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Listening For The Pilots of 'Oumuamua

By Keith Cowing on December 14, 2017 12:27 PM.

Breakthrough Listen Releases Initial Results and Data from Observations of 'Oumuamua

"Breakthrough Listen - the initiative to find signs of intelligent life in the universe - is reporting preliminary results and making initial data available from its observations of the "interstellar visitor" 'Oumuamua. No evidence of artificial signals emanating from the object so far detected by the Green Bank Telescope, but monitoring and analysis continue. Initial data are available for public inspection in the Breakthrough Listen archive."

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Thursday's News: AI is Now Helping Kepler Find Planets

By Keith Cowing on December 14, 2017 12:23 PM.

Artificial Intelligence Used to Discover Eighth Planet Circling Distant Star

"The discovery came about after researchers Christopher Shallue and Andrew Vanderburg and trained a computer to learn how to identify exoplanets in the light readings recorded by Kepler - the miniscule change in brightness captured when a planet passed in front of, or transited, a star. Inspired by the way neurons connect in the human brain, this artificial "neural network" sifted through Kepler data and found weak transit signals from a previously-missed eighth planet orbiting Kepler-90, in the constellation Draco."

Media Telecon Dec. 14th to Announce Latest Kepler Discovery

"NASA will host a media teleconference at 1 p.m. EST (18:00 UTC) Thursday, Dec. 14, to announce the latest discovery made by its planet-hunting Kepler space telescope. The discovery was made by researchers using machine learning from Google. Machine learning is an approach to artificial intelligence, and demonstrates new ways of analyzing Kepler data."

Briefing participants:

* Paul Hertz, Astrophysics Division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington
* Christopher Shallue, senior software engineer at Google AI in Mountain View, California
* Andrew Vanderburg, astronomer and NASA Sagan Postdoctoral Fellow at The University of Texas, Austin
* Jessie Dotson, Kepler project scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley

Keith's 13 Dec note: This is at the heart of what Christopher Shallue at Google Brain and Andrew Vanderburg at UT Austin have been working on:

- Towards Better Planet Occurrence Rates from Kepler and K2. Andrew Vanderburg. NASA Sagan Fellow The University of Texas at Austin, Sagan/Michelson Fellows Symposium November 9, 2017, PDF
- (Larger image above)

"Kepler is incomplete and unreliable for Earth-sized planets in Earth-like orbits.

Our Approach

1. Increase sensitivity (and therefore completeness) by allowing weaker signals to be considered as planet candidates, at the cost of a higher false positive rate.
2. Use deep learning to more effectively distinguish real signals from false alarms and false positives, keeping reliability high."

Related papers

- Planetary Candidates Observed by Kepler. VIII. A Fully Automated Catalog With Measured Completeness and Reliability Based on Data Release 25
- Zodiacal Exoplanets in Time (ZEIT) V: A Uniform Search for Transiting Planets in Young Clusters Observed by K2

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National Space Council 101 Overview By Scott Pace

By Keith Cowing on December 13, 2017 11:32 PM.

Pace Outlines Trump Administration's Approach to Space Development and Law, Space Policy Online

"The United States should seek to ensure that its space activities reflect "our values and not just our technologies," Pace urged. "We should seek to ensure that our space activities reflect those values: democracy, liberty, free enterprise, and respect for domestic and international law in a peaceful international order." To influence the development and utilization of space, the United States needs to "create attractive projects and frameworks in which other nations choose to align themselves and their space activities with us, as opposed to others." Pace praised the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which just turned 50 years old, saying there is "no doubt" that U.S. national interests are served by conducting space activities within that international legal framework. Conversely, he lambasted the 1979 Moon Agreement as "contrary to American interests." It declares the Moon to be the common heritage of mankind with all nations sharing equitably in benefits derived from its resources.

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Billions Await Their First Human Landing On Another World

By Keith Cowing on December 13, 2017 10:24 AM.

