August 2005 Archives

"The N55 ROCKET SYSTEM enables persons to communicate their protest in a concrete way. It is a low tech, low cost, highly efficient hybrid rocket propulsion system, fueled by a mixture of polyethylene and laughing gas (N2O). The N55 ROCKET SYSTEM makes it possible to distribute various things from high altitudes. For example, printed matter or plant seeds could be spread over a vast area.The rocket PROTEST, constructed to protest against large concentrations of power, can carry a payload of 2 kg to an altitude of approximately 5200 m."

An Advance Look at NASA Administrator Mike Griffin's AIAA Speech

"The Exploration Vision commits our nation to the exploration of the Solar System, beginning with a return of humans to the Moon by the end of the next decade, and from there to subsequent voyages to Mars. I'm here today to discuss something of how we plan to reach these goals."

LSU turned into emergency relief center for Katrina victims, WKYC

"O'Keefe, a New Orleans native and Loyola graduate, would not mind seeing his brother pass through LSU. "My oldest brother is down there (in New Orleans), and I cant account for where he is," O'Keefe said. "Haven't heard from him in 36 hours."

Editor's note: In addition, other New Orleans residents, former NASA General Counsel Paul Pastorek, and former NASA lawyer Lee Reid find themselves in similiar situations. And of course, many people at Stennis and Michoud are also similarly affected.

Editor's update: O'Keefe spoke with his brother late Tuesday night.

Purge 2.0

Editor's note: Another round of reassignments - several dozen or so - are soon to be implemented at NASA HQ. Among them, Associate Administrator for Aeronautics Vic Lebacqz will be moving up to the 8th floor at NASA HQ. Just so y'all know: it is on the 8th floor where former AA's (Diaz, Readdy) and others sit in small, partially furnished offices waiting to leave the agency. With Lebacqz's move, Lisa Porter is the defacto AA.

Meanwhile Tom Donaldson has been replaced by Bill Parsons as the Center Director at Stennis. Donaldson got his reassignment letter from NASA HQ on Friday - less than 48 hours before hurricane Katrina was going to strike. Note to HQ personnel office: Nice touch.

Message from NASA Headquarters - Communicating With the Public, NASA HQ

"To ensure a responsive public communications program and enhance public perception of NASA, each Center has designated a Public Inquiries Officer for managing communications, including letters, e-mails, faxes and telephone inquiries, from the general public." ... " Here is how the E-Gov Initiative works. Effective immediately, if you receive an e-mail from a member of the public, promptly forward it to the designated e-mail address for your Center" ... "In both cases, no follow up is necessary. You will not receive a reply that the e-mail has been successfully accepted, nor will you receive a copy of the response."

Editor's note: This is both utterly hilarious - and sad. I guess this is what passes for "strategic communications" according to Joe Davis. Instead of having the person at NASA who might actually know what they are talking about respond to a taxpayer's inquiry, some PAO flack will now do that instead - and the technical expert to whom the inquiry was addresed will never know how the agency responds. What a wonderful way to make true communication evaporate! Of course, the response time will now be positively glacial - and the response, once sent, will be laced with HQ PAO spin and devoid of the technical content only an expert can provide. No doubt a committee will have to approve every response. If ever there was a single action on the part of NASA that served to make the space agency less responsive and more isolated from the taxpaying public, this is it. Indeed, this action is also indicative of management - starting at the top of the agency (with Mike Griffin) - that is afraid of allowing its people to interact with those who pay their salaries - and whose interests they serve.

Obviously no one at NASA really thought this through. What is the "general public" anyways? Has it ever been formally defined? Does it mean someone who does not work at NASA? If you are a non-NASA scientist asking a NASA civil servant a question, does the PAO filter need to come into play before they respond? If the question is purely technical will PAO get their own independent expertise to answer it (do recall that this process takes the recipient out of the loop). What about asking questions of the contacts listed on all NASA procurement notices? Does PAO now take on that role? If I am an astronomer employed by NASA but send a quick note to someone in my carpool who works on the shuttle program asking when the next shuttle launch is, am I 'general public' (since this is a question many people would ask) ? What about questions asked of NASA speakers at grammar schools - does PAO need to screen them before a speaker responds? If someone sitting next to you on a plane asks you what you do for a living, do you need to check with PAO first?

Comments? Send them to

Editor's note: I stand corrected. Someone at JSC is using their head!

"Hi Keith--You sent a note to Linda Matthews-Schmidt of our staff asking for the value of our grant with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.The value of the grant is $65,000.The funding comes from the same source as money used to maintain the grounds. We are, like Marshall, in a cost-cutting mode and are hoping that the study will result in an environmentally-responsible plan that will allow us to let more of the grounds go to a "natural state," requiring less maintenance in the long run and thereby reduce our spending in that area. Rather than letting the non-native vegetation such as St. Augustine grassrun wild, wearehopingto find native plants thatrequire little or no maintenance. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center ( is a recognized organization that promotes the use of native plants in the ecosystem. Theywill be a good partner in helping us restorenative species to the area and--over the long run--save money in the process of doing so."

Hurricane rattles shuttle's fuel tank factory, New Scientist

"It's still without power. We have generators providing electricity to emergency crews, but they'll need to get power back before they open the facility."

Katrina leaves millions without power in U.S. Gulf, Reuters

"The New Orleans-based energy company warned customers to expect a long and difficult restoration that could take weeks. Some government officials in Louisiana and Mississippi said it could take a month or more to restore full electric service in some of the worst-hit areas."

PowerPoint: Killer App?, Washington Post

"But NASA -- like the rest of corporate and bureaucratic America -- seems powerless to resist PowerPoint. Just this month a minority report by the latest shuttle safety task force echoed the earlier concerns: Often, the group said, when it asked for data it ended up with PowerPoints -- without supporting documentation."

Editor's note: Wouldn't it be something if NASA engineers were forced to use complete sentences - and perhaps even paragraphs when they were called upon to explain things - instead of word streams with bullets for punctuation (in Powerpoint) where nouns and verbs often get confused.

Editor's note: Initial rpeorts from Michoud talk of some water inside the facility - but not from flooding. The External Tanks and their associated manufacturing hardware seems to be more or less OK. More to follow.

Editor's note: Have a look at this FY 06 IRAD (Independent Research and Development Program) document developed internally at MSFC. MSFC is clearly trying to get itself at the head of the line when it comes to exploration technology. MFSC is also (clearly) trying to find work for people whose current tasks may be disappearing.

Comments? Send them to

Your comments thus far:

GRC Update

NASA GRC Internal Memo: Center Director Update

"There are many steps to be taken and many decisions still to be made concerning how the two fiscal year resources will affect the Center. At this time not all the answers are clear and available. While the Agency is taking all steps necessary to avoid a Reduction in Force (RIF), we cannot rule out that possibility. Although there will not be a RIF in FY06, we are in the process of preparing for a RIF should this become necessary in FY07."

Denali Viewed from Orbit

NASA Space Station Image of Denali (Mt. McKinley)

"Mount McKinley, Alaska is featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 11 crewmember on the International Space Station.

