September 2004 Archives

30 September 2004: Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse Update

"In early August everyone left our base camp on Devon Island in the high Arctic. However the Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse has been running autonomously since then. In early September we began experiencing technical difficulties with our communications link to the greenhouse. For several weeks a team of dedicated engineers worked the problem. After many long hours, communication with the greenhouse was restored."

More information

A memorial service for Tony Schoenfelder will be held this Saturday, October 2, 2004, at 11 AM at the Colonial Funeral Home in Leesburg, Virginia.


The address of the funeral home is:

28 September 2004: Technical Problems Delay Russian Space Launch Again, Reuters

"Technical problems have prompted a further delay to the blast-off of a Russian spacecraft to the International Space Station, space officials said on Tuesday."

"He added the new launch date had not yet been set and did not elaborate on the technical hitch."

Virgin Galactic
27 September 2004: Virgin Group Sign Deal with Paul G. Allens Mojave Aerospace, Mojave Aerospace Ventures

"Today, Sir Richard Branson announced that Virgin Group has entered into an agreement to license the technology to develop the worlds first privately funded spaceships dedicated to carrying commercial passengers on space flights."

Bigelow's Gamble

27 September 2004: Bigelow's Gamble, Aviation Week & Space Technology

"The Bigelow Aerospace project to privately develop inflatable Earth-orbit space modules is beginning to integrate diverse U.S. and European technologies into subscale and full-scale inflatable test modules and subsystems at the company's heavily guarded facilities here. Company founder and millionaire Robert T. Bigelow told Aviation Week & Space Technology that he will announce as early as this week a new $50-million space launch contest called America's Space Prize."

KSC Survives Jeanne

The Budget Game Continues

26 September 2004: CFO praises NASA financial system, FCW

"Gwendolyn Sykes, NASA's chief financial officer, woke up at 7 a.m. Sept. 23 to hear the news of a tropical storm approaching Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where employees were trying to meet their three-day deadline for closing the fiscal year's financial books. But rather than fretting about the weather, staffers simply moved to Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama and carried on with their work, Sykes said."

22 September 2004: NASA Administrator's Symposium Examines Exploration and Risk

"During a special symposium hosted by Administrator Sean O'Keefe, NASA examines the similarities between space exploration and other terrestrial expeditions with the help of some of the best known explorers in the world, including mountain climbers, deep sea explorers, scientists and science fiction writers. The discussions also will include NASA astronauts, other notable aeronautics and deep space explorers. The symposium will be carried live Sept. 27-28 on NASA TV and webcast on www.nasa.gov from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif."

24 September 2004: Mike Foale may be NASA's best spokesman, advocate, Op Ed, The Decatur Daily

"NASA may have discovered its best spokesman and chief advocate Wednesday in the form of Mike Foale, commander of Expedition 8."

False Alarm on ISS

24 September 2004: NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 24 September 2004

"Shortly after C&C3 took over as Prime MDM, fire and smoke alarms were set off from the FGB, annunciated (and reacted to) both in the Russian and U.S. segments. The crew reported no smoke or smell in the cabin and felt comfortable enough to return to bed. It is unclear at this time how the FGB alarm was triggered and whether it was related to the C&C MDM transitions. Currently under investigation."

23 September 2004: NBC's Fred Francis Joins NASA as Special Consultant

"After three decades working as a senior correspondent for NBC news, award-winning journalist Fred Francis has joined NASA as a special consultant. Francis will assist the agency in developing communication tools and strategies as the agency moves closer to Return to Flight and the launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery for STS-114."

22 September 2004: Dr. Neal Burns Returns to Academic Pursuits

"Dr. Neal M. Burns, who since July has served as a special assistant to the Administrator and acting Chief of Strategic Communications, has decided to return full time to his family and his academic career at the University of Texas at Austin."

22 September 2004: Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Approves NASA Authorization Act

"The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation today passed the NASA Authorization Act of 2004. The legislation includes an amendment authored by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) that requires the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to prepare a plan for operating the Space Shuttle until the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) is ready for flight."

