Keith Cowing: January 2012 Archives

NASA JSC Solicitation: Single Board Computer For Space

"NASA/JSC has a requirement for a Single Board Computer for Space with the ability to clear errors in 1mS to meet the time to first failure estimate of 3 thousand years. This fidelity in error correction is necessary to meet the expected level of redundancy for a human rated spacecraft. A market survey indicates that Maxwell has the only commercially available singe board computer that will meet the Government's requirements."

Keith's note: Wow. Only one company on Earth makes this device. 3,000 years without an error. Amazing.

Russia blames 'cosmic rays' for Mars probe failure, AFP

"Carrying out such a large-scale, lengthy job, they should have taken into consideration the effect of outer space on the equipment of an interplanetary station." He also blamed sub-standard or fake foreign-made microchips used in the probe, saying more than 60 percent were not designed for use in space. "This is imported equipment and of course this is probably a reason," he said. Russia had previously speculated that radiation from US radar could have put the probe out of action."

Earlier posts

Russia to postpone next manned space launch, AFP

"Krasnov said that delays came after the re-entry capsule of the Soyuz TMA-04M space ship to be used in the mission was shown in testing not to be hermetically sealed and could not be used for safety reasons. That means the next mission will have to replace it with the re-entry capsule intended for the following mission scheduled May 30, which in turn will be delayed."

NASA Announces Awards for 2012 Space Frontier Business Plan Competition

"NASA's Ames Research Center, in conjunction with NASA's Office of the Chief Technologists Emerging Space Office, is continuing its support for the Space Frontier Foundations annual Business Plan Competition by funding this years awards totaling $110,000. The Space Frontier Foundation Business Plan Competition will be held during a three-day event at NASA Ames in July. The NASA supported Emerging Space Grand Prize will include an award of $100,000 for the best business plan with the potential to contribute to space development. NASA also is supporting a second prize of $10,000."

National Research Council Report Identifies and Prioritizes Key Technologies for NASA

"In 2010 NASA created 14 draft technology roadmaps to help guide and prepare for the agency's future space exploration and mission needs. Using these draft roadmaps as a point of departure, a new National Research Council report, NASA SPACE TECHNOLOGY ROADMAPS AND PRIORITIES: RESTORING NASA'S TECHNOLOGICAL EDGE AND PAVING THE WAY FOR A NEW ERA IN SPACE, identifies and prioritizes key technologies needed for NASA to make advances in earth and space sciences. It also details how the effectiveness of the technology development program can be enhanced in the face of scarce resources."

State Department: "Space Security - An American Perspective"

"Space is no longer an environment accessed nearly exclusively by two superpowers or a few countries. Barriers to entry are lower than ever, and many countries are enjoying access to and the benefits of space in unprecedented numbers. Today, space is the domain of a growing number of satellite operators; approximately 60 nations and government consortia operate satellites, as well as numerous commercial and academic satellite operators. Paradoxically, while it is becoming increasingly easier to access as well as to benefit from space, space is also becoming increasingly congested and contested. This situation means we need to think carefully through how we can all operate there safely and responsibly. Our goal is to ensure that the generations that follow us can also benefit from the advantages that space offers."

Gingrich: Terrible President on Earth, Great One in Space, opinion, Huffington Post

"Take just about any issue on Earth and I disagree vehemently with Newt Gingrich's policy position. His disingenuous expressions of anti-elitimism infuriate me daily, and his runaway hypocrisy embodies everything that's wrong with the political process. But the man said he was going to build a moon base, and for that, he's just about got my vote."

Tea Party in Space Endorses Gingrich for President

"Mr. Gingrich's bold announcement of a moon base by 2020 is not unrealistic like some would have Americans believe," Gasser continued. "Newt brings the kind of leadership lacking at NASA while the other candidates want to continue the status quo. This isn't the 1960s and 70s where 'only NASA' could build rockets and space stations. Today the private sector has more than proven that if you remove the shackles of government bureaucracy, American ingenuity will flourish."

Why doesn't NASA want us to see the first science fiction movie shot in space?, io9

"... while he was aboard the ISS, Garriott shot an eight-minute movie called Apogee of Fear, which he says is the first science fiction movie ever shot in space. And NASA won't let us see that film. Why not? .. the light-hearted film may be too playful for NASA, Garriott surmises. Until NASA gives permission, Garriott can't release his film -- which is easily the best science fiction film ever made in space! -- to the public. Or put it in the Smithsonian, which has requested a copy due to its historical importance."

Keith's update: I have seen a portion of this film. It is funny - and harmless. I am baffled as to why NASA flies SciFi toys like Buzz LightYear in space and openly cooperates with films such as "Transformers" and "Armageddon" - but they won't allow Garriott to release "Apogee of Fear". Once again we have evidence of a lack of any cohesive communications policy or process at NASA. They just make it up as they go - and in cases such as this, it shows.

Keith's update: Apparently the problem stems from NASA JSC where the default answer from the Astronaut Office and JSC lawyers is always "no". My understanding is that there will be some discussions in the coming days to discuss how this fun little SciFi flick can be shown to people - even if NASA JSC's lawyers continue to try and stop it.

Curiously, the Astronaut Office and JSC Lawyers also look the other way when astronauts do product placement for books written by JSC employees - at no charge to the author - but totally at taxpayer's expense (see "Product Placement on the ISS").

NASA Relents: Apogee of Fear, First Sci-Fi Film Shot in Space, Will Be Released, Wired

"Now I am pleased to report that things have changed for the better. In response to a query to NASA on the subject, I received the following reply from Bob Jacobs, deputy for communications at NASA: NASA is working with Richard Garriott to facilitate the video's release. While the project was not part of his original Space Act agreement with NASA, everyone involved had the best of intentions. We hope to resolve the remaining issues expeditiously, and we appreciate Richard's cooperation and his ongoing efforts to get people excited about the future of space exploration."

