January 2006 Archives

Budget Worries at Langley

Lawmakers warn Langley could face cuts, WVEC

"Virginia congressman warned employees of NASA Langley Research Center, which was largely spared from sharp cuts this year, that the upcoming budget looks even tighter. "I think we're going to have the same problem as last year, but bigger," said U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Davis, R-1st District."

Langley aims for the stars, Daily Press

"In the past 18 months, about 600 workers - half of them civil service - have left the center after a budget reduction necessitated a cutback. Most left in the past year, and more might have lost their jobs if Congress hadn't added $60 million to the aeronautics budget."

Shuttle Update

Parsing shuttle launch dates, Orlando Sentinel

"One of the great riddles of recent months is: When will the space shuttle launch again? As usual, the short answer is: Nobody knows." ... "Presentations made last Thursday at the space shuttles Program Requirements Control Board show just how tight the schedule is. Internal NASA documents with the processing schedules are reproduced below."

"Ask the White House" - Wednesday's guest at 4:00pm (ET): Dr. John Marburger, Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy

Heavens, what a waste of space, long pointless rant, Times of London

"As Nasa remembers the Challenger astronauts, it should pay them a tribute that is 20 years overdue. The shuttle's next flight should be to the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum, and the grandiose Moon and Mars plans belong in the bin. The bad-taste joke of 1986 was that Nasa stood for Need Another Seven Astronauts. In truth, it doesn't need any at all."

Editor's note: Mark Henderson: and the last time the UK launched humans into space, or sent humans (or anything for that matter) to the moon was ...? And what happened to your hitchhiking Mars probe (can you say "splat")? Call back when you folks actually accomplish something in space, Mark. Our biggest failures accomplished more than your greatest successes.

Editor's update: To those several U.K. residents who sent me comments this morning suggesting that the Times does not speak for the U.K.: please show me an editorial from a UK publication about American space exploration which does not dump on the U.S.

Editor's update: Apparently there are non-snarky voices in the UK:

In praise of ... Stardust, The Guardian

NASA Announces That Stephen Jurczyk is the New Langley Research Center Deputy Director

"NASA announced today Stephen Jurczyk is the new Deputy Center Director for the agency's Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va. Jurczyk was Langley's Director of the Research and Technology Directorate."

Boeing agrees to contract with rocket workers, Reuters

"Boeing Co. said on Monday it agreed to a tentative contract with about 1,500 striking machinists at its rocket unit plants, who are represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers."

Rep. Boehlert Responds to Accusations Concerning NASA's "Silencing" of Climate Scientist

"Good science cannot long persist in an atmosphere of intimidation. Political figures ought to be reviewing their public statements to make sure they are consistent with the best available science; scientists should not be reviewing their statements to make sure they are consistent with the current political orthodoxy.

NASA is clearly doing something wrong, given the sense of intimidation felt by Dr. Hansen and others who work with him. Even if this sense is a result of a misinterpretation of NASA policies - and more seems to be at play here - the problem still must be corrected."

Mike Griffin After Nine Months, Orlando Sentinel

"Orlando Sentinel: 2006 is an election year. Your predecessor, Mr. [Sean] O'Keefe, went out and campaigned for some candidates. Do you plan to do the same?

Griffin: No. I don't know if Mr. O'Keefe did that or not, but my understanding of the Hatch Act is that I am prohibited from engaging in political activities or supporting particular candidates. So I certainly will not be doing that."

Editor's note: Let me get this correct, Mike: are you saying publicly that Sean O'Keefe may have broken the law? You really should check with the experts on things like this - and what you can and can't do as a Senate-confirmed, Presidential appointee.

Political Activity and the Federal Employee, OSC (PDF)

NASA Announces DART Mishap Investigation Board Members

"NASA selected the mishap investigation board to determine why the Demonstration of Autonomous Rendezvous Technology (DART) spacecraft did not complete its mission on April 15."

Editor's note: It has been more than 9 months. Why hasn't there been any word as to when the DART Mishap Investigation Board will issue its findings? The results of the investigation have actually been known by NASA for quite some time.

To the space community: "I have recently learned that a London newspaper, The Guardian, ran an article which attributed this quote to me, "The space shuttle is a deathtrap." I suspect the article was a result of the recent media interviews surrounding the release of my new book, "Riding Rockets, The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle Astronaut". Please know that I have never interviewed with anybody from that paper and have never said those words.

NASA Supporters Fear Bush May Cut Space Plan - Budget Shortfall May Imperil Return to the Moon, Washington Post

"Industry and congressional sources said Griffin's acknowledgment of the shortfall was accompanied by news leaks that OMB was proposing to cut the number of shuttle flights to between eight and 11, retiring one of the three orbiters and reducing the shuttle workforce to free up money for the exploration vehicle."

NASA Budget stories

2005 Was the Warmest Year in a Century, NASA

"The year 2005 may have been the warmest year in a century, according to NASA scientists studying temperature data from around the world."

Debate on Climate Shifts to Issue of Irreparable Change, Washington Post

"When Hansen posted data on the Internet in the fall suggesting that 2005 could be the warmest year on record, NASA officials ordered Hansen to withdraw the information because he had not had it screened by the administration in advance, according to a Goddard scientist who spoke on the condition of anonymity."

Climate Expert Says NASA Tried to Silence Him, NY Times

"Dean Acosta, deputy assistant administrator for public affairs at the space agency, said there was no effort to silence Dr. Hansen. "That's not the way we operate here at NASA," he said. "We promote openness and we speak with the facts."

"The fresh efforts to quiet him, Dr. Hansen said, began in a series of calls after a lecture he gave on Dec. 6 at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. In the talk, he said that significant emission cuts could be achieved with existing technologies, particularly in the case of motor vehicles, and that without leadership by the United States, climate change would eventually leave the earth "a different planet."

The administration's policy is to use voluntary measures to slow, but not reverse, the growth of emissions.

After that speech and the release of data by Dr. Hansen on Dec. 15 showing that 2005 was probably the warmest year in at least a century, officials at the headquarters of the space agency repeatedly phoned public affairs officers, who relayed the warning to Dr. Hansen that there would be "dire consequences" if such statements continued, those officers and Dr. Hansen said in interviews."

Editor's note: In the mean time, while NASA PAO can't quite figure out what is or is not being done to pressure/not pressure Dr. Hansen with regards to his data, the U.S. State Department has reissued Hansen's news (NASA Scientists Say 2005 Was the Warmest Year in a Century) for dissemination around the world - with a link to a recent press release at NASA and a link to additional data at GISS - a page that includes a link to Hansen's supposedly notorious 64 page 6 Dec 2005 AGU presentation. This story is also the top link on the State Department's Climate Change page

If higher ups in the Administration are so upset about this, then why are they so overtly linking to Hansen's work over at the U.S. State Department? This strikes me as yet another instance of one hand not knowing what the other is doing at NASA PAO - and of NASA's frequent disconnect within the NASA's Strategic Communications office with regard to the broader aspects of White House policy outside space exploration.

20 Years Ago Today

'Greatest risk is to take no risk', Orlando Sentinel

"The children of the seven astronauts who died aboard shuttle Columbia three years ago received an avalanche of condolences from around the world, but one heartfelt message was unique."

Challenger Crew Families Mark Anniversary, AP

"The widow of Challenger's commander laid a wreath of roses and carnations at a memorial honoring fallen astronauts, just miles from the launch pad where the doomed space shuttle blew apart 73 seconds after lifting off 20 years ago Saturday."

