May 2006 Archives

Belgium's Antarctic research station a global sustainability benchmark

"The International Polar Foundation (IPF) unveiled today the final plans for Belgium's Princess Elisabeth Antarctic research station, to be built during the International Polar Year 2007-08 (IPY). The station will enable Belgium, and other nations participating in its science program, to carry out important research on climate change and Antarctica's key role as part of the global climate system. This research will contribute to the massive international scientific effort scheduled for the IPY."

Editor's note: According to the revamped Bigelow Aerospace website: "Want to Take a Ride? Once the domain of only the privileged, Bigelow Aerospace is now offering to the public an exciting new opportunity. For the first time, you can actually send an item of your own into space. Your personal selection will be floating inside a spacecraft hundreds of miles above the Earth. If all systems function properly, your personal treasure (be it a photo, ring, bottle-cap or toy) will be floating in space for years."

Editor's 31 May update: I just got this note Pamela Ghaffarian at Franke Park Elementary. Well Done, NASA Watch readers!

"Thank you! You did it!! The boys will be going on Sunday!! They are not even complaining (too much) about the 5 a.m. arrive at the airport time. Thank you so much!!"

In addition to NASA Watch reader generosity, Phil Plait aka "The Bad Astronomer", saw this posting on NASA Watch and posted a Paypal link on his site this morning and generated $1,000 - in just 8 hours. Well done!

Editor's 30 May update: It would seem that you folks have been rather generous. I got this note this evening - let's see if we can get that final $1,000 on Wednesday:

I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of the people who read your site. We are about $1,000 short at the moment, but I have several people sending checks from different places around the country. I cannot tell you how appreciative we are of your help. The boys are thrilled. They have already started on thank you notes, and they cannot wait to begin the article for your website. Thank you so much!

Pamela Ghaffarian, Franke Park Elementary, Multiage Classroom

Money shortage may ground NASA visit, Journal Gazette

"Franke Park is the only school in Indiana to receive a $17,000 three-year grant from NASA to learn about robots, space and meteorology. Their $3,000 trip is in limbo, though, because NASA will not pay for a summer journey, and Ghaffarian has raised less than $500 so far. A Franke Park class cookie business donated some money, and the boys worked one night at McDonald's, which gave the school 10 percent of the proceeds from their shift. Their experiment is already in Virginia, waiting to be loaded onto the rocket. The students placed nuts and bolts screwed together in tiny bottles to see whether the vibrations from the rocket will break them apart."

Editor's 30 May 2006 5:42 pm EDT note: At an all hands meeting at LaRC today, NASA AA for Aeronautics, Lisa Porter, told the audience that NASA "does not need research aircraft". She then specifically cited LaRC's Boeing 757 as "no longer needed."

Editor's 31 May 2006 4:02 pm EDT note: NASA LaRC just posted this summary of Porter's all hands talk yesterday. Alas, the summary is mostly fluff and chock full of buzz words and Powerpoint sentences. No mention is made of the topics raised during the question and answer portion of the event - other than mentioning that she answered questions. And of course, nothing whatsoever is mentioned about the issue of whether or not LaRC's 757 will contine to fly. Yet NASA PAO contacts me to selectively quote from a verbatim transcript of the entire event. You would think that an agency interested in full and open communication with its employees would post such a transcript as soon as it was available - instead of keeping to themsleves - except for using excerpts to correct troublesome websites.

Editor's 31 May 1:58 pm EDT Update: I got the following from J.D. Harrington at 1:58 pm EDT today with reard to a posting I made yesterday at 5:42 pm EDT. My posting yesterday was based on 3 separate LaRC employee recollections of the "take home message" from what Lisa Porter said at yesterday's all hands. I have yet to find any evidence that this transcript has been posted - officially - anywhere at NASA.

"Hi Keith, I'm the Aeronautics public affairs officer and I wanted to make sure you had the exact dialogue from Lisa Porter's all-hands at Langley. It is different from your posting yesterday. I pulled the transcripts from her speech and follow-up Q&A, and she was specifically asked about flight simulators and large expansive complex devices. Here's her response:

NASA Administrator Griffin Vists Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Sees Stable Future

"In the future he expects JPL to continue to attract new business by competing for missions, but, "If I think JPL is in danger of falling below having the right amount of work to cover the JPL staff, then I will do as I have done at other places I will find you a mission. If you can win enough to keep up the level you're at, you don't need me to do anything." However, he discouraged JPLers from going after major new work that would drive the lab's workforce beyond the current level. "If you kill more than you can eat, I'll probably ask you to send some of that somewhere else."

What's The Link Between Astronauts and Osteoporosis?, International Osteoporosis Foundation

"Though most people may not think of it, bedridden patients and astronauts share something in common: progressive bone loss. Immobile patients lose bone density because they don't exercise muscles that would otherwise build skeletal strength through motion. Astronauts also face long periods of immobility, in addition to zero gravity, which negatively affects bone cell function."

NASA's bed rest subjects have lot of time to blog, Knight Ridder

"On a Monday morning nothing sounds better than lying in bed just a little longer, but 12 weeks longer? The folks at Stardust Holiday ( are chronicling their time as part of a NASA bed rest study. Participants (who, yes, are being compensated) are spending 84 days in the Cleveland Clinic in bed. As if that's not enough, they're lying at 6 degrees head down. Half of them are in a control group, with no exercise, and the other half gets some exercise."

Despite the importance of this research - and the personal sacrifices made by the people who volunteer three emonths of their life - NASA PAO simply ignores the topic - and the people involved. Now another volunteer is about to spend 90 days on his back. I guess if a NASA activity doesn't involve the CEV or overpriced lunar landers, PAO is uninterested.

Earthbound Astronaut Stands Up - And NASA Ignores Her (previous post)

Europe's Columbus lab, saviour of the space station, arrives in US, The Guardian

"But the ISS project hit problems from the outset. The first piece of the ISS was launched in 1998 but, as costs mounted, Nasa began to cut its once-ambitious plans. The Columbia space shuttle accident in 2003 stalled progress, as all flights to add components to the ISS were put on hold. "Flash forward, the US has cut back on its labs dramatically," said [Mr] Cowing. "It has cut back on the science that's going on up there. It may well be that you end up with the bulk of people doing the science in the space station being either European or Japanese astronauts, or US astronauts doing research for Europe or Japan."

