Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Obama Comments on Space Program

The social media service Reddit hosted today a live chat with President Barack Obama. The demand crashed the system's servers, but one space question was answered by the President.

Click here for the question, reply and comments.

Are you considering increasing funds to the space program?

Making sure we stay at the forefront of space exploration is a big priority for my administration. The passing of Neil Armstrong this week is a reminder of the inspiration and wonder that our space program has provided in the past; the curiosity probe on mars is a reminder of what remains to be discovered. The key is to make sure that we invest in cutting edge research that can take us to the next level - so even as we continue work with the international space station, we are focused on a potential mission to a asteroid as a prelude to a manned Mars flight.

The Republican Platform on Space

The Republican Party platform is on their web site, Click here to download it as a .PDF.

Their position on space is on Page 28 of the document (Page 35 of the .PDF).

Here is their entire statement on space:

America’s Future in Space:
Continuing this Quest

The exploration of space has been a key part of U.S. global leadership and has supported innovation and ownership of technology. Over the last half century, in partnership with our aerospace industry, the work of NASA has helped define and strengthen our nation’s technological prowess. From building the world’s most powerful rockets to landing men on the Moon, sending robotic spacecraft throughout our solar system and beyond, building the International Space Station, and launching space-based telescopes that allow scientists to better understand our universe, NASA science and engineering have produced spectacular results. The technologies that emerged from those programs propelled our aerospace industrial base and directly benefit our national security, safety, economy, and quality of life. Through its achievements, NASA has inspired generations of Americans to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, leading to careers that drive our country’s technological and economic engines.

Today, America’s leadership in space is challenged by countries eager to emulate — and surpass — NASA’s accomplishments. To preserve our national security interests and foster innovation and competitiveness, we must sustain our preeminence in space, launching more science missions, guaranteeing unfettered access, and maintaining a source of high-value American jobs.

That's it.

No details about how they would "sustain our preeminence in space." Would they increase NASA's budget? Would they invest more in commercial space? A new Moon program?

Probably not the latter, since Mitt Romney said last January he would fire anyone who proposed spending a few hundred billion dollars on a moon colony. (The Apollo program cost about $150 billion in current dollars.)

Like many of their sibling politicians in Congress, this platform views NASA as a jobs program. Jobs are fine, but they should be a byproduct, not the reason for the program. That's why NASA is so inefficient now, and bogged down by obsolescent technology — politicians tell NASA to use contractors and space centers in their states and districts without any competition or innovation. That sin is bipartisan.

It also should be noted that on Page 3 of the .PDF is this disclaimer:

Not Authorized By Any Candidate Or Candidate’s Committee

In other words ... it's meaningless.

I look forward to the Democratic platform to see if it's any more progressive (no pun intended).

UPDATE August 30, 2012 — Public Interest Editor Matt Reed of Florida Today didn't pull punches in this opinion column.

Mitt Romney and the Republican National Committee have blown it on space.

For two years, Republicans have accused President Barack Obama of bungling Brevard County’s signature industry. They hammered him in appearances and interviews for canceling Constellation, botching thousands of shuttle jobs and relying on the Russians for lifts to the International Space Station until private U.S. rockets fly.

But given a chance to do better, Republicans in Tampa approved a platform that calls for ... staying the course. Their plan is, literally, Obama’s plan.

And their presidential nominee will have nothing to add between now and November.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Isaac Visits Cape Canaveral

The view out the front blast door of the blockhouse. The blast door is to the left.

Looking at the Rocket Garden through the blast windows — 45 glass panes pressed together.

I happened to have been at the Air Force Space & Missile Museum when a squall from Tropical Storm Isaac passed through this afternoon.

The museum is located in what was once the blockhouse for Launch Complex 26, where Explorer 1 was launched. Explorer 1 was the first American satellite in space, launched on January 31, 1958.

I can't think of a better place to watch a tropical event pass by. The walls are five feet thick of concrete, with a domed roof eight feet thick.

The blast windows facing each launch pad are 45 glass panes pressed together.