Big Changes Ahead at MSFC

21 September 2004: NASA MSFC Activity Notice: Update On Center Realignment Activities, NASA MSFC

"With approximately 2000 employees being affected by the realignment, the official personnel actions assigning employees to their new organizations will be processed in phases over a two month period beginning the end of October."

20 September 2004: Cold Sugar in Space Provides Clue to the Molecular Origin of Life, NRAO

"Astronomers using the NSF's giant Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope have discovered a frigid reservoir of simple sugar molecules in a cloud of gas and dust 26,000 light-years away, near the center of our Milky Way Galaxy. The discovery suggests how the molecular building blocks necessary for the creation of life could first form in interstellar space."

20 September 2004: Water and methane maps overlap on Mars: a new clue?, ESA

"Recent analyses of ESA's Mars Express data reveal that concentrations of water vapour and methane in the atmosphere of Mars significantly overlap. This result, from data obtained by the Planetary Fourier Spectrometer (PFS), gives a boost to understanding of geological and atmospheric processes on Mars, and provides important new hints to evaluate the hypothesis of present life on the Red Planet."

20 September 2004: U.S. Must Reimburse Russia for Using Soyuz Spacecraft, RIA NOVOSTI

"... space shuttles still remain grounded; and no one knows when their flights will be resumed. The United States is to commission a new space-transport system at least eight years from now. Consequently, NASA has no alternative but to reserve seats aboard Russian spacecraft."

Image of Shuttle Debris

20 September 2004: NASA Image of Space Shuttle Columbia Debris Recently Found, SpaceRef

"A piece of Space Shuttle Columbia, now identified as being Window No. 8 was recently found in Angelina County, Texas.Window No. 8 is one of two windows located on the top of the shuttle, directly over the crew. Last week NASA and United Space Alliance personnel - and technichians from Weston Pyrotechnic - reviewed what pyrotechnic devices may still be intact."

Sean O'Keefe's Weekend

18 September 2004: MU celebrates research hub - $60 million project stirs optimism, Columbia Daily Tribune

"After 10 years in the making and about three years since ground was broken, MU dedicated the $60 million Life Sciences Center yesterday in a festive afternoon that included live music, food, drinks and tours of the facility. The leader of America's space agency was there, and there were friendly exchanges between Democratic and Republican politicians."

17 September 2004: The Luck O' the Irish , Shore Publisher

"North Stonington -- "I never excelled at anything," NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe said last Friday. "I am living testimonial and proof that it's better to be lucky than good." The humble O'Keefe was describing his journey from graduate of Wheeler High School in North Stonington to top dog at NASA."

17 September 2004: Bush may see cabinet exodus if re-elected, Boston Herald

"DEFENSE. Rumsfeld, scarred by the Iraq prisoner abuse scandal, is cagey about his future. Bush has stood by him, but Rumsfeld has many detractors in Congress and the military. While spry at 72, his age could become a factor. If Rumsfeld leaves, the job could go to Rice, NASA chief Sean O'Keefe, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Christopher Cox of California or former Sen. Sam Nunn, a Georgia Democrat who once headed the Armed Services Committee."

17 September 2004: NASA Space Shuttle Processing Status Report

"Processing activities associated with orbiter Thermal Protection System (TPS) tiles are scheduled to begin Monday. Following the move of the second floor TPS blanket area to a hangar at the Shuttle Landing Facility (offered by the Florida Space Authority), TPS blanket production could begin as early as Sept. 27."

17 September 2004: Foam, not shuttle repairs on the go, key flight issue, Florida Today

"Engineers are making progress on techniques that will enable astronauts to repair small cracks and holes up to four inches in diameter. But the agency says it will be unable to fix larger holes by the time shuttles return to flight."

17 September 2004: Storms disrupt NASA work, AP

"Hurricanes Charley, Frances and Ivan have cost NASA at least a week's worth of work and upset its tight schedule for resuming shuttle flights, throwing into doubt the space agency's plans to launch Discovery in early spring."

