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Curt Michel

By Keith Cowing on March 3, 2015 11:30 AM.

Professor Emeritus Curt Michel Dies

"F. Curtis (Curt) Michel, the Andrew Hays Buchanan Professor Emeritus of Space Physics and Astronomy, died Feb. 23 at the age of 80. Although he retired in 2000 after 37 years at Rice, Michel continued to keep an office on campus, where he pursued his studies of solar winds, radio pulsars and numerical methods. He was part of the fourth class of astronauts chosen by NASA in 1965 as the agency ramped up the Apollo moon program. He was one of six scientist-astronauts in the class, the first on a roster that until that point had been largely limited to test pilots."

Curt Michel, Wikipedia

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National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics Turns 100

By Keith Cowing on March 3, 2015 9:28 AM.

Celebrate the Centennial of NASA's Predecessor: The NACA

"Today marks a special anniversary for the NASA family. It was 100 years ago, on March 3, 1915, when Congress created the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the organization from which NASA was created in 1958. The NACA was formed because our nation's leaders were concerned the U.S. was losing its edge in aviation technology to Europe, where World War 1 was raging on. Its mission, in part, was to "supervise and direct the scientific study of the problems of flight with a view to their practical solution." As you all know, we not only regained that edge, but we became the world leaders in civil aviation."

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ULA and SpaceX Are Trash Talking Again

By Keith Cowing on March 3, 2015 9:17 AM.

ULA ready to compete against Elon Musk's space startup, CEO says, Washington Post

"Still, [ULA Chief Executive Tory Bruno] also said that ULA is far more reliable in launching on schedule than SpaceX. When asked if he thought it was risky to rely on SpaceX he said, "I do." "We have a perfect mission success record and our schedule certainty is also substantial," he said. "Launching on time is huge." SpaceX took exception to Bruno's comments. "The Air Force and the taxpayers deserve more from ULA and its latest CEO, whose remarks are purposely misleading, but not unexpected," SpaceX spokesman John Taylor said in a statement. "In anticipation of having to face real competition for the first time, ULA is distorting the facts in an effort to hide its own shortcomings. This is merely the latest example that ULA is realizing that its long-held monopoly is coming to an end."

Keith's note: Then there's this gem: "Bruno said that since ULA's inception, the company "has cut the price of launch in half, and I'm going to cut it in half again." While he declined to provide specific numbers, he vowed to "be competitive with SpaceX's prices."

Hmmm ... with reusable stages SpaceX may do this too - making their cost even harder to beat. At some point Bruno will not be able to turn a profit if he's focused only on cutting prices to chase SpaceX down this path.

Marc's note: Looking at the commercial launch market the last four years, ULA has had 2 launches, both last year for WorldView 3 and NASA's EFT-1. SpaceX on the other hand has had 11 launches and this is before the coming increase in cadence. (All data from the FAA)

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Another Vulcan on ISS

By Keith Cowing on March 2, 2015 7:19 PM.

Keith's update: Wow. Mike and I got retweeted from orbit. How cool.

Keith's note: In space Samantha Cristoforetti honors Leonard Nimoy/Spock by continuing the Vulcan science officer tradition on ISS. Altered imagery by Michael Okuda.

Years ago, when John Grunsfeld left NASA headquarters, Mike Okuda made a "vulcanized" version of John. Everyone loved it - including (so it would seem) the Smithsonian's National Air & Space Museum. For a number for years, there was a copy of this faux picture adjacent to Hubble instruments on display that John had helped to bring back to Earth. It took quite some time for the Smithsonian to notice the details in the photos. Oops.

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Mikulski Has 2 Years Left to Support GSFC, Wallops, and SLS

By Keith Cowing on March 2, 2015 3:32 PM.

NASA Administrator Lauds Senator Mikulski for Championing America's Space Program

"Senator Mikulski has been a tireless champion for NASA, and has helped pave the way for future exploration and our journey to Mars."

Mikulski Announces 5th Term Will Be Her Last, Will Focus on Working for Her Constituents

"Today at Henderson's Wharf Inn in Fells Point, U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) announced she has decided not to run for re-election. Senator Mikulski, who will complete her 5th term in office in January, 2017, says she wants to focus for the next two years on working for her constituents and for the nation."

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Norm Carlson

By Keith Cowing on March 2, 2015 12:35 PM.

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SpaceX Successfully Completes 3rd Mission of 2015

By Marc Boucher on March 2, 2015 8:08 AM.

SpaceX Launches Dual Payload to GTO [With Video], SpaceRef Business

"A SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket launched the ABS 3A and EUTELSAT 115 West B satellites towards a supersynchronous transfer orbit. The launch took place on time when the launch window opened at 10:50 p.m. EST on Sunday, March 1, 2015, from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida."

Marc's note: With this launch SpaceX has completed three launches so far this year. They completed six last year. By mid-year they should have equalled last years total and probably surpassed it based on the current schedule. Their launch cadence is clearly picking up as you would expect with a rocket and company that is maturing.

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Astronauts Complete Third Spacewalk in 8 Days

By Marc Boucher on March 2, 2015 8:00 AM.

Astronauts Complete Third International Space Station Spacewalk in Eight Days [With Video]

"Outside the International Space Station, Expedition 42 Commander Barry Wilmore and Flight Engineer Terry Virts of NASA conducted their third spacewalk in eight days March 1 to install antennas and communications gear that will be used to provide rendezvous and navigational information to visiting vehicles approaching the complex in the future, including the new U.S. commercial crew vehicles."

