Keith Cowing: September 2010 Archives

Awards: NASA Launch Services II

"The NLS II contracts are multiple award, IDIQ contracts with an ordering period through June 2020. These contracts will provide a broad range of launch services for NASA planetary, earth-observing, exploration and scientific satellites. The NLS II contract procures domestic launch services with a minimum capability of delivering NASA satellites weighing 250 kilograms or more at an altitude of 200-kilometer circular orbit and a launch inclination of 28.5 degrees."

- Orbital Sciences Corporation
- Space Exploration Technologies
- Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company
- United Launch Services

Moon Exploration Is Not Dead

Moon Exploration Is Not Dead, NASA Official Says, Space.com

"But Garver said the moon is a symbol of inspiration for many people on Earth, in part because of NASA's manned lunar landings of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The moon is also the most visible of off-world destinations to the public, she added. "I just won't agree that this ends the moon as a destination," Garver said. "We look up in the night sky and see the moon and it is an inspiration to us all. My first son's first word was 'moon.'" In the nearly 49 years of human spaceflight, only a handful of missions - the six successful Apollo moon landings - have sent humans to walk on the moon's surface. "Of course, we have been there with 12 humans. We will be going back with humans. We will be going back with robots," Garver said. "And the fact that we are charting the next destination as an asteroid is nothing against the moon."

Garver, Bolden Urge Passage of NASA Authorization, Space News

"Despite prescriptive language in the Senate bill that directs NASA to begin building a space shuttle-derived heavy-lift launch vehicle next year, Garver said the agency would work with stakeholders in Congress to determine an appropriate transportation architecture for exploration beyond low Earth orbit."

NASA's future looks bleak amid policy shift, Orlando Sentinel via LA Times

"Engineers at Kennedy Space Center in Florida are looking to build a rocket for a test flight in 2014, using the space shuttle's giant orange fuel tank, main engines and solid rocket boosters as mandated by the pending law. But program managers at NASA headquarters are looking at flying the Orion crew capsule aboard a commercial Delta IV heavy rocket, the kind used successfully by the military to put secret spy satellites into orbit, as early as 2013."

ULA: Light amid clouds, Decatur Daily

"The most lucrative project for ULA would be involvement in the heavy-lift rocket. As envisioned in the Constellation program, the heavy-lift was to have a 150-ton payload capacity, about five times the payload capacity of the Delta IV and four times the capacity of the Atlas V. A budget bill that passed the Senate recently prescribes a less ambitious heavy-lift rocket with at least a 75-ton capacity."

NASA Gets New Orders That Bypass the Moon, NY Times

"The next skirmish is likely to be over the design of that rocket. The new bill clearly envisions a rocket built of components used in the space shuttles and Constellation's soon-to-be-canceled Ares I rocket. The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, which wrote the bill, said in an accompanying report that it expected the rocket to include solid-fuel boosters like those of the shuttle or Ares I. Some NASA and administration officials have considered switching to the Delta IV and Atlas V rockets currently used to launch satellites for the Air Force. They believe those could be more efficient and less costly because they would avoid infrastructure used only for NASA launchings. Ms. Garver said that NASA would study all options, including the Delta IV and Atlas V. The legislation calls for NASA to report to Congress in 90 days with a plan for the heavy-lift rocket."

Delta IV Heavy is Cheaper Than Ares 1. Wow. Who Knew, earlier post

Here Come The Layoffs

Alliant Tech laying off 426 as shuttle winds down, Reuters

"Alliant Techsystems Inc , a Minnesota-based aerospace and defense contractor, is laying off more than 400, mostly at its northern Utah plant, a spokesman said on Thursday. ... he 400-plus layoffs amount to about 2 percent of the company's total 18,000-member workforce."

Congress approves $19 billion for NASA but layoffs loom, CNN

"It's expected as the shuttle program comes to an end that more than 9,000 shuttle workers will loose their jobs. The NASA deputy administrator said she didnt believe this bill would affect planned layoffs, "certainly not for tomorrow." More than 1,200 shuttle workers are to be laid off on Friday."

More Huntsville layoffs loom as Constellation ends, but NASA has plan, Huntsville Times

"Gone is the behind-schedule Constellation program that employed 2,200 federal and contractor employees at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. Most of them worked on Ares I, the first rocket in the three-part program. The NASA employees' jobs are safe. However, 500 contract workers were laid off in June in anticipation of Constellation ending, but some were kept at work. Now, Constellation will end Friday when the new fiscal year starts."

It's official: Shuttle tank program over in La., Bloomberg

"After 37 years of playng a major role in the U.S. space program, Lockheed Martin Corp. made it official: the era of building space shuttle fuel tanks at the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility is over, along with scores of jobs. The company completed laying off about 800 shuttle program employees this month, leaving about 600 whose futures are tenuous."

Compromise saves some NASA jobs, Friendswood Journal

"When President Obama signs the bill, the number of Space Shuttle missions will be extended by one -- totaling three more flights between now and the retirement of the Shuttle. Layoffs, however, will still be coming to the communities surrounding JSC. "Probably it's going to be in the neighborhood of 750 to 850," Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership President Bob Mitchell estimated. "You have to keep in mind that you're not just talking about the Lockheed-Martin's, Boeing's, USA's and Jacobs -- we're talking about the smaller firms. The companies that have 10 to 100 people can't afford to hold onto employees if they're not being funded by NASA."

Bolden World Tour Update

KACST celebrating silver jubilee of Prince Sultan's space trip, Arabnews.com

"Participating in the opening session of the conference will be Prince Sultan, Gen. Charles F. Bolden, a NASA administrator and a veteran astronaut of four space shuttle flights," said the KACST chief. He added that they will be joined by Vice President of KACST Prince Turki bin Saud bin Mohammed, who is the pioneer developer of the Saudi space program. Both KACST executives, Al-Suwaiyel and Prince Turki, were part of the Kingdom's team of scientists who supported Prince Sultan's STS 51-G mission aboard Space Shuttle Discovery in 1985."

Saudi International Space and Aeronautics Technology Conference 2010

NASA Chief To Talk Climate Change Issues In Nepal, AHN

"NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden is arriving here Friday to attend a week-long high-level symposium on fostering regional and international cooperation to promote the use of and access to earth observation for improved scientific knowledge and understanding to support adaptation to climate change in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan (HKH) region. Bolden will receive VIP treatment from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He will meet Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and other senior government officials during his stay in Kathmandu."

"NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver will be available to answer media questions during a teleconference Thursday, Sept. 30, at 1:30 p.m. EDT. Garver will discuss the strong, bipartisan support Congress has given the agency and President Obama's ambitious plans for human space exploration with Wednesday night's approval of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2010. The Senate earlier this year approved the measure. Reporters may dial-in toll free at: 800-857-5728; passcode: authorization. Non-toll free and international callers should use: 212-287-1624 with the same passcode. Audio of the teleconference will be streamed live at: http://www.nasa.gov/newsaudio"

"For the past decades we have been posting the HST Daily Status Reports to this newsgroup for interested readers, and those people who use the HST as part of their daily work both in industry and academia. We have been notified that our usual method for receiving these reports will be terminated on October 8th. We can still get to the information and post it here, but there will be more work involved. As such, we have decided it would be appropriate to determine if there is still a need for the reports to be published here. If you are a regular reader of this newsgroup (sci.astro.hubble) and would like to continue to see the HST Daily Reports published here, please email me back at the email address at the top of this post. Thanks in advance."

Paul Scowen Research Professor, ASU paul.scowen (at) asu.edu

House approves NASA Reauthorization Act 2010, Nature

"The sole dissenting voice during deliberations came from Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), who chairs the House space and aeronautics subcommittee. "I have no reluctance in telling you that this is a bad bill, it will do damage to NASA and must be struck down," she said. Though she was ultimately unsuccessful in swaying her colleagues, she listed several problems with the bill, including the additional Shuttle launch, a 30 percent cut in funding for STEM and minority education, and that the bill will "force NASA to build a rocket designed by congress and not by NASA engineers."

Keith's note: Congress has been designing spacecraft for decades - in one way or another. They also force NASA to build things it no longer needs or does not want. When panels of experts suggest that NASA needs to change direction (Augustine), Congress (Giffords) ignores them and pushes ahead with their preferred rocket designs (Ares 1). I personally watched a House Science Committee staffer redesign the way that modules on the space station were going to be designed in the 1990s. I'm not certain who is keeping Rep. Giffords up to date in this regard, but congressional meddling in rocket science is a long-standing activity. I am not all certain why she is so upset about this - she does it too.