Keith's 23 January update: According to a Twitter posting by Richard Garriott: Friday I received the signed authorization to release Apogee of Fear! Consulting with my crew mates now..."

An astronaut and a scientist (interview with John Grunsfeld), Nature

"I would like NASA to articulate a plan to explore the Solar System with humans and associated science investigations, because I see them going hand in hand. We're not going to send people anywhere, unless we're out there doing science or enabling science as a part of an exploration framework. My desire is to work more closely with the human spaceflight programme so we can take advantage of synergy."

Japanese scientists fear spacecraft blueprint stolen after networks penetrated by virus, Daily Mail

"The Japanese space agency has admitted that a computer virus may have stolen sensitive information from their networks - including blueprints for a spacecraft. Hackers could sell on the information or blackmail the space agency for its return. A terminal connected to networks belonging to the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) was infected with a Trojan. Data that could have been revealed includes email addresses, system log-in information and, crucially, the specification and operation of the H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV)."

Independent Assessment of NASA's Strategic Direction and Management

"This proposal requests funding for the NRC's Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences to organize an ad-hoc study to determine whether the strategic direction of NASA remains viable and if the agency's activities and organization efficiently and effectively support that direction in light of the potential for constrained budgets in the foreseeable future. The study will be carried out by staff from the division's Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board and Space Studies Board. The amount requested is $834,104 for the period January 15, 2012 to January 14, 2013."

U.S. Removes Phobos-Grunt Data from Web, Aviation Week

"The U.S. military has removed links to Phobos-Grunt tracking data posted on a public website detailing orbital parameters of the ill-fated Russian Mars mission that Russia says reentered Earth's atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean Jan. 15. .. But the military deviated from normal practice when it removed links to the spacecraft's reentry predictions while neglecting to publish final reentry data for the defunct probe Jan. 15. Instead, the site posted a vague statement asserting Phobos-Grunt "decayed within the forecast period of 16:59-17:47" GMT."

Jim Arnold

Jim Arnold, founding chemist at UCSD, dies at age 88

"James R. Arnold, founding chairman of UC San Diego's chemistry department and first director of the California Space Institute whose contributions to science spanned the study of cosmic rays to the future of manned space flight, died Friday, Jan. 6. He was 88. A longtime consultant to NASA, Arnold helped to set science priorities for missions, including the Apollo flights to the moon. He first served on a NASA committee in 1959, just three months after the space agency was established."

Mino Freund

Keith's note: Mino Freund from NASA Ames has died after a lengthy battle with brain tumors. You can read about Mino's challenges on his blog "A Little Detour". Of all the things I could say about Mino, I guess the most important is that he was always fun to talk to and he was curious about absolutely everything. I really can't say that about everyone.

Keith's note: Comcast has decided to block customer access to * due, I am told, to an issue involving how NASA maintains its DNS records. Why these geniuses at Comcast chose the SOPA/PIPA protest day to do this is curious to say the least. Right now, if you are a Comcast customer, you are being purposefully denied access to one part of your government's services.

Keith's update: I have confirmed this via IT professionals at NASA and in several places across the U.S. that Comcast DNS is broken - but only for, it would seem.

Keith's update: Alan Boyle from MSNBC tweeted some good advice - change your DNS setting to Google's Public DNS. Info here.

Keith's update: Everything works again. Apparently NASA provided an update key for DNS and the new key did not match the Comcast key. So Comcast simply cut off DNS access for all of its customers to everything at The old key has been sent by NASA and everything works again - so far.

Statement by Secretary Clinton: International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities

"The long-term sustainability of our space environment is at serious risk from space debris and irresponsible actors. Ensuring the stability, safety, and security of our space systems is of vital interest to the United States and the global community. These systems allow the free flow of information across platforms that open up our global markets, enhance weather forecasting and environmental monitoring, and enable global navigation and transportation."

Fact Sheet: An International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities

"The Obama Administration is committed to ensuring that an International Code enhances national security and maintains the United States' inherent right of individual and collective self-defense, a fundamental part of international law. The United States would only subscribe to such a Code of Conduct if it protects and enhances the national and economic security of the United States, our allies, and our friends. The Administration is committed to keeping the U.S. Congress informed as our consultations with the spacefaring community progress."

Keith's note: This statement and the Fact Sheet was sent to me by the State Department Press Office in separate emails - both with this same note: "This email is UNCLASSIFIED."


Did U.S. radar fry Russian Mars probe?, Washington Post

"Russian space officials are speculating that American radar may have zapped the failed Mars moon probe that fell into the ocean Sunday, a prominent Russian newspaper said Tuesday. In Washington, NASA rejected the theory. NASA scientists were not using the Marshall Islands radar on Nov. 9 to track an asteroid, as suggested by Russian space officials, said Bob Jacobs, a NASA spokesman. Instead, the agency employed radar stations only in California and Puerto Rico, he said."

Russian Probe Crash Sparks New Controversy, Jim Oberg, IEEE Spectrum

"Sadly, this knee-jerk blame shifting in the space industry has ramped up in recent years. The real danger in the Russian nonsense about finding the United States at fault for the crash isn't just the blow to diplomacy and public attitudes. Also important is how such claims prevent a proper investigation and get in the way of implementing a reliable "fix."

Russians Strongly Hint At American Cause for Phobos-Grunt Failure, earlier post

Keith's note: Last night I subscribed to NASA Tech Briefs magazine. Within a few minutes I got 5 spam emails asking me if I wanted to subscribe to NASA Tech Briefs magazine - which is what I just did.

This publication has always perplexed me since NASA pays little or no attention to it. The NASA Office of the Chief Technologist web page makes no mention of this magazine - and NASA TechBriefs makes no mention of NASA OCT on its website. This seems to be a wasted opportunity: an overtly NASA-branded magazine about new technology and spinoffs that is ignored by NASA.