'Mars' looks fine, thanks to IMAX, USA Today

'Roving Mars' Seizes An Opportunity With Spirit, Washington Post

Editor's note: Everyone I have talked to has said that "Roving Mars" is an amazing film. Hoping to avoid a multi-hour trip into and out of downtown Washington just to see it (and write a review) I thought I'd drive 10 miles to see it at the Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center next to Dulles Airport. Well, in order to see "Roving Mars" at the Udvar-Hazy Center you have to pay $8.50 admission (no complaint). But you also have to pay $12.00 to park. That's $20.50 for one person to see a film 40 minutes long. Oh well, at least I have several places close to home where I can see it eventually. Meanwhile, people who work at JPL (on the actual ongoing rover mission itself) have to travel hundreds of miles to the bay area (Dublin, San Jose, or San Francisco) to see it - even though there are IMAX theaters all over southern California. You'd think that some of the same creativity that went into the mission - and the film - and the generosity of LockheedMartin - would be put into making this film a little more accessible to the public by IMAX - and the Smithsonian.

Bruce Lundin Has Died

Bruce Lundin, Former NASA Glenn Research Center Director Dies

"Bruce Lundin, Director of NASA's Lewis Research Center from 1969 to 1977, (now the Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field, Cleveland), passed away on Tuesday, January 24, 2006. He was 86."

Logan Doane Has Died

From: The Doane Family
Sent: Jan 27, 2006 12:00 AM
Subject: Logan

In case you have not yet heard, yesterday morning (the 25th), Logan completed his final journey. He truly faced his battle against cancer in a most dignified manner and left us extremely content with the choices he made and the life he led.

Touch the Sun, NAS

"Touch the Sun is a universally designed book with colorful raised images and combined text in print and Braille that explores the dynamic nature of our Sun. Topics include: size comparison between Earth and the Sun, the interior layers of the Sun, sunspots and their motion, views of the Sun in visible and ultraviolet light, solar eruptions as seen from space based observatories, massive solar storms, and the effect of space weather on Earth. According to the author, "This book is hot!"

Editor's note: Once again, like clockwork, NASA has issued two ever-so-slightly different versions of the same space station status report within minutes of each other (see earlier post).

All of the text in these two reports which is identical has been put in boldface. This week (see below) it would seem that the contribution made by either J.D. Harrington (HQ PAO) and/or James Hartsfield (JSC PAO) was to take a status report issued a few minutes earlier by MCC, remove two paragraph breaks, and insert a new one. Or maybe it was the other way around. Either way, this is just plain silly. Why not just send ONE version of this status report instead of having one group prepare it and then have some PAO folks doing pointless edits - and charging to overhead for the time that this needless and redundant task takes - and then sending BOTH reports out to the same distribution list. There's no "strategic communication" at work here.

Thinking About NASA's Future, Letters, Science

"The legitimacy of basic life sciences research should stand alone." - Michael Barratt, NASA Johnson Space Center

"Without forging ahead in research supporting healthy space travel now, all the efforts to bring people to the Moon and Mars will have been in vain. We will lose valuable time, people, and resources that must be reinvented later at a much higher cost." - Andrea Hanson, President, ASGSB-SA, University of Colorado

"The primary programmatic objective of Griffin is to set the agency on a course with the long-term goal of the Vision for Space Exploration (VSE). Without such a long-term goal, NASA is likely to simply disappear. The costs and risks of sending humans to the International Space Station on the Shuttle simply to spend time there cannot be sustained, nor should they." - Jeffrey Plescia, Applied Physics Laboratory, Johns Hopkins University

7 myths about the Challenger shuttle disaster, MSNBC

"The flight, and the lost crewmembers, deserve proper recognition and authentic commemoration. Historians, reporters, and every citizen need to take the time this week to remember what really happened, and especially to make sure their memories are as close as humanly possible to what really did happen."

Editor's note: Imagine a science teacher in Washington, DC giving out a homework assignment in the next day or so. She tells her class to use the web and find a NASA resource that will predict when the ISS will pass overhead on 31 January 2006.

The kids go home, hop on the computer and start Googling for NASA websites. Some of them end up at a NASA HQ website. Others end up at NASA's human spaceflight website at JSC. They look up Washington DC, record the times, and hand them in the next day. Imagine the teacher's consternation when she discovers that NASA has more than one official website for such things, and that the websites give different answers.

What is she going to tell her class? Both answers can't be right. And what does she tell her class the next time she is inclined to encourage them to pursue a career in space? Accuracy is supposed to be important.

Details below

NASA HQ Special Notice: NASA's Day of Remembrance [Long - internal distribution]

Administrator's Statement on NASA's Day of Remembrance [Short - public distribution]

Editor's note: It seems a little odd to me that such a short statement would be issued for public consumption - yet a longer (better) version is distributed internally. One would think that such sentiments would be the same - and shared equally - regardless of the audience. Meanwhile, NASA.gov has a nice flash presentation. Oh well - yet another quirky aspect of Mike Griffin's PAO.

Web site overlap may belie NASA divides, Federal Computer Week

"[Allard Beutel] added that NASA did not originally unify the Web sites because of the Internet's maturity and its effect on Web development, not because of research center rivalries. "It's not a matter of people not wanting to talk to each other," Beutel said. "Each group is doing its own piece of the pie, serving the public. It's been a process, and a process takes time." "If you gave me five minutes, I could link these sites," Cowing said. "This is not rocket science. It's HTML."

Editor's update: By another strange coincidence the JSC page has also been updated to show one link to other resources - at MSFC - but not HQ. MSFC did a far better update. Editor's update: Gee, by some strange coincidence the MSFC page was suddenly updated today - and links to other NASA tracking pages were added. JSC and HQ haven't managed to update their pages yet.

Editor's update: If you go to this page at NASA MSFC you are supposed to be able to enter your zip code and get the next time a satellite will pass overhead. Well, it seems that this little gadet doesn't like my zip code (20190) - since it tells me that my zip code is 2019 after I enter 20190 and click 'go'. I tried it in Safari, Explorer, and Firefox - and get the same (non) result.

Editor's note: Why is it that this page, hosted by MSFC featuring various satellite tracking resources still cannot (after a decade of complaints on NASA Watch) link to a similar page - with similar resources - hosted by JSC - and vice versa? Oh yes, for what it is worth, watching both pages simultaneously, the MSFC site says that ISS is at an altitude of 353.1 KM and the JSC site says that the ISS is at 346.87 KM. MSFC shows ISS over the Spanish/French border while the JSC page shows it over Italy.

But wait, there's more. If you go to this page, hosted by NASA HQ - which deals with ISS tracking - you will see that it doesn't link to either page at JSC - or MSFC! And JSC and MSFC don't link back to this page at NASA HQ!

And this is the same space agency that is going to cooperate between its headquarters and its various field centers so as to go back to the moon -- when it can't even get a few web weenies to coordinate? This 'pretend the other site doesn't exist' tactic is tired - and just plain childish - on the part of Bryan Walls and Ron Koczor at MSFC, Kim Dismukes and John Ira Petty at JSC, and Dawn Brooks and Sarah Ramsey at NASA HQ. C'mon folks. Use taxpayer dollars responsibly and link to each other - and coordinate your resources. You all work for NASA, yes? You'd think that Joe Davis, NASA's "strategic communications" guru, and Pat Dunnington, NASA's Chief Information Officer, would be concerned about this sort of thing.

Just where Is the Space Station, NASA?, earlier post from 30 November 2004

No Way To Bail Out

Challenger's lessons prove elusive, opinion by Mike Mullane, USA Today

"The shuttle remains the only manned spacecraft ever to fly without a means for the crew to "bail out" in powered flight. Having flown three times on one, I can assure you that the lack of an escape system is foremost on the minds of every astronaut who straps into a shuttle cockpit. A catastrophic launch failure means certain death."