NASA's science programs in jeopardy, Cleveland Plain Dealer

"The space agency insists its support for science remains strong. "With the growth in science over the last 15 years to almost 33 percent of NASA's budget, we feel good about the robustness of the program going forward," press secretary Dean Acosta said. Griffin recently dismissed as "almost hysterical" the notion from scientists and some lawmakers that the cuts endanger America's space supremacy."

NASA chooses MSFC for moon mission work, Huntsville Times

"We are gratified to be selected by NASA headquarters to lead this important program that paves the way back to the moon," MSFC Director Dave King said in a statement."

Editor's note: C'mon Dave. Be honest. You told Sen. Shelby that you needed/wanted to take RLEP away from ARC. Sen. Shelby then made it very clear to NASA HQ that he wanted this to happen. HQ did not have any choice. NASA HQ did not "select" MSFC for RLEP - they "selected" ARC - last year. Instead, HQ took this away from ARC. This is not exactly a secret, Dave.

NASA ARC Internal Memo: Message from the Director - Ames Creates a New Blog

"I am pleased to announce that the Office of the Center Director has created a blog. The purpose is to have a new and (we hope) effective tool for communication at the Center. The Deputy Director, the Associate Director for Institutions and Research, and I will use the blog to periodically convey information and to share important developments affecting the Center with you all. The "Ask the Director" link will also be available via this site."

Editor's note: What a fascinating idea ....

Editor's note: The trick to getting new work at your center? Run up obscene increases on a simple project, and then get your congressional delegation (i.e. Sen. Shelby) to whine and moan when the money runs out and demand that things get moved - all the while convincing them that the only way to do things is big, heavy, and expensive. Of course, this also keeps the marching armies back home fat and happy. I really thought Mike Griffin was smarter than this - and that he was able to stand up to such political threats with the backing of the White House.

It should be quite clear by now that neither Mike Griffin or Scott Horowitz are actually in charge of managing NASA's implementation of the VSE. Right now, Sen. Shelby is in charge by virtue of the political actions he has taken (with Dave King's urgings). No doubt Sen. Mikulski will eventually take her turn when LRO encounters problems (with Ed Weiler's urgings). JSC and KSC will get in the act soon enough as well. Meanwhile, the White House turns a blind eye to this foodfight.

This ain't the way to get back to the moon, folks.

Message from NASA ESMD AA Scott Horowitz Outling Programmatic Changes

"A lunar projects office reporting to LPRP with responsibility for developing small spacecraft to support exploration will be located at the Ames Research Center (ARC), which led the former RLEP program. ARC will also continue to lead the development of the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) scheduled to fly in 2008."

Editor's note: Exploration Systems Mission Directorate Associate Administrator Scott Horowitz has decided to pull the RLEP (Robotic Lunar Exploration Program) program office out of NASA ARC (where it was put less than a year ago) and is moving it to MSFC.

It seems that Sen. Shelby (R-AL) and MSFC Center Director Dave King complained loudly about a number of things and wanted to have the program moved to MSFC - the home of $1 billion+ lunar landers. Horowitz is apparently concerned about the initial cost estimates ($1.2 - 1.4 billion) for MSFC's RLEP-2 and has asked that the entire RLEP effort be "reconceived". Horowitz reportedly has asked for three classes of RLEP missions with cost caps at $100 million, $200 million, and $300 million respectively. Apparently there will be a new round of RLEP proposals requested soon.

Reader note: "Has anyone mentioned yet that literally just hours before RLEP was yanked from ARC, the RLEP Program Office had passed its Non-Advocate Review (NAR) with flying colors and without the requirement for a delta-NAR?? I wish someone would total the hours of labor expended to establish a great program at ARC that are now heading straight for the toilet - all the Program Office documentation, all the work on the architecture, all the networking and information gathering done, ... everything a total waste. No one in their right mind believes that MSFC will adopt any of this. This is a true waste of taxpayer money."

Editor's note: Dean: If your skin is this thin you really need to find another line of work.

The New Gag Rules, editorial, Science (subscription)

"For at least two reasons, this event may establish a new high-water mark for bureaucratic stupidity. First, Hansen's views on this general subject have long been widely available; he thinks climate change is due to anthropogenic sources, and he's discouraged that we're not doing more about it. For NASA to lock the stable door when this horse has been out on the range for years is just silly. Second, Hansen's history shows that he just won't be intimidated, and he has predictably told the Times that he will ignore the restrictions. The efforts by Acosta and Deutsch are reminiscent of the slapstick antics of Curley and Moe: a couple of guys stumbling off to gag someone who the audience knows will rip the gag right off."

Working Together for Communication, Letters, Science (subscription)

Donald Kennedy's Editorial "The new gag rules" (17 Feb., p. 917) was quite disturbing. I was offended, not by the unfounded allegations of conspiracy at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), but by the Editorial's reckless disregard for the truth.

Capitol Police Probing Reports of Gunfire, AP

"Police sealed off a House office builing on Friday as they investigated reports that shots were fired in the garage of the building. Four ambulances were summoned. Capitol police were investigating "the sound of gunfire in the garage level of the Rayburn House Office Building," said an announcement on the internal Capitol voice alarm system."

Theoretical blueprint for invisibility cloak reported, Duke University

"Using a new design theory, researchers at Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering and Imperial College London have developed the blueprint for an invisibility cloak. Once devised, the cloak could have numerous uses, from defense applications to wireless communications, the researchers said. Such a cloak could hide any object so well that observers would be totally unaware of its presence, according to the researchers. In principle, their invisibility cloak could be realized with exotic artificial composite materials called "metamaterials," they said."

Editor's note: Wow - a new way for Mike Griffin to make the Space Station disappear!

