Keith Cowing: November 2009 Archives

Keith's note: As most of you know by now, Charlie Bolden is relentless in his focus on the value of education.

What if you were inclined to create NASA's version of Starfleet Academy to prepare students for a career in space exploration. What would it do? What location(s) would be best? What age group(s) should it focus on? What courses would it teach? What skills would it emphasize?

I am not talking about recreating ISU. Rather, I am talking about something much broader and technically oriented - an education that actually equips students to be able to participate in all aspects of space exploration including hands-on experience with hardware, software, operations, design, and science.

What if students were to get out of the classroom and actually go on "away missions", take real risks, get dirty, make decisions in a real operational environment - both in the control room and in the field? What if students could also participate regardless of where they live?

Where should the academy begin? College? High school? Grammar school? Should the academy focus only upon training people to eventually work in space exploration or also focus on things relevant to other non-space fields?

Serious replies, please. If you have not registered, now is a good opportunity to do so.

Leonard Nimoy to Headline Space Foundation Space Technology Hall of Fame Dinner April 15, Space Foundation

"Since 1988, the Space Technology Hall of Fame, in cooperation with NASA, has honored those who transform technology originally developed for space exploration into products and services that help improve the quality of life here on Earth."

Keith's note: I wonder what Mr. Nimoy's speaking fee is? I'll bet that the Space Foundation could assist several needy college students with it. Add in the cost of fireworks, entertainment, and other pointless perks at this meeting and something af real value could be done with this money. Why not have a nationwide essay contest and pick a few winners and put that money out in the real world? NASA's logo is on the Hall of Fame page so I guess they are cool with all of this expensive back-slapping - I mean, they support it year after year by sending people to attend it, right?

NASA GSFC Internal Memo: FY10 Buyout/Early Out

"The Buyout/Early Out window is open beginning today, Monday, November 30, 2009 through 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, December 9, 2009. Employees who are approved for the Buyout/Early Out must be off the rolls by April 3, 2010 and may retire/resign as early as December 31, 2009. Eligible employees who voluntarily leave GSFC by no later than April 3, 2010 with an approved buyout will receive an amount equal to their calculated severance pay entitlement, up to a maximum of $25,000."

Viewpoint: Be Wary Of China Space Ties, editorial, Eric Sterner, Aviation Week

"Unfortunately, there are ample reasons for the U.S. to keep its distance. While the U.S. explicitly decided to separate its space exploration activities from the military, China's human spaceflight program is a subsidiary of the People's Liberation Army. In that context, the risks of illicit technology transfer are considerable."

LDRA Wins $1 Million Contract in China's Manned Spacecraft Program, LDRA

"The LDRA tool suite has been used within the China Manned Spacecraft Program since 2001. There are over one hundred licenses of the LDRA tool suite used by more than 30 individual research institutes or companies involved in this program. The LDRA tool suite helps CMSP software to achieve the necessary high levels of quality and safety. The CMSP's primary mission will be to carry out space rendezvous and docking experiments, to guarantee the working and living conditions of taikonauts ..."

Keith's note: Based on this press release, It would seem that LDRA, a UK firm, has partnered with Hughes Communications, a U.S. Canadian firm, to work on China's human space flight program.

New Study Adds to Finding of Ancient Life Signs In Mars Meteorite, NASA

"Using more advanced analytical instruments now available, a Johnson Space Center research team has reexamined the 1996 finding that a meteorite contains strong evidence that life may have existed on ancient Mars."

More Mars Meteorite ALH84001 Discoveries Published, earlier post

Keith's note: This is interesting news. Yet I see no mention that NASA HQ issued the release - or makes mention of it on NASA.gov, at SMD, or on its Mars page but JSC's website mentions it. Yet the one places where you'd most expect to find mention, NASA's main Astrobiology website and the NASA Astrobiology Institute website, have no mention of this press release or featured publications. Oh yes - it was published three weeks ago.

Curiously, NASA's Astrobiology program emerged back in 1996/1997 as a direct result of the announcement of the initial ALH84001 research results. How odd that the same topic gets such little attention today. Then again, the JSC press release does not bother to offer a link to - or mention of - NASA's Astrobiology program. Similarly odd.

Inevitably, if you dig deep enough you will see that this is all about turf - who funded what (or who did not fund it or who used to fund it but no longer does ad nauseum) and the buzz word(s) associated with that money. In my mind, as far as this research goes, "astrobiology" = "exobiology" = "life on Mars". NASA funded this research - not a subunit or fiefdom thereof. What are all of you stove pipe polishers going to do when all of the pending new White House-driven educational projects are launched at NASA? Are you going to be hindered by these self-imposed semantic and budgetary sandboxes when you try to explain topics to students?

Kiwis In Space

Rocket Lab Primed to Launch New Zealand's First Rocket Into Space

"Private aerospace company Rocket Lab is preparing for a historic first launch into space from New Zealand. One of the company's key aims it to make space more accessible to a broader market. As part of the first launch Rocket Lab is auctioning a small amount of payload space on Trade Me for New Zealanders and on eBay for the international market, with the successful bidders securing VIP positions at the launch."

Keith's note: Updates from @rocketlabnz: "A successful launch! Lift off at 2.28pm and an exemplary 22 second burn. The team are ecstatic! NZ, thank you for all your support!"

Launch video

"Dennis Wingo: I thought this was interesting and since I am always looking for spares for our LOIRP FR-900's I check it out on eBay. ... When I looked I was pretty certain that these were boards from our FR-900 machines. It had the right part numbers, so I called Ken Zin at home the night before Thanksgiving and asked him to verify, which he did and noted that these are newer version boards of the ones that we have!! So I bid on them and won them today."

[More at MoonViews]

Human Missions to Asteroids

Trip to asteroid could give life to Ares V rocket, Huntsville Times

The Augustine panel's report also suggests that an asteroid destination would allow NASA to use resources trapped in the floating rocks and mine rocket fuel from them, setting up a "gas station" or depot in space. These could be used to help get to other planets. "There's so much you can do with an asteroid mission. NASA could land or choose to send a crew there and use robots to set up a mining station," said Keith Cowing, a longtime NASA critic who runs the Web site NASAWatch.com. "Also, NASA has been studying asteroid missions for years. There's a lot of research out there on this."

Keith's 25 Nov note: This video was compiled by the SE&I folks using all the ground, air, SRB and ET video from the STS-129 launch.

Keith's 26 Nov update: NASA SE&I had this video taken offline at YouTube. It has been reposted at Exposure Room.

Origins of magnetite nanocrystals in Martian meteorite ALH84001, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, Volume 73, Issue 21, 1 November 2009, Pages 6631-6677

"We conclude that the vast majority of the nanocrystal magnetites present in the carbonate disks could not have formed by any of the currently proposed thermal decomposition scenarios. Instead, we find there is considerable evidence in support of an alternative allochthonous origin for the magnetite unrelated to any shock or thermal processing of the carbonates."

Lunch with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Jr.

"Dec 9, 2009 11:30 am - 1:30 pm"

Keith's note: Looks like you have to pay $70 to hear Charlie Bolden speak. Word has it that he is going to use this venue to make some major announcements regarding NASA. Given that most people cannot afford a $70 lunch or work at a NASA center hundreds or thousands of miles away, I wonder: will NASA PAO record and broadcast his comments for the rest of us to hear? All it takes is a laptop and a webcam. Stay tuned.

Butterflies On Orbit


Butterflies in Space Education Project - Update

"Join us for daily updates of the STS-129 "Butterflies in Space" experiment, and study butterfly life cycles and behaviors in microgravity and on Earth.

Images are downloaded from the International Space Station (ISS) in two batches each day."

Bolden Talks About Education

President Hopes to Inspire Students in Space and Science, The TakeAway

"America, the first country to put a man and a flag on a celestial body, once captivated the world with its commitment to a single vision: the exploration and understanding of the world around us. One recent assessment, however, says American 15-year-olds now rank 21st in science and 25th in math when compared to their peers around their world. With so much happening on the ground, how can we turn our focus to the stars ... and, is it even worth it? To discuss those ideas, and the president's commitment to the space program, we speak to Charles Bolden, the new NASA administrator."

