Recently in Exploration Category

Rock Climbing Destination Seneca Rocks, West Virginia Viewed By A Climber In Space, SpaceRef

"Christina H Koch @Astro_Christina "The famous knife edge of Seneca Rocks, West Virginia, from the @Space_Station. This rock formation is where I first learned traditional lead-style rock climbing and gained the confidence and teamwork skills that I continue to rely on every day."

Taking In The View From Wharton Ridge, SpaceRef

"Bob was an astrobiologist before the word had even been coined. He was an adventurer and a jack of all trades. Among other things, he spent a lot of time diving under Antarctic ice and roaming the dry valleys of Antarctica with Chris McKay and Dale Andersen. ... Bob was an avid climber and mountaineer and we went rock climbing a bunch of times mostly in the immediate DC area. One trip in particular, to Seneca Rocks, West Virginia, on a stunning day (1 September 1991 to be exact) is etched into my mind. It was such a classic rock climbing day."

From Cavewalking To Spacewalking, ESA

"It might not be obvious, but there are many similarities between working deep underground and in outer space. Just as with spacewalks, underground 'cavewalks' require safety tethering, 3D orientation, careful planning and teamwork. Cave explorers need to stay alert in an environment where they are deprived of natural light and every move is a step into the unknown. ESA's CAVES training course has been taking astronauts below Earth's surface and prepared them to work safely in an environment where the terrain, climate and climbing techniques pose high demands."

My Star Trek Episode at Everest, SpaceRef

"My job was to stay at Everest Base Camp (analogous to working aboard the space station/space shuttle - or an Apollo Command Module in lunar orbit) and relay news of Scott's climb (his EVA, if you will) while he ventured forth into the so-called "death zone" on Everest. His goal: being able to see an orbital sunrise - on Earth. Back home our mission support was provided by seasoned CNN journalist and almost-astronaut Miles O'Brien. Meanwhile another friend, astronaut John Grunsfeld (also a mountaineer) would spend several weeks in orbit fixing Hubble while Scott and I were at Everest."

Keith's note: If you look at Christina's photo you can see the ridge at Seneca Rocks that I climbed with my late friend Bob Wharton - from orbit. There's a ridge named after Bob on Mars - you can see that from orbit too. A piece of the Moon went to Everest with my friend Scott. It is now in orbit on the ISS with a piece of the summit of Everest. Christina sought out her rock climbing origins - from orbit.

The people who will visit other worlds will need skills not usually associated with astronauts. Some of the newer astronauts have them. Many of the Apollo astronauts had them. More astronauts with these skills are needed if NASA is truly going to explore the Moon, Mars, and beyond.

For the past 30 years no American astronaut has needed any real exploration skills on ISS. They just pushed buttons and sometimes did EVAs. Exploring other worlds - in person - requires a skillset that is mostly absent at NASA.Yes, NASA did NEEMO and Desert RATS, but these things are done on a shoestring. Nothing akin to Apollo training is going on. Planning to explore other worlds in person also requires an expeditionary mindset that is also mostly absent - except for the people who drive robots from JPL. It would be wrong to repeat Apollo but it would be wise to emulate how they did it. They sent explorers to explore. Calling each new ISS crew another "expedition" has always baffled me since they just go in circles. They do not actually go anywhere.

Keith's update: By coincidence this came out onTuesday. Let me dial back my statement a bit about no one having expeditionary expertise.

NASA Administrator, Astronaut Candidate to Visit University of North Carolina

"As an undergraduate researcher - and later a master's student - in Marine Sciences at UNC-Chapel Hill, Cardman studied microorganisms in subsurface environments, ranging from caves to deep sea sediments. Cardman's field experience includes multiple Antarctic expeditions, work aboard research vessels, and NASA analog missions in British Columbia, Idaho, and Hawaii. Cardman was selected by NASA to join the 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class and reported for duty in August 2017. After completing her training, Cardman will be assigned technical duties in the NASA Astronaut Office while she awaits a flight assignment."

NASA should shed lesser priorities to achieve a 2024 moon landing, Op Ed, Doug Cooke

"NASA should focus major new development on an integrated lander/ascent vehicle launched on an SLS 1B. With Orion launched on a separate SLS, the lunar landing would be achieved with these two flights, and at most one commercial launch with additional fuel. This is a much simpler approach with a significantly higher probability of success."

Keith's note: On one hand Boeing consultant Doug Cooke wants to kill Gateway because it adds complexity and increases the number of points where a failure could derail the Moon 2024 thing. No argument there. He then goes on to push for the SLS variant that features Boeing's Exploration Upper Stage (EUS) - and requires more SLS flights. The net result is likely going to be a wash when it comes to cost. And given the SLS program's chronic inability to do anything on time or within budget, there are likely to be SLS and EUS issues that will also cause the 2024 deadline to be missed.

Or, NASA could adopt an open source, multi-path, modular approach relying on existing commercial launchers, and standard interfaces. And if you have to build SLS then use it as a cargo vehicle only. If a large effort is to be mounted on the Moon and cislunar space then propellant depots should be thrown into the mix. Relying on SLS in an architecture for sending Americans and cargo back to the Moon is, itself, the prime risk factor so long as it remains in the critical path - whether it is 2024 or 2028 that you are aiming for.

Its anyone's guess right now as to how the election will turn out. As we've all seen, when a new Administration arrives they have a strong tendency to fiddle with the previous Administration's space goals. Adopting flexibility in terms of launch vehicles and space assets is the best way to assure that something will survive a potential transition and put people on the Moon. But sticking with a program that is utterly reliant upon SLS - a program that gets more expensive and extends its target date with every passing day - is not the best way to assure that we'll be heading back to the Moon. And if this whole Moon thing is supposedly being done to get humans to Mars sooner, then the need to be more flexible and creative is underscored.

Then again Jeff and Elon may just make this whole NASA Moon/Mars thing moot.

NASA Announces Call for Next Phase of Commercial Lunar Payload Services

"NASA has announced the latest opportunity for industry to participate in its Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) efforts to deliver science and technology payloads to and near the Moon. The newest announcement calls for companies to push the boundaries of current technology to support the next generation of lunar landers that can land heavier payloads on the surface of the Moon, including the South Pole, as part of the agency's Artemis program, which will send the first woman and next man to the Moon by 2024, setting the stage for future human exploration of Mars."

NASA Announces US Industry Partnerships to Advance Moon, Mars Technology

"As NASA prepares to land humans on the Moon by 2024 with the Artemis program, commercial companies are developing new technologies, working toward space ventures of their own, and looking to NASA for assistance. NASA has selected 10 U.S. companies for 19 partnerships to mature industry-developed space technologies and help maintain American leadership in space."

My Open Letter to NASA Managers Who Can't Say "Moon" without "Mars" in the Same Sentence: Please stop it., Homer Hickam

"We've even got a Vice President who is behind NASA, who wants you to go to the moon and build something permanent there, and who has stuck out his neck for you. For years, lots of us have been working in every way we can - me with my books and my other writings - to get someone in the Executive Branch who is really serious about going back to the moon, not in a sprint with flags and all that but for a purpose that's good enough to keep us there.

But now I fear you're about to totally screw it up mainly because of where your heads are on this moon and Mars thing.

So, with great respect to all of you who toil every day on the pathways to space, let me be clear: Every time you folks at NASA tack "and then we're headed to Mars" onto your comments about going back to the moon, you diminish the moon as a destination whether you realize it or not. As such, you are totally confusing everybody, especially young people. Common sense says you're not going to Mars because you have no orders to go there and the technology not only doesn't exist, there are no plans to make it exist.

So, dear NASA folks, if we're going to get young people excited about space, trust me on this: The moon is exciting enough and I'm going to tell you why."

2009 Michael Collins Interviews Michael Collins UPDATED for the 50th Anniversary July 2019

"Q. Okay but getting back to the space program. What's next?

A. I hope Mars. It was my favorite planet as a kid and still is. As celestial bodies go, the moon is not a particularly interesting place, but Mars is. It is the closest thing to a sister planet that we have found so far. I worry that at NASA's creeping pace, with the emphasis on returning to the moon, Mars may be receding into the distance. I would advocate for a "JFK Express to Mars". President Kennedy's 1961 mandate to land man on the moon within the decade was a masterpiece of simplicity and we invoked it often to get the job done."

Keith's note: 20 July 2019, the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11's landing on the Moon, is also the 100th Birthday of Sir Edmund Hillary. Along with Tenzing Norgay, they became the first humans to stand atop the highest point on our planet, Mt. Everest. in 1953. Years later Hillary became friends with Neil Armstrong and the two of them travelled to the North Pole together in 1985.

In 2009 Astronaut Scott Parazynski became the first person to fly in space and to stand atop Everest. He had four small Apollo 11 Moon rocks with him that I brought with me to Nepal. Those Moon rocks and a piece of the summit of Everest are now aboard the ISS in the cupola. A plaque mentions Hillary by name. (larger image) Oddly, despite all of the Apollo 11 hoopla, NASA has not made any mention of this historic resonance of improbable feats of exploration.

In December 2017 Astronaut Randy Bresnik took lots of photos of Everest from the ISS cupola and posted them using the Twitter hashtag #4daysovereverest As he snapped these pictures, mere inches away from his knees in the ISS Cupola was the plaque with the Everest and Moon rocks. Bresnik never made any mention of this. Nor did NASA. NASA HEOMD and PAO have been reminded of this low hanging fruit in terms of a clear historic exploration relevance. They chose not to avail themselves of it.

The whole intent of doing the Moon rock/Everest thing by Scott and I was to offer NASA a chance to invoke a real, no kidding, historic resonance between terrestrial and space exploration. Instead of using this nexus of exploration, NASA simply ignores it. Right now the wave of Apollo nostalgia is giving Artemis a brief surge. All too soon that will evaporate. Artemis needs to avail itself of every shred of historic and cultural relevance that it can muster. If NASA cannot use historic memes that have been deliberately crafted for them then this is going to be an uphill battle for the agency as it explains why tens of billions of dollars should be spent on going back to the Moon.

Just sayin'

Keith's update: Oh yes, then there is this. This same collection of 4 small Apollo 11 moon rocks led to Scott Parazynski meeting his future wife Meenakshi Wadhwa. Mini was the scientist who had to approve the loan of the Moon rocks to Scott and I - a request made by Bob Jacobs at NASA PAO. As such Bob Jacobs and I are moon rock matchmakers.

Earth Blue, Rocket Red and Lunar Silver: A New Identity for Artemis Program to the Moon, NASA

"With this in mind, NASA is unveiling the new Artemis program identity, a bold look that embodies the determination of the men and women who will carry our missions forward. They will explore regions of the Moon never visited before, unlock mysteries of the Universe and test the technology that will extend the bounds of humanity farther into the Solar System."

Marc's note: Hey NASA Watch readers, what do you think of this new "identity"?

NASA Artemis program logo animated.
https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.spaceref.com/news/2019/harris.jpg

American kids want to be famous on YouTube, and kids in China want to go to space: survey, Business Insider

"Neil Armstrong became a role model in the eyes of kids everywhere 50 years ago when he became the first person to walk on the moon on July 20, 1969. Kids in a recent survey, however, were much more likely to aspire to be the next YouTube star rather than the next person in space. The survey, conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Lego, found that children in the US and the United Kingdom were three times as likely to want to be YouTubers or vloggers as astronauts when they grow up. The survey asked 3,000 kids ages 8 to 12 to choose from five professions to answer which they wanted to be when they grew up: astronaut, musician, professional athlete, teacher, or vlogger/YouTuber. Though the top choice among kids in the US and the UK was vlogger/YouTuber, 56% of kids in China said they wanted to be an astronaut."

LEGO Group Kicks Off Global Program To Inspire The Next Generation Of Space Explorers As NASA Celebrates 50 Years Of Moon Landing, LEGO

"Nearly all children aged eight to 12 from China (97%), US (88%) and UK (87%) envision a human going to Mars in the future. In China, about a quarter (24%) of kids who think humans will go to Mars say it will happen either this year or next. Three-quarters of kids believe that humans will live in outer space or on a different planet, though kids from China are more likely to think so (96%) than are kids from the US (66%) and UK (62%). Similarly, when asked if they personally would like to go to outer space or a different planet, kids from China are more likely to say 'yes' (95%) than are kids from the US (68%) or UK (63%). The survey also revealed that today's children are three times more likely to aspire to be a YouTuber (29%) than an Astronaut (11%). When asked 'which ... careers are part of space exploration?' Astronaut was the most chosen answer (90%), followed by Engineer (58%) and Computer Programmer (52%). Only seven percent of children see a role for a Farmer/Gardener in the space program, an indication that kids may not realize all of the different jobs required to support space travel."

Keith's note: This week we're all being bathed in a 24/7 wave of Apollo nostalgia. NASA's proposed Artemis program is benefiting from the afterglow. But what is going to happen next week when all of the Apollo hoopla is over? In Chinese students will be pursuing their dream of becoming an astronaut while U.S. kids will be webcasting from their bedrooms.

Keith's update: I mentioned this poll's results tonight on CGTN America:

For First Time, Majority in U.S. Backs Human Mission to Mars, Gallup

"Americans' views about landing an astronaut on Mars have shifted, with a majority now favoring the idea for the first time since 1969 and 1999, when majorities opposed the idea. The latest figure comes as President Donald Trump has committed to a manned Mars mission. In his Fourth of July speech, the president said, "We're going to be back on the moon ... and, someday soon, we will plant the American flag on Mars." Gallup first asked Americans about attempting to land astronauts on Mars in 1969, shortly after the U.S. accomplished the same feat on the moon. At that time, just 39% were in favor and 53% opposed. A subsequent update on the 30th anniversary of the moon landing found public opinion had changed little, with 43% in favor and 54% opposed to going to Mars."

For Climbing Robots, the Sky's the Limit, NASA

"Robots can drive on the plains and craters of Mars, but what if we could explore cliffs, polar caps and other hard-to-reach places on the Red Planet and beyond? Designed by engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, a four-limbed robot named LEMUR (Limbed Excursion Mechanical Utility Robot) can scale rock walls, gripping with hundreds of tiny fishhooks in each of its 16 fingers and using artificial intelligence (AI) to find its way around obstacles. In its last field test in Death Valley, California, in early 2019, LEMUR chose a route up a cliff while scanning the rock for ancient fossils from the sea that once filled the area."

Marc's note: I had the opportunity to see some early prototype climbing robots on Devon Island in the high arctic where they were being tested in an analog environment alongside an exploration team. To me, it's clear when humans return to the moon and venture beyond we'll need our robot helpers. However, some within the space community aren't as convinced and argue that humans should stay on Terra firma. IMHO that's ridiculous.

Hearing: NASA Exploration Plans: Where We've Been and Where We're Going

"U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, chairman of the Subcommittee on Aviation and Space, will convene a hearing titled, "NASA Exploration Plans: Where We've Been and Where We're Going" at 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 9, 2019. The purpose of this hearing is to honor the upcoming 50th anniversary of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Apollo 11 mission and the United States landing the first man on the moon. The hearing will examine NASA's plans for future human spaceflight missions."

Live video.

Witnesses:

Dr. Christine Darden (Testimony)
Data Analyst and Aerospace Engineer Researcher
National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Dr. Mary Dittmar (Testimony)
President and Chief Executive Officer
Coalition for Deep Space Exploration

Mr. Homer Hickman
Author
Rocket Boys

Mr. Gene Kranz (Testimony)
Flight Director
Apollo 11

Mr. Eric Stallmer (Testimony)
President
Commercial Spaceflight Federation

NASA Takes Grassroots Approach To Future Spacesuits, Aviation Week

"There are spacesuits. And then there are spacesuits."

"NASA's most successful have been very much safety- and mission-driven. Some have been worn inside a spacecraft during launch and entry in case of decompression, to enable mission abort and astronaut rescue."

Space Exploration: Attitudes toward the U.S. Space Program, AP

"Ahead of the 50th anniversary of the U.S. moon landing, 60% say the space program has provided enough benefit to the country to justify its cost, while 38% do not consider the country's expenditures on the space program warranted. Most Americans say it is important for the space program to monitor objects including asteroids, comets, and other objects that could impact the Earth, as well as scientifically research the universe, our solar system, and the Earth. On the other hand, the establishment of permanent human settlements on other planets or developing an American military presence in space are not considered priorities." ... "There is not overwhelming enthusiasm for returning to the moon. In March, Vice President Mike Pence called for NASA to send astronauts to the moon within five years.[1] Forty-two percent favor that idea, while 20% oppose and 38% neither favor nor oppose. Thirty-seven percent say sending astronauts to Mars should take precedence over going back to the moon, while 18% would rather have NASA send more astronauts to the moon. But 43% do not think either action should be a priority for the country. While about half of Americans would take the opportunity to orbit the Earth, most say they have no interest in traveling to the moon or Mars. Space travel has more appeal for younger adults."

Blood and Money, Wayne Hale

"We must have a clear-eyed appreciation for the risk involved in space exploration. Flying to the moon will not be much safer in 2024 than it was in 1969. Exploration always comes with risk, and with some regularity exploration risk is realized. The real cost of Artemis will be written in blood. Face that fact. This may be considered a poor time to bring this up - at a time when so many folks are actively working toward program approval. Death is hardly a selling point. But if we don't recognize that fact, the program will come apart at the first bad day."

Administrators Symposium on Risk and Exploration: Earth, Sea and the Stars, NASA (2004)

"Challenge fosters excellence, often drawing on previously untapped skills and abilities. Each of us takes and accepts risk as a part of our daily existence. We often go out of our way to seek challenge. However, seeking challenge often means accepting a high level of risk. The dictionary defi nes risk as being exposed to hazard or danger. To accept risk is to accept possible loss or injury, even death. One of the key issues that continues to be debated in the tragedy of the Space Shuttle Columbia is the level of risk NASA accepted. And, ultimately, the entire nation is now engaged in a broader debate over whether or not the exploration of space is worth the risk of human life. While risk can often be reduced or controlled, there comes a point when the removal of all risk is either impossible or so impractical that it completely undermines the very nature of what NASA was created to do--to pioneer the future. Everyone today understands that human space exploration is a risky endeavor. However, the quest for discovery and knowledge, and the risks involved in overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles is not unique to NASA. Whether the challenge is exploring the depths of our oceans or reaching the top of our highest mountains, great feats usually involve great risk."

