Keith Cowing: July 2011 Archives

Space Transportation Technology Roadmap

"This roadmap is broadly inclusive in capturing the multitude of U.S. national security, civil, and industry-commercial interests in space transportation that exist today. Still, it is useful to discuss its national security military origins. Roadmap development was most recently sparked by a validated military need for space transportation, namely the Marine Corps Small Unit Space Transport and Insertion (SUSTAIN) capability. Although SUSTAIN represents a mere niche within the full range of potential space transportation applications, the idea harkens back to the birth of the American space program. Reciting the vision of DoD leaders with respect to the exceptional potential of space transportation, even during an earlier age of immature space- related capabilities is useful. It serves as a testament to both the inexorable inevitability of space transportation and our specific National interest in maintaining leadership in developing the enabling technologies."

Message from the NASA Administrator 29 July 2011

"As you know, Congress is debating how it plans to meet its obligations and raise the debt ceiling so that the country can pay its bills. The President expects that Congress will do its job, enact an increase of the debt ceiling that he can sign into law, and end this impasse. I am sending this note to remind you that NASA employees should plan to come to work next week, as scheduled, at their normal place and time."

IBOPE Zogby Poll: Six in 10 Disagree With Ending Space Shuttle & Fear Others Will Surpass U.S. in Exploration

"Majorities of U.S. voters disagree with the decision to end space shuttle missions and fear other nations might surpass the U.S. in space exploration. Also, future space exploration through both NASA and private companies is seen as preferable to either going it alone. The IBOPE Zogby interactive poll conducted from July 22-25 also shows 74% say the space shuttle was a worthwhile use of government resources. The final space shuttle mission ended with the safe landing of the Atlantis last week."

Jack Marburger

Statement by Director John P. Holdren on the Passing of Jack Marburger

"It is with great sadness that I note the passing of Dr. John H. Marburger, III, former Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Science Advisor to President George W. Bush. Jack Marburger leaves a legacy of exceptional public service and substantial scientific contributions. He was the Nation's longest-serving Presidential Science Advisor, and his focus on basic research as a driver of economic growth was a common thread across Congresses and Administrations."

New NASA Data Blow Gaping Hole In Global Warming Alarmism

"NASA satellite data from the years 2000 through 2011 show the Earth's atmosphere is allowing far more heat to be released into space than alarmist computer models have predicted, reports a new study in the peer-reviewed science journal Remote Sensing. The study indicates far less future global warming will occur than United Nations computer models have predicted, and supports prior studies indicating increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide trap far less heat than alarmists have claimed."

Climate-change politics: The sceptic meets his match, Nature

"Joe Bast and his libertarian think tank are a major force among climate sceptics -- but they just can't win the battle over science."

Keith's 11:00 am EDT note: Sources are reporting that the Senate Commerce Committee has finally made good on its threat and has issued a subpoena to NASA regarding materials related to the SLS decision. Prior to this several letters and a hearing were held to prompt NASA in this regard. No luck. Congress is more or less convinced that the decision regarding SLS design/architecture has already been made and they are using the tools at their disposal to force NASA/the White House to admit that this is indeed the case. Stay tuned.

NASA Has Not Delivered All Of The Documents Requested by Congress, earlier post

Senate Threatens NASA With Subpoena For Missing Documents, earlier post

Keith's 1:00 pm EDT note: According to NASA PAO "While we share the Senators' commitment to human space exploration and implementation of the Authorization Act, we also have a commitment to be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars. The Space Launch System is the most important -- and expensive -- decision NASA will make for the next decade, and we want to get it right so we don't repeat the mistakes of the past or get pushed into making a premature decision about our nation's deep space exploration plans."

NewSpace 2011

Keith's note: The NewSpace 2011 conference is underway at NASA ARC. You can follow updates via Twitter here.

DOE, Interior Eye Employees Jettisoned by Space Program, New York Times

"The Energy Department and the Department of the Interior are among dozens of federal agencies looking to hire some of the engineers and scientists from NASA's closing space program. NASA and the Office of Personnel Management held a job fair yesterday in Cape Canaveral, Fla., less than a week after the space shuttle Atlantis landed. All told, about 5,500 contract employees at Florida's Kennedy Space Center have lost their jobs in recent months, and NASA contractors are expected to lay off another 2,000 over the next year. For an area nicknamed the "Space Coast," the end of the space program is a blow. But federal agencies are swooping in to take advantage of a pool of employees they say have skills that are usually hard to find."

