January 2005 Archives

Editor's note: Things are really picking up here in Orlando. The AIAA tells me that they have more than 1,000 participants. Interest in attending is very high. Last night Sean O'Keefe got a farewell from the assembled attendees tonight at a reception in a gigantic tent erected to hold the exhibits. More tomorrow from the meeting itself.

This meeting will also be webcast - go here for an agenda and a link for the webcast.

Update: Sean O'Keefe told the audience this morning that the President's FY 2006 budget, to be released on 7 February, would contain a budget increase, rare among agencies funded under discretionary spending, that would continue the Adminstration's committment to providing the resources required to implement the President's Vision for Space Exploration.

NASA Day of Remembrance

NASA Day of Remembrance Scheduled Jan. 27

"A Day of Remembrance observance honoring those members of the NASA Family who lost their lives while furthering the cause of exploration and discovery will take place Jan. 27 at 2 p.m. from NASA Headquarters in Washington."

Editor's note: Looking back at the news coverage of this event, I find it somewhat annoying that nearly all of the news accounts focus only on astronauts who died in their spacecraft - not on the many others who were remembered: the JPL employees who died on their way to work, the helicopter crew who died during the Columbia debris recovery effort, and astronauts who died during training or other accidents. Yet their mention by NASA on Thursday made few if any news reports.

For example, Florida Today made no mention of these others who died. I find it hard to understand why these others were not mentioned given that their faces and names were featured to the same extent as were those of the Apollo 1, Challenger, and Columbia crews during an event televised from NASA Headquarters. Indeed, if you read the memo sent out across NASA, the word 'astronaut' does not even appear. Instead "NASA employees" is used:

Expanded Role for Mahone

Glenn Mahone Named Acting Chief of NASA Strategic Communications

"NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe named Glenn Mahone as the agency's Acting Chief of Strategic Communications, effective immediately. Mahone also will continue to serve as Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs and Senior Advisor to the Office of Administrator."

RTF Issues Report

Third Interim Report - NASA Return to Flight Task Group - January 28, 2005

"NASA has not interpreted the CAIB recommendations to be a checklist, but rather has in many cases undertaken activities that far exceeded the intent of CAIB. In other instances, technological and other barriers have thus far prevented the kind of progress CAIB had hoped for, and NASA has striven for. Taken together, the RTF TG believes it is entirely possible NASA will be able to make sufficient progress on the CAIB recommendations before their current launch date. Several activities will nonetheless be incomplete, and several issues raised by the CAIB, such as scheduling and resources, are timeless."

A Distant Memorial

NASA Haughton-Mars Project Space Shuttle Columbia Inukshuk Memorials

"To honor the memory of the seven astronauts of Space Shuttle Columbia's last flight the NASA Haughton-Mars Project (HMP) has established seven astronaut memorial sites on Devon Island, in the Canadian High Arctic, during the summer field seasons of 2003 and 2004."

Keith Cowing's Devon Island Journal 20 July 2003: Arctic Memorials and Starship Yearnings

"Our task was a somewhat solemn one. We were here to erect a memorial to Columbia astronaut Michael Anderson. The memorials take the form of an inukshuk, a stone sculpture in rough human form used by the Inuit to mark territory. These stone structures serve as reference points for those who traverse this desolate place."

Message to Outer Planet Research Community by NASA Mission Directorate's Solar System Division

"Due to miscommunications within the Solar System Division, the email that you received was misleading and premature. I sincerely apologize for the confusion and concern that it has caused. I am working with Science Mission Directorate Management to institute a process that will eliminate future miscommunications to the Science Community."

Looking Back

Challenger - A Flight Surgeon Remembers, Dr. Sanity

"On January 28, 1986, I was at Cape Canaveral in Florida. As a NASA Flight Surgeon, I had been assigned as the Crew Surgeon for Mission 51-L (noone really wanted the job since many disapproved of having a civilian--the teacher in space--fly on a space mission)."

Does Rearranging Appropriations Panels Make Any Sense?, Roll Call (new link from Center for American Progress)

"Anticipating the problem he will likely face - that is, repeatedly trying to overcome support for veterans in order to direct more money to the space center - DeLay put forth a proposal to realign subcommittee jurisdictions. His timing was perfect. He floated the proposal only weeks before the Republican Steering Committee - a group in which DeLay controls considerably more votes than his own - was to select a new chairman of the full Appropriations Committee."

LaRC RIF Process

NASA Langley Fab Section RIF Process Charts

"Folks: As many of you know, the NASA fab team won the A-76 competition. This means that the civil servants working in the fab section will be entering a competitive/RIF process to gain a job in the new organization. Approximately half of those 37 people will secure a position in the new organization. @LaRC has a link: Human Capital A-76 Transition Plan to a slide presentation that explains how this will happen."

Lessons Forgotten?

Deadly space lessons go unheeded, MSNBC

"NASA prefers to literally bury the wreckage in underground concrete crypts, to shove the investigation reports onto another bookshelf, and to allocate one day per year to honoring the dead while ignoring what killed them the other 364 days."

Civil Service System on Way Out at DHS - Department Will Deviate From Federal Personnel Rules; Others May Follow Suit, Washington Post

"The Bush administration unveiled a new personnel system for the Department of Homeland Security yesterday that will dramatically change the way workers are paid, promoted, deployed and disciplined -- and soon the White House will ask Congress to grant all federal agencies similar authority to rewrite civil service rules governing their employees."

