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Update: Heading For AbSciCon 2017

By Keith Cowing on April 22, 2017 11:54 PM.

Keith's note: This coming week I will be at the Astrobiology Science Conference (AbSciCon). As such my posting on NASAWatch will be somewhat limited. But Marc will be keeping an eye on things. I will be tweeting about the meeting from @NASAWatch and @Astrobiology and posting updates at astrobiology.com. AbSciCon Sessions will be streamed live at http://astrobiology.nasa.gov/livestream

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Interstellar Docking

By Keith Cowing on April 22, 2017 11:40 PM.

Keith's note: You have got to watch this. Full screen. Sound turned up - footage of the docking of Cygnus with ISS using the docking sequence from the "Interstellar" soundtrack.

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House Science Committee Take on March for Science

By Keith Cowing on April 22, 2017 11:36 AM.

House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Chairman Smith Statement on the March for Science

"I support the right of science supporters to gather and march this weekend. Opening new frontiers of scientific knowledge, on Earth and beyond, will pave the way to a better, more secure future for the next generation. I will continue to support scientific research that furthers our national interest and is of the highest intellectual merit."

Ranking Member Johnson Applauds Mission of the March for Science

"Though I am disheartened by the fact that there currently is a need to defend the 'vital role science plays in our health, safety, economies, and governments,' I am thrilled to see such a large and diverse group of people passionate about science, invested in the future of scientific discovery, and committed to the need for science-based policy making. ... "Science shouldn't be a partisan issue. I hope that Members on both sides of the aisle are supporting all of the goals of today's march."

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Second Annual Breakthrough Discuss Scientific Conference

By Keith Cowing on April 21, 2017 10:16 PM.

Breakthrough Initiatives Summit on Life in the Universe and Space Exploration

"Breakthrough Initiatives today announced its second annual Breakthrough Discuss scientific conference, which will bring together leading astronomers, engineers, astrobiologists and astrophysicists to advance discussion surrounding recent discoveries of potentially habitable planets in nearby star systems. The two days of discussions will focus on newly discovered Earth-like 'exoplanets' in the Alpha Centauri and TRAPPIST-1 planetary systems, and new evidence that these planets could be habitable, as well as their potential as targets for novel methods of space exploration."

Breakthrough Discuss Opens with Lively Sessions Dedicated to the Search for Planets and Life in Our Cosmic Neighborhood, Breakthrough Initiatives

"Peter Michelson emphasized that the last century of scientific investigation has transformed questions about origins from the realm of metaphysics to a place where they can be investigated observationally."

Breakthrough Discuss Conference Closes with Full Day Dedicated to Newly Discovered Exoplanets and SETI, Breakthrough Initiatives

"Breakthrough Initiatives are a suite of scientific and technological programs exploring the big questions around life in the Universe, such as, Are we alone? What are the nearest habitable planets? And can we become an interstellar civilization?"

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Science March Needs To Broaden Its Horizons

By Keith Cowing on April 21, 2017 6:19 PM.

Keith's note: I had a few thoughts about this official Science March T-shirt design.


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NASA's Good Budget News Is Not Actually All That Good

By Keith Cowing on April 20, 2017 9:56 PM.

Flat NASA budgets pose risk to researchers, SpaceNews

"The prospect of extended flat budgets for NASA has some scientists concerned that research funds could be raided to support other programs. In a presentation April 19 to a microgravity research colloquium at the National Academies here, Gale Allen, acting chief scientist, said she had been warned at a recent agency meeting not to expect even increases to keep pace with inflation for the next five years. "Right now it looks like our budget for the next five years will be flat. There isn't even an inflationary aspect to it," she said. At a meeting the previous day, she said, NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot said that proposed budget profile amounted to a cut of $3.4 billion over those five years because of decreased purchasing power."

Trump Budget Cuts "Critical" NASA Climate Missions, Scientific American

"The proposed cancellations mesh with statements made by Trump, administration officials and some members of Congress who have argued that NASA should be focused on outer space and leave the job of observing Earth to other agencies. But NASA's unparalleled experience and expertise in developing new observational technologies and launching satellites makes it a crucial part of the Earth science enterprise, many experts say. "I don't see anybody else who could fill that gap," Adam Sobel, a Columbia University climate scientist, said."

OIG Report on NASA's Journey To Nowhere, earlier post

"... although the Agency's combined investment for development of the SLS, Orion, and GSDO programs will reach approximately $23 billion by the end of fiscal year 2018, the programs' average monetary reserves for the years leading up to EM-1 are much lower than the 10 to 30 percent recommended by Marshall Space Flight Center guidance."

