NASA Watch

This is not a NASA Website. You might learn something. It's YOUR space agency. Get involved. Take it back. Make it work - for YOU.
nasawatch@spaceref.com | Voice +1.703.787.6567 | RSS Feed | Twitter | Advertising | Important Disclaimer

MSFC Offers Time Off If People Go To A Meeting With The Boss

By Keith Cowing on August 16, 2019 8:57 PM.

Keith's note: Several sources at NASA Marshall report that their managers sent them memos today that said that they would get 59 minutes of excused leave that they could use at any time next week *if* they went to the all-hands event in the MSFC auditorium today with Jim Bridenstine. Why 59 minutes? Offering an hour or more of leave requires a different management approval mechanism. Other sources report that MSFC employees who were planning to work offsite via telework were told that they needed to come onsite today so that they could attend the all hands event. I find this to be somewhat baffling that MSFC management was so paranoid that employees might not want to show up for an event of obvious importance to their personal and collective future at NASA that they sought to stuff the room with warm bodies as a show of support.

Categories: ,

That Time NASA Over-Analzyed The Value Of LEGOs

By Keith Cowing on August 16, 2019 7:08 PM.

"Have you ever seen LEGO bricks float? Now is your chance! Watch former NASA Astronaut Mike Massimino unbox and build LEGO sets in zero gravity! Get inspired to join the greatest adventure ever as we work together to put an astronaut on Mars! Let's Go!"

Mike Suffredini Objects to Legos in Space, earlier post (2012)

"Suff inquired about the relevance of performing the Lego experiment onboard from an ISS research priorities perspective. Ms. Robinson explained that Lego is Leland Melvin's top priority - for education given that Legos are something that children are very familiar with and that can reach tens of thousands of students. Suff asked if the folks at HQ had considered the negative aspects of showcasing Legos in that it may seem we are not utilizing 1SS resources to their fullest capacity. Ms. Robinson explained that she was not aware that people had considered that perspective and would pass this on."

Categories: ,

Texas Responds To NASA Lunar Lander Management In Alabama

By Keith Cowing on August 16, 2019 6:10 PM.

Statement by Rep. Brian Babin Regarding NASA's Decision To Award Lunar Lander Program Management to Marshall Space Flight Center

"I am disappointed by the decision from NASA to not place the lunar lander program management at the Johnson Space Center (JSC)," said Babin. "Marshall Space Flight Center does tremendous work for our nation's space program, but the knowledge base and skill set for this task unquestionably resides at JSC where the Apollo lunar lander program was successfully managed."

Statement by Sen. Ted Cruz Regarding NASA's Decision To Award Lunar Lander Program Management to Marshall Space Flight Center

"As NASA moves forward with their plans I will use every tool at my disposal to ensure the Johnson Space Center remains the crown jewel in human space exploration."

Cruz, Cornyn, Babin Call On NASA to Award Lunar Lander Program to Johnson Space Center

"In response to a news report that NASA will designate the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, to lead the development of the human-classed lunar lander for the Artemis program over the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas - which has served as NASA's lead center for human spaceflight for more than half a century - U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) along with Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) today urged NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine to reconsider his decision and refrain from an official announcement until an official briefing is held."

Categories: , ,

Should NASA Even Be Building A Lunar Lander In The First Place?

By Keith Cowing on August 16, 2019 4:15 PM.

NASA Marshall to Lead Artemis Program's Human Lunar Lander Development

"NASA recently issued a draft solicitation and requested comments from American companies interested in providing an integrated human landing system - a precursor to the final solicitation targeted for release in the coming months. The agency's human lunar exploration plans are based on a two-phase approach: the first is focused on speed - landing on the Moon within five years, while the second will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028. The agency will use what we learn on the Moon to prepare for the next giant leap - sending astronauts to Mars."

NASA Seeks Input from U.S. Industry on Artemis Lander Development, NASA

"The agency's internal studies point toward a three-stage human landing system, but NASA is also interested in alternative approaches that can accomplish the same long-term goals of global lunar access and a reusable landing system. The three-stage concept includes a transfer element for the journey from the lunar Gateway to low-lunar orbit, a descent element to carry the crew to the surface, and an ascent element to return them to the Gateway. From there, they would board Orion for the 250,000-mile trip back to Earth."