Fortuna Audaces Juvat, @JimBridenstine, earlier post

"During that time when the VSE was seen as a refreshing recommitment to exploration post-Columbia - there was a momentary alliance between all factions. People thought bold adventurous thoughts again. Back to the Moon and then on to Mars. Craig Steidle was looking to do some branding and meme generation. He hit on one thing that was really ballsy (larger image) . The motto was "Fortuna Audaces Juvat" which is usually translated as a variant of "Fortune favors the bold" - a latin proverb most prominently repeated in Virgil's "Aeneid" at 10.284. You have no doubt seen this phrase before. Its common in the military - for good reasons. It has a Star Trek vibe to it. Craig Steidel drew a line in the sand and provided a motto to wear on one's shoulders as the agency set forth back into space. I thought it was a master stroke. Too bad NASA doesn't do things like this any more."

Keith's note: Wayne Hale's words ring true in a way we seem to be forgetting again. In 2004 John Grunsfeld and I organized a symposium on Risk and Exploration for Sean O'Keefe. At the core of this event was an attempt to compare risks faced - and accepted by NASA and those faced and accepted by other explorers. We held this event barely a year after the loss of Columbia - so these risk evaluations were foremost in everyone's minds. This event had a big effect on people's thinking - including Wayne Hale who ordered a box of copies of the Symposium's proceedings to use to educate his staff at JSC. So now here we are in 2019. We've had several accidents or "mishaps" as we develop commercial crew flights while flying on Soyuz spacecraft. NASA is now talking about skipping a "green test" - and all-up firing of the SLS first stage so that we can meet a rushed deadline - one set with little warning - to land humans on the Moon in 5 years.

Yes fortune does often favor the bold. But it also punishes the ill-prepared.

Space Exploration: Attitudes toward the U.S. Space Program, AP

"There is not overwhelming enthusiasm for returning to the moon. In March, Vice President Mike Pence called for NASA to send astronauts to the moon within five years. Forty-two percent favor that idea, while 20% oppose and 38% neither favor nor oppose. Thirty-seven percent say sending astronauts to Mars should take precedence over going back to the moon, while 18% would rather have NASA send more astronauts to the moon. But 43% do not think either action should be a priority for the country. While about half of Americans would take the opportunity to orbit the Earth, most say they have no interest in traveling to the moon or Mars. Space travel has more appeal for younger adults."

Back To The Moon - By Any Means Necessary, earlier post

"If Jim Bridenstine can craft the proverbial "elevator speech" that gets everyone, everywhere on board with Artemis - whether it is in the Halls of Congress or in a Walmart parking lot in 'Flyover Country' - then there will be no stopping NASA. Right now, PR slogans aside, the only clear reason we have is a directive from the White House with a delivery date that is equal to the length of a second term. Why isn't all of America buzzing about going back to the Moon? If NASA and Jim Bridenstine can answer that question then they will be well along the path of understanding how to find that elusive "Why" that Artemis is currently lacking."

Keith's note: It seems that this poll is answering my question. A lack of overt enthusiasm for Artemis and returning to the Moon may well reflect what the country is thinking right now. That can change - but only if the proponents for space exploration - be they NASA employees - or just regular citizens - need to make a better case for doing things in space. Absent that the polls are going to continue to be showing mediocre support.

NASA Advisory Council Human Exploration and Operations Committee Meeting

"DATES: Tuesday, May 28, 2019, 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Wednesday, May 29, 2019, 8:00 a.m.-12:00 noon, Eastern Time."

Let's Stop Going in Circles - And Go Somewhere (2002).

"Between the time I was 2 and when I turned 14 humanity went from zero spaceflight capability to putting humans on the Moon. To me, my first vision of spaceflight was one where quantum leaps were to be expected. I knew this because I saw these leaps happening before my own eyes. That expectation took a firm hold of me and hasn't left me - or many of my generation. Yet we, and the generation that has followed us, have been cheated of what could have been done in space.

In the following three decades we have yet to send humans back to the Moon. Indeed, it would probably take us longer to recreate the ability to "land humans on the Moon and return them safely to the Earth" than it did to do so the first time. As for sending humans to Mars - it was 20 years or so away when I was a kid. Thirty years later it is still that far off - if not further.

As for the ISS, we could have built this - and should have built this - a decade ago. Now that the ISS has managed to become reality we need to refocus it - and ourselves - towards the true exploration of space. We need to go somewhere for a change. We can't sit at home - or drive around the block - and call ourselves "explorers"."

Keith's note: I wrote this in 2002 - 17 years ago. I was frustrated then. I am frustrated now. Someone born in the year I wrote only knows a world where people live permanently in space. Alas, yet another generation has grown to adulthood without seeing humans walk on another world.

Expeditionary Astronauts Wanted, SpaceRef

"As NASA returns humans to the Moon and then heads out to Mars, a new type of astronaut will be required to explore these worlds. Let's called them "expeditionary astronauts". Just as expeditions fanned out across our planet to explore its wonders, expeditions to other worlds are now on the horizon. Project Apollo gave us a taste of what this could be like. Project Artemis will take it to a whole new level. And how we do these things is going to be different. Unlike Apollo NASA plans to go back to the Moon utilizing partnerships with other space agencies and private companies. Some companies may even go there on their own. The people who go on these missions are going to need skillsets much more diverse and synergistic than their Apollo predecessors. One astronaut has already started."

Everest +10

Keith's note: On 19 May 2009 at 6:15 pm EDT (20 May 4:00 am Nepal time) Astronaut Scott Parazynski stood on top of the world with piece of the Moon. My old, voided, damaged NASA badge (and a picture of astronaut Sunni Williams' dog Gorby) went along while Miles O'Brien served as our news anchor back in New York. Each of us has gone through a lot in the subsequent decade - some good, some bad. For Scott and I this adventure is as fresh in our minds as something that happened just yesterday. Its an adventure that just keeps on giving.

My Star Trek Episode at Everest

"In late April 2009 I found myself at Everest Base Camp for a month. I was living at 17,600 feet in Nepal 2 miles from China and 2 miles from the highest point on our planet. I was surrounded by the epic majesty of the Himalayas, a thousand people supporting several hundred Type A individuals with a shared intent to summit the mountain and stand in the jet stream. And all of this was enabled by the austere and noble Sherpa people. I was on a mission not unlike a space mission. My team mate was my long-time friend Scott Parazynski, an astronaut. And I had 4 small Apollo 11 Moon rocks in my pocket. I could just stop there and what is in these sentences would be cool enough. This had all the makings of a Star Trek episode - and I knew it."

That Time My Friend Walked Above The Sky (Book review)

"Then there's the books written by people who have attempted to climb Mt. Everest or other impressive climbs. Again, the sheer audacity of these climbs almost writes books with little human intervention required - other than memory. Of course, many climber tales are also crafted in a formulaic fashion - with one major exception: climbers like to talk about their fears, the awful conditions they endured, stupid choices, and how their path to the summit and back led them to new places in life - some of which are not always good. These books also talk about how one has to deal with real danger that can appear at any moment - danger that no one can ever be totally prepared for. And that danger can be unrelenting. There is no comfortable ride to the summit like there is to outer space."

Today 12:30 p.m. EDT: NASA Town Hall on Moon 2024 Budget Amendment with Administrator Jim Bridenstine. Watch at http://nasa.gov/nasalive

Keith's note: There are thousands - millions of people like this guy. If NASA can expand its efforts to attract and encourage this sort of enthusiasm - at all age levels - then there is no limit to where NASA - America - can go in space.

NASA's plan to get to the Moon by 2024 isn't ready yet, The Verge

"Horn demanded to know why the amendment isn't ready yet during today's hearing. "We recognize that this is a really serious challenge we have to weigh in front of us, and we need a really solid plan," William Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for human exploration and an expert at today's hearing, responded. He added: "We need to make sure it's all integrated and all put together in a way that really makes sense." Gerstenmaier noted that the amendment also has to get approval from the White House, which may also be slowing things down. However, he claimed that details will be ready soon. "We're probably several weeks away, maybe a week to two weeks away from being able to give you a plan," he said."

Opening Statements

- Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson
- Chair Kendra Horn
- Ranking Member Brian Babin
- Ranking Member Frank Lucas
- William H. Gerstenmaier and Mark Sirangelo
- Patricia Sanders
- Jonathan Lunine
- Walt Faulconer

Keith's note: Let's start with the loss of Columbia in 2003. O'Keefe talks Bush into completing ISS, then retiring Space Shuttle, then going back to the Moon by 2018 and then on to Mars 10 years Later. Then Iraq happens and Griffin changes course with the "Apollo on Steroids" thing and pivots toward Mars and away from the Moon. Then Obama tells Bolden "Moon - been there, done that, lets do Mars in 25 years, and hey let's go capture a mini-asteroid because why not?". Then Trump says "make space great again" using all of the Obama/Bolden leftovers. Then Pence gets impatient with Bridenstine and says "do the Moon by the end of our second term - oops, I mean in 5 years - instead of whenever". Now we are left with White House guidance to go back to the Moon sooner - or later. The "sooner" crowd is lead by Bridenstine. The "later" crowd - using Obama leftovers - is led by Gerstenmaier and the status quo. Meanwhile China plans to have lots of people on the Moon before we do - but probably not before Bezos and Musk do so with their own rocket ships and their own money.

Did I miss anything?

"The Trump administration wants NASA to get back to the moon by 2024, using any means necessary. But will the money and the commitment be there to support the effort? Science correspondent Miles O'Brien talks to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine about technical and political risk, international competition and his broader vision for the agency."

Keith's note: I sent this request to NASA PAO: With regard to this @NASA tweet:

"Will the lunar EVA suit to be used on the lunar surface in 2024 be developed in-house at NASA or will it be procured through the standard NASA contracting process from an external vendor? Can you provide me with the name of that spacesuit, where it is being developed, the contractor(s) involved in its development, what the budget is for its development, and when specifications for that suit will be ready for inclusion in an RFP? If there is no specific suit under development, can you describe the procurement strategy i.e. when will a down select of concepts be made, when will an RFP will be issued, when will test models will be delivered for testing, and when will the suit be first used in space?"

NASA OIG: NASA's Management and Development of Spacesuits

"NASA continues to manage an array of design and health risks associated with the EMUs used by ISS crew. In addition, only 11 of the 18 original EMU Primary Life Support System units - a backpack-like structure that performs a variety of functions required to keep an astronaut alive during a spacewalk - are still in use, raising concerns that the inventory may not be adequate to last through the planned retirement of the ISS. Given these issues, NASA will be challenged to continue to support ISS needs with the current fleet of EMUs through 2024, a challenge that will escalate significantly if Station operations are extended to 2028.

Despite spending nearly $200 million on NASA's next-generation spacesuit technologies, the Agency remains years away from having a flight-ready spacesuit capable of replacing the EMU or suitable for use on future exploration missions. As different missions require different designs, the lack of a formal plan and specific destinations for future missions has complicated spacesuit development. Moreover, the Agency has reduced the funding dedicated to spacesuit development in favor of other priorities such as an in-space habitat.

After examining these spacesuit development efforts, we question NASA's decision to continue funding a contract associated with the Constellation Program after cancellation of that Program and a recommendation made by Johnson Space Center officials in 2011 to cancel the contract. Rather than terminate the contract, NASA paid the contractor $80.8 million between 2011 and 2016 for spacesuit technology development, despite parallel development activities being conducted within NASA's Advanced Exploration Systems Division. Moreover, given the current development schedule, a significant risk exists that a next-generation spacesuit prototype will not be sufficiently mature in time to test it on the ISS prior to 2024. Finally, little schedule margin exists between anticipated delivery of the Orion Crew Survival System spacesuit in March 2021 and NASA's current internal launch date of August 2021 for its first crewed mission beyond low Earth orbit."

NASA to perform key test of the SLS rocket, necessitating a delay in its launch, Ars Technica

"In a memo shared with senior agency managers earlier this week, NASA's chief of human spaceflight, William Gerstenmaier, said the green run test would proceed. He also acknowledged that the first test flight of the rocket, Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), would likely be delayed beyond 2020. "Ultimately, it was my recommendation to the agency that we stay the course with the plan that we have had for many years," Gerstenmaier wrote in the memo, dated April 22, which Ars obtained. "Although there is no certainty in when we launch, I believe this is the best approach to achieving a successful EM-1 flight test and put NASA on the path to achieving an EM-2 crewed mission in 2022 and a Lunar Surface mission in 2024."

Keith's note: At yesterday's Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel meeting it was made clear that the ASAP wants NASA to do the SLS Green Test engine firing. This pushes EM-1 back and makes the already sporty plan to land Americans on the Moon by 2024 (at the end of the Trump Administration's potential second term) increasingly improbable.

Evaluation of a Human Mission to Mars by 2033 - Full report(PDF)

"In August 2017, NASA asked the IDA Science and Technology Policy Institute (STPI) to conduct this independent assessment, specifically requesting that STPI use NASA's current and notional plans for human exploration as the basis for the spaceflight systems and timelines presented in this study. STPI produced a draft report in December of 2017. Because NASA's exploration program was refocused in 2018, STPI was asked to update the earlier report in September 2018. Additional research was conducted between September 2018 and January 2019. This report is the result of those efforts."

"Under NASA's current and notional plans, four complex elements--SLS, Orion, Gateway, and the DST--need to be developed and completed to launch a human mission to orbit Mars. These technology developments would occur while NASA also designs and launches lunar landers and human astronauts to the Moon's surface. Figure ES-1 depicts a notional schedule for an orbital crewed mission to Mars orbit. We find that even without budget constraints, a Mars 2033 orbital mission cannot be realistically scheduled under NASA's current and notional plans. Our analysis suggests that a Mars orbital mission could be carried out no earlier than the 2037 orbital window without accepting large technology development, schedule delay, cost overrun, and budget shortfall risks. Further budget shortfalls or delays in the construction or testing of the DST would likely require the mission to depart for Mars in 2039 at the earliest."

"Given that NASA's investment in SLS, Orion, and the Gateway will continue with or without the orbital mission to Mars, the additional cost beyond these elements, of just the orbital mission to Mars, is $45 billion in FY 2017 dollars, which includes the costs of SLS launches, Orion capsules, the DST and its supplies, and ground support during DST missions."

"We found that NASA's current Human Research Program Integrated Research Plan to study human health risks associated with long-duration deep space spaceflight lacks sufficient detail in both evidence and strategy to justify the predicted timeline to develop risk mitigation strategies, or even estimate a realistic cost to retire the risks. Further, the document does not present a unified plan to prioritize NASA's approach to filling in gaps in knowledge, especially on the combined effects of radiation, low-or-micro-gravity, and isolation on astronauts. Accordingly, NASA's current approach to studying human health in deep space presents high risks to astronauts on a three-year mission to Mars."


Israel succeeded in getting its spacecraft in orbit around the moon, however an engine problem during the landing attempt caused the spacecraft to crash. Prime Minister Netanyahu in attendance said shortly after the news that "if you don't first succeed, try again." No doubt Israel will try again. A nation came together on what started as a Google Lunar X Prize entry. It can celebrate the effort and achievements it made along the way.

Town Hall with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine

"Headquarters is hosting an agencywide town hall with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on Monday, April 1, at 1:30 p.m. EDT. Please join the Administrator for this important discussion on our Moon to Mars plans. All employees, contractors and civil servants, are encouraged to participate in person at Headquarters in the Webb auditorium or at the designated viewing location at their center. The event will air live on NASA Television (public channel), through your center cable or streaming distribution, and on the agency's website at https://www.nasa.gov/nasalive."

It Was a Big Week in Politics for Star Trek: Voyager Fans, Slate

"The show's lasting influence can be felt in two stories from this week about prominent Democratic politicians, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Stacey Abrams, both of whom are fans of Voyager and, in particular, its lead character. The first surprise nod to Trek in the political sphere came from the Daily Mail's unexpectedly wholesome interview with Blanca Ocasio-Cortez, who described how Voyager became a portent of her daughter's future success."

Stacey Abrams, Star Trek Nerd, Is Traveling at Warp Speed, NY Times

"She has seen every iteration of "Star Trek" and can recite with picayune detail the obscure plot points from incidents buried deep in the canon. She likes space-time anomalies. She admires Captain Picard but reveres Admiral Janeway. One of her favorite things is "Shattered," the 157th episode of "Voyager," in which the ship goes through a temporal rift that tantalizingly splits it into different timelines. Yes, this is Stacey Abrams, the politician who drew a great deal of national attention when she narrowly lost the race for governor of Georgia last November."

Keith's note: This may be lost on Trump space people but just watch what happens if the Democrats take back the White House in 2020. In the mean time, keep an eye open for this to bubble up during Congressional hearings on NASA's role in education, earth science, and inspiring people to look upward. But also watch for this to pop up in non-space discussions as well. Space exploration - and its role models - both real and fictitious - has lessons to teach outside the space realm.

Enjoying The View

Keith's note: During the Vision for Space Exploration (VSE) era after the loss of Columbia NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe created an Exploration Directorate separate from the directorate that operated the space shuttle and ISS - on purpose. He wanted the new stuff to not be bound by the status quo. Adm. Craig Steidle was recruited to run the show. Whatever commercial things NASA does now had their seeds in what Steidle and O'Keefe did. This all came apart when O'Keefe left, and Mike Griffin came in and threw everything new and innovative out to do his "Apollo on steroids thing". President Obama later gutted that only to bring it partially back. NASA now deals with the remnants of these roller coaster decisions.

Keith's update: To be clear about how this all happened, NASA Deputy Administrator Fred Gregory was actually the prime mover behind the creation of a separate exploration entity within NASA focused on (you guessed it) exploration. He created a group looking into how to facilitate exploration thinking, hired Adm. Craig Steidle, and then pitched a plan to Sean O'Keefe. Fred also found and recruited Gen. Michael Kostelnik to become the program director of human space flight with the hope of breaking down the field center sand piles and to pull Space Station and Space Shuttle programs closer together. This was an enlightened series of steps taken by Fred and would be well worth revisiting today since the stovepipes within NASA human spaceflight were quickly reassembled.

