March 2005 Archives

Space Shuttle Tribute Bike: "The Space Shuttle is one of the most impressive technological achievements in human history. Join a grassroots project to pay tribute to the men and women who make it happen and the American spirit that makes it possible. The non-profit Space Shuttle Tribute Bike committee, a group of your fellow NASA team members, is partnering with the Discovery Channel's American Chopper show and Orange County Choppers to build a bike that honors the spirit of the space program."

AGU Rallies The Troops

AGU Space Physics & Aeronomy Section Memo: Subject: Action Needed - Future of Science at NASA

"The upcoming confirmation hearings of Michael Griffin, President Bush's nominee to become the new NASA administrator, present a tremendous opportunity for us to raise important questions about the future of science at NASA."

About 30 NASA Langley workers take buyout offer, Virginia Pilot

"The center could have paid for as many as 300 buyouts, said Leah M. Meisel, director of Langley's Office of Human Capital Management. "While we had hoped for bigger numbers, we are pleased that we were able to give so many of our employees the opportunity to take a buyout," she said in an e-mail."

Editor's note: NASA is planning to fly no more than 28 Space Shuttle Flights between now and 2010 at a rate of roughly 5 per year. This will lead to some tough decisions - some of them coming rather soon.

Mike Kostelnik, Deputy Associate Administrator for International Space Station and Space Shuttle Program: "If we did not have the ISS on orbit today we would not be returning [the Space Shuttle fleet] to flight but rather dedicating resources to next generation of exploration".

Others: Since NASA will not need any more Al-Li to build External Tanks (they have enough for 28 flights), that contract will be shut down. Since NASA no longer needs SRB canisters (they have enough for 28 flights) that contract will be shut down as well. By 2008, NASA will have enough Aluminum perchlorate for SRB fuel (again for the remaining number of flights) - so that contract will come to and end - possibly driving up the cost for DoD users.

Editor's note: Of course, if NASA decides to pursue a Shuttle-derived heavy launch system (mentioned more than once at this meeting), this might change. NASA PAO has also pointed out that no one specifically stated at this meeting that these specific contracts would be cancelled. However, the tone of the overall presentation was about things NASA would cancel, shut down, descope, delay, sell off, abandon in place, rethink, transform, etc. If NASA has no further need for a product or a service - be it for the shuttle or any other program (as was clearly discussed) it follows that such contracts would eventually be modified or cancelled - right?

More to follow.

Nasa to weed command: you have permission to boldly grow, The Guardian

"It put a man on the moon and gave the world the non-stick saucepan, but faced with an impending budget crisis, Nasa has been forced to cancel a more down to earth project: gardening."

Marshall won't mow as much; McDaniel says move looks bad, Huntsville Times

"[NASA Advisory Council member Mark] McDaniel said he's concerned how the lawn-care cutbacks would make Marshall and Redstone Arsenal appear if the Base Realignment and Closure Commission visits Redstone in the next few months. The commission is due to make its recommendations to President Bush by the end of summer."

Reader comment: "What next? Will we be shredding our own documents in the parking lot because the "mulch" truck is no longer funded? Sigh..."

A JSC Reader suggests: "Maybe JSC could loan them some cattle and donkeys and they could acquire goats. Or institute a mandatory physical fitness program whereby all CS go out and maintain the grounds.They would then have a charge number and coverage."

Editor's note: "... the grass in other than high visibility areas will be allowed to reach a height of 8 to 12 inches and there will be no more special work requests accepted." Yikes! I hope they don't have any mountain lions (cougars) at MSFC like ARC has! They could hide in the tall grass and pose a danger to employees.

Amendment No. 5 to the NASA Research Announcement (NRA) entitled "Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences (ROSES) 2005," NNH05ZDA001N, Released January 28, 2005

- This amendment cancels the solicitation for the Virtual Observatories for Solar and Space Physics Data program described in Appendix A.22.
- This amendment cancels the solicitation for the Astrophysics Data Analysis program described in Appendix C.2.
- This amendment cancels the solicitation for the Long Term Space Astrophysics program described in Appendix C.3

Editor's note: The Stafford/Covey RTF Task Force is not going to be releasing its final recommendations tomorrow as had been planned. The fact finding that needs to go into the formulation of final decisions and recommendations has not been completed. More to follow.

Update: Return to Flight Task Group Postpones March 31 Meeting, NASA HQ

Stay order, Opinion, Daily Press

"Virginia's congressional delegation must move aggressively to try to stop NASA from demolishing that infrastructure. Advocating for aeronautics is a battle that must be fought on many fronts - one defending budgets, one protecting facilities."

Hoyer Urges Hubble Fix

Lawmaker Urges NASA on Hubble Mission, AP

"This is a very important mission for us to continue and complete," [Hoyer] said during a tour of the Hubble lab, which holds the robotic arm that could be used to fix the telescope. But Al Diaz, NASA's Associate Administrator for Science who was on the same tour, said the agency has no plans to send a mission, manned or robotic, to repair Hubble. "We don't intend on servicing it, that's where we are," Diaz said."

NAC Aeronautics Research Advisory Committee Meeting, Federal Register

"Previously Announced Dates and Addresses of Meeting: Wednesday, March 23, 2005, 8:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m.; National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 300 E Street, SW., Room 6H46, Washington, DC 20546. Changes in the Meeting: Date changed to May 3, 2005, 8:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m."

Editor's note: I find it curious how NASA HQ waited a week (29 March) after the original meeting date (23 March) - a meeting which obviously did not happen as planned - to announce a new meeting date more than a month away (3 May). Could it be last minute jitters on NASA's part - and that no one is quite ready to talk about what is happening to aeronautics at NASA? Stay tuned.

Unconfirmed Mountain Lion Sighting on NASA ARC

"On March 23, 2005 at 12:45 a.m., there was an unconfirmed sighting of mountain lions on the east side of the Ames Research Center near the golf course. In recent years there have been confirmed sightings of mountain lions in the Palo Alto area. Although the likelihood of a mountain lion attack is less than being struck by lightening, it is wise to be prepared for such an encounter."

Editor's note: This, of course, reminds me of a classic humor item posted on NASA Watch a decade ago: "Secretary of the Interior Babbit Announces Hstoric Cooperative Agreement Between NASA and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service"

"This agreement with the Fish and Wildlife Service will introduce ecologically sound management practices that will replace the 'business as usual' approach to personnel issues at NASA. Federal agency work forces are no different than overpopulated herds of deer or elk in our country today. We, too, need to thin the herds," said Goldin."

Other Voices: Aviation depends on NASA, opinion, Rep. Jo Ann Davis, Daily Press

"I have suggested to the Science Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics that perhaps aeronautics funding, which is currently included in overall NASA funding, should get a separate section in the budget. This would help protect aeronautics funding from larger NASA visions such as a trip to Mars. Aeronautics funding is a matter of national security, and last time I checked, the planet Mars was not an emerging threat to United States security."

NASA shrinks Ames Research Center, FCW

"NASA officials announced the week of March 7 that they would offer IT workers buyout packages with a federally mandated cap of $25,000. Ames officials told employees that at least 400 civil servants and 400 contractors would be laid off if they do not accept the offers, union officials said."

Consider technology gains before cutting NASA funds, editorial, Decatur Daily

"If anyone questions the benefits of NASA and space experimentation, remind them that devices such as the cellular telephone might not be as advanced or even invented without NASA's need to make things smaller."

Editor's note: If you go to this Florida Today story you see an image identified as being Space Shuttle Endeavour located in the Florida Space Authority's Reusable Launch Vehicle hangar. If you go to this Florida Today story , you see the exact same image identified as being Space Shuttle Discovery. A check with KSC's photo archive confirms that this is indeed an image of Endeavour. Endeavour is in the RLV hangar. Discovery has been in Orbiter Processing Facility - Bay 3. Shuttles are prepared for launch in the OPF - not the RLV hangar. Yes, they are hard to tell apart. That's why they have their names painted in big, easy to see letters on each side.

Update: They have corrected their error.

NASA Internal Briefing: "Why This Important" - NASA Communication Material Review Process

"summary of key findings

- People want to believe in NASA. And the window of opportunity is now.
- NASA's 'brand' is extremely strong. The problem is lack of effective communications.
- There is strong desire to know what NASA does. But today that knowledge is very thin.
- The public looks to NASA for a vision of exploration. Between Columbia and the CAIB report, 2,250 articles were written about NASA and vision, most calling for NASA to develop a vision.
- There is no blame associated with Columbia: The public understands the risks and is supportive."

Students Invited to Learn How to Engineer Spaceships at NASA JSC

"Visit the Web for more information and directions to Space Center Houston at: http://education.jsc.nasa.gov/details.cfm?id=F7665F18-AC33-430C-A15249BB3EC6A091"

Editor's note: Wow. This reminds me of the serial number you have to enter more than once slowly when you install a Microsoft product. Why not use a more human-friendly URL such as http://education.jsc.nasa.gov/directions ? I wonder if goofy and needlessly complicated web addresses are covered in the new NASA Communication Material Review Process? Nah. They are more concerned with specifying fonts and convoluted approval processes, it would seem.

