Earlier 2004 entries

18 June 2004: NASA Ponders Shuttle Flight Without Two Key Changes, Reuters

"NASA is considering whether it can return its space shuttles to flight without making two safety improvements that have so far proved to be high hurdles for agency engineers, top officials said on Friday."

18 June 2004: NASA plans crew rescue if shuttle suffers damage, Houston Chronicle

"When NASA resumes space shuttle missions next spring, it won't be able to repair a hole as large as the breach that doomed Columbia, space agency officials said Friday. Instead, shuttle managers plan to rescue the astronauts if another shuttle suffers the same problem, said Michael Kostelnik, NASA's deputy associate administrator for space station and shuttle."

3 June 2004: Arthur Eugene Goldman Named Manager of NASA Space Shuttle Main Engine Project - Michael Kynard is Deputy Manager

"Arthur Eugene (Gene) Goldman has been named manager of the Space Shuttle Main Engine Project in NASA's Space Shuttle Propulsion Office at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Michael Kynard was named deputy manager."

20 May 2004: NASA May Need to Consider Alternative Plans on Shuttle, NY Times

"The difficulty of developing an in-flight inspection and repair system may force NASA to consider alternative approaches if it wants to resume flying the space shuttle next spring, an oversight group said Wednesday."

17 May 2004: Stafford-Covey Return to Flight Task Group to Issue Second Interim Report to NASA

"The Stafford-Covey Return to Flight Task Group is issuing their second interim report Wednesday, May 19. The group is making an independent assessment of NASA's implementation of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board Space Shuttle Return to flight recommendations."

10 May 2004: David Lengyel replaced as Executive Secretary of Stafford/Covey Task Force

Editor's note: Multiple sources have reported that David Lengyel, who served as the Executive Secretary of the Return to Flight Task Group, was replaced suddenly and with short notice last week. No reason for this staff change has been given.

Editor's note: Update: sources tell NASA Watch that this was a matter of a difference in working style. Since the RTF Task Group is independent, it has the final call on who they work with. A search for a replacement executive secretary is underway.

6 May 2004: Correction to Congressional Hearing Remarks - Claim that USA Recommended Removal of Shuttle Payload Inaccurate, USA

"Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of Members of Congress and staff to address issues in a fair and open manner, some information cited in these proceedings was inaccurate. Specifically, Senator Brownback stated that United Space Alliance had "recommended that roughly a third of the Shuttle flights be off-loaded to other vehicles." In fact, USA made no such recommendation. We believe that the Senator's statement stems from a misinterpretation of an internal study performed for NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center."

Alternate Access To Station (AAS) Performance Requirements Document International Space Station, 15 Feb 2002, USA

Final Report on the 3-month Alternate Access to Station (AAS) Performance Requirements Study, 28 Feb 2002, USA

30 April 2004: All future shuttle missions geared to space station, SpaceflightNow

"NASA's latest return-to-flight implementation plan for the first time codifies an earlier decision by NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe ruling out any non-space station flights, like one to save the Hubble Space Telescope, after shuttle flights resume next spring."

30 April 2004: NASA Releases Update to Implementation Plan for Space Shuttle Return to Flight and Beyond

"Some of our key accomplishments include the decision to certify External Tank (ET) to proper debris allowables. Refinement of our understanding of the appropriate debris allowables led us to make additional modifications to the ET. Similarly, the Orbiter Boom Sensor System used to inspect the Shuttle's Thermal Protection System will require additional time to perfect its design and operation. Finally, inspection of the Shuttle's Rudder Speed Brake (RSB) actuators revealed some corrosion and two instances of improper assembly that will need to be resolved before return to flight."

28 April 2004: Status of NASA office of Inspector General review of Space Shuttle Imaging Audit Assignment (PDF)

28 April 2004: Sex, the final frontier: Nasa acts to ensure that astronauts don't follow their urges, The Independent

"Dr Rachel Armstrong, speaking yesterday at a British Interplanetary Society symposium on the Human Future and Space, said the US space agency Nasa was considering how to deal with the natural urges of astronauts travelling on long journeys such as a three-year trip to Mars, where the six-strong crew would be likely to include two women. "Nasa is talking about the chemical sterilisation of astronauts on longer journeys," Dr Armstrong said, in a talk discussing the problems humanity may face in trying to reach the planets and, eventually, the stars."