During that time when the VSE was seen as a refreshing recommitment to exploration post-Columbia - there was a momentary alliance between all factions. People thought bold adventurous thoughts again. Back to the Moon and then on to Mars. Craig was looking to do some branding and meme generation. He hit on one thing that was really ballsy. He read a lot of Greek classics as military people are want to do. And he found his catch phrase. He created a motto - for a patch and logo that Mike Okuda (who worked on Star Trek) created. (Larger image) The motto was "Fortuna Audaces Juvat" which is usually translated as a variant of "Fortune favors the bold" - a latin proverb most prominently repeated in Virgil's "Aeneid" at 10.284. You have no doubt seen this phrase before. Its common in the military - for good reasons. It has a Star Trek vibe to it. Craig Steidel drew a line in the sand and provided a motto to wear on one's shoulders as the agency set forth back into space. I thought it was a master stroke. Too bad NASA doesn't do things like this any more.

https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.spaceref.com/news/2019/IMG_7065.s2.jpgIn the course of writing my next book I came to reference this phrase and thought I'd see if my antique book collection could help me find an old reference. In this case I found one in a 1792 publication - translated as "fortune assists the brave". Close enough. (larger image)

Jim Bridenstine often ends many official statements with "Ad Astra" ("to the stars") which is taken from another Latin phrase common in exploration and military history "Per aspera ad astra/ ad astra per aspera" ("through hardships to the stars"). Alas, NASA is now going to try and do some exciting stuff in space again by going "Forward to the Moon" to quote Bridenstine's official favorite phrase.

Ugh. That's certainly underwhelming. Why not "Back To The Moon and then Beyond?" or "Go boldly where no(one) has gone before"? you know - something a little more inspiring?

NASA could see a 5 percent budget cut next year, official says, Houston Chronicle

"President Donald Trump is expected to propose a 5 percent cut to NASA's budget next year, a decision that stands in stark contrast to the president's pushed to return humans to the moon for the first time since 1972. The proposed cuts -- part of sweeping cuts to non-defense discretionary spending in every agency -- was disclosed in an article published online Monday by Russ Vought, acting head of the Office of Management and Budget. "It's unfortunate that once again when everyone is getting excited about going back to the moon ... that the announcement is on the heels of cuts for NASA," said Keith Cowing, editor of NASA Watch, a website devoted to space news. "This is not the signal you would hope to see at an agency that is about to embark on a multi-decade program of returning to and exploring the moon. ... "Again, NASA is caught making all these plans with faith-based projections where budgets will be," Cowing said. "There's nothing wrong with being optimistic, but at the end of the day, you can't just click your heels three times and hope money falls out of the sky."

New "NASA Science Live" Program Premieres This This Week

"NASA invites you to take a behind-the-scenes look at how the agency explores Earth and outer space with a new monthly television series that premiers this week. The inaugural episode of "NASA Science Live" will air at 3 p.m. EST Wednesday, Feb. 27, on NASA Television, the agency's website, Facebook Watch, YouTube, and Ustream. Viewers will be able to submit questions on social media using the hashtag #askNASA or by leaving a comment in the chat section on Facebook."

NASA Selects Experiments for Possible Lunar Flights in 2019

"NASA has selected 12 science and technology demonstration payloads to fly to the Moon as early as the end of this year, dependent upon the availability of commercial landers. These selections represent an early step toward the agency's long-term scientific study and human exploration of the Moon and, later, Mars. NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD) initiated the request for proposals leading to these selections as the first step in achieving a variety of science and technology objectives that could be met by regularly sending instruments, experiments and other small payloads to the Moon."

NASA Administrator Statement on Israeli Moon Mission

"In July, I was in Israel and was very impressed with their commitment to expanding their role in the world's space community. As we better understand Israel's capabilities and the innovative work of their private industry, we know they'll be an even stronger international partner in the future, one vital to the success of extending commercial space to the Moon and eventually on to Mars and beyond. There are terrific opportunities awaiting Israel and all of us in advancing the space frontier."

Keith's note: NASA held a media briefing session today at NASA HQ. The purpose of the briefing was to talk about the various lunar activities NASA is engaged in. Specifically there was discussion by NASA SMD AA Thomas Zurbuchen about the science and technology missions that NASA is planning. Next week 12 payloads will be announced as part of the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. 9 companies are cometing to place these payloads on the Moon. Zurbuchen is off on a race to make these things happen much faster than is usually the case at NASA. This means that there will be more risks taken - but with that comes a greater chance to try new things. Indeed, if the program achieves what it aspires to do, there could be payloads on the surface of the Moon by the end of 2019.

These missions will conduct pure science and applied technology. The applied technology is designed to build up capabilities that will be needed when human landings are attempted at the end of the next decade. Among other things locating resources for fuel generation and lunar base construction will be explored.

A Human Lunar Landing System Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) has been issued by NASA. NASA Administrator Bridenstine and HEOMD AA Bill Gerstenmaier described the approach within this BAA as using an "open architecture". Yet when you read the BAA it refers to a "Reference Architecture" that proposers are supposed to base their ideas on - anything outside of that Reference Architecture would be deemed beyond the scope of this BAA. That sounds a bit contradictory. NASA says they want people's ideas - even if they are different than what NASA wants to do yet the procurement vehicle they use seems to preclude that.

The following is my question to Bridenstine and Gerstenmaier - in essence I asked what NASA would do if SpaceX shows up with a proposal and says that they can do everything NASA wants without the need of a Gateway-based architecture:

In essence NASA wants everyone's ideas - even if they may not match up against what this current BAA solicits. They say that will take ideas that do not conform to the BAA's language and consider them (even though the BAA does not mention this). The real question is whether NASA truly wants to use the engines of creativity that a fully open architecture would instill or whether they want to be seen as trying to be open when in fact they still want to impose agency solutions when all is said and done. This is sort of a "closed openness" approach.

Another analogy is to compare the way that Google leaves its Android architecture rather open to outside developers and hardware manufacturers while Apple has adopted a "walled garden" approach where they control the extent of software operations and hardware implementation. Both approaches work - but one is far more "open" than the other.

It might be a good idea for NASA to put out an amendment to this BAA that explicitly states this since simply reading the BAA could leave a proposer with the (apparently incorrect) impression that only ideas that resonate with the official NASA Reference Architecture as presented in the BAA are sought.

But to be honest NASA is trying to do the whole return to the Moon thing much faster than you'd expect. NASA has made flashy proclamations to this effect 4 or 5 times since humans last walked on the Moon. Yet half a century and many false starts later later we have still not put a human on the Moon again. This time NASA is taking more risks than they are used to taking. With that comes the chance to try more new approaches and get back to the Moon faster than might otherwise be the case.

- Human Landing System Broad Agency Announcement Industry Day presentations

NASA Administrator Hosts Media, Industry Forum on Lunar Exploration Plans, NASA

"NASA invites media to its headquarters in Washington Thursday, Feb. 14, to learn more about agency partnership opportunities with American companies to develop reusable systems that can land astronauts on the Moon. Events will begin with a media roundtable at 12:30 p.m. EST with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator of the agency's Human Exploration and Operations Missions Directorate, and Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate."

NASA has taken a significant step toward human landings on the Moon, Ars Technica

"For two years, the Trump administration has made various noises about returning humans to the Moon. There have been bill signings with Apollo astronauts such as Buzz Aldrin and Harrison Schmitt. Vice President Mike Pence has traveled to NASA facilities around the country to make speeches. And the president himself has mused about the Moon and Mars. However, beyond talk of returning humans to the Moon, much of the country's civil space policy and budgeting priorities really hadn't changed much until late last week. On Thursday, NASA released a broad agency announcement asking the US aerospace industry for its help to develop large landers that, as early as 2028, would carry astronauts to the surface of the Moon."

Partnerships Between NASA and Industry Can Support Lunar Exploration, Say Two New Reports, NAS

"However, the two reports find that the activities undertaken to date, although aligned with community consensus for lunar science priorities, do not replace missions recommended in the National Academies' most recent planetary science decadal survey and remain subject to many unknowns, such as the ability of standardized commercial lunar landers to interface with complex science payloads."

Keith's note: I asked former NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe what his thoughts were today as Opportunity ended its mission on Mars:

"The Mars Exploration Rovers - Spirit and Opportunity - missions were stunning achievements that exceeded expectations beyond anyone's imagination. Over the span of 15 years, for a program designed to last no more than six months, the MER team's scientific and engineering achievements have informed our understanding of Mars to pave the way for future exploration. They started operations at a critical moment in the wake of the Columbia shuttle tragedy and after a series of missions to Mars with little success. As the chapters of NASA history continue to be written, the MER program will be remembered as a moment that restored our resolve to explore space beyond our own planet.

Charles Elachi and Steve Squyres are the heroes of MER in my book. Both were routinely deployed to convince dubious decision makers on Capitol Hill that the engineering project was sound, the scientific mission was well considered and the probability for success was higher than the mission failures that preceded. Their credibility and expertise made very Doubting Thomas a convert. After the Rovers landed, Steve proved to be the go-to guy to explain to television audiences around the globe exactly what we were looking for on the Red Planet. Today it's treated as "Truth according to Squyres" thanks to his capacity to bring the science to life for all of us who are pedestrians."

I also had a chance to ask Steve Squyres about the twin rovers and their place in the pantheon of human exploration:

Wright Brothers X 2

Astrobiologist Dale Andersen Antarctic Status Report 15 December 2018: Back at Novolazarevskaya Station

"The camp at Lake Untersee is now closed, we pulled the last three tents down early yesterday morning and completed packing our cargo into the sea container with the remainder going onto the other two cargo sleds. The traverse back went well and we are all back at Novolazarevskaya Station, now at the ALCI operated "Oasis Huts" just adjacent to the Russian Station Novolazarevskaya. We have stayed in the Oasis Huts many times over the years so it is like returning to our home away from home - warm beds, good food and hospitality and a place to wash off the last six weeks of wear and tear we have all accumulated. These huts, refurbished a few years ago, were built in the early 1960's by the Russian Antarctic program - the initial Novolazarevskaya Station - so it is always nice to be staying somewhere with an interesting history. ... All in all a great field season and we accomplished most of what we set out to do. Now it is time to head home, relax a bit over the holidays and then begin working on returned samples, analyzing data and planning for future work in this region."

Keith's personal note: I just can't get over this video. My father died a few months ago. He was a few weeks shy of 95. He carried World War II with him every day. This truly was the "Greatest Generation". They won World War II and sent humans to the Moon. May future generations rediscover their determination - and vision.

Someday I will post the story about how a V-2 came within mere feet of killing my father and what it is like for his son to see descendants of that same rocket send his friends and their inventions within and across the the solar system - and beyond.

Keith's note: I first published this exactly one year ago. Listening to all of the talk about going (back) to the Moon - and asking for a show of hands in the audience at NASA HQ for those who saw it live - I thought I'd give Jim Bridenstine something to think about.

Keith's original 28 November 2017 note: There is a lot of talk these days about yet another pivot in America's civilian space policy. This time it is "back" to the Moon. Mars is not off the agenda - but it is not moving forward either. Personally I think we have unfinished business on the Moon and that creating a vibrant cis-lunar space infrastructure is the best way to enable humans to go to many places in the solar system - including Mars. Regardless of your stance on this issue, a common refrain about going back to the Moon - starting with President Obama is that "We've been there before".

Humans first reached the South Pole by an overland route in 1911/1912. While we visited the pole by plane in the intervening years, no one traversed Antarctica's surface again until 1958. 46 years between Antarctic polar traverses. Why did we go back to do something - again - in a similar way - to a place "we've been [to] before" after 46 years? Because there was still something of interest there - something we'd only had a fleeting exposure to - and we had developed new ways to traverse polar environments. James Cameron revisited the Challenger Deep in 2012 - after a human absence of 52 years. Why? See above. It is understandable that explorers seek to explore new places and not redo what has been done before. There is only so much funding and there are still so many places yet to be explored. But it is also not uncommon for explorers to revisit old, previously visited locations with new tools - and new mindsets.

Look at the stunning imagery Juno is sending back of Jupiter. Compare that to what we got from Galileo - and Voyager - and Pioneer. Why send yet another mission to the same destination unless, well, you have better tools - tools that enable the pursuit of ever greater exploration goals.

I was 15 when humans first walked on the Moon. The generations who have followed mine have never seen humans land and walk on the Moon. Indeed a lot of them seem to think it never happened. But American space policy is made by Baby Boomers (and older) population cohorts so we just operate on our own biases i.e. been there, done that.

Take a look at the chart below. More than half of the Americans alive today never saw humans walk on the Moon - as it happened - including the person slated to become the next administrator of NASA and the entire 2013 and 2017 astronaut classes. If/when we go back to the Moon in the next 5-10 years this number will increase. For them these future Moon landings will be THEIR FIRST MOON LANDINGS. That's several hundred million Americans waiting to see what I saw in 1969.

Just sayin'

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2017/united-states-population-py.jpg

Bill Nye: We are not going to live on Mars, let alone turn it into Earth, USA Today

"Sorry, Elon Musk. Bill Nye says the idea of Mars colonization and terraforming - making a planet more Earth-like by modifying its atmosphere - is "science fiction." "This whole idea of terraforming Mars, as respectful as I can be, are you guys high?" Nye said in an interview with USA TODAY. "We can't even take care of this planet where we live, and we're perfectly suited for it, let alone another planet." The famous science educator and CEO of The Planetary Society appears on National Geographic Channel's series "MARS." While the series explores human beings living on the Red Planet and even mining it, that doesn't mean Nye buys into the idea."

Keith's note: If you are interested in the prospect of humans living on other worlds such as Mars it would seem that the Planetary Society is not the organization for you - and its not just Bill Nye who is openly hostile to the notion of humans living on Mars.

- The Planetary Society Is Against Human Spaceflight, earlier post
- What is Good for Pasadena Is Good For The Planetary Society, earlier post
- Planetary Society's Mars Mission Takes Longer To Do Less, earlier post
- The Planetary Society Does Not Want "The Martian" To Happen, earlier post
- Planetary Society Does Not Want Humans on Mars, earlier post
- The Planetary Society Is Against Human Space Flight, earlier post
- Planetary Society is Both For and Against Human Spaceflight, earlier post

NASA says it can put humans on Mars within 25 years, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"The cost of solving those means that under current budgets, or slightly expanded budgets, it's going to take about 25 years to solve those," former NASA astronaut Tom Jones told reporters. "We need to get started now on certain key technologies."

NPC Newsmaker: Becoming Martians: NASA's 25-year Plan for Humans to Inhabit the Red Planet

"Humans are on the precipice of becoming an interplanetary species. We earthlings are on our way to becoming Martians. In fact, the future Martians are here on Earth now, training for Mars missions using new technological developments following a strict timeline that will get us there within 25 years."

Keith's note: Blah blah blah. In 2010 NASA started to talk about sending humans to Mars in the early 2030s i.e. approximately 25 years away. 8 years later and its still 25 years away. When I was a boy growing up in the 60s we were going to be on Mars in 1981 when I'd have been 26. Based on this latest 25 year prediction I will be 88. There is something fundamentally wrong with these predictions on the part of NASA. Some astronauts and space pros like participants Tom Jones, James Garvin, and Richard Davis would be perfectly happy if we never went anywhere. They'd rather talk about going somewhere than actually go somewhere. Meetings = action at NASA.

I am a space biologist. When I started working at the NASA Life Science Division at NASA HQ in 1986 we were already working on sending humans to Mars. We never stopped. This has nothing to do with science per se. Yes the risks are real. But they can be dealt with. This has everything to do with using the funding and assets at NASA's disposal for a strategic research plan to methodically reduce risk and flight certify humans for trips to destinations such as Mars. NASA has never had such a strategy and has dabbled in meandering hobby shop science for decades. Now would be a good time to start thinking strategically. Otherwise NASA will never find a way to go to Mars.

Meanwhile SpaceX is building a Mars rocketship and can go to Mars without NASA funding or permission. How will they do it? They'll take the best science at hand, maybe do a little of their own, do informed consent, have their crew sign waivers, and then go to Mars. If NASA won't let their employees take the risk the private sector will. When I lived at Everest Base Camp for a month in 2009 I did so after signing a waiver. People do this risk/benefit calculation all the time. Virtually everyone at Everest signed a waiver. NASA has to WANT to go to Mars and then focus its scattered energies on that end point. In the end someone has to step up and sign off on the increased risk. It will never be zero. Otherwise NASA needs to stand back and let others do it. And they will. Will SpaceX make it? We'll see. Are they trying? Yes. Is NASA trying? No. They just do telecons and Powerpoint.

We're about to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11. Yea. Let's have a big feel-good party to celebrate the fact that we dropped the ball on our Apollo achievements and no longer know how to do something that we once did with style and daring half a century ago.

SpaceX's next big BFR spaceship part finished in Port of LA tent facility, Teslarati

"The first 9-meter (29.5-foot) diameter composite propellant tank dome for SpaceX's full-scale BFR spaceship prototype has been spotted more or less complete at the company's temporary Port of Los Angeles facility, unambiguous evidence that SpaceX is continuing to rapidly fabricate major components of its next-generation rocket."

NASA Is Still Kicking The Can Down the Road to Mars, earlier Post

We need to change the way we talk about space exploration, National Geographic

"When discussing space exploration, people often invoke stories about the exploration of our own planet, like the European conquest and colonization of the Americas, or the march westward in the 1800s, when newly minted Americans believed it was their duty and destiny to expand across the continent. But increasingly, government agencies, journalists, and the space community at large are recognizing that these narratives are born from racist, sexist ideologies that historically led to the subjugation and erasure of women and indigenous cultures, creating barriers that are still pervasive today. To ensure that humanity's future off-world is less harmful and open to all, many of the people involved are revising the problematic ways in which space exploration is framed."

Keith's note: This article proceeds from a false premise: that human exploration will always result in subjugation and exploitation. Oops: that hasn't happened in Antarctica. Humans can learn from their mistakes.

Lockheed Martin Reveals New Human Lunar Lander Concept, Lockheed Martin

"Today, at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Bremen, Germany, Lockheed Martin experts revealed the company's crewed lunar lander concept and showed how the reusable lander aligns with NASA's lunar Gateway and future Mars missions."

"Let's go to the Moon" is key focus at IAC 2018, Blue Origin

"Moving heavy industry from Earth into space is at the core of Blue Origin's mission. The future will be better for our children - and our children's children - if we use space to benefit life on Earth and enable millions of people to live and work in space. The next logical step in this path is a return to the Moon. To do this we need reusable access to the lunar surface and its resources. We're in the conceptual design phase of a large lunar lander that will provide that access called Blue Moon."

Russia and China Want to Build a Base on the Moon Together, Newsweek

"Dmitry Rogozin, director general of Russia's Roscosmos State Space Corp. and the former deputy defense minister, said that the Russian and Chinese space programs were considering working jointly to establish a lunar station. As Russia prepares to meet its 2021 deadline for the country's first unmanned lunar mission, a growing relationship with China has presented new opportunities as Moscow's ties to the U.S. continue to worsen."