Internal Lockheed Martin Memo From Marshall Byrd To Michoud Employees Regarding Shuttle External Tank Contract Changes

"... last week, we received direction to accomplish the work necessary to reduce our existing contract deliveries from 35 External Tanks to a total of 18. As a result of this direction, we have begun the process of terminating the contracts of suppliers who have already provided sufficient materials to support the production of 18 Sixth Buy tanks."

FAA AA for Commercial Space Transportation Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Conduct Public Scoping Meetings

"This Notice provides information to Federal, State, and localagencies, affected Native American tribes, and other interested persons regarding the FAA's intent to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the New Mexico Economic Development Department's (NMEDD's) proposal to develop and operate a commercial launch site near Upham, New Mexico."

Discovery of small, rocky, extrasolar world suggests such planets may be common, NSF

"Using a relatively new planet-hunting technique that can spot worlds one-tenth the mass of our own, researchers have discovered a potentially rocky, icy body that may be the smallest planet yet found orbiting a star outside our solar system."

ISS/Shuttle Battle Begins

Sen. Hutchison Cosponsors Bill to Ensure America's Competitive Advantage

"Building on Sen. Hutchison's recent NASA authorization legislation, one key portion of the bill would increase the basic research budget for NASA, helping to maintain our leadership in space exploration and the broader fields of research and technology."

Letter from Sen. Hutchison to President Bush Regarding Funding for the International Space Station

"The funding projections by the OMB do not provide adequate resources for the number of shuttle missions necessary to complete and outfit the International Space Station.This poses a direct threat to the billions of taxpayers' dollars invested in the development of that important laboratory facility - one that has now, by virtue of your signature, been designated as a national laboratory, an important national asset with enormous potential for providing benefits to all of us."

NASA's boss at Ames losing job in shakeup, SF Chronicle

"NASA Watch, an online news site that monitors space agency activities, reported Dec. 15 that Griffin plans to replace Hubbard with Worden. On Monday, Hubbard accepted an offer by the SETI Institute in Mountain View, a 120-employee organization that investigates the possibility of extraterrestrial life, to become its Carl Sagan Chair for the Study of Life in the Universe."

The Sword, the Ploughshare and the Pocketbook, Space Frontier Foundation

"... Not so for space. Unlike air travel, where the overlapping needs of the two cultures have continued to support each other from the very beginning, human spaceflight has been in the hands of a third player - NASA - since its inception. And NASA's needs unfortunately have little in common with the needs of military, commercial or other civil agencies.In fact, embryonic programs started or under way in the military were canceled or moved into NASA, in the interests of consolidation perhaps, and of course, turf. And why not have it all under one roof? After all, it was all about putting people in space, wasn't it?

No, it wasn't, and it isn't."

Cruising to Pluto

'Best and Final' Trajectory Information for New Horizon's Launch Vehicle Upper Stage

NASA New Horizons: The PI's Perspective: On The Road at Last

"Now that we are safely on our way, we know that our journey will take precisely 3462.7 days, i.e., from 19:00 UTC on Jan, 19, 2006, to 12:00 UTC July 14, 2015, to reach Pluto. Encounter science operations will begin about 150 days before we reach Pluto."

NASA GRC Notices Regarding Status of Procurement NNC06ZPT004R: Cryogenic Oxygen/Methane RCS Engine Assembly

"24 January: Announcement of the final program decision on the subject procurement action is expected to be delayed until the week of Monday, January 30th, 2006

13 January: The evaluation of all proposals has been completed and presentations of the evaluation committee's findings have been made to the Source Selection Authority. However, recent changes in requirements for the Crew Exploration Vehicle's propulsion system require the LOx/Methane project to obtain decisions from higher program levels prior to proceeding with any contract awards."

AP Photo Caption: "Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings, top center, announces the findings and recommendations of the Governor's Commission on the future of space and aeronautics at a news conference in Tallahassee, Fla., Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2006. NASA'S new crew exploration vehicle, foreground, will replace the space shuttle after its retirement in 2010.(AP Photo/Phil Coale)"

Editor's note: Gee, even if the AP caption of this X-33 model is in error, it would seem that the folks in Florida state government aren't really up to speed on NASA's CEV activities either (see below)

Florida's Aerospace Mission: Protect, Expand Market Share, LA Times

"The next generation of NASA's manned craft are virtually certain to be launched from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, but Florida wants to be more than a launch site. The state wants to snare as great a share as possible of the assembly, testing and servicing of the vehicles, Jennings said."

Editor's note: Mike Griffin does not plan to assemble the CEV in Florida. He only plans to launch it from there.

Aeronautics Cuts Ahead

Delegates to push NASA's vision at budget hearing, Daily Press

"The president's NASA budget for fiscal year 2007 is expected to be about $17.9 billion, up from $16.2 billion a year ago. But the aeronautics request is expected to be $694.4 million, down 14 percent."

Next year could be even tougher for Langley, Virginian-Pilot

"Langley jobs are safe through next year, thanks to legislation that Virginias delegation helped push through last month that protects NASAs aeronautics workers from layoffs through March 16, 2007."

NASA Announces Senior Management Changes

"William (Bill) Parsons, director of the agency's Stennis Space Center, Miss., has accepted the position of deputy center director at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

G. Scott Hubbard, center director at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., has accepted a position at the SETI Institute, Mountain View, Calif. He assumes the Carl Sagan Chair for the Study of Life in the Universe on Feb. 15."

NASA OIG on VOIP

South Korean to Visit ISS

South Korea first astronaut to fly to ISS in Russia spacecraft, Itar-Tass

"South Koreas first astronaut is to fly to the International Space Stations (ISS) in March or April of 2008, the chief of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos), Anatoly Perminov, said at his meeting with a delegation of the Korean Aerospace Research Institute led by its president Hong Yul Pak in Moscow on Monday."

NASA Implementing a Knowledge-Based Acquisition Framework Could Lead to Better Investment Decisions and Project Outcomes, GAO (Report)

Gordon, Udall Urge NASA to Heed GAO's Project Management Recommendations

"In their report out today, the GAO offers some common-sense recommendations aimed at reducing the chances that NASA's projects will suffer cost growth and schedule delays. I hope NASA will take the GAO's guidance seriously."

Reader note: "JPL is sending employees home today due to the flying debris, falling trees and building damage caused by 80 MPH winds. It's incredible to watch: gusts punish one tree while the one next to it stands completely still until the wind shifts and hits it too. There are drifts of debris everywhere."

Threatening L.A. Brush Fire Contained, AP

"The blaze was quickly contained after burning about 10 acres but firefighters remained concerned that the wind, gusting to as high as 80 mph, could kick up embers and ignite new blazes."

Robert R. Asprey Has Died

Robert R. Asprey (death notice), Huntsville Times

Reader note: "Bob was an angel investor in many space start up companies such as Space America, Pioneer Rocketplane, and SkyCorp Incorporated. Bob had a dream that one day we would go out and mine some asteroids! He was a great engineer and was one of the original inventors of the Keyboard/Video/Mouse switch."

Down-to-Earth choices, editorial, LA Times

"Human exploration of space is such an epic notion, conjuring images of both a science-fiction future and a real-life history of giant steps for mankind, that it's hard not to be swept up in the romance. President Bush certainly seemed to have been having "Star Trek" fantasies when he delivered his vision for returning astronauts to the moon, and eventually sending them to Mars, during the run-up to the 2004 presidential election. Afterward, Bush dropped his proposal like a sizzling meteorite, having scarcely mentioned it since."

USNS (Alan) Shepard

Navy to name ship after Alan Shepard, Manchester Union Leader

"Astronaut Alan Shepard Jr. added another feather to his cap yesterday: a 1,000-foot combat ship that will join the U.S. Navy's fleet by March 2007"

T-AKE Program, General Dynamics

"The T-AKE 1 is a dry cargo/ammunition ship, the lead ship in the Lewis and Clark class. Designed to operate independently for extended periods at sea while providing underway replenishment services, the T-AKE will directly contribute to the ability of the Navy to maintain a forward presence."

