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NSF's Confusing Stance On Accepting Financial Support

By Keith Cowing on July 29, 2015 12:25 PM.

Search for Alien Life Ignites Battle over Giant Telescope, Scientific American

"The foundation was and still is interested in partnering with Arecibo, Scientific American has learned. But according to Arecibo Director Robert Kerr, that partnership is currently being prevented due to a poison pill inserted by the observatory's owner, the National Science Foundation (NSF). The situation is a startling example of a cash-strapped federal agency seeking to offload an expensive, world-class facility to the private sectorat the potential cost of compromising its ability to perform world-class scientific research. ... The NSF approved Green Bank's Breakthrough Listen partnership, allowing Milner to purchase 15 percent of the telescope's observing time for SETI, although NSF officials say even with that cash infusion Green Bank's continued operations remain in jeopardy."

Smith Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Ensure NSF Research Advances 'National Interest', House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

"All government employees and their agency heads need to remember they are accountable to the American taxpayer who pays their salaries and funds their projects. It is not the government's money; it's the people's money. The Scientific Research in the National Interest Act is a step toward more accountability."

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NAC Set to Redirect Asteroid Redirect Mission

By Keith Cowing on July 29, 2015 10:26 AM.

NASA Advisory Council Meeting

"29-31 July 2015. Location: Jet Propulsion Laboratory"

Agenda

Keith's note: In April the NAC came within a a vote of adopting a recommendation to NASA that the current Asteroid Redirect Mission be changed - possibly to go to Mars instead. That issue was delayed until the next NAC meeting in Pasadena i.e. this NAC meeting.

- NASA Advisory Council Wants to Cancel Asteroid Redirect Mission and Send it to Phobos Instead, earlier post
- NASA Membership Call for the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) Formulation Assessment and Support Team (FAST), earlier post
- NASA's Boulder Retrieval Mission, earlier post

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Hooray - JSC Warp Drive Confirmed !!!!

By Keith Cowing on July 28, 2015 10:25 PM.

'Impossible' propellantless engine appears to work despite breaking laws of physics, Sydney Morning Herald

"Ridiculed as impossible by the scientific community, the electromagnetic propulsion engine - which could supposedly take a craft from Earth to Pluto in just 18 months without the need for rocket fuel - has apparently been confirmed by an independent scientist as working."

Keith's note: Once again English-language tabloids 1,2,3 with nothing better to do than repeat unfounded rumors - about unconfirmed results of murkily duplicated experiments (that were already murky) - conducted by some guy in Germany - experiments that are not described in any detail or - unpublished and only presented at an AIAA meeting - results that are only discussed in Internet chat rooms - as if they were fact. Normally, this nonsense would appear once or twice and then vanish. The prime reason it does not go away is because NASA JSC actually threw some money at this goofy science project, is too embarrassed to admit it (more than they have to), and never likes to admit that it ever does anything wrong - regardless of how many laws of physics and logic have been violated. Then again the JSC folks were probably a little jealous that LaRC was getting all of that wonderful cold fusion media attention and wanted to get themselves some of that quacky goodness. If this was real then you'd be hearing Charlie Bolden proclaiming that it was another step on the #JourneyToMars - right?

Now Drudge Report is re-blasting links to these stories to hundreds of millions of people because NASA never shoots this goofiness down. If NASA can send pictures back from Pluto and break the Internet, it can write a 5 sentence press statement that shuts this nonsense off once and for all. But it can't - or rather, it won't. They only want you to know what they got right - not what they tried and got wrong.

- Clarifying NASA's Warp Drive Program, earlier post
- NASA: We're Not Working on Warp Drive, earlier post


NTSB SpaceShipTwo Accident Cause Determination

By Keith Cowing on July 28, 2015 7:00 PM.

The end of NTSB's investigation and the future of Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson's blog

"This photo shows pilot Pete Siebold as he parachutes safely down to earth, with his arm up in the air to show everybody that he is alive and well." Larger image

Lack of Consideration for Human Factors Led to Breakup of SpaceShipTwo

"The NTSB determined the cause of the Oct. 31, 2014 in-flight breakup of SpaceShipTwo, was Scaled Composite's failure to consider and protect against human error and the co-pilot's premature unlocking of the spaceship's feather system as a result of time pressure and vibration and loads that he had not recently experienced."

- NTSB Concludes Scaled Composites SpaceShipTwo Flight Test Accident Investigation, Virgin Galactic
- NTSB Executive Summary: In-Flight Breakup During Test Flight Scaled Composites SpaceShipTwo, N339SS, NTSB
- Virgin Galactic Executive Summary: SpaceShipTwo, N339SS Rocket-Powered Flight Test Koehn Dry Lake, California, October 31, 2014, Virgin Galactic
- The end of NTSB's investigation and the future of Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson's blog
- Investigator-in-Charge Presentation - Lorenda Ward, NTSB
- Human Factors and Organizational Issues , Human Performance Presentation - Dr. Katherine Wilson, NTSB
- Hazard Analysis and Waivers, System Safety Presentation - Mike Hauf, NTSB

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New Horizons Victory Lap at Congress

By Keith Cowing on July 28, 2015 8:15 AM.

