Mars Needs Women — NASA Needs Everybody

Credit: American International Television

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In the 1967 film, Mars Needs Women, a team of martians invades Earth to kidnap women to help repopulate their dying species. Shot over two weeks on a minuscule budget and padded out with stock footage, the movie obtained cult status as one of those cinematic disasters that was so bad it was unintentionally hilarious.

A half century later, NASA finds itself in a not entirely dissimilar situation. Only this problem is not nearly as funny.

The space agency lacks sufficient personnel with the proper skill sets to undertake its complex missions to the moon, Mars and beyond. A number of key programs have been affected by the shortfall already.

NASA’s workforce is also aging. More than half the agency’s employees are 50 years and older, with one-fifth  currently eligible for retirement. Finding replacement workers with the right mix of skills is not always easy as NASA faces increased competition from a growing commercial space sector.

The space agency is addressing these challenges, but it’s too early to tell how successful these efforts will be, according to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) assessment.

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Payload for 2022 SLS Launch Still Up in the Air

Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft on Pad 39B. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has set mid-2022 for the second flight of the Space Launch System (SLS), but it’s not yet known what the massive booster will actually launch.

“Determination as to whether this launch will be SLS/Orion crewed mission (EM-2) or the SLS/Europa Clipper mission will be made based on risk and readiness of the Europa Clipper project,” according to a decision memo signed on Friday by William C. Hill, deputy associate administrator for Exploration Systems Development. Parabolic Arc obtained a copy of the memo.

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Old Data Reveal New Evidence of Europa Plumes

Artist’s illustration of Jupiter and Europa (in the foreground) with the Galileo spacecraft after its pass through a plume erupting from Europa’s surface. A new computer simulation gives us an idea of how the magnetic field interacted with a plume. The magnetic field lines (depicted in blue) show how the plume interacts with the ambient flow of Jovian plasma. The red colors on the lines show more dense areas of plasma. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Michigan)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Scientists re-examining data from an old mission bring new insights to the tantalizing question of whether Jupiter’s moon Europa has the ingredients to support life. The data provide independent evidence that the moon’s subsurface liquid water reservoir may be venting plumes of water vapor above its icy shell.

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GAO: NASA Moving Ahead on Defining Europa Clipper Mission

The Europa Clipper spacecraft flies over the surface of Europa in this artist’s rendering. NASA is currently studying this reduced-cost mission which would use at least 48 flybys to explore the moon instead of entering into orbit. (Credit: NASA / JPL / Michael Carroll)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA is working through technical issues with scientific instruments, solar arrays and power requirements as the space agency defines its ambitious Europa Clipper orbiter, according to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) assessment.

Europa Clipper, which is set for launch in 2022, will be the space agency’s first dedicated mission to study Jupiter’s ice covered moon. Scientists believe the ice could hide a vast ocean teeming with extraterrestrial life.

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House Measure Would Boost NASA Budget to $21.5 Billion

The House Appropriations Committee has released a draft bill that would increase NASA’s budget to $21.5 billion for fiscal year 2019. The total would be an increase of $810 million above the enacted amount for FY 2018 and $1.6 billion more than the Trump Administration requested.

NASA would spend $5.1 billion on deep space exploration, an increase of $294 million. The total includes $504 million for the Lunar Orbital Platform — Gateway.

Science would also be boosted by $459 million to $6.7 billion. The total includes $740 million for a Europa orbiter and lander.

Complete details on the proposed budget are still lacking. Below is what the committee has released thus far.
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Maxar Technologies’ SSL Selected by NASA JPL for Europa Clipper Mission

The Clipper spacecraft flies over the surface of Europa in this artist’s rendering. NASA is currently studying this reduced-cost mission which would use at least 48 flybys to explore the moon instead of entering into orbit. (Credit: NASA / JPL / Michael Carroll)

PALO ALTO, Calif., April 3, 2018 (Maxar PR) – SSL, a Maxar Technologies company (formerly MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd.) (NYSE: MAXR; TSX: MAXR), and a leading provider of innovative satellites and spacecraft systems, announced today it was selected by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to design and build critical equipment for a spacecraft that will explore Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons. The award reflects SSL’s leadership role in the space industry as a valued contractor supporting NASA mission needs and long-term commitment to accelerating innovation for the new space economy.