17 September 2004: DARPA, Air Force Kick Off Falcon Phase II Small Launch Vehicle

"The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the U.S. Air Force have awarded funding to four teams for the second phase of the Falcon Small Launch Vehicle (SLV) program. The goal of the Falcon SLV program is to develop and demonstrate an affordable and responsive space lift capability."

According to: NASA Modification to a Previous Presolicitation Notice: Human & Robotic Technology:


"1. Extension of the due date for offerors impacted by hurricane activity as follows: Response Date: Electronic Proposals due September 29, 2004 4:30 P.M. EDT."

What Bush Did - and Did not say

17 September 2004: The real cost of space - More exploration requires consensus and commitment, OpEd, Huntsville Times

"Now another president, George W. Bush, says it's time to unleash America's technological know-how for further exploration. But note that the popular idea that Bush has buckled America up for a trip to Mars isn't quite what he said.

As noted in "New Moon Rising" by Frank Sietzen Jr. and Keith L. Cowing (Apogee Books), which will be reviewed in Sunday's Times, Bush's message focused on a return to the heavens, not a specific mission, not even about going to Mars at all.

People in Huntsville may have a sharper focus about the need to move forward than elsewhere."

GAO was asked by the Senate Government Affairs Committee to look at NASA's financial management. We are looking for reports of allegations of fraud, waste, and abuse of NASA's financial mismanagement of funds.

If you have any questions please call me

Kristen Plungas-Bartzen
202-512-3091
Office of Special Investigations-GAO

Can you please post the following on your website:

Concerned about NASA's serious financial management problems recently reported by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the NASA IG, the Senate Government Affairs Committee Chairman, Senator Susan Collins, has requested the GAO perform one or a series of audits and investigations to test the design and effectiveness of NASA's internal controls over disbursements, including its credit card programs. The Committee Chairman has expressed concerns about wether NASA has an effective system of internal controls to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse of taxpayer resources. Specific concerns about fraud, waste, and abuse at NASA can be reported confidentially to GAO.

The purpose of the Government Accountability Office's FraudNET is to facilitate the reporting of allegations of fraud, waste, abuse, or mismanagement of federal funds.

Send allegations via e-mail to specproj@gao.gov

Send a fax to FraudNet at 202-512-3086

Write to:
GAO FraudNET
441 G Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20548

Crawling Toward Warp Drive

16 September 2004: A traveling-wave engine to power deep space travel, LANL

"A University of California scientist working at Los Alamos National Laboratory and researchers from Northrop Grumman Space Technology have developed a novel method for generating electrical power for deep-space travel using sound waves. The traveling-wave thermoacoustic electric generator has the potential to power space probes to the furthest reaches of the Universe."

Editor's note: Someone from the GAO Office of Special Investigations asked if I would post the following on NASA Watch:

"Concerned about NASA's serious financial management problems recently reported by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the NASA IG, the Senate Government Affairs Committee Chairman, Senator Susan Collins, has requested the GAO perform one or a series of audits and investigations to test the design and effectiveness of NASA's internal controls over disbursements, including its credit card programs. The Committee Chairman has expressed concerns about whether NASA has an effective system of internal controls to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse of taxpayer resources."

Columbia Debris Found

16 September 2004: Large piece of shuttle found in Newton County , Luftin Daily News

"A large piece of space shuttle Columbia debris found recently is a part of the crew compartment, possibly including the escape hatch, a NASA official said Wednesday. The six-foot-long piece containing a hinged window was found in Newton County by Jason Sebesta, a wildlife biologist with Temple-Inland Inc."

15 September 2004: NASA ARC Union Responds: Your vision of the perfect center

"Please clarify your position on privatizing Ames. If you still support conversion of ARC to a private entity, then please say so and support this opinion with clear and compelling facts. If you have changed your mind since June, and are opposed to it or have become noncommittal, then please say so and explain why you previously thought it was wise to put ARC at higher risk for privatization by your proposal to Mr. O'Keefe. Either way, your Civil Servant employees, who stand to lose their job security and many of their benefits, deserve a forthright explanation."