Agreement with Israel Space Agency for Commercial Lunar Cooperation, NASA

"NASA has signed an agreement with the Israel Space Agency (ISA) to cooperatively utilize the Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL's commercial lunar mission, expected to land on the Moon in 2019."

Moon Express Signs Memorandum of Understanding with the Canadian Space Agency

"Under the agreement, the CSA and Moon Express will explore the possibilities of using Moon Express lunar orbiter and lander systems for potential CSA payloads and will promote possibilities for collaboration between Moon Express and the Canadian space industry and academia."

NASA Administrator Highlights 'Moon to Mars' Events Across Agency Oct. 24, NASA

"During these events, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will speak at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida at noon EDT, spotlighting NASA's new Moon to Mars approach for human space exploration. He'll discuss the agency's plans to lead a sustainable return to the Moon, which includes the integration of U.S. companies and international partners, with the aim to use the Moon as a proving ground for the ultimate goal - sending astronauts to Mars."

National Space Exploration Campaign Report - Pursuant to Section 432(b) of the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 (P.L. 115-10), September 2018, NASA

Keith's note: Once again NASA is trying to tell us that all is well in space and that it is moving ahead with a plan - "The National Space Exploration Campaign aims to revitalize and add direction to NASA's enduring purpose to carry out human and robotic exploration missions, expanding the frontiers of human experience and scientific discovery of the natural phenomena of Earth, other worlds, and the cosmos as a whole."

Despite the lofty words including the addition of the "cosmos" among NASA's ambitions, this plan is actually a withdrawal from earlier, more lofty exploration goals.

Of course, this report from NASA was due quite some time ago (last year) but NASA never bothers to do what Congress directs them to do - even if it is in the form of public law i.e. P.L. 115-10 which was enacted on 21 March 2017.

According to this report: "2024 - Based on results of human-class lunar lander capability demonstration missions, status of other human systems, other possible mission enhancements (e.g., retro-braking stage, launch vehicle availability) make decision on date and method of human lunar surface return and the mission objectives." In other words we still have to wait until 2024 to decide how to land Americans on the Moon a gain. But then it will take how may years before we actually do this?

All the report says is "Post-2024 Decisions - Based on the cost of lunar surface access, viability of higher-power systems and ISRU, as revealed by exploration and science missions and technology investments, and on private-sector and international demand for lunar surface access, determine the nature of a sustainable American human presence on the lunar surface and associated infrastructure development projects."

In other words it will be close to the 2030s before an American lunar lander reaches the Moon. During the Obama Administration we were going to be sending human crews to Mars (if you believed their Powerpoint slides) by the early 2030s. So now NASA is going to take almost as long only to land humans a quarter million miles away. Those are certainly lowered expectations. That sounds like negative progress - again, if you believe NASA's notional Powerpoint slides and white papers.

Meanwhile, in another potential magic act. NASA will wave more Powerpoint charts and make ISS totally commercial:

"2022 - Based on status of commercial module and/or free-flyer space station development and emerging commercial activities on ISS, fine-tune plans to end direct Federal funding of ISS by 2025 to ensure continuous access to a LEO space platform. Post-2024 Decisions - Based on the status of commercial module and/or free-flyer space station development and emerging commercial human spaceflight activities in LEO, decide on appropriate NASA and overall governmental support to ensure ongoing NASA requirements and permanent U.S. presence in LEO."

In other words NASA says that this ISS conversion to private sector operations will happen - unless it doesn't happen.

As For Mars, well, the whole "by the mid-2030s" thing that Obama people made NASA say does not look very plausible now. Not only will NASA just be landing its first people back on the Moon again, but according to this report it won't even have an architecture for going back to Mars for another 6 years (Apollo had one before people even flew on Apollo but who cares). One would assume, at this snail's pace, that vehicle design and construction would drag on like Orion/SLS has for the past decade.

"2024- Based on results of investment in Mars-forward technology R&D investment portfolio, Gateway development and operations, launch vehicle and crew vehicle development and operations, decide on architecture of human Mars orbital mission and begin associated systems development. Post-2024 Decisions - Based on results of robotic roundtrip mission, cislunar operations, and progress of Mars-forward technology R&D investment portfolio, determine set of technology investments and timeline required to achieve human landing on the surface of Mars."

In a nutshell, NASA's words may indicate that it has lofty goals but the murky timeline it presents suggests that its ability to do the things needed to meet these goals decreases in terms of speed with every passing year. Meanwhile, American commercial companies with billions in their own funding are planning to send people back to the Moon.

What's wrong with this picture?

Keith's update: There is a meeting about Mars exploration underway at the University of Colorado in Boulder sponsored by SpaceX. Contrary to some initial descriptions the meeting is not "secret". But its not exactly "open" either. Rather, it is invitation-only. The purpose of the meeting according to sources is for SpaceX to ping Mars exploration experts outside their company about the technology needed to implement the Mars exploration plans that have been described by Elon Musk. It is likely that SpaceX will do more of these external events in the future.

While NASA has yet to confirm that any of the 50-60 attendees are from the agency, sources report that the following institutions are represented: Colorado School of Mines, University of Colorado, Boulder; NASA HQ, ASI, JPL/Caltech; SpaceX, Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona; ASURE, MIT, Bechtel Corporation; Schlumberger; University of Florida; Freestyle Analytical & Quantitative Services, LLC; Ball Aerospace; Arizona State University; Brown University; NASA Ames; NASA Marshall, NASA KSC, EchoStar; NASA Glenn; JAXA; SpaceX/Tesla; BAERI; ESA; University of Central Florida; University of Western Ontario; Caterpillar Inc; NASA JSC; Aerospace Corporation; Maxar Technologies; MBRSC - UAE; Planetary Science Institute; LASP / University of Colorado, Boulder; and Honeybee Robotics.

The big question is whether NASA is considering participating in the SpaceX Mars plans - plans which would send humans to Mars a decade or more before NASA does. While NASA human spaceflight people at HEOMD were invited to this event none of them apparently attended. Only Mars science types showed up. That's rather odd for a meeting where the prime focus is humans to Mars in giant rockets and building permanent human bases.

Keith's further update: I spoke with NASA Science Mission Directorate AA Thomas Zurbuchen about this meeting. He said that that some of his program staff were invited to give presentations of what NASA was doing (and planning to do) on Mars but that they really had no input into the meeting structure itself. One of the topics that interests Zurbuchen is how SpaceX might be able to work collaboratively with NASA on sample return. Zurbuchen says that he has encouraged discussions about commercial, public/private partnerships on this and other topics sich as smallsats. But as for participation in human exploration, Zurbuchen said that no policy positions should be implied by NASA SMD's participation in this meeting about SpaceX's human Mars plans and that to the best of his knowledge no one at NASA has really been authorized to have such a policy discussion.

Hearing: Destination Mars - Putting American Boots on the Surface of the Red Planet (with video archive)

"U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, will convene a hearing titled "Destination Mars - Putting American Boots on the Surface of the Red Planet" at 2:15 p.m. on Wednesday, July 25, 2018. The hearing will focus on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) exploration priorities and will be the first in a series of hearings in anticipation of a future NASA authorization legislation."

Prepared Statements: Sen. Bill Nelson; Tory Bruno, ULA; Chris Carberry, Explore Mars. Inc.; Dava Newman, MIT; Peggy A. Whitson, NASA (ret.)

NASA will consider sending another Israeli astronaut into space, Times Of Israel

"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine met Thursday with Israel's Science and Technology minister, Ofir Akunis, and they agreed to expand cooperation on issues including the international space station, space exploration, and earth science research, the Hebrew media Ynet website reported. Akunis expressed interest in sending a second Israeli astronaut into space and Bridenstine said the United States would consider the request, Haaretz newspaper reported."

Columbia: Thinking Back - Looking Ahead, New Moon Rising

From the an event held on the one year anniversary of Columbia's loss at the Israeli embassy in Washington, DC: "At the end of the event, Rona Ramon, Ilan's widow, spoke last. "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."

Keith's note: I got this note from Homer Hickam today: "While reading about the kids in Thailand trapped in a cave by floodwaters and the rescuers thinking about training them to scuba dive, it first occurred to me that we teach youngsters to dive very quickly at Space Camp's Underwater Astronaut Trainer (UAT) and might be able to help. But on second thought, we do this in ideal conditions with perfectly clear, warm water. These youngsters in Thailand would have to deal with cold, very murky, and rapidly moving water so I concluded teaching them to dive was impractical.

Then I recalled that NASA developed Personal Rescue Enclosures (PRE) for shuttle rescues. Here's a mockup of the rescue ball as tested. In this case, the ball would be flooded, eliminating the buoyancy problem. Could be done and the kids could be fully controlled this way.

Report: Review and Assessment of Planetary Protection Policy Development Processes

"Planetary protection policies are facing unprecedented challenges as NASA and other national and international space agencies move forward on missions such as Mars Sample Return and exploration campaigns to the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn. NASA also does not currently have a planetary protection policy in place regarding human exploration to Mars, which could take place in the 2030s. Moreover, the current U.S. government process to oversee samples returned from Mars and elsewhere dates back to the Apollo era and is out of date. The committee recommended that NASA's agency-wide planetary protection strategic plan prepare for the policy development challenges that sample return and human missions to Mars are creating, as well as revise or replace its provisions for engaging relevant federal agencies in developing protection policies for returned samples."

As Space Becomes a Busy Place, NASA Bolsters Its Planet-Contamination Police

"[NASA PLanetary Protection Officer Lisa] Pratt's debut comes just as NASA's Office of Planetary Protection itself goes through a more profound transition. Back in July 2017 NASA announced the office was being transferred from the Science Mission Directorate to NASA's Office of Safety and Mission Assurance in Washington, D.C. That move, agency officials said, will inject more engineering rigor into the biological contamination control for outbound and inbound planetary spacecraft."

Steve Clarke Named Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration at NASA's Science Mission Directorate

"Effective immediately, Steve Clarke is SMD's Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration. He will serve as the agency's interface between the NASA mission directorates, the scientific community, and other external stakeholders in developing a strategy to enable an integrated approach for robotic and human exploration within NASA's Exploration Campaign. Clarke returns to NASA after serving as a senior policy analyst with the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Executive Office of the President, where he was responsible for a number of important initiatives."

Keith's note: One would assume the HEOMD would add a similar position to interact with SMD. Interesting how NASA says it needs to developing a strategy to enable an "integrated approach for robotic and human exploration within NASA's Exploration Campaign". Usually (in the real world) when you use capitalization it is for a formal name i.e. "Exploration Campaign". Is that a formal name, or, as is usually the case with NASA grammar, is the use of uppercase letters meant to tell you it is important to NASA? it is also a little odd that they need an "integrated approach" since NASA already has one, so why does it need to develop another one? Or does the whole "America First National Space Strategy" (they also used upper case letters) mean that NASA needs a do-over?

NASA Releases Plan Outlining Next Steps in the Journey to Mars, earlier post

Keith's note: A lot of people have asked if this is a Photoshopped image. No. It is real. This actually happened in 1992. How quickly we forget.

Majority of Americans Believe It Is Essential That the U.S. Remain a Global Leader in Space, Pew Research

"- Sending astronauts to Mars: 18% top priority, 45% important but lower priority, 37% not too important or should not be done.
- Sending astronauts to the moon: 13% top priority, 42% important but lower priority, 44% not too important or should not be done. "

NASA: Mars Has Ancient Organic Material, Mysterious Methane

"NASA's Curiosity rover has found new evidence preserved in rocks on Mars that suggests the planet could have supported ancient life, as well as new evidence in the Martian atmosphere that relates to the search for current life on the Red Planet."

"While not necessarily evidence of life itself, these findings are a good sign for future missions exploring the planet's surface and subsurface."

"The new findings - 'tough' organic molecules in three-billion-year-old sedimentary rocks near the surface, as well as seasonal variations in the levels of methane in the atmosphere - appear in the June 8 edition of the journal Science."

NASA: Mars Curiosity Rover's Labs Are Back in Action

"NASA's Curiosity rover is analyzing drilled samples on Mars in one of its onboard labs for the first time in more than a year."

"'This was no small feat. It represents months and months of work by our team to pull this off,' said Jim Erickson, project manager of the Mars Science Laboratory mission, which is led by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The Curiosity rover is part of the MSL mission. 'JPL's engineers had to improvise a new way for the rover to drill rocks on Mars after a mechanical problem took the drill offline in December 2016.'"

Keith's note: This appears at the bottom of the newsletter that Boeing pays Politico to put out weekly: "A message from The Boeing Company: Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg asserted, "It's the only rocket being built that has the capacity to go back to the moon and then go to Mars." With 9.2 million pounds of thrust, there's no questioning the physical power behind the Space Launch System. The opportunities for exploration it will offer are even more undeniable. By rocketing into space, we will unlock clues about our place in the universe, spawn brand new innovations that will improve life back on Earth, all while inspiring the next generation of scientists, engineers and explorers. That's the true power of the Space Launch System."

Where do I start? No one knows exactly when an SLS will actually fly. But it will not have the "capacity to go back to the moon and then go to Mars" since NASA is going to do all of the Moon and Mars stuff via the Deep Space Gateway thing.They are not sending SLS to Mars. SLS can send stuff to the Moon (but not as much as NASA had originally planned). Under NASA's current architectures (pick any one you want) things are going to be put together near Earth or the Moon before they go to Mars. When they will go to Mars - well (again) pick any one of them. It looks like it will be the mid-2030s.

But wait: You could assemble a human Mars mission using existing Falcon Heavy rockets at a fraction of the cost of using SLS rockets. But there is no need for that since SpaceX plans to start its self-funded BFR Mars program in 2022. Even if they are delayed they will get people and things to the Martian surface well before any of Boeing's SLS hardware will. And, of course, Boeing is not sending a damn thing to Mars or the Moon. NASA is. And if NASA did not pay Boeing to do this then they would be building combat aircraft instead. But Boeing keeps wanting everyone who reads their newsletter to think that they have their own space program when in fact they have none.

Boeing's Misleading Anti-SpaceX Pro-SLS Facebook Ad Campaign, earlier post

Commercial Partners Key to Sustainable Moon Presence, NASA

"As NASA shifts human exploration back to the Moon, U.S. commercial partnerships will be a key to expediting missions and building a sustainable presence on the lunar surface. The agency is orchestrating a robotic lunar campaign with a focus on growing commercial base of partnerships and activity that can support U.S. science, technology, and exploration objectives. NASA is planning a series of robotic commercial delivery missions as early as 2019 ahead of a human return to the Moon. These missions will deliver NASA instruments and technology to the surface of the Moon to conduct science and prepare for human exploration. Among the instruments to be flown are the instrumentation suite from the former Resource Prospector mission concept."

Keith's note: NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine spoke at the Humans to Mars Summit in Washington, DC today from 8:35-8:55 am EDT.

NASA Expands Plans for Moon Exploration: More Missions, More Science

"NASA is returning to the Moon with commercial and international partners as part of an overall agency Exploration Campaign in support of Space Policy Directive 1. It all starts with robotic missions on the lunar surface, as well as a Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway for astronauts in space beyond the Moon. Right now, NASA is preparing to purchase new small lunar payload delivery services, develop lunar landers, and conduct more research on the Moon's surface ahead of a human return. And that long-term exploration and development of the Moon will give us the experience for the next giant leap - human missions to Mars and destinations beyond."

Keith's note: NASA Administrator Bridenstine was clearly caught off guard last week hours after he was sworn in when it became clear that his staff had cancelled a prominent lunar mission, Resource Prospector. A few hours after the dust settled he was tweeting about it - from his perspective. One look at the title of this NASA press release ("More Missions, More Science") and his tweets should leave little doubt that he is calling the shots.

Next week there is a Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) Industry Day at NASA HQ. While these events have a lot of Q&A for potential contractors, there are a lot of NASA presentations scheduled - and Bridenstine tweeted that he would be there. If NASA is really interested in getting the word out about its lunar ambitions, putting this event on NASA TV would be an easy way to start by broadening the reach of this otherwise closed off event. No word yet if any of the event will be presented live to a larger audience.

- Trying To Understand What NASA Is Saying About Resource Prospector, earlier post
- Commercial Lunar Payload Services (Update), earlier post

NASA Statement on Resource Prospector and RESOLVE Costs

"NASA's early prototype work on the Regolith and Environmental Science and Oxygen and Lunar Volatiles Extraction or RESOLVE project, which was an integrated set of general prospecting payloads, provided the basis for the initial instruments for the Resource Prospector (RP) mission concept. The agency invested an estimated $22 million in RESOLVE's early technology development/prototyping efforts. Since the RP team was formed in 2014 after the completion of a mission concept review, NASA has invested an estimated total of $80 million toward refining the mission concept and mission-specific risk reduction activities. NASA's overall Resource Prospector work toward risk reduction activities to advance instrument developments, component technologies including rover components, and innovation mission operations concepts will help inform future missions. An agency review to send selected instruments from Resource Prospector to the Moon is ongoing."

Lunar Community Responds To Resource Prospector Cancellation (Update), earlier post

Keith's note: I just heard from NASA PAO "As you know, our statement and the Administrator's tweet are now out. Regarding the LEAG letter, yes, there will be a response. In addition, we are working on cost and will get back to you."

The @JimBridenstine tweet points to this link which has an update:

"April 27, 2018 - Update: NASA is developing an exploration strategy to meet the agency's expanded lunar exploration goals. Consistent with this strategy, NASA is planning a series of progressive robotic missions to the lunar surface. In addition, NASA has released a request for information on approaches to evolve progressively larger landers leading to an eventual human lander capability. As part of this expanded campaign, selected instruments from Resource Prospector will be landed and flown on the Moon. This exploration campaign reinforces Space Policy Directive 1, which calls for an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system, including returning humans to the Moon for long-term exploration."

Keith's earlier note: It would seem that NASA Administrator Bridenstine is responding directly via @JimBridenstine and not through normal PAO channels. I sent the following request to NASA HEOMD, SMD, and PAO earlier today. I have not received an official response yet: "On 26 April 2018 the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG) sent a letter to NASA Headquarters stating that the Resource Prospector mission had been cancelled by NASA and that no explanation has been offered as to why it was cancelled. (see http://spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=51363). However, on 26 April 2018 the official Twitter account @JimBridenstine stated (in part) "... Excited to get to work on our plan to sustainably return America to the surface of the Moon starting with an aggressive robotic program." (see https://twitter.com/JimBridenstine/status/989653579043614720). Mr. Bridenstine's tweet seems to be at odds with action taken simultaneously by NASA HQ.

