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Trekking On The Edge of Forever

By Keith Cowing on July 26, 2016 9:44 PM.

My Star Trek Episode at Everest, SpaceRef

"As we approach the 50th anniversary of Star Trek (and in anticipation of participating in this week's Star Trek-themed NASA Social), I thought I'd write about how many experiences in my life have intersected with- and have been affected by its legacy. In late April 2009 I found myself at Everest Base Camp for a month. I was living at 17,600 feet in Nepal 2 miles from China and 2 miles from the highest point on our planet. I was surrounded by the epic majesty of the Himalayas, a thousand people supporting several hundred Type A individuals with a shared intent to summit the mountain and stand in the jet stream. And all of this was enabled by the austere and noble Sherpa people. I was on a mission not unlike a space mission. My team mate was my long-time friend Scott Parazynski, an astronaut. I could just stop there and what is in these sentences would be cool enough. This had all the makings of a Star Trek episode - and I knew it."

NASA: On the Edge of Forever

"When Star Trek originally aired in 1966, NASA's space program was still in its infancy. But Star Trek allowed us to imagine what could be, if we dared to boldly go where no one had gone before."

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Now NASA Wants Special Treatment From Congress

By Keith Cowing on July 25, 2016 3:38 PM.

Keith's note: It is somewhat strange that Gerstenmaier thinks that future budgets in the next administration and Congress are going to be any more predictable - or clear - than they have been for the past several decades. Had he been more specific about the whole #JourneyToMars thing years ago he might have found more support for what NASA is doing. Oddly when Congress is clear on things i.e. prohibiting ARM, Gerstenmaier still thinks he has options.

As for the influencing the transition teams, past experience should show NASA that transition teams easily see through the smoke and mirrors that NASA tries to distract them with - assuming that they even have any interest in NASA or influence upon what will actually become policy. One way to make a positive impression on these transition teams is for NASA explain why it does things, do things on time/on budget, and stop announcing delays and pushing the blame off on others.

Results speak for themselves.

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Rocket Science and Teleconferences at NASA

By Keith Cowing on July 25, 2016 1:56 PM.

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Novel Space Commerce Is Happening in Low Earth Orbit But NASA and CASIS Ignore It

By Keith Cowing on July 25, 2016 12:26 PM.

Mouser Electronics and Grant Imahara Launch Groundbreaking Contest to 3D-Print Design Aboard International Space Station

"Imagine how exciting it would be to see your design made in space," said Glenn Smith, President and CEO of Mouser Electronics, a leading global distributor of the newest semiconductors and electronic components. "We are really excited to present this unique contest. We hope our wide range of electronic components will enable people to create whatever their imagination sparks." For the I.S.S. Design Challenge, Mouser has partnered with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and Made In Space, along with Hackster and MacroFab. The winner of the I.S.S. Challenge will receive a 3D printer, a consultation with Made In Space - pioneers in additive manufacturing technology for use in the space environment - and the prestige of seeing their design 3D-printed aboard the I.S.S."

Keith's note: How cool. A bunch of companies are offering a competition where the winner gets to print something on a commercial device on board the ISS. Isn't this the sort of thing that NASA and CASIS should be promoting? Sam Scimemi from NASA and Greg Johnson from CASIS constantly proclaim their intent to bring education and commerce to Low Earth Orbit on board the ISS. But when it starts to happen in LEO on ISS - on its own - NASA and CASIS could not be bothered to even mention it. One would think that any news like this is good news for everyone involved with the promotion of ISS commercial capabilities. CASIS has signed agreements and has flown Made in Space hardware. But in this case, CASIS prefers to play around with comic book illustrators instead of highlight how its efforts and those of NASA are actually resulting in novel private sector interest in the ISS.

Yet just last week NASA put a notice out seeking new ideas for commercial activities in LEO - activities that involve both NASA and CASIS. If they ignore current efforts already underway, what confidence do we have that they will be able to identify new ones?

Advancing Economic Development in LEO via Commercial Use of Limited Availability Unique ISS Capabilities, NASA

"This is a Request for Information (RFI) only and does not constitute a commitment, implied or otherwise, that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will take action in this matter. NASA is investigating options and approaches to expedite commercial activity in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Specifically, NASA is looking to increase private sector demand for space research and expand on the work of Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the manager of the ISS National Laboratory. NASA is not only interested in technical solutions to advance these goals, but also in contract or agreement structures that potential offerors would see as beneficial to advance private sector demand for low Earth orbit research."

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CASIS and NASA Ignore Each Other at #ComicCon2016 Over A Raccoon and Groot

By Keith Cowing on July 24, 2016 12:09 AM.