Augmented reality, coming soon to a Coke can near you , DVICE

"Now that the super-animated almost-real movie Avatar is about to roll out (in theaters 12/18/09), here come the advertisers with spectacular new types of techno-toys to accompany the flick. For instance, if you hold a tricky Coke Zero can up to your webcam, it sprouts a controllable helicopter. Click the frame above to see a video of that. Hey, this looks like fun. This augmented reality (AR) juju will, be plastered on 140 million bottle-shaped cans, some 30 million fridge packs, as well as bags, bottles, popcorn bags and fountain drink cups. You'll also be able to pick up a card at McDonald's that you hold in front of your webcam, and when you go to an Avatar-branded website, out pops an animation that looks like a real mechanical toy. There will be playable games associated with these controllable 3D animations, offered as bonuses with Big Macs and Happy Meals at the Micky-D fast feeder."

Keith's note: The education and public outreach potential for NASA and all of its stuff is blatantly apparent to me. Imagine putting these things out such that anyone with a computer and a webcam can have NASA stuff jump out and do its thing with all that cool goodness. For all intents and purposes, this "juju" is printed. It is that simple. Imagine having a 3D ISS to play with ... or every spacecraft NASA is designing, new extrasolar planets ... For that matter, imagine the potential for design reviews where components can be sent out for examination - printed using 3d hololithography ... astronaut CAT scans and doppler ultrasound readings from orbit - or Mars.

Avatar Director James Cameron was on the NASA Advisory Council for a while ...

Senate Confirms Paul Martin as NASA Inspector General, Legal Times

"Paul Martin, formerly of the Justice Department, is re-launching his career. Sort of. Martin was confirmed by the Senate on Friday as the inspector general for NASA. Since 2003, Martin had been Justice's deputy inspector general, serving under Inspector General Glenn Fine. The OIG investigates, among other things, allegations of fraud, abuse and integrity laws that govern DOJ employees, operations, grantees and contractors."

Blue Origin Update on Opportunities for Research

"Blue Origin has selected three unmanned research payloads to fly on the New Shepard suborbital vehicle as a part of Phase 1 of the New Shepard Research Flight Demonstration Program. These payloads were selected from an excellent field of submitted proposals."

The Next Generation of Innovators, White House Blog

"President Obama today helped launch a new campaign, "Educate to Innovate," designed to energize and excite America's students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). It builds on the President's pledge that he would use his position to help encourage students to study and consider careers in science, engineering, technology, and innovation--fields upon which America's future depends--and elevate those students from the middle to the top of the pack worldwide."

Educate to Innovate

"Five leading business and thought leaders (Sally Ride, Craig Barrett, Ursula Burns, Glen Britt, and Antonio Perez) will head an effort to increase private and philanthropic involvement in support of STEM teaching and learning."

Remarks by the President on the "Education To Innovate" Campaign

"NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden is in the house. Where's Charlie? There he is, right there in front."

Challenger Center Supports President Obama's Call to Action in STEM Education

"We believe that the way to engage students in STEM education is by inspiring them," said Challenger Center Founding Chairman, Dr. June Scobee Rodgers. "Middle school students who experience being a scientist or engineer, and who experience it successfully, are more likely to take more STEM courses in high school."

Keith's note: I see zero mention of this effort or how NASA intends to participate on its Education website.

Keith's update: There is a small item at the very bottom of the front page of NASA.gov - you know, where no one goes. But there is still nothing at the NASA education website. It took me seconds to get something online here - I guess NASA uses super duper fancy web stuff that takes longer to operate. If this event was important enough for the White House to have a big flashy event, shouldn't NASA show it the same level of exposure? Truth be known, it would seem that the White House gave NASA zero advance notice on this whole thing - except to make certain that Charlie Bolden was there.

Keith's 24 Nov update: The Education page finally has a link to the White House policy. It certainly took them long enough to do this. I am still waiting for a NASA press release on this - after all, Charlie Bolden was cited by name by the President.

HSPD-12 Update

Our View: Keep the joy in JPL's joystickers, Pasadena Star News

"In a world wracked by recession, one in which it's easy enough to be cynical about government, the work by the geniuses at NASA's JPL is a bright beacon of hope showing what government can do at its best: explore the universe. So what's the reward the United States Justice Department has decided to once again visit upon JPL staffers? A deep intrusion into their personal, romantic and financial lives, ostensibly for purposes of "national security."

Planet 51 PSA Campaign Brings NASA's Message of Exploration Down to Earth

"In a public service announcement about diversity, Johnson underscores the importance of a global work force: "On this planet promoting diversity is very important. At NASA, astronauts from all nationalities and backgrounds work together aboard the International Space Station to help improve our lives here on Earth. I'm here to tell you that every barrier is meant to be broken, whether it's the sound barrier, the furthest layer of the Earth's atmosphere, the outer limits of our solar system, or the challenges we face here at home."

Keith's note: There was a lot of talk (with no mention whatsoever of NASA or space exploration) at TEDxNASA held by NASA LaRC in Newport News, VA on Friday about dealing with poverty, racism, inclusivenes, inspiration, etc. On the same day that this event was being held, NASA HQ PAO released a PSA featuring Dwayne "Rock" Johnson, who stars in the new film "Planet 51". A DVD of this film was flown and photographed in space.

NASA LaRC Internal Email: The 'Langley Story'

"Today I am announcing a major external communications initiative we've titled "Telling the Langley Story." This center-wide activity will help us develop a new, more compelling method to talk about our work, the role we play in NASA and our contributions to the public good. We've found that people outside our gates from the general public to policy makers to the next-generation workforce don't really understand who we are or what we do. Why? One, we don't always tell them in terms they understand and, two, we often don't tell them how what we do benefits them directly. We want to change that."

Keith's note: Interesting idea - but wouldn't it be nice if this was coordinated with HQ and that a similar survey used across all field centers so that you ask the right questions, get the right answers, and be able to understand the agency's issues as a whole? One should not squash the initiative to do this - but based on my conversations with folks at LaRC and elsewhere at NASA this is part of a knee jerk reaction to criticism about how TEDxNASA was operated - good and bad.

Submitted to YouTube by logolou: "A large ball of fire streaking across the night time skies just after midnight had many Utahn's wondering what they saw early Wednesday morning."

TEDxNASA Live Coverage

- Livestream webcast of the event starting Friday morning at 10 am EST
- Main website
- Agenda/Schedule
- NASA LaRC Internal Email: TEDxNASA: You're Invited!
- TEDxNASA: Where's The Space Stuff?

Keith's update: Joel Levine showed an image (this one) that he said had "not yet been seen publicly" but indeed was seen 4 years ago when ESA released it to the public. I did a simple simple Google search in my seat at the event and found a dozen websites that have it online a few seconds later.

Keith's note: Live blogging below:

Keith's 15 Nov. note: Apparently the Space Frontier Foundation plans to create their own version of "March Storm" - a visit by pro-space advocates to lobby on Capitol Hill. "March Storm" has been conducted for a number of years by another organization, Prospace. Well, Prospace is not too happy about Space Fronter Foundation's usurping of their turf and has fired back with a press release. To be quite honest, I have detected little if any substantive impact on Congress by either group in the past few years. (Sigh) Yet another intramural spat between the true believers - one that will no doubt consume more energy than either group will ever actually spend focusing on Congress - or interacting with the real world outside the little bubble these groups all seem to live within.

Keith's update: Oh wait, now there will be a Prospace March Storm in 2010 after all. The Space Exploration Allaince is planning their own Legislative Blitz in February as well. Let's see if these groups come up with any new reasons to support space exploration other than the tired old reasons they have been using for more than a decade you know "NASA needs more money because space exploration is important" and/or "Let the private sector do it because NASA can't."

Features musical contribution from Gorkha. Captioned and spotlight images from HiRISE, the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Highly explosive. See http://uahirise.org for more.