A setting last quarter crescent moon and the thin line of Earth's atmosphere are photographed by an Expedition 24 crew member as the International Space Station passes over central Asia.

high res (1.2 M) low res (40 K)

NASA Responds to House Vote

NASA Administrator Thanks Congress for 2010 Authorization Act Support

"The President has laid out an ambitious new plan for NASA that pioneers new frontiers of innovation and discovery. The plan invests more in NASA; extends the life of the International space station; launches a commercial space transportation industry; fosters the development of path-breaking technologies; and helps create thousands of new jobs. Passage of this bill represents an important step forward towards helping us achieve the key goals set by the President."

House Passes S. 3729

House Floor Schedule for September 29, 2010

"S. 3729 - National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2010 (Sen. Rockefeller - Science and Technology)"

Current floor proceedings (live updates)

Keith's note: formal vote under way at 11:35 pm EDT. 289 yea votes recorded - the bill passes no matter what.

Keith's note: 9:46 pm EDT the House just passed S. 3729 on a voice vote. Rep. Giffords wants a paper vote.

Keith's note: 9:03 pm EDT the House just began debate on S. 3729

NASA Administrator Calls Congressional Vote an Important Step Forward in Space Exploration

"We are on the verge of an historic vote in the House of Representatives on a comprehensive NASA authorization bill that is expected to chart the future course of human space flight for years to come. I am hopeful that S. 3729 -- the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2010-- will receive strong support in the House and be sent onto the President for his signature."

NASA and NSF-Funded Research Finds First Potentially Habitable Exoplanet

"A team of planet hunters from the University of California (UC) Santa Cruz, and the Carnegie Institution of Washington has announced the discovery of a planet with three times the mass of Earth orbiting a nearby star at a distance that places it squarely in the middle of the star's "habitable zone."

NASA To Reveal New Data On Conditions At Edge Of Solar System

Keith's note: NASA has rescheduled the media teleconference to discuss new information about the boundary of our solar system obtained from the agency's Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) spacecraft. The telecon now is set for noon EDT, on Thursday, Sept. 30.

Comparisons of the Interstellar Magnetic Field Directions obtained from the IBEX Ribbon and Interstellar Polarizations

"Variations in the spatial configuration of the interstellar magnetic field (ISMF) near the Sun can be constrained by comparing the ISMF direction at the heliosphere found from the Interstellar Boundary Explorer spacecraft (IBEX) observations of a 'Ribbon' of energetic neutral atoms (ENAs), with the ISMF direction derived from optical polarization data for stars within ~40 pc."

Orbital Technologies and RSC Energia to Launch World's First Commercial Space Station

"Orbital Technologies and Rocket and Space Corporation Energia (RSC Energria) announced today their intentions to build, launch, and operate the world's first Commercial Space Station (CSS). The station will be utilized by private citizens, professional crews as well as corporate researchers interested in conducting their scientific programs onboard the world's first commercially available human spaceflight platform."

SGAC at IAC

Space Generation Congress 2010 Achieves Record Success

"The 9th Annual Space Generation Congress (SGC) hosted by the Space Generation Advisory Counsel (SGAC) was held in Prague, Czech Republic, from September 23 - 25, 2010. Being a complimentary event preceding the the 61st International Astronautical Congress, this congress started with a record high of 200 top and carefully chosen delegates gathered together to discuss the latest issues in the space industry. With five concurrent workshops at its core, in conjunction with talks by distinguished members of the space industry, SGC 2010 was very successful in reaching its goal of creating a forum to bring together and facilitate the voice of innovative, creative, and passionate students and young professionals on space issues, particularly at the international level."

An Inside Look at Dragon

SpaceX targets Nov. 8 launch for Falcon 9 and Dragon, Ken Kremer (with photos)

"SpaceX Corporation is retargeting the liftoff of the firm's next Falcon 9 rocket to early November. The launch includes the debut test flight of the first operational Dragon spacecraft built by SpaceX. Blast off would now take place about a week after the final scheduled flight of Space Shuttle Discovery - currently slated for Nov.1 - instead of a few days ahead that launch."

Congress's budget battle leaves NASA without a clear mission, editorial, Washington Post

"This flawed bill only proves that the biggest challenges now facing NASA are on the ground. Members of Congress, hoping to protect jobs in their districts, have fought against the shutdown of the Constellation manned spaceflight program, which a blue-ribbon commission on the future of human spaceflight found to be doomed by excessive ambition and insufficient funds."

Griffin Urges House to Vote "No" on Senate NASA Authorization Bill, SpacePolicyOnline

"Former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin disagrees with Rep. Bart Gordon that a flawed NASA authorization bill is better than no bill at all. In an email, Dr. Griffin argues that although the Senate bill is somewhat better than the Obama Administration's plan for NASA, "it is not enough better to warrant its support in law." His bottom line is that "If we cannot do better than that, then I believe we have reached the point where it is better to allow the damage which has been brought about by the administration's actions to play out to its conclusion than to accept half-measures in an attempt at remediation."

Keith's note: NASA ESMD is holding a participatory exploration meeting in Boulder, Colorado this week. Alas, this event is closed and attendance is by invitation only for NASA employees with a few speakers from outside the agency. Nothing is being webcast for taxpayers to see. No media advisories or press releases have been issued. Another stealth meeting.

Abundant irony is in evidence: no one outside of the attendees can "participate" in this meeting about "participatory exploration". How odd. Several people are tweeting from the event You can follow their 140 character descriptions here. That said, it is simultaneously hilarious and annoying to see NASA folks giddily tweeting about how "open" they are from within this "closed" meeting. FAIL.

NASA Invites Public To Discuss "What Matters Next" At TedxNASA

"More than 20 top speakers -- focusing on education, innovation, family, technology, literature and art -- will share inspiring and thought-provoking stories at TEDxNASA, as they do at a full TED event. The challenge of those presenting is to give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes or less, based on the theme. NASA's Chief Technologist Bobby Braun and Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington are among those slated to speak."

Earlier TEDxNASA postings

Keith's note: NASA LaRC has yet to post the entire agenda and speakers for this event. Let's hope that they give extra thought to whom they select this year at this NASA-sponsored/endorsed event and that they do not pick New Age pseudoscience self-help gurus again this year. This presentation by Sue Morter was deemed worthy of inclusion in last year's event. Here is how presentation was described by NASA: "By understanding the relationship between human energy fields, conscious thoughts and subconscious memory, she will explain how we can become who we really are." Watch the video and you'll see. I certainly never heard any of Morter's outlandish ideas in physics class.

I attended last year's event. It was thoroughly recorded on video and streamed somewhat after the fact. What I cannot understand is why participation in this event is limited to those in attendance when simple live webcasting could vastly enhance its reach. Otherwise, taxpayers have to wait months until the videos are posted online. Once again, NASA tries to embrace a wider audience and enhance its relevance and yet simultaneously ignores the use of simple tools whereby such a broader audience could actually be reached.

Keith's update: NASA LaRC PAO tells me that they are going "to try to stream the event live". The word "live" is not contained in the press release.

Realigning NASA's Direction

House Capitulates To Senate On NASA Bill, Aviation Week"

"I am hopeful the commercial providers will be successful, but, whereas they have missed contractual cargo milestones thus far, I am wary of being completely dependent on them, because if they fail, we will be dependent on the Russians for longer than absolutely necessary," Gordon said."

Keith's note: And of course Ares 1 is on schedule, on budget, and performing as designed, right Bart?

House likely to pass Senate's vision for NASA, The Hill

"The bill includes $1.6 billion to boost the commercial space industry, $400 million more than in Gordon's bill but still less than half the amount requested by the White House. But the Commercial Spaceflight Foundation said passing the Senate bill would be vastly preferable to continued uncertainy, which may result in layoffs."

Deal ready to steer NASA future, Houston Chronicle

"The compromise, if approved as expected by the House, will be essential to Houston's Johnson Space Center and likely spare at least some of the 1,100 aerospace layoffs that NASA contractors forecast before the House-Senate-White House consensus was reached. It also will bring some direction to the nation's $19 billion-a-year space program."

Lawmakers vote on NASA's direction tomorrow

"Under a suspension of ordinary House rules for debate and amendments, the bill would require a two-thirds majority for approval. It could still be months later, during a "lame duck" session of Congress after mid-term elections, before appropriators supply the agency with a promised funding increase. The bills offer a total of $58.4 billion over three years, including $19 billion next year."