This view of the highest point in North America (20,230 feet) looks as if it were taken from an aircraft."

RIF planning Underway

Editor's 24 Aug update: Today Scott Pace's organization (specifically, David Schurr) was charged with coming up with an alternative to RIFs as a way to solve the unfunded capacity problem among the civil service workforce. The solution: 'insourcing'. Under this scenario, NASA would take work away from contractors and have it done in house by civil servants instead. Of course, this still means that a bunch of folks from the NASA family will lose their jobs - only now, the type of badge the unlucky folks will be turning in as they depart has changed.

Editor's 24 Aug note: NASA budget people are now being told that the 'unfunded capacity' problem NASA currently faces will be solved after FY 2007. This will be accomplished by a series of RIFs at ARC, GRC, LaRC - and MSFC.

Editor's 18 Aug note: Word has it that Scott Pace recently held meetings with some Center Directors and that NASA will have to deal with the prospect of a cutting 1,000 civil servants with cuts to be focused at ARC, LaRC, and GRC. Stay tuned.

ARC All Hands

NASA ARC Memo: Message from the Director All-Hands Meeting - August 26, 2005

"The rapid pace of NASA's transformation efforts in support of the Exploration Vision has made it very hard to assess the implications for Ames. But I think we have enough solid information at this point that I can share with you where we stand."

A Time of Great Change: State of the Center All Hands Meeting (PDF)

- Ames is not closing and we are not being starved out.

- Mike Griffin has stated that primary beneficiaries of the Vision (SSC, JSC, MSFC and KSC) cannot hire without consideration of ARC, LaRC, GRC

- After all the puts and takes (reductions and new work assignments), there is still an FY 06 uncovered workforce at Ames of 700 people 300 Civil Servants and 400 Contractors

- CS Workforce that cannot be placed will face a RIF in FY 07 Notices will be sent out June 2006

NASA Responds, IEEE Spectrum

"Dear IEEE Spectrum Editors, Recent events at NASA have overtaken the internal debates described in your August article ("The Interplanetary Internet")."

The Interplanetary Internet - NASA researchers quarrel over how to network outer space, IEEE Spectrum

"By 2007, these services will allow mission teams to turn their spacecraft into additional network nodes. Researchers on Earth will be able to manipulate onboard instruments, monitor the craft's well-being, and perhaps even route another spacecraft's data through it. That assumes, of course, that these spacecraft will run Internet software and use Internet protocols in deep space. And that's something that will happen only if Goddard engineers can conquer the vociferous doubts of a team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory."

Another Departure

Farewell Message From Mike Kostelnik

"The heartbreaking loss of Columbia and the resulting challenges of Return to Flight have stressed, grown, and matured a young organization of talented individuals and turned them into a strong mission oriented team. I will leave NASA this week secure in the knowledge that there remains behind an extraordinary team of leaders and followers well prepared to tackle the tough exploration tasks which lie ahead."

Editorial Sloppiness

NASA's 'Cycle of Smugness', editorial, Washington Post

"According to the report, it took the personal intervention of Mr. Griffin, shortly after his appointment, to delay the shuttle's scheduled launch to deal with the issue of ice breaking off the external fuel tank."

Editor's note: A. Its 'Dr.' Griffin

B. Transcript of NASA Press Briefing With Mike Griffin and Bill Gerstenmaier 18 August 2005

"Did I have a role? Yeah, I had a role. I would hate to say that I went to an engineering review and sat there like a potted plant. On the other hand, you know, we did not emerge from that review with the direction that Mike says we're delaying the launch. I mean, that didn't happen. So I'd rather not have it categorized that way."


SpaceShipThree poised to follow if SS2 succeeds, Flight International

"Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites to develop orbital version of tourist spacecraft Orbital vehicle SpaceShipThree (SS3) will be developed by space tourism company Virgin Galactic and Mojave-based SpaceShipTwo (SS2)-developer Scaled Composites, if the planned SS2 suborbitalservice is successful, says Virgin Galactic president Will White horn."

Space Elevator Update

Space Elevator Update

"We now have 7 teams that have climber hardware and are intending to show up for the 2005 competition. The competition date has been pushed back 3 weeks - we will start accepting hardware on the original Sept 30th date, but will spend 3 weeks debugging both our infrastructure and the team's hardware - this is the first time this hardware is being brought together, and we expect integration to require some extra time and attention."

A Hoist to the Heavens, IEEE Spectrum

More information at

How NASA Plans to Retire the Shuttle, (letter from Mike Griffin) NY Times

"We have carefully reconsidered the station assembly sequence, and if we use the shuttle fleet in a disciplined, measured fashion over the next five years, we can essentially complete that assembly. We can meet our obligations to our international partners and effect a transition to the shuttle's successor in a planned, orderly fashion."

Editor's note: "essentially complete" ?

Orbitec Response to 11 August 2005 memo on "NASA Plans for Plant and Animal Research"

"We hope that NASA is not making irrational, near-term decisions that break the pipeline of national intellectual capabilities and biological science abilities that make the exploration "journey" more risky and less safe, and provide less opportunity to enhance an affordable exploration journey for the next century. The manner in which drastic cuts are made during Congressional recess and prior to any discussion or reporting on Exploration Plans to Congress certainly sends alarming signals, especially when actions oppose documented desires of Congress."

Editor's note: Spirit has arrived on or very near the summit of Husband Hill. Check out the view - and note the twin dust devils. [Larger image].

- A Swarm of Martian Dust Devils
- The View From Husband Hill

Nukes at GRC? Slim Chance

A NASA idea worth pushing for, Cleveland Plain Dealer

"If Prometheus survives its NASA review and is adapted to reflect the needs of manned bases and exploration, NASA Glenn's leadership should make a strong play for stewardship of the program. It would be a good fit, it would bring jobs to Glenn, and it would elevate the center's status within NASA."

Glenn hoping for hot NASA project, Cleveland Plain Dealer

"The agency earlier this year asked for $320 million for the program in 2006. If the nuclear program survives, "it's a possibility" that Glenn could assume leadership, a spokesman for NASA headquarters confirmed."

Editor's note: A slim possibility would be a more accurate description of GRC's chances.

Europe to Join Russia in Building Next Space Shuttle, IEEE Spectrum

"It's all but official- Russia and Europe will soon embark on a cooperative effort to build a next-generation manned space shuttle. Speaking at the Paris Air Show, in Le Bourget, France, in June, Russian space officials confirmed earlier reports from Moscow that their partners at the European Space Agency would join the Russian effort to build a new reusable orbiter, dubbed Kliper."

ISS CO2 Update

NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 20 August 2005

"Vozdukh was reactivated last night and continues to operate in manual mode 5. CDRA continues to operate also, currently in dual-bed mode. Early this morning, three good pumpo-downs were completed in single-bed mode, indicating that the failed check valve has re-seated. MCC-Houston and TsUP/Moscow are considering whether to deactivate CDRA later tonight following a minimum of one good cycle in dual-bed operations."

