Keith Cowing: April 2020 Archives

SpaceX launch: local officials scramble to plan for crowds on heels of coronavirus, Florida Today

"The launch is set for May 27, but Gov. DeSantis has not indicated yet what will be reopened by then. The governor did say Tuesday during a trip to the White House that he will make an announcement Wednesday about "Phase 1" of his reopening plan for Florida. "We're gonna approach it in a very measured, thoughtful and data-driven way, and I think that's what most of the folks throughout the state are looking for," DeSantis said as he sat next to President Donald Trump. Malik agrees with this plan. "I'm hoping by then things are better. I like the phased approach of opening some things up. We can't go from zero to 100 in a second," Malik said. But his goal is for hotels, restaurants and beaches to be open by the May 27 launch date. Now local officials are racing to devise a plan to deal with any crowds that do show up, even if it is comprised mostly of local residents cramming the beaches."

Florida governor: Keep movie theaters closed, no sporting events until 'far in the future', Politico

"Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is still formulating a plan to reopen Florida's economy, said on Saturday he does not envision movie theaters or bars opening any time soon -- or allowing sporting events with fans until "far in the future." DeSantis this week has contended that Florida's "measured" approach to shutting down the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic has "flattened the curve." The Republican governor set up a task force to examine reopening the economy, and he is supposed to start reviewing its recommendations next week."

Keith's note: A few days ago Jim Bridenstine asked people to "join us for this launch - but do so from home. We are asking people not to travel to Kennedy Space Center." OK, so what happens when the Governor of Florida starts to push hard to open more things up - like the beaches around KSC? What happens if the White House decides that this launch is something that that they want people to cheer on? NASA and the White House have been hyping the "launch Americans in American rockets from American soil again" thing for years. I have seen launches from just about every location around the Cape and there is no way you are going to enforce meaningful social distancing on the causeways or beaches. People are going to want to see this - and all of us space fans are happy that they do..

But ... "Allowing sporting events with fans until 'far in the future.' " Hmm ... rocket launches with tens of thousands of people on the causeways and highways all huddled together certainly bears some similarity to sporting events. I wonder if launches are included in this broad categorization of things. 27 May is only one month away. How does "far in the future" relate to the next month? Stay tuned.

GAO: Priority Open Recommendations: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, GAO

"To provide the Congress with the necessary insight into program affordability, ensure its ability to effectively monitor total program costs and execution, and facilitate investment decisions, the NASA Administrator should direct the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate to establish separate cost and schedule baselines for each additional capability that encompass all life-cycle costs, to include operations and sustainment. NASA intends to use the increased capabilities of the SLS, Orion, and Ground Systems Development and Operations efforts well into the future and has chosen to estimate costs associated with achieving those capabilities. When NASA cannot fully specify costs due to lack of well-defined missions or flight manifests, forecast a cost estimate range--including life-cycle costs--having minimum and maximum boundaries. These baselines or ranges should be reported to Congress annually via the agency's budget submission."

"NASA stated that it is in discussions with Russia to obtain additional seats on its Soyuz spacecraft for NASA crew as a contingency plan. NASA is also providing Extra-Vehicular Activity and robotics training for a subset of cosmonauts to support U.S. Operating Segment operations, and looking at a possible extension of the duration of the Space X Demonstration 2 crewed test flight. In November 2019, NASA reported that it completed its actions for this recommendation. However, while NASA is working on potential solutions, there is no contingency plan in place. To fully implement this recommendation, NASA needs to provide documentation of its contingency plan."

NASA to Announce Commercial Human Lander Awards for Artemis Moon Missions, NASA

"NASA will host a media teleconference at 1 p.m. EDT Thursday, April 30, to announce the companies selected to develop modern human landing systems (HLS) that will carry the first woman and next man to the surface of the Moon by 2024 and develop sustainable lunar exploration by the end of the decade. Audio of the call will stream online at:"

Keith's note: All I have to do is look at my mug and I can transport myself back to Everest and Devon Island. Do any of you have something that you kept that takes you back to your space mission, expedition, or once-in-a-lifetime experience?

Jeff Seaton Named Acting NASA Chief Information Officer

"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has named Jeff Seaton as the agency's acting Chief Information Officer, following the retirement of Renée Wynn on April 30. Previous to this appointment, Seaton served as the Deputy Chief Information Officer where he supported the leadership and integration of NASA corporate and mission critical IT functions and capabilities, as well as oversaw NASA's annual IT spending of more than $2 billion. He collaboratively provided oversight for agencywide, mission-enabling functions related to IT investments, IT modernization efforts, cybersecurity, and the delivery of enterprisewide IT and information solutions."

Keith's note: Well Jeff, you were the Deputy CIO so you should know how royally screwed up and borderline useless your organization is. Best of luck.

- Earlier posts on the NASA CIO

Agencywide Message To All NASA Employees: Update on Official Travel for May and June

"NASA leadership continues to assess upcoming travel for the month of May and June as well as monitoring conferences and other events. Out of an abundance of caution, the agency continues to restrict all domestic and international travel. Only mission-critical travel will be considered and a Request for Travel Exception form must be submitted prior to travel. If you have approved travel in the system for May, please check with your supervisor to ensure that the travel is considered mission critical and that an exception form has been approved; otherwise, please work with your travel arranger to cancel your trip."

Keith's note: One would assume that going to KSC - just to see a launch - is not considered "mission critical". Let's see if this applies to other government entities seeking to visit NASA facilities for launches - like the White House and Congress.

GAO Report: NASA: Assessments of Major Projects, GAO

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) portfolio of major projects continued to experience significant cost and schedule growth this year and the performance is expected to worsen. Since GAO last reported on the portfolio in May 2019, cost growth was approximately 31 percent over project baselines--the third consecutive year that cost growth has worsened after a period of decline. The average launch delay was 12 months, compared to 13 months last year.

Additional cost growth and schedule delays are likely after NASA establishes a new launch date for Artemis I--an uncrewed test flight of the Space Launch System, Orion crew capsule, and associated ground systems. Further, in 2019, GAO found that the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion programs have underreported cost growth. GAO recommended that SLS calculate cost growth based on costs that are currently included in the first mission and that the Orion program update its cost estimate to reflect the schedule agreed to in its baseline. Both recommendations still require action to address. Looking ahead, NASA will continue to face significant cost and schedule risks as it undertakes complex efforts to return to the moon under an aggressive time frame."


"In addition, Boeing officials indicated the [SLS] core stage is the largest liquid hydrogen fueled rocket stage ever built and the green run test will be the first time the stage is filled with liquid hydrogen. Contractor officials indicated that one of the top remaining technical risks to the green run test is that the core stage may develop leaks when it is filled. ... According to program officials, Boeing underestimated both the complexity of [SLS] core stage engine section assembly and the time and manpower that would be needed to complete the core stage effort. As a result, the estimated stages development cost has increased by about $1.4 billion and the stages contract effort now exceeds the contract's negotiated cost ceiling."

"The [Orion] program has reported development cost growth of 5.6 percent; however, the program has not completed a cost estimate that supports its baseline schedule. ... According to program officials--in addition to the ESM delays--the Orion prime contractor has been underperforming and is in the process of renegotiating the contract due to exceeding its period of performance."

NASA Internal Memo: Website Modernization and Enhanced Security Protocols 15 May 2019 (PDF)

"Currently there are an estimated 3,000 public-facing NASA Web sites, yet the top 10 sites receive 80 percent of all Web traffic. Additionally, some NASA partners operate Web sites on our behalf outside of the Agency, creating redundancy and accumulating unnecessary costs. Not only does this duplication of information cause confusion, each Wen site provides potential access for a cyber-attack on NASA's assets. The shutdown earlier this year gave us a clear view of the cyber vulnerabilities inherent in operating thousands of Web sites. We need to take steps to protect our resources in a hostile cyber landscap, examine our digital footprint, reduce costs, and maximize the effectiveness of communications efforts. In addition to security risk, multiple sites dilute our effectiveness in communicating key messages about our missions."