Hearing on Pluto Flyby

"Tuesday, July 28, 2015: The Science Committee's NASA Authorization Act for FY16 and FY17 restored funds the Obama administration proposed cutting from planetary science budgets. This would bring parity between NASA's science accounts and allow for development of missions like New Horizons to continue at the current pace."

Keith's note: The New Horizons team is now openly talking about a New Horizons-2 mission back to Pluto. It will be interesting to see if this topic is raised given that this committee is on the record about their interest in Europa - not Pluto. Also, given the NASA's budgetary issues, it will be interesting to see how the extra $1 billion-plus needed for New Horizons-2 would be squeezed out of an already constrained budgetary future - one that will inevitably stressed by SLS costs.

- Video
- Hearing charter
- Scientists Advocate for Planetary Funding in Wake of #PlutoFlyby, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
- Committee Discusses New Accomplishments in the Exploration of the Solar System, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democrats

- Statement of Brian Babin
- Statement of Lamar Smith
- Statement of Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson
- Statement of Rep. Donna Edwards
- Statement of Robert Pappalardo
- Statement of John Grunsfeld
- Statement of Robert Braun
- Statement of Chris Russell
- Alan Stern did not provide a prepared statement - just pictures and the New Horizons Press Kit

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AIAA Panel: Cost and Affordability of Future Systems

By Marc Boucher on July 28, 2015 8:14 AM.

AIAA Propulsion and Energy Conference Panel: Cost and Affordability of Future Systems, with Michael D. Griffin, Frank Culbertson, Mike Hawes, Lee Monson, and Mark Sirangelo

Marc's note: SpaceX, the one company driving costs down now isn't on the panel. Maybe they we're too busy to attend. Also, Blue Origin,a future player, isn't on the panel either. Neither are some of the new unproven entrants like Rocket Labs. I would think a conversation such as this would include more players.

Moderator: Michael D. Griffin,Chairman and CEO, Schafer Corporation (Moderator)

- Frank Culbertson, President Space Systems Group, Orbital ATK
- Michael Hawes, Vice President and Orion Program Manager, Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company
- Lee Monson, Vice President Sales - Middle East and Americas, Boeing Commercial Airplanes (ret.)
- Mark Sirangelo, Corporate Vice President Space Systems, Sierra Nevada Corporation

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More Negative Progress at Vostochny Cosmodrome

By Keith Cowing on July 27, 2015 8:07 PM.

$126 Million Stolen From Russian Vostochny Cosmodrome Project Prosecutor General, The Moscow Times

"Russia's Prosecutor General said Monday that 7.5 billion rubles ($126 million) had been stolen during construction of a new spaceport in Russia's Far East, news agency RIA Novosti reported. Investigators conducted a massive investigation into corruption and mismanagement at the site of the Vostochny Cosmodrome, a $3 billion project seen in Moscow as vital to secure Russia's independent access to space. President Vladimir Putin on a visit to the construction site last year warned contractors that law enforcement agencies were monitoring the use of state funds and that charges would be brought for malpractice. Prosecutor General Yury Chaika said that a probe of 250 organizations working on the project had discovered "theft that caused 7.5 billion rubles in damages," RIA Novosti reported."

- Vostochny Cosmodrome First Launch Slips 3 Years, earlier post
- Man Driving Diamond-encrusted Mercedes Caught Embezzling Cosmodrome Funds, earlier post

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Odd Pluto Social Media Policy at SwRI

By Keith Cowing on July 27, 2015 10:00 AM.

Keith's note: The use of social media during the recent Pluto encounter has been widely hailed. That said, Southwest Research Institute Public affairs continues with its slightly strange media policy - in this case by blocking @NASAWatch from following @NewHorizons2015 on Twitter. Despite the recent "personal" label on this Twitter account, this account is used by a SWRI employee for NASA-funded work-related news and has been mentioned in official SWRI, JHUAPL, and NASA communications for years. You'd think that SWRI would want the biggest audience available - and a retweet by @NASAWatch could add 59,000 Twitter impressions. With all this bragging (justifiably) by NASA PAO about their social media prowess, this effort by SWRI is odd to say the least. I asked SWRI about this several times and they have declined to respond.

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3 Reasons Why Its Is Time to Turbocharge SETI

By Keith Cowing on July 26, 2015 7:55 PM.

Looking for extraterrestrials - The optimistic gamble, Economist

"Mr Milner reckons there are three reasons why the moment is right to go big on SETI. One is that Kepler, a space telescope run by NASA, has shown that there are a lot of potentially habitable planets out there. Geoff Marcy, an astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley, who will run Breakthrough Listen, says Kepler-based studies suggest that perhaps one star in ten has planets that are "Earth-sized and lukewarm" not obviously too massive, too hot or too cold for vaguely Earthlike life. The second reason is the relentless rise of signal-processing power. The ten-billion-channel system Dr Marcy is working on would have been impossible just a few years ago. That all of the resulting data can easily be made available to other scientists and enthusiastic amateurs is another sign of progress. Some 3m people already participate in the SETI@Home project, which lets people use spare computing time to sift through previous SETI data. Since the project has now linked up with Breakthrough Listen, more will surely join it. Free access to data will almost certainly generate false alarms, but Dr Marcy accepts that as part of the price of doing business. A third motive for the push is that an unprecedented amount of time is now available on first-rate radio telescopes. Government-funded research has seen its purse-strings drawn tight recently, and instruments like that at Green Bank need new sources of income."

