Archive for February, 2022

Escaping Gravity: My Quest to Transform NASA and Launch a New Space Age by Lori Garver; Diversion Books (2022); 304 pages; Hardcover: $28.99


This must-read book is divided into 3 parts: “Gravity,” “Force,” and “Motion.” More to the point, this behind-the-scenes account mixes that trio into a powerful, explosive concoction that blows the lid off the labyrinth of aerospace companies, lobbyists, astronauts, trade associations, self-interested Congressional delegations, and, of course, NASA itself.

Lori Garver was the principal advisor on aerospace issues to three presidential candidates and led the NASA transition team for President Obama. She served as the Deputy Administrator of NASA from 2009 to 2013. She is a highly-regarded champion of the new era of commercial partnerships, documenting what she terms as “the epic battle” that pitted traditional space loyalists against a new generation of space advocates, indeed, “space pirates” as she calls them, who argued that NASA had been hijacked, needed rescuing, and challenged the status quo.

“I’m proud of the accomplishments I’ve made in my career, and this book is dedicated to one of the most meaningful – driving reforms at NASA that are leading to more valuable and sustainable space activities,” the author explains. “Disrupting a paradigm as ingrained as the space industrial complex means risking one’s career and financial future to drive change.”

There’s a no-holds-barred, kick-ass and taking names feel to the book.

Garver spells out those that characterized her as a “Bond-like villain” and that she was the biggest disaster in NASA history for science. She was labeled by some as a harebrained political appointee with a scarcity of actual space experience. Even worse!

Government service, she responds, requires integrity and “many of the behaviors I saw should not have been tolerated.” Unveiled and underscored are instances of illicit and unethical behavior of a few senior leaders at NASA.

Garver drove policies and funding that enabled commercial competition just as the capabilities and resources of the private sector began to mature. Spotlighted in the book, the reader will find insights about Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, and countless other commercial space efforts – some of which have long-been forgotten, but shouldn’t be.

As author Walter Isaacson notes in his foreword to the volume: “Transformative change in government is often sought, but rarely achieved. In this revealing and personal book, Garver tells the fascinating story of how she helped a band of dreamers, rogue bureaucrats, and billionaires usher in a new space age.”

I definitely think the reader will benefit – and appreciate to a greater degree — the U.S. space industry at a transformational period of time…and the need to keep an eye on those space pirates.

For more information about this book, go to:

Also, go to:

Mars Perseverance Sol 353: Left Mastcam-Z Camera. This image was acquired on Feb. 16, 2022 (Sol 353).
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU



This image I posted of hardware on the surface of Mars generated quite a number of comments:

A few folks got close, or provided a partial ID…others were far afield!






Some of my favorites:

“I hope it wasn’t something mission critical.”

“Looks like a camera lens or a Starbucks cup.”

“Looks like a part fell off one of the vehicles we’ve sent there.”

“Space debris is really getting out of hand.”

“Empty can of Centauri Lite.”

“Proof that robots are just as messy as teenagers.”

“Flashlight or beer bottle.”

“The fine for littering on Mars is very, very steep. Who’s ever it is had best come pick it up.”

“Lightsaber hilt.”

However, a tip of the space helmet visor for a more complete description goes to Philip J. Stooke, Professor Emeritus and Adjunct Research Professor, Department of Geography, and Institute for Earth and Space Exploration, University of Western Ontario.

Stooke reports:

“It is the Flight Abrading Bit which was discarded on sol 148.  During flight and landing it occupied the drill bit slot to keep it from being contaminated.  It was discarded shortly before the first abrading and sampling operations.”

Credit: Zhiyong Xiao, et al.


China’s Yutu-2 Moon rover has discovered two macroscopic translucent glass globules during its far side exploring.

According to a study published in Science Bulletin, the Yutu-2 rover captured images of two translucent globules using its panoramic camera.

Lead author of the research paper is Zhiyong Xiao of the Planetary Environmental and Astrobiological Research Laboratory, School of Atmospheric Sciences at Sun Yat-sen University.


