NASA Watch

This is not a NASA Website. You might learn something. It's YOUR space agency. Get involved. Take it back. Make it work - for YOU.
nasawatch@spaceref.com | Voice +1.703.787.6567 | RSS Feed | Twitter | Advertising | Important Disclaimer

This NASA Advisory Council Wants to be Heard

By Keith Cowing on August 1, 2014 10:24 PM.

NAC Wants Independent Cost and Technical Estimate of ARM Before Downselect, SPacePolicyOnline

"Traditionally, NAC findings and recommendations are sent to the NASA Administrator in a letter from the NAC Chair. Eventually the Administrator responds and the exchange is posted on the NAC website and they receive little notice. Today, NAC member Miles O'Brien suggested that NAC issue a press release to raise awareness of these issues. The other NAC members, including Squyres, were enthusiastic about the idea. It apparently would be a precedent-setting event. Squyres seemed to feel it is in keeping with the goal he and Bolden share to make NAC more effective. Squyres says he will try to have a press release issued after he formally transmits all of NAC's findings and recommendations to Bolden in about two weeks."

Categories:

LaRC Needs Some Better Acronyms

By Keith Cowing on August 1, 2014 6:33 PM.

NASA LaRC Internal Memo: Notes from the Center Leadership Council's Recent Retreat

"We are counting on our Product Units (PUDs) and their business development managers (BDMs) to identify and pursue opportunities for the Center make even more significant contributions to mission directorate programs and projects in collaboration with the other NASA Centers, government agencies, academia and industry. We are counting on our seven Product Line Leads (PLLs) to identify integrated, systems level, state-of-the-art multidisciplinary solutions to those Agency needs. We are counting on our Core Resource Units (CRUDs) to acquire, develop and nurture the capabilities (skills, facilities and computational tools) required to develop and implement those solutions."

Categories: ,

Congress, NAC, SBAG, Question Asteroid Mission

By Keith Cowing on August 1, 2014 1:54 PM.

Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chair Smith Statement on NASA Advisory Council Recommendations

"Contrary to this administration's rhetoric, the President's proposed Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) has many skeptics within the scientific community. And the experts who advise NASA recently stepped up their criticism. The NASA Advisory Council warns that NASA 'runs the risk of squandering precious national resources' if they move forward with ARM. One expert, Mr. Tom Young, went so far as to say that the ARM proposal 'dumbed down NASA.' For months, the Obama administration has downplayed such criticism. I appreciate the good work of NASA's technical advisors and encourage the Obama administration to take their recommendations seriously."

SBAG Asteroid Redirect Mission Special Action Team, July 2014 presentation

Report of the Small Bodies Assessment Group Asteroid Redirect Mission Special Action Team, 30 July 2014 (Draft)

"This report summarizes discussions and findings of the SBAG ARM SAT. The report will be presented at the SBAG meeting on July 30, 2014, and made available to the SBAG community for comment. The report will be finalized in August, 2014, following the opportunity period for comments. The SBAG ARM SAT echoes the statement in the CAPTEM ARM report: of necessity, this is a preliminary report. If such a mission goes forward, we recommend that the prioritization of the science, planetary defense, and resource utilization requirements be refined through a more comprehensive process."

Future of NASA's Human Spaceflight Program Dominates NAC Meeting, SpacepolicyOnline

"Another criticism is that NASA does a poor job of explaining why it is pursuing ARM. Williams used a chart with several bullets, one of which pointed to ARM's role in demonstrating techniques that could be used to defend Earth from potentially hazardous asteroids -- planetary defense. During questioning about those bullets, Bolden quickly chimed in to say that planetary defense is NOT a goal of ARM. It is a goal of the Asteroid Grand Challenge, which NASA is funding at $7 million in FY2014, he said, but not of ARM. He acknowledged that because NASA is doing both ARM and the Grand Challenge, there is a lot of confusion. "We need to get that confusion out of it. We are not saving the planet," he exclaimed. However, many other NASA officials, including Williams, include planetary defense in the list of rationales for ARM. Scott Hubbard insisted that NASA needs to have a single bullet explaining why ARM is needed, not a list of them, in any case."

Categories: ,

JSC's Stealthy Star Trek-style Thruster Should Not Work - But Does

By Keith Cowing on August 1, 2014 1:43 PM.

NASA: New "impossible" engine works, could change space travel forever, Gizmodo

"Now, American scientist Guido Fetta and a team at NASA Eagleworks--the advanced propulsion skunkworks led by Dr Harold "Sonny" White at the Johnson Space Center--have published a new paper that demonstrates that a similar engine working on the same principles does indeed produce thrust. Their model, however, produces much less thrust--just 30 to 50 micronewtons. But it works, which is amazing on its own. They haven't explained why their engine works, but it does work."

Anomalous Thrust Production from an RF Test Device Measured on a Low-Thrust Torsion Pendulum, NASA Technical Reports Server

"This paper describes the eight-day August 2013 test campaign designed to investigate and demonstrate viability of using classical magnetoplasmadynamics to obtain a propulsive momentum transfer via the quantum vacuum virtual plasma. This paper will not address the physics of the quantum vacuum plasma thruster, but instead will describe the test integration, test operations, and the results obtained from the test campaign."

Nasa validates 'impossible' space drive, Wired UK

"Nasa is a major player in space science, so when a team from the agency this week presents evidence that "impossible" microwave thrusters seem to work, something strange is definitely going on. Either the results are completely wrong, or Nasa has confirmed a major breakthrough in space propulsion."

Improbable Thruster Seems to Work by Violating Known Laws of Physics, PBS

"In the paper, NASA seemed reluctant to dive into the drive's mysterious physics. They wrote nothing to suggest how, exactly, the force was produced. In fact, the mysterious drive actually worked even when they modified it in such a way it shouldn't have produced any thrust, suggesting the mechanics of the system are hazily understood. The one exception was a reference, in the paper's abstract, to a possible interaction with the "quantum vacuum virtual plasma."

Keith's note: JSC sure has some far out stuff under development. You'd think that they'd want to talk about it. But they don't. You'd think that they'd feel some compulsion to tell taxpayers what their money is being spent on - especially if it is cool. Guess again. I asked some questions about all of this stuff last year and got this semi-responsive reply back. The researcher behind all of this is Harold G. White. According to people.nasa.gov here is how you contact him: email: harold.white-1@nasa.gov Phone: 281.482.0178

-"Interstellar": A (Missed) Opportunity for NASA to be Relevant?, earlier post
- 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

Categories:

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.

Categories: ,

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.

Categories:

"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:email: harold.white-1@nasa.gov Phone: 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

Categories: ,

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."

Categories:

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."

Categories: , ,

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

Categories:

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."

Categories:

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."

Categories:

"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.

Categories:

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."

Categories:

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."

Categories: ,

More stories for August.

Advertise on SpaceRef starting at $75/month

Subscribe to NASA Watch

Loading

SpaceRef Newsletter


Monthly Archives




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...

Spacewire