1. Has the Resource Prospector mission been cancelled by NASA? If so when was it cancelled, who cancelled it, and why was it cancelled?
2. Will NASA be issuing a public statement with regard to the cancellation of the Resource Prospector mission?
3. Will NASA be responding to the letter sent by the LEAG on the topic of the Resource Prospector mission cancellation?
4. How much has NASA spent to date on the Resource Prospector mission?
5. Will any Resource Prospector- related activities continue after the cancellation of the mission itself? If so what activities will continue?
6. Was Administrator Bridenstine referring to the Resource Prospector mission in his tweet?"

LEAG Letter To NASA Administrator Bridenstine Regarding Resource Prospector Mission

"We wrote to Drs. Gerstenmaier and Zurbuchen to describe the community-wide support for RP on 2 March 2018, after the redirection for this initially HEOMD-led mission to be shared with the new Lunar Exploration and Discovery Program within SMD. We now understand RP was cancelled on 23 April 2018 and the project has been asked to close down by the end of May. This cancellation apparently stemmed from the transfer of RP from HEOMD to SMD due to lack of FY18 funding within the AES program and a misalignment between RP's goals and schedule and the new lunar program within SMD (which has different goals, timelines, and insufficient capability to deliver the RP payload). This action is viewed with both incredulity and dismay by our community, especially as the President's Space Policy Directive 1 directs NASA to go to the lunar surface. RP was the only polar lander-rover mission under development by NASA (in fact, by any nation, as all of the international missions to the lunar poles are static landers) and would have been ready for preliminary design review at the beginning of 2019."

Resource Prospector, NASA

Keith's 26 April update: Oddly Jim Bridenstine's Twitter account said this hours after this letter complaining about a canceled lunar robotics mission.

Keith's 27 April update: I sent the following request to NASA today: " On 26 April 2018 the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG) sent a letter to NASA Headquarters stating that the Resource Prospector mission had been cancelled by NASA and that no explanation has been offered as to why it was cancelled. (see http://spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=51363)

However, on 26 April 2018 the official Twitter account @JimBridenstine stated (in part) "... Excited to get to work on our plan to sustainably return America to the surface of the Moon starting with an aggressive robotic program." (see https://twitter.com/JimBridenstine/status/989653579043614720)

Mr. Bridenstine's tweet seems to be at odds with action taken simultaneously by NASA HQ.

1. Has the Resource Prospector mission been cancelled by NASA? If so when was it cancelled, who cancelled it, and why was it cancelled?
2. Will NASA be issuing a public statement with regard to the cancellation of the Resource Prospector mission?
3. Will NASA be responding to the letter sent by the LEAG on the topic of the Resource Prospector mission cancellation?
4. How much has NASA spent to date on the Resource Prospector mission?
5. Will any Resource Prospector- related activities continue after the cancellation of the mission itself? If so what activities will continue?
6. Was Administrator Bridenstine referring to the Resource Prospector mission in his tweet?"

NASA chief explains why agency won't buy a bunch of Falcon Heavy rockets, Ars Technica

"Since the launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket in February, NASA has faced some uncomfortable questions about the affordability of its own Space Launch System rocket. By some estimates, NASA could afford 17 to 27 Falcon Heavy launches a year for what it is paying annually to develop the SLS rocket, which won't fly before 2020. Even President Trump has mused about the high costs of NASA's rocket. On Monday, during a committee meeting of NASA's Advisory Council, former Space Shuttle Program Manager Wayne Hale raised this issue. Following a presentation by Bill Gerstenmaier, chief of human spaceflight for NASA, Hale asked whether the space agency wouldn't be better off going with the cheaper commercial rocket. ... One difficulty with Gerstenmaier's response to Hale's question is that NASA does not, in fact, yet have any "large-volume, monolithic pieces" that could only be launched by the Space Launch System."

Making Life Multi-Planetary, Elon Musk

"We are targeting our first cargo missions in 2022 - that's not a typo, although it is aspirational. We've already started building the system - the tooling for the main tanks has been ordered, the facility is being built and we will start construction of the first ship around the second quarter of next year. In about six to nine months we should start building the first ship. I feel fairly confident that we can complete the ship and be ready for a launch in about five years. Five years seems like a long time to me. The area under the curve of resources over that period of time should enable this time frame to be met, but if not this time frame, I think pretty soon thereafter. But that is our goal, to try to make the 2022 Mars rendezvous. The Earth-Mars synchronization happens roughly every two years, so every two years there is an opportunity to fly to Mars. Then in 2024 we want to try to fly four ships - two cargo and two crew."

Moon Crater Named After Former NASA Chief Exploration Scientist Michael Wargo, NASA

"NASA's former chief exploration scientist, Michael Wargo, has been posthumously honored with the distinction of having a lunar crater named after him. Wargo Crater is an 8.6-mile (13.8 km) diameter impact crater sitting on the northwest edge of Joule T crater, on the far side of the Moon. Wargo worked at NASA from 1991 until his death in 2013."

Review of NASA's Evidence Reports on Human Health Risks 2017 Letter Report (2018), NAS

"The evidence reports reviewed in this National Academies' report are part of a larger roadmap process developed and under implementation by NASA's Human Research Program. The goals of the program are to investigate and mitigate "the highest risks to human health and performance, providing essential countermeasures and technologies for human space exploration". The evidence reports are the first part of the roadmap, which is followed by clarifying the risks, specifying the research gaps that exist in addressing those risks, implementing research tasks, and obtaining deliverables. These steps are then assessed to ascertain the progress that has been made in preventing or mitigating the specific risks to astronaut health. NASA updates its progress on risk reduction for a range of design reference missions - missions on the International Space Station (ISS) in low Earth orbit, lunar visits or habitation, deep space sorties, deep space journey or habitation, and planetary visits or habitation (e.g., Mars) - by identifying the extent to which there is evidence that the plans for that mission will comply with existing crew health standards or that countermeasures exist to control the risk."

Astrobiologist Dale Andersen Antarctic Status Report 12 January 2018: Heading To Syowa Station

"The current plan is for me to fly to Novo tomorrow and the following day head to S17 by Basler (a converted DC-3 operated by ALCI and Ken Borek). S17 is the ice runway situated on the continental ice just ESE of Syowa Station. A helicopter from the Japanese icebreaker Shirase will then transport me to a field camp located on Skarvsnes, one of the larger islands of the archipelago. This remote field camp will be my home for the next several weeks while we explore, study and sample the various lakes and their ecosystems. It will be interesting to get underwater in these lakes and to compare them with other lakes we have studied including lakes Untersee and Obersee in Queen Maud Land, lakes of the Bunger Hills and in the McMurdo Dry Valleys."

Possible Lava Tube Skylights Discovered Near the North Pole of the Moon

"The pits were identified through analysis of imaging data from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). If water ice is present, these potential lava tube entrances or "skylights" might allow future explorers easier access to subsurface ice, and therefore water, than if they had to excavate the gritty ice-rich "regolith" (surface rubble) at the actual lunar poles."

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2018/hillary.sp.jpg

Keith's note: As we approach the 50th anniversary of the first human landing on the Moon - and lament half a century of not going back - it is important to understand that there have often been lulls in exploration. These lulls can be distracting. They can also be enabling. While people in airplanes visited the south pole after the Amundsen/Scott expeditions, no one gave serious thought to attempt an overland trek for decades because - well, been there, done that. In the ensuing decades - punctuated by World War II - expeditionary technology made great advances.

When people tried this again, the trip was just as exciting but was enabled by half a century of technological and logistical advances. When we go back to the Moon, much of these lessons learned in Antarctica should be reviewed. Old concepts will still be valid - and they can be alloyed with half a century of technology and operational experience.

60 years today a New Zealand tractor team mounted as part of the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition arrived at the South Pole. Led by Everest climber Sir Edmund Hillary, this was the first overland expedition to reach the pole since Amundsen and Scott had done so 47 years earlier.

An entry from their diary: "Kept going all day and toward the last 40 miles must have dropped at least 1,000ft. The last 20 miles had quite a hard wind packed surface with sastrugi in a SW direction. Derek and I were in the caboose just ready to change drivers when the tractors stopped, and Ed came back very excited from the lead tractor, he had spotted the Pole Station. We are now camped in sight of it and will move across to it tomorrow when we have had some well-earned sleep. The temp at 8pm was -13º F with a few snow-flakes, however the sky is quite clear with sun shining now and then. Everybody in high spirits now the journey is nearing its end. What a bleak place it is here!"

FYI Sir Edmund Hillary and Neil Armstrong once made a trip to the North Pole together. I was reminded of that in 2009 when I was in Nepal supporting astronaut Scott Parazynski's ascent of Everest. I made certain that some Apollo 11 Moon rocks visited a memorial to Sir Ed. The Moon rocks then went to the summit of Everest and then, with a piece of the summit of Everest, both rocks went to the ISS where they reside now in the cupola.

All great exploration and expeditionary endeavors have profound and numerous resonances that simultaneously propagate forward and backward across time. May that tradition continue.

The final frontier: Making life thrive on Mars, Deccan Chronicles

"For Indian scientists who are designing gadgets to probe the surface and sub-surface of the red planet, the results hint at the need to scrounge for toxic chemicals that could hinder efforts to establish a sustainable agricultural system 400 million km away! Buoyed by the success of Mangalyaan-I (Mars Orbiter Mission or MOM), the top brass at the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has the best of brains from laboratories across the country (unlike MOM which was designed by in-house experts of the space agency) to pool in their brilliance for assembling unique gadgets to scoop up Martian soil and scan every grain for chemicals and minerals of all kinds and hues. These studies are intended to throw light on evolution of planets, how life commenced in our solar system, and the interplay between geological and possible biological history of the solar system as well."

Exploring the lunar far side: China wants to grow plants and insects on the moon, International Business Times

"Other than equipment to study the geological conditions of the region, the Chang'e 4 lander will also carry a container filled with seeds and insects. The container, which will be made from aluminium alloy, will demonstrate the growing process of plants and animals on the moon. "The container will send potatoes, arabidopsis seeds and silkworm eggs to the surface of the moon. The eggs will hatch into silkworms, which can produce carbon dioxide, while the potatoes and seeds emit oxygen through photosynthesis. Together, they can establish a simple ecosystem on the moon," Zhang Yuanxun, chief designer of the container, reportedly told local media last year. The container will be equipped with a layer of insulation to protect its contents from extreme temperatures. It will also be fitted with light pipes to ensure the growth of the plants and insects inside, while specially-designed batteries with high energy density will also be installed to provide a consistent energy supply."

Keith's note: While NASA drags its feet with regard to the notion of establishing a permanent human presence on the Moon and/or Mars, nations like China and India are wasting no time taking the lead. What is it about the Moon and Mars that excites these (and other) nations so much? Why can't we make up our mind where/how/when to go - and then stay focused on a plan? Meanwhile we happily build huge expensive rockets that are chronically late with no money for payloads to fly on them. [Larger image (Pat Rawlings/NASA)]

And then there's this effort in Ukraine. Even in the face of everything falling apart, the dream of exploring the universe cannot be smothered. Countries scrambling just to stay functional seem to be more intent and focused than we are here in the U.S. with all of our resources. NASA and aerospace contractors spend lots of money on pointless bling that they give to each other at fancy conferences. Imagine what could be done with that money if was used for something like this:

Ukraine's Lofty Ambitions, Fallen to Earth, NY Times

"Ukraine was once a vital part of the Soviet space program, home to many research institutes and rocket factories. Now, wracked by war and shaken by political upheaval, the nation struggles to hold on to its scientific traditions. On a recent visit, I was struck by the determination of researchers stripped of the resources taken for granted in the West. The biologist still tending a jar filled with bacteria once destined for space. The retiree holding together a small astronomy museum in Kiev with spare parts and pluck. From black garbage bags and duct tape, Tatiana Kovalchuk-Skorokhodnik, of the Ukrainian Space Agency, has built a mobile "planetarium" for children. With holes pricked in the makeshift dome, she has reconstructed the starry night skies above Ukraine."

Keith's update: Meanwhile the UAE is recruiting astronauts.

UAE Astronaut Programme, Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre

"The UAE Astronaut Programme is now accepting applications from all Emiratis. Apply to become an astronaut today, and carry the pride of the nation as you make history and become the first UAE national to go to space. ... The Emirati astronauts will be team members of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, and will join with the centre in advancing the UAE's position as a leading scientific and space nation. ... The UAE has great ambition in space, and our astronauts will play a significant role in our quest to reach our objectives. This is your opportunity to be a part of one of a historic mission for the nation."

Former NASA Flight Director Says A Return To The Moon Is Necessary Before Heading To Mars

"But what about plans for a return to the moon? ""First, you go to the moon before you go to Mars," George W.S. Abbey, a former director of NASA's Johnson Space Center said in an interview with the International Business Times. Abbey, is currently the Baker Botts Senior Fellow in Space Policy at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy. Abbey was named director of flight operations in 1976 and helped develop strategies for future moon and Mars missions. Speaking to International Business Times, Abbey said international cooperation is a key to future missions and a return to the moon is necessary before NASA can get to Mars."

Trump signs NASA directive aiming at moon, Mars and beyond, Houston Chronicle

"When people question why the U.S. would return to the moon, Keith Cowing, editor of NASA Watch, a website devoted to space news, has a pretty simple answer: most people alive today have never seen a human walk on another world. "I think my generation should stop being selfish about what we did," said Cowing. "It really is time for the vast majority of the people in the world to have their chance to see this."

Doing Something Again For The First Time, earlier post

"Take a look at the chart below. More than half of the Americans alive today never saw humans walk on the Moon - as it happened - including the person slated to become the next administrator of NASA and the entire 2013 and 2017 astronaut classes. If/when we go back to the Moon in the next 5-10 years this number will increase. For them these future Moon landings will be THEIR FIRST MOON LANDINGS. That's several hundred million Americans waiting to see what I saw in 1969."

Moon, Mars, and Beyond 2.0

Trump Policy Promises Moon, Mars, and Beyond - Will This Time Be Different?, Space Policy Online

"Bold goals to continue trips to the Moon and go on to Mars envisioned in the immediate post-Apollo period never gained traction, nor did pronouncements by President George H.W. Bush in 1989 or President George W. Bush in 2004. President George W. Bush's plan to return astronauts to the lunar surface by 2020, called Constellation, was cancelled by Obama after a 2009 independent review concluded that NASA would need $3 billion more per year to implement it. Obama decided to focus instead on the "Journey to Mars" with the goal of putting humans in orbit around Mars in the 2030s, bypassing the lunar surface and saving the billions of dollars required to build a lunar landing system and associated lunar surface systems for habitation and exploration."

President Bush Announces New Vision for Space Exploration Program, earlier post (2004)

"Our second goal is to develop and test a new spacecraft, the Crew Exploration Vehicle, by 2008, and to conduct the first manned mission no later than 2014. The Crew Exploration Vehicle will be capable of ferrying astronauts and scientists to the Space Station after the shuttle is retired. But the main purpose of this spacecraft will be to carry astronauts beyond our orbit to other worlds. This will be the first spacecraft of its kind since the Apollo Command Module. Our third goal is to return to the moon by 2020, as the launching point for missions beyond. Beginning no later than 2008, we will send a series of robotic missions to the lunar surface to research and prepare for future human exploration. Using the Crew Exploration Vehicle, we will undertake extended human missions to the moon as early as 2015, with the goal of living and working there for increasingly extended periods. Eugene Cernan, who is with us today -- the last man to set foot on the lunar surface -- said this as he left: "We leave as we came, and God willing as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind." America will make those words come true. (Applause.)"

Keith's note: Gene Cernan stood with George Bush in 2004. Jack Schmitt Stood With Donald Trump in 2017. Not much has changed - except that Apollo 17 has now been the last mission where humans walked on another world for 45 years.

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2017/oodale6deca.jpg

Astrobiologist Dale Andersen Antarctic Status Report 6 December 2017: Traverse to Novolazarevskaya Station

"Dale Andersen sent this via inReach on December 6, 2017 2:47:47 AM EST "Heading back to Novo in an hour nice sunny day. I'm starting my traverse, follow along at my MapShare https://share.garmin.com/DaleAndersen " Dale sent this message from: Lat -71.332995 Lon 13.45293."

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2017/daleok.jpg
Keith's 10:48 am EST update: Dale and his traverse team have arrived at Novolazarevskaya Station. "December 6, 2017 10:48:39 AM EST "Now at novo all ok" (click on image to enlarge)

Keith's 1:40 pm EST update: Just got a phone call from Dale:

Keith's note: Dale Andersen and I have been reporting from remote polar and alpine regions for more than 20 years - Dale much more than I. Indeed, we think that we may well have had the first webserver in the U.S. directly updated from Antarctica back in 1997 - that website is still online here. When researchers go to remote locations to conduct NASA-funded research and engage in dangerous procedures (drilling though meters of ice and then diving underneath) in search of clues to what form of life could be possible on worlds such as Mars, you'd think that NASA would pay attention. I have been posting Dale's reports almost daily for the past month. Speaking from personal experience reporting from Devon Island and Everest Base Camp it takes a lot of discipline and effort to send reports back to civilization - especially when your comms are limited such as they are at Lake Untersee, Antartica. Add in hurricane force winds and brutal temperatures and its not like texting from your iPhone.

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2017/dale3.jpgYet if you look at the webpages of NASA Science Mission Directorate, NASA Astrobiology, the NASA Astrobiology Institute and SETI Institute there is no mention of these daily reports that Dale diligently sends back from his tent in Antarctica. But I do post them here and on my astrobiology.com website (which is ranked 3rd on Google search for "astrobiology") so its not like he's getting no visibility.

All too often NASA sponsors research where teams of actual explorers engage in dangerous activities to conduct astrobiology field research so as to further the whole #JourneyToMars thing and yet no one at NASA bothers to pay attention. This mindset is not just limited to Dale. Much of the field work like this never gets any mention. People would be amazed at the things that NASA never bothers to mention where it is involved directly and/or indirectly. But astronauts wearing funny t-shirts on ISS? That warrants a news story with video.

Dale is heading back to Novolazarevskaya Station (check his location live) and should be back in the States in time for Christmas. And there will be cool photos and other things I hope to post.