According to the Xinhua news agency, no composition data has been obtained for the globules. “But their unique morphology and local context suggest they are most likely impact glasses — quenched anorthositic impact melts produced during cratering events — rather than being of volcanic origin or delivered from other planetary bodies.”

Major mechanisms

In the research paper, “Translucent glass globules on the Moon” the globules are different from the glass beads sampled by the Apollo missions, as they are larger in size and exhibit colors.

“Glass is ubiquitous in lunar regolith, and volcanism and hypervelocity impacts are the major mechanisms of forming lunar glasses. Volcanic glasses on the Moon occur as quenched skin of basaltic rocks or as glass spherules in pyroclastic deposits,” the research paper explains.

Chang’e-4’s farside landing zone.
Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

Zhiyong and colleagues predict that the glass globules would be abundant across the lunar highlands, providing promising sampling targets that could reveal the early impact history of the Moon.

Panorama camera finding

The rover was deployed by the Chinese Chang’e-4 lander and is surveying the South Pole Atkien basin at the lunar farside.

Since being deployed from the lander, the Yutu-2 rover has traveled across the floor of the Von Kármán crater. In images obtained by the rover’s panorama camera, the two translucent glass globules were recognized along the route.

The Chang’e-4 lunar mission was launched on Dec. 8, 2018, touching down on the lunar landscape on Jan. 3, 2019.

Chang’e-5 return capsule holding lunar specimens.
Credit: National Astronomical Observatories, CAS


Cratering chronology

In related Moon work, published in Nature Astronomy, lunar samples returned by China’s Chang’e-5 mission in December 2020, Chinese researchers are updating the lunar chronology model. This work will serve as a more precise time ruler for not just the evolution of the Moon, but also that of other planetary bodies in the inner Solar System.

The research was jointly conducted by the Aerospace Information Research Institute (AIR), the Institute of Geochemistry and the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

Lead author of the research – “Updated lunar cratering chronology model with the radiometric age of Chang’e-5 samples” – is Zongyu Yue of the State Key Laboratory of Remote Sensing Science, Aerospace Information Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Sciences, in Beijing.

To gain access to this new research, go to:


Here’s a challenge.

What inventive methods might work to help analyze and interpret data than can better understand the potential signs of past life on Mars?

That is the focus of a $30,000 prize purse, a crowdsourcing competition on behalf of NASA.

DrivenData, in collaboration with HeroX, announced today this unique challenge, and you’re invited to take part.

We now know that the Red Planet had environmental conditions that could have sustained life in the past. Understanding how these conditions persisted and changed is important to understanding Mars’ conditions for life over time.

Credit: NASA

EGA data

For this challenge, participants are tasked with building an innovative method to automatically analyze evolved gas analysis (EGA) data of simulated Mars samples collected on both commercial and laboratory instruments analogous to those used for Mars exploration. The best methods should be able to detect the presence of certain families of chemical compounds (specified in the challenge) in the samples.

By taking advantage of the many supporting experimental runs done on comparable rock samples, data science methods can be developed in order to support scientists in their analysis and interpretations of data collected by planetary mission instruments and laboratory instruments. These advancements may also help scientists more quickly and effectively conduct future mission operations.

The winning techniques may be used to help future planetary missions.

Wanted: inventive methods to better understand the potential signs of past life on Mars.
Credit: Newcastle University

This competition calls on innovators to analyze mass spectrometry data from Mars to detect conditions for past life. A prize purse of $30,000 will be shared among four teams.

Competition end date: April 18, 2022, 11:59 p.m. UTC

Accept the challenge

HeroX is a platform and open marketplace for crowdsourcing innovation and human ingenuity, co-founded in 2013 by serial entrepreneur, Christian Cotichini and XPRIZE founder and futurist, Peter Diamandis.

DrivenData is a social enterprise dedicated to bringing the data tools and methods that can tackle the world’s biggest challenges.

To accept the challenge and learn about eligibility requirements, go to:


Credit: Via petitions


A newly created petition is now making the rounds on Twitter, calling for the American government to release all unclassified Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) videos to the public.

