Welcome to the Huntsville Space Professionals (HSP) website! We invite everyone who is passionate about space to join for free. There are no membership dues. Our goal is to help educate students about space, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and motivate them to reach their fullest academic potential.
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Huntsville Space Professionals
[HSP is 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization]
Constructive brainstorming: I am working on a program to breathe new life into our talent database. Instead of a static listing of resumes, I'm planning on coding a dynamic web form for each user to complete a qualifications summary that will look more like a sales pitch, with contact links for further information.
This will be a web application on our HSP server but separate from the rest of the website, enabling better search results. We have some ideas about what this summary should include, ie #of years of experience, skill sets, etc., but I wanted to pulse you guys to find out what you thought. Any ideas? THANKS!
- Feel free to post your comments directly to the site or email us.
HSP editor note: Dennis Wingo clearly identifies the most critical risks facing the Nation's space program. NASA's strategic communication has failed at providing the American people with results.
An open letter to the Committee on the Strategic Direction of NASA
by Dennis Ray Wingo
Tonight I went to the web page for the National Research Council’s committee on the strategic direction of NASA. I am annoyed at some of the questions, such as the question regarding humans/vs robots. This is a silly question for such an organization such as this to ask and misses the entire point about what strategic direction means.
Another question asked about the strategic direction statement itself. The NASA strategic direction, vision and mission statements aren’t bad. That is not the point. The point is that the implementation of those high sounding words is atrocious.
Anyway, I copied all the questions and my answers, and these are now open for your comments as well!! Maybe this public forum will help provide better information than the limited format that they used.
NASA’s Vision, Mission and Strategic Direction.
What is your understanding and opinion of NASA’s current vision, mission and strategic direction? If you think NASA’s vision, mission and strategic direction should different from the above, please state what they should be and why.
The vision and mission statement of NASA in their 2011 strategic plan are largely decoupled from the way that the strategic goal, especially #1 is implemented. 1.3 states:
“Develop an integrated architecture and capabilities for safe crewed and cargo missions beyond low Earth orbit.”
Currently, none of the BEO exploration architectures integrates ISS into its plan. It is merely assumed that ISS will not be around due to the long development period of the SLS HLV booster. The SLS booster, its cost, and long gestation is the flaw in the implementation of the Strategic direction. An alternate architecture integrating existing vehicles, advanced technology, and living off the land negates the need for the SLS.
The implementation plan that undergirds the utilization of an SLS heavy lift vehicle assumes that all payloads for human BEO missions will be lofted from the Earth. None of the design reference missions incorporate InSitu Resource Utilization (ISRU) in any serious manner. The reasons given are that ISRU is at a low Technical Readiness Level (TRL), yet there are no significant programs in NASA beyond Jerry Sanders modest efforts, in NASA’s strategic technology portfolio.
Without ISRU, no BEO exploration strategy is sustainable. At no time in human history has any exploration or colonization succeeded when reliant on supplies from home. NASA’s LRO, Mars, and other planetary missions indicate that our solar system is rich with resources, including fuels and metals, that would support a “living off the land” strategy.
The SLS centric architecture ignores ISS and wastes NASA’s flagship human spaceflight program. Its expense and long gestation time, renders human BEO exploration so far into the future as to be of little value to our society. It is recommended that the strategic plan be amended to incorporate “living off the land” as a central theme for sustainable human BEO exploration.
In your opinion, should NASA’s annual budget (currently about $18 billion) be substantially increased, be substantially decreased, or remain at about the current level – and why? [In responding to this question, assume that an increase in NASA's budget would require reduction(s) elsewhere in the federal budget and, conversely, that a decrease in NASA's budget would enable increased funding elsewhere in the federal budget.]
NASA’s budget is less important than the strategic direction and national priority. Today billions of dollars per year are wasted on a heavy lift vehicle with no funding for payloads and is not expected to be operational for another ten years. Reallocating this funding to advanced technology, in space systems, and more commercial integration would provide vastly more value to the American taxpayer.
As far as the budget goes, the budget is always given as the reason that we cannot do more in space. In this same amount of time, especially in the last several years the lie of this proposition has been made abundantly clear. Our nation has spent trillions of dollars on the financial system bail out, almost a trillion dollars in stimulus spending and barely a budge on the NASA budget. From 2001 to 2008 the budget of the education department increased more than twice NASA’s entire budget. Money is not the problem, the problem is priority.
