Keith Cowing: March 2019 Archives

Town Hall with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine

"Headquarters is hosting an agencywide town hall with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on Monday, April 1, at 1:30 p.m. EDT. Please join the Administrator for this important discussion on our Moon to Mars plans. All employees, contractors and civil servants, are encouraged to participate in person at Headquarters in the Webb auditorium or at the designated viewing location at their center. The event will air live on NASA Television (public channel), through your center cable or streaming distribution, and on the agency's website at"

In NASA's spacesuit saga, women see their own stories, Washington Post

"A spacesuit may not look much like what most women wear to work. But as plans changed for an all-female spacewalk this week because of spacesuit sizing issues, many working women on Earth saw something of their own experience in the headlines -- sharing stories online about ill-fitting uniforms, male-centered equipment design or office spaces outfitted without their needs in mind. Across social media platforms, women told of giant overalls, wading boots that were the wrong size, oversize gloves that kept them from being nimble, a lack of bulletproof vests that accommodated their chest sizes and a dearth of petite-size personal protective equipment at construction sites."

Keith's note: The operational facts of this incident speak for themsleves. The crew and NASA made a decision based on the hardware as it was configured on board the ISS and the interruption to the ISS schedule that would be required to make a second medium-torso EVA suit. They also considered the safety and operational requirements that one astronaut required after their body had adapted to life in space. That said, a bigger question - one that cannot be immediately resolved - is whether having 30-40 year old spacesuits with their limited ability to be quickly reconfigured is how we want to equip astronauts to work in space. With an ever expanding diversity of people becoming astronauts - through whatever avenue - sheer pragmatism will dictate that EVA suits that are much more easily serviceable and adaptable to every wearer will be required. NASA and the commercial sector will have to realize that this is required and will then need to devote the budgetary resources to make this happen.

Keith's note: The guy who sent these creepy DMs has a history of saying things like this:

- The Confusing and Troubling Public Face of "NewSpace", earlier post
- Sick Comments About Losing Astronauts, earlier post

Keith's note: CASIS Chief Strategy Officer Richard Leach made a presentation "Forecasting the 2024-2035 Space Based National Laboratory for Life and Physical Sciences Space Research" at the National Academies of Science Committee on Biological and Physical Sciences in Space meeting yesterday. During that presentation he announced that CASIS aka The ISS National Laboratory has expanded their scope of operations. They are now going to expand well beyond the ISS even though their cooperative agreement with NASA prohibits such an expansion.

As previously noted CASIS now uses "ISS National Laboratory" as their new public name even though they claim that they have not changed their name. I need to refer to this non-profit as "CASIS" since it would be hard to refer to the ISS National Laboratory as both a facility and also as a separate non-profit organization (with the same name) that runs and represents itself to be the ISS National Laboratory - even though they are not one in the same. (see CASIS Is Changing Its Name By Pretending That Its Not )

Anyway - at this NAS meeting during "Space Science Week" here in DC, CASIS proclaimed itself to be a "space integrator" and no longer limits its activities to managing the U.S. portion of the ISS i.e. the ISS National Laboratory (per its cooperative agreement with NASA). CASIS will now be supporting a broad range of microgravity platforms including suborbital vehicles, balloons, parabolic flights, drop towers, ground based laboratories and big data platforms. (larger chart image)

How will CASIS do this? That is not clear. Recently I reported that CASIS is working to develop a commercial entity to manage its expanded portfolio of services to be offered in a commercial fashion. When I asked them about this publicly they denied that they were doing this much to the chagrin of CASIS staff, board members, affiliated companies, advisors and stakeholders - and of course, NASA. They have hired a top shelf law firm in Washington DC to help them do this. (see CASIS Continues Its Stealth Commercialization Plans and CASIS Had A Board Meeting Today)

Let's look at what CASIS is legally bound to do - and not do - with the funds that NASA provides: According to NASA Cooperative Agreement NNH11CD70A - as modified 27 January 2015 (see this document, page 27)

"1.1 Introduction

This Cooperative Agreement is awarded pursuant to Section 504 of the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-257, found at USC 8354) by NASA to the Center for the Advancement of Science in space ("CASIS"). The parties agree that the principal purpose of this Agreement is to authorize CASIS to serve as the not-for-profit entity for management of the International Space Station ("ISS") National Laboratory ("NL"), per section 504 of the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, to maximize the value of the investment the U.S. government has made int the ISS and demonstrates the scientific and technological productivity of the ISS over the next decade.

1.2.1. CASIS Mission

CASIS will be responsible for maximizing the value of the ISS to the nation by developing and managing a diversified R&D portfolio based on U.S. national needs for basic and applied research and by using the ISS as a venue for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) educational activities.

1.2.2. CCASIS Goals

- stimulate, develop and manage the U.S. national uses of the ISS by other government agencies, academic institutions and private firms.
- Develop tools and techniques to communicate the value of uses of the ISS National Laboratory (IS NL) and increase the retuen on the U.S. investment in the ISS.

1.2.4 Prohibition of Other Activities

CASIS shall engage exclusively in activities relating to the management of the ISS NL and activities that promote its long term research and development mission as required by Section 504 of the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, without any other organizational objectives or responsibilities on behalf of CASIS or any parent organization or other entity."

Note that according to section 1.2.4. CASIS is specifically prohibited from doing anything other than its stated tasks. These new business activities on non-ISS platforms would seem to be a direct violation of section 1.2.4. Moreover, since NASA pays 99.9% of the annual operating expenses of CASIS, the creation and operation of this new business entity (not a trivial endeavor) is most certainly being organized and operated with the use of personnel paid for with NASA funds - unless CASIS is now truly a business venture and is being paid to do these things on a commercial basis. The IRS should find that to be of interest.

Either way, in so doing, CASIS is openly seeking to compete in the private sector with companies that it is also supposed to be offering ISS National Laboratory access to - and they do so by confusingly calling themselves "ISS National Laboratory". Just a quick guess would suggest that CASIS is now going to enter markets where companies such as Nanoracks, Virgin Orbit, Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, ZeroG and many others already provide commercial services.