NASA Ames to Host Thousands of Students for Annual Jason Event

"Starting Monday, Jan. 31, and continuing through Friday, Feb. 4, 2005, the main auditorium at NASA Ames Research Center, located in California's Silicon Valley, will be 'transformed' into the Mississippi River Delta and Louisiana's Cajun country to host 5,200 Bay area students and teachers scheduled to participate in the 2005 JASON Expedition: Disappearing Wetlands."

Editor's note: You'd think ARC PAO would want to drum up maximum visibility for this event. Apparently not: They only sent this media advisory out with 4 days advance notice (2 of which are on a weekend). Also, with 5,200 students participating in a NASA event, you'd think that NASA's Education Office would be heavily promoting this event. Again, the answer is no. The last "news" on the Education website at NASA HQ is dated 15 Jan 2005. No mention is made of this event.

Oh yes, then there is this new solicitation:

NASA Solicitation: Seeking Collaboration to Conduct Student Competition to Name the Node 2 Element of the International Space Station

"NASA seeks an unfunded collaboration with a commercial or non-profit organization to define, organize and execute a nationwide project-oriented competition for K-12 students in U.S. schools to select a name for the Node 2 element of the International Space Station (ISS) to be launched on a future Space Shuttle flight."

There is no mention of this national education project on the Education website either.

And then there are these College-level education awards announced today as well:

NASA Funds Work-Force Development Projects to Support Vision

"NASA has selected 32 consortia in the National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program. They will receive $3 million in awards this year for aerospace work force development to support the Vision for Space Exploration."

No mention of this announcement either. It is hard to imagine how you are going to excite students - and educators - when so many people at NASA PAO and its Education office are asleep at the wheel.

Cuts possible for Marshall, King says - Director notes too few employees accepted buyout, Huntsville Times

"Marshall may lose jobs because not enough employees accepted a buyout package offered in December. Of the 100 to 120 buyouts offered, about 75 people accepted the package, King said. The center has about 2,700 civil servant jobs."

GAO High Risk Series: An Update (NASA Excerpts) GAO-05-207

"One of NASA's most formidable barriers to sound contract management is the lack of an integrated financial management system. In 2003, GAO reported that, in implementing its most recent system, NASA did not reengineer its core business processes or establish adequate requirements for the system to address many of its most significant management challenges, including producing credible cost estimates."

Simple Grandeur

NASA Cassini Image: Saturn and Several of its Moons

"This image was taken on January 23, 2005 and received on Earth January 24, 2005.

The camera was pointing toward Saturn, and the image was taken using the MT2 and CL2 filters.

This image has not been validated or calibrated."

Editor's note: Michael P. Jackson will be nominated by President Bush to be the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Jackson had been at the top of a list to be offered the job of NASA Administrator.

NASA ARC Internal Memo: Message from the Director - Follow-up to Buyout

"On January 7, I promised to keep you informed. This message is to describe the Center's status now that the second buy-out window has closed. As you may have heard already, Ames has not achieved its target on the buyout. Despite a surge at the end, only 34 people took the buyout. You recall that we needed 80 people to take the buyout in order to reduce uncovered capacity, and maintain stable overhead rates (and therefore the Center's competitive posture)."

GRC reader comment: "It is interesting that the Ames center director has announced the job fairs that will be held at ARC, LARC, GRC and MSFC. GRC management has not bothered to tell us about this. Apparently they don't want to upset us."

LaRC reader comment: Having seen the comment from the GRC person saying that they've not been told about the upcoming job fairs, I thought that I'd let you know that we at Langley have been told about them, although in a relatively low-key way, so that many people might not have even recognized what we were being told."

RIF Planning at LaRC

NASA LaRC Internal Memo: Advance Notification of Training on the Mechanics of Reduction in Force

"The Office of Human Capital Management (formally OHR) will be offering several sessions of training starting February 1 through 24 which deal with the mechanics of Reduction in Force. These sessions will be open to all Langley Civil Servant Employees. The sessions will be instructional in nature only and will not be open forums for discussion."

Editor's note: This RIF memo has to do with one portion of LaRC - not the entire Center. Specifically, LaRC's machine shop won the A-76 bid. Even though they "won" the bid, staff will be reduced from 37 to 19 with some employees expecting salary freezes.

Editor's note: NASA posted the charters for these Roadmap committees today. It would seem that all of these charters had approval dates of 23 December 2004 - exactly one month ago.

Editor's note: There are a number of NASA Strategic Roadmap meetings this week, next week, and in the weeks ahead. Last week I made note of the fact that, with one exception, none of the membership rosters for the dozen or so committees had been released. Nor had any meeting agendas or committee charters been released by NASA other than short notices posted in the Federal Register. NASA PAO sent me membership lists for 4 of these committees but many more remain unknown. PAO also told me that the membership rosters would be posted on the official Roadmap website last week. This has not happened. Yes, someone created a new page of each of these committees, but these pages all say "More Information Coming Soon..." when it comes to any information about the committees.

I can help. I typed in four of the committee rosters off of a fax last week (see below). Someone@nasa could copy them and post them on the NASA site. I also have the short descriptions of the commitees from the Federal Register online (also below) Hey, its a start.

Editor's note: Word has it that Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) will be leaving the Senate Committee on Science, Commerce, and Transportation when the new Congress begins work. As such, Brownback will no longer preside over the Subcommittee on Science, Technology, and Space. Replacing Brownback as Subcommttee chair will be Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX).