NASA Tech Briefs also seems to have not totally gotten the social media thing down yet. They have a Twitter account @NASATechBriefs - but the last time it tweeted was on 23 June 2011 - in fact there were only 10 tweets during the entire year of 2011. Gee, I would think that with all of NASA's cool stuff that the magazine would have a little more than this to tweet about. Their Facebook page is inert.

- Why Does NASA Ignore NASA Tech Briefs?, earlier post
- Stealth "NASA" Future Technology Contest, earlier post
- Official NASA Publication Seeks Opinions On Gun Control, earlier post

Wallops Island may become premier tourist attraction, DelmarvaNow

"As we start to look at more orbital launches at Wallops, we start to see more potential for tourism," said Lisa Challenger, director of Worcester County Tourism. "I've never been to a rocket launch in Florida, but apparently, it's huge. We have the potential to attract a lot of people, so we want to be prepared for that." Tourism officials also need to prep for the inevitability that a launch could get scratched, and setting up ways to redirect visitors if that happens, Challenger added. She said rocket launches, whenever they arrive to Wallops, would be so spectacular that they would be visible along the coast from Delaware to Virginia Beach -- the thrill that's at the root of making this a tri-state effort."

Keith's update: Great idea. Imagine this: people might actually get in their car and drive a fair distance just to watch something launched into space. Alas, NASA Wallops PAO and center management are incapable of conducting even basic public engagement activities surrounding launches. Most people only learn of launches after the fact - if at all. By far, residents in Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware are blissfully unaware of the fact that things have been launched into space from Wallops for half a century and that more activity lies ahead. NASA clearly does not seem to want to step up to this task, so it is up to the surrounding communities to do so. But unless NASA Wallops provides data on launches with sufficient lead time, these external efforts are doomed from the onset.

Earlier posts about Wallops

NASA DFRC Soliciation: Aircraft Coffee Brewer

"NASA/DFRC has a requirement for qty 1, Aircraft Coffee Brewer, P/N 400-1794-02, model 1603-AC3P-F, Pour Over, Bottled Water, Fixed Mount, 115VAC 3Ph 300-700Hz, 1000 Watts, Dimensions: 13.0" x6.37" x 10.0". Unit must come with FAA 8130-3, comply with RTCA DO-160D and conform to NASA Quality assurance Document Q-1A (attached). The solicitation is due by 4:30pm local time on January 25, 2012."


NASA Langley gate access change hurts Poquoson businesses, Daily Press

"A change to employee access at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton is having a negative impact on Poquoson businesses, and doesn't appear to be resolved. NASA Langley's back gate on Wythe Creek Road used to be open to both incoming and outgoing traffic from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. In October incoming access was changed to 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. only because budget cuts eliminated the gate guard, said NASA Langley spokesman Rob Wyman. The new traffic pattern added an additional two-mile drive for employees to get back into work via the front gate. Since then Poquoson businesses, and particularly restaurants, have seen a drop in lunchtime business."

Cold Fusion: NASA Says Nothing Useful, Forbes

"I find it interesting and rather puzzling that the summary states that LENR is the new name for cold fusion (thereby implying that the two terms describe the same process) when many other people and organizations argue that these are quite different phenomena. I'd love to read a simple explanation of the difference between LENR and cold fusion that doesn't use explanations that themselves require further, and equally complex, explanations. Anyway, it appears that the NASA recently published something much more interesting about Low Energy Nuclear Reaction or LENR. Last Wednesday, with a minimum of fuss, NASA's Glenn Research Center released a video on their Web site that discussed the organization's LENR research."

Why is NASA Langley Wasting Time on Cold Fusion Research?, earlier post

Keith's note: It should be quite obvious that NASA Headquarters exerts little - if any - control over what its field centers do - especially when quack science is concerned. At a time when NASA is trying to justify its relevance, the continued semi-clandestine support for this goofy fringe science calls into question the process whereby NASA decides what should be funded - and why. Here's the official NASA video. And just who is advising Ray Lugo or Lesa Roe on this wacky stuff? Let's see how (or if) NASA PAO responds. If this is the big deal that some folks at NASA claim it is (see patent application below) then why is NASA Headquarters silent on this topic - especially given that Charlie Bolden is mentioned (by position) on the patent application?

Method for Producing Heavy Electrons, United States Patent Application

Zawodny; Joseph M.; (Poquoson, VA) Assignee: USA as represented by the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Washington, DC

"[0032] The advantages of the present invention are numerous. Devices/systems made in accordance with the present invention control the frequency of the SPP resonance and its uniformity over large surface or volume regions. This will allow an entire device to participate in heavy electron production and ensuing energy generation. The present invention is adaptable to a variety of physical states/geometries and is scalable in size thereby making it available for energy production in a wide variety of applications (e.g., hand-held and large scale electronics, automobiles, aircraft, surface ships, electric power generation, rockets, etc.)"

SpaceX Launch Delayed

Update on Next SpaceX Launch

"In preparation for the upcoming launch, SpaceX continues to conduct extensive testing and analysis. We believe that there are a few areas that will benefit from additional work and will optimize the safety and success of this mission. We are now working with NASA to establish a new target launch date, but note that we will continue to test and review data. We will launch when the vehicle is ready."

Mike Leinbach Joins ULA

United Launch Alliance Names Mike Leinbach Director of Human Spaceflight Operations

"United Launch Alliance (ULA) announced today that Mike Leinbach has joined the company as the Director of Human Spaceflight Operations. "We are fortunate to have Mike with his wealth of human spaceflight experience join the ULA team," said George Sowers, ULA's vice president of Business Development. "His background in leading overall space shuttle launch activities for more than a decade, executing 37 space shuttle launches, will be invaluable as we develop human spaceflight capabilities for our Atlas and Delta systems."

