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NASA Still Won't Look For Existing Life on Mars (Update)

By Keith Cowing on July 31, 2014 3:10 PM.

NASA Announces Mars 2020 Rover Payload

"The Mars 2020 mission will be based on the design of the highly successful Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, which landed almost two years ago, and currently is operating on Mars. The new rover will carry more sophisticated, upgraded hardware and new instruments to conduct geological assessments of the rover's landing site, determine the potential habitability of the environment, and directly search for signs of ancient Martian life."

NASA Hosts 3 p.m. EDT Teleconference with Mars 2020 Principal Investigators

Keith's note: (sigh) NASA still does not have the imagination or inclination to search for signs of extant life on Mars. All they seem to be willing to do is see if it used to be there. At the rate that they are going it will be 20 years before they get up the nerve to try and answer the question.

Keith's update: I asked the following question at the Mars 2020 Rover press event today. "Your press release says "determine the potential habitability of the environment, and directly search for signs of ancient Martian life." Why isn't NASA directly searching for signs of EXISTING LIFE on Mars? And I will ask my follow-up since the answer to this question is always "we don't know how to look for life on Mars - yet". - How are you going about the task of learing how to look for existing life on Mars, when will you have this capability and why is it that NASA was eager to search for existing life on Mars 40 years ago but is unwilling or unable to do so now?"

I obviously expected Jim Green to answer in the same cautious way that NASA has always answered this question - one I have asked again and again for the nearly 20 years. Instead, Green launched into a detailed description of all the things that the Mars 2020 rover could detect that have a connection with life. Much of what he said clearly referred to extant / existing life. Now THAT is cool. To clarify things I sent the following request to NASA PAO "Can the Mars 2020 rover detect extant/existing life on Mars?  Will NASA be looking for extant/existing life on Mars?" Let's see how they respond.

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NASA Is Not Worried About Russia - While Everyone Else Is

By Keith Cowing on July 31, 2014 10:06 AM.

Recent History Suggests Tougher Russia Sanctions Are Needed, WS Journal

"The U.S. and Europe made good this week on their threats to start penalizing broader sections of Russia's economy in a bid to force President Vladimir Putin to end his support for separatist rebels in Ukraine. But recent history of the use of financial sanctions by Washington and Brussels--including against Iran, North Korea and Syria--suggests that significantly more pervasive penalties, particularly against Moscow's energy sector, would be needed to change the Kremlin's calculations, said current and former U.S. officials and sanctions experts."

NASA PAO statement from Bob Jacobs: "We don't anticipate Tuesday's actions will have any direct impact on NASA's activities with Russia. For specific questions on sanctions I would refer you to the Departments of Treasury and Commerce."

Keith's note: I am not sure how anyone in the U.S. government can "anticipate" what Putin/Russia are going to do next - especially after they invaded Ukraine, annexed Crimea, and killed hundreds of innocent people on an airliner. Fiddling with space stuff would be easy by comparison.

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"Interstellar": A (Missed) Opportunity for NASA to be Relevant?

By Keith Cowing on July 31, 2014 12:44 AM.

"We used to look up in the sky and wonder - at our place in the stars. Now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt."

Keith's note: What will NASA do in terms of public outreach when "Interstellar" is released? They dropped the ball when it came to "Avatar" and the producers of "Gravity" never bothered to seek out NASA's help. This film is expected to touch deeply upon themes that point to the core of what NASA does - and will do so in a manner that leaps beyond the usual preaching to the choir that NASA does inside its own self-reinforcing echo chamber.

What (if anything) do you think NASA should do?

Oh yes, NASA is funding a warp drive project. But they do not want to talk about it.

Why? What are they afraid of?

The researcher behind all of this is Harold G. White. According to people.nasa.gov here is how you contact him: harold.white-1@nasa.gov 281.482.0178

- Clarifying NASA's Warp Drive Program, earlier post
- NASA's Super Secret Warp Drive Program, earlier post
- Warp Drive Research at NASA JSC, earlier post
- JSC's Warp Drive: Fact or Fluff?, earlier post

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NASA Implements Protectionism on Science Mission Collaborations

By Keith Cowing on July 30, 2014 3:27 PM.