Keith's update: OK. In 2 weeks it will have been a year since the NASA Administrator told NASA to get its whole Internet act together. Has anyone actually done anything called for in his memo? The CIO shows no evidence of having done so (no surprise). She is leaving NASA this week - so there won't be much incentive to pick up this task there. As for PAO they seem to be perfectly content to list multiple NASA maintained websites for the same mission in their press releases. It is not even clear who is responsible for implementing this directive. I have heard that the task was tossed into the Chief Scientist's lap - that makes no sense. SMD issued a memo about this in September 2019 yet little seems to have been done since then.

In last year's memo Jim Bridenstine said "The shutdown earlier this year gave us a clear view of the cyber vulnerabilities inherent in operating thousands of Web sites." Here we are a year later with an even more extensive shutdown - with everyone, everywhere - relying upon the Internet - for everything. The whole #NASAatHome thing is great but it lacks an overall strategy. Its like HBO and Showtime making everything free for a month so you can binge watch. NASA simply takes everything it has and throws it out at everyone - everywhere. They have so many websites and Twitter accounts that there is little, if any, strategic coordination between these various efforts. They are counting on sheer volume. Soon the content is going to get stale. Then what? It's like a monstrous swarm of bees - NASA lets them loose and eventually they will sting something, somewhere.

One would hope that this second dose of living and communicating virtually will finally get the message through to NASA. Your cool stuff often gets out to people in spite of your efforts to communicate - and not always because of these efforts.

It takes more than a Twitter hashtag and a few buzz words to coordinate things, NASA. Sure, you'll get a sugar rush when the SpaceX and Mars 2020 launches happen - but then its back to the same old, same old. We're all in this remote collaboration thing for the long haul. Its time to start thinking that way.

- NASA Just Can't Stop Doing Web Stuff Twice UPDATE: Three Times, earlier post
- NASA's Confusing ICESAT-2 Websites, earlier post
- Progress Made In Making NASA's Internet Presence Leaner, earlier post
- Dueling NASA Websites Update, earlier post

COVID-19 Is The Borg

Keith's note: As a biologist who once ran science review panels on infectious disease for several government agencies at one point in my career, it is frustrating to see rocket scientists pontificate about viral epidemiology. So, for the record, from a rocket science/Sci-fi point of view:

This COVID-19 pandemic is all about Biology. It involves the virus SARS-CoV-2, a relentless molecular machine that has one design role - to copy itself. It uses animal bodies - including human bodies - as factories. The closer that human bodies are to each other the faster this thing can copy itself to other human bodies so as to copy itself again and then spread and copy itself again. It does not care about who you voted for since it does not have the ability to care. Your job is irrelevant since it works for free. It cannot read the Constitution.

SARS-CoV-2 is a simple machine that does one thing and does it well. Our defenses are imperfect and vary from one human host to another. The illnesses that often result are a side effect of human bodies reacting to being taken over as virus factories. Once you get sick you have likely already completed your job as a virus factory by spreading the virus - often before you even got sick - even if you did not get sick. You are disposable.

With regard to "Herd immunity": If you decide to just let humans (or any other animal) interact freely more of them will get infected, get sick (or maybe not) and then recover and have some immunity. Or they die. Eventually the infected people who survived will no longer be infectious. As a result the statistical probability that any one person can be infected eventually drops since there are fewer infected people to infect others who are not infected. That is "Herd immunity". But those people who have not been infected are still just as vulnerable to the virus and all of its deadly effects. It is only the probability that an infectious human can infect them that goes down.

OK so let's do the herd immunity thing. By opening up free interaction between humans you knowingly allow the disease to kill more people. You also run the risk of the infection process getting out of control and possibly swamping your health systems.This can, in turn, cause more people to die due to lack of health care than would otherwise be the case if you limited human to human interaction and the number of sick people seeking health care at any given time. Or you can develop a vaccine/cure and stop the ability of the virus to infect and spread. And that takes time - even when a crash program is undertaken. Or you can keep humans apart - which is what we are all doing.

This molecular machine is "novel". We still do not totally understand how it works. We do not know all of the ways it affects its human factory hosts. Our current collective ignorance leaves us vulnerable. If you are a Star Trek fan then imagine the Borg as "nanites". That is what SARS-CoV-2 is. Right now reistance is futile. But staying apart from other humans to slow the spread is not. So stay apart until a vaccine and/or proven treatments are developed.

If NASA can talk to - and reprogram - the Voyagers in interstellar space then its employees can certainly figure out how to get through this.


James Beggs

Keith's 25 April note: A note is circulating in the DC space community: "Our great former Administrator, Jim Beggs, died last night (April 23) at his home in Bethesda. Jim was 94 and died just before midnight last. He was at peace and with family throughout. There will be a private internment and a Celebration of Life in about a year, depending. Messages can be sent to the Gawler's funeral home website this week end which would very be nice."

I only have one Jim Beggs story to share and it is funny and prescient. In 1997 a year or so after NASAWatch went online I was introduced to Beggs at some event. He was not exactly a web surfer but he was aware of NASAWatch and what it was doing - and how it upset a lot of people inside the agency. He said "I don't know why these people at NASA are all so upset. Back in my day we just assumed that anything we put on paper would get out. Keep it up. It will teach them a lesson." And then he smiled and patted me on the back.

Ad Astra Mr. Beggs.

NASA Administrator Statement on Passing of Former Administrator James Beggs, NASA

"Mr. Beggs also served his country in the U.S. Navy and supported NASA's achievements during the Apollo era during an agency tenure in the late 1960s. His legacy guided the shuttle program toward its three decades of achievements and set the stage for a diverse and flexible astronaut corps from which we continue to benefit. We salute his service and will continue to honor his contributions to our great agency."

Roselee Roberts

Roselee Nichols Roberts,

"Mrs. Roselee Nichols Roberts was born on Friday, April 24, 1942 and passed away on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. Mrs. Roselee Nichols Roberts was a resident of Maryland at the time of passing."

Obituary, Marcia Smith, Space Policy Online

"An economist, she worked for the Office of Management and Budget and other federal agencies before joining the staff of then-Congressman (later Senator) Bill Nelson (D-FL) during his tenure as chairman of the House space and aeronautics subcommittee. After eight years on the Hill, she joined McDonnell Douglas, which merged with Boeing in 1997. All told she spent 19 years representing those companies' space and aeronautics businesses to Congress, finally becoming Director of Legislative Affairs for Boeing. She then returned to Capitol Hill, working for Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) when he chaired the space and aeronautics subcommittee. She later joined NASA as a Special Assistant to Deputy Administrator Shana Dale and then was Special Assistant to the Associate Administrator for NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate working primarily on the Constellation program to return astronauts to the Moon by 2020."

President Trump and NASA Administrator Bridenstine on Coronavirus Technology Video

Trump: "NASA was dead as a doornail and then we reinvigorated it."


Keith's note: Yesterday NASA PAO denied access to some media covering the COVID-19 invention press event and sent screwy, broken links to others such that the only way to know what was going on was to listen to a black screen Youtube video with narration as objects where shown to a camera. For today's White House visit there was no advance notice that this was going to happen. We all learned about this event officially from NASA after the fact when the NASA PAO chief retweeted someone else's tweet - after news media had retweeted it. It is as if PAO just makes this all up as they go.

NASA can't even be bothered to post this on their home page (screen grab at 5:33 pm EDT) or on @NASA - but I can post news about it sitting in my basement. Update 25 April 4:30 pm EDT - still no mention at

Keith's note: Nearly a week ago I sent a note to the folks at NASA HQ who worry about unauthorized use of the NASA logos and inaccurate claims of NASA endorsement of products or services. No one from NASA bothered to respond. It would seem my warning/inquiry had little effect since you can still buy this NASA logo branded thing online that claims "ReSPR SeLF's NASA Authorized edition utilizes proprietary technology based on NASA research. The SeLF generates a powerful ionic wind, creating a 5 cubic foot shield of more than 7 million unipolar charged ions that prevents particles from entering your breathing space."

Strange that NASA allows stuff like this to stay online with overt claims of NASA endorsement while NASA PAO is overtly promoting COVID-19 inventions that the agency has created. Is there no reality check function operating at NASA any more?

NASA Develops COVID-19 Prototype Ventilator in 37 Days

"A new high-pressure ventilator developed by NASA engineers and tailored to treat coronavirus (COVID-19) patients passed a critical test Tuesday at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, an epicenter of COVID-19 in the United States."

