Recently in Astronauts Category

Agencywide Message to All NASA Employees: "LIVE FROM SPACE" Program on Space Station Originating from JSC

"LIVE FROM SPACE" Program on Space Station Originating from JSC -- Friday, March 14, 8 p.m. EDT, National Geographic Channel. "LIVE FROM SPACE," a live, two-hour special program originating from Johnson Space Center (JSC) and including appearances by the International Space Station (ISS) crew, is scheduled to air world-wide on the National Geographic Channel on Friday, March 14 at 8 p.m. Eastern Time."

Keith's note: Unless you pay extra for National Geogrpahic Channel, you were unable to watch this NASA-assisted special tonight. NASA TV was not allowed to air it. Also, if you went to the official "Live From Space" website, it crashed a few minutes after the show began - and with it the live video feeds (without any audio). To be certain, crashing a webserver like this speaks to having a lot of interested people trying to get in. That said, its baffling that National Geographic did not plan ahead for this surge in traffic - especially when they did so much international marketing. Meanwhile, it was rather humorous to listen to the open mic in the control room at JSC in the hour leading up to the webcast as the shows's producers struggled to figure a number of things out - and talk about the post-show party.

Bill Pogue

William R. "Bill" Pogue, former Skylab astronaut who grew up in Sand Springs, dies at 84, Tulsa World

"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."

Dale Gardner

Dale Gardner, Astronaut Who Helped Corral Wayward Satellites, Dies at 65, NY Times

"Dale A. Gardner, an astronaut who helped lead the first salvage operation in space, steering a jet-propelled backpack to corral two wayward satellites and bring them aboard the space shuttle Discovery, all while orbiting 224 miles above Earth, died on Feb. 19 in Colorado Springs. He was 65. His death was confirmed by NASA, which did not provide a cause."

NASA Spacewalk Mishap Investigation Board Report

"While I am concerned about ensuring this particular incident does not happen again, I am especially concerned about cultural factors that may have contributed to the event. In our exuberance to get the job done, we may have allowed ourselves to accept the commonly accepted causes for small anomalies. We have a responsibility not to move on from any abnormal situation until we understand it fully or have suitable mitigations to prevent it happening again. Our work both in-house and with our industry and commercial partners should entail diligence in assessing risk and commitment to ensuring mission safety."

- News Conference Presentation - 2/26/14 (120 Kb PDF)

- Full report (11.2 Mb PDF)

"In summary, the causes for this mishap evolved from (1) inorganic materials causing blockage of the drum holes in the EMU water separator resulting in water spilling into the vent loop; (2) the NASA team's lack of knowledge regarding this particular failure mode; and (3) misdiagnosis of this suit failure when it initially occurred on EVA 22."

NASA Updates Media on Spacewalk Safety Investigation

"NASA will host a teleconference at 2 p.m. EST today to discuss the findings of an investigation into the July 2013 spacewalk at the International Space Station when water built up in an astronaut's spacesuit helmet. Soon after the incident, NASA created a Mishap Investigation Board to identify factors that may have contributed to the incident and recommend changes that could be implemented to prevent a similar situation from occurring again. This safety investigation ran concurrently with an engineering investigation into the equipment failure."

Keith's update: Waypoint2space is still selling their "train like an astronaut" courses - even though they admitted to NASAWatch that they are not training people to become astronauts. That does not stop them from prominently asking asking "Have you ever wanted to be an ASTRONAUT" on their main webpage.

This webpage claims "At Waypoint 2 Space, we are proud to be leading the evolution of Commercial Spaceflight Training through our collaboration with NASA centers. Operating from the global hub of space technology - Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas - we are helping to shape the future of the Commercial Space Industry."

What "collaboration?" Has any agreement been signed between Waypoint2Space and NASA? NASA says no. Waypoint2space still claims to be "operating" from JSC (technically correct since they have a small office in a tech transfer building onsite) but they make no mention of the fact that their training will actually happen offsite in a rented building. Very misleading. They have removed all of the commercial space company logos that were previously shown on their website. They have also changed their main page so that you cannot easily see other links - but if you go to this page the old menu is still on top.

- Can You Train Like An Astronaut at JSC for $45,000? Not Without NASA's Permission, earlier post
- Waypoint2space: Closer Look at Website Claims About Operations at NASA JSC, earlier post
- Waypoint2space Clarifies A Few Things About Astronaut Training at NASA JSC, earlier post

Ten Tough Days for NASA, Clay Anderson, Huffington Post

"But did we, America, learn and truly understand? As I discussed in my previous Huffington Post blog post, "Never Give Up, Never Surrender," some of us did, while others did not. Understand that these tragedies did not have to happen. But the lessons learned and the resultant technological growth would ultimately contribute to discoveries and opportunities benefiting all humankind. And that, I believe, should be the legacy of these brave men and women. We must continue to explore."

Keith's note: I finally had a chance to talk with Kevin Heath from Waypoint2space about their astronaut training services in response to earlier postings on NASAWatch. Heath confirmed that they do not have a signed Space Act Agreement with NASA in place and that it is currently stuck in NASA Legal limbo (that certainly can happen). Waypoint2space says that they do have a signed agreement with Jacobs Engineering but that only deals with their interactions with Jacobs - not NASA. Heath also confirmed that NASA JSC Mission Operations Directorate (MOD) has declined to work with them but that the JSC Engineering Directorate was interested. As stated earlier, I find it somewhat perplexing to see how NASA can support a cmpany offering astronaut training when the very part of NASA (MOD) that does such things declines to participate.

Day of Remembrance

NASA Observes Day of Remembrance Jan. 31

"NASA will pay will tribute to the crews of Apollo 1 and space shuttles Challenger and Columbia, as well as other NASA colleagues, during the agency's Day of Remembrance on Friday, Jan. 31. NASA's Day of Remembrance honors members of the NASA family who lost their lives while furthering the cause of exploration and discovery. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and other agency senior officials will hold an observance and wreath-laying at Arlington National Cemetery Friday morning."

Keith's note: The other day I wrote about the announcement made by Waypoint2space about the astronaut training services they are currently selling - services that claim use of NASA JSC facilities. I did get a few responses from the company (with legal disclosure caveats attached) before they stopped responding. I have asked NASA PAO to respond but they have yet to do so. Below are some observations regarding what is still posted on the Waypoint2space website. I'd be more than happy to post any responses from Waypoint2space - so long as they do not attach legal restrictions on the dissemination of those responses.

Keith's note: According to Waypoint2space.com "To go into space, step out of the vehicle, and float above the earth while reaching for the stars - but wondered if you have what it takes? For the first time in history, you can train like an astronaut using the most advanced facilities and equipment in the world. Operating from NASA's Johnson Space Center, we offer the definitive training experience with our fully comprehensive and immersive space training programs. These one-of-a-kind programs prepare you for spaceflight while you experience first hand what every astronaut has during their preparation for space. Additionally, SFP's are trained in accordance to our FAA Safety Approval ensuring a consistent level of spaceflight competency."

Sounds cool. But a closer look raises some important questions.

Astronaut Leland Melvin to Leave NASA

"I am sorry to inform the NASA family that my good friend and our Associate Administrator for Education, Leland Melvin, has decided to retire next month after more than 24 years of NASA service. Since assuming the role of AA in 2010, Leland has streamlined NASA's education organization and portfolio to deliver science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) content more effectively to educators and students. Using NASA's unique missions, programs and other agency assets, he has helped cultivate the next generation of explorers - one that is truly inclusive and properly reflects the diverse make up and talent of this nation's youth and our agency's future. - Charlie B"

Review of NASA's Evidence Reports on Human Health Risks: 2013 Letter Report (2014), IOM

"Review of NASA's Evidence Reports on Human Health Risks: 2013 Letter Report is the first in a series of five reports from the Institute of Medicine that will independently review more than 30 evidence reports that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has compiled on human health risks for long-duration and exploration space flights. This report builds on the 2008 IOM report Review of NASA's Human Research Program Evidence Books: A Letter Report, which provided an initial and brief review of the evidence reports."

Beyoncé: Sampling The Sounds of Tragedy For Pop Music, Earlier post

"Review of NASA's Evidence Reports on Human Health Risks -- Letter Report [Institute of Medicine]: NASA has asked the Institute of Medicine to provide independent reviews of more than 30 publicly available evidence reports on human health risks for long-duration and exploration space flight. This letter report examines evidence reports on the risk of injury from dynamic loads, the risk of therapeutic failure due to ineffective medication, and the risk of spaceflight-induced hypertension and visual alterations."

FAA Interpretation Concerning Involvement of NASA Astronauts During a Licensed Launch or Reentry

"This interpretation responds to a request from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) regarding whether the space transportation regulations of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) would restrict NASA astronauts from performing operational functions during a commercial space launch or reentry under license from the FAA."

2 The pertinent FAA regulations simply require that space flight participants: (1) be informed of risk; (2) execute a waiver of claims against the U.S. Government; (3) receive training on how to respond to emergency situations; and (4) not carry any weapons onboard. See 14 CFR Sec. Sec. 460.45-460.53.

Sally Ride's life partner Tam O'Shaughnessy accepting the Medal of Freedom on her behalf from President Obama

Scott Carpenter

NASA Administrator Remembers Mercury Astronaut Scott Carpenter
 
"The following is a statement from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on the passing of original Mercury astronaut Malcom Scott Carpenter from complications following a stroke. Carpenter, who was the second American to orbit the Earth in 1962, was 88. "Today, the world mourns the passing of Scott Carpenter. As one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts, he was in the first vanguard of our space program -- the pioneers who set the tone for our nation's pioneering efforts beyond Earth and accomplished so much for our nation."

John Glenn to Scott Carpenter: Godspeed, AP

"When John Glenn soared into space as the first American in orbit, Scott Carpenter wished him bon voyage with three simple words: "Godspeed, John Glenn." Glenn bid farewell to his lifelong pal who died Thursday in the same way. "Godspeed, Scott Carpenter --Great Friend," Glenn, the last remaining Mercury 7 astronaut, said in a statement issued by his spokesman on Friday. He added: "You are missed."

Scott Carpenter, Wikipedia

Gravity Review: In Space, Everyone Can Hear You Dream

"I saw "Gravity" yesterday - in all its glory - in 3-D on a monster screen. I did so in the middle of the day so as to get the perfect seat. As it happens, any seat in the theater would have been perfect - with or without 3-D - this movie is that good. In watching the film I immediately felt myself pulled into the world that this film created. Only two other films have ever managed to do that to me: "Avatar" and "2001: A Space Odyssey". When I first saw "2001" during its initial run, I was lucky enough to see it in Cinerama - the IMAX of the day. I was already interested in space, but that experience left me changed forever. I can imagine how "Gravity" could have a similar effect on young people today."

Houston: We're Bored

Shutdown Quiets NASA, So Space Station Astronauts Enjoy View, NPR

"Of all the government agencies, NASA is among the hardest hit by the government shutdown. As of Oct. 1, nearly all of its employees have been told to pack up and head home. But there are two NASA workers who can't leave the office, at least not without great expense to the taxpayer. Astronauts Karen Nyberg and Mike Hopkins are orbiting some 250 miles above Earth aboard the International Space Station. They're in touch with mission control, but it's not clear they have all that much to do."

Col. Gregory H. Johnson Named CASIS Executive Director, CASIS

"Today, Gregory H. Johnson, Colonel (Ret), was named executive director for the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) - the nonprofit entity selected by NASA to manage the utilization of the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory. Col. Johnson will assume his role effective September 1, 2013."

Astronaut Gregory H. Johnson Leaves NASA, NASA

Astronaut Michael Foale Leaves NASA After 26-Year Career, NASA

"NASA astronaut Michael Foale has retired, ending a 26-year space agency career that included 375 days in space during six space shuttle missions and extended stays aboard two space stations.

Foale spent 145 days aboard the Russian space station Mir in 1997 and 194 days aboard the International Space Station as commander of Expedition 8 from October 2003 to April 2004. He also conducted four spacewalks over his NASA career totaling almost 23 hours."

Differential Effects on Homozygous Twin Astronauts Associated with Differences in Exposure to Spaceflight Factors

"NASA's Human Research Program (HRP) has released solicited research response area NRA NNJ13ZSA002N-TWINS "Differential Effects on Homozygous Twin Astronauts Associated with Differences in Exposure to Spaceflight Factors" that solicits applied research in support of HRP goals and objectives. This response area is Appendix D of the Human Exploration Research Opportunities (HERO) NRA (NNJ13ZSA002N)."

Funding Opportunity Description

"There is a singular opportunity to propose limited, short-term investigations examining the differences in genetic, proteomic, metabolomics, and related functions in twin male monozygous astronauts associated with differential exposure to spaceflight conditions. This opportunity has emerged from NASA's decision to fly veteran NASA astronaut Scott Kelly aboard the International Space Station (ISS) for a period of one year commencing in March 2015, while his identical twin brother, retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, remains on Earth. Scott Kelly, a veteran of two Space Shuttle flights as well as a six-month ISS mission, will have a cumulative duration of 540 days in low Earth orbit at the conclusion of the one-year flight, while Mark Kelly, a veteran of four Space Shuttle flights, has a cumulative duration of 54 days in low Earth orbit. This opportunity originated at the initiative of the twin astronauts themselves."

Keith's note: I have to say this is a cool idea. Hats off to the Kelly brothers for making this offer.

NASA suspects life-support pack in spacewalk emergency, Florida Today

"NASA engineers are narrowing in on the cause of the dangerous spacesuit water leak that could have drowned Italy's first spacewalker, officials said Monday.

Meanwhile, Luca Parmitano and crewmates aboard the International Space Station started unpacking a Russian space freighter that hauled up three tons of supplies and a spacesuit repair kit over the weekend.

Engineers "are looking at what steps to take next, this week," NASA spokeswoman Brandi Dean said. "They actually have isolated the failure to the spacesuit's Primary Life Support System, which is essentially the backpack of the suit."

Marc's update: NASA released a video this morning with Chris Cassidy talking about the faulty suit.

Tenth Parachute Test for NASA's Orion Adds 10,000 Feet of Success [Watch], NASA

"A complicated, high-altitude test Wednesday demonstrated NASA's new Orion spacecraft could land safely even if one of its parachutes failed.

The 10th in a series of evaluations to check out the Orion multipurpose crew vehicle's parachute system dropped the test capsule from a C-17 aircraft at its highest altitude yet, 35,000 feet above the Arizona desert. One of three massive main parachutes was cut away early on purpose, leaving the spacecraft to land with only two. The test at the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Ground was the highest-altitude test of a human spacecraft parachute since NASA's Apollo Program."

Marc's note: Unfortunately the broadcast quality was subpar and barely worth watching.

NASA Wants Spacesuit Repair Kit on Russian Launch, AP via Florida Today

"NASA is rushing to get spacesuit repair tools on a launch to the International Space Station this weekend.