Russia Plans to Sink the International Space Station in 2020, Fox

"Russia's space agency announced Wednesday that the International Space Station -- a space base the world's scientists and billions of U.S. tax dollars helped build and maintain some 200 miles above the surface of the Earth -- will be de-orbited and allowed to sink into the Pacific Ocean in 2020, just like its Russian predecessor, Mir. "We will be forced to sink the ISS. We cannot leave it in orbit as it is a very complicated and a heavy object," Roscosmos' deputy head Vitaly Davydov said in an interview posted on the agency's website."

NASA and International Partners Discuss New Uses for Space Station

"The Multilateral Coordination Board (MCB) for the International Space Station partner agencies met Tuesday, July 26, to discuss how to use the space station as a test bed for technologies that will enable missions beyond low Earth orbit."

Keith's note: So, I guess that's it then. Russia gets to make the decision to scrap something we paid the lion's share to build and operate - after paying to keep Russia's space program aloft for a decade prior to that. Who makes all of these "deals" for the U.S. anyway? We seem to be getting the short end of the stick each and every time. Why have these MCB meetings about other uses for the ISS when Russia simply plans to scrap it anyway?

NASA Needs To Go To, earlier post

Space station sinking? Not so fast, MSNBC

"The interview from "Good Morning Russia" ("Utro Rossii") caused a stir when a Russian-language transcript turned up on the space agency's website, but don't panic: If anything, the International Space Station will be in operation well after 2020. Russia, NASA and the other partners in the 16-nation venture are looking into extending the station's lifetime to 2028 -- that is, if they can verify that its components will still be in working order until then."

Why Is NASA Caving to the Russians On ISS?, OpEd, Jim Oberg, Txchnologist

"With the retirement of the Space Shuttle Atlantis last week, American astronauts are now totally dependent on Russian vehicles for access to space. The question in front of us is how best to negotiate for fair compromises in the US-Russian space alliance. Some of NASA's recent agreements are not encouraging. The US needs to realize that it holds some high cards. True, the Russians have, in the Soyuz, the only vehicle that can carry passengers. But the destination - the International Space Station, which is more than 80 percent funded by the U.S. - provides many critical space services without which getting into orbit is pretty pointless for the Russians. Chief among them is electrical power and space-to-Earth communications, most of which comes via American equipment."

White House Announces Plans to Shut Down Hundreds of Duplicative Data Centers as Part of Campaign to Cut Waste

"To date, agencies have closed 81 data centers and will close 114 more during this calendar year for a total of 195 in 2011.This represents an increase in both planned and actual closures from the data released in April 2011. As agencies have continued to update their data center inventories, they have increased their planned closures, demonstrating the seriousness in which they are attacking waste."

Keith's note: 15 10 centers at NASA have been or will be closed (list)

Keith's note: Word has it that Jon Morse, Astrophysics Division Director at SMD also announced his resignation today. FYI John Morse is married to Laurie Leshin so a joint departure/move by both of them sort of makes sense.

NASA Internal Memo: Senior Managers to Leave NASA for Academia

"Jon Morse, director of the Science Mission Directorate's Astrophysics Division and Laurie's husband, also will be leaving government to join RPI as the associate vice president for research."

NASA Internal Memo: Bryan O'Connor is Retiring From NASA

"I told my staff this morning that I plan to retire effective 31 August. From June, 2002, when Sean O'Keefe asked me to return to NASA for a third time to serve in this position, until this very day, I have been privileged to work on important projects with and among the best people in the world. Over time you have celebrated great successes and suffered and learned from horrific failures with determination, skill and a world beating attitude, and by so doing have kept me in a continuous state of awe."

NASA Internal Memo: Laurie Leshin Is Departing

"I wanted to share some news with you. I have accepted a position outside of NASA. I will be the Dean of the School of Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in New York starting in October. RPI will be announcing my appointment today. I will remain here at NASA HQ until mid- to late-September and look forward to continuing to work with all of you on the creation of HEOMD. I will continue as Deputy AA in ESMD until the HEOMD unification takes place and will continue to work to stand up the two Divisions I was named acting Director of (AES AND SLPSRA) in HEO."

