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Everyone Wins at Google Lunar X Prize

By Keith Cowing on January 25, 2015 9:56 PM.

Team Indus wins competition to land robot on moon, bags Google Lunar Xprize of $1 million, The Economic Times

"Bengaluru headquartered space startup Team Indus has won a $1 million prize for completing an intermediate milestone as it competed with teams from across the world to become the first private enterprise which will land a robot on the moon."

Join us for an exclusive live chat with Google Lunar XPrize teams!, Cnet

"These five Milestone teams, with representatives from all over the world, will be gathered in San Francisco on Monday, January 26, for a glitzy awards ceremony."

Keith's note: 5 teams were competing for these milestone prizes. The same 5 teams won these milestone prizes. Has there ever actually been any real competition?

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Please Consider Supporting "Fight for Space"

By Keith Cowing on January 25, 2015 7:44 AM.

Fight for Space: NASA & Space Exploration Documentary, Kickstarter

"Fight for Space" is a feature length documentary film that explores the economic and cultural benefits of human space exploration, and examines the historical and political events that have led to the decline of human space exploration. "Fight for Space" presents viewpoints from Astronauts, politicians and staff, scientists, former NASA officials, commercial space entrepreneurs, and many other individuals in the space community. A complete list of interviewees is available at the bottom of this page."

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USAF Blinks and SpaceX Wins EELV Concessions

By Keith Cowing on January 23, 2015 6:45 PM.

United States and SpaceX Agree to Settlement, SpaceX

"The Air Force and SpaceX have reached agreement on a path forward for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program that improves the competitive landscape and achieves mission assurance for national security space launches. Under the agreement, the Air Force will work collaboratively with SpaceX to complete the certification process in an efficient and expedient manner."

Elon Musk: Guest-Starring on The Simpsons Was 'Kind of Trippy', BloombergBusinessWeek

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Mike Gazarik Is Leaving NASA

By Keith Cowing on January 23, 2015 4:19 PM.

Ball Aerospace Names Michael Gazarik as Technology Director

"Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. has hired Michael Gazarik as Director for its Office of Technology on the Boulder campus effective March 2. Dr. Gazarik will lead the alignment of Ball's technology development resources with business development and growth strategies."

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Statement: "Mike's experienced leadership and commitment has been critical to building the strong foundation upon which our Space Technology Mission Directorate now stands," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "Through his hard work and vision, he's developed an innovative, cross-cutting organization that creates the new knowledge and capabilities needed to enable our future missions. Mike's proven that technology drives exploration and is a critical component of our journey to Mars. His tireless work and dedication to fostering innovation at NASA will be sorely missed."

NASA Associate Administrator for Space Technology Michael Gazarik Statement: "It's been a great honor to lead a team that has, for the first time in more than a decade, created a robust, relevant and innovative space technology program at NASA. As my family and I embark on a new chapter in our lives and I accept an aerospace industry position, I depart knowing that the NASA team is well on its way to achieving important space technology milestones that will enable our journey to Mars and beyond."

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MoonEx To Us SLC-36

By Keith Cowing on January 22, 2015 1:50 PM.

Cape Canaveral SLC-36 Is Central to Moon Express' Commercial Efforts to Reach the Moon

"Moon Express and Space Florida have signed an agreement that will lead to Moon Express spacecraft development and flight test operations at SLC-36 starting early this year. The agreement allows Moon Express and the state of Florida to make investments into the refurbishment of SLC-36, leading to a revitalized range and the immediate creation of 25-50 new jobs and potentially hundreds of direct and indirect new jobs over the next 5 years."

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Asteroid Abduction

By Keith Cowing on January 21, 2015 11:54 AM.

The Space Program - A Modest Proposal, Paul Spudis

"I'm at a loss to explain why one aspect of the ARM mission hasn't been discussed in the media: seeing that advocates of the ARM think nothing about re-arranging the architecture of the Solar System for their convenience, environmental activists might object to the very idea behind the mission. We can't get to a near-Earth asteroid with the Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System (SLS), so let's just drag the asteroid to us! Imagine a defenseless rock, innocently tumbling its way through space, only to be snagged, bagged, and defiled appropriated and exploited by arrogant, human interlopers. There ought to be a law!"

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NASA and State of the Union Speech (Updated with quotes)

By Keith Cowing on January 20, 2015 8:52 PM.

Bolden: Keep Moving the Ball Forward, Don't Get Discouraged, SpacePolicyOnline

"Stressing that he was not suggesting President Obama would say anything about space exploration in tonight's State of the Union address, Bolden said the President could say "for the first time in human history we may be going inside the 20-years-to-Mars." Sending humans to Mars still is "without a doubt" at least 20 years away, he clarified, but "we're about to slip under that 20-year threshold."

Report of the Space Task Group, 1969, NASA

"We conclude that NASA has the demonstrated organizational competence and technology base, by virtue of the Apollo success and other achievements, to carry out a successful program to land man on Mars within 15 years."