... The Russian supply ship is set to lift off Saturday from Kazakhstan."

NASA Creates Spacewalk Mishap Investigation Board, NASA

"NASA has appointed a board to investigate the July 16 early termination of a spacewalk outside the International Space Station, develop a set of lessons learned from the incident and suggest ways to prevent a similar problem in the future.

The board will begin its work Friday, Aug. 2, in close coordination with a NASA engineering team already examining the spacesuit and life support equipment astronaut Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency (ESA) used during the excursion. The engineering team is working to determine why water built up inside Parmitano's helmet."

NASA Commercial Crew Transportation Capability Contract CCTCAP Draft RFP, NASA

"The CCtCap contract is the second phase of a two-phased procurement strategy to develop a U.S. commercial crew space transportation capability to achieve safe, reliable and cost effective access to and from the International Space Station (ISS) with a goal of no later than 2017.

The Government does not intend to acquire a commercial item using FAR Part 12. This procurement is a full and open competition. The NAICS Code and Size Standard are 336414 and 1000 employees, respectively."


Marc's note: Today's spacewalk had to be cut short after only an hour and 32 minutes as a water leak in Luca Parmitano's suit was causing a build-up of water in his helmet. Both astronauts returned safely to the confines of the Space Station. The location of the leak within Parmitano's suit is to be determined.

You can watch the post-EVA activities on NASA TV.

UPDATE: The post spacewalk news briefing revealed that NASA does not know what caused the problem with Luca's suit at this time. They will be reviewing all the data and examining the suit to figure out the issue. Watch the press conference.


"In conjunction with the memorial service and tree dedication at NASA's Johnson Space Center on June 20, 2013, the center created this video honoring the legacy of Neil Armstrong. The video takes a look at the accidental legend that Armstrong became, and the history-making flight that he took with his colleagues Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins."

Women in Space Part One, Female Firsts in Flight for Space Exploration and Research, NASA Blog - A Lab Aloft (International Space Station Research)

"In today's A Lab Aloft, guest blogger Liz Warren, Ph.D., recalls the inspirational contributions and strides made by women in space exploration and International Space Station research.

This month we celebrate the anniversaries of three "firsts" for female space explorers. On June 16, 1963, Valentina Tereshkova of the Soviet Union became the first woman in space. Then on June 18, 1983, Sally Ride became America's first woman in space, followed by Liu Yang as China's first woman in space on June 16, 2012. Though their flight anniversaries are not in June, I would be remiss if I did not mention the first European woman in space: Helen Sharman in 1991; the first Canadian woman: Roberta Bondar in 1992; and the first Japanese woman: Chiaki Mukai in 1994."

Marc's note:Well worth reading.

NASA Selects Next Generation of Space Explorers [Watch], NASA

"After an extensive year-and-a-half search, NASA has a new group of potential astronauts who will help the agency push the boundaries of exploration and travel to new destinations in the solar system, including an asteroid and Mars.

Eight candidates have been selected to be NASA's newest astronaut trainees, hoping to be among those who are the first to launch from U.S. soil on commercial American spacecraft since the retirement of the space shuttle."

- NASA will discuss the selections at 3 p.m. CDT Monday via a Google+ Hangout.

Marc's note: Call me skeptical, but perhaps some of these astronauts will make a fly-by of Mars or to its moons, but to land, I don't see that in the next 20 years with the current political situation. If a private-public attempt was made, say SpaceX teaming up with NASA, then maybe. And while there's ongoing "big picture" work for an international effort, until a decision is made by a President that it will happen and Congress buys into, it's just a dream.

NASA Announces Memorial Service For Astronaut Neil Armstrong, NASA

"NASA will honor the life and historic achievements of astronaut Neil Armstrong during a memorial service at 10 a.m. CDT Thursday, June 20, at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Armstrong made history on July 20, 1969, when he became the first person to walk on the moon as commander of Apollo 11.

JSC Director Ellen Ochoa, fellow Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, family members and longtime associates will pay tribute to Armstrong. He was 82 when he died on Aug. 25, 2012, in Cincinnati."

The Call of Mars, Buzz Aldrin Op-Ed, New York Times

"I am calling for a unified international effort to explore and utilize the Moon, a partnership that involves commercial enterprise and other nations building upon Apollo. Let me emphasize: A second "race to the Moon" is a dead end. America should chart a course of being the leader of this international activity to develop the Moon. The United States can help other nations do things that they want to do, a fruitful avenue for U.S. foreign policy and diplomacy."

"A step in the right direction is creating an International Lunar Development Corporation, customized to draw upon the legacy of lessons learned from such endeavors as the International Geophysical Year (whose purpose was to get scientists all over the world to focus on the physics and atmosphere of the Earth), the International Space Station program, as well as model organizations such as Intelsat and the European Space Agency. Space collaboration should be the new norm, including the tapping of talented Chinese, Indian and other space experts from around the globe."

"In my view, U.S. resources are better spent on moving toward establishing a human presence on Mars. I envision a comprehensive plan that would lead to permanent human settlement on Mars in the next 25 years. "

Marc's note: Buzz, I like it in a big picture kind of way. However, I see a few practical problems with your plan. 1) The economics of it. How are you going to sell this grand vision? And who's going to pay for it? We've got ventures trying to get to the moon now, but no ones got there yet and funding is very hard to come by. 2) Some in Congress won't like the idea of working with China, so how are you going to sell that. 3) What's the cost of implementing your Mars settlement plan? And who'se going to pay for it?

The public needs more than to be inspired by grand visions. They need to be sold on the economics of it and how it will benefit them. The Collins and Lampson op-ed below, "Space Exploration Is Imperative to Innovation and Inspiration", has part of the answer, but people need to be convinced that the investment for innovation will lead somewhere. They certainly don't want to pay for someone else to settle on Mars.

Sally Ride National Tribute at Kennedy Center Tonight

"NASA and Sally Ride Science are inviting journalists to tonight's "Sally Ride: A Lifetime of Accomplishment, A Champion of Science Literacy," a national tribute to America's first woman in space. The special event will be held at the Concert Hall of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts."

President Obama Announces Sally Ride as a Recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom

"Today, President Barack Obama announced he will award a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom to Dr. Sally Ride, the first American female astronaut to travel to space. The Medal of Freedom is the Nation's highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."

NASA and The White House Pay Tribute to Sally Ride

"The president announced Monday afternoon Ride will be posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom during a ceremony at the White House later this year. The Medal of Freedom is the nation's highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."

Keith's note: Canada's Chris Hadfield's use of social media and other aspects of education and public outreach while on orbit has been masterful - even transcendent - and sets a new bar for others to strive for on future missions. Oh wait: NASA is eliminating Education and Public Outreach. Nevermind. NASA no longer cares about these things.

And Charlie Bolden agrees with this change in focus and wants to abandon half a century of public engagement. Utterly pathetic. Not what a true leader should do.

There will be no other NASA Watch updates today. Just this.

Watch it.

Apollo Moonwalkers Sell Right Stuff in $1 Million Space Auction, Bloomberg

"Owning something flown on the Apollo lunar missions has always been challenging. However since last September, when the U.S. house passed a resolution granting astronauts clear title to the items they carried into space, it has become a lot easier."

Auction dates: May 16 to May 23

Previous: NASA's Inconsistent Policy Regarding The Sale Of Apollo Era Items

Charles Bolden: Launching American Astronauts from U.S. Soil

"Three years ago, the Administration put forward a public-private partnership plan, the Commercial Crew Program (CCP), to ensure that American companies would be launching our astronauts from U.S. soil by 2015. It's a plan that supports the U.S. human spaceflight program, boosts our economy, and helps create good-paying American jobs. If NASA had received the President's requested funding for this plan, we would not have been forced to recently sign a new contract with Roscosmos for Soyuz transportation flights. Because the funding for the President's plan has been significantly reduced, we now won't be able to support American launches until 2017."

NASA Extends Crew Flight Contract With Russian Space Agency

R/V Sally Ride

Navy Research Vessel Named After Sally Ride

"Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus has announced the names of seven ships. Included is an ocean-class auxiliary general oceanographic research (AGOR) ship, the R/V Sally Ride. Mabus named the future R/V Sally Ride (AGOR 28), which will be a Neil Armstrong-class AGOR ship, to honor the memory of Sally Ride, a professor, scientist and an innovator at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego. Ride was the first woman and also the youngest person in space. She later served as director of NASA's Office of Exploration. Traditionally, AGORs are named for nationally recognized leaders in exploration and science. The R/V Sally Ride is the first academic research ship to be named in honor of a woman."

Keith's note: Obviously the author of this release did not do a full fact check. Sally Ride was not the first woman in space, nor was she the youngest person in space. That said, as the release notes, "the R/V Sally Ride is the first academic research ship to be named in honor of a woman."

Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel Releases Annual Report

"This report is based on the panel's 2012 fact-finding and quarterly public meetings; center visits and meetings; direct observations of NASA operations and decision-making; discussions with NASA management, employees, and contractors; and the panel members' past experiences. The report highlights issues that could have an impact on safety."

2012 ASAP Report

"In FY13, we predict this planning-funding disconnect will again drive a change to acquisition strategy, schedule, and/or safety risk. The ASAP is concerned that some will champion an approach that is a current option contained in the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) agreement. There is risk this optional, orbital flight-test demonstration with a non-NASA crew could yield two standards of safety--one reflecting NASA requirements, and one with a higher risk set of commercial requirements. It also raises questions of who acts as certification authority and what differentiates public from private accountability. Separating the level of safety demanded in the system from the unique and hard-earned knowledge that NASA possesses introduces new risks and unique challenges to the normal precepts of public safety and mission responsibility. We are concerned that NASA's CCiCap 2014 "Option" prematurely signals tacit acceptance of this commercial requirements approach absent serious consideration by all the stakeholders on whether this higher level of risk is in fact in concert with national objectives."

Keith's note: It is exceptionally odd that the ASAP gets all hot and bothered about certifying American-produced commercial crew spacecraft when the ASAP all too willingly said it was OK to fly Americans on Russian Soyuz spacecraft - spacecraft which have never been given the same level of formal safety certification by NASA - i.e. the certification that the ASAP apparently wants for domestically produced commercial spacecraft. A number of years ago, at a time when Americans living on Mir were exposed to repeated accidents, I asked (then) NASA Deputy Administrator Fred Gregory in a public setting if Russian spacecraft meet or exceed NASA safety requirements. Gregry said "clearly they do not". This question and response was subsequently referenced in a congressional hearing.

It is also a bit odd that the ASAP was perfectly happy with NASA's plan to fly crews on Orion/Ares 1 flight after only one unmanned test. The same (apparently) goes for the current plan for Orion/SLS. The ASAP's credibility suffers when they pursue contradictory and inconsistent paths such as this.

No More NEEMO?

Florida university to take over operations of undersea lab Aquarius, Star News

"A lack of federal support and local funding has forced the University of North Carolina Wilmington to stop operations at Aquarius, the world's only permanent undersea laboratory - a loss that will take away a key component of the school's marine science program, a school official said. "Aquarius is unique. It's the only asset like this in the world," Aquarius director Tom Potts said of the facility in the Florida Keys. "UNCW does lose a little of what makes it unique by losing this program." But the program is not completely lost. It will soon be operated by Miami-based Florida International University."

Houston, We Have Another Problem: Study Shows that Space Travel is Harmful to the Brain

"The possibility that radiation exposure in space may give rise to health problems such as cancer has long been recognized. However, this study shows for the first time that exposure to radiation levels equivalent to a mission to Mars could produce cognitive problems and speed up changes in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer's disease."

Galactic Cosmic Radiation Leads to Cognitive Impairment and Increased AB Plaque Accumulation in a Mouse Model of Alzheimer's Disease, PLoS (original research paper)

Keith's note: I can't seem to find any mention of this NASA-funded research at NASA.gov. Given the animal rights controversy that surrounded these experiments, and the results of this specific research project (with clear relevance to missions to asteroids, Mars, etc.), you'd think that NASA would want taxpayers, stakeholders, and the media, to know about these findings. Guess not.

NASA produces a regular listing of publications (NASA Spaceline Current Awareness) on the space life science research it funds. However, NASA is unable to find a way to publish it online. As a result no one really gets to see what the agency does - unless they visit SpaceRef, that is. We have a complete archive online stretching back to 1999.

Keith's update: This PLoS research paper made the rounds of various news outlets - all of them asking the question: Does space travel cause/aggravate Alzheimer's? Given than many of us have had our families directly affected by this disease, stories that mention it tend to get our attention. NASA's public response? Nothing. Yet, its not as if they are not concerned about radiation health (they funded this research after all). This was a perfect opportunity for the agency to show how its research not only serves space exploration needs but also has a relevance to issues facing the public.

By coincidence, this solicitation "Development of the Expandable Coil Concept" was issued today by NASA JSC and shows one way that this issue is being addressed in terms of spacecraft design. Yet another golden opportunity for NASA to link up its research and inform the public. Again, nothing but silence. If NASA does care enough to tell people what they are doing, then how can the agency expect people to care enough to be interested?

NASA JSC Solicitation: Development of the Expandable Coil Concept, NASA JSC

"NASA/JSC has a requirement to continue the study of active radiation shielding for crew protection, a key challenge with human exploration of space."

Radiation Protection and Architecture Utilizing High Temperature Superconducting Magnets, NASA

NASA's GRAIL Lunar Impact Site Named for Astronaut Sally Ride, NASA

"NASA has named the site where twin agency spacecraft impacted the moon Monday in honor of the late astronaut, Sally K. Ride, who was America's first woman in space and a member of the probes' mission team. Last Friday, Ebb and Flow, the two spacecraft comprising NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission, were commanded to descend into a lower orbit that would result in an impact Monday on a mountain near the moon's north pole."

Keith's note: Why does NASA JSC PAO have staff in Saudi Arabia? Are there that many NASA employees attending the ASE event such that they need a PAO handler?

@amikokauderer Chilling out, maxin' and relaxin' with a couple new dinner friends. @ The Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh http://instagr.am/p/RqUdSrpEOw/

Earth's Astronauts Meet, earlier post

Keith's update: Correction/update: @amikokauderer says she is "not on the job" - but she is listed as accompanying Scott Kelly, an active U.S. astronaut according to ASE.

Keith's update: According to ASE: "Amiko is here as Scott's guest. Scott is here as the official NASA active astronaut representative; although he is on official orders, all (flights, hotels, meals, everything) of his and Amiko's expenses have been picked up by our Saudi hosts (all expenses for all attendees have been picked up by the hosts). She is here purely as a private citizen and Scott's guest."

Keith's note: I wonder if the opportunity to get an all expenses paid trip to Saudi Arabia was offered to other NASA JSC employees instead of just sending a PAO employee.