NASA MSFC Solicitation: Space Shuttle's Booster Separation Motors (BSM's)

"NASA plans to issue a non-competitive Request for Proposal (RFP) to ATK Thiokol Inc., ATK Launch Systems Group for the completion of qualification and the production of Space Shuttles Booster Separation Motors (BSMs) required for the remainder of the Space Shuttle Program. No other supplies or services will satisfy Agency requirements."

NASA JSC Solicitation: Lunar Lander Concept Studies

"The purpose of this Request For Information (RFI) is to widely release the study guidelines that NASA in-house teams are using so that contractors, academia, or any interested parties can perform parallel studies and/or use this information to make decisions on how to focus their internal efforts. NASA will review all submitted concepts and may incorporate all or part of any concept into their planning for future studies."

Campaign Update: The Planetary Society Takes the Fight to Washington

"In contrast to Kennedy's vision, the fiscal year 2007 budget proposed for NASA contains cuts that threaten to end the era of exploration that brought us the Hubble Space Telescope, Mars Exploration Rovers, Cassini-Huygens at Saturn, Deep Impact and Stardust. The Administration proposes to drastically cut future space science, especially astrobiology research; to stop work on new missions to Europa and to find terrestrial planets; and to not include Mars planning in the Vision for Space Exploration.The presentation is part of the Society's SOS (Save Our Science) campaign, and will be hosted in conjunction with the House Science Committee."

"Along with the presentation the Society is also launching an ad campaign, calling on Congress to preserve funding for space science. Prominent advertisements, featuring a trash can and the slogan "Don't Trash Space Science!" will appear on May 25 in the Washington Post and Congress's own Roll Call."

Media 8 To Produce "Challenger" Directed by Philip Kaufman

"M8 Entertainment Inc., a leading film entertainment company engaged in the production, financing, acquisition, and worldwide licensing of theatrical feature films in a variety of genres, announced today that its principal subsidiary Media 8 will co-produce, finance, and distribute the feature film project "Challenger." Written by Nicole Perlman, the film will be directed by Philip Kaufman ("The Right Stuff," "The Unbearable Lightness of Being") and will star Academy Award nominee David Strathairn ("Good Night, and Good Luck") as world-renowned scientist and Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman."

Couple finds Uranium in an old NASA tool box, AP

"A Putnam County couple got a startling surprise when they found a piece of depleted uranium at the bottom of a box of tools. Susan and Lance Greninger called NASA because they had bought the box at an auction near the Kennedy Space Center. A Hazmat team from the fire department examined the metal and said it was a solid piece of depleted uranium about the size of a child's fist."

Boy Scouts of America and Celestron(R) Set Their "Sights'' on Space Exploration, Celestron

"The Boy Scouts of America (BSA), the nation's foremost youth character development program, in partnership with Celestron, a leading designer and manufacturer of telescopes, binoculars, spotting scopes and microscopes, announced a joint program to encourage interest in space exploration and astronomy among America's youth, beginning with a donation of 200 Celestron SkyScouts."

Editor's note: I sent the following proposal to NASA back in 2004 intially as something to do in connection with STS-114. I was not looking for any money. I just thought this was a good idea. I sent this over again in 2005 and 2006. I am told that several formal attempts were made to push it through the system by individuals who knew the true value of organizations such as the Scouts -- but that such efforts usually got stuck within the Education Office (of all places) and died for lack of interest on their part.

Now Celestron and the Boy Scouts have implemented something similar. Independently, they too saw a good opportunity. Yet there is no mention of NASA. Hats off to BSA and Celestron for realizing the potential. Too bad NASA could not push something like this through the system. It's not as if no one was thinking about such things outside the agency. The fact that these two private sector entities went off and did this on their own speaks volumes about the public's interest in space exploration. If only NASA was listening - and interested. Alas, sometimes NASA just can't get out of its own way.

Editor's note: AN exercise like this, if properly planned, could be useful in getting stagnant civil servants to think outside the box - and perhaps tune their tasks to the big picture. Based on personal experience, such creativity is usually absent from such exercises - and the default assumption is that everyone will still have Blackberrys, Franklin Planners, performance plans, etc.

Reader note: "This was on @LaRC today. Is this how we spend scarce funds??? Perhaps we should give the money back to the taxpayers. It gets better with the next message."

"Call for Participants for the Center's Scenario Based Planning Workshop and Core Planning Team - This is a formal call for employees to participate in the Center's Scenario Based Planning activities for this year. Scenario Based Planning is a process whereby each participant is put into one of several plausible worlds or "scenarios" of the future - in our case 2025 - in a workshop environment.

Editor's note: Mike Griffin would like to have the Space Station go away. He can't have that - so he is doing the minimum it takes to least annoy America's partners. To their credit, lawmakers such as Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison believe that the ISS represents more than just a financial commitment - it represents a multi-decade committeement to science - more than just human-based research. They also see the value of pure research as often being the place where some of our most startling ans useful discoveries emerge. Alas, right now, NASA seems to feel that little valuable science can be done on ISS - and sees litte value for pure research - so it has cancelled most of it. This includes research that will be required to enable humans to travel to destinations such as Mars.

NASA Advisory Council Science Committee Presentation 18 May 2006


- These scientific investigations support NASA's strategic goals. In addition, this program is particularly attractive to the general public.

- Science Committee recommendation: NASA's Astrobiology Program shuld have been treated in the same way as any other R&A program, and should be in future planning.

Global Space Agenda: Sen. Hutchison on "Exploration and the Future of U.S. Leadership in Space.

"This event will feature Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison for a discussion on "Exploration and the Future of U.S. Leadership in Space."

Editor's note: According to a source who was at today's event "Senator Hutchison said that the ISS should be used as a site for developing "dark energy" into a usable energy source for US security. She credited Sam Ting (MIT) with selling her on this. And I thought ISS was going to cure cancer and AIDS."