Keith's update: When I was growing up in the mid-60s I seem to recall NASA talking about going to Mars by 1981. That was less than 20 years, Charlie. Indeed, NASA has been talking about going to Mars "in 20 years" or "within 15 years" for the past 40-50 years. Seems like negative progress to me. Not sure what you are bragging about.

President Obama's State of the Union Address - Remarks As Prepared for Delivery, Medium.com

"I want Americans to win the race for the kinds of discoveries that unleash new jobs converting sunlight into liquid fuel; creating revolutionary prosthetics, so that a veteran who gave his arms for his country can play catch with his kid; pushing out into the Solar System not just to visit, but to stay. Last month, we launched a new spacecraft as part of a re-energized space program that will send American astronauts to Mars. In two months, to prepare us for those missions, Scott Kelly will begin a year-long stay in space. Good luck, Captain and make sure to Instagram it."

"I've heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they're not scientists; that we don't have enough information to act. Well, I'm not a scientist, either. But you know whatI know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and NOAA, and at our major universities. The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we'll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it."

Continue reading: NASA and State of the Union Speech (Updated with quotes).



Google and Fidelity Invest $1 Billion in SpaceX

By Marc Boucher on January 20, 2015 8:36 PM.

It's Early Days in 2015 But SpaceX is Starting at Light Speed with a Satellite Constellation and Possible Google Investment [Updated], SpaceRef Business

Marc's note: Updating my story from yesterday, SpaceX this evening issued the following statement.

"Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has raised a billion dollars in a financing round with two new investors, Google and Fidelity. They join existing investors Founders Fund, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Valor Equity Partners and Capricorn. Google and Fidelity will collectively own just under 10% of the company.

SpaceX designs, manufactures, and launches the world's most advanced rockets and spacecraft. This funding will be used to support continued innovation in the areas of space transport, reusability, and satellite manufacturing."

With this new investment, SpaceX is now valued at over $10 billion. A nice way to start the year even if their Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship suffered some damage from that spectacular crash landing earlier this month by the Falcon 9 first stage recovery attempt.

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Good Thing We Waited 14 Years to Launch Goresat

By Keith Cowing on January 20, 2015 7:06 PM.

Al Gore's dream spacecraft gears up for launch, Nature

"For Jay Herman, an atmospheric scientist at Goddard and EPIC instrument scientist, the delay has a silver lining: the refurbishment revealed a manufacturing defect in EPIC that would have let in stray light and potentially ruined its image of Earth. The delay allowed enough time to study the problem and correct for it. "So in some ways," says Herman, "I'm very glad it did not fly 14 years ago. Because it might have been embarrassing."

Keith's note: Wow. It was a good idea to wait 14 years after all - imagine another Hubble-like embarrassment for NASA? It will be interesting to see how NASA calculates the total cost of Goresat/DSCOVR- from inception to final launch. I doubt they can. And if they do, they'll lowball it to avoid another form of embarrassment.

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Why NASA Did Not Pick SNC (Updated)

By Keith Cowing on January 20, 2015 4:14 PM.

NASA Releases Commercial Crew Source Selection Statement, SpaceRef

"[HEOMD AA Bill Gerstenmaier]: On August 6, 2014, the Source Evaluation Board (SEB) appointed to evaluate proposals for the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability Contract (CCtCap) under Request for Proposals (RFP) NNK14467515R presented the results of its evaluation to me and other senior officials of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). I held a follow-up meeting on August 19th to ask additional questions of the SEB and receive input from my advisors. My decision on selection of the successful Offeror is set forth in this Source Selection Statement."

GAO Bid Protest Decision: Sierra Nevada Corporation

"Sierra Nevada alleges that NASA's evaluation of proposals departed from the RFP's stated criteria, and was unequal and unreasonable. We deny the protest."

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NASA's Pluto Mission Seeks to Confuse People

By Keith Cowing on January 20, 2015 9:14 AM.

NASA Spacecraft Get a Closer Look at Dwarf Planets Pluto and Ceres, NY Times

"Marc W. Buie, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo., and a member of the New Horizons team, agrees with Dr. Stern but wishes the issue would go away. Years ago, people would be fascinated to hear the scientific puzzles about Pluto. Now, conversations usually start with "Is Pluto a planet?" "It's a very annoying, distracting issue," Dr. Buie said. "You have to get past this wall of this nonscientific issue before you get to the good things."

"The moon is such a planet I can't even stand it," [Fashion designer] Mizrahi says, exasperated. "Well, what else is it if it's not a planet?" Under Dr. Stern's definition, Mr. Mizrahi would win the argument. "I am happy to defend him," Dr. Stern said via email Sunday. "I see no logical reason why large moons that are in hydrostatic equilibrium should not be considered planets too, and I call them that." Dr. Stern's classification system distinguishes moons as "secondary planets," while "primary planets" directly orbit around the sun -- pushing the number of planets in the solar system to more than 20."