Notice of Availability/RFI: Potential Industry Interest: Use of NASA JSC Facility for Purpose of Establishing a JSC Acceleration Center

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Johnson Space Center (JSC) is seeking to identify potential industry interest in an agency real property asset located at JSC in Houston, TX for the purpose of establishing a "JSC Acceleration Center". This announcement describes a NASA asset that is currently underutilized as a result of the transition from the Space Shuttle Program (SSP) to the future mission activities authorized by Congress in the NASA Authorization Act of 2010."

China's First Space Station Module Readies For Liftoff,

"The unification of standards is the first problem to solve in the effort to carry out future space station cooperation, Yang said, according to China's Xinhua news agency. "This is the first time I am aware of that any high-profile official associated with the Chinese space program has made such a strong statement to the Chinese public on ISS participation," Gregory Kulacki, a senior analyst and China Project Manager for the Union of Concerned Scientists' Global Security Program in Cambridge, Mass., told "And, as far as I know, it is the first time I have heard a Chinese official confirm that the docking hardware they will be using in the upcoming mission is not compatible with the ISS."

NASA'S Hubble Discovers Another Moon Around Pluto

"The new moon is the smallest discovered around Pluto. It has an estimated diameter of 8 to 21 miles (13 to 34 km). By comparison, Charon, Pluto's largest moon, is 648 miles (1,043 km) across, and the other moons, Nix and Hydra, are in the range of 20 to 70 miles in diameter (32 to 113 km)."

Keith's note: If you had a chance to name this new moon what would you name it - and why did you pick that name? Oh yea, the IAU claims to have a monopoly on naming objects and features in our solar system - and beyond. But there is nothing legally binding to the names they decide to use. Everyone just goes along with them because ... well ... because. And who gave them this role anyways? Answer: they appoint themselves. So why can't the rest of us have a say in naming the things in our universe? The IAU is so 20th century. Its time to change this process.

What Should We Name Pluto's New Moon?,

"It's called P4 for the time being," said Trent Perrotto, public affairs officer at NASA headquarters. "It'll get a name, but it's not up to NASA to decide on it." As usual with newly discovered astronomical objects, he explained, P4's name will be subject to a tough selection process overseen by an organization called the International Astronomical Union."

Keith's note: Hmmm... then why do the Mars rover people name all the surface features that they encounter along the way? Why bother if IAU is just going to ignore the names and change them? Why not let the actual discoverers - and the people who pay for these missions - have a chance to name things - and not some self-appointed group whihc answers only to itself?

What Should We Call Pluto's New Moon?, Facebook Poll

Future asteroid mission: Mission impossible?, CBS

"At the moment, there are only a handful of asteroid options and they all have names like 1999AO10 or 2009OS5. NASA deputy exploration chief Laurie Leshin figures NASA will have to come up with, not just more targets, but better names."

NASA at a turning point, opinion, Walt Cunninghman and Pete Olson, Politico

"However, last year President Barack Obama shifted NASA policy away from human spaceflight. His budget cancelled the next-generation Constellation human flight system rather than modifying any deficiencies -- wasting a $9 billion taxpayer investment. Instead, NASA was directed to pursue a riskier course, diverting billions of dollars to a group of companies - most devoid of experience in manned space vehicles - to take over operations to low-earth orbit and the transport of astronauts to the International Space Station. The goal was to generate a private marketplace to support the cost of these manned missions."

Rep. Olson Statement on Final Shuttle Landing

"This chapter is by no means the end of human space flight; it is the beginning of the next generation of scientists, engineers and unforeseen discoveries. I am dedicated to ensuring that Congress gives NASA the goal and resources to usher in the next generation of human space flight."

Keith's note: Hmm, let's see, extended life for the human-occupied ISS, spurring development of multiple spacecraft (government and commercial) to carry humans into orbit, and plans for human missions to an asteroid and to Mars. If anything, the policy in place looks to expand the reach of humans beyond low Earth orbit. But the authors are not interested in facts - rather, they are interested only in partisan rhetoric. Indeed, Olson is not even consistent. In his official post-shuttle landing statement he says that this is "by no means the end of human space flight" and that exciting things lie ahead. A day later, in Politico, he (and Cunningham) put forth a contradictory claim that the Obama Adminstration has "shifted NASA policy away from human spaceflight."

Statement by Gov. Rick Perry on Final Landing of Shuttle Atlantis

"Unfortunately, with the final landing of the Shuttle Atlantis and no indication of plans for future missions, this administration has set a significantly different milestone by shutting down our nation's legacy of leadership in human spaceflight and exploration, leaving American astronauts with no alternative but to hitchhike into space."