Editor's note: The first two ships in this class are named for American explorers: USNS Lewis and Clark and USNS Sacagawea.

Ames director resigns, SJ Mercury News

"Some Ames employees have quietly speculated that Hubbard was forced out for being too protective of his workers and resistant to plans to trim even more positions. None would talk on the record to protect their jobs. But they fear his successor will be asked to usher in a new era at the research center -- one that is leaner, and meaner, for employees. Paul K. Davis, president of the Ames Federal Employees Union, said he was sorry to see Hubbard go and hopes his replacement "will be someone who will enable us to continue contributing to NASA's mission."

Editor's note: Have a look at these two space station status reports. As is the case this week, last week - every every week, they were both issued at the end of the week by NASA JSC PAO within minutes of each other. They are virtually identical. You would think one would be sufficient - and that the first version should be sufficient - but not at NASA.

Making space vision a reality, BBC

"There are many different kinds of science that we do. We have not cut back the space science programmes such as New Horizons. We have, though, cut back on the human-related science to concentrate on building the space station." Once built, the ISS will be available for research, he says.

NASA News Conference With Mike Griffin: Exploration Systems Architecture Study (Transcript)

"Well, good question. I think I just said this was not about taking money from the science programs for human space flight and it's not. The science program has not--in our forward planning, we do not take one thin dime out of the science program in order to execute this architecture. It is about re-directing what we do in the human space flight program."

JSC Layoff Update

Reader note:"Yesterday another 100 were laid off at Jacobs-Sverdrup and their subs working on the ESC contract supporting the JSC engineering directorate. More will follow."

JSC Layoff Update, 6 Jan 2006

Confusing Messages From NASA

They Came From Outer Space!, NASA HQ

"You'll find many space-developed or improved products literally at arm's reach -- like in your kitchen, for instance."

Washington Metropolitan Area Media Invited to Lean More About Local Nanotechnology Challenges and Possibilities, NASA GSFC

"In the years ahead, nanotechnology advancements for NASA will lead to plastics that are many times stronger and significantly lighter. Astronaut monitoring systems at the nano level may be used to detect cancer or for at-home health monitoring. Even fuel cells in the emerging hydrogen economy likely will use nanotechnology."

Editor's note: I am a little confused. This sort of "spin-off", non-human exploration research on ISS (and on the ground) is being halted across the agency. Contractors at other NASA centers (ARC, GRC, MSFC, LaRC) who worked in areas such as this have been laid off and civil servants have put on other tasks. The rationale being either there is not enough money and/or NASA is now focused only on sending humans to the moon as part of the VSE. As such, what does any of this GSFC nanotechnology work have to do with the VSE? And if there is a connection, why does GSFC get to do this stuff while it is being erased everywhere else? In addition, if NASA is not going to fund this sort of stuff any more, why does it continue to hype spinoffs on its main home page? Shouldn't there be a public notice that funding for this sort of work is being discontinued? A little consistency, please.

Remarks by NASA Administrator Griffin at the National Society of Professional Engineers Professional Development Conference

"As a central organizing principle of our work, and despite the fact that 80% of our total funding goes to industry and will continue to do so, I firmly believe that it must be NASA and its engineering staff, and not our contractors, who will assume the primary responsibility for making this program work. We are undertaking a multi-generational program of sustained exploration, and we must ask where our intellectual capital should reside. Should it be outside the government in the hands of a prime contractor whose interests may change over the years?"

NASA's Imager for Magnetopause-to- Aurora Global Exploration (IMAGE) Shut Down

"NASA's Imager for Magnetopause-to- Aurora Global Exploration (IMAGE) satellite recently ceased operations, bringing to a close a successful six-year mission."

TOPEX/Poseidon Final Status Report 18 January 2006

"This morning, at 9:41am PST the TOPEX/Poseidon spacecraft mission was terminated."

Editor's update: New Horizons' PI Alan Stern just announced that the spacecraft is carrying some of Clyde Tombaugh's ashes. Tombaugh discovered Pluto in 1930.

NASA's New Horizons is On its Way to Pluto

"Success! NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has launched at 2:00 pm EST from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida aboard a fast-moving Atlas V rocket. It's headed for a distant rendezvous with the mysterious planet Pluto almost a decade from now. The third time was the charm for New Horizons. Two consecutive launch attempts earlier in the week were foiled by high winds at the launch site and a power outage at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory."

- NASA Mission website
- APL Mission website

Editor's note: Click here.

NASA Scientists Confirm Presence of Comet Samples - Briefing Set for Thursday

Scientists have confirmed that samples from a comet and interstellar dust have been returned to Earth by the Stardust spacecraft. "The collection of cometary particles has exceeded our expectations," said Dr. Donald Brownlee. The scientist team opened the Stardust sample return capsule on Tuesday in a special facility at NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC), Houston.

COTS Solicitation Released

NASA Seeks Proposals for Crew and Cargo Transportation to Orbit

"NASA is challenging U.S. industry to establish capabilities and services that can open new space markets and support the crew and cargo transportation needs of the International Space Station. For the first time, NASA is seeking non-government vehicles and commercial services to provide crew and cargo transportation for human space flight."

NASA ARC Internal Memo: Message from the Director - Change is Underway

"My dear friends at Ames Research Center, It has been a pleasure to be your colleague for the past 18 years and the Center Director since 2002. We have weathered some hard times together and had many great successes as well. Now it is time for a new direction."

Bush wants $55 million to spend on space programs, Gannett News Service

"To complement recommendations from his commission on space, Gov. Jeb Bush is asking the Legislature to approve a $55 million space agenda. The largest share -- $35 million -- is money Bush promised contractors privately in December as part of what Florida could do to land NASA's intended shuttle replacement, the Crew Exploration Vehicle."

Editor's note: Too little, too late.

January 18 - Update: Today's launch has been delayed for at least one more day. The Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory experienced a power outage early this morning.

Editor's note: The new launch time is now 3:23 pm EST - at the end of the window - so as to allow the winds to be better understood.

Update: The launch has been scrubbed due to excessive winds. The launch will be recycled for 24 hours from now.

NASA Mission website

APL Mission website

Editor's note: At last, three weeks after you first saw it here, NASA has finally posted the Final ESAS Report. Hurray!

Langley Town Meeting

Internal LaRC notice: TOWN MEETING with VA Congressional Members, Monday (1-23) 11:30-12 Noon

VA Congressional Members Mrs. Jo Ann Davis, Mr. Bobby Scott and Mr. Randy Forbes will each speak briefly to employees and then take questions from the audience. Please join us to hear from and talk to your congressional leaders. We encourage your attendance.

Editor's note: Have you ever wondered how the crew aboard the ISS picks out landmarks on Earth as they zoom overhead at 17,500 MPH (25,000 KPH)? In addition to software that shows their precise position above Earth, they also use less high tech, more traditional means as well.

If you look at this image - on the 'ceiling' of the U.S. Lab module you will see a copy of "The New International Atlas" published by Rand McNally. In this image you can see it on the Lab module's deck.

You can also see it here during STS-114's visit to the ISS.

Transcription of Press Conference with Mike Griffin at NASA KSC

"GRIFFIN: We are not, in your words, we are not "whacking" the space science program to pay for human exploration. This is not "The Sopranos," we don't whack people or programs here. We have, of course, in this nation I do not need to be the one to tell you this a difficult budgetary environment. NASA is not looking forward or expecting any gifts of robust growth from either the administration or the Congress. We expect to keep approximately the funding we have, which will essentially be a very low growth funding profile and therefore, all of the components, each separate component of what NASA does can expect to have, at best, only modest growth. The difference between cuts and modest growth, I guess, needs to be explained to people. I think we're doing well and within NASA the space science program is doing well and will continue to do well."