Space Artifacts News

prise culot electrique Ariane 5 Vol 501 (electric catch base ARIANE 5 Flight 501), eBay

Editor's note: Only 1.000,00EUR (1,288.84 USD)

Psst - Wanna Buy a Slightly Used Soviet Space Suit?, Wired

"Driving the Russian space trade is a slippery supply chain of quasi-government operatives, ex-KGB officers, and Russian mafiosi. Artifacts enter the pipeline after they're filched from Star City - or purchased directly from former cosmonauts - and trickle down to flea markets, galleries, online dealers, and ultimately collectors."

NASA Internal Memo: Agency Messages, Tagline and Visual Design Guide Roll-out, NASA HQ

NASA Internal Memo: New Communication Material Review Process (plus charts), NASA HQ

"Everyone who creates material intended for communicating key messages or strategy for NASA, including education and outreach materials, should plan to participate in the new process. The web-based process is relatively simple to use and is available to anyone with access to the NASA network. As with any review process, sufficient time should be allowed to incorporate the process into your development schedule."

Editor's note: So far only complaints have been circulating around the agency about this process which seems to make the process of getting NASA information out more - rather than less - burdensome. Stay tuned. This is a work in progress.

NASA work rules trip scientists, Huntsville Times

"For working late at Marshall Space Flight Center, Dr. Alexander A. Chernov has been punished. Chernov, a microgravity researcher, was banned from working at the center earlier this month because of what he terms as an obscure, forgotten agreement to restrict foreign scientist work to traditional Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. working hours."

ISS Crew Completes EVA

NASA Space Station Status Report 28 March 2005

"The residents of the International Space Station ventured outside today for a 4-hour, 30-minute spacewalk to install communications equipment on the exterior of the Zvezda Service Module and deploy a small satellite experiment."

NASA to nurture biz launch-pad, Crain's Cleveland Business

"NASA Glenn Research Center in Brook Park hasn't been a breeding ground for entrepreneurs. That situation could change, however, with a new program to help NASA Glenn employees launch businesses about to come into place at a time when hundreds of jobs at the research center are on the chopping block."

Delegation's new clout on space budget could help Marshall, WHNT

"And Cramer says they've made some enemies, and now more than ever they need to put Humpty Dumpty back together. He says it must be made clear this is a partnership and not something they can just dictate and get their way. Cramer says he is prepared to take drastic actions if NASA's leaders aren't more forthcoming to the delegation."

Editor's note: If you visit Astronaut Space Safety 2005 you'll see that the report "SPACE SAFETY REPORT: Vulnerabilities and Risk Reduction In U.S. Human Space Flight Programs", written by the Space & Advanced Research Institute at George Washington University, is now online. This report was written with $300,000 from the mysterious non-profit Space Shuttle Children's Trust Fund. This organization's website does not list any corporate donors or board of directors/advisors - just a media contact - and an address where to send money. Nor does it specify what programs it has established which have helped 'children' in connection with the Columbia accident.

With regard to Astronaut Space Safety 2005:

Section 1.1: "We would have preferred to base this study on more primary sources, but these were not always available to us since this research effort was commissioned as an "independent" review. Indeed one of our prime findings is that efforts be made to obtain prime source reports from NASA on the areas of launch safety that we have identified as being of possible concern."

Editor's note: Then shouldn't you have worked harder to get access to those materials - or waited to release your report until such time as you had accurate and reliable information where upon to base your report? Isn't this supposed to be a scholarly document?

Keith, I have to say I couldn't agree more with your observations of the "Space Safety 2005" Report done by GW/SACRI for the Space Shuttle Children's Fund. I'm afraid it presents a REAL disincentive for anyone to contribute to the SSCF, which, as you also indicate, is an organization of some questionable status, anyway. I'm also more than a little surprised at the lack of quality control by GWU in allowing their name to be associated with a "report" that, at least as far as I've read so far, not only offers nothing new, but suffers the lack of focus and substantiation you offer examples of.

Employee Survey Results after the 28 February 2005 NASA LaRC Town Hall Meeting

"Stop wasting your time on Coffee/Canteen issues. If 30% of CS workforce is eliminated, does that not also include 30% of the Strategic Leadership Council? NO.1: Figure out how reduce cost of 380K/FTE or get somebody who can. Until this happens, we will never be competitive. BTW, nobody appreciates the Vehicle Systems planning group having a "retreat" in Phoenix, AZ during these lean times."

"The discussion of a "possible" CS workforce RIF is entertaining, considering that most of those folks that will be affected in the future have ample time to plan, and make their decisions. The contractors on the otherhand are being released on a moments notice, with little to no warning. It is both morally and ethically wrong not to specifically forwarn the contract positions that will be descoped in the near furture. You should provide these folks with ample time to find a new position, rather than treating them like tempoarary labor. You should be ashamed of yourselves."

NASA LaRC Strategic Leadership Council Response to Employee Survey

"Following the February 28 Town Meeting that shared the outcome of the senior leadership retreat, a survey was posted asking employees to comment on the event. Over 100 comments, questions and recommendations were received. This is the Strategic Leadership Council (SLC) response to that input."

NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 26 March 2005

"In a late change to their schedule, Sharipov and Chiao today replaced the #1 pump panel (4SPN1) of the Service Module (SM)'s internal cooling loop 2 (KOV-2). The panel failed early yesterday morning, causing a switchover to pump panel #2. Rather than isolating the failed pump, the entire 4SPN1 panel was replaced, to mitigate any contingencies from the thermal loop during EVA-13."

NASA Space Station Status Report 25 March 2005

"Early today, a thermal control loop panel in Zvezda that provides cooling to the Pirs airlock failed, and its backup system was activated to provide the necessary cooling. There are two circulating pumps associated with each panel. Both pump panels are needed to provide adequate backup capability for the spacewalk. The crew will troubleshoot the pump panel early Saturday, and replace one or both of the pumps in the degraded panel."

Telecom Mogul's Lofty Dreams Plummet, Washington Post

"The "mysterious Mr. Zzylch" boarded the posh Gulfstream executive jet for his Russian business trip accompanied by a few friends, a pizza somebody grabbed along the way and the board game Risk, just for laughs. Zzylch, as millionaire Washington telecom mogul Walter C. Anderson once jokingly called himself, was in negotiations with Russian officials to lease their moribund orbiting spacecraft, Mir. They needed money. He had plenty."

NASA Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG) #13 Chairman's Report

"Concerns were voiced regarding the apparent absence of scientific oversight of the Mars program. While there are no specific complaints or major concerns about the program, it is seen as a problem that there is no independent oversight of the Mars program along the lines that the SSES provides for the broader solar-system program."

"In addition to strengthening ties between the Mars program and the rest of solar-system exploration, there would be real value in strengthening ties between the robotic and human programs. At present, there is confusion about the relationship between the Science Mission Directorate and the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate and where Mars fits into this relationship given the compelling interests of each."

Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG) Meeting

"Who should attend? Participation is open to all scientists/engineers involved in Mars exploration, including international colleagues. Since this is a 'working' meeting, it is not open to members of the press, however, if there is interest we can make people available for interviews afterwards."

Editor's note: Curiously, they have a presentation on the agenda titled "Mars Outreach" yet they don't want the media there. I guess taxpayers aren't welcome either.

NASA Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG) #13 Chairman's Report

"According to our attendance records, 166 people attended the meeting, including scientists and representatives from many of NASA's field centers, from NASA HQ, from major research universities, from the aerospace industry, and from private research organizations around the country."

Editor's note: Everyone was indeed welcome - except the media and the general public.

First Hubble, then Mars, opinion, Baltimore Sun

"Fixing Hubble would mean shuttling people to the telescope one last time, as has been done four times previously. While it's understandable that space officials are skittish after the Challenger disaster..."

Editor's note: I don't think the Challenger accident had too much of an effect on the SM-4 mission decision process.

Minor Damage to SpaceX Engine Test Stand, SpaceRef

"SpaceX was running a Merlin engine acceptance test earlier this week at their test site in Texas. At one point some hot gas blowback burned test stand pressure sensor wiring."

Editor's note: According to a source familiar with the NBC program "The Apprentice": "Please check out this Thursday night's episode of "The Apprentice." They'll have an"out-of-this-world" reward for the winning team. Make sure not to miss it whether you're a space buff or not!".

Editor's note: The prize was a ride on Zero-G Corp's jet.

GAO Report: Space Shuttle: Actions Needed to Better Position NASA to Sustain Its Workforce through Retirement

"GAO is recommending that NASA take steps aimed at better positioning the agency to sustain a critically skilled space shuttle workforce through retirement. In particular, we are recommending that the Space Shuttle Program begin identifying its future workforce needs based upon various future scenarios the program could face. In commenting on a draft of this report, NASA concurred with our recommendation."

NASA Announces First Centennial Challenges Prizes

"NASA and its partner, the Spaceward Foundation, today announced prizes totaling $400,000 for four prize competitions, the first under the agency's Centennial Challenges program. The first two competitions will focus on the development of lightweight yet strong tether materials (Tether Challenge) and wireless power transmission technologies (Beam Power Challenge)."