Earth's Astronauts Meet

Over 100 astronauts to attend Riyadh, Saudi Arabia meeting, Arabnews

"The conference will be attended by more than 100 astronauts from 18 different countries along with experts in the space and aeronautics sector from all around the world. ... The event will be addressed on the first day by Prince Sultan bin Salman. Other speakers include KACST President Mohammed Al-Suwaiyel and Prince Turki bin Saud bin Mohammed Al-Saud. Among the foreign speakers will be Dumitru-Dorin Prunariu, president of ASE and the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space; George W. Abbey, former director of Johnson Space Center, USA; Charles Elachi, director, Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the US; and Thierry H. Duquesne, director for strategy, programs and international relations, Center National d'Etudes Spatiales -- CNES, France."

Association of Space Explorers

Soyuz spacecraft launches 32 fish, hippo to space station, space.com via Fox

"I think it's going to be something special, and I will get unforgettable memories," Novitskiy said in a NASA briefing before the mission. Novitskiy picked a small toy hippo, a gift from his teenage daughter Yana, to use an indicator of when the Soyuz reached the weightless environment of space."

Keith's note: Contrary to what some space bloggers and writers have suggested, this is not a "hippo". Rather, it is a plushie version of Suni Williams' dog "Gorbie" Indeed, she pulled the plushie version of Gorbie out for me during the on-orbit interview I did with her in September - more than a month before this recent Soyuz was even launched.

THIS is what a hippo looks like in a Soyuz.

Keith's note: Former U.S. Senator - and astronaut - John Glenn appears in this Obama campaign video. While astronauts have endorsed candidates in the past - and even run for (and won) office, I think (as best as I can tell) that this is the first time that an astronaut has appeared in a campaign video (film) in support of a specific presidential candiate. Fact checking by NASAWatch readers would be appreciated.

@NASAWatch Tweet: 24 hrs - nothing from #NASA.gov mentioning Baumgartner's jump from the edge of space - just one single tweet yesterday bit.ly/RN6PiR

Keith's note: Buzz surrounding Felix Baumgartner's parachute jump from 24 miles, with a top descent speed of Mach 1.24, is still all over the media and clearly captured the public's imagination. 8 million people watched on YouTube - a new record. Tribute and parody YouTube videos have already gone viral (cats anyone?). Yet, other than a single tweet yesterday (unless I missed something) NASA has not said a single thing about this amazing feat. Yet there was constant mention by the news media as to how such a jump could lead to better spacesuits for NASA (among others). Alas, NASA was originally approached to participate in this activity but declined the offer to do so. Sources tell me that many NASA managers went out of their way to find ways to say "no" to this.

Its now clearly possible for non-NASA entities to approach - and reach space - and do things NASA cannot do. And, after half a century, NASA's increasing absence from these efforts doesn't even seem to be odd anymore. Is this the end of an era - and the beginning of another?

Has NASA even noticed?

Yes, the Space Jump Mattered, Mashable

"So pay no attention to the naysayers. This was just as giant a leap as it felt. It reminded us that making a taller iPhone does not have to be the ultimate ambition of the technically minded. We can dare to look up from our Star Trek-inspired smartphones, gaze at the heavens, and dream of doing things that seem completely ridiculous."


NASA Signs Agreement to Develop Nasal Spray for Motion Sickness, NASA (with full text of Space Act Agreement)

"Under the Space Act Agreement, Epiomed will formulate the drug, called intranasal scopolamine, or INSCOP. Astronauts often experience motion sickness in space. As a result, NASA has conducted extensive research into the causes and treatments for the condition. Scopolamine is effective and can be administered as a tablet or injected. With a precise dosage, the NASA spray formulation has been shown to work faster and more reliably than the oral form."

Epiomed and NASA Sign Space Act Agreement for INSCOP, an Intra-nasal Scopolamine Product

"Epiomed will take responsibility for further development and commercialization of INSCOP, assisted by NASA-HH&P (Human Health & Performance Directorate) technology, and assume sponsorship of the IND (Investigational New Drug) from NASA under the SAA."

Law says Apollo astronauts can keep, sell artifacts

"President Barack Obama ended a months-long fight over NASA relics this week when he signed into law a bill that confers full ownership of early NASA artifacts to the astronauts that took them as souvenirs. The legislation follows a public -- and sometimes bitter -- battle between NASA and its astronaut corps over the sale of keepsakes from the agency's earliest days, most notably the nearly $390,000 auction of a systems checklist from the infamous Apollo 13 mission."

- Congress Deals With Space Artifacts and Moon Rocks, earlier post

- NASA's Inconsistent Policy Regarding The Sale Of Apollo Era Items, earlier post

"It should be abundantly clear by now that the NASA IG and General Counsel offices have no consistent policy whatsoever when it comes to selling historic Apollo era artifacts. In some cases you can sell pieces of the Moon, and in other cases you cannot. In some cases you can sell items used during Apollo missions, in other cases, you cannot. And of course, it is also acceptable practice to rough up little old ladies and threaten lawsuits against elderly former astronauts."

Navy Announces Research Vessel to be Named in Honor of Neil Armstrong

"Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced today that the first Armstrong-class Auxiliary General Oceanographic Research (AGOR) ship will be named Neil Armstrong. Mabus named the future R/V Neil Armstrong (AGOR 27) to honor the memory of Neil Armstrong, best known for being the first man to walk on the moon. Armstrong was an aeronautics pioneer and explorer for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) serving as an engineer, test pilot, astronaut and administrator. Armstrong also served as a naval aviator flying nearly 80 combat missions during the Korean War."

House Passes Bill to Clarify Astronaut Ownership of Mementos from Apollo-Era Space Missions

"Describing the bill, Chairman Hall said, "This bill seeks to eliminate any further ambiguity about Apollo-era artifacts that were received by the astronauts. It simply says that astronauts who flew through the end of the Apollo program will be granted full right of ownership of any artifacts received from their missions."

- Congress Deals With Space Artifacts and Moon Rocks, earlier post

- NASA's Inconsistent Policy Regarding The Sale Of Apollo Era Items, earlier post

"It should be abundantly clear by now that the NASA IG and General Counsel offices have no consistent policy whatsoever when it comes to selling historic Apollo era artifacts. In some cases you can sell pieces of the Moon, and in other cases you cannot. In some cases you can sell items used during Apollo missions, in other cases, you cannot. And of course, it is also acceptable practice to rough up little old ladies and threaten lawsuits against elderly former astronauts."

Azerbaijan joins its "black list" of U.S. astronauts (translated via Google), Armenia Today

"Azerbaijan joins its "black list" of U.S. astronauts. Azerbaijani authorities intend to declare persona non grata two foreign nationals who recently visited the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. This is an astronaut Charles Duke and Claude Nicollier. Duke and Nicole were part of a scientific conference "Man and Space", which was held in Stepanakert. The conference was dedicated to the memory of the recently deceased U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong. ... The Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan now claim that for "illegal, inconsistent with Azerbaijan" visit Karabakh astronauts will be included in the list of persona non grata."

Keith's note: The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is not officially recognized by Azerbaijan (or anyone else) and is aligned with Armenia. Since Duke and Nicollier "joined" a list, I guess that list already existed. What other astronauts have insulted the Republic of Azerbaijan? Its not all together clear if being on the "black list" is an honor or an insult. I guess we need to ask Borat.

Full translation below

Neil Armstrong Memorial

NASA Coverage of Neil Armstrong Service at National Cathedral

"NASA will provide special live programming of the public memorial service at the Washington National Cathedral to honor the life and career of astronaut Neil Armstrong at 10 a.m. EDT, Thursday, Sept. 13." Replay of the service.

National Cathedral Memorial for Neil Armstrong; Burial at Sea, earlier post

NASA photos from the service

How Neil Armstrong inspired a POW, John McCain, Washington Post

"Once in a while, the Vietnamese unwittingly let a little good news slip by. One evening, Hannah played a clip of a speech by a prominent American opponent of the war. It was a quick, throwaway line in a long list of diatribes about the war and the president. But we all caught it. The quote was something like: "President Nixon can put a man on the moon, but he can't end the war in Vietnam."
Yes, that was news to us, arriving years after the successful Apollo 11 mission."

Ocean Optics Spectrometers Land Safely on Mars

"Three Ocean Optics instruments have completed their eight month journey to Mars to study soil composition as part of the ChemCam mission. The company's modular Jaz spectrometer scaled Mt. Everest with a team that included NASA astronaut Scott Parazynski to measure solar irradiance at extreme altitude."

Using a Tricorder on Mount Everest

"If you've ever seen a Starfleet away team beaming down to a new planet, you know that the first thing they do is whip out their tricorder and scan everything. Many of NASA's astrobiologists want one. Well, Scott and I had one at Everest."

Keith's note: I carried this cool device up to Everest Base Camp and then Scott carried it up the mountain. Its not unusual for people to trek into Everest with the latest high tech gear on display but every time I pulled this thing out people stopped to watch me go through my procedure. I took this promo photo of Scott using the Jaz unit while we were standing next to our tents at Everest Base Camp. An instant later we heard a loud noise coming from the icefall. I quickly switched my camera from still to video and shot this video since I was literally pointed at the exact right spot already. This was one of the largest avalanches in recent seasons.

Had I not been taking the PR shot of Scott and the Jaz unit I'd have missed most of this avalanche. (More details in comments below). Now I see that our good friends at Ocean Optics have hardware on Mars. How cool - especially since I had 4 little Moon rocks in my chest pocket when I shot these pics and video - and our Moon rocks are now on the ISS.

House Committee on Science, Space and Technology Markup on Astronaut Artifact Ownership

"The Committee will meet to consider the following measure, or for other purposes: H.R. 4158 - To confirm full ownership rights for certain United States astronauts to artifacts from the astronauts' space missions."

- NASA IG Sends Cops in Flack Vests After 74 Year Old, 4'11" Grandmother, earlier post
- Selling History Or Just Personal Stuff?, earlier post
- NASA OIG Admits The Obvious About Moon Rocks, earlier post
- NASA's Inconsistent Policy Regarding The Sale Of Apollo Era Items, earlier post

Keith's update: This markup has been postponed.

Keith's note: It should be abundantly clear by now that the NASA IG and General Counsel offices have no consistent policy whatsoever when it comes to selling historic Apollo era artifacts. In some cases you can sell pieces of the Moon, and in other cases you cannot. In some cases you can sell items used during Apollo missions, in other cases, you cannot. And of course, it is also acceptable practice to rough up little old ladies and threaten lawsuits against elderly former astronauts.

Maybe this legislation will solve some of this confusion since it refers to some specific items "personal logs, checklists, flight manuals, prototype and proof test articles used in training, and disposable flight hardware salvaged from jettisoned lunar modules" which astronauts can keep and specifically excludes "lunar rocks and other lunar material" which they cannot keep.

Sally Ride

NASA Offers Condolences on the Passing of Pioneering Astronaut Sally Ride

"Sally Ride broke barriers with grace and professionalism - and literally changed the face of America's space program," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "The nation has lost one of its finest leaders, teachers and explorers. Our thoughts and prayers are with Sally's family and the many she inspired. She will be missed, but her star will always shine brightly."

Statement by the President on the Passing of Sally Ride

"She inspired generations of young girls to reach for the stars and later fought tirelessly to help them get there by advocating for a greater focus on science and math in our schools. Sally's life showed us that there are no limits to what we can achieve and I have no doubt that her legacy will endure for years to come. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Sally's family and friends."

Challenger Center for Space Science Education Statement on the Passing of Sally Ride

"We are deeply saddened to hear of Sally Ride's passing. Her passion brought STEM education to the forefront and for that we will be forever grateful. She will continue to be a great source of inspiration for students around the globe. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and loved ones." - Dr. Scott Parazynski, MD, chairman of Challenger Center for Space Science Education

Statement from Nancy Conrad regarding the passing of Sally Ride

"The Conrad Foundation and our students and partners are saddened to hear of Sally Ride's untimely death. Sally was a great physicist, astronaut, educator and American hero. She dedicated her life to bringing the world of science to girls with her Sally Ride Science Academy and Camps. She was a wonderful role model for young women and girls and will be sadly missed. We salute her contribution to our nation and to our future."

Keith's note: Astronaut Sally Ride died hours before Aviator Amelia Earhart's 115th birthday. Ah history - you make such poignant connections.

Astronauts support expansion of space station crew size, Houston Chronicle

"Astronauts aboard the International Space Station said this week they would welcome NASA's proposals to expand the lab's crew size from six to seven. "It would certainly help," said Don Pettit, a flight engineer and one of three crew members working in the U.S. half of the station. NASA senior leaders have begun talking about expanding the lab's crew size to seven when vehicles built by private contractors, such as SpaceX, come online as expected later this decade."

Alan Poindexter

@Astro_Box: Alan Poindexter "Dex" passed away today in a jet ski accident. He was a talented, courageous Navy veteran with gifts...

@Astro_Box: Dex was a lovable guy with a strong work ethic. He was selected to command a space shuttle on his 2nd flight: STS-131.

Retired astronaut killed in jet ski crash, AP

"Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials say 51-year-old Capt. Alan G. Poindexter was riding on a jet ski with his 22-year-old son Sunday afternoon when his 26-year-old son crashed into them with another jet ski."

NASA Extends Sympathy to Poindexter Family on Death of Former Astronaut

"We in the astronaut family have lost not only a dear friend, but also a patriot of the United States," said Peggy Whitson, chief of the Astronaut Office at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. "He proudly served his country for 26 years as a fighter pilot, test pilot, astronaut and commander of a space shuttle. I am proud to have both flown in space and worked with him for so many years. Dex will be deeply missed by those of us at Johnson and the entire NASA family."

An Article of Hope, Kickstarter

"Dawn is breaking on the morning of February 1, 2003 above West Texas. Suddenly the peace of the early morning is shattered by two loud bangs. The Space Shuttle Columbia is announcing its return home ... Gone is its precious cargo of seven astronauts from around the world. Among them, Col. Ilan Ramon, Israel's first Astronaut. Also gone, an artifact that embodied the glory of the Shuttle's mission and the despair of its demise: a tiny Torah scroll - smuggled into a Nazi concentration camp during the Holocaust; safeguarded by Joachim Joseph, a Holocaust survivor; and carried into space by Col. Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut."

John Llewellyn

Keith's note: John Llewellyn, Apollo era flight controller "Black RETRO", died on Tuesday. Details to follow.

"Houston, We've Had a Problem", Jim Lovell

"In Mission Control the Gold Team, directed by Gerald Griffin (seated, back of head to camera), prepares to take over from Black Team (Glynn Lunney, seated, in profile) during a critical period. Seven men with elbows on console are Deke Slayton, Joe Kerwin (Black CapCom), Vance Brand (Gold CapCom), Phil Shaffer (Gold FIDO), John Llewellyn (Black RETRO), Charles Deiterich (Gold RETRO), and Lawrence Canin (Black GNC). Standing at right is Chester Lee, Mission Director from NASA's Washington headquarters, and broad back at right belogs to Rocco Petrone, Apollo Program Director. Apollo 13 had two other "ground" teams, the White and the Maroon. All devised heroic measures to save the mission from disaster."