Editor's note: With regard to "we don't whack people or programs here.", I hate to be the one to break the news to you, but that is exactly what you've done, Mike. Look what has happened to NASA's life sciences programs - and the people who did that work - during your tenure. This was a capability that took decades to create - then it was gone in an instant. Sure sounds like it has been "whacked" to me.

Deadly Ascent, Nova, PBS

"NOVA joins a team of medical researchers, rescuers, world-class mountaineers, military special forces, and an astronaut [John Grunsfeld] taking part in a study by Dr. Peter Hackett, who turns the mountain's vertical arctic landscape into a high-altitude lab. Home to the highest medical rescue camp in the U.S., Denali offers a unique opportunity, since it's one of the few places on Earth where doctors can study humans in extreme conditions."

CLV Problems?

NASA Encounters Possible Problems With Crew Launch Vehicle Design, SpaceRef

"According to industry sources, NASA has encountered some problems with its planned CLV (Crew Launch Vehicle) design as spelled out in the yet to be (formally) released Exploration Systems Architecture Study (ESAS) Final Report. NASA has considered bringing in contractor representatives soon to discuss this issue since a change in the CLV design would lead to other delays - including the CEV."

Hickam will speak at rites for 12 miners, Huntsville Times

"Huntsville author Homer Hickam, whose family is from the mining town of Coalwood, W. Va., will speak today in Buckhannon, W. Va., at the memorial service for the 12 miners killed in the Sago Mine disaster. Hickam, author of "Rocket Boys" and books about his coal-mining roots, was invited by officials to attend the memorial."

Sago Miners Memorial Remarks by Homer Hickam

NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 13 January 2006

"The Flight Engineer conducted a search for a power supply unit (BP) for the Russian SKV-2 air conditioner, reported as "lost" in the IMS (Inventory Management System), an assignment moved from the voluntary "time available" task list to Valery's regular schedule. [Due to the unstable operation of SKV-2, TsUP/Moscow plans to have its BP replaced in case of SKV-2 failure.]"

NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 14 January 2006

"The crew completed the regular weekly three-hour task of thorough station cleaning, wearing protective garment. ["Uborka", normally done every Saturday, includes removal of food waste products, cleaning of compartments with vacuum cleaner, damp cleaning of the Service Module (SM) dining table, other surfaces and the FE's sleep station with "Fungistat" disinfectant and cleaning fan screens to avoid temperature rises.]"

Richard Covey Named Chief Operating Officer of United Space Alliance

"We are pleased to announce that veteran Shuttle astronaut and space industry executive Richard O. "Dick" Covey has been named to replace Brewster Shaw as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. Brewster has returned to Boeing as Vice President and General Manager of Boeing NASA Systems."

Hubble Trouble

NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report #4028

"WFPC2 WF4 Supplemental Darks - A anomaly has been found in images from the WF4 CCD in WFPC2. The WF4 CCD bias level appears to have become unstable, resulting in sporadic images with either low or zero bias level. The severity and frequency of the problem is rapidly increasing, and it is possible that WF4 will soon become unusable if no work-around is found. The other three CCDs {PC1, WF2, and WF3} appear to be unaffected and continue to operate properly. These darks are to supplement those in program 10748 to ensure sufficient dark frames for routine calibration. As the WF4 anomaly grows worse, we are beginning to see episodes where too many darks are corrupted and are unusable."

Take a leap into hyperspace, New Scientist

Welcome to Mars express: only a three hour trip, The Scotsman

"An extraordinary "hyperspace" engine that could make interstellar space travel a reality by flying into other dimensions is being investigated by the United States government. The hypothetical device, which has been outlined in principle but is based on a controversial theory about the fabric of the universe, could potentially allow a spacecraft to travel to Mars in three hours and journey to a star 11 light years away in just 80 days, according to a report in today's New Scientist magazine."

Heim Quantum Theory for Space Propulsion Physics (PDF)

"This paper describes a novel space propulsion technique, based on an extension of a unified field theory in a quantized, higher-dimensional space, developed by the late B. Heim (1977) in the 50s and 60s of the last century, termed Heim Quantum Theory (HQT)."

Reader comment: Marc G. Millis, from NASA GRC Notes: "I have recently been barraged with requests to comment about the Heim theory and its "hyperspace" propulsive implications as posted in New Scientist, 7-Jan-2006. The New Scientist article is online, but only for subscribers: http://www.newscientist.com/

Please note:

My assessments below are only a cursory response rather than the result of a full technical review. If I had done a full technical review, I would have submitted it to a journal. Given the level of interest, however, and the habit that many of us have to jump to conclusions (pro or con), I thought I should comment.

NASA MEPAG Report: Science Analysis of the November 3, 2005 Version of the Draft Mars Exploration Program Plan

"An MSR mission directly supports the eventual human exploration of Mars. Results from sample return will provide science and engineering data not readily obtainable by remote sensing or in-situ analysis. It further demonstrates "proof-of-concept" and learning relevant to the round-trip essential for human exploration of Mars. Similarly, it can provide the model for how to conduct an international human Mars exploration program. An MSR mission in the 2016/2018 opportunity will provide the public with a tangible demonstration that the United States is taking steps towards human exploration beyond the moon."

False Alarm

Mayday! Mayday! British rescue sparked by faulty TV receiver, AFP

"A faulty digital television receiver has sparked a helicopter rescue mission after sending out a rogue distress signal, the Royal Air Force said. The "freeview" box -- which normally allows television viewers access to dozens of digital TV and radio channels via a standard, rooftop aerial -- sent out a signal identical to that for emergency beacons at sea."

Stardust Returns To Earth

NASA's Comet Tale Draws to a Successful Close in Utah Desert

"NASA's Stardust sample return mission returned safely to Earth when the capsule carrying cometary and interstellar particles successfully touched down at 2:10 a.m. PST in the desert salt flats of the U.S. Air Force Utah Test and Training Range.Stardust released its sample return capsule at 9:57 p.m. PST last night. The capsule entered the atmosphere four hours later at 1:57 a.m. PST. The drogue and main parachutes deployed at 2:00 and 2:05 a.m. PST respectively."

Another Moon Rock Theft

Moon rocks stolen from vehicle in Virginia Beach, Virginia Pilot

Moon rocks taken from NASA instructor's car, AP

"Several lunar rocks were stolen this week from a car belonging to a NASA instructor, police said. Virginia Beach police said the theft of the rare specimens was reported Tuesday morning. They were inside a silver briefcase that was also taken."

Decision on manned space mission in a year: ISRO Chief, PTI

"We need to develop a lot of new technologies to build a life-supporting system, a space capsule with safety features to survive and a recovery operation to complete the mission. "If it is decided, we do not want to lag behind in our preparations," Nair said, adding it will take at least seven to eight years for the agency to prepare for the mission."

Methane dropped from CEV plans, NASASpaceFlight.com

NASA Drops Requirement For Methane Engine From CEV, Aviationnow.com

"...The new document also drops requirements for a LOX/methane engine on the CEV service module as a placeholder for future extraction of the fuel from the atmosphere of Mars, and for delivery of unpressurized cargo to the International Space Station ..."

White House Space Policy: A Renewed Spirit of Discovery

"The fundamental goal of this vision is to advance U.S. scientific, security, and economic interests through a robust space exploration program. In support of this goal, the United States will: ... Extend human presence across the solar system, starting with a human return to the Moon by the year 2020, in preparation for human exploration of Mars and other destinations;"

"Develop and demonstrate power generation, propulsion, life support, and other key capabilities required to support more distant, more capable, and/or longer duration human and robotic exploration of Mars and other destinations; and Conduct human expeditions to Mars after acquiring adequate knowledge about the planet using robotic missions and after successfully demonstrating sustained human exploration missions to the Moon."