15 September 2004: NASA Special Notice: Commercial Space Transportation Services in Support of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

"This RFI, issued by NASA's Office of Space Operations, is to obtain information regarding capabilities and market interest from existing and emerging domestic commercial space transportation providers. NASA will use this information to shape agency acquisition strategy for space transportation services."

Bush and Kerry on Science

15 September 2004: Bush, Kerry Go Head to Head on Science, Discovery News

The respected science journal Nature posed 15 questions to President George W. Bush and Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry on key science issues.

7) NATURE: Do you think the United States should send astronauts to the moon or Mars in the next 10 to 15 years? If so, why send humans instead of robots? If not, what is the purpose of the space shuttle and space station?

15 September 2004: Technical Hitch Delays Russia Space Station Launch, Reuters

"The launch of a Russian rocket scheduled to blast off to the International Space Station next month has been postponed because of problems with the docking system, Russia's space agency said on Wednesday."

15 September 2004: Russian mishap threatens launch schedule, MSNBC

"The explosion of a small separation bolt aboard the Soyuz spaceship now being prepared for a trip to the international space station may delay that launch for five or 10 days, Russian space officials have told journalists in Moscow. But so far, Russia has not officially informed its American partners of any possible delay."

Burt Rutan to Air Drop X-37

WhiteKnight to launch X-37 test flights, Desert News

"WhiteKnight, the unique aircraft developed by Mojave's Scaled Composites to launch the company's SpaceShipOne space craft, will have a new job early next year,the DesertNews learned this week." ... "Braukus had no further information on the decision to have the Scaled aircraft launch the X-37, saying that management of the project has been taken over by an agency he said he could not identify."

Editor's note: When asked by NASA Watch today (13 Sep) if he could elaborate on who the new sponsor of X-37 research is, NASA spokesman Mike Braukus said: "the new government partner is classified. We will acknowledge the government partner when the partner gives us permission."

Editor's note: In an additional email Tuesday morning, Mike Braukus commented: "I read an article this morning from Bill Deaver of the Desert News claiming that I said that Rutan's White Knight will be used -- if you plan to use that article it's inaccurate. I told Mr. Deaver that I didn't know what aircraft Scaled Composites planned to use to drop the X-37 and that he should contact them for that information."

Editor's note:Mike Braukus subsequently confirmed to NASA Watch that the X-37 program had been transfered to DARPA.

Editor's note: President Bush has now submitted an additional request to Congress for additional emergency FY 2004 supplemental appropriations in response to damage caused by the series of hurricanes which have struck the U.S. NASA is one of the agencies covered in this request: "For an additional amount for "Space Flight Capabilities," to repair facilities damaged and take other emergency measures due to the effects of hurricanes, $126,000,000, to remain available until expended: Provided, That Congress designates this amount as an emergency requirement for this specific purpose."

15 September 2004: House Appropriations Committee Chairman Young Statement

"I will introduce a supplemental bill today that closely mirrors the President's request. I plan to move this package quickly and cleanly through the Congress. The sooner we get it on the President's desk, the sooner the aid can flow to our ailing communities."
"NASA: Space flight capabilities 126.0"

NASA Prepares for Hurricane Ivan

"Preparations are under way to secure important space flight hardware. NASA's Stennis Space Center (SSC), Miss., and the Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans, are getting ready to ride out the storm. Other NASA installations, from Johnson Space Center, Houston, to Kennedy Space Center, Fla., are keeping a wary eye on Ivan's track."

- Frances, Ivan Contribute to NASA's Hurricane Studies
- NASA Hurricane Ivan Preparation Update 12 Sep 2004
- NASA SSC Status
- NASA Terra Satellite Image of Hurricane Ivan
- Storm Track, NOAA NHC
- NASA Hurricane Ivan Preparation Update 12 Sep 2004
- Hurricane Ivan advisory, NOAA NHC

"MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS ARE NEAR 140 MPH...WITH HIGHER GUSTS. IVAN REMAINS AN EXTREMELY DANGEROUS CATEGORY FOUR HURRICANE ON THE SAFFIR-SIMPSON HURRICANE SCALE. FLUCTUATIONS IN INTENSITY ARE COMMON IN MAJOR HURRICANES AND ARE POSSIBLE OVER THE NEXT 24 HOURS. IVAN IS EXPECTED TO MAKE LANDFALL AS A MAJOR HURRICANE...AT LEAST CATEGORY THREE."

