COSMOS Then and Now, Keith Cowing
"The new incarnation of "COSMOS" hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson debuted the other night. Highly anticipated, this new effort seeks to reboot, rekindle, and revitalize the indelible impression that its predecessor, hosted by Carl Sagan, made on many of us back in 1980.
The first episode of the new COSMOS did not disappoint. Will it be the equal of its predecessor? Hard to say after just one episode - but nothing I saw leads me to think that it will be anything but spectacular and on a par with Sagan's pioneering work.
It is sort of a waste of time to try and convey the new COSMOS in words. You simply have to watch - and feel it. I liked what I saw and I have to say that my concerns about Tyson trying to fill Sagan's shoes - and missing - evaporated instantly. Tyson reverentially took the small dandelion seed last held by Sagan a generation ago, and then shot off - confidently - in his re-imagined ship of the imagination.
I have lived with the original COSMOS in my head for more than 30 years. It is not going to go away and I am incapable of not comparing the new and the old versions. Both series are boundary-pushing creatures of their respective times - and hosts. Yet millions have never seen the original.
I will save my overall commentary on the new incarnation of COSMOS until I have seen the entire collection of episodes. But I can talk about the original series and how it and its creator, Carl Sagan, affected me personally. Inextricably linked as these two stereoisomer are, insight into one provides a possible prediction of what impact the other has had or will have."Categories: Astrobiology
The Path Forward In American Space - 2014 Edition, Dennis Wingo, SpaceRef
"I AM UNEASY. I resent the passive attitudes many scientists have toward the challenge of science, especially their passivity concerning the greatest scientific, technological, and industrial opportunity of all time--- the development of space--- a challenge so limitless and exciting as ultimately to surpass all previous human accomplishments.... I am angry that so many scientists do not voice the scientific benefits of the expedition to the moon, concerned that industrial directors in charge of tomorrow are tranquil to the future, disturbed that our non-scientific Congress is unrealistic in its reasons for space appropriations, and disgusted with scientific journals that have abdicated their responsibilities of leadership and fail, even, to present a point of view. Hundreds of important scientific and cold-cash reasons abound for going to the moon..."
These words could have been written by myself or a number of other space advocates over the last few years (it could also be written about Mars). However, these were written as the preface to a book "The Case for Going to the Moon", written in 1965 by Neil Ruzic, the editor and publisher of the 1960's era journal Industrial Research. The forward to the "Case for Going to the Moon" was written by Arthur C. Clarke. ...Categories: Commercialization, Exploration
Keith's note: Last night @NASA and other main NASA Twitter accounts devoted a lot of real time tweeting and linking of images and references in support of the premiere of "Cosmos". Most notably, President Obama thought it worth his time to make a rather unprecedented on-air introduction to the series. Oddly, NASA's Astrobiology program did not say one damn thing. There is no mention on NASA's main astrobiology website. No mention was made on their 880,000 follower AstrobiologyNAI Twitter account either.Continue reading: Why Is NASA's Astrobiology Program Ignoring "Cosmos"?.
"Space Florida's objective for the space tourism marketing appropriation is to define and develop the scope of space tourism throughout the state of Florida. Breaking the plan into three phases will allow us to address the different needs and goals of the aerospace industry. Each stage of this plan includes specific tactics with messaging relevant to the targeted demographic, as well as built in opportunities to measure reach, effectiveness and the return on investment of each individual tactic."
Keith's note: Looks like they want to do "train wraps" in Chicago, kiosks in New York City's financial district, Denver Airport ... They are ambitious - and they do have a viable precedent for attracting business to Florida: Ron Jon Surf Shop billboards up and down the east coast.Categories: Commercialization
"Some think that the Chang'e-3 mission provides an opportunity for China and NASA to collaborate. How has that been going? It is indeed a wonderful opportunity. The landing of the Change'e-3 spacecraft on the Moon kicked up a lot of dust over a landscape that had already been carefully surveyed by NASA's two Moon orbiters, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer. This is a perfect controlled experiment -- by coincidence rather than by design -- to study the composition of lunar dust and atmosphere, but it will require data exchange between the two countries. China is eager to collaborate, but nothing has come through from the US side because of the 2011 spending bill."
