO gets all upset. But when a NASA employee does it, no one cares. Go figure.

"I see that your twitter account just retweeted these tweets. They are factually incorrect on several levels. 1. Space Shuttle Challenger did not "explode". Challenger was torn apart by extreme aerodynamic forces as a result of an explosion in the External Tank. 2. The crew of Space Shuttle Challenger were killed by the breakup of the vehicle and/or the impact of the crew compartment with the ocean at high speed - not by any "explosion". These are matters of established fact. Please correct your tweets."

Keith's additional note: There is some debate as to whether the ET actually "exploded" in a technical sense. A large fireball occurred as the ET lost structural integrity itself - and Challenger was attached to the ET. Jim Oberg wrote an excellent article about what did and did not happen. Read Myth #2.

Returning To Earth At Dawn

"The Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft is seen as it lands with Expedition 54 crew members Joe Acaba and Mark Vande Hei of NASA and cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018 (February 27 Eastern time.) Acaba, Vande Hei, and Misurkin are returning after 168 days in space where they served as members of the Expedition 53 and 54 crews onboard the International Space Station. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)"


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This page is an archive of recent entries written by Keith Cowing in March 2018.

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