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NASA astronaut and Expedition 65 Flight Engineer Megan McArthur works in the Microgravity Science Glovebox swapping samples for an experiment called Solidification Using a Baffle in Sealed Ampoules, or SUBSA. The physics investigation explores experimental methods of crystallizing melts in microgravity and is expected to result in reduced fluid motion in the melt, leading to better distribution of subcomponents and the potential for improved technology used in producing semiconductor crystals.NASA Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in semiconductor and in-space manufacturing collaborated on a white paper that outlines how microgravity benefits the production of semiconductors and related materials. Earth’s gravitational forces pose substantial barriers to quick, high-yield semiconductor production. Microgravity offers a path to overcome these barriers. There are also substantial practical benefits to incorporating LEO-based manufacturing into the supply chain. The white paper argues that transitioning this industry into space is a path forward to achieving NASA’s In Space Production Applications’ (InSPA) goals. These goals include strengthening U.S. technological leadership, improving national security, creating high-quality jobs, providing benefits to humanity, and enabling the development of a robust economy in LEO.
The paper, “Semiconductor Manufacturing in Low Earth Orbit for Terrestrial Use” can be found here.
Additional information on NASA’s InSPA portfolio can be found at:
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In Space Production Applications
Opportunities and Information for Researchers
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By European Space Agency
At the ESA Space Summit in Seville, ESA, Airbus and Voyager Space have signed a Memorandum of Understanding outlining their collaboration for the Starlab space station in the post-International Space Station (ISS) era.
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8 min read
Six Rules for Surviving in a Government Organization
An interview of Dr. Paul Hertz, a senior leader in the Science Mission Directorate
By: Anna Ladd McElhannon, Summer 2022 Intern, Office of the Chief Scientist
Dr. Paul Hertz is a leader of NASA and had served as the Astrophysics Division Director since 2012 until 2022. Throughout his career, he remained a well‐respected and admired leader who accomplished things that an undergraduate physics student like me could only dream of.
We met for the first time on a summer day full of sudden, fierce storms. On the way to a quiet meeting place (a video conference meeting, of course), the previously blue sky started pouring rain. I was surprised my laptop still worked when I finally came indoors. Paul, though, was sitting in his home office with a grin on his face, perfectly content to ignore my soaking shirt and dripping hair.
Considering what I had been told, his easygoing kindness and immediate friendliness was no surprise.
We started by bonding over our shared love for all things astrophysics. His passion began during the Apollo missions.
“I remember John Glenn’s flight, and I must have been in second grade. From that point on, I was following everything that happened.” He would watch all the astronauts on TV, and he kept a scrapbook of any newspaper clippings he could find on the space program. “I remember when Armstrong walked and, my parents used to let me stay home from school whenever the astronauts were walking on the Moon.”
His passion for space did not end there. With undergraduate degrees in math and physics from MIT, he proceeded to earn his Ph.D. in astronomy from Harvard. Like most students going into the sciences, he assumed he would become a professor at a university. He realized, though, that professorship wasn’t the life for him. “I made a choice early on when I had young kids and a family, that I was going to have balance, and I wasn’t going to be a world‐famous scientist.”
As a NASA intern interviewing the Paul Hertz, one of my newfound idols, I found this comment amusing. But the sentiment still stood. “I made the choice not to be a professor but to stay as a government scientist.”
Somehow, though, he was able to become a famous scientist with a prestigious job and still feel satisfied with his personal life. Naturally, I asked him for advice on how to obtain this sort of balance without letting either side of one’s life fall onto the backburner.
He jumped at the opportunity to teach me these life lessons with a list of six rules he titled: How to Survive in a Government Organization.
6. Train your successor
When he first told me this rule, I applied it to my life. At my university, there is a Society of Physics Students. Every few years or so, we have incredible leadership that wins awards and involves students all over campus. Then the next election rolls around, and all the hard work dissipates. Paul says, “There’s all your institutional knowledge walking out the door every year.”