Keith's note: Our Congress goes out of its way to not cooperate with China in space because they do not like China's internal and foreign policies. Russia invades Ukraine, the U.S. howls in protest, and yet we still operate the ISS together with Russia. Consistency? Of course not.Categories: China, Russia
"Tyson described space travel as "a long-term investment": "It's an investment that private enterprise cannot lead." He recalled the excitement around SpaceX's delivery of cargo the International Space Station, which sparked discussion about whether private companies would replace government as the main engine behind space travel. Tyson's response? "They brought cargo to the space station! NASA's been doing that for 30 years!" The problem, he said, is that it's hard to predict the risk and return on investment on "doing anything big and expensive first." He noted that the first Europeans to come to America were not the Dutch East India Company, but Christopher Columbus and his crew, whose expedition was paid for by Spain. After the initial exploration, there will be opportunities for private companies. "The first trillionaire in the world is going to be the person who first mines the asteroid belt," Tyson said."
Keith's note: Its rather odd that Tyson dumps on what SpaceX has accomplished i.e. that NASA did it 30 years ago (he doesn't explain that i.e the hugely expensive shuttle) but then he says that the person who first mines the asteroid will become a trillionaire. Assuming that the person gains these monetary riches by mining, you'd have to assume that they are a capitalist and that they did this commercially. So, Tyson dumps on commercial operations on space station as being ho hum and then says that the same mindset/world view i.e. commerce will be behind asteroid mining which he seems to equate with exploration.Continue reading: Neil Tyson's Confusing Take on Space Commerce.
NASA Wants to Explore Europa On the Cheap, Planetary Society
"Over the past few years, JPL and APL has been working on a reduced-cost Europa concept called the Europa Clipper, which would fly by Europa on the order of 50 times over a few years to map the surface and determine the properties of the assumed ocean and ice sheet. The Clipper had an estimated cost of $2.1 billion, less than half of the originally-conceived Europa Orbiter, which was around $4.7 billion. This would place the Clipper as a "flagship" mission, though on the low side for a flagship."Categories: Astrobiology, Space & Planetary Science
"X-ray crystallography has become the leading technique for studying the structure of matter at the atomic and molecular level. Today it underpins all sciences and is widely applied in industry. It is essential in the development of new materials. The technique is very powerful, and the range of materials that can be studied expands as new technologies evolve and are applied in innovative ways to structure solution. It is now possible to record vast amounts of diffraction data in seconds electronically, whereas it took days and months by photographic methods 30 to 40 years ago. Single crystals can be created in various ways; they can be produced from compounds that are liquids or gases at room temperature, and complete molecular structures can be presented within minutes. This short review presents recent developments that are appropriate to the single-crystal x-ray studies of chemical and materials sciences."
Keith's note: Neither of these articles in this special issue of Science mention microgravity. Yet CASIS perpetuates utilization myths and acts as if advances in crystallography can only be made if you use uber-perfect crystals that have been grown in space. Space is no longer necessesary since vanishingly small amounts of material are now all that is required for Earth-based crystallography procedures (see links below) and answers appear swiftly - not months/years later. Shouldn't CASIS be focusing on things that can really utilize the unqiue capabilities of the ISS - not space-based technology that has already been eclipsed by advances back on Earth?Continue reading: Science News CASIS Would Rather You Not See.
"In previous budgets, Congress hasn't fully funded commercial crew requests as a way of finding savings, to the chagrin of its advocates. "The president has been requesting approximately $800 million every year since his FY12 budget submission to fund the development of American vehicles to provide access to the ISS, only to have Congress, led primarily by the GOP but not exclusively, dramatically undercut that funding," said Dale Ketcham, chief of strategic alliances for Space Florida, the state's spaceport authority and aerospace development organization. But Russia's incursion into Crimean region of Ukraine has put the spotlight on the U.S. and Russia's codependence in space, and could provide the political capital necessary for the program to get full funding this time around."Categories: Commercialization, Russia
"We do not expect the current Russia-Ukraine situation to have any impact on our civil space cooperation with Russia, including our partnership on the International Space Station program," said Allard Beutel, a NASA spokesman."
Russia Preparing Response to U.S. and EU Sanctions, Moscow Times
"The Federation Council is drawing up a bill that would allow the government to confiscate the property of U.S. and European companies in the event of Western sanctions, though political analysts dismiss both actions as intimidating rhetoric unlikely turn into action. Further decreasing the possibility of asset confiscation is its violation of Russian and international laws, a legal expert said."
