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Ivanka Trump Supports NASA Education While Her Father Seeks To Gut It

By Keith Cowing on March 28, 2017 4:02 PM.

The irony in Ivanka Trump's and Betsy DeVos's push for STEM education , Washington Post

"In her introduction to the film, Ivanka Trump said that her father's administration "has expanded NASA's space exploration mission" though did not, unsurprisingly, mention that he actually proposed decreasing NASA funding and eliminating the education office. The Trump-DeVos event drew some sharp criticism from Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, who said in a statement:

"Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Ivanka Trump are feigning an interest in STEM careers with a photo op at the National Air and Space Museum while eliminating all funding for NASA's education programs. This takes chutzpah to a new level. If this administration was genuinely interested in promoting STEM programs, it would walk the walk, not just talk the talk. The next generation of astronauts, scientists, engineers and mathematicians need support, not budget cuts eliminating the very programs being promoted."

There was also no mention of the 13.5 percent in cuts Trump has proposed to the Education Department, which include the reduction or elimination of grants for teacher training, after-school programs and aid to ­low-income and first-generation college students."

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Trump Is Not Listening To NASA or NOAA on Earth Science. Get Used To It.

By Keith Cowing on March 28, 2017 11:53 AM.

The Mercers, Trump mega-donors, back group that casts doubt on climate science, Washington Post

"Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), chairman of the House science committee, who issued a subpoena to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists over a study finding that there had been no slowdown or pause in global warming, told the group that it's time for "good science, rather than politically correct science." Steven Milloy, publisher of JunkScience.com, said the government has "perverted science." "There is no science going on in NOAA or NASA or EPA," said Milloy, who served on the Trump EPA transition team, to chuckles and applause. "There is no such thing as climate science."

US science agencies face deep cuts in Trump budget, Nature

"So far, the non-political 'career' employees at the agency are trying to remain calm and take a conciliatory approach with Trump's political appointees. "We've got four years with this administration, so we are trying to educate rather than confront," says one senior career official. Waleed Abdalati, a former chief scientist at NASA, offers similar advice to researchers who are worried about potential cuts to Earth-science programmes at NOAA and NASA. "Rumors are counterproductive," he says. "Rather than complain about what hasn't happened, we should advocate for what should happen."

Keith's note: Just remember folks, that OMB Budget Blueprint Excerpt for NASA "Provides $1.8 billion for a focused, balanced Earth science portfolio that supports the priorities of the science and applications communities, a savings of $102 million from the 2017 annualized CR level. The Budget terminates four Earth science missions (PACE, OCO-3, DSCOVR Earth-viewing instruments, and CLARREO Pathfinder) and reduces funding for Earth science research grants." This is not a budget document. Its just a snapshot in time. OMB wants to see who screams the loudest - and who doesn't scream as much. The budget that emerges in a month or two may be very different as a result. If you listen to the anti-climate change rhetoric coming out of the White House and its allied external allies and sympathetic members of Congress, it should be obvious that Earth science has a big target painted on it.

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SLS Charts From Broken NASA NAC Telecon

By Keith Cowing on March 28, 2017 10:18 AM.

Keith's note: The NAC Human Exploration and Operations Committee is meeting today. After an hour the telcon has no functional audio so no one really knows what Bill Gerstenmaier is saying. But he posted these charts. Not sure why we need this deep space habitat, whether there is still a #JourneyToMars or a pivot to #BackToThe Moon. Why NASA is chronically unable to do a simple telecon is just baffling. I did them from a cold tent at Everest Base camp at 17,600 feet in 2009 over a BGAN satphone many times a day.

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Trump's NASA Infomercial - Not Bad - For A First Episode

By Keith Cowing on March 27, 2017 7:25 PM.

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Burning Lots of Money Just to Recreate Apollo 8

By Keith Cowing on March 27, 2017 3:06 PM.

New report: NASA spends 72 cents of every SLS dollar on overhead costs, Ars Technica

"... according to a new report published by the nonpartisan think tank Center for a New American Security, NASA has spent $19 billion on rockets, first on Ares I and V, and now on the SLS. Additionally, the agency has spent $13.9 billion on the Orion spacecraft. The agency hopes to finally fly its first crewed mission with the new vehicles in 2021. If it does so, the report estimates the agency will have spent $43 billion before that first flight, essentially a reprise of the Apollo 8 mission around the Moon.