US won't sign EU space treaty, The Hill

A senior State Department official said Thursday that the United States will not sign onto a European code of conduct treaty laying out rules in outer space. Ellen Tauscher, the State Department's undersecretary for arms control and international security, said the rules the EU has currently proposed were "too restrictive" for the United States to agree to.

U.S. Rejects Current Draft of EU Code of Conduct; considers another agreement, Examiner

In a surprising turn of events, it was announced that the U.S. will not be signing onto the current draft of the proposed EU Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities. Citing that the current draft as worded is too restrictive, Ellen Tauscher, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said during a January 12th breakfast that it was clear from the beginning that the Administration was not going along with the Code. While the current draft has not been rejected outright, according to another government official the Code could be used as a basis for another international agreement.

New space-arms control initiative draws concern, Washington Times

"The Obama administration is launching a new space arms-control initiative that critics say will lead to restrictions on U.S. military activities in space, a key U.S. strategic war-fighting advantage. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is expected to announce the initiative as early as Tuesday. The plan will be built on work contained in a European Union draft code of conduct for space that the Pentagon and State Department have criticized as too restrictive."

Gingrich on Space

Gingrich calls for 'bold' space program, opens Orlando campaign office, Orlando Sentinel

"Gingrich said NASA must be "more realistic about risk taking," both for itself and in encouraging the private space industry, including offering large cash prizes to entrepreneurs willing to invest in new space technology, including a private space station, moon colonization and a trip to Mars. "People take risks to climb Mt. Everest. People take risks to hang-glide. People take risks to do lots of things," Gingrich said. "If you offer a more open-ended system, you say, 'Here's the prize to get there but we understand it's risky,' I think you'll see a lot more people investing and taking risks."

Russian Phobos-Grunt Mars probe falls in Pacific Ocean, RIA Novosti

"Phobos-Grunt fragments have crashed down in the Pacific Ocean," Russia's Defense Ministry official Alexei Zolotukhin told RIA Novosti, adding that the fragments fell in 1,250 kilometers to the west of the island of Wellington. The spacecraft fell at about 21:45 on Sunday Moscow time [17:45 GMT]."

Keith's note: Gee, I sure hope Tyson doesn't say things like this to the young people who visit the Rose Center to learn about the wonders of space. Talk about a quick way to deflate someone's career goals. Why study for a career that focuses on helping to send humans to Mars if its going to happen in China - not the U.S.?

My Twitter response to Tyson's original tweet: ".@neiltyson WRT You think that the first human on Mars will be Chinese? No faith in the U.S.? Defeatist. EPIC FAIL"

NASA Cassini Significant Events 12/21/11 - 1/3/12

"Friday, Dec. 23 (DOY 357) - No signal was detected from the spacecraft today at the beginning of track at Deep Space Station (DSS) DSS-43, the Canberra 70 meter station. Additional tracking was obtained at Canberra's DSS-45 and Goldstone's DSS-14 to no avail. The 2-way coherent signal was acquired at the one round trip light-time point into the track as usual, indicating it was a spacecraft problem and not a ground system error. Incident Surprise Anomaly (ISA) #50901 and Discrepancy Report (DR) C108400 were submitted to document this spacecraft anomaly. Commands were sent on Dec. 25 to inhibit the ultra-stable oscillator (USO) and use the auxiliary oscillator as the frequency source for the downlink signal. The spacecraft has operated in this mode for every pass starting on Dec. 27, and telemetry is being received for entire passes again. Data loss was limited to two round-trip light time periods. Analysis of the problem has been delayed because of the holidays with many of the key engineers being unavailable, but it is now well underway."

LightSquared cries foul over GPS advisory board, Reuters

"Telecom startup LightSquared is asking for an investigation of a possible conflict of interest by a member of an advisory board that has already warned against its technology because of interference with the global positioning system. LightSquared, which needs government approval of its high-speed wireless technology by the end of the month to keep its major partner on board, lodged its probe request with NASA Inspector General Paul Martin late Wednesday. The petition charges that Bradford Parkinson, sometimes referred to as the father of GPS, serves as vice chairman of the National Space-Based Position, Navigation, and Timing Advisory Board while also a director for Trimble Navigation Ltd, which makes GPS equipment and has been a vocal opponent of LightSquared's network. Lightsquared said Parkinson may have violated a federal conflict of interest law and ethics regulations."

Shady side of Earth: Western trace in space probe's failure?, Russia Today

"In an interview to the Russian newspaper Izvestia, head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, Vladimir Popovkin, said that intended influence on the probe cannot be completely excluded. "I do not want to blame anyone, but these days there are very powerful means to influence space vehicles," he told the newspaper, adding that it is still unclear why the probe's engine failed to start in the first place. ... We do not understand frequent failures of our space vehicles when they fly over the shadow, for Russia, part of the Earth," Popovkin said. "Right there we are unable to see the vehicle and to receive its telemetry."

Did US 'climate weapon' knock-out Russian probe?, Russia Today

"Meanwhile, a retired Russian general believes that the glitch which prevented Phobos-Grunt from carrying out its space mission was caused by American radar sites in Alaska. General-Lieutenant Nikolay Rodionov, who used to command the country's ballistic missile early warning system, told Interfax that "the powerful electromagnetic radiation of those sites may have affected the control system of the interplanetary probe."

Russia's Space Chief Says Failures May Be Sabotage, AP

"James Oberg, a NASA veteran who has written books on the Russian space program and now works as a space consultant, said Popovkin's comments were a sad example of the Russian cultural instinct to 'blame foreigners.' "It's a feature of space launch trajectories that orbital adjustments must be made halfway around the first orbit to circularize and stabilize subsequent orbits," Oberg said in e-mailed comments. "The Russians must know that simple geography -- not evildoers lurking in shadows -- dictate where their communications 'blind spots' are. But the urge to shift blame seems strong," he said."