Keith's note: So ... let's see if I understand the New Horizons mission's revised solar system nomenclature: Planets orbit the sun. Planets also orbit other Planets. Moons orbit Planets but Moons do not orbit the sun otherwise they'd be Planets which also orbit Planets and the sun. But wait - there's more: now we need to add Primary Planets and Secondary Planets into the mix. So when does a Moon become a Secondary Planet? Is it still a Moon also? Can Planets be Moons and Moons be Planets?

Iapetus is not in hydrostatic equilibrium so it is not a Planet (right?). But it is a Moon (right?). But Iapetus is larger than Ceres which is .. a Planet (right?) Pluto's Moon Charon is smaller than Iapetus but Pluto fans refer to it as a Planet. Alas, Pluto fans always love to use the "Titan is larger than Mercury" argument to justify Titan as a Planet.

I can't wait to see how all NASA education materials are adjusted for the New Horizons mission so as to tackle this issue. Textbooks will clearly need to be revised to reflect NASA's latest discoveries. Who determines how these revisions will be made? Will other missions be required to adapt accordingly or is NASA going to be talking about more than one system of planetary nomenclature? What will happen at press events - will NASA be required to issue press releases in both nomenclatures (as well as English/metric)? WiIl this IAU Vs Pluto fans thing just drag on and on?

The oddest thing of all is how the Pluto fans rant about how some small group of people at IAU made this decision about what a Planet is without consulting everyone else - yet the Pluto fans have gone out and proclaimed this new nomenclature for Planets and Moons without consulting anyone else. Pot-Kettle-Back.

Why make things more complex? Our solar system has lots of worlds. Ice worlds. Rock worlds. Gas worlds. Some worlds are big others are small. Some worlds orbit the sun and are "planets". Some worlds orbit planets and are called "moons". This simply defines the location of a world - not its inherent physical nature. #OcamsRazor

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Used NASA Gold For Sale

By Keith Cowing on January 17, 2015 9:50 AM.

Gold Plates, GSA Auction

One lot consisting six 24KT gold plates weighing 6,015.5 grams. These plates were reportedly flown in space for 69 months. Please click on attachment for purity information rounded to the nearest 1/10th determined by x-ray fluorescence.

Long Duration Exposure Facility

"LDEF's 69 months in space provided scientific data on the long-term effects of space exposure on materials, components and systems that has benefited NASA spacecraft designers to this day."

Keith's note: Hmmm ... These plates were reportedly flown in space for 69 months. Sounds like LDEF to me. But "reportedly flown"? Is GSA uncertain whether these things have been flown in space? Can't they just ask NASA?

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ULA Offers SpaceX Advice on How to Crash Rockets

By Keith Cowing on January 16, 2015 8:30 PM.

Images Show Falcon 9 First Stage Crash-Landing on Ship, Space News

"Musk's series of images also prompted a response from United Launch Alliance president and chief executive Tory Bruno. He noted his company has a number of employees who worked on the DC-X, a 1990s-era project to demonstrate vertical takeoff and landing technology for future reusable launch vehicles. "Let me know if we can help," Bruno wrote."

The Delta Clipper Experimental: Flight Testing Archive, NASA

"July 31, 1996 [DC-XA] Landing strut 2 failed to extend; vehicle tipped over and LOX tank exploded; vehicle destroyed."

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Ted Cruz and NASA: An Evolving Picture

By Keith Cowing on January 16, 2015 7:39 PM.

Ted Cruz's control of Senate science panel triggers some anxiety, McClatchy via Fresno Bee

"Keith Cowing, editor of NASA Watch, a blog that monitors agency activities and offers commentary, said there had been a very strong reaction in the space community to Cruz's new position. "It's half-grounded in truth and half in hysteria," said Cowing, an astrobiologist and former NASA employee. Cruz, meanwhile, is bullish about NASA concentrating on its core mission."

Cruz says NASA should refocus on 'core' mission, end dependence on Russians, Houston Chronicle

"I am encouraged by the progress of both commercial cargo and commercial crew. But we need a continued focus on the stated exploration objectives with maximum efficiency and expedition. One of the great benefits of space exploration, but also commercial crew and commercial cargo, has been the jobs and economic development that have flowed from allowing innovation and the private sector to play a critical role in space. Texas, and the Houston area in particular, has been a tremendous beneficiary of that private sector activity."

Ted Cruz Supports NASA's "Core Mission", earlier post

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Falcon 9 First Stage landing Pictures Released (with Video)

By Marc Boucher on January 16, 2015 9:25 AM.

Elon Musk Releases Pictures of Falcon 9 "Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly", SpaceRef Business

"Elon Musk has released several images through Twitter of what he charaterizes as the "rapid unscheduled disassembly" of the Falcon 9 first stage as it approaches the SpaceX Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship. The pictures are spectacular."

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