How Commercial Space Is Paying Off Now, Aviation Week

"We are aware that SpaceX does have an upgrade coming to the Falcon 9 that they intend to use for crew," Jett says. "[I]f they win CCiCap, we would see in their certification plan . . . [just] how they would get comfortable certifying that vehicle. They're going to tell us how they would certify it, and then we'll balance that against how we would certify it, and be able to understand that delta of what we would be able to do under that certification contract [which is] going to come sometime in the future."

Candidate challenged over 'astronaut' title, The Fresno Bee

"Hernandez's attempted use of 'astronaut' violates the Election Code's unambiguous requirement that a candidate's ballot designation reflect one's current profession, vocation, or one held during the previous calendar year," the lawsuit states. ... The suit notes that Hernandez reported to the clerk of the House of Representatives that he received $150,000 from work as the "executive director for strategic operations" with MEI Technologies. "In the same disclosure to Congress, [Hernandez] reported that he received no income from NASA in 2011," the lawsuit states, adding that "astronaut is not a title one carries for life."

Keith's note: These lawyers are loons. Of course you can call yourself an "astronaut" if you no longer work for NASA. People have been doing this for decades. Indeed, you can do so if you have never worked for NASA or never plan to. Charlie Walker worked for McDonnell Douglas when he flew in space as an "astronaut". Brian Binnie is an "astronaut" and worked for Scaled Composites. Are you an "astronaut" if you don't have another flight scheduled? Was John Glenn not an "astronaut" during the decades that he was in the Senate? My guess is that Hernandez is going to win the election - and his opponents know it. Otherwise you would not see goofy, desperate legal challenges like this.

Judge: Jose Hernandez can be 'astronaut' on ballot, SF Chronicle

"It took a Sacramento Superior Court judge Thursday to rule that the Democrat can be described an "astronaut" on California's June 5 primary election ballots in a nationally watched House battle."

Astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria Named President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation

"The Commercial Spaceflight Federation is pleased to announce that former NASA astronaut, International Space Station (ISS) commander, Naval Aviator, and test pilot Michael E. Lopez-Alegria (Capt., U.S. Navy, Ret.) has been named as President, effective March 19, 2012. Lopez-Alegria was selected for the position following a vote of the Board of Directors of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF)."

Record-Setting Astronaut Lopez-Alegria Departs NASA

"During his career, Lopez-Alegria logged more than 257 days in space, including 215 days as commander of the Expedition 14 mission to the ISS, which stands as the single longest spaceflight by an American. Lopez-Alegria also logged more than 67 hours during his 10 spacewalks, more than any other American, and second only in the record books to Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Solovyev."

iPads Would Be Great in Space, Astronaut Says, TechNews Daily

"NASA astronaut Dan Burbank, who commands the space station, said that while he doesn't own a new iPad -- or any other tablet -- he definitely could use one in space. "I don't have an iPad yet, and I most certainly don't have one up here on the space station," Burbank said today while answering a question from a student in San Jose, Calif., via a video link. "At some point I think that would be a really good tool to have up here because it would be a lot easier to have a single tablet, a single screen, to take with you to do procedures and science experiments instead of having a big laptop with you."

The iPad and an Angry Bird Head to Space, iPad News (28 Oct 2011)

"The next unmanned resupply vehicle headed for the International Space Station next month will be loaded with much needed propellant, oxygen, water, thousands of pounds of crew equipment and 2 iPads all ready to entertain the Russians who will receive them."

Keith's note: So I guess the Russians won't let their American crew mates use their iPads.

Astrobiologist Dale Andersen's Field Reports: Lake Untersee, Antarctica (Gigapixel panorama)

"Those early ecosystems resulted in the formation of luxuriant microbial mats with a variety of morphologies which are seen today in the stromatolitic fossil record scattered around the globe. Until recently, there have been no reports of modern microorganisms forming such structures, but in 2008 our research team discovered large conical stromatolites forming beneath the thick perennial ice of Lake Untersee in Antarctica."

Keith's note: SCUBA diving with robots under the antarctic ice in search of life. Good practice for looking for life's signs on Mars, Europa, Enceladus ...

Janice Voss

Keith's note: I just learned that Astronaut Janice Voss has died. Details to follow.

Astronaut Janice Voss Has Died

"NASA astronaut Janice Voss passed away from cancer overnight after a courageous battle. One of only six women who have flown in space five times, Voss' career was highlighted by her work and dedication to scientific payloads and exploration."

Reader note 31 Jan: "The following relates to previous discussions on NASAwatch about what text, pictures, items, etc belong to NASA and which belong to the astronauts themselves. I really have been enjoying reading Don Pettit's blog at Air & Space about his life on the ISS. It appears that NASA or someone has censored his blog. His blog entry "Remove before Flight" posted yesterday 1/3/0/2011 is no longer available. Try: this original link and it comes back with nothing. If you enter this into Google, you will see Google's cache of the post: cache:http://blogs.airspacemag.com/pettit/2012/01/30/remove-before-flight/ . I'm also attaching an image of Google's cached page in case the Google cached page disappears."

Keith's 1 Feb update: I am still waiting for a NASA PAO response. I have also requested the original image of the "CAUTION" tag so that we can see what it says.

Keith's 6 Feb update: Well, it has been a week and JSC PAO has said nothing. This is what I have learned behind the scenes. Fact is, JSC PAO did not have a role in this - at first - since they were out of the loop until the blog post was deleted and inquiries started. The Astronaut Office ordered the removal of this post. Don Pettit's blogs were being sent directly to Air & Space magazine without prior approval by the Astronaut Office or JSC PAO - just as Ron Garan's postings to "Fragile Oasis" had been handled throughout his entire mission. The Astronaut Office saw this post by Pettit, thought that it was unacceptable, and told Air & Space that they had to take it offline. The post remains offline with no reason given as to why it was unacceptable or what could be done to make it acceptable. (you can still read it here) Now, JSC PAO hopes that I will get tired of beating this issue and then move on. JSC PAO is also afraid that if the whole story got out that the Astronaut Office would be made to look bad. So, if JSC responds formally to my request you can rest assured that they are not telling the whole story.

Its too bad that control freaks have gotten the middle of this. Pettit (and Garan before him) are unusually good at relating their experiences to wide audiences at home. Now these long-term ISS residents will have official worriers from the Astronaut Office sitting in a cubicle trying to make sure that the fresh and unfiltered nature of these blog postings never sees the light of day.

Spanning the HEOMD-SMD Gap

NASA science chief advocates ties with human spaceflight, SpaceflightNow

"Grunsfeld told Spaceflight Now he met with Bill Gerstenmaier, head of NASA's human exploration division, in his first week in office. "One of the reasons I'm in this job now is because NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden believed that teaming with human spaceflight on those things that make sense, on our exploration program, for science to take advantage of the resources of human spaceflight, for human spaceflight to be informed by the science we can do at planetary destinations, for instance, can make the whole program stronger," Grunsfeld said."

NASA Receives Second Highest Number of Astronaut Applications

"More than 6,300 individuals applied to become a NASA astronaut between Nov. 15, 2011 and Jan. 27, the second highest number of applications ever received by the agency. After a thorough selection process, which includes interviews and medical examinations, nine to 15 people will be selected to become part of the 21st astronaut class."

Keith's note: According to NASA PAO, NASA received 8,000 astronaut applications in 1978. Hmm ... It was during 1977 that NASA used Nichelle Nichols to help encourage a broader range of applicants. According to Memory Alpha: "After meeting Nichols at a Star Trek convention in 1975, scientist Dr. Jesco von Puttkamer suggested that the actress take part in NASA's recruitment drive. Nichols took up the role in 1977, making recruitment and training films, and supervising astronaut recruits and hopefuls. She noted that the applicant count went from fewer than 100 a year to 1,649 within six months."

Devon Island Journal 20 July 2003: Arctic Memorials and Starship Yearnings

"Given the sheer mass of the structure, and the slow manner with which things change here, this inukshuk may well be standing 500 years from now. That should be long enough. Maybe someone serving on a starship will think to visit it."

Devon Island Journal - 18 July 2007: Ancient Memorials for Modern Space Explorers

"To the friends and families of these lost space travelers, these inukshuks offer a silent thank you - one amplified by the austere remoteness of this place - a remoteness you have to spend a lot of effort to visit. Right now, space travel is just like that. Hopefully that will change one day."

Apollo 13 checklist brings $388,375 at Heritage Auctions in Dallas

"The Apollo 13 Lunar Module Systems Activation Checklist upon which Commander James Lovell made his handwritten calculations to guide his wounded spacecraft and crew home - scant two hours after uttering the famous words, "Houston, we've had a problem." - consigned by Commander Lovell himself, brought $388,375 today as the centerpiece of Heritage Auctions' Nov. 30 Space Signature(R) Auction."

NASA IG Sends Cops in Flack Vests After 74 Year Old, 4'11" Grandmother, earlier post

"Soon after settling into a booth, [74-year-old suspect Joann] Davis said, she pulled out the moon sample and about half a dozen sheriff's deputies and NASA investigators rushed into the eatery."

Former Apollo astronaut relents, gives camera from moon mission to Smithsonian, earlier post

"Mitchell said he doesn't understand why the sale of the camera so inflamed government attorneys. He and other astronauts have given away and sold other mementos that were given to them from their moon missions. "This whole thing, frankly, seems to be some young new lawyer in the organization trying to make a name for himself," he said. "It's been frustrating."

The Alan Bean Online Gallery

"Thus the base layer of all of his paintings contain small pieces of his space suit and the command module and also very small amounts of Moon dust. Finally, the paintings, themselves, convey unique memories of an unique era."

Keith's note: It should be abundantly clear by now that the NASA IG and General Counsel offices have no consistent policy whatsoever when it comes to selling historic Apollo era artifacts. In some cases you can sell pieces of the Moon, and in other cases you cannot. In some cases you can sell items used during Apollo missions, in other cases, you cannot. And of course, it is also acceptable practice to rough up little old ladies and threaten lawsuits against elderly former astronauts.

Photos: Robonaut-2 Gestures In Space

Keith's note: I have seen Robonaut-2 in action and its dexterity is interesting - and rather facile. So ... how could NASA demonstrate this dexterity in new ways, make it a little more "human" or approachable, - and reach a new segment of the populace that is normally overlooked? Program it to use Sign Language. Background: I worked for more than a decade as a professional certified (educational) sign language interpreter. This idea occurred to me when I was looking at this picture and instantly wondered what Robonaut-2 "wanted" or why it was seemingly in the process of saying "here" or maybe "give". Imagine how fast a video of Robonaut-2 saying something in American Sign Language from space would go viral. NASA could have a competition wherein people submit questions for it to answer. NASA already has a signing astronaut and SMD and NLSI already put out books in Braille. Just a thought.

P.S. Maybe he could repeat what that alien signed in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (video). If you watch that scene, the alien that is signing actually moves its hand like Robonaut does. I first saw this film when it came out with my hearing impaired roommates - none of us knew that aliens were going to sign so we all freaked out when one of them did. Of course, it was natural to us that all aliens would know how to sign - since they all already speak English, right?

A Post-Mission Conversation With NASA NEEMO Aquanaut Steve Squyres

"Cowing: Let's go back to what we were talking about several weeks ago before you began your NEEMO mission - the idea that being there - and doing it as - opposed to intellectualizing things ...

Squyres: ... yea, it is really different when you actually have to do it!"

Astronaut confident NASA will rebound from 'limbo', Des Moines Register

"Clayton Anderson] said the agency needs a firm target, such as a manned mission to Mars. President Barack Obama has backed off that plan, shelving a return to the moon and instead looking at a possible asteroid visit. "We lack leadership," Anderson said in an interview with The Des Moines Register. "We've had lulls like this before, but I'm not sure we've had many that are quite as tough as what we have now. Now, we are in a limbo state." ... Anderson said he most likely won't fly again after getting crosswise with the current NASA brass. He had some choice words for Mission Control about space station procedures and life, and the bosses didn't want to hear it, he said. "They told me I was too candid and blunt with Mission Control and others, and that my skill set did not match long-term space missions," Anderson said."

How an astronaut with Parkinson's Disease still won his own space race, The Telgraph

"They never told me to keep it quiet but I knew if I told the world I had Parkinson's that would put Nasa in a bad place. It would make press conferences all about me, it would raise questions."

The Astronaut's Secret, Kickstarter

"What is "The Astronaut's Secret"? "The Astronaut's Secret" will be a 60 minute documentary about the life of Astronaut Rich Clifford. It will uncover how he and NASA kept his Parkinson's Disease a secret for 17 years, explore the impact of the end of the Shuttle Program on Rich's life, and follow him as he speaks nationwide about the importance of Early Detection of Parkinson's Disease."

The Astronaut's Secret, official website

Keith's note: NASA Watch readers need to fund this project. I have pledged $100. Rich has a compelling story to tell. Help him tell it.

Status: 138 BACKERS - $17,929 PLEDGED OF $48,000 GOAL - 5 DAYS TO GO

Status: 143 BACKERS - $18,679 PLEDGED OF $48,000 GOAL - 4 DAYS TO GO

Keith's note: Why is former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly still using an official NASA Twitter account ShuttleCDRKelly - with the NASA logo and links to NASA - more than a month after he retired from NASA? Do the rules apply differently to former astronauts than they do for everyone else? Anyone visiting this Twitter page would get the clear impression that Kelly still works for NASA. Yet NASA continues to allow Kelly to give that incorrect impression - even when you bring it to the agency's attention. @NASA_Astronauts follows him as well. In addition, Kelly is using a Twitter following that his webpage generated during official duty at NASA. Yet non-astronaut former NASA employees would get in big trouble if they did this after they left the agency. Double standard, anyone?

Jose Hernandez, Social Media, and Politics, earlier post

Keith's update: Mark Kelly has changed the appearance of his Twitter page so as to not make it look exactly like the official NASA Twitter page that it once was - one that was overtly promoted by NASA in press releases and updated by NASA personnel during his missions. This is what it looked like before the change. That said, Mark Kelly was prompt - and proper - in responding. Also, as a result of this posting, it is my understanding that NASA CIO and PAO have started to amend and clarify their guidelines with regard to situations such as this so as to make things clearer for others who depart the agency.