Oh yes, one more thing when it comes to ISS National Laboratory branding: NASA's Director for the International Space Station Sam Scimemi, expressed concern about this in a 31 March 2016 letter to CASIS: "We would advice caution in the lending of the ISS National Lab brand (via your "Space is in it" certification) too freely; care must be taken to ensure that research performed on the ISS has actually influenced product development in advance of awarding the certification. Failure to do so weakens the brand and may lend an air of being nonserious in our mutual quest to fully utilize the ISS as a national lab."

I wonder what NASA thinks about all of this. CASIS clearly steps over the line when it comes to what it is they are supposed to be doing - and not doing - and now they do it by claiming to actually BE the ISS National Laboratory in both name and function. Of course, this time, CASIS has kept NASA completely in the loop on these commercial plans and gave NASA a heads up on their upcoming NAS presentation, right? I don't think so.

Stay tuned.

Earlier posts on CASIS and ISS

Joe Cuzzupoli

Joe Cuzzupoli died this past Monday. He was a key manager for Rockwell during the development of the Apollo Command and Service Modules. He held senior positions in a number of aerospace firms, served on the NASA Return to Flight Panel after the Columbia accident, was a member of the NASA Advisory Council, and a member of General Stafford's Safety Panel. More details to follow.

Mr. Joseph W. Cuzzupoli, NASA Return to Flight Panel

Today's Budget Hearing

NASA's Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2020
Witness: Jim Bridenstine
Subcommittees: Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (116th Congress)
Live-stream can be found here:

Remarks by Vice President Pence at the Fifth Meeting of the National Space Council Huntsville, AL

"Just a few moments ago, Buzz Aldrin was reflecting on his time in the Apollo program. He talked about that fabled Apollo 11 mission. He said, in 1962, we had an objective; we had time, but we didn't have a plan. In Space Policy Directive-1, the President directed NASA to create a lunar exploration plan. But as of today, more than 15 months later, we still don't have a plan in place. But Administrator Bridenstine told me, five minutes ago, we now have a plan to return to the moon. (Applause.)"

Keith's note: OK. So NASA has a "plan". A plan usually has words - words that are contained in a document. Plans usually have pictures and diagrams too. A plan cites goals and objectives and the steps that will be taken to meet goals and achieve objectives. There is usually a timeline and a budget associated with such a plan too. So, if NASA now has a plan to go back to the Moon, is NASA going to share that plan with the rest of us?

Recommendations Approved by the National Space Council to President Trump

"Recommendations on Human Space Exploration

1. Consistent with the overall goals of SPD-1, the United States will seek to land Americans on the Moon's South Pole by 2024, establish a sustainable human presence on the Moon by 2028, and chart a future path for human Mars exploration. NASA's lunar presence will focus on science, resource utilization, and risk reduction for future missions to Mars.
2. NASA will continue to improve its structure and management, and improve cost and schedule performance, to implement SPD-1, seeking legislative authorization as necessary. NASA will create a Moon-to-Mars Mission Directorate and make all necessary efforts to achieve Exploration Mission-1 no later than 2020 and Exploration Mission-2 no later than 2022.
3. NASA will unleash American industry, including public-private partnerships and other mechanisms, to enhance innovation and sustainability of activities from low Earth orbit to the lunar surface and beyond.
4. The United States will engage with and involve current and future international partners to enable a sustainable program of lunar exploration and development.
5. The NASA Administrator will provide an update on the implementation of SPD-1 and these specific items to the Chair at the next meeting of the National Space Council."

President Donald J. Trump Is Boldly Putting Americans Back on the Moon

Remarks by Vice President Pence at the Fifth Meeting of the National Space Council Huntsville, AL

"Well, thank you all. To Governor Ivey, Secretary Ross, Secretary Chao, Secretary Wilson; to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine; to all the members of the National Space Council and the Users' Advisory Group; to Dr. Deborah Barnhart and the great team here at the Space and Rocket Center; honored guests; and especially to all the dedicated the men and women of the Marshall Space Flight Center: It is great to be back in Rocket City. (Applause.) Thank you for joining us for this fifth meeting of the National Space Council at an enormously important time in American leadership in space."

Larger image

NASA Administrator Statement on Return to Moon in Next Five Years

"Among the many topics discussed during our meeting at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, was to accelerate our return to the Moon:

- NASA is charged to get American astronauts to the Moon in the next five years.
- We are tasked with landing on the Moon's South Pole by 2024.
- Stay on schedule for flying Exploration Mission-1 with Orion on the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket next year, and for sending the first crewed mission to the lunar vicinity by 2022.
- NASA will continue to 'use all means necessary' to ensure mission success in moving us forward to the Moon."

Keith's note: OK, so that is sporty to say the least but wait - the commercial EM-1 option is now dead:

"Earlier today I was also at Marshall Space Flight Center for an all-hands to reinforce our commitment to SLS with the workforce. We discussed my recent announcement that NASA would consider all options to fly Orion around the Moon on schedule. I shared the analysis we conducted to asses flying the Orion on different commercial options. While some of these alternative vehicles could work, none was capable of achieving our goals to orbit around the Moon for Exploration Mission-1 within our timeline and on budget. The results of this two-week study reaffirmed our commitment to the SLS. More details will be released in the future."

So ... SLS is the only solution and somehow, HEOMD, MSFC, and Boeing are suddenly going to not only be on time and on budget - but they are going to increase the speed with which they deliver SLS/Orion capabilities without a budget increase. The same people are going to suddenly learn a bunch of new tricks - seemingly over night. Or ... are we going to see a bunch of reassignments and retirement parties? Something has to give. The status quo is clearly not going to just become efficient over night - and things are going to have to change over night if this challenging new schedule is going to be met.

"We will take action in the days and weeks ahead to accomplish these goals. We have laid out a clear plan for NASA's exploration campaign that cuts across three strategic areas: low-Earth orbit, the Moon, and Mars and deeper into space. "I have already directed a new alignment within NASA to ensure we effectively support this effort, which includes establishing a new mission directorate to focus on the formulation and execution of exploration development activities. We are calling it the Moon to Mars Mission Directorate."

