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The Launch Site That NASA Likes To Ignore

By Keith Cowing on May 11, 2021 8:41 PM.

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Florida's Takeover Of NASA Headquarters Continues

By Keith Cowing on May 10, 2021 5:48 PM.

NASA Announces New Associate Administrator, NASA

"NASA Administrator Sen. Bill Nelson announced Monday Robert D. Cabana, who has served as director of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida since 2008, will serve as associate administrator effective Monday, May 17. Steve Jurczyk, who held the position since 2018, announced his retirement Monday."

Jurczyk Retires as NASA Associate Administrator, NASA

"Steve Jurczyk, who served as acting NASA administrator from Jan. 20 to May 3, 2021, announced Monday he will retire on Friday, May 14, after more than three decades of service at NASA."

Keith's note: Meanwhile talk in the hallways is that Bill Nelson wants everyone to call him "NASA Administrator Senator Bill Nelson". Why not include "congressman", "astronaut", and "Ballast" - his other three honorifics i.e. "NASA Administrator Senator Congressman Astronaut Bill "Ballast" Nelson."? Funny, no one ever referred to NASA Administrator Lt Commander Congressman Jim Bridenstine, NASA Administrator Major General Charlie Bolden, or NASA Administrator Hon. Secretary Sean O'Keefe. etc. Then of course we can expect to be hearing about NASA Associate Administrator Colonel Director Bob Cabana too. Meanwhile I suspect that Pam Melroy will be more interested in getting actual work done than titles.

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More Broken Things on CIO's New DATA.NASA.GOV Website

By Keith Cowing on May 10, 2021 5:46 PM.

Keith's note: Earlier today I posted NASA CIO's Open Data Thing Is Still Screwed Up. I went back to to the CIO's data.nasa.gov page to see if their data collection is accessible to the public. I went to the "Technical Report Server" pull down menu and clicked on "Public Search" which sent me to NTRS - NASA Technical Reports Server. I searched for "astrobiology" and the top search result is Data Sharing in Astrobiology: The Astrobiology Habitable Environments Database (AHED).

I then went back to the main page and used the "NASA Science Archives" pull down menu and clicked on "List of other NASA Science & Mission Data Archives" which sent me to to Data from NASA's Missions, Research, and Activities which was last updated 15 February 2017 (or 3 March 2020). There is no listing for the Astrobiology Habitable Environments Database (AHED). But I used Google and found that it is located here and was last updated 1 February 2021. According to the Internet Archive it existed as long ago as 25 November 2020 - before this CIO website update. The main contact for this page is someone in NASA PAO - not CIO - and the page just lists his name with no email link to report issues with this page.

If you go back to data.nasa.gov page and scroll down you will see "Other NASA Data Sites and Science Archives" which also includes a link to List of other NASA Science & Mission Data Archives (mentioned above.) This section also has a highlighted piece of text that blinks when you scroll over it (but does not link to anything) which says "submit an issue if you know of another NASA data site that should be included". I clicked on it again hoping to be able to report this omission but this is not a link - just a thing that changes color when you scroll over it. How useless.

Didn't anyone at NASA OIG do some link checks and simple sanity checks via Google before putting this site online? It took me longer to write this up than to find this error - and I was not even looking for an error. What other broken thinks lurk within this new data website from the crack NASA CIO web team?

- NASA CIO's Open Data Thing Is Still Screwed Up, earlier post
- NASA Ignores Science Websites - Loves Rocket City Trash Pandas, earlier post

But wait: there's more:

If you look at the top of the Data.nasa.gov site whose real address is https: //nasa.github.io/data-nasa-gov-frontpage/ it says "An official website of the United States government Here's how you know". Click on the link and it expands to say "The .gov means it's official. Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you're on a federal government site."

OK, since you are trying to reassure people, this site's address ends with .io not .gov or .mil. So what does that mean? Answer: "The Internet country code top-level domain .io is assigned to the British Indian Ocean Territory. The domain is administered by the Internet Computer Bureau, a domain name registry company which is a subsidiary of Afilias and is based in the United Kingdom" according to Google.