Looking out those windows at the squall, I thought, "Bring on the hurricane!" It's probably one of the safest places around here ... until someone pointed out that the 1950s-era cableways under the building would probably flood and leak water into the blockhouse. So much for that idea.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Visiting Neil Armstrong

A NASA video compilation looks back at the career of Neil Armstrong.

Memories of Neil Armstrong are all over the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

One day after his passing at age 82, it seemed fitting to visit some of those locations.

The service arm the Apollo 11 crew walked across to access the spacecraft. This is in the KSCVC Rocket Garden.

The placard describing the service arm. The number is for those using translation devices.

Walking down the service arm towards the spacecraft.

Newspapers from around the world reporting humans have landed on the Moon.

These newspapers are on display at the Apollo Saturn V Center.

The New Orleans States-Item front page from July 21, 1969.

The Indianapolis News from July 21, 1969. Note the Moon watermark.

The July 21, 1969 Cincinnati Enquirer. That's an artist's drawing, not a photo.

Friday, August 24, 2012

SpaceX in the End Zone

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in front of the Falcon 9 that will launch the next Dragon flight to the ISS. Image source: NASA.

While visiting Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station yesterday, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden announced that SpaceX has completed its milestones and will begin regular cargo deliveries in October to the International Space Station.

According to Florida Today:

The milestone officially marks SpaceX's graduation from the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services development program the company began in 2006.

SpaceX in May became the first private company to dock a spacecraft to the station — an unmanned Dragon capsule — and return it to Earth.

The successful demonstration flight proved SpaceX was ready for operational missions, the first of which is expected to launch from the Cape in October.

According to an article on the NASA web site:

Through the COTS program, NASA provides investments to stimulate the American commercial space industry. As part of its COTS partnership, SpaceX became the first commercial company to resupply the space station in May, successfully launching its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft to the orbiting complex. During the historic mission, the Dragon was captured by astronauts using the station's robot arm, unloaded and safely returned to Earth carrying experiments conducted aboard ISS. Later this winter, Orbital Sciences Corp. plans to carry out its first test flight under COTS.

Bolden also announced NASA partner Sierra Nevada Corp. has conducted its first milestone under the agency's recently announced Commercial Crew integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative. The milestone, a program implementation plan review, marks an important first step in Sierra Nevada's efforts to develop a crew transportation system with its Dream Chaser spacecraft.

XCOR to Fly at KSC

Click the arrow to watch on YouTube excerpts from the August 23 press conference.

Florida Today reports that XCOR has signed an agreement to locate operations in Florida.

Kennedy Space Center’s goal to become a more commercial spaceport received a boost Thursday with XCOR Aerospace’s announcement that it planned to test, fly and eventually build suborbital spacecraft here.

The Mojave, Calif.-based company’s two-seater Lynx space plane could start taking off and landing at the shuttle runway in 2014, with a next-generation version flying customers regularly the following year.

XCOR estimates it could hire more than 150 people locally by 2018, and executives said the area’s skilled former shuttle workforce was key to their decision to base a manufacturing site on the Space Coast.

According to Aviation Week:

The plan calls for up to four flights of the Lynx spacecraft each day from the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center for suborbital researchers and tourists within two years, and an adjacent assembly facility for the production of two to three of the vehicles annually.

Some details have yet to be worked out, including formal agreements with NASA for use of the SLF, the 15,000-ft.-long coastal runway once used by returning space shuttle crews. Market demand for the Lynx, which is expected to begin flight tests in Mojave by early 2013, has not been firmly established.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Charlie and the Space Factory

Two press releases suggest Thursday August 23 will be a busy day for NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.

According to a NASA press release, Bolden will spend the day with the media, granting interviews and leading tours. "Bolden will detail recent progress related to NASA's commercial spaceflight initiatives," according to the release.