OK- so NASA will change the phone book and they have a "plan". Earlier today VP Pence lamented the fact that NASA did not have a plan to go to the Moon after 15 months of National Space Council operations - but that Jim Bridenstine told him today that NASA now has a plan. So ... let's see the plan.

The Vice President certainly laid down the gauntlet to NASA to get off its collective butt and go back to the Moon. Jim Bridenstine happily picked up the gauntlet and accepted that challenge. Now its up to NASA and its contractor workforce to either work with Bridenstine and Pence or, by sitting on their hands, to work against them.

What is at stake? Well ... what do you think will happen when SpaceX and Blue Origin start sending their own missions to the Moon - without NASA?

The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration's Comments on March 26 National Space

"Though we support the focus of this White House on deep space exploration and the sense of urgency instilled by aggressive timelines and goals, we also are cognizant of the resources that will be required to meet these objectives. Bold plans must be matched by bold resources made available in a consistent manner in order to assure successful execution. Similarly, the contracting mechanisms by which spacecraft, facilities, systems and supporting equipment are incorporated into a robust Moon-to-Mars architecture must be applied in a rapid and flexible manner with only the absolute minimum of bureaucratic process and oversight necessary to succeed. This is especially true for technologies that have long been in use but continue to labor under excessive oversight during development - a burden that exacerbates cost, schedule, and program risks."

Keith's note: Based on what was said at the National Space Council today by Vice President Pence, the standard procedure employed by NASA and Big Aerospace is not working and that NASA needs to avail itself of "any means necessary" to land Americans on the Moon by 26 march 2024. Clearly the standard practices employed by the Coalition for Deep Space member companies are not working. If they were then the need for a "course correction" vis-a-vis the architecture for getting humans back to the Mon would not be required. Big Aerospace has not been able to be "bold" for decades.

NASA Updates Spacewalk Assignments, Announces Final Preview Briefing

"Koch had been scheduled to conduct this spacewalk with astronaut McClain, in what would have been the first all-female spacewalk. However, after consulting with McClain and Hague following the first spacewalk, mission managers decided to adjust the assignments, due in part to spacesuit availability on the station. McClain learned during her first spacewalk that a medium-size hard upper torso - essentially the shirt of the spacesuit - fits her best. Because only one medium-size torso can be made ready by Friday, March 29, Koch will wear it."

Keith's note: This is what I got from NASA PAO on this issue: "As you know, we do our best to anticipate the spacesuit sizes that each astronaut will need, based on the spacesuit size they wore in training on the ground, and in some cases (including Anne McClain's) astronauts train in multiple sizes. However, individuals' sizing needs may change when they are on orbit, in response to the changes living in microgravity can bring about in a body. In addition, no one training environment can fully simulate performing a spacewalk in microgravity, and an individual may find that their sizing preferences change in space.

There is currently only one medium-size hard upper torso - essentially the shirt of the spacesuit - on board the space station that is in a readily usable configuration. Based her experience in the first spacewalk in the series, McClain determined that although she has trained in both medium and large torsos, the medium, which she wore last Friday during the spacewalk, was a better fit for her in space. To accommodate that preference, Koch will wear the medium torso on March 29, and McClain will wear it on April 8.

We have two medium hard upper torsos in space, two larges and two extra larges; however, one of the mediums and one of the extra larges are spares that would require additional time for configuration. Given the very busy operational schedule on board the station this spring - the spacewalks as well as several resupply missions that will begin arriving in April - the teams made the decision to keep the schedule by swapping spacewalkers rather than reconfiguring a spacesuit.

We believe an all-female spacewalk is inevitable. This is made more likely by the increase in the percentage of women who have become astronauts: 50 percent of the 2013 astronaut candidate class are women (including McClain and Koch), and of the 11 members of 2017 astronaut candidate class (which is still in training), five are women.

Anne McClain became the 13th female spacewalker on March 22, and Christina Koch will be the 14ththis Friday. Each spacewalk will coincidentally occur during Women's History Month, with women also filling two key roles in Mission Control: Mary Lawrence as the lead flight director and Jaclyn Kagey as the lead spacewalk officer. NASA looks forward to being able to celebrate the first all-female spacewalk, and other firsts for women, in the future."

NASA Television to Broadcast Fifth Meeting of the National Space Council

"NASA Television and the agency's website will provide live coverage of the fifth meeting of the National Space Council starting at 1 p.m. EDT Tuesday, March 26. The meeting will focus on the Trump Administration's Moon, Mars and beyond plans, and be held at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama."

Roscosmos vows to keep ISS on orbit if NASA withdraws from the project, TASS

"The Roscosmos state corporation will preserve the International Space Station (ISS) on the orbit even if the American side withdraws from the project, Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin told journalists. "This is Roscosmos' proposal. We believe that we can keep the station in case the Americans decide to withdraw from this project, through other countries and partners. We have technological and technical capabilities to keep the station on the orbit and fully provide both electric energy and water there," Rogozin said."

Russian Rocket Program Sputters in New Race to Space, Bloomberg

"Russia's market share for rocket technology worldwide fell slightly in 2017, which Roscosmos blamed on sanctions, the weak ruble and increased competition, according to its annual report published on Friday. It singled out SpaceX for allegedly undercutting the market thanks to U.S. government assistance. ... The windfall funding from the U.S. hasn't always been spent wisely. Alexei Kudrin, the head of the country's Audit Chamber, told Russia's lower house of parliament in June that he found 760 billion rubles ($11.4 billion) of financial violations in Roscosmos's books. "Several billion have been spent, basically stolen, that we are currently investigating," Kudrin said in an interview aired Nov. 25 on state-run Rossiya 24 TV. "Roscosmos is the champion in terms of the scale of such violations."

Keith's note: With an ever-decreasing budget for space it will be interesting to watch Russia try and take over the ISS which costs more than its entire annual space budget to operate.

NASA Marshall, University of Alabama in Huntsville to host NASA in the South Symposium March 28-29; Media Invited

"Presenters will include Douglas Brinkley, author of "American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race," James Hansen, author of "First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong," and Roger Launius, author of "Apollo's Legacy: Perspectives on the Moon Landings." Diane McWhorter, author of "Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama; The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution," will provide the evening keynote address entitled "Moon of Alabama: From the Third Reich to Tranquility Base via the Segregated South" at 7:30 p.m. in Roberts Recital Hall on the UAH campus. The symposium is held in recognition of the Apollo 50th anniversary -- the landing of Apollo 11 on the Moon -- as well as the Alabama Bicentennial."