NASA Will Put Rocket Raccoon And Groot On Its New Mission Patch, Gizmodo

"A major mission for us here at CASIS is to find unique and innovative ways to bring notoriety to the ISS National Laboratory and the research that is being conducted on our orbiting laboratory," said CASIS Director of Operations and Educational Opportunities Ken Shields. It's also part of a secret mission that might help us get a Rocket and Groot of our very own. "The reward for us [is that] we'll actually have two characters go into space," said Mitch Dane, director of custom publishing. Then he joked, "With a little luck, there'll be a little cosmic radiation going on, they'll come back alive."

'Guardians of the Galaxy' team up with NASA: Groot, Rocket Raccoon on mission patch, Washington Times

"Director James Gunn, whose "Guardians of the Galaxy" grossed $773 million worldwide in 2014, was awed by the decision. "So cool. NASA Oasis has paired with Marvel and is using Rocket & Groot as an official emblem for the mission to Mars," Mr. Gunn wrote."

A Closer Look At The CASIS "Space Is In It" Endorsement, earlier post

"On 31 March 2016 NASA International Space Station Director Sam Scimemi sent a letter to Greg Johnson on a number of topics. Scimemi said: "We would advise caution in the lending of the ISS National Lab brand (via your "Space is in it" certification) too freely; care must be taken to that research performed on the ISS has actually influenced product development in advance of awarding the certification. Failure to do so weakens the brand and may lend an air of being nonserious in our mutual quest to fully utilize the ISS as a national lab."

Keith's note: CASIS issues a press release that mentions that Marvel comic book/movie characters at ComicCon are now ISS mascots or something. Alas NASA is there too - as @NASASocial - at the Marvel booth - and neither @NASASocial or @ISS_CASIS mention one another's presence. Apparently CASIS thinks that Groot, a giant rock tree man thing, and a foul-mouthed raccoon are better poised to explain ISS science than ISS scientists. So - the movie director whose characters are being featured refers to "CASIS" as "OASIS" and doesn't seem to know that this is all about the International Space Station - referring instead to "the mission to Mars".

Meanwhile NASA makes no mention of this news and NASA is never mentioned in the CASIS press release. Yet news stories say that NASA is behind all of this. NASA only gets the credit from third parties - and when they get mention it is factually mangled. Nice job CASIS.

Continue reading: CASIS and NASA Ignore Each Other at #ComicCon2016 Over A Raccoon and Groot.

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Bolden Forgot What He Said From Mars And Maybe We'll Name SLS Or Something

By Keith Cowing on July 23, 2016 5:47 PM.

Not My Job: NASA's Charles Bolden Gets Quizzed On 'Charles In Charge', NPR

"SAGAL: Really? And what did you say from Mars?
BOLDEN: I have no idea.
SAGAL: You don't know?
BOLDEN: No. I don't remember.
ROXANNE ROBERTS: Really?
SAGAL: You're...
BOLDEN: It was like we...
SAGAL: You recorded the...
BOLDEN: ...Come in peace or something like that."

and

"BOLDEN: We're going to Mars in the 2030s. So we've got the vehicle called - we're going to name it but right now we call it the Space Launch System. It's a heavy lift launch vehicle."

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GAO Report on DoD EELV Acquisition Strategy

By Keith Cowing on July 22, 2016 5:15 PM.

Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle: DOD Is Assessing Data on Worldwide Launch Market to Inform New Acquisition Strategy, GAO

"In February 2016, Congress asked GAO to examine what is known about other countries with launch capabilities and whether or not countries had fostered competition among launch providers, similar to what the United States is attempting to do in the EELV program. GAO responded to this request with a written briefing on the worldwide space launch capabilities and the status of the United States and global launch market."

Commercial Launch: All Government Subsidies Are Not Created Equal, earlier post

"This is all rather odd and self-serving. Both Space Foundation and Commercial Spaceflight Federation depend on commercial space company membership dues. On one hand it is wrong to allow U.S. commercial payloads to be launched by India because their rockets have large government subsidies. Yet Space Foundation and CSF think that it is just fine to launch these same U.S. commercial payloads on Chinese, Russian, and European launch vehicles - all of which get substantial government subsidies. Meanwhile ULA has been getting billions a year for decades in U.S. government subsidies to keep both EELV fleets afloat (with no competition until recently) - and they will now get more money to wean themselves from RD-180 engines whose use was mandated by the U.S. government. Again, where you stand depends on where you sit."

- America's Hypocritical Fear of Indian Rockets, earlier post
- Will U.S. Companies Be Allowed To Launch on Indian Rockets?

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Space Is Now In The Democratic Party Platform (Update)

By Keith Cowing on July 22, 2016 12:06 PM.