Trump signs NASA directive aiming at moon, Mars and beyond, Houston Chronicle

"When people question why the U.S. would return to the moon, Keith Cowing, editor of NASA Watch, a website devoted to space news, has a pretty simple answer: most people alive today have never seen a human walk on another world. "I think my generation should stop being selfish about what we did," said Cowing. "It really is time for the vast majority of the people in the world to have their chance to see this."

Doing Something Again For The First Time, earlier post

"Take a look at the chart below. More than half of the Americans alive today never saw humans walk on the Moon - as it happened - including the person slated to become the next administrator of NASA and the entire 2013 and 2017 astronaut classes. If/when we go back to the Moon in the next 5-10 years this number will increase. For them these future Moon landings will be THEIR FIRST MOON LANDINGS. That's several hundred million Americans waiting to see what I saw in 1969."

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Trump Space Policy Leaves Obama Space Policy Intact Except For Moon/Mars Pivot

By Keith Cowing on December 12, 2017 8:54 PM.

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2017/doc.compare.med.jpg

Larger Image

Keith's note: As former Obama OSTP official Phil Larson notes, the Space Policy Directive 1 issued on Monday only revises a very, very small portion of the existing space policy. Since this White House did not change anything else it is reasonable to assume that they agree with the Obama space policy, as written. Of course, these space policies are iterative and you can trace certain themes back through the Obama, Bush 2, Clinton, Bush 1, and Reagan Administrations - and even further.

To be blunt, Monday's event at the White House was a hastily arranged photo op with some spoken words. The document that was signed also represents an indication that whatever space policy the National Space Council will eventually come up with will have its roots firmly planted in what has come before. However, Space Policy Directive 1 is also a course correction - a potentially significant one that pivots NASA from Mars (back) toward the Moon - something that is far more significant than the small number of words used to make the pivot.

Space policy is something that transcends Administrations and those who craft and refine it stand on the shoulders of those who came before. Sometimes a few well-placed words can have a disproportionately big impact. Sometimes.

- National Space Policy of the United States of America, June 28, 2010

- Presidential Memorandum on Reinvigorating America's Human Space Exploration Program, December 11, 2017

"Presidential Policy Directive-4 of June 28, 2010 (National Space Policy), is amended as follows: The paragraph beginning "Set far-reaching exploration milestones" is deleted and replaced with the following: "Lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities. Beginning with missions beyond low-Earth orbit, the United States will lead the return of humans to the Moon for long-term exploration and utilization, followed by human missions to Mars and other destinations;".

Keith's note: Oh yes, and these two guys said this:

Gingrich & Walker: Obama's brave reboot for NASA, op ed, Washington Times (2010)

"With the new NASA budget, the leadership of the agency is attempting to refocus the manned space program along the lines that successive panels of experts have recommended. The space shuttle program, which was scheduled to end, largely for safety reasons, will be terminated as scheduled. The Constellation program also will be terminated, mostly because its ongoing costs cannot by absorbed within projected NASA budget limits. The International Space Station will have its life extended to at least 2020, thereby preserving a $100 billion laboratory asset that otherwise was due to be dumped in the Pacific Ocean by middecade. The budget also sets forth an aggressive program for having cargo and astronaut crews delivered to the space station by commercial providers."

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Moon, Mars, and Beyond 2.0

By Keith Cowing on December 12, 2017 4:15 PM.

Trump Policy Promises Moon, Mars, and Beyond - Will This Time Be Different?, Space Policy Online

"Bold goals to continue trips to the Moon and go on to Mars envisioned in the immediate post-Apollo period never gained traction, nor did pronouncements by President George H.W. Bush in 1989 or President George W. Bush in 2004. President George W. Bush's plan to return astronauts to the lunar surface by 2020, called Constellation, was cancelled by Obama after a 2009 independent review concluded that NASA would need $3 billion more per year to implement it. Obama decided to focus instead on the "Journey to Mars" with the goal of putting humans in orbit around Mars in the 2030s, bypassing the lunar surface and saving the billions of dollars required to build a lunar landing system and associated lunar surface systems for habitation and exploration."