Group Letter From Former Astronauts To Congress Regarding NASA's Commercial Crew Program

"We understand there are many programs competing for limited NASA funding; however, Commercial Crew funding must be kept as one of the top priorities if America is to retain its position as the world's number one spacefaring nation, ahead of other spaceflight powers like Russia and China. Simply put, Commercial Crew represents the most rapid way for America to get back its human space transportation capability following retirement of the Space Shuttle, and for America to end the "gap" in human spaceflight. The US will be back with its own capability soonest through Commercial Crew. Without Commercial Crew, America will be on the sidelines for years and years. And as long as America lacks a domestic means to access and maintain our $100 billion International Space Station, then we are running a risk that any setback to the Russian space program or a deterioration of US-Russian relations could force us to temporarily or perhaps permanently evacuate the American crew from the ISS."

Photo: JAXA Astronaut Satoshi Furukawa Backlit Only By Earthshine

"Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Satoshi Furukawa, Expedition 29 flight engineer, holds a still camera while looking through a window in the Cupola of the International Space Station Space Station."

iPads in Space?

Keith's Note: If you watch the live video from the Aquarius undersea habitat you can see that the NEEMO-15 crew are currently using tablet computers. According to an interview I did a few minutes ago, NEEMO-15 crew member Astronaut Shannon Walker says that they use these tablet computers to track their mission tasks. Walker also said that there will be several tablet computers aboard the next Progress cargo flight to the International Space Station. When asked, she was not able to say what brands of tablets would be going up.

Keith's update: According to NASA Public Affairs, the Russians plan to fly two iPads on the December Progress mission as a replacement for the iPod they currently have on the ISS The only use for these two iPads will be for entertainment. The Russians have no plans to use them operationally. NASA is still reviewing other tablet systems and plans to fly at least one more next year although the brand that they will fly is still TBD.

The Astronaut's Secret, Kickstarter

"What is "The Astronaut's Secret"? "The Astronaut's Secret" will be a 30 minute documentary about the life of Astronaut Rich Clifford. It will uncover how he and NASA kept his Parkinson's Disease a secret for 17 years, explore the impact of the end of the Shuttle Program on Rich's life, and follow him as he speaks nationwide about the importance of Early Detection of Parkinson's Disease."

The Astronaut's Secret, official website

Keith's note: NASA Watch readers need to fund this project. I just donated $100. Rich has a compelling story to tell.

Keith's 14 Oct note: It would seem that NASA Astronaut Andy Thomas is rather comfortable with his China-bashing Powerpoint slide and that NASA JSC openly condones his use of it in official presentations he makes representing the agency. Check out this link - it points to the same presentation (Thomas_10-12-11.pptx) he gave a month ago - this time revised for use on 12 October 2011 on a NASA Future In Space Operations (FISO) telecon with that very same slide with Taikonauts trampling a U.S. flag on the Moon. Additional links (and audio) here.

Keith's 16 Oct note: He uses the same flag stomping picture with a slightly different caption i.e. "We must make sure this is not the metaphor of our future" vs "We must make this event inconsequential". In the audio file Thomas refers to this as the same picture he used in the earlier presentation - one that got "leaked to NASA Watch".

Bolden's rational comments are in stark contrast to the picture that astronaut Andy Thomas included in an official NASA presentation - one that showed Chinese astronauts trampling on a U.S. flag on the lunar surface. Bolden speaks of Chinese successes in space as motivations for us whereas Thomas uses overt, provocative images wherein China desecrates our flag as his motivation.

Top NASA official 'rooting for' China's success in space exploration, Daily Caller (with audio)

"We haven't talked about the Chinese," Bolden said. "We can't work with the Chinese right now. But I'm rooting for them. They're probably going to put a spacecraft called Shenzhou into orbit here, hopefully by the end of the year. It's going to be the first capsule of their space station. And the reason they are doing that is that we are not allowing them to be partners right now. So they're going alone. They need to be successful to drive us."

NASA Exploration Ideas - With Added China Bashing (Update), earlier post

Keith's 16 Sep note: This presentation "Towards Deep Space Exploration: Small Steps versus One Giant Leap" (download) was presented by astronaut Andrew Thomas on 6 September 2011. There is one problem I have with this document - and it has to do with one specific graphic (page 28 - larger view). Had the author noted that China's plans for the Moon should not spur us to do things out of fear or paranoia or something like that, I'd agree. But using an image that shows a Taikonaut on the lunar surface, planting the flag of the PRC while trampling an American flag is troubling. Are there really people inside NASA who think like this - enough that they go out of their way to create and use a provocative image like this? Alas, China-hater Rep. Frank Wolf will just love this chart.

Keith's note: Why is a former NASA astronaut (i.e. employee) allowed to pose on his campaign website wearing the NASA logo? The last time I checked NASA was rather strict about the use of its logo - especially in situations where affiliations or endorsements might be implied by its use.And why is Hernandez using the same Twitter account - @Astro_Jose - with which he attracted over 200,000 followers when he was a NASA employee? (NASA's official @Astronauts account still follows @Astro_Jose). Did these followers agree to follow him because he was an astronaut or because he was going to run for Congress? the caveat "Astronaut(Ret) The opinions on this page do not reflect those of NASA" was only added after he had this huge NASA-generated following. Seems a little deceptive to me. Also ... why does his Twitter page say he lives in "Houston, TX" when he is running for a congressional seat in California?

And just in case some of you folks get on the bus to crazy town and try and read something into my comments, if I could, I'd vote for him. I just do not think NASA makes its policies clear on social media and use of NASA logos nor do I think that they apply these policies equally with regard to all of their employees - past and present.

Keith's update: I just got an email from Amber Moon, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's western regional press secretary. She noted "In 2009, Hernandez flew on the space shuttle Discovery's mission to the International Space Station and became the first person to tweet in Spanish from outer space." Once again it is clear that a lot of his followers on Twitter were attracted as a result of a NASA-funded activity. Amber Moon also asked NASAWatch to share this Univision story "Ex-astronaut Hernandez seeks congressional seat".

Keith's 4 Oct note: Astronaut Ron Garan recently returned to Earth. While he was on the ISS he was a rather active, creative, and effective communicator. However, the vast majority of what he sent back to Earth did not appear on a NASA.gov website. Instead, it appeared on his own effort - the officially semi-official "Fragile Oasis". Beth Beck from HEOMD runs this site. The site is operated independent of NASA PAO and of any oversight by NASA's office of communications. Contrary to established agency policy Beck decided to run it outside of the NASA portal and makes little if any effort to coordinate with the way that the rest of the agency coordinates with NASA PAO. Indeed, if you even try to find who owns the domain fragileoasis.org you are unable to do so since that information is hidden.

Now this effort has created a project wherein a Fragile Oasis Prize which is apparently going to be given out to people. Prize medals were even flown in space. According to the website: "By becoming a Fragile Oasis Crewmember, you will be able to nominate and vote on projects that you believe are making the world a better place. You can encourage those that you feel are making a difference and receive encouragement from others. You can discover people and organizations with similar goals and interests and get involved with beneficial projects."

Ron Garan did a wonderful job while he was in space as he reached out to people back on Earth - one that is worthy of emulation by future crews. It is unfortunate that Beth Beck chose to implement this project in a way that diminished its reach via the vastly more popular NASA.gov web audience.

Questions for Beth Beck:

- How much has the FragileOasis.org effort cost NASA HEOMD to date? What is the budget for this entire project?
- How long will this project continue?
- Who owns the content on this website? Who actually owns the domain FragileOasis.org?
- Which contractors have been paid to run FragileOasis.org and how much has each of them been paid?
- How were the contractors that operate FragileOasis.org selected and how is their performance on this activity tracked?
- What are the metrics you use to track FragileOasis.org effectiveness?
- What are your web traffic numbers? What is the age and geographical break down of your web traffic?
- How much web traffic did fragileoasis.org send (refer) to NASA.gov? How much web traffic did nasa.gov send to fragileoasis.org?
- What information do you retain for people who visit and join your website and is this being done in accordance with NASA/government requirements?
- How many people have signed up to "join" your website?
- What target audience(s) is this project designed to reach?
- How many times have FragileOasis.org Tweets been retweeted or mentioned?
- How many of the images and videos that Ron Garan sent back to Earth were published on a NASA.gov website?
- Why is this official (is it official?) NASA website not hosted within the NASA.gov portal?
- What are the criteria for evaluating and selecting Fragile Oasis prize winners? Who are the judges?
- How long does this FragileOasis.org competition last? How many prizes will be awarded?
- Why have there been no NASA press releases about this prize?

One last thing. Beth Beck does not like public scrutiny when it comes to questions like the ones I have asked. Not at all. Sources inside the agency report that she has formally complained to the NASA Office of General Counsel about my repeated public comments and formal inquiries about how she does her job and how her projects accomplish their intended purpose. You will recall that her disastrous NASA Buzzroom efforts were featured on NASA Watch.

Any communications or outreach person with skin this thin is most certainly in the wrong job.

Ron Garan's Earth Gazing - Who Is Actually In Charge of NASA Public Affairs?, earlier post

Keith's 5 Oct update: I haven't heard anything from Beth Beck or anyone at HEOMD or FragileOasis.org. I did not really expect to hear anything. They also deleted the link I put to this posting on the FragileOasis Facebook page. So ... I guess I'll just submit a FOIA request - and then wait for months as they drag their feet developing a non-answer to my request.

New Astronauts Sought

NASA To Seek Applicants For Next Astronaut Candidate Class

"In early November, NASA will seek applicants for its next class of astronaut candidates who will support long-duration missions to the International Space Station and future deep space exploration activities. After applicant interviews and evaluations, NASA expects to announce the final selections in 2013, and training to begin that August."

NRC Report on NASA's Astronaut Corps Released, earlier post

NASA's Development of Radiation Monitoring Instruments for the International Space Station

"This Office of Inspector General (OIG) review found that NASA has poorly managed the development of these replacement radiation monitoring instruments. Specifically, total estimated ARI Project costs increased approximately 62 percent, from $16 million to $26 million; the Project has been de-scoped and will not include all planned elements; and delivery of the new instruments has been delayed by almost 3 years. In addition, until April 2010 NASA was developing an instrument that did not meet stated radiation monitoring requirements. We also found that the ISS Program has never monitored astronaut exposure to neutrons in accordance with Program requirements and had not adequately analyzed, planned, tracked, or controlled the resulting risk."

Photo: Ron Garan's Last Day in Space

@ASTRO_RON: "How I spent my last day in space.

That's me in the cupola of the International Space Station off the coast of Australia taking my last of over 25,000 pics that I still want to share w/ everyone."

Keith's note: I am confused. Astronaut Ron Garan flies to the International Space Station and sends a non-stop stream of personal - and cool - photos back to Earth via Twitter and Twitpic. Well, these photos usually do not always end up on NASA's Human Spaceflight website but some of them appear on his personal (?) website at fragileoasis.org (the domain is registered to some anonymous individual in Bellveue, Washington) - a website that never seems to use the word "NASA" - unless you scroll to the small text at the bottom of the page with a micro NASA logo. Guess what - that link is to http://nasa.gov . Try it. It does not work. It should say http://www.nasa.gov which does work. Looks like no one bothered (or cared) to check.

Are NASA funds used to run this website? If so, then why the lack of coordination with NASA.gov?. If not, then why isn't NASA running such a high profile site that highlights such a prominent activity that its own official website seems to not want to highlight? Some (but not all) of these photos and commentary by Ron Garan also appear at NASA's blog site.

Ron Garan is a NASA civil servant who was on official duty at taxpayer expense on the ISS. We paid his airfare. We should all be seeing everything he sends back to Earth, without having to hop around various websites, right? NASA should endeavour to collect all that he sends back to Earth - in one place - so as to maximize this dissemination of information to the public. But that is not the case.

These "NASA" sites do not even link to each other. Who is in charge here? NASA PAO?, HEOMD? Ron Garan? Until NASA figures out how to coordinate its "messages" it will be hobbled by stove piping and hobby shop approaches to education and public outreach. The scattered nature of this otherwise inspiring series of photos and operations exposes just how uncoordinated NASA is these days when it comes to telling the taxpaying public what it is doing and why. And then they have the nerve to complain when the public does not seem to understand what they are doing.

Cool stuff Ron. You done good. Some of your stuff is jaw dropping. As a result, perhaps the rest of the agency can learn how to work together as one cohesive and cooperating entity in the future?

This is an awesome image worth spreading across our planet. Is it featured at NASA.gov?

No.

Keith's note: From what I have been able to piece together HEOMD's Beth Beck (the creator of the failed NASA BuzzRoom) is behind this site. Elyse David is the "Executive Producer and Founding Crewmemeber" of Fragile Oasis according to her Twitter page. Beth Beck does more or less whatever she wants to do on this website with near zero coordination with NASA PAO. Despite multiple requests in the past for metrics and a plan for education and public outreach Beth has been unwilling/unable to provide me with anything. Yes, Ron Garan's photos and commentary have been amazing - but when they are not coordinated with NASA.gov's much larger distribution system, they suffer from less than full visibility they might otherwise attain. The net result is that NASA's limited funding for such things is not being spent in the best way possible. Once again one part of NASA simply does not care to coordinate with the other.

Keith's 16 Sep note: This presentation "Towards Deep Space Exploration: Small Steps versus One Giant Leap" (download) was presented by astronaut Andrew Thomas on 6 September 2011. Inside you will find some interesting stuff regarding the use of existing ISS and Shuttle era plus international and commercial capabilities - all matrixed together allowing us to go to new places. It also mentions problems that occur with the public and Congress when things go over budget or seem to not show any real progress or benefit, and how to use smaller steps to incrementally achieve things in space that are relevant, affordable, and show visible progress within everyone's short attention span.

Of course this is all "notional" i.e. ideas that NASA won't connect officially with any actual project or budget anywhere. But that's OK since it shows that people are thinking outside the box, cognizant of limited budgets, and aren't afraid to use old stuff for new purposes. The ideas and approach contained in this document are summarized as follows: "This is not a Program, it is not a Destination; it is a series of activities that aggregate to a deep space capability with US Leadership".

There is one problem I have with this document - and it has to do with one specific graphic (page 28 - larger view). Had the author noted that China's plans for the Moon should not spur us to do things out of fear or paranoia or something like that, I'd agree. But using an image that shows a Taikonaut on the lunar surface, planting the flag of the PRC while trampling an American flag is troubling. Are there really people inside NASA who think like this - enough that they go out of their way to create and use a provocative image like this? Alas, China-hater Rep. Frank Wolf will just love this chart.

P.S. If some graphics do not work or load it is because the original Powerpoint file's format did not exactly work perfectly for me.

Keith's update: Neither Astronaut Andy Thomas, the Astronaut Office, JSC, or NASA PAO have commented on the use of this image. One would therefore have to assume that they are afraid to comment and/or that there is tacit approval of the use of this image in official NASA presentations. None of these assumptions are remotely acceptable. So much for transparency and openness at NASA. I guess its "Lets say nothing and hope this goes away ...".

It will not go away.