Perry launches on Obama for cutting NASA, Dallas News

"... Perry went on to say that, "this administration has set a significantly different milestone by shutting down our nation's legacy of leadership in human spaceflight and exploration, leaving American astronauts with no alternative but to hitchhike into space." Actually, it was the Bush Administration that decided to end shuttle missions, and the Obama Administration extended the life of the shuttle program by adding two additional flights."

President Bush Announces New Vision for Space Exploration Program, White House

"The Shuttle's chief purpose over the next several years will be to help finish assembly of the International Space Station. In 2010, the Space Shuttle -- after nearly 30 years of duty -- will be retired from service."

Space and Missile Defense Acquisitions: Periodic Assessment Needed to Correct Parts Quality Problems in Major Programs, GAO

"Quality is key to success in U.S. space and missile defense programs, but quality problems exist that have endangered entire missions along with less-visible problems leading to unnecessary repair, scrap, rework, and stoppage; long delays; and millions in cost growth. For space and missile defense acquisitions, GAO was asked to examine quality problems related to parts and manufacturing processes and materials across DOD and NASA. DOD and NASA should implement a mechanism for periodic assessment of the condition of parts quality problems in major space and missile defense programs with periodic reporting to Congress. DOD partially agreed with the recommendation and NASA agreed. DOD agreed to annually address all quality issues, to include parts quality."

Exobiology 2010 Update #4

"As you know, federal spending is under intense scrutiny. In addition, the timing of the federal budget review and approval process has been less than ideal. These developments have affected our ability to manage Astrobiology Program funds as effectively as we would like. Over the past decade, the proposal due date for the Exobiology Program has moved from June to August, then to September, and, finally, to October. This shift has moved starting dates for new grants later into the federal fiscal year and thus placed greater budget pressure on the Astrobiology Program."

Russia declares 'era of Soyuz' after shuttle, AFP

"Mankind acknowledges the role of American space ships in exploring the cosmos," it added. But Roskosmos also used the occasion to tout the virtues of the Soyuz (Union) spacecraft, which unlike the shuttle lands on Earth vertically with the aid of parachutes after leaving orbit. It said that there was a simple answer to why the Soyuz was still flying after the shuttles retired -- "reliability and not to mention cost efficiency."

Keith's note: How nice of our friends at Roskosmos to rub our noses in their monopoly today. Oh well, we created this situation through both deliberate intent and bumbling over the past decade. Well played, comrades. Enjoy it while it lasts. By overcharging in the obscene, escalating fashion that you have done during our periods of need, you are sowing the seeds of your own demise by spurring lower cost alternatives. All too soon, American spacecraft will do everything Soyuz does - and more - and will do so much better - and cheaper.

Keith's update: Yea, in case you had not noticed, I am really pi**ed off by this whole situation and how the Russians (whose space program we overtly subsidized since the 1990s) are dancing in response to our bad decisions and crappy predicament. Oh well, it will be fun to watch Russia wiggle as China flies the real Soyuz upgrades - and then as SpaceX et al beat Russia and China on both price and performance.

United Launch Alliance Congratulates NASA as Shuttle Ends 30 Years of Spaceflight

"In addition, under the Commercial Crew Program, ULA is proud to be the launch vehicle of choice for Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser and Blue Origin's Space Vehicle, and compete to support Boeing's CST-100 program. Working together with NASA, these established companies and entrepreneurs plan to usher in a bold new era of human spaceflight; not only transporting NASA astronauts to the International Space Station, but opening spaceflight to non-government passengers for the first time."

As Atlantis Lands, Adams Recognizes the Ending of an Era

"NASA's 30-year Space Shuttle Program has been more than just space exploration to Florida families, it's part of their history, it's their livelihoods, and it's been a source of inspiration for the tens of thousands of people who have supported its operations and have made their homes in our great state."

Statement by Gov. Rick Perry on Final Landing of Shuttle Atlantis

"The Obama Administration continues to lead federal agencies and programs astray, this time forcing NASA away from its original purpose of space exploration, and ignoring its groundbreaking past and enormous future potential. It is time to restore NASA to its core purpose of manned space exploration, and to define our vision for 21st Century space exploration, not in terms of what we cannot do, but instead in terms of what we will do."