NASA’s priority as integrated into national priorities, has been sorely shortchanged. Organizations such as the National Academies of Science and other like organizations have dominated the discussion regarding the strategic direction of NASA and hence NASA becomes yet another government science project. It has been observed that on this committee there is only one person with a robust business background. Additionally, there is no advocate for the economic development of the solar system and its strategic value to the nation. The solar system is rich in resources, resources that can make the difference in providing for the 9 billion humans who will be alive in less than 40 years.
Therefore the question is not budget, it is priority, and with the right priority our national space efforts should have a budget of at least $75 billion per year.
*HSP Editor: What CAD/CAM/CAE/PLM software does one use to manage the “most white knuckle seven minutes of terror” in NASA's Space Exploration history?
Answer: Why of course SIEMENS NX CAD software and Product Life Management (PLM) system!*
The space agency has dubbed Curiosity's imminent landing "seven minutes of terror." And that's even after months of excruciating, exacting preparation.
August 3, 2012 7:55 AM PDT
The rover's descent through the Martian atmosphere, which NASA has dubbed the "Seven Minutes of Terror," will be an edge-of-your-seat experience, despite the space agency's excruciating preparations.
Consider, for instance, just one key element that couldn't be precisely replicated here in Earth's gravity -- the tug that Curiosity will feel from the red planet's own gravitational field.
To learn more about how NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory got ready for the big moment, CNET spoke with Tim Nichols, vice president of aerospace and defense global marketing at Siemens, about the design and testing of Curiosity, the heart and soul and muscle of the $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory mission. NASA used Siemens PLM Software to account for the thousands of data points -- in over half a million lines of code -- to recreate the out-of-this-world conditions needed to test the final minutes of Curiosity's journey to Mars.
"The digital models that they [NASA engineers] created with our software become the backbone of the repeated simulations," Nichols said. "They constantly refine it. It is important to mitigating risk and mission success."
Curiosity is the most scientifically powerful robotic spacecraft ever built to explore the surface of another planet. It is the size of a small car and weighs 1,982 pounds. It is equipped with 17 cameras, a 7-foot-long robot arm, and a suite of 10 state-of-the-art scientific sensors and experiments weighing 125 pounds.
In the design and testing of the rover, engineers did not want to have to constantly build costly prototypes, so much of the work was done with tailored computer models -- from the design to assembly to extreme scenario simulations. Siemens' NX software, which consisted of CAD, CAE, and CAM applications, was used for all of the modeling. Specific code was created to model extreme temperatures that imitated the conditions on Mars with its thin and carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere, extremely cold surface, and intense radiation.
"They fed all of this into computers to stack up worst-case conditions," Nichols said. "The most complex part of the mission is the final 20 minutes from the point at which the rover enters the atmosphere of Mars, because it starts to heat up."
Once a prototype was built, engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory began a whole new litany of testing and then retesting -- putting the rover into a vacuum chamber and again simulating the hazards it would have to endure. Curiosity was subjected to a "shake table," which violently shook it to see if it could withstand the vibrations it would experience in its journey. And again it had to survive hot and cold temperatures. Finally, its enormous parachute was successfully tested in NASA's 80-by-120-foot wind tunnel, as was its drop capabilities with a simulated sky crane landing in the laboratory.
The rover was launched last November, beginning its voyage to Mars. NASA engineers have set up a complex sequence of procedures that must be followed in order to avoid disaster when Curiosity makes its final descent onto the planet. First, they will deploy a parachute to slow its blazing descent. Then cutting off the chute, they'll fire up rockets to slow the vertical velocity even more, and lastly they will lower the rover on a tether into the Gale Crater. The main purpose of the complex system: avoid a grievous bounce or crash, or even a modest dust cloud, that would render the rover inoperable or less than fully functional.
"The project early on engaged in an awful lot of reviews--internal, external, headquarters reviews--to really establish the design of the sky crane was solid," MSL Project Manager Pete Theisinger told CNET in 2010. "And the support equipment that's been required for it, the radar, the valves for the throttle-able engines, all the things that are required to support EDL, their performance has been as good or better than expected."