IAC Update

International Astronautical Congress Quick Bits for Tuesday, September 28

"At the 2nd Plenary: Impact of Governments' Space Policy Changes on Industry saw a limited government view as only the European Space Agency and a Japanese representatives were available. On the industry side were five representatives from the United States, Japan and Europe (3). Industry reps cited "uncertainty" in the current market making things difficult and there is no current business model for the changes underway in the US. The plenary time was an hour and half but it was obvious given more time the the panel could have discussed a lot more. (Details to follow in a separate article by SpaceRef)"

Finally: A NASA budget looks ready to pass Congress Wednesday, Huntsville Times

"Local NASA watchers were optimistic Monday afternoon, saying any budget is better than last week's leading option, a continuing resolution freezing 2011 spending at this year's level. The 2011 fiscal year begins Friday. "If we have a continuing resolution, nobody knows what's going to happen," Huntsville attorney Mark McDaniel, who advises members of Congress on space issues, said Monday morning. McDaniel spoke hours before the chairman of the House NASA oversight committee, Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tennessee, issued a surprise announcement that the Senate's NASA plan - not his version - will be the one going forward."

Keith's note: Newsflash: No one is voting on a budget. This is an authorizing bill. The Continuing Resolution is going to happen - most likely this week - regardless of what the House does with the Senate version of NASA's authorizing legislation. The FY 2011 Appropriations bill is stalled - for the entire government - and Congress will be voting on a "Clean" CR to fund the government at current levels (with no adjustments) until such time as they can agree on a FY 2011 Appropriations Bill. The soonest that the Congress *might* vote on the FY 2011 budget is the lame duck session after the election. It is possible that this could drag on until the end of the year and possibly even until the new Congress is seated next year. As such, NASA will be operating under this CR until such time as Congress sees fit to pass a formal FY 2011 budget. During that time, regardless of what the Authorization Act says, their hands are tied by the CR.

Also, Bart Gordon is not "chairman of the House NASA oversight committee" he is chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology. A number of congressional committees regularly exert "oversight" over NASA.

Senate to move on stopgap spending bill, AP

"At the insistence of Republicans, who have refused to consider many important exceptions, we anticipate moving a clean CR that will clear the Senate and the House prior to the end of the fiscal year this Thursday," said Rob Blumenthal, a spokesman for Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye of Hawaii."

Leaders predict NASA funding, Florida Today

"Under a suspension of ordinary House rules for debate and amendments, the bill would require a two-thirds majority for approval. It could still be months later, during a "lame duck" session of Congress after mid-term elections, before appropriators supply the agency with a promised funding increase. The bills offer a total of $58.4 billion over three years, including $19 billion next year. But House approval of an authorization act this week would finally establish a new direction for NASA's human spaceflight program, adopting elements of controversial plans President Barack Obama proposed in February."

Chairman Gordon Statement on House Consideration of NASA Reauthorization

"I anticipate that the House will consider the Senate version of the NASA reauthorization on Wednesday. I still believe that the bipartisan Compromise language we released is a better approach. I have a number of concerns with the Senate bill ... It has become clear that there is not time remaining to pass a Compromise bill through the House and the Senate. For the sake of providing certainty, stability, and clarity to the NASA workforce and larger space community, I felt it was better to consider a flawed bill than no bill at all as the new fiscal year begins. I will continue to advocate to the Appropriators for the provisions in the Compromise language."

Nelson: Human-spaceflight program is 'teetering on the edge', Orlando Sentinel

"U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson warned Monday that if Congress does not pass NASA legislation this week, America's human spaceflight program could be "teetering on the edge" of disaster. Speaking at a space-program symposium sponsored by the University of Central Florida's Lou Frey Institute, Nelson said there's no time left in this year's congressional session for the House to consider a compromise bill it floated last week. Instead, he said, House members must accept a Senate measure passed in August."

Senate's NASA Authorization Bill Headed for House Floor, Space News

"Congressional aides said S. 3729, the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, is expected to come to the House floor under a suspension of the rules, which would limit debate on the measure and require a two-thirds majority of members present and voting in order to pass. Despite Gordon's reluctant support for the measure, opposition to S. 3729 is expected, particularly among House Republicans concerned with the three-year authorization's nearly $60 billion price-tag."

House Breaks Without Action on NASA Spending Bill, Space.com

"Even if Congress passes a NASA authorization bill this year, appropriations legislation is needed to fund the agency for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. Lawmakers are not expected to take up that legislation until they return for a lame-duck session after the elections."

Keith's update: This commentary (audio clip) was recorded at the end of the Space Agency Heads plenary at the IAC in Prague. The moderator asks what the panelists expect between now and the next Congress. According to SpaceRef's Marc Boucher who is covering the IAC, there are two things to listen for: Bolden describes NASA as being "the acknowledged leader in space exploration (corrected)". Perminov winces (although the picture barely shows it) and makes a hand gesture when the translator tells him that Bolden just said. Perminov's body language was, "No, I don't agree with that". Bolden then tells the audience, that they, the heads of agencies "are not around much longer ... in these positions."

Charlie Bolden's World Tour

Keith's update: I guess the real question that has me perplexed is why Bolden is making this trip to Saudi Arabia now? The 25th anniversary of the STS-51-G mission (with Sultan Salman Al Saud of Saudi Arabia on board) was in June. Right now NASA's future hangs in the balance as the Senate and Congress promote dueling versions of legislation that will undermine (one more than the other) the President's original proposal for space policy. Meanwhile, a more or less certain CR will leave NASA stuck in limbo in terms of its budget and its ability to implement the President's agenda - regardless of what authorization bill makes it to his desk.

One would think that Bolden would stay in Washington to help see that process through. Instead, he's off on a personal trip down memory lane - one that the White House still does not support - in great part due to the faux pas he committed the last time he was in the region. Since the media can't ask him about this, we'll never know. Let's hope that his trip to China and Indonesia does not turn out to be yet another exercise in stealth and media avoidance.

CSF Supports S.3729

Commercial Spaceflight Federation Strongly Supports Senate NASA Authorization Bill and Encourages Prompt Resolution Before New Fiscal Year Begins

"The Commercial Spaceflight Federation strongly supports Senate bill S.3729, the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, which has been approved unanimously by the Senate. The Commercial Spaceflight Federation urges that the House vote to pass the Senate bill immediately, before the new fiscal year begins on October 1."

Video: NASA's Charles Bolden Answers Questions at the Agency Heads Plenary of the 61st International Astronautical Congress, SpaceRef

"Below are the four questions in which NASA Administrator Charles Bolden answered questions from the moderator and the audience. The question context is in reference to a statement that Bolden made earlier this in which he said NASA would work towards getting humans to Mars not in months but weeks."

About Bolden's Saudi Trip, National Review Online

"While in Saudi Arabia, on Saturday, October 2, 2010, Administrator Bolden will represent NASA at an aerospace technology conference and a commemorative event in honor of the 25th Anniversary of space shuttle flight STS-51G in Riyadh. The 1985 STS-51G mission aboard shuttle Discovery included among its crew astronaut Sultan Salman Al-Saud. Administrator Bolden and some of the active and retired astronauts who comprised the international STS-51G crew (including a French space agency astronaut) will also participate.

This trip including the visit to Saudi Arabia is driven by specific, appropriate agency-level objectives. It was not initiated by the White House, State Department or any other entity and has no objective other than those identified above. However, all such activities are coordinated through established State Department channels."

Bolden and Middle East Outreach: Take II, earlier post

Keith's update: At the formal request of NASA Headquarters I have removed the official itinerary for Bolden's trip to Saudi Arabia and Nepal. Suggestion for Mike O'Brien and NASA international affairs: if you are going to be as careless and lazy with regard to such things (as you collectively seem to be) you should not be at all surprised to see things like this floating all around the world. Suggest that you get some people in your organization who actually know what they are doing.

I am still wondering why Mike O'Brien's wife gets to go on this junket at taxpayer's expense. Moreover, despite all of the events that the Administrator of NASA will be attending in an utterly official and formal capacity, there will be little (if any) media availability nor any public record made of his activities, statements, etc. More stealth Charlie.

There are a total of 11 quests going on this trip. Given how they are all bouncing from Europe to Saudia Arabia to Nepal and then back to the U.S., each traveller's airline ticket is going to be $2,000 - $3,000. Add in hotels, ground transportation, per diem, etc. and the cost is easily $5,000 - $6,000 per person or upwards of $50-60,000 for the entire group. And yet no one is ever going to learn about what was said during this trip. To be certain, there are things of great value being done on this trip. However, by not allowing visibility into the trip, NASA passes on an opportunity to explain itself to the taxpayers whose money is being spent.