2016 Democratic Party Platform DRAFT July 1, 2016

Keith's 7 July note: There is no mention of NASA or anything remotely close to space. No surprise. Platforms are just documents that are more focused on letting party people exercise their narrow interests than being close to anything that will ever really become a presidential administration's future policies. Besides, space is a niche issue - at best - one that usually becomes a punch line when it does creep into presidential campaigns (Newt Gingrich's moon base, John Kerry in the bunny suit, etc.) But I worked on the staff of two of Jerry Brown's campaigns (Gov. Moonbeam), so what do I know? Beam me up.

Keith's 22 July update: The revised version of the platform (as of 21 July) says: "Pushing beyond the boundaries of what we know is core to who we are as Americans. Democrats are immensely proud of all that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has done-through its achievements in science, technology and exploration-to better understand our place in the universe and inspire and educate generations of young people in this country to pursue careers in science. Space exploration is a reminder that our capacity for curiosity is limitless, and may be matched only by our ability to achieve great things if we work together. Democrats believe in continuing the spirit of discovery that has animated NASA's exploration of space over the last half century. We will strengthen support for NASA and work in partnership with the international scientific community to launch new missions to space."

Election 2016 postings

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Stealthy Changes to NASA Advisory Council

By Keith Cowing on July 22, 2016 12:05 AM.

Keith's note: More than two months ago I posted news that NASA Advisory Council chair Steve Squyres had sent an email to the NAC and to NASA resigning as chair of the NAC. NASA never publicly announced Squyres' departure, never publicly thanked him for his service, etc. How creepy is that?. Now we quietly find out that Ken Bowersox is the "interim chair" of the NAC. Again, no public announcement from NASA. Who cares, I guess.

There is a meeting planned for next week 28-29 July in Cleveland. Charlie Bolden is on constant travel - often international - doing a victory lap/farewell tour - with Dava Newman doing much the same (other than photo ops that's all she has ever really done at NASA). As such, one has to ask what value-added the NAC has these days since there is no one home on the 9th floor at NASA HQ to pay attention to the NAC.

NASA Advisory Council Chair Steve Squyres Resigns, earlier post

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Astronaut Mark Kelly Will Speak at Democratic National Convention

By Keith Cowing on July 21, 2016 8:41 PM.

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Reaction To Eileen Collins' Speech at the Republican Convention

By Keith Cowing on July 21, 2016 1:12 PM.

Sorry, Eileen Collins: Here's why America is already great in space, Ars Technica

"But the public needs to recognize this as well, which is why I was disappointed by Collins and her pining for the Apollo era on such a big stage. The reality is that the best way to "lead on the frontier" in the 21st century is not through flags and footprints, but rather by sending people into space to stay, in a sustainable way, with the eventual aim of making space profitable. One would hope that Donald J. Trump, if he is elected president, would recognize such capitalism when he sees it."

Retired astronaut Eileen Collins endorses Donald Trump in all but name, Mashable

"In a speech before the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night, retired astronaut Eileen Collins delivered a sharp rebuke of NASA's recent leadership, endorsing controversial Republican nominee Donald Trump in all but name. Collins, who was the first woman to command a NASA space shuttle mission, had been expected to deliver a nonpartisan speech, and stopped just shy of issuing a more explicit endorsement. However, the speech will be viewed as a clear critique of NASA's leadership under the Obama administration."

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Viking at 40 Symposium - The Lectures

By Marc Boucher on July 21, 2016 10:41 AM.

NASA Viking at 40 Symposium Lectures

"This week NASA hosted the Viking Mars Landers 40th anniversary symposium. In 1976 Viking 1 and 2 were the first landers to successfully land on Mars."

"NASA's Viking 1 and 2 missions to Mars, each consisting of an orbiter and a lander, became the first space probes to obtain high resolution images of the Martian surface; characterize the structure and composition of the atmosphere and surface; and conduct on-the-spot biological tests for life on another planet."

"Viking provided the first measurements of the atmosphere and surface of Mars. These measurements are still being analyzed and interpreted. The data suggested early Mars was very different from the present day planet. Viking performed the first successful entry, descent and landing on Mars. Derivations of a Viking-style thermal protection system and parachute have been used on many U.S. Mars lander missions since."

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NASA PAO Staff Goes Overtly Political

By Keith Cowing on July 21, 2016 12:00 AM.

Federal investigators: Cabinet secretary and potential Clinton running mate Julian Castro violated Hatch Act, Washington Post

"Housing Secretary Julian Castro violated the federal Hatch Act restricting partisan political activity by federal employees when he praised Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during an interview conducted from his government office, government investigators found Monday."

Keith's note: Stephanie Schierholz works for the NASA Public Affairs Office (PAO). Her job is to convey official NASA opinions - opinions that are guided by White House policies. She states that her Twitter account opinions are her own - yet she overtly uses that same Twitter account almost every day - during the day while she is at work - for official business - including the topics that she mentions in her tweet. Her tweet is also embedded in a popular Mashable article. Smells like a Hatch Act violation to me.