So, are taxpayers supposed to be reassured that this is an official U.S government website - and that they can upload data - when you openly tell them that it it uses an address run by a company in the UK licensed from the British Indian Ocean Territory "a British overseas territory of the United Kingdom situated in the Indian Ocean halfway between Tanzania and Indonesia."? Doesn't the NASA CIO have a proof reader they can run this stuff by?

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NASA Ignores Science Websites - Loves Rocket City Trash Pandas

By Keith Cowing on May 10, 2021 4:00 PM.

Keith's note: NASA PAO and SMD have repeatedly told me that the NASA Astrobiology program's Twitter account @NASAAstrobio and its official website would be unable to link to or follow my twitter account @Astrobiology (with nearly 22,000 followers) or its companion website Astrobiology.com which ranks in the 3rd - 4th search results for "astrobiology" on Google, Yahoo etc. - globally - and has for decades (since 1996 to be exact). If you go to Google and search for "astrobiology" and then click on news you will see that astrobiology.com totally dominates the first four pages of search results. A single NASA result only shows up on the fourth page. I think it is not an exaggeration to say that these Astrobiology efforts on my part are of some interest and value to the Astrobiology community and the public as a whole, yes?

But PAO and SMD say no, Keith. NASA websites and Twitter accounts can only follow other NASA sites, or select government agencies, or things wherein a formal relationship has been established with NASA, they say. And they claim that this official NASA policy - except they have never provided me with a copy of the actual, formally adopted/baselined NASA policy on such things. This is all very seat of the pants. They just throw some words in an email and hope that I will just go away. It is baffling that they'd not want to help their Astrobiology community gain access to news about NASA's own research results. But no. FYI they also ignore all of the scientific journals that publish NASA Astrobiology research. Why be useful, eh?

So ... I wondered if other official NASA accounts followed this official NASA web policy. So I went to the official NASA Marshall Twitter account @NASA_Marshall and look at the official NASA accounts that it follows. Some of my favorite official NASA Twitter accounts that @NASA_Marshall follows include: Rocket City Trash Pandas @trashpandas; JOXRoundTable @JOXRoundtable; Josh Dobbs @josh_dobbs1; Karen Kilgariff
@KarenKilgariff (TV/VCR Repair); My Favorite Murder @MyFavMurder; Melissa Joan Hart @MelissaJoanHart; NelsonMandela @NelsonMandela; Ellen DeGeneres @TheEllenShow; and Smokey Bear @smokey_bear. That's just from the first two pages (larger image).

Can someone at NASA PAO please explain this to me? Do you actually have a policy - one that is enforceable - and enforced? If so can you send it to me - but wait - please incude explanations as to why your own websites ignore that policy, if you don't mind. Oh yes: is there a waiver process that allows the Rocket City Trash Pandas to be considered equal to an official NASA account? I'd love to read the justification. Just wondering. Have a nice day.

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NASA CIO's Open Data Thing Is Still Screwed Up

By Keith Cowing on May 10, 2021 3:20 PM.

Keith's note: In my 27 March 2021 posting about yet another mess at the Chief Information Office "The NASA CIO OpenNASA Website Has Expired - Further" (updated on 19 April 2021) I documented how out of date the NASA CIO's website on open data was. This is what it looked like on 23 April 2021 - showing an update of 2 April 2021 and a responsible official who left NASA in 2018. Well, it looks like they read NASAWatch and have been busy after allowing the site to sit out of date for several years. This happened mere days after this was mentioned on NASAWatch. What a coincidence.

The new site says "Data.nasa.gov is the dataset-focused site of NASA's OCIO (Office of the Chief Information Officer) open-innovation program. There are also API.nasa.gov and Code.nasa.gov for APIs and Code respectively. Open.nasa.gov is the central page for open-innovation sites and acts as as a home for the datanauts program, which is a public outreach program where members of the public work with NASA datasets." What is weird is that there is no longer a "Open.nasa.gov" page - unless you search the Internet Archive (as I did above). But NASA still refers to it as if it exists.

Interestingly if you go to the old address of https://open.nasa.gov/ you get redirected to a site labelled http://data.nasa.gov which instantly redirects you again to a site outside of NASA's fire walled web service https://nasa.github.io/data-nasa-gov-frontpage/. https://nasa.github.io/ is the site hosting the new (old) open.nasa.gov. GitHub is a company. It is not a government agency, non-profit, educational institution.