Keith's Update: Great. But if NASA was really interested in alternate approaches then why has it already started to award Gateway contracts based on their own architecture? Why throw money at things that might be changed? Unless the interest in changing things is not real. The most efficient thing for NASA to do would be to set basic requirements, then ask for the ideas - first, evaluate them, pick the best ones, and move ahead, But no. NASA is working backward asking people to fix things it has already started to build. Oh and NASA now has to do everything by 2024 instead of 2028. You'd think that with such an accelerated program that there'd be more of an emphasis on clarity of purpose and efficiency in approach. But this is NASA = Never A Simple Answer.

Categories: ,

Friday's NASA Lunar Lander Event Stirs Up Some Dust (Update)

By Keith Cowing on August 16, 2019 1:00 PM.

NASA Administrator to Discuss Human Lander Update for Artemis Program

"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, joined by U.S. Representatives Mo Brooks, Robert Aderholt, Scott DesJarlais and Brian Babin, will discuss updates on the agency's plans for landing humans on the Moon by 2024 through the Artemis program at 3:10 p.m. EDT Friday, Aug. 16. The remarks will air live on NASA Television and the agency's website."

Alabama space center will manage NASA's lunar lander program, Ars Technica

"As part of the carefully negotiated agreement, Marshall will have responsibility for the overall program as well as two elements of what is planned to be a three-stage lander. The center in northern Alabama will oversee commercial development of the Transfer Element--planned to ferry the lander from the Lunar Gateway down to low-lunar orbit--as well as the Descent Element that will fly down to the surface. ... Meanwhile, the Houston, Texas-based Johnson Space Center will oversee development of the Ascent Element. "

Letter To NASA Administrator Bridenstine From Texas Congressional Delegation Regarding Artemis Lunar Lander

"We are writing to you today in light of a recent report that this Friday, August 16,2019, you plan to announce that the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama will manage the development of the lunar lander for the Artemis program and oversee the commercial development of two of the three elements, the Transfer Element and Descent Element, of that lander. According to that same report the Johnson Space Center, in Houston, Texas, will oversee the commercial development of only one of three elements, the Ascent Element. This is very troubling if accurate. ... we request that you reconsider this decision, and hold off on any formal announcements until we receive a briefing on this matter that includes the timeline, projected cost, and rational for this decision."

Cruz, Cornyn, Babin Call On NASA to Award Lunar Lander Program to Johnson Space Center

"In response to a news report that NASA will designate the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, to lead the development of the human-classed lunar lander for the Artemis program over the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas - which has served as NASA's lead center for human spaceflight for more than half a century - U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) along with Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) today urged NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine to reconsider his decision and refrain from an official announcement until an official briefing is held."

Keith's note: Reader's guide

1. NASA announced a lunar lander update event at MSFC with members of Congress. 2. Ars Technica reported details of what will be in that announcement i.e. shared development between JSC and MSFC
3. NASA Administrator disputed accuracy of Ars Technica Story.
4. Members of Congress saw Ars Technica story and are concerned that Texas may not get the lunar lander program - as they told NASA they wanted.

Keith's Update: Rep. Babin has pulled out of the event.

Statement by Rep. Brian Babin Regarding NASA's Decision To Award Lunar Lander Program Management to Marshall Space Flight Center

"I am disappointed by the decision from NASA to not place the lunar lander program management at the Johnson Space Center (JSC)," said Babin. "Marshall Space Flight Center does tremendous work for our nation's space program, but the knowledge base and skill set for this task unquestionably resides at JSC where the Apollo lunar lander program was successfully managed."

Categories: , ,

TrumpSpace: No Mention Of The Moon Thing But Rich Guys Pay NASA Rent

By Keith Cowing on August 16, 2019 11:41 AM.

President Trump praises reusable rockets, omits Moon in space remarks, Ars Technica

"We're investing in the future of human spaceflight," the president said, prefacing his off-the-cuff remarks on spaceflight. "And some day soon American astronauts will plant the stars and stripes on the surface of Mars." Trump never mentioned the Moon, or his administration's lunar program, during this comment or in any of his subsequent remarks Thursday night. This is notable, because the signature human spaceflight initiative of his administration is the Artemis Program, an attempt to accelerate a human return to the Moon by 2024. The closest Trump came to acknowledging the Moon program was saying, "NASA has some of the greatest plans we've ever had. These are great people, great scientists."