Keith's note: Cool stuff. NASA is gathering noted historians to talk about the history of NASA. Too bad no one outside of Alabama will ever know what is said. NASA sends this release out with less than 3 days notice. No webcast. Nothing on NASA TV. No mention on the NASA HQ calendar. Clueless."

Fifth Meeting of the National Space Council March 26 in Huntsville

"On Tuesday, March 26, 2019, at 12:00 p.m. CDT, Vice President Mike Pence will chair the fifth meeting of the National Space Council at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. This meeting will focus on President Trump's plan to restore American leadership in space and the next steps in implementing his vision to send Americans to the moon, Mars, and beyond. As chairman of the Council, Vice President Pence will convene the meeting, receive reports from Council members, hear from two expert panels on human space exploration, lead a Council discussion, and present policy recommendations for the President."

Keith's note: If you look at the agenda you will see that this is yet another short meeting of the usual suspects who will read pre-prepared statements that echo what others have said at previous NSpC events - and what has been said in front of innumerable blue ribbon panels for decades. In the end there will never be crisp findings nor enough funding to accomplish whatever this panel wants NASA to do. These people really need to focus on specific, realistic deliverables - not buzz words strung together. Otherwise its just more choir practice in an echo chamber.

AIAA Members to Speak at National Space Council Meeting on March 26

"AIAA's executive director emeritus, Sandy Magnus, who's also a former NASA astronaut, will sit on the first panel, "Ready to Fly," which includes AIAA Associate Fellow Col. Eileen Collins, U.S. Air Force (ret.), former NASA astronaut and the first female Space Shuttle commander, and Gen. Lester Lyles, U.S. Air Force (ret.) and former Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force. The "Ready to Explore" panel will feature two AIAA members: Dan Dumbacher, AIAA executive director, former Purdue University aerospace engineering professor, and NASA (ret.) Deputy Associate Administrator, Exploration Systems Development Division, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate; and AIAA member Wanda Sigur, former vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin Space Systems. Jack Burns, University of Colorado Boulder, also will participate in the panel."

All we see at this event are people who represent the status quo in big aerospace and government. And to reinforce this bias, AIAA, the big organization for Big Aerospace with a built-in revolving door, wants everyone to know that they have multiple members presenting at this meeting i.e. the deck is stacked in favor of the status quo. Where are the 20-and 30-something people who are entering the space workforce - the ones who ought to have a say in where things are going? Every speaker is over 50. Many are over 60. This is not new. The whole NSpC/UAG thing is like this.

Space Council Users' Advisory Group Meets Without Any Users, earlier post

"Have a look at the National Space Council User's Advisory Group meeting agenda. Not a single person who is speaking is actually a "user" of space - they are either big Aerospace Reps, politicians, government employees, or reps from other advisory bodies. There is no "user" input in evidence."

During the public input section of the meeting I asked how many UAG members are actually users and how many are sellers and noted that no one on the committee really seemed to be speaking for the next generation of space explorers. The chairman responded: "Users are defined in the broadest of sense so we are all users." He said he "appreciates my continued interest" in what they are doing or something. In other words go away with your actual questions.

Keith's note: I got this from NASA HQ PAO today: "Our colleagues at Marshall Space Flight Center looked into your questions. You probably already know this, but before NASA images of Space Launch System hardware under development are released to the media or on NASA web or social sites, the images are reviewed by both NASA and Boeing export control representatives to ensure they don't contain sensitive data. In some cases, the export control representative will allow release of the image, if certain sensitive hardware features are blurred. A NASA public affairs officer also reviews the images before they're released. NASA's policy on image use can be found here.

Teams at Marshall followed standard agency procedures for clearing the blurred forward join images on NASA Watch and Some export controlled features were blurred in these images made by NASA photographers so that images of this milestone could be released. As hardware is completed, it becomes more sensitive in nature. NASA export control officers are taking another look at these images to determine whether they contain sensitive material or was it so early in development that the feature shown was not sensitive. So some cases, such as it seems to be with these images, hardware that doesn't start out ITAR sensitive can become ITAR sensitive as it's developed, and images of them are blurred accordingly so they can be released publicly."

In summary: someone at NASA/Boeing decided that something on the SLS Intertank that was not ITAR sensitive became ITAR sensitive at some point and they started to blur photos of that ITAR sensitive thing. But since I asked about the blurring of the images the ITAR people are going to go back and see if the ITAR sensitive thing was really ITAR sensitive to begin with. So .. media inquiries are now part of the process of deciding of something is/is not ITAR sensitive, I guess.

NASA WorldWind Project Suspension FAQ

"WorldWind is an open source virtual globe API. WorldWind allows developers to quickly and easily create interactive visualizations of 3D globe, map and geographical information. Organizations around the world use WorldWind to monitor weather patterns, visualize cities and terrain, track vehicle movement, analyze geospatial data and educate humanity about the Earth. Learn more at ... As of April 5, 2019, the WorldWind project at NASA has been suspended. This means that the management and development team at NASA Ames Research Center is no longer actively supporting WorldWind. ... As of April 5, 2019, the WorldWind geospatial data servers at NASA Ames Research Center have been shut down. WorldWind applications that rely on those servers may not function properly."

Dick Smith

Former Kennedy Space Center Director Richard G. Smith Passes Away, NASA

"Richard G. Smith, a former director of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, passed away March 14, 2019, in Decatur, Alabama. He was 89 years old. Smith served as director of Kennedy from Sept. 26, 1979 to Aug. 2, 1986. During his years as director, the buildup of the space shuttle was completed, 25 space shuttle missions were launched and planning efforts began for the International Space Station."

Keith's note: I was there. It was utterly historic.