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A Closer Look at NASA’s FY 2018 Budget


by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Despite a last minute threat of a veto, President Donald Trump signed an $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill on Friday that boosts NASA spending by about $1.1 billion to $20.7 billion.

So, with the fiscal year nearly half over, let’s take a closer look at NASA’s FY 2018 budget, which the Administration had tried to cut. The table below lays out the numbers from the omnibus bill, the Administration’s request and the FY 2017 budget.

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House Appropriations Committee Boosts NASA’s Budget

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Ignoring the Trump’s Administration’s fiscal year 2018 (FY 2018) budget request, the House Appropriations Committee has voted to boost NASA’ spending to $19.88 billion, including significant increases to the space agency’s Exploration and Planetary Science programs.

The appropriations bill is an increase of $779.8 million over Trump’s requested budget of $19.09 billion. It would increase NASA’s budget by $218.5 million over the $19.65 billion the space agency is receiving in FY 2017.

NASA’s Exploration program, which includes the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft, would be boosted by $226 million to $4.55 billion under the House measure. The administration had requested $3.93 billion, a cut of $390 million under current spending.

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NASA Ask Scientists to Think of Ideas for Europa Landing Instruments

NASA’s Europa Clipper mission is being designed to fly by the icy Jovian moon multiple times and investigate whether it possesses the ingredients necessary for life. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA is asking scientists to consider what would be the best instruments to include on a mission to land on Jupiter’s icy moon, Europa.

NASA Wednesday informed the science community to prepare for a planned competition to select science instruments for a potential Europa lander.

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NASA Selects Honeybee Robotics for Six Small Business Awards

The green oval highlights the plumes Hubble observed on Europa. The area also corresponds to a warm region on Europa’s surface. The map is based on observations by the Galileo spacecraft (Credits: NASA/ESA/STScI/USGS)

Honeybee Robotics will begin developing new technologies that would allow a lander to drill into the icy surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa and collect samples for analysis with the help of a pair of NASA small business awards.

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NASA Mission Named ‘Europa Clipper’

NASA’s Europa Clipper mission is being designed to fly by the icy Jovian moon multiple times and investigate whether it possesses the ingredients necessary for life. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute)

PASADENA, Cailf. (NASA PR) — NASA’s upcoming mission to investigate the habitability of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa now has a formal name: Europa Clipper.

The moniker harkens back to the clipper ships that sailed across the oceans of Earth in the 19th century. Clipper ships were streamlined, three-masted sailing vessels renowned for their grace and swiftness. These ships rapidly shuttled tea and other goods back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean and around globe.

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Smallsat 2016: NASA Program & Mission Updates

Two three-unit (3U) CubeSats. At about a foot in length and four inches wide, these are similar in design to IceCube and the five selected heliophysics CubeSats. (Credit: NASA)
Two three-unit (3U) CubeSats. At about a foot in length and four inches wide, these are similar in design to IceCube and the five selected heliophysics CubeSats. (Credit: NASA)

NASA officials have been providing updates this week on agency programs and missions during the 2016 Small Satellite Conference and the CubeSat Workshop that preceded it. I have pulled together summaries of their presentations drawn from Twitter.  Information has come from the following Tweeters:

  • Jeff Foust ‏@jeff_foust
  • David Hurst ‏@OrbitalDave
  • Hanna Steplewska ‏@spacesurfingirl
  • Augie Allen ‏@AugieAllen
  • RITSpaceExploration ‏@RITSPEX

Enjoy!
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Deep Space Optical Communications

A NASA JPL artist imagines a group of satellites around Mars providing navigation and communication for robots and humans down on the Red Planet, while a larger spacecraft ensures the Mars-Earth connection. (Credit: NASA)
A NASA JPL artist imagines a group of satellites around Mars providing navigation and communication for robots and humans down on the Red Planet, while a larger spacecraft ensures the Mars-Earth connection. (Credit: NASA)

By Denise M. Stefula

In May 2016, the Game Changing Development Program’s Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) project completed TRL 6 milestone testing on its key deliverable, an integrated deep-space flight laser transmitter assembly. Proposed on several Discovery missions, the technology undergoes a transition review in June and is expected to advance to NASA’s Technology Demonstration Missions (TDM) program.

