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Inclusive Astronomy

By Keith Cowing on July 28, 2016 7:12 PM.

American Astronomical Society Endorses Vision Statement for Inclusive Astronomy, AAS

"We believe that people of all races, genders, sexual orientations, and physical abilities are capable of doing excellent science and shaping the future of our discipline. We know that identity is intersectional, and we see connections among barriers facing communities of color, women, people with disabilities, and LGBTIQA* people in science. We believe in equal opportunity. We share a vision of a more inclusive, more productive profession. We know that true inclusion and diversity require hard work from individual astronomers, organizations, and our profession as a whole to re-examine our professional culture, modify our existing practices, and remove barriers to inclusion. We assert that progress can and should be measured, and should be pursued with the same zeal as other strategic scientific goals. We have faith that we all -- as colleagues and as a profession -- can learn and improve."

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Dava Newman Announces Stealth STEM Conference

By Keith Cowing on July 28, 2016 9:55 AM.

Keith's note: A few moments ago at the NASA Advisory Council meeting Dava Newman was just gushing about a "Mission STEM" conference they are holding in Washington DC on 8-9 August with "hundreds of attendees" and partnerships with other agencies. Yet there is no mention of this event at NASA's calendar, NASA's Education webpage or even at missionstem.nasa.gov. If you look at the weekly NASA Education Express Message -- July 28, 2016 from NASA's Education Office you will see no mention of this event either. How are people outside of NASA's little bubble supposed to know about these things?

Just watch. Now the secret about this stealthy event is out - little more than a week from today. Details will be grudgingly made public. You will see that this is an invitation-only event, closed to news media, and not streamed online. In other words NASA's avowed intention of seeking external input about how to improve its education programs is not something that they intend to share with the rest of us. Think of the vast national audience they could have when coupled with NASA's immense social media, website, and television reach. But no. Instead, its just more closed openness.

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Lopsided Gender Balance at SETI Institute Board

By Keith Cowing on July 28, 2016 8:14 AM.

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Trump Mentions NASA on Reddit

By Keith Cowing on July 28, 2016 12:06 AM.

Donald Trump addresses NASA and new media in his first Reddit AMA, Tech Crunch

"Asked by the same Redditor the role NASA should "play in helping to Make America Great Again," he responded with, "Honestly I think NASA is wonderful! America has always led the world in space exploration," echoing similar comments by Peter Thiel, whose recent Republican Convention address took issue with expenditures on war rather than space exploration, stating, "Instead of going to Mars, we invaded the Middle East." While unequivocally pro-NASA and America, Trump's response was decidedly less detailed than Obama's answer to a similar question on his own AMA."

That time Trump said "NASA' on reddit

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Thora Halstead

By Keith Cowing on July 28, 2016 12:00 AM.

Keith's note: The funeral of Dr. Thora Halstead will be held Friday, 29 July at 3:00 pm at Fort Myer's Old Post Chapel in Arlington, VA. followed by internment at Arlington National Cemetery.

Thora retired from NASA Life Sciences in 1994, where she was the Manager of the Space Biology Program; Life and Biomedical Sciences and Applications Division.

- Thora Halstead, earlier post

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Space and Science Comments at Democratic National Convention

By Keith Cowing on July 27, 2016 9:07 PM.

Astronaut Mark Kelly "Thank you, everyone. I speak to you tonight as the proud son of two New Jersey cops; as a veteran of 39 combat missions during Operation Desert Storm and of 25 years in the United States Navy. And as a former NASA astronaut who flew four missions to space. My decades as a pilot, military officer, and astronaut gave me a unique perspective. From above, I saw our country at its best. I also saw humanity at its worst. I saw us lead an international coalition against the illegal invasion of Kuwait. I also saw the devastating human effects of war itself. From orbit, I saw our planet as a perfect blue marble. But I also saw shrinking glaciers and rainforests. At war and in space, I saw American leadership on display. But I was always frustrated to return to a country that struggles to address some of our biggest problems here at home."