... The new report argues that, given these high costs, NASA should turn over the construction of rockets and spacecraft to the private sector. It buttresses this argument with a remarkable claim about the "overhead" costs associated with the NASA-led programs."

Keith's note: $43 billion in one dollar bills would stretch 4,166,700 miles or 17 times the distance to the Moon. Just sayin'.

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New Head of NASA Office of Communications Named

By Keith Cowing on March 27, 2017 1:04 PM.

Jen Rae Wang Appointed to Head NASA's Office of Communications

"Jen Rae Wang has been selected by Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot as NASA's Associate Administrator for the Office of Communications. Wang joins NASA with more than a decade of experience at the highest levels of state and federal government in public, legislative, and media affairs both domestically and internationally, strategic communications, as well as small and large-scale organizational executive leadership."

Trump's Team at EPA Vetting 'Controversial' Public Meetings and Presentations, Pro Publica

"Wang helped lead the Trump presidential campaign in Nebraska and last month had been announced as a deputy chief of staff to newly elected U.S. Rep. Don Bacon, a Nebraska Republican."

Keith's trivia note: If Rep. Bridenstine is named NASA Administrator he and Jen Rae Wang have something to talk about: swimming. He holds the Oklahoma record in 200 meter swimming (freestyle, relay) and Jen Rae Wang has an entry in U.S. Masters swimming.

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Space Policy: No One Knows What Is Going On

By Keith Cowing on March 26, 2017 8:28 PM.

Keith's note: If you look at our calendar for the coming week you will see an unusual number of advisory meetings, policy briefings, seminars, etc. here in Washington, DC. Everyone will be talking about where they think space (e.g. NASA) policy and science will be going in the next few months and years. Many events conflict with one another in terms of timing. Many more of these events overlap in terms of their participants with a high quotient of the usual suspects in attendance at multiple meetings saying the same thing over and over again to one another. Guess what: no one knows what is going on. Seriously. From the White House on down, no one knows where space policy is going. And the more someone tells you that they do know, the more suspicious you should be of what they say - starting with me. It is a mess folks.

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Confusing Message and Messenger at Planetary Society

By Keith Cowing on March 26, 2017 7:51 PM.

Keith's note: Here's the really creepy thing ... the Planetary Society's Twitter page says "Co-founded by Sagan. Led by Nye. Forward with you. We advocate for space, create our own missions and educate the world." Wait a minute. The Planetary Society was co-founded by Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray and Lou Friedman. But now this is all about equating Carl Sagan and Bill Nye and demoting Murray and Friedman. I'm sorry but there is no comparison between Sagan and Nye.

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Elon Musk Will Help SWAT Team Lead By Trump's Son-in-Law

By Keith Cowing on March 26, 2017 7:10 PM.

Trump taps Kushner to lead a SWAT team to fix government with business ideas, Washington Post

"President Trump plans to unveil a new White House office on Monday with sweeping authority to overhaul the federal bureaucracy ... by harvesting ideas from the business world and, potentially, privatizing some government functions. The innovation office has a particular focus on technology and data, and it is working with such titans as ... Tesla founder and chief executive Elon Musk."

Elon Musk's Billion Dollar Crusade to Stop The A.I. Apocalypse, Vanity Fair

"In a tech universe full of skinny guys in hoodies - whipping up bots that will chat with you and apps that can study a photo of a dog and tell you what breed it is - Musk is a throwback to Henry Ford and Hank Rearden. In Atlas Shrugged, Rearden gives his wife a bracelet made from the first batch of his revolutionary metal, as though it were made of diamonds. Musk has a chunk of one of his rockets mounted on the wall of his Bel Air house, like a work of art."

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There Is Another OSTP

By Keith Cowing on March 26, 2017 5:19 PM.