A Message to the Workforce on SLS and Orion, NASA

"Yesterday, I was asked by Congress about the schedule slip of the Space Launch System and plans to get NASA back on track. I mentioned that we are exploring the possibility of launching Orion and the European Service Module to low-Earth orbit on an existing heavy-lift rocket, then using a boost from another existing vehicle for Trans Lunar Injection. Our goal would be to test Orion in lunar orbit in 2020 and free up the first SLS for the launch of habitation or other hardware in 2021. This would get us back on schedule for a crewed lunar orbital mission in 2022 with the added bonus of a lunar destination for our astronauts. We are studying this approach to accelerate our lunar efforts. The review will take no longer than two weeks and the results will be made available. Please know that NASA is committed to building and flying the SLS for the following reasons:"

CDSE Statement Following Senate Commerce Hearing with the NASA Administrator

"No launch vehicle other than the SLS can enable the launch of a fully-outfitted Orion, including the SM, to the Moon. As a result, the Administrator noted that this approach would require at least two launches of heavy-lift vehicles. It could also include in-orbit assembly of a launch vehicle with an upper stage, which would then be used to direct Orion and the SM to the Moon. The analysis to determine whether this approach is feasible is still ongoing. The integration challenges are significant. It is also clear that this approach would require additional funding, since the idea is to undertake both this mission and to continue development of the SLS apace.

The assessment of options such as these are the hallmark of both NASA and the aerospace industry that supports it. Distributed across all 50 states in civil, commercial and military space, the aerospace and defense industry is crucial to U.S. competitiveness across the globe and to American leadership in science, security, entrepreneurship and human exploration of space. The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration and its member companies strongly support forward-leaning efforts to speed human return to the Moon. We welcome the opportunity to join NASA in the flights of Orion, SLS and the Exploration Ground Systems that support these journeys, and the rapid expansion of science, commerce and human exploration at the Moon and beyond."

Keith's note: Looks like the SLS crowd is worried. Meanwhile, it is rather hilarious that The Coalition For Deep Space Exploration (created as a SLS/Orion lobbying organization) is suddenly worried that a commercial EM-1 might "require additional funding" after SLS has gone billions over budget and is 4-5 years behind schedule for EM-1 - thus creating the need for alternate thinking. Where was their outrage when SLS started to "require additional funding"?

Hearing: America in Space: Future Visions, Current Issues, House Science Committee

10:00 am EDT - Witnesses: Ellen Stofan, Peggy Whitson, and Frank Rose

The New Space Race: Ensuring U.S. Global Leadership on the Final Frontier, Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation

10:00 am EDT - Witnesses: Jim Bridenstine and Kevin O'Connell

Keith's note: Hint: Watch the Bridenstine hearing.

Prepared Testimony by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine before the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation United States Senate

"Under the auspices of the ISS National Laboratory, managed by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), NASA and CASIS continue to expand research on the ISS sponsored by pharmaceutical, technology, consumer product, and other industries, as well as by other Government agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. Through CASIS' efforts, the ISS National Lab has reached full capacity for allocated crew time and upmass and downmass. NASA also works with commercial companies, such as NanoRacks, to support commercial activity on the ISS."

Keith's note: Someone did not check their facts. CASIS is still unable to use all of the crew time and resources NASA offers them.

New White House budget spells trouble for NASA's SLS rocket, Ars Technica

"Two sources familiar with the thinking of Vice President Mike Pence--who leads US space policy--have said he is frustrated with the slow pace of the nation's efforts to send humans to the Moon. In particular, he is growing tired of delays with NASA's Space Launch System rocket, which was originally due to launch in 2017 and is now likely delayed until 2021 at the earliest. ... With this proposal, therefore, NASA is taking away a key upgrade to the Space Launch System's upper stage, proposing to launch Gateway on commercial rockets, and removing a high-profile mission from the launch manifest--the Europa Clipper. This leaves just one real task for SLS, which no commercial rocket can presently perform: the direct delivery of a crewed Orion capsule to a high lunar orbit."

Keith's note: Let's see: Saturn V was 363 feet tall and weighed 6,540,000 lb. SLS Block 1 (the only rocket this budget supports) is 322 feet tall for crew version and 313 feet tall for the cargo version and weighs 5.5. million lb. SLS Block 1 can put 209,000 lb in to LEO and Saturn V could put 310,000 lb into LEO. Oh yes a totally expendable Falcon Heavy can put 141,000 lb into LEO. You can buy a bunch of them for the same cost of a SLS. Then there's the Soviet N-1, and the upcoming Blue Origin New Glenn and SpaceX Starship - both of which may be operating before the fully upgraded SLS. Jim Bridenstine said "We're talking about a rocket that's bigger than any rocket that's ever been built in human history". So ... is SLS bigger than any rocket in history? Not so sure about that. Paper rockets don't count. Just sayin'. Larger image

FY 2020 Federal Government Budget (NASA starts on page 97)

"- The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is responsible for leading an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system and bring new knowledge and opportunities back to Earth.

- The Budget takes steps to achieve lunar exploration goals sooner, improve sustainability of NASA's exploration campaign, and increase the use of commercial partnerships and other procurement models to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of NASA programs.

- The Budget includes $363 million to support commercial development of a large lunar lander that can initially carry cargo and later astronauts to the surface of the Moon.

- The Budget focuses funding for the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, a heavy-lift expendable launch vehicle, to ensure the rocket is operational in the early 2020s when it will be needed to carry astronauts to the vicinity of the Moon.

- The Budget requests $21 billion for NASA, a $283 million or 1.4-percent increase from the 2019 estimate."

Keith's note: NASA's enacted FY 2019 budget was $21.5 billion. The White House budget request for NASA's FY 2020 budget is $21.019 billion which actually means a 2.2% decrease in NASA's budget. But NASA (at the direction of the White House) wants you to think that this is an increase. Congress will be weighing in on this.

- FY 2020 Budget Summary Briefing (2 MB PDF)
- FY 2020 Budget Agency Fact Sheet (300 KB PDF)
- - FY 2020 Budget Mission Fact Sheet (510 KB PDF)
Video: NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine's Remarks on the FY 2020 Budget
- Earlier budget postings

NASA Agency Budget Fact sheet

"STEM Engagement - $0.0 - The Budget provides no funding for the Office of STEM Engagement, redirecting those funds to NASA's core mission of exploration. The Budget continues support for activities funded in other accounts, including the Science Activation program within Science, which delivers science content and expertise through cooperative agreements with more than 25 organizations."