Governor Jerry Brown: "As we just saw, climate change is unlike any other threat we humans face. It is overarching and affects the entire earth and all living things. It is slow. It is relentless. And it is subject to irreversible tipping points and vast unknowns. Combating climate change, the existential threat of our time, will take heroic effort on the part of many people and many nations. Make no mistake, climate change is REAL. The vast majority of world leaders and climate scientists, like those at NASA and the Department of Defense - indeed, almost anyone who chooses to think - believes in the science of climate change and sees the moral imperative to take action."

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Double GAO Reports: SLS and Orion Cost and Risk Estimates Are Still Unreliable

By Keith Cowing on July 27, 2016 2:27 PM.

Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle: Action Needed to Improve Visibility into Cost, Schedule, and Capacity to Resolve Technical Challenges, GAO

"GAO found that the Orion program's cost and schedule estimates are not reliable based on best practices for producing high-quality estimates. Cost and schedule estimates play an important role in addressing technical risks. ... For example, the cost estimate lacked necessary support and the schedule estimate did not include the level of detail required for high-quality estimates. Without sound cost and schedule estimates, decision makers do not have a clear understanding of the cost and schedule risk inherent in the program or important information needed to make programmatic decisions. ... NASA and the Orion program have made some programmatic decisions that could further exacerbate cost and schedule risks. The Orion program is executing to an internal schedule with a launch readiness date of August 2021, which has a lower confidence level than its commitment baseline. This means that NASA is accepting higher cost and schedule risk associated with executing this schedule .... The lack of cost reserves has caused the program to defer work to address technical issues and stay within budget. As a result, the Orion program's reserves in future years could be overwhelmed by work being deferred. Program officials told GAO that they have not performed a formal analysis to understand the impact that delaying work might have on the available reserves since the program was confirmed. Without this type of analysis, program management may not have a complete understanding of how decisions made now will affect the longer-term execution of the program."

NASA Human Space Exploration: Opportunity Nears to Reassess Launch Vehicle and Ground Systems Cost and Schedule, GAO

"... the SLS program has not positioned itself well to provide accurate assessments of core stage progress - including forecasting impending schedule delays, cost overruns, and anticipated costs at completion - because at the time of our review it did not anticipate having the baseline to support full reporting on the core stage contract until summer 2016 - some 4.5 years after NASA awarded the contract. Further, unforeseen technical challenges are likely to arise once the program reaches its next phase, final integration for SLS and integration of SLS with its related Orion and Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) human spaceflight programs. Any such unexpected challenges are likely to place further pressure on SLS cost and schedule reserves. ... NASA officials stated that this review will have limited discussion of cost and schedule. Proceeding ahead without reassessing resources, however, could result in the EGS or SLS program exhausting limited resources to maintain pace toward an optimistic November 2018 launch readiness date. ... In July 2015, GAO found that SLS's limited cost and schedule reserves were placing the program at increased risk of being unable to deliver the launch vehicle on time and within budget."

Earlier posts on SLS and Orion

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Old Space Ponders New Space But Only Sees Old Space

By Keith Cowing on July 27, 2016 10:57 AM.

Market doesn't justify reusable launchers, expendable rocket makers argue, Ars Technica

"Monday evening in Salt Lake City, some aerospace industry officials sat down to discuss this new development. The panel at an American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics forum on propulsion had a provocative title, "Launch Vehicle Reusability: Holy Grail, Chasing Our Tail, or Somewhere in Between?" Moderator Dan Dumbacher said of the panel, "We purposefully tried to get a good cross-section of those who have been working on it." However, the panel included no one actually building reusable rockets and relied heavily on the old-guard perspective. Dumbacher himself, now a professor at Purdue University, previously managed development of the Space Launch System rocket for NASA, and he expressed doubt about the viability of reusable launch vehicles in 2014 by essentially saying that because NASA couldn't do it, it was difficult to see how others could."

Keith's note: Well of course SLS-hugger and former NASA SLS manager Dan Dumbacher can't see a world where the launch market is diverse in terms of customers, payloads, launch vehicles, and financing. He only has wetware that lets him see giant government-built rockets - so that is all that he can see.

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Trekking On The Edge of Forever

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

My Star Trek Episode at Everest, SpaceRef

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

NASA: On the Edge of Forever

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

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Now NASA Wants Special Treatment From Congress

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

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

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

Results speak for themselves.

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Rocket Science and Teleconferences at NASA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and

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

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GAO Report on DoD EELV Acquisition Strategy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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