Oxygen Supplies Tight on ISS

13 September 2004: NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 13 September 2004

"Update on Elektron: The Elektron O2 generator is still Off. After the replacement of the gas analyzer for hydrogen (H2) in the O2 line by Padalka last Friday (9/10), the machine ran for about an hour and then shut down again. Moscow subsequently diagnosed the culprit to be a pressure increase in the hydrogen (H2) line due to cross-sectional constriction caused by deposits of KOH (potassium hydroxide) crystals."

Monster Space Book Auction

Richard H. Jackson former owner of Missile, Space, and Rocket Used Books is selling his personal collection of over 6,000 space related books.

NASA Web Portal Project Information

"+Official NASA Public Portal Affinity Kit - Comprehensive and authoritative guide for creating sites that have affinity with the NASA Public Portal.
+NASA Public Portal Integration Plan - The proposed plan for integrating various NASA web sites with the Public Portal."

Ivan Heads North

- NASA Hurricane Ivan Preparation Update 12 Sep 2004
- NASA SSC Status
- NASA Terra Satellite Image of Hurricane Ivan
- Storm Track, NOAA NHC
- Hurricane Ivan advisory, NOAA NHC

"MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS ARE NEAR 160 MPH...260 KM/HR...WITH HIGHER GUSTS. SOME FLUCTUATIONS IN STRENGTH ARE EXPECTED DURING THE NEXT 24 HOURS."

Responses are due on 12 October 2004.

NASA GSFC: "We plan to invite formal presentations and discussions at GSFC of the more compelling responses within 45 days of the RFI issuance."

- Water Ice Validation Concept
- Radiation/Biology Surface Demonstration
- Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission Ground System and Mission Operations
- Advanced Technology for Space Platform Architectures
- Background Program Information

Editor's note: NASA held back one photo for obvious reasons ...

H Rpt 108-674 - VA/HUD Subcommittee's report on HR 5041

"The [House Appropriations] Committee has recommended a total program level of $15,149,369,000 in fiscal year 2005, which is a decrease of $1,094,631,000 from the budget request and a decrease of $228,663,000 when compared to the fiscal year 2004 enacted appropriation."

11 September 2001: Bad news from Earth, SpaceRef

"The news from Earth that morning wasn't good. Frank Culbertson would soon find that some of the day's pre-planned routine would be altered. As soon as he was told of the attacks, Culbertson checked to see when they would be passing over the east coast of the U.S. Discovering that this was only some minutes away, Culbertson grabbed a camera. The window in Mikhail Tyurin's cabin turned out to be the one with the best view."

10 September 2004: Genesis Probe Update

Editor's note: According to an update given by Al Diaz, AA for Science, on NASA TV this morning, the desert floor was "a little more resilient" than NASA had thought - and there is some hope that much of the scientific data can be recovered. 2 of 3 collector systems were recovered either intact or broken - but still useful for science. Only the foils on the outside of the sample canister were substantially damaged. As such, according to Diaz "there will be some scientific return". More details will be discussed at a press conference which has been rescheduled for 1:00 pm EDT today.

9 September 2004: Images of NASA Genesis Recovery Effort, NASA
8 September 2004: NASA Administrator Says Exploration is Difficult - But Essential, NASA
8 September 2004: View Video of Impact (6.4 Mb QuickTime)

A True Celestial Wonder

9 September 2004: Dying star creates sculpture of gas and dust, STScI

"The Cat's Eye Nebula is seen here in this detailed view from the Hubble Space Telescope. A planetary nebula forms when Sun-like stars gently eject their outer gaseous layers to form bright nebulae with amazing twisted shapes."

Editor's note: You simply must start your day by looking at this picture.

More NASA Budget Ups and Downs

9 September 2004: A vision for the ages, OpEd, Thomas J. Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Washington Times

"Today, members of a key Senate Appropriations subcommittee are poised to slash NASA's budget and undermine President Bush's historic vision for space exploration. Such a move could have devastating consequences for the future of America's technology workforce and squander a tremendous opportunity to create new, good-paying jobs in high-tech industries."

9 September 2004: More relief needed, editorial, Orlando Sentinel

"NASA, its budget already stretched by underfunding and last year's loss of the shuttle Columbia, also will need additional dollars. The Kennedy Space Center suffered its worst damage ever from Frances. The destruction could set back plans to resume shuttle flights in the spring. The sooner Congress comes up with a new round of disaster relief that meets these and other needs, the sooner Florida will recover."

9 September 2004: Space Plan Takes A Tiny Step, UPI

"Rep. James Walsh, R-N.Y., chair of the House subcommittee that oversees the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, has agreed to accept a restructuring of the agency's operating plan that frees up $75 million in unspent fiscal year 2004 money. The funds now can be used for the contracts, and other elements of the new space plan announced by President George W. Bush last January."

Blackberrys to the Rescue

8 September 2004: NASA prepares BlackBerry backup, FCW

"With Florida facing the possibility of its third hurricane in a month, NASA is putting together a backup plan for its message system based on Research in Motion Ltd. BlackBerry devices. They are working on a workaround system for BlackBerry service," Melissa Mathews said. "It's like [instant messaging] but doesn't involve networks."

Editor's note: Excellent! At least someone at NASA knows how to use state of the art, well-established, real-world solutions - and to do so quickly, and without a lot of paperwork.

8 September 2004: Mars May Have Had Large Sea Near NASA Rover Landing Site, UC Boulder

"Data from the Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey spacecraft now show that the region surrounding the Opportunity rover's landing site probably had a body of water at least 330,000 square kilometers, or 127,000 square miles. That would make the ancient sea larger in surface area than all the Great Lakes combined, or comparable to Europe's Baltic Sea."

Kerry Space Policy Update

In an exchange this afternoon between Fox's ever cherubic Neal Cavuto and perennial Democratic commentator, former Dukakis Campaign Manager Susan Estrich, Cavuto noted that Kerry's image was not affected too much "by that Willie Wonka get up". Estrich agreed with Cavutos assessment.

Meanwhile, KerrySpace, a new space website focused on developing a space policy for the Kerry campaign, was announced in a posting by a group of Kerry space supporters.

According to the developer of the website, KerrySpace.com is also soliciting contributions. "This fund will be used to make purchases that will further our cause, such as postage and stationary to do a letter writing campaign, purchase an ad in Space News or Ad Astra to tell the space community about our group, and other ideas that are described on the website." In addition "donations can be made anonymously by request."

Alas, it would seem that this group is somewhat uninformed when it comes to FEC regulations about activities on behalf of a candidate - and what you have to do if you are going to raise and spend money on their behalf and how you need to document all contributors and expenditures. I tried to post something to this effect on their website, but the moderator rejected my post - twice.

"Full Committee hearing scheduled for Wednesday, September 8, at 10 a.m. in room 253 of the Russell Senate Office Building. Members will hear testimony examining the status of NASAs space shuttle program and NASA's efforts to implement the recommendations of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board. Senator McCain will preside."

8 September 2004: Testimony of Sean O'Keefe
8 September 2004: Testimony of Thomas P. Stafford

Editor's note: NASA's Office of Legislative Affairs seems to have been unaware that this hearing was happening. The last time they updated their website of 'upcoming hearings' was 27 July 2004. This hearing is not mentioned - nor is Sean O'Keefe's testimony posted as of 3:00 pm EDT.

8 September 2004: NASA: Fixing Shuttle Fleet Could Top $2B , AP

"NASA (news - web sites) administrator Sean O'Keefe said Wednesday the cost of fixing all the problems with the space shuttle fleet could top $2.2 billion double the estimated price tag given to Congress a year ago."

7 September 2004: Cape Canaveral: KSC employees told to report to work Monday unless otherwise contacted, Florida Today

"The Process Control Center had severe water damage after losing part of its roof. It's the hub of the e-mail and Web system for the shuttle launch complex, but because the computers were covered with plastic, the damage assessors think they probably were protected, KSC Director Jim Kennedy said."