Space Tourism is a Hoax, editorial, Fredrick Engstrom and Heinz Pfeffer, Space News

"Some proponents of suborbital spaceflight will say that their device prepares for orbital space tourism. From the above it should be clear that doing a hop into space, suborbitally, is not a precursor to orbital flight and has nothing to do with reaching orbital speed and then decelerating to return to Earth. To conclude, commercially balanced space tourism is neither for today, nor tomorrow, nor the day after tomorrow."

Keith's note: It is quite clear that ESA's Launcher Office is very good at breeding arrogant, anti-commercial space defeatists.

NewSpace Is Under Attack, Space Frontier Foundation

"NewSpace is under attack; and, we urgently need your help to fight back! Two weeks ago former astronaut and associate administrator, Scott "Doc" Horowitz, apparently taking a page from Dan Brown's DECEPTION POINT, seemed to find a hidden political conspiracy by "a few people in the administration who want to kill Ares I and put all the money in commercial". It's entirely a coincidence that Horowitz used to work for ATK, maker of the Ares solid rocket motors. Last week, when Time magazine declared Ares "The Best Invention of the Year," we seized the offered hook to strike back and do a little truth-saying, congratulating NASA on its propaganda triumph, adding to our earlier insistence that Ares needs a death panel."

One-Off Rockets, earlier post
More Infighting Among The Faithful, earlier post

Russian Cosmonaut's Blog Much Funnier Than NASA, Wired

"It's not just NASA that's hip to the social media game anymore. Now, the Russian space agency Roscosmos has one of its own blogging from the International Space Station."

Orbital log Maksim Suraev's blog, Russia Today

"In the photo I'm holding the latest gadget developed by our military. The device works in two modes. One allows eavesdropping on our colleagues in the American segment. You can get into the FCB (Functional Cargo Block - ed.) and record all their conversations. Also, the device can be used for martial arts training - to be prepared for an alien attack on the Russian segment of the ISS."

Moon Water = Gold

Water on the Moon!, opinion, WS Journal

"But for scientists, the real money shot is the data pouring in from that impact. True, it was a risk. Yet the cost of the mission - $79 million - was a tiny price to pay for billions that might be shaved off the space program if the experiment succeeded. The gamble has paid off in spades. Sensors have detected 24 gallons of water from the 60-foot crater created by the LCROSS experiment. On the moon, ice is worth more than gold."

Keith's note: In a video posted at SaveSpace.us Space Florida President Frank DiBello claims that he visited the White House 2 weeks and they asked "what they could do with all the letters" that they received. DiBello says that they claimed to have received 500,000 letters and that "this has had a devastating impact in Washington that has been recognized". A Twitter posting also makes the 500,000 letter claim. Gee, with all the arm waving they have done, one would think that there'd be a little more fanfare for this accomplishment.

NASA LaRC Internal Email: TEDxNASA: You're Invited!

"As a reminder, the TEDxNASA event is considered a work activity. Civil servants may charge up to 8 hours to their usual WBS to attend. Contract employees must obtain their supervisor's approval. Additional information on how to volunteer or register to attend the event is provided below. But you must act quickly - sign-up ends Thursday night."

Keith's note: I have yet to hear back from LaRC PAO on my fourth simple request as to how much this event will cost and how much NASA is paying. Meanwhile they keep moving the ticket deadline back. This morning they twittered "Last day to register for TEDxNASA!" Now LaRC management says that tomorrow night is the deadline. I guess they are trying to fill some empty seats.

But wait, another Tweet by the organizers a moment ago says "Tickets now available until tomorrow at noon! ". Hmm .. Tomorrow "night" is different than "tomorrow at noon". More confusion.

Keith's note: The Mars Science Laboratory Readiness to Proceed Review is underway and will last from 18-20 November.

"OBJECTIVES: The review board reviews the projects current technical and programmatic status in light of the progress made since the Re- Baseline Review, and is able to conclude that:

- The project's revised technical baseline & implementation approach for the 2011 opportunity remains viable, and adequate plans exist for closure of open items;
- The project's technical and programmatic risks are understood, have been credibly assessed, and plans and adequate resources exist for managing these risks to levels that are acceptable;
- The current cost to go is credible, and the programmatic resources, including the schedule margin, scope margin, and budget reserve, are adequate to complete the project within constraints with acceptable risk; and
- The Project is prepared to restart ATLO operations in February 2010, or has adequate plans and resources to complete preparations."

Keith's 17 Nov update: According to the final TEDxNASA schedule I will have to sit through an hour and a half of official TED videos. I can see near zero connection between these videos and space exploration. Also, I can watch them on Youtube - so why not assign them ahead of time, and save the event time for live interactions? Add in the fact that more than half of the presenters are professional motivational speakers you are left with only 3 speakers with any connection to space exploration.

This is really starting to look less like an event designed to inspire a dialog with a broader audience about space exploration and more like a New Age self-help indoctrination seminar. Hmm, do I really want to do 6 hours of driving just to sit through this when I can stay home and have the webcast playing on my computer? Oh well, at least there will be some music.

Oh yes, despite 3 requests to LaRC PAO, no one has provided me with any information as to who paid for this and how much it cost.

Here are the videos:

- Jill Bolte Taylor How it feels to have a stroke
- Marc Koska: 1.3m reasons to re-invent the syringe
- Daniel Pink on the surprising science of motivation
- Michael Pritchard makes filthy water drinkable
- Nandan Nilekani's ideas for India's future
- Josh Silver demos adjustable liquid-filled eyeglasses
- Sixth Sense Projection Technology Demo

TEDxNASA: Right Message, Wrong Audience?, earlier post
TEDxNASA: Details Revealed, earlier post
A NASA Conference That No One Can Register For, earlier post

NASA ready to work with China on space exploration, AFP

"NASA is ready to cooperate with China in space exploration, the head of the US agency said on Tuesday, as Beijing aims to send a manned mission to the moon by around 2020. "I am perfectly willing, if that's the direction that comes to me, to engage the Chinese in trying to make them a partner in any space endeavour. I think they're a very capable nation," NASA chief Charles Bolden said."

Keith's 17 Nov update: I just got the press release via NASA LaRC's official email distribution list - it was sent out at 9:26 am EST. I am a little baffled as to why a press release first issued only via PR Newswire 4 days ago on 13 November only gets delivered to NASA LaRC's official distribution list 4 days later - and only 3 days before the event itself - announcing that tickets are available "starting Saturday, Nov. 14" i.e. 3 days ago. Oh yes, tickets will not be available after 5 pm today - no mention of that either. And no mention whatsoever is made in the release of the fact that the event will be webcast live. One could easily get the impression that LaRC PAO is not especially interested in this event.

Keith's 17 Nov update: Someone just sent me the final TEDxNASA program and I have posted it here.

China, U.S. to cooperate in space exploration, high-speed rail construction, Xinhua

"Chinese President Hu Jintao met here with visiting U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday. Both leaders agreed to start cooperation in new fields of space exploration and high-speed railway construction."

NASA Presidental Transition Action Item Log, earlier post

"2. Provide more information regarding international partnerships, particularly with the Asia-Pacific region countries. No new data, just pull existing information."

Joint Press Statement by President Obama and President Hu of China

"Both President Obama and I said that we are willing to act on the basis of mutual benefit and reciprocity to deepen our cooperation on counterterrorism, law enforcement, science, technology, outer space, civil aviation, and engage in cooperation in space exploration, high-speed railway infrastructure, in agriculture, health, and other fields. And we also agreed to work together to continue to promote even greater progress in the growth of military-to-military ties."

Space shuttle Atlantis blasts off from Kennedy Space Center, Orlando Sentinel

"...the launch came amid major worries about NASA's future, as the agency has been told by the White House to consider cutting its 2011 budget by as much as 10 percent. Based on the agency's proposed 2009-2010 budget of $18.7 billion, that would equal roughly $1.87 billion.

That kind of cut would end human spaceflight for at least the next decade -- and likely longer -- according to a presidential space panel that recommended last month a $3 billion-a-year spending increase so NASA could run a "meaningful" manned-space program."