Photo: Last Space Shuttle Re-entry As Seen By Humans Still in Orbit

"This unprecedented view of the space shuttle Atlantis, appearing like a bean sprout against clouds and city lights, on its way home, was photographed by the Expedition 28 crew of the International Space Station. Airglow over Earth can be seen in the background."

Attempts to Save Webb?

Recent Policy Activity on James Webb Space Telescope and Pu-238, AAS

"Rep. Wolf and Rep. Fattah are highly likely to work out a deal to restore JWST funding before the bill goes to the House floor, perhaps involving enhanced language spelling out detailed project oversight requirements. The AAS is pursuing a strategy to directly encourage a solution in the House during floor debate by working with key individual legislators and to secure support from the Senate to restore funding in the Senate version of the FY2012 appropriations."

NASA Internal Memo: Official Overarching Messages Regarding Shuttle Retirement

"* The Bush Administration in 2004 made the decision to end the Space Shuttle program. President Obama extended the program's life by adding two Space Shuttle launches to the manifest: STS-134, which was funded in the President's FY 2010 Budget Request; and STS-135 which was funded as part of the agreement that the President reached with Congress for FY 2011 funding.

* An independent commission found that the previous Administration's plan for human spaceflight in the post-Shuttle era was not viable under any feasible budget scenario. Among other challenges, it would have left NASA without the ability to get to the International Space Station until after it was de-orbited in 2016, and weakened other important NASA priorities including science, aeronautics, and technology development."

American Astronautical Society Statement on Space Program Cutbacks

"The number one long-term issue facing our country's leaders is economic growth, including job creation, GDP growth and increasing the balance of trade. Without a growing economy that creates new high wage jobs, our future is grim. For the private sector to help steward this growth, it needs sustainable, reliable federal budgets and investments by the government in technology innovation across the board, including aerospace. We applaud the House Appropriations Committee for the pace at which it is moving forward with the appropriations bills to fund the fiscal year that begins on October 1. We understand the need to reduce the deficit. But we must not jeopardize our future by dramatic cuts to the central core of our nation's economic development - investments in science and technology, particularly those associated with the space program."

Space Research: Content and Coordination of Space Science and Technology Strategy Need to Be More Robust, GAO

"... the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) together with the intelligence community, conduct a significant amount of space S&T. Although NASA and NOAA participation is not required, DOD may have missed an opportunity to leverage these agencies' activities and optimize its own S&T spending by involving them in strategy development. GAO was also required to evaluate the effectiveness of the coordination mechanisms planned to implement the strategy."

Former NASA chief Griffin now wants to save the shuttle, Houston Chronicle

"In his e-mail, Griffin writes:

"At this point I'm in agreement with Dr. Kraft ... In a world of limited budgets, I was willing to retire the shuttle as the price of getting a follow-on system that could allow us to establish a manned lunar base. Not that my opinion matters, but I see no sense in retiring the shuttle in favor of nothing. That is beyond foolish."

It's a pretty stunning reversal from the man who, just a few years ago, couldn't get rid of the shuttle soon enough."

Keith's note: Mike Griffin and his self-described "band of brothers" often referred to the Space Shuttle as an "albatross" and was indeed in a big hurry for it to go away. He seemed to have little worry that the "gap" that he so despised grew rather healthily under his tenure. Now that his self-described "Apollo on Steroids" architecture collapsed under its own flawed engineering and program execution, he's suddenly a space shuttle advocate.

That's the problem with steroids, Mike: they affect both your memory and your judgement.

NASA Announcing Landing Site For New Mars Rover

"NASA and the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum will host a news conference at 10 a.m. EDT, Friday, July 22 to announce the selected landing site for the agency's latest Mars rover. The event will be in the museum's Moving Beyond Earth Gallery. NASA Television and the agency's Web site will provide live coverage of the event."

Keith's note: As one rather prominent space/science to journalist just noted to me: "And in service to the media, there's no accessibility for off-site reporters. Brilliant!"

NASA's Dawn Spacecraft Enters Orbit Around Asteroid Vesta

"NASA's Dawn spacecraft on Saturday became the first probe ever to enter orbit around an object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter."

Keith's note: The last image to be publicly released was taken on 9 July - more than a week ago. Yet Cassini, Opportunity, and other missions send back dozens of new images every day - images that are quickly posted online for all to see. What is going on here? Why is NASA refusing to release Dawn imagery?

Keith's update: I spoke (a little) too soon. That said, the Dawn folks have been exceptionally stingy when it comes to releasing images.