- Service Module Life Support Systems, Book 1, Mission Operations Directorate, 1 October 2000 (PDF)
- Service Module Atmosphere Revitalization Subsystem, Book 2, Mission Operations Directorate, 9 October 2000 (PDF)

Editor's note: As far as I can tell the only thing talking head Tony Blankley has ever done in his career is flap his mouth. Otherwise, he doesn't really 'do' anything - certainly nothing risky. But he sure does like to criticize those who do take risks. In this case, his target is STS-114 Commander Eileen Collins who, along with her crew, risked their life in service to their country. Oh, and just to certify his Neanderthal credentials, Blankley also tosses in some sexist jabs at Collins as well.

Shuttle Planning Update

SpaceRef/NASA Watch Reader Notes on the 19 August 2005 PCRB

"At the start of the PCRB, Wayne Hale said that this was a fact-finding discussion and that no decision would be made today. KSC presented their schedule forthe 3 March 2006 STS-121 and 3 May 2006 STS-115 launches. They estimated that ET-119 (STS-121) would be at Michoud by 28 August 2005 and then on-dock at KSC by 12 November 2005.

Transcript of NASA Press Briefing With Mike Griffin and Bill Gerstenmaier 18 August 2005

"GRIFFIN: I was asked if I wanted to have the Minority Report or Minority comments in the overall report, and I said yes, because--and I had not read them ahead of time--because, frankly, I think that as NASA we do a disservice to ourselves and to our stakeholders, and frankly, to the taxpayers by creating an appearance that we do not wish to hear what people have to say if it should be negative. I think we do--I think we do ourselves proud when we take all the comments that are given, we study them, we evaluate them, we investigate them, and we decide which ones makes sense to us and that we wish to move forward on, and which ones where we don't think the advisers got it right. I think that's the proper way to treat advice."

NY Times: Cancel Shuttle

Mismanaging the Shuttle Fixes, NY Times

"The new administrator said he was no longer aiming at a specific number of shuttle flights but was working instead toward an expeditious but orderly retirement of the shuttle over the next five years - enough time, he thinks, to finish the space station. If the minority critique is anywhere near on target, as it appears to be, he ought to move that retirement date forward considerably."

Soyuz Prices Are Going Up

Soyuz spacecraft to cost NASA $65 million, RIA Novosti

"The Russian Space Agency Roscosmos will sell a Soyuz spacecraft, a carrier rocket and launch services to NASA for some $65 million, if the American agency approves the deal, a Roscosmos official told journalists Thursday."

NASA JSC Contract Award: Replacement of 1553 Cards for ISS Flight Laptop Computers

"Contract Award Amount: 400800
Contractor: Data Device Corporation, 105 Wilbur Place, Bohemia, NY 11716"

Editor's note: $400,800 for cards that go in a laptop? Sounds a little steep - so I sent an inquiry to Michal K. Malik at JSC, the contact listed on this notice. He declined to answer my question but told me to ask the FOIA point of contact Stella Luna. I have not heard back from Ms. Luna.

Editor's update: I heard back from Stella Luna:

NASA's Re-Return To Flight

NASA Sets Back Date for Next Shuttle Mission, NY Times

"We are not trying to get a specific number of flights out of the shuttle system," Dr. Griffin said, adding: "Absent major problems, we believe we can essentially complete the assembly of the space station with the shuttle fleet in the time that we have remaining. And that's what we're going to try to do."

NASA delays next shuttle launch until March, SF Chronicle

"One of the reasons I was very receptive to the minority report is we can't get (our plans) done unless we're listening to all of the hard truths," Griffin said. "I want to assure everybody that we will go over, in detail, the minority report, as well as the majority report. We'll decide what we want to do (next) in as responsible a fashion as we can muster."

Umbilical cord 'stem cell' hope, BBC

Growing hope over umbilical-cord stem cells, Houston Chronicle

Microgravity tech could sway stem cell debate, CNet

"Microgravity technology developed by NASA can multiply stem cells from a newborn's blood in large enough quantities to be used to regenerate human tissue, London scientists have found."

Editor's note: Just as NASA's space life science research provides a real potential to do good, Mike Griffin wants to put bring it all to a halt.

NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report #3926

SIGNIFICANT EVENTS: The first visit to the moon to the Apollo 17 target was successful, providing good quality images in all bands. The observers are pleased with the results.

Imminent Departures

Editor's note: The following individuals will be departing NASA Headquarters in the coming weeks:

- Adena Loston, Associate Administrator for Education
- Jim Jennings, Associate Administrator for Institutions and Management

Editor's update: Gwen Sykes' name was posted in error. My apologies.

Imminent Arrival

Editor's note: Mike Griffin wants to bring Gary Payton back to NASA HQ to guide exploration activities.

NASA Announces Media Update About Space Shuttle Program

"NASA announced a news conference starting at noon EDT, Thursday in the agency's Webb Auditorium, 300 E Street SW, Washington."

NASA Return to Flight Task Group Final Report: Annex A.2 Individual Member Observations

A.2 Observations by Dr. Dan L. Crippen, Dr. Charles C. Daniel, Dr. Amy K. Donahue, Col. Susan J. Helms, Ms. Susan Morrisey Livingstone, Dr. Rosemary O'Leary, and Mr. William Wegner

"NASA's leaders and managers must break this cycle of smugness substituting for knowledge. NASA must be able to quantify risk, even if imperfectly, set requirements and expectations, and hold organizations and individuals accountable, Analytical models - while valuable tools - cannot substitute for engineering judgment and conscience. Rigor must be reestablished throughout the Agency. Opinion, no matter how well informed, cannot replace objective evidence. Flight history, while critical for informed judgment, cannot substitute for it. "We've been lucky" is a statement that should never be associated with the human spaceflight programs."

Meet The Press, Transcript, 31 July 2005, NBC

"DR. GRIFFIN: Well, certainly we were lucky. If it had broken off earlier and if it had followed a different trajectory, it could have hit the orbiter, as any piece of foam could, and could have done some damage."

Shuttle Planning Update

Editor's note: As reported here last week according to NASA sources, NASA is working toward a March 2006 launch for STS-121 using Discovery. Plans are also being formulated for a May 2006 launch for STS-115 using Atlantis. Planning for missions STS-116, STS-117, and STS-118 is more or less on hold with staff told to "do no negative work." This topic will be discussed at the PRCB on Friday.

Task group panelists blast space shuttle management, SpaceflightNow

"Seven members of an independent review panel today blasted NASA's management of the post-Columbia shuttle program, blaming poor leadership for ongoing, pervasive "cultural" problems and an erosion of engineering rigor that raise questions about the agency's willingness to fly without a thorough understanding of the risks involved."

Minority Report: NASA Standards Disappoint, AP

"The minority report said poor leadership made the shuttle's return to space on July 26 more complicated, expensive and prolonged than it needed to be. So much emphasis was placed on trying to meet unrealistic launch dates that some safety improvements were skipped, said the group."

Minority Report Faults NASA as Compromising Safety, NY Times

"Seven of the 25 voting members of the group that monitored NASA's progress in making the space shuttle fleet safer after the loss of the Columbia issued a blistering minority report yesterday accusing the space agency's leadership of compromising safety to justify returning to flight."