Hubble Trouble (Again)

NASA Budget Cuts Plan to Service Hubble, Sources Say, Washington Post

"The sources, who declined to be identified because the budget will not be officially rolled out until Feb. 7, could not confirm a report by Space.com, an online news service, that the budget would include money to develop a robotic vehicle to steer the telescope into the sea when its batteries or gyros give out, probably sometime after 2007."

Lanzerotti to testify on Hubble scope's future, Observer Tribune

"Louis J. Lanzerotti is expected to testify before Congress next month about why the Hubble Space Telescope needs federal money to replace some of its monitoring equipment."

U.S. to cut funds to fix Hubble telescope, Reuters

"Steve Beckwith, head of the Space Telescope Science Institute that manages Hubble, said he was surprised by the reports, and questioned the relative risk of sending astronauts to the orbiting telescope. Beckwith said the National Academy of Sciences report found an astronaut mission to fix Hubble would be no riskier than a shuttle mission to the International Space Station."

Senator Vows to Fight for Hubble, SKy & Telescope

"Hubble project scientist David Leckrone (NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center) was surprised by the latest attack on Hubble but not ready to concede defeat. "Rumors like this sometimes are just trial balloons," said Leckrone. "This agency has found the way to pay for four prior servicing missions to HST. It can do it again."

Happy Birthday from Roy

Editor's note: As part of his effort to stay in touch with LaRC employees, LaRC Center Director Roy Bridges has also taken to sending birthday wishes (see below) to individuals.

A reader from KSC writes: "This is something Roy did at KSC during his time here. As with most things like this some people liked it, others were ambivalent, others some times critical. Over all it does take special effort even with a staff and it does add a positive element to the culture."

Another reader from KSC writes: "I would like to second the comments that you've already posted from another "reader from KSC". I would also like to add that we still receive our birthday greetings from the current Center Director, Jim Kennedy. The birthday notes may be something new for LaRC, but they are nothing new for Roy Bridges. sign this, "Another Reader from KSC"

Response by NASA Langley Research Center Director Roy Bridges to Employee Communication Concerns Raised on NASA Watch

"Regarding your comments about management openness - or lack thereof - at Ames, Glenn, Langley and Marshall, I would like to bring your attention to the efforts of Langley's leadership to communicate with employees at LaRC."

SpaceX On The Move

SpaceX starting small as it dreams of grand plans, Spaceflightnow.com

"SpaceX has been selling its small Falcon 1 rocket for $5.9 million and the beefed up Falcon 5 for $15.8 million, plus launch site Range fees, which is significantly cheaper than other American rockets available today with comparable lifting capacity."

X Prize Foundation Elects Three to Board of Trustees

"The X PRIZE Foundation today announced the election of three new members to its Board of Trustees: Larry Page, co-founder and president of Google, Inc.; Elon Musk, founder and CEO of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and co-founder and CEO of PayPal; and Jack Bader, CEO of NetEffects, Inc. and a St. Louis business leader."

Race for Next Space Prize Ignites, Wired

"With most of the other space entrepreneurs focused on suborbital flight, Musk is closest to the holy grail of manned commercial spaceflight: orbit. Although Falcon I, with its single Merlin engine, will be able to launch only small satellites, five Merlins will be mated to the first stage of the far more powerful Falcon V rocket, perhaps as early as this year. Falcon V, Musk told Wired News, will be able to carry at least five people into low Earth orbit."

Vacancy Announcement Number: GS05B0100, Goddard Space Flight Center
Position: Utility Systems Repairer Operator, WG-4742-11
Salary: $ 4,497,500 - $ 5,253,000

Editor's note: Now I know why NASA is offering all of these buyouts - so they can pay this person's multi-million dollar salary!

Reinventing Past Facts

Editor's note: John Logsdon has a well written Op Ed titled "The Road Ahead for NASA" in the 17 January 2005 edition of Space News. The article makes some good observations and is well worth reading. Logsdon's affiliation with George Washington University and his service on the CAIB are mentioned at the bottom of the article. Curiously, even as he mentions a variety of recent political influences within his piece, he neglects to mention that he spent most of 2004 as a space advisor to the Kerry campaign.

NASA Letter to Potential Offerors to Review The Draft Crew Exploration Vehicle Solicitation

"You are invited to review the draft NASA/Exploration Systems Mission Directorate Crew Exploration Vehicle solicitation. The Nation's Vision for Space Exploration sets a goal of developing a new Crew Exploration Vehicle by 2014 that is capable of carrying astronauts beyond low Earth orbit and a goal of landing astronauts on the Moon no later than 2020. The CEV represents one building block in a future exploration architecture that can send astronauts to the moon and form the basis for exploration missions to other destinations."

Kevin Hand's Antarctic Journal 20 January 2005

"Kevin Hand has just arrived in Antarctica. In the coming weeks he will travel to the Dry Valleys where he will be conducting astrobiology research. Kevin will be sending updates back to SpaceRef. This is his first update."

Editor's note: Kevin Hand is one of the young astrobiologists featured in James Cameron's soon-to-be-released IMAX fim "Aliens of the Deep" (see earlier story)

Editor's note: reliable sources report that NASA spacecraft such as Deep Impact, Spitzer Space Telescope, Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe - and others - may all have suffered attitude control and other problems - all apparently due to the massive solar proton storm which arrived in near-Earth space late Wednesday. Details to follow.