Continue reading: NASA CIO's Open Data Thing Is Still Screwed Up.

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NASA And Axiom Space Will Try To Explain A Private ISS Mission

By Keith Cowing on May 10, 2021 6:30 AM.

NASA, Axiom Space to Host Media Briefing on Private Astronaut Mission, NASA

"NASA and Axiom Space have signed a mission order for the first private astronaut mission to the International Space Station and will host a teleconference with media at 11 a.m. EDT on Monday, May 10, to discuss more details about the mission."

Keith's note: Over the past several months NASA HEOMD PAO has repeatedly denied me access to ISS-related media events. In one case JSC and HQ PAO staff overtly lied to me. I am rather certain that neither PAO or Axiom really want me to be allowed to ask a question, so its not really worth the bother of trying to participate these days and I may just listen in instead. Here are some questions that come to mind however.

1. (Specifically) what NASA services will this Axiom Space mission use and how much are they paying NASA for them i.e. to what extent is NASA underwriting this mission or is Axiom Space playing the full (actual, real, non-discounted) cost of the services that NASA will provide? In other words will NASA use any appropriated funds to cover expenses incurred by NASA specifically due to the uniques aspects of this mission that the agency will not be reimbursed for by Axiom Space?

2. Is there any connection, overlap, or synergy between this privately funded Axiom Space mission and the $140 million that NASA is paying Axiom to do its commercial space station add-on work? That is, is anything that Axiom Space is doing with NASA funding going to support this mission, and if so, how much NASA funding is being spent to support this mission?

3. Is there any connection between the Axiom Space purchase of a flight from SpaceX and resale to the commercial passengers and Axiom Space's participation in the sale and swapping of commercial and Soyuz seats with NASA? If so how much NASA funding is involved and to whom is it being paid?

4. What ongoing NASA or other space agency activities on the ISS will have to be rescheduled to accommodate this Axiom Space mission and will Axiom Space be required to reimburse NASA or other agencies for these extra costs? If there is reimbursement involved how much will Axiom Space be paying and to whom?

5. Is the Dragon spacecraft new or used? Was the spacecraft being used for this mission specially built for Axiom Space or is it one built for use by NASA customers? Will any NASA crew missions to the ISS be affected by the addition of this Axiom Space flight? If so, how much work was required by NASA to readjust their schedule, how much did that additional effort cost, and how much of that additional effort was Axiom Space required to reimburse NASA for?

I might think of a few others. Feel free to post some suggestions in the comments section.

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Elon Did SNL - Meet Chad, Mars Hero

By Keith Cowing on May 9, 2021 6:20 AM.

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NASAWatch on MSNBC: Long March Reentry

By Keith Cowing on May 9, 2021 6:12 AM.

Keith's note: I was on MSNBC Sunday morning just after 6:00 am talking about the re-entry of the Long March 5 first stage.

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NASAWatch On Deutsche Welle: Incoming Long March Rocket

By Keith Cowing on May 8, 2021 11:18 PM.

Keith's note: I was on Deutsche Welle just after 7:00 pm EDT tonight talking about the impending re-entry of the Long March 5 first stage. I may be on at the top of the hour several more times tonight depending on when/where reentry happens.


7:00 pm EDT

11:00 pm EDT


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NASAWatch on MSNBC: Impending Long March Reentry

By Keith Cowing on May 8, 2021 7:06 AM.

Keith's note: I was on MSNBC Saturday morning on the "Kendis Gibson and Lindsey Reiser Report" show around 6:50 am talking about the impending re-entry of the Long March 5 first stage.

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NASA SMD Decides To Totally Reboot Its Internet Presence

By Keith Cowing on May 7, 2021 9:16 PM.

Modernizing Science Websites, Thomas Zurbuchen

"More so than ever, our Science Mission Directorate (SMD) websites are the front-door to our worldwide community of enthusiasts and learners. Upon an in-depth analysis of our web presence, I believe it is time for us to elevate the way we communicate and enhance the breadth of our audiences using a focused approach on great content, and best-in-class optimization techniques. As will all of our communication activities, we will do this as one team, and driven by the desire to enhance the impact and inspiration of our science throughout. This is a core-element of our NASA Science strategy, which focuses deliberately on inspiration and communication."

