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U.S. Army Uses Alien Invasion Movie for Recruiting

By Keith Cowing on June 24, 2016 12:16 AM.

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"The Martian" Just Happened - In Antarctica

By Keith Cowing on June 24, 2016 12:07 AM.

Rescuers succeed in evacuating sick workers at the South Pole, Washington Post

"For the third time ever, rescue workers have successfully evacuated someone from the South Pole during the brutal Antarctic winter, the National Science Foundation said. A plane carrying two sick workers from the Amundsen-Scott research station arrived on the Antarctic Coast early Wednesday afternoon, following a harrowing 10-hour flight across the continent. Both workers require medical attention not available at the station, prompting the rare rescue effort. ... Typically, none of the 50 or so people who overwinter at Amundsen-Scott can leave between February and October. One former worker described the South Pole as more inaccessible than the International Space Station."

Ailing Antarctic personnel transported to safety, nsf

"NSF determined that an evacuation was warranted and called on Calgary-based Kenn Borek Air Ltd., which has a U.S. government contract to fly in support of U.S. Antarctic Program science, to conduct this mission."

Keith's note: I have flown in Kenn Borek Twin Otter planes multiple times in the arctic. More than once my pilot was an antarctic veteran - in once case, a mid-winter medical rescue pilot. These folks really, really know their stuff.

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NASA Cannot Answer A Simple, Basic Question on Its Value

By Keith Cowing on June 23, 2016 12:06 PM.

Keith's 23 June update: A week ago I sent NASA Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan (and NASA HQ PAO) a simple question about her statement regarding NASA's value to America's economy. It has been a week and NASA has still not gotten back to me with an answer. Either NASA refuses to answer or (more likely) they cannot answer - because their answer would reveal that they have no idea where their claims come from.

After 20 years I can totally understand that some people at NASA are loathe to respond to NASAWatch questions like this - especially ones with a high gotcha quotient. I get that. But you'd think that such a basic talking point - one repeatedly used by senior agency personnel to explain the purported value of NASA to our economy - would be one that is strongly grounded in research data - data that should be at everyone's finger tips. Guess again. If NASA is unable to answer such a simple, basic question about a commonly-used talking point, why should anyone take agency staff seriously when they start to talk about commerce, economics, and return on investment?

NASA has no idea what it is talking about when it comes to its economic value to our nation. So they just make stuff up and hope that no one asks any questions.

Keith's 16 June note: I was listening to a local NPR radio station, WAMU today at 1:15 pm EDT when NASA Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan was being interviewed. At one point she said "there was a report that showed that for ever $1.00 you spend on NASA you get $4.00 returned to the economy". I have heard variations on this line from NASA - about NASA - for decades. Sometimes it is $6.00 - even $8.00. And there is always a "study" or "report" cited as the source of these return on investment (ROI) numbers. Yet unfailingly when you ask NASA for the actual report - or a valid citation or reference - they can't give you one. I have even had NASA respond by pointing to NASA reports that repeat the same claim but never cite an actual report with numbers, metrics, etc. As many of you know if you repeat an apocryphal number like this NASA ROI often enough it becomes a fact at NASA. So I just sent Dr. Stofan and NASA PAO a request for a report citation. I think I already know their answer - if they reply, that is.

Continue reading: NASA Cannot Answer A Simple, Basic Question on Its Value.

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That #JourneyToMars NASA Moment

By Keith Cowing on June 23, 2016 1:27 AM.

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Hearing on FAA and Commercial Space

By Keith Cowing on June 22, 2016 7:36 PM.

Commercial Space: Industry Developments and FAA Challenges, GAO

"GAO reported in 2015 that FAA's budget requests for its commercial space launch activities generally were based on the number of projected launches, but that in recent years the actual number of launches was much lower than FAA's projections. GAO also reported that, according to FAA officials, more detailed information was not provided in FAA's budget submissions because the agency lacked information on its workload overseeing commercial space launch activities. In addition, GAO reported that the Office of Commercial Space Transportation did not track the amount of time spent on various activities."

Statements by: Taber MacCallum, George Nield, Michael Lopez-Alegria, Michael Gold, Rep. LoBiondo

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Space Foundation Charges News Media To Read Their News

By Keith Cowing on June 22, 2016 11:08 AM.

Keith's note: I just got this email from Carol Hively, Director, Public Relations & Team Communications telling me "NOTE TO MEDIA: Today, the Space Foundation will issue a press release announcing data from The Space Report 2016. In addition to the data found in the press release, an overview of the report is available free to media here. There will be a charge of $99 for media to access the complete pdf of The Space Report 2016, which includes more than 80 pages of data on global space activity during 2015. Go here to receive the discount code to order The Space Report 2016 pdf full report for the discounted media rate of $99."

I had to read that email more than once. Space Foundation charges immense fees for its member companies, puts on lavish events, and never does anything in an inexpensive way. Indeed, according to their 2014 Form 990 Space Foundation had over $7,000,000 in income. And yet they want the several dozen news media (those who pay attention to the Space Foundation that is) to pay $99 to read their self-congratulatory 80 page PDF file? Really? You'd think that the Space Foundation would best serve its membership by making the good news about space economy available to everyone who is interested.