Bolden will also attend a 10 AM press conference at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex to announce an agreement with XCOR. While Bolden is in town, a 10 AM press conference will be held at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex to announce an agreement with XCOR. According to a press release posted by, "XCOR Aerospace will announce details regarding its intent to establish a manufacturing and assembly center for XCOR Lynx Mark II suborbital reusable launch vehicles on Florida’s Space Coast." The press release doesn't mention Bolden; sorry for the incorrect post yesterday. I wouldn't be surprised if Bolden shows up, but XCOR is not part of the NASA commercial spaceflight initiative so technically there's no reason for him to be there.

Attending the event will be:

  • Florida Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll
  • XCOR CEO Jeff Greason
  • Space Florida President Frank DiBello
  • NASA-KSC Director Robert Cabana
  • NASA Chief of Staff David Radzanowski
  • U.S. Senator Bill Nelson
  • EDC of Florida’s Space Coast President Lynda Weatherman
  • Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex COO Bill Moore
  • Jacksonville Aviation Authority Sr. Manager of Aviation Planning & Spaceport Development Todd Lindner

Presumably Bolden will stick around for the Radiation Belt Storm Probes launch on Friday at 4:07 AM EDT from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Corrected at 8:30 AM EDT August 22, 2012.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Orbiter Endeavour #1 on the Runway

The orbiter Endeavour is spending its final days at Kennedy Space Center in High Bay 4 of the Vehicle Assembly Building. It departs on September 17 for the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

Below are photos I shot today with my dinky cameraphone of Endeavour.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

We're NASA and We Know It!

Click the arrow to watch the video on YouTube.

The above "parody" was posted today on YouTube. It speaks for itself.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

XCOR to Take Residence at KSC

An artist's concept of the XCOR Lynx. Image source:

Florida Today reports that an event will be held August 23 at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex to announce that XCOR Aerospace will take residence at KSC.

The California company expects to create 152 jobs with this operations and manufacturing business, which it will announce at 10 a.m. on Aug. 23 at the Astronaut Encounter Theater at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

An invitation to the announcement says XCOR will establish its new business in Florida, and the only Florida site the company has seriously scouted was KSC.

According to the invitation (which I've seen), among those to be in attendance will be Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, Space Florida President and CEO Frank DiBello, and KSC Director Robert Cabana.

It's been a big media week for XCOR.

The Lynx was on the front page of the USA Today Money section today.

This week's Popular Mechanics dubbed the Lynx the "Space Corvette."

The August 23 event finally may reveal who is the new tenant in the former Space Shuttle hangar OPF-1. Florida Today reported in November 2011 that the hangar had been released to an unnamed tenant, and NASA would have to vacate by August 2012. Well, here we are in August, and the orbiters have left OPF-1, so now we await the revelation.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Around the Park

Below are recent photos I shot with my dinky cameraphone at Kennedy Space Center and its Visitor Complex.

I sent these out on my Twitter account, so if you want to receive them instantly then follow me on Twitter @spacekscblog.

The orbiter Atlantis and the Shuttle-era AstroVan in High Bay 4 of the Vehicle Assembly Building. Atlantis and Endeavour swap places on August 16.

The natural light bathing Atlantis in the first photo came through the fully open doors of High Bay 3 across the Transfer Aisle. In the foreground are the hooks from the 325-ton crane that lifts an item from the aisle up and over into the high bay.

An Orion capsule and abort tower mockup in the transfer aisle. They're being used as conceptual models for Space Launch System interface.

A future astronaut reads the career stats for the orbiter Atlantis.

Construction progresses on the orbiter Atlantis museum at the Visitor Complex. This view is from the astronaut memorial mirror.

This view is from the intersection entering the Visitor Complex. The photo was shot from a tour bus.

The Air Force has positioned its remote camera truck near Launch Complex 39 to film the Radiation Belt Storm Probes launch August 23 down the road at LC-41.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Sound of Music

Click the arrow to watch the La La Land Records promotional video.

La La Land Records has announced that this fall it will release a 15-CD collection of the soundtracks from the original Star Trek series.

From the press release:

This release marks the kind of authoritative collection of original Trek series music that fans have desired for decades. “For 45 years, those like me who love this music could only dream about having it all,” remarks album producer Lukas Kendall. “This is the major, historical piece of sci-fi music, television music and pop culture music that we have always wanted to release in a definitive form for the collector.”