NASA Dawn Spacecraft Returns Close-Up Image of Asteroid Vesta

"NASA's Dawn spacecraft has returned the first close-up image after beginning its orbit around the giant asteroid Vesta. On Friday, July 15, Dawn became the first probe to enter orbit around an object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter."

NASA Begins Commercial Partnership With United Launch Alliance

"NASA and ULA's unfunded Space Act Agreement (SAA) requires ULA to provide data on the Atlas V, a flight-proven expendable launch vehicle used by NASA and the Department of Defense for critical space missions. NASA will share its human spaceflight experience with ULA to advance crew transportation system capabilities and the draft human certification requirements. ULA will provide NASA feedback about those requirements, including providing input on the technical feasibility and cost effectiveness of NASA's proposed certification approach."

NASA heavy-lift rocket supporters wonder why their project isn't moving

"In my opinion, NASA's SLS program is stalled because the White House doesn't really want to do it," former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said Friday. Griffin, who led NASA during the previous rocket program that Obama killed, has been a persistent critic of NASA's current direction. Griffin is now an eminent scholar at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. "You will recall that SLS is derogatorily referenced by some as the 'Senate Launch System,'" Griffin said in an email response to questions. "That is because the Congress forced it upon the executive branch. The fact that it is the right thing for NASA to do is irrelevant; the White House doesn't want to do it, and they will do everything possible to prevent it from occurring."

NASA Commercial Crew Program Forum

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will present a status of the Commercial Crew Program strategy on Wednesday, July 20, 2011. The Forum will be held at the Press Site at Kennedy Space Center from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. The Program Forum's key topics will include: Background of NASA's Commercial Crew Strategy, Key Program Attributes, Potential Commercial Crew Program Strategy, Short Q&A session."

Keith's note: 5 day's advanced notice - over a weekend. Too bad NASA hasn't a clue how to plan these things - they had more than a thousand media at KSC just last week and more showing up fo rthe landing. A simple handout could have enhanced visibility for this program immensely. Its hard to play "capture the flag" when you don't let people know where the flag is ... at least they are webcasting it.

American Astronomical Society Statement on Proposed Cancellation of Webb Space Telescope

"The American Astronomical Society calls upon all members of Congress to support JWST to its completion and to provide strong oversight on the path to this goal. Too many taxpayer dollars have already been spent to cancel the mission now; its benefits far outweigh the remaining costs. We must see the mission through. We are a great nation and we do great things. JWST represents our highest aspirations and will be one of our most significant accomplishments."

AURA Reaction to Proposed Cancellation of JWST, Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy

"In commenting on the proposed cancellation, Dr. William S. Smith, President of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy said "Against a backdrop of widespread discussion over the future of NASA and the human spaceflight program, it is tragic that the Congress is also proposing to curtail NASA's science program. JWST is NASA's premier science facility, unsurpassed by any other telescope now or in the future."

Keith's note: Hmm ... no mention of the large JWST contract that AURA has with Space Telescope Science Institute is made in this AURA statement ...

This photo shows Space Shuttle Atlantis punching a hole in the sky on its way to orbit. The image was taken on 8 July 2011 from a high altitude balloon flown by students and volunteers at Quest For Stars. Larger image here. Additional photos from STS-135 and earlier shuttle missions can be found here.

The Path Ahead for NASA: Lewis & Clark and the Settlers, SpaceRef

At a press conference at NASA KSC several days ago I asked the following question of NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver: "Yesterday you went on SpaceX tour [with the media] here at the Cape. We all heard talk of launching the Falcon 9 rocket with single digit number of people using launch and mission control rooms smaller than the one we are in today. And they want to do it with even fewer people. And they have competitors. NASA is about to embark on development of SLS, Orion, missions to asteroids, and the continued operation of the ISS. Will NASA ever approach the levels of innovation and efficiency as are evidenced by SpaceX and other companies? If so, when? If not, why not? I guess the real question I have is, its the 21st century. Indeed we have already used up 10% of it. Can NASA continue to justify operations that use a marching army when the private sector can do it with a sprinting platoon?"

Leaping Above The Sky One Last Time

"After a heart-stopping pause at T-31 seconds, Space Shuttle Atlantis left Earth and leapt above the sky this morning. This is the last time a space shuttle will ever do this - and everyone in attendance at the launch site knew it.

Up until a short time before launch gloomy weather forecasts had left a sense of doubt among all who gathered here at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. Half an hour or so before the scheduled launch time the weather suddenly started to improve - and with it, the crowd's expectations.