Shuttle problems linger, NASA panel members say, Reuters

"NASA's efforts to resume shuttle flights were tainted by some of the same problems that caused the 2003 Columbia disaster, seven members of an oversight task force wrote in a minority opinion attached to the panel's final report released on Wednesday."

NASA Return to Flight Task Group Final Report (Executive Summary)

"Although the scorecard is impressive, it alone does not tell the complete story. The Task Group applauds NASA for its efforts, but urges continued vigilance is required to prevent another accident. Spaceflight is a demanding pursuit, and the President, Congress, NASA, and the American public must provide the proper resources and environment to ensure it is conducted in the safest and most efficient manner possible."

Geveden Selected as NASA Associate Administrator

"NASA Administrator Michael Griffin today named Rex Geveden as the agency's associate administrator. In this capacity, Geveden has oversight for all the agency's technical missions' areas and field center operations. He will be responsible for programmatic integration between NASA's mission directorates and field centers. He has been serving as acting associate administrator since June."

Earlier post 23 June 2005: Stadd Out - Geveden In as Acting Associate Administrator

"Mike Griffin has appointed Rex Geveden as Acting Associate Administrator. The position will be competed at a later date. Geveden will be responsible for day-to-day operations and management of the Agency. He will also retain his current position as Chief Engineer. Courtney Stadd will reportedly be leaving the 9th floor very soon - perhaps as early as tomorrow."

Editor's note: Even though he has formally left the 9th floor, Courtney Stadd is still very much involved in advising Mike Griffin on management of the agency.

Earlier post 13 July 2005: Stadd Sighting at KSC Press Site

"Alas, despite not having been a NASA civil servant for a number of years, Stadd was sporting a NASA civil servant badge and no discernible media credentials."

NASA Solicitation: Photovoltaic Power System for Hangar One

NASA Proposal Would Prevent Demolition of Moffett Field Landmark, SJ Mercury News

"NASA has a revolutionary vision for Hangar One, the toxics-coated hulk that once housed a dirigible at Mountain View's Moffett Field: Wrap the 200-foot-high landmark with a solar-paneled skin that pumps out electricity. The Silicon Valley icon could become the largest solar-powered building in the state by the end of next year, generating enough juice to power 3,000 homes and house a new aerospace museum. That is, if the U.S. Navy -- charged with the toxic cleanup -- doesn't decide to demolish the hangar first."

A Very Special Advisor

Editor's note: The Mars Society just finished their convention and added some people to their Steering Committee. There is one curious member who apparently remains in that group:

"The Board of Directors voted to allow for a larger Steering Committee. This list is being modified to add new members, and removing a few. This list was last updated August 14, 2005."

Dr. Mike Griffin - Former NASA Associate Administrator for Exploration (U.S.A)

Editor's update: well, they fixed Griffin's title, but he still remains a member of the steering committee which is formally charged with "the duty of determining the policy, campaigns, and projects of the Mars Society." Its rather odd that a sitting administrator would allow himself to be overtly identified with an organization that lobbies Congress.

Reader comment: The below announcement seems somewhat cruel to LaRC model shop technicians and others effected by the A-76.

Cuts Underway at LaRC

NASA LaRC Internal Memo: CD COMM #2005-10 Contract De-scoping

"In response to an anticipated $200 million budget reduction from FY04 to FY06, we are making plans to reduce the scope of about 20 contracts at the Center. Most of the reductions will be in institutional support as well as in areas of research for which we expect reduced or no funding in FY06. We have begun notification and negotiation to identify work that will be reduced, deferred, or cancelled."

Library Downsizing

Memo from NASA Ames Federal Employee Union, IPFTE local 30 Re: "Library Reshaping"

"Despite multiple good faith attempts within the system to mitigate the damage of proposed Library cuts by numerous interested parties over the past few months, you implemented a policy of dumping large numbers of books behind building 202 without proper notice to employees or lower-level management and without adequate safeguards to protect this incredibly valuable asset for the Center, the Agency, and its employees. Many dumpsters filled with books have already been lost (see attached photo taken this Wednesday evening)."

- NASA ARC Solicitation: Packing Dismantling, and Reconstruction of Main Technical Library
- NASA ARC Internal Memo: Library Reshaping

Is the Space Station Necessary?, editorial, NY Times

"The better, but more drastic option would be to retire the shuttles immediately and back out of the station. That would save some $40 billion over a decade or so, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The money could be used to accelerate a landing on the Moon by four years or bolster research programs that would otherwise be cut."

Editor's update (12 Aug): NASA has still not received approval from OMB with regard to the ESAS. As such, briefings by NASA may be delayed by a week or more. Stay tuned.

Editor's update (9 Aug): Senior NASA officials reportedly briefed OMB officials yesterday about the new exploration plan and are awaiting the green light (which they have yet to receive) from OMB to begin briefing Hill staffers, industry etc. Senior managers are in a budget meeting today at NASA HQ. At least one PAO representative (Dwayne Brown) began to tell reporters that there would be a formal announcement at NASA HQ on 22 August. He has since denied doing so.

NASA sets its sights on travel to Mars, Boston Globe

"Meanwhile, NASA officials have said the shuttle fleet will be permanently grounded in about 2010. Plans are underway to construct its replacement, the Crew Exploration Vehicle, which will be designed to carry at least 40 people beyond Earth's orbit and eventually to the moon and Mars." ... "NASA officials have said the Crew Exploration Vehicle will be smaller and sleeker, like a giant space airline service that can transport a large human crew to the moon and beyond."

Editor's note: A CEV crew of 40? "giant space airline service"? Who was this reporter talking to at NASA?

STS-121 in March 2006?

Editor's note: According to NASA sources, serious consideration is now being given to a March 2006 launch date for STS-121. The results of the Tiger Team working the foam issue will help guide that decision in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

NRC Space Studies Board Report: Review of Goals and Plans for NASA's Space and Earth Sciences

"The main sources of gaps and potential missed opportunities in some roadmaps are a shortage of scientific justification for their stated goals and an overly narrow interpretation of the presidential vision by the NASA roadmap teams."

Editor's note: With regard to "The Robotic and Human Exploration of Mars" roadmap, the SSB said: "The roadmap's strengths are its early recognition of broad scientific goals and consideration of preparations for human exploration, and strategies for growing the next generation of Mars scientists. Its major weakness is the lack of the broader scientific goals and objectives as motivation for the specific recommended mission elements of the roadmap, which focus on putting humans on Mars. The roadmap's presentation of the goal of placing humans on Mars appears without scientific justification." ... "Identification of the scientific need and value of humans in future Mars exploration is conspicuously absent from the roadmap"... "In general, real description of prioritized goals, observations and measurements within the broad science context has been sacrificed in order to address the human exploration goals."

Survivor in Space

Reassessment time, Houston Chronicle

"Some media observers commented during Discovery's 14-day flight on the morbid nature of much of the news coverage, as if viewers were hyped to rubberneck the fiery launch, the space walks and the tense re-entry to see if the crew made it back alive. After two and half years and $1.5 billion in repairs, the camera images of falling debris fueled a space spectacle akin to a NASA version of the reality show Survivor."