ARC PAO Foot Dragging

NASA Scientists to Discuss Risks of Moon Dust, NASA ARC

"During a workshop entitled "Biological Effects of Lunar Dust," scheduled March 29-31, 2005, at the Radisson Inn, Sunnyvale, Calif., leading scientists and physicians will review current knowledge about lunar dust and its medical risks, and recommend strategies to obtain new information needed for medical and engineering experts to manage the particulate risk for lunar exploration."

Editor's note: Sounds like fun. Too bad ARC PAO goes out of their way not to let people know about this event. They are shooting themselves in the foot by waiting until the last minute (6 days - 2 of which are over a weekend) to alert reporters and possible attendees - thus diminishing possible attendance. Indeed, If you go to the website listed in this 23 March press release you'll see that the hotel/meeting registration deadline is (was) 21 March. As such, anyone reading this announcement it can't go. So why send it out?

Editor's note: I guess I shouldn't rely on news reports to find out what someone actually said in a news conference - my fault, I could have participated - but I was busy. According to someone who actually participated in the telecon yesterday, O'Connor spoke very specifically about factors - flight rules etc. - which would now be put formally into place so as to guide the decision making process as to when to deorbit - and where to land - procedures which specifically take public safety into account. Up until now, landing decisions had to do with conditions at one landing site or another. As such, this would be the 'first time' that such factors would be formally incorporated into shuttle mission flight rules.

Earlier posts/rants on this topic ....

GAO Report: NASA'S SPACE VISION: Business Case for Prometheus 1 Needed to Ensure Requirements Match Available Resources

"NASA's current policy does not require projects to develop knowledge-based business cases that match requirements to available resources and include controls to ensure that sufficient knowledge has been attained. Therefore, the agency had not planned to develop such a business case for Prometheus 1."

LaRC Buyout Is a Flop

NASA gets few takers on buyout offers to workers, Daily Press

"The latest buyout, eligible to 2,040 civil servants, received only 29 takers by Monday's deadline, according to Keith Henry, Langley spokesman. Employees are supposed to agree to leave the workforce by April 3, although 14 of the applicants requested a time extension."

GRC All Hands Cancelled

From a NASA Watch Reader: "The All Hands Meeting that was scheduled today at 10:45 has been cancelled due to a mechanical difficulty. It will be rescheduled at a later date. This is due to aircraft problems. How ironic :-) "

Notice of Intent to Release a Solicitation for NASA LWS Geospace Radiation Belt Storm Probes Investigations, NASA HQ

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) intends to release an Announcement of Opportunity (AO) for Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) Investigations in June 2005."

NASA Workforce Competency Dictionary

"PURPOSE: The NASA Competency Management System (CMS) is a collection of business processes and tools that are used to measure and monitor the Agency's corporate knowledge base. A competency is a conceptual representation of a body of knowledge. The competencies are used to categorize the capabilities of an employee, identify the knowledge requirements of a job position, forecast the workforce requirements for a project, and stimulate the interaction and sharing of knowledge across the Agency."

Editor's note: I tried to read this document, but I got a headache. I felt like I was reading the same words over and over again. Instead of simple, precise statements, this thing is laden with government phraseology designed to obscure - rather than clearly define ideas and job descriptions. Indeed, many of the jobs sound exactly the same despite different titles. I guess this document does serve one purpose: it perfectly encapsulates the Byzantine management morass NASA current finds itself burdened with.

But wait ... there's more ... (a stealth RIF prelude?)

NASA Announces First Two Centennial Challenges

"The first two Centennial Challenges competitions will be released by NASA and its partner, the Spaceward Foundation, on Wednesday, March 23 at 7:45 p.m. EST at Flight School '05, Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Hotel, Scottsdale, Ariz."

"Celebrate in the tradition of the Flight Directors as NASA returns the Space Shuttle to flight. Mark this historic event with a Corona Gorda RTF CIGAR!"

Editor's note: You guessed, it - for sale on eBay. Of course I don't endorse these things in any way since smoking is stupid, causes cancer, and leads to early death. But, that cheerful caveat aside, smoke 'em if you got 'em! [Thanks to Jim Banke for spotting this]

Lockheed US satellite program could reach $12 bln

"A Lockheed Martin Corp. satellite system to provide early warning of enemy missile attacks could eventually cost around $12 billion, up from recent estimates of around $10 billion, Acting Air Force Secretary Peter Teets said on Tuesday. Teets, who retires on Friday, called the Space-Based Infrared System (SBRIS) High program "a huge national priority" and said he saw little alternative to restructuring and adding funds to a program initially expected to cost $4 billion."

Editor's note: Ouch. I guess its a little easier to break this kind of news when you're headed out the door....

NASA'S Spitzer Marks Beginning of New Age of Planetary Science

"In the new studies, Spitzer has directly observed the warm infrared glows of two previously detected "hot Jupiter" planets, designated HD 209458b and TrES-1. Hot Jupiters are extrasolar gas giants that zip closely around their parent stars."

Detection of Thermal Emission from an Extrasolar Planet, arXiv.org e-Print archive

Scientist at center of Mars flap speaks out, MSNBC

"... What happened next is up for debate. Stoker says neither she nor Lemke ever implied that her work could be extrapolated to suggest present life on Mars. She certainly never told anyone that a paper to that effect was about to be published in the journal Nature, she says. Several people at the party, however, later told a journalist that they had said that. The subsequent Space News article set off a brief media frenzy in mid-February that eventually led to a rare official denial from NASA."

Wrangle over Hubble's future could grow, New Scientist

"NASA has begun a week-long meeting to discuss the possibility of using robots to extend the life of the Hubble Space Telescope. But agency officials say the meeting will focus mainly on ways to simply de-orbit Hubble by guiding it into the atmosphere, crashing it safely into the ocean."

Letter from Sen. Mikulski to Acting NASA Administrator Fred Gregory regarding Hubble servicing mission work

"The funding that I included in the Omnibus Appropriations Act is to ensure that the workforce at Goddard, the Space Telescope Science Institute and their associated contractors remain fully engaged in all aspects of a servicing mission. Any attempt to cancel, terminate or suspend servicing activity would be a violation of the law unless it has the approval of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees."

NASA Glenn in 'tougher fight' to survive Bush budget cuts, Cleveland Plain Dealer

"The battle to save NASA Glenn Research Center, slated to lose 700 workers and $120 million by next year, will be tougher than previous threats to the federal space lab's survival, U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine said Monday. "I will be candid. I think this is going to be a tougher fight," said DeWine, in town to meet with center Director Julian Earls and employees..."

Other Voices: NASA is important to us all, Op ed, Sen. George Allen, Daily Press

"I realize that aeronautics funding is an extremely important issue for the Hampton Roads community and, more specifically, those who work at NASA Langley. I'm committed to advancing aeronautics because I believe it benefits America's national security and future competitiveness. As governor and now as a U.S. senator, I will continue to fight hard to bring and keep good-paying jobs in Virginia."

The mission NASA hopes won't happen, USA Today

"Such a mercy mission would be dramatic, the most daring trip in the history of space exploration, but it could also force NASA to break its own safety rules. And it would end the USA's ability to send astronauts into orbit for years, even decades."

Editor's note: How do you arrive at this conclusion, Traci?

Editor's note: Chris Shank is leaving the staff of the House Science Committee. No specific landing site - yet - but he'll be landing somewhere in the DC aerospace community.

Editor's note: Dan Goldin has been consulting for Randy Brinkley at Kistler for the past several months. [Audio 1]

Hutchison wants to put NASA back on course, Houston Chronicle

"She has a real understanding of what NASA ought to be," said George W.S. Abbey, a senior fellow in space policy at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy and former director of the Johnson Space Center. "She has a picture of what's right for the country as well."

Editor's note: He's ba-ack .... [Audio 1] [Audio 2]

NASA still working to reshape attitudes, USA Today

"Wetherbee says he left out of disappointment at NASA's lack of change and out of hope that he could do some good if he no longer worked there. "It became clear to me ... that upper-level managers did not want to change," he says. "I realized I was ineffective on the inside, so maybe I'll be able to speak out and be more effective on the outside."

NASA's culture still poses danger, ex-astronauts say, USA Today

"Wetherbee, 52, says he left his job on the safety staff at the Johnson Space Center in Houston out of frustration at the slow pace of progress. He still consults for NASA and is writing a book about his time there."

Editor's note: Hmmm.... pangs of guilt from Jim Weatherbee, one of George Abbey's chief henchmen?

Aeronautic innovations are at risk as NASA's focus turns to space, Virginia Pilot

"In 1997, Goldin suggested closing wind tunnels and possibly a center. Those close to Langley feared that the Hampton center would be the one. Mayors of Hampton and Newport News and community representatives formed the NASA Aeronautics Support Team to save the center and its jobs. The wind tunnels and the center survived. But Langleys budget has not seen significant increases since."

Remarks at the funeral of NASA's Get Away Special Program - An open letter to Dr. Michael Griffin

"But what is the educational community supposed to do...just forget about the space program? Are only the physical and intellectual elite to have access to space, once again? ... Does NASA have a plan to provide an alternative avenue for students to do their own enthusiastic, creative and unfettered experiments with their own space hardware, as they have done for the past twenty years in the SSIP, GAS and Hitchhiker programs?"

