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Apollo On Sleeping Pills

By Keith Cowing on May 31, 2016 9:19 AM.

Kennedy's vision for NASA inspired greatness, then stagnation, Ars Technica

"Perhaps the best insight into Kennedy's motives can be found in a recording of a November 21, 1962 meeting in the White House Cabinet Room. Kennedy had boasted of the lunar plan just a month earlier at Rice. The main participants that day were Kennedy and James Webb, administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. At issue was the true purpose of NASA and the Apollo program, and at the outset of the meeting Kennedy asked Webb, "Do you think this program is the top priority of the agency?" In hindsight, Webb's answer was surprising: "No sir, I do not. I think it is one of the top priority programs, but I think it is very important to recognize here, that as you have found out what you could do with a rocket, as you find out how you could get out beyond the Earth's atmosphere and into space to make measurements, several scientific disciplines that are very powerful have (begun) to converge on this area." To this Kennedy responds that Apollo is the top priority. That ought to be very clear, he explained. "This is important for political reasons, for international political reasons," Kennedy said. He told Webb he did not want to finish second to the Soviets in the "race" to the moon."

Keith's note: In other words had there been Twitter in 1960s we'd have heard nothing but #ManOnTheMoon on everything NASA PAO put out. In the case of Apollo in the 1960s NASA had a firm presidential mandate and a specific architecture in place in relatively short order - on a timeline what almost fit into a two-term Kennedy Administration. Flash forward: NASA is in no hurry to explain how it is going to send humans to Mars by a date that requires constant unwavering support from 4 to 5 presidential administrations - and a dozen Congresses. Most importantly, NASA now lacks that compelling reason to amass the requisite blood and treasure needed to mount an interplanetary project of geopolitical importance - because we're now competing with everyone (internally and externally) - each of whom is on their own timetable - each for their own purposes. Add in a lame duck Administration which has been disinterested - at best - for the past 7 years. Anyone with a reasonable grasp of history and current politics would be wise to ponder whether NASA and the U.S. government are no even capable of supporting a human missions to Mars in the ways needed for it to actually happen.

Its time to stop listening to the old professors, reading old advisory reports, and trying to find old historical resonances to justify or inspire future efforts. The world is as it is. Other nations are now starting to do interesting things in space because they see that it confers importance upon their nation, inspires their people, and offers access to new technologies. They also have their own reasons that have little resonance with America's. They learned both from our mistakes and successes and are now filling the vacuum created by our hesitance and lack of interest.

Others are seizing upon the opportunities presented by this American space malaise as well - and they are firmly established on American shores. The motivations may echo NASA's interests but they include many things that would not fit well on a NASA Powerpoint chart. Lets watch as SpaceX sends technology to Mars that NASA is incapable and/or unwilling of doing. There may well be an American #JourneyToMars - but mission control may be in Hawthorne - not Houston. And will the Americans who step out of a future human-rated Red Dragon be any less American?

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NASA Inflates BEAM

By Keith Cowing on May 28, 2016 9:33 PM.

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Sped-Up Video of Falcon 9 First Stage Landing

By Keith Cowing on May 27, 2016 10:19 PM.

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Rocket Scientists Are More Interesting Than PAO Talking Heads

By Keith Cowing on May 27, 2016 6:14 PM.

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SpaceX Brings Yet Another First Stage Back To Earth

By Keith Cowing on May 27, 2016 5:53 PM.

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Bigelow BEAM Fails To Inflate, Expand, Etc. (Update)

By Keith Cowing on May 27, 2016 3:21 PM.

Bigelow Module Fails First Expansion Attempt

"NASA is working closely with Bigelow Aerospace to understand why its module did not fully expand today as planned. Engineers are meeting at the Johnson Space Center in Houston to discuss a path forward for the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM)."

Packing for space flattened NASA's Space Hotel, New Scientist

"The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, was installed on the space station on 16 April and was supposed to be inflated on Thursday. But like a stubborn air mattress that stays flat, folds in the soft fabric kept it from expanding even as astronaut Jeff Williams tried to pump in air. In a 27 May teleconference, representatives from NASA and Bigelow Aerospace discussed what went wrong. "We went through a sequence, stepping up the pressure," said NASA's Jason Crusan. After some initial growth, the habitat stopped expanding even as pressure built up. "We ran into higher forces than our models predicted," he said."