Editor's update: Once again, under Mike Griffin, the implementation of the VSE shrinks further back from sending humans to Mars - via the moon - a goal NASA was directed to pursue by the President two years ago tomorrow.

Venture Capitalist Update

NASA JSC Solicitation Amendment: Venture Capitalist Consulting Services

"Respondents should quote a price based on the total time required for the period of performance.For example, an average of 24 hours a week, including time traveling, for 34 weeks. We are buying a number of hours, not a number of people."

NASA Wants a Venture Capitalist, earlier post

NASA Restructures Aeronautics Research

"NASA is returning to long-term investment in cutting-edge fundamental research in traditional aeronautics disciplines," Porter said. "We are investing in research for the long-term in areas that are appropriate to NASA's unique capabilities and meeting our charter of addressing national needs and benefiting the public good."

NASA's FY 2007 Budget Submission to OMB, NASA Watch

Aeronautics Research: FY 2006: $807.4 M | FY 2007: $694.4 M | Delta: -14.0%

CEV Phase II RFP Released

NASA Refines Design for Crew Exploration Vehicle

"NASA's Constellation Program is making progress toward selecting a prime contractor to design, develop and build the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV), America's first new human spacecraft in 30 years."

Reader comment: Actually, wouldn't SpaceShipOne be America's first new spacecraft in so many years?

X-38 Fact Sheet, DFRC

"The wingless CRV, when operational, would be the first reusable human spacecraft to be built in more than two decades."

Editor's note: How quickly NASA forgets its own hype. Indeed, it does so again and again:

Reader comment: "With regard to the X-38 quote: Space Shuttle Endeavour was delivered in 1991."

Brewster Shaw named as Boeing NASA Systems leader

"Brewster Shaw has been selected as vice president and general manager of the Boeing NASA Systems business unit. Shaw replaces Mike Mott who passed away in November 2005. Shaw was Chief Operating Officer of United Space Alliance (USA) just prior to this assignment and had primary responsibility for the operations and overall management of USA, the prime contractor for the Space Shuttle Program. Shaw was named to this position in 2003."

Bush Seeking to Limit Spending Growth in '07 Budget, Bloomberg

"President George W. Bush is preparing a budget request for next year that officials say would carve savings from programs such as Medicare, NASA and agriculture, testing lawmakers' pledges to hold down spending in an election year." ... "The budget office also aims to reduce spending on the Space Shuttle program, slicing as much as $6 billion from the projected cost of almost $70 billion in the next four years."

Letter from the House of Representatives to President Bush Regarding NASA's FY 2007 Budget

"This request is even more vital as we understand that OMB is currently on a course that will under-fund the Shuttle program by $3 to $6 billion between FY07 to FY10. This would mean the immediate retirement of the Shuttle Atlantis and cut from the needed 19 shuttle missions to between 8 and 11 missions. This action by OMB would completely contradict the Administration's own space policy and appears to be driven by nothing but budgetary considerations, without regard to the massive policy ramifications and the long-term negative effects on your Vision for Space Exploration."

Budget Shortfalls Continue to Plague NASA's Future Plans, NASA Watch

Cleveland's school boss finalizing CSU move, Cleveland Plain Dealer

" CSU also is finalizing a deal to bring Julian Earls, who retired as director of the NASA Glenn Research Center at the end of December, to become an executive-in-residence at the college of business. In September, Earls was offered the job as president of Alabama A&M University in Huntsville, but he eventually declined."

Fire at GRC

Electrical Fire Breaks Out At NASA, New Channel 5

"A fire broke out inside a building at NASA Glenn Research Center, NewsChannel5 reported."

Editor's update: Internal GRC email from Safety and Mission Assurance Directorate describing event:

Remarks by NASA Administrator Griffin to the American Astronomical Society

"In short, we who run NASA today are doing our very best to preserve a robust science program in the face of, frankly, some daunting fiscal realities that affect all domestic discretionary spending. These realities dictate that we set priorities; NASA simply cannot accomplish everything that was on our plate when I took office last April. In space-based astronomy, and in other areas, we will have to make tough trade-offs between maintaining current missions, of which there are 14 ongoing, and developing new capabilities. The astronomy community has faced this same issue with respect to ground based telescopes as well."

NASA News Conference With Mike Griffin: Exploration Systems Architecture Study (Transcript) (20 Sept 2005)

"I think I just said this was not about taking money from the science programs for human space flight and it's not. The science program has not--in our forward planning, we do not take one thin dime out of the science program in order to execute this architecture. It is about re-directing what we do in the human space flight program."

Editor's note: please feel free to post and comments - or your memories regarding Bob Mitcheltree. Further information on memorial services will be posted here.

Mitcheltree's coworkers write: "It is with deep, deep sadness that we inform you of the loss of a great friend, brilliant engineer, caring son, loving brother, intrepid sailor, constant explorer and southern gentleman, Robert Allen Mitcheltree."

Editor's note: This is just plain silly. NASA just signed a multi-year logistics and crew transport agreement for the ISS with Russia. Europe and Japan have ISS cargo carriers under development - some of which use Russian technology. Yet NASA manages to come up with some ITAR fetish with regard to cargo transport access to the very same INTERNATIONAL Space Station - using the very same interfaces that their INTERNATIONAL partners use? Mike Griffin needs to go back to the drawing board on this one. There is zero imagination - and seemingly minimal committment to true commercialization at work here.

Editor's update: Someone@nasa.gov sent some explanatory comments about this project library (see below)

Lockheed rapped for skipping Genesis test, Rocky Mountain News

"Lockheed Martin failed to do a critical prelaunch test that would have uncovered the flaw that doomed NASA's $264 million Genesis capsule, investigators have concluded. The test would have revealed that four tiny switches designed to trigger the release of the Denver-built capsule's parachutes were installed backward. The installation error, combined with the omitted test, sealed the fate of the blunt-nosed capsule, said Michael Ryschkewitsch, chairman of the Genesis Mishap Investigation Board."

Editor's note: Previous LockMart crashes: MPL: tests not performed - spacecraft crashed; Mars Climate Orbiter: metric/english conversion not done - spacecraft burned up - then crashed; NOAA-N: 24 bolts missing in support stand - spacecraft dropped - crashed - on floor. The tally for taxpayers is getting close to $1 billion for all these crashes.

Editor's note: From CBS' Survivor website: "Dan Barry was born in Norwalk, Connecticut, but considers South Hadley, Massachusetts his hometown. He is a former astronaut who currently spends his time building robots for his own company, Denbar Robotics."

Editor's note: Posted on NASA Watch at the request of the NASA Federal Credit Union: "Today, NASA Federal Credit Union discovered an e-mail fraud attempt, known as "Phishing," that appeared to be from NASA Federal Credit Union. This e-mail was sent to the general public and to some credit union members. It instructed the recipient to click on a link to verify credit union information."

Reader comment: "Our Administrator, Mike Griffin, was here at Marshall Space Flight Center this past Friday (1/6/06). We had an opportunity to ask him some direct questions. One of our guys asked him "Since some type of advanced propulsion will be essential for ever getting humans beyond Mars was there any way he could provide some support in the somewhat near term for advanced propulsion research." He answered very strongly, "NO !!!", followed by a very long silence.

Editor's note: From the GRC Bulletin page: "All Hands Meeting Tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. in the DEB Auditorium: "An All Hands Meeting led by Center Director Dr. Woodrow Whitlow, Jr., will be held tomorrow, January 10, 2006, from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. in the DEB Auditorium. Doug Cooke, Deputy Associate Administrator for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, will also attend and participate in the meeting."

