"Earlier Wednesday, the pump module on one of the space station's two external cooling loops automatically shut down when it reached pre-set temperature limits. These loops circulate ammonia outside the station to keep both internal and external equipment cool. The flight control teams worked to get the cooling loop back up and running, and they suspect a flow control valve actually inside the pump module itself might not be functioning correctly."
"Mission managers have deferred the decision on whether to proceed with or postpone the launch of the Orbital Sciences' Cygnus commercial cargo craft until more is known about the flow control valve issue. Cygnus is currently scheduled to launch Dec. 18 from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia and rendezvous with the station on Dec. 21."Categories: ISS News
"Blue Origin, LLC, of Kent, Washington, protests the actions of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in connection with its issuance of announcement for proposals (AFP) No. AFP-KSC-LC39A, for the lease of Launch Complex 39A (LC 39A) at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). Blue Origin maintains that the agency intends to misapply the terms of the AFP in evaluating proposals and selecting a prospective lessee for the facility.
We deny the protest."
- Congress Voices Support for NASA LC 39-A Leasing, earlier post
- SpaceX Statement on Shared Use of LC-39A (Update), earlier post
- New Uses For Launch Pad 39A: Threatening The Status Quo, earlier post
NASA JSC Unveils 'Valkyrie' DRC Robot, IEEE Spectrum
"While NASA's official position is that Valkyrie is a genderless humanoid (as is Robonaut), the robot does have some features that we would call unmistakably female. For example, there's the name of the robot. "Valkyrie" (the roboticists call it "Val" for short) refers to the female figures in Norse mythology who decided which warriors fought valiantly enough in battle to be taken to Valhalla when they died."
Keith's update: This placeholder website just appeared. But it only shows Valkyrie's back - not her front. There was a Facebook page up until yesterday that referred to Valkyrie as a female and said that Robonaut was her "brother". NASA JSC was originally directed by NASA HQ to make this robot gender neutral. JSC then ignored that direction and deliberately made the robot overtly female - at least its upper torso. Now they deny that it is female or that it was ever intendeded to evoke or portray a female characteristics in any way. This project was also kept secret from a large number of JSC engineers who would otherwise be aware of such activities. Someone is not being truthful.
Just for the record folks, I have no problem whatsoever in making robots and other NASA hardware more approachable to people in ways that make them feel included. None whatsoever. And if you are going to make a space robot why not make it look cool? Lets see more of it! What is troubling is how NASA JSC played favorites with one specific media outlet to the exclusion of all others - and still does; how NASA JSC is being less than honest when they say that there was no intent to imply gender identity on this robot when in fact multiple well-placed sources state that this was intentional from the onset at JSC; and that HQ PAO is now trying to tell me that a robot with an overtly female chest configuration and a female name is not trying to invoke a female identity. I'm not that stupid - neither is everyone else.
Why can't they just admit the obvious to the public in the same way that they discuss it internally? Its time for NASA JSC to be honest and stop trying to weasel out of the obvious by hiding behind HQ PAO responses. Ellen Ochoa knows the whole story.
Keith's note: I submitted the following questions to NASA PAO, JSC PAO, and Mike Gazarik - the reply from NASA HQ is listed below:Continue reading: NASA JSC Has Developed A Girl Robot in Secret (Revised With NASA Responses).
How journals like Nature, Cell and Science are damaging science, opinion, The Guardian
"We all know what distorting incentives have done to finance and banking. The incentives my colleagues face are not huge bonuses, but the professional rewards that accompany publication in prestigious journals - chiefly Nature, Cell and Science. ... These journals aggressively curate their brands, in ways more conducive to selling subscriptions than to stimulating the most important research. Like fashion designers who create limited-edition handbags or suits, they know scarcity stokes demand, so they artificially restrict the number of papers they accept. The exclusive brands are then marketed with a gimmick called "impact factor" - a score for each journal, measuring the number of times its papers are cited by subsequent research. Better papers, the theory goes, are cited more often, so better journals boast higher scores. Yet it is a deeply flawed measure, pursuing which has become an end in itself - and is as damaging to science as the bonus culture is to banking."