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ESA's Director General Prefers The Moon Over Mars

By Keith Cowing on July 24, 2015 11:26 PM.

Moon village would host first class research, Nature

"[ESA Director General Johann-Dietrich Wörner]: The Americans are saying Mars is the ultimate goal, but I'm rather convinced that Mars is not the ultimate goal. If we continue on planet Earth, I'm sure humans will go even beyond Mars, but the question is when and how. We need some targets in between. The Moon is a very scientifically interesting body and it's reachable by humans even with today's technology. For Mars and other bodies, we need totally different technologies. Imagine if you send a human to Mars on a two-year return journey and after two months he or she gets difficult health problems. What do you do? We have to have better technology, stronger launchers and other propulsion systems, to go to Mars."

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NASA Briefs President's Science Advisors

By Keith Cowing on July 24, 2015 6:19 PM.

PCAST Discusses New Frontiers in Human Space Exploration, AIP

"On July 14, the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) met to discuss three topics, among them an update from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and its leading commercial space industry partners on the progress being made in new frontiers in human space exploration. Other topics on the meeting agenda included a review of the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) Program and a discussion on technology and aging."

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More Pluto Discoveries Revealed

By Keith Cowing on July 24, 2015 2:57 PM.

Nightside Image Reveals Pluto's Hazy Skies

"Speeding away from Pluto just seven hours after its July 14 closest approach, the New Horizons spacecraft looked back and captured this spectacular image of Pluto's atmosphere, backlit by the sun. The image reveals layers of haze that are several times higher than scientists predicted."

- New Horizons Discovers Flowing Ices on Pluto
- New Horizons Reveals Pluto's Atmospheric Pressure Has Sharply Decreased
- Pluto and Charon in Natural Color
- NASA's New Horizons Team Finds Haze, Flowing Ice on Pluto
- Pluto Flyby Lead, Planetary Scientists to Discuss Discoveries at Hearing
- Pluto Dazzles in False Color

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Dragging Star Trek Into Election 2016

By Keith Cowing on July 24, 2015 2:14 PM.

What Ted Cruz gets wrong about Star Trek, Washington Post

"Star Trek" Captain James T. Kirk is a Republican. That's what Ted Cruz wants you to think, anyway. In an interview with the New York Times, Cruz argues that what makes Kirk, well, Kirk, are the very values that define the GOP. "I think it is quite likely that Kirk is a Republican and [Jean-Luc] Picard is a Democrat," Cruz told the Times, suggesting that Picard Kirk's successor as captain of the fictional USS Enterprise is too rational to be an effective leader. Cruz clearly believes that the country would benefit from having a Kirk-like figure in the White House. But as arguments for electing a Republican go, this is not a winning one."

- How Candidates Would Respond to an Angry E.T. Threat, earlier post (2012)
- Survey: Obama Would Protect Earth From Angry ETs Better Than Romney, earlier post (2012)
- President Visits Roswell, NM: "I Come in Peace", earlier post (2012)

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That New NASA Moon Plan

By Keith Cowing on July 24, 2015 9:40 AM.

To the Moon - Again, Paul Spudis

"A NASA-sponsored study has been released which outlines a plan to return to the Moon with people and set-up an outpost at one of the poles to mine water for propellant. This report has drawn both attention and puzzlement within the space community, as the agency continues to make clear that they have no interest in human lunar missions. This disconnect is covered because NASA will not do these activities - instead, the agency will pay commercial companies to develop and implement the plan. The propellant produced at the outpost from lunar polar water will then be sold to NASA for use in future human missions to Mars."

- A New Spin on the Journey to Mars - By Way of the Moon, earlier post

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NASA Pluto Flyby Internet Statistics

By Keith Cowing on July 23, 2015 4:33 PM.

"Potential reach and Number of Mentions of all social media posts(NASA & non-NASA) across 21 different social media platforms using one or more of the following keywords between July 13-17, 2015: Pluto, "New Horizons", #PlutoFlyby, or #Pluto:"

- Download NASA presentation
- NASA's Pluto Web Stats, earlier post

NASA's Social Media Strategy Is Genius And Kinda Maddening, Wired

"Organizations can sometimes let social media metrics obscure their core goals and mission. (Trust us on this.) On the evening of July 14, the world was waiting for New Horizons to phone home and say it had successfully passed by Pluto. With less than two minutes until the message was scheduled to arrive, the cameras cut to (drumroll) a NASA social media representative, who proceeded to tell the world how high New Horizons was trending on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The Pluto Press Corps was not too amused. The camera cut to New Horizons Mission Operations Manager Alice Bowman in the nick of time, seemingly the moment she received the I'm-OK signal from New Horizons. For a moment, it seemed, NASA's ace team of publicists had forgotten that the cameras were supposed to be on Pluto."

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