Editor's note: This image was taken recently by Spirit as it continues its climb up Husband Hill. Eric Hartwell has an animated version of a series of images - of which this single image above is one frame. Well worth a look.

The View From Husband Hill, earlier photo

NASA Announces New Leaders for Science Mission Directorate

"NASA Administrator Michael Griffin announced today Mary Cleave, Ph.D., P.E. will be the associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate. Colleen Hartman, Ph.D., will be the deputy associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate."

Editor's note: Why do they take so long to announce these changes? NASA Watch posted this news on 17 June.

NASA Names Assistant Administrator for Legislative Affairs

"NASA Administrator Michael Griffin announced today that Brian Chase will serve as the agency's new assistant administrator for Legislative Affairs."

Editor's note: Shouldn't the first sentence be changed to "has been serving"? See this link.

NASA Administrator Names Senior Advisors

"NASA Administrator Michael Griffin today announced two new senior advisors for his management team. Lisa J. Porter, Ph.D., joins NASA as senior advisor for aeronautics in the Office of Administrator and Michael P. Ralsky joins the agency as senior advisor to the NASA deputy administrator."

Editor's note: Kay Bailey Hutchison certainly likes Ralsky: "Michael Ralsky has done a wonderful job for me and will soon be going over to the Pentagon where we know he will contribute his expertise, gained from working in the Senate for so many years."

William H. Gerstenmaier Selected to Lead NASA Space Operations

Editor's note: No where does Mike Griffin even bother say 'thank you' to Mike Kostelnik or Bill Readdy for their service to the agency during difficult times (then again Griffin is "Spock" by his own admission). Other bits of text which dealt with human feelings were also removed. The following paragraphs were in a final version of this press release last night but were removed this morning:

China's Space Plans

Chinese astronauts hopeful to walk in space in 2007, People's Daily

"After the launch of Shenzhou-6, Chinese astronauts onboard Shenzhou-7 to be launched in 2007 will perform space walk for the first time. Following that the Shenzhou-9 will dock with the orbital cabin left by Shenzhou-8 for the first time."

NASA Office of Legislative Affairs Memo: NASA Plans for Plant and Animal Research

"To implement the reductions identified in the May 2005 Operating Plan Update and the ZBR briefings, NASA has terminated the Plant Research Unit (PRU) and eliminated funding for animal research on the ISS by issuing a stop work order for the Advanced Animal Habitats (AAH). The FY 06 Budget Request does not include any funding for these activities."

From "Science is the 3rd railof politics atNASA and is useless" said Mike Griffin in the outbrief of the ESAS study. I think that speaks for itself.

From "I was at the meeting to which you refer and Mike did NOT (and would not) say those words. He did refer to science as the 3rd rail of NASA as far as Congress is concernedbut never said it was useless!"

The truth is obviously somewhere in between.

Editor's note: It is becoming quite clear that a substantial effort is underway to gut NASA's basic science capabilities - both on the ground and on-orbit. Comments? Send them to

Your comments thus far

MRO is On Its Way To Mars

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter lifted off this morning at 7:43 a.m. EDT

Editor's note: On Friday, 12 August, NASA Administrator Mike Griffin will name Bill Gerstenmaier as Associate Administrator for Space Operations. Gerstenmaier will succeed Bill Readdy. Readdy will stay on at Headquarters as a special assistant until October, when he plans to leave the agency. Mike Kostelnik, Deputy AA at SOMD, will also be leaving NASA toward the end of August. ISS Deputy Program Manager Mike Suffredini will serve as acting ISS Program Manager until a successor for Gerstenmaier is identified.

Atlantis unlikely to fly in September, Orlando Sentinel

"NASA says it's unlikely that it will be able to launch shuttle Atlantis on the agency's next flight opportunity in September because of recurring problems with foam coming off the ships' external tanks."

CEV Phase II Solicitation

NASA JSC Presolicitation Notice: Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) Phase II Call for Improvements

"A progressive competition strategy will be used with down-selection of sources from the initial phase to determine the Phase II contractor. The competition for the Phase II will build on the results of the phase I, and the award criteria for the Phase II includes successful completion of the initial phase requirements identified below. Accordingly, NASA anticipates that only the Phase I contractors will be capable of successfully competing for the phase II."

NASA HQ Presolicitation Notice: Renewal Membership For Real Estate Executive Board

"The Real Estate Executive Board is designed to serve senior Real Estate leaders and their staffs."

NASA HQ Presolicitation Notice: Renewal of Membership for Corporate Leadership Council

"The Council identifies and publishes best-demonstrated practices focusing on successful corporate human resources (HR) initiatives."

NASA LaRC Presolicitation Notice: Scenario-Based Strategy Development

"The Futures Strategy Group provides customized scenarios, interviews, and workshops which are required for the Langley Resarch Center to be responsibe to the Agency's technology needs over the next 20 years."

NASA GSFC Award Notice: Sexual Harassment Training

"Contract Award Amount: $399,422"

KSC Life Science Cuts

Reader comment: "KSC workers are also very concerned about life sciences research cuts. The pending cuts are rumored to have a devastating impact on KSC's Life Sciences Support Contract, and are calling into question NASA's commitment to some of the applied R&D that will be necessary for long-duration missions to the Moon and Mars. The cuts may also jeopardize a KSC partnership with the state of Florida, which invested $30 million to build a new Space Life Sciences Laboratory at KSC (the state has been contemplating additional investments to support R&D on bioregenerative life support technologies)."

NASA Presolicitation Notice: Environmental Growth Chambers, NASA KSC

"These growth chambers are required for conducting plant growth studies in support of NASA's Lunar and Mars Exploration Mission."

Modification to a Previous NASA Solicitation Notice: Environmental Growth Chambers, NASA KSC

"This is a modification to the synopsis entitled Environmental Growth Chambers, which was posted on July 14, 2005. You are notified that the subject requirement is hereby canceled."

Response from NASA HQ PAO: "The environmental growth chambers solicitation was pulled because the Exploration Systems Architecture Study (ESAS), which includes a review of such procurements, is not yet completed. Since the ESAS may have an impact on this procurement, it was decided to hold it until the ESAS is completed."

Message from the Director Robotic Lunar Exploration Program at Ames

"I am very pleased to announce the Center's return to space flight program management through assigned responsibility for the Robotic Lunar Exploration Program (RLEP)."

Message from the Deputy Director - RLEP Mission 2 Competition

"To prevent the sharing of intellectual property or other "proprietary" information which could result in any Ames or external proposal team gaining an advantage in competition due to that information, we are implementing a firewall policy similar to those already implemented for the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) and CEV Systems Engineering and Integration (SE&I) proposal teams."