“Train your successor” immediately propelled me into planning mode: how can we incorporate a system at my school where the previous leaders sufficiently train their successors every year?
Paul was happy about this application, but it wasn’t what he originally intended by the rule.
“What I was thinking is that when people who are highly successful at their job start talking about getting another job, their boss says, ‘Sorry, you can’t go. I need you too badly.’”
As someone who has never worked in a similar system, I was appalled. Fortunately, this has not yet happened to him.
“I have been very successful in every job. I’ve had people around me say, ‘What are we going to do without you?… Nobody can replace you.’ I hate hearing that nobody can replace you because it’s patently untrue.”
Sometimes it turns out that the answer to your research is uninteresting. You realize, oh my‐ there was no ‘there’ there.
“A lot of us competent people think that we can do it better than anybody else. And so we want to hold on to it and do it ourselves because we know it’ll be done best… I used to do everything myself, and I was bad at teaming. You’ll kill yourself that way.”
As the Director of Astrophysics at NASA, I assumed he would have to be the best of the best. Regardless, as he said before, there is always someone who could replace him. While this sounds a little sad, it can come as a relief to someone trying to find peace in their work life.
“People like that want to do the part of their job that they could easily hand off. They are overworked and overwhelmed because they want to do it all themselves. They think they can probably do it better— but that’s not the point.”
As Paul says, the point is to do your job efficiently and not perfectly.
4. Don’t Make Work
“A lot of times you get choices.” He began, “We could do it this way or that way, and this way is a lot more work.”
Most bosses strive for perfection, but Paul understands how to balance perfection with importance. Asking, “How do I do it perfectly?” can cause problems and lead to employees feeling overworked.
[They say] ‘I’m just drowning.’
[I say] ‘You only have three assignments. You’re making too much work, you’re not delegating, and it’s taking twice as long. Don’t do it this way.’
Paul believes that if you can make your project better by a small amount, but it takes twice the time, the extra mile just isn’t worth it. “If it increased my chance of surviving surgery, then I would take that extra 10%.”
If you’re level of perfection is plateauing over time, as it inevitably will, just accept it.
“If you insist on perfection… that’s making work.”
3. Don’t break it
“Don’t break it” was one of the first rules he came up with. It simply means “don’t make it worse.”
It goes hand in hand with “Don’t make work.” Sometimes people can be perfectionists to the point where it impacts their personal life, and sometimes it can impact their professional career as well. That is the secret to finding balance.
“People feel overwhelmed because they’re not practicing these rules… You keep them in mind and then you use them to help prioritize. You must have a feel for what’s the most important thing and then for what’s the most important thing to do very, very well.”
2. Don’t Take It Personally
“You should accept 90% of your projects are going to work.” He asserts, “You should not expect it to always go right. And you should keep it in context when failure happens.”
That raises the question: what context?
It is difficult to imagine someone as successful as Paul to go through failure. But he has had his fair share of rough times in his own research. “Sometimes it turns out that the answer to your research is uninteresting. You realize, oh my ‐there was no ‘there’ there.”
Even when projects are cancelled, or someone else publishes their results before you can, your time isn’t waisted. There is a certain magic that comes with conducting scientific research, and it makes even failed projects worth the time and effort. “To me, the excitement is the hunt. It’s doing the research. It’s collecting the data and analyzing it. It’s looking for the signal that no one has ever seen before.”
…if something goes wrong, I’m going to hear about it. I want to hear about it from them—I want to hear their view on it and I want us to solve it together.
1. Don’t Surprise the Boss
“Somebody probably told me this rule when I showed up at NASA. You can Google it and find out that it was a rule back in the Roman Empire—or something like that.”
When asked how long he has considered himself a leader, he began at high school. “Every club that I joined, I ended up being president… I ended up being added to the yearbook. When I went to college, I was president of clubs. When I was a researcher, I put together collaborations to do research… I wasn’t a supervisor or boss, but I was a leader; that’s been true at all stops along my career.”