NASA Chief Goes to Beijing In October, Aviation Week

"Plans are well along for NASA Administrator Charles Bolden to make a delayed trip to Beijing for what may be the opening round of talks leading to closer international cooperation in human spaceflight. NASA officials stressed that there has been no final invitation for Bolden to visit China at a specific time. However, officials in Beijing already are preparing for the visit, amid suggestions at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) here that it could come in October."

Keith's note: Sources report that Bolden will also visit Indonesia on this trip, the largest Muslim nation on the planet.

Earlier postings on China

Kosmas to Discuss the Future of Florida's Space Industry at the Lou Frey 2010 Fall Symposium

"Today, Monday, September 27, from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Congresswoman Suzanne Kosmas (FL-24) will discuss the future of Florida's space industry at the Lou Frey 2010 Fall Symposium at the University of Central Florida. Kosmas will participate in a panel discussion entitled "The Space Program: Florida and Beyond" with Frank DiBello, President and CEO of Space Florida."

David M. Brown Planetarium Threatend With Closure - How you Can Help Prevent That

"In 2008 Arlington's planetarium was named for Captain David M. Brown. Captain Brown perished along with the rest of the crew when the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon reentry on February 1, 2003. The Friends of Arlington's David M. Brown Planetarium, Inc., was chartered on May 10, 2010, with a mission to save and sustain the David M. Brown Planetarium located in Arlington, Virginia. The 40-year-old educational institution and prestigious community asset was slated for closure on June 30, 2010, due to an inability to fund approximately $400,000 in one-time upgrades required by the Arlington Public Schools (APS) in order to retain the planetarium's instructional value as determined by the Superintendent of Schools."

Killing Constellation at Birth

KillingConstellation, Wayne Hale

"There are probably any number of factors which have wounded the Constellation program, perhaps mortally. But taking longer to return the shuttle to flight, costing more to return the shuttle to flight, and delaying the completion of the ISS and the retirement of the shuttle; those were major causes too. Coupled with the top-level decisions not to ask the Congress for more money, the squeeze was well-nigh intolerable. From my standpoint the consequences were unintentional. But unintentional or more precisely with the best of intentions, the result was severe. So yes, I had a role in the killing of Constellation; a long time before February 1, 2010."

International Space Station Expedition 24 Crew Lands Safely

"Expedition 24 Commander Alexander Skvortsov and Flight Engineers Tracy Caldwell Dyson and Mikhail Kornienko landed their Soyuz TMA-18 spacecraft in Kazakhstan on Saturday, Sept. 25, wrapping up a six-month stay aboard the International Space Station. Skvortsov, the Soyuz commander, was at the controls of the spacecraft as it undocked at 10:02 p.m. EDT Friday from the Poisk module's docking port on the station's Zvezda module. The undocking and landing occurred a day later than planned because of a hatch sensor problem Thursday night. That problem prevented hooks on the Poisk side of the docking mechanism from opening. Station crew members installed a series of jumper cables, bypassing the sensor, and the Poisk module hooks retracted."

Congress must fulfill duty to clarify NASA's future, Pete Olson, Houston Chronicle

"The last two Congresses -- one controlled by Republicans, the other by Democrats - endorsed NASA's current path. Unfortunately, they failed to provide the necessary funding. This Congress must meet our commitment to NASA. We must stop bailing out the past in a seemingly endless stream of bailouts and instead start providing for our future. President Barack Obama rejected this path and instead offered a budget that would walk away from the $9 billion we've invested in the next generation exploration vehicle system known as Constellation. He would divert $6 billion in taxpayer dollars, much to companies that have no track record of putting a human in space, let alone ferrying cargo. That is not only wasteful, but potentially reckless. NASA has a nearly 50-year record of human space endeavor."

Keith's note: Right now the private sector's track record (Falcon 9, Delta IV, Atlas V) is much, much better than NASA's performance with Ares 1.

Israel's Space Ambitions

'Smaller is better' as Israel launches itself as space contender, Jewish Herald Voice

"The State of Israel is hoping to carve out a niche in the world space market while, at the same time, grow its space-related collaborations with the United States. Israeli-pioneered "mini satellites" - which are comparatively small, lightweight and durable, yet inexpensive - are key to these efforts."

NASA v. The Scientists, Air & Space

"Just weeks before the Supreme Court is due to hear a case that has dominated his life for the past three years--and may affect the lives of thousands of fellow government contractors--Robert Nelson's thoughts are a billion miles away. "Right now I'm sitting at my desk looking at a spectral image of the surface of Titan," he says by phone from his office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, where he's a planetary astronomer."

Earlier HSPD-12 postings

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 24 September 2010

"Last night, during the 22S undock attempt the MRM2 hooks failed to open, causing deferral of the departure to tonight after a number of troubleshooting attempts. New times are: Undocking - 9:59pm EDT; Landing - 1:31am. Descent timeline will change commensurably."

Crew Sleeps In, Prepares for Second Undocking Attempt

"Expedition 24 Commander Alexander Skvortsov and Flight Engineers Tracy Caldwell Dyson and Mikhail Kornienko will re-enter the Soyuz TMA-18 spacecraft for a second undocking attempt at 10:02 p.m. EDT. The first undocking attempt Thursday was delayed after hooks failed to open and mission controllers in Moscow had not received the expected "hatch locked" signal from the Poisk module."

Amendment in the Nature of a Subsititute To [....] offered by Mr. Gordon of Tennessee

House Sets Compromise NASA Language, Aviation Week

"The House Science Committee has moved toward the Senate on reauthorizing NASA spending for the next three years with compromise language that calls for an immediate start on a heavy lift launch vehicle able to orbit a capsule based on the Orion crew exploration vehicle by the end of 2016."

New House NASA Bill Provides $1.2B for Commercial Crew Taxis, Space News

"Gordon's revised legislation, which aides said could go to the House floor this week as a substitute to H.R. 5781, increases proposed funding levels for NASA commercial crew taxis to $1.2 billion over three years. That figure is still $400 million shy of the Senate's $1.6 billion recommendation for commercial crew and cargo initiatives, but represents a sizeable increase over the original $464 million through 2013 recommended in H.R. 5781."

House moves closer to Senate on NASA budget; Constellation hopes fade, Huntsville Times

"The substitute authorizes "a scalable capability of lifting payloads of at least 130 metric tons into low-Earth orbit on a single launch vehicle with an upper stage in preparation for transit for missions beyond low-Earth orbit." That's close to what the Senate has already passed. Gordon's substitute appears to dramatically lessen any chance of a revival of the Constellation program."

Action Alert - Help Kill HR 5781 NOW, Space Frontier Foundation

URGENT Action Alert Thursday 9/23/10, Space Access Society

A Pledge to America (Draft), full text, MSNBC

"- Cut Government Spending to Pre-Stimulus, Pre-Bailout Levels: With common-sense exceptions for seniors, veterans, and our troops, we will roll back government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels, saving us at least $100 billion in the first year alone and putting us on a path to begin paying down the debt, balancing the budget, and ending the spending spree in Washington that threatens our children's future.

- Establish a Hard Cap on New Discretionary Spending: We must put common-sense limits on the growth of government and stop the endless increases. Only in Washington is there an expectation that whatever your budget was last year, it will be more this year and even more the next. We will set strict budget caps to limit federal spending on an annual basis. Budget caps were used in the 1990s, when a Republican Congress was able to bring the budget into balance and eventual surplus. By cutting discretionary spending from current levels and imposing a hard cap on future growth, we will save taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars."

Keith's note: So much for the Obama Administration's plans to increase NASA's budget ...

More JSC Layoffs

Jacobs lays off 129 at NASA, Bay Area Citizen

"Jacobs Engineering on Thursday notified 129 employees that they will lose their jobs in two weeks, Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership President Bob Mitchell told Citizen counterpart The Friendswood Journal. Uncertainty in NASA funding has prompted the Clear Lake company to take this action. "These (129) layoffs aren't necessary," Mitchell said. He points to NASA headquarters in Washington as the culprit, accusing them of improperly redirecting funding for current programs. "They are required to spend the money the way Congress appropriated that money."