Everyone Chimes In

- Workers at Michoud elated, The Advocate
- With Discovery down, it's time to move on, Rocky Mountain News
- Foam still nags NASA, keeps future in limbo, Huntsville Times
- Writing on the wall for US space shuttle, FInancial Times
- Time to rest for shuttles, Santa Maria Times
- With shuttle safe, NASA gets to work, SJ Mercury News
- NASA ponders shuttle's future, Dallas Morning News
- This one was really special, The Daily News

A happy landing, tenuous future, SF Chronicle

"Today, with the shuttle program grounded until further notice, Reagan's words have the distant ring of a more innocent era. There is nothing gallant about continuing a space shuttle program that has claimed the lives of 14 astronauts. There is nothing fainthearted about questioning our faith in a space agency that is unable to avoid repeating mistakes after spending more than $1 billion to make the aging shuttle fleet safer."

A safe return. Now move on, Chicago Tribune

"Over the decades space travel has been about courage and faith, the courage of astronauts who leave the Earth and the faith in the technology that blasts them off and returns them home. The Discovery mission showed Americans those traits endure. Yes, NASA stands for courage and faith, but it also stands for new vistas. The shuttle has served its purpose. It's time to move on."

Foam Update

Engineers to Tackle Cause of Foam Shedding, Washington Post

"June Malone, a spokeswoman for NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., which manages the external tank, said she could not speak about investigators' findings but confirmed that workers at the Michoud plant at one point performed an abrading procedure "in the general vicinity" of the eventual failure. The aim was to smooth out a divot in the tank's foam, which is extremely heat-resistant but easily gouged."

To The Moon, Eric!

Private Company Plans $100 Million Tour Around the Moon, NY Times

"The space-faring tourists will travel with a Russian pilot. They will steer clear of the greater technical challenge of landing on the Moon, instead circling it and returning to Earth. Eric Anderson, the chief executive of Space Adventures, said he believed the trip could be accomplished as early as 2008. Mr. Anderson said he had already received expressions of interest from a few potential clients."

Discovery shuttle lands in California, RIA Novosti

"Several billion dollars spent to repair the shuttle after fragments of thermal foam and tile broke off during the launch have simply been wasted," a Russian space expert said.

Limbaugh promoted false theory that EPA regulations banning Freon caused space shuttle Columbia disaster, Media Matters

"Nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh repeated a debunked theory that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations banning Freon and other chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) caused the February 1, 2003, destruction of the space shuttle Columbia."

MRO Delayed

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Launch Postponed

"Tomorrow morning's launch of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has been postponed by at least one day. At present, liftoff is scheduled for no earlier than 7:50 a.m. on August 11."

Editor's note: NASA sources report that NASA HQ has directed NASA ARC to halt all animal and basic biology research, that all contractors working on this research are to be let go, and that NASA PAO has some sort of strategy to deal with this. The bulk of this research was to be carried out aboard the ISS in the U.S. lab module and the Centrifuge Facility. Stay tuned.

Reader comment: "There are also payload contractorsat Glenn Research Center (GRC)that started receiving layoff notices last week. I'm aware of several other non-AMES or GRC payloads, both pressurized and non-pressurized,that are also being impacted. This is not a good time to be wanting to perform research in space..."

Editor's update: NASA ARC responded to this post with the following memo:

Discovery is Home

Space Shuttle Discovery Lands in California

"Space Shuttle Discovery touched down this morning at Edwards Air Force Base in California to successfully conclude NASA's Return to Flight Mission. Discovery spent two weeks in space, where the crew demonstrated new methods to inspect and repair the Shuttle in orbit. The crew also delivered supplies, outfitted and performed maintenance on the International Space Station. A number of these tasks were conducted during three spacewalks."

Safe landing, new momentum, Christian Science Monitor

"It was probably one of the most successful missions that [the shuttle progam] has ever flown," says Keith Cowing of the watchdog website "I wouldn't be surprised if NASA tries to fly in the fall."

Risk and Exploration

Proceedings from the NASA Administrator's Symposium: "Risk and Exploration: Earth, Sea and the Stars"

"The goal of this Symposium is to engage in an open discussion about the issue of risk - identifying it, mitigating it, accepting it - all in the course of exploration. During this symposium, we want to examine the similarities between space exploration and other terrestrial expeditions, and examine how society accepts risk."

Editor's note: For the record, I donated my time to assist in the organization of this symposium and in the editing and preparation of these proceedings and was not compensated in any way by NASA. I thought this was an important topic - one that needed discussion - within and outside of NASA.

Editor's rant note: I would urge all members of the media covering NASA - all of whom (apparently) consider themselves competent enough (in one way or another) to expound on the issue of acceptable risk to take the time to read the presentations contained in this volume. Rarely does anyone take the time to set the risks - and rewards - inherent in NASA's exploration activities against the broader context of the risks that we and others take in our daily lives - risks we deem to be perfectly acceptable. Moreover, when set against the even broader context of the risks taken in history of exploration, NASA's efforts are often vastly safer by far - even when all accidents are taken into account. Yet you would not get that impression from reading recent news and editorial accounts.

Podcast From Space

Discovery Astronaut Sends Podcast From Space

"On his last day in orbit, Mission Specialist Steve Robinson sent a podcast from space before the seven-member Discovery crew returns to Earth Monday. The podcast was recorded as the Shuttle flew over the southeast tip of Indonesia."

Jumping the Gun

Chinese Researcher: Success of Discovery Meaningful, CRI Online (China)

"The spaceshuttle Discovery successfully touched down at the Kennedy Space Center Monday afternoon. The astronauts have completed their 13-day mission, leaving space flight with a bright future."

Spaceship Earth - An astronaut is up above the clouds, National Review Online

"With the shuttle seemingly falling apart around her, Collins might spend a little time worrying about how she's going to get her crew safely back to terra firma, even if it is badly polluted. Home, sweet home be it ever so humble."

Editor's note: Ah, the semi-weekly space update from the ill-informed wonks at the National Review Online - you know, the guys who sit behind their desks all day - and their spouse picks them up in the SUV at the train station at 5:30. Meanwhile, Eileen flies a spaceship for a living.

I'll take Eileen's "view from above the clouds" over the rants of some armchair wannabes - any day of the week.

Anti-astronaut Tripe From NRO (earlier post)

STS-114 Status

Space Shuttle Discovery's Landing Waved Off for Monday

"Due to low clouds at the KSC landing site, NASA has waved off both landing opportunities for Discovery today. Commander Eileen Collins and the rest of the crew will return the orbiter to normal flight operations for another day."

- NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 7 August 2005
- NASA STS-114 Mission Status Report #25 - 7 August 2005 - noon CDT
- Landing Day Arrives For Space Shuttle Discovery

"Collins and her crewmates immediately began preparing the orbiter and themselves for landing. Their first landing opportunity is at Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 4:47 a.m. Monday. If weather prohibits landing on that orbit, they will have another opportunity about 90 minutes later."

Tension grows as 'Discovery' crew prepares for re-entry, The Inpdependent

"Keith Cowing, a former Nasa scientist who now runs the website, said officials were confident and Nasa hoped to use the boost of a safely completed mission to announce it had solved the problem of falling debris from the external tanks and that the next shuttle flights - scheduled for September - could go ahead."

Launcher Trade Studies

NASA's New Launch Systems May Include the Return of the Space Tug, SpaceRef (Part 2)

"NASA planners are finalizing the configuration for the next generation cargo heavy lift launch vehicles with announcement of its basic configuration due during the week of 15 August. An integral part of these studies includes upper stages and other hardware needed to move payloads once they are in space."

NASA's New CEV Launcher to Maximize Use of Space Shuttle Components ), SpaceRef (Part 1 - posted earlier this week)

"The decision on what new launch vehicles NASA plans to use is rapidly coming into focus. In some ways these launchers will be new - yet they will also look very familiar using hardware and concepts that have long and well-established flight histories. Internal NASA documents detailing the review, which was completed in late June, were obtained by the authors. A second, related study has reviewed heavy lift options using the same shuttle-derived elements."

Armwaving from the UK

Nasa and its small, sideways step for mankind, Opinion, The Times Online

"Despite this, the pressure to place this dodo in orbit again will be enormous. Nasa has plans for a new generation of rockets (ironically, much the same as the "old generation" that the shuttle was designed to replace) that would put men and equipment into space more safely."

Editor's note: Let me see - I seem to have misplaced my list of British manned spacecraft to use in my response to this uninformed gentleman who doesn't like the way we explore space in America.

Chase to move to NASA HQ

Editor's 6 Aug note: Brian Chase is now listed as "AA Legislative Affairs" in NASA's personnel database (uniqueIdentifier: HQ010169) and has been assigned an email address.

Editor's 30 Jul note: Brian Chase, currently at the Space Foundation will be joining NASA soon as AA for Legislative Affairs.

NASA Chief Takes On Critics, LA Times

"[Griffin] said critics had fixated on the flight's flaws, such as insulating foam shedding from the craft's external fuel tank during liftoff and the need for a first-ever spacewalk to remove protrusions on the underside of Discovery. Not only do critics see a glass half-empty, but, to them, "there is no glass," Griffin said."

Editor's note: STS-114 is probably one of the most successful shuttle missions ever flown - yet it will be remembered for one - albeit significant (and expensive) - problem.

Discovery Is Headed Home

NASA STS-114 Mission Status Report #22 - 6 August 2005 - 12:30 am CDT

Discovery Departs Space Station

"Discovery undocked from the ISS at 3:24 a.m. EDT. Pilot Jim Kelly flew the orbiter in a loop around the Station, allowing the Shuttle crew to photograph the orbiting outpost before a final separation burn moved Discovery away from the Station."

Reinventing History

Redesign Is Seen for Next Craft, NASA Aides Say, NY Times

"By drawing on existing technology, the plan is meant to speed President Bush's goal of revitalizing human space exploration. At the same time, it would upend the strategy of NASA's previous administrator, Sean O'Keefe, who wanted to discard the shuttle in favor of military rockets, which would have required costly upgrades to make them safe for humans. And their payloads would have been relatively small, requiring strings of multiple rocket launchings."

Editor's note: There are some serious errors in this paragraph in Bill Broad's article: Mike Griffin is far more eager to get rid of the space shuttle than Sean O'Keefe ever was; no decision to use EELVs was ever made by O'Keefe; and Shuttle derived launch systems, such as are now being proposed, have been under study since the moment the VSE was announced. Indeed, if you go to this 17 Feb 2004 presentation, made by Mike Kostelnick just one month after the President's VSE speech, you will see SRB/CEV and ET/Cargo launch systems pictured on slides 11 and 13.

Shuttle replacement to have familiar look, New Scientist

"The shuttle-derived launcher (SDL) is another break with the decisions of Griffin's predecessor, Sean O'Keefe, who had favoured replacing the shuttle with bigger versions of existing "evolved expendable launch vehicles".

Editor's note: 6 Aug: It would seem that Jeff Hecht at New Scientist is under the same missimpression as to what happened before Mike Griffin arrived on the scene.

Foam Update

Foam chunk came from repaired part of tank, Orlando Sentinel

"The same location was the site of a so-called "sand and blend" repair by foam workers. During this procedure, a dye absorbed by damaged foam is poured into the blemish. The surface then is sanded down until the dye is gone. The ramp repair can clearly be seen in "closeout" photos taken of the tank before launch as an area where the newly-exposed foam is slightly lighter in color. This type of repair is a common practice."

Fuel tank's pre-launch foam repair under scrutiny,

"A "tiger team" of NASA and contractor engineers is reviewing the manufacturing history of the shuttle Discovery's external fuel tank to find clues about what might have caused a chunk of foam insulation to pop off during launch July 26. NASA officials said today that foam in the area that pulled away was slightly damaged during the tank's processing, requiring a standard repair for relatively routine cracks and gouges."

Editor's note: Yesterday, the opening date for the STS-121 launch window was adjusted from 9 September until 22 September resulting in a 4 day window launch instead of one which was originally three weeks long.

Bush on Exploration

President Bush Comments on NASA, Shuttle Discovery, and Exploration

"I know the -- at least the people I've talked to inside NASA are excited about the mission, the reinvigoration of the vision of exploration. And I appreciate the Administrator working on getting that strategy in place, so that when the decision is made to finally get rid of this phase of exploration, we'll be ready to take on the new phase. And that's important for the American people to understand, that, one, exploration is important; two, there will be some good coming out of exploration; and, three, that we've got a new vision embraced by NASA and its pioneers."

Politics at JSC on Friday

Sen. Hutchison to Tour Johnson Space Center, Meet with Administrator Griffin

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Congressman Tom DeLay To Speak to Discovery's Crew, and Meet With Media

NASA Administrator Announces Media Roundtable

"NASA Administrator Michael Griffin hosts a media roundtable discussion this afternoon at NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC). The Administrator will discuss a variety of topics including the Space Shuttle Discovery Return to Flight mission (STS-114)."

Mars Email Scam

Mars News, TrueandFalse, Sky and Telescope

"If no one has asked you about it yet, they probably will. A bogus e-mail chain letter, sometimes titled "Mars Spectacular," continues to spread across the internet. It claims that on August 27th Mars will dazzle the world, appearing brighter than ever in history."

Fourth EVA Not Required

NASA Says No Fourth Spacewalk Needed

"Mission control radioed the Discovery crew today with news that they will not need to make a fourth spacewalk to fix a thermal blanket near the Commander's left window. Mission Control and the crew agreed that it was "good news."

Foam Update

NASA ponders second repair in space, CNN

"I think in the old days we would not have worried about this nearly so much," The Associated Press quoted Hale as saying. "I am very hopeful that we will be able to put this issue at rest."

More falling foam puts shuttle programme in serious doubt, Nature (subscription)

"Doug Osheroff, a physicist at Stanford University in California, and a member of the CAIB, agrees that small tweaks won't help much, but major changes could take years. "We clearly don't understand all the mechanisms for foam shedding," he says. The best way for NASA to quickly reduce the risk to the shuttle crew is to fly with fewer people, Osheroff says. "There's no reason to go up with seven astronauts."