Guarded by Nuclear Protection Teams, U.S. to Launch Fastest Spacecraft, Reports Aviation Week & Space Technology

"In an exclusive report, AW&ST says that in addition to precautions at Cape Canaveral, the U.S. State Dept. is contacting Australia and several nations in southern Africa to ensure public safety as the probe passes near those countries during the latter phases of the launch. Reunion Island, a popular French vacation spot, also lies underneath the basic flight path, the magazine reports."

Upcoming NASA launch draws anti-nuke protesters, Orlando Sentinel

"About 30 demonstrators gathered outside the south gate of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Saturday to protest the upcoming launch of a plutonium-powered NASA probe. ... Saturday's event was very different from 1997, when 800 people showed up to protest the launch of NASA's Cassini spacecraft on a mission to Saturn with three times as much plutonium. Twenty-seven demonstrators were arrested, including some who scaled the base's security fence."

Editor's note: Wow. 30 demonstrators in 2006, 800 in 1997. I guess they are losing interest.

Bad Space Science in Waco

Waco teachers take 'trip of a lifetime' to NASA, Waco Tribune-Herald

"Touring NASA facilities, inspecting flight and anti-gravity simulators and talking with some of the world's top engineers was a bit overwhelming, said Gwen Butler, Tennyson Middle School technology teacher."

Editor's note: I'm confused. Was this the (totally nonexistent) NASA device that simulates anti-gravity or was it the other (totally nonexistent) simulator that uses anti-gravity to train astronauts?

Reader comment:"What you have to understand is this teacher (and others like her) just simply are not up to speed with the space age. I'm sure she was overwhelmed. Most of the text books they use in schools here in Waco might have one or two pictures of the Mars Pathefinder mission and a picture of the ISS with two or three modules.

CEV revolution mounted, NASASpaceflight.com

"An innovative gimbal mount is being proposed for inclusion to the design of the CEV (Crew Exploration Vehicle), revolutionising the vehicle's RCS (Reaction Control System) and solar panel orientation capabilities."

Boeing-Lockheed Venture Advances, Wall Street Journal (subscription)

"The Pentagon has given preliminary approval to a joint venture between Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. for military-rocket launches, endorsing a rare monopoly that could set a precedent for defense contractors facing slower military spending, said industry and government officials. After seven months of deliberations and some false starts, the companies have convinced the Pentagon of the venture's projected cost savings, these officials said."

NASA keeps giving with free use of ice shanty, River Valley Newspapers

"NASA keeps pointing skyward. There's no stopping this outdoors group. "Never," according to Tony Christnovich, one of the founding fathers of the North American Squirrel Association. NASA has accomplished more than anyone could imagine in the past several years."

NASA Special Announcement For Commercial Orbital Transportation Services

"Due to the significant number of questions and comments received on the draft announcement and the pending resolution of key legal items in the draft Space Act Agreement, the final announcement soliciting COTS proposals is expected to be released on or about January 18. The revised due date for proposals will be provided in the final announcement."

NASA Set Approves New Unpressurized Logistics Carrier for Space Shuttle Fleet, SpaceRef

Editor's note: The enclosed CR pitch was presented for Full/Final implementation on 12 October 2005 at JSC. In so doing, NASA approved development of 5 new unpressurized payload carriers for the Space Shuttle fleet to be develoepd at GSFC at a total cost of $120 million. What I still don't understand is why this new system is needed - one which won't enter service until 2007 - only to become useless when the shuttle fleet stops flying in 2010. Given the ever shrinking number of remaining shuttle flights, will all of these payload carriers ever even fly?

New Accessories for a Retiring Shuttle Fleet, 12 October 2005

Human Space Flight Requirements for Crew and Space Flight Participants; Proposed Rule

"SUMMARY: The FAA proposes requirements for human space flight of crew and space flight participants as required by the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004. If adopted, this rulemaking would establish requirements for crew qualifications, training, and notification. It would also establish training and informed consent requirements for space flight participants. The rulemaking would also modify existing financial responsibility requirements to account for the FAA's new authority for space flight participants and crew, and to issue experimental permits."

Editor's update: Go here and type in 23449 and you can see what people think about these proposed regulations.

NASA Buys Soyuz Rides

NASA to pay Russia for Soyuz rocket trips, Reuters

"The United States, which beat Moscow in a race to the moon during the Cold War, will pay Russia $21.8 million per astronaut for a lift aboard a Soyuz rocket to the International Space Station, the U.S. space agency NASA said on Thursday. The fare is slightly more than the world's first "space tourists" forked out for a ride into space with the Russian craft."

NASA Terminates Gore's Eye on Earth, Science (subscription)

"The Deep Space Climate Observatory began life in March 1998 when then-Vice President Al Gore proposed a mission, called Triana, to beam back real-time images of the whole Earth. Ridiculed by Republicans as Goresat, the project was resuscitated after a 2000 report from the National Research Council of the National Academies said it could do important research. But last month, NASA science chief Mary Cleave wrote scientists that "the context of competing priorities and the state of the budget for the foreseeable future precludes continuation of the project."

CEV Management Changes

Editor's note: Brian Anderson has been removed as CEV Project Manager. No word yet as to who his replacement will be.

JSC Layoff Update

Editor's note: News from Houston: On Wednesday, Jacobs Engineering gave notice to 125 employees. Their last day is 18 January.

NASA Honors Workers for Bravery During Hurricane

Remarks by NASA Administrator Griffin at Michoud Assembly Facility - NASA Exceptional Bravery Medal Presentation

"Sometime in the near future, a spaceship will be flying toward a lunar research base. That spaceship will contain equipment made with the greatest expertise and care in the Crescent City here at Michoud. And when that spaceship is en route to the Moon, we should all look back in time and say a word of thanks to the Marshworks volunteers and the other heroes of Michoud."

Michoud Assembly Facility Employees Honored with NASA Exceptional Bravery Medal: Ronald Adams, Joseph Barrett, Donald Bollich, Fred Castle, Dan Doell, John Fisher, James Ford, Stephen Francis, Monroe Frazier, Ernest Graham, William Hale, Willie Henderson, Paul Herrin, Royal Holland, Guy Jackson, Ivory Jordan, Joe Kennedy, Donald Leon, Michael Moore, Daryl Ordes, Michael Parquet, John Pucheu, George Rogers, Steven Roshto, Alan Rovira, Joan Savoy, Vickie Schmersahl, Patrick Shea, Henry Sissac, Aline Sullwold, Steve Thompson, Richard Treat, Stephen Turner, Byran Walker, Edward Watts, Roland Williams, Terry Winchester, Malcom Wood

Editor's note: Once again NASA Watch is pleased to reveal the vulcanization of yet another Space Station Science officer, Bill McArthur.

Among the more recent honorees have been astronauts John Phillips, Leroy Chiao, former NASA chief Scientist John Grunsfeld, and of course, Spock himself, Mike Griffin.

Click on the image to enlarge.

NAC Presentations MIA?

Editor's note: It has been more than a month since the NASA Advisory Council met - and the presentations from that meeting are still not online. This is a notable departure from the previous norm in recent years where the NAC was very good about posting things online within days - sometimes hours - of a meeting.

Al Diaz Heads West

Alphonso V. Diaz is the new Vice Chancellor for Administration at UCR

"UC Riverside Chancellor France A. Crdova has asked Alphonso V. Diaz, a former high-ranking administrator at NASA, to be the next Vice Chancellor for Administration. The appointment must still be approved by the UC Board of Regents."

People With Dizziness, Motor And Movement Disorders Find Their Balance Again Thanks To NASA-Developed Technology, Rush University Medical Center

"Developed for use by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), computerized dynamic posturography (CDP) testing generates a comprehensive report, with treatment protocols individualized for each patient to direct and monitor the plan of care."

Americas New Breed of Chiropractors Using NASA Discovered Technology: Spinal Decompression, PR Web

"How are today's generation of Chiropractors having such amazing results with disc compression? Nasa discovered technology virtually eliminates need for invasive disc surgeries."

Editor's note: While the Rush University press release goes into specific detail about the NASA spinoff now being used in therapeutic practice, the chiropractors issue an utterly misleading press release. Other than the title and this intro sentence, no "NASA technology" whatsoever is mentioned, discussed, or even alluded to in this "press release".

XM and Audiovox Introduce XM Passport, the Miniature Tuner , XM Satellite Radio

"The XM Passport measures only 1.3 inches wide, 1.65 inches long, 0.44 inches thick, yet this miniature cartridge contains the entire XM radio tuner needed to deliver XM Satellite Radio to a wide array of XM Ready products. The XM Passport is approximately 40 times smaller than the original trunk mount XM radio tuners introduced just four years ago."

Editor's note: With all this talk of late about giant heavy lift boosters, upper stages, etc. - all design solutions dictated by government employees to industry, I certainly hope that some part of NASA remains 'open source' with regard to other ways to solve problems and receptive to the startling pace of innovations that emerge from the competitive private sector environment. Right now NASA seems to be doing all of the talking - and not much listening. Not a good sign. Imagine what this little satellite radio tuner would look like if NASA designed it.

In 2003 SpaceRef.com introduced SpaceRef Mobile, a comprehensive premium mobile version of SpaceRef available for a small subscription fee. SpaceRef is now offering an updated version of SpaceRef Mobile starting today for FREE. You'll get top stories, ISS news, commercial space news, space exploration initiative news, moon and Mars news and NASA Watch. This new service is updated every 15 minutes and can be reached on a Blackberry, Treo, PDA, or any web enabled portable device at: mspace.spaceref.com

Editor's note: If you go to NASA's main VSE page at the NASA.gov website (also linked to by all other major NASA websites) there is a link on the right hand side which leads to a collection of conceptual art which depict various exploration concepts. Just pick the first lunar category ("lunar activities") and click on a image at random. You get a long disclaimer within each image's caption which says "Note: NASA currently has no formal plans for a human expedition to Mars or the Moon. etc. etc."

This caveat is to be found on all exploration images in this gallery - and has been on these images for more than half a decade. I find it rather silly (and confusing) that NASA waves around all of these new architectures - complete with pretty pictures - within the aerospace community, yet the image galleries that members of the general public (and therefore the media) are directed to send exactly the opposite message i.e. that "NASA has no formal plans ...". Isn't there anyone at NASA who pays attention to the 'big picture' aspect of the messages NASA sends out. Oh wait - that is what NASA's Strategic Communications Office is supposed to be doing.

Editor's update: This is what one of these image captions looked like before being modified. This is what it looks like now. It is curious that this image gallery - one maintained by an agency with thousands of very smart people - had these image captions online for so long - until some guy sitting at a computer in his basement pointed out this problem the other day. Clearly there is very little "strategy" in NASA's "Strategic" Communications. Nice start Joe - but you still have a long way to go, and a lot left to do.

Post-EVA Cocktail Anyone?

ISS Drinking Ban Could Be Lifted in 2006 - Health Official, MosNews

"They fly in orbit for half a year and perform a heavy workload, especially during exhausting space walks when they shed several kilos in weight over a few hours," said a source in the Russian medical support teams for the manned space program. "Many people think a small ration of alcohol would help restore their strength."

NASA ESAS Final Report November 2005: TEXT OF FULL REPORT

Editor's note: Several days ago we posted a final (October 2005) draft of this report. We have since come across the final version of the report (November 2005) which has recently been approved by NASA Administrator Michael Griffin. In order to present the most accurate version of this report, we have removed the draft version and replaced it with the final version of the report. NASA is expected to publicly release this report in early January 2006.

Huggies in Space?

NASA Flies Huggies in Space, SpaceRef

Editor's note: If you look in the lower right hand corner of this recent Expedition 12 image (and this image) you will see what certainly appears to be a package of a Huggies product wedged upside down behind a handrail. Here in the U.S. Huggies are a popular brand name of diapers and other related products. It is hard to tell exactly what product this is. I am guessing that this is a package of cleaning wipes of some sort. Then again, astronauts do wear adult-sized diapers during EVAs, launch, and landing...

Editor's update: A number of readers - most of them parents - have confirmed that the package is indeed cleaning wipes. Several other people who I spent time with in the arctic on Devon Island also chimed in. You see, these are a common item you take with you when you are going to live in a tent for a month and showers are hard to come by. For the record, I prefer "Splash N' Go" made by Kleenex.

Reader note: "Huggies are popular with the troops as well. I used them to polish my boots and for general cleaning tasks when water was not available. [link]"

Of course, NASA has to have documentation for everything that flies in space - and the Huggies are no different. These NASA drawings specify the container that holds the Huggies in space. Curiously, I don't see any specification for the Winnie the Pooh images that appear on the container in this photo.

What's In and Out for 2006, Washington Post

"Out: NASA; In: Virgin Galactic"

NASA's Predicament, editorial, NY Times

"NASA is headed into the next year with ambitious goals and no assurance that it will get the money needed to carry them out. With large deficits looming in the space shuttle accounts, there is some danger that the space agency could work itself into a familiar corner by trying to do too much with too little, a sure-fire recipe for disaster."

What About Mars?

Why We're Going Back to the Moon, OpEd by Paul Spudis, Washington Post

"The recent release of the details of NASA's proposed plans for human return to the moon in response to President Bush's "Vision for Space Exploration" last year has drawn much comment -- some positive, some negative and some simply perplexed."

President Bush Announces New Vision for Space Exploration Program , White House

"Today, President Bush announced a new vision for the Nation's space exploration program. The President committed the United States to a long-term human and robotic program to explore the solar system, starting with a return to the Moon that will ultimately enable future exploration of Mars and other destinations. ... The experience and knowledge gained on the Moon will serve as a foundation for human missions beyond the Moon, beginning with Mars."

What Mike Griffin *Really* Thinks About NRC's Space Station Report

"Beyond the Moon is Mars, robots first. Most of the Internationals are at present more interested in Mars, as I hear the gossip. Fine, we can't tell them what to be interested in. But our road to Mars goes through the Moon, and we should be able to enlist them to join on that path."

Editor's note: The VSE used be about "human missions beyond the Moon, beginning with Mars". Now, Mike Griffin has focused VSE on one thing only: the Moon. The word Mars doesn't appear in this OpEd - nor do you see it mentioned very often publicly in NASA's new plans - other than vague hints of other, unnamed places. Yet Mike Griffin openly speaks of Mars privately. Unless I missed something, I do not recall the President having revised his direction to NASA. As such, why is everything the agency says focused only on returning the Moon with everything TBD afterwards? Isn't Mars - as a specific destination - part of that rationale, as voiced by the President? Wouldn't adding Mars to the equation a little more openly help explain part of 'why' America is going back to the Moon?

Why do we need to spend $104 billion to get one human crew back on the moon? It makes much more sense if people know this is a practice run for Mars. Its sounds without merit if the rationale is not presented in the same sentence - Dr. Spudis' (otherwise cogent) explanations not withstanding.

If you look back at the articles that took issue with President Bush's January 2004 speech and the VSE, people were taking issue with missions to Mars far more than they were about returning to the moon. NASA should stop parsing what the President said and stick to what he said in the first place. Changing destinations just serves to confuse people who are already skeptical about NASA - and makes justifications all that much harder to explain.


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