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Leonard Nimoy

By Keith Cowing on February 28, 2015 1:02 PM.

Astronaut Salutes Leonard Nimoy From Orbit

"International Space Station astronaut Terry Virts (@AstroTerry) tweeted this image of a Vulcan hand salute from orbit as a tribute to actor Leonard Nimoy, who died on Friday, Feb. 27, 2015."

Statement by NASA Admimistrator Bolden on the Passing of Leonard Nimoy

"Leonard Nimoy was an inspiration to multiple generations of engineers, scientists, astronauts, and other space explorers. As Mr. Spock, he made science and technology important to the story, while never failing to show, by example, that it is the people around us who matter most. NASA was fortunate to have him as a friend and a colleague."

Statement by the President on the Passing of Leonard Nimoy

"I loved Spock. In 2007, I had the chance to meet Leonard in person. It was only logical to greet him with the Vulcan salute, the universal sign for "Live long and prosper." And after 83 years on this planet - and on his visits to many others - it's clear Leonard Nimoy did just that."

Continue reading: Leonard Nimoy.

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Who Has More Relevant Capsule Expertise?

By Keith Cowing on February 27, 2015 11:04 AM.

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The More Space Stations, The Better

By Keith Cowing on February 27, 2015 8:46 AM.

Russia Will Spin-Off ISS Parts for New Space Station, Discovery News

"The Russian space agency Roscosmos says it will support U.S. plans to keep the International Space Station (ISS) operating through 2024, but then wants to split off three still-to-be launched modules to form a new, independent orbital outpost. The announcement this week by a senior planning board reverses previous statements by Russian officials that Russia would end involvement in the 15-nation program in 2020 when current agreements expire. Despite occasional rhetoric, the Russian-U.S. space marriage has been largely left out of growing economic and political tensions stemming from Russia's invasion of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula last year."

Keith's note: This is not a bad thing. And I am not talking about no longer having to deal with Russia since we'll certainly find a way to find ourselves in a political spat with someone else on Earth after they leave the ISS. Rather, it shows how assets in space can be repurposed, refurbished -- re-imagined. Instead of throwing things away in orbit (Skylab, Salyuts, Mir) we can now build upon these assets and move them around like Lego bricks to form new things as we need them - and then do this again and again. When the government is done with their hardware, it can be used by someone else - just like old military bases can become movie studios and shopping malls. The more orbital capacity that is available, the more customers it can collectively and individually serve. The more valuable these on-orbit assets become for government and non-government uses, the more everyone will want to safeguard that growing capacity (and isolate it from terrestrial squabbles) as has been the case with ISS recently.

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The Usual Suspects Want Their Government Handout

By Keith Cowing on February 27, 2015 8:44 AM.

New Alliance To Promote Space Development and Settlement Policies, Space News

"Perhaps the most ambitious part of the ASD agenda is a proposed "Cheap Access to Space Act" that would offer $3.5 billion in government prizes for the development of reusable launch vehicles. Those prizes include, in a draft version of the bill provided by ASD, $1 billion to the first fully reusable vehicle that can place at least one metric ton into orbit and fly again a week later."

Keith's note: Yet another space group comprised of the usual suspects. Yet another request by a space group for the government to give them billions in handouts. Sigh. This is getting old. These groups keep proposing the same old same old - under new names each time.

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Pete Worden is Leaving NASA

By Keith Cowing on February 25, 2015 6:52 PM.

Keith's note: NASA Ames Research Center Director Pete Worden will announce this afternoon that he is leaving NASA at the end of March.

Keith's update: NASA ARC Memo: All Hands Meeting: Pete Worden is Leaving NASA

"On Wednesday, Feb. 25, I informed NASA Administrator Bolden that I have decided to retire from federal service and pursue some long-held dreams in the private sector."

Worden Announces Retirement as NASA Ames Center Director

"Earlier today, Pete Worden notified me of his decision to retire as Director of NASA's Ames Research Center. After more than four decades of dedicated public service, Pete said it was time to pursue other opportunities. He is an innovative leader, and a tireless advocate for change who has well-positioned Ames and its people for the future exploration opportunities facing this agency."

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OIG Has Doubts About NASA's Humans to Mars Plans

By Keith Cowing on February 25, 2015 10:51 AM.

NASA OIG Testimony, NASA Oversight Hearing

"As we reported in August 2013, even after the SLS and Orion are fully developed and ready to transport crew NASA will continue to face significant challenges concerning the long-term sustainability of its human exploration program. For example, unless NASA begins a program to develop landers and surface systems its astronauts will be limited to orbital missions of Mars. Given the time and money necessary to develop these systems, it is unlikely that NASA would be able to conduct any manned surface exploration missions until the late 2030s at the earliest."

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Sonja Alexander Maclin

By Keith Cowing on February 24, 2015 10:42 AM.

Keith's note: Sonja Alexander Maclin has passed away.

Service arrangements below.

Sonja was always the nicest person I talked to at NASA Headquarters - on any topic.

Continue reading: Sonja Alexander Maclin.

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NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 2 March 2015

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 2 March 2015 Video in Story

Today: Crew Off Duty Day: The USOS crew was off duty following yesterday's successful Extravehicular Activity (EVA).

More updates...

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