- NASA Budget Briefing

"Proposes termination of funding for NASA's Office of STEM Engagement, including its portfolio of grants and cooperative agreements and redirects funds to NASA's core mission of exploration.
- NASA headquarters will continue to be accountable for strategic direction and coordination of the agency's STEM engagement efforts.
- Continues internships, fellowships, and student STEM engagement activities and learning opportunities funded by NASA mission directorates.
- SMD's Science Activation program will continue to focus on delivering SMD content to learners of all ages through cooperative agreement awards."

Keith's note: This is not going to happen. The Obama White House tried this - once - and that did not work out well for them. The current White House tried this twice in 2017 and Congress aid no each time and restored the budget. They will do it again this time. But this time, education is an issue that the Democratic House will fall on their swords for. Who knows - maybe they will increase it beyond last year's level.

It does ring rather hollow to hear NASA leadership talk about all of the inspiration stuff when they look the other way while an effort is made to gut the heart of how NASA inspires: education.

- NASA FY 2020 Budget Fact sheet
- Ivanka Trump Supports NASA Education While Her Father Seeks To Gut It, earlier post (2017)
- Cutting NASA Education In Order To Save It, earlier post (2017)
- Senators Reject Trump Push To Cut NASA Education, earlier post (2017)
- Trump's NASA Budget Guts Earth Science and Totally Eliminates Education earlier post (2017)
- Earlier Education posts

NASA Agency Budget Fact sheet

"The Budget proposes to terminate the WFIRST mission and instead focus on completing the delayed James Webb Space Telescope. The Budget also proposes to terminate two Earth science missions (PACE and CLARREO-Pathfinder)."

U.S. Science Envoy Program (2018)

"The Honorable Charles Frank Bolden Jr., (USMC-Ret.), recently retired from service as the 12th Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). At NASA, Bolden oversaw the safe transition from 30 years of Space Shuttle missions to a new era of exploration focused on full utilization of the International Space Station and space and aeronautics technology development. As a Science Envoy for Space, Gen. Bolden will promote American leadership in space exploration and emphasize the importance of commercial opportunities."

India won't re-invent wheel with human mission: US space envoy, The Times of India

"Major General Charles Frank Bolden, the former NASA administrator who has been appointed the US' first space envoy, says there's no reason for Indians to be apprehensive about the Indian Space Research Organisation's proposed human spaceflight mission as the space agency won't be reinvent."

March 11 Events Highlight NASA's Moon to Mars Plans, FY 2020 Budget

"NASA invites media and social media to agency centers across the country Monday, March 11, to get an up-close look at America's work to return astronauts to the Moon and on to Mars, following the delivery of President Trump's fiscal year 2020 budget proposal to the U.S. Congress."

NASA could see a 5 percent budget cut next year, official says, Houston Chronicle

"President Donald Trump is expected to propose a 5 percent cut to NASA's budget next year, a decision that stands in stark contrast to the president's pushed to return humans to the moon for the first time since 1972. The proposed cuts -- part of sweeping cuts to non-defense discretionary spending in every agency -- was disclosed in an article published online Monday by Russ Vought, acting head of the Office of Management and Budget. "It's unfortunate that once again when everyone is getting excited about going back to the moon ... that the announcement is on the heels of cuts for NASA," said Keith Cowing, editor of NASA Watch, a website devoted to space news. "This is not the signal you would hope to see at an agency that is about to embark on a multi-decade program of returning to and exploring the moon. ... "Again, NASA is caught making all these plans with faith-based projections where budgets will be," Cowing said. "There's nothing wrong with being optimistic, but at the end of the day, you can't just click your heels three times and hope money falls out of the sky."

Keith's note: It is going to be interesting to see how NASA is affected by the 5% across the board cuts that the White House is planning to make. For NASA that could mean as much as half a billion dollars or so. While the Vice President has all but set up a second home at NASA, his enthusiasm for space exploration needs to be followed with the funding to make all of the promises actually happen. Add in the chronic problems with SLS (which always require more money to fix), the inability for NASA to get its ISS privatization/commercialization plans implemented (while CASIS fumbles everything); and the challenge of keeping enthusiasm going for a first (return) human landing still a decade away. And then there's the impending pivot in the House on Earth and climate science, and the funding equation NASA is confronted with is as challenging as it has ever been.

It Was a Big Week in Politics for Star Trek: Voyager Fans, Slate

"The show's lasting influence can be felt in two stories from this week about prominent Democratic politicians, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Stacey Abrams, both of whom are fans of Voyager and, in particular, its lead character. The first surprise nod to Trek in the political sphere came from the Daily Mail's unexpectedly wholesome interview with Blanca Ocasio-Cortez, who described how Voyager became a portent of her daughter's future success."

Stacey Abrams, Star Trek Nerd, Is Traveling at Warp Speed, NY Times

"She has seen every iteration of "Star Trek" and can recite with picayune detail the obscure plot points from incidents buried deep in the canon. She likes space-time anomalies. She admires Captain Picard but reveres Admiral Janeway. One of her favorite things is "Shattered," the 157th episode of "Voyager," in which the ship goes through a temporal rift that tantalizingly splits it into different timelines. Yes, this is Stacey Abrams, the politician who drew a great deal of national attention when she narrowly lost the race for governor of Georgia last November."

Keith's note: This may be lost on Trump space people but just watch what happens if the Democrats take back the White House in 2020. In the mean time, keep an eye open for this to bubble up during Congressional hearings on NASA's role in education, earth science, and inspiring people to look upward. But also watch for this to pop up in non-space discussions as well. Space exploration - and its role models - both real and fictitious - has lessons to teach outside the space realm.

Ralph Hall

Oldest-ever U.S. representative Ralph Hall dies at age 95, PBS

"Hall, who flew Hellcat fighters during World War II, was known in Congress for promoting NASA and energy production. Hailing from Rockwall, east of Dallas, he was fond of saying that he voted with his party often but always voted with his district."