The U.S. Didn't Shoot Down Russia's Mars Probe. But It Could Have, Slate

"Popovkin's speculation is almost certainly incorrect--and, I suspect, was likely a bit of deliberate nationalist pandering, perhaps not meant to be taken seriously. But there are two reasons it's worrisome. The first is that it's hard to prove he's wrong, so when the next, more militarily useful, spacecraft fails, the accusation can resurface. The other is that Popovkin, and the Sputniks he controls, are the only way to get American astronauts to the International Space Station."

Don't pass the buck, Roskosmos!, RIA Novosti

"Vague insinuations of sabotage are a dogwhistle for those who are more than eager to write off any such failure on the work of Russia's enemies abroad. Unfortunately for Popovkin, any thinking person will immediately see his words for what they are - without a concrete theory as to how and why Phobos-Grunt may have been sabotaged, this looks to be a classic means of passing the buck."

"NASA ROCKET SUCCESFULLY LAUNCHED JANUARY 11 - WALLOPS ISLAND, VA - A flight test of a NASA Terrier-Improved Malemute suborbital sounding rocket was successfully conducted today from NASA's launch range at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Launch time was 8:25 a.m. The launch vehicle is being developed to support NASA science missions. The next rocket launch from Wallops Island is currently scheduled for no earlier than March 15. For information on NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, visit the web at:"

Keith's 9:16 am note: That is the entire press release. It would seem that Keith Koehler took a press release Haiku class. He tries to get away with the fewest words possible in these press releases. Nothing about the launch itself, its purpose, etc. This is an attempt to provide the least amount of information possible to the media. There is virtually nothing on the Wallops website - no launch photos - nothing. And Tweeting doesn't count - indeed, Kohler can't even be bothered to retweet the screen grab photos that Bob Jacobs tweeted. I guess no one at Wallops knows how to use a cellphone camera.

I hope someone with actual interest in promoting what Wallops does applies for the PAO job opening. at Wallops. If this is how NASA PAO does things at Wallops then no one is going to be paying attention when Orbital launches its Antares/Cygnus flight.

Job Opening: Apply to Fix Wallops' Broken PAO, earlier post

Keith's 1:32 pm update: Four hours and the Wallops website still refers to this launch as an upcoming event. No photo of the launch. No posting of the "press release". This is inexcusable - but Wallops management doesn't seem to care.

Keith's 2:00 pm update: The updates finally got posted. WFF claims it happened hours ago. It sure did not show up for me - and I have been checking.

The Milky Way Contains At Least 100 Billion Planets According to Survey

"Our Milky Way galaxy contains a minimum of 100 billion planets according to a detailed statistical study based on the detection of three extrasolar planets by an observational technique called microlensing. Kailash Sahu, of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., is part of an international team reporting today that our galaxy contains a minimum of one planet for every star on average. This means that there should be a minimum of 1,500 planets within just 50 light-years of Earth."

A Wealth of Habitable Planets in the Milky Way

"Our results show that planets orbiting around stars are more the rule than the exception. In a typical solar system approximately four planets have their orbits in the terrestrial zone, which is the distance from the star where you can find solid planets. On average, there are 1.6 planets in the area around the stars that corresponds to the area between Venus and Saturn."

Kepler Discovery Establishes New Class of Planetary Systems

"Using data from NASA's Kepler Mission, astronomers announced the discovery of two new transiting "circumbinary" planet systems -- planets that orbit two stars. This work establishes that such "two sun" planets are not rare exceptions, but are in fact common with many millions existing in our Galaxy."

Discovery of the Smallest Exoplanets: The Barnard's Star Connection

"The discovery of the three smallest planets yet orbiting a distant star, which was announced today at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society, has an unusual connection to Barnard's star, one of the Sun's nearest neighbors. .. The team used data from NASA's Kepler mission combined with additional observations of a single star, called KOI-961, to determine that it possesses three planets that range in size from 0.57 to 0.78 times the radius of Earth. This makes them the smallest of the more than 700 exoplanets confirmed to orbit other stars."

Space Florida Announces Sub-Orbital Flight Incentive Program

"The Space Florida Sub-Orbital Flight Incentive Program will provide a partial reimbursement for customers to fly research payloads from Florida, equal to one-third of the published list price of an approved flight provider, up to a maximum of $10,000. Space Florida will provide this incentive in order to increase the volume of commercial and academic research payloads that fly from Florida. All flight research considered for the program should have either a terrestrial or space application."

Restored Photos: Project Gemini Comes to Life

"On 23 March 1965, the first of ten crewed Gemini spacecraft was launched carrying it's crew of two astronauts, Gus Grissom and John Young. The NASA Johnson Space Center and the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University today proudly unveil the Project Gemini Online Digital Archive. The archive contains the first high-resolution digital scans of the original Gemini flight films, now available in several formats with a click of your mouse."

NIAC Seeks Ideas

NASA Issues Call for Visionary Advanced Technology Concepts

"NASA's Space Technology Program is looking for far-out ideas. The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts, or NIAC, program is seeking proposals for revolutionary concepts with the potential to transform future aerospace missions. Proposed concepts should enable new capabilities or significantly alter current approaches to launching, building and operating space systems. NIAC projects are chosen for their innovative and visionary characteristics, technical substance, and early development stage -- ten years or more from use on a mission. NIAC's current portfolio of diverse and innovative ideas represents multiple technology areas, including power, propulsion, structures and avionics."

NASA Solicitation: Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (Space Launch System)

"NASA/MSFC is hereby seeking potential sources to provide an Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) for the early Space Launch System (SLS) missions. Recently, NASA announced the architecture of the SLS with a manifested first flight in late 2017. The early flights of the SLS architecture will require the use of an ICPS to ensure the placement of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) and/or Payload on the required trajectory. In order to support the flight schedule, the initial ICPS flight unit must be delivered to Kennedy Space Center (KSC) no later than late in the fourth quarter of the 2016 government fiscal year (GFY). The second flight unit must be delivered to KSC by the fourth quarter of the 2020 GFY. NASA is seeking in-space propulsion capabilities with performance data that can meet its schedule and funding constraints."