Editor's note: According to NASA sources "The WMAP star trackers were "blinded" by the solar storm on Thursday morning at 07:35 UTC. The trackers tried to switch back and forth, but since both CCD's were saturated with high-energy particles, they timed-out and dropped WMAP into Sun Acquisition mode. The operations team, thanks to the JPL DSN Operations Chief and the Station 43 crew, was able to extend the 12:40 pass and the spacecraft was returned to observing mode by 13:40 UTC."

Joint USAF/NOAA Report of Solar and Geophysical Activity 20 Jan 2005

"Today's CME (associated with the X7 flare) is not expected to produce anything more than a glancing blow due to its direction away from the Sun-Earth line. The greater than 10 MeV flux is expected to remain above event threshold for at least another 24 hours."

NOAA SEC Space Weather Advisory Bulletin #05-3

"This radiation storm is particularly interesting because of the influx of high energy protons (>100 MeV). In fact, this radiation storm, based on the >100 MeV protons, is the strongest since October 1989."

As Winter Grips Most of the Nation, There's Plenty of Space Weather Too, NOAA

"This activity is occurring almost five years past the solar maximum (April 2000). This activity is significant. However, it is considerably less intense than the activity observed during the "Halloween Storms" of 2003."

Buzz and Bush

"Inauguration events: A Celebration of Freedom": Tuesday 4:00 p.m. Buzz Aldrin & Others Astronauts"

eNaugural.com Ball: Honorary Host: Buzz Aldrin Astronaut-literally walked on moon, tech visionary

The Reliable Source, Washington Post: "[Rep. Tom] Feeney lauded Aldrin as the second man to walk on the moon, following "Neil Young." Huh? Certainly he meant Neil Armstrong?"

Editor's note: Among the donors listed at the official Inaugural website:

- Lockheed Martin Corporation $100,000
- The Boeing Company $100,000
- United Technologies $250,000
- Northrop Grumman $100,000

Each year, NASA selects 50 Explorer Schools which are eligible to recieve up to $17,500 over a 3 year period to purchase technology tools that support science and mathematics instruction. Now, I do know that all of these aerospace companies do make substantial donations to educational activities. But just to put this DC party subsidy into perspective, the collective $550,000 these companies have spent (to say nothing of what they lavished on schmoozefests at the Democratic and Republican conventions last summer) could fund 31 new Explorer schools for three years.

Images of New Identified Meteorite Adjacent to NASA Mars Opportunity Rover Heatshield Impact Point

NASA's Opportunity Rover Finds an Iron Meteorite on Mars

"The meteorite, dubbed "Heat Shield Rock," sits near debris of Opportunity's heat shield on the surface of Meridiani Planum, a cratered flatland that has been Opportunity's home since the robot landed on Mars nearly one year ago."

Science goes deeper with Antarctic meteorites

"Of the 15,000 meteorites in the U.S. collection, Antarctic meteorites number about 10,000. As a comparison, the largest Antarctic collection in the world is at Japan's National Institute of Polar Research and numbers about 16,700 meteorites, according to the institute's Naoya Imae."

Asleep in Code L

NASA Office of Legislative Affairs Weekly Update 14 January 2005

Editor's note: If you look at this weekly summary which was sent out to Congressional staff on Friday at 5:04 PM EST you'll see that there is only one item listed for 14 January 2005: the 25th anniversary of the NASA Summer High School Apprenticeship Research Program. No mention whatsoever is made of the ESA Huygens landing on Titan earlier today - an event people marked on their calendars years ago. This landing is part of the NASA Cassini mission with many U.S. collaborators - an astounding achievement which has NASA and ESA websites jammed with people trying to download images.

Oh by the way - they also seem to have forgotten another important 14 January event - i.e. the announcement of the President's space vision on 14 January 2004. They recall one anniversary of comparatively minor importance but ignore the anniversary of an event that has changed the entire agency's course and was the subject of incredible legislative activity last year.

Are they asleep in Code L? Or do they not have one of those Franklin Planners to remind them of things?

19 January 2005: Stewart Wants Spectacular Send off, ContactMusic.com

"Englishman Stewart says, "I'd use my influence with Star Trek's numerous advisers at NASA to ensure that my ashes were launched from the Kennedy Space Center on a shuttle from Cape Canaveral. And then, once in orbit, I'd be dumped. I think it's just the drama of being able to leave the Earth like that."

3 February 2004: Star Trek skipper not so bold, Ananova

"Patrick Stewart, who plays Captain Jean-Luc Picard in the TV series Star Trek, says he thinks interplanetary travel for humans is a bad idea. "I'm a bit of a wet blanket when it comes to the whole business of space travel," Stewart told the BBC."

Editor's note:So it's 'make it so' for you - but not for everyone else, eh Patrick?

Putting Some Heat on Bush - Scientist Inspires Anger, Awe for Challenges on Global Warming, Washington Post

"[James E.] Hansen, a lifelong government employee who heads NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, has inspired both anger and awe in the nation's scientific and political communities since publicly denouncing the Bush administration's policy on climate change last year."

NASA Announces Financial Management Contract Identification

"NASA has implemented a $48 million contract modification with Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) of San Diego. It broadens SAIC responsibility to provide integrated financial management support under the "Unified NASA Information Technology Services (UNITeS)" contract."