NASA limits foreign contributions to U.S. planetary missions, Science Insider

"Today, at a meeting of asteroid and comet scientists in Washington, D.C., NASA officials explained some of the new rules for the next mission, to be selected in 2016. Among them was a stipulation that the principal investigator would not be allowed to recruit foreign instrument contributions in excess of one-third the value of the U.S. instruments on the payload, even though those contributions don't count against the $450 million cap."

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NASA Says Russians Will Fly on U.S. Commercial Vehicles

By Keith Cowing on July 29, 2014 2:30 PM.

Hartman: U.S. and Russian Crews to Fly Both Soyuz and U.S. Commercial Vehicles, Space Policy Online

"Hartman's point was that in an emergency, it might not make sense to have all the Russians leave on one spacecraft and the Americans and others on a separate spacecraft because a mixture of experience may be needed to conduct operations. "When you have these rescue vehicles on orbit and you have to leave the station...it doesn't make much sense for three Russians to leave and expect the four Americans onboard to operate the Russian segment [of the ISS] and vice versa, right?" Hartman said."

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NewSpace Companies - We Need Your Talent

By Marc Boucher on July 29, 2014 10:37 AM.

AIAA Town Hall: We Need Talent for the Vision, SpaceRef Business

"After a long day of plenaries and technical sessions there was one last event in the evening for participants at this years AIAA Propulsion and Energy Conference, the Town Hall with a theme of "Where's MY Apollo Vision for the Future?"

... The young professionals in attendance, mostly engineers, were treated to an expert panel of rocket engineers who came to share their experience and offer some practical career tips."

Related:

- AIAA Propulsion and Energy Conference: Relevance Drives the Speed of Technology Development and Transition

- AIAA Propulsion and Energy Conference: For Systems Engineers, It's all About the Architecture

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NASA Lends Some Support to Contractor Whistleblowers

By Keith Cowing on July 29, 2014 9:29 AM.

NASA moves to protect whistleblowers, The Hill

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is looking to protect whistleblowers at NASA contractors and subcontractors who shine a light on corporate corruption. Government contractors will not be allowed to fire, demote or otherwise discipline employees who blow the whistle on their own companies for abusing their authority by mismanaging a NASA contract, wasting NASA funds, or endangering public health or safety, the agency said Monday. "Such reprisal is prohibited even if it is undertaken at the request of an executive branch official," NASA wrote in the Federal Register."

NASA: Allowability of Legal Costs for Whistleblower Proceedings

"DoD, GSA, and NASA have adopted as final, with changes, an interim rule amending the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to implement a section of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 that addresses the allowability of legal costs incurred by a contractor or subcontractor related to a whistleblower proceeding commenced by the submission of a complaint of reprisal by the contractor or subcontractor employee."

Interim Rule: NASA Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement: Contractor Whistleblower Protections

"NASA is issuing an interim rule amending the NASA FAR Supplement (NFS) to implement statutory requirements providing whistleblower protections for contractor and subcontractor employees and to address the allowability of legal costs incurred by a contractor related to whistleblower proceedings."

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NOAA Has IT Security Issues - Just Like NASA Does

By Keith Cowing on July 28, 2014 8:43 PM.

Hacker Breached NOAA Satellite Data From Contractor's PC, NextGov

"National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite data was stolen from a contractor's personal computer last year, but the agency could not investigate the incident because the employee refused to turn over the PC, according to a new inspector general report. This is but one of the "significant security deficiencies" that pose a threat to NOAA's critical missions, the report states. Other weaknesses include unauthorized smartphone use on key systems and thousands of software vulnerabilities."

Significant Security Deficiencies in NOAA's Information Systems Create Risks in Its National Critical Mission, NOAA

"We found that (I) information systems connected to NESDIS' critical satellite ground support systems increases the risk of cyber attacks, (2) NESDIS' inconsistent implementation of mobile device protections increases the likelihood of a malware infection, (3) critical security controls remain unimplemented in NESDIS' information systems, and (4) improvements are needed to provide assurance that independent security control assessments are sufficiently rigorous."

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"New" Space: For Middle Age Males Only? (Update)

By Keith Cowing on July 24, 2014 2:19 PM.