Keith's update: According to their press release "The report can be purchased as a downloadable PDF for $399. A website subscription can be purchased for $3,500." So ... now the non-profit Space Foundation is in the commercial market forecasting business, I guess. Again, you'd think that this report should be out in the wild for anyone to read.

This must be what it was like when Rome was burning.

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Pivoting From Mars To The Moon

By Keith Cowing on June 22, 2016 9:56 AM.

Human flights to Mars still at least 15 years off: ESA head, Reuters

"Dreaming of a trip to Mars? You'll have to wait at least 15 years for the technology to be developed, the head of the European Space Agency (ESA) said, putting doubt on claims that the journey could happen sooner. "If there was enough money then we could possibly do it earlier but there is not as much now as the Apollo program had," ESA Director-General Jan Woerner said, referring to the U.S. project which landed the first people on the moon. Woerner says a permanent human settlement on the moon, where 3D printers could be used to turn moon rock into essential items needed for the two-year trip to Mars, would be a major step toward the red planet. U.S. space agency NASA hopes to send astronauts to Mars in the mid-2030s and businessman Elon Musk, head of electric car maker Tesla Motors, says he plans to put unmanned spacecraft on Mars from as early as 2018 and have humans there by 2030. The ESA's Woerner said it would take longer."

- Moon and/or Mars: Challenging Human Exploration Orthodoxy, Earlier Post
- #JourneyToMars Via #ReturnToTheMoon, Earlier Post

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Preserving The Status Quo For The Journey To Nowhere

By Keith Cowing on June 21, 2016 4:42 PM.

Coalition for Deep Space Exploration Issues Policy Paper to Guide Incoming President and Congress

"The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration has released a policy position paper highlighting the key issues that every presidential and congressional candidate should understand in order to ensure that deep space exploration remains a bipartisan priority over the next several years. The Coalition is the voice of America's deep space industry, with over 40 corporate members supporting NASA's deep space human exploration and science programs. The full paper, entitled "A Space Exploration Roadmap for the Next Administration," is available for download on the Coalition's website."

Keith's note: This document is mostly recycled word salad that states the obvious without ever getting to the point - other than to request continued support SLS and Orion. This is yet another attempt by this organization (actually there is no "organization", its just Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Orbital ATK and Aerojet Rocketdyne with other smaller companies tossed in who write checks) to preserve the status quo. Everything else is just window dressing adjusted to meet the needs of these two programs. Note that there is no support for NASA's "Journey To Mars" or ARM so they're already throwing the Obama folks under the bus. As for space commerce, the Coalition makes little mention of it other than to describe it as something that happens in low Earth orbit - so long as it does not get in the way of SLS and Orion, that is.

We've seen this movie before. Just three months ago a similar effort by many of the usual suspects produced a similar document with the same intent:

Space Policy White Paper = Shopping List For The Journey to Nowhere, March 2016

"Such is the problem with these sort of documents from the space community. On one hand the space groups want to have a say in the political decisions that affect their members (and donors). But on the other hand they'd rather not have the politicians pay too much attention to space such that the current status quo is not upset. In other words "write us the checks but don't rock the boat" - or more bluntly "look but don't touch". This is, at best, naive thinking on the part of the space community. If you read the white paper it becomes immediately apparent that this coalition wants everything that they are doing to be supported and in some cases, they want even more money. They also want a stable funding environment (makes sense). The two main programs being supported by this coalition are SLS/Orion and Commercial Crew and Cargo with gratuitous mention of other projects that are important to the members of this coalition."

- Pioneering Space National Summit One Year Later: No Clear Direction
- Fact Checking SLS Propaganda
- How The #JourneyToMars Becomes The #JourneyToNowhere

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It's Big Jim

By Keith Cowing on June 21, 2016 1:03 PM.

Paul Allen's Stratolaunch lifts veil on world's biggest plane - a giant bet on a new way to space, Geekwire

"The plane's wing, taking shape inside a 103,000-square-foot hangar at the Mojave Air and Space Port, stands three stories off the ground and measures 385 feet from tip to tip. That's three times longer than the distance of the Wright Brothers' first powered flight in 1903. If the Enterprise is ever built to its "Star Trek" TV dimensions, now or in the 23rd century, the starship would be only a few dozen feet wider."

Keith's note: Vulcan Aerospace gave a hand-picked group of space journalists a tour of their facility. They saw Stratolaunch. It is big and it is 76% complete. No information was given as to customers, markets, etc. In other words: no news. Did I mention that it is big?

Larger image

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A Closer Look At The CASIS "Space Is In It" Endorsement

By Keith Cowing on June 20, 2016 5:53 PM.

Keith's note: As readers of NASAWatch have noted by now, I have an interest in the utilization of the International Space Station. When the amazing capabilities of ISS are used to their fullest potential we all benefit. When those resources are under-utilized our tax dollars and the finite utility of the ISS are wasted. CASIS has been given responsibility for managing the U.S. assets aboard the ISS that have been collectively proclaimed as being the ISS National Laboratory. I've already written a lot about CASIS. I'll be writing much more in the weeks to come.