Obama's science diaspora prepares for a fight, Washington Post

"Phil Larson, who focused on space exploration issues at OSTP under Obama for five years before leaving for SpaceX and now the University of Colorado, said the way Obama and Holdren emphasized science and technology left a mark on those who worked there. "Their time at OSTP specifically under President Obama and Dr. Holdren galvanized a whole new kind of passion from them, because they saw it being paid attention to at the highest levels. ... The Obama administration was considered among the most science-friendly administrations in history, so it isn't surprising that his staffers at the center of that effort feel a sense of mission that carries beyond the White House gates. And now, with the Trump administration's assault on science taking form, that mission is rapidly increasing in scope and magnitude."

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"Life" Is A Truly Stupid Movie

By Keith Cowing on March 26, 2017 2:38 PM.

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Chief of Staff Erik Noble Has Left NASA

By Keith Cowing on March 24, 2017 6:25 PM.

Keith's note: Erik Noble, a member of the Trump Beachhead team at NASA headquarters has departed NASA for a position at NOAA. Noble had been serving as Chief of Staff on the 9th floor. No word yet as to who is replacing him in that position.

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Appreciating The Value Of The International Space Station

By Keith Cowing on March 24, 2017 10:44 AM.

Somebody Just Buy the ISS Already, Wired

"Officially, Congress must make a decision on the ISS by 2024, when its funding expires. But beyond routine maintenance and the occasional orbital boost, the station needs no major repairs. "As it happens, some stuff is functioning vastly better than imagined," says Keith Cowing, editor of NasaWatch (a NASA watchdog), who helped design the station as a NASA employee in the 1990s. "Maintenance is little things like replacing batteries when they die or tightening valves when they need it."

... Even with a government-mandated nonprofit charged specifically with ginning up business, nobody has found a killer app for low Earth orbit. Yet. Cowing sympathizes with NASA's funding plight, and says it shouldn't indefinitely tie up resources on a mission barely beyond the stratosphere. But he doesn't think that should seal ISS's fate. "NASA has spent decades building and operating this thing, has gotten it just to the point where it can actually start doing things, and all of a sudden you want to scrap it all and start building something else," he says. What a waste.

... Plus, buying it lets you do whatever the hell you want. "I like to refer to the ISS as the Undiscovered Country, both in the Shakespearean and Star Trek-ian sense," says Cowing. "It's completely underutilized."

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GAO to FAA: Insurance Calculations Need Fixing

By Keith Cowing on March 23, 2017 9:22 PM.

Commercial Space Launch Insurance: Weakness in FAA's Insurance Calculation May Expose the Federal Government to Excess Risk, GAO

"Because FAA has not yet addressed the identified weakness in the cost-of- casualty amount used in its calculation, the federal government may be exposed to excess risk. FAA has identified potential steps to update the information the cost-of-casualty amount is based on, including seeking public input on whether and how to revise the amount, but the agency does not have a complete plan for updating the cost-of-casualty amount. Federal internal control standards require that agency management respond to risks related to achieving the entity's objectives, define how to achieve objectives, and set time frames for achieving them. FAA has not responded to the risk identified in using outdated data as the basis of the cost-of-casualty amount because FAA has prioritized other work, such as reviewing launch license applications, ahead of this issue."

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NASA FOIA Follies Continue

By Keith Cowing on March 23, 2017 2:14 PM.

NASA blocks FOIA request for potential White House 'media blackout' orders, Daily Dot

"Users of a popular online service that helps the public acquire legal access to government records face new hurdles when petitioning NASA under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The National Aeronautics Space Administration has begun rejecting public records requests from users of FOIA request-filing service MuckRock, which doesn't provide what the agency calls a "personal mailing address," even though the requirement appears to have no basis under the law. Last week, following nearly two months of back and forth, NASA formally denied the Daily Dot access to any records--which may or may not exist--related to White House decrees affecting its use of social media and other forms of communication. The request, filed less than a week after Trump's inauguration, was sent using MuckRock's online submission system and contained MuckRock's mailing address. "Please be advised, that everyone submitting a FOIA Request via Muckrock, who are not a staff members [sic] must provide their personal mailing address when submitting a requests [sic]," NASA's FOIA officer, Josephine Shibly, wrote in a letter to the Daily Dot on March 10."

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