Keith's note: NASA is completely addicted to the mindset mentioned in this opinion piece. NASA allows itself to have terms dictated to them by Science and Nature as to how and when research news can be released rather than the other way around. Yet NASA has an "impact factor" and "reach" that vastly eclipses anything that these journals can offer. Its time for NASA to grow a spine and tell these journals that NASA is going to set the rules with regard to when and how NASA-funded research is going to be released.Categories: Internet Policies
"The House Science Committee on Dec. 11 approved a bill that would require NASA to obtain legislative permission to cancel some of its most expensive human spaceflight and science programs, while at the same time allowing contractors for these programs to tap into hundreds of millions of dollars in reserve funding. The bill, H.R. 3625, was introduced Dec. 2 by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), whose district includes the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville."
"The markup lasted less than 10 minutes and the amendment and bill were adopted by voice vote. ... Another change made by the amendment replaces language that would have voided existing contract provisions that provide for payment of termination liability costs in a manner inconsistent with the bill. The new language simply states that funds being held in reserve for termination liability "shall be promptly used" for executing the program. The bill also makes clear that it is the intent of Congress to authorize appropriations to cover termination liability if, in fact, Congress agrees that the Administration should terminate a contract and that it is the Administration's responsibility to spend such funds for that purpose."
"If passed into law, H.R. 3625 would make it exceptionally difficult to ever halt SLS, Orion, or Webb or to adjust funds internally by treating them in a way that is utterly different than other NASA programs. Indeed it would make these programs into Zombies that can never be killed. I have to wonder what CBO will say when it scores this bill and what the Budget Committee might have to say. This bill sets a precedent that could spread across the government."Continue reading: House Science Committee Passes SLS/Orion/Webb Immortality Bill.
"The OIG found that consistent with NASA policy Ames based the price of its lease with H211 on the fair market value of comparable hangar space and that, as required, the lease and companion Space Act Agreement supported NASA's mission. Specifically, since 2009 H211 has flown more than 200 flights to collect climate data at no cost to NASA - science missions Ames officials estimate would have cost the Agency between $1,800 and $6,500 per flight hour to operate depending on the type of aircraft used. Accordingly, we determined that NASA benefitted from both its lease and Space Act Agreement with H211. ... We found that from September 2007 until August 2013, H211 purchased fuel at Moffett from DLA-Energy either directly or through NASA for both its personal flights and NASA science flights at a rate intended only for government agencies and their contractors. ... Even though we concluded that the fuel arrangement did not result in an economic loss to NASA or DLA-Energy, H211 nevertheless received a monetary benefit to which it was not entitled. Accordingly, we recommend that NASA explore with the company possible options to remedy this situation."Categories: Aeronautics, Commercialization
"The Obama Administration has proposed a record five-year investment of nearly $92 billion in NASA to maintain America's leadership in space exploration and spur scientific and technical discovery here on Earth. Although not all of this funding has been approved, NASA has still been racking up extraordinary accomplishments, including: ... "Categories: Policy
Are the Days of NASA's Science Flagship Missions Over?, Space Policy Online (last week)
"NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden had a tough message for the space science community today - forget about flagship missions, they're not affordable today. At the very same time on Capitol Hill, however, the chairman of one of NASA's key committees was expressing enthusiasm about a mission to Europa - unquestionably a flagship mission. The disconnect could not be more stark. Flagship missions are NASA's most expensive (over $1 billion) and risky space science missions, but offer exceptional scientific payoff."
"NASA remains committed to planning, launching and operating flagship missions that meet the challenging objectives of our science, technology and aeronautics communities as identified through decadal surveys, advisory groups, the Administration and Congress. We are dedicated to pursuing the most cost-effective ways to accomplish this goal in order to provide balance with an increased cadence of missions that vary in size, destination and complexity."Categories: Space & Planetary Science
"Americans are aware of NASA but I do not think they realize how much NASA does and for how little money. Do you know what NASA's budget is for 2014? Thanks to our deadlocked and dysfunctional Congress there is no approved budget for the Government. NASA is looking at roughly $17.7 billion requested by President Barack Obama for FY2014. That breaks down to roughly 15 cents a day per American and less than 1 cent a day per human on the planet. I include this last figure as much of what NASA does benefits all of humanity, not just Americans. To put NASA's budget in perspective, consider these facts - Americans spend $61 billion on their pets per year. Also, a white collar criminal was ordered to pay $170 billion in restitution to his victims."
Keith's note: This story manages to mention everything NASA does and how little, in the grand scheme of things, we actually spend on NASA. This article also includes Bill Nye's latest eponymous and somewhat presumptuous video. Indeed, the press release that the Planetary Society put out trumpeting his message to the President specifically says "Bill Nye the Science Guy®" Gotta make sure he gets his personal trademarked branding in even though he claims to represent a non-profit organization.