Initiated on February 10 by Adam Goldsack of the United Kingdom, the petition is hosted on the website.

 “The radical ‘transmedium’ technology of unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP) is currently being withheld from the American public. The UAPTF-DNI preliminary report on UAP found that 143/144 cases were classified as ‘Unidentified’,” the petition explains.

“We request that the new UAP office created by congress make available all unclassified videos and cases so that civilian science can investigate and better understand this technology,” concludes the petition.

At the moment, 1,193 have signed the petition. “At 1,500 signatures, this petition is more likely to get picked up by local news!,” states the website at:

A new report examines planned cislunar and lunar missions over the next decade from countries around the world. This compilation showcases the growth of satellites, rovers, and experiments intended to extend humanity’s reach more firmly into cislunar space and on the Moon.

The report — Fly Me to the Moon: Worldwide Cislunar and Lunar Missions – is authored by Kaitlyn Johnson, deputy director and fellow of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Compendium of missions

This report contains a compendium of cislunar and lunar missions from government and commercial entities around the world. There are several planned national and commercial missions to explore cislunar space or the Moon.

Often government efforts will enable or utilize private industry missions; however, sometimes commercial space companies are independently pursuing such missions.

Credit: CSIS

Demarcation of cislunar space

This paper concludes with analysis on the trends and commonalities across all of these planned endeavors.

One interesting observation from the paper  is that “thus far, there is no consensus on the demarcation of cislunar space.

To read Fly Me to the Moon: Worldwide Cislunar and Lunar Missions go to:

Or read the interactive summary at:

Credit: SWF/CSIS/Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at the University of Texas at Austin

An inventive, web-based tool has been created to portray space situational awareness data, to help promote strategic stability in the space domain.

Called the Satellite Dashboard, its intent is to better appreciate potentially threatening actions in space.

“Our hope is that policymakers, space experts, commercial industry, and the media will be able to use the Dashboard as a reference to better understand potentially destabilizing activities in space in a way that supports informed decision-making and open dialogue,” according to the dashboard’s website.

The Dashboard collates data from multiple sources, including publicly-available data provided by the U.S. military, commercial space situational awareness (SSA) providers, and data from international, scientific, and academic sources.

Photo illustration by Thomas Gaulkin for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ January 2022 issue (used with permission).

Deceive, disrupt, deny, degrade, or destroy

Satellite Dashboard is a collaboration between the Secure World Foundation (SWF), the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at the University of Texas at Austin.

“This project was initiated because the number of actors and types of activities that rely on space is rapidly and dramatically increasing,” the dashboard website explains. “More countries than ever are investing in counterspace capabilities that will enable them to deceive, disrupt, deny, degrade, or destroy space systems of potential adversaries, including the United States.”

To check out this valuable new source, go to:

Curiosity’s location as of Sol 3387. Distance driven to that sol is 16.93 miles/27.25 kilometers.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover at Gale Crater is now performing Sol 3388 duties.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 3387, February 15, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“Curiosity is advancing westward through a largely boulder-strewn channel that is leading us toward the Greenheugh Pediment,” reports Scott Guzewich, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 3387, February 15, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Pediment is where the rover will spend the next many months, Guzewich adds, “as we turn back uphill to the south and continue our ascent up Mt. Sharp. Despite it being quite craggy in our current location, we did have to drive over a large sand patch to get to our current parking location!”

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 3387, February 15, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Days ahead

A recent planned objective was to study one of the last remaining bedrock patches available to Curiosity before it ascends onto the Pediment in the days ahead.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 3387, February 15, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Mars researchers quickly identified “Loch Coruisk” as their preferred bedrock slab for contact science with the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) and Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS).

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 3387, February 15, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The robot’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) is set to zap that target with Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) in addition to two other bedrock pieces nearby.

Curiosity Mast Camera Right image acquired on Sol 3386, February 13, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Dust storm season

“Both ChemCam and Mastcam will also be imaging the edge of the Pediment to our southwest and northwest so we can study the geologic contact that the edge represents,” Guzewich points out. “That imaging includes a Mastcam 360° mosaic, which will surely be spectacular!”