NASA Contributes Expertise, Ingenuity to COVID-19 Fight, NASA

"On April 1, NASA launched an agencywide call for ideas on its internal crowdsourcing platform NASA@WORK for how the agency can leverage its expertise and capabilities to help the nation with this unprecedented crisis. In just two weeks, 250 ideas were submitted, more than 500 comments were submitted, and more than 4,500 votes were cast."

NASA to Host Media Call Today on Contributions to COVID-19 National Response, NASA

"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and other agency leaders and experts will host a media video conference at 4:30 p.m. EDT today, Thursday, April 23, to discuss how the agency is channeling its expertise and ingenuity to help the fight against coronavirus (COVID-19)."

Keith's 4:40 pm note: You can watch/listen to this event here: NASA PAO has refused to provide me with the dial-in information - despite having sent a request to the designated PAO representative more than 3 hours ago. So here is my question - doubtful that I will get an answer. "WIll NASA be filing patents for these COVID-19 ideas or will the information be released without intent to patent or under a Creative Commons license since these ideas were provided by NASA civil servants? If there is intellectual property that needs to be protected by patenting or other formal processes how long will that take and how will it delay the release of these ideas for use to reply during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic?"

Keith's update: Only after I complained by email and Twitter to PAO did I get a Webex invitation from PAO for an event that was already 40 minutes underway. When I clicked on the start link in the email NASA sent me I was downloading software that cannot be opened due to a malicious software error originating at By the time I reinstalled the software that was now screwed up the event was over. I give up.

P.S. other media folks were complaining about crashing and malfunctioning webcasts too.

Trump adviser suggests reopening economy by putting 'everybody in a space outfit', The Week

"One of President Trump's economic advisers has an admittedly "crazy" idea for how to reopen the country amid the coronavirus pandemic: space outfits. "I was thinking this morning, and this is just kind of a thought experiment because I was thinking about this -- why don't we just put everybody in a space outfit or something like that?" Moore asked. "No. Seriously." The Times noted to Miller that "well, we'd have to make the space outfits," a fact he acknowledged while continuing to spitball. "I mean, just thinking out loud, and maybe this is a crazy idea, but instead of just locking down the economy, putting everybody in a kind of -- you're right," Moore said. "You have to make 200 million of these, but it wouldn't have cost $3 trillion to do that. ... I mean, I was looking online, and there are all these kinds of suits that they're building now that you're not exposed and you're breath -- kind of ventilator."

NASA Announces New ISS National Lab Leadership, NASA

"One of six action items NASA identified in its response was to identify an ISS National Lab program executive at NASA Headquarters as the primary liaison to CASIS. As a first step in NASA's response, Alex MacDonald, NASA's chief economist, will also serve as the agency's program executive for the ISSNL. In this capacity he will work closely with CASIS to lead the implementation of NASA's forward plan as the agency outlined in its response to the IRT to bring the ISSNL into a new era."

CASIS Welcomes New NASA ISS National Lab Program Executive, CASIS

"We recognize that modifications in the current model of the ISS National Lab are necessary for continued success and maximization of the return on investment for the American people," said CASIS Chief Operating Officer and NASA Liaison Ken Shields. "The entire CASIS management team and staff welcome the opportunity to work with Dr. MacDonald, NASA, and other stakeholders in swiftly implementing many important changes to how the ISS National Lab will operate moving forward."

Keith's note: You would think that there would be more in terms of safety for the ASAP to discuss in a pubic meeting during a period when NASA is getting ready to launch the first crew from American soil in nearly a decade - and a billion dollar Mars rover in July - given that virtually the entire agency is working from home and will be for many weeks - perhaps months - to come. Apparently not.

Highlights: On the ground Artemis planning continues while anything having to do with hardware is on hold. The human lander solicitation choices will be announced soon. SpaceX is more or less ready to go for its crewed flight while Boeing still has another un-crewed (re)flight and lots of work to do. Orion parachute tests are moving ahead. There are only 3 people on ISS right now. This means half the crew time and limited EVA capabilities (so EVAs are on hold). Crew size will eventually increase to 6 once commercial crew flights start up. Due to scheduling issues there may be a U.S. seat on Soyuz flights and a Russian seat on U.S. commercial flights. ISS lifetime operation plans until 2028 may be affected by aging systems so ASAP wants NASA to identify whatever systems might pose a failure risk prior to 2028 and offer up a plan to replace or repair these systems.

As noted below there was some discussion about de-orbiting the ISS. ASAP credits itself with getting NASA to talk about their plans. Oddly, the program has had a requirement to de-orbit the ISS since the program began back in the 1990s - and before that in the Space Station Freedom program. Indeed we posted an overview of that plan back in 1999. As such it is a little weird that NASA would say that they have no plan to de-orbit ISS - especially given all of the various lifetime discussions that have been going on.

NASA Weekly Update from the Administrator - April 20, 2020

"Our agency's efforts to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and continue our mission are very impressive. Our Perseverance Mars rover is making final steps to launch this summer, mission schedules for the first human launches in the Commercial Crew Program are being set, and our OSIRIS-REx team completed the first practice run for landing the spacecraft on the asteroid Bennu despite the added difficulty of working remotely. The work we are doing is inspiring."

Coping with Isolation

Message From The NASA Administrator: Coping with Isolation: Tips from the Pros, NASA

"Living in isolation is a concept with which NASA psychologists and astronauts are extremely familiar. For 60 years, NASA astronauts have been in space sometimes for months at a time, in small cohorts, with limited contact with their loved ones on Earth. Astronauts can provide excellent guidance for all of us as we navigate life during these times of social isolation."

- Space Travel Offers Lessons On Dealing With Confinement
- The Parallels Between Space Missions And COVID-19 Isolation

Keith's 25 April further update: A recording of Monday's Members-only AIAA telecon with NASA HEOMD AA Doug Loverro is now available for viewing here.

Keith's 21 April further update: While NASA PAO was ignoring my requests, AIAA was emailing Doug Loverro's around to hundreds of people. Note that the AIAA guys says "We thank NASA for permitting the public distribution of this information".

From: Steve Sidorek
Sent: Tuesday, April 21, 2020 1:17 PM
Subject: [EXTERNAL] Doug Loverro Webinar Slides
The slide deck that Doug Loverro presented during yesterday's webinar is attached. We thank NASA for permitting the public distribution of this information.
Steve Sidorek
Director, Public Policy and Government Relations

Here are the slides: LOVERRO_LEO-Commercialization_AIAA.pdf

Keith's 21 April update: I have made several requests to NASA PAO for a copy of the presentation made by Doug Loverro. PAO has not replied to my requests. So I filed a FOIA request for the document. NASAWatch is not the only space news publication who was not offered access to this event. If this is how NASA PAO plans to roll out its new human exploration plans i.e. limiting access to the usual suspects inside the echo chamber - then its going to fall flat and not get the wider dissemination that it would otherwise get - and will so urgently need.

Soon, people are going to start wondering why we need to do all of this expensive space stuff when tens of millions of people are suddenly out of work. If this tone deaf approach is how NASA is going to explain itself then it is going to have a hard time justifying all the money headed its way. Just sayin'.

Keith's 20 April note: NASA gave exclusive access to the HEOMD AA today on a webinar run by AIAA that was only offered "exclusively to AIAA members". In other words you have to pay a fee for access. AIAA then hand-picked news media representatives to participate - but denied access to others. NASA PAO has not responded to my request for copies of the charts presented or any recordings made of the event. If NASA PAO is going to put senior officials up for public interactions where policy matters are discussed/unveiled then it behooves PAO to at least try to make certain that space media has equal access to these civil servants as they provide briefings in an official capacity. Blurry screengrabs of Powerpoint charts posted on Twitter just don't cut it.

Here's Marcia Smith's summary of the event:

NASA Reorganizing To Sharpen LEO Commercialization Efforts, MacDonald to Oversee CASIS, SpacePolicy Online

"NASA is reorganizing its human spaceflight office to sharpen its efforts at commercializing low Earth orbit (LEO). NASA's goal is to become only one of many customers using the International Space Station (ISS) and future LEO space facilities. The agency is moving out quickly to respond to a highly critical review of how non-NASA research is managed on the ISS, but acknowledges that it has work to do in convincing Congress that it has a viable plan. Doug Loverro, Associate Administrator for NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD), spelled out NASA's goals and plans for LEO commercialization in a webinar for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) today."