Nominee Wins Quick Praise for His Technical Expertise, Science

"A test of that position will come soon enough, given O'Keefe's decision not to send the shuttle again to service the telescope. The same day that the White House announced Griffin's nomination, the National Academies released its final report on Hubble calling for a shuttle flight to upgrade the instruments."

Bush's nominee to be NASA administrator faces the challenge of exploring space in an era of tax cuts and runaway deficits, Houston Chronicle

"Griffin, almost certain to be confirmed by the Senate, has an important advantage over his predecessor, Sean O'Keefe. Griffin knows how to explore space. Even if Congress cuts NASA's budget, Griffin would be able to reverse O'Keefe's decision to let the Hubble Space Telescope deteriorate rather than undergo any risk to space shuttle astronauts."

Editor's note: This would of course, be very interesting to watch since Mike Griffin will work for the very same White House which endorsed Sean O'Keefe's decisions regarding Hubble - and adjusted the agency's budget profiles accordingly - two fiscal years in a row. Such a reversal would be a change in Bush Administration policy - and we don't really see a lot of that, now do we?

"Elektron is currently off. After it shut down again on Thursday evening (4:55pm EST), the crew attempted to restart it on Friday (3/18) without success."

MOD Rallies The Troops

NASA MOD Internal Memo - Subject: Message to our partners

"As many of you are aware, over the course of the last several months we have taken steps to refresh the symbols or our operations culture. Specifically, both ISS and Space Shuttle are now represented on our MOD emblem, and we have recently completed an important amendment to the "Foundations of Mission Operations", adding 'Vigilance' to our set of core values we embrace both as individuals and as a team.

In hand with rolling out these improvements, we have drafted separate but similar memos to our CB and program partners that communicates what we have done and what it means not only to us but to them as well.

We would like the as much of the MOD family to be signatories to this as we can manage, with the goal of formally transmitting these notes by the end of March."

- Memo to Astronaut Corps - Subject: Vigilance
- Memo to Space Shuttle and ISS Programs - Subject: Vigilance
- Foundations of Mission Operations

NASA, Ukraine prepare flights to moon, UPI

"NASA and the Ukrainian space agency are preparing unmanned flights to the moon under a joint project, the Interfax-Ukraine news agency reported."

Ukraine recognised that it delivered cruise missiles to Iran and China, Itar-Tass

"Ukraine has recognised that it delivered 12 cruise missiles to Iran and six to China, The Financial Times said on Friday, quoting Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun."

Teets is Leaving USAF/NRO

Peter B. Teets Announces Departure

"The Hon. Peter B. Teets announced his resignation today as Acting Secretary of the Air Force and director, National Reconnaissance Office effective March 25. Teets came to the Air Force in December 2001 from private industry."

20 February 2005: NASA Cassini Image: Dione and Titan, SpaceRef

"This image was taken on February 18, 2005 and received on Earth February 19, 2005. The camera was pointing toward DIONE at approximately 1,267,945 kilometers away..."

17 March 2005: Art and Science, NASA JPL

"The image was taken in visible green light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Feb. 18, 2005, at a distance of approximately 1.3 million kilometers (808,000 miles) from Dione ..."

Editor's note: Here we go again: Why does it take JPL so long to get around to making note of all of these amazing images arriving from Saturn? Well, if you don't want to wait weeks for JPL to post them, just check out Saturn Today. We check daily for new images - and then make note of them - daily.

[Notice: 05-045] RIN 2700-AC39: NASA Final Rule: Small Self-Contained Payloads (SSCPs)

"Consistent with this new direction and the lack of future flight opportunities, NASA has determined that the SSCP program cannot be sustained as a viable activity, and the program has been terminated. Therefore, NASA has determined that 14 CFR Ch. V 1214.9 is no longer applicable and should be removed."

Jump and shout - Tell Congress you care about aeronautics and NASA Langley (anonymous opinion), Daily Press

"A lot of the reassurances that come out of Washington aren't very reassuring. So Vic Lebacqz will surely understand that his reassurance that NASA doesn't plan to close Langley Research Center in Hampton would be a lot more reassuring if it were accompanied by bigger budgets and a growing work force at the center. Instead, the trend is all in the other direction."

Other Voices: The threat to NASA Langley, (opinion), Daily Press

"Many fear that if the cuts in the president's current budget are not reversed, it could be the beginning of the end for NASA Langley. Let's hope they're wrong - in terms of this community's well being and, most importantly, in terms of this country's future economic, military and scientific leadership."

New machines could turn homes into small factories, University of Bath

"A revolutionary machine which can make everything from a cup to a clarinet quickly and cheaply could be in all our homes in the next few years. Research by engineers at the University of Bath could transform the manufacture of almost all everyday household objects by allowing people to produce them in their own homes at the cost of a few pounds. The new system is based upon rapid prototype machines, which are now used to produce plastic components for industry such as vehicle parts."

Editor's note: Now if only you could get this thing to work in microgravity.

Editor's update: A NASA Watch reader informed me that NASA has indeed been looking at how to do this in space. Check out this In Situ Fabrication and Repair page at NASA MSFC. Another reader informed me that LaRC is also working on this technology (see this page) Indeed, they have a portable system that will be flying on a C-9 microgravity aircraft in August. Cool stuff.

Root Cause Declared for Delta IV Heavy Demo Mission, USAF

"The Boeing Company and the Air Force, supported by The Aerospace Corporation, as part of their on-going investigation, have identified the root cause for the premature Main Engine Cut-Off (MECO) on the Delta IV Heavy Lift Vehicle (HLV) demonstration mission that was launched Dec. 21, 2004."

JSC Buyout Info

NASA JSC Internal Memo: Limited Buyout/Early-Out At JSC

"Our buyout/early-out plan has been approved by NASA Headquarters.In accordance with NASA Headquarters guidelines, this plan is very limited and targeted to specific excess competencies and/or functions within JSC.The positions included were reviewed and approved by organizational and Center Management.Employees who may be eligible will be notified by their supervisors.The eligible employees may then volunteer for buyout consideration.Those who receive final approval must be off the Center's rolls by April 3, 2005."

No LaRC Closure

Aeronautics official: NASA Langley won't close, Daily Press

"Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Chesapeake, asked NASA's top aeronautics official whether the agency planned to close Langley, which next year faces a proposed 17 percent budget cut and hundreds of layoffs. "No," answered Vic Lebacqz, associate administrator for NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate."

Editor's note: NASA Watch has learned that Mike Griffin has now made the transition from NASA Administrator designee to nominee with the transmittal of the formal nomination paper work and notification of the U.S. Senate. It is uncertain whether there will be a formal White House event to announce Griffin's nomination since the White House has already issued a statement and the process is now well underway to have him confirmed. No date has been set yet for his confirmation hearings.

Editor's note: What do you think of President Bush's selection of Mike Griffin to be the next NASA Administrator? Send your comments to nasawatch@reston.com - and let us know if you are a NASA civil servant/contractor, general public, etc. If we can use your name/affiliation, please let us know.

Your comments so far:

Space Biology Advocates Join Forces in Talks with Capitol Hill, ASGSB/AIAA

"The Centrifuge is a unique variable gravity research device: there is simply no way on the ground to determine the long term risks of Lunar and Mars gravity to living systems. In addition, key questions about the use of artificial gravity as a countermeasure to the detrimental effects of long-term diminished gravity as they apply to human explorers cannot be clearly answered without the Centrifuge."

Bush's Vision for Space Means Big Cuts Elsewhere at NASA, Washington Post

"Also on the block is the space station's Centrifuge Accommodation Module, an eight-foot-diameter device under construction for NASA at Ames by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency."

ASGSB Governing Board Visits Capitol Hill in March to Share the ASGSB Message, American Society for Gravitational and Space Biology

"Although the President's FY05 budget request for Human Health and Performance of $423M reflected a slight rise from the FY04 budget, the budget request drops in FY06 to $299M and remains low for FY07 through FY10 ($303M, $320M, $328M, $340M). These projections are inconsistent with the critical role that biology plays in space exploration."

Biologists identify chemicals affecting plant growth in response to gravity, University of California Riverside

"A team of biologists from the University of California, Riverside has used chemical genomics to identify novel compounds that affect the ability of plants to alter their direction of growth in response to gravity, a phenomenon known as gravitropism. The team's chemical genomics approach focuses on the use of small molecules to modify or disrupt the functions of specific genes or proteins. NASA supported the research."

Editor's note: This is the sort of research NASA is most likely going to stop funding. Such research could have applications in the design of advanced life support systems for use in microgravity or in reduced gravity locations such as the Moon and Mars. Word on how NASA will alter its life science research program aboard the ISS so as to align it with the VSE will be announced in April. The fate of the Centrifuge Facility which, in many ways, was the Hubble analog for space biologists in its unprecedented ability to provide a range of simulated G loads on research specimens is likely to be eliminated - or delayed so much as to be effectively cancelled. Stay tuned.

ISS CMG2 is Offline

Editor's note: ISS CMG 2 (Control Moment Gyroscope), one of three aboard the ISS, is off-line because a RPCM (Remote Power Controller Module) opened, thus removing power to the CMG. This is the same RPCM that was installed last year during an EVA to replace another RPCM which had failed, also taking CMG 2 offline.

NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 16 March 2005

"Early this morning, the external Remote Power Controller switch #17 (RPC-17) tripped open, shutting down CMG-2 (control moment gyroscope #2). Automatic software reconfigured the steering law for the two remaining gyros, CMG-3 & CMG-4. Assessment of the anomaly is underway. [After a similar "Failed Open" trip of RPC-17 on 4/21/2004, CMG-3 & CMG-4 performed nominally for two months, with the Russian ACS (attitude control system) thrusters ready to take over at any moment, until the power switch was replaced on 6/30/04 by Padalka and Fincke on EVA-9B.]"

Aeronautics Hearing

A Talented Leader for NASA, editorial, NY Times

"Dr. Griffin was no doubt chosen in part because he is a strong advocate of human spaceflight and of the president's plans to return to the Moon and proceed to Mars. But he is no mindless cheerleader for NASA. In testimony last year, he questioned why so little was expected to result from the tens of billions of dollars that would be spent on the Moon-Mars program in coming years. He also suggested that the $60 billion needed to finish the space station would produce nothing of commensurate value."

Official caption: "Cosmonaut Salizhan S. Sharipov, Expedition 10 flight engineer representing Russia's Federal Space Agency, holds the Progress supply vehicle probe-and-cone docking mechanism in the Zvezda Service Module of the International Space Station (ISS).""

Editor's note: Look closely at this image. In the right hand corner is a calendar (in Russian) which features a speed boat. Hmmm ... has the Texas Gulf coast lifestyle rubbed off on Salizhan - and the folks back home?

Challenges for Griffin

Sky-high objectives, Editorial, Orlando Sentinel

"Analysts see Mr. Griffin's biggest challenge as winning support from a skeptical Congress and public for the president's plan to send astronauts back to the moon and eventually to Mars. Indeed, persuading Congress to dedicate the dollars to sustain that worthy mission will be difficult in an era of deep deficits."

Vandenberg launch schedule pulled from Web site, KESQM

"Because of security concerns, the Air Force is no longer providing an online schedule for unclassified launches at Vandenberg Air Force Base."

The Iran Nonproliferation Act and the International Space Station: Issues and Options, Congressional Research Service

"According to current plans, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will become dependent on Russia for certain ISS crew-related services beginning in April 2006 for which NASA must pay. Thus, the INA could significantly affect U.S. utilization of ISS. This report outlines the history of INA, its effect on Russian and Iranian proliferation, its impact on the ISS program, and options for resolving associated issues."

No plan B for outer space, The Economist

"Here's a wizard idea. Spend $40 billion building a big tin can in orbit round the Earth, in orderat least in partto keep the rocket scientists of your former enemy from going to work for your current enemies. Then find that a law intended to stop the current enemies getting their hands on such rocket scientists' knowledge means you can no longer use this expensive tin can. Confused? You are not the only one."

NASA ISS Flight Program Launch Schedule 3 March 2005, NASA

Editor's note: The following chart shows the updated ISS Flight Program Launch graphic.

This chart addresses the launches to the ISS during the next 20 months per CR 9183 (Reference Assembly Sequence) 10 March 2005 and the OZ Working Launch dates as of 3 March 2005).

Editor's note: Klyde Morris has some thoughts on Mike Griffin's selection. Of course, if Griffin ever decides to bail out of NASA on short notice, he apparently has another, not widely appreciated, career to fall back on.

Oops

Hopkins Physicist, Engineer Tapped to Head NASA, Washington Post

"The White House issued no statement in announcing the nomination..."

White House Statement on the Nomination of Michael Griffin to be NASA Administrator

"The President intends to nominate Michael D. Griffin, of Virginia, to be Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration."

Cramer has ear of NASA top man, Huntsville Times

"Cramer said he took the quick call from Griffin as a sign that the new administrator knows he needs to be consulted. "He seemed to be aware by the nature of his call that I was becoming a problem for NASA headquarters," Cramer said."

NASA ARC Internal Memo: Message from the Director - Cost Reductions and Efficiencies

"We need to take immediate actions to maintain competitive overhead rates and control the cost of doing business. In implementing full cost management, we must also be mindful that individual Programs may have specific needs for hiring or purchases. However, project implementation is the responsibility of the Center and as such we must ask the Program Managers to accommodate any near term disruption. In the long run, lower costs help all programs."

NASA ARC Memo: Message from the Director - Alternative Models of Organization

"... the NASA Organization Model and Evaluation Team (NOMET) that was created as a result of the President's Commission also recommended several models for the Centers to evaluate for organizing to meet the Vision for Space Exploration. Specifically related to Ames, the NOMET team concluded that the University Affiliated Research Center (UARC) was potentially a good first step toward an operating model, and that other models may also be applicable for a NASA R&D Center and should continue to be explored."

Bush picks exploration advocate as new NASA head, Orlando Sentinel

"Griffin was the co-leader of a 2004 study by a space advocacy group that recommended accelerating the shuttle's planned 2010 retirement to speed up work on a new manned ship. He questioned the wisdom of spending tens of billions of additional dollars on the international space station during congressional testimony last year."

Extending Human Presence into the Solar System, PDF, Planetary Society

"Given the unique capabilities of the Shuttle (delivery and berthing of large payloads, robotic and EVA capabilities, large down-mass capacity), its return to flight is imperative for rapid completion of the ISS. The tailoring of most completed ISS hardware for Shuttle launch argues for keeping the Shuttle operational until delivery of international partner modules. However, most ISS logistical needs might well be met using partner assets like the Russian Progress and the ESAs Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV)."

Editor's personal note: Of course, this report is the product of a number people - not just Griffin.

Statement By Michael D. Griffin - House Science Committee Hearing: "Perspectives on the President's Vision for Space Exploration"

"NASA should initiate development of a heavy lift launch vehicle having a payload capacity of at least 100 metric tons to low Earth orbit (LEO). Such a vehicle is the single most important physical asset enabling human exploration of the solar system. The use of shuttle-derived systems offers what is quite likely to be the most costeffective near-term approach."

"But the more important question is whether the return to be obtained from the use of ISS to support exploration objectives is worth the money yet to be invested in its completion. The nation, through the NASA budget, plans to allocate $32 B to ISS (including ISS transport) through 2016, and another $28 B to shuttle operations through 2011. This total of $60 B is significantly higher than NASA's current allocation for human lunar return. It is beyond reason to believe that ISS can help to fulfill any objective, or set of objectives, for space exploration that would be worth the $60 B remaining to be invested in the program."

Production Report: Final Enterprise Episode Wraps

"There were other special guests in the cast of this episode. Playing an NX-01 Engineer in one scene was NASA astronaut Mike Fincke. Fincke made news on STARTREK.COM in December when he and Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka received a "Starfleet Award" after their return from a six-month mission on the International Space Station (related story). During his stay in orbit, Fincke had an opportunity to speak with Scott Bakula using a very-long-distance phone connection; now he was able to chat with him in person!"

NASA Plans to Turn Off Several Satellites, Science (subscription)

"NASA intends to stop operating more than a half-dozen existing science probes at the end of this year, including the famed Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft now racing toward the edge of the solar system. Although space agency officials say no final decisions have been made, the agency's 2006 budget request includes no money for a host of solar and space physics projects that currently cost a total of $23 million annually."

Editor's note: This is certainly shortsighted on NASA's part: humanity shuts down two interstellar probes for want of a trivial amount of money in the overall scheme of things. Perhaps the Drake equation - you know, the one that is used by some to estimate the prevalence and lifespan of technological civilizations in the cosmos - should have a new variable added: budget.

10 March 2004: Statement By Michael D. Griffin - House Science Committee Hearing: "Perspectives on the President's Vision for Space Exploration"

"With regard to the moon, I believe the experience to be gained by living on and exploring another planetary surface only a few days away from home will be invaluable to the successful conduct of a future Mars expedition. Certainly such experience is not essential; one can readily envision a Mars expedition architecture which does not employ any further lunar experience as a stepping stone. But because it can be envisioned does not make it wise. I personally consider it an act of technological hubris to proceed directly to Mars, with no human experience beyond Earth orbit having been incurred since 1972. It can be done, and it will be cheaper, but the risk to both the mission goals and to human life will be significantly higher."

7 April 2004: Testimony of Michael Griffin, Senate Science, Technology, and Space Hearing: Near Earth Objects

6 October 2003: Prepared Statement of Dr. Michael D. Griffin: "The Future of Human Space Flight"

8 May 2003: Testimony of Michael D. Griffin Hearing on the NASA Orbital Space Plane Program

27 October 1999: Testimony of Michael Griffin before the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, House Committee on Science

Its Mike Griffin

White House Statement on the Nomination of Michael Griffin to be NASA Administrator

NASA personnel will be briefed by Fred Gregory at 3:30 PM EST this afternoon.