American Astronomical Society Endorses NRC Report on "The Assessment of Options for Extending the Life of Hubble Space Telescope"

"The American Astronomical Society (AAS) endorses the work of this distinguished committee and its conclusion that the lowest risk HST servicing mission is a manned servicing mission as originally envisioned for SM-4."

Bad Space Weather

NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 18 January 2005

"The ISS experienced a high solar particle event yesterday. MCC-H notified the crew of the higher radiation levels and reminded them to take shelter if the TEPC (tissue equivalent proportional counter) radiation-measuring instrument alarm sounded. Today the crew was informed that by the time the EVA occurs, the high-activity area on the Sun will rotate out of view and should not affect the spacewalk on 1/26."

Joint USAF/NOAA Report of Solar and Geophysical Activity 18 Jan 2005

"The geomagnetic field is expected to remain at active to severe storm levels for the next 24 to 48 hours. The arrival of the CME associated with the X3 flare on 17 January has not yet been observed but is expected to contribute to geomagnetic activity over the next 12 to 24 hours."

Moving Ahead

NASA's future tied to strong showing now, supporters say, Orlando Sentinel

"Much has been made of the fact that Bush barely mentioned space exploration last year after his speech at NASA headquarters in January. But in an interview with regional reporters last week, he was emphatic about his support. "The space vision met some resistance by some, but we got it fully funded," said Bush, adding that he likes the idea of going back to the moon, using it as a testing ground and then going beyond. "I spent capital before," he said. "I'll spend it again on NASA."

Layoffs at Boeing Decatur

Boeing plans Decatur job cuts - Air Force penalty costs 100 positions in Delta program, Huntsville Times

"Boeing officials blamed the drop in production on the suspension of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program. In July 2003, the Air Force stripped Boeing of seven satellite launches worth $1 billion, giving them to Boeing's competitor, Lockheed Martin Corp., which makes the Atlas V rocket. The contract shift came after Boeing admitted two of its employees took documents from the Lockheed Martin Atlas V program."

Editor's note: While ESA takes its time to slowly release images, full collections of Huygens imagery have already been processed and refined well beyond anything ESA has done - see Amateur compositions of the Huygens images for one spectacular collection. This mosaic (R) shows the 'drainiage systems' at Huygens' landing site. This panorama - in simulated colors, shows the location where Huygens landed from the air.

Then there is this animated GIF (1.6 mb) assembled from 98 surface shots. These individual frames are all still in need of some processing however, I cannot help but get the impression that something is flowing from the right to the left of the image - just past the larger ice rocks. Note: This may well be an optical illusion or artifact resulting from how these images were assembled.

If you scroll to the bottom of this page you can download all of the raw images for yourself in a variety fo formats. Why wait for ESA to get around to this - and have all the fun?

Editor's update: 17 January 2005: ESA has finally gotten around to posting the raw images from Huygen's descent to Titan. They have also posted a spectacular montage showing the view from 10 km above Titan

Titan Top 4

Rock'n'roll heading for Titan, ESA

"After its long journey Huygens is due to reach to surface on 14 January 2005. ESA wanted to have music on board to arouse the interest of the world's public, particularly the young, and to leave a trace of humanity in the unknown."

- Quicktime Introduction
- Music Download page (get a free track)

For the latest information on Huygens' landing on Titan as well as Cassini's continuing exploration of Saturn, its rings, and its retinue of moons, visit SaturnToday.com.

Huygens Lands on Titan

14 January 2005: Images of Titan Begin to Arrive from Huygens

"NASA's Cassini has begun to relay data received from the ESA Huygens lander as it descended through Titan's atmosphere. They will be posted here as they become available."

VSE +365

The Vision for Space Exploration: A Progress Report

"One year after President Bush visited NASA Headquarters on January 14, 2004 and proposed with the Vision for Space Exploration bold new goals for our nation's space program, I'm pleased to report that our journey to the cosmos is well underway."


Editor's note: Brett Alexander is leaving OSTP and will be a senior officer at tSpace.

VAB Fire

Fire Extinguished inside Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA KSC

"At approximately 2 p.m. [yesterday], emergency fire fighting crews responded to a fire on the low bay roof in the Vehicle Assembly Building that sent smoke into the electrical duct area of D tower in the Launch Complex 39 area. There were no injuries and no damage to space flight hardware."

Changes at Hampton Roads

Other Voices: Support NASA's exploration, Daily Press

"The missing link in Hampton Roads has been support of NASA's vision for space exploration. Local politicians, community leaders and news organizations continue to call for increased aeronautics funding - a laudable goal - but they are neglecting, and in some cases opposing, the agency's space exploration initiative."

Director tries to help workers at Langley navigate change, Virginian-Pilot

"He said change is "scary" and employees are worried about job security. But the changes are necessary, Bridges said. "There is some risk when youre transforming, but there is far more risk in the status quo," he said."

"In Aliens of the Deep, Academy Award-winning director, deep-ocean adventurer, and space-exploration visionary James Cameron invites you to join him and a team of space and ocean scientists on a journey to the depths of the ocean. You will travel to seafloor hydrothermal vents in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to see some of the most amazing rock formations and strangest life forms on our planet."

- Movie Trailer
- Official Movie website
- Educator's guide (PDF)

Editor's note: This IMAX film is directed by NASA Advisory Committee member James Cameron, and features NASA astrobiologist Pat Conrad, NASA Astrobiology Academy graduates Kevin Hand and Loretta Hildago, and NASA planetary scientist Kelly Snook.

Jeff Bezos' Rocket Ranch

Amazon founder unveils space center plans, MSNBC

"After years of work behind closed doors, Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos has gone public with a plan to build a suborbital space facility on a sprawling ranch under the wide open skies of West Texas."

Sloppy Procurement

NASA Presolicitation Notice: Electronic News Clipping Services

"Bulletin news, Inc. is unique in its ability to provide services fully customized to the exact needs of NASA, including coverage of NASA in general Aerospace, Aeronautics, Earth Science Spaace Sciences, Humannn Space Flight, Space Shuttle, and the International Space Stations."

Editor's note: Whoever wrote this sloppy solicitation (an official government document) surely did not spend a lot of time reading what they wrote. They also seem to think that there is more than one International Space Station.

Endeavour Maintenance Slips

Editor's note: According to NASA sources, tomorrow (13 Jan) the PRCB will be told that OV-105 (Endeavour) maintenance will not be completed in time to support the STS-117 launch. A schedule slip of approximately 4 months will be identified. KSC has adjusted its resources to support preparation of OV-103 (Discovery) and OV-104 (Atlantis) for flight and is going to go a 24/7 schedule to support the STS-114/STS-300 Rescue missions and STS-121.In addition, charts will be presented at the PRCB suggesting a waiver of the 3 year period between major maintenance overhauls for OV-104 so as to allow more flights to compensate for the lack of a flight-ready OV-105.

12 January 2005: NASA ARC Memo: Message from the Director - Enhancing Communication

"At the January 7 all-hands and other venues, people have suggested ideas for enhancing the flow of communications at the Center. Clearly, there is much happening very rapidly at NASA these days, and everyone needs to follow the details closely. Therefore, I am planning to implement the following: ..."

Editor's note: Are the center directors at LaRC, GRC, and MSFC also being this responsive to their employee's concerns? Let me know if they are - or if they are not.

Workforce Challenges at Ames Research Center - and Elsewhere at NASA, SpaceRef

"By 20 December 2004, according to NASA sources, it had become clear that ARC was far off from its hoped for goal of 80 people willing to take a buyout. In staff meetings with ARC managers on 20 December 2004 senior ARC management began to see that the ARC workforce did not seem to be taking the buyout program seriously. Many employees apparently believed that they could just hunker down and this crisis, like so many others in previous years, would eventually pass."

NASA Presolicitation Notice: Return to Flight Snoopy Figurines

"NASA/JSC has a requirement for 350 three (3) dimensional 5" Pewter Return to Flight Snoopy figurines with a base to engrave shipped in a special box for Return to Flight to be delivered to National Aeronautical Space Administration (NASA) Johnson Space Center(JSC) no later than May 1, 2005."

Editor's note: "National Aeronautical Space Administration (NASA)"? How about "National Aeronautics and Space Administration". You'd think people at NASA would know the name of their agency by now.

Deep Impact Departs Earth

NASA Deep Impact Asteroid Probe Launched

"The Deep Impact spacecraft lifted off on-time aboard a Boeing Delta II rocket from pad 17-B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., at 1:47:08.574 p.m. EST. Deep Impact has successfully begun its mission to investigate comet Tempel 1."

Tight Budgets Ahead

Bush's Budget Expected to Be Aggressive, Washington Post

"The National Science Foundation will be virtually frozen, and the substantial budget increases over the past decade for the National Institutes of Health will end, Appropriations Committee aides said."

Wetherbee Retires

Veteran NASA Space Shuttle Commander James Wetherbee Retires

"After a career featuring six space missions, five as commander, and multiple senior agency management positions, astronaut James D. Wetherbee (Capt., USN, Ret.) retired from NASA to pursue other interests."

Editor's note: Curiously, if you go to an internal web page at JSC which shows personnel losses for FY 2005, some 29 people are listed - all of whom (with two exceptions) are listed as having taken "retirement". Wetherbee is listed as having taken "separation". This is likely the result of simply not having enough years in as a civil servant (he served in the navy for a number of years).

The Process Continues

Editor's note: President Bush has selected federal appeals court judge Michael Chertoff to be the new secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. During the past few weeks, the White House has had a number of senior positions to fill: Homeland Security, EPA, and NASA. Filling the top slots at Homeland Security and EPA have been a little higher on the priority list than NASA. With Homeland Security taken care of they can now devote more time to finding a new Administrator for EPA - and one for NASA.

Prioritizing Teacher Training, Integrating Math, Science & Engineering Education Initiatives & Exploring Options for Creating a Virtual Space Academy

"NASA is also seeking ideas on establishing an institute for the study of space exploration policy. This institute would collect a number of interdisciplinary skills from science, engineering, public management and public policy, among others. This new entity would be a resource that could synergistically apply its various expertise to significant space policy matters."

Report Assesses Health Implications of Perchlorate Exposure

"The study was sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Energy, and NASA."

Another Passing

Glen P. Wilson Dies; Senate Aide, NASA Official, Washington Post

"Glen P. Wilson, 82, who worked on a Senate space and astronautics committee and for NASA and was executive director emeritus of the National Space Society, a space advocacy group, died Jan. 8 at a hospice in Fort Worth. He had diabetes."

National Space Society remembers Glen Wilson

NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 8 January 2005

"Update on Elektron: The Elektron seems to be running well in 50-amp mode and seems to be shutting down when 32-amp mode is used. Due to the ongoing battery reconditioning, the ISS is too short on power to stay in 50-amp mode all the time. To maintain the power balance, the two MCCs agreed to power down the Vozduhk CO2 scrubber and use the CDRA (carbon dioxide removal assembly) instead, thus reducing the stress on the Russian power system. In addition, pressurized element shell heaters will be turned off and manually managed by ground controllers if they begin to approach the maximum allowable 12.2 kW (action would be taken around 11.9 kW). This arrangement will remain in force until the P6 battery reconditioning is complete and TsUP/Moscow has defined the next set of troubleshooting plans."

7 January 2005: NASA Announces NSSC Sites Chosen by Offerors

"NASA released today the possible site locations for the NASA
Shared Services Center (NSSC) included in proposals received from

8 January 2005: Newport News loses bid for NASA center, Daily Press

"Hampton Roads officials criticized the process, saying it was unfair to change the rules in midstream and was heavily influenced by the amount of state government subsidies. While Virginia contributed about $750,000, other states were reportedly prepared to spend millions."

8 January 2005: City is NASA center finalist, Huntsville Times

"Our quality of life and standard of education are, bar none, the best," she said. "We think we are in top position. We now just have to prove ourselves first-hand when they come to view" the city.

8 January 2005: Glenn Center is finalist to secure business hub, Cleveland Plain Dealer

"We know what a terrific location this area is, and we're glad that some others are recognizing it as well," said Julian Earls, director of the Glenn Center. "This is an important step forward and an indication of what we can accomplish as a community when we combine our talent, energy and resources."

8 January 2005: Orlando won't get NASA's new service center, Orlando Sentinel

"A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Ric Keller relayed the Orlando Republican's first response: "I can't believe the rocket scientists at NASA think a family would rather live in Cleveland than in Orlando."

Editor's note: This comment certainly represents clear ignorance (and arrogance) on Rep. Keller's part. NASA employees and their families have been living happily in Cleveland for half a century. Oh yes, then there's that little issue of a lack of regular, devastating hurricanes hitting Ohio.

CRAVE Contract Awards

7 January 2005: NASA Awards Crew Robotics, Vehicle Equipment Contracts

"NASA has awarded contracts to two companies and two institutions for Crew Robotics and Vehicle Equipment (CRAVE) work. Total value of each of the four contracts is not to exceed $48 million."

7 January 2005: NASA Presolicitation Notice: Design and Fabrication of Wind Tunnel Models, NASA GRC

"The University of Illinois is uniquely qualified to design the models as they have extensive experience in the design and development of wind tunnel models and testing methods, and have collaborated with NASA on many icing tunnel and aerodynamic tunnel test programs."

Editor's note: I wonder if GRC folks consulted with ARC or LaRC aeronautics folks about in-house aeronautics expertise -- before going outside the agency to get some.

6 January 2005: NASA Langley to hold meeting on demolition, Daily Press

"NASA Langley Research Center will hold a public meeting at 7 p.m. Jan. 19 in Poquoson to discuss the proposed demolition of the center's historic gantry and five wind tunnels."

Editor's note: C'mon, Roy, There has to be a more creative approach to this than just tearing buildings down.

Oh yes, when are you going to get around to telling all of those contractor employees about the layoffs you are planning?

Budget Drop Date

Editor's note: According to Congresional sources, the State of the Union Speech will be on 2 February and the FY 2006 Budget will be released on 7 February. A NASA briefing should occur on/around 7 February. Other sources suggest that a 25 January State of the Union date is still in play with a possible budget drop on 4 February. Stay Tuned.

6 January 2005: Modification to a Previous Presolicitation Notice: Study of the Small Satellite Market Given the Introduction of a Low Cost U.S. Small Launch Vehicle

"The synopsis is being cancelled because the requiring organization directed that the procurement action described in the original synopsis not be continued beyond the point of that synopsis."

Editor's note: I have asked the NASA MSFC procurement officer listed on this notice why it was cancelled.

29 December 2004: NASA Presolicitation Notice: Study of the Small Satellite Market Given the Introduction of a Low Cost U.S. Small Launch Vehicle, NASA MSFC

"NASA/MSFC has a requirement for a study of the small satellite market given the introduction of a low cost ($5M - $10M) U.S. small launch vehicle. NASA/MSFC intends to purchase the study from Commercial Space Technologies, Ltd. pursuant to FAR 13.106."

Editor's note: I am mystified as to why NASA MSFC is going offshore for this study by selecting Commercial Space Technologies, Ltd., a company located in the UK, when domestic companies such as the Teal Group and Futron have a long standing track record for such launch market studies. Oh yes, with regard to "a low cost ($5M - $10M) U.S. small launch vehicle", aren't we talking about SpaceX?

6 January 2005: NASA Names Steve Isakowitz as New Exploration Systems Directorate Deputy

"Before joining OMB, he worked at Lockheed Martin as a project manager and systems engineer for several launch vehicle programs. Prior to that, he worked at the management-consulting firm Booz, Allen & Hamilton (BAH). At BAH he conducted planning and analysis for private and public clients on potential commercial space projects."