In: dark energy. Out: cosmic rays, Space Politics

Verbatim Transcript: "Dr. Ting believes, that if we could improve the understanding of that dark energy, that matter, that that would help us find a new source of power, perhaps, if we could harness that energy, maybe a new source of energy that we could use on Earth. That is one of the things that he wants to do if we could get the space station finished with the equipment that he needs. Well, at a time when we're desperate for new sources of energy, while China and India are exploding as industrialized nations and we see the price of energy going up all over the world, this is something that we should explore."

Editor's note: According to another person who was also present (and who works on the Hill): "Keith, Please feel free to use this entire response on your website. I know you weren't at the CSIS event today, but I was, and I KNOW what Senator Hutchison said, and whoever your source is for the comments about dark energy was apparently not listening very carefully. But, as you have chosen to repeat an inaccurate second-hand portrayal on your website, permit me to offer a first-hand report from someone who, as you might imagine, pays very close attention to what the Senator has to say.

Back To The Future

Son of Apollo, Air & Space Magzine

"The Architecture calls for sending four astronauts at a time to the lunar surface, compared with Apollo's two. Instead of spending three days on the moon, they'll stay a week. And rather than being confined to a narrow band of landing sites around the lunar equator, they'll be able to land anywhere, even the poles, where scientists believe ice in the soil could be converted to fuel and drinking water."

Bigger Prop Tank Was Key To NASA's RS-68 Decision, Aviation Now

"NASA opted for the Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne RS-68 engine to power its next-generation moon rocket in part because the factory that built the Saturn V can still handle the 33-foot diameter tankage that went into it."

NASA Alters Its Course To The Moon. Again. Is the Program Heading For Trouble?, Tom Jones, Popular Mechainics blog

"The downside of the RS-68 decision is that the Cargo Launch Vehicle's core fuel tanks must grow from a planned width of 27.5 feet to 33 feet (as wide as the old Saturn V's first stage). That's because the RS-68, although more powerful than the SSME (650,000 lbs. of thrust vs. 420,000) is a heavier, less efficient engine, requiring more fuel to lift the same amount of payload to orbit. The larger stage diameter will prevent NASA from using its existing external tank production line at Michoud, LA for the new rocket; instead it will have to invest in new production tooling at the same site. Those "shuttle heritage" savings are dwindling fast."

Engine may be moon-trip choice, Huntsville Times

"When the plan to return to the moon was announced, Cowing said, "people inside and outside of NASA thought that it would just take shuttle hardware and create the rockets needed to go to the International Space Station and on to the moon. "That doesn't seem to be the case. We are seeing a slow drift away from shuttle-derived hardware, and now there's probably going to be a mix of shuttle hardware and" expendable rockets, Cowing said." ... "To Cowing, NASA is "in reality just creating two brand-new rockets - one for crew and one for cargo. In the end, there will probably be little of today's shuttle" used in the rockets."

NASA Names Scales Associate Administrator for Institutions and Management

"NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale announced Monday Charles H. Scales as the new associate administrator for the Office of Institutions and Management."

Modification: NASA's Exploration Team (NEET) Educators Resources Center/Exploration Station at NASA KSC

"This is a modification to the synopsis entitled NASA'S Exploration Team (NEET) Educators Resources/Exploration Station at the John F. Kennedy Space Center, Florida, NNK06156918C which was posted on June 18, 2006. You are notified that the following changes are made: The Cooperative Agreement Announcement is hereby canceled and will be reissued at a future date. The due date for responses N/A extended. Documents related to this procurement will be available over the Internet."

Editor's note: I'm confused. The solicitation that was pulled was posted on 18 May 2006 - not 18 June 2006.

GAO: NASA's Ability to Meet Future Deep Space Communications Demand Is at Risk, House Science Democrats

NASA's Deep Space Network: Current Management Structure Is Not Conducive to Effectively Matching Resources with Future Requirements, GAO

"While NASA's Deep Space Network can meet most requirements of its current workload, it may not be able to meet near-term and future demand. The systemsuffering from an aging, fragile infrastructure with some crucial components over 40 years oldhas lost science data during routine operations and critical events. In addition, new customers find they must compete for this limited capacity, not just with each other, but also with legacy missions extended past their lifetimes, such as NASA's Voyager, that nonetheless return valuable science. Program officials doubt they can provide adequate coverage to an increasing set of new mission customers, especially if they increase dramatically under the President's Vision."

NASA administrator shares his vision of returning to moon, DC Military

"In his presentation, "NASA's Exploration Architecture," Griffin laid out NASA's future plans to the midshipmen. Some of those plans include completing the International Space Station, safely flying the space shuttle until 2010 when NASA will retire the space vehicle which took astronauts like Neal Armstrong to the moon, and to develop and fly the new Crew Exploration and Crew Launch Vehicles no later than 2014."

Reader note: "This author needs to learn about space and the various launch vehicles used by the NASA over the years. I didn't know the Space Shuttle was operational in '69 and capable flying to the moon and returning. At least, since it wasn't in quotes so I'm assuming it wasn't Griffin who made the comment."

Editor's note: Oh yes, it's "Neil" not "Neal" Armstrong

Better, Faster Spacecraft Designs: New Software System Offers Promise of NASA-wide Collaboration, NASA MSFC

"The suite of design tools is called PARSEC, short for the Preliminary Analysis of Revolutionary Space Exploration Concepts. It enables engineers to share design ideas, access the same highly technical information and see the latest test results - all from their desktop computers."

NASA Report: Overview of the DART Mishap Investigation Results - For Public Release, NASA MSFC

"Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) - The MIB determined that analyses to identify possible hardware/software faults failed to consider a sufficient set of conditions that could lead to the mishap. For example, the analyses focused on the effects of a complete loss of functionality of the navigation system's components, but did not address the impact of a degraded functionality of those same components."

Editor's note: It sure looks like the software screw-ups that led to MSFC-managed DART failure have caused the MSFC folks to get religion as far as software design goes. However, using the words "Better, Faster Spacecraft" as the title of their press release is a little scary (Mars Climate Orbiter anyone?). At least they did not use "cheaper". And why isn't IV&V mentioned? You'd think they'd be part of this (i.e. an outside evaluator). Oh wait, "OneNASA" was one of those silly O'Keefe ideas.