President Trump says these 'rich guys' are 'paying a lot of rent' to launch rockets, Fox Business

"You know, I hear all these rich guys, for some reason they love space. So they're rich. I said, 'let them send the rockets up. What the hell do we have to do it, right?'" The president explained the privatized ventures like SpaceX are working to save many of the parts from rockets Opens a New Window. by re-landing them back on Earth. "It's almost like, what are we watching? Is this fiction?"

Categories:

Update On NASA-Directed Changes At CASIS

By Keith Cowing on August 15, 2019 10:44 AM.

Letter From NASA JSC to CASIS Board Of Directors Regarding Cooperative Agreement No. NNH11CD70A/80JSC018M0005

"Pursuant to Paragraph 4.6, Change in Principal Investigator or Scope, of the subject cooperative agreement, the CASIS decision to change or significantly reduce the availability of services of the International Space Station National Laboratory Principal Investigator (PI), Dr. Joe Vockley (Cooperative Agreement Paragraph 3.1.g), is not approved at this time. The NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration & Operations is requesting a strategic pause in CASIS activities relative to changes in the CASIS PI in order to enable NASA to establish an Independent Review Team to assess the underlying Cooperative Agreement to ensure we are on mission and appropriately resourced to produce breakthroughs that improve lives on Earth. NASA anticipates that this assessment will be completed within 12 weeks after the team has been established."

Keith's note: Joe Vockely is still on full salary but has no defined operational responsibilities at CASIS at this time. His continued involvement at CASIS, long term, is not clear. CASIS COO Kenneth Schields is now the Acting CEO of CASIS. The chairman of the CASIS board, Philip Schein has been removed and two board members are currently acting jointly to run the board's activities. NASA Administrator Bridenstine has identified the chair of this CASIS review team as being Elizabeth R. Cantwell, the Senior Vice President of Research and Innovation at the University of Arizona. However the members of this team or details of the format or activities of the team have yet to be released.

The phrase "strategic pause" has not been defined by NASA other than to refer to efforts associated with "changes in the CASIS PI". As such one might logically conclude that this means that CASIS staff will continue with 99% of the routine payload tasks they have - tasks unaffected by who the CASIS PI is.

Memo from NASA HEOMD AA Ken Bowersox To NASA HEOMD Staff Regarding CASIS/ISS National Lab Changes

"1. The heads of the Science Mission Directorate and the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate will jointly commission an Independent Review to assess whether the ISS National Laboratory is on mission and appropriately organized and resourced to improve life here on Earth.

2. For the duration of the review, NASA's liaison to the ISS National Lab will move from HEOMD's ISS Division to the low Earth orbit commercialization activity currently being led by Doug Comstock. I appreciate all of your efforts as we work to develop the low Earth orbit economy. Feel free to stop by my office if you have any questions."

Keith's note: this review is a dual effort by HEOMD and SMD which underscores the overlapping interested between the directorates in terms of public/private activities on ISS and beyond. It also makes car that ISS Director Sam Scimemi is no longer the NASA liaison to CASIS.

Categories: , ,

NASA Orders A Review Of CASIS (Update)

By Keith Cowing on August 14, 2019 12:54 PM.

- Crisis at CASIS: New Opportunities or Looming End Game?, earlier post
- NASA Asked CASIS To Stop Paying Its Board Of Directors, earlier post
- Earlier CASIS posts

NASA to seek independent review of ISS National Laboratory

"However, a NASA letter to CASIS, dated Aug. 13 and obtained by SpaceNews, called for a "strategic pause in CASIS activities" while the independent review panel works "to ensure we are on mission and appropriately resourced to produce breakthroughs that improve lives on Earth." The letter estimated the that review would take 12 weeks to complete. The letter also referenced a request by CASIS "to change or significantly reduce the availability of services" of Joseph Vockley, who is president and chief executive of CASIS and serves as principal investigator for NASA's grant to CASIS to operate the ISS national lab. NASA said it was deferring that request until after "this strategic pause and assessment." A source familiar with the situation said that the CASIS board recently sought to remove Vockley, a move that would require the concurrence of NASA."

Keith's note: I am told that the acting CEO of CASIS is CASIS COO Ken Shields. Sources also report that some final management decisions affecting senior leadership at CASIS - ones that require NASA concurrence - were put on hold last night. So these letters may have been superseded to some extent. Stay tuned.

Categories: ,

MSFC Gets 2/3 Of The Lunar Lander - JSC Gets 1/3

By Keith Cowing on August 13, 2019 7:09 PM.