Please Look at This Image

Breaking Waves in the Stellar Lagoon

"A spectacular new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image reveals the heart of the Lagoon Nebula. Seen as a massive cloud of glowing dust and gas, bombarded by the energetic radiation of new stars, this placid name hides a dramatic reality. The Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) on the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has captured a dramatic view of gas and dust sculpted by intense radiation from hot young stars deep in the heart of the Lagoon Nebula (Messier 8). "

A Tricorder For Future Sickbays

More Efficient Health Care on Earth and Beyond

"Engineers funded by the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) are developing a system that will provide an accurate patient history, assist in treatment, and help astronauts be more efficient when providing medical care. Even though the integrated system is being developed for use in space, it can be used in many different locations, such as the emergency room, on the battlefield or at an accident scene."

SpaceX In The News

SpaceX CEO Musk comes to Washington to lobby for Obama's NASA strategy, Washington Post

"Our influence is a tiny fraction of any one of the giant contractors," he said. "We have one guy and an intern doing our lobbying in D.C. - they have whole buildings full of lobbyists." Musk is exaggerating, but only a bit. SpaceX has 15 lobbyists registered on its behalf, according to disclosure forms. By comparison, space giants Boeing and Lockheed Martin together employ more than 220 lobbyists and spent a combined $16 million on lobbying in the first six months of this year, the data show."

SpaceX Targets November for Dragon Demo Flight, SpaceNews

"Hawthorne, Calif.-based Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has shifted a planned Oct. 23 launch of its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon cargo vessel to November."

Deja Vu All Over Again

Reader note: "This document was found in an office at KSC recently. It's from Jim Slade, a commentator for ABC News at the time. It was written at August 12, 1991. It sums up in the last paragraph exactly what is going on today. This is making its way around the email chains at the different centers."

Wayne Hale's note: "I have this document in my files and scanned in a copy last summer which I emailed around. I wonder if this a copy of that scan. Anyway, the more things change the more they stay the same. Gridlock and indecision in Washington while a lot of good people are working their tails off making sure the last couple of launches are perfectly successful, so a grateful nation can give them the pink slip." More.

Photos of the Day: Sept 21, Wall Street Journal

"Photographers gathered around the space shuttle Discovery, which was sitting on a launch pad in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Tuesday. Discovery is set to lift off Nov. 1 for the International Space Station. Endeavour will follow in February, wrapping up 30 years of shuttle flight."

Bittersweet time as space shuttle program winds down, Huntsville Times

"This is a bittersweet moment for the shuttle team at Marshall as we wind down the shuttle program," said Steve Cash, manager of the Shuttle Propulsion Office at Marshall. "We rolled out the last external tank at Michoud Monday morning and, on Tuesday, we watched shuttle Discovery roll out to the launch pad at Kennedy for the last time."

As shuttle program nears its end, NASA gives employees a personal view

"Large groups from the same work site would travel together to have group photos taken in front of Discovery. Some groups would wear matching shirts while others held signs for the photos. Beth and Jesse Palma, who tied the knot in April, wore their wedding attire for the occasion. "We wanted something different than a standard wedding photo," said Jesse Palma, 27. He and his wife have worked for the contractor United Space Alliance at the Kennedy Space Center since 2008. Beth Palma, 26, works at the launch pad and Jesse works at the orbital processing facility."

State Department: Implementing the National Space Policy: Opportunities and Challenges

"I would like to talk about four things today. First, I will briefly describe what we have been doing to implement the space policy since its release in late June. Second, I will discuss some challenges and opportunities we face in international cooperation and collaboration in space, and how we are tackling those challenges. Third, I will point to some of the continuing critical issues facing the United States and the international community as we expand our utilization of the space environment and work to strengthen stability in space. Finally, I'd like to challenge you in the audience to think about how we can work together across space sectors and interests to solve these difficult issues in the years ahead."

Rebuilding KSC

NASA Solicitation: Central Campus Complex at the Kennedy Space Center

"The Central Campus Complex looks at how the KSC can revitalize the Industrial Area by consolidating multiple facilities into a more compact campus style setting through new construction, deconstruction, and potential renovation to the existing infrastructure. The Central Campus Complex is based on new construction and the progressive deconstruction of the targeted facilities and potential renovation of other facilities. The total project is to consist of approximately 620,000 square feet of new facilities and deconstruction of approximately 720,000 or more square feet of existing facilities and associated utilities. A previous facility study to develop the Central Campus Complex concept is provided as part of this synopsis/solicitation. The study is for informational purposes only and not to be considered as a basis of design."

NASA Solicitation: Human Rating Support for the Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office - Recovery.gov

"JSC intends to reduce task order scope along with associated funding and value in the amount of $29,988 because one of the originally planned tasks cannot be accomplished. Task Order 2.1.9 is for contract NAS9-02078 for the Space Life Sciences Directorate's contributions to NASA's Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office (C3PO). The services for this task order provide updates to an initial set of Commercial Human Systems Integration Requirements, to deliver a Commercial Medical Operations Requirements Document for use in commercial crew transportation services, and to deliver a set of design processes to provide guidance for commercial spacecraft designers. The work removed for this task order is the coordination with C3PO on private industry response to the draft Commercial Human System Integration Requirements (CHSIR). This work cannot be done because NASA has not yet chosen to issue the draft document to industry."

NASA Solicitation: Assessment for Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office - Recovery.gov

"NASA/JSC intends to issue a modification under the existing BPA NNJ08JF65Z; Call NNJ10JC56T for Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office (C3PO)-led effort to assess the performance of C3PO's Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) Commercial Partners (CP). This action shall add funding and extend the scope of the current task. ... Under this modification, the scope shall be extended to include assessments associated with 12 additional milestones for the same three CPs. These milestones are scheduled for completion in October through December 2010."

Extra NASA Funding on Hold Until Lame-Duck Session, Sen. Nelson Says, CQ

"Sen. Bill Nelson a leading champion of the nation's space program, said Tuesday that increased funding for NASA would have to wait until the lame-duck session after the Nov. 2 elections. Nelson, D-Fla., had hoped to insert language into the continuing resolution, or CR, that Congress must pass to keep the government running after the end of the current fiscal year on Sept. 30. "For us to be able to change the CR right now I don't think is realistic," Nelson said. Republicans have been demanding a "clean" CR, without extra funding or policy changes. Democrats will need at least one GOP vote to move the CR through the Senate."


Keith's note: According to Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation staffer Jeff Bingham, posting as "51D Mascot" at at NASAspaceflight,com: "The CR will NOT contain any new money or new language guiding NASA. Without an enacted authorization/policy bill, signed by the President, things will continue JUST as they have been, with the Constellation funding restricted, impounded, whatever you want to call it, but held back from the contractors, just as it has been for the past six months. That means even longer delays in ending the uncertainty, more unnecessary layoffs and disruption of lives and careers, and I just don't see that as a viable option ..."

Houston-area schools brace for impact of NASA layoffs, Houston Chronicle

"Bracing for layoffs among NASA contractors, several Houston-area school districts are ramping up efforts to support students during what's expected to be an increasingly difficult financial time. Hundreds of families in the Clear Creek, Dickinson, Alvin, La Porte and Pasadena districts are expected to be affected by the layoffs, which are ongoing as the end of the space shuttle program nears."

Job Opening: Florida Space Institute Director University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL

"The Florida Space Institute, a multi-disciplinary center devoted to facilitating and conducting leading-edge applied and basic research and education programs in space-related fields, seeks applications and nominations for Director. FSI's goals include the development of university-wide cohesiveness in research programs and education for space science and engineering programs. UCF is committed to becoming a premier institution in space science, engineering, and education and is seeking a dynamic individual to implement that vision. The Director will work with faculty from the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the College of Optics and Photonics, the College of Science and others with interests in space-related research."

IV&V Procurement News

NASA Solicitation: NASA Independent Verification and Validation Services

"NASA plans to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) for Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) Services in support of NASA's IV&V Facility in Fairmont, WV. NASA anticipates issuing an RFP for a full and open competition which will result in a single, Cost Plus Award Fee (CPAF) contract. The Government does not intend to acquire a commercial item using FAR Part 12. The NAICS Code and Size Standard are 541330 and $27M, respectively."

Orion Spacecraft on the Path to Future Flight, Lockheed Martin

"Preparations for Orion's first mission in 2013 are well under way as a Lockheed Martin-led crew begins lean assembly pathfinding operations for the spacecraft. The crew is conducting simulated manufacturing and assembly operations with a full-scale Orion mockup to verify the tools, processes and spacecraft integration procedures work as expected."

Keith's note: I am certain that the good folks at Lockheed Martin will be certain that the spacecraft will be ready on time - but a "first mission" in 2013? On what rocket? Ares 1?

"As the nation's next generation spacecraft for human spaceflight, the Orion crew exploration vehicle is designed to support missions to the International Space Station and far beyond into deep space."