Editor's note: Gee, that's certainly a goofy solution: i.e., in a worst case scenario, it is better to risk killing a smaller crew instead of killing a crew of 7. This does nothing to address the threat of people being killed in the first place - which is what I understand NASA is trying to do.

NASA Watch on the Air

Editor's note: I was on CSPAN's Washington Journal this morning starting at 7:45 am EDT and will be on CNN radio this afternoon at 2:00 pm EDT.

ISS/Shuttle Update

NASA STS-114 Mission Status Report #18 - 3 August 2005 - 11:00 pm CDT

"After an eventful day supporting the third spacewalk of the mission, a light duty day of transfer activities, special events and time off lies ahead for the Space Shuttle Discovery crew as they begin their tenth day in space."

NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 3 August 2005

"The spacewalk ended at 10:49am, for a total duration of 6h 1m. It was the 61st EVA devoted to ISS assembly operations and the 28th from the Shuttle (33 from the ISS A/L and Pirs DC-1), giving 53 astronauts and cosmonauts a cumulative total of 368h 20m of station spacewalk time."

Foam Update

2004 Report Found Faults in Use of Shuttle Foam, NY Times

"The report was provided to The New York Times by a person outside the space agency who is part of an informal network of people concerned about shuttle safety, and it did not recommend against launching the Discovery. But it delivered a harsh critique of the quality control and practices at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans."

Slipping in the Polls

Poll: Public Up In Air On Shuttle, CBS

"Americans have become more concerned about the costs and risks of the Shuttle program. While a majority still thinks the Space Shuttle is worth continuing, the program receives its lowest level of support in this poll since CBS News started asking about it in 1986."

Editor's note: Both gap fillers were easily removed by Steve Robinson in a matter of seconds. The first one was removed over Massachussetts, the other over the coast of France. In moving Robinson - still on the arm - back to the station, Robinson was told things might look "a little weird." Robinson replied "Nothing is going to look weird to me after all of this." A few minutes later he said "That was the ride of the century."

From Giant Leaps to Baby Steps, OpEd by Gene Kranz, NY Times

"To read and listen to the coverage about the space shuttle, you would think NASA's mission team has taken careless risks with the lives of the seven astronauts who went into space on the Discovery last Tuesday. During the launching, foam fell off the external tank. For the risk-averse, the only acceptable thing to do now is retire the shuttle program immediately and wait for the divine arrival of the next generation of spacecraft. I am disgusted at the lack of courage and common sense this attitude shows."

Editor's note: Contrast that with with this:

New slogan at NASA: Confusion is an option, Editorial, Palm Beach Post

"NASA deserves credit for being so transparent with the public during what is the most scrutinized space mission in history. Administrators have amplified damage, however, with their confusing statements and reversals. NASA is better off saying nothing or admitting that it doesn't know, rather than making comments that have to be retracted the next day. Floridians have a stake in the agency's future because of the thousands of jobs throughout the state that depend on the space program."

Editor's note: And this:

The View from Here: Lily-Livered Pansies, Elliot G. Pulham President & Chief Executive Officer Space Fopundation

"No country ever built an airplane by running for the hills and abandoning the program the first time a bolt sheared or a rivet popped during test flight. Our effort to conquer the seas was not cast on the trash heap of history the first time some ship sprung a leak. These points seem to be lost on our current generation of lily-livered commentators and pundits, and even a few faint-hearted friends in Congress."

Bush on Space

Bush confident NASA will achieve Mars goal (Interview), Houston Chronicle

"I am confident NASA will be able to implement the vision I laid out and that is to use the moon as an exploratory base to go further into space," Bush said in a wide-ranging interview with five Texas newspapers."

Messenger Swings By Earth

Status Report: MESSENGER Lines Up for Earth Swingby

"Carried out by two small thrusters that poke through MESSENGER's sunshade, the maneuver pinpointed the craft for a closest approach of 1,458 miles (2,347 kilometers) over central Asia at 3:13 p.m. EDT on Aug. 2. Mission design team members say that directing MESSENGER along just the right path above Earth will mean smaller course-correction maneuvers on the way to the 2006 gravity-assist flyby at Venus - ultimately saving fuel for later in the mission."

Editor's note: This panorama of Gusev crater was taken by Spirit from its perch near the top Husband Hill yesterday. Spirit still has a way to go before it actually reaches the summit. Click on image to enlarge.

Gap Filler EVA Update

NASA orders first-ever walk to shuttle's belly, Orlando Sentinel

"In preparation for the job, NASA has called on some of its most experienced spacewalkers, including astronauts Joe Tanner and Jerry Ross, to help develop the procedures for removing the fillers. Begley said astronauts also are testing procedures in the giant NASA pool where spacewalkers practice underwater at Johnson Space Center in Houston."

Shuttle Repairs to Be Tried in Spacewalk, NY Times

"Astronauts will perform a landmark spacewalk on Wednesday morning to remove or clip two tiny strips of stiff cloth that are protruding from the belly of the shuttle Discovery and could cause dangerous heating during the craft's fiery re-entry into the atmosphere, officials said Monday."

Astronaut to make first in-flight repair, CNN

"It was prudent to take action so that we wouldn't have to worry about some of the worst consequences," said Wayne Hale, NASA's deputy shuttle program manager, at a news conference Monday evening."

NASA gives go-ahead to spacewalk repair work, SpaceflightNow

"Today at the mission management team meeting we had a very long discussion about aerodynamics," Hale said. "I went in with a very simple question: Did we have the engineering knowledge and analysis that would, without a shadow of a doubt, allow us to be 100 percent confident the vehicle could fly safely during entry?

NASA Watch on NewsHour

Editor's note: I was on PBS Newshour with Jim Lehrer again Monday night [RealAudio] [Transcript]

"NASA weighed a decision Monday on trying an in-space repair to the shuttle Discovery. Ray Suarez speaks with Keith Cowing, editor of NASA Watch, about new safety concerns and whether a spacewalk is needed to repair damage to the shuttle's underside."

Editor's note: I was also on NewsHour last Thursday [Transcript]

"Well, first I would dispute -- when Professor Roland says we don't need the space station, I'd love to know who the "we" is, because the Congress is behind it; the American people are behind it, the White House is behind it."

Editor's note: And I did an interview last Tuesday evening: [Link to RealAudio file][Transcript]

News From Hampton

Strangely silent, opinion, Daily Press

"An advocacy and lobbying group, NASA Aeronautics Support Team, supported by local governments, has worked behind the scenes to try to gain ground in Washington. It's time to wonder: When will there be some in-front-of-the-scenes action, some noise from the community, some demonstration of support for NASA Langley and aeronautics? When will the speechifying, hand-wringing and battle-crying begin in aid of NASA Langley?"

Tough Choices Ahead

NASA's Leader, a Man of Logic, Faces Decisions Enmeshed in Another Realm: Politics, NY Times

"Though they have avoided discussing it in these terms, Dr. Griffin and the Bush White House that installed him are headed to a decision that can hardly be called easy: whether to invest millions more in new fixes to an accident-prone fleet of vehicles scheduled for permanent retirement in 2010, or to put the space shuttles into mothballs ahead of schedule."



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