NASA Administrator to Discuss Human Lander Update for Artemis Program, NASA

"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, joined by U.S. Representatives Mo Brooks, Robert Aderholt, Scott DesJarlais and Brian Babin, will discuss updates on the agency's plans for landing humans on the Moon by 2024 through the Artemis program at 3:10 p.m. EDT Friday, Aug. 16. The remarks will air live on NASA Television and the agency's website."

Alabama space center will manage NASA's lunar lander program, Ars Technica

"As part of the carefully negotiated agreement, Marshall will have responsibility for the overall program as well as two elements of what is planned to be a three-stage lander. The center in northern Alabama will oversee commercial development of the Transfer Element--planned to ferry the lander from the Lunar Gateway down to low-lunar orbit--as well as the Descent Element that will fly down to the surface. ... Meanwhile, the Houston, Texas-based Johnson Space Center will oversee development of the Ascent Element. "

Keith's note: Watch as the MSFC Transfer and Descent elements get too heavy and then squeeze the JSC Ascent element. We've seen this movie before.

Categories:

Climate Change Censorship On Government Websites

By Keith Cowing on August 13, 2019 6:33 PM.

Donald Trump stopping US government scientists from speaking out publicly is 'chilling', The Independent

"The Trump administration's decision to stop Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials and other government staff from speaking out publicly has prompted the country's leading scientific organisation to warn against "censorship and intimidation". The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the largest scientific society in the world, said many federal agencies had policies that "prohibit political interference" in how they relay information to the public. And the World Resources Institute think tank said the move to stop the "free flow of information" would have a "chilling effect on staff". In addition to the media blackout at the EPA, some other federal agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture, were also told to suspend external communications, although the latter department's gag order was subsequently lifted. The ban includes the issuing of press releases, blogs, messages on Twitter and Facebook posts, according to information leaked to several media organisations. All media requests must be "screened" by the administration."

Under Trump, 26% of Climate Change References Have Vanished From .Gov Sites, Vice

"A report published by the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI) on Monday found that language related to climate change has disappeared at an alarming pace since Trump took office in 2016. Across 5,301 pages--ranging from websites belonging to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the US Geological Survey (USGS)--the use of the terms "climate change," "clean energy," and "adaptation" plummeted by 26 percent between 2016 and 2018. Of the pages where "climate change" was stricken, more than half belong to the EPA."

Keith's note: This search of NASA.gov yielded 29,529 results for "climate change". I am not sure what the search result would have been several years ago but this large search result seems to indicate that no one has tried to purge NASA's websites for climate change references - at least not yet. If anyone knows of any deletions or alternations, let me know.

Categories: ,

Dear Blue Origin: Please Put Something Into Orbit

By Keith Cowing on August 12, 2019 10:00 PM.

Blue Origin protests launch contract rules as it competes with SpaceX, ULA, Northrop Grumman, Geekwire

"Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin space venture is protesting the rules of the game for awarding future national security launch contracts, while continuing to play against SpaceX, United Launch Alliance and Northrop Grumman. All four companies have submitted bids in the second phase of an Air Force competition aimed at selecting vendors for launches in the 2022-2026 time frame. In the first phase of the competition, the Air Force said it would set aside as much as $2.3 billion to support the development of Blue Origin's New Glenn rocket, ULA's Vulcan rocket and Northrop Grumman's OmegA rocket. All those rockets are scheduled to enter service in the 2021 time frame. However, the Air Force said it would reduce the field to two companies next year. Moreover, SpaceX - which didn't qualify for development funds in Phase 1 - is joining the field for Phase 2 with its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets, both of which are already flying."

Categories:

Just Remember: NASA Employees Can't Use Cannabidiol (CBD) Oil

By Keith Cowing on August 9, 2019 5:40 PM.

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Internal Memo Regarding Employee Use of Cannabidiol (CBD) Oil

"The lack of standards means there are CBD products being marketed that contains a sufficient level of THC to cause a positive drug test result. Please be aware that, the use of any compounds or substances not approved by the FDA cannot be used as a legitimate medical explanation for a positive drug test result. As a reminder, the use of illegal drugs by federal employees is not permissible under any circumstances, regardless of state and/or local laws; this includes the use of Marijuana or products that contains THC for recreational and/or medical purposes. NASA is authorized to conduct pre-employment testing of any individual who will occupy a testing designated position (TDP) and Random testing of employees who occupy a TDP. All employees are subject to testing under provisions for reasonable suspicion and post-accident and/or unsafe practice testing regardless of the TDP designation of their position."