As for the importance of the number one rule, Paul says it’s important to be transparent so that issues can be solved quickly and efficiently. “I don’t want my team to sugarcoat things. I want them to tell me. If something goes wrong, I’m going to hear about it from someone. But, I want to hear about it from them—I want to hear their view on it, and I want us to solve it together.”
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The International Space Station’s U.S. segment and portions of the Russian segment are pictured from the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour during a fly around of the orbiting lab that took place following its undocking from the Harmony module’s space-facing port on Nov. 8, 2021. Prominent at the top in this view, are the Columbus laboratory module, the Harmony module and its space-facing docking port, and the Kibo laboratory module with its external pallet. NASA NASA and its industry partners Boeing and SpaceX are planning for the next set of missions to the International Space Station for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-8 mission to the orbiting laboratory is targeted to launch no earlier than mid-February. The mission will carry NASA astronauts Matthew Dominick, commander; Michael Barratt, pilot; and mission specialist Jeanette Epps, as well as Roscosmos cosmonaut mission specialist Alexander Grebenkin to the space station to conduct a wide range of operational and research activities. Routine maintenance and processing of the Crew-8 SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft is in work. This will be the first spaceflight for Dominick, Epps, and Grebenkin, and the third for Barratt. Crew-8 is expected to return to Earth in late August 2024, following a short handover with the agency’s Crew-9 mission.
Starliner Crew Flight Test (CFT)
The first crewed flight of the Starliner spacecraft, named NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test (CFT), is planned for no earlier than mid-April. CFT will send NASA astronauts and test pilots Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams on a demonstration flight to prove the end-to-end capabilities of the Starliner system. Starliner will launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, spend approximately eight days docked to the space station, and return to Earth with a parachute and airbag-assisted ground landing in the desert of the western United States.
NASA will provide an updated status of CFT readiness as more information becomes available.
Looking further ahead in 2024, NASA and SpaceX are targeting no earlier than mid-August for the launch of the agency’s Crew-9, SpaceX’s ninth crew rotation mission to the space station for NASA. A crew of four will be announced at a later date.
10th Crew Rotation Mission
The 10th commercial crew rotation opportunity to the space station is targeted for early 2025. NASA is planning for either SpaceX’s Crew-10 or Boeing’s Starliner-1 mission in this slot. The Starliner-1 date was adjusted to allow for the post-flight review of the Crew Flight Test and incorporation of anticipated learning, approvals of final certification products, and completion of readiness and certification reviews ahead of that mission.
For more insight on NASA’s Commercial Crew Program missions to the orbiting laboratory follow the commercial crew blog. More details can be found @commercial_crew on X and commercial crew on Facebook.
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(a) Acquisition from commercial providers. The Administrator shall, to the extent possible and while satisfying the scientific or educational requirements of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and where appropriate, of other Federal agencies and scientific researchers, acquire, where cost effective, space science data from a commercial provider.
(b) Treatment of space science data as commercial item under acquisition laws Acquisitions of space science data by the Administrator shall be carried out in accordance with applicable acquisition laws and regulations (including chapters 137 and 140 of title 10). For purposes of such law and regulations, space science data shall be considered to be a commercial item. Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to preclude the United States from acquiring, through contracts with commercial providers, sufficient rights in data to meet the needs of the scientific and educational community or the needs of other government activities.
(c) Definition. For purposes of this section, the term ”space science data” includes scientific data concerning – (1) the elemental and mineralogical resources of the moon, asteroids, planets and their moons, and comets; (2) microgravity acceleration; and (3) solar storm monitoring.
(d) Safety standards. Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the Federal Government from requiring compliance with applicable safety standards.
(e) Limitation. This section does not authorize the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to provide financial assistance for the development of commercial systems for the collection of space science data.
(Pub. L. 105-303, title I, Sec. 105, Oct. 28, 1998, 112 Stat. 2852.)
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