Editor's note: This article takes the cake as far as goofy space stories in the British press goes. And why is it that these 'sex experiments in space' stories always appear first in British publications? As best I can determine things, Dr. Rachel Armstrong is a "space architect" and/or a medical doctor. Where she gets this goofy nonsense about astronaut sterilization is beyond me.

Indeed, NASA must be expecting something to (eventually) happen in space. After all they have flown pregancy test kits on Shuttle and ISS missions.

25 April 2004: Correction/Amplification Regarding Dover Casket Photos, The Memory Hole

"Among the 361 Dover casket photos are a minority of images showing coffins of the Columbia astronauts. I didn't realize this at the time that I posted them, mainly because when the Air Force asked for clarification during the process, I specifically told them that I wasn't requesting photos of the Columbia astronauts, only military personnel killed overseas."

"(Not that I have anything against astronauts. One of the tricks for writing successful Freedom of Information Act requests is to make your request as narrow as possible. I was afraid that including the astronauts in the request would give the Air Force another excuse not to release the photos. As in: "Well, since you want the astronaut photos, we're going to have to clear that with more federal agencies.....") I've since been told by a reporter that NASA released the astronaut casket photos at the time and has never objected to their use. Quite a marked difference from the battlefield dead, who are swept under the rug by the Pentagon."

23 April 2004: NASA: Columbia Crew Mistakenly Identified as Iraqi War Dead, NASA HQ

23 April 2004: DOD Misidentifies Photos of Columbia Crew Remains Ariving at Dover AFB as Being Iraq War Dead, SpaceRef

"If you look at the originating website for the controversial photos of war dead being returned from Iraq (loads very slow), you will see that most of the first page of photos are of Space Shuttle Columbia crew remains arriving at Dover Air Force Base on 5 February 2003. You see, that is Deputy NASA Administrator Fred Gregory in the light brown slacks and dark jacket standing to the left of the honor guard."

23 April 2004: Columbia Crew Coffins Mistaken for Caskets of U.S. Military Casualties, Space.com

"It is a story that will have journalism professors, conspiracy theorists and free speech advocates confused, amused and most likely up-in-arms until the next media scandal appears."

23 April 2004: Space-shuttle victims misidentified as Iraq dead in some photos, Delawareonline.com

24 April 2004: Columbia crew remains mistaken for war dead, Florida Today

"Keith Cowing, who runs NASA Watch, a private Web site that follows developments at the space agency, said he detected the mistake and called it to NASA's attention. NASA officials said CNN was one of "many" news outlets that misidentified photos of caskets containing remains of the Columbia astronauts."

23 April 2004: Photos included images of shuttle astronauts' coffins, Orlando Sentinel

"Among the Columbia crewmembers, only mission specialist Kalpana Chawla had not served in the military. Commander Rick Husband and payload commander Michael Anderson were in the Air Force; pilot Willie McCool and mission specialists David Brown and Laurel Clark were in the Navy; and Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon was in his country's air force. But the astronauts were brought to Dover because of their association with NASA, as were the seven members of the Challenger crew, in 1986."

24 April 2004: Bush Criticizes the Release of Photos of Soldier Coffins, NY Times

"In their eagerness to take advantage of the first photographs of American war dead from Iraq returning to Dover, several news organizations broadcast or published images of coffins that actually contained the remains of astronauts killed in the breakup of the Columbia space shuttle, NASA said Friday. Among the news organizations that used the incorrect photographs were CNN, The Associated Press, Reuters and The Washington Post. "This was an obvious case of mistaken identity," said Bob Jacobs, a NASA spokesman."

23 April 2004: Washington Post prints Columbia photo in Iraq War dead coffin story

Editor's note: The Washington Post has printed a photo on page A10 of Deputy Administrator Fred Gregory on the tarmac at Dover AFB with the caption "About 350 photos of coffins at Dover Air Force Base were released under the Freedom of Information Act". No one in the photo is identified - nor is the date of the photo or the event noted. Update: the Post printed a correction on 24 April.