Keith's 17 Jun note: Have a look at the speakers at the upcoming Space Frontier Foundation New Space Conference. This organization claims to be at the forefront of space exploration. If so then the future will be run by males currently in their 50s.

"New" Space? looks more like "old" space to me.

What about everyone else?

Keith's 24 July update: They have added a little more diversity to their speakers list in the past month but this is still a conference where mostly middle age white males (like me) are the ones talking about the future of space. How depressing.

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ISEE-3: Next Steps

By Keith Cowing on July 24, 2014 12:51 PM.

Announcing the ISEE-3 Interplanetary Citizen Science Mission

"After a successful reawakening the venerable ISEE-3 spacecraft is about to begin the first interplanetary citizen science mission. We will be beginning the "ISEE-3 Interplanetary Citizen Science Mission" on 10 August 2014 as the spacecraft flies by the Moon. We have a functional space craft that can do science and is already returning new data. All of our original citizen science objectives remain unchanged and are ready for implementation. In fact, we'll be announcing some new partnerships shortly that will serve to turbocharge our efforts in this regard."

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Webb Sunshield Works as Expected (In the Lab)

By Marc Boucher on July 24, 2014 11:07 AM.

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope Sunshield Stacks Up to Test, NASA

"The Sunshield on NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is the largest part of the observatory--five layers of thin membrane that must unfurl reliably in space to precise tolerances. Last week, for the first time, engineers stacked and unfurled a full-sized test unit of the Sunshield and it worked perfectly."

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Commercial Mars Telecom?

By Marc Boucher on July 23, 2014 4:30 PM.

NASA Seeks Proposals for Commercial Mars Data Relay Satellites, NASA

"NASA has issued a Request for Information (RFI) to investigate the possibility of using commercial Mars-orbiting satellites to provide telecommunications capabilities for future robotic missions to the Red Planet.

"We are looking to broaden participation in the exploration of Mars to include new models for government and commercial partnerships," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "Depending on the outcome, the new model could be a vital component in future science missions and the path for humans to Mars."

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GAO Report on SLS Issued

By Keith Cowing on July 23, 2014 2:19 PM.

SLS Resources Need to be Matched to Requirements to Decrease Risk and Support Long Term Affordability, GAO

"NASA also faces challenges integrating existing hardware that was not originally designed to fly on SLS. For example, SLS is using solid rocket boosters from the Constellation program, but integrating a new non-asbestos insulating material into the booster design has proven difficult and required changes to the booster manufacturing processes."

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Is Voyager 1 in Interstellar Space?

By Marc Boucher on July 23, 2014 1:24 PM.

AGU: Voyager Spacecraft Might Not Have Reached Interstellar Space, AGU

"In 2012, the Voyager mission team announced that the Voyager 1 spacecraft had passed into interstellar space, traveling further from Earth than any other manmade object.

But, in the nearly two years since that historic announcement, and despite subsequent observations backing it up, uncertainty about whether Voyager 1 really crossed the threshold continues. There are some scientists who say that the spacecraft is still within the heliosphere - the region of space dominated by the Sun and its wind of energetic particles - and has not yet reached the space between the stars."

NASA Responds: NASA Voyager Statement About Solar Wind Models

"A paper recently published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters describes an alternate model for the interaction between the heliosphere -- a "bubble" around our planets and sun -- and the interstellar medium. It also proposes a test for whether Voyager 1 has, indeed, left the heliosphere.

NASA's Voyager project scientist, Ed Stone of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, responds."

Related: Voyager 1 stories on SpaceRef

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Landsat Greatest Hits Video

By Marc Boucher on July 23, 2014 1:09 PM.

Landsat's Global Perspective Over 40 Years, NASA

"On July 23rd, 1972, the first Landsat spacecraft launched into orbit. At the time, it was called "Earth Resources Technology Satellite," or ERTS, and was the first satellite to use a scanning spectrophotometer.

...

Celebrating this anniversary, this video is a "greatest hits" montage of Landsat data. Throughout the decades, Landsat satellites have given us a detailed view of the changes to Earth's land surface."

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ESA's Last ATV Leaves Earth

ESA's Last ATV Leaves Earth Video in Story

The fifth and final mission of ESA's Automated Transfer Vehicle got off to a flying start today with its launch from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, heading for the International Space Station.

More updates...

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