Trump's OMB Does Not Know Who Operates DSCOVR, earlier post

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JPL Center Director Freaks Everyone Out With Dumb Email Subject

By Keith Cowing on April 19, 2017 4:43 PM.

Keith's note: This morning the email account for the Center Director of Jet Propulsion Laboratory sent out a lab-wide email with the subject line "active shooter" (see image of full email)

From: Office Of The Director [mailto:Office.Of.The.Director@jpl.nasa.gov]
Sent: Wednesday, April 19, 2017 9:45 AM
To: all.personnel@list.jpl.nasa.gov
Subject: Active Shooter

Sources report that this caused a great deal of disturbance - just one day after shootings in Fresno. The email was not about any threat to JPL but rather describing a course about how to deal with a situation in which there is a hostile person (with a gun) in the work environment. An hour later, the same email was sent out with a different subject line - "Clarification: Training for Active Shooter Event". No one ever admitted that an error was made or apologized for freaking people out.

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NASA Sets New Human Launch Gap Record Today

By Keith Cowing on April 18, 2017 9:59 PM.

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Will Russia Be Left Behind In Space?

By Keith Cowing on April 18, 2017 10:16 AM.

Anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's historic spaceflight marked in Russia and worldwide, TASS

"As far as the competition in the space industry is concerned, it has intensified sharply in recent months. The re-launch of a booster by (Elon) Musk and plans to replace our RD-180 rocket engines with those made in the US by the Blue Origin demonstrate that we are entering difficult times and that the reserves of the Soviet space program are now about to be depleted," said Alexander Zheleznyakov of Russia's Tsiolkovsky Academy of Cosmonautics. "If the Roscosmos leadership is aware of this, there is still a chance that we will succeed, but if we continue to rest on our laurels, we will lose this struggle for competitiveness," he said, adding that although projects for reusable boosters are explored by Russian space industry researches as well, they are far from completion. "While we are trying to catch up, our rivals will increase the gap in the development of space technologies. If we want to catch up with them, we will have to be proactive. If we simply mirror the achievements and technological ideas of others, we will always stay behind," the expert said."

Man Driving Diamond-encrusted Mercedes Caught Embezzling Cosmodrome Funds, earlier post

Previous posts on Russia

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Russian Space Robot Fyodor / Robonaut/R5 Valkyrie Cage Match Cancelled

By Keith Cowing on April 17, 2017 8:15 PM.

No, Russia isn't sending a Terminator robot to the space station, Ars Technica

"The reports this weekend were breathless. Mashable said Russia was sending a "death dealing" robot with the power to shoot guns to the International Space Station. Pravda reported that the Russian cyborg, Fyodor, had frightened the West. It was like the Terminator, only in space, and only for reals. In reality, probably not. The stories were written after the Russian deputy prime minister overseeing military and space activities, Dmitry Rogozin, posted on Facebook and Twitter about the country's humanoid robot, Fyodor."

Russian space robot bound for ISS given power to shoot handguns, for some reason, Mashable

"Just in time for the rise in global military tensions, Russian officials have released video that's sure to calm fears all around: a death dealing humanoid robot that shoots handguns. Posted to Twitter on Friday by Russia's deputy Prime Minister, Dmitry Rogozin, the video shows the country's space robot FEDOR (Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research) accurately shooting twin pistols in a scene chillingly similar to images from The Terminator."

Earlier Robonaut and R5 postings

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Bridenstine Had To Be Re-Interviewed For Top NASA Job

By Keith Cowing on April 17, 2017 9:28 AM.

Congressman Jim Bridenstine Says He's Still In Running To Lead NASA, NewsOn6

"Oklahoma First District Congressman Jim Bridenstine says he is still in the running to be the new head of NASA. Bridenstine told News On 6 he was recently asked back for another interview by the Trump administration. The Republican said, "I don't know what the end result is, but I keep interviewing, which is an indicator that maybe I'm still in the mix for it."

Bridenstine Has Second Interview for NASA Post, Roll Call

"While he lacks the science background of previous NASA administrators, he is a member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee who has advocated for space exploration. "NASA is something that Republicans and Democrats both like," he said. "It's something everybody wants to do."

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OIG Report on NASA's Journey To Nowhere

By Keith Cowing on April 13, 2017 10:36 PM.