If you did not know any better, Bill Nye would have you think that the only thing NASA does - or should do - is planetary science. Everything else - well, why mention it? Nye totally avoids mention of human spaceflight, aeronautics, earth science, commerce, heliophysics, astronomy, biology, education, technology, etc. Yes,I know he's the CEO and grand spokesman for the Planetary Society. But only promoting a narrow slice of what NASA does, and ignoring the rest of what NASA is engaged in, is self-serving and totally deceptive as far as what the general public and decision makers need to hear.
A policy for NASA's budget that does not consider all that the agency does is one that is doomed to fail - or, worse - one that serves to spark a civil war over an ever-shrinking budget. No one wins in such a scenario.
Virgin Galactic Could Bring Jobs to Rural NM, Public News Service
"PHOTO: New Mexico's rural economy could get a boost after Virgin Galactic starts its flights into outer space. Photo courtesy of NASA."Categories: News
Keith's note: The bad weather on the east coast has pretty much brought the Washington DC Metro and mid-atlantic area to a crawl with bad road conditions and increasing power outages. This will continue through tomorrow. So you can expect NASA HQ, GSFC, Wallops and also IV&V and LaRC to all be running at less than full efficiency.Categories: Workforce
Keith's note: The other day NASA sent out media advisories urging news media to cover NASA-sponsored and related events at the Fall AGU meeting in San Francisco from 9-13 December. But as is usually the case NASA cannot seem to coordinate among itself when more than one center is involved.
NASA HQ and NASA Ames put out media advisories that state "Briefings will be streamed for registered journalists on the AGU press conference Web page. They will not be carried on NASA Television."
JPL put out the same media advisory but added detail:
"The briefings will be streamed for registered journalists on the AGU press conference Web page. Some news conference will be available via live streaming at http://www.ustream.tv/nasajpl2, as follows:
Monday, 9 a.m. PST- Curiosity Rover Update
Monday, 10:30 a.m. PST - Mapping Snowpack from the Sky
Tuesday, 9 a.m. PST - Improving Natural Hazard Warnings
Tuesday, 10:30 a.m. PST - News from Juno's Earth Flyby
Tuesday, 11:30 a.m. PST - Dynamic Mars Over Time
Thursday, 11:30 a.m. PST - New Results from Cassini Mission to Saturn
The briefings will not be carried on NASA Television."
While these events will not be sent out on NASA Television, most people who watch NASA Television on the web do so via NASA's UStream webstreaming accounts. So, why can't NASA's TV page link to these webcasts? Clearly there is some infrastructure in place whereby JPL is able to stream events over UStream. The events listed as being streamed are only JPL-associated events with JPL people involved. Why can't this web streaming hardware be left in place to stream other NASA events? AGU apparenly has a UStream system in place, why can't NASA tap that?
More importantly, why didn't JPL PAO tell ARC, HQ, and other NASA centers that this would be streamed so as to make sure that the media advisories that "NASA" sent out were all in synch? Curiously both the JPL and HQ media advisories list Stephen Cole from NASA HQ PAO on them - so there is some level of contact between JPL and HQ PAO - at least on paper. Coles's response to my inquiries on this matter: "confusing, I know, but such is the wonderful world of multimedia color we live in." In other words 'yea, so what'?
In addition to these AGU media advisories there is a separate NASA HQ advisory that was put out for a Mars Curiosity radiation briefing at AGU. MSL is a JPL mission. But wait, since no one on the panel is from JPL, JPL is not going to live stream it. But NASA HQ says they will provide an audio stream for news media and the public and JPL makes mo mention of the event or the audio streaming. And you wonder why the agency has 3 (or 4) official MSL websites?
Last week NASA SMD held an online Town Hall meeting with the planetary science community to discuss budget issues. Next week at AGU there will be many more of these official NASA-sanctioned events wherein NASA representatives tell attendees (taxpayers too) what the challengers are in the months and years ahead. There is no apparent way for NASA researchers to participate in these Town Hall meetings unless they pay the expense of going to a meeting operated by a third party.
AGU claims there is a virtual viewing option (which is confusing to use and tries to charge you $103 for "free" access) that offers free webstreaming but does not allow any interaction - which is odd since its rather simple to enable the chat function on these webstreaming events. I am now told someone is going to "fix" that. Meawhile, media has some access to online NASA press events but that assumes that the AGU decides that you warrant media accreditation. NASA has no input to that process.