Space Florida Hires Jim Kuzma, Realigns Organization

"Today, Space Florida announces the hiring of Jim Kuzma as Senior Vice President and Chief Operations Officer (COO). Kuzma's hiring is one of several organizational changes being initiated to help Space Florida create capacity for improved client responsiveness, better face a dynamic marketplace and take advantage of increased business development opportunities in the aerospace industry."

Florida Space Industry to Visit Capitol on January 11 for Space Day

"Representatives from Florida's aerospace industry will visit Tallahassee on January 11, 2012, to participate in Florida Space Day and share with legislators the challenges facing this important business sector as the nation's space program evolves."

First Annual International Space Station R&D Conference

"Manuscripts are solicited on topics related to science and technology activities (past, present, planned and proposed) on the ISS, including but not limited to Biology and Biotechnology, Earth and Space Science, Human Research, Physical Sciences, Education Activities, and Technology and Exploration. The abstract deadline is January 15, 2012."

Keith's 6 Jan note: There is still no mention of this conference on the CASIS website even though CASIS is a co-sponsor. Abstracts are due in 10 days. Tick tock. Someone please wake CASIS up. This conference is precisely the sort of thing that it is chartered to do and yet it can't even post a simple link on its website? Not a good sign.

Supervisory Public Affairs Specialist

"As a Supervisory Public Affairs Specialist within the Office Of Communications, you will lead the development and implementation of a comprehensive communications program for the NASA, Goddard Space Flight Center's Wallops Flight Facility (WFF). You will participate in the long and short-range strategic program planning and goal-setting for the Office of Communications at WFF. This includes communicating and engaging the public in the status, accomplishments and discoveries of the Agency's science, engineering and technology programs, and assessing, developing and maintaining relationships with key stakeholders."

- Virginia's Invisible Spaceport (Updated), earlier post
- Wallops PAO Is Goofing Off Again, earlier post
- Earlier Wallops postings

LtCol Paul Damphousse USMC (Ret) Named Executive Director As NSS Enters Its 25th Year

"LtCol Damphousse brings a wealth of space, operations, and legislative leadership experience to the position of Executive Director. Until his recent retirement from the U.S. Marine Corps following a 22-year career, he served as Chief of Advanced Concepts for the National Security Space Office (NSSO) and the DoD Executive Agent for Space in Washington, DC. In this capacity he led the NSSO's space-based solar power effort and championed the Small Unit Space Transport and Insertion (SUSTAIN) concept as a near-instantaneous crisis response capability. His work on the latter resulted in the publication of a concept of operations and technology roadmap for suborbital/SUSTAIN missions. He has also served as Florida Senator Bill Nelson's NASA Fellow, the Senator's principal advisor for all civil and national security space matters, where he played an instrumental role in advancing new commercial spaceflight activities."

NASA Administrator Meets With Apollo Astronauts - Agency Will Work Cooperatively to Resolve Artifact Ownership Issues

"I believe there have been fundamental misunderstandings and unclear policies regarding items from the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Skylab programs, and NASA appreciates the position of the astronauts, museums, learning institutions and others who have these historic artifacts in personal and private collections."

NASA questions Apollo 13 commander's sale of list, AP

"NASA spokesman Bob Jacobs said the lawsuit and Lovell inquiry do not represent an aggressive, broad new agency effort to recover space items. "It's a challenge to continually monitor the growing auctions community, which is usually how these items come to light," he said in an email. "This latest issue demonstrates a need to reach out to former astronauts and other former agency personnel who may have these kind of items."

NASA's Inconsistent Policy Regarding The Sale Of Apollo Era Items

"It should be abundantly clear by now that the NASA IG and General Counsel offices have no consistent policy whatsoever when it comes to selling historic Apollo era artifacts. In some cases you can sell pieces of the Moon, and in other cases you cannot. In some cases you can sell items used during Apollo missions, in other cases, you cannot. And of course, it is also acceptable practice to rough up little old ladies and threaten lawsuits against elderly former astronauts."

- Apollo 13 checklist brings $388,375 at Auction, earlier post
- NASA OIG Admits The Obvious About Moon Rocks, earlier post

Underfunding doomed Russian Mars probe, lawyer says, USA Today

"Russia's Phobos-Grunt ("grunt" is Russian for ground or soil) mission aimed for a first landing of a probe on the Martian moon Phobos. Launched Nov. 8, the spacecraft reached Earth orbit but failed to fire the rocket that would send it on an eight-month interplanetary trip to Mars. It's likely to fall to Earth around Jan. 15, the Russian Defense Ministry concluded, the victim of a steadily dropping orbit. "Way too ambitious and way too underfunded to reach its goal," space law attorney Michael Listner says."

Russia's Phobos-Grunt probe heads for fiery finale, USA Today

"... the 29,100-pound spacecraft, stuffed with 8.3 tons of hydrazine fuel, will likely come down around Jan. 15, the Russian Defense Ministry has concluded."

America's Deep Space Vision: Settlement of the Moon and Mars versus Asteroid Visits, Harrison Schmitt, The Heartland Institute

"America's eroding geopolitical stature, highlighted by the July 21, 2011, end to flights of the United States Space Shuttle, has reached crisis proportions. Obama Administration officials now spin the nebulous thought of Astronauts flying many months to an undetermined asteroid in 2025 as an actual "National Space Policy". On the other hand, Republican candidates for President have not yet recognized the importance of international civil space competition in the federal government's constitutional function to provide for the nation's "common defence".

Book Review: Fifty Years on the Space Frontier: Halo Orbits, Comets, Asteroids, and More

"Most people have never heard of Robert Farquhar outside of NASA - and that is a shame. The cover of this book says it all. Look at this exquisite orbit Farquhar created to take an old spacecraft so as to repurpose it and throw it at not one but two comets.