“A majority of the music featured in this set has never been released,” adds Executive Album Producer and La-La Land Records President MV Gerhard. “Of that unreleased music, there is a fairly large percentage that no one has ever heard because it was written and recorded for the show, but never featured in the episodes.” Regarding some of these previously unreleased tracks, Album Music Editor Neil S. Bulk comments, “No original music from season three, apart from the main title, has ever been released. It’s really distinct and definitely Star Trek… It’s what people have always wanted.”

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Back to the Drawing Board

Click the arrow to watch the Morpheus crash on YouTube.

The NASA Morpheus Lander crashed, burned and for good measure exploded during a test flight earlier today at Kennedy Space Center.

According to Florida Today:

The Morpheus Lander, fueled by four tanks holding liquid oxygen and liquid methane, rose a short distance before keeling over on its side and landing with an explosion at its pad at the north end of the Shuttle Landing Facility.

Another explosion occurred about 10 seconds later, according to a video posted by Central Florida News 13.

NASA posted a short Twitter message saying the lander “experienced a failure, causing it to catch fire. No one was injured. Information will be released as soon as possible.

UPDATE August 10, 2012 — NASA posted this video of the Morpheus tests to date, including its fatal flight:

According to this morning's Florida Today, a backup unit will be pressed into service to continue tests.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Looking Up

About 1,000 people watch NASA's Curiosity rover land on Mars from New York City's Times Square on Sunday. Image source: Leslie Mullen, Astrobiology Magazine, via

In the last few years, we've stumbled. We stumbled at the death of the President, the war, and on and on. And when you stumble a lot, you start looking at your feet.

We have to make people lift their eyes back to the horizon and see the line of ancestors behind us saying, "Make my life have meaning." And to our inheritors before us saying, "Create the world we will live in."

— Bruce Boxleitner as Capt. John Sheridan
Babylon 5, "And Now for a Word,"
Written by J. Michael Straczynski

As the Mars Science Laboratory aboard the Curiosity rover landed on Mars, about a thousand people crowded Times Square in New York City to watch. As one, they looked up at a giant screen televising the historic event.

Click the arrow to watch Jet Propulsion Laboratory Mission Support Area react to the Curiosity rover landing.

Three thousand miles away, a room filled with engineers and scientists erupted in joy as they successfully completed a mission years in the making.

According to an MSNBC report, the Times Square crowd chanted "NASA! NASA!" after the rover landed.

2012 is shaping up as the year of the Space Geek.

We've seen an entirely new spacefaring technology given birth. SpaceX successfully launched and berthed the Dragon cargo vehicle at the International Space Station. By year's end, the Orbital Sciences Cygnus may have done so as well.

The ISS is fully operational. The Center for Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), which manages the U.S. National Laboratory, has started soliciting proposals for ISS experiments. The SpaceX Dragon is the only vehicle on Planet Earth capable of returning experiments from the ISS.

On August 3, NASA announced the three winners of the commercial crew competition. SpaceX and Boeing were given awards of more than $400 million each to design and develop the nation's new crew vehicles. Sierra Nevada received an award of more than $200 million to design an orbital spaceplane.

Because their partners Boeing and SpaceX received full awards, Bigelow Aerospace announced that will accelerate development of its inflatable habitats, essentially private space stations that will be in orbit by the end of the decade.

Many companies have announced initiatives independent of NASA's commercial investment programs. Perhaps the most daring is Planetary Resources, which has announced plans to harvest Near-Earth Asteroids for minerals. Stratolaunch intends to build the world's largest aircraft, using two 747 fuselages to lift rockets for horizontal launch. XCOR advances its work on a suborbital spacecraft. And Virgin Galactic moves closer to its first commercial tourism flight in 2013.

Curiosity is the latest space achievement. As evidenced from the Times Square photo, for a few moments, once again people are looking up.