The Space Force is ready to launch, OP Ed, Washington Post

"The Space Force was a pet project of President Trump's, and there has been more talk about new uniforms and logos than the mission. But that's about to change: Sadly, for a generation that grew up watching Apollo astronauts walking on the moon, space is now a contested domain. The latest sign was Russia's launch of an anti-satellite missile on Wednesday, joining China in demonstrating war-fighting capability in space."

Air Force Academy graduates cadets early amid coronavirus outbreak, first Space Force officers join the ranks, CNBC

"When you arrived in 2016 or so, you knew your graduation day would be memorable, but did you imagine that your commencement would take place in mid-April, or that each of us would have a face mask at the ready or that you would march a Covid compliant 8 feet apart on the Terrazzo, or for that matter, that commissioning into the Space Force would be an option," Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett posed to the graduating class. "Today, you are living history," she added. Of the graduating cadets, 86 commissioned for the first time into the U.S. Space Force. Vice President Mike Pence was on hand to deliver the commencement address."

Keith's note: NASA is doing the whole back to the Moon Artemis thing. They openly talk about grooming the "Artemis Generation". Yet barely a few months into its official existence The U.S. Space Force has just commissioned 86 officers. If Space Force can draw upon institutions such as the Air Force Academy to train recruits for service why isn't NASA developing a similar capability? Indeed, NASA often seems to be more interested in being a recruiting tool for Space Force than it does for itself.

Where is Starfleet Academy?

- Space Force Really Wants To Be Star Fleet, earlier post
- Space Force Is Using NASA Spacecraft As A Recruiting Tool, earlier post

The Mission NASA Doesn't Want to Postpone, The Atlantic

"In this moment, an astronaut launch might seem to be the opposite of everything Americans have been instructed to do to protect themselves and one another: Flinging people outward doesn't quite line up with a growing nationwide impulse to turn inward. The mission would unfold against a truly unprecedented backdrop; even wars and national strife, one space historian told me, haven't posed a challenge to the U.S. space program like this pandemic has." ... "The space community often considers themselves a different level of somewhat unique and special in not having to adhere to the same rules as others--because what they're doing is so important, it should still be done," Garver said. "I will not be surprised if the public finds it not what they would view as 'essential.'" I just think most people will say, 'Well, people are dying here.'"

Keith's 14 April note: A substantial number of states have decided that liquor stores, vaping shops, and marijuana businesses are "essential" and must be allowed to stay open. No one seems to be questioning the risk taken by the people who work there or frequent these businesses to say nothing of the adverse risks that using these substances have on people who catch the virus. Major league team sports are talking about ways to play their games in closed stadiums (which still require lots of people to operate) and every one seems to be happy about that. And everyone is ordering groceries from home to be safe - even if an army of people is required to risk their health to deliver that food.

Update: pro-wrestling has been declared an essential business in the state of Florida. Yes, pro wrestling.

If NASA and SpaceX have all personnel and resources required to safely - let me repeat safely - and the people involved volunteer to take the risks - and meet all aspects of mission operations they should go ahead with the launch. The people who manage and work at NASA and SpaceX are smart and understand the value of a safe workplace under COVID-19 constraints. In the end Jim and Elon will assess whether their people want to do this.

I think the public as a whole understands the importance of things such as missions to explore space. We all need something to aspire to right now - and hope that there will be a future out there when this nightmare is over.

Hope is essential - certainly much more so than beer, pot, and the playoffs.

Keith's 19 April update: Just as long as everyone involved in this launch is safe - and feels safe - and wants to make this happen - then they should be allowed to make this happen.

Despite coronavirus, NASA and SpaceX aim to launch astronauts in May, Florida Today

"NASA has a space station to operate and we aren't de-crewing it because of the virus," said James Muncy, a Washington, D.C.-based space policy consultant. "Carrying off a first, safe Commercial Crew mission needs to happen for the nation to operate the station and to continue what we're doing in space." "It would be better if we didn't have this pandemic and it would be better if a million people could come to Florida and fill up hotel rooms and you would get the full economic benefit of that first launch," he said. "But NASA has to keep moving in space." ... Lori Garver, former deputy administrator of NASA, said her views "evolved this week" after recognizing the pandemic could last a year or more. "If the workforce is safe and SpaceX and NASA are ready - I agree it is a priority," she said. "The U.S. has spent about $150 billion on ISS and it can't postpone (astronaut) exchange and supplies that long."

Keith's note: In a public Zoom telecon today between the National Academies of Science, NASA, CASIS, ASGSR, news media, public etc. about the recent CASIS IRT report Craig Kundrot, Director of NASA Space Life & Physical Sciences Research and Applications (SLPSRA) said that CASIS is no longer going to be issuing grants. That's odd since this is not mentioned anywhere in the IRT report.

So I asked Kundrot via email "In the Zoom telecon today you said that CASIS will no longer be issuing/writing grants. I do not see that anywhere in the IRT report. Has HEOMD made the decision to halt the issuance of grants by CASIS? If so can you send me information on when that decision was made?"

His response: "You did not miss it; it is not in the NASA response to the IRT report. The IRT report does say, "Recommendation 3.2: CASIS use of funding and access to do research, even if it is designed to ultimately be marketable, is in conflict with every model of successful commercialization. " and our NASA position is that CASIS should not be issuing grants, at least while we are in this transition period with leadership, the User Advisory Committee and roadmaps. These were verbal conversations that occurred after the IRT report was received. They are not documented."

If you look at Kundrot's chart (larger image) that he showed during the teleconference it reflects what he said in the meeting i.e. "CASIS will cease issuing grants". What does that mean? Research grants? Educational grants? Some grants but not others? Or all grants? There is no wiggle room in his comments or chart wording. In his email response to me Kundrot tried to dial back his statement a bit to say that this applies to the transition period. As best as I understand this issue from NASA and ISS research community sources this is a rather premature statement by Kundrot. At one point in this telecon there were 104 participants. I scanned the list. It was a who's who of NASA and the ISS research and commercialization community - with some news media - chaired by a former NASA Administrator (Dava Newman) -- and Charlie Bolden dialed in and asked a question. Its is not as if I am the only one who heard all of this.

One of the key issues raised by the IRT is that NASA and CASIS simply did not communicate enough nor did they do so with clarity or transparency. This was characterized as being due in part to "many voices" coming from NASA in a confusing and often contradictory fashion. To the best of my knowledge this decision by SLPSRA for CASIS to not issue grants was not communicated to the affected parties - or the broader user and research community - until today's Zoom telecon. Not exactly the best way to be transparent.

NASA HQ would do well to take this aspect of the IRT report to heart as well: "NASA has used CASIS and its results mainly for public relations and has played an insufficient role in driving what CASIS does. CASIS has been left to define and re-define success based on a "many voices" approach from NASA that has driven inflexible and potentially damaging board and operational behaviors. Changes in NASA personnel in the NASA-ISSNL liaison role, with accompanying high variability in strategic guidance has exacerbated this problem."

It is time to stop speaking with many voices, NASA, and start speaking with one. Just sayin'

CASIS IRT Report Released (Update)

NASA Administrator Message: NASA@Work - As Only NASA Can, NASA

"As NASA teams worked on several national and local response efforts, leadership called on the entire workforce for additional ideas of how the agency's capabilities can help with the national COVID-19 response. In just two weeks, we received over 250 ideas via our internal crowdsourcing platform NASA@WORK - about five times the average number of responses we've seen for other NASA@WORK challenges. Thank you to everyone who offered ideas as well as those who logged in to view, comment and vote on the submissions. More than 500 comments and over 4,500 votes were cast, demonstrating the widespread interest in collaboration the NASA community has to contribute to ideas."

Keith's note: So ... will the public ever get to see these NASA@WORK ideas?