Keith's note: "Deep space"? I thought Orion was now going to only be a crew return vehicle "from" (not a transport "to") the ISS.

Hoyer Won't Adjourn House This Week, ABC

"Ata briefing with reporters this morning, Hoyer blitzed through an ambitious to-do list to tackle before adjournment, including a NASA Reauthorization bill, the Child Nutrition Bill, and the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. The House is currently targeting adjournment for October 8, although the majority leader would not commit today to returning for the week of October 4."

Robert Truax

AIAA Mourns the Death of Capt. Robert C. Truax, AIAA

"The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) mourns the death of Capt. Robert C. Truax, past president of the American Rocket Society, organizer of the U.S. Naval Missile Test Center's propulsion research laboratory at Point Mugu, Calif., and AIAA Honorary Fellow. Capt. Truax passed away in Vista, Calif., on September 17, 2010. He was 93. AIAA President Mark J. Lewis stated: "We mourn the passing of Capt. Robert C. Truax, whose contributions to the field of propulsion made many of today's systems possible. From his early work on Jet Assisted Take Off (JATO) systems and development of hypergolic fuels, leadership efforts on the Thor, Viking, and Polaris missiles, and later founding of his own company, Truax was an integral part of modern rocket history."

Status of NASA's Transition to Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6), NASA OIG

"As of March 2010 the Agency did not have an updated or complete IPv6 transition plan as required by OMB. This occurred, in part, because the Agency has ample IPv4 addresses to meet its current and future requirements and because the individual who was leading the IPv6 transition effort left NASA in November 2006 and no one has been assigned to replace him. As a result, the Agency does not have adequate assurance that it has considered all necessary transition elements or that the security and interoperability of its systems will not be affected as other Government agencies and entities transition to IPv6. Accordingly, even if NASA can continue meeting its communication needs using IPv4 addresses, it should ensure that its systems are prepared as other Internet users transition to IPv6."

Information Technology Security: Improvements Needed in NASA's Continuous Monitoring Processes, NASA OIG

"Although the Agency concurred with that recommendation, NASA decided to implement a single Agency-wide inventory instead of Center-level inventories, which delayed implementation until at least September 2010. In this review, we found that the lack of complete and up-to-date inventories is a barrier to effective monitoring of IT security controls. Accurate inventory lists increase the effectiveness of an IT security program by providing a means to verify that 100 percent of the computers in the Agency's network are subject to configuration, vulnerability, and patch monitoring. Until NASA establishes a complete inventory of its network resources, Centers will be unable to fully implement these key IT security controls and NASA's IT security program will not be fully effective in protecting the Agency's valuable IT resources from potential exploitation."

Review of NASA's Management and Oversight of Its Information Technology Security Program, NASA OIG

"We found that NASA's IT security program had not fully implemented key FISMA requirements needed to adequately secure Agency information systems and data. For example, we found that only 24 percent (7 of 29) of the systems we reviewed met FISMA requirements for annual security controls testing and only 52 percent (15 of 29) met FISMA requirements for annual contingency plan testing. In addition, only 40 percent (2 of 5) of the external systems we reviewed were certified and accredited."

NASA OIG Review of NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System

"The Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that the development of Tracking and Data Relay Satellites K and L is proceeding within planned cost, schedule, and performance requirements and that NASA project managers have implemented risk and earned value management processes to monitor and mitigate programmatic risks. However, the OIG found that NASA has not revised the reimbursable rates it charges government and non-government users of the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System or TDRSS since 2006 and that current program officials did not know what factors were used to formulate these rates. Therefore, NASA does not know, and the OIG could not determine, whether the rates NASA was charging its customers at the time of our audit were appropriate or reasonable."

Was Phobos Blasted Out of Mars?

Martian Moon Phobos May Have Been Formed by a Catastrophic Blast

"Scientists now have firm indications that the Martian satellite Phobos formed relatively near its current location via re-accretion of material blasted into Mars's orbit by some catastrophic event. Two independent approaches of compositional analyses of thermal infrared spectra, from ESA's Mars Express and NASA's Mars Global Surveyor missions, yield very similar conclusions. The re-accretion scenario is further strengthened by the measurements of Phobos's high porosity from the Mars Radio Science Experiment (MaRS) on board Mars Express."

NASA administrator draws an ethics reprimand, Orlando Sentinel

"Administrator Bolden continues to be not only a distraction for the administration, but most importantly to the mission of NASA," said an administration official, who is not authorized to speak on the record, about Monday's reprimand. The official could not recall another incident in which a similarly high-level leader was so publicly reprimanded."

NASA Chief Erred in Call, Report Says, New York Times

"The episode was the latest in a series of missteps by General Bolden. Over the summer, he said in an interview with the Middle Eastern news network Al-Jazeera that one of NASA's main tasks was to reach out to the Muslim world and help Muslims feel good about their historical contributions to science. NASA and the White House spent a good part of July trying to defend and explain his comments."

House may adjourn by end of week, Politico

"House leaders are considering adjourning as early as the end of this week, which would give lawmakers five and a half weeks to campaign before the Nov. 2 election but could also leave them exposed to allegations that they didn't finish their work in Washington. The House hasn't adjourned before Sept. 30 in an election year since 1960. There's been no decision made yet, and insiders caution that the scenario is dependent upon the Senate and House completing action on a stopgap spending bill to keep government agencies running through the election. But a House leadership aide said they are working with the Senate to pass the spending measure, known as a continuing resolution, "as soon as possible, so we'll see if Republicans expose how extreme they are to the American people by standing in the way (of the measure) and risking shutting down the government."

Keith and Frank's note: [Revised] It looks like Charlie Bolden may be headed back to the Middle East soon - this time, to Saudi Arabia.The purpose? Some would say that he is trying to get the Saudis more involved in ongoing peace negotiations at the behest of the Obama White House. But others note that he has some personal agenda items at work as well - all under the excuse of commemorating a Space Shuttle flight 25 years ago.

The excuse being used for this trip is the 25th anniversary of the flight of Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, a nephew of the King of Saudi Arabia, on STS-51G in 1985.

Keith's note: Sources report that Charlie Bolden is bringing his wife along on this trip and that Associate Administrator for International and Interagency Relations Michael O'Brien will be travelling with Bolden - also with his wife. Spouse travel costs are all (apparently) being covered by NASA.

NASA inspector general faults space agency boss, Houston Chronicle

"NASA's chief found himself mired in another controversy Monday, this time for making "inappropriate" contact with an oil company while considering an alternative fuel project. The space agency's inspector general reported that a 10-minute phone conversation last April between Administrator Charles Bolden Jr. and a senior Marathon Oil Corp. official was inconsistent with the ethics pledge he signed upon taking office last year. It also raised concerns about an appearance of a conflict of interest, the inspector general said."

NASA administrator Charlie Bolden rapped for violating ethics pledge, Orlando Sentinel

"But Martin's team concluded that "the contact was not consistent with the Ethics Pledge he, as an Administration appointee, had signed, and that it raised concerns about an appearance of a conflict of interest involving the NASA Administrator and a large oil company to which he had financial ties."

NASA administrator rapped over "conflict-of-interest", Nature

"The report confirms allegations that Bolden contacted Marathon Oil, a company in which he holds stock "valued at between $500,000 and $1 million," for technical advice about a NASA project called "Offshore Membrane Enclosure for Growing Algae" or OMEGA, a $10 million effort to use algae and wastewater to generate fuel. At issue was whether Marathon had biofuels projects that might have benefited from a slow-down in OMEGA."

NASA Chief Did Not Violate Ethics Law, Report Finds , space.com

"NASA administrator Charles Bolden did not break any laws but did breach an ethics pledge by consulting with one of his former employers on NASA business, an investigation by the space agency has concluded."

Alleged Ethics Violation by the NASA Administrator Involving Marathon Oil Corporation.

"In sum, we found no evidence that Bolden or Marathon received a present or promised financial benefit as a result of Bolden's call. We also found that the information Bolden received from Marathon did not cause him to withhold funding to the OMEGA project or to direct that the proposed MOU with the Navy be abandoned. We concluded that Bolden's contact with Marathon regarding OMEGA did not violate federal laws or regulations pertaining to conflicts of interest. However, we found that the contact was not consistent with the Ethics Pledge he, as an Administration appointee, had signed, and that it raised concerns about an appearance of a conflict of interest involving the NASA Administrator and a large oil company to which he had financial ties. When interviewed by the OIG about this matter, Bolden readily acknowledged that he had erred in contacting Marathon. Bolden said he has since recused himself from issues involving OMEGA and has received supplemental training regarding his ethical responsibilities."