Keith's note: "Avatar", a film by former NASA Advisory Committee member James Cameron, will debut across the planet on 18 December. Widely hailed as "ground breaking" the film may well push the boundaries of what can be portrayed on the big screen. The film centers around humans mining precious materials on a world in the Alpha Centauri star system - and the inevitable conflict that arises with the local (sentient) inhabitants. The film delves into a wide range of issues that intersect with what NASA's Astrobiology Institute and Exobiology Programs have looked into in one way or another.

Unparalleled simulations of an extrasolar planet with a whole new ecology - but it would seem that NASA is not really interested in this film.

The Human Moon, Editorial, NY Times

"Perhaps the wistfulness is caused by the sense of simple grandeur in those Apollo missions. Perhaps, too, it's a reminder of the risk we all felt after the Eagle had landed -- the possibility that it might be unable to lift off again and the astronauts would be stranded on the Moon. But it may also be that a photograph like this one is as close as we're able to come to looking directly back into the human past. There the lunar module sits, parked just where it landed 40 years ago, as if it still really were 40 years ago and all the time since merely imaginary."

The Moon View, editorial, New York Times (18 Nov 2008)

"What is most evocative is the awareness that this is our planet in 1966, which feels like a very long time ago. A train of thought immediately presents itself. If scientists can recover extensive new information from old electronic data, shouldn't there be some way to peer beneath those clouds, back in time, and see how this planet looked when it had only half its current population?"

Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project

One-Off Rockets

Time Magazine Falls for Rocket Launch Hoax - Names Ares "Invention of the Year" Based on Launch of Dummy Vehicle, Space Frontier Foundation

"While many reporters know that Ares 1 is far behind schedule and likely to be canceled as an unnecessary and expensive distraction from real exploration missions, apparently Time magazine fell for this publicity hoax. There was no boy in the balloon and there most definitely was no Ares rocket launched in Florida last month," said the Foundation's Rick Tumlinson. "If anyone at Time had bothered to go beyond the NASA and contractor flacks, they would have found out what most people in the space community already knew. This was a marketing ploy designed to save a program threatened with imminent cancellation."

Congress Falls For Time Magazine's Ares Award Too, earlier post
Time Magazine's Best Invention of the Year, earlier post

NASA OIG: NASA's Most Serious Management and Performance Challenges

"Through various Agency initiatives and by implementing recommendations made by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) and other evaluative bodies, such as the Government Accountability Office, NASA is working to improve Agency programs and operations. However, challenges remain in the following areas:

* Transitioning from the Space Shuttle to the Next Generation of Space Vehicles
* Managing Risk to People, Equipment, and Mission
* Financial Management
* Acquisition and Contracting Processes
* Information Technology Security"

NASA OIG: Audit of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Fiscal Year 2009 Financial Statements

"In the "Report of Independent Auditors" (Enclosure 1), E&Y disclaimed an opinion on NASA's financial statements for the fiscal years ended September 30, 2009 and 2008. While the Agency made significant progress in improving its financial processes and systems, the disclaimer resulted from continued weaknesses in internal controls over accounting for legacy property, plant, and equipment (PP&E)."

STS-129 Launch Video

The first few secs of video are jumbled - just wait it is perfect after that.

STS-129 Launched

NASA: "Space shuttle Atlantis and its crew of six astronauts are headed for space, ready to begin their 11-day mission to the International Space Station. The climb to orbit takes about 8 1/2 minutes. Following a smooth countdown, with no technical issues and weather that steadily improved throughout the afternoon, the shuttle lifted off from Launch Pad 39A on-time from Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 2:28 p.m. EST."

@JMorrison2103: "They should have sent a poet...." #nasatweetup

@davecgibson: #nasatweetup It would be impossible to witness that and not walk away feeling optimistic about the future. just...wow.

@cabridges: Saw more than a few teary eyes after the launch before it got too blurry to see. #nasatweetup

- Follow all the Twittering at #nasatweetup
- NASA Launch Blog
- Watch live NASA TV here.

Chairman Gordon and Subcommittee Chairwoman Giffords Congratulate NASA on Receiving TIME Magazine's Best Invention of the Year Award for Its Ares Rockets

"House Committee on Science and Technology Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) and Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Chairwoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) congratulated National Administration of Space and Aeronautics (NASA) on making TIME's List of 50 Best Inventions of 2009. NASA's Ares rockets placed number one among the best inventions of the year. The Ares rockets placed before several remarkable inventions - the Smart Thermostat (#4), the AIDS vaccine (#8), and Tweeting by Thinking (#9), among others."

Time Magazine's Best Invention of the Year, earlier post

Promoting The Flexible Path

President must decide whether sending humans beyond earth's orbit is worth the expense, Charles Kennel, San Diego Union-Tribune

"Human society is ready to begin exploring the solar system for real. Should we start now or later? Is landing on the Moon the first thing we should do? Haven't we already been there, done that? Should we settle on the Moon because of its own value, or as a steppingstone to Mars? If we are really setting the stage for humanity's expansion beyond the Earth, don't we also need to go elsewhere in the coming century? How about surveying asteroids for their useful minerals, and getting to know them better, in case one should threaten to hit Earth? Can't we visit the moons of Mars more easily than landing on Mars?"

A Wet Moon Is Hot Once Again

Keith's 14 Nov note: Word has it that NASA JSC has a stealth "Project M" underway whereby it would place a lander on the Moon in 1,000 days - once approved.

Meanwhile, word has it that NASA is now looking to match Google's $30 million pledge to the Google Lunar X Prize - and that Google may up their ante as well. Conversations are being held directly between X Prize and the 9th floor. IPP is not in the loop. Stay tuned.

A Rainbow on the Moon, Paul Spudis, Air & Space

"If you don't know where you're going, any path will get you there. The Moon has the resources needed to bootstrap a sustained, permanent human presence. It is the place where we can learn how to live and work productively in space. The Moon has put out a welcome mat. What are we waiting for?"

NASA STS-129 Tweet-up

Agenda for Sunday 15 Nov

8 a.m. - Program begins with welcome by John Yembrick (@NASA), NASA public affairs officer
8:10 a.m. - Jon Cowart, NASA Ares I-X program manager
8:40 a.m. - Wayne Hale, NASA strategic program planning manager
9:00 a.m. - Mike Massimino (@Astro_Mike), NASA astronaut, STS-109 & 125
9:30 a.m. - Veronica McGregor (@veronicamcg), JPL public affairs
9:40 a.m. - Miles O'Brien (@milesobrien), veteran space reporter

Follow all the Twittering at #nasatweetup

Watch live streaming video here.

NASA JSC Advanced Planning Office Blog: Creating the Future: One Giant Leap at a time

"... Or is it too farfetched to create a prize for a non-rocket vehicle for access to LEO? While Commercial Space companies are investing in low cost access to Low Earth Orbit using rocket's should NASA partner up to create a prize that will look at the physics for the next LEAP forward in access to space?

OK, I have to say it... I'll even settle for a WARP drive X Prize."

NASA Shuttle Logistics Depot Event To Discuss DoD-related Job Opportunities

"A high-level team from the Pentagon and NASA HQ will provide information to assembled community leaders - including Federal, State and local elected officials - on business opportunities that may be made available in the repair and refurbishment of military hardware returning from Iraq over the next two-to-five years. The estimated value of refurbishment activity is $25B. This team has previously funded pilot projects through the NASA Shuttle Logistics Depot (NSLD) in Cape Canaveral to demonstrate its capability to perform this type of work."

HSPD-12 Update

Lift the cloud over JPL, opinion, LA Times

"The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ultimately found merit in the suit's objections and, last year, halted imposition of the presidential directive on the lab. There matters remained, and the plaintiffs hoped that the Obama administration would let the matter die. However, last week -- just five minutes before the government's right to appeal the 9th Circuit ruling would have expired -- Solicitor General Elena Kagan asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case. Kagan argues that the government does not violate the right to privacy by collecting information on an individual, only by disseminating it. Further, she contends that the 9th Circuit's ruling threatens the whole regulation of the civil service. Both contentions are patent nonsense."