NASA OIG: NASA's Plans for Human Exploration Beyond Low Earth Orbit

"NASA's initial exploration missions on its Journey to Mars - EM-1 and EM-2 - face multiple cost and technical challenges that likely will affect their planned launch dates. Moreover, although the Agency's combined investment for development of the SLS, Orion, and GSDO programs will reach approximately $23 billion by the end of fiscal year 2018, the programs' average monetary reserves for the years leading up to EM-1 are much lower than the 10 to 30 percent recommended by Marshall Space Flight Center guidance. Low monetary reserves limit the programs' flexibility to cover increased costs or delays resulting from unexpected design complexity, incomplete requirements, or technology uncertainties. Moreover, software development and verification efforts for all three programs are behind schedule to meet a November 2018 EM-1 launch. Finally, NASA does not have a life-cycle cost estimate or integrated schedule for EM-2, which makes it difficult for Agency officials and external stakeholders to understand the full costs of EM-2 or gauge the validity of launch date assumptions."

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Court Says Elderly Woman Roughed Up By NASA IG Moon Rock Sting Can Sue

By Keith Cowing on April 13, 2017 10:35 PM.

NASA detained a 75-year-old woman selling a tiny moon rock. An appeals court says she can sue, LA Times

"A 75-year-old woman who tried to sell a paperweight containing a speck of moon rock may try to hold a federal agent liable for detaining her for two hours in a public parking lot in urine-soaked pants, a federal appeals court decided unanimously Thursday. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said Joann Davis, the widow of an engineer who worked with NASA, was entitled to show that her detention was "unreasonably prolonged and unnecessarily degrading." The federal agent "organized a sting operation involving six armed officers to forcibly seize a Lucite paperweight containing a moon rock the size of a rice grain from an elderly grandmother," Chief 9th Circuit Judge Sidney R. Thomas wrote for a three-judge panel."

Davis v United States

"9th Cir. No. 15-55671 Consuelo B. Marshall, District Judge, Presiding Before: Sidney R. Thomas, Chief Judge, and Andrew J. Kleinfeld and Jacqueline H. Nguyen, Circuit Judges.: Government agent not entitled to qualified immunity for "prolonged and degrading" detention of elderly woman in parking lot (Thomas, J.)"

- NASA OIG Admits The Obvious About Moon Rocks
- NASA IG Sends Cops in Flack Vests After 74 Year Old, 4'11" Grandmother, earlier post
- NASA IG Refuses To Comment on Official Abuse of Elderly Woman, earlier post
- NASA's Inconsistent Policy Regarding The Sale Of Apollo Era Items, earlier post

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Trump Twitter Trolled From The Edge of Space

By Keith Cowing on April 13, 2017 8:46 PM.

Group knocks Trump by holding 'first protest in space', The Hill

"The Autonomous Space Agency Network (ASAN) launched a "protest in space" against President Trump this week in solidarity with the upcoming March for Science, by sending a weather balloon to space with a printed-out anti-Trump tweet attached to it."

Keith's note: Quote Source: "You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, 'Look at that, you son of a bitch." - Edgar D. Mitchell, Apollo 14

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Enticing Ocean World News and Vapid NASA Commentary

By Keith Cowing on April 13, 2017 2:29 PM.

New Insights into Ocean Worlds Enceladus and Europa

"Two veteran NASA missions are providing new details about icy, ocean-bearing moons of Jupiter and Saturn, further heightening the scientific interest of these and other "ocean worlds" in our solar system and beyond. The findings are presented in papers published Thursday by researchers with NASA's Cassini mission to Saturn and Hubble Space Telescope. In the papers, Cassini scientists announce that a form of chemical energy that life can feed on appears to exist on Saturn's moon Enceladus, and Hubble researchers report additional evidence of plumes erupting from Jupiter's moon Europa."

Keith's note: correction - "Linda" who made the shrimp comment is not from PAO - she is Dr. Linda Spilker the Cassini Project Scientist. NASA gets all upset when newspapers start to make things up about these upcoming announcements - especially when they start speculating on all sorts of alien life forms that might be on the verge of being announced. NASA PAO constantly complains that they have to shoot down all of the loony speculation. Then someone at NASA starts asking about shrimp on Enceladus in an official capacity at a NASA press event.

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Hatch Open: Expedition 51-52 Crew Welcomed Aboard the International Space Station

Hatch Open: Expedition 51-52 Crew Welcomed Aboard the International Space Station Video in Story

On April 20, A few hours after docking their Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft to the International Space Station, Expedition 51-52 Soyuz Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin of Roscosmos and Flight Engineer Jack Fischer of NASA opened hatches and were greeted by station Commander Peggy Whitson of NASA and Flight Engineers Oleg Novitskiy of Roscosmos and Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency. Yurchikhin and Fischer will spend four and a half months on the station.

More updates...

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