Editor's personal note: In 1993, during the redesign of Space Station Freedom, many of us felt that the books had been cooked by NASA HQ such that the SS Freedom configuration (Option B) was deliberately handicapped and that the other two options A (MSFC) and C (JSC) were given an unfair advantage. Hardly an apples to apples review. Mike Griffin, who led the Option B effort (headquartered at LaRC) wrote a letter for the record at one point, standing squarely on principle and pointing out the discrepancies and inequities in that review process. That letter received wide circulation - and Mike's NASA career suffered as a result. He was promoted to some pointless job by Dan Goldin and eventually left the agency. I can say from personal experience, that Mike Griffin has demonstrated personal integrity - and did so in a public way that was rather career adverse. I expect he will bring that same integrity to the job of NASA Administrator. As such, yes, at this point, I am biased in this regard.

Update: From someone@jsc.nasa.gov: "Just back from PeTe's. Les said that they will likely re-open (I assume under different ownership) soon. There weren't any signs saying they were closing, but he did confirm today is their last day at least for a while. There was a nice smattering of regulars, but in general a smaller crowd than a typical Friday."

Editor's note:From someone@nasa.gov via someone.not@nasa.gov: "Their last day is tomorrow, Friday 11th March. PeTe's has been around forever and aside from having great BBQ it's also an historic 'space' landmark here in Houston. A bunch of us are meeting there for an extended lunch tomorrow. All and any are welcome. No real time set, just turn up and weep with the rest of us. Houston just won't be the same without PeTe's!"

Shift to moon-Mars focus affects 2,680 NASA jobs, Government Executive

"About 15 percent of NASA's civil service workforce will be transferred or paid to leave by the end of fiscal 2006 as the agency focuses on President Bush's vision for exploring the moon and Mars."

NASA Plans Cuts By Summer '06, Washington Post

"NASA said yesterday that it plans to cut its full-time workforce by as much as 15.3 percent by the summer of 2006, putting 2,680 jobs at risk as the agency refocuses its activities toward President Bush's exploration initiative to the moon and Mars."


NASA Langley offers another buyout, Daily Press

"In a continuing effort to reduce its work force, NASA Langley Research Center started on Thursday its third and most expansive buyout offer of the fiscal year."

NASA juggles work force as it shifts focus to Mars, Houston Chronicle

"About one of every seven NASA workers nationwide will be transferred or paid to leave in the next 1 1/2 years as the space agency focuses on President Bush's moon-Mars exploration plan, officials said Thursday."

Expect buyouts at NASA Glenn, Crains Cleveland

"The NASA Glenn Research Center can expect another round of employee buyouts in the next few months as the agency looks to slash the centers work force by 700 jobs, said NASA associate deputy administrator James Jennings."

NASA sees task as job 'reshaping', Hunsville Times

"By fiscal 2007, NASA hopes to trim or find new projects - and money - for the equivalent of 2,680 full-time jobs agencywide, perhaps avoiding layoffs, he said. Details about how many jobs might be affected at Marshall Space Flight Center - or any other center - were not available. "We haven't worked through that," Jennings said."

Assessment of Options for Extending the Life of the Hubble Space Telescope: Final Report, NAS

"This situation resulted in an unprecedented outcry from scientists and the public. As a result, NASA began to explore and develop a robotic servicing mission;Congress directed NASA to request a study from the National Research Council (NRC) of the robotic and shuttle servicing options for extending the life of Hubble. This report presents an assessment of those two options."

NASA Notice of Exploration Mission Docking Systems Forum

"NASA's Advanced Docking Berthing System (ADBS) Project within the Exploration Systems Research and Technology, Technology Maturation Program, in the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate is issuing a notice for a technical interchange meeting (TIM) to be held in the mid-April 2005 time frame."

Overhead Issues at LaRC

Center Director Message to NASA LaRC Employees: Cost Efficiencies Critical to Our Competitive Future

"We can either feel victimized by these types of changes or decide to take action to help. I have decided that I can actually do a lot to help. First, I can accept the fact that we need to cut substantial dollars and not complain about the lost services, unless a proposed cut interferes with safety, health, or the delivery of a funded product. Second, I am personally nominating a few items to add to the list, and I hope that you will survey your situation and recommend things to your supervisor as well."

Editor's note:This was provided to NASA Watch by NASA PAO - per Rick Keegan of Jim Jennings office:

"FY 2005 there are 2425 employees eligible for retirement.
FY 2006 there will be 2927 employees

NOTE: The 2006 number is the current 2005 PLUS an additional newly eligible group. It assumes no one retires this year. This accounting is based on the fact that many employees who are eligible do not always retire. Thus these numbers represent the "maximum" number used for planning purposes.

No firm numbers are available on how many people are going to be offered/eligible for a buyout since the buyout plans for all the centers have yet to be approved. These numbers were provided to the reporter from the FEDERAL TIMES who asked the question."

Alliance turns proposed NASA cuts into airline-safety debate, Cleveland Plain Dealer

"The fight to save NASA Glenn Research Center has become a battle about the future of the U.S. airline industry. Twice in the past decade, Northeast Ohioans scurried to save the federal space lab next to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and the millions of dollars and thousands of jobs it brings the region."

tSpace Wimps Out

Paperwork stops space privateers building lunar lander, New Scientist

"NASA wants 40 to 50 monthly reports on what you're doing," David Gump, president of the Transformational Space consortium told New Scientist on Monday. And while "we could build a great Crew Exploration Vehicle", Gump says, the consortium cannot comply with the reports and studies NASA stipulates to monitor the project."

Editor's note: Yawn. When the going gets tough, blame it all on paperwork.

Editor's note: In comments by Jim Jennings today, 10 March, during an agency-wide televised briefing, Jennings sought to dismiss workforce numbers that were circulating around the agency: "There are some numbers floating around." "The truth of the matter is that we do not know what it is going to take to implement the VSE." "All of our employees are funded through FY 2006." "It is important to bring folks into the workforce - they will carry the workforce for the next 30-40 years." "My committment is that I will give the facts to you when I know them." "I've seen a lot of charts floating around where the numbers were not accurate."

Editor's note:This is rather confusing. It is important to note that the numbers Mr. Jennings now seeks to dismiss were contained in a briefing authored by him which he circulated around the agency. Indeed, during the agency-wide Q&A today four NASA employees asked him questions about his 14 February 2005 presentation and the numbers contained therein.

If there is any confusion, especially with regard to numbers that are clearly in this presentation, it is clearly due to the way that Mr. Jennings (mis)presented the information in the first place. It is rather lazy and less than forthcoming for Mr. Jennings to stumble through answering questions about his numbers by dismissing these numbers as if they were not official when indeed they ARE official!

Through out all these discussions, the contractor workforce is not mentioned at all. In a press briefing following the employees briefing, Jennings admitted that he does not have numbers reflecting the contractor workforce or how it would be affected by these changes.

When asked by a reporter what the 2,680 or so people NASA seeks to have depart the agency are doing right now - since there is not enough work for everyone to go around, Jennings said "they are working on strategic things, on bids and proposals. They are gainfully employed. I do not have a lot of specifics on what they are working on."

When asked by reporters for a breakdown by center as to what sorts of positions need to be eliminated because they are not matched against specific projects, Jennings repeatedly declined the request saying that he did not have that information. Yet curiously, at the same time Jennings does not know this information, the field centers all know how many buyouts they need to offer and are already offering them to employees.

Summary: 13 months into the implementation of the VSE, NASA in general, and Mr. Jennings in particular, still do not know what sort of workforce NASA does or does not need. As a result, NASA HQ is punting for a year or so until someone does know. In the mean time, the more people who leave the agency, the better.

LaRC Opportunity

NASA LaRC Buyout Opportunity

"The Agency has received authority to offer buyouts at most of the Centers. Even though Langley has offered buyout opportunities twice this fiscal year, we also wanted to participate in the Agency effort, since it expands the eligible pool to positions not included in prior buyouts. Approximately 2,040 positions at the Center are included in this buyout pool. That essentially covers all employees who are General Schedule and employees who are not AST employees in the NASA Engineering and Safety Center."

Ukranian Rockets to Orbit US Satellites, RIA Novosti

"Ukraine's National Space Agency and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are preparing to sign an agreement in April that would allow Ukrainian rockets to be used for launching US satellites into lunar orbits."

Defense Funds Boost Orbital's Fortunes, Washington Post

"Last week, the 23-year-old firm, which also has operations in Prince George's and Howard counties and in Arizona, California, Alabama and Indiana, reported a profit of $200 million on revenue of $675.9 million in 2004, compared with earnings of $20.2 million on revenue of $581.5 million a year earlier."

NASA HQ Workforce Transformation Discussion

"Thursday, March 10, 1 p.m., auditorium. Join Associate Administrator for Institutions and Management James Jennings for an important discussion regarding the agency's work force Thursday, March 10, at 1 p.m. in the auditorium. "Work Force Transformation" will be an open and direct discussion about the personnel issues facing NASA today and in the future."

AAS Calls Servicing Hubble Important for Astronomy, Urges NASA to Stick with the Decade Plan

"In releasing the statement, President Robert Kirshner stated, "I am personally very disappointed with NASA's current plan not to service HST. You can be sure we will work with them to help realize the goals of astronomers as carefully worked out through our decade plan. We know that NASA is committed to doing the world's best astronomy and servicing Hubble with the Shuttle is part of the best program."

Buyout Update at ARC

With layoffs looming, NASA/Ames offers buyouts, SJ Mercury News

"NASA/Ames is set to offer buyouts this week to all but 70 of its 1,400 federal employees as part of one of the most dramatic makeovers the research center has undergone in two decades."

NASA LaRC Internal File: Human Capital Instructional

"The last activity, if necessary, will be reductions-in-force with the goal of having all the unfunded capacity off the rolls by August 6, FY 2006. Employees separated under reductions-in-force will receive not only a lump payment for their annual leave but may also receive severance pay which may be substantial depending on the age and length of service of the separated employee."

Fred Gregory Profile

Backed by History, Looking Ahead - NASA Leader Took Chances, Seeks Opportunities for Others, Washington Post

"In mid-February, Gregory moved up from his job as NASA's deputy administrator to interim administrator -- a job he will hold until President Bush names a permanent replacement for administrator Sean O'Keefe, who left the agency to become chancellor of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge."

Audit of the Implementation of Integrated Financial Management (IFMP) Audit Recommendations, NASA OIG

"As of January 3, 2005 NASA had 26 out of 44 (59 percent) audit recommendations related to IFMP that were still open and for which corrective action had not been completed. Some of those recommendations were more than 1 year old."

House Science Committee Views and Estimates, House Science Committee

House Science Committee Bi-Partisan 'Views and Estimates' Budget Submission Highlights Inadequacy of Administration's R&D Budget Request

"Today, the Science Committee submitted bipartisan Views and Estimates to the Budget Committee. In the past, the Democrats have written and submitted separate Views and Estimates as a critique. However, the Administration's FY2006 research and development budget request elicited such universal concern that Democrats could comfortably support the Republican-drafted document."

Editor's note: It is rather interesting to note who did NOT sign on to support this (otherwise) bipartisan document: among them: Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Chair Chair Ken Calvert (R-CA), House Science Committee Ranking Majority Member Ralph Hall (R-TX), former Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Chair Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), and No. 2 House Science Committee Ranking Majority Member Lamar Smith (R-TX).

Coalition Supports Vision for Space Exploration's FY2006 Budget

"CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (March 7, 2005) - The Coalition for Space Exploration strongly endorses NASA's FY 2006 budget request of $16.5 billion. The budget is fully aligned with the Vision for Space Exploration and advances the nation's agenda for science and discovery."

Editor's note: Gee, the FY 2006 budget was released more than a month ago. You'd think that a slightly more prompt statement could have been issued by a coalition dedicated to the furtherance of the President's space policy initiatives.

Bush to Nominate Bolton as U.N. Ambassador, AP

Bush Selects Steve Johnson to Head EPA, AP

Editor's note: One of the procedural roadblocks to naming a new NASA Administrator was the fact that other senior positions, some whose filling was viewed as being more pressing than the number one slot at NASA, needed to be filled. One such post was EPA. Another was UN Ambassador. Now that these slots have been filled, it is expected that the White House can focus on other empty positions - including that of NASA Administrator. Several weeks ago, just as Sean O'Keefe was saying farewell, there was a flurry of interest among senior Administration circles that the announcing of a name was imminent - hence my posting here that there would be an announcement "very, very soon". Well, that bubble of informed speculation burst shortly thereafter. None the less, name(s) continue to be vetted at the White House. Given the prospect of no anticipated problems at NASA in the next few months, there is no pressing urgency to accelerate the selection process. Yet if they can get it of their to do list, they will.

As such, whether an announcement is imminent - perhaps Wednesday or (more likely) Thursday of this week - or weeks away - remains to be seen. Rest assured, contrary to those who suggest that the Administration is not paying attention to this issue, someone, somewhere in the White House is working on it. Stay tuned.

Ohio Leaders Plan to Fight NASA Budget Cuts, NPR

"Morning Edition, March 7, 2005 NASA is one of a handful of federal agencies targeted for a slight increase in the proposed 2006 budget. But at research labs around the country, aeronautics budgets are slated to be slashed by 1/3 over the next two years. In Ohio, where major job cuts are planned, local Congressional delegations are fighting back."

NASA Science Funding Cut In FY 2006 Proposal, US Medicine Information Central

"We used to be the Office of Biological and Physical Research," [Terri Lomax, PhD, acting deputy associate administrator for research within Exploration Systems] said in an interview with U.S. MEDICINE. "We were doing the very best biology that you could do in space and the very best physics you could do in space. But now, we realize that we have products that we need out of our research in order to enable this ambitious exploration agenda."

Boeing Forces Out CEO Over Relationship, AP

"Boeing Co. abruptly forced out its president and chief executive officer, Harry Stonecipher, for what the company said Monday was a violation of the company's code of business conduct stemming from a relationship the married, 68-year-old Stonecipher had with a female Boeing executive."

NASA Langley tests the air, Daily Press

"If wind tunnels won the debate decades ago, it seems odd - at least at first glance - that NASA Headquarters circulated a memo last month stating that all the major wind tunnels at Langley would likely close because they weren't needed for the agency's future aeronautics projects. Government unions and aeronautics supporters decried the announcement as a potential deathblow for Langley. But Langley Center Director Roy Bridges said the memo was an attempt to get a response from the Department of Defense and private industry."

Hampton group sees way to help Langley, Daily Press

"As layoffs, budget cuts and wind tunnel closures cast a shadow over NASA Langley Research Center, a neighboring institute in Hampton enjoys a growing work force and budget. Robert Lindberg, executive director of the National Institute of Aerospace, said his organization can help transform NASA Langley."

NASA Langley is running out of wind, Daily Press

"Government unions and aeronautics supporters wonder how much Langley can transform before it ceases to exist. A scary question lingers on the minds of local politicians, flight researchers and Langley employees: Is NASA Langley heading toward closure?"

NASA is surviving a culture shift, again, Daily Press

"Budget cuts, wind tunnel closures and layoffs are forcing NASA Langley Research Center to go through the most painful transformation in its 88-year history. But the center has shown remarkable flexibility in the past, said Wilson Lundy, director of Langley operations."

Longtime NASA Reporter William M. Hines, 88, Dies, Washington Post

"William M. Hines, 88, a former Washington Star and Chicago Sun-Times reporter who was considered the godfather of NASA space reporting, died Feb. 28 of complications from treatment for pneumonia at Frederick Memorial Hospital. He lived in Washington before moving to Lovettsville in 1987."

Here.

Martian Mix-up

Twin Mars rovers in instrument mix-up, New Scientist

"NASA's Mars rovers Opportunity and Spirit are identical twins - so alike that they even fooled NASA. Researchers have discovered that they sent the robots to Mars with an instrument meant for Opportunity inside Spirit and vice versa."

LaRC Personnel Update

Internal NASA LaRC Memo: Summary of SLT Retreat

"We will focus on reducing the over-capacity work force by the start of FY07. No involuntary personnel actions are planned in FY05 beyond the small number of positions affected by the A-76 competition as previously announced. Involuntary personnel actions are likely in FY06, although a Reduction in Force (RIF) will be a last resort."

Air Force lifts Boeing suspension, USAF

"Air Force officials removed the suspension of three Boeing Co. units associated with its rocket business March 4. The company's Launch Systems, Boeing Launch Services and Delta Program business units were suspended July 24, 2003, for serious violations of federal law, officials said. The 20-month suspension has been the longest for a major defense contractor."

Air Force to Lift Boeing Ban: Officials, Reuters

"The U.S. Air Force is set to lift an order that suspended Boeing Co. from getting satellite launch contracts since mid-2003, defense officials said on Thursday. The announcement could come as early as Friday after the close of trading in financial markets, said the officials, who declined to be named."

Tax Case Defendant Says Money Was to Do Good, Washington Post

"Anderson was one of the driving forces behind MirCorp, which sought to privatize Russia's decrepit Mir space station and arranged for an American financier to take an excursion in space. MirCorp's ambitions were dashed with the station's demise. But Anderson has remained passionate about space. "I want to build my own space station since we lost the Mir," he said. "I want to have a moon base."

Billionaire tax dodger craved space haven, Sydney Morning Herald

Reclusive mogul on trial accused of being largest tax dodger in history, The Independent

Shelby at helm of key NASA panel, Huntsville Times

"Alabama's senior senator in Washington has taken the reins of a key NASA spending committee. U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, has been named the chairman of the newly formed Senate Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee."

Senate appropriations reorganization could come this week, Government Executive

"The C-J-S panel would absorb science agencies from the old VA-HUD bill, including NASA. Shelby, an ardent NASA supporter, would be a natural ally of likely Commerce-Justice-State Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., in preserving increases for the space program. Both have major NASA facilities in their states, as does House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, who was a driving force behind the appropriations reorganization process in the House."

Approps Reshuffle Is Good for U.S. in Space and Science, OpEd, Robert Walker, Roll Call (subscription required)

"In a recent Roll Call Guest Observer Scott Lilly made a wonderful case for institutional geriatrics in the House appropriations process (Jan. 27, "Does Rearranging Appropriations Panels Make Sense?"). His argument, essentially, was that old is better than new. The essence of the piece was an attack on House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) for supporting both space exploration and modernization of the House. In particular, Lilly's argument suggested that the nation is on the wrong track with the "Vision for Space Exploration," which lays out a "go as you pay" stepping-stone approach to future human and robotic space exploration. Lilly related how this contention fared when laid at the feet of 35 local graduate students. One has to question a group of graduate students who reject human destiny in our universe. But, more importantly, they are dead wrong when it comes to public support for the Vision for Space Exploration. Indeed, a recent Gallup poll found that 68 percent of those surveyed supported the Vision's plan, including a majority of both Republicans (79 percent) and Democrats (60 percent)."