It's just my anecdotal impression, but it seems that many of those "looking up" these days are the younger generations who will benefit from all this new technology. An article on The Atlantic Wire web site described NASA as "the government's one true viral hit factory":

NASA may only consume 0.5 percent of the federal budget, but it generates practically all of Uncle Sam's viral marketing buzz. Never was that more apparent than on Monday morning following the successful Mars landing of Curiosity, the biggest and most advanced spacecraft ever dispatched to another planet. In an explosion of tweets, Tumbls, status updates, and blog posts, the Internet showed its love of NASA in a way other parts of the government could only dream of.

The article credits not only the "rebellious nerd cool" personalities in JPL's Mission Support Area, but also NASA's viral web strategy. "With scarcely few problems, the NASA live stream provided a window for the entire world to see its success," the article states.

Some of those over 50 grouse that the government won't perpetuate 1970s technology and the obsolete job skills that go with it. But the Internet generation seems poised to seize as their own this pivotal moment in human spaceflight history.

While one generation stumbles and looks down at its feet, another generation is looking to the horizon. For the horizon is theirs.

UPDATE August 9, 2012 — MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show on August 6 named the Curiosity landing their Best New Thing in the World for that episode:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Click the arrow to watch the video. You may be subjected to an ad first.

UPDATE August 10, 2012 — MSNBC's The Last Word on August 9 features "Mohawk Guy" Bobak Ferdowsi, a JPL flight director for the Curiosity mission:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Click the arrow to watch the video. You may be subjected to an ad first.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Curiosity at the Bat

Click the arrow to watch the NASA video, "Seven Minutes of Terror."

Tonight is the moment of truth for the NASA Mars Science Laboratory.

Shortly after 10:00 PM EDT, the vehicle will enter the Martian atmosphere and attempt to place the Curiosity rover on the surface in Gale Crater.

Click here for Florida Today coverage of the Mars Curiosity mission.

The Mars Science Laboratory launches on November 26, 2011 from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

UPDATE August 6, 2012The Curiosity has landed.

Below is one of the first photos transmitted by Curiosity:

Thursday, August 2, 2012

And the Winners Are ...

Click the arrow to watch the NASA TV video of the CCiCap press conference at Kennedy Space Center.

NBC News space correspondent Alan Boyle just sent out this Twitter message:

SpaceX, Boeing and Sierra Nevada selected to receive money from NASA for future spaceships, NBC reports. Story upcoming.

The official press release is scheduled for release in the morning at 9 AM EDT. I'll update this post as events warrant.

Congratulations to NBC News for the scoop.

UPDATE August 2, 2012 7:15 PM EDTThe Wall Street Journal reports that Boeing and SpaceX are "expected" to win the full awards.

Boeing Co. and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. on Friday are expected to win the bulk of as much as $1 billion in federal awards to spur development of next-generation manned spacecraft, according to industry officials.

The decision, which is expected to be disclosed at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, caps three years of efforts by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to foster so-called space taxis, commercially-owned and operated vehicles intended to shuttle crews to and from the International Space Station.

Chicago-based Boeing and closely-held Space Exploration Technologies, based in Hawthorne, Calif., appear poised to split most of the money tentatively earmarked by NASA and lawmakers for such systems, the industry officials said. The total amount available is likely to be between $800 and $1 billion through the middle of 2014.

Closely-held Sierra Nevada Corp., a manufacturer of satellite components and other aerospace hardware that is based in Sparks, Nev., seems likely to emerge with a substantially smaller award, according to the officials. After lengthy battles with congressional leaders, NASA chief Charles Bolden agreed there would be two primary winners, plus a third choice that would receive less funding, they said.

UPDATE August 2, 2012 8:45 PM EDTNBC News has posted its report.

Teams headed by the Boeing Co., SpaceX and Sierra Nevada Corp. will be receiving hundreds of millions of dollars from NASA over the next 21 months for further development of spaceships capable of transporting astronauts to and from the International Space Station, knowledgeable sources told NBC News today.

NASA is to make the official announcement of the winning commercial teams on Friday morning — but NBC News' Cape Canaveral correspondent, Jay Barbree, received word from two sources who were informed of the decision in advance, on condition of anonymity. The sources did not discuss how much money any of the companies would be receiving.