Keith's note: I just became aware of this blog posting by Thomas Zurbuchen. This is music to my ears. As I have noted below (and for many years) NASA's web presence is out of date, broken, and counter productive - in the extreme. This is not what you'd expect Earth's pre-eminent space agency to put forth as its public face. As some of you may recall Jim Bridenstine set the process in motion exactly years ago. For the most part NASA has dragged its feet on the issue of improving its web and social media presence. Large portions of NASA simply ignored Bridenstine's direction in favor of their stove piped efforts. Now SMD is going to bite the bullet and fix things once and for all. Let's see what SMD does. Since SMD is responsible for roughly half of what NASA does in one way or another it could set an example for the rest of the agency. Oh yes: Kathy Lueders has noticed.

- Dysfunctional Science Websites At NASA, earlier post
- NASA Has Had A Year To Reorganize Their Web Presence. Did They?, earlier post
- NASA Just Can't Stop Doing Web Stuff Twice UPDATE: Three Times, earlier post
- Dueling NASA Websites Update, earlier post

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Biden Says #ScienceIsBack - But Its Hard To Find It At NASA

By Keith Cowing on May 7, 2021 3:00 PM.

Keith's note: As a one-time actual space biologist at NASA I find posting of research data online to be one of the most important things NASA can do to show the value - and availability - of research done on the ISS. NASA has been generating research papers for more than half a century. One very useful resource is NASA Spaceline, a regular (now weekly) NASA-funded summary of research sponsored by and relevant to NASA life science research. Here is the latest issue issued today - we post it within minutes of its arrival by email on Fridays.

Look at the good stuff in this issue: "Changes in the optic nerve head and choroid over 1 year of spaceflight"; "Draft genome sequences of various bacterial phyla isolated from the International Space Station"; "The individual and combined effects of spaceflight radiation and microgravity on biologic systems and functional outcomes."; "Everything you wanted to know about space radiation but were afraid to ask"; and "Fusarium oxysporum as an opportunistic fungal pathogen on Zinnia hybrida plants grown on board the International Space Station". That's just this issue alone - space biology, space medicine, radiation physiology, plant physiology, genomics. Each issue is like a weekly textbook on space life science. There's even astrobiology and microgravity science included as well.

NASA has paid someone to produce this research summary for years. There have been gaps due to funding lapses and our SpaceRef website has the only complete archive online here going back to the 1990s. We have been posting it religiously over the decades. Currently you can find and subscribe to this summary at NASA: SPACELINE Current Awareness - NASA Task Book. You'd think that NASA would go out if its way to be certain that all of its space station and space life science research websites would feature it prominently.

Guess again. They ignore it - systematically. There is no mention of - or links to - Spaceline at:

- NASA PubSpace (a linkage to NIH PubMed which has now been dissolved)
- NASA Scientific and Technical Information Program
- NASA SMD Biological & Physical Sciences
- CASIS/ISS National Lab
- NASA Space Station Homepage
- NASA GeneLab
- Life Sciences Data Archive, NASA JSC
- Space Station Research Explorer
- International Space Station National Laboratory

Oh yes - most of the inter-related and duplicative resources listed above don't even link to each other either - but there is another story coming on that.

If you Google "NASA science" (a thing taxpayers might just do) you get sent to this Science Mission Directorate page. If you look at the "topics" menu you see no mention of "biology", "life science", "astrobiology" or "microgravity" - even though all of this research is now housed at SMD. If you click on "missions" you get nothing related to these topics. If you click on "for researchers" and then "Science Data" there is no mention of Spaceline or any of these topics either. And so on.

If you search NASA.gov you can't find any mention of Spaceline.

NASA apparently doesn't have any interest in making this voluminous reference to science accomplished on ISS and in related fields available - if for no other reason than to refute those who would say that nothing of value is conducted on the ISS.