Editor's note: Reuters also distributed a photo (correction posted) of the Columbia crew remains without identifying it as such - instead captioning it as "Coffins of U.S. military personnel are offloaded by Air Force honor guards at Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Delaware in this undated photo." Reuters has since posted an article at 7:00 pm EDT which focuses on the error.

Editor's note: AP has a screen grab of the first page of photos - all of which are of Columbia crew remains. AP titles the image as "A page from the Memory Hole.org's homepage shows photographs of American war dead arriving at Dover Air Force, the nation's largest military mortuary, Thursday, April 22, 2004." Curiously AP has an article up which they posted at 4:50 pm EDT today and then revised at 8:30 pm which now mentions their own error.

Editor's note: As of 5:00 pm EDT yesterday CNN Headline news was flashing several pictures of NASA Deputy Administrator Fred Gregory standing on the tarmac receiving the bodies of the Columbia crew at Dover Air Force Base in February 2003 and claiming that the photos are of caskets containing war dead arriving home from Iraq in 2004. NASA and CNN are aware of this and I expect that the photos in question won't be running again. Apparently the original FOIA request was filed for all images of coffins at Dover between February 2003 and the present and apparently these Columbia images were included.

8 April 2004: NASA's Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel: Where's the Advice?, SpaceRef

"NASA's new Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) met for the second time today since its rebirth following a mass resignation last Fall. In a marked contrast to how the panel operated just a year ago, the ASAP exhibited a somewhat detached, imprecise view of how the agency was handling safety issues. In a turn of events which has at least one reporter confused, NASA's prime safety advisory body has not even bothered to discuss the cancellation of the Hubble serving mission - a very public decision made on the basis of safety."

8 April 2004: Casino Fortune Pledges to Fill NASA Budget Gap with Seat on Shuttle

"In the effort to support America's return to space and support the embattled agency, Casino Fortune submitted a letter of intent yesterday to NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe requesting that arrangements be made for a Shuttle seat to be reserved in their name."

Editor's note: This is rather goofy: how can you reserve a seat that is not even for sale?

6 April 2004: NASA Award Notice: Design, Fabrication and Test of Carbon-Silicon Carbide Wrap for On-orbit Repair of Shuttle Wing Leading Edge

"Contract Award Date: Apr 01, 2004 Contract Award Number: NNL04AA44C Contract Award Amount: $20,149,328 Contract Line Item Number: Contractor: Materials Research & Design, Inc 300 E. Swedesford Road Wayne, PA 19087"

2 April 2004: NASA Says Shuttle Safety Fixes Could Cost $700 Mln, Reuters

"NASA spent $94 million on upgrades in fiscal 2003. Plans call for spending $265 million in fiscal 2004 and $235 million in 2005. "In total, we're looking at a projection that's going to be on the order of six to seven hundred million dollars, roughly, to implement all those findings and recommendations," O'Keefe told members of the Senate commerce, science and transportation subcommittee."

2 April 2004: Space Studies Board Annual Report 2003, National Research Council

"The tragic loss of the space shuttle Columbia and its crew on February 1, 2003, made the beginning of the year
anything but normal. NASA and the space community mourned the loss of seven extraordinary people, and they
were confronted with the loss of much of the scientific yield from the Space Transportation System (STS)-107
mission and all of the unique research equipment and facilities that were carried aboard Columbia. They also faced
an uncertain near-term future that included a shuttle fleet composed of only three orbiters, a shuttle flight standdown
of unknown duration, and equally uncertain impacts on the completion and use of the International Space
Station (ISS). Quickly organized examinations of the accident and its causes were expected to lead to policy
changes as well as technical solutions. And while the task of devising those changes would be consequential
enough by itself, the assessments were going forward in a broader, global context that was marked by apprehension
over multiple threats to international security and stability, weakened economies, and skittish markets."

1 April 2004: Return to Flight Update

Editor's note: According to Sean O'Keefe in Senate hearings today, the next Return to Flight update is due for release next monday.

1 April 2004: NASA OIG: Final Report on Internal Controls Over Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) Costs

"To accomplish our objectives we identified and assessed CAIB processes for controlling expenditures and ensuring goods and services were acquired in accordance with FAR. We also reviewed documentation supporting procurement actions and other expenditures totaling $9.1 million."