I am not going to write about all the geeky stuff. Everyone else is doing that."

End of shuttle program doesn't mean end of American leadership in spaceflight, Dana Rohrabacher, The Hill

"Now, as we celebrate the accomplishments of the space shuttle, we look forward to blazing that new trail, one which will finally bring us closer to achieving the real dreams and true promise of the space shuttles: inexpensive, reliable, safe human spaceflight. This transformation won't take place overnight. NASA, Congress and others still have the power to get in the way and create a self-fulfilling prophecy by preventing it from happening, at least in this country. We will only lose America's leadership in human spaceflight if we prevent the free market from pursuing multiple, independent launchers and vehicles."

NASA Signs Commercial Space Agreement With Sierra Nevada

"The umbrella space act agreement is Kennedy's latest step in its transition from a historically government-only launch complex to a multi-user spaceport. Sierra Nevada also has space act agreements with NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston; NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.; NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards, Calif.; and NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif."

Last Space Shuttle Flight: Textbook Countdown Threatened Only by Weather

"As things stand right now weather is the only thing standing in the way of an otherwise flawless countdown for the last Space Shuttle mission. No technical issues are being tracked except for some air conditioner problems in a building in Houston. In other words, this has been "textbook" thus far from the hardware point of view."

7 July update: As torrential showers descend upon Kennedy Space Center, concerns linger as to whether conditions tomorrow at this time will permit a launch to occur. As has been the case in the past bad weather can suddenly yield a favorable window. At this time NASA seems to be intent upon going ahead with the countdown in case this opportunity arises. If weather forces a scrub odds are that there will be 48 hour delay with an attempt on Sunday. A GPS launch currently has the range reserved between 11-5 July and NASA is looking at ways to possibly get 11 July from them.

America's space program is crashing, opinion, Mark Albrecht, Washington Times

"The conventional wisdom in the federal bureaucracy is that you can reduce spending or you can restructure, reprioritize and reorganize. You can cut programs or start new programs. But you can't do both. Now, our backs are to the wall. To re-establish our leadership in space, we must defy conventional wisdom and cut spending, start new initiatives and radically restructure a mature agency - all at the same time. It won't be pleasant, and it won't be easy, but neither was putting a man on the moon."

NASA's new journeys, opinion, John Holdren and Charles Bolden, Politico

"One misimpression is that the U.S. human spaceflight program is stalled. The truth is quite the opposite. Soon after President Barack Obama took office, an independent commission concluded that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's then-existing plan for the post-Shuttle era was not viable under any feasible budget scenario."

Keith's note: According to a tweet by Brian Berger at Space News: "House CJS mark also "terminates funding for [JWST] , which is billions of dollars over budget and plagued by poor management".

Atlantis' final launch inspires bittersweet celebration, Orlando Sentinel

"Bittersweet is the exact right word," said Titusville Mayor Jim Tulley, who retired from a career with shuttle contractors Lockheed and United Space Alliance. "For the people being laid off, it's a little more bitter than sweet. We're going to look back at this program with just an incredible sense of pride." But first, it's time to party, with celebrations starting Wednesday evening in downtown Titusville, and running through the day and all night Thursday, right up to Friday's 11:26 a.m. launch."

The empty shells of America's shrinking space industry, Daily Mail

"Soon-to-be-jobless space workers and those who've already lost their jobs are now competing for work in a labour market where more than one in 10 is unemployed. And the Space Coast is still reeling from the housing crisis, making it tougher for workers to sell their homes and move elsewhere for a job. 'Everything is taking a turn for the worst, it seems like,' said Kevin Smith, local president of the union for space centre firefighters, paramedics and workers at emergency landing sites. 'What little is out there, everybody is competing for.'

Space Coast Economic Recovery Will Be Slow, Says Economist Hank Fishkind, WMFE

"The loss of space technology jobs means the loss of very high paid jobs" Fishkind told WMFE, "so it has larger than normal consequences for the area's economy." He said the loss of so many high wage jobs is having a larger multiplier or "ripple" effect across the entire economic landscape. Still, he thinks Brevard County is better prepared now than it was when the Apollo program shut down in the early 1970s.