Bring Your Ideas to NASA@WORK, earlier post

Space Shuttle Discovery: Old Friend, New Neighbor, Earlier post, 17 April 2012

"As I sat in my home office in Reston, a few miles from Dulles, and watched the flyover on TV, it became clear that people were dropping what they were doing to go outside to catch a glimpse. Discovery arrived early in DC airspace so it just kept circling around and around, thus increasing the viral buzz online and on TV. Soon, I heard reports of hundreds of cars pulled over on local freeways and people standing on car roofs. So, I hopped into my car and drove toward Dulles airport. Within minutes I started to see cars pulled over for no reason. As soon as I got onto the airport itself the roads were lined thick on either side with cars - and more were parking every second. People had walked up onto bridges where you never see pedestrians. Others congregated in the grassy regions inside of entrance and exit ramps. Again, these are places you simply never see people - much less crowds. This was an immense flash mob that appeared so fast that the police did not have time to respond. No one was directing traffic yet everyone seemed to be cool about being considerate and safe."

Undergraduate Space Training evolves to tackle space threats, United States Space Force

"The training of new military space operators is evolving to meet the challenges in the space domain. A revamped initial skills training course now gives new space warfighters an early advantage in being ready to meet the unique demands of operating satellites and other space systems in a contested, degraded and operationally limited space domain."

NASA Astronaut, Air Force General to Talk with Students About Future of Air, Space

"NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Air Force Maj. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt will discuss leadership for the future of air and space through an online educational opportunity at noon EDT Thursday, April 16. The event will air live on NASA Television and the agency's website."

Russia tests direct-ascent anti-satellite missile, United States Space Force

"Russia's DA-ASAT test provides yet another example that the threats to U.S. and allied space systems are real, serious and growing," said Gen. John W. "Jay" Raymond, USSPACECOM commander and U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations. "The United States is ready and committed to deterring aggression and defending the Nation, our allies and U.S. interests from hostile acts in space."

Earlier Space Force postings

Message From The NASA Associate Administrator: Planning a Return to On-Site Work, NASA

"First, let me say that no decisions have been made at the agency level to move away from the current operational state at headquarters and the centers. But, the questions of how and when we return to on-site work are on everyone's minds these days as we see the curve of coronavirus infection beginning to flatten in portions of the United States and the national conversation shifting to how we get back to "normal."

International Space Station Research and Development Conference Postponed

"After careful consideration and extensive discussions amongst key stakeholders within the space station community, the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory, the American Astronautical Association and NASA have elected to cancel the 2020 International Space Station Research and Development Conference (ISSRDC) as an in-person event in Seattle. Protecting the health and well-being of presenters, exhibitors, attendees and staff is our priority. Partners are presently evaluating alternative avenues to feature content slated for the conference, and will keep you informed should there be updates."

Rubio, Blumenthal Urge NASA to Expand Partnerships With Private Sector to Support Lunar Exploration Programs

"U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) urged NASA Administrator James Bridenstine to expand partnerships with the private sector to support the Artemis program and NASA's Human Landing System (HLS) program. In the letter, the senators highlight the importance of continued lunar exploration to support the goal of developing a sustainable presence on the Moon. "Under your leadership, the Artemis program will help our space industry validate human safety protocols, learn to use the Moon's vast resources, and undertake meaningful technology development and demonstration in support of the next giant leap to Mars." the senators wrote. "While the scale of these undertakings is significant, NASA has at its disposal a diverse and growing private, domestic space industry. Indeed, America's commercial space industry is a key enabler of our nation's endeavor to return to the Moon and journey on to Mars".

NASA's Curiosity Team Operates A Mars Rover From Home

"For people who are able to work remotely during this time of social distancing, video conferences and emails have helped bridge the gap. The same holds true for the team behind NASA's Curiosity Mars rover. They're dealing with the same challenges of so many remote workers - quieting the dog, sharing space with partners and family, remembering to step away from the desk from time to time - but with a twist: They're operating on Mars."

In Response to COVID-19, Space Dynamics Lab Satellite Operators "Fly" Small Sats from Home, Space Dynamics Laboratory

"The Space Dynamics Laboratory announced today that satellite operators are flying NASA spacecraft from their homes to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The emphasis on social distancing and stay-at-home work has become ubiquitous throughout the world and has affected sectors of many industries, including the space industry. In response to disruptions of normal work methods due to the global pandemic, SDL satellite operators have successfully shifted operations of two NASA small satellites away from traditional Mission Operations Centers to alternative flight centers--their living rooms."

NASA Weekly Update from the Administrator - April 13, 2020, NASA

"Determining to help others in times of distress rather than focusing only on your own needs is a great demonstration of character. I have been overwhelmed by the many stories of how the NASA team is helping their coworkers and our various communities across the nation. Every effort, whether big or small is significant. For example, the NASA at Home website's collective efforts have garnered more than 483,000 page views and 89,000 mentions on social media that potentially reached more than 4 billion people! There is no doubt that people across the world appreciate the lengths our team will go to help during this unprecedented pandemic. You are making a difference when people need it the most. Thank you!"

236th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society Goes Virtual

"The 236th meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS), originally scheduled 31 May to 4 June in Madison, Wisconsin, will instead be held online, 1-3 June. The AAS Board of Directors decided to make this move in alignment with worldwide efforts to minimize the impact of COVID-19. Most of our Madison plenary lecturers and other presenters have committed to join us for this virtual experience, which will be held jointly with the AAS Laboratory Astrophysics Division (LAD)."

International Astronautical Congress, Global Space Exploration Conference, Global Space Conference on Climate Change - All Postponed, IAF

"Following the growing escalation of the Covid-19 outbreak around the world, the IAF is saddened to inform you that the International Astronautical Congress - IAC in Dubai will not be taking place this year, but will be postponed. We are in the process of re-assessing the overall schedule of IACs and will inform you within the coming weeks about the new dates. As a consequence, the Call for Applications to Host the IAC in 2023 is suspended and a new Call for Hosting IAC 2024 will be opened in November 2020. ... Also, the Global Space Exploration Conference - GLEX 2020 in St. Petersburg, and the Global Space Conference on Climate Change - GLOC 2021 in Oslo will be postponed by a year to 2021 and 2022 respectively. New dates will be communicated in the coming months."

Message From The NASA Administrator: Prioritize Your Health & Safety, NASA

"The health and safety of the NASA workforce is our top priority as we navigate the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. For that reason, I want to re-emphasize a point I raised during our March 25 town hall - any employee who is reporting to work on-site but does not feel comfortable continuing to do so should not be afraid to raise that concern with his or her supervisor. Alternate work arrangements will be made without reprisal."

Keith's note: My next door neighbor who has often been a surrogate mother to me after I lost mine is in the hospital with COVID-19. The mother of one of my close friends is also in the hospital with COVID-19. And I just learned this morning that a friend's father died from COVID-19 yesterday. To everyone reading these words: this will happen to someone you know - someone you care about. Perhaps even you. Do what Jim says to do and we'll all get beyond this.

Keith's update: My elderly neighbor is now home after 1 week and a half in the hospital with COVID-19. My friend Scott's family is not doing well. It would be wise to heed his advice.

Apollo 13 Reminds Us of Hard Things Worth Doing, op ed, By Jim Lovell and Jim Bridenstine, WS Journal

"As the coronavirus pandemic unfolds, Americans can take comfort in our history of facing difficult times with courage and emerging stronger on the other side of struggle. The Apollo 13 mission, launched 50 years ago Saturday, reminds us of Americans' characteristic resilience and ingenuity. ... When things went wrong on the Apollo 13 mission, it captured the world's attention. News of the oxygen-tank explosion and crippled service module jolted the public awake to the drama unfolding 200,000 miles from Earth. Americans were reminded that space exploration is high-risk work demanding exceptional technical competence and bravery. ... No one familiar with the perils of the mission can look at duct tape, plastic bags and cardboard the same ever again."

New document reveals significant fall from grace for Boeing's space program, Ars Technica

"Six years later, the perception of Boeing's bid for the lunar cargo contract is much changed. Of the four contenders, it had the lowest overall technical and mission suitability scores. In addition, Boeing's proposal was characterized as "inaccurate" and possessing no "significant strengths." Boeing also was cited with a "significant weakness" in its proposal for pushing back on providing its software source code. Due to its high price and ill-suited proposal for the lunar cargo contract, NASA didn't even consider the proposal among the final bidders."

NASA RFI: Payloads and Research Investigations on the Surface of the Moon released

"NASA is soliciting input to assist the Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration in the Science Mission Directorate in planning the development of investigations on the lunar surface to be delivered by the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program."