"We concluded that within 2 months of beginning operations, the CAIB Executive Secretary for Management established effective processes for controlling expenditures and ensuring contracts were in accordance with FAR. Although our review of procurement actions and other expenditures led us to question payments totaling $215,215 (2.4 percent of those reviewed), we conclude that they occurred for unique reasons and did not represent systemic weaknesses in controls. We are, however, recommending that NASA seek a voluntary refund of $30,563 for an overpayment to the CAIB's primary support contractor."

1 April 2004: NASA chief's remarks sting general who commented on funding, Denver Post

"In measured tones bordering on sarcasm, O'Keefe said: "I'd just be delighted to have Gen. Deal come join us and give us his advice directly. It would be wonderful to have him to be part of the team, because we're anxious to get about the business of achieving the president's strategy."

31 March 2004: Layoffs expected at eastern New Orleans NASA plant, AP

"Lockheed Martin, the contractor that employs most of the workers at the Michoud Assembly Facility, was contacting employees early Wednesday and spokesman Harry Wadsworth said an announcement was scheduled for later in the day. The company would not confirm that the announcement had to do with layoffs, Wadsworth said."

31 March 2004: 65 Workers Lose Jobs At NASA's Michoud Facility, WDSU

"The plant now makes six fuel tanks per year, but NASA has informed Lockheed that the number of tanks needed will be changed."

30 March 2004: Shuttle's feasibility questioned, Orlando Sentinel

"Sen. Sam Brownback said Monday that he wants to hold a hearing on recent problems within the space-shuttle program and whether NASA's remaining fleet could or should be retired sooner than the current target date of 2010."

24 March 2004: Hamilton Sundstrand replacing Space Shuttle brakes, AP

If one of the improperly installed gears had been in a high-stress position, it probably would have led to the destruction of the spacecraft at touchdown, he said. "Bottom line is, it was not good," Parsons said."

22 March 2004: NASA finds flaw could have doomed another shuttle, Reuters

"Gears were installed backward the speed brakes in Discovery's tail section and could have failed under the stress of an emergency landing, said William Parsons, the shuttle program manager."

18 March 2004: New Head of MOD to be announced

Editor's note: George Allen Flynt, currently Deputy Center Director at NASA ARC, will take over MOD in July. Flynt has been int he Shuttle GFE project and has been involved in EVA project hardware management. He also directed the Columbia debris recovery efforts.

18 March 2004: Internal Memo regarding George Allen Flynt as the new Director of NASA JSC MOD


12 March 2004: Brake cracks may stall next shuttle flight, Huntsville Times

"For the March 2005 return-to-flight mission, that safety net is the orbiter Atlantis. "If there are problems with the speed brakes that we cannot repair on Atlantis, then we will have to slip nine months," Kostelnik said."

1 March 2004: Formal Shuttle Launch Date Change Process Underway

Editor's note: According to NASA sources, a change request (CR) is out for review and will go in front of the PRCB in several weeks. The CR sets new launch dates for the Shuttle fleet: (NET = No Earlier Than)

  • STS-114 (OV-103) NET 3/6/05
  • STS-300 (OV-104) NET 5/5/05
  • STS-121 (OV-104) NET 5/5/05
  • STS-115 (OV-104) NET 9/29/05
  • STS-116 Delete from FDRD.

24 February 2004: House Science Committee Chairman Delivers Speech to Space Shuttle Suppliers

"Spending estimates for any far-reaching plan are necessarily riddled with uncertainty. But for a full and open debate, the range of that uncertainty needs both to be narrowed as much as possible and to be made explicit. That has not happened in this case, and in fact, NASA has widened the sense of uncertainty in the way it has been answering, and in some cases not answering, reasonable questions."

21 February 2004: Repairs and Need for Rescue Craft Pushed Back Shuttle Timetable, NY Times

"NASA pushed back the time for resuming shuttle flights to next spring because more time was needed to prepare a potential rescue shuttle and to resolve persistent technical problems, like preventing the fuel tank from shedding foam insulation, agency officials said Friday."

19 February 2004: NASA Updates Space Shuttle Return to Flight Plans, NASA (includes links to SLEP presentations)

"Members of NASA's Space Flight Leadership Council, which is charged with the oversight of the agency's Return to Flight efforts, today moved the target window for the next flight of the Space Shuttle to March 2005."