Lunar panda-huggers, Washington Times

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican and senior member of the Science Committee, said he opposes the plan to send Mr. Griffin to China. "It is mind-boggling that the administration would even consider cooperating with China on space or any other technological endeavor," Mr. Rohrabacher said. "The People's Republic of China continues to hide its military buildup, oppress its people, violate international labor standards and do business with rogue regimes such as Iran and Sudan." Space cooperation with Beijing likely will produce "the transfer of technology which will strengthen them and threaten us."

Editor's note: Hmm... and Rep. Rohrabacher was one of the loudest voices behind passage of the Iran Non-Proliferation Act (as it related to similar issues with Russia) and then a few years later he was one of the loudest voices calling for its retraction - admitting that it was a mistake. We'll check back on his stance vis-a-vis China in a couple of years.

This is not to detract from the valid points Rep. Rohrabacher makes (at the present moment). The problem with the U.S. - and how the rest of the world views our stance on such issues as they relate to technology transfer (ITAR etc.) - is that we never we seem to speak with one voice, that this voice regulary flips polarity on the point it seeks to make from one country to the next; and often does so - with different countries - with similar bad habits - at the very same time.

Engine may be moon-trip choice, Huntsville Times

"When the plan to return to the moon was announced, Cowing said, "people inside and outside of NASA thought that it would just take shuttle hardware and create the rockets needed to go to the International Space Station and on to the moon. "That doesn't seem to be the case. We are seeing a slow drift away from shuttle-derived hardware, and now there's probably going to be a mix of shuttle hardware and" expendable rockets, Cowing said." ... "To Cowing, NASA is "in reality just creating two brand-new rockets - one for crew and one for cargo. In the end, there will probably be little of today's shuttle" used in the rockets."

VEEP Speaks at LSU

Vice President Delivers the Commencement Address at Louisiana State University

"Since the middle of the 19th century, LSU's alumni have gone on to lives of high achievement in Louisiana, and well beyond. And year after year LSU attracts men and women of extraordinary talent to study, to teach, and to do research. Your chancellor, Sean O'Keefe, is a former administrator of NASA and an old friend of mine. He pointed out to me that America's early space capsules were designed by an LSU alum, and that one of our astronauts has recently been hired to join your faculty."

LSU Hires Leroy Chiao - Raborn/Faget Chair Professorship

Christie's New York to Mark Star Trek's 40th Anniversary With First-Ever Official Auction of Star Trek Studio Items

"In celebration of the 40th anniversary of Star Trek, Christie's is honored to be holding a remarkable auction on October 5 - 7, 2006 of official Star Trek contents from the archives of CBS Paramount Television Studios. Over 1,000 lots from the never-before-released archives of CBS Paramount Television will include material from all of the Star Trek television series and movies, encompassing costumes, props, weapons, set dressings, detailed models of the Enterprise and various alien ship and space stations."

Editor's note: To follow up my earlier post "Does NASA GRC Have a Stealth Lunar Rover Project?" I asked the following specific questions of NASA PAO. This is what they sent back.

NASA Solicitation: Strategic Messaging and Communication Services

"NASA/HQ has a requirement for the services of a firm with extensive experience providing strategic messaging and strategic communication products and services to provide speech writing for presentation by NASA officials to business and government leaders."

Editor's note: Meanwhile, the search to replace Joe Davis as Chief of Strategic Communications at NASA HQ continues. One name that has been circulating at NASA is Jeff Carr who currently works for USA in Houston.

CaLV Engine Update

NASA Exploration Systems Progress Report 18 May 2006

"NASA has chosen the RS-68 engine to power the core stage of the agency's heavy lift cargo launch vehicle intended to carry large payloads to the moon.

The announcement supersedes NASA's initial decision to use a derivative of the space shuttle main engine as the core stage engine for the heavy lift launch vehicle."

CaLV Engine Changes (earlier post)

NASA Set To Launch Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter in 2008

"After a 30-year hiatus, the orbiter represents NASA's first step towards returning humans to the moon."

Editor's note: "30-year hiatus"? Looks like someone at PAO forgot about NASA's Lunar Prospector which was launched in 1998. Of course there was the non-NASA (NRL) Clementine mission launched in 1994. Both served as pathfinders for LRO.

Greenhouse Webcam 2 Editor's note: The Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse woke up several weeks ago. Located at the Mars Institute's HMP Research Station on Devon Island, this greenhouse has several webcams located inside which are now sending back images on a more or less daily basis. Webcam 2 looks south at the growing trays. Webcam 3 looks north at the heating system. Note: ignore the date stamp on these webcam images - apparently both cameras lost track of time during the several months of darkness when they were inactive.

During fall 2005 there was some unusual activity in and around the greenhouse and the report listed below describes what is known to date. Another update to this report will follow soon.

- 2005 Preliminary Fall Report (PDF)
- Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse Update, July 20, 2005
- Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse (ACMG): Frequently Asked Questions

Orbital Sciences to lay off 10% of workers, The Arizona Republic

"Up to 100 people will lose their jobs at Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Chandler plant, a response a company spokesman attributes to a slowdown in sales of its rockets used to launch commercial payloads, such as satellites."

Sleeping on the Job - The life and times of a human guinea pig, Seed Magazine

"The 21-year-old former cashier and bank temp is part of NASA's "bedrest study" - her only duty for the last three months has been to lay horizontal so that her feet never fall below her head. By lying in this position and not supporting her own weight, Erin Peterson's body has experienced similar symptoms to what a body undergoes while weightless."

post bedrest day 2, Erin Peterson

"yes! i'm still alive! standing up hurts like a bitch, but i love being semi-independent again. sorry for the short post, i just wanted to let everyone know that i'm doing well and i'll be back to blogging. i'm waiting for the hotel car right now to take me over for a full day of strength testing, MRIs and the works. but i'm doing alright, and i've got about 50 million pictures coming soon.

i made it!"

gone to earth, Erin Peterson

"CNN called, they saw your blog through NASAwatch, and they want to interview you." jaw, meet floor. "i passed them on to natalie [in media relations] and you should be hearing from her soon."

Editor's note: A young woman takes 3 months out of her life to live in a hospital - lying down and hung from cables - to help NASA understand the risks astronauts will encounter during long term space missions. NASA PAO's response? Nothing. Yet she appeared - live - on CNN. How? NASA Watch - Not NASA PAO - the way it should have happened. Then, the NEEMO Crew sends greetings and a photo to Erin from their underwater habitat. How? NASA Watch again.

At a time when NASA seeks new ways to engage the public as to the value of space exploration and train the next generation of space explorers, to ignore the efforts of role models such as Erin Peterson borders on total incompetence. NASA Watch should not have to be doing NASA PAO's job.

- Bedrest Study Participant on CNN
- Earthbound Astronaut Ends Her Mission
- NASA NEEMO-9 Crew Sends Greeting To NASA Bedrest Study Participant

Space to Breathe: Astrobiology Magazine Interview With Apollo Astronaut Harrison Schmitt

"AM: But the immediate adaptation to the environment, such as how gravity affects the way bones develop...

HS: Well, maybe. But again, there are ways to counter that, such as exercise. But one of the things we don't know is how much gravity the human body needs. We haven't done that kind of research in orbit. Hopefully we'll figure out a way to fly the Japanese centrifuge so we can create artificial gravity and find out what the breakpoint is. Is it one-sixth Earth's gravity? Three-eights? So it may not to be an issue on Mars. On the other hand, if it turns out to be an issue, then you look at ways of stimulating bone deposition."

Astrobiology 2.0

Saving Astrobiology at NASA

"Astrobiology emerged at a time when NASA was in a state of flux and ARC and other field centers were faced with possible closure or drastic cutbacks. The community that formed around this nascent program at ARC turned adversity and uncertainty into opportunity and built a rich program out of that chaos. Now tough times are here again. Take a hard look at astrobiology and don't be afraid to respond to this challenge by looking at ways to make it more efficient as well as more relevant to the President's stated vision."

Russian space corporation set to double Soyuz rocket output, RIA Novosti

"Russia's leading spacecraft corporation intends to double the production of piloted Soyuz spacecraft with the help of foreign investors, the company's head said Wednesday."

Editor's note: Who are these "investors" - U.S. taxpayers?

NASA GRC Award Notice: CEV Propulsion Advanced Development 7500 LBF (Vacuum) Main Engine (KT Engineering Corp.)

"Contract Award Amount: $5851425.00"

NASA GRC Award Notice: CEV Propulsion Advanced Development 7500 LBF (Vacuum) Main Engine (GASL Inc.)

"Contract Award Amount: $1035717300"

Editor's note: Hmmm. This is odd: $5 Million ($5851425.00) for one contract and a billion ($1035717300) for the other - both of which seem to be virtually the same - or is one of those pesky little decimal points (important in rocket science) missing?

NASA GRC Internal Memo: Announcement of Glenn Research Center Role for the Crew Exploration Vehicle Service Module

"There have been several recent news stories stating that the Glenn Research Center (GRC) will be responsible for managing the service module work package of the Crew Exploration Vehicle prime contract. This information reported in the media was not provided by NASA, and it is unfortunate that it was released before either the Agency or I had a chance to notify you of this development.

This new assignment is just one element of a broader announcement that is to be made in early June. I know that the employees at GRC have lots of questions, and they will be answered as soon as more complete information is known."

NASA GRC Solicitation: Radiation Tolerant Single Board Computer

"This is a modification to the synopsis entitled RADIATION TOLERANT SINGLE BOARD COMPUTER, NNC06156539Q which was posted on 05/10/2006. You are notified that the following change is made to add the specifications as follows: Single Board Computer for the Highlander Lunar Rover Mission Development."

Editor's note: "Highlander Lunar Rover Mission"? What's that?

Editor's update: This project was submitted as a proposed secondary payload for LRO - but was not selected. My question is: if the mission was not chosen, then why are people still working on it - i.e. why are procurement notices being issued to buy hardware?

BUT if GRC is keeping this project alive (as some readers have suggested) to serve as a way to train young researchers - then this puts the whole thing in a different light. NASA has dropped the ball in recent years - most notably with the FY 2007 budget proposal - when it comes to training and education. Using a proposed project that was not selected to fly - but still has potential as a educational program - has clear merit. If this is the case, then GRC ought to be open about what it is trying to do - otherwise it looks like they can't take "No" for an answer when their project was not selected.

NASA NEO Workshop

NASA Workshop: Near-Earth Object Detection, Characterization, and Threat Mitigation - Call For Papers

"NASA is pleased to announce a Call for Papers for a workshop on Near-Earth Object (NEO) Detection, Characterization and Threat Mitigation to be held at a site to be announced. This workshop is being held in support of NASA's Office of Program Analysis & Evaluation (PA&E) study in response to congressional direction."

Justice Department Statement Regarding Proposed Settlement With the Boeing Company

"Under the proposed agreement, Boeing will pay a total of $615 million. In addition to the $50 million monetary penalty, Boeing will pay $565 million to resolve potential civil claims asserted by the Department's Civil Division. A written agreement will be drafted and is expected to be signed in the next few weeks."

NASA Releases DART Accident Report Summary

NASA Report: Overview of the DART Mishap Investigation Results - For Public Release

"In the case of DART, a lack of training and experience led the design team to reject expert advice because of the perceived risks involved in implementing the recommendations. In turn, this led to inadequate navigation system design and testing." ... "For the DART mishap, the MIB determined that there was an inadequate, system-level integration process, which failed to reveal a number of design issues contributing to the mishap" ..."The MIB determined that one of the root causes of the mishap was an inadequate GN&C software development process." ... "Schedule pressure was identified as the cause for the inadequate testing of a late change to the navigation logic's gain setting." ... "In the case of DART, the MIB concluded that insufficient technical communication between the project and an international vendor due to perceived restrictions in export control regulations did not allow for adequate insight." ... "The MIB determined that in several instances, the NASA DART insight team failed to identify issues that led to the mishap because of an inadequate assessment of project technical risk and insufficiently-defined areas of responsibility." ... "The MIB noted cases where the DART team failed to fully use the resources of available subject matter experts." ... "The MIB concluded that internal checks and balances used by DART's prime contractor failed to uncover issues that led to the mishap, such as the undersized spherical envelope surrounding the AVGS range transition waypoint."