Sheer artistry."

Why Space? Indeed

Why Space?, Rick Tumlinson, Huffington Post

"To some of us who have the frontier calling, there is no question "Why space?" It makes no sense. We look out and know that out there are more galaxies than there are all the grains of sand on all the beaches and in all the deserts of the world and in each of those a million times a million suns, around which swirl millions of worlds, each different, each a question mark itself and each a possibility for new life, new knowledge and new places to be -- and we wonder, how could anyone, anyone, ask such a question?"

United Space Alliance Directed To Stop Pursuing New Business, Space News

"United Space Alliance (USA), the Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture created in 1995 to operate NASA's now-retired space shuttle, has been barred by its corporate parents from pursuing any new business, according to industry sources. The move raises new questions about the future of the Houston-based company, a major NASA contractor that has struggled to carve out a prominent new role for itself in the post-shuttle era. USA's current shuttle operations contract is set to expire in September."

Buzz is Back

Buzz Aldrin Visits Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project

"On 6 January 2012, Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin visited the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) located at Building 596 aka "McMoons" at the NASA Ames Research Park at Moffett Field, CA. Behind Buzz is the FR-900 tape drive restored and enhanced by LOIRP to play back the original analog data tapes generated by the five Lunar Orbiter missions in the 1960s."

American Space Exploration Leadership -- Why and How, Buzz Aldrin, Huffington post

"But NASA is critical to success and always will be. Chris Kraft has pointed out that we already have a fairly robust set of launch vehicles being provided by the commercial sector. So, in this area, we do not need the government competing to develop another launch vehicle. One could -- on another day -- even discuss whether we need a 130 metric ton launch vehicle, but assuming we do, the U.S. launch industry is capable of building a vehicle capable of such lift reasonably soon. After all, only four years were needed for the U.S. space launch industry to develop EELV. Likewise, Falcon 9 was developed in a little more than seven years."

Bloopers in Space, Jim Oberg, IEEE Spectrum

"A horrendous error appears to have been made by a well-respected British spaceflight society, which reportedly is about to publish an article claiming that the X-37B, the secret Pentagon space plane, is shadowing the recently launched Chinese prototype space station, Tiangong-1, to spy on it in flight. But that's ridiculous. The American plane's orbit is at a steep angle with respect to that of the Chinese space station. When the two vehicles pass, they do so at speeds of up to 8000 meters per second, making it practically impossible for one to gather intelligence on the other."

First Look at Kepler SETI Candidate Signals

"The signals below are undoubtedly examples of terrestrial radio frequency interference (RFI). ... These signals look similar to what we think might be produced from an extraterrestrial technology. They are narrow in frequency, much narrower than would be produced by any known astrophysical phenomena, and they drift in frequency with time, as we would expect because of the doppler effect imposed by the relative motion of the transmitter and the receiving radio telescope."

Keith's note: Wow - looks like NASA can fund and support SETI again. This is great news! For decades NASA has been afraid to fund anything that even hints at SETI due to a supposed Congressional prohibition on funding SETI with NASA funds. Yet no one has ever managed to produce the public law or actual legally binding Congressional document that actually states that such a prohibition does indeed exist. I never understood the logic in this SETI ban - especially when you note that many of the highest grossing films of all time (i.e. things that voters/taxpayers willingly pay to see) deal with SETI, Astrobiology, and life on other worlds.

Top: The International Space Station flies over the face of the Moon as seen from Houston, Texas on 4 January 2012. Bottom: An Ares-1B spacecraft heads toward the Moon in the film "2001: A Space Odyssey" in 1968. Larger images

Related posts

- Astronauts At The Controls: 2010 Vs 2001, earlier post
- Photos: Fixing Antennas in Space - Today and in a Past Future, earlier post
- Photo: In The Cupola, Gazing Down at Earth From Orbit, earlier post

Obama announces new, leaner military approach, Washington Post

"The downsizing of the Pentagon, prompted by the country's dire fiscal problems, means that the military will depend more on coalitions with allies and avoid the large-scale counterinsurgency and nation-building operations that have marked the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Boeing to close Wichita plant, cites defense cuts, Reuters

"Boeing Co said it would close a plant in Wichita by the end of 2013 that employs more than 2,160 workers maintaining and converting planes for the military, part of a move to cut costs as the U. S. defense budget tightens."

Keith's note: Get ready for the FY 2013 NASA budget, space fans.

Fifty-Seven Student Rocket Teams to Take NASA Launch Challenge

"For a complete competitor list and more information about the challenge, visit: and"

Keith's note: Simple, yes? Not when NASA's multiple webmasters get into the act. If you go to you are redirected to another URL (link) that blinks too fast to copy down and then quickly redirects you again, this time to this link Why have the intermediary redirect? Why not just have redirect to

If you go to the other link provided in this press release, the same intermediate redirect happens and you end up at

The answer you get about dueling URLs from NASA is that NASA wants to make it simple for people. I understand that and totally agree. But when you start with a simple URL, jump to another, longer URL, and then end get tossed again to the final (long) URL - that long URL is the one that you are going to save in your browser, cut and paste and share with others, go back to, etc. Why not stick with the short URL in the first place? Baffling.

NASA's Sprawling Web Presence, earlier post

"There is no uniform agency-wide process for ensuring content on the other NASA sites is accessible, updated, accurate or routinely improved. Individual programs and projects at the Centers and offices at NASA Headquarters manage their own content and are responsible for accuracy and accessibility."

NASA's Inability To Speak With One Voice Online, earlier post

"I hear constant complaints from within NASA that funds for websites, education and public outreach, and PAO are limited - and likely to be cut further. Yet the agency continues to waste money on dueling websites - and they use multiple web addressses to send people to the same website."