NASA Needs to Preserve Skilled Astronaut Corps In Post-Shuttle Era, Says New Report

"NASA should take steps to ensure that it maintains a highly trained astronaut corps to meet International Space Station (ISS) crew requirements while accounting for unexpected attrition or demands of other missions, says a new report by the National Research Council. NASA's current plans for staffing the U.S. astronaut corps do not provide sufficient flexibility to reliably meet projected ISS mission needs."

Keith's note: A new report titled "Preparing for the High Frontier: The Role and Training of NASA Astronauts in the Post-Space Shuttle Era" has been completed by the National Research Council. The report examines staffing plans for the U.S. astronaut corps following retirement of the space shuttle and completion of the International Space Station. The report will be released on 7 September 2011 at 11 am EDT.

Keith's note:If you visit the website of author Charles Justiz you will see that a photo of an astronaut holding his latest book on the International Space Station is featured. As I mentioned last March, when this first appeared online, I was not aware that authors could get NASA astronauts to do on-orbit promotion and commercial "product placement" on the ISS unless there was a clear EPO tie-in, Space Act Agreement, etc. The webpage that originally featured this product endorsement was eventually pulled offline after I took note. But now the product placement photo is back. I guess the rules have changed.

Product Placement on the ISS (Update), earlier post

Photo: Astronauts Planking in Space

"Four members of the joint STS-135/Expedition 28 crews are able to spend part of their last shared time onboard the International Space Station performing floating exercises that can't be done in Earth's gravity. Inside the Harmony Node 2 module, are NASA astronauts Mike Fossum (top), Expedition 28 flight engineer, and Doug Hurley, STS-135 pilot; and Ron Garan, Expedition 28 flight engineer. The crew member at bottom is partially obscured and is unidentified."

Keith's note: What's that - you don't know what "planking" is?

- Planking (definition), Wikipedia
- Planking, Facebook

NASA Names Terry Wilcutt Agency Safety Chief

"Terrence W. Wilcutt has been appointed NASA's chief of safety and mission assurance, effective Sept. 1. Wilcutt is a retired Marine colonel and veteran astronaut who is serving as director of safety and mission assurance at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. He will assume the post from Bryan O'Connor, who will retire from the agency on Aug. 31. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden announced the appointment Tuesday."

A Station with a View: The Importance of Earth View to Crew Mental Health

"A recent crew survey found that astronauts reported one area of spaceflight they found particularly enriching involved their perception of the Earth. The flip side to this finding is the implication that the lack of an Earth view may negatively impact crew psychological well being. To seek verification of this emotional tie to a view of our planet, my colleagues and I chose to examine available data from the Crew Earth Observations or CEO. The goal was to see if there was a correlation between crew photography and mental well being based on the frequency of self-initiated images vs. those mandated by scientific directives."

Photo: One Last Visit To The Cupola

"Backlit by Earth's "day time" light, NASA astronaut Sandy Magnus, STS-135 mission specialist, gets one last visit to the Cupola onboard the International Space Station. on July 18, 2011."

Keith's note: I do not think suicide is funny - under any circumstance. Yet this photo essay makes a point - and it uses a powerful iconic image of an anonymous person in a spacesuit in an exaggerated fashion to make that point. A lot of people are rather depressed and demoralized right now with the retirement of the Space Shuttle. Entire careers have come to an abrupt end. Yet some people (including the media) have gone overboard and are waving their arms around as if NASA itself is going to disappear - and that it is deliberatley doing this to itself. Some people see humor in this photo collection. I see sadness - sadness bordering on bad taste. Suicides are often a cry for help. Slide the bar under the image to scroll through the image collection and see for yourself.

Maybe someone could come up with a more inspiring version of this photo essay - one that points to the future ahead?

Jason Silverman's note: That Astronaut Suicides photo essay was pretty disturbing. You asked for something portraying the opposite viewpoint, and I thought of sending you this collage that I made this summer. It shows how much we have to look forward to in space over the coming decade. Larger view

Prince Harry's bid for Nasa training, The Sun

"Army pilot Harry, 26, is a closet Star Trek fan and "obsessed with space", according to friends. They say he has already asked Sir Richard Branson's son Sam for a seat on one of the first Virgin Galactic sub-orbital flights. But he hopes to become an honorary member of the elite US space programme after returning from Afghanistan next year."

Keith's note: On Tuesday at 3:15 pm EDT President Obama will meet with the crew of the Space Shuttle Endeavour and the Commander of ISS Expedition 26.

Joint Shuttle/ISS Crew Press Conference

"The 10 crew members aboard space shuttle Atlantis and the International Space Station will hold a news conference at 8:24 a.m. CDT on Friday, July 15. NASA Television will provide live coverage of the 40-minute news conference."

A Short Chat With Someone Offworld

"If there is one thing I'd say [to policymakers] it is that we need to focus our efforts. I'd appeal to Congress to focus on the long term. They need to look at the horizon - look out 10 years and see where they want the nation to be. We need a coherent space policy that will take us 10 to 15 years out - a decadal plan - and then make it a law so that we have to follow it so that Congress and future administrations are obliged to follow the policy that we, as a nation, have set forth."

The Next Space Race, Newsweek

"To get a peek at how commercial space will prepare its people, I signed up for private astronaut training, a three-day NASTAR certificate course for suborbital researchers. Founded in 2006, NASTAR began as a showcase for its parent company, Environmental Tectonics Corp., a leading maker of flight simulators. In 2010 it won Federal Aviation Administration approval for private space training, the first company to do so. The course remains optional, but regulators may require it as part of a company's license. "We're basically leaving it up to the companies," says George Nield, associate administrator for the FAA's office of commercial space transportation."

Strapping On A Centrifuge: Suborbital Scientist Training, earlier post

Senator Mark Kelly?

Retirement from United States Navy and NASA, Mark Kelly

"After some time off, I will look at new opportunities and am hopeful that one day I will again serve our country."

Mark Kelly to retire, generating Senate buzz, The Hill

"Astronaut Mark Kelly, the husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), announced Tuesday he would retire Oct. 1.Kelly, a captain in both NASA and the Navy, has been mentioned as a possible Senate candidate in Arizona next year. Media reports throughout the state have said Kelly would be the leading choice for Democrats if Giffords is unable to run for retiring Sen. Jon Kyl's (R-Ariz.) seat. The space shuttle commander has said nothing to spark this talk, but his retirement announcement will likely increase the speculation."

Astronaut Mark Kelly; Arizona's next senator?, Washington Post

"Senator Mark Kelly? That's the question in political circles this week. The minute Kelly, 47, announced his retirement from the Navy and NASA Tuesday, the behind-the-scenes speculation that's been brewing for weeks went public: Will the husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords run for office himself?"

Roundup: Obama's policy aims to revitalize space program John Holdren and Charlie Bolden

"Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell and Gene Cernan are genuine American heroes who brought immense courage and competence to the historic manned moon missions they led. Obviously, they are more than entitled to their opinions about the best way forward for America's space program today. But their opinions would be more worthy of attention if they were based on a more accurate understanding of where we are, how we got here, and how President Obama's space policy, far from "grounding" JFK's space legacy, is positioning us to revitalize it with new technology, new capabilities and new destinations ("Is Obama grounding JFK's space legacy?", The Forum, Wednesday)."

Column: Is Obama grounding JFK's space legacy?, By Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell and Gene Cernan, USA Today

"President Obama's proposed 2011 budget did not include funds for Constellation, therefore essentially canceling the program. It sent shock waves throughout NASA, the Congress and the American people. Nearly $10 billion had been invested in design and development of the program. Many respected experts and members of Congress voiced concern about the president's proposal. Some supported the president's plan,but most were critical. The supporters' biases were often evident, particularly when there was a vested or economic interest in the outcome. Obama's advisers, in searching for a new and different NASA strategy with which the president could be favorably identified, ignored NASA's operational mandate and strayed widely from President Kennedy's vision and the will of the American people."

Johnsville Centrifuge Gondola Returns Home To New Museum

i>"May 5, 2011 was a historic day for Bucks County as the original gondola of the Johnsville Centrifuge that was used for training America's early space heroes returned to Warminster. It had spent the last 47 years at the Paul E. Garber Preservation, Restoration and Storage Facility of the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Suitland, Maryland. All of America's pioneering astronauts, including Alan Shepard, John Glenn and Neil Armstrong trained at the Johnsville Centrifuge prior to their historic space missions."

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden's Statement About The 50th Anniversary Of U.S. Human Spaceflight

"With the same spirit of innovation and grit of those early days of space flight, we now move out on an exciting path forward where we will develop the capabilities to take humans to even more destinations in the solar system. With our support and assistance, commercial companies will expand access to that rarefied area Alan Shepard first trod for America, allowing NASA to focus on those bigger, more challenging destinations and to enable our science missions to peer farther and farther beyond our solar system."

Last man on the moon: 'I don't have a lot of confidence' in commercial space

"I don't have a lot of confidence in that end of the commercial space spectrum getting us back into orbit any time soon. I'd like to hear all these folks who call themselves commercial space tell me who their investors are. Tell me where their marketplace is. A commercial venture is supposed to use private money. And who are their users? Suppose we, NASA, have no need for their services. There's no other marketplace for them. So is it really a commercial venture, or is it not? Is it a group of guys who have stars in their eyes and want to be a big space developer? I don't know."

FAA Public Meeting: Regulatory Approach for Commercial Orbital Human Spaceflight

"This notice announces a public meeting to solicit comments and information from the public on the regulatory approach to commercial orbital human spaceflight by the FAA. This public meeting is intended to aid the FAA in its regulatory effort by receiving early input from the affected community."

IISC Publishes Research Study on Orbital Space Tourism Demand

"In recent years excellent research has focused on suborbital demand, but few detailed studies have been available on actual market demand for orbital personal spaceflight. Additionally, the considerable change in the financial landscape since 2008 highlighted the need for up-to-date data on the demand for personal space travel, given the impact on wealthy individuals and cash availability for space tourism."

Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics Hearing - Commercial Space Transportation's FY12 Budget

The Shuttle Party Is Over

Transcendence Splashes Down, New York Magazine

"It is objectively no small feat, slipping the surly bonds of Earth. But somehow, over its 30 years of existence, NASA's Space Shuttle program has become roughly as thrilling as the Delta Shuttle. Still, there's something sad about the end of the program, which will officially shut down after Endeavour's 25th and final mission, on April 29, and one last there-and-back by Space Shuttle Atlantis in June. It's not so much that the program's increasingly prosaic missions--they have amounted, in recent years, to something like space carpooling--will be missed. The sadness instead comes from the petering out of space travel's promised transcendence."

With 'Coolest Job Ever' Ending, Astronauts Seek Next Frontier, New York Times

"What happens when you have the right stuff at the wrong time? Members of NASA's astronaut corps have been asking just that, now that the space shuttle program is ending and their odds of flying anywhere good anytime soon are getting smaller. The Endeavour is scheduled to launch this week, and the Atlantis is supposed to fly the last shuttle mission in June -- and all the seats are spoken for. "Morale is pretty low," said Leroy Chiao, a former astronaut who now works for a company that wants to offer space flights for tourists. "This is a time of great uncertainty."

Astronaut brings his problem-solving skills down to earth, Ultimate Clear Lake

"A five-time astronaut, [Scott] Parazynski said he's especially eager to tackle projects in the fields of minimally invasive surgery and nanomedicine, with its potential to use targeted drugs to destroy tumors and plaques in arteries. Some inspiration, he admits, comes from Star Trek. "I'm hoping to leverage my background to create the next generation of minimally invasive surgery and diagnostic tools," Parazynski said. "As a physician growing up and watching Star Trek, we all wanted a medical tricorder. So one of the things I'd love to do is think big and push the envelope on what is possible." For those who don't grok Spock, a "tricorder "is a fictional device that can scan a person and immediately diagnose a disease or injury."

Image: Scott Parazynski in May 2009 using a Jaz spectroradiometer from Ocean Optics at Everest Base Camp to measure solar irradiance [See "Using a Tricorder on Mount Everest"]

Mike Lounge

Former NASA Astronaut John Mike Lounge Dies

"Former NASA astronaut John Mike Lounge, 64, died Tuesday morning. All of us at the Johnson Space Center are deeply saddened by the passing of former astronaut Mike Lounge, said Michael Coats, Director, Johnson Space Center. I personally had the pleasure of working with Mike in one capacity or another for more than 30 years. He had an unwavering love of country and dedication to our nations space program, as evidenced by a sterling career as a naval aviator and astronaut, and veteran of three space shuttle missions. His many friends at Johnson are thinking of Mikes family during this difficult time."

Commercial Spaceflight Federation Statement on the Passing of Mike Lounge

"Mike was a tremendous supporter of the commercial spaceflight industry. The last year and a half he put in countless volunteer hours to support and advocate for all that we are trying to achieve. He was a good friend with a big heart, and he will be missed tremendously. Our thoughts are with his family during this difficult time."

Exclusive: Astronaut Love Triangle Victim 'Thought ... She Was Going to Murder Me'

"Shipman was 29 when she met astronaut Bill Oefelein at an Orlando, Fla., house party. Little did she know that the 2006 encounter would do more than just begin an other-worldly relationship. It also would kick-start a chain of events that would land her in the middle of a bizarre astronaut love triangle. For the first time, she is sharing her story of the events with "20/20."

Previous stories

Gabrielle Giffords's husband Mark Kelly will command final shuttle flight, Politico

"Mark Kelly, husband of wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, will fly the space shuttle Endeavour's final mission in April, according to a source familiar with the decision."

NASA Astronaut Mark Kelly Resumes Training For STS-134 Mission

"NASA astronaut Mark Kelly will resume training as commander of the STS-134 space shuttle mission on Monday, Feb. 7. With the exception of some proficiency training, Kelly has been on personal leave since Jan. 8 to care for his wife, congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was critically wounded in a Tucson, Ariz. shooting."

Obama calls his Christian faith 'a sustaining force' in prayer breakfast speech, Washington Post

"NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, the husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), seriously injured during the Tucson shooting rampage last month, also spoke briefly at the breakfast and gave the closing prayer."

Outpouring of Support for Challenger Learning Centers

Leland D. Melvin, NASA Associate Administrator for Education: "As an astronaut, I have a deep connection to the honor and legacy that the Challenger Center for Space Education represents. A theme is evident in both the Challenger Center's mission and the President's Day of Remembrance remarks: triumph from tragedy. These words exemplify the resilience, purpose, and optimism that led to the creation of the Challenger Centers. The Challenger Centers and NASA also have similar values in terms of education, and these goals align with my own personal commitment."

Interview with the Challenger Center's Scott Parazynski, Space News

"Some 4 million students have been through the program since 1986, and in recent years the annual average has been about 400,000. Scott Parazynski, a NASA astronaut and medical doctor who took over in November as chairman of the center's board of directors, wants to increase that number to 4 million per year by 2015. ...