Chairwoman Johnson's Statement on the Passing of Chairman Ralph Hall

"It was an honor and a privilege to serve alongside him on the House Science Committee, where he served as both the Chair of the Committee and the Ranking Member. He always listened to my suggestions and concerns, and never failed to make time spent in the Committee a thoroughly enjoyable experience. No matter what party he belonged to, Congressman Hall believed in reaching out to find common ground in order to serve his constituents. That spirit of service is something I will dearly miss."

Trump's new science adviser says it's not his job to correct the president on climate change, Vice

"But in an interview in his brand-new office next to the White House, Droegemeier evaded questions about his own views. He told VICE News he has no opinion on the president's winter-storm tweets and has no plans to talk to him about them. "The main thing for me is to provide the president with the best science advice possible," he said. Droegemeier said he does believe climate change is occurring, and that humans play a "significant" role in it. But he ultimately landed on a standard refrain often heard within the Republican Party, arguing that humans aren't the main culprit. "If you say humans are the cause of climate change, that's incorrect because climate change is due to humans and natural variability," he said."

Russia's passive-aggressive reaction to SpaceX may mask a deeper truth, Ars Technica

"I would like to point out something else interesting--from one point of view this is a good thing, because we were carrying astronauts, we were getting basically for free $400 million a year at about $90 million per seat for each foreign astronaut. That is more than the entire cost of the rocket and the ship and launch operations taken together. This means as long as we had at least one foreign astronaut on board, we were launching for free. For us this wasn't just a freebie--it was a narcotic. It allowed us to do absolutely nothing and still earn money. And now, this narcotic is going to be cut off, and we will be forced to do something. Either we will pass into history along with all of our space achievements, like Portugal, with its discovery of America and the voyages of Magellan and so forth, or we will have to seriously do something."

Russian Rocket Program Sputters in New Race to Space, Bloomberg

"Russia's market share for rocket technology worldwide fell slightly in 2017, which Roscosmos blamed on sanctions, the weak ruble and increased competition, according to its annual report published on Friday. It singled out SpaceX for allegedly undercutting the market thanks to U.S. government assistance. ... The windfall funding from the U.S. hasn't always been spent wisely. Alexei Kudrin, the head of the country's Audit Chamber, told Russia's lower house of parliament in June that he found 760 billion rubles ($11.4 billion) of financial violations in Roscosmos's books. "Several billion have been spent, basically stolen, that we are currently investigating," Kudrin said in an interview aired Nov. 25 on state-run Rossiya 24 TV. "Roscosmos is the champion in terms of the scale of such violations."

- Man Driving Diamond-encrusted Mercedes Caught Embezzling Cosmodrome Funds, earlier post

"I just love all the pictures of the car this article contains. This guy was embezzling money from Putin and yet he thought it was fine to be driving around in a "diamond-encrusted Mercedes". It would seem like he was either asking to be caught - or .... that cosmodrome construction workers commonly drive around in diamond-encrusted Mercedes."

Post-Hurricane Harvey, NASA tried to fly a pollution-spotting plane over Houston. The EPA said no, LA Times

"According to emails obtained by The Times via a public records request and interviews with dozens of scientists and officials familiar with the situation, EPA and state officials argued that NASA's data would cause "confusion" and might "overlap" with their own analysis - which was showing only a few, isolated spots of concern. "At this time, we don't think your data would be useful," Michael Honeycutt, Texas' director of toxicology, wrote to NASA officials, adding that low-flying helicopters equipped with infra-red cameras, contracted by his agency, would be sufficient. EPA deferred to Honeycutt, a controversial toxicologist who has suggested air pollution may be beneficial to human health. The response stunned NASA scientists, many of whom had flown similar missions in the past, including over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico."

Science Committee Chairs Question Decision to Halt NASA Air Pollution Monitoring in Aftermath of Hurricane Harvey

"Today, Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) with Environment Subcommittee Chair Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX) and Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee Chairwoman Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ)sent letters to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, and Texas' Commission on Environmental Quality Toxicology Division Director Michael Honeycutt requesting all documents prepared or received in relation to the decision making process that prevented the NASA Atmospheric Tomography Mission from participating in the post-hurricane response to the Houston area in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey"

Enjoying The View

NASA Seeks New Options for Science Instrument on Europa Clipper, NASA

"The mission's initial planned magnetometer, called Interior Characterization of Europa Using Magnetometry, or ICEMAG, will not fly with the spacecraft because of cost concerns. Instead, NASA will seek options for a simpler version of this instrument. ICEMAG currently is in its preliminary design phase, and its flight hardware hasn't been built yet."

ICEMAG Update on Europa Clipper, NASA

"During Phase A the entire Europa Clipper payload experienced significant resource growth, (including cost growth) due to accommodation challenges. This is expected due to system and environmental challenges for this mission, and typically confined to Phase A. However, during the System Requirements Review/Mission Definition Review and at the subsequent KDP B gate review concerns were raised that further growth was probable. This was a concern for NASA because of the guidance from the National Academies received directing NASA to keep Clipper cost in check due to the importance of program balance across all of planetary sciences."

Keith's 4 March update: No response from NASA or CASIS.

Keith's 1 March note: I just sent this media inquiry to CASIS, NASA HEOMD, and NASA PAO:

Does this brain/organ chip research have specifically stated goals of contributing to Alzheimer's and/or Parkinson's research? If so then why does NIH make no mention of those stated goals? Or is someone at NASA/CASIS inferring some relevance? The only place I see this Alzheimer's/Parkinson's relevance is in NASA and CASIS PR material and in CASIS tweets.

If you go to this 4 December 2018 NIH release "Blast Off! Sending Human Tissue Chips into Space" at there is no mention of Alzheimer's or Parkinson's made with regard to this research activity. This NIH Project Information page "Organs-on-Chips as a Platform for Studying Effects of Microgravity on Human Physiology: Blood-Brain Barrier-Chip in Health and Disease" makes no mention of Alzheimer's or Parkinson's - yet it has a very, very long list of key words at the bottom of the page.