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Eileen Collins Almost Endorses Trump At Republican National Convention

By Keith Cowing on July 20, 2016 8:14 PM.

Prepared Comments by Astronaut Eileen Collins Republican National Convention, RNC

"We need leadership that will challenge every American to ask, "What's next?" We need leadership that will make America's space program first again. We need leadership that will make America first again. That leader is Donald Trump."

SU grad Eileen Collins skips Donald Trump mention in RNC speech, Syracuse.com

"According to the prepared transcript of the speech, she was supposed to end with "That leader is Donald Trump." Those words even appeared on the teleprompter at the back of the arena floor. But she didn't. Instead, she thanked the crowd and left the stage. At no point in the speech did she mention Trump by name."

Keith's update:
The take home message: Eileen Collins is mad because the Space Shuttle program was cancelled (by a republican President - shh!) and that the U.S. has no way to launch people into space (no mention of two private sector systems that will fly next year). She feels that great nations explore and that leadership in space contributes to leadership on Earth. She feels that the U.S. used to have leadership in space, that it currently does not have leadership in space, and that it needs to regain that leadership in space. There was no endorsement of anyone. Between mention in the party platform and prominence given at the RNC convention it will be interesting to see if the Democrats give space equal exposure.

Before Eileen Collins spoke the RNC aired a slick 3:44 long video about space exploration. Initially I thought it was rather odd that Collins had a professionally done, inspirational into - with a narrator and soundtrack tailor-made to introduce her when none of the other speakers had one. Indeed, all of the other speakers (except Cruz) endorsed Trump. Add in the prepared comments with an endorsement released to the media - and loaded into the teleprompter - and I get the impression that an endorsement from Collins was fully expected and that something changed at the very last minute.

Comments are open again. Be nice or I'll turn them off again.

Keith's update: Note the highlighted sentences below. Between the unused endorsement in the official prepared comments and what was said, the Trump campaign clearly had a hand in what she said.

RNC releases early excerpts of Wednesday convention speeches, Politico

"Eileen Collins, retired astronaut - "Nations that lead on the frontier, lead in the world. We need that visionary leadership again: leadership that will inspire the next generation to have that same passion. We need leadership that will challenge every American to ask, 'What's next?' We need leadership that will make America's space program first again. We need leadership that will make America first again."

According to Donald Trump's official Facebook page: "47 years ago our nation did something that NOBODY thought we could do - we were the first to put a man on the moon. It is time to be number one, again! Believe me, as President, we will once again, Make America First Again! #AmericaFirst #MakeAmericaGreatAgain #RNCinCLE"

Continue reading: Eileen Collins Almost Endorses Trump At Republican National Convention.

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NASA's Cheaper Mars Rover Is Now Very Expensive

By Keith Cowing on July 20, 2016 6:05 PM.

NASA's Management of the Mars Science Laboratory Project, NASA OIG, 8 June 2011

"... in February 2009, because of the late delivery of several critical components and instruments, NASA delayed the launch to a date between October and December 2011. This delay and the additional resources required to resolve the underlying technical issues increased the Project's development costs by 86 percent, from $969 million to the current $1.8 billion, and its life-cycle costs by 56 percent, from $1.6 billion to the current $2.5 billion. ... Finally, since the 2009 decision to delay launch, the Project has received three budget increases, most recently an infusion of $71 million in December 2010. However, in our judgment because Project managers did not adequately consider historical cost trends when estimating the amount required to complete development, we believe the Project may require additional funds to meet the 2011 scheduled launch date."

NASA announces plans for new $1.5 billion Mars rover, CNet, 4 December 2012

"The new rover announced Tuesday, along with the rocket needed to boost it to Mars, will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.5 billion, plus or minus $200 million, according to a rough estimate by the Aerospace Corp."

Mars 2020 rover mission to cost more than $2 billion, Space News

"[George] Tahu said that the mission also decided to add new technologies to the rover, including a system that increases the accuracy of the rover's landing and another to improve the rover's ability to drive autonomously. "Our confirmed cost today, in real year dollars, of $2.1 billion for development and launch and $300 million for prime mission operations remains consistent with the scope and cost approved at the start of the project," he said."

Keith's note: So that's $2.4 billion for a rover that was supposed to cost around $1.5 billion - a rover that was sold as being inherently cheaper because it was made with MSL spare part, lessons learned from MSL mistakes, etc. Once again JPL has ignored NASA's price claims - and NASA SMD just can't fight the urge and lets it happen. Can you imagine what will happen when NASA starts to price the whole #JourneyToMars thing?

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NASA International Space Station On-Orbit Status 25 July 2016

NASA International Space Station On-Orbit Status 25 July 2016 Video in Story

Expedition 48 is moving ahead with preparations for an upcoming spacewalk. New science also is under way aboard the International Space Station after being delivered last week.

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