Photo: Integration and Testing of Cygnus Service Modules

"Integration and testing of Cygnus spacecraft service modules continues at our Dulles, VA Satellite Manufacturing Facility (SMF). The service module on the left in the photo below will be used for the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) demonstration flight to the International Space Station (ISS) later this year. The service module on the right will carry out the first of eight cargo resupply missions under Orbital's Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract with NASA, also scheduled for later this year. A third Cygnus service module (not shown) is also undergoing integration in a separate clean room facility in the facility."

Magnetically-levitated Flies Offer Clues to Future of Life in Space

"Using powerful magnets to levitate fruit flies can provide vital clues to how biological organisms are affected by weightless conditions in space, researchers at The University of Nottingham say. The team of scientists has shown that simulating weightlessness in fruit flies here on earth with the use of magnets causes the flies to walk more quickly -- the same effect observed during similar experiments on the International Space Station."

While NASA Flies In Circles Technology Advances Back on Earth, earlier post

"Growing perfect crystals in space (on the Space Shuttle and Space Station) has been one of NASA's favorite promotional items in its mantra of promoting the use of the ISS as a "world class laboratory". The need for large crystals grown at great expense in space is quickly vanishing due to advances made on Earth."

Keith's 4 Jan note: To be certain, while people are now finding ways to examine phenomena on Earth that were once thought to only be possible - or practical - on the ISS, there is still a vast, untapped potential for the ISS. If only NASA would get out of its own way in this regard. Meanwhile CASIS, the entity created to maximize the utilization of U.S. assets on the ISS, has a web page that is inert and has not changed for months. They do not seem to have any staff (other than a director). If they do, then CASIS has no interest in telling anyone who these people are, what they do, or how to contact them.

Keith's 5 Jan update: I tweeted this today: "@ISS_NatLab -- when will CASIS start to *do* something?". The response? "@NASAWatch CASIS in process of building staff & preparing to take over research planning. You'll have to ask them yourself for more details." I then replied "@ISS_NatLab -- in other words you - #NASA - do not really know what CASIS is doing." and the response I got was "@NASAWatch If you want details on CASIS internal plans, you will need to ask them directly. Our focus is the transition, which is underway."

Meanwhile, Back on Mars

White House Denies CIA Teleported Obama to Mars, Wired

"Officially, the White House says Obama never went to Mars. "Only if you count watching Marvin the Martian," Tommy Vietor, the spokesman for the National Security Council, tells Danger Room. But that's exactly what a secret chrononaut wants you to believe."

Some Guys: Obama Teleported to Mars With Us, Wonkette

"According to two guys named Andrew D. Basiago and William Stillings, Obama, then known as one "Barry Soetoro," joined them and seven other young Americans, including the current director of DARPA, in a project that involved teleporting to the Red Planet through a so-called "jump room."

Election 2012 and Space

Where the candidates stand on space in 2012, SpaceReview

"The 2012 presidential campaign seems like it has been going on for months, if not years, but today it really starts to count. Tonight thousands of Iowans will gather at caucus meetings across the state to select delegates in the first electoral event of the campaign, to be followed a week later by the first primary, in New Hampshire. The various speeches, debates, ads, and media interviews in the months leading up to now have allowed the candidates to discuss a wide range of topics, from the economy to foreign policy to social issues. But what about space?"

More on Election 2012 and space

Will China shame the US back to strong space program?, editorial, Youngstown Vindicator

"Indeed China cites the effect on national pride as well worth the cost of its massive investment. Its space program already has made major breakthroughs in a relatively short time, and it is on track to replace the U.S. as the leader in space-station development. Will we care? To be sure, much has changed in the U.S. since the launch of Mercury I, not the least of which is decreasing awe over 60 years of almost routinized manned space travel. One thing that has not changed, however, is that fierce competitiveness and drive for achievement that energized millions of American schoolchildren of the '60s."

Beijing's space odyssey, editorial, Washington Times

"Today, America lacks that type of visionary leadership. If the United States somehow does reach Mars sometime in the 2030s, it will not be because of anything Mr. Obama has done. The way things are going, our astronauts on the red planet will be greeted by a Chinese welcoming party."

China Releases White Paper - China's Space Activities in 2011, SpaceRef

"Outer space is the common wealth of mankind. Exploration, development and utilization of outer space are an unremitting pursuit of mankind. Space activities around the world have been flourishing. Leading space-faring countries have formulated or modified their development strategies, plans and goals in this sphere. The position and role of space activities are becoming increasingly salient for each active country's overall development strategy, and their influence on human civilization and social progress is increasing."

Earlier posts

Annus Horribilis: Space in 2011, Paul Spudis, Air & Space

"In other exciting developments, the agency announced their new "mission statement" - "To reach for new heights and reveal the unknown so that what we do and learn will benefit all humankind." Some noted the new statement says nothing about conducting missions and doesn't mention space. But it is stirring - a mission statement for an agency without a mission."

NASA LRO Lunar Image: A Detailed Look at the Walls of Crater Aristarchus

"No wonder planners for the Apollo missions put this plateau high on its list of targets for human exploration. This amazing image was acquired on 10 November 2011 as LRO passed north-to-south about 70 km east of the crater's center."

First Of NASA'S Two Grail Spacecraft Enters Orbit Around Moon

"The first of two NASA spacecraft to study the moon in unprecedented detail has entered lunar orbit. NASA's Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL)-A spacecraft successfully completed its planned main engine burn at 2 p.m. PST (5 p.m. EST) today. As of 3 p.m. PST (6 p.m. EST), GRAIL-A is in a 56-mile (90-kilometer) by 5,197-mile (8,363-kilometer) orbit around the moon that takes approximately 11.5 hours to complete."

NASA's Twin Grail Spacecraft Reunite in Lunar Orbit

"The second of NASA's two Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft has successfully completed its planned main engine burn and is now in lunar orbit. Working together, GRAIL-A and GRAIL-B will study the moon as never before."



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This page is an archive of recent entries written by Keith Cowing in January 2012.

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