HeroX Helps NASA Advance Moon Exploration with Miniaturized Payload Design Competition

"HeroX, the leading crowdsourcing platform that solves global problems, today launched the crowdsourcing competition "Honey I Shrunk the NASA Payload" on behalf of the NASA Tournament Lab (NTL) and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The challenge calls on the global community of solvers to develop miniature payloads that could be sent to the moon in the next several years to fill strategic lunar knowledge gaps."

NASA Awards Contract to Deliver Science, Tech to Moon Ahead of Human Missions

"NASA has selected Masten Space Systems of Mojave, California, to deliver and operate eight payloads - with nine science and technology instruments - to the Moon's South Pole in 2022, to help lay the foundation for human expeditions to the lunar surface beginning in 2024. The payloads, which include instruments to assess the composition of the lunar surface, test precision landing technologies, and evaluate the radiation on the Moon, are being delivered under NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative as part of the agency's Artemis program."

Space Medicine Research Program Focuses on People Struggling with Confinement - Online resource addresses stress, depression and conflict, Dartmouth College

"These resources are meant to make anyone better at stress management, depression treatment and conflict resolution," said Dr. Jay Buckey, a professor of medicine at Dartmouth's Geisel School of Medicine. "These are self-help tools. The individual is doing the work. The tools offer practical things that people can do in any environment." Buckey, a former astronaut and currently the director of Geisel's Space Medicine Innovations Lab, flew aboard the space shuttle Columbia in 1998. Buckey and his research colleagues at Dartmouth, Harvard, and UCLA developed the tools over more than a decade."

Former Astronaut Teaches COVID-19 Management Course

"As scientists, doctors, and governments try to get a grip on COVID-19, surgeon and partner of ES4P David Joyce, MD MBA, and Emergency Medical physician and former NASA astronaut Scott Parazynski, MD, are partnering to offer a new online course on COVID-19 for healthcare providers."

The Parallels Between Space Missions And COVID-19 Isolation

"Jack Stuster has been conducting studies for NASA on how crews live and work in space and the parallels that can be found with expeditions on Earth for decades. He has provided this commentary about confinement and isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic and the parallels within his studies."

- Personal Note About The Pandemic: Be Mark Watney, earlier post
- Social Isolation Tips From Astronaut Leroy Chiao, earlier post
- Things Are About To Get Bad Folks. But Then It Will Get Better., earlier post

NASA's Science Mission Directorate Seeks Earth and Space Science Volunteer Reviewers

"NASA's Science Mission Directorate is seeking subject matter experts to serve as external (email) and/or virtual panel reviewers of proposals to ROSES. All of the forms may be accessed on the main landing page at or just follow the links below to the volunteer review forms and click the boxes to indicate the topics in which you consider yourself to be a subject matter expert. If your skills match our needs for that review and there are not too many organizational conflicts of interest, we will contact you to discuss scheduling."

Message From The NASA Associate Administrator: Prioritizing Health & Safety, NASA

"If you have signs or symptoms consistent with COVID-19 such as fever, cough, and/or difficulty breathing, or test positive for COVID-19:
- Stay home and immediately call your private health care provider to determine the safest way to access care.
- Do not go to your center occupational health clinic. They are not set up to isolate patients.
- Follow your health care provider's recommendations about care and recovery.
- Notify your supervisor. Employee medical information will be protected.
- Once you are symptom free, notify your supervisor. Your supervisor will consult with the center medical staff to determine when it's safe for you to return to work."

Russian space agency says Trump paving way to seize other planets, Reuters

"The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, accused Donald Trump on Tuesday of creating a basis to take over other planets by signing an executive order outlining U.S. policy on commercial mining in space. The executive order, which Roscosmos said damaged the scope for international cooperation in space, was signed on Monday. It said the United States would seek to negotiate "joint statements and bilateral and multilateral arrangements with foreign states regarding safe and sustainable operations for the public and private recovery and use of space resources".

Keith's note: It is somewhat ironic to see a resurgent Russia in search of its former USSR victories in space to complain about agressive expansion into space. The poster from the USSR's heyday in space says "Glory to the conquerors of the universe!" Not exactly subtle intent on the part of USSR/Russia. Just sayin'

NASA Shares Findings, Recommendations, and Response to Review of International Space Station National Lab

"An external team appointed by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has completed its review of the operations and management of the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory, which the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) manages. The Independent Review Team (IRT) delivered its report to the agency in February, and NASA is now publicly releasing the report in full as well as the agency's response to its recommendations."

Message from the CASIS Board of Directors in Response to the Findings and Recommendations of the Independent Review of the International Space Station National Lab, CASIS

"With the goal of full utilization of ISS resources achieved, CASIS also recognizes that realizing the return on investment that the American people have made in the ISS requires important changes in the model of the ISS National Lab, and in its relationship with NASA," said Co-chair of the CASIS Board of Directors Dr. Andrei Ruckenstein. "We embrace the recommendations of the IRT report, many of which are fully aligned with our strategic plan and changes we have already begun implementing with our NASA colleagues. We are committed to working with NASA, other non-governmental organizations, implementation partners, and the broader user community toward maximizing access to the ISS for diverse users, accelerating sustainable commercial development of space and inspiring a next-generation of innovators and leaders."

Chairwomen Johnson and Horn Comment on Independent Review of Space Station National Laboratory R&D Management

"We face important decisions about the future of the ISS and its research and development activities in low Earth orbit," said Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Chairwoman Kendra Horn (D-OK). "The IRT's report raises questions about CASIS's and its role in that future. I look forward to reviewing the IRT report as we work to ensure that NASA and the nation have an effective path forward for sustaining low Earth orbit research."

Earlier CASIS postings

NASA Bans Use Of Zoom

NASA Internal Memo: NASA's Authorized Internal and External Collaboration Tools, NASA CIO

"The NASA CIO has worked for the past several years to establish a consistent and modern set of tools to support both internal and external collaboration. While there is still work to do to support some of the more complex use-cases, such as sharing sensitive data with foreign partners, many others are met through Agency approved collaboration tools. A site has been established, with current approved collaboration resources."

"Zoom is not licensed nor authorized for use by NASA employees and contractors, and is not allowed on NASA IT devices. This includes all Government Furnished Equipment (GFE) or contractor-provided equipment, or any device that connects to the NASA network or VPN. This includes desktops, laptops and mobile devices (smartphones and tablets)."

- Beware Of Using Zoom, earlier post
- Cyber Threats At NASA Significantly Increasing, earlier post

Foreign Spies Are Targeting Americans on Zoom and Other Video Chat Platforms, U.S. Intel Officials Say, Time

"The U.S. intelligence officials stress there is no evidence that Zoom is cooperating with China or has been compromised by it, only that Zoom's security measures leave gaps, some of which may make the application less secure than others. All three intelligence officials, who requested anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss ongoing operations with the media, said spies are using multiple applications to search government, corporate, and academic conversations for financial, personal, product development, research, and intellectual property information and leads. Federal experts have warned both government and private officials not to use video conference applications to discuss or exchange sensitive information. In a memo on Thursday, the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms told Senators not to use Zoom, according to one person who received the memo."

NASA Agencywide Message: CDC Guidelines on Face Coverings in Public Places, NASA

"In order to protect our workforce, and your families, NASA employees and contractors are strongly encouraged to follow the CDC guidelines on the use of cloth face coverings in public settings, and where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, including on NASA centers, where practicable. These are unprecedented times, but we are confident that these measures, in combination with others already in place, will help slow the transmission of the virus."

United Launch Alliance Statement on Positive COVID-19 Case

"A ULA employee in one of our Denver facilities tested positive for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) on April 6, and we are taking all necessary precautions to protect the health and safety of our teammates and facilities ... Our early and aggressive COVID mitigations have limited the number of personnel exposed. We are executing our prepared and rehearsed response plan and anticipate no impacts to our manifest. ULA continues to proactively take steps to protect our people, slow the spread of the virus, and maintain national security."

Boeing Statement on Starliner's Next Flight

"The Boeing Company is honored to be a provider for the Commercial Crew mission. We are committed to the safety of the men and women who design, build and ultimately will fly on the Starliner just as we have on every crewed mission to space. We have chosen to refly our Orbital Flight Test to demonstrate the quality of the Starliner system. Flying another uncrewed flight will allow us to complete all flight test objectives and evaluate the performance of the second Starliner vehicle at no cost to the taxpayer. We will then proceed to the tremendous responsibility and privilege of flying astronauts to the International Space Station."

Jet Propulsion Lab to Pay EEOC $10 Million for Alleged Age Bias, Bloomberg Law (Paywall)

"NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory agreed to pay $10 million and revamp its employment practices to settle an EEOC lawsuit alleging the lab's layoff and rehiring policies had an adverse impact on employees 40 and older when conducting layoffs and rehiring."

NASA Lab Inks $10M Deal To End EEOC Age Bias Suit, Law 360 (Paywall)

"The Pasadena-based laboratory that builds planetary robotic spacecraft entered into a consent decree with the agency Friday to end the Age Discrimination in Employment Act allegations by a class of workers who said they were forced to retire or were laid off after they turned 40. "Since at least 2010, defendant systemically, disproportionately adversely impacted employees aged 40 and older for layoff and rehire compared with employees aged 39 and younger," the complaint filed Friday said, adding that the actions were willful. In addition to the $10 million that will be distributed to the former workers, the lab will have to hire a diversity director to help the lab retain and recruit individuals of all ages and a layoff coordinator to make sure that employment decisions are lawfully made. The agency said it was forced to file suit after making multiple attempts to sort out the dispute through conciliation."

Keith's note: JPL response: "We are pleased to have worked collaboratively with the EEOC on a resolution to bring the matter to a close. The Lab has a longstanding commitment to a diverse and inclusive workplace, free of discrimination. JPL is stronger because of our diversity and we value all our colleagues at every stage of their career."

Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin space venture says three workers in Kent have tested positive for coronavirus, Geekwire

"Three employees at Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin space venture have tested positive for coronavirus and are now in quarantine, a spokeswoman for the company says. One case came to light on Friday, and two other cases were confirmed over the weekend, said Linda Mills, Blue Origin's vice president of communications."

NASA Langley reports first coronavirus case, WTKR

"NASA Langley reported their first positive coronavirus case Monday. NASA Langley officials say they were notified over the weekend that an employee tested positive for COVID-19 and is currently being treated. This case marks the first confirmed positive case at NASA Langley. NASA Langley officials says they were notified quickly and were able to take steps to mitigate potential impacts on the health and safety of the Langley team."

Keith's note: NASA Langley is still at Stage 3..

According to an email sent to me by NASA LaRC PAO: "Over the weekend, we were notified that a member of the NASA Langley team tested positive, and is being treated, for coronavirus (COVID-19). It is our first confirmed positive case at NASA Langley. Because we were made aware of this so quickly by the employee's emergency contact, we were able to take steps to mitigate potential impacts on the health and safety of the Langley team. We immediately notified any employees who may have come in contact with the individual, and the individual's work areas have been professionally cleaned and sanitized. Additionally, the workforce at NASA Langley is currently at Stage 3 of the agency's Covid-19 response, meaning the entire workforce is on mandatory telework with the exception of a very few mission essential personnel. Most of the Langley workforce has been teleworking since March 17. The positive test for Langley does not change our status at Stage 3 of the agency's response plan. There is no anticipation of Langley moving to Stage 4 at this time."

Administration Statement on Executive Order on Encouraging International Support for the Recovery and Use of Space Resources

"Today, President Donald J. Trump signed an Executive Order on Encouraging International Support for the Recovery and Use of Space Resources. This order addresses U.S. policy regarding the recovery and use of resources in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies. Dr. Scott Pace, Deputy Assistant to the President and Executive Secretary of the National Space Council, released the following statement on behalf of the Administration: "As America prepares to return humans to the Moon and journey on to Mars, this Executive Order establishes U.S. policy toward the recovery and use of space resources, such as water and certain minerals, in order to encourage the commercial development of space."

Fact Sheet: Executive Order on Encouraging International Support for the Recovery and Use of Space Resources

NASA CIO Agencywide Memo: Alert: Cyber Threats Significantly Increasing During Coronavirus Pandemic, NASA CIO

"A new wave of cyber-attacks is targeting Federal Agency Personnel, required to telework from home, during the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. During the past few weeks, NASA's Security Operations Center (SOC) mitigation tools have prevented success of these attempts. Here are some examples of what's been observed in the past few days:

- Doubling of email phishing attempts
- Exponential increase in malware attacks on NASA systems
- Double the number of mitigation-blocking of NASA systems trying to access malicious sites (often unknowingly) due to users accessing the Internet

Experts believe these malicious cyber-attacks will continue and likely increase during the pandemic. NASA's SOC continues to monitor and protect Agency systems, data, and intellectual property 24x7.

Please continue your vigilance, as you use NASA systems, and extend this to your home-computer usage as well."

NASA's Plan for Sustained Lunar Exploration and Development

"This document covers and responds to the Chairman of the National Space Council's direction to provide a plan for a sustained lunar presence, including the technologies and capabilities to enable the first human mission to Mars. For millennia humanity has looked at the Moon in wonder and awe. As the United States leads the development of a sustained presence on the Moon together with commercial partners and international partners, our presence on the Moon will serve as a constant reminder of the limitless potential of humanity. It will continue to inspire humanity as we seek ever more distant worlds to explore - starting with Mars.

... After Artemis III, the overall plan is to conduct operations on and around the Moon that help prepare us for the mission durations and activities that we will experience during the first human mission to Mars, while also emplacing and building the infrastructure, systems, and robotic missions that can enable a sustained lunar surface presence. To do this, we will develop Artemis Base Camp at the South Pole of the Moon."

... In addition to establishing Artemis Base Camp, another core element of the sustained lunar presence that feeds forward to Mars will be the expansion of habitation and related support systems at the Gateway. This evolution of the Gateway's systems to include large-volume deep space habitation would allow our astronauts to test, initially in lunar orbit, how they will live on their voyage to and from Mars. Gateway can also support our first Mars mission analogs on the lunar surface. For such a mission, we currently envision a four-person crew traveling to the Gateway and living aboard the outpost for a multi-month stay to simulate the outbound trip to Mars, followed by two crew travelling down to and exploring the lunar surface with the habitable mobility platform, while the remaining two crew stay aboard. The four crew are then reunited at the Gateway for another multi-month stay, simulating the return trip to Earth, before landing back home."

Remarks by Vice President Pence at the Sixth Meeting of the National Space Council, 20 August 2019

'And I recommend to the public's attention the public record that you will find that we are setting specific timelines for the Administrator in the next 60 days to designation of an office and submission of a plan for a sustainable lunar surface exploration and the development of crewed missions to Mars."

- NASA Really Really Needs An Artemis Plan - Soon, earlier post
- Where Is NASA's Plan For Sustainable Moon/Mars Exploration? (Update), earlier post

Beware Of Using Zoom

Thousands of Zoom video calls left exposed on open Web, MSN

"Thousands of personal Zoom videos have been left viewable on the open Web, highlighting the privacy risks to millions of Americans as they shift many of their personal interactions to video calls in an age of social distancing. Videos viewed by The Washington Post included one-on-one therapy sessions; a training orientation for workers doing telehealth calls that included people's names and phone numbers; small-business meetings that included private company financial statements; and elementary-school classes, in which children's faces, voices and personal details were exposed. Many of the videos include personally identifiable information and deeply intimate conversations, recorded in people's homes."

Zoom: We're freezing all new features to sort out security and privacy, ZDNet

"US space agency NASA has also banned employees from using Zoom. Yesterday, researchers detailed two new security bugs found in the Zoom app. The Zoom Windows client was leaking network credentials due to the app rendering UNC file paths as a clickable link in group chat windows."

Message From The NASA Administrator: Adjusting to the Temporary "New Normal"

"It's been just over two weeks since NASA transitioned, as an agency, into Stage 3 of its coronavirus (COVID-19) response framework. In that time, several facilities have moved into Stage 4 due to on-site COVID-19 cases and/or an increasing number of cases in their surrounding communities. Marshall Space Flight Center recently became the latest to move to Stage 4. Approximately 75% of our workforce is now working from home - some in home offices, some at the kitchen table. Some of us have taken over the dining room, or other room that, just weeks ago, had been a shared space for family, friends, roommates, etc. I want to thank everyone who supports a NASA employee on the home front."