Curiosity Mast Camera Right imagery taken on Sol 3386 February 13, 2022
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

As the rover is quickly approaching the dust storm season on Mars, scientists also added several dust devil movies with Navcam and observations to monitor the dust amounts in the atmosphere above Curiosity and within Gale Crater itself, Guzewich concludes.

Curiosity’s location as of Sol 3386. Distance driven to this date: 16.92 miles/27.24 kilometers.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover at Gale Crater is now performing Sol 3387 duties.

Sean Czarnecki, a planetary geologist at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona reports that on Valentine’s Day, Curiosity was slated to carry out a full workload with Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) and the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) of “Loch Garten” followed by Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) photos of this target before and after dust removal.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3386, February 14, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

In addition, ChemCam and Mastcam was set to image “Stivva Hea”’ and Mastcam will image “Blackcraig.”

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3386, February 14, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Navcam will be looking for dust devils and taking other images, while DAN, RAD, and REMS will be taking standard measurements.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3386, February 14, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Steep slopes

In an earlier report focused on Sols 3385-3386, Vivian Sun, a planetary geologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said “we continue making progress towards the ‘Greenheugh Pediment’ and will hopefully be almost on top of the pediment after the weekend drive.”

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 3386, February 14, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

As the robot climbs onto the pediment via its steep slopes, “Curiosity will drive as far as we have available navigation mesh, so this drive will be similar to the last plan’s drive in terms of distance,” Sun adds.

But before continuing the drive towards the pediment, the plan calls for plenty of contact science and remote sensing at the rover’s current location.

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 3386, February 14, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


Three-dimensional understanding

“We will be obtaining APXS and MAHLI measurements of ‘Kintradwell,’ a smooth bedrock surface, that will provide us with more data about changes in bedrock composition as we approach the contact with the pediment capping unit.”

Curiosity Mast Camera Right mosaic, taken on Sol 3386, February 13, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

ChemCam observations of “Apardion” and “Copp Crag,” two nodular targets, will give compositional data on these diagenetic textures, similar to what researchers observed in past workspaces.

Dust removal image taken by Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), produced on Sol 3386, February 14, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“We’ll also be thoroughly documenting the fantastic landscape around us, with more Mastcam and ChemCam imaging of ‘Maringma Butte,’ focusing in particular on a protruding lens of rocks, and Mastcam imaging of ‘Blackcraig Butte.’ Although we have imaged these buttes before from previous locations, these additional images are useful not only because they will be higher resolution (since we are closer now), but also because imaging the same feature from different angles is how we build up our three-dimensional understanding of the layering and sedimentology in these buttes,” Sun concludes.

Mast Camera (Mastcam) Left image taken on Sol 3386, February 14, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Mast Camera Right photo taken on Sol 3386, February 13, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Mast Camera Right photo taken on Sol 3386, February 13, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Mast Camera Right photo taken on Sol 3386, February 13, 2022.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

As always, dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

The lunar far side as imaged by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter using its LROC Wide Angle Camera.
Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University


The international scientific community has long been discussing the need to keep the farside of the Moon free from human-made radio frequency intrusion.

What’s at issue?

The lunar farside always faces away from Earth. Consequently it is “radio-quiet,” shielded by the moon itself from radio-frequency interference (RFI) crackling through space, pumped out by powerful Earth-based transmitters.

The proposed Protected Antipode Circle, a circular piece of lunar landscape to be reserved for scientific purposes on the farside of the Moon.
Credit: Claudio Maccone




A just-established Moon Farside Protection Permanent Committee of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) has begun to frame issues and solutions to guard against RFI corruption of the Moon’s farside.

Crater Daedalus on the lunar farside as seen from the Apollo 11 spacecraft in lunar orbit.
Credit: NASA










For more details, go to my new story – “Moon group pushes for protection of ultraquiet lunar far side – The far side is a great place for radio telescopes, astronomers say” at: