December 2004 Archives

Planets Change

The Washington Post has some vivid before and after satellite images of tsunami damage to Sumatra. As you view these images, ponder the fact that this all happened in the blink of an eye.

Planets change - especially our own.

30 December 2004: Pentagon Said to Offer Cuts in the Billions, Washington post

"The proposed reductions, the details of which are still being fine-tuned and which would require Congressional approval, result from White House orders to all federal agencies to cut their spending requests for the 2006 fiscal year budgets, which will be submitted to lawmakers early next year."

30 December 2004: Analysis: U.S.-Russia teamwork unraveling, UPI

"Therefore, Perminov's announcement should not be seen simply as a reflex of financial pressures on Russia's space program. It is, rather, a red light warning that the long era of easygoing U.S.-Russian cooperation in space is rapidly coming to an end. And that could be the harbinger of far worse problems to come."

Editor's note:The author of this article, Martin Sieff, has clearly not been keeping tabs on the U.S./Russian space relationship over the past decade. Such statements and posturing by the Russians are a regular feature of that relationship and often serve as a preamble or opening salvo for discussions wherein issues are usually resolved to the satisfaction of both sides. Also, I find it odd that this author could delve into the topic of who pays for what (and why) and not mention the Iran Nonproliferation Act, which constrains what the U.S. can and cannot do, and the huge sum of money that was paid by the U.S. to keep Mir going for a number of years in the mid 1990s. Despite the gloomy scenario painted in this article, things are not as bad as Mr. Sieff suggests (at least not yet). As far as human spaceflight - and the ISS - goes, for the at least the next decade, Russia needs the U.S. just as much as the U.S. needs Russia.

Replace the Shuttle

30 December 2004: Astronaut says speed up plans for new craft, Huntsville Times

"The shuttle was designed almost 35 years ago, and it has been operated for almost a quarter of a century," Garriott said. "By the time of NASA's new plans to explore the moon it would be closer to 50 years of age. We need a replacement if (NASA) expects to succeed with its plans" to return to the moon and possibly go on to Mars."

Hi-tech dumpsite on Mars

NASA Mars Rover Opportunity Visits its Heat Shield Impact Site (Photo gallery)

"NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity gained this view of its own heat shield during the rover's 325th martian day (Dec. 22, 2004). The main structure from the successfully used shield is to the far left. Additional fragments of the heat shield lie in the upper center of the image. The heat shield's impact mark is visible just above and to the right of the foreground shadow of Opportunity's camera mast."

29 December 2004: No more free rides for U.S. astronauts on Russian spacecraft, Russian space chief says, AP

"Russia plans to stop giving American astronauts free rides on its spacecraft to the international space station beginning in 2006, the head of Russia's space agency said. Anatoly Perminov said the no-cost agreement between NASA and Russia's space agency Roskosmos could be replaced by a barter arrangement, according to the Interfax news agency on Tuesday."

29 December 2004: Russians ready pay-as-you-go space plan, Reuters

"From 2006, we will put U.S. astronauts into orbit only on a commercial basis," Itar-Tass news agency quoted Perminov as saying."

Comments on Sean O'Keefe's resignation? Send them to and we'll post them here. Lets us know if we can use your name as well. Comments already received are listed below:

Asteroid Impact Preview

Possibility of an Earth Impact in 2029 Ruled Out for Asteroid 2004 MN4

"Over the past week, several independent efforts were made to search for pre-discovery observations of 2004 MN4. These efforts proved successful today when Jeff Larsen and Anne Descour of the Spacewatch Observatory near Tucson, Arizona, were able to detect and measure very faint images of asteroid 2004 MN4 on archival images dating to 15 March 2004. These observations extended the observed time interval for this asteroid by three months allowing an improvement in its orbit so that an Earth impact on 13 April 2029 can now be ruled out."

NOAA Reacts Quickly to Tsunami

"A tsunami is a series of ocean waves generated by any rapid large-scale disturbance of the sea water. Most tsunamis are generated by earthquakes, but they may also be caused by volcanic eruptions, landslides, undersea slumps or meteor impacts."

Editor's note: If you want an idea of what an ocean impact of a small asteroid might look like in terms of the tsunami it might generate, take the time to view the Quicktime animation featured in this NOAA press release.

O'Keefe Departure Views

26 December 2004: NASA's Chief Bails Out

"Sean O'Keefe had the extreme bad luck to take the helm of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration less than 14 months before the shuttle Columbia disintegrated in the skies over Texas, throwing the agency into disarray. Through no great fault of his own, Mr. O'Keefe is leaving the space program in worse shape than he found it."

26 December 2004: O'Keefe's life goal was just to teach, The Adocate

"President Bush recruited him back to Washington to be NASA administrator in 1991 at a time when the agency was reeling with space station cost overruns. "You don't want an engineer to fix a budget problem, you need a financial manager," said Howard McCurdy, an American University public administration professor who has tracked NASA for the past two decades. "He agreed to do it, and he actually did it."

Progress Docks With ISS

NASA Space Station Status Report 25 December 2004

"The Progress automatically docked to the aft port of the Zvezda Service Module at 6:58 p.m. EST as the Station flew 225 statute miles over central Asia. Within minutes, hooks and latches between the two ships engaged, forming a tight seal. The docking occurred about 30 minutes later than planned so that the linkup could occur over Russian ground stations with the benefit of television from the cargo ship and real-time data. This is the 16th Progress to dock with the Station."

NASA Cassini Mission Status Report 24 December 2004

"The European Space Agency's Huygens probe successfully detached from NASA's Cassini orbiter today to begin a three-week journey to Saturns moon Titan. NASA's Deep Space Network tracking stations in Madrid, Spain and Goldstone, Calif., received the signal at 7:24 p.m.(PST). All systems performed as expected and there were no problems reported with the Cassini spacecraft."

Christmas on Orbit

NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 24 December 2004

A Progress spacecraft is due to dock with the ISS on Christmas Day. NASA TV coverage begins at 6 p.m. EST. The Progress will dock at approximately 7:05 p.m. EST.

Poem uplinked to Leroy and Salizhan by Flight Control:

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the Station
The crew was still working, this is not a vacation!
Their spirits were high but their pantry was bare.
They had hopes that the Progress soon would be there,

When out of the window there emerged a bright light
It was a good Progress launch, what a beautiful sight!

The ISS crew then went straight to their beds
While visions of kung pao chicken danced in their heads.
They slept with the knowledge that teams here on the ground
Would be watching the Progress while it soared ISS-bound.

They'll awake for the docking and that exciting small bump --
Then shout "Merry Christmas to All, we made it over that hump!"

A Merry Christmas and great Holiday to everyone!

Food is on the way

NASA Space Station Status Report 23 December 2004

"A Russian cargo spacecraft is on its way to the International Space Station. The Progress resupply ship launched at 5:19:31 p.m. EST from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, and less than 10 minutes later settled into orbit. Moments after that, automatic commands deployed its solar arrays and navigational antennas."

Crash Site Dead Ahead

NASA Mars Rover Opportunity Approaches Location of Crashed Heatshield

"Having emerged from Endurance crater, Opportunity is now approaching the location where its heatshield crashed almost a year ago."

Opportunity Looks Back at Endurance Crater

Name Game Update

22 December 2004: Editor's note: Sources now tell me that not only is Bob Walker's name not under consideration for NASA Administrator, but moreover, that he has made it clear to those who ask that he is not interested in the job.

19 December 2004: Editor's note: After a week of speculation and rumor mongering the following evolution of the purported names being considered for NASA Adminstrator has developed:

Names still in play: Steidle and Walker, and to a lesser extent, Kadish and Worden (despite Brownback's endorsement).

Names no longer in play: Bolden, Sega, Crippen, Culbertson, Elachi

21 December 2004: Boeing Delta IV Heavy Achieves Major Test Objectives in First Flight

"The Boeing Delta IV Heavy made its first flight today achieving the major test objectives despite placing its demonstration satellite in a lower than expected orbit.The Delta IV Heavy lifted off from Space Launch Complex 37B, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., at 4:50 p.m. EST, on a demonstration launch for the Air Force's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program. The demonstration satellite was deployed following a 5-hour and 50-minute flight."

They're Worried in Houston

22 December 2004: Lockheed to shed 1,000 local positions, Houston Chronicle

"Lockheed Martin will shut down as many as 1,000 jobs in Houston, following a decision by NASA last week to award a $1 billion contract to competitor Sverdrup Technology."

16 December 2004: NASA Awards Engineering & Science Contract

"A five-year contract to support engineering and science at NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC), Houston, has been awarded to Sverdrup Technology Inc., doing business as Jacobs Sverdrup. The contract has a total potential value of $1.15 billion."

Recreating a Piece of History

Block I Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC): How to build one in your basement

"This report describes my successful project to build a working reproduction of the 1964 prototype for the Block I Apollo Guidance Computer. The AGC is the flight computer for the Apollo moon landings, and is the words's first integrated circuit computer. I built it in my basement. It took me 4 years. If you like, you can build one too. It will take you less time, and yours will be better than mine."

Editor's note: You can contact the man behind this project, John Pultorak here.. In reading of this project, I am reminded of those who have built working replicas of Babbage's Difference Engine, The Antikythera Mechanism (an ancient Greek astronomical computer), and some of Leonardo's inventions. Go here for more information on the Apollo Guidance Computer.

Of course, there is also the woman in Oregon who recently put an entire Commodore 64 on a single chip.

21 December 2004: Playing defense - Community must mobilize to protect NASA Langley, OpEd, Daily Press

"Hampton seems to grasp the threat, and will need to mount a defensive action. But this isn't just a Hampton issue. Every nearby locality, all of Hampton Roads, should be arming to make the case for Langley and protect the research it does. Because that research is critical to the nation's economy and security. And because Langley employees and purchases add enormously to the intellectual, economic and cultural capital of this area."

Editor's note: Just a suggestion folks: the last time y'all mounted a pro-LaRC/Aeronautics PR offensive you ran some ads on TV which aired up here in Washington, DC area. The images of the airplane wreckage floating in the ocean had the exact opposite effect than it was apparently intended to have. Oh yes: the FY06 Federal budget is not going to make anyone happy - anywhere. So if you are just going to complain about not getting enough money you'll just have to get in line with everyone else who feels the same way. Its going to be a long line.

Returning the space shuttle to flight, Spaceflight Now

"This 10-part, 11,600-word report is focused on details about Discovery's mission and safety upgrades to improve ascent damage detection and potential repair options. It was current as of December 17. It does not address management changes or other related topics ordered in the wake of the Columbia mishap. Those issues will be covered in subsequent stories."

8 Day Food Margin on ISS

NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 20 December 2004

"Update on food and water: As confirmed by the 12/16 onboard audit, the crew is consuming food per the planned rate. Available supply will last through 1/3/05. Both sides also acknowledge that the available water run-out date is around 1/24-25/05."

"Upcoming Key Events: Progress 16P hatch opening -- 12/26 (1:10pm EST)"

NASA Forgets Its Own History

NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 20 December 2004, NASA HQ

"Today 27 years ago (1977) the Salyut-6 crew of Yuri Romanenko and Georgi Grechko conducted the first "inspect/repair" EVA in history (and the first Russian spacewalk in nearly nine years), to check out the space station's forward docking port after a failed docking attempt by the Soyuz-25 spacecraft."

Editor's note: Jim Oberg notes: "NASA is overlooking U.S space history - the Skylab repair EVAs (1973)" Oberg is quite right. The EVAs conducted by the Skylab 2 crew were among the most daring and innovative ever conducted. The EVA repairs involved the erection of a solar parasol and the freeing of a large jammed PV array - which required brute strength on the part of the crew. This was done using tools and techniques developed from scratch - and involved things that had never been used before in space - and they were accomplished in 1973 - four years before the Salyut 6 event mentioned in this internal NASA report.

20 December 2004: Professor Grinch, Space Review

"[Alex] Roland is always cited as a "former NASA historian," which supposedly lends weight to his comments. However, the reality is that Roland last worked as a NASA historian in 1981. Yes, you can be a "former" something forever, but two decades is starting to stretch things. A review of social science databases does not reveal any scholarly publications by Roland on the subject of human spaceflight in the past decade other than a few book reviews."

Background and contact information for Alex Roland

Not quite out of this world, The Economist

"Next month Sanswire Networks, a company based in Atlanta, Georgia, is planning to launch the first airship satellite, or stratellite. Floating in the stratosphere at an altitude of about 20km (13 miles), the airship will behave just like a geostationary satellite, hovering over a particular spot and relaying radio signals to and from the ground. Such airships will, however, be much cheaper to launch and maintain than satellitesand can do things that satellites cannot."

Sanswire Networks, LLC

19 December 2004: Departing NASA Administrator O'Keefe's tenure offers a case study that warns us what the space agency shouldn't do next, Editorial, Houston Chronicle

"What NASA does not need is another administrator who can count the beans but can't see to the stars."

18 December 2004: NASA: Only the bold need apply, OpEd, Cooky Oberg, Houston Chronicle

"Worse, the arrogant, defensive, know-it-all NASA culture that was blamed for the Columbia disaster by the panel that investigated the calamity has not been changed or reformed by O'Keefe -- inviting speculation that trouble lies ahead. More than at any time in its history, NASA needs some tough love. President Bush will need to appoint a no-nonsense NASA administrator who has the technical background to understand space systems and the implications of his decisions -- something O'Keefe lacked with his narrow, bean-counting background."

Editor's note: You know, after reading these OpEds, and comments from NASA Watch readers, I am almost certain that the media (who have never worked at NASA) - and the employees of NASA (who do work there) - are never going to be satisified with who is at the helm of NASA.

17 December 2004: GAO Report: Space Shuttle - Costs for Hubble Servicing Mission and Implementation of Safety Recommendations Not Yet Definitive

"Although a shuttle servicing mission is one of the options for servicing the Hubble Space Telescope, to date, NASA does not have a definitive estimate of the potential cost. At our request, NASA prepared an estimate of the funding needed for a shuttle servicing mission to the Hubble. NASA estimates the cost at between $1.7 billion to $2.4 billion. However, documentary support for portions of the estimate is insufficient."

Questions for NASA, OpEd, Washington Post

"Indeed, taking over at NASA is something like inheriting a house partway through a renovation job that turned out to be ill-advised and running way over budget."

Editor's note: Alas, the intellectually lazy editorial staff at the Washington Post once again show how easy it is to wave their collective arms in the air about problems at NASA. Its as if they have a special button on their computer labeled "WHINE". The fact that the White House and Rep. Delay made passage of the entire federal budget contingent upon full funding for NASA is utterly unprecedented - yet they simply write it off as a pork ploy for Delay. Yet when it comes to a commensurate suggestion of possible solution(s) for NASA's woes, they put forth nothing. The closest they come up with is the worn out suggestion which can be summarized as "humans bad, robots good".

Erasing History (update)

Editor's note: It would seem that there is still imagination at work at Downey in Bldg. 1:

18 December 2004: Out of This World - The Designer Behind 'Lemony Snicket', Washington Post

"Shot on 10 soundstages on the Paramount lot here and at a retired aerospace factory in nearby Downey (where Boeing made space shuttles and where the filmmakers built the largest indoor water tank in North America), the environment created for "Lemony Snicket" is entirely the handmade creation of Hollywood: Not a scene was filmed outdoors or on location."

12 October 2004: Former NASA site beginning its transformation, Press-telegram

"What was formerly a hub of the aerospace industry took its first step toward transformation into what city leaders expect will be a vital economic engine for Downey."

Editor's note: There was a lot of history in this facility. In the early 80's I worked in Building 1 for a number of years. As I walked past parts of Space Shuttles Discovery and Atlantis being assembled, echoes of Apollo were everywhere. I hope someone is saving some of that.

17 December 2004: GenCorp Elects Charles F. Bolden to its Board of Directors; Robert A. Wolfe to Resign

"GenCorp Inc. announced today that Charles F. Bolden, Jr. has been elected to join its board of directors effective January 1, 2005."

It was too good to last

16 December 2004: Bush looking at freezing or slightly cutting domestic spending, AP

"The president is still making final decisions about the $2.5 trillion budget for 2006 he will propose in February." ... "Even the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, an administration favorite, was facing an increase of just 1 percent, pending appeals to the White House by outgoing NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe, a lobbyist said."

O'Keefe Gets the Job

16 December 2004: Departing NASA chief recommended as next LSU chancellor, AP

"A search committee unanimously recommended O'Keefe for the post Thursday afternoon and the LSU Board of Supervisors also unanimously voted to offer him the job that evening."

16 December 2004: O'Keefe accepts LSU position, Houston Chronicle via Orlando Sentinel

"I am delighted to be the seventh chancellor of Louisiana State University," O'Keefe said to board Chairman Stewart Slack. "I accept, sir."

No Hope for NASA?

16 December 2004: Astronaut Says Space Shuttle Safer, AP

"Legendary astronaut John Young said Thursday, on the verge of his retirement, that NASA has not changed its safety culture since the Columbia accident but has done all it can to improve the space shuttle and should return to flight as soon as possible. NASA and the nation should just accept the failure rate of 1-in-57 shuttle flights, Young said, stressing that space exploration is well worth the risk."

Editor's note: To be certain, there is such a thing as 'acceptable risk'. To fly in space, one must accept that a certain level of risk will always be there. But to just throw up your hands, as Young has done, and say nothing has changed - and that its not worth the effort to try and get better - is defeatism of the first order. It is curious that he feels this way when you recall that a contemporary of his, Gene Kranz, coined the phrase "failure is not an option". If someone with Young's incredible career feels this way about NASA, what sort of message does this send to those still at NASA - and those who aspire to work there? Not a good one if you ask me. [And yes folks, thanks for reminding me, I know that Kranz never actually uttered that phrase - but he has since embraced it as his own and titled a book with those words].

Tell me why ....

16 December 2004: Analysis: O'Keefe's exit may save Hubble, UPI

"The timing of NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe's sudden announcement Monday that he was resigning from the space agency to return to the academic world suggests his reasons were more complicated than he stated in public."

Editor's note: Here we go again. Yet another story by a reporter about what he thinks he knows as opposed to what he actually knows. I wonder if he has ever even discussed this topic with Sean O'Keefe. Perhaps he will ask him about this at Friday's press event. Every day I get complaints from NASA Watch readers about the toll their job has taken on them and their families. Why is it so hard to accept the fact that a parent can make their family a priority above the direction other people think their career should take - just because that parent happens to be the Administrator of NASA?

Contracts Awarded

Brownback Endorses Worden

16 December 2004: Brownback Urges General Worden for NASA Administrator

"U.S. Senator Sam Brownback today urged the Bush Administration to choose Brigadier General Simon P. Worden (USAF, Ret.) as the next head of NASA. Worden is a former legislative fellow in Brownback's office."

Not only did Cassini make a second close pass over Titan on Monday, it also managed to get some great images of Dione - against the backdrop of Saturn - and close up.

For these images and more news concerning Cassini's mission, visit

The Name Game

16 December 2004: Ex-astronaut says NASA job not offered, Knight Ridder

"Retired Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden Jr. is proud his name is among a handful being mentioned as the next head of the U.S. space agency. But he's keeping his day job."

15 December 2004: Walker mentioned for top job at NASA, Intelligencer Journal

"I am not seeking this position and I know nothing about them seeking me for it," Walker said in a statement read by his assistant, Peter Baca."

15 December 2004: NASA's Future Is Rising From 'the Swamp', Washington Post

"So Steidle went, and "I never left," he said. "One day, I'm sitting next to [astronaut] Buzz Aldrin. The next day, I'm sitting with [astronaut] Tom Stafford. The next day, I'm working on programs to go back to the moon. Who couldn't love that?"

A New Low for Florida Today

Editor's note:Florida Today is featuring this cartoon on their website - and presumably in their newspaper. The caption ends with Sean O'Keefe saying "please, I have to do this for me". I just don't get it. Someone (O'Keefe) steps down from a prominent, exciting - even powerful position, so that he can use all of his skills to earn the funds to give his children the best education he can provide - as well as spend more time with them after 4 years of earning substantially less than he is capable of earning - and spending far too much time away from home. And all Florida Today can do is mock his sincerity. How creepy - and hypocritical as well given all of the ink Florida Today gives to issues affecting the KSC workforce and their families. If I were a reporter for Florida Today I'd be embarassed to work for such a publication.

15 December 2004: Bush Prepares for Possible GPS Shutdown

"President Bush has ordered plans for temporarily disabling the U.S. network of global positioning satellites during a national crisis to prevent terrorists from using the navigational technology, the White House said Wednesday."

14 December 2004: United States - Russian Federation Joint Statement on the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS) and the Russian Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS)

"Both sides reiterated their commitment to continuing these talks and reaffirmed that the United States and the Russian Federation intend to continue to provide the GPS and GLONASS civil signals appropriate for commercial, scientific and safety of life use on a continuous, worldwide basis, free of direct user fees."

15 December 2004: Editor's note: NASA has announced plans to cancel three Space Shuttle Upgrades projects - Cockpit Avionics Upgrade, Vehicle Health Monitoring System and the Advanced Health Management System. Internal memos from Boeing and USA address the issue of job changes and transfers.

"Shortly before his resignation as NASA Administrator, Sean O'Keefe sat down with Aerospace America to discuss the president's space exploration initiative, and how NASA will proceed with its implementation."

Full article (PDF)

O'Keefe Visits LSU

15 December 2004: NASA chief's rsum alluring, The Advocate

15 December 2004: Former NASA chief hopes for chancellor job despite a limited background, The Advocate

"The first - and possibly last - LSU chancellor candidate to visit the university said today that he hopes his limited background in education will be enough to get him the job."

15 December 2004: O'Keefe visits LSU campus, UPI

"O'Keefe's resume was e-mailed to the student body, and they were excited to hear about his open door policy for students when he was at Syracuse University."

15 December 2004: Missile Defense Flight Test Conducted, Missile Defense Agency

"The Missile Defense Agency announced today it was unable to complete a planned flight test after the interceptor missile experienced an anomaly shortly before it was to be launched from the Ronald Reagan Test Site, Republic of the Marshall Islands, in the central Pacific Ocean."

Everyone Has An Opinion

15 December 2004: Sean O'Keefe's tenure, OpEd, Orlando Sentinel

"Sean O'Keefe led NASA during a tumultuous time. Even so, he will leave the space agency in better shape than when he became its administrator three years ago."

15 December 2004: NASA in Wonderland, OpEd, LA Times

"Lavishing billions on nostalgically rich but scientifically poor missions like returning astronauts to the moon, the budget starves NASA of funding for projects with abundant scientific worth."

Cuts a LaRC Spark Concerns

15 December 2004: Cuts at NASA Langley surprise some, Daily Press

"NASA Langley officials downplayed the cuts, saying financial adjustments will come as the center reorganizes under the exploration priority."

Sean O'Keefe Has Resigned

13 December 2004: NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe Resigns

"Administrator Sean O'Keefe, who over the past three years led the National Aeronautics and Space Administration through an aggressive and comprehensive management transformation and helped the agency through one of its most painful tragedies, resigned today. In his resignation letter to the President the Administrator wrote, "I will continue until you have named a successor and in the hope the Senate will act on your nomination by February."

O'Keefe to Depart NASA

11 December 2004: NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe to Depart Soon, SpaceRef

"Sean O'Keefe will step down as NASA Administrator."

Editor's note: The White House will release O'Keefe's formal letter of resignation as early as Monday but no later than Tuesday. As to when O'Keefe will speak publicly, given that LSU will make its decision on chosing a new Chancellor on Thursday, it is all but certain, according to NASA sources, that O'Keefe will give an all hands speech to the agency on Friday.

13 December 2004: NASA's O'Keefe to leave, Orlando Sentinel

"White House press secretary Scott McClellan said today that O'Keefe had indicated that he plans to resign. President Bush has not yet received a resignation letter from O'Keefe, White House spokesman Taylor Gross said."

O'Keefe Departure Analysis

13 December 2004: NASA Chief Is Resigning After 3 Years, Officials Say, NY Times

"Dr. John Logsdon, director of George Washington University's Space Policy Institute, said in an interview on Sunday that it was generally believed in Washington that Mr. O'Keefe was hoping for a high position at the Pentagon in the second Bush administration."

Editor's note:Just because something is "generally believed" doesn't mean that it is true, John.

12 December 2004: NASA chief applies for LSU chancellor, AP

"[Joel Tohline] said O'Keefe was the 21st applicant, and the committee is still encouraging other people to apply. He wouldn't say whether any others among the half-dozen they're "very interested in" are among the 21 who have applied."

12 December 2004: O'Keefe expected to leave NASA job, Orlando Sentinel

"The news of O'Keefe's decision was first reported by, a Web site that tracks the space program. There has been speculation in Washington for months that O'Keefe might leave to go back to the Pentagon."

11 December 2004: O'Keefe poised to step down from NASA post, Houston Chronicle

"O'Keefe's tenure has been marked by triumph and tragedy, none more pivotal than Columbia's breakup. He embraced the reforms outlined in the often critical findings of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board. Investigators concluded that O'Keefe inherited rather than instigated the safety and management lapses the led to loss."

11 December 2004: Reports: NASA chief Sean O'Keefe may leave agency, CBS/Spaceflight Now

"While many NASA insiders never warmed to O'Keefe's bureaucratic style, one said today "we've got a vision and the funding to go with it and we wouldn't have had it without him." "As far as what he brought to the agency, he brought the agency closer to the administration, got us support from the administration, got the administration's backing for the funding to go with it," he said. "So for that, you've got to give him high marks."

Dazed and Confused in Houston

12 December 2004: Amid the house cleaning, NASA needs a sweep-out, OpEd, Cragg Hines, Houston Chronicle

"Why all the balletic avoidance of a central implication in the independent study on how to extend the life of the Hubble Space Telescope? Hasn't NASA chief Sean O'Keefe been so wrong and so duplicitous in his attempt to kill the gloriously successful project that he should quit in embarrassment or be fired?"

Editor's note:Let's see, Cragg: a NASA Administrator errs on the side of safety - and does so in response to a report chronicling the mistakes that led up to the loss of 7 astronauts - most of which had to do with lack of attention to safety - and now you think he should be fired? Calling for him to step down over the Hubble decision is not only unsubstantiated, it is just plain goofy.

11 December 2004: So who ate all the pies in space?, Times Online

"An emergency Christmas Day delivery is planned by rocket to restock the dwindling larder of Salizhan Sharipov and Leroy Chiao. If the mission is called off the astronauts will have to flee in the escape pod."

Editor's note:Here we go again. The Progress mission to the ISS is not an "emergency mission", rather, it is one of many previously scheduled, routine resupply missions. Moreover, I cannot imagine why they'd "flee" if the food ran out. You have to think that they'd have enough notice to plan ahead and simply "depart". But words such as "routine" and "depart" don't sell newspapers. Words such as "emergency" and "flee" do.

Delta IV Heavy Demonstration Launch Live Webcast, Boeing

"Join us December 12, 2004 at 2:00 p.m. EST as our live webcast coverage begins. The launch will take place from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, with a 2 hour 56 minute launch window scheduled to open at 2:32 p.m. EST."

SpaceflightNow coverage

7 December 2004: NASA Internal Memo: Immediate Freeze on All Nonessential Publications and Materials, NASA HQ

"We have taken a macro look at many of our most frequently distributed communications material. As a result of this effort, we have identified areas of significant duplication, redundancy, and waste among many of these materials that must also be reviewed from both a consistency in messaging and cost-perspective basis. Therefore, effective this date, I am ordering an immediate Agencywide freeze on the design and production of all nonessential publications and communications material produced anywhere in the Agency.This freeze is applicable to all offices at Headquarters, NASA Centers, including JPL, and component facilities."

No Snacks in Space

With Food Running Low, Space Crew Must Cut Back, NY Times

"The two astronauts aboard the International Space Station have been asked to curb their calories because of a food shortage, NASA officials said Thursday."

NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 8 December 2004

Editor's note: The following notices appeared in the Federal Register the other day. Now all NASA has to do is explain to everyone how this swarm of new advisory committees works to advise the agency and thow they interact with one another - and an already existing swarm of advisory committees. Oh yes, NASA has to go find a hundred or so people willing to serve on them.

Notice of Establishment of a NASA Advisory Committees:

NASA Solar System Exploration Strategic Roadmap Committee
NASA Nuclear Systems Strategic Roadmap Committee
NASA International Space Station Strategic Roadmap Committee
NASA Space Shuttle Strategic Roadmap Committee
NASA Sun-Solar System Connection Strategic Roadmap Committee
NASA Robotic and Human Lunar Exploration Strategic Roadmap Committee
NASA Earth Science and Applications From Space Strategic Roadmap Committee
NASA Aeronautical Technologies Strategic Roadmap Committee
NASA Exploration Transportation System Strategic Roadmap Committee
NASA Search for Earth-like Planets Strategic Roadmap Committee
NASA Education Strategic Roadmap Committee

CEV Specs

9 December 2004: Crew Exploration Vehicle Request for Proposal Statement of Work,NASA

"The draft Statement of Work (SOW) for the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) system summarizes the work required for the first phase of the CEV acquisition. The SOW requires the contractor to design and develop the CEV system culminating in completion of a Preliminary Design Review (PDR). The CEV system design is required to meet as a threshold, the CEV Spiral 1 and 2 requirements, with the objective to meet the CEV Spiral 3 requirements. The SOW includes a parallel risk reduction effort culminating in a 2008 flight demonstration."

H.R. 5382 Passes Senate

Editor's note:H.R. 5382, "The Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act", was passed by the Senate this evening by unanimous consent.


8 December 2004: JPL Community Mourns Loss of Three Colleagues, NASA JPL

"The Laboratory is mourning the loss of Dorothy Forks, an employee in JPL's Human Resources Department; Jane Galloway, a manager in JPL's Business Operations Office and Kerri Lynn Agey, an administrator for Wackenhut Security, a contractor at JPL."

8 December 2004: Space Shuttle Should Conduct Final Servicing Mission To Hubble Space Telescope, NAS

"To ensure continuation of the extraordinary scientific output of the Hubble Space Telescope and to prepare for its eventual de-orbiting, NASA should send a space shuttle mission, not a robotic one, says a new congressionally requested report from the National Academies' National Research Council."

8 December 2004: House Science Committee Chairman Boehlert Response to National Acadmey Study on Hubble Servicing Mission

8 December 2004: Press Statement: Gordon Reaction to Academy Hubble Report

Editor's note: it is curious that this press release identifies Gordon as being "D-TX"...

"Cancel the sham program to return to the moon. Its goals are amorphous and too long term. It will not break the "government hobby" space paradigm, but extends it additional decades."

Editor's note: This excerpt is from a rather confused OpEd titled "Challenge America: An Open Letter" in the 6 December 2004 edition of Space News. It was written by Robert Oler and Rich Kolker who claim to represent the "Clear Lake Group" which is described as "a space advocacy organization." FYI there is no 'organization' registered under that name in Texas - or anywhere else. Rather, this 'organization' is just two guys - one of whom doesn't even live in Clear Lake. Oh yes, Clear Lake Group: the "Walt Bigelow" you mention in your piece has me confused. Were you referring to Robert Bigelow or Walt Anderson? Or both?

Editor's Update:I just got a call from Michael Gold, General Counsel for Bigelow Aerospace. He asked if I would let NASA Watch readers know that Bigelow Aerospace "has no association with the authors of this article, nor have we ever heard of either of them or their organization before". Gold went on to say that contrary to the OpEd that Bigelow Aerospace is "very much in favor of the new Vision for Space Exploration and we are particularly pleased with the job Adm. Steidle has been doing."

We Owe it All to Bob Zubrin

"The Mars Underground is the incredible true tale of one scientist fighting impossible odds to change the direction of the space program, turn science fiction into science fact and lead human beings into the next great frontier."

Buyout Update

7 December 2004: NASA HQ Memo: NASA Early Retirement and Buyout Incentives

"This process is about competency management and encouraging people to consider their options in a transformed NASA. This effort is not aimed at downsizing the NASA workforce. The objective is not to cut staffing levels, but to rebalance and reshape the workforce where needed."

NAC Changes Ahead

7 December 2004: NASA advisory panel to split?, Huntsville Times

"How the board will be transformed will be decided at its meeting today, but there has been discussion in the past of dividing the council, with one board having a slant toward government policy and another a focus on science."

NASA Moves Closer to RTF

7 December 2004: NASA Says Shuttle Is On Track for May Flight, Washington Post

"Space Shuttle Program Manager Bill Parsons said, however, that having a fully tested and certified repair method "is not a requirement" for the first flight. "Right now I believe we would fly with whatever capability we have at that time," he said."

7 December 2004: NASA Seeks Methods to Repair Shuttles in Flight, Reuters

"We are going to fly when we determine the vehicle is ready to fly," [Wayne] Hale said. "We're not going to succumb to some kind of emotional schedule pressure because we picked a date and ringed it on a calendar and we think our reputation depends on launching on that date."

6 December 2004: National Academies Advisory: Dec. 8 News Conference on Hubble Space Telescope

"ASSESSMENT OF OPTIONS FOR EXTENDING THE LIFE OF THE HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE, a new congressionally mandated report from the National Academies' National Research Council, assesses the viability of proposed shuttle or robotic missions to upgrade the telescope. The report will be released at a one-hour news conference."

6 December 2004: Report Discourages NASA Plan to Save Hubble, NPR

"A confidential report commissioned by NASA has concluded that the space agency's plan to use a robot to save the Hubble telescope is highly risky. The robot would install two new instruments and replace batteries and gyroscopes."

Executive Summary, Aerospace Corp (Via NPR)

6 December 2004: Robotic fix for Hubble challenged, MSNBC

"According to an executive summary obtained by, the report concludes that robotic missions are too challenging given the time remaining until the telescope's systems begin failing. A public affairs official at Aerospace Corporation declined to comment on the details of the report, noting that it was up to NASA whether the report was publicly released."

2 December 2004: A Resolved Debris Disk around the G2V star HD 107146

"We present resolved scattered-light images of the debris disk around HD 107146, a G2 star 28.5 pc from the Sun. This is the first debris disk to be resolved in scattered light around a solar-type star. We observed it with the HST/ACS coronagraph."

6 December 2004: NASA Announces Media Briefing about New Look at Planet Forming

"Astronomers will present new findings from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and Spitzer Space Telescope at a listen-and- logon news briefing, Thursday at 1 p.m. EST."

Space Science ala Fox

6 December 2004: What if 'Lost' Went Lunar?, NY Post

"Plans are under way at Fox - which wants to make a "Lost" of its own - for a new series about a group of of astronauts who go missing after tracing a distress signal to the dark side of the moon. When they arrive on the other side of moon which is cloaked in perpetual darkness and beyond radio contact with earth they discover a mysterious compound."

Editor's note: Fascinating science, Fox style. I guess this means that show's characters will be constantly on the move - so as to remain in "perpetual darkness". But wait: eventually that will bring them back into radio contact with Earth as they walk onto the 'near' side of the moon. Sounds more like a two episode mini-series to me.

Dick Keefe Has Died

Editor's note: J. Richard Keefe, known to all of us NASA life science alumni as "Dick", died last night of pancreatic cancer. Dick was one of the most dedicated NASA employees I ever had the pleasure to know. He was also a sheer joy to work with. Pick up a NASA life science planning document at random. Search back and trace the document back to its base assumptions or key references. You will see Dick's name at the end of every search. His impact is much more than many people will ever know. He will be missed.

Editor's note: Can anyone tell me why Spirit is taking hi res pictures of its photovoltaic arrays with its micro imager? [More images]. The detail that some of these self-portraits show is rather astonishing. Is this just about checking dust deposition (and power generation efficiency) or is there a reason why this one particular portion of the PV array is of such great interest?

The Rover's PI and and a scientist at NASA GRC respond to this posting below:


6 December 2004: Inside the Ring, Washington Times

"Word has reached us that one potential replacement for a senior position at the Pentagon is Sean O'Keefe, a former Navy secretary who now heads the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Mr. O'Keefe is a close ally of Vice President Dick Cheney and could end up with the jobs of deputy or even secretary of defense."

Editor's note: Highly unlikely. Indeed, very unlikely.

Moving On

5 December 2004: John Young will retire from NASA, Orlando Sentinel

"He will be honored for his 42-year NASA career during a celebration Tuesday at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington."

6 December 2004 Lost in space, OpEd, Daily Press

"Congress and NASA would better serve the nation by investing in aeronautics research like that conducted at Langley Research Center. What Americans really need is not to put a few astronauts on the moon, but to get millions of people from one city to another and to deal with the congestion choking airports. Aeronautics research yields tangible benefits - air travel that is safer, less expensive and more environmentally friendly. Yet NASA cut aeronautics funding in half between 1998 and 2003 and wants to cut still more."

VSE and the Hammer

6 December 2004: DeLay's Push Helps Deliver NASA Funds, Washington Post

"Without a separate vote or even a debate, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) has managed to deliver to a delighted NASA enough money to forge ahead on a plan that would reshape U.S. space policy for decades to come."

Editor's note: While I am on the topic of Mars rover images, why is it that these pages on the Exploratorium's website for Spirit and Opportunity have image updates multiple times a day - yet NASA's official rover raw image website regularly lags behind the Exploratorium in posting images - often by several days?

2 December 2004: Memo From NASA Legislative Affairs: Voluntary Separation Incentive Plan, NASA HQ

"The Office of Personnel Management, in consultation with the Office of Management and Budget, has approved specific incentive plans for NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California; Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia; Glenn Research Center in Cleveland and Sandusky, Ohio; Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards, California; and Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. A brief summary of the incentive program planned at each Center is enclosed. To support rebalancing at these Centers, incentives also may be offered at any NASA location to create placements for employees in excess competency areas.Incentives will be concentrated in the December 2004 - January 2005 timeframe, but could continue as needed throughout fiscal year 2006."

Editor's note: Summary: a total of 1,118 buyout/early out opportunites are available at ARC, GRC, LaRC, MSFC, and DFRC between December 2004/January 2005. More may appear as needed.

Happy Holidays.

According to the Mars Aeronomy Working Group charter "It is the purpose of the Mars Aeronomy Working Group to consider the goals for studies of the Martian upper atmosphere/ionosphere in light of the Exploration Vision, and to assess possible pathways to their implementation." Presentations from a recent workshop are online here.

Here Come the Buyouts

3 December 2004: NASA Langley makes buyout offer, Daily Press

"In an unusual move, five NASA centers, including Langley, simultaneously announced early-out options for government workers."

Editor's note: The following notice was sent by email to all NASA LaRC civil servants this morning at 7:49 am: "There will be an All Hands Meeting on Friday, December 3, 2004 from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. at the Reid Conference Center with overflow at the Pearl Young Theater. All NASA civil service employees are encouraged to attend and I will bring you up to date on some important activities at the Center. If you cannot attend, the meeting will also be televised on NASA TV Langley Channel 9. However, questions will only be taken from the RCC or PYT. Cordially, Roy D. Bridges Jr."

Roadblocks for Prizes

2 December 2004: Analysis: Congress impedes NASA prizes, UPI

"NASA is embarking on a bold new strategy to spur new private investment in spaceflight technology. If the effort succeeds, it could transform both the agency and the U.S. aerospace industry, but first there is the matter of congressional authority to overcome."

3 December 2004: NASA Cassini Image: Thieving Moon - Prometheus and F Ring Interactions

"As it completed its first orbit of Saturn, Cassini zoomed in on the rings to catch this wondrous view of the shepherd moon Prometheus (102 kilometers, or 63 miles across) working its influence on the multi-stranded and kinked F ring."

Editor's note: I responded to an official email from Carolyn Porco, Imaging Team Leader CICLOPS/Space Science Institute Boulder, announcing that this image had been posted on 3 December asking her "This was such a cool image. I noticed it on 31 October and posted it on NASA Watch and SpaceRef - but wondered why no one ever bothered to comment." Porco replied "What's your point? Comment on what?".

Someone needs some sensitivity training with regard to the media - and the general public.

1 November 2004: Small Moon (Prometheus?) Caught in the Act of Disturbing Saturn's F Ring?, NASA Watch

2 December 2004: NASA, Russians forging a deal for rides, MSNBC

"NASA officials have confirmed Russian reports about an "outer-space swap" worth an estimated $60 million or more. If approved by the U.S. government, the deal could put off a looming crisis over access to the international space station."


NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 2 December 2004

"Update on U.S. laptops: Yesterday, the CDR reported the death of the OpsLAN laptop SSC2 (station support computer #2) at its location at the SM Central Post (CP) where it was used for accessing procedures, OSTP (Onboard Short-Term Plan), messages, etc.This leaves only one other IBM 760XD SSC in operation, used as SSC1 in Sharipov s sleep station."

Editor's note: Science Magazine has published a special issue on the results obtained from the Mars Rover "Opportunity". Rather than let the results, and the scientists who have interpreted the rover's data, speak for themsleves, the British (and American) media have decided to whip up some controversy by jumping to conclusions.

2 December 2004: Raising NASA's fiscal orbit, Cleveland Plain Dealer

"The overall budget can be read as an unexpectedly strong congressional endorsement of Bush's goals of an outpost on the moon and manned exploration of Mars. To gain such an endorsement in a year when war and national security threats have dominated the headlines is remarkable, and it's heartening."

Surprise? What Surprise?

3 December 2004: Science Agencies Caught in Postelection Spending Squeeze, Science (Subscription required)

"The Administration's support for national security was never in doubt. But its commitment to the moon-Mars exploration vision that the president outlined last winter -- and ignored during the campaign -- was a surprising twist to the budget finale."

Editor's note: Gee, Andrew and Jeffrey, I guess you weren't following this story last July ...

26 July 2004: Bush stands by his space plan

"President George W. Bush's new space exploration plan has received a burst of hard-core support in Congress, aimed at blocking any attempt to cut its funding, and backed up by a rare veto threat from the president himself."

22 July 2004: Letter from OMB Director Bolten to Rep. Bill Young Concerning the FY 2005 VA/HUD Appropriations bill

"If the final version of this bill that is presented to the President does not include adequate funding levels for Presidential initiatives, his Senior Advisors would recommend that he veto the bill."

2 December 2004: Reports Detail NASA Rover Discoveries of Wet Martian History

"The most dramatic findings so far from NASA's twin Mars rovers -- telltale evidence for a wet and possibly habitable environment in the arid planet's past -- passed rigorous scientific scrutiny for publication in a major research journal. Eleven reports by 122 authors in Friday's issue of the journal Science present results from Opportunity's three- month prime mission, fleshing out headline discoveries revealed earlier."

Fire in the VAB

2 December 2004: Small Fire Extinguished inside NASA KSC Vehicle Assembly Building, NASA KSC

2 December 2004: Fire breaks out at Vehicle Assembly Building, Florida Today

"A fire erupted this afternoon inside the Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building, where the first of two solid rocket boosters are being assembled for the return to flight of the space shuttles next year."

2 December 2004: NASA Administrator O'Keefe Meets with CNSA Administrator Sun, NASA HQ

"Photo: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator Sean O'Keefe (r) welcomes Administrator Sun, China National Space Administration (CNSA) to NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC. Administrator Sun and his delegation came to NASA Headquarters for a courtesy visit."

If you say so, Lou

The Sober Realities of Manned Space Flight, OpEd, The American Enterprise

"I vividly remember President Ronald Reagan going down to Texas after the Challenger disaster and memorializing the astronauts as heroes going further and faster into the unknown," says [Planetary Society President Louis] Friedman. "Of course they were doing no such thing. They were simply launching a communications satellite and carrying on the teacher-in-space show for schoolchildren--both rather mundane tasks. But by once again evoking the exploration theme, Reagan saved the space program.

NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 1 December 2004

"The crew has located the solid shim for the EMU (extravehicular mobility unit) 3005 water pump that went missing during the 11/10 attempt to replace the pump rotor. Planning is underway to resume the EMU cooling system s repair at the earliest opportunity, probably in two weeks. [Would you believe how it was found? Sharipov happened to see the tiny metal ring float by as he was in the DC1 to set up for a teleconference with TsUP. The shim was reported to be in good condition, and pictures were sent down to the ground for evaluation.]"

Is it time to dump the t-word?, Jeff Foust (The Space Review)/Futron Corp.

"Space tourism has come a long way in the last several years. Five years ago, the phrase was still subject to the "snicker factor": say the word in a public setting, and someone sitting in the back was sure to unsuccessfully stifle a giggle.

Rick Tumlinson, a co-founder of the Space Frontier Foundation and a self-appointed spokesman of the "" movement, said in a talk during the Space Frontier Conference in October in Long Beach, California. " 'Tourist' is somebody in a flowered shirt with three cameras around his neck."

"Black Sky", Discovery Channel

"Pretty nice kick off for space tourism", Burt Rutan, spoken as the second (X-Prize winning) flight touches down, with his arms around the shoulders of Microsoft sponsor Paul Allen and Virgin's Richard Branson.

Editor's note: when it comes to terminology, I'll let the people who actually do these stupendous things - and the billionaires who back them - decide how to coin the results of their exploits - rather than allow inside the beltway wonks and a 'self-appointed spokesman' to sit in the bleachers and pass judgement. 'Space tourism' is just fine by me.

More Naysayers

30 November 2004: Budget analysts call for NASA cuts, UPI

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's fiscal 2005 budget gives it wide latitude to direct money toward Bush's new space vision but Alice Rivlin, former White House budget director under President Clinton, and Bill Niskanen, chairman of the Cato Institute, both told a Brookings Institute forum on domestic policy in the second Bush term the plans are a waste of money."

30 November 2004: Editorial: NASA Funding Spend wisely; don't get lost in space, Philadelphia Inquirer

"Telescopes and robot missions aren't as romantic as sending a man to Mars. But with a federal budget awash in red ink, President Bush and NASA must make sure they're committing money to the projects likely to yield the greatest scientific benefits."

Photos of Klipper Online

Have a look at this collection of photos of Energia's full scale mock-up of what its new Klipper crew transport might look like.

1 December 2004: Next-generation Russian spaceship unveiled, MSNBC

"But significant roadblocks still remain between todays unveiling and the fulfillment of Ryumins boast. The actual first test flights of the vehicle, perhaps about 2010, will require funding levels that the Russian government has so far been unable to provide."



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