President Bush Announces New Vision for Space Exploration Program, earlier post (2004)

"Our second goal is to develop and test a new spacecraft, the Crew Exploration Vehicle, by 2008, and to conduct the first manned mission no later than 2014. The Crew Exploration Vehicle will be capable of ferrying astronauts and scientists to the Space Station after the shuttle is retired. But the main purpose of this spacecraft will be to carry astronauts beyond our orbit to other worlds. This will be the first spacecraft of its kind since the Apollo Command Module. Our third goal is to return to the moon by 2020, as the launching point for missions beyond. Beginning no later than 2008, we will send a series of robotic missions to the lunar surface to research and prepare for future human exploration. Using the Crew Exploration Vehicle, we will undertake extended human missions to the moon as early as 2015, with the goal of living and working there for increasingly extended periods. Eugene Cernan, who is with us today -- the last man to set foot on the lunar surface -- said this as he left: "We leave as we came, and God willing as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind." America will make those words come true. (Applause.)"

Keith's note: Gene Cernan stood with George Bush in 2004. Jack Schmitt Stood With Donald Trump in 2017. Not much has changed - except that Apollo 17 has now been the last mission where humans walked on another world for 45 years.

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National Space Council Users' Advisory Group Established

By Keith Cowing on December 12, 2017 9:42 AM.

Notice of establishment of the National Space Council Users' Advisory Group.

"Purpose: The purpose of the UAG is purely advisory and shall be to ensure that the interests of industry, other nonFederal entities, and other persons involved in aeronautics and space activities are adequately represented in the deliberations of the National Space Council. The National Space Council is an Executive Branch interagency coordinating committee chaired by the Vice President, which is tasked with advising and assisting the President regarding national space policy and strategy.

Membership: Members of the UAG will serve either as ''Representatives'' (representing industry, other nonFederal entities, and other recognizable groups of persons involved in aeronautical and space activities) or ''Special Government Employees'' (individual subject matter experts)."

Keith's bote: The call for nominations will be published on Thursday.

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Did NASA Deliver The ISS Transition Plan To Congress Required By Law? Update: No

By Keith Cowing on December 11, 2017 4:09 PM.

Keith's 11 Dec update: I did not hear back from NASA so I sent a second request. Stephanie Schierholz at NASA HQ PAO just sent this reply to my second request: "NASA is keeping Congress apprised as to the progress of the ISS Transition Report and plans to provide this report to the Committee as soon as possible. Please reach out to the Committee about obtaining a copy of the report once it is submitted."

In other words the report is late, has not been delivered, NASA does not know when it will be delivered. NASA is not going to tell anyone when it has been delivered and people will have to go ask Congress where the report is - whenever NASA gets around to delivering it.

Keith's 8 Dec update: Several sources report that the congressionally-mandated "ISS Transition Plan" (or whatever NASA decides to call it) may be part of the Administration's FY2019 budget proposal package that is sent to Congress in the January/February 2018 time frame. This does not mean, however, that NASA will publicly release the report at that time - if they ever release it at all.

Continue reading: Did NASA Deliver The ISS Transition Plan To Congress Required By Law? Update: No.

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Today's Space Policy Directive 1 Thing

By Keith Cowing on December 11, 2017 3:36 PM.

Remarks By President Trump and Vice President Pence at Space Policy Directive 1 Signing Ceremony

"The directive I'm signing today will refocus America's space program on human exploration and discovery. It marks an important step in returning American astronauts to the moon for the first time since 1972 for long-term exploration and use. This time, we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprint, we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars. And perhaps, someday, to many worlds beyond. This directive will ensure America's space program once again leads and inspires all of humanity. The pioneer spirit has always defined America, and we're picking that up in many other fields. I think you see that. I think it's obvious. All you have to do is look at what's happening with the markets and all of the great things that are happening. We're leading in many different fields again, and it'll get more and more obvious as you go along."

Presidential Memorandum on Reinvigorating America's Human Space Exploration Program

"Presidential Policy Directive-4 of June 28, 2010 (National Space Policy), is amended as follows: he paragraph beginning "Set far-reaching exploration milestones" is deleted and replaced with the following: "Lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities. Beginning with missions beyond low-Earth orbit, the United States will lead the return of humans to the Moon for long-term exploration and utilization, followed by human missions to Mars and other destinations;".