Editor's note: Housing a webserver, email server - or any vital computer network hub in such a fragile location "covered with plastic" is just nuts. The fact that this facility is a few miles from the ocean, a few feet above sea level in a state prone to tropical storms and hurricanes makes me wonder just what the KSC folks were thinking - especially in a post 9/11 world.

I certainly hope NASA is going to catch up with the rest of the world and have secure, offsite mirror web facilities - such as those commonly used in the private sector. These armored, windowless facilities have uninterruptible back-up power, as well as server and connectivity redundancy. Fortunately, I understand that this storm has led to some definitive movement to fix this situation as NASA continues to develop its new web portal infrastructure.

Detailed VAB Damage Photos

7 September 2004: NASA Kennedy Space Center Cleans Up After Hurricane (photos)

"Assessment of KSC's landmark facility, the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), shows about 820 panels were torn off during the storm. Initial review of the VAB's interior indicates no serious damage to equipment, including two Space Shuttle External Tanks. Engineers are continuing their damage assessment. The Thermal Protection System Facility, where Space Shuttle tile and blankets are manufactured, suffered significant damage. Work is under way to recover critical spaceflight material, such as tile molds, from exposed areas."

7 September 2004: Photos of Rep. Dave Weldon's Inspection of Hurricane Damage at NASA Kennedy Space Center

Reader suggestion: "Hey, just a thought... NASA should sell pieces of the VAB damage, like cut up the siding into smaller pieces and sell it. Wouldn't hurt to have some extra $, and let the public own a piece of space history..."

6 September 2004: Preliminary Hurricane Damage Assessement from NASA Kennedy Space Center, SpaceRef

"NASA Kennedy Space Center Director Jim Kennedy held a teleconference with the news media this afternoon and provided a preliminary picture of the damage Hurricane Frances inflicted upon the space center. The Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) has the most visible damage. According to Kennedy the damage can be seen on the South and East walls of the VAB. There are some 1,000 panels that have lifted off of the building. There are also areas of insulation and subpanels missing. Each panel is 4x10 feet in size. The Shuttle Tile Facility suffered significant damage. The roof is partially gone and there is extensive water damage inside."

6 September 2004: NASA KSC Media Tour Scheduled, NASA HQ
6 September 2004: NASA Assesses Hurricane Frances Damage, NASA HQ

6 September 2004: CBO Study: A Budgetary Analysis of NASA's New Vision for Space Exploration

"This Congressional Budget Office study assesses the implications that those plans might have for the content and schedule of NASA's future activities as well as the funding that might be needed to execute them. CBO developed estimates of how the costs to carry out NASA's plans for space exploration might differ from its current budget projection and then assessed potential budgetary or programmatic options that might be available to address such cost differences."

8 September 2004: Moon plan comes at steep price: $64 billion, Huntsville Times

"NASA is going to have to earn it a dollar at a time and a day at a time," Cowing said. "There are now problems cropping up with (the plan to return the space shuttle to flight in 2005), and now with the hurricane (damage at Kennedy Space Center), the first time you will hear discussions about new money will be about cost overruns. "People are tired of hearing about cost overruns. They turn on cynic filters."

3 September 2004: NASA Presolicitation Notice: Legal Services (creation of The Mercury Fund)

"This procurement is for the purchase of the legal services and business advice in support of the Agency's effort to create a venture capital fund similar in concept to the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) In-Q-Tel. NASA's fund is hereby referred to as "The Mercury Fund". The services provided under this contract will include unique legal, taxation, and operational advisory services. The goal of The Mercury Fund will be to invest in tandem with established private sector venture capital funds to sponsor innovative, multi-use technologies to help NASA achieve its mission and to better position these technologies for future multiple and/or commercial uses."

Hurricane Frances Slaps KSC

5 September 2004: What Has Frances done to NASA Kennedy Space Center - and its Employees?, SpaceRef

"... current plans call for a survey team to return to KSC around 7:00 AM EDT on Monday, 6 September. The hope is that they can provide an initial damage assessment by noon on Monday. NASA is not expected to make any official announcements until that assessment has been made."