Let's start with a clear-cut example of how CASIS has stumbled: its preoccupation with golf and its relationship with Cobra Puma Golf, a large and very successful golfing gear manufacturer. If you look at the LinkedIn page of Patrick O'Neill, CASIS Marketing & Communications Manager, you will see that he was an account executive for VitroRobertson. Between 2008-2009 he was "Account Executive on the Cobra Golf Account. Managed the day to day operations of all Brand Marketing efforts and assisted in the production of all Advertising efforts for Cobra Golf." If you read CASIS President/Executive Director Greg Johnson's astronaut bio you'll see that he lists golf among his recreational interests. So, senior CASIS management likes golf. "Go with what you know", so they say.

On 31 March 2016 NASA International Space Station Director Sam Scimemi sent a letter to Greg Johnson on a number of topics. One of the issues Scimemi raised had to do with how CASIS hypes/promotes the research that it takes credit for having facilitated onboard the ISS. In that letter Scimemi notes: "We would advise caution in the lending of the ISS National Lab brand (via your "Space is in it" certification) too freely; care must be taken to that research performed on the ISS has actually influenced product development in advance of awarding the certification. Failure to do so weakens the brand and may lend an air of being nonserious in our mutual quest to fully utilize the ISS as a national lab." Coincidentally this letter was sent on the same day that CASIS staff made a rather awkward presentation to the NASA Advisory Council.

The "Space Is In It" designation that CASIS calls an "endorsement" has apparently only been awarded once - to Cobra Puma Golf. As such it would be illustrative to examine how that whole process came about and what it says about the ability of CASIS to recognize the actual commercial research potential of the ISS.

Continue reading: A Closer Look At The CASIS "Space Is In It" Endorsement.

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Moon and/or Mars: Challenging Human Exploration Orthodoxy

By Keith Cowing on June 20, 2016 12:59 PM.

Do we really need humans to explore Mars?, Ars Technica

"There's been a myth that there's some things you can do with robots and some only with people," Grunsfeld replied. "All exploration is human research. Even when we use robotic spacecraft, it's still human research. The question is how close are the people to the action? And it's also about the pace of discovery. When you have people on the scene, especially putting planetary scientists, geologists, astrobiologists on Mars, it's really going to accelerate the pace at which we can make discoveries." ... After lunch [Chris] Kraft and I drove back to his home, which overlooks a golf course a stone's throw from Johnson Space Center. As we shook hands in his driveway, he reiterated his closing argument to me: "Oh yes, I've heard the argument that we've been there before. I know that more than most. But we have unfinished business on the moon."

- #JourneyToMars Via #ReturnToTheMoon, Earlier Post

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Another Used Rocket Ship Launches And Lands - Again

By Keith Cowing on June 19, 2016 10:51 AM.

Blue Origin Successfully Launches New Shepard on its 4th Reusable Flight

Watch the full launch video and see some of the highlights in images.

"Blue Origin successfully launched its reusable rocket New Shepard today deploying the crew capsule on its suborbital mission. This was the 4th time this New Shepard rocket has flown, a feat never achieved to date by any other rocket."

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#JourneyToMars Via #ReturnToTheMoon

By Keith Cowing on June 19, 2016 12:07 AM.

If We Want to Send Astronauts to Mars, We Must Go Back to the Moon First, Scientific American

"Bush's idea was inspiring enough that, in addition to NASA, no fewer than 13 international space agencies signed on to participate in developing a plan for reaching the moon. Unfortunately, the plan's implementation was badly flawed. NASA tried to relive the glory days of Apollo by focusing on one-use vehicles that would transport everything to the moon from Earth. Apollo was a fantastic achievement, but it was not sustainable, which was in part why the program was canceled in the early 1970s. Bush's vision proved too expensive to sustain as well, and in 2010 President Barack Obama declared that the U.S. had no need to go back to the moon, saying, in essence, that we've been there, done that. Instead, he said, we would go to Mars without taking that interim step. But a return to the moon is crucial to the future of human space explorationand - not just for the experience it would give us in off-world living."

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Bolden Urges ESA To Extend ISS to 2024

By Keith Cowing on June 17, 2016 9:16 AM.

NASA Administrator Bolden Addresses ESA Council

"The third phase is becoming "Earth Independent" by building upon what we are learning on the Space Station and what we will learn in the "Proving Ground" of the lunar vicinity to enable human missions to Mars. It is with this plan in mind that I'm here today to encourage you to continue your support for human exploration, starting with an ESA Council decision this coming December to extend ISS operations to at least 2024, a critical step to continue advancing humanity's presence farther into the solar system and, ultimately, completion of the Journey to Mars."

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Make the Solar System Great Again

By Keith Cowing on June 15, 2016 7:29 PM.

Trump calls on Elon Musk to settle all Muslims on Mars, editorial cartoon, Washington Post

"Musk is said to be thinking over the proposal, but plans have already leaked from the Musk studio showing a design for a luxury one-person, one-way vehicle to Uranus, with pink marble interior with gold fixtures, a full-length mirror and a Make the Solar System Great Again logo."

- Hillary Clinton Wants Area 51 Transparency, earlier post

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