UPDATE August 3, 2012 9:00 AM EDT — James Dean of Florida Today just sent this Twitter message:

NASA's "CCiCap" awards go to...Boeing ($460 million), SpaceX ($440 million), Sierra Nevada Corp. ($212.5 million).

UPDATE August 3, 2012 9:30 AM EDTHere's the official NASA press release.

NASA Friday announced new agreements with three American commercial companies to design and develop the next generation of U.S. human spaceflight capabilities, enabling a launch of astronauts from U.S. soil in the next five years. Advances made by these companies under newly signed Space Act Agreements through the agency's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative are intended to ultimately lead to the availability of commercial human spaceflight services for government and commercial customers.‬

CCiCap partners are:

— Sierra Nevada Corporation, Louisville, Colo., $212.5 million
— Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), Hawthorne, Calif., $440 million
— The Boeing Company, Houston, $460 million

UPDATE August 3, 2012 2:45 PM EDT — I've posted above the video of this morning's announcement at Kennedy Space Center.

UPDATE August 4, 2012Florida Today reports on yesterday's announcement:

NASA selected the winners from seven proposals, of which three did not meet requirements: American Aerospace, Space Design and Space Operations & Co.

Of the remaining four, ATK’s proposed Liberty system, which leveraged a first-stage solid rocket booster initially designed for NASA’s canceled Ares I rocket, was the loser.

The winners’ proposals met the development program’s objectives “in a much stronger fashion than ATK’s did,” said Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations directorate.

The Utah Congressional delegation, as expected, has already started making false claims and threatening investigations.

From this morning's Salt Lake Tribune:

In a statement Friday, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, said he was "disappointed and disheartened by the news."

"I have been concerned that favoritism may be playing far too prominent of a role in NASA’s decision-making process, especially with regards to companies closely tied to key NASA officials," he said. "ATK is a proven leader and their track record is beyond exemplary. It was my understanding that ATK’s Liberty proposal ranked very high in technical merit, and was the lowest-risk option."

Bishop’s concerns about favoritism stem from alleged relationships he says President Obama and NASA administrator Charles Bolden have with Musk.

Bishop offered no evidence, of course, to support his allegations.

He also failed to mention that in 1973 NASA Administrator James Fletcher, a Utah native, awarded the Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster contract to Morton Thiokol, ATK's predecessor. According to a University of Texas web site article:

Four companies bid for the contract to design and manufacture the solid rocket boosters (SRBs). Aerojet Solid bid the program at $655 million, United Technologies at $710 million, Morton Thiokol at $710 million, and Lockheed at $714 million. All the bids were relatively similar in both price and technology. Based on cost, the NASA advisory panel recommended that the contract be awarded to Aerojet; they believed that money could be saved without sacrificing technical quality by choosing the lowest bid. NASA administrator Dr. James Fletcher overruled this recommendation and awarded the contract to Morton Thiokol in Brigham City, Utah. Aerojet appealed the decision and after many allegations and counter-allegations, the GAO (General Accounting Office) was instructed by Congress to investigate the matter. The GAO found that the contract award procedure was not improper. NASA regulations clearly stated that the decision was to be made by the chief administrator, not the advisory panel. However, the GAO could find no reason for selecting Morton Thiokol over Aerojet and recommended that NASA reconsider the decision.

I would like to hear what Rep. Bishop has to say about that 1973 decision.

In the above video, Bolden said the CCiCap decision was made by NASA Associate Administrator William Gerstenmaier, and that he was not notified until two days before the announcement. The implication was that Bolden was insulated from the decision-making process to avoid the Congressional allegations of partisan favoritism that have been hurled at him in the past.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that the awards also help Bigelow Aerospace, which has partnerships with Boeing and SpaceX.

Robert Bigelow, owner and president of Bigelow Aerospace, called the funding "more aggressive" than prior NASA contracts and said he was "very happy" about the ramped-up investment, which will nearly double the workforce at his North Las Vegas plant ...