Keith's note: Visit hspd12jpl.org for more information.

Previous HSPD-12 postings, NASA Watch

A Bad Example of "One NASA"

New Accessories for a Retiring Shuttle Fleet, earlier post

"NASA In a partnership that exemplifies One NASA, engineers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. teamed up with engineers at NASA's Johnson and Kennedy Space Centers to design, build, and test five new ExPRESS Logistics Carriers, or ELCs, which will be delivered to the International Space Station. "ExPRESS" stands for Expedite the Processing of Experiments to the Space Station."

Keith's note: Ah, but in true One NASA spirit, MSFC is not mentioned - that is because they were left out. Instead of using easily modified, existing hardware at MSFC which could have worked on the ISS truss, NASA decided to spend a lot of money on new hardware at GSFC, much of which will be used on the shuttle only once.

Accessories for a Retiring Shuttle Fleet, earlier post
New Accessories for a Retiring Shuttle Fleet, earlier post

NASA's LCROSS Impacts Confirm Water in Lunar Crater

"Preliminary data from NASA's Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, indicates the mission successfully uncovered water in a permanently shadowed lunar crater."

Keith's note: My LCROSS "coverage" on Twitter this afternoon.

#LCROSS Earlier SMD press conference on LRO stressed that Moon is "drier than driest desert on Earth". Well, that is no longer true.
#LCROSS the impact plume was as bright as we expected - a magnitude 8 star - the issue was that it was behind a hill
WRT the #LCROSS tweet by @leverburton http://bit.ly/1Bbhmj - he has 1,431,492 followers - 10x more than @NASA has
RT @levarburton How cool is this? NASA confirms water on the moon... http://bit.ly/1dGOb8
#LCROSS ESMD's Mike Wargo: "A few months ago who'd have thought that we'd be talking about a hydration cycle on the Moon!"
#LCROSS and #NASA are currently in the top ten trending topics on Twitter
#LCROSS This water is possibly a resource for human exploration - adefinitive discovery. What is equally important is what we do next.
#LCROSS YES WE FOUND WATER

Vote For NASA Edge

Keith's note: NASA Edge has been nominated in the 'Best Video Podcast' category for the Podcast Awards (http://www.podcastawards.com). They're up against some stiff competition and it appears that they are the only NASA vodcast/podcast nominated. Voting begins today and ends November 30. You're allowed one vote per day.

NASA studies Ares rocket alternativesm Orlando Sentinel

"Among the options they are looking at: a rocket made of the space shuttle's external fuel tank, engines and solid-rocket boosters that has been championed by freelance engineers and hobbyists, and a successor to the Saturn V that once carried astronauts to the moon. The study, ordered last month by NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden as a "top priority," is supposed to be finished by Thanksgiving so Bolden can present it to President Barack Obama to help him chart a new course for America's space policy."

The Flexible Path Ahead

A 'flexible path' forward?, Orlando Sentinel

"One NASA official responsible for charting the agency's exploration of the moon and Mars told a conference of global space experts today that NASA is examining a "flexible path" of exploration that includes manned trips to nearby asteroids. The declaration by John Olson is another sign that administration officials under President Barack Obama are looking to alter the course set in the previous White House, which focused on a return trip to the moon with the goal of eventually landing on Mars. "We're looking at a range of future exploration potential capabilities," said Olson, a top exploration NASA official. That includes "not only the moon and certainly Mars" but other "near-Earth objects," said Olson, speaking at a space summit held a few blocks from the White House."

Keith's note: I just got a media advisory from Griffin Marketing (the folks behind the Coalition for Space Exploration) offering an interview opportunity with "Thomas Pickens, III, Chairman of the Board, and John Porter, CEO, Astrogenetix, regarding payload on board STS-129". The advisory states: "Astrogenetix is the first commercial space company to use microgravity to develop new medicines and vaccines."

I had to read the advisory several times to make certain that I had read it properly. I guess those involved in the generation of this advisory are unaware of McDonnell Douglas and Johnson & Johnson work on space biotech with an eye toward therapeutics back in the 1980's (Charlie Walker flew on 3 shuttle missions - see image), work that Genetech did on shuttle missions, and work that Larry DeLucas and his commerical partners did with regard to protein crystallography, on-orbit research that Amgen and Bioserve did - all with a clear, firm interest in developing therapeutics. And this is just a partial listing. I'd add links, but anyone can find them if they spend a few minutes on Google.

NOMAD Outreach: How to Change Default Address Book in Outlook - User Action Required

"An activity with no user impact was performed on Friday night to move the Outlook offline address book to another server. An unexpected change which set the default address book to Public Folders occurred for some Outlook users. Use the following steps to set the default address book to the Global Address List:"

Keith's note: This is hilarious: "An activity with no user impact was performed on Friday night" and now NOMAD is telling all users that there is "User Action Required" because of the "no user impact" activity. How can NOMAD equate "User Action Required" with "no user impact"?

The Ares I Rocket, Time

"TIME's best invention of the year may send Americans back to the Moon and put the first human on Mars."

Keith's note: Ares 1? There is no Ares 1. What is somewhat comical is that Time seems to think that the rocket that was launched is actually an Ares 1. It is not. Ares 1 only exists on paper and won't exist in reality for years. I guess Time magazine got carried away with all the noise and hype.

What was launched is an Ares 1-X - a one-off test article that differs in substantial ways from the real, production line, Ares 1. Ares 1-X is (was) a rocket cobbled together from pieces of old shuttle hardware, a borrowed avionics system that will not be used on the actual Ares 1, and dummy upper stages - none of which will ever fly again. Indeed, its first - and only - flight resulted in an unexpected upper stage trajectory, a parachute system malfunction, and heavy damage to its launch pad.

Moreover, the Ares 1, as currently designed, would not perform properly due to vibroacoustic and performance issues that have yet to be resolved. Indeed, its prime payload, the Orion space capsule, has had to be shrunk - twice - in both size and crew capacity - because the Ares 1 is incapable of lifting it into space as it was originally designed.

Is a "best invention" something that has yet to even be built, much less fly, one that is years behind schedule and grossly over budget, underpowered such that it cannot do what it was designed to do, with only one partial mockup in existence, half of which is on the bottom of the sea? I don't know - you tell me. Sounds a little counterintuitive.

"The LOIRP Project has reached a major milestone of having two Ampex FR-900 Instrumentation Tape Drives operational at once. This will allow us to accelerate the production of images. This is probably the first time in 30 years that two FR-900s have been operational in the same room at the same time."

LOIRP Works To Bring Second FR-900 Tape Drive Online, MoonViews

Lunar Rover Simulator 1.0

Lunar Rover Simulator 1.0

"This proof of concept Lunar Electric Rover simulator was designed by Frassanito and Associates, in conjunction with Petter Sundness, Rommany Allen, and Chilton Webb. This simulator is based around NASA's Constellation Program architecture. It lets you drive the LER around on the moon, dock with the base stations, and test its multiple cameras and views."

Environmental Tectonics Corporation's NASTAR Center Announces International Student Patch Design Contest for New NASTAR Suborbital Scientist Training Program

"Environmental Tectonics Corporation's The National AeroSpace Research and Training (NASTAR) Center announced today an international contest for students to design a patch that will commemorate NASTAR Center's newest training program for suborbital scientist-astronauts who will fly aboard commercial suborbital spaceflights. The winning design will become the Official Patch for NASTAR's Suborbital Scientist Training Program. The NASTAR Center will accept student artwork submissions through December 16, 2009 on its website. This contest is open to full-time students from the elementary to University levels. The winning artist and patch design will be announced January 11, 2010. The winning patch will be worn on the flight suits of all Suborbital Scientist Trainees. In addition, a cash award of $500 dollars will be granted to the winning artist along with a certificate and NASTAR gift pack."