Neither this CASIS press release "The ISS National Lab and NCATS Announce International Space Station Funding Opportunity Focused on Human Physiology Research" or this CASIS press release "The ISS National Lab and NCATS Announce Five Projects Selected from International Space Station Funding Opportunity Focused on Human Physiology Research" make any mention of Alzheimer's and/or Parkinson's.

Oddly this NASA webpage Organs-On-Chips as a Platform for Studying Effects of Microgravity on Human Physiology makes reference to Alzheimer's and Parkinson's - even though NIH makes no reference. NASA and CASIS have made these Alzheimer's claims before - with no follow up i.e. "Subtracting Gravity from Alzheimer's" and "Research May Unlock Secret of Alzheimer's".

If there is no stated or intended relevance to Alzheimer's or Parkinson's then this is just irresponsible and inaccurate for NASA and/or CASIS to claim that it is and such claims need to be removed with statements that they were incorrectly asserted in the first place.

Research on Alzheimer's and Parkinson's is a big deal. The population afflicted with these diseases is expanding rapidly. If ISS is truly involved in research in these areas then it needs to be promoted to the fullest extent possible. But if it is not, then claiming that it is constitutes professional irresponsibility and outright deception.

I have lost 3 parents to Alzheimer's - two in the last year. As such, as a biologist and a former NASA life science peer review panel manager, I am rather familiar with far too many claims of relevance made with regard Alzheimer's that are simply not real. I am going to be contacting the relevant Alzheimer's and Parkinson's advocacy groups about this claim by NASA and CASIS - unless you can provide proof of actual, stated goals of this NASA/NIH research that are explicitly related to Alzheimer's and/or Parkinson's.

CASIS has removed me from their media contact list and has refused to respond to previous inquiries. As such I do not expect a reply from them.

The Pentagon's Technology Chief Is an Utter F*cking Fool, Daily Beast

"Ignorance is nothing new to Michael Griffin. He used to administer NASA during the George W. Bush administration, where he somehow managed to prove himself to be worse than a climate-change denier. During a 2007 interview with NPR, Griffin advanced the novel position that sure, humanity was the engine of climate transformation, but to do anything about it was a worse form of hubris."

SpaceX Crew Dragon Arrives At The International Space Station

"International Space Station's Harmony module forward port via "soft capture" at 5:51 a.m. EST while the station was traveling more than 250 miles over the Pacific Ocean, just north of New Zealand."

Space Station Crew Opens Hatch to Crew Dragon After Docking

"Aboard the space station, NASA astronaut Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency, and Russian cosmonaut and Expedition 58 commander Oleg Kononenko opened the hatch between the Crew Dragon and the orbital laboratory at 8:07 a.m. EST."

Keith's note: During the Vision for Space Exploration (VSE) era after the loss of Columbia NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe created an Exploration Directorate separate from the directorate that operated the space shuttle and ISS - on purpose. He wanted the new stuff to not be bound by the status quo. Adm. Craig Steidle was recruited to run the show. Whatever commercial things NASA does now had their seeds in what Steidle and O'Keefe did. This all came apart when O'Keefe left, and Mike Griffin came in and threw everything new and innovative out to do his "Apollo on steroids thing". President Obama later gutted that only to bring it partially back. NASA now deals with the remnants of these roller coaster decisions.

Keith's update: To be clear about how this all happened, NASA Deputy Administrator Fred Gregory was actually the prime mover behind the creation of a separate exploration entity within NASA focused on (you guessed it) exploration. He created a group looking into how to facilitate exploration thinking, hired Adm. Craig Steidle, and then pitched a plan to Sean O'Keefe. Fred also found and recruited Gen. Michael Kostelnik to become the program director of human space flight with the hope of breaking down the field center sand piles and to pull Space Station and Space Shuttle programs closer together. This was an enlightened series of steps taken by Fred and would be well worth revisiting today since the stovepipes within NASA human spaceflight were quickly reassembled.

During that time when the VSE was seen as a refreshing recommitment to exploration post-Columbia - there was a momentary alliance between all factions. People thought bold adventurous thoughts again. Back to the Moon and then on to Mars. Craig was looking to do some branding and meme generation. He hit on one thing that was really ballsy. He read a lot of Greek classics as military people are want to do. And he found his catch phrase. He created a motto - for a patch and logo that Mike Okuda (who worked on Star Trek) created. (Larger image) The motto was "Fortuna Audaces Juvat" which is usually translated as a variant of "Fortune favors the bold" - a latin proverb most prominently repeated in Virgil's "Aeneid" at 10.284. You have no doubt seen this phrase before. Its common in the military - for good reasons. It has a Star Trek vibe to it. Craig Steidel drew a line in the sand and provided a motto to wear on one's shoulders as the agency set forth back into space. I thought it was a master stroke. Too bad NASA doesn't do things like this any more. the course of writing my next book I came to reference this phrase and thought I'd see if my antique book collection could help me find an old reference. In this case I found one in a 1792 publication - translated as "fortune assists the brave". Close enough. (larger image)

Jim Bridenstine often ends many official statements with "Ad Astra" ("to the stars") which is taken from another Latin phrase common in exploration and military history "Per aspera ad astra/ ad astra per aspera" ("through hardships to the stars"). Alas, NASA is now going to try and do some exciting stuff in space again by going "Forward to the Moon" to quote Bridenstine's official favorite phrase.

Ugh. That's certainly underwhelming. Why not "Back To The Moon and then Beyond?" or "Go boldly where no(one) has gone before"? you know - something a little more inspiring?

SpaceX Launches First NASA Commercial Crew Demonstration Mission

"For the first time in history, a commercially-built and operated American crew spacecraft and rocket, which launched from American soil, is on its way to the International Space Station. The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft lifted off at 2:49 a.m. EST Saturday on the company's Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida."

Mike Pence: It's time for Congress to establish the Space Force (Opinion), Washington Post

"Since taking office, President Trump's top priority has been to strengthen our national defense and protect the American people. We have made historic investments to rebuild our armed forces. We have removed unnecessary restraints on our commanders, giving them the rules of engagement they need to defeat our enemies. And to meet the emerging threats in space, the newest war-fighting domain, the president has called for the creation of the U.S. Space Force."

Larger word cloud



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This page is an archive of recent entries written by Keith Cowing in March 2019.

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