- Coalition for Deep Space Exploration Comment on Today's SPD-1 by President Trump
- AIA Welcomes Presidential Announcement of Human Space Exploration Goals
- CSF Statement on President Trump signing of Space Policy Directive 1

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White House Space Policy Announcement

By Keith Cowing on December 11, 2017 1:41 PM.

Keith's note: Today's White House event will likely be carried live on NASA TV and will be online here as well https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fuer5ws6ZY

White House Statement on Space Policy Directive 1 (SPD-1)

"The President, today, will sign Space Policy Directive 1 (SPD-1) that directs the NASA Administrator to lead an innovative space exploration program to send American astronauts back to the Moon, and eventually Mars."

NASA Provides Coverage of Today's Space Policy Directive Signing

"Following the event, images, b-roll video, and interview video clips with acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot and National Space Council Executive Secretary Scott Pace will be available for download."

Continue reading: White House Space Policy Announcement.

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Confirming The Next NASA Administrator

By Keith Cowing on December 10, 2017 8:51 PM.

Keith's note: This White House event could serve to put some wind into Rep. Bridenstine's sails as he awaits a vote to confirm him as NASA administrator. If the White House is going to continue to throw its strong support toward NASA one can argue that this would only serve to suggest that Bridenstine will have the strong backing of the Administration in the implementation of its new space policies. In the past 11 months there have been a number of high-visibility NASA-related events with overt White House participation - more than what happened in the previous Administration's two terms. So, at this point, no one can accuse this White House of not being willing to expend political capital on NASA.

Senate Democrats and Independents (46+2=48) are expected to solidly oppose Bridenstine's confirmation due to direction from party leadership - even if they wanted to vote for Bridenstine (and there are a number of Democratic Senators who would otherwise vote for Bridenstine). The expected vote tally for Bridenstine's assumes that Sen. Rubio and Sen. McCain are "no" votes. So that makes 48+2=50. That leaves a probable 50/50 vote for confirmation with Vice President Pence on hand in case a tie breaker vote is required. If the vote happens before the holiday recess then Pence could tip the balance in a tie vote. But if the vote does not happen in December and a Democrat is elected in Alabama and is seated before a confirmation vote in January - and Rubio and McCain are still "no" votes - then there could be a 49/51 vote and Bridenstine would not be confirmed.

Then again everything could change. Stay tuned.

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The Deep Space Gateway Does Everything For Everyone

By Keith Cowing on December 8, 2017 10:28 AM.

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Boeing Guy Claims He'll Beat SpaceX Guy To Mars

By Keith Cowing on December 7, 2017 8:52 PM.

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NASA Advisory Council Meeting

By Keith Cowing on December 7, 2017 12:10 PM.

NASA Advisory Council Meeting (Dial-in, WebEx info, agenda)

DATES: Thursday, December 7, 2017, 1:00-5:00 p.m.; and Friday, December 8, 2017, 9:00 a.m.-12:00 noon, Local Time.

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People Really Like Working For NASA - Even More Than Last Year

By Keith Cowing on December 7, 2017 10:17 AM.

NASA's employee satisfaction continues to soar, report finds, CNN

"If you're looking to enjoy working for the federal government, apply to NASA -- its employees are the happiest of any large government agency, according to a report released Wednesday that compiled government employee satisfaction data. NASA's rankings have earned it the top spot among large federal agencies for six years in a row, with an employee engagement score, or happiness rating, of 80.9 out of 100 this year, according to rankings compiled by the Partnership for Public Service."

Best Places to Work Agency Rankings

"The overall rankings are determined by the Best Places to Work index score, which measures employee engagement."

1 National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)2017: 80.9 -- 2016: 78.6 -- Change +2.3

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NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 12 December 2017 - Dragon Launch Moved to Friday

NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 12 December 2017 - Dragon Launch Moved to Friday Video in Story

The Expedition 53 crew is getting ready to split up Thursday morning before another crew begins its mission next week.

More updates...

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