... Finally, we believe that apart from the obligations imposed by the statute and NASA policy, OGC attorneys did not serve the best interests of the Administrator or NASA by failing to report the matter to the OIG. At issue was whether the top NASA manager had complied with his ethical obligations. Because the OIG enjoys a level of independence from the Administrator not shared by OGC attorneys, Bolden's actions should have been referred to the OIG for its review and disposition."

- Charlie Bolden's BP Moment, earlier post
- MSNBC Video: OMEGA, Marathon, and Bolden, earlier post

Keith's note: I still find it rather startling that someone of Bolden's stature would not have been throughly briefed on such ethical issues prior to taking the job and that he now needs "supplemental training" to deal with such issues. Although he is probably one of the most honest people you'll ever meet, his contact still had the clear scent of an apparent conflict of interest - however inadvertent. Indeed, I am startled that Bolden even picked up the phone in the first place.

Keith's update: NASA PAO has issued this statement from Charlie Bolden: "I have reviewed the report and I readily accept the findings of NASA's Inspector General. My intention was to gather an outside perspective about a potential agency research project. However, I should have explored the implications of my inquiry prior to acting. As soon as a possible conflict of interest was identified, I proactively contacted our General Counsel and fully supported an independent review of my actions. The OMEGA research project continues to move forward and its future development will be decided solely on its technical merits. Although the Inspector General found that no laws were broken, this incident serves as a reminder that we must all strive to hold ourselves to the highest standards of ethical conduct - and I have a responsibility to set that example for NASA and its senior leaders."

Judith Robinson

Judith Robinson, helped keep NASA crews healthy, Houston Chronicle

"Judith Liebenthal Robinson, who spent her professional career making space and the space agency safe for astronauts and NASA employees, died Sept. 10 of ovarian cancer. She was 60. After a 30-year-career with NASA, Robinson worked as chief adviser for human health and performance at Johnson Space Center, a senior life sciences position, at the time of her death."

Conflict over NASA spaceflight program complicates funding, Washington Post

"NASA's human space program, long the agency's biggest public and congressional asset, has become instead its biggest headache. As never before, NASA watchers say, an agency that generally is funded and directed through White House and congressional consensus has become the focus of a brutal, potentially crippling and politically topsy-turvy battle for control that is likely to come to a head next week. NASA politics have always defied labels. But now a series of unlikely alliances and negotiating positions have left Congress in an especially difficult bind, with the distinct possibility that the fiscal year will end this month without an approved 2011 budget. The result, congressional negotiators and observers say, would be layoffs and a very unpredictable agency future."

Going Beyond Apollo

NASA's No. 2 says it's time to go beyond Apollo, Space.com

"NASA needs to evolve for the future, not get stuck in the past, the agency's deputy chief said this week. Speaking at a TEDxMidTownNY event at Manhattan's Explorers Club, NASA's second in command, Lori Garver, said it was time to kick-start commercial spaceflight to low Earth orbit and shift NASA's focus to more ambitious exploration missions. "Our space program needs to not be reliving the space program of the past," she said. "We have been trying to relive Apollo for 40 years now." Instead of sending astronauts back to the moon, Garver espoused the new plan put forward by President Barack Obama to pursue trips to an asteroid and Mars. Meanwhile, NASA would try to shift the responsibility for transporting people to the International Space Station to the private sector, which has already made some strides toward commercial spacecraft capable of reaching orbit."

NASA Solicitation: Horizontal Launch Study

"The Horizontal Launch Study (HLS) study will provide an assessment of horizontal launch architectures for several payload classes to access/service LEO for both military and civilian applications. HLS will open the trade space to several payload classes from micro to medium sized payloads and different staging scenarios from subsonic to supersonic separations speeds for each payload classes. HLS will identify architectures that support near term LEO mission capabilities along with identifying mid-term technology investment areas that will enable larger payloads and future capabilities."


Letter From House Science & Technology Committee Chair Bart Gordon to Prof. Scott Hubbard

"Finally, your letter makes no mention of the fact that the bill fully funds the president's budget request for Earth science and aeronautics research. You may be under the mistaken impression that such support can be taken for granted in Congress, but I can assure you that there are no "givens" in the highly constrained budgetary environment we are facing at present. The Committee's decision to support the significant augmentation in Earth science and aeronautics funding requested by the president imposed constraints on funding available for the programs you mentioned in your letter. I believe the Committee's judgment was the correct one, but it had clear budgetary consequences for NASA's other accounts. If you believe that additional funding for the programs you mentioned in your letter should take precedence over these science and aeronautics funding increases provided by the Committee, please inform me of that fact so that we can take your views into account in our deliberations on the final form of the NASA Authorization bill."

Concerns Raised Over House NASA Authorization Bill (Letter), earlier post

Replace NASA?

Dissolve NASA?, Aviation Week

"It might have come as too much of an exogenous shock for some at Space 2010, but Bran Ferren certainly fired up the crowd when asked what his first step would be to boost public interest in space and revive U.S. leadership. "I'd start by dissolving NASA and then starting again. I'd create the National Exploration Agency - searching for life, protecting our nation and inspiring the next generation." Speaking at the AIAA conference in Anaheim, Calif., Ferren says the 'NEA' would include sea as well as space. "These are the areas to explore, and we should make it a national priority. Everyone will finish work at NASA on Friday and on Monday start work at NEA and help invent the future."

BP oil well declared to be no longer a threat to gulf, LA Times

"The latest step in the undersea drama involved removing the old blowout preventer -- which had failed to stop the gusher. ... Engineers cleaned out and hoisted the 50-foot, 300-ton blowout preventer to the surface and loaded it on a large vessel Saturday night, Allen said in a statement. Under the supervision of federal investigators including the FBI, the device will be hauled to a NASA facility in New Orleans for storage."

Layoffs Loom Ahead

KSC workers refocus as cuts creep closer, Florida Today

"Losing a job is one of life's most stressful events, and on Oct. 1, more than 900 workers will leave KSC for what could be the last time. The overall loss of aerospace jobs as the space shuttle program ends next year is expected to surpass 8,000. A job loss can bring a wide range of emotions, experts said, including hopelessness, anger, guilt, shame, fear and a loss of identity."

Raytheon to lay off 82 workers at NASA Langley, Virginian-Pilot

"The workers will be laid off Oct. 27, according to a notice Raytheon filed with the state under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. "This is the direct result of a recompeted contract," said Jon Kasle, a spokesman for the company based in Waltham, Mass."

NASA extends USA contract, Bay Area Citizen

"NASA has extended the Space Program Operations Contract with United Space Alliance, of Houston to March 31, 2011. ... This is not expected to affect the planned layoffs of from 1,400 to 1,800 USA employees, including 300 to 400 here."

ATK, NASA officials cheer Ares rocket motor test, Deseret News

"President Barack Obama announced the direction of the nation's space program would change. That officially put the program called "Constellation" in jeopardy and prompted more than 1,600 layoffs at Utah companies, including ATK."

Lori Garver at Space 2010

Prepared Remarks at AIAA Space 2010 By NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver

"We have so many resources that we need to channel for the future of continued success. And you ask what's next. First, I think we're going through some philosophical changes - better determining what government can and should do; what we as a people can do; what is possible, desirable, necessary. There will always be a government role to buy down risk, push the technology envelope and open new markets, but then get out of the way. The government should always be at the leading edge of what's next, but it's going to be up to established and emerging companies to carry the ball forward. As we continue to push forward new technologies making space exploration more efficient and effective, we will increase opportunities for the private sector to use these technologies in unimagined ways, growing the space economy even more. As always, we have a young generation who is passionate, who wants to make a difference and contribute to the world. Like any generation, though, they want a future as exciting, more exciting, than the past."

Canadian Space Agency in Negotiations for Future Launch Access to the Space Station, SpaceRef.ca

"This week's news that veteran Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield was going to be the first Canadian to command the International Space Station while spending six months onboard also meant that Canada has used up its last available contracted launch seat to the International Space Station (ISS). And since Canada has no launch capability of its own, it is now in negotiation to secure launch access to the International Space Station for future astronaut flights."

Organics on Mars

Mars Phoenix Findings Help Explain Viking Lander Results

"Experiments prompted by a 2008 surprise from NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander suggest that soil examined by NASA's Viking Mars landers in 1976 may have contained carbon-based chemical building blocks of life. "This doesn't say anything about the question of whether or not life has existed on Mars, but it could make a big difference in how we look for evidence to answer that question," said Chris McKay of NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. McKay coauthored a study published online by the Journal of Geophysical Research - Planets, reanalyzing results of Viking's tests for organic chemicals in Martian soil."