Parazynski: "One of the things we're aspiring to do is reduce the barriers to entry. So to help communities that might otherwise not have access to a learning center, we will develop virtual missions led by Challenger Center flight directors remotely, using a school's computer laboratory as an example. Alternatively, we also hope to bring in portable learning centers that we would truck in from a distant location."

Giffords husband to decide on space trip in mid-Feb, Reuters

"The astronaut husband of a U.S. congresswoman seriously wounded when she was shot in head will decide by mid-February whether to join the last NASA shuttle launch as scheduled, the space agency said on Sunday."

Giffords's Husband Faces Decision on Shuttle Flight

"Mark is still the commander," said Peggy A. Whitson, the chief astronaut, but she said that having a backup commander would allow the crew to continue training and Captain Kelly to "focus on his wife's care."

Scott Parazynski, Chairman of the Challenger Center Board of Directors sitting in the jetstream on the summit of Mt. Everest, May 2009: "I tied off a pair of flags I'd made to honor astronauts and cosmonauts who had perished in the line of duty (Apollo 1, Challenger, Columbia, Soyuz 1 and Soyuz 11), as I could think of no finer place on Earth to hang them. In the coming days, weeks, months and years, like their Tibetan prayer flag counterparts, they will weather under the wind, sun and snow, and slowly lift back up into the heavens." More photos.

Day of Remembrance

Message from the NASA Administrator: Day of Remembrance

"The legacy of those who have perished is present every day in our work and inspires generations of new space explorers. Every day, with each new challenge we overcome and every discovery we make, we honor these remarkable men and women. Please join me in working to fulfill their dreams for the future."

Day of Remembrance (photo)

"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and other NASA personnel participate in a wreath laying ceremony as part of NASA's Day of Remembrance, Thursday, Jan. 27, 2011, at Arlington National Cemetery. Wreathes were laid in memory of those men and women who lost their lives in the quest for space exploration."

Columbia: Thinking Back - Looking Ahead, Excerpt from "New Moon Rising", by Frank Sietzen, Jr. and Keith Cowing

"At the end of the event, Rona Ramon, Ilan's widow, spoke last. Steeling her emotions with grace and clarity, she spoke elegantly and briefly. She thanked all for coming. And then she talked of her husband, and the flight of the lost shuttle. "Our mission in space is not over, "she told the hushed audience. "He was the first Israeli in space-- that means there will be more."

Memorials at "Mars on Earth"

Keith's note: Astronaut Leroy Chiao, Matt Reyes, myself, and a bunch of Inuit kids built this inuksuk memorial to the Challenger crew in 2007 on Devon Island. It stands next to one built to honor Columbia's crew in 2003. An inuit boy, Joseph Atchealak, is holding a Challenger Center banner in front of the Challenger inukshuk. Joseph and his family regularly subsist by eating animals that his father kills on the polar ice - yet Joseph surfs the web and knows all about outer space -- Indeed, he kept touching Leroy Chiao as if Leroy was magical because he flew in space. I saw the same reaction by Sherpas in Nepal when they met Scott Parazynski.

What do these people know - and place value in - that we have forgotten or no longer care about?

Keith Cowing's Devon Island Journal 20 July 2003: Arctic Memorials and Starship Yearnings

"I asked Joe Amaraulik if anyone had ever figured out how long these structures would last. He said he wasn't sure if they had been dated but that there were some that had been in place for many centuries. As for how long this one, which we had just built, would last, Joe (a man of few, but well-chosen words) said "forever". In other words - the next ice age."

Keith Cowing's Devon Island Journal - 18 July 2007: Ancient Memorials for Modern Space Explorers

"I placed [Dick Scobee's] card in the container, sealed it up and placed it at the base of the inukshuk. Most of the Inuit kids remembered the loss of Columbia. None of them remembered the loss of Challenger since it had happened a decade or more before their birth. So, I explained each and every item to them - and passed the business card and lapel pin around for them to see."

NASA Haughton-Mars Project Space Shuttle Columbia Inukshuk Memorials

"It is our hope that the Columbia Inukshuks on Devon Island will help bring peace to all those who continue to miss these seven astronauts, and will help inspire and guide future generations of space explorers who will journey to the Moon, Mars and Beyond."

Challenger Center Board Member Richard Garriott, private space explorer, salutes Challenger Center from the International Space Station.

Dr. June Scobee Rodgers, co-founder of Challenger Center for Space Science Education, talking to Students on 25th Anniversary of Challenger.

Astronaut Steve Bowen Named to STS-133 Shuttle Crew

"NASA selected astronaut Steve Bowen as a mission specialist on STS-133, the next space shuttle mission planned for launch on Feb. 24. Bowen replaces astronaut Tim Kopra, who was injured in a bicycle accident over the weekend. The agency will hold a media teleconference at 3:30 p.m. CST on Wednesday, Jan. 19, to discuss the change in crew personnel."

Space Program Runs in Congresswoman's Family, NY Times

"Mr. Cabbage said it was too early to say how Mark Kelly's scheduled Endeavour mission would be affected. The Kelly brothers were to have been the first twins to be in space together when Endeavour visited the space station, but the launching of Endeavour has slipped to April, a month after Scott Kelly's scheduled return to Earth."

Tragedy's impact extends to space, MSNBC

"Normal practice in military flying is to ground a pilot who is undergoing severe family crisis, for a reasonable time," NBC News space analyst James Oberg observed in an e-mail. "Add to that -- his wife now faces a long recovery, and his chances of being with her more than a few hours a week are slim to none, if he continues training. He could well request being replaced, perhaps by the commander of the STS-135 [Atlantis] mission that is to follow his flight. They could swap seats. Or he could figure he's had his fair share of flights and just stand down."

Keith's WARNING: Any comments about this tragedy that even hint at politics, motives, perpetrator(s) - in any way - will not be posted. Don't even try.

Keith's 2:00 pm note: Rep. Giffords' husband is Astronaut Mark Kelly, commander of the STS-134 crew. His brother Scott is on-orbit on the ISS as a member of the Expedition 26 crew. CNN, Fox, and NPR "confirmed" that she has died from her wounds. Now retracted.

Congresswoman, 6 Others, Killed By Gunman, NPR

"Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and six others died after a gunman opened fire at a public event on Saturday, the Pima County, Ariz., sheriff's office confirms."

Keith's update: ABC, WTOP, and MSNBC now report that Rep. Giffords is in surgery despite "confirmed" reports from other news organizations. Stay tuned.

Keith's update: According to someone on Fox Rep. Giffords has been "responding to commands" post surgery. News conference delayed but imminent.

Keith's update: MSNBC reports the Tucson Deputy Mayoras saying that Rep. Giffords is "expected to survive".

Keith's update: The hospital spokesman says he is "very optimistic" because Rep. Giffords is responding to commands after surgery and that he is "as optimistic as I can get in this situation". She was shot in the head "through and through", the spokesman said. A total of 10 patients are at this hospital. One (a 9 year old child) died. 5 are in surgery, 5 are in critical condition.

Keith's WARNING: Any comments about this tragedy that even hint at politics, motives, perpetrator(s) - in any way - will not be posted. Don't even try.

Hiding Astronauts

Keith's note: According to the official @NASA Twitter: "@Armo15 Astronauts' e-mail addresses aren't public, but you can send mail to them. Mailing address at: http://go.nasa.gov/dUQDby"

Once upon a time you could go to people.nasa.gov and find the email addresses of all NASA civil servants. Now, it would seem, some of these civil servants are suddenly not as accessible to the public as are others. No reason given. Alas, they have not totally purged their database of all astronauts ...

Commercial Crew Transportation System Certification Requirements for NASA Low Earth Orbit Missions

"This document defines the requirements, standards and certification package contents that will be used to certify a CCTS for LEO Missions. It will be the responsibility of the NASA Program Manager and Technical Authorities to determine the applicability of individual requirements and standards based on the DRM being certified and apply the Agency risk posture (for the DRM) to arrive at the final set of requirements and standards for certification. The Program Manager will then request Certification from NASA HQ per Agency policy."

Keith's note: I did a search of this document for the word "Soyuz". The only time the word is used is in connection with accidents or problems with Soyuz. I wonder if Soyuz meets the requirements in this document - I certainly cannot find any evidence that it does. It certainly should meet these requirements since the U.S. has been buying seats on Soyuz for more than a decade - the very same seats you can buy commercially - the same seats NASA will be buying for years to come. Will NASA certify Soyuz according to the requirements in this document?

If Soyuz does not meet these certification requirements, then one has to ask why NASA is willing to waive requirements for a foreign crew transport system - with Americans on board - but levy more stringent requirements on American commercial systems - carrying Americans. It would also be interesting to see if the Ares-1/Orion configuration would have met these requirements as well.

Inconsistencies abound in this document - both in its intent - and its application (thus far).

President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts [Former NASA Astronaut Kathryn D. Sullivan Excerpt]

"President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals to key Administration posts: Kathryn D. Sullivan, PhD, Assistant Secretary of Commerce (Observation and Prediction), Department of Commerce." ... President Obama said, "I am pleased that these dedicated and accomplished individuals will be joining our Administration. I am confident they will serve our nation well in their new roles, and I look forward to working with them in the months and years ahead."

Astronauts considered in NASA budget cuts, LA Times

"At the behest of the White House, the nation's top science advisors this month began a 10-month study of the appropriate "role and size" of the astronaut corps after the final shuttle mission next year. The study, by the National Academies, reflects two realities: NASA's budget, squeezed by congressional budget hawks and its own cost overruns, needs every penny. More significantly, the United States may not need all these astronauts."

Project: Human Spaceflight Crew Operations, NAS Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences

"Project Scope: An ad hoc committee will conduct a study and prepare a report on the activities of NASA's human spaceflight crew office. In writing its report the committee will address the following questions:

1. How should the role and size of the activities which are managed by the human spaceflight crew office change following Space Shuttle retirement and completion of the assembly of the International Space Station (ISS)?

2. What are the requirements of crew-related ground facilities after the Space Shuttle program ends?

3. Is the astronaut corps' fleet of training aircraft a cost-effective means of preparing astronauts for the requirements of NASA's human space flight program? Are there more cost-effective means of meeting these training requirements?"

Committee membership
First Meeting

Nye takes Armstrong to the moon, Politico

"In April, Armstrong and Apollo commanders Jim Lovell and Gene Cernan called Obama's effort to scrap plans to return manned rockets to the moon "devastating."Nye told POLITICO the astronauts were ignoring longer-term goals of exploring other parts of space. "They're solar systemic heroes, but they have not had their eye on the ball the last couple of decades," Nye said in a stop by POLITICO's newsroom. He said the "deep misconception" that Obama wants to cut back manned flights "started with astronauts of a certain age who had not been paying attention to what's going on."

Keith's note: While I disagree with Armstrong and Lovell's specific stance vis a vis the Obama space policy as mentioned in recent Congressional hearings, I am not sure where Bill Nye The Science Guy comes off suggesting that Armstrong and Lovell have "not had their eye on the ball the last couple of decades". Just how would Nye know this? From listening to one Congressional hearing? You'd think that Nye would do a little more research before making such ignorant comments. Armstrong has been a member of the NASA Advisory Council for years and Lovell manages to keep his hand in things - more so, I imagine, than 99% of the populace does. Indeed, I'd venture that they have more of working background on such things than a jittery TV host of a children's program (or a know-it-all blogger like me) would have.

As for the comments regarding "astronauts of a certain age", such slams against senior citizens are simply uncalled for. I cannot fathom how the Planetary Society would endorse such comments by its Executive Director.

This has nothing to do with being out of touch or age, Bill. Rather, Armstrong and Lovell (and Cernan and others) have a different point of view - and they are not alone in holding those views. So stop being a jerk and making comments about their age and listen to these guys - like I imagine you listen to Rusty Schweickart and Buzz Aldrin who are also "astronauts of a certain age". You might learn something from all of them. When they are gone you are going to wish that they were still around to offer advice.

Bill Nye Is A Little Confused, earlier post

NASA astronaut sues Dido for '08 album cover, KABC

"Bruce McCandless II claims that the British star used a photo of his 1984 space flight on the cover of her 2008 album, "Safe Trip Home." In the complaint, McCandless claims the photograph, which shows him flying freely about 325 feet from the cargo bay of the space shuttle Challenger, was misappropriated by Sony Music Entertainment and others. McCandless is suing Dido, Sony Music, and Getty Images."

Dido Sued by Astronaut for Using Space Flight Picture, Bloomberg

"McCandless' Feb. 7, 1984, flight remains the only occasion on which the manned maneuvering unit has been flown to such a significant distance from a shuttle and allowed such photographs to be taken," the former astronaut said in the complaint."

Keith's note: This is just plain goofy. This iconic picture has been in the public domain for a quarter of a century and has been republished countless times. You can buy posters of it at various NASA gift shops. Moreover, you cannot possibly fathom who the picture is of i.e. see his "likeness". Just read NASA's official guidelines. Can you see his face? Can you read his name tag? What about all of the people who are also in that image (on the Earth below)? Can they sue too?

You'd think that a space explorer - one who got all of their rides into space at taxpayer expense - would be thrilled that this photo can still be inspirational today. Oddly, in looking at this image, no one probably remembers - or cares - what specific human is in the photo. McCandless' lawsuit presumes some rather specific knowledge to be in people's heads with regard to this EVA to affirm his identity. Absent that specific detailed information, no one would ever know it was him. They will only learn of his identity by virtue of this pointless lawsuit.

I wonder if Ed White's family has ever sued anyone over the use of this photo.

I am republishing the image - so sue me too Bruce.

Reader note: The Afghan Whigs released an album in '98, called 1965, with Ed White on the cover - here is the original photo. I Never heard of White's estate being petty enough to sue over a photo owned by the people of America - last I saw the photo says NASA, not an individual.

Canadian Space Agency to Announce Milestone Astronaut Mission Tomorrow, SpaceRef Canada

"It is expected that the Canadian Space Agency will announce that veteran Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield will be introduced as the first Canadian Commander of an expedition to the International Space Station. Earlier this year we reported that Hadfield would most likely fly to the International Space Station in November of 2012 as a member of Expedition 34. He would then transition to Commander of Expedition 35 and spend a total of 6 months aboard the space station."

Veteran Astronaut Chris Hadfield Selected as Space Station Expedition 35 Commander, SpaceRef Canada

"As reported earlier this year by SpaceRef Hadfield will fly to the International Space Station in December of 2012 onboard a Russian Soyuz rocket as a member of Expedition 34. He will then transition to Commander of the International Space Station for Expedition 35 and will spend a total of 6 months aboard the space station."

NASA Asks Public For FInal Shuttle Missions' Wakeup Songs

"If you like music, the space program and are a little nostalgic, NASA has the perfect opportunity for you. For the first time, the public can help choose songs to wake up the astronauts during the last two scheduled space shuttle missions."