ISS Crew Completes EVA

3 September 2004: NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 3 September 2004

3 September 2004: NASA Space Station Status Report 3 September 2004

"Smoothly and ahead of schedule, Expedition 9 Commander Gennady Padalka and Flight Engineer Mike Fincke completed the fourth and final spacewalk of their six-month mission today. Padalka and Fincke spent five hours, 21 minutes outside the International Space Station (ISS) on maintenance tasks and installing antennas to prepare for the initial arrival of a new European cargo spacecraft next year."

Helios Crash Report Released

4 September 2004: NASA Releases Helios Prototype Aircraft Mishap Report

"The board that investigated the loss of the remotely operated Helios Prototype aircraft during a test flight last summer released its final report."

2 September 2004: Reports of SETI@home Extraterrestrial Signal Highly Exaggerated, Planetary Society

"A rash of reports in recent days that SETI@home has discovered a likely signal from an alien civilization are highly exaggerated, says SETI@home Chief Scientist Dan Werthimer of U.C. Berkeley."

2 September 2004: NEO News - Rusty Schweickart on Asteroid Deflection Technology

"What I fear there is that, within the community of researchers, there exists a de facto, and perhaps sub-conscious acceptance that the "default" method for future asteroid deflection will be via the use of nuclear explosives. My sense is that, while the current asteroid characterization work is both valuable and unquestionably needed, it comes up short of the detailed surface information needed by the "soft" deflection concepts."

2 September 2004: NASA scientists provide opportunity to educate the next generation, NASA ARC

"On Sept. 7, 2004, in collaboration with San Jose State University, San Jose, Calif., the Computing, Information and Communications Technology (CICT) program office at NASA Ames Research Center, located in California's Silicon Valley, will offer a free Web-based Advanced Aerospace Technology course to inspire students to pursue careers in math and science. ... The final day to register is Sept. 7, 2004."

Editor's note: This press release - with registration information and a deadline of 7 September - was sent out on the afternoon of Thursday, 2 September. The soonest anyone - parent, student, or teacher - might see it is on a news website on Friday, 3 September - the day before the Labor Day weekend holiday (assuming they are not off on a long weekend already). Monday, 6 Sept. is a Federal holiday - and everything is closed. The final registration date, Tuesday 7 Sept is the day most students start school.

Again, as was the case on two other press releases NASA ARC issued [see Announcing Events Already Underway]- after the events had already started a week or so ago, I have to ask: why even bother putting this information out at such a late date - information on attendance or registration - when it is virtually impossible for anyone to take advantage of this information?

1 September 2004: NASA Selects Contractors for Exploration Studies

"NASA today awarded the first contracts to conduct preliminary concept studies for human lunar exploration and the development of the crew exploration vehicle. Eleven companies were selected."

1 September 2004: NASA Glenn Research Center Awards $41 million Services Contract

"NASA's Glenn Research Center (GRC), Cleveland, today awarded an 8(a) cost-plus-award-fee contract valued at approximately $41 million to Mainthia Technologies, Inc., (MTI), Cleveland."

John Glenn in space - again?

In introducing Sen. John Glenn to the National American Legion Convention today, John Kerry joked "If I am elected President I told John that he can go into space one more time". Kerry then said that Glenn had told him that it would "cost the government less money since he'd get a senior citizen discount."

Gee, why Glenn didn't mention that discount the last time he flew?

Editor's note: Over the next few days we'll be bringing the new, upgraded NASA Watch online. This task includes making sure that previous information (in some cases dating back to 1996) can still be easily found. As such, please pardon any odd things you see appearing and then disappearing. We will try and limit these changes to the late evening hours.

As part of this upgrade we have also launched a new companion website Commercial Space Watch.

"On August 31st the last Atlas 2 rocket was launched from Launchpad 36A in Florida (the launchpad is also being retired) and one orbit later its Centaur upper stage overflew Toronto and vented excess reactants into space shortly after nightfall." Image online here.


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