Earlier reports

- 29 November 2017: Blizzard Conditions
- 28 November 2017: Last Week at Lake Untersee
- 26 November 2017: Busy Days at Lake Untersee
- 23 November 2017: High Winds
- 22 November 2017: Nice Weather
- 20 November 2017: Preparing Diving Gear
- 19 November 2017: Bad Weather
- 15 November 2017: Deploying Instruments
- 14 November 2017: Setting Up Camp
- 11 November 2017: Arrival at Lake Untersee
- 8 November 2017: More Snow
- 5 November 2017: Buran!
- 4 November 2017: Traverse Preparations

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2017/oomu69.names2.jpg

Keith's note: NASA and the SETI Institute are about to complete a competition wherein people get to suggest names for MU69 - the distant body that New Horizons will fly by in January 2019. Among the top choices right now are Chomolungma ཇོ་མོ་གླང་མ and Sagarmatha सगरमाथा - the original Tibetan and Nepali names for Mt. Everest. These names were nominated by someone living in Kathmandu, Nepal. MU69 represents the the most distant world in our solar system that humans will likely visit for another decade or more. As such it represents the acme - the pinnacle - of robotic spacecraft exploration. There are already two features on Pluto named after the first two humans to stand atop Everest/Chomolungma/Sagarmatha - Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. As such, it would be fitting and in keeping with the spirit and adventure to name MU69 (which may be a double object) Chomolungma and/or Sagarmatha. You can visit the naming website at http://www.frontierworlds.org/home and vote for Chomolungma/Sagarmatha (or other choices). The campaign closes at noon Pacific Time (20:00 GMT) on December 1, December 6 2017.

Astrobiologist Dale Andersen Antarctic Status Report 28 November 2017: Last Week at Lake Untersee

"We are in our last week of work here at Lake Untersee before heading back to Novo on the 6th. Hope to get in a few more dives for sample collection and imagery beneath the ice, and we have to pull experiments that are ongoing in the lake right now. ... All ok here right now and for the moment our winds are calm; but that will probably change over the the next few hours - maybe we will get lucky and we will miss most of the bad weather forecast for Novo. I am hoping the new met station is up and running but there may be one or two other things we need to do to get it online; once I get confirmation I will let you know and will send you a web link so you can see a daily download of the data. Hopefull it will work. Will check in with you tomorrow with an update."

Antarctic Selfie's Journey to Space via Disruption Tolerant Networking, NASA

"NASA is boosting cyber to space with benefits for Earth. On Nov. 20, 2017, a selfie snapped from the National Science Foundation's McMurdo Station in Antarctica demonstrated technology that can enable the future interplanetary internet. Called Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN), the technology is NASA's solution to reliable interplanetary data transmissions when vast distances or alignments of celestial bodies may disrupt communications."

My Star Trek Episode at Everest

"In late April 2009 I found myself at Everest Base Camp for a month. I was living at 17,600 feet in Nepal 2 miles from China and 2 miles from the highest point on our planet. I was surrounded by the epic majesty of the Himalayas, a thousand people supporting several hundred Type A individuals with a shared intent to summit the mountain and stand in the jet stream. And all of this was enabled by the austere and noble Sherpa people. I was on a mission not unlike a space mission. My team mate was my long-time friend Scott Parazynski, an astronaut.

I could just stop there and what is in these sentences would be cool enough. This had all the makings of a Star Trek episode - and I knew it."

Keith's note: After posting the two items above, I had to toss this in. There is something about "being there" when it comes to exploration. May 2009. Everest Base Camp. It was -20F or so, I was sick with food poisoning which eventually led to some permanent physical damage that affects me to this day, at 17,600 feet breathing half the oxygen I was designed to breathe, while one friend was standing atop Everest above the sky, while another (who was supposed to be with us) was in his laundry room in New York - all linked by radio and satellite. Another mutual friend was in orbit fixing Hubble. This was one of those life-altering moments - and we all wanted to share it. We still do.

NASA used to have a lot of these moments. Now ... not so many. That needs to change.

Maybe the new guy will fix that. Someone has to.

NASA Office of Inspector General Annual Report April - September 2017

"Specifically, despite spending almost $200 million on three spacesuit development efforts, NASA remains years away from having a spacesuit capable of replacing the suits used on the ISS or suitable for use on future exploration missions. Furthermore, given the current development schedule, there is significant risk a next-generation prototype will not be sufficiently mature for testing on the ISS prior to the Station's planned 2024 retirement. In addition, we questioned NASA's decision to spend $80.8 million between 2011 and 2016 to fund a spacesuit development effort despite parallel development activities being conducted elsewhere in the Agency. NASA management concurred with and described corrective actions to address our three recommendations."

"In August 2013, NASA entered into an agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers to build two test stands at Marshall Space Flight Center (Marshall) to test liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen tanks from the core stage of the Agency's new heavy-lift rocket. Our review found that the compressed project schedule, uncertain requirements, and design changes resulted in significant cost increases for the project. In addition, NASA did not adequately consider alternative locations before selecting Marshall as the site for the test stands and therefore cannot ensure it made the most cost-effective decision regarding where to build the stands."

Keith's note: There is a lot of talk these days about yet another pivot in America's civilian space policy. This time it is "back" to the Moon. Mars is not off the agenda - but it is not moving forward either. Personally I think we have unfinished business on the Moon and that creating a vibrant cis-lunar space infrastructure is the best way to enable humans to go to many places in the solar system - including Mars. Regardless of your stance on this issue, a common refrain about going back to the Moon - starting with President Obama is that "We've been there before".

Humans first reached the South Pole by an overland route in 1911/1912. While we visited the pole by plane in the intervening years, no one traversed Antarctica's surface again until 1958. 46 years between Antarctic polar traverses. Why did we go back to do something - again - in a similar way - to a place "we've been [to] before" after 46 years? Because there was still something of interest there - something we'd only had a fleeting exposure to - and we had developed new ways to traverse polar environments. James Cameron revisited the Challenger Deep in 2012 - after a human absence of 52 years. Why? See above. It is understandable that explorers seek to explore new places and not redo what has been done before. There is only so much funding and there are still so many places yet to be explored. But it is also not uncommon for explorers to revisit old, previously visited locations with new tools - and new mindsets.

Look at the stunning imagery Juno is sending back of Jupiter. Compare that to what we got from Galileo - and Voyager - and Pioneer. Why send yet another mission to the same destination unless, well, you have better tools - tools that enable the pursuit of ever greater exploration goals.

I was 15 when humans first walked on the Moon. The generations who have followed mine have never seen humans land and walk on the Moon. Indeed a lot of them seem to think it never happened. But American space policy is made by Baby Boomers (and older) population cohorts so we just operate on our own biases i.e. been there, done that.

Take a look at the chart below. More than half of the Americans alive today never saw humans walk on the Moon - as it happened - including the person slated to become the next administrator of NASA and the entire 2013 and 2017 astronaut classes. If/when we go back to the Moon in the next 5-10 years this number will increase. For them these future Moon landings will be THEIR FIRST MOON LANDINGS. That's several hundred million Americans waiting to see what I saw in 1969.

Just sayin'

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2017/united-states-population-py.jpg

Keeping the Focus on Mars, Scott Hubbard, editorial

"The Moon is scientifically much less diverse and interesting than Mars. For example, no one claims that life could have originated on the Moon - unlike Mars. The technologies needed for landing and living on an airless body like the Moon are quite different from Mars. Lunar technologies will have limited benefit to future Mars exploration. Finally, some claim that the Moon's resources, especially water ice, can be exploited for future exploration. In general, the Moon is extremely dry. There are data from previous missions to suggest that there may be more abundant water ice trapped at the poles of the Moon, but getting there and mining in temperatures nearing absolute zero will prove very challenging and expensive. By comparison, Mars has water in much greater concentrations distributed more broadly across the planet."

Keith's note: Former NASA "Mars Czar" and Planetary Society Mars advocate Scott Hubbard clearly thinks that there is no value in going back to the Moon. And he's not afraid to cherry pick facts and skew recent history to make his point. Of course he just thinks that he can proclaim that Mars is the nation's priority (he still thinks that he's the Mars Czar, apparently). Add in the Planetary Society's barely concealed aversion to putting humans on the surface of Mars. It should be quite obvious that the Planetary Society is soon going to be in an adversarial position once a new NASA Administrator is in place and this Administration's pivot toward the Moon becomes more evident. If Hubbard et al have their way everyone but America will be going to the Moon and only robots will ever land on Mars.

Oh yes, Mars Czar Scott - you did see this latest research about Mars, water, etc.? Resources to support human activity are abundant - but they are hard to access - everywhere.

Recurring Martian Streaks: Flowing Sand, Not Water?

"The findings published today in Nature Geoscience argue against the presence of enough liquid water for microbial life to thrive at these sites."

- Planetary Society Is For And Against Mars Colonization Or Something, earlier post
- The Planetary Society is For And Against Human Spaceflight, earlier post

Keith's 16 Nov update: Just the other day I posted some new video (below) of the latest cool droid from Boston Dynamics. Now they have simply outdone themselves. Compare NASA's tethered/hoisted R5 make stiff dance moves and then watch Boston Dynamics' untethered and nimble Atlas DOING A BACKFLIP. NASA really needs to put their own bot research on the shelf and see what the private sector can offer.

Keith's 14 Nov note: NASA poured lots of money into its R5 robot that cannot walk unless it is on a hoist and controlled by a human. It is always broken. So they gave away these broken droids to several universities to see if the students could salvage something useful. Meanwhile, Boston Dynamics continues to make astonishing progress on autonomous robots.

Imagine if you had something like this on Mars as part of a sample return mission. This droid, equipped with other features that Boston Dynamics has mastered, would allow access to places that rovers cannot go and has dexterity unmatched by anything NASA has ever built. And I am sure you could buy a bunch of them for vastly less than it would take NASA to develop them.

- Does NASA Have A Robot That Can Do This?, earlier post
- The Droid That NASA Should Be Sending To Mars, earlier post
- NASA Challenges People To Use Its Broken Robot To Fix Things on Mars, earlier post
- Using a Last Place Robot for NASA's Robotics Challenge, earlier post
- NASA JSC Has Developed A Girl Robot in Secret (Revised With NASA Responses), earlier post

Astrobiologist Dale Andersen Antarctic Status Report 4 November 2017 (maps, links, pictures)

"Dale Andersen sent this message via Garmin inRreach on 4 November 2017 at 8:44 am EDT from: Lat -70.774999 Lon 11.837554: "We are almost ready for the traverse to Lake Untersee but today and tomorrow we will have high winds and blowing snow with white-out conditions so we will remain here in the warmth and safety of the huts located at Novolazarevskaya. ..."

Astrobiologist Dale Andersen Antarctic Status Report 5 November 2017: Buran!

Why We Go to the Moon. It starts with a mission statement, Air & Space

"A mission statement is vital for people to succinctly understand and fully comprehend the reasons for returning to the Moon. Ideally, a mission statement is a simple, declarative sentence, one that permits no ambiguity about intentions or execution. There is much truth in the belief that if you can't sum up your mission in just a few words, you probably don't understand it yourself. One's mission statement must encompass both anticipated activities and imply the value of its accomplishment."

The Interplanetary Political Football of Space Exploration, Scientific American

"Leaving aside the harsh realities of any country's political motivations to go to space, as a member of the astronomical community, it's hard not to feel like a passenger in the back seat of a car, watching an ongoing struggle over the steering wheel. Having the vision for our space program remain agile and responsive in a changing science and technology landscape is one thing, but it bears remembering that if all we do is pivot, we'll never get anywhere."

The mission to Mars is one stupid leap for mankind, op ed, Washington Post

"Still, a human traveler to Mars should make the most of its airless monotony, because there is no coming back. The long passage through the vacuum of space will expose astronauts to intense and prolonged bombardment by cosmic rays and unimpeded solar radiation -- a death sentence for which NASA has no solution (though scientists continue to seek one). At the Hotel Mars, you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave. What's more, Mars is a dead end. As fatally desolate and brutal as Mars is, our neighbor planet is the most habitable destination for many, many light years in any direction."

Keith's note: I'm rather surprised that the Washington Post would print such an error-riddled opinion piece - and devote half a page to it. Its take on the whole 'why fly people in space when we can fly robots' rant is breathtaking in its ignorance. And, for what its worth, I find it ironic that the Post, whose space reporting is otherwise quite stellar, is owned by Jeff Bezos who is a clear adherent of the notion of opening space up to as many people as possible.

But these anti-human space flight opinions are not exactly uncommon. One of the hotbeds of these sentiments is the Planetary Society. This video "A space engineer explains why humans will never go past Mars" was just posted by Business Former Planetary Society Executive Director Lou Friedman parrots the anti-human spaceflight mantra: "Louis Friedman, an aerospace engineer and author of "Human Spaceflight: From Mars to the Stars," believes that humans may never travel past Mars. The former head of The Planetary Society says technology will replace exploring humans."

Recently, as he sat in the audience waiting for Elon Musk to talk about his plans for space exploration - including Mars, current Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye said "no one wants to colonize Mars" and then explained why.

In 2014 Planetary Society Senior editor Emily Lakdawalla‏ tweeted "The highs and lows of the last week remind us why the future must be in robotic, not crewed, space flight." Just to be clear on this, in 2015 Lakdawalla wrote "This is one of many reasons I'm glad that The Planetary Society is advocating an orbit-first approach to human exploration. If we keep our filthy meatbag bodies in space and tele-operate sterile robots on the surface, we'll avoid irreversible contamination of Mars -- and obfuscation of the answer to the question of whether we're alone in the solar system -- for a little while longer. Maybe just long enough for robots to taste Martian water or discover Martian life."

In their summary of the recent National Space Council meeting Casey Dreier and Jason Davis from the Planetary Society tried (like the rest of us) to figure out what America's new space policy would be. They noted "Through its Humans Orbiting Mars workshop and report, The Planetary Society found great value in sending humans to Mars in terms of scientific return, searching for life, and challenging our technological capabilities. How these objectives will fit into a revamped human exploration program for either the Moon or Mars is still unclear."

Its hard to reconcile what Dreier and Davis write with what Nye, Friedman, and Lakdawalla have said. At best, the Planetary Society's take on human exploration (Mars in particular) is 'look but don't touch' which is in direct contrast to the path NASA has been taking - and the path that the current White House has clearly stated that it intends to follow.

Keith's update: Just to be clear: I used to work for NASA as a space biologist and I fully appreciate the issue and challenges of planetary protection. Also, I think that orbiting Mars initially to do recon and telerobotics is a perfectly fine approach with historical precedents - so long as it is done in preparation for human landings - not instead of human landings.

This past week I interviewed Keith on the SpaceQ podcast. We discussed Jim Bridenstine and NASA, Elon Musk and SpaceX, and Lockheed Martin and Mars.

You can subscribe to the podcast using your favourite podcast app (iOS and Android). For apps like OverCast or Pocket Cast you can search using the podcast title SpaceQ or use the RSS feed URL listed below.

The RSS feed URL is: http://feeds.soundcloud.com/users/soundcloud:users:286233381/sounds.rss

The podcast is also available on Apple iTunes and SoundCloud.

America Will Return to the Moon--and Go Beyond, Op Ed, Mike Pence, Wall Street Journal

"We will refocus America's space program toward human exploration and discovery. That means launching American astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit for the first time since 1972. It means establishing a renewed American presence on the moon, a vital strategic goal. And from the foundation of the moon, America will be the first nation to bring mankind to Mars. ...To achieve these goals, the National Space Council will look beyond the halls of government for insight and expertise. In the coming weeks, President Trump and I will assemble a Users' Advisory Group partly composed of leaders from America's burgeoning commercial space industry. Business is leading the way on space technology, and we intend to draw from the bottomless well of innovation to solve the challenges ahead."

President Bush Announces New Vision for Space Exploration Program (2004)

"Inspired by all that has come before, and guided by clear objectives, today we set a new course for America's space program. We will give NASA a new focus and vision for future exploration. We will build new ships to carry man forward into the universe, to gain a new foothold on the moon, and to prepare for new journeys to worlds beyond our own."

President Calls For Mars Mission and a Moon Base, NY Times (1989)

"President Bush proposed today that the United States establish a base on the Moon, send an expedition to Mars and begin ''the permanent settlement of space.'' In a speech celebrating the 20th anniversary of man's landing on the Moon, Mr. Bush made the first major commitment by a President to these ambitious goals and set the stage for the first full-scale debate in years on the nation's troubled space program."

Keith's note: The distance between Apollo 17 and Bush 41's pronouncement was 17 years. The distance between Bush 41's speech and Bush 43's speech was 15 years. The distance between Bush 43's speech and Pence's is 13 years. The gaps between these grand proclamations shortens by 2 years each time one is offered, but are we any closer to sending humans back to the Moon or on to Mars?

I was in the audience for the Bush 41 and 43 events. I was a teenager when we landed on the Moon in 1969 and we were told that we'd be on Mars by 1981 - when I'd have been 26. Now we're told that we won't be on Mars until the 2030s when I will in my 80s. Why should anyone believe these White House predictions?


Keith's note: Oddly, Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye sat in the audience before Elon Musk spoke and said that no one wants to colonize Mars. Note his coworker Emily Lakdawalla's statement. Yet his organization expects to be able to lobby Congress, NASA, and the White House to get more money for planetary science while bashing human space flight - a clear priority for this Administration.

NASA, Roscosmos Sign Joint Statement on Researching, Exploring Deep Space

"This joint statement reflects the common vision for human exploration that NASA and Roscosmos share. Both agencies, as well as other International Space Station partners, see the gateway as a strategic component of human space exploration architecture that warrants additional study. NASA has already engaged industry partners in gateway concept studies. Roscosmos and other space station partner agencies are preparing to do the same."

Keith's note: Despite a flurry of news stories claiming that NASA and Roscomos have agreed to build a space station orbiting the Moon the agreement they signed only talks about exploration studies. No one has committed any funding to a specific architecture. Besides, NASA has no funding for the Deep Space Gateway. Congress is not all that supportive of the Deep Space Gateway and wants to see continued suport of LEO infrastructure like ISS while stimulating private sector development of cis-lunar space.

BoldlyGo Institute and NASA Sign Space Act Agreement for Joint Cooperation on Project Blue Mission

"The Space Act Agreement is non-reimbursable, with no exchange of funds between NASA and BoldlyGo. It allows NASA employees - scientists and engineers - to interact with the Project Blue team through its mission development phases to help review mission design plans and to share scientific results on Alpha Centauri and exoplanets along with the latest technology tests being undertaken at NASA facilities. NASA's engagement in its consulting role will be triggered through a set of milestones as technical work is accomplished and the private consortium leading Project Blue raises the funds necessary to continue mission development. The agreement also calls for the raw and processed data from Project Blue to be made available to NASA within one year of its acquisition on orbit via a publicly accessible online data archive. The Project Blue team has been planning such an archive for broadly sharing the data with the global astronomical community and for enabling citizen scientist participation."