Oddly as NASA ignores things like Spaceline, they do like to jump up and down and tell you about all of the amazing research they want to do on the ISS to solve all of humanity's problems. In recent budget briefings to Congress NASA mentions how they want to ramp up ISS utilization in the coming years. Of course this is a good idea since the potential of this amazing facility has yet to be tapped. And now they want to sell you a bunch of ISS replacements where more of this science goodness will be carried out - and wait there's more: they want to do some on the Moon and in a mini Lunar space Station called Gateway too. Alas, given the way that NASA handles the dissemination of research results such as Spaceline this will simply mean that more important and interesting research will continue to be ignored. But NASA still wants you to fall for all the science justifications they claim to have.

And then there is the dysfunctional relationship regarding space station utilization between CASIS/ISSNL, NASA's ISS Program Office, HEOMD and SMD - but I'll address that in a future posting.

Newsflash NASA: according to Team Biden #ScienceIsBack - even if you can't find it at NASA.

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Is This NASA's Last Chance To Be Relevant?

By Keith Cowing on May 7, 2021 10:39 AM.


Larger image

In Biden's infrastructure moonshot, a big question: Can the nation still achieve its highest ambitions?, Washington Post

"NASA just landed on Mars and we had a big vaccine," said Costa Samaras, who worked as a transportation engineer in New York City and now studies infrastructure resilience at Carnegie Mellon University. "We can do big things -- but we should be doing big things in infrastructure, right?"

Keith's note: There it is. Washington Post - the main newspaper read in the nation's capital. Big color picture - front page, above the fold, third paragraph. If no one reads the rest of the story they see NASA mentioned by a regular citizen in terms of great things that America does. This echoes the frequent mention of NASA by President Biden and Vice President Harris as well as his choice of the phrase "Cancer Moonshot" to represent an effort he led as vice president to fight cancer. Joe Biden thinks about NASA a lot it would seem.

Biden thinks about reinvigorating the nation after the pandemic and not an hour goes by without official use of the word "infrastructure". His administration talks about a  "whole of government" approach to solving the issues facing America. NASA is just another Federal agency - one that is supposedly going to be part of this whole #BuildBackBetter thing that we hear Team Biden talk about.

NASA trips over itself with giggling enthusiasm every time NASA and space get mentioned by this White House - especially when the Oval Office Moon rock gets a photo op. That's natural and it feels good to see NASA get some face time at the White House - especially when the previous Administration used NASA as a cheap prop in a never-ending political campaign circus. 

However, what NASA does not do after it gets some love from Team Biden is show that it is part of a whole of government approach - not just to post-pandemic issues and #BuildBackBetter. NASA has a bad history of shunning external, shoulder-to-shoulder, cross-government efforts. It just wants the money to do the space thing - and see ya'. 

NASA could follow up these social and broadcast moments by having a developing effort in place that show just how NASA is or will be involved in #BuildBackBetter and its cousin #ScienceIsBack. There should be talking points that point out what NASA does alone or with other entities to get things rolling again:

Aeronautics - NASA is a go-to agency for aircraft design, safety, fuel efficiency, and overall air system health. It is the only top level agency with the word "aeronautics" in its name. With the airline industry suffering now more than ever it needs to work smarter. And the infrastructure that tracks aircraft will be called on more than ever to perform flawlessly. Add in drones for delivery and remote sensing and the skies will need as much smart thinking as they can get. NASA does those things. It even flies helicopters on another planet.

Earth Science - NASA is now a member of the Climate Task Force and is one of the world's leading developers and operators of satellites that monitor weather (which can damage infrastructure); Climate change (which needs to be characterized so as to modify infrastructure); and land use and agriculture (the underpinnings of our economy).

Information Science - NASA operates some of the largest supercomputers on Earth. They are often used to tackle problems related to climate and aeronautics but also issues beyond NASA's usual portfolio. Satellite communications and embedded computing can make existing and rebuilt infrastructure more efficient than it has ever been.

Space Technology - NASA not only covers every aspect of how we use space to conduct our daily lives. Indeed,  NASA invented much of that technology. You should know all of the talking points by now - from weather forecasting to communications.

Commercial Space - by embracing the use of the private sector to do things that were once only the responsibility of government, NASA has helped to spawn whole new industries to build, launch, operate, and benefit from space technology. Seed money used by NASA has now been amplified well beyond the specific services that were sought. ANd this has only shown signs of accelerating. This growing sector pushes the need for infrastructure and a  skilled workforce. 