Greg Shaskan

Keith's note: The following note was sent by Peggy Whitson:

"Dear All: I'm sorry to have to inform you that one of our Star City doctors, Dr. Greg Shaskan passed away early this morning, Moscow time. He was currently on rotation at Star City. Greg is survived by his wife, Sharon, and his 10 month old daughter, Francesca. Details are currently worked to return Greg to his family in Chicago. Once more details are known regarding any services, I will let you know. There is a card in the front office for folks to come by and sign. Please keep Greg's family in your thoughts during this tragic time. - Peg"

Congrats ASM Residents!, UTMB

"Greg Shaskan and Ronak Shah each presented cases at Aerospace Medicine Grand Rounds. Ronak presented on vertebrobasilar insufficency due to cervical disc disease, and Greg presented on musculoskeletal injury in an astronaut during EVA training."

Murals Commemorate Space Shuttle Legacy, Ken Kremer

"Huge murals of artwork commemorating three decades of historic explorations and scientific achievements by all five of America's Space Shuttle Orbiters - Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour - now grace the Shuttle Firing Room inside the Launch Control Center (LCC) at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida."

Keith's note: NASA KSC PAO has posted high resolution versions of these posters online: Discovery, Atlantis, Endeavour, Columbia, and Challenger

'Plymouth Rock' Human Asteroid Trek Proposed for 2019, Ken Kremer

"'Plymouth Rock' is the name of an ambitious new concept for an early human mission to explore a Near Earth Asteroid using dual Orion manned spacecraft. Two astronauts would embark on a six month round trip Asteroid Trek as soon as 2019 - before the end of this decade. The recent discovery of a new class of many small asteroids - 5 to 75 meters wide - has enabled the formulation of this potential new destination for deep space human exploration in the near term. Favorable orbital alignments occur only a few times per decade."

Keith's note: a white paper describing this Lockheed Martin mission concept is online here.

New NASA HD App for iPad With Expanded Content Available Free

"The app's landing page features the solar system, where users can learn more about our neighborhood, the universe and NASA missions. The app also enables users to experience and search updated, higher resolution NASA Image of the Day and Astronomy Picture of the Day collections and agency videos on demand."

Keith's note: What's missing from this picture on this iPad app's "landing page"? (enlarge) Pluto, Ceres, and Vesta for starters. NASA has missions on their way to these worlds (Dawn and New Horizons). But it does show the ISS (which is not a planet or a moon). Whether you think Pluto, Ceres, and Vesta are planets or dwarf planets or something else, they are the destinations for major missions and deserve to be on this front page. Not to do so is to ignore a billion dollar's worth of hardware and science. I wonder who reviews these apps prior to release?

Buzz Aldrin calls for NZ to help in Mars exploration, Stuff.co.nz

"Moonwalk pioneer Buzz Aldrin says Australia and New Zealand should be part of an international coalition to explore and colonise Mars. International co-operation in space was very difficult and in many ways inefficient, the second man to walk on the moon said. "But I think if we can take the English-speaking people ... we can have American science, technology and bring together the UK, Australia, New Zealand, India and South Africa ... and have a togetherness organisation," he told AAP in Sydney on Thursday."

Keith's note: Well Buzz, if you want to be accurate, this is the so-called "anglosphere". It includes Canada, eh?

Making Space Food

TV's 'Top Chefs' cook up ultimate astronaut takeout, space.com

"Among those who tasted the cosmically inspired dishes during the show were former astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon, and current astronauts Leland Melvin and Sandra Magnus. The 'Top Chef' cooks received the challenge at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland during a video message from astronauts Timothy "T.J. Creamer and Tracy Caldwell Dyson on the International Space Station."

Keith's note: Yea, yea, yea. NASA Edge found out how they actually make this stuff at NASA:

Canadian Space Agency to Announce Milestone Astronaut Mission Tomorrow, SpaceRef Canada

"It is expected that the Canadian Space Agency will announce that veteran Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield will be introduced as the first Canadian Commander of an expedition to the International Space Station. Earlier this year we reported that Hadfield would most likely fly to the International Space Station in November of 2012 as a member of Expedition 34. He would then transition to Commander of Expedition 35 and spend a total of 6 months aboard the space station."

Veteran Astronaut Chris Hadfield Selected as Space Station Expedition 35 Commander, SpaceRef Canada

"As reported earlier this year by SpaceRef Hadfield will fly to the International Space Station in December of 2012 onboard a Russian Soyuz rocket as a member of Expedition 34. He will then transition to Commander of the International Space Station for Expedition 35 and will spend a total of 6 months aboard the space station."

NASA Ranked Fifth In Best Places To Work In The Federal Government

"NASA has been ranked fifth in the Partnership for Public Service 2010 ratings for the "Best Places to Work in the Federal Government." The 2010 survey is the fifth conducted by the partnership since 2003. NASA has been rated in the top five in the federal government in four of the surveys and sixth in the other. An award was accepted by Associate Deputy Administrator Charles Scales on behalf of the agency at a special briefing held by the partnership on Wednesday, Sept. 1."

Keith's note: NASA was ranked #1 in 2004.


Frank's note: What a nice study. Real good for the ego, right? Trouble is, most of the people that work at NASA HQ that I know are deeply divided and unhappy at the agency's current mixed status-maybe Constellation and maybe not. And it's worse at field centers like JSC, KSC and MSFC. The Obama administration, who had a fairly good program of empowering commercial firms to access the ISS and reinvigorate its technology development program, proceeded to mangle the rollout of its new initiatives. They then compounded the felony by allowing an inept NASA messaging machine to lose control of its own message.

Much like the Republican's false characterization of Obama's health care bill as containing "death panels", the administration sat by and allowed critics to declare Obama was ending manned spaceflight. I bet a majority of the public still believes this. Now, after seven months after the budget announcement and five months after Obama spoke in Florida, NASA still seems unable to explain what it wants to do, and why it matters to American families.

Do you trust these guys to go to Mars? But, oh yeah, it's a great place to work if you don't care where you are going. The good folks need reinforcements and the deadwood need to take a buy out. Else nothing will ever change.

NASA May Enlist Astronauts, Celebrities to Entertain Trapped Chile Miners

"The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration may help organize astronauts and celebrities to entertain 33 miners trapped in a mine in Chile during a rescue that may take as much as four months. The miners, who have been trapped in the San Jose underground mine in the Atacama Desert for a record 26 days, have already received messages of support from Chilean soccer star Ivan Zamorano and the national coach Marcelo Bielsa and have spoken on the phone with President Sebastian Pinera. "As we progress through in the coming weeks and months there might be an opportunity to have others make contact with the miners," James Duncan, deputy chief medical officer at the Johnson Space Center, told reporters in Santiago today. They may include famous Chileans or NASA astronauts, he said."

On ice and in space, lessons for Chilean miners, Washington Post

"The lessons that could help keep 33 trapped Chilean miners safe and sane during their months underground were learned at desperate times in isolated places: ice-bound sailing ships, prisoner-of-war camps, malfunctioning capsules whizzing through space."

Bold Endeavors: Lessons from Polar and Space Exploration, Jack Stuster, Excerpt from "Risk and Exploration: Earth, Sea, and the Stars", NASA SP-4701

"What happened on board the Belgica is well-documented. The crew gradually slipped into a malaise that was paralyzing to some of them. One man died because of what Cook thought was the effects of the isolation and confinement. One man developed a temporary deafness. Another man developed a temporary blindness. One man, each night, would find a place below deck where he could hide and sleep, because he thought people were going to kill him. Roald Amundsen served his apprenticeship as an explorer as mate on the Belgica, and later wrote, "Insanity and disease stalked the decks of the Belgica that winter." He credited Frederick Cook with saving the expedition from certain psychological collapse."

Keith's note: I took Jack Stuster's book "Bold Endeavors" to Everest Base Camp with me in 2009. Alas, I did not really read much there. I read some of Edmund Hillary's "High Adventure" (still very accurate, 50 years on), "The Ascent of Rum Doodle" ("send down more champagne" - a requirement), and a portion of Jack's book that focused on polar epics - until it got too cold to turn the pages, that is. Another lesson to be learned: let's invent books that turn their own pages at -20F (hint to iPad developers).


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This page is an archive of recent entries written by Keith Cowing in September 2010.

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