17 February 2004: NASA Planning to Move Next Shuttle Mission to 2005, SpaceRef

"Last week NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe told Congress that the chance of launching STS-114 in September 2004 was doubtful. According to NASA sources planned launch dates will almost certainly slip to March 2005 for STS-114 and May 2005 for STS-121." Meanwhile, STS-300 was baselined last week for a November 15, 2004 launch date - the same as the current planned STS-121 launch date. STS-300 is a pre-staged rescue mission to be in place to recover the STS-114 crew from the ISS in the event of non-repairable damage to the shuttle orbiter Atlantis used to fly STS-114.

18 February 2004: NASA says astronaut ejection system no longer option, Houston Chronicle

"The proposed crew escape improvements would rely on strengthening the two-story crew compartment in the nose of the shuttle. The enclosure separated, essentially intact, when Columbia broke apart during its high speed re-entry over Texas and when Challenger exploded during liftoff 18 years ago. The seven astronauts aboard each of the spacecrafts survived the crew compartment separations and perished from subsequent injuries."

9 February 2004: NASA Releases Implementation Plan for Space Shuttle Return to Flight and Beyond Volume 1 Revision 1.2

9 February 2004: NASA Releases "Renewed Commitment to Excellence" - the 'Diaz Report

9 February 2004: Jon Harpold has died.

Editor's note: Jon Harpold, the head of the Mission Operations Directorate at NASA JSC, passed away on sunday.

10 February 2004: Funeral arrangements, staff memos, etc.

10 February 2004: Obiturary: Jon C. Harpold, The Daily News

2 February 2004: NASA Invites Media to Shuttle Summit

"For more information about the SLEP Summit on the Internet, including an agenda, visit:

Editor's note: If you go to "SLEP & related websites" on the main SLEP page you won't be able to see SLEP 2020 Reports or SSP Development. Instead you will get an ACCESS DENIED page.

Why send the media to a website, where the obvious material of interest to be discussed at the event they are being invited to, is inaccessible?

27 January 2004: Martian Landmarks Dedicated to Apollo 1 Crew

"NASA memorialized the Apollo 1 crew -- Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee -- by dedicating the hills surrounding the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit's landing site to the astronauts. The crew of Apollo 1 perished in flash fire during a launch pad test of their Apollo spacecraft at Kennedy Space Center, Fla., 37 years ago today."

20 January 2004: Stafford-Covey Return to Flight Task Group Interim Report (summary)

"While the tone of this interim report is justifiably positive, progress should not be mistaken for accomplishment. As time passes and the interval before the next scheduled flight diminishes, the enormity of the remaining task looms. Detailed plans for many of the recommendations have not been forthcoming. NASA has not been timely in some of their responses to Task Group requests for information. And while some of the most critical organizational issues raised by CAIB require only a "detailed plan" before return-to-flight, the RTF TG will be looking for thorough plans and processes that will stand the test of time-not just suffice for the first launch-just as the hardware redesigns are expected to serve the life of the shuttle."

20 January 2004: Spacehab Files Shuttle Claim Against NASA, Reuters

"The CAIB said in August that NASA officials missed eight chances to address fears that falling insulation foam may have damaged the shuttle, which broke apart over Texas last Feb. 1, killing all seven astronauts aboard."

20 January 2004: Spacehab Files Claim for Research Double Module Lost on STS-107 Space Shuttle Mission, Spacehab

"SPACEHAB, Incorporated, a leading provider of commercial space services, today announced that it has filed a formal claim against NASA in the amount of $87.7 million for the value of its Research Double Module (RDM) and related equipment that was destroyed during the STS-107 Space Shuttle Columbia accident."

20 January 2004: Stafford-Covey Group Issues Interim Status Report, NASA KSC

"The Stafford-Covey Return to Flight Task Group will issue an interim report Tuesday, Jan. 20. The group is making an independent assessment of NASA's implementation of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board Space Shuttle return to flight recommendations."

Editor's note: The report is online at http://returntoflight.org

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on June 18, 2004 9:04 PM.

Comments on the Aldridge Commission Moon-Mars Report? And NASA's Reponse to it? was the previous entry in this blog.

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