The rover is slowed from more than 13,000 miles per hour down to a much, much gentler 2 mph, and it's this intense slowdown that causes the vehicle to increase in temperatures as high as 1,447 degrees Celsius. Curiosity also had to be able to endure the deep chill of deep space, which is about 2 degrees Kelvin, or just above absolute zero, on its journey to Mars. Researchers used hundreds of temperature sensors to test the vehicle's capabilities to withstand these extremes down to 1/100 of 1 degree. It was through repeated simulations that engineers better understood space's hostile environment and eventually were able to build the carbon, titanium, and aluminum rover.
Once Curiosity safely reaches the surface of Mars at about 1:17 a.m. ET on Monday (10:17 p.m. PT on Sunday), it will be on a two-year, 12-mile mission, taking samples from the planet and sending data back to Earth. In studying these samples, scientists may be able to confirm if there was ever water, or life, on Mars. "It's a one-way journey" for Curiosity itself, Nichols notes. Like the smaller rovers that have gone before it, when its job is done, Curiosity will remain as a relic on the red planet.
If the mission is successful, Curiosity will likely have made giant leaps in humankind's quest to learn more about the solar system we call home, and will likely set the stage for further missions -- including, perhaps, a manned flight -- to Mars. "It was a huge challenge going in and they have engineered the system to the highest level," Nichols said. "Now the proof will be on Sunday night."
NASA's Mars rover Curiosity successfully landed on the Red Planet late Sunday night (Aug. 5), marking a historic moment in the history of robotic Mars exploration.
The Curiosity rover touched down at 10:32 p.m. PDT Sunday, Aug. 5 (1:32 a.m. EDT; 0532 GMT Monday, Aug. 6), after a harrowing journey through the Martian atmosphere. The rover will now spend roughly two years investigating whether Mars has, or ever had, a suitable environment to host microbial life.
As news of Curiosity's successful landing spreads, here are some reactions from space exploration supporters, space industry officials, lawmakers and President Barack Obama.
Barack Obama, President of the United States (via Twitter)
Tonight, on the planet Mars, the United States of America made history.
I congratulate and thank all the men and women of NASA who made this remarkable accomplishment a reality.
Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator
Today, the wheels of Curiosity have begun to blaze the trail for human footprints on Mars. Curiosity, the most sophisticated rover ever built, is now on the surface of the Red Planet, where it will seek to answer age-old questions about whether life ever existed on Mars — or if the planet can sustain life in the future. This is an amazing achievement, made possible by a team of scientists and engineers from around the world and led by the extraordinary men and women of NASA and our Jet Propulsion Laboratory. President Obama has laid out a bold vision for sending humans to Mars in the mid-2030s, and today's landing marks a significant step toward achieving this goal. [1st Photos of Mars by Curiosity Rover (Gallery)]
Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11 astronaut (via Twitter)
@marscuriosity has successfully landed on Mars. I'm at JPL on this momentous evening. This is one of many stepping stones to manned missions
Adam Schiff, Representative (D-California)
The landing of Curiosity is a remarkable engineering achievement and the culmination of nearly a decade of work by thousands of people here and around the world. In the coming weeks and months, Curiosity will answer many of the vital questions about Mars’ past and whether it ever had conditions suitable for life. But tonight we celebrate the genius of humankind.
This success must reinvigorate our efforts to restore funding for planetary science and future Mars missions. While we have restored some of the funding –- almost $100 million so far –- much work remains to return the Mars Program to health. Without the certainty of future missions and support, we will find it impossible to maintain the most specialized workforce on Earth –- the brilliant engineers and scientists who made this mission possible.
Bobby Braun, former NASA chief technologist (via Twitter)
I am in awe of the #MSL team. They epitomize all that is right about NASA –- an agency whose pursuit of bold challenges inspires us all.
Dianna Sosa, ATK vice president of engineering services
We are extremely proud to have played a role in this incredible achievement for NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, two of our long-standing customers. Our employees dedicated years of planning and preparation to ensure mission success for this newest voyage of exploration on Mars. We congratulate the NASA team for a successful landing and look forward to the key scientific findings that will help determine the potential for life on Mars.
Julie Van Kleeck, Aerojet vice president of space and launch systems
Aerojet joins NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in congratulating the MSL team on tonight's historic landing. Aerojet thrusters brought Viking 1 and 2 and the Phoenix Mars Lander to safe arrivals on Mars and we were confident that our MSL thrusters would once again help deliver success.