Editor's note: Yikes! ITAR issues aside, it is obvious why NASA sat on this report for a year - it has a high embarassment coefficient.

House Science Committee Democrats Call For NOAA Leadership's Removal

"House Science Committee Ranking Member Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN) and ETS Subcommittee Ranking Member Rep. David Wu (D-OR) are calling for the removal of NOAA Administrator Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr. (Ret.) and General John J. Kelly Jr., Deputy Undersecretary for Oceans and Atmosphere. "If this isn't 'the fleecing of America,' I don't know what is," stated Rep. Gordon. "If we're to have any hope of stopping this train wreck, NOAA must have new leadership - the sooner, the better."

"Vice Admiral Lautenbacher is currently serving as the Administrator for NOAA. At no time in the last two years has the Administrator ever been candid with these Members or the Committee on Science regarding the true problems with this project. We were never sure whether he was purposely obfuscating or was legitimately ignorant of the problems."

"I'm currently participating in the NASA-sponsored bedrest study at the Cleveland Clinic. These are the chronicles of three full months of bedrest, in addition to the craziness leading up to it, and the who knows what afterwards."

Editor's note: According to Erin Peterson's Blog: "ok, ok! i should be sleeping now. but wow, i'm too excited. valium has had zero effect. the tickertape of the unconscious is still going : i'm getting out of bed tomorrow, i'm getting out of bed tomorrow, i'm getting out of bed tomorrow."

Editor's 5 May update: Erin was featured in a live segment this morning on CNN and is expected to appear on CNN again before her participation ends. At the opening of today's sessions at the International Space Development Conference in Los Angeles, this image was shown and Erin received a hearty round of applause for her dedication.

Photo Report: Daisuke Enomoto and Anousheh Ansari Familiarized with Soyuz Spacecraft, RSC Energia

"As part of the preparations for Russian Visiting Crew 11, space flight participant Daisuke Enomoto and his backup Anousheh Ansari were for the acquainted with operational Soyuz space vehicle. The same familiarization activities were conducted by Mikhail Tyurin, test cosmonaut, pilot-cosmonaut, next Soyuz commander and flight engineer of ISS-14 Prime Crew."

Boeing to settle federal suits for $615 million: WSJ, Reuters

"The Chicago-based defense contractor has been the subject of government investigations into the recruitment of a U.S. Air Force weapons buyer while she still had oversight of the billions of dollars in Boeing contracts, and the appropriation of secret information on Lockheed Martin Corp. rocket programs."

Pentagon says Boeing, Lockheed merger review complex, Reuters

"Difficult market conditions first drove the Pentagon and NASA to propose that the two rival companies merge their rocket launch units, but keep separate rockets in production, said Thompson, of the Lexington Institute. But he noted that the officials involved with that recommendation had since left office, and government lawyers were now imposing onerous conditions on the merger, including requirements for investment levels and pension commitments, that threatened to undermine the business case for the deal."

Readdy Joins AvWeek

Editor's note: The 8 May 2006 edition of Aviation Week & Space Technology notes that former pilot/astronaut William Readdy is becoming an editor-at-large and staff test pilot at AvWeek.

NASA Glenn lands major role in moon mission, AP

Glenn wins big space project - Money, many jobs expected to follow, Cleveland Plain Dealer

"NASA Glenn Research Center got liftoff Friday, winning vital, lucrative space work worth, over the project's life, at least $2 billion and possibly hundreds of jobs. Glenn staff will manage the work on a major element of the Crew Exploration Vehicle, the rocket replacing the space shuttle, which NASA officials want in space by 2012. A formal agreement that spells out the center's role on the service module of the Crew Exploration Vehicle was signed recently by NASA officials in Washington, at Glenn and at the main project office within Johnson Space Center in Houston."

CaLV Engine Changes

Modification to a Previous NASA Notice: Cargo Launch Vehicle Core Stage Engine

"This is a modification to the synopsis entitled "CARGO LAUNCH VEHICLE CORE STAGE ENGINE", which was posted on February 23, 2006. You are notified that the following changes are made: The requirement is hereby cancelled."

NASA MSFC Solicitation: Cargo Vehicle Core Stage Engine (original notice):

"NASA/MSFC has baselined the use of a lower cost version of the Space Shuttle Main Engine as the Core Stage Engine (CSE) for the proposed Cargo Launch Vehicle (CaLV). At this time, special studies are needed to evaluate and assess the processes and requirements necessary to develop and certify the CSE for the CaLV. The Core Stage Engine will be a highly affordable, expendable engine derived from the current Space Shuttle Main Engine (RS-25)."

Report of the NASA Advisory Council Planetary Science Subcommittee

"A solution must be sought to the legal obstacles imposed by the interpretation by NASA attorneys of federal regulations on conflicts of interest in order to permit open discussion of programs and potential budgetary trades by the full subcommittee."

Report of the NASA Advisory Council Astrophysics Subcommittee

"The Subcommittee recommends that NASA maintain a healthy R&A program. The R&A program both provides the seed corn for future missions and enables scientists to fully harvest the scientific yield from on-going and past missions. The technology development done under the R&A program is essential to the success of future missions, to lowering their costs, minimizing their risks, and maximizing NASA's science return per dollar from its large missions."