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Sorry Gay People: Rep. Gohmert Says No Space Colonies For You

By Keith Cowing on May 26, 2016 9:33 PM.

Louie Gohmert: No Gay Space Colonies!, RightWing Watch (with video)

"[Rep. Louie Gohmert R-TX] said that if lawmakers had to decide "whether humanity would go forward or not" in case of an imminent asteroid collision by putting people in a "space ship that can go, as Matt Damon did in the movie, plant a colony somewhere, we can have humans survive this terrible disaster about to befall, if you could decide what 40 people you put on the spacecraft that would save humanity, how many of those would be same-sex couples? You're wanting to save humankind for posterity, basically a modern-day Noah, you have that ability to be a modern day Noah, you can preserve life. How many same-sex couples would you take from the animal kingdom and from humans to put on a spacecraft to perpetuate humanity and the wildlife kingdom?"

Keith's note: Yes, Congress is where smart people work in the 18th 21st Century to make life better for all some Americans.

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NEOWISE Asteroid Named After A True Heroine

By Keith Cowing on May 26, 2016 10:02 AM.

Asteroid Named for Nobel Prize Winner Malala Yousafzai, NASA

"An asteroid discovered by NASA's NEOWISE spacecraft has been given the formal designation 316201 Malala, in honor of Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. The asteroid's previous appellation was 2010 ML48. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) renamed the asteroid as the request of Amy Mainzer of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. Mainzer is the principal investigator of NASA's NEOWISE space telescope."

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Rich Smart Guy Challenges NEOWISE Data (Update)

By Keith Cowing on May 26, 2016 9:31 AM.

Asteroid thermal modeling in the presence of reflected sunlight with an application to WISE/NEOWISE observational data, arxiv.org

"As a result, the new analysis finds asteroid diameter and other physical properties that have large differences from published NEOWISE results, with greatly increased error estimates. NEOWISE results have a claimed ±10% accuracy for diameter estimates, but this is unsupported by any calculations and undermined by irregularities in the NEOWISE results."

NASA Response to Recent Paper on NEOWISE Asteroid Size Results, NASA

"Examination of the paper by members of the science community studying near-Earth objects has found several fundamental errors in Myhrvold's approach and analysis- mistakes that an independent peer review process is designed to catch. The errors in the paper lead to results that are easily refuted, such as sizes for well-known asteroids that are significantly larger or smaller than their already-verified sizes. While critique and re-examination of published results are essential to the scientific process, it is important that any paper undergo peer review by an independent journal before it can be seriously considered. This completes a necessary step to ensure science results are independently validated, reproducible, and of value to the science community."

Billionaire technologist accuses NASA asteroid mission of bad statistics, Science

"Myhrvold retorts that he is fixing the errors, which he says are cosmetic and do not alter the thrust of his criticism. He says the NEOWISE scientists are defensive because many are involved in a proposal for a future asteroid-hunting telescope called NEOCam, one of five finalists in NASA's Discovery program. "They're up for this NEOCam thing and they're afraid it looks bad. And it does look bad," he says."

Repurposed NEOWISE Spacecraft Observes and Discovers Asteroids, earlier post

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Another Space Movie For Neil Tyson To Hate

By Keith Cowing on May 25, 2016 11:33 PM.

Keith's note: Uh oh. There's a spacecraft going the wrong way in this movie trailer. Neil Tyson will therefore hate all over it. Too bad. Although the plot seems to be pretty simplistic it might well resonate with a certain demographic - you know the young people who might grow up and actually go on the #JourneyToMars. There are NASA logos in the movie, so one would assume some level of cross-promotion by NASA. Categories: ,

CASIS Ignores More Cool News That It Paid For With NASA Money

By Keith Cowing on May 25, 2016 5:31 PM.

miniPCR announces first DNA amplification in space

"miniPCR announced the first successful DNA amplification on the International Space Station (ISS). Using a miniPCR thermal cycler, astronauts performed Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) on DNA samples on April 19th. Analysis performed today on Earth confirms that DNA amplification done in microgravity was successful, ushering in a new era in space exploration."

miniPCR, GenesInSpace

Keith's note: This is really cool news. But does CASIS make any mention of this major accomplishment on their website or @ISS_CASIS? Of course not.

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Both Rocket Fights - and Rocket Flights - Continue

By Keith Cowing on May 25, 2016 5:09 PM.