Project Blue Mission For Earthlike Planets in Alpha Centauri Rallies Community Support

"On Wednesday, September 6, 2017, BoldlyGo Institute launched a crowdfunding campaign to help support the initial design phase of mission development."

Space Telescope Designed to Directly Image the Habitable Zone of Alpha Centauri

Keith's 6 Sept note: As of 8:05 pm EDT, after only 12 hours, $45,065 or 26% of the $175,000 goal has already been raised.
Keith's 12 Sept update: As of 8:50 am today, after less than a week, $66,129 or 38% has been raised

Review of "The Farthest: Voyager In Space" - Becoming Interstellar

"In 1977 the twin Voyager spacecraft left planet Earth bound for the outer reaches of our solar system - and beyond. What they discovered changed our way of thinking about how worlds are built and broadened our notions of where life might be found. The story of this audacious project is told in the captivating new documentary "The Farthest" which is airing on PBS this week. The film itself is weaved together rather artfully - not unlike the sounds and images that were placed on the now-famous "Golden Records" that each spacecraft carried. The story is narrated mostly by people who were there. Indeed its like listening to the crew of a ship of discovery recount the days of wonder that they experienced."

SpaceX informed NASA of slowdown in its commercial Mars program, SpaceflightNow

"Confirming rumors and suspicions that SpaceX is adjusting its plans to begin dispatching robotic landers to Mars, NASA officials said the commercial space company has informed the agency that it has put its Red Dragon program on the back burner. Under the terms of a Space Act Agreement between NASA and SpaceX, the government agreed to provide navigation and communications services for the Red Dragon mission, which originally aimed to deliver an unpiloted lander to Mars in 2018. SpaceX confirmed earlier this year the launch of the experimental lander on a Falcon Heavy rocket had slipped to 2020."

- SpaceX Will Go To Mars Starting in 2018, earlier post
- NASA's SpaceX Mars Mission Briefing That NASA Is Not Telling You About, earlier post

Review: "The Sky Below: A True Story of Summits, Space, and Speed" by Scott Parazynski with Susy Flory

"In 2009 I watched Scott and several hundred of people slog up Mt. Everest. Some made it to the summit. Some of them left base camp but never came back. And many turned back before the summit and then went home - never to return. I have always found the subset of climbers who came back without reaching the summit only to try again (and again) to be the most interesting of them all. Its one thing to try and succeed once. Its quite another to fail and then keep trying until you get it right (which is the whole point of life to begin with). That is what this book is really about."

In Quest to Reach Alpha Centauri, Breakthrough Starshot Launches World's Smallest Spacecraft

"Breakthrough Starshot, a multi-faceted program to develop and launch practical interstellar space missions, successfully flew its first spacecraft -- the smallest ever launched. On June 23, a number of prototype "Sprites" - the world's smallest fully functional space probes, built on a single circuit board -- achieved Low Earth Orbit, piggybacking on OHB System AG's 'Max Valier' and 'Venta' satellites. The 3.5-by-3.5 centimeter chips weigh just four grams but contain solar panels, computers, sensors, and radios. These vehicles are the next step of a revolution in spacecraft miniaturization that can contribute to the development of centimeter- and gram-scale "StarChips" envisioned by the Breakthrough Starshot project."

Larger view

NASA finally admits it doesn't have the funding to land humans on Mars, Ars Technica

"Now, finally, the agency appears to have bended toward reality. During a propulsion meeting of the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics on Wednesday, NASA's chief of human spaceflight acknowledged that the agency doesn't really have the funding it needs to reach Mars with the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft. These vehicles have cost too much to build, and too much to fly, and therefore NASA hasn't been able to begin designing vehicles to land on Mars or ascend from the surface. "I can't put a date on humans on Mars, and the reason really is the other piece is, at the budget levels we described, this roughly 2 percent increase, we don't have the surface systems available for Mars," said NASA's William H. Gerstenmaier, responding to a question about when NASA will send humans to the surface of Mars. "And that entry, descent and landing is a huge challenge for us for Mars."

Kicking The Can Down the Road to Mars, SpaceRef (earlier post)

"And of course none of these Mars missions in the 2030s are in any budget - notional, proposed, or projected - that means anything to anyone actually working at NASA today. So it is hard to blame people who can't give you a straight answer. Just look at what their management has given them to work with - and what the agency has had to work with in terms of guidance from Congress and the White House. Just in the past 10-12 years NASA has veered away from the shuttle towards the Moon, then away from the ISS to Mars and away from the Moon and back to ISS, and now back to Mars (and maybe the Moon) and also some boulder on an asteroid."

Why No One Under 20 Has Experienced a Day Without NASA at Mars, NASA

"Without Mars Pathfinder, there could not have been Spirit and Opportunity, and without Spirit and Opportunity, there could not have been Curiosity," Pathfinder Project Scientist Matt Golombek of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, said of the subsequent generations of Mars rovers. JPL is now developing another Mars rover for launch in 2020."

Keith's note: Here we go again. NASA wants you to think that everything it does always works and that its path (thus far) on the whole #JourneyToMars thing was logical and paved only with success. As such, this happy piece neglects to mention a billion dollars worth of Mars missions; Mars Observer (blew up in 1993), Mars Climate Orbiter (crashed in 1999), and Mars Polar Lander (crashed in 1999).

Oddly, it is these three unmentioned intermediate missions that had a substantial impact upon the way NASA now explores Mars. This press release is supposed to be all about how one mission contributed to the next mission. Yet without these three mission failures NASA would arguably not have had the subsequent string of successes that it has had.

When Mars Observer was lost NASA went back to the drawing board to reboot its Mars exploration strategy. When MCO and MPL were lost within months of each other NASA did a larger policy reboot. To maximize success with the Mars Science Rover mission plan, two rovers were launched - most explicitly with the intent that if only one of them worked - and only for 90 days - both missions would have been seen as successful. Two landers based on MPL hardware benefited directly from understanding the problems on MPL. Looking back, as a result of these three failures, we now see a more careful and instrumented approach used in traveling to, entering orbit, and landing on - Mars. NASA learned its Mars exploration lessons well - the hard way.

But now NASA Public Affairs is trying to pull a fast one and rewrite the history books. In so doing they obscure the timeline wherein these lessons were learned. They also help to sow the seeds for future mistakes. The people listed as contacts and who wrote and reviewed this release at NASA HQ and JPL know better. Alas, they now have a new, younger generation who was not around when the hard lessons were learned (the other main point of this release) so why not just leave the bad bits out, eh?

Indeed, this selective memory PAO exhibits is akin to trying to describe the history of American human spaceflight while neglecting the tough lessons learned (and unlearned) from Apollo 1, Challenger, and Columbia. No one is well-served by an edited, sanitized version of NASA's long path outward into space.

Keith's update: NASA loves to use the phrase "Mars is hard" when it comes to missions to Mars - especially when the nail biting begins. How would NASA ever know that it is "hard" unless they experienced hardships along the way - you know, hardships such as mission failures? How are the younger people who are the intended audience for this release going to know about these hardships if NASA will not tell them that they happened along the way?

NASA closing out Asteroid Redirect Mission, Space News

"ARM called for sending a robotic spacecraft to a near Earth asteroid, where it would grab a boulder a few meters across from the asteroid's surface and return it to cislunar space. Astronauts flying on an Orion spacecraft would then visit the boulder, performing studies and collecting samples for return to Earth. The mission, though, struggled to win support since its introduction in 2013, particularly in Congress, where members were skeptical that the mission was on the critical path for NASA's long-term goal of sending humans to Mars in the 2030s. At recent hearings on NASA's 2018 budget request, members showed no interest in reversing plans in the proposal to cancel the mission."

Keith's note: On the heels of the ARM cancelation NASA has come up with a new large project - the mini-space station "Gateway" located near the Moon - under the same strange justification as ARM i.e. that it is necessary in order to send humans to Mars.

Collateral damage from cosmic rays increases cancer risks for Mars astronauts, University of Nevada Las Vegas

"Galactic cosmic ray exposure can devastate a cell's nucleus and cause mutations that can result in cancers," Cucinotta explained. "We learned the damaged cells send signals to the surrounding, unaffected cells and likely modify the tissues' microenvironments. Those signals seem to inspire the healthy cells to mutate, thereby causing additional tumors or cancers." Cucinotta said the findings show a tremendous need for additional studies focused on cosmic ray exposures to tissues that dominate human cancer risks, and that these should begin prior to long-term space missions outside the Earth's geomagnetic sphere."

Accepting More Personal Risk In Space Exploration, earlier post

"People who engage on expeditions to risky and dangerous places on Earth regulary waive certain safety and medical regulations in order to participate. I have done it more than once in the arctic and at Everest. You consider the risks, weigh the benefits, and then sign the forms. There are lifetime radiation exposure limits for astronauts that are supposed to be used to guide the selection of ISS crews. Now, these limits are apparently subject to selective waiver."

Trump wants NASA to send humans to Mars pronto -- by his second term 'at worst', Washington Post

"TRUMP: "Tell me: Mars, what do you see a timing for actually sending humans to Mars? Is there a schedule and when would you see that happening?"

WHITSON: "Well, I think as your bill directed, it'll be approximately in the 2030s. As I mentioned, we actually are building hardware to test the new heavy launch vehicle, and this vehicle will take us further than we've ever been away from this planet. "So, unfortunately space flight takes a lot of time and money so getting there will require some international cooperation to get the - it to be a planet-wide approach in order to make it successful just because it is a very expensive endeavor. But it is so worthwhile doing."

TRUMP: "Well, we want to try and do it during my first term or, at worst, during my second term, so we'll have to speed that up a little bit, okay?"

WHITSON: "We'll do our best."

Keith's note: The Humans to Mars Summit is underway this week in Washington DC. You can watch sessions live at https://livestream.com/viewnow/HumansToMars2017. The Twitter hashtag is #HumansToMars

Keith's note: Last night there was a panel at the Humans To Mars Summit about risk and exploration. The panel was moderated by Leonard David and consisted of NAI Director Penny Boston, former astronaut and SMD AA John Grunsfeld, former Google space lead Tiffany Montague, and NASA SMD's Rick Davis. At one point the 2004 Risk and Exploration Symposium that John and I put together back in 2004 was mentioned. The proceedings are online for free download here. I am currently writing two books - one on Astrobiology expeditions and the other as a follow-up to the 2004 Risk and Exploration Symposium (and another we did in 2007 at LSU).

For both of my books I have been amassing information on what risks people have taken (on expeditions in space and elsewhere) and how they have been called upon to take these risks. Specifically, I have been focusing on this question: "Would you be willing to deliberately risk your life to discover evidence of life on another world?". Along with that question I'm wondering "Will NASA astronauts bound for Mars be asked to sign waivers with regard to risk as part of overall risk evaluations and informed consent? Will they only be allowed to go if they specifically agree to accept these risks?".

At one point last night John said this:

Clearly this issue is part of the overall risk assessment that astronauts make albeit somewhat personalized and ad hoc. By coincidence John was in orbit in May 2009 taking care of Hubble while another astronaut, Scott Parazynski, did his own risk analysis as he summitted Mt. Everest. I was 2-3 linear miles away from Scott doing education and public outreach for his climb at base camp recovering from an illness that left me with some permanent damage. So ... I think about this topic a lot. As the notion of NASA sending humans to Mars starts to get serious, many more people will need to be thinking along these lines. Matt Damon got back OK in "The Martian". But that was a movie.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago when Peggy Whitson broke the U.S. space endurance record. People who engage on expeditions to risky and dangerous places on Earth regularly waive certain safety and medical regulations in order to participate. I have done it more than once in the arctic and at Everest. You consider the risks, weigh the benefits, and then sign the forms. There are lifetime radiation exposure limits for astronauts that are supposed to be used to guide the selection of ISS crews. Now, these limits are apparently subject to selective waiver. So are these "limits" now becoming "guidelines"? Are astronauts now doing something similar to what terrestrial explorers do in order to spend more time in space? What is the process whereby NASA makes this waiver decision? What are the implications for the whole #JourneyToMars thing?

Accepting even a small increase in risk be it from radiation, weightlessness, or surface hazards on Mars can have a significant impact on mission design i.e. cost and schedule. Right now cost and schedule are the biggest risk to going to Mars in the first place.

Thoughts?

Passage To Mars

Review: Passage To Mars, SpaceRef

"Passage to Mars" is a documentary about a bunch of guys who try to drive across a large frozen stretch of the Northwest Passage. They attempt this feat (in part) as an analog for long distance traverses people will one day attempt on Mars. This film depicts important lessons that are often far more relevant for the actual human exploration of Mars than anything NASA itself is doing right now. This unprecedented adventure, planned to last a few weeks ended up becoming a three-year epic odyssey of hope, fear and survival. The goal of the expedition was to use a specially-outfitted Humvee named the "Okarian" across 2,000 miles of sea ice. Their ultimate goal: to drive to Haughton Crater on Devon Island - the location of a NASA-funded research base where scientists and engineers learn how to live on and explore Mars."

Keith's note: I was on a panel tonight with Penny Boston, Leonard David, and Pascal Lee at the Human to Mars Summit after a screening of the documentary "Passage to Mars" which features the exploits of the team responsible for the Haughton Mars Project on Devon Island. If you have not seen this film you can get it on iTunes and Amazon.

NASA: Lunar Surface Cargo Transportation Services Request for Information (RFI), NASA

"NASA has identified a variety of exploration, science, and technology demonstration objectives that could be addressed by sending instruments, experiments, or other payloads to the lunar surface. To address these objectives as cost-effectively as possible, NASA may procure payloads and related commercial payload delivery services to the Moon. Such delivery services need to be consistent with the National Space Transportation Policy (NSTP). The NSTP requires U.S. Government primary and secondary payloads to use U.S.-manufactured launch vehicles. "Hosted payloads" that meet the hosted payload definition within the National Space Transportation Policy can fly as part of a mission using a foreign launch vehicle. As a first step, NASA is interested in assessing the availability of payload transit and delivery services from Earth to the Lunar surface as early as Fiscal Year 2018 and through the next decade. This approach offers NASA the potential to simultaneously address critical strategic objectives related to exploration, science, and technology demonstration using commercially provided domestic space services and hardware."

NASA OIG: NASA's Management and Development of Spacesuits, NASA OIG

"NASA continues to manage an array of design and health risks associated with the EMUs used by ISS crew. In addition, only 11 of the 18 original EMU Primary Life Support System units - a backpack-like structure that performs a variety of functions required to keep an astronaut alive during a spacewalk - are still in use, raising concerns that the inventory may not be adequate to last through the planned retirement of the ISS."

"Despite spending nearly $200 million on NASA's next-generation spacesuit technologies, the Agency remains years away from having a flight-ready spacesuit capable of replacing the EMU or suitable for use on future exploration missions."

"After examining these spacesuit development efforts, we question NASA's decision to continue funding a contract associated with the Constellation Program after cancellation of that Program and a recommendation made by Johnson Space Center officials in 2011 to cancel the contract. Rather than terminate the contract, NASA paid the contractor $80.8 million between 2011 and 2016 for spacesuit technology development, despite parallel development activities being conducted within NASA's Advanced Exploration Systems Division."

Keith's note: People who engage on expeditions to risky and dangerous places on Earth regulary waive certain safety and medical regulations in order to participate. I have done it more than once in the arctic and at Everest. You consider the risks, weigh the benefits, and then sign the forms. There are lifetime radiation exposure limits for astronauts that are supposed to be used to guide the selection of ISS crews. Now, these limits are apparently subject to selective waiver. So are these "limits" now becoming "guidelines"? Are astronauts now doing something similar to what terrestrial explorers do in order to spend more time in space? What is the process whereby NASA makes this waiver decision? What are the implications for the whole #JourneyToMars thing?

Trump, with NASA, has a new rocket and spaceship. Where's he going to go?, Washington Post

"There are practical issues, too: Musk has a reputation for overpromising on timelines. SpaceX has never launched anyone into space. The Falcon Heavy has never flown. Moreover, NASA officials would be unlikely to embrace a SpaceX moon flyby unless it clearly fit into the agency's long-term plans for deep-space exploration. What does Elon want to do with this - is it just a one-off tourist flight?" said NASA's top official for human spaceflight, William Gerstenmaier, in an interview with The Washington Post. "I don't see it as advancing human presence in the solar system."

Keith's note: NASA has never launched SLS and has never put people into space in Orion. SpaceX has launched (and recovered) multiple Falcon 9 rockets (the components of a Falcon Heavy) and has sent multiple Dragon spacecraft to/from the ISS on those same Falcon 9 rockets. SpaceX may have delays but they always deliver what they promise. NASA doesn't have as good of a record in that regard. With regard to lower cost, reusable spacecraft flying around the Moon - without NASA funding - such as SpaceX is planning to - if Bill Gerstenmaier doesn't "see it as advancing human presence in the solar system" then he really should relinquish his position at NASA to someone who understands what is going on these days. Indeed, Gerstenmaier is going to have a very hard time fitting in with what the Trump folks want to do if he continues with the antiquated mindset he is so fond of promoting.

Trump's call for human space exploration is hugely wasteful and pointless, opinion (or something), LA Times

"Among the dangers of cavalier calls for publicly-funded human space exploration is that monumental Big Science programs like the space race tend to suck resources away from any science left on the outside looking in. A multitrillion-dollar program to put an American on Mars, endorsed by a president, will get first call on the federal budget, leaving programs aimed at disease cures, chemistry, and physics far behind."

Keith's note: Here we go again. "Today few can summon up the names of shuttle astronauts ..." Where's the poll where someone actually measured public knowledge on this and published the results? The author just proclaims this as it it were a commonly accepted fact. "Multi-trillion dollar"? (sigh) No one has ever published an actual cost estimate for anything NASA has done or might do that uses the word "trillion" - other than references that lazy journalists make to references that other lazy journalists make to references to other lazy journalists make etc.

It is quite obvious that the author spent absolutely no time whatsoever researching the facts behind the topic he has written about. He set out to write an anti-humans in space article and found tired old quotes that people have been dredging up for years and uses them out of context, and then adds in unsubstantiated alternative facts to make his point - or so he thought. I am surprised he did not mention Tang or Teflon as NASA spinoffs. If you are going to try and debunk the notion of humans in space don't just dial it in - do some actual research - and don't just repeat the tired old unsubstantiated rants that others have been writing for years.