HSPD-12 Update

JPL employees criticize government for pursuing background checks, Pasadena Star News

"JPL employees Wednesday criticized federal authorities for seeking a U.S. Supreme Court review of an appeals court decision blocking the government from requiring mandatory background checks. The U.S. Solicitor General's Office wants the nation's highest court to review the ruling, arguing that it could affect the government's ability to conduct background checks of contract employees. Robert Nelson, a JPL scientist and the lead plaintiff in the case, said he was disappointed by the government's decision to pursue the case to the Supreme Court level. "We particularly had hoped that the Obama administration would take a closer look at the unwise national security decrees of his predecessor," Nelson said."

Nasa and Esa sign Mars agreement, BBC

"The agreement, which was penned in Washington DC, gives the green light to scientists and engineers to begin the joint planning of Red Planet missions. The union will start with a European-led orbiter in 2016, and continue with surface rovers in 2018, and then perhaps a network of landers in 2018. The ultimate aim is a mission to return Mars rock and soils to Earth labs."

NASA/ESA Mars Initiative, earlier post from 28 Jul 2009

Keith's 9 Nov note: Why is it that NASA has not issued a press release on this topic? Or the earlier item from July? When will NASA post the text of the agreement?

Keith's 10 Nov update: I asked NASA PAO for a copy of the MOU and they provided it to me this morning. I find it rather bizarre that NASA SMD did not releases this on their own.

Statement of Intent for Potential Joint Robotic Exploration of Mars 5 November 2009

Keith's note: This page just appeared at NASA.gov about new NASA PAO AA Morrie Goodman. Oddly, no press release was issued about his arrival at NASA or of Alan Ladwig's move to be one of his two deputies.

Keith's earlier note: MorrieStory, the Twitter account for NASA's new AA for PAO, Morrie Goodman, does not follow a single NASA Twitter!! Tsk Tsk. Maybe he needs a few followers to urge him on ... You can friend him on Facebook too.

NASA's Invisible Security Guy

NASA's Adviser Talks Security During Annual Salute To Veterans, Tyler Morning Telegraph

"Phillip Bounds, NASA's National Security advisor in Washington, D.C., spoke Monday, calling cyber threats against this country alarming. "There are hidden cyber warriors out there that intend to put our forces in harm's way and (the cyber threat) is more real than what you realize," Bounds told a crowd estimated by officials at "500-plus" at an early Veterans Day observance at the International ALERT Academy."

Keith's note: I just checked NED and no one named Phillip Bounds is listed as being employed by NASA. Yet Bounds clearly works at NASA. In this org chart he is listed as Director, Security Management Division. Isn't it just a little weird to not have such a person listed? How do you find him if you have a security issue? Isn't that what NED is supposed to do - help find NASA people? Or is this part of the whole security thing (i.e. stay hidden)?

Jing Li, a physical scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., along with other researchers working under the Cell-All program in the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate, developed a proof of concept of new technology that would bring compact, low-cost, low-power, high-speed nanosensor-based chemical sensing capabilities to cell phones.

The device Li developed is about the size of a postage stamp and is designed to be plugged in to an iPhone to collect, process and transmit sensor data. The new device is able to detect and identify low concentrations of airborne ammonia, chlorine gas and methane. The device senses chemicals in the air using a "sample jet" and a multiple-channel silicon-based sensing chip, which consists of 16 nanosensors, and sends detection data to another phone or a computer via telephone communication network or Wi-Fi.

More information and high resolution photos here.

Ex-astronaut pleads guilty in attack on rival, AP

"A former astronaut charged with confronting a romantic rival in an airport parking lot has pleaded guilty to felony burglary of a car and misdemeanor battery."

Keith's note: Judge: "I am sentencing you to I year supervised probabtion - this can be transferred to Texas ... 50 hours community service ... You are to have no contact of any sort - and I mean any sort - with Colleen Shipman ... You are to send a sincere letter of apology to Ms. Shipman to be delivered within 10 days ... You brought this upon yourself. I do not have any sympathy with you in that respect ... I also want you to do an 8 hour anger management class. You are to have no contact whatsoever with Mr. Oefelin either. No books, no messages, no poems ..."

Plea deal offered in astronaut love triangle case

"A plea deal has been offered in the case of a former astronaut accused of being involved in a well-publicized, violent love triangle, prosecutors said. The former astronaut, Lisa Nowak, is scheduled to be in a Florida courtroom Tuesday to see whether she will accept the deal, said Randy Means, executive director of the Orange County State Attorney's Office."

Ex-astronaut's lawyers to discuss plea deal, AP

"An appeals court ruled last year that diapers, latex gloves and other items found in Nowak's car can be used as evidence but her six-hour police interview after her arrest cannot."

Keith's note: I see that Lisa Nowak is still listed as a NASA employee in NASA's new NED directory. Then again, Bill Oefelein is still listed - as are Buzz and Lois Aldrin, Mike and Rebecca Griffin, Jim Lovell, etc.

Why We Need Better Rockets, Buzz Aldrin, Huffington Post

"Well, it looked spectacular. I'm referring to NASA's recent launch of the Ares 1-X, billed as the prototype of the Ares 1 as a crew launch vehicle, a fancy term for a manned space booster. The rocket is said to have performed as planned, and ushered in the era of the Ares rockets to replace the Space Shuttle next year. Only it won't. In fact, the much-hyped Ares 1-X was much ado about nothing. ... So, why you might ask, if the whole machine was a bit of slight-of-hand rocketry did NASA bother to spend almost half a billion dollars (that's billion with a "b") in developing and launching the Ares 1-X? The answer: politics."

NASA and Spaceward Foundation Award Prize Money for Successful Wireless Power Demonstration

"NASA has awarded $900,000 in prize money to a Seattle company that successfully demonstrated new wireless energy beaming technology which could one day be used to help power a "space elevator." LaserMotive of Seattle was awarded the money after its performance in the Power Beaming Challenge competition, which was a demonstration of wireless power transmission that enabled a robotic device to climb a vertical cable."

Investment in Commercial Spaceflight Grows to $1.46 Billion, Updated Industry Study Reveals, Commercial Spaceflight Federation

"Total investment in the commercial human spaceflight sector has risen by 20% since January 2008, reaching a cumulative total of $1.46 billion, according to a new extensive study performed by the Tauri Group and commissioned by the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. Revenues and deposits for commercial human spaceflight services, hardware, and support services has also grown, reaching a total of $261 million for the year 2008. The analytic study, performed by the Tauri Group of Alexandria, Virginia, was based on aggregated data from a comprehensive survey of 22 companies engaged in commercial human spaceflight activities, including most Commercial Spaceflight Federation members."

NASA on a crusade to debunk 2012 apocalypse myths, AFP

"The world is not coming to an end on December 21, 2012, the US space agency insisted Monday in a rare campaign to dispel widespread rumors fuelled by the Internet and a new Hollywood movie. ... Some websites accuse NASA of concealing the truth on the wayward planet's existence, but the US space agency denounced such stories as an "Internet hoax."

The world won't end in 2012, NASA argues, DVICE

"NASA is interested in particular with Nibiru -- also known as Planet X, a fabled celestial object that "2012" addresses -- which some believe may collide with or pass nearby the Earth, ending life as we know it."

Review: Roland Emmerich's '2012' as massively entertaining as it is stupid, St. Petersburg Times

"Director Roland Emmerich slaps an exclamation point on disaster movies with 2012, a movie as massively entertaining as it is stupid. It's the first time I ever felt like I was witnessing the end of not only the world but also a genre."

Former Astronaut Scott Parazynski, MD Named Chair-Elect of Challenger Center's Board of Directors

"Challenger Center for Space Science Education announced today that former astronaut Scott Parazynski, MD has been named Chair-Elect of its Board of Directors. He will assume the role of the Chair of the Board in November 2010, succeeding Former Astronaut William F. Readdy. "Scott is a top-notch leader and manager with a passion for education, and I look forward to working with him this year as he transitions to his next role as Chair of the Board," said Chair of the Board William F. Readdy."