Categories:

National Space Council's Next Meeting

By Keith Cowing on August 9, 2019 4:25 PM.

Categories:

Crisis at CASIS: New Opportunities or Looming End Game?

By Keith Cowing on August 8, 2019 10:16 AM.

Keith's note: Last week after the conclusion of the ISS Research and Development Conference in Atlanta, the chairman of the CASIS board of directors stepped down. The board is now being run on an interim basis by several other board members. Changes in CASIS senior management are likely. Further changes at CASIS are also to be expected. There are many skilled and dedicated people at CASIS who are up to the task of fixing things - so this is not necessarily a bad thing. Meanwhile CASIS stakeholders at NASA, in Congress, industry, and the scientific community are all talking about what should be done to fix things at CASIS and the ISS.

NASA is currently proposing the construction of a mini-space station (Gateway) in cis-lunar space that will be operated by NASA with the assistance of the private sector. If NASA cannot make public/private, commercial/scientific efforts function successfully in LEO on board a fully operational and well-understood platform like ISS then the chances that NASA can do the same thing a quarter of a million miles away - building upon ISS experience - are questionable to say the least.

Personally I think that the ISS is the 'undiscovered country' and that we have yet to fully tap its potential. Hopefully NASA and its various stakeholders and partners will take this opportunity to re-examine how utilization of ISS is conducted, fix what is broken, and build upon what works. A fully enabled and utilized ISS can be a crucial stepping stone along the path of the human exploration of the solar system. Not making the most of the ISS could result in a large pothole in that path.

Categories: , ,

I Just Want To Say Something

By Keith Cowing on August 7, 2019 12:18 AM.

https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.spaceref.com/news/2019/Star-Trek1.jpg

Keith's note: In light of the naked racism coming from the White House and the impact that it has had on societal events of late I need to say something. We are stronger as a result of our diversity - not weakened by it. Humanity evolved elsewhere - not in America. As such we are all immigrants. Full stop.

We have had a space station in orbit for decades that is the collaborative effort of many nations. When political strife fractures relationships on Earth, space keeps them intact. Small wonder that the ISS has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize (recently endorsed by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine).

Back in the 1960s when the original "Star Trek" first aired, we had a black and white TV. My first exposure to the future was a multi-ethnic/multi-racial/multi-species/gender-balanced crew exploring the universe. I fell for it. It never left me and resonates in my mind to this day half a century later. Alas, back in the 60s, with near simultaneity 20 feet away in my back yard, I was playing catch with a friend of mine. He was black. His name was Wesley. My bigoted neighbors shouted a racial slur at him. We played catch at his house after that. These two things clashed in my young mind. Yet the Star Trek ethos prevailed.

Indeed, in 2009, I had a resonant Star Trek epiphany of sorts in Nepal as I supported Scott Parazynski's ascent of Everest: "My Star Trek Episode at Everest".

Over the past 23 years that I have edited NASAWatch I have tried to avoid mention of partisan politics - and, when my personal views showed through, I openly admitted them - but sought contrary views.

NASA is being pushed to reassert, speed up, reinvigorate America's efforts in space. Hurray. Let's have more. Let's race back to the Moon and then to other places and try to out-compete one another with all manner of cool stuff such that we all benefit in the end.

But in so doing, America needs to assert itself in space in a way that advances the interests and the dreams of all Americans - and do so in a way that encourages all other nations to engage in space exploration in a fashion that advances the interests of all of humanity.

We've all seen those Star Trek episodes where worlds fall into chaos, tear themselves apart, and play only a negative role in the overall legacy of the universe. Let's not do that. We need to do the right thing.

Just sayin'

Note: my comments do not reflect on anyone at NASA. If anything the interest in diversity practiced by the folks behind the glass doors on the 9th floor embodies what I am talking about. As for NASAWatch readers who do not like what I have said and/or respond with profanity or threaten to never visit this site again: bye bye.

Categories: ,

More stories for August.

Wernher von Braun Memorial Symposium September 10 - 12, 2019
Loading


Monthly Archives



NASA Weekly ISS Space to Ground Report for August 16, 2019

NASA Weekly ISS Space to Ground Report for August 16, 2019 Video in Story

NASA's Space to Ground is your weekly update on what's happening aboard the International Space Station.

More updates...

PRSpacewire