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Watching Where NASA's Money Goes

By Keith Cowing on June 28, 2016 12:10 AM.

Keith's note: The next time you hear the space and planetary science communities complaining about budget cuts consider what their NASA mission PIs are paid at SwRI (2014 IRS Form, Part VII)

[Juno] Scott J Bolton $345,145 + 51,887
[New Horizons] Sol A Stern $370,522 + 52,435

SwRI is not at all shy about telling you how much money they earn - indeed they put this on their press releases. They are a non-profit, so this whole income thing should not be all that important - right? Just sayin'

"About SwRI: SwRI is an independent, nonprofit, applied research and development organization based in San Antonio, Texas, with nearly 2,800 employees and an annual research volume of $549 million."

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Ruexit For ISS?

By Keith Cowing on June 27, 2016 11:07 PM.

Russia's Plan To Spin Off a New Space Station From the ISS, Popular Mechanics

"According to RKK Energia, the prime Russian contractor on the ISS, the new outpost would begin with the separation of the Nauka from the rest of the old station in mid-2020s. By that time, Nauka should have two even newer modules in tow. One would be the so-called Node Module, a tinker-toy-like component that could connect to six other modules, crew ships, cargo tankers, structural elements, you name it. The Node Module is already in RKK Energia's garage and ready to go within a few months after the Nauka. Next would be the new Science and Power Module (NEM) which, as it name implies, will finally give cosmonauts a state-of-the-art science lab and a pair of large solar arrays, making the Russian segment fully independent from the rest of the ISS in terms of power, communications, and other resources."

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Dawn Brooke Owens

By Keith Cowing on June 27, 2016 6:18 PM.

Keith's note: Brooke Owens has left the planet. Ad Astra.

A memorial service for Brooke Owens will be held at Clear Creek Community Church, in League City, TX, at 10:00am on Saturday July 9th. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in Brooke's name to one of the three following organizations:

Friends Thru The Fight (FTTF), a local non-profit which supports breast cancer patients through their treatment and were present in loving on Brooke and her family over the past few months, by visiting friendsthruthefight.org.

AidChild, a non-profit organization that Brooke served with that supports orphans living with HIV/AIDS who do not have the support of extended families in Uganda, by visiting http://aidchild.org/.

Mercy's Village International, an organization that Brooke served with dedicated to fighting poverty through the education of children and the empowerment of girls and young women, by http://www.mercysvillage.org/.

If you have any photos, memories or things like poetry or songs of or by Brooke, please send them to dawnbrookeowensmemorial - at - gmail.com

Continue reading: Dawn Brooke Owens.

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NASA Bans All Travel to Istanbul for COSPAR

By Keith Cowing on June 26, 2016 11:14 PM.

NASA-sponsored Travel to 41st Committee on Space Research Scientific Assembly in Istanbul, Turkey, NASA

"The Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) is holding its 41st Scientific Assembly in Istanbul, Turkey, from July 30 to August 7, 2016. As with previous meetings of this biennial international conference, a significant number of NASA employees and contractors have made tentative plans to attend including representatives from your organization. However, based on current US. Department of State guidance regarding offical travel to Turkey, the Administrator has determined that the Agency will not sponsor or process travel for the 2016 COSPAR conference in Istanbul by NASA civil servants or contractors, including those at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory."

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Brexit From ESA?

By Keith Cowing on June 26, 2016 10:01 PM.

Brexit Does Not Mean the UK Will Leave the European Space Agency, Right?, Inverse

"The resources and partnerships that UK-based companies rely on are now hanging in the balance as the vote moves forward. However, a UK exit from the EU should not affect the country's involvement with ESA. The ESA and EU are two separate entities with different goals and member states."

'Brexit' leaves lingering questions about involvement in European Space Agency, WRAL

"In a May CNN interview from the ISS, Peake commented on how leaving the EU might impact the UK: "The UK will still be part of the European Space Agency, that won't change at all. The European Space Agency is still part of this international partnership here with the International Space Station." Peake added "it really cuts through all barriers, its such a strong partnership."

RAS Statement on the Outcome of the EU Referendum in the UK, RAS

"UK and European science benefit from the free movement of people between countries, something that has allowed UK research to become world leading. Although for example membership of the European Space Agency and European Southern Observatory is not contingent on EU membership, these organizations depend on international recruitment made easier by straightforward migration between countries. We therefore urge the Government to ensure it remains straightforward for UK scientists to travel and work in EU countries, and for EU scientists to come to the UK."

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Space Sells in India

By Keith Cowing on June 25, 2016 9:35 AM.

Keith's note: This TV commercial is titled "Astronaut lachaar, khatam hua aachar". You have to watch the entire thing to figure out what it is selling. Its hilarious.

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The Droid That NASA Should Be Sending To Mars

By Keith Cowing on June 24, 2016 8:02 PM.

Keith's note: While NASA pours money into its goofy R5 robot that cannot walk unless it is on a hoist, controlled by a human, and is always broken, Boston Dynamics continues to make astonishing progress on autonomous robots. Imagine if you had something like this on Mars as part of a sample return mission. It would allow access to places that rovers cannot go and has dexterity unmatched by anything NASA has built. Wouldn't it be cool if that first SpaceX Red Dragon opened up and one of these droids walked out?

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Cool NASA Mars Symposium That NASA Is Not Talking About

By Keith Cowing on June 24, 2016 7:56 PM.

Keith's note: NASA is holding a Viking 40th Anniversary Symposium at NASA LaRC on 19 & 20 July. This event has quite a line up of speakers for something that ought to resonate with #JourneyToMars (their poster even uses the hashtag). So ... when are NASA LaRC or NASA HQ going to tell people about this? There is nothing online at NASA LaRC, on the NASA HQ Journey To Mars webpage, or at NASA.gov calendar. I only heard about this via a NIA email notice for the live webcast and agenda.

Keith's update: PAO tells me that they just got approval to start talking about this event.

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U.S. Army Uses Alien Invasion Movie for Recruiting

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

Army's new recruitment drive: Sign up, maybe fight aliens, Army Times

It's part of an ongoing effort to correct what Ortiz called "misperceptions" about the Army by the general public. "We constantly hear America talk about the Army in a very detrimental way, in that we are low-tech, we are low-skill, and for the most part, because of those first two, we are the institution of last resort," he said, adding that the responses from the public became so familiar that "two years ago, we stopped asking."

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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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NASA International Space Station On-Orbit Status 27 June 2016

NASA International Space Station On-Orbit Status 27 June 2016 Video in Story

A pair of Expedition 48 cosmonauts are getting a Progress cargo ship ready to undock and redock Friday morning before its ultimate departure Saturday night. The maneuver will test an upgraded telerobotically operated rendezvous system installed in the Zvezda service module after the Progress docked in December.

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