Boehlert Reelected

6 January 2005: Rep. Boehlert Reelected as House Science Committee Chairman

"Representative Sherwood Boehlert (R-New Hartford) today was officially reelected Chairman of the House Science Committee for the 109th Congress by the Republican Conference of the U.S. House of Representatives. Boehlert was first elected chairman of the committee in 2001."

U.S. Space Transportation Policy Fact Sheet 6 January 2005, Office of Science and Technology Policy

"The President authorized a new national policy on December 21, 2004, that establishes national policy, guidelines, and implementation actions for United States space transportation programs and activities to ensure the Nation's ability to maintain access to and use space for U.S. national and homeland security, and civil, scientific, and commercial purposes. This policy supercedes Presidential Decision Directive/National Science and Technology Council-4, National Space Transportation Policy, dated August 5, 1994, in whole, and the following portions of Presidential Decision Directive/National Science and Technology Council-8/National Security Council-49, National Space Policy, dated September 14, 1996, that pertain to space transportation programs and activities: Civil Space Guideline 3b, Defense Space Sector Guideline c, Commercial Space Guideline 5, and Intersector Guideline 2."

A tale of two victories, James Muncy, Space Review

"Two "good news" space stories of 2004 stand out in particular as possible breakthroughs for humanity's future in space, perhaps especially because they occurred in a city not always judged as foresighted: Washington, DC. Both of these developments were surprisingand arguably unprecedentedpolitical victories for fragile new space enterprises seeking support from the US Congress in an especially partisan election year."

NASA OIG Semiannual Report, April 1-September 30 2004

"Although our work may not always result in a published report, we do not hesitate to present our independent views to the Agency on a broad range of topics. The use of alternative communication strategies, such as formal and informal briefings, allows the OIG to inform the Agency of critical matters in real time so management can take action before issues become problematic."

5 January 2005: Spacehab Appeals Decision for Losses on Space Shuttle Mission

"SPACEHAB announced that it filed an appeal last week with the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals regarding NASA's limited response to the Company's claim for the February 2003 loss of its Research Double Module (RDM) in the Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy."

30 December 2004: IEEE-USA Urges 'Safe Servicing' of Hubble Space Telescope for Humankind

"NASA should continue planning and preparing for the [space shuttle] SM-4 [servicing] mission, while expert panels and the National Academy of Science develop their reports and the [servicing] issue is thoroughly reviewed." IEEE- USA stressed that it "supports exploring all possible avenues to prolong the useful life of the telescope for the benefit of science and humanity."

NASA Comptroller Steve Isakowitz is going to become the new Deputy AA for the Exploration Systems Directorate. Doug Comstock will be the Acting NASA Comptroller until a permanent replacement for Isakowitz is announced. Isakowitz will be working at Exploration part time in January and then full time in February.

Foale Honored by UK

31 December 2004: British-born astronaut given CBE, BBC

"British-born astronaut Michael Foale is rewarded in the New Year Honours with a CBE in the diplomatic list."

Editor's note:Reliable sources say that none of the names that have been circulating on Capitol Hill (and within NASA and the aerospace industry) are currently under consideration for NASA Administrator by the White House. Either the folks on this "list" took themselves out of consideration or they were never being considered in the first place. Given Sean O'Keefe's planned departure in February, and the Bush Administration's penchant for filling positions quickly, and the release of a new budget in a few weeks, one can expect that something will emerge rather soon. Given another habit, i.e. that this White House keeps things under wraps until they chose the right moment, the identity of their choice will likely emerge only a short time before an official announcement.

NASA Exploration of Mars Strategic Roadmap Committee Charter

The NASA Exploration of Mars Strategic Roadmap Committee will be meeting 4-6 January 2005 at NASA JPL. NASA PAO supplied the following membership list of this committee to NASA Watch:

One (Earth) Year On Mars

Happy Holidays from Mars, Marsunearthed.com

3 January 2005: One Year on Mars

"One Year on Mars," a special two-hour live event to commemorate the mission, will be presented at JPL on Monday, Jan. 3, 2005, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. EST. The live event, along with additional taped programming and live-shot opportunities, will be aired on NASA-TV."

4 January 2005: Welcome to Mars, Nova, PBS

"On January 3, 2004, a compact rover named Spirit, cushioned inside a pyramid of balloons, hurtled through the martian atmosphere and crash-landed on the dusty surface of Mars. Minutes later, Spirit sent its first message home. The elation of the assembled scientists, along with the much more involved engineering story leading up to the landing, were captured by NOVA producer Mark Davis in his popular documentary MARS Dead or Alive. That elation is the starting point for the highly anticipated sequel, "Welcome to Mars."

What Could Have Been

2 January 2005: Silber speaks, Boston Globe

"This man, we saw later on, was a control freak," says Silber. "But he didn't come across as a control freak. . . . You had a highly mercurial character who, like many a successful person, has managed to hide his real intent until the last minute. And, fortunately, Mr. Goldin misplayed his hand. He started laying his cards down too soon. If he had waited another two or three weeks, he'd have had the job and then we'd have had a real disaster at the university."

2 January 2005: NASA Nurtures Inventors to Produce Space Wonders of the Future, Washington Post

"The [NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts] started in 1997 as a NASA effort to seek out far-sighted concepts that might not pay off for decades, but which could be priceless when they do. "NASA recognized it suffered from 'not invented here' syndrome," [Ron] Turner said in a telephone interview. "If it wasn't invented by NASA, then NASA didn't want to hear about it."



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