Science - this Administration has an unabashed love affair with all things science. NASA is probably one of the few government agencies that has a hand in every conceivable aspect of science - both basic and applied. Its investments and results have led and will continue to lead to innumerable advances - and nothing works better than an infrastructure that is better than the one it is replacing.

And so on and so on. You know the drill. But NASA is not promoting any of this now. It is sitting on its hands hoping that they get a little love note from the white House once a week and some nice presents under the tree in the FY 23 budget pass back.

But there is one thing that is often neglected since NASA people seem to assume that everyone already gets it and that they can just sit back now and wait for a nice fat budget from Congress: Inspiration.

Inspiration - this is an intangible. It is not written down anywhere, It is not in a charter, not in a strategic plan, not on an action item list. But it is as real as anything else and often vastly more pervasive and influential than the specifics of what NASA does. Often times, as was quoted in the Washington Post today, when someone wants to express a place - a mindset - a team - an idea - a meme - wherein everything our nation does comes together in a spectacular way - a way that no one else can do - even if they lack all of the specifics - they always seem to cite NASA. NASA has a grasp on our collective imagination and a global branding reach that is beyond what NASA itself seems to understand. 

And yet NASA wastes that "reach" every single day. Its public affairs, education, and outreach infrastructure are badly managed, duplicative, incapable of adequately sharing NASA's good news, and often grossly out of step with the real world. Moreover, NASA does not have a strategic plan - one written so that actual humans can understand it. As such when you ask NASA what it does and why it does it, well, NASA really drops the ball here - at the precise place where the agency's value could be sold in a "value proposition" to someone.

NASA's ability to explain itself is ill-equipped to meet the challenge that the White House is issuing to the whole of government. It is time for NASA to get off its ass, fix what is broken, and use this utterly unique gift of innovation, exploration and inspiration to its fullest potential. Not just to fund space things - but to help show everyone in America - and also around the world - that there is a way out of this collective funk and that nothing is impossible, as our President keeps saying, and that NASA is part of the best that our nation has to offer.

If NASA does not take full advantage of this golden opportunity to reinvent itself so as to become relevant again I fear that it may never get another chance.

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NASAWatch on Bloomberg: Musk, Bezos, and China

By Keith Cowing on May 6, 2021 8:43 PM.

Sound On: FB Trump Ban, GOP Division, SpaceX (Podcast), Bloomberg

"Host Jack Fitzpatrick spoke to Boyd Matheson, former Chief of Staff for Senator Mike Lee, and Keith Cowing, astrobiologist and editor of the blog SpaceRef."

Keith's note: This aired on Wednesday. My piece starts at 25:30

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Astrobiology News That NASA's Astrobiology Program Ignores

By Keith Cowing on May 6, 2021 1:06 PM.

Volcanoes On Mars Could Be Active, Raise Possibility of Recent Habitable Conditions, PSI

"Evidence of recent volcanic activity on Mars shows that eruptions could have taken place within the past 50,000 years, a paper by Planetary Science Institute Research Scientist David Horvath says. ... A volcanic deposit such as this also raises the possibility for habitable conditions in the near surface of Mars in recent history, says Horvath. "The interaction of ascending magma and the icy substrate of this region could have provided favorable conditions for microbial life fairly recently and raises the possibility of extant life in this region."

Volcanoes on Mars Could be Active, Raising Possibility that the Planet was Recently Habitable, University of Arizona

"Evidence of recent volcanic activity on Mars shows that eruptions could have taken place in the past 50,000 years, according to new study by researchers at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and the Planetary Science Institute. ... The volcanic deposit described in this study, along with ongoing seismic rumbling in the planet's interior detected by InSight and possible evidence for releases of methane plumes into the atmosphere detected by NASA's MAVEN orbiter, suggest that Mars is far from a cold, inactive world, Andrews-Hanna said."

Keith's note: Conditions that might support extant life on Mars? Wow. That's Astrobiology! But do you see ANY mention by NASA's Astrobiology program? No. They either do not know how to tell everyone or they do not care to. Hard to tell. But NASA SMD ignores this stuff too. No mention is made on the SMD science news page even though NASA missions Mars InSight and Maven were involved. And of course, the SMD Science page does not even list "Astrobiology" as a topic so it is not surprising that they ignore this too.

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