TEDxNASA: Details Revealed

Keith's note: Over the weekend I sent several additional requests to the organizers of TEDxNASA and LaRC PAO Up until now no one from the conference or LaRC has provided any information whatsoever on this NASA-sponsored event. Last night, Steve Craft, Deputy Director for Strategic Planning in the NASA LaRC Strategic Relationships Office provided a detailed response to my questions/concerns. Meanwhile, I have yet to hear a single thing from LaRC PAO on this event. Also, for the record, Steve provided me with a ticket to the event. I think I will be able to attend. If their LiveStream (or other webstreaming) intent materializes, I will feature it on NASA Watch.

His response to me follows:

Prepare for Contact, Letters of Note

"Here's a 1924 telegram from then Chief of U.S. Naval Operations, Edward W. Eberle, instructing all Naval stations to monitor the airwaves for any unusual transmissions due to anticipated contact from Martians. August 22nd of that year was witness to the closest Mars opposition since 1804 (a mere 55,777,566 km), and as such provided desirable conditions in which to receive radio signals from the Red Planet. The man tasked with clearing the airwaves - a Professor David Todd - somehow managed to persuade both the Army and Navy to report any findings for a three day period, but failed to silence the country's private radio broadcasters for even two days. Needless to say, the three day exercise produced nothing but static."

Office of Commercial Space Transportation; Notice of Availability of a Record of Decision (ROD) for Streamlining the Processing of Experimental Permit Applications

"... the FAA is announcing the availability of the ROD for streamlining the environmental review of experimental permit applications for the launch and/or reentry of reusable suborbital rockets. The Federal action selected in the ROD is the FAA's issuance of experimental permits for the launch and reentry of reusable suborbital rockets from both FAA-licensed and non-licensed launch sites using the Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for Streamlining the Processing of Experimental Permit Applications (PEIS), to the maximum extent feasible, as the basis for determining the environmental consequences of issuing the permits."

Senate votes to restore NASA funding House cut, Houston Chronicle

"In a strong show of support for President Barack Obama's vision for NASA and manned space missions, the Senate agreed Thursday to hand over all that he asked for: $4 billion to build cutting-edge spacecraft as part of an $18.7 billion budget. The Senate voted 71 to 28 for a massive spending bill that would restore $670 million cut from manned space exploration by the House in June. The proposed spending still faces a strong test of wills as the Senate and House try to reach a budgetary compromise."

X PRIZE Foundation and NASA Award $2 Million in Prizes to Masten Space Systems and Armadillo Aerospace

"Today, the X PRIZE Foundation along with NASA hosted an awards ceremony to culminate the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander X PRIZE Challenge (NGLLXPC). Masten Space Systems, led by David Masten, was awarded the top $1 million prize, while Armadillo Aerospace, led by id Software founder John Carmack, took home the second place prize of $500,000. The NGLLXPC was a partnership with NASA funding the $2 million in prize money as part of their Centennial Challenges program while the X PRIZE Foundation managed the competition which began in 2006."

NASA shuttle contractor cancels merit raises for all employees, Orlando Sentinel

"United Space Alliance, NASA's main shuttle contractor, told employees today that it will be cancelingmerit payraisesacross the company next year in order to keep costs down as it tries to win new businessaftertheagencymothballs the orbiter fleet in 2011. "The annual merit pay increases for 2010 for performance and things like that, we made the decision not to do that," said company spokesman Jeff Carr. "This really about protecting our rates to be competitive for future follow on work."

NASA JSC Solicitation: Hardware and Software Supporting the Maker Project

"The Crew and Thermal Systems Division, EVA Tools Branch (EC7) at the Johnson Space Center seeks to acquire contract support for a software/hardware development project for NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX. The project supported is entitled "MAKER" and is pursuing an advanced manufacturing concept being developed and evaluated for deployment in future space exploration architectures requiring manufacturing capability in the spaceflight/mission environment."

Analyzing LCROSS' Plume

Strange Brew at LCROSS's Crash Site, Sky & Telescope

"All this speculation is intriguing -- but "Where's the beef?" you might ask. Colaprete assures me that all the instruments in the shepherding spacecraft got great results, and that the delay in revealing the compositional analyses stems from having lots of spectral signatures to sort through and categorize. Colaprete says some of these findings will be made public in a couple of weeks. (Don't be surprised if he announces that one of the spectrometers did, indeed, detect water in the plume.)"

Beyond Augustine

Beyond Augustine II, Dennis Wingo

"In August of this year I wrote a missive concerning what happens after the Augustine report is released. Well, now that has happened, so what is next? The overall impression is that they did a good job technically in coming up with options and laying out the rational for the options. The concern is not there, the question is does this report provide to the president and NASA a viable path forward? In a curious move, the commission took a big risk and basically rejected one of the central directives from the White House (3d in the Scope and Objectives) which was: Fitting within the current budget profile for NASA exploration activities."

Ares 1-Y is Toast

Pull the plug on Ares, editorial, Orlando Sentinel

"But even if the station gets a five-year extension, as it should, Ares I would be available to fly there for just three years under the best-case scenario envisioned by the Augustine committee. NASA has projected that developing Ares I and a crew capsule to accompany it will cost $35 billion, but the Government Accountability Office came up with an estimate of $49 billion. The Augustine committee predicted that the entire Constellation program, which includes Ares I, Ares V, the Orion capsule and the Altair lunar lander, will run $45 billion over budget."

NASA Blog: Constellation: Managers reevaluating Ares I-Y flight test

"Constellation program managers agreed to reevaluate the proposed Ares I-Y flight test during an Oct. 30 Control Board and plan to take the decision up the ladder to management at NASA Headquarters soon. The decision could result in the removal of the Ares I-Y flight from the manifest in order to better align test flights with evolving program objectives."

Keith's 29 October note: Given that the Constellation Program's Control Board decided last Friday to recommend canceling Ares 1-Y, reality seems to be descending upon the Ares 1 effort - despite the spin Jeff Hanley is trying to put on it.

NASA Drops Ares I-Y Flight-test, Aviation Week

"Hanley said on Nov. 3 he has recommended to NASA headquarters that the Ares I-Y test planned for March 2014 be canceled because the J-2X engine needed to propel the upper stage won't be ready in time to support that test date. The problem is money, he said. "Because of the cost-constrained environment that we've been in, I just cannot get an engine to that vehicle soon enough," Hanley said."

Keith's note: With the "no change" period soon coming to an end 120 days after the swearing in of Charlie Bolden and Lori Garver, a number of people are worried about their jobs and/or the structure of their organization. True to form, Ed Weiler is trash talking people again - people who he fears might be considered as replacements, sacking advisory committee members (notice the change in science chairs on the NAC), etc. And with the soon-to-be-announced new MSL cost overruns and technical problems (possible bad batch of Titanium used and bad arm actuators) someone needs to get fingered as being at fault.

Given Charlie Bolden's personal code of conduct and the gentlemanly way that he seems to treat absolutely everyone he encounters, one has to wonder how long he is going to put up with this sort of "inside Washington" behavior - once word of it gets back to him. Stay tuned.

Pentagon eyes crash analysis on 1,300 satellites, Reuters

"The U.S. military said on Tuesday it is now tracking 800 maneuverable satellites on a daily basis for possible collisions and expects to add 500 more non-maneuvering satellites by year's end."

Defense Acquisitions: Challenges in Aligning Space System Components, GAO

"Satellites, ground control systems, and user terminals in most of DOD's major space system acquisitions are not optimally aligned, leading to underutilized satellites and limited capability provided to the warfighter. Of the eight major space system acquisitions we studied, three systems anticipated that their satellites will be launched well before their associated ground control systems are fully capable of operating on-orbit capabilities."

China's View on Space

China general sees military space race, Financial Times

"China's air force chief has called military competition in space "inevitable", a departure from Beijing's past insistence that it is not pursuing space programmes for military purposes."

China's PLA eyes future in space, air: air force commander, Xinhua

"Calling militarization in the space and in air "a threat to the mankind," Xu said China must develop a strong force in the two arenas in order to face challenges of that threat. "Only power could protect peace," the 59-year-old air force commander said in an interview with Xinhua, 10 days ahead of 60th anniversary of the founding of the PLA air force. Superiority in space and in air would mean, to a certain extent, superiority over the land and the oceans, Xu said."