Keith's note: Those of you who are long time readers of NASAWatch will recall my old "Worm Watch" feature (I need to go find the files) wherein NASA employees would send me sightings of the officially forbidden logo. Its continued presence - and being featured on NASAWatch - used to drive a certain former NASA Administrator nuts. When an inquiry was circulated about removing it from the front of NASA HQ someone in the NASA IG office told me that they dropped a strong hint that there'd be an investigation. So that worm logo is still there. Of course the worm logo is also on Hubble, the Viking landers, and lots of other spacecraft.

FWIW Yesterday was the 24th birthday of NASAWatch. Today is the 86th birthday of NASA Worm logo designer (and NASAWatch fan) Richard Danne. I am sure that this is just a coincidence. ;-)

In recent years there has been a resurgence of the worm logo's popularity - it is on clothing and other items now - with a reprint of the original style guide by the logo's designer Richard Danne selling out. Can the meatball and worm co-exist? I proposed a compromise years ago - the so-called "worm ball" (Larger version). Regardless of where this all goes, it is nice to see a piece of NASA's history become cool again - cool enough to fly back into space.

- Using NASA's Logo: Expensive T-Shirts Or Global Soft Power?, earlier post
- Understanding NASA's Global Reach, earlier post
- LOST IN SPACE; Meatballs Devour Worms!!, NY Times, earlier post
- The Care and Feeding of the NASA Worm Logo, earlier post
- Here Come the NASA HQ Logo Cops (Again), earlier post
- From Worms to Meatballs -- NASA Talk Traces Emblematic History, earlier post

Message From The NASA Administrator: Help the Nation - Bring Your Ideas to NASA@WORK, NASA

"Over the past few weeks, I've heard from employees across the agency who want to help the nation through this unprecedented time. These comments exemplify the prevailing, can-do spirit of NASA people and our willingness to take on any challenge. As the nation comes together to confront this crisis, we must look at every opportunity for NASA to lend a hand and increase our contribution to America's response. We have unique capabilities--several of which are already being used to help combat COVID-19. We also have talented people and decades of experience finding solutions to complex problems. NASA will continue to support the Administration and local response efforts by our field centers. Starting today, we're also asking the NASA workforce for ideas of how the agency can leverage its expertise and capabilities to provide additional support. Using our internal crowdsourcing platform NASA@WORK, you can submit ideas for solutions relevant to COVID-19. Multiple ideas may be selected for follow-up and potential action."

NASA Taps Workforce for Innovative Ideas for Coronavirus Response Efforts, NASA

"For the initial call for ideas, NASA leadership, working with the White House and other government agencies, determined three focus areas around personal protective equipment, ventilation devices, and monitoring and forecasting the spread and impacts of the virus. Other creative ideas are encouraged as well, and as COVID-19 evolves, the NASA @ WORK challenge may introduce additional topic areas to address the needs of the country." For employees seeking more information about the NASA @ WORK opportunity, visit:"

Keith's note: The responses below were to a tweet by Nestor Tezna @NestorTezna who is Policy Director (acting) at NASA. He was responding to my comment to @JimBridenstine. Tezna said that NASA was working with other agencies and commercial partners. I then tweeted these two replies. He responded back to thank me for my support. And then he deleted his original tweets. Odd.

NASA CIO Renee Wynn Set to Retire

"NASA Chief Information Officer Renee Wynn is retiring on April 30, 2020, after 30 years in Federal service. She is one of the longest-serving departmental CIOs at NASA and in the Federal Government. Before coming to NASA, Wynn spent 25 years at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), where she served in several executive roles, including as acting CIO and deputy CIO. During her NASA tenure, Wynn said she had her work cut out for her. She was instrumental in improving the Agency's external reputation regarding cybersecurity and how information technology was managed at NASA."

Keith's note: To be brutally honest the NASA CIO organization has been totally ineffective for more than a decade. Hopefully Jim Bridenstine will hire someone who can fix the organization.

NASA Needs A New Chief Information Officer (2019), earlier post

"(sigh) more IT babble from the NASA CIO. AS far as NASA's blatantly obvious byzantine website mess the CIO could have addressed at any time - but they did not. Have a look at these stories about NASA's creaky, mismanaged, and needlessly redundant cyber infrastructure - from just the past year or so. NASA's CIO has been asleep at the wheel for years. Its time for a reboot."

NASA's CIO Is Officially Angry About Her Commuter Bus Website (Update)

"As it happens this commuter bus tweet was not even made by Renee Wynn but rather by someone else who has access to the @NASACIO Twitter account (even though the face on the Twitter page is Renee Wynn's). This error went unnoticed for more than 5 hours hours until NASAWatch pointed it out. And it took another 5 hours before an indirect message was sent to me explaining what had happened. ... You can hardly blame people at NASA for ignoring the CIO organization when they do things like this."

More Than 12,000 People Apply to Join NASA's Artemis Generation, #BeAnAstronaut, NASA

"More than 12,000 people have applied to join NASA's next class of astronauts, demonstrating strong national interest to take part in America's plans to explore the Moon and take humanity's next giant leap - human missions to Mars. Applications were received from every U.S. state, the District of Columbia, and four U.S. territories. However, the process is just beginning for NASA's Astronaut Selection Board, which will assess the applicants' qualifications and invite the most qualified candidates to the agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston for interviews and medical tests before making a final selection. NASA expects to introduce the new astronaut candidates in the summer of 2021."

SpaceX Starship Users Guide Revision 1.0 March 2020

"SpaceX's Starship system represents a fully reusable transportation system designed to service Earth orbit needs as well as missions to the Moon and Mars. This two-stage vehicle--composed of the Super Heavy rocket (booster) and Starship (spacecraft) as shown in Figure 1--is powered by sub-cooled methane and oxygen. Starship is designed to evolve rapidly to meet near term and future customer needs while maintaining the highest level of reliability.

Starship has the capability to transport satellites, payloads, crew, and cargo to a variety of orbits and Earth, Lunar, or Martian landing sites. Potential Starship customers can use this guide as a resource for preliminary payload accommodations information. This is the initial release of the Starship Users Guide and it will be updated frequently in response to customer feedback."

NASAWatch Is 24

Keith's note: NASAWatch turns 24 on 1 Apr 2020. It started as "NASA RIFWatch" on 1 Apr 1996 and was first hosted on a Mac Classic II on an ISDN line in my little condo in Reston, Virginia (see 20 Years Ago Today: The Seeds of NASAWatch). Here a few things from those early days that are still online:

- Rogue Webmasters, Government Executive, 1 Oct 1996
- NASA's Most Important Asset, Gerry Griffin, 31 December 1996
- Dan Goldin Comments to the Space Science Advisory Committee (SSAC) Meeting, 6/17/96
- Changes in Thinking At NASA November 29, 1996, PBS News Hour

Plus this piece from 2016

- NASA Watch Celebrates 20 Years of Critiquing the Space Agency's Every. Single. Move., Inverse (2016)

Just to show you how things have changed, this photo should shock a few of you ... (well worth a click) - and no, it is not an April Fool's joke. Today, some up and coming bloggers and digeratti love to throw snark at me just like I threw it at Dan Goldin back in the day. Life is funny like that.

Those of you who have followed my 'other' exploits will know that I have had a certain interest in doing online updates from distant and extreme locations (Devon Island, Everest Base Camp, etc.). This website (still online), "The McMurdo Dry Valleys Long-Term Research Project - Life in Extreme Environments; An Antarctic Field Journal", done with my friend Dale Andersen, was one of the very earliest - possibly the first - website actually updated from Antarctica.

People have been asking me to look back on things and pick the events that are most memorable. After all I have spent nearly 1/3 of my life running this damn thing. I have been given many chances to do things because of my peculiar notoriety. This shaky video, done live with my friend Miles O'Brien in 2009 - about our mutual friend Scott Parazynski - while this picture was being taken - is the one singular moment where it all came together. I wrote about it here: "My Star Trek Episode at Everest".

Thanks to all of you for stopping by for the past 24 years. Let's all hope we're here for the 25th anniversary.



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This page is an archive of recent entries written by Keith Cowing in April 2020.

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