In summary: instead of having all NASA AGU-related events in one place so as to best inform the news media, scientific community, and public as to what is happening and how to see/participate, NASA's directorates, centers, programs, and Headquarters all seem to be running in a different direction ignoring obvious overlaps, points of cooperation, and ways to utilize limited fiscal resources.Categories: Internet Policies
Wow. NASA is currently have a Town Hall meeting and essentially telling planetary scientists to look for new jobs. Wow.— Mike Brown (@plutokiller) December 3, 2013
"Jim Green, the head of NASA's Planetary Science Division, shook things up for planetary scientists this week by announcing a restructuring that will change how the division funds grant proposals. ... That's why some researchers--including Mark Sykes, director of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona--have been railing against the restructuring on Twitter and in the blogosphere. Sykes says the change Green has made is ill-considered because it doesn't take into account the impact on the workforce. "There are many people whose research programs and salaries depend upon successfully proposing to several major programs in 2014," Sykes says. "They have just learned that there will be no opportunity for these programs until 2015. I have had several people tell me that if there is no regular ... call at the regular time in 2014, they will have to look for other employment in a year. There are postdocs whose positions are ending this next year, who would have applied to these programs to get started as independent planetary scientists. They need to find something else to do."
When it comes to planetary science will NASA soon stand for NADA?, Houston Chronicle
"Let's start with a town hall meeting (watch it here) that occurred on Tuesday during which NASA's $1.2 billion planetary science division announced a restructuring of how it funds research and analysis. Restructuring is a nice euphemism here. Due to budget cuts, in essence, NASA officials announced that it would not seek new research grant submissions in 2014."
"But at the town-hall meeting, NASA's Jonathan Rall said that funding proposals in this field are not likely to be due until February 2015. That was the last straw for many researchers who live from grant to grant, because most of their existing funding is likely to expire well before money becomes available for the new Solar System workings area. Outraged scientists vented their frustration in the comments section of the meeting website and on Twitter. "People are upset with not knowing where their next paycheck is going to come from, how they're going to pay the mortgage," says Schmidt."
"Michael H. New: [personal, non-official, comment] The degree to which the field shrinks is driven by the budget and the number of hard-money positions available. Regardless of how PSD's solicitations are organized, when the budget is flat and there are few hard-money positions available, people will be forced to leave the field. [end]"Budget, Space & Planetary Science
Keith's note: This video was directed by Rajan Mehta, combining his footage of the aurora borealis with imagery from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. Make sure to play it full screen with the sound cranked up.Categories: Videos
Keith's note: According to a release issued today: "The Science, Space, and Technology Committee today approved three bills with bipartisan support. ... Prior to debate on a fourth bill [H.R. 3625] offered by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), the Committee recessed subject to the call of the Chair. Chairman Smith indicated that he expects the Committee to reconvene to consider the bill next week."
Full Bill information (note the cosponsors).
Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) is going to join the party and will introduce an amendment to give the Webb Space Telescope the same protection against cancellation as SLS and Orion would get under this bill. Think of all the large contracts that will soon be voided and what this means for the way in which NASA engages in contracting for future programs - to say nothing of the contingencies that won't be in place in case a program runs into trouble - and the decreased flexibility the agency will have to manage its finances.
Rep. Brooks is submitting an amendment that says "Page 5, line 6, insert "If the Administration terminates a covered program for the convenience of the Government, then the Administration is responsible for payment of all termination liability costs." after "such prime contracts." In other words, the government accepts all the responsibility and lets the SLS and Orion prime contractors off the hook when it comes to termination costs. This bill only affects the prime contractors. None of the subcontractors get anything out of it i.e. ATK, Aerojet etc. Indeed, they are left holding the bag as far as their potential termination costs are concerned. I have to wonder what CBO will say when it scores this bill and what the Budget Committee might have to say. This bill sets a precedent that could spread across the government.
If passed into law, H.R. 3625 would make it exceptionally difficult to ever halt SLS, Orion, or Webb or to adjust funds internally by treating them in a way that is utterly different than other NASA programs. Indeed it would make these programs into Zombies that can never be killed. Here's an excerpt:Continue reading: Turning SLS and Orion into Entitlements (Update: Webb Too).