NASA Ames Scientist to Demonstrate Cell Phone Chemical Sensor

"News media are invited to see a demonstration of first-generation laboratory prototypes of new technology that would bring chemical sensing capabilities to cell phones on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2009. Jing Li has developed a device, designed to be plugged in to an iPhone, which collects sensor data and sends it to another phone or a computer via telephone communication network or Wi-Fi."

Keith's 29 October note: Well, it has been two days and I have not seen any stories on this. When I sent several requests to ARC PAO requesting the press release one would normally expect to follow-up such a media advisory - as well as images and video from the demonstration - I got nothing. Why put a media advisory out about something sexy and cool like this if you are not willing to do the work to follow up media interest?

Keith's 3 Nov note: I made multiple requests of NASA ARC for copies of standard 300 dpi copies images that show this new ARC device - the sort that you'd reguarly get with press releases (which of course ARC did not issue either). These are the sort of images used to make the large images common on many blogs today. At first ARC PAO did not reply. Then they told me that these little images [1][2] were the highest resolution ones they had (3.1 inches at 72 dpi). Then they said that the images had to be re-shot because this was the best that the scientist's camera could do. Really? For a PAO operation located in the middle of Silicon Valley, ARC PAO seems to be clueless as to how high tech media works just outside the ARC security gate. If you come up with a new gadget, people want to SEE the gadget - not teeny tiny images with no details. Indeed, some media may actually want to print these images.

This is the sort of image, at legible resolution, that NASA ARC PAO should be putting out - given that I only had a little low-res image, this is the best that I can do. This article at Gizmodo is the sort that someone could have written about this iPhone sensor 1. If ARC PAO actually put a press release out and 2. provided suitable media for publishers to use.

Another lost opportunity.

NASA HQ PAO All Hands

Keith's note: At the upcoming HQ PAO All hands (no big secret) it will be announced that Alan Ladwig will become a new Deputy AA for Public Affairs for Public Outreach. Bob Jacobs will resume the other Deputy AA job for News, PAO, etc., and Morrey Goodman is the new AA for Public Affairs.

Morrie Goodman is the NASA PAO AA Front Runner, previous Post

"Welcome to AcademyApp.com. Here students can apply to the NASA Academy at Ames, Glenn, Goddard, and Marshall with a single application. An applicant for Research Associate with the NASA Academy must:

* have a demonstrated interest in space
* have a previous internship or project experience
* be a junior, senior, or first or second year graduate student in Fall 2010
* be in high academic standing (GPA of 3.0 or greater)
* be a US citizen (Note: The NASA Academy at Ames will also consider applicants from Canada.)"

KSC Job Loss Update

NASA KSC Center Director Robert Cabana Internal Memo: Seas of Change

"The Shuttle program is going to come to an end in the not too distant future. We are already transitioning to a new architecture that will enable us to once again leave our home planet. When the program does end, a significant portion of our team is going to be out of work. The International Space Station will most likely have a life beyond 2016 to probably 2020. NASA is going to support the development of commercial options to service the International Space Station; we have already been doing this through the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program. We are going to build a spacecraft to take humans beyond low Earth orbit; its name is Orion, and it is going to be built here at KSC."

Predictable Statements

NASA's future - commercial, Constellation or Russia?, Orlando Sentinel

"There are a few people in the administration who want to kill Ares I and put all the money in commercial and the [Augustine] report tends to endorse that type of scenario. I think that is absolutely wrong," said Doc Horowitz, former astronaut and Constellation architect."

Senator Discusses NASA's Future With Obama, WFTV.com

"U.S. Senator Bill Nelson told Eyewitness News Monday morning that he met recently with President Barack Obama about NASA's future and believes the President will make a decision soon. Nelson says it would take an additional $27 billion over the next decade to replace the shuttle after 2011, continue flights to the International Space Station, and to take care of NASA's workers."

NASA and X Prize Announce Winners of Lunar Lander Challenge, NASA

X PRIZE Foundation and NASA Cap Amazing Lunar Lander Competition and Award $2 Million in Prizes, X PRIZE Foundation

"The race for the $2 million Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander X PRIZE Challenge (NGLLXPC) incentivized prize purse, funded by NASA and presented by the X PRIZE Foundation, has come to an exciting finish. Masten Space Systems, led by David Masten, will be awarded the top $1 million prize on Nov. 5 in Washington D.C. at the Rayburn House Office Building. This is the largest incentivized prize awarded by the X PRIZE Foundation since the 2004 Ansari X PRIZE competition."

NASA MSFC Solicitation: Implementation of Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Education and Public Outreach Plan

"NASA/MSFC has a requirement for assistance and services in the implementation of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) Education and Public Outreach (EPO) plan for the Lunar Quest Program Office. This procurement is for the seamless transition of LRO EPO effort from the pre-launch/commissioning mission phase and the post-launch/post-commissioning phase of the LRO mission. This effort will include the draft of a new LRO EPO Implementation Plan as well as the evaluation and recommendation of continuance of existing LRO Instrument EPO Plans. NASA/MSFC intends to purchase the items from Science Systems and Applications, Inc. (SSAI) Competition is impractical because SSAI having provided EPO support to the LPRP program is very familiar with the LRO project and can provide continued effective and timely support during this transition without any gap or duplication of cost and effort."

Challenge Everything

NASA JSC Advanced Planning Office Blog: Challenge Everything

"There is an interesting experiment happening at the Johnson Space Center. The basic question being addressed by this experiment is "what would happen if we could tap into the expertise of the 15,000 employees at JSC to solve any one of the difficult challenges that we are wrestling with?" Actually the experiment is also tapping the expertise at the other NASA Centers. The idea was a brainchild of the JSC Vision 2028 team and the Center Director's, Inclusion and Innovation council engagement teams. Called Project Blue Moon, it is a six month pilot to create an open collaboration environment across the NASA Community."

Keith's 30 Oct. note: The NASA Advisory Council is holding a meeting, today at NASA ARC. Curiously, nowhere on the NAC website can I even find who the members of the NAC are. From what I gather Miles O'Brien, Esther Dyson, and Brett Alexander have been added but I do not know who has departed. I have asked NASA for a listing but have heard nothing back. Moreover, there seems to be some confusion on the NAC website as to how many committees the NAC has - is it 9 or 6? (See below).

Update: NASA Announces Advisory Council Chairs and Committee Structure

"The council's members provide advice and make recommendations to the NASA administrator about agency programs, policies, plans, financial controls and other matters pertinent to NASA's responsibilities. The chairs for the council and its committees are: ..."

Keith's 30 Oct note: I am certainly all for trying to connect to a broader audience but this NASA 360 post by Johnny Alonso (the MTVish on-air host) is just silly with its attempt at teen Twitter and SMS lingo i.e. "hai guyz" and "that would totally suck. lol", "it was hawt :)" and "These cats Mike and Barry". You have to read it twice to make certain you understand the needlessly jargonized lingo. There's no reason not to use simply written language on a website where you are not constrained to 140 characters like Twitter. Like I said, its fine to be cool, but this is just annoying. According to the IMDB website, Johnny is 39. I am not sure I know too many 39 year olds who actually talk (or write) like this. But I am 54 - so what do I know.

Amazing How People Love To Slam Others...Or Should I Say Just Me? :), Johnny Alonso, NASA.gov

"Wow....I guess having a "colorful personality"on my posts gets some of the "anonymous" really wound up, which gives them reason to slam me :) Hai....some news for you - you don't have to read what I type :)"

Keith's note: Well, Johnny, then perhaps you should be posting these things on a personal blog - not an official website hosted by an agency of the Federal government - one paid for by taxpayers. And if you do decide to post on an official website, you should follow the practices adhered to by everyone else who does.

Keith's update: Johnny's response has been deleted. Here is what it looked like.


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This page is an archive of recent entries written by Keith Cowing in November 2009.

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