Bigelow said he has marked 2016 as a year when spacecraft availability will meet growing customer demand, and things really take off for the business.

"This is an embryonic situation where we've been in research-and-development mode for the last decade," Bigelow said. "As with anything you're trying to create from scratch, it takes a while to finally get to a point where you have something that's marketable. We are starting to approach that point in our little company."

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Envelope, Please

NASA issued a press release today announcing that it will disclose on Friday the winners of the commercial crew competition.


NASA to Announce New Agreements for Next Phase of Commercial Crew Development

WASHINGTON — NASA will issue a news release to announce new agreements with industry partners for its Commercial Crew integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative at 9 a.m. EDT, Friday, Aug. 3. At 10 a.m. NASA will host a news briefing from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, which will be broadcast live on NASA Television and the agency's website. NASA also will host a follow-up teleconference for media representatives with detailed questions at 10:45 a.m., immediately following the briefing.

Through CCiCap, NASA is stimulating the private sector to develop and demonstrate human spaceflight capabilities that could ultimately lead to the availability of commercial human spaceflight services for both commercial and government customers.

CCiCap is an initiative of NASA's Commercial Crew Program and a priority of the Obama Administration. The objective of the program is to facilitate the development of a U.S. commercial crew space transportation capability with the goal of achieving safe, reliable and cost-effective access to and from low Earth orbit and the International Space Station. After the capability is matured, NASA could purchase commercial services to meet its space station crew transportation needs.

Televised news briefing participants at Kennedy are:
— NASA Administrator Charles Bolden
— Kennedy Space Center Director Robert Cabana
— Commercial Crew Program Manager Ed Mango

News teleconference participants are:
— Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations Directorate William Gerstenmaier
— Director for Commercial Spaceflight Development Philip McAlister
— Deputy Manager for Commercial Crew Program Brent Jett

Posey Moons Florida Today

On July 23, I posted an article about Space Coast Rep. Bill Posey's false claims that China plans to establish a colony on the Moon for military reasons.

The day before, Florida Today published an interview in which Posey said:

The moon, first and primarily, is the military high ground. We know the Russians want to colonize the moon. The Chinese are going to colonize the moon — they’ve said so.

I sent an opinion letter to Florida Today which was published on July 26. I wrote that Posey has repeatedly made this claim, but never offered any proof.

The newspaper published today a response from Posey:

It is naive to think that Russia and China have no desire to dominate space, or that they lack the capability to reach the moon. A January 2010 report from The Washington Times quotes Chinese officials stating they are developing plans to reach the moon by 2022 and are building three space stations.

For those of you unfamiliar with The Washington Times, it's owned by members of the South Korean Unification Church. Members are commonly known as "Moonies" because the church's founder is Sun Myung Moon.

Searching the Times archives, I found the article that it appears Posey cites as his source.

Titled "China Space Program Shoots for Moon", it's not a "report" as Posey claims but an opinion column written by John J. Tkacik, identified as "a retired Foreign Service officer" who was "chief of China analysis in the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research during the Clinton administration."

Mr. Tkacik's column says nothing about China wanting a Moon colony. This is what he really wrote:

Senior Chinese space officials have told their state media that China could be on the moon by 2022 at the outside. Other authoritative Chinese space engineers see a moon landing as a next step in the Tiangong program that will launch three Chinese space stations into Earth orbit between 2011 and 2015. In 2008, NASA scientists told the Bush White House that, with the technology currently available to the Chinese space program, Chinese cosmonauts could be on the moon by 2017.

No authoritative source and no documented plan to build a moon colony. Just rumor and speculation that China might land on the Moon some day.

Landing on the Moon is not a "colony" anymore than the six Apollo landings created an American "colony" on the Moon. A colony is a permanent visit, not a few days picking up rocks.

Rep. Posey, in my opinion, remains as I described him on July 23 — a demagogue who makes absurd claims trying to frighten people into keeping him in power.

I've forwarded the Times link to the Florida Today editorial staff, and asked them to call out Mr. Posey on his fibs.