Roselee Roberts Joins House Science Committee Staff

"Ms. Roberts has worked for Boeing for the past 17 years and has been involved with such programs as the International Space Station, the Space Shuttle, launch vehicles and satellites, and aeronautical research."

Rep. Calvert Appoints Designee to House Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee

"Before working in the private sector, Roberts spent nine years on Capitol Hill, serving as the legislative director and appropriations staffer for two congressmen. During that tenure, she was also the Staff Director to Cong. Bill Nelson (D-FL) when he was Chairman of the House Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee."

NASA Exploration Systems Directorate Industry Day

"You are notified that the following changes are made: The focus areas for the Industry Day have been revised to provide industry with information on the following two subjects: 1. Overview of the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) Request for Proposal (RFP); and 2. Overview of the draft Systems Engineering & Integration (SE&I) Request forProposal (RFP)."

Here's looking at you Steve!

"The taxi test was the perfect occasion to try out NASA equipment that will enable a live video of Steve to be seen during the attempt. While Steve took to the runway on February 23 to familiarise himself with take-off procedures, a small camera was transmitting a video of the cockpit. Using a satellite transmitter receiver (transceiver), a real-time video is sent through the NASA satellite system to provide global coverage."

Editor's note: Am I missing something? NASA is providing this support to Steve Fossett's flight - and a big NASA logo is on the side of his plane - yet I have found ZERO ouput from NASA PAO about this. Why is NASA so shy about this?

Editor's note: Steve Fossett has landed in Salina, Kansas becoming the first person to fly around the world without stopping or refueling - alone.

NASA Technology Supports Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer, NASA

"NASA technology contributed to the safety and success of the mission by enhancing communications between pilot Steve Fossett and his ground control team. NASA's real-time video hookup allowed enthusiasts around the globe to follow the flight."

Editor's note:NASA finally issued a press release - after Fossett landed - not before - or during - his 60 hour flight.

Letter from Sen. Mikulski to Acting NASA Administrator Fred Gregory regarding Hubble servicing mission work

"The funding that I included in the Omnibus Appropriations Act is to ensure that the workforce at Goddard, the Space Telescope Science Institute and their associated contractors remain fully engaged in all aspects of a servicing mission. Any attempt to cancel, terminate or suspend servicing activity would be a violation of the law unless it has the approval of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees."

Investors in space flight industry contribute $3,000,000 to TrekUnited - Money pledged to fund a fifth season of Star Trek: Enterprise

"We think Star Trek and especially its latest incarnation, "Enterprise" is the kind of TV that should be aired more often. The people responsible at Paramount think this is just a show and we want to tell them, it is not. We are in the commercial space flight industry and would like to testify that at least one out of two of all the actual entrepreneurs involved in this industry has been inspired by Star Trek; and we are not only good at watching TV sci-fi , we are also good at writing checks, big checks."

Canton Park District receives gift from Nagel, Canton Daily Ledger

"Former Canton resident, retired Air Force Colonel, and former NASA Astronaut Steve Nagel has secured a shuttle spacecraft tire for display by the Canton Park District the board learned at its Feb. 28 meeting. The tire has been fitted with a glass top and is being used as a table at the Ingersoll Airport office building. Michelin Aircraft Tire Company manufactured the tire and donated it to the park district."

Editor's note: That's more like it!

NASA Sale of Surplus Property: Sale of Flown Shuttle Tires, Main Landing Gear

"Bid opening is March 15, 2005, at 2:00 pm local time. A copy of the Invitation for Bid may be obtained from the Internet at: http://surplus.ksc.nasa.gov or call 321-867-2287 and ask for Sale Number 804200-2005-0008."

Editor's note: I have to think that there is a museum - perhaps a small one - somewhere in the United States where such a piece of space flown hardware would receive a special place of honor. Selling this item as surplus runs the risk that it might end up inside a plastic bag in some collector's garage.

China Will Propose That NASA Use Shenzhou for International Space Station Duty, SpaceRef

"Mengxin Sun, First Secretary for Science and Technology at the Chinese embassy in Washington, DC has said that he intends to brief the new NASA Administrator (as soon as that announcement is made) about a proposal for U.S. use of China's Shenzhou spacecraft series as a crew/cargo carrier for the ISS program."

The China Card: U.S. now agreeable to space cooperation with China, Aviation Week

"In a major shift of U. S. policy, the Bush Administration is ready to open more formal discussions with China on space cooperation, according to outgoing NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe."

Editor's note: A clarification on this story as reported yesterday. Sun was unable to answer any space-related questions asked of him at presentation he gave at the National Academy of Sciences yesterday and designated his assistant/interpreter to respond for him. Noting his lack of space expertise, Sun responded several times to the audience "I am not a space man."

Complaints About NASA Raises Follow Switch to Performance-Based System, Washington Post

"Concerns about the new pay system have recently emerged at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, providing a glimpse of the challenges involved in winning acceptance of performance-based systems."

Kevin Hand's Antarctic Journal 1 March 2005

"Ok, well, this is it folks, one last email and then I'm on a plane back to LA. I've been in New Zealand for a bit and I've finally had a chance to type up my notes for this final update about our work in Antarctica. Here we go... So the last update gave you a sense of the research we're doing. Now let me give you a sense of life in the field and what it's like to live, work, and eat in the middle of nowhere in Antarctica."

FAA: Licensing and Safety Requirements for Launch: Availability of draft regulatory language - Notice of public meeting

"The FAA is making available a draft of changes to the commercial space transportation regulations governing licensing and safety requirements for launch. We intend the changes to identify, codify, and maintain the successful safety measures that have been implemented at the federal launch ranges belonging to the Department of Defense and NASA."

NASA Issues CEV RFP

NASA Issues Solicitation for Crew Exploration Vehicle

"NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate today issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV). The CEV is the spacecraft that will carry astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit and to the moon by 2020. The contract to build the CEV is a full and open competition. The anticipated period of performance is September, 2005 through December, 2008. The CEV acquisition will use a phased approach that anticipates a maximum of two contractors. The CEV proposals are due no later than 2 p.m. EST, May 2, 2005. A selection will be made in September, 2005."

Russian spacecraft carries snails, photo eqt, food to ISS, ITAR/TASS

"Telling about promising space technologies, Solovyov said, "FCC specialists seek to bring space research technologies closer to users down here on Earth. If a subscriber to some mobile communications network wants to know a weather forecast for the Ural Mountains area, for example, he may contact the ISS crew by mobile phone."

Editor's note: Is this a Russian|English translation issue - or is this guy just confused about what can - and cannot be done on board ISS?

Round-the-world record bid under way, The Guardian

"Millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett's GlobalFlyer plane took off into the clear Kansas skies today, setting in motion a world record bid described by his backer and friend Sir Richard Branson as the last great aviation record - flying nonstop and solo around the world."

Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer, Mission Website

Editor's note: With all the current arm waving (a lot of it, perhaps, justified) going on about the "other A" in NASA, why is it that the most exciting stuff - the pushing of aeronautic envelopes - is now being done by the private sector? I don't think it is necessarily because NASA isn't doing this sort of thing but rather, because these people can do it without NASA. A message, perhaps, from the private sector?

Editor's note: I stand corrected - see This link about NASA KSC participation. This notwithstanding, the vast majority of the hardware, operations, and financing - to say nothing of the inspiration for this project - came from the private sector.

Send your comments to nasawatch@reston.com. Your comments thus far:

Telecommunications Entrepreneur Walter Anderson Indicted and Arrested in $200 million Tax Evasion Case, DOJ

"The Justice Department, the Internal Revenue Service and the District of Columbia's Office of Tax and Revenue, jointly announced the indictment and arrest of Walter Anderson, a local telecommunications entrepreneur, on tax evasion and related charges."

Telecom Mogul Held in Tax Case, Washington Post

"The article said his apartment had a painting based on a Smashing Pumpkins lyric, "I'm still just a rat in a cage." The story said Anderson viewed the Earth as his cage and that, as a child, he dreamed of leaving it."

Anxious in Ohio

NASA layoffs discussed at event, Akron Beacon Journal

Congressman says delegation united to save NASA jobs, WKYC

"Democrat Dennis Kucinich, who ran for president last year on an anti-war platform, says NASA Glenn employees are counting on help from Republican leaders, including Governor Bob Taft and Senators Mike DeWine and George Voinovich."

Marshall payroll projections moving target; union uneasy, Huntsville Times

"Marshall Space Flight Center is in line to lose jobs if the fiscal 2006 NASA budget passes Congress in its current version, while space centers in Texas and Florida may see slight job gains. According to NASA budget documents, Marshall's federal employment will shrink by 148 jobs in fiscal 2006 from its current 2,657 employees. Johnson Space Center, near Houston, would gain 36 jobs, and Kennedy Space Center in Florida would add 19 jobs under the proposed budget."


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