Behind the scenes of launch preparations: Massive job losses, Houston Chronicle

"Today NASA is down to 5,500 contractor employees and 1,200 civil servants working on the shuttle, said program manager John Shannon. That's a total of 6,700 people who process the shuttle and support it during flight. If the shuttle launches July 8, as expected, another big layoff will come on July 22. At that time NASA will lay off about 3,200 contractors, Shannon said."

Report to Congress on the Solid Rocket Motor Industrial Base Sustainment and Implementation Plan Redacted Version (Excerpt), DoD

"Based on the analysis and findings of the Interagency Task Force, the DoD concludes:

1. The Department must preserve the scientific, engineering and design skills and production capabilities necessary to support both large- and small-SRMs. The DoD cannot allow the SRM industrial base to shut down until DoD determines its next generation requirements because the potential expense and schedule delays of restarting the industry would be too great. The SRM production capabilities are needed to support the MM III through 2030 and the D5 through 2042. ..."

Space shuttle's legacy: Soaring in orbit and costs, AP

"The space shuttle was sold to America as cheap, safe and reliable. It was none of those. It cost $196 billion over 40 years, ended the lives of 14 astronauts and managed to make less than half the flights promised. Yet despite all that, there were some big achievements that weren't promised: major scientific advances, stunning photos of the cosmos, a high-flying vehicle of diplomacy that helped bring Cold War enemies closer, and something to brag about."

A space town's long goodbye, CNN

"Our community is going to lose the gift of hundreds of thousands of hotel rooms that we didn't really have to work very hard to fill," said Thompson. With the last launch, the town's identity will slip a little further into the past. "For me, it's probably going to be a lot of joy and a lot of sorrow all at the same time," said Socks, who knows when the tourists depart this time, all that will be left is a suddenly, shockingly empty sky.

As shuttle era ends, questions loom for shrinking astronaut corps, Washington Post

"The agency's vaunted astronaut corps, trained to withstand high acceleration, dangerous spacewalks, isolation and countless technical hiccups, now confronts a challenge with no handy checklist: the unknown."

Shuttles' end stirs doubts about U.S. space program, Reuters

"As the clock ticks down to this week's final space shuttle launch, there is a mounting sense of uncertainty about future U.S. dominance in space."

NASA's space shuttle program ends this month: Does anybody care?, San Jose Mercury News

"For the past 30 years, NASA's space shuttles have served as the primary vehicles for our collective out-of-this-world imagination. Though only venturing into low-Earth orbit -- a mere 250 miles to the International Space Station, not much farther than a drive from the Bay Area to Pismo Beach -- shuttles kept a solid American foot in the doorway to more. But somewhere along the way "astronaut" became just another career. And shuttle expeditions became so routine, the general public often didn't know when a craft was in orbit or not."

Final NASA shuttle mission clouded by rancor, Washington Post

"NASA's critics say the human spaceflight program is in a shambles. They see arm-waving and paperwork rather than a carefully defined mission going forward. NASA has lots of plans, but it has no new rocket ready to launch, no specific destination selected, and no means in the near term to get American astronauts into space other than by buying a seat on one of Russia's aging Soyuz spacecraft."

Images: STS-135 Crew Arrives in Florida, Ken Kremer, SpaceRef

The Last Space Shuttle Crew jeted into the Kennedy Space Center on Independence Day, 2011. From Left: Shuttle Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim.

The Road Ahead

With the Shuttle Program Ending, Fears of Decline at NASA, NY Times

"Space experts say the best and brightest often head for the doors when rocket lines get marked for extinction, dampening morale and creating hidden threats. They call it the "Team B" effect. "The good guys see the end coming and leave," said Albert D. Wheelon, a former aerospace executive and Central Intelligence Agency official. "You're left with the B students." NASA acknowledges the effect and its attendant dangers. It has taken hundreds of steps, including retention bonuses for skilled employees, new perks like travel benefits and more safety drills. Through cuts and attrition in recent years, the shuttle work force has declined to 7,000 workers from about 17,000."

After space shuttle program, NASA's future still bright, opinion, Waleed Abdalati and Robert Braun, Baltimore Sun

"By continuing to take on grand challenges in human spaceflight and science, NASA will catalyze America's innovation engine and play a significant role in America's economic recovery. By taking humans to places never before visited, by developing technologies that will serve society in broad ways, some that we cannot yet anticipate, and by empowering us to understand our world, our solar system, and our place in the universe, NASA will continue to serve our nation well into the future. The future is waiting; it's time to claim it."



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This page is an archive of recent entries written by Keith Cowing in July 2011.

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