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House Passes NASA Budget as Obama Administration Threatens Veto

Capitol Building
The House of Representatives passed the FY2016 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) appropriations bill (H.R. 2578) on June 3, 2015. President Barack Obama has threatened to veto the measure, which includes funding for NASA and NOAA.

The highlights involving NASA’s budget include:

  • $3.4 billion for Space Launch System, Orion and related ground systems, an increase of $546 million over the President’s request;
  • $1 billion for Commercial Crew, a reduction of $243.8 million from the request;
  • $625 million for space technology, a reduction of $100 million.
  • $1.56 billion for planetary exploration, an increase of $196 million;
  • $1.68 billion for Earth science, a reduction of $264 million;
  • $140 million to begin work on the Jupiter Europa Clipper mission;
  • $19 million to maintain operations of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and $13.7 million for the Mars Opportunity Rover;
  • a requirement to use the Space Launch System for the Jupiter Europa mission; and,
  • a stipulation that $25 million of the space technology budget “shall be for icy satellites surface technology and test beds.”

The table below has the full details. (more…)

House Appropriations Committee Releases NASA Budget Figures

Capitol Building
The House Appropriations Committee has released updated numbers for the NASA FY 2016 budget. The highlights include:

  • $3.4 billion for Space Launch System, Orion and related ground systems, an increase of $546 million over the President’s request;
  • $1 billion for Commercial Crew, a reduction of $243 million from the request;
  • $625 million for space technology, a reduction of $100 million.
  • $1.56 billion for planetary exploration, an increase of $196 million;
  • $1.68 billion for Earth science, a reduction of $264 million;
  • $140 million to begin work on the Jupiter Europa clipper;
  • $19 million to maintain operations of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and $13.7 million for the Mars Opportunity Rover.

The table below has the full details.

NASA FY 2016 BUDGET
(In Millions of Dollars)
PROGRAMADMINISTRATION REQUEST
HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE
DIFFERENCE
Science$5,288.6$5,237.5-$51.1
Earth Science
$1,947.3$1,682.9-$264.2
Planetary Sciences$1,361.2 $1,557.0 $195.8
Astrophysics$709.1 $735.6 $26.5
James Webb Space Telescope
$620.0 $620.0 $0.0
Heliophysics$651.0$642.0 -$9.0
Jupiter Europa Clipper$30.0$140.0 $110.0
Space Exploration$4,505.9$4,759.3$253.4
Exploration Systems Development
$2,862.9$3,409.3$546.4
Space Launch System
$1,356.5$1,850.0$493.5
Orion
$1,096.3$1,096.3$0.0
Exploration Ground Systems
$410.1 $410.0-$0.1
Program Integration
$53.0$53.0
Commercial Spaceflight$1,243.8$1,000.0-$243.0
Research & Development$399.2$350.0-$49.2
Space Operations$4,003.7$3,957.3
-$46.4
International Space Station$3,106.6$3,075.6-$31.0
Space & Flight Support
$898.1$881.7-$16.4
Space Technology$724.8$625.0
-$99.8
Aeronautics$571.4$600.0
$28.6
Education$88.9$119.0
$30.1
Safety, Security and Mission Services$2,843.1$2,768.6
-$74.5
Construction & Environmental Compliance & Restoration$465.3$425.0
-$40.3
Inspector General$37.4$37.4
$0.0
TOTALS:$18,529.1$18,529.1$0.0