I am, by no means, a paragon of any manner or form of virtue when it comes to online behavior, but ...

Full House Science Committee Hearing - NASA: Past, Present, and Future

Scheduled witnsses:
- [opening statement] Hon. Harrison Schmitt Apollo 17 Astronaut; Former United States Senator
- [opening statement] Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Stafford Gemini VI, Gemini IX, Apollo 10, Apollo-Soyuz Test Project Astronaut; Chairman, NASA International Space Station Advisory Committee
- [opening statement] Dr. Ellen Stofan Former Chief Scientist, NASA
- [opening statement] Mr. Tom Young Past Director, Goddard Spaceflight Center; Past President/COO, Martin Marietta; Past Chairman, SAIC
- [opening statement] Chairman Smith
- [opening statement] Chairman Babin
- [opening statement] Ranking Member Johnson
- [opening statement] Ranking Member Bera

Watch live

Keith's note: Consider the ages of the witnesses for this hearing: Jack Schmitt, 81; Tom Stafford, 86; Tom Young, 80; and Ellen Stofan, 55. That's three male octogenarian NASA employees who have been retired for decades and one female who actually still worked for NASA until a few weeks ago. I have the utmost respect for Schmitt, Stafford and Young and their legendary accomplishments. But why does this particular congressional committee constantly look back at what was done half a century ago and yet spend so little time listening to people who still work at NASA? And what about the generation that will actually accomplish the things that NASA will be doing in the decades ahead? Is no one interested in what they think?

This hearing is titled "NASA: Past, Present, and Future". Based on the witnesses it should have been titled "NASA: Past, Past, Past, and Present. No Future".

Scott Parazynski: Still on Cloud 10 on the summit of Mt. Everest, SpaceRef

"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."

Arctic Memorials and Starship Yearnings, SpaceRef

"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."

Ancient Memorials for Modern Space Explorers, SpaceRef

"A week prior to my departure I got a call from June Scobee Rodgers, the widow of Challenger's commander Dick Scobee. She was thrilled with what we were doing and asked if we'd like to place a few mementos in the inukshuk. She then described what she was sending. A day or so later a package arrived. As I opened it I told my wife, with a bit of a tear in my eye, "this is history". I had been sent one of the few items Dick Scobee had left in his briefcase when he took off for his last mission: a business card and a mission lapel pin. I am certain that his family has so little in the way of such items. As such I was really honored that the family had chosen this inukshuk we planned to build on Devon Island, as the place where such precious items would rest."

NASA OIG: Audit of the Mars 2020 Rover Project

"The largest risk to the Mars 2020 schedule is the Project's Sample and Caching Subsystem (Sampling System), which will collect core samples of Martian rocks and soil and place them on the planet's surface for retrieval by a future robotic or human mission. At Preliminary Design Review (PDR), three of the Sampling System's critical technologies were below technology readiness level (TRL) 6, meaning the prototype had not yet demonstrated the capability to perform all the functions required. Projects are evaluated during PDR to ensure they meet all system requirements with acceptable risk and within cost and schedule constraints. The immaturity of the critical technologies related to the Sampling System is concerning because, according to Mars 2020 Project managers, the Sampling System is the rover's most complex new development component with delays likely to eat into the Project's schedule reserve and, in the worst case scenario, could delay launch. As of December 2016, the Project was tracking the risk that the Sampling System may not be ready for integration and testing - the period when a spacecraft is built, undergoes final testing, and is prepared for launch - in May 2019, as planned."

NASA's Uncertain Direction

Make NASA Great Again: A Memo to the New Administration, Futurism

"So [George] Abbey thinks the architecture of NASA's future plans should be thoroughly examined and redrawn. It won't even require a budgetary increase - just a smarter allocation of the currently available funding. For instance, he suggests scrapping the SLS program altogether. There's too much redundancy in the heavy-lift rocket market - SpaceX is working on their Falcon Heavy, Blue Origin is busy developing the New Glenn booster, and United Launch Alliance is drawing up plans for a Vulcan rocket. He also thinks a simple scaling-up of Boeing's already-proven and successful X-37 would create a serviceable replacement for the decommissioned shuttle fleet - a spaceplane that could be fitted for crewed flights and that also has the ability to transport matériel into space for orbital, in situ assembly."

NASA under Trump is still waiting for marching (and launching) orders, Washington Post

"The Trump administration's "beachhead team" for NASA showed up Monday. So far, according to Lightfoot, everyone's just getting desks and phones and computers assigned. There has been no command from on high to change policies about communications - nor any attempt to take down the agency's extensive online discussions of human-influenced climate change or other scientific issues."

Funds for exploration of Moon, Mars should be raised abroad, Roscosmos

"To fund preparations for the exploration of the Moon and Mars an international cooperation campaign will have to be launched and private investors invited to participate to raise the money required, the chief of Russia's state-run corporation Roscosmos, Igor Komarov, has said. It emerged in the spring of 2016 that the Russian Rocket and Space Corporation Energiya and the US Boeing were developing a joint project of a lunar orbital station in two versions: either two small living modules or one big module. An SLS super-heavy carrier rocket being developed by NASA is expected to be used to deliver the station's elements and the crew to the Moon's orbit. In case of a multi-modular project, they are intended to be launched together with a US spacecraft Orion, which is also being developed by NASA."

Understanding NASA's Global Reach, SpaceRef

"A young boy in Chile wearing a NASA t-shirt explains a computer game to Pete Worden from Breakthrough Initiatives. How did he get that t-shirt? Why is he wearing it? Worden sent me this picture today. He is currently in Chile to announce that Breakthrough Initiatives has teamed with the European Southern Observatory to use the Very Large Telescope (VLT) to observe Alpha Centauri. Alpha Centauri is the destination of Breakthrough Starshot Initiative. Enhancements will be made to the VLT to allow it to detect small, potentially habitable planets in the Alpha Centauri system and possibly other star systems. So why is a boy wearing a NASA t-shirt in the Atacama region of Chile? Worden did not know. I have a theory."

Keith's note: A chaotic year ends another, possibly more chaotic year begins. Suspend reality for a moment and watch this video, then think of how to push through today's chaos toward that exciting future of exploration - one that is seemingly under constant delay - today.

NASA's next stop--Mars or the Moon? John Grunsfeld and Paul Spudis argue for and against Mars and the Moon, Ars Technica

"Both men agree on one point: with NASA's limited funds, even before possible cuts under a Trump administration, the space agency can't do both. Sending astronauts to the Moon and establishing a colony would push human exploration of Mars into the second half of this century. Alternatively, making a direct push toward Mars would preclude any meaningful human exploration of the Moon. A choice must be made. For the last six years, NASA has continued developing a deep space capsule, Orion, as well as begun construction on a large new rocket, the Space Launch System, as the foundation of an exploration program. NASA has promoted a "Journey to Mars," but in reality the space agency has taken no definitive steps to preclude either a Moon or Mars pathway. That decision will have to be made soon. Within the next four years or so, the space agency must start designing and building specific hardware, for landing and living on either the Moon or Mars."

NASA Future In-Space Operations: MOBIUS - Supersynchronous Earth Orbits for Lunar Missions


Now available is the November 16, 2016 NASA Future In-Space Operations (FISO) telecon material. The speaker was Madhu Thangavelu (USC) who presented "MOBIUS - Supersynchronous Earth Orbits for Lunar Missions."

Note: The audio file and presentation are online and available to download.

Keith's note: Explore Mars had a "leadership dinner" in Washington, DC tonight. This is a group photo (larger image) posted on Facebook. Here we go again. Another space group has a meeting. Guess who shows up: One female, nine males (mostly older white guys). This is not remotely representative of who will - should - explore Mars. The folks at Explore Mars mean well. But this event is representative of a much more pervasive issue in the space advocate community - lack of diversity. Until the usual suspects in the space advocate leadership clique get the message that they need to be far more representative of the taxpayers/citizenry who will pay for their party their impact will be minimal - at best. More choir practice in an echo chamber.

Keith's update: I am told by a participant in this event that this was a "[this was a] random group based on availability. [The] president of the organization is a woman and two of the Board of Advisers are women (and another one pending), none of whom were present." That said, the gender and age imbalance is still unrepresentative of the real world and will continue to be so - until the space crowd gets the message that they need to reflect the reality of the world around them - not the one they imagine inside their heads.

Russia is developing a mega-rocket that will transport supplies to build a base on the MOON, Deputy PM reveals, Daily Mail

"Russia is developing a mega-rocket that will transport supplies to build a base on the moon, the country's Deputy Prime Minister has revealed. President Vladimir Putin wants work to begin on the new 'super-heavy' rocket which will 'pave the way' for a lunar research station. It will enable the construction of a Russian base that will be both 'visitable and inhabitable', according to Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. ... In 2029, a new spacecraft named Federation will fly to the moon's orbit, he added. 'In the 2030s, we set the task of a manned flight to the moon and in 2031 we plan landing on the moon,' Mr Solntsev told TASS. Russia is inviting Esa and Nasa to jointly develop a module for landing on the moon, Mr Solntsev said."

After Scott Kelly's flight, NASA plans five more one-year missions, Ars Technica

"During a subcommittee meeting of NASA's Advisory Committee earlier this month, former space shuttle program manager Wayne Hale asked Paloski why the space agency wasn't considering missions longer than a year to truly reflect the time astronauts would have to spend away from Earth were they to go to Mars or other destinations beyond cislunar orbit. "It seems to me that you're not there yet in determining the health factors for a 30-month voyage," Hale said. In a follow-up interview, the Human Research Program's chief scientist, John Charles, explained to Ars that from a logistic and scientific standpoint, the one-year missions offered a reasonable compromise. The station probably has seven years left in its lifetime, and because of advanced planning requirements, there would be the capability to fly, at most, just a single two- or three-year mission during that time. Not only would this adversely affect crew rotations, there's also the question of statistical significance from just two data points. "Darn it, we biologists like to have statistical validity," Charles explained. "We have discussed it internally and really think we're going to be pushing our luck to get five more one-year missions during the station's lifetime, to get a statistically significant database."

Keith's note: I love it when NASA talks about science and statistics. Gee, no one at JSC complained when they flew one, single, elderly person (John Glenn) for "science" - once i.e. N=1 and they have not repeated that experiment in the following 20 years. Has anyone seen the data? As a former NASA space biologist who used to run peer reviews of this sort of research, I totally understand the need for larger research specimen numbers. But when you take all of the informed consent regulations and risk models that NASA uses into account, sending humans to Mars on a multi-year mission, without any actual experience flying humans in space for that long would be unethical - again, according to NASA's own established procedures.

But if NASA decided to look to other exploration modalities such as mountaineering and polar research - and officially accepted different ways of parsing - and then allowing crew members to personally accept medical risk in exchange for the chance to explore, maybe they could save themselves a lot of time and effort. NASA can't have it both ways. They ask for the money to build all of this incredibly capable stuff in space then they are afraid to use it for the very purposes that it was supposedly built.

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2005/risk.book.jpgI spent a month living at 17,600 feet at Everest Base Camp while my friend, astronaut Scott Parazynski (who was also John Glenn's orbital doctor) risked his life to reach the summit. He trained as much as he could but in the end he was going to do something he had not done before. In the end it was his choice. He signed waivers in order to do this. While I was much safer at Base Camp, I was still at heightened physical risk to due to my age and my prolonged presence at that altitude. But I signed waivers too. I watched two immense avalanches a few thousand feet from my tent. One of them killed a person whose tent was near mine. Years later an avalanche killed people in the precise location where Scott and I pitched our tents for a month.

You can prepare all you want for stuff like this but at some point you just have to sign off on the risk and go for it. NASA cannot seem to decide whether it truly wants to accept the risk inherent in the human exploration of other worlds - or just study it incessantly. Until it does we'll all be stuck with half-hearted, semi-relevant research on the ISS. And then the ISS will be gone.

Here's a book from an event John Grunsfeld and I put together back in 2004 on this topic for NASA: "Risk and Exploration". Its not as if people at NASA have not talked about risk. Rather its whether they really want to make the same tough choices that other explorers do.

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2016/spacebar.3.s.jpg

Space Food Bars Will Keep Orion Weight Off and Crew Weight On, NASA

"To help reduce the amount of supplies Orion will carry for its crew, scientists are developing a variety of food bars that astronauts can eat for breakfast during their spaceflight missions. In the United States, it's common for people to substitute an energy bar or shake for breakfast, or to skip the meal all together. Food scientists determined that developing a single calorically dense breakfast substitution can help meet mass reduction requirements."

Keith's note: Why is NASA spending money on a big fancy kitchen to produce something that I can buy at REI? Why doesn't NASA do Space Act Agreements with companies to figure all of this out - at their own expense - and give them the ability to put their logos on the snack bars we send on the #JourneyToMars ?

Keith's note: according to this NASA article "There's no commercially-available bar right now that meets our needs, so we've had to go design something that will work for the crew, while trying to achieve a multi-year shelf-life," said Takiyah Sirmons, a food scientist with the Advanced Food Technology team at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston."

So I have asked NASA "Can you provide me with a copy of the specific NASA nutritional and storage requirements that you are using as the basis for developing the food bars mentioned in this article?"

Let's see if they release this information or try and keep it secret and force me to file a FOIA request.

NASA realizes SLS and Orion are too expensive, opens door to competitors, Ars Technica

"Specifically, the document requests responses about: "Competing exploration services in the mid-2020s timeframe and beyond if the market demonstrates such services are available, reliable, and consistent with NASA architectural needs." Ars understands this to mean that if private competitors such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, United Launch Alliance, or other companies produce less expensive rockets and spacecraft within the next five to seven years, NASA will consider using them in lieu of SLS and Orion."

NASA OIG Reiterates Issues With SLS/Orion

"... Program officials are working toward an optimistic internal launch date of August 2021 for EM-2 - 20 months earlier than the Agency's external commitment date of April 2023. While we understand the desire to meet a more aggressive schedule, this approach has led the Program to defer addressing some technical tasks to later in the development cycle, which in turn could negatively affect cost, schedule, and safety."

Keith's note: What is odd about this SLS RFI and the earlier one concerning Orion is the timing. NASA is releasing them at the very end of the Obama Administration - days after an election that will result in a certain amount of tumult - at a time when White House and NASA senior staff are either gone, leaving, or on travel so as to avoid being in their office. Usually NASA does document drops in this way in the hope that no one will notice. Add in the fact that the due date is just 2 days before Christmas and that responders will need to work over Thanksgiving Day weekend. Do you really think NASA is at all that serious about getting the best possible responses?

Is NASA trying to squeeze its contractors ahead of a new administration that may pivot more toward private sector solutions? Is NASA trying to curry favor with a new administration in the hope that they will get budgetary relief to fix their problems? Or is NASA just plain embarrassed that they have to admit the obvious? There seems to be a pattern emerging. Just the other day Greg Williams from NASA HQ told a NASA Advisory Council subcommittee that NASA did not know what it would actually cost to send humans to Mars because they had only worked out the costs up to a cis-lunar mission. Seven years and NASA does not know how much #JourneyToMars will actually cost? Really?

These RFIs could have easily been issued several years ago since they ask for commercial alternatives to SLS/Orion. Indeed, if anyone at NASA had bothered to read the Commercial Space Act of 1998, Title II - P.L. 105-303 (this is posted on NASA.gov) - specifically Title II (a) - they'd see that they should have been seeking commercial alternatives all along: "Except as otherwise provided in this section, the Federal Government shall acquire space transportation services from United States commercial providers whenever such services are required in the course of its activities. To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers."

Only now, after 7 years of delays, cost overruns, an inexplicably absent mission architecture, and false advertising via social media, does NASA admit that it may need to rethink how it is going to send humans to Mars. This has to be due to the fact that the whole plan (or lack thereof) is not going to work as "planned". Otherwise, why would NASA be asking for alternate ways of doing it?

- Re-Imagining SLS and Orion
- NASA Officially Admits It Has Not Figured Out #JourneyToMars Cost
- SLS Orion posts

With Trump, Gingrich and GOP calling the shots, NASA may go back to the moon, Washington Post

"Here's the key factoid: Because Congress preserved elements of Constellation, it could be revived under a new administration. NASA has the SLS and the Orion, and to get to the surface of the moon it would just need a lunar lander, maybe paid for, at least partially, by international partners. And NASA has already been talking about missions in orbit around the moon in the 2020s. The veterans who run human spaceflight at NASA put themselves in a good position to re-pivot to the moon if that became politically mandated."

Opinion: How Trump Should Restart U.S. Space Momentum, Scott Pace, Aviation Week

"And the Obama administration continued to push away partners, telling Europe to go to the Russians for its next robotic science mission. Plans for human missions to Martian orbit and a distant asteroid failed to find international partners. Mars in the 2030s is not a practical basis for managing a global space enterprise, and our partners are making separate plans. It is increasingly hard to hold the International Space Station partnership together when no one knows that is supposed to come next."

NASA Advisory Council Human Exploration and Operations Committee Meeting

"In accordance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act, Public Law 92-463, as amended, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announces a meeting of the Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) Committee of the NASA Advisory Council (NAC). This Committee reports to the NAC. Monday, November 14, 2016, 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Local Time."

Keith's note: After 7 years of all the #JourneyToMars happy talk someone at NASA finally admits the obvious - and they do so with perfect timing: just when a lot of people who want to go back to the Moon instead are looking for reasons to change NASA's goals.

Why Mars? An Astronaut's Perspective, op ed, John Grunsfeld, Huffington Post

"Sending humans (and all that they will need to accompany them) to Mars will require substantial launch capabilities. This need for heavy launch capabilities goes back more than half a century, thus confirming concepts by Werner von Braun and others for Mars exploration. NASA is investing in the Space Launch System (SLS) to launch its large payloads for its expeditions to Mars. But there is more than one way to launch such heavy masses into space - and go to Mars. Indeed, SpaceX and Blue Origin are both investing in their own heavy lift rockets - and SpaceX plans to start sending its own missions to Mars starting in 2018. One way or another, we're going to Mars. ... "

"... NASA is also in the planning stages for a high-power solar electric robotic mission to an asteroid. While I am in favor of learning more about asteroids (as will be done with the recently launched asteroid sample return mission OSIRIS-Rex), the stated driver for the asteroid redirect mission is technology development for Mars exploration. Redirecting this mission to Mars would allow for significantly more Mars-relevant technology development."


Loading

 



Monthly Archives

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the Exploration category.

Entertainment is the previous category.

Export Control is the next category.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.