Keith's note: Here's my nomination "Rocket Man" as performed by NASA Edge

Navy panel votes to discharge ex-astronaut Nowak, Washington Post

"The Navy should discharge former astronaut Lisa Nowak, who lost her NASA job over a bizarre airport attack on a romantic rival, according to a Navy panel that reviewed her case. The panel of three admirals made the recommendation Thursday after a daylong hearing at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville."

Navy mulls punishment for lovelorn ex-astronaut, MSNBC

"The Navy conducted a hearing on Nowak's case on Thursday in Jacksonville, Fla. Portions of the hearing were closed to the public for testimony on Nowak's mental health, Navy officials said. The board of inquiry will forward its recommendation to Navy Secretary Ray Maybus, who will make the final decision on Nowak's punishment."

Cape Canaveral reverberated with the effects of politics this week. One of the Republican candidates for Florida governor stumped around the area as space contractor giant United Space Alliance (USA) laid off another 900 employees.

This however did not dissuade Kennedy Space Center Director from predicting a bright future for the space center.

NASA's Astronaut Corps: Status of Corrective Actions Related to Health Care Activities, NASA OIG, 6 July 2010

"NASA Had Not Taken Actions to Address Two Recommendations. At the time of this review, NASA Headquarters had not addressed the recommendation from the Safety and Mission Assurance report to implement a NASA-wide alcohol testing program because no NASA official had been assigned responsibility to address the issue."

"NASA Was Unable to Address One Recommendation. NASA was unable to address a Committee recommendation that it fully integrate behavioral health information derived from psychological testing evaluations into the final selection process of astronaut candidates if the information is found to be useful."

- NASA Fact Sheet on the Findings of the Astronaut Health Care System Review Committee, earlier post from 2007
- NASA JSC Internal Assessment of Medical Practices after Nowak Incident, earlier post from 2007
- NASA Astronaut Health Care System Review Committee February - June, 2007 Report to the Administrator, earlier post from 2007
- Opening Remarks on Astronaut Health Reports by NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale, earlier post from 2007

House Science and Technology Committee Hearing: Review of the Proposed NASA Human Spaceflight Plan

"26 May 2010: Witnesses: Charles Bolden, Neil Armstrong, Gene Cernan, Tom Young"

10 am EDT - Webcast live here

Keith's note: It is becoming increasingly apparent that every hearing on the topic of President Obama's space policy - especially when Charlie Bolden is in the hot seat - is designed to be an ambush announced in advance. The witness panel is usually stacked numerically with opponents. In this case this hearing is a blatant attempt to pick up the food fight where it left off last week on the other side of the Hill. Since it is fair game to repeatedly have Apollo astronauts testify who are publicly against the plan, why not have a few Apollo vets testify who are publicly for it - like Buzz Aldrin and Rusty Schweickart?

And by the way, with all due respect for the accomplishments of all of these who have or will testify, but when is Congress going to call upon people to testify who will actually spend their future career living and working in the space program that is being discussed? Why is it that we only seem to hear from 60-,70-, 80-year olds talking about someone else's future?

NASA Solicitation: Commercial Crew Transportation Request For Information

"NASA is currently in the conceptual phase of developing requirements for a Commercial Crew Transportation (CCT) capability that would be able to transport NASA astronauts and spaceflight participants safely to and from LEO and the ISS. The purpose of this RFI is to collect information from industry to help NASA plan the overall strategy for the development and demonstration of a CCT capability and to receive comments on NASA human-rating technical requirements that have been drafted as part of this initiative."

Upcoming Raw guest hosts May 17, 2010: Buzz Aldrin The WWE Universe will be over the moon when legendary Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin guest hosts a special two-hour commercial-free Monday Night Raw live from the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario. Aldrin will be appearing under his official WWE name "Rocket Hero."

NASA Chief Draws Fire for Rich Benefits Plan, WS Journal

"In last week's statement, NASA said Mr. Bolden was responding to recommendations first made several years ago by various NASA officials and reiterated recently by the agency's top medical officer. Currently, only about 70% of former astronauts are part of NASA's long-term health project. NASA says the legislation aims to increase that level of participation by offering former astronauts more incentives to provide data and giving the agency more opportunities to directly monitor health changes. "If enacted, the legislative proposal would apply to [Mr. Bolden] and his family," according to NASA. "The office of the general counsel has reviewed [the matter] and did not identify ethical or conflict-of-interest issues," NASA said."

Humans on Mars? Forget it, opinion, Simon Ramo, LA Times

"But is this a worthy goal? It appears increasingly doubtful that an astronaut could accomplish something useful on Mars not already being done by robots at far less cost and with little danger to humans."

Proceedings from the NASA Administrator's Symposium: "Risk and Exploration: Earth, Sea and the Stars", NASA Administrator's Symposium, September 26-29, 2004
Session Three: The Stars (PDF)

Pages 178-179 [Mars Exploration Rover PI Steve Squyres] "I'd like to finish this on a slightly lighter note by telling you a story. We had a lot of discussion yesterday about humans versus robots. And as the robot guy here, I want to tell a story about the experience that I had that really taught me a lot about that particular topic. We were at first trying to figure out how to use a set of rovers on Mars to really do scientific exploration. The technology folks at JPL [Jet Propulsion Laboratory] built a wonderful little vehicle called FIDO. And FIDO was a great test rover - you could take it out in the field and you didn't worry about getting a few scratches in the paint.

We took it out to a place called Silver Lake in the Mojave Desert about 1997. And we went out there and it was the first time I had ever been out in the field. So I went out there with my team - a bunch of really high-priced geologic talent - some serious field geologists. And we got the rover out there and, of course, the rover breaks down. First time I've ever been out in the field, it's dusty, it's dirty, you know, the rover's not working. So okay, what am I going to do with all these bored geologists I've got on my hands? So I said, "Look, let's go on a geology walk. Let's go on a little field trip." So everybody got their boots and their rock hammers and their hand lenses and everything. And I picked up a notebook and a stopwatch. And we walked out to a nearby ridge where I knew there was some interesting geology exposed and we sat down - or rather I sat down - and they went off and they started geologizing.

And I started timing them. You know, how long does it take for Andy Knoll to walk over to that rock? How long does it take Ray Arvidson to pick that thing up and break it open with his rock hammer and look at it with a hand lens? And they were doing a lot of things that our rovers couldn't do, but I focused on the things they were doing that our rovers could do. And, you know, I did it as quantitatively as I could - this was hardly a controlled experiment. And when I looked at the numbers afterwards, what I found was that what our magnifi cent robotic vehicles can do in an entire day on Mars, these guys could do in about 30 - 45 seconds.

We are very far away from being able to build robots - I'm not going to see it in my lifetime - that have anything like the capabilities that humans will have to explore, let alone to inspire. And when I hear people point to Spirit and Opportunity and say that these are examples of why we don't need to send humans to Mars, I get very upset. Because that's not even the right discussion to be having. We must send humans to Mars. We can't do it soon enough for me. You know, I'm a robot guy. I mean, I love Spirit and Opportunity - and I use a word like "love" very advisedly when talking about a hunk of metal.

But I love those machines. I miss them. I do. But they will never, ever have the capabilities that humans will have and I sure hope you send people soon."

Human spaceflight: diversify the portfolio, Alan Stern, Space Review

"The American people expect big things from our nation's human space flight enterprise. Tragically, however, for the past 20+ years, our country's civil human spaceflight effort hasn't been able to deliver big things, such as historic exploration milestones at far away destinations, or advancing the cause of easy human access to near-space locales. What we need now is more than just a flexible path. We need parallel paths. Instead, human spaceflight in the United States has struggled just to keep its sole domestic transportation system, the Space Shuttle, flying a few times per year, and to complete the assembly of its sole destination--the International Space Station."

Colbert coming to Houston for astronaut training (with video), Houston Chronicle

"Stephen Colbert's mission to save the space program has earned him an invitation from NASA to undergo astronaut training. And he has accepted. Colbert told his audience: "I never in a million years thought I would see the day when I would want to go to Houston. NASA, I accept!" Colbert says he will be in Houston in May. Get ready to blast off, NASA."

Without Shuttles, Astronauts' Careers May Stall, NPR

"NASA administrator and former astronaut Charlie Bolden talked about that prospect when he visited Kennedy Space Center in Florida earlier this year, saying it would be a different approach for NASA to rent not just the space vehicle, but also a private crew of astronauts to go with it. "We need to have the discussion of how important is it to have a career astronaut contingent, as opposed to none," Bolden said. He said that NASA's international partners like the idea of an elite corps, and that he doubted some random person could quickly be trained to perform at the same level as NASA astronauts, who have devoted their lives to preparing for work in space. "We need to have the discussion of what the future -- the next generation of astronauts -- will be like," Bolden said."

History for Sale

The Manual Pages That Saved Apollo 13, Gizmodo

"On April 13, 1970--321,860 kilometers into its Moon trip--an oxygen tank exploded in the Odyssey's Service Module. James Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise had a really big problem. These pages saved their lives. The pages--with notes from Lovell--will be up for auction April 13 at Bonhams in New York."

The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, (ASF) will be hosting the Apollo 13 40th anniversary on Apr. 9, 2010. This celebration will be a great opportunity for both space buffs and those with only a passing interest in the topic to meet giants in manned space flight history. Attendees will also be treated to spectacular tours and gourmet meals as NASA's Kennedy Space Center, (KSC) plays host to this historic event.

Bigelow Aerospace Position Opening: Astronaut

"Bigelow Aerospace seeks professional astronauts to fill permanent positions. Qualified applicants need to have completed a training program from their government or recognized space agency and have at least some flight experience on a recognized space mission. Specialized training and/or experience (ie: Medical, Payload Specialist, EVA, Pilot, etc.) is not a pre-requisite, but is definitely a plus."

NASA JSC Memo: Commercial-Crew Vehicle Transition Concepts 1 March 2010

"The President's 201 1 Budget Proposal which was unveiled on February 8, 2010, places an emphasis on commercial vehicles "to provide astronaut transportation to the International Space Station (ISS), reducing the sole reliance on foreign crew transports and catalyzing new businesses and significant new jobs." The following paper provides recommendations for the transition to a commercial-crew vehicle to the ISS which leverages the experience gained in the operation of the Space Shuttle, the ISS, and in the design of Constellation."

Challenger Center Remembers the Challenger Flight 51-L Crew - Invites its Alumni and Friends to Share Their Stories

"January 28, 2010 - Twenty-four years ago today the space shuttle Challenger and its crew of seven men and women launched into a clear blue sky at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Their mission, designated 51-L, was cut short that day, but their legacy of exploration and discovery lives on at nearly 50 Challenger Learning Centers worldwide. A special podcast has been created to honor the Challenger crew as well as the Apollo 1 and Columbia astronauts. All will be honored this Friday during NASA's Day of Remembrance."

The Big 'Y', Miles O'Brien

"I was fast asleep when the Challenger exploded. It was almost high noon - but I had turned in only about three hours before. I had spent the night in a citrus grove in Polk County, Florida. I was a general assignment reporter for a TV station in Tampa, and we were up all night providing viewers constant updates on the record freeze. The fate of the citrus crop is very big news in that part of the world. ... When the call came from the assignment desk, I was in a deep sleep, so it took me some time to comprehend what I had just been told: "You are not going to believe this, but the shuttle has blown up."

Keith Cowing's Devon Island Journal - 18 July 2007: Ancient Memorials for Modern Space Explorers

"Building memorials to lost comrades is as old as humanity. Humans have been looking at special places and building evocative monuments - often of great complexity and utility back to the era of Stonehenge - and perhaps earlier. So there was something primal - transcendent - about building these ancient structures to honor people whose job entailed trips above the sky."

Columbia: Thinking Back - Looking Ahead, New Moon Rising

"Several hundred invited guests gathered at the Embassy of Israel on that cold, wet night to remember Ilan Ramon. Daniel Ayalon, Israel's Ambassador to the United States began the event by recalling his pride at the launch of the mission. He talked of Ilan as the son of a holocaust survivor, a veteran of many dangerous missions in the defense of the Israeli nation, and the country's first astronaut. His story, he said, epitomized the story of Israel and the Jewish people. The entire country had been waiting for Columbia to return, and Ayalon said, the pain of its loss would always be with them."

White House Decides to Outsource NASA Work, Wall Street Journal

"The White House has decided to begin funding private companies to carry NASA astronauts into space, but the proposal faces major political and budget hurdles, according to people familiar with the matter. The controversial proposal, expected to be included in the Obama administration's next budget, would open a new chapter in the U.S. space program. The goal is to set up a multiyear, multibillion-dollar initiative allowing private firms, including some start-ups, to compete to build and operate spacecraft capable of ferrying U.S. astronauts into orbit--and eventually deeper into the solar system."

- Keith's note: Linn LeBlanc, Executive Director, Astronaut Scholarship Foundation sent a note out to a bunch of people who, in turn sent it to other people. I eventually got 7 copies. I posted it here - as I have in the past in similar situations thinking it would be nice for readers to also send in wishes. The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation then called me to complain that it was posted with contact information so I removed it. I certainly wish Mr. Fullerton well and hope that he has a speedy and full recovery. However, the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation really needs to take a few PR lessons i.e. if a family (understandably) wants privacy then the Foundation should not send out an email to people that contains home addresses and emails and openly ask people to send cards and messages.

Flying Air NASA

Conflict of interest? Congresswoman staunchly backs Constellation -- and is wed to astronaut, Orlando Sentinel

"On Memorial Day weekend in 2007, Kelly flew to Indiana to watch the Indy 500 with Giffords, his then-fiance. Kelly listed the purpose of the trip as "Space Flight Readiness Training." NASA later said the flight may have violated the agency rules requiring astronauts "to avoid any appearance of inappropriate use of NASA T-38's" when logging their required monthly flight hours. The trip cost taxpayers almost $9,000."

Closing memo/final report/transmittal memo for several National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigations , Government Attic

"2. 0-KE.07.0167-S, March 11, 2008, Possible Misuse of NASA Aircrafts/Lisa Nowa k"

On May 7, 2007, Raymond Sander, Johnson Space Center, presented the following scenario to Michael Griffin, NASA Administrator, at an ongoing "Ask the Administrator" meeting: "If 1, as a NASA employee in good standing get involved in some emotional, non lethal altercation and arrested by law enforcements agents in Florida, will NASA quickly dispatch my supervisor in a Government T-38 or equivalent, to represent NASA and assess the matter?" The Administrator responded to this question by answering "No."

Keith's note: I find it somewhat annoying that JSC often complains that there is not enough travel money for astronaut appearances and yet astronauts can fly T-38's almost any where they want to since the T-38 air time counts against their flight proficiency. That said, based on my experience, such questionable T-38 usage is the exception - not the rule. But it still happens.


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