Senate Schism on Russian Rocket Engines Continues, Space Policy Online

"The Senate Appropriations Committee's Defense Subcommittee approved its version of the FY2017 defense appropriations bill today. Few details have been released, but in at least one area -- Russian RD-180 rocket engines -- the schism between Senate appropriators and authorizers seems destined to continue. The full appropriations committee will mark up the bill on Thursday."

As rocket wars wage in DC, a cautious move towards competition makes sense

"To ULA's credit, the company has successfully launched over 100 rockets without incident. But they've also been given vast resources to do so. For example, McCain refers to ULA's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) launch capability contract as "$800 million to do nothing." That's not exactly fair since the contract gives the Air Force tremendous launch flexibility, but $800 million a year to effectively be ready to launch seems tremendously generous."

SpaceX is about to attempt another extremely difficult landing, Business Insider

"SpaceX will once again attempt to land the first stage of the rocket on a drone ship in the Atlantic. SpaceX's track record for launches has been nearly flawless this year, with four successful launches and three successful landings (and retrievals!) of the first stage of the rockets. One of those successes took place on land in December; two more happened in April and May at sea. SpaceX will once again attempt to land the first stage of the rocket on a drone ship in the Atlantic."

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Why Does Brad Summey Hate On Elon Musk So Much? (Update)

By Keith Cowing on May 25, 2016 2:00 PM.

Mysterious website slams Elon Musk as 'American Swindler', Politico

"A mysterious new website has popped up accusing billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk of cronyism and inappropriate ties to top political leaders. But who, exactly, is behind the site remains unclear, as its sponsors have taken steps to hide their identities. The focal point of WhoIsElonMusk.com is a slickly produced video, posted just days ago, that slams Musk as an "American Swindler" and a "foreign-born" businessman who got rich off U.S. tax dollars. ... The website appears to have been designed by Orange Hat, an Alexandria-based firm. The firm promises to "utilize the most effective digital resources to engage and mobilize your target audience and drive measurable results." Keith Cowing, of the blog NASA Watch, first uncovered the connection to Orange Hat. Randy Skoglund, Orange Hat's managing partner, declined to comment on the anti-Musk website when contacted by phone Wednesday, and then hung up. Brad Summey, the firm's chief Technology officer, did not respond to requests for comment."

Earlier posting

Keith's update: Someone (or several people) are posting under anonymous names from the same IP at ULA today in Colorado reveling in the comments about Musk and SpaceX. This cloak and dagger stuff seems to play well outside the beltway as well.

Keith's note: I was reading an article on the The Hill tonight when this add popped up that sent me to http://whoiselonmusk.com/ which is an anonymous attack website dedicated to the notion that Elon Musk is the spawn of Satan or awful or something. At the bottom of the page the site says that it is paid for by "The Center for Business and Responsible Government (CBRG) is a non-partisan organization dedicated to highlighting cronyism and its effect on American taxpayers and policy. We believe public officials should establish an even playing field for all businesses to compete in the marketplace, not just those special interests who line their pockets." Of course no such group actually exists and and the domain registration information for whoiselonmusk.com is hidden.

Continue reading: Why Does Brad Summey Hate On Elon Musk So Much? (Update).


Bolden Wants Congress To Change Law On U.S./China Space Cooperation

By Keith Cowing on May 24, 2016 10:30 PM.

NASA Chief: Congress Should Revise US-China Space Cooperation Law, VOA

"Responding to questions Monday at an event hosted by the Mitchell Institute on Capitol Hill, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said the U.S. should pursue such a relationship with China in human space exploration. "We were in an incredible Cold War with the Soviets at the time we flew Apollo-Soyuz; it was because leaders in both nations felt it was time," he said. "That represented a great use of soft power, if you will. Look where we are today. I think we will get there [with China]. And I think it is necessary." Current law prohibits NASA from engaging with its Chinese counterparts on such projects. But Bolden, who will travel to Beijing later this year, says Congress should consider revising the law."

Previous China posts

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Pluto Has A Stamp But It's Not Sold With "Our Planets" Stamps

By Keith Cowing on May 24, 2016 4:49 PM.

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Bigelow Aerospace BEAM Status

Bigelow Aerospace BEAM Status

NASA is working closely with Bigelow Aerospace to understand why its module did not fully expand today as planned.

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