"The Obama administration is prepared to take unilateral steps to sanction Russian individuals and business entities it holds responsible for corrupt and illegal behavior in Ukraine while it moves to persuade its European partners, some more reluctant than others, to consider more substantive sanctions to directly affect the Russian economy, according to senior administration officials."Categories: Russia
"If DOD requires all offers to contain both fixed-price and cost-reimbursement features for launch services and capability, respectively, similar to the way it currently contracts with ULA, there could be benefits to DOD and ULA, but potential burdens to new entrants. Alternatively, if DOD implements a fixed-price commercial approach to launch proposals, DOD could lose insight into contractor cost or pricing. DOD could also require a combination of elements from each of these approaches, or develop new contract requirements for this competition."
"In December 2013, DOD signed a contract modification with ULA, committing the government to buy 35 launch vehicle booster cores over a 5-year period, and the associated capability to launch them. The new contract represents significant effort on the part of DOD to negotiate better launch prices through its improved knowledge of contractor costs, and DOD officials expect the new contract to realize significant savings, primarily through stable unit pricing for all launch vehicles. DOD is also leading a broader competition for up to 14 additional launches, expected to begin in fiscal year 2015."
"Recently, some have claimed that the Air Force's block buy of 36 booster cores from the incumbent will save the taxpayer "$4.4 billion over the next several years." Any "savings" resulting from a block buy of 36 rocket cores from the incumbent provider are derived directly from a 50 percent year-over-year budget projection increase in FY2012, which was purposefully based on worst-case assumptions for a single- Launch buy, and acknowledged at the time by the incumbent as being inflated.5 If SpaceX had contracted for these missions, using the same baseline, we would have saved the taxpayer a total of $11.6 billion."
"ULA was formed to enable assured access to space with two separate launch systems, with recognition the that market demand was insufficient to sustain two competitors. We went from two competing teams with redundant and underutilized infrastructure to one team that has delivered the expected savings of this consolidation."
Hearing Summary: EELV costs under ULA up 166%, ULA leery of competition, SpaceX eager for competition.— NASA Watch (@NASAWatch) March 5, 2014
NASA FY 2015 Budget - Commercial Crew is Investing in America, SpaceRef Business
"Early in his opening statement during the NASA teleconference on NASA's FY 2015 budget request, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden made it clear that reliance on the Russians for access to the International Space Station is choice Congress must choose to end.
Bolden said "budgets are about making choices, and let me clear about one thing, the choice here is between fully funding the request to bring space launches back to the U.S. or continuing millions in subsidies to the Russians, it's that simple. The Obama administration chooses investing in America. We believe Congress will choose this course as well."
On a day where tensions in Ukraine's Crimea only slighted abated, hammering on Congress about the choices they've made with respect to funding Commercial Crew budgeting in past years seemed appropriate. But was anybody listening?"Categories: Budget, Commercialization
"Pogue, together with astronauts Gerald Carr and Edward Gibson, spent 84 consecutive days in space from 1973 to 1974 aboard Skylab, the first American space station. Their 12 weeks in orbit was a record at the time, topping the previous Skylab mission's eight weeks. They orbited the earth 1,214 times while aboard the station, traveling 35.5 million miles."Categories: Astronauts, Personnel News
Computing a Winner, Fusion a Loser in U.S. Science Budget, Science Insider
"A White House summary of NASA's budget notes that the savings achieved by reducing funding for SOFIA will enable "continued support for higher priority programs, including lower cost, competitive science missions, and extended operations for the Cassini Saturn mission." A more detailed presentation of the space agency's budget proposal, unveiled this afternoon by NASA, says the agency is in talks with its German partner to determine the best path forward for SOFIA."
Hertz says MOU with DLR for SOFIA calls for 20 years but #NASA is cutting it and yet NASA won't admit that 20 yrs of ops won't happen.— NASA Watch (@NASAWatch) March 4, 2014
Bizzarre that Hertz says SOFIA is being cut due to lack of funds but he cannot say how much DLR needs to provide to keep it flying. #NASA— NASA Watch (@NASAWatch) March 4, 2014
Keith's note: In a NASA FY 2015 press event today I noted the Inspiration Mars/Mars 2021 Flyby congressional hearing last week and how Dennis Tito is asking NASA to pay for a SLS/Orion mission to Mars. Based on the Inspiration Mars 2021 mission date, and all existing SLS/Orion plans, Tito's plan would require the very first SLS/Orion flight with humans to go on this mission to Mars. I asked Bolden if, as Administrator, he'd approve such a mission - one that would require such a mission on the very first flight. Bolden simply refused to answer and babbled on instead about other things that had nothing to do with the question. It is hard to tell if Bolden did not understand the question, did not want to answer the question, or did not know how to answer the question.Budget