Report of the NASA Advisory Council Earth Science Subcommittee

"The large retroactive cut in FY06 will have devastating effects on the research community, especially young researchers, if it is not alleviated in FY07. A one-time cut can be at least partially absorbed by phasing of contracts, delay of purchases, etc., but a long-term cut of that magnitude would have severe impacts on the lifeblood of the Earth science community, with strong negative implications for the ability of the community to meet national needs at a time when the importance of Earth science and global change issues are growing markedly."

Report of the NASA Advisory Council Heliophysics Subcommittee

"Our initial conclusion is that the Heliophysics program (the bottom to paths in the attached summary sheet from that report) defined in the recent roadmap can be carried out with the current funding profile. We recognize that the program is fragile, and that the loss of any single missions would result in substantial damage to the systems approach to understanding the connections among the existing systems in the Heliosphere."

- Burt Rutan: "I hope to go the Moon in my lifetime"
- Space Adventures - the Seven Summits of Space
- Alpine style in science, Solar panels in space, Google maps and the Japanese man
- Gold, War and a huge Ego will take us there

"When we climb, row an ocean or ski to one of earth's poles on the cheap, weight becomes extremely important to us. Going alpine style or unsupported is a big difference to having planes browsing by with resupplies or an army of Sherpas fixing routes and camps. All of a sudden - strong and determined is not enough. We must also become smart and inventive and that's when it becomes complicated. Sure we can make a run for it in good weather and keep our fingers crossed - but that is boldness over intelligence and can result in early death. To keep succeeding and surviving on the cheap in the long run, we must come up with ways to continuously make it on a fraction of gear and supplies. The same goes for rockets and satellites."

University of North Dakota Tests NASA Funded Experimental Planetary Space Suit

"The multilayered North Dakota Experimental Planetary Space Suit, or NDEPSS, is entirely and meticulously hand-crafted by students with a variety of skills, including a team at the ND State College of Science that machined to exacting tolerances the rings that join various parts of the suit together. The NDEPSS project was funded last year by a $100,000 NASA Aerospace Workforce Development grant following a proposal that was identified by NASA officials as one of the top three of the 52 submitted."

UND Spacesuit Website
UND Spacesuit Blog

NASA Should Improve Employee Awareness of Requirements for Identifying and Handling Sensitive But Unclassified Information (Redacted), NASA OIG

"Overall, NASA's policies and procedures for handling SBU information are consistent with Federal laws and regulations.... However, we found that NASA lacks a comprehensive SBU training program for civil servants and contractors on the requirements for protecting SBU information."

Changes Needed to Spur Innovation in Aerospace Technologies, National Research Council

"NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD) faces serious challenges to the innovative use of its research results because of inadequate budgets and a lack of agreement on ARMD's future direction, says a new report from the National Research Council."

[Former] Acting Director Christensen Upbeat About NASA Ames Research Center's Future, ARC Astrogram

"Christensen laid out a strategy for Ames' recovery and future strength that includes developing a 'skunk works' to build satellites, attracting more work packages, winning more competitive proposals, and restoring our reputation for project management and job completion. With regard to the skunk works concept, Christensen said Ames will construct a 'satellite center' in building N240 to develop small satellites that cost less than $250 million. He reported that NASA Administrator Michael Griffin not only expressed approval of the skunk works concept, but also opened the door to the prospect of Ames taking on even larger projects."

NASA Ames Appoints Marvin "Chris" Christensen As New Deputy Director

"Chris has provided experienced leadership as acting program manager of the Robotic Lunar Exploration Program (RLEP) since coming to Ames in September 2005," said Worden. "In that role, he has been instrumental in regaining a true mission management role for the center and in kicking off our efforts in the area of small satellites, which I think will be key to our future."

Space Science Update

NASA Budget: Crisis Deepens as Scientists Fail to Rejigger Space Research, Science (subscription)

"... And NASA Administrator Michael Griffin in accepts a portion of the blame. "I made a mistake," Griffin told NASA's new science advisory panel. "I made commitments in advance that I wasn't able to keep," referring to his 2005 promise not to shift money from science to human space flight. NASA's current budget request would trim more than $3 billion from space science through 2011."

"... In the meantime, Griffin pledges to listen more closely to scientists. He spent several hours at the advisory committee meeting answering questions and chatting informally with committee members. "I'm not the world's best communicator," he told them. But "we don't get out of bed, drive to headquarters, and try to screw the program up. ... We're not out to do a Lone Ranger act."

National Science Board Elects Physician and Former Astronaut to be New Officers, NSF

"At its May 10 meeting, the National Science Board (NSB) elected Steven C. Beering to serve as chair and Kathryn D. Sullivan to serve as vice chair. The new officers replace outgoing chair Warren M. Washington and vice chair Diana S. Natalico."

Gordon, Udall Urge Appropriators to Restore Funding for NASA Science and Aeronautics

"In a letter this week to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Science, State, Justice, and Commerce, Science Committee Democratic leaders urged appropriators to increase NASA's FY07 funding level as recommended in the NASA Authorization Act of 2005."

Letter From House Science Committee Democrats to the House Appropriations Committee Regarding Issues with the NASA FY 2007 Budget Request

"Unfortunately, the Administration has failed to request funding for NASA in either FY 2006 or FY 2007 commensurate with what it has estimated would be needed. Thus, the FY 2007 budget request for NASA is more than a billion dollars less than the Administration and Congress (as reflected in the Authorization Act of 2005) have believed is required to undertake the new exploration initiative while maintaining robust and healthy science and aeronautics programs."

Democrats Demand Answers on NOAA Satellite Project
Opening Statement by Rep. Ehlers
Opening Statement by Rep. Boehlert
Opening Statement by Conrad Lautenbacher
Opening Statement by Johnnie Frazie

"The report we are releasing today, "Poor Management Oversight and Ineffective Incentives Leave NPOESS Program Well Over Budget and Behind Schedule," describes problems that have contributed to this vital program being more than $3 billion over initial life-cycle cost estimates and 17 months behind schedule, according to the Government Accountability Office. Despite these problems, the contractor has received $123 million in incentive payments84 percent of the amount available under the NPOESS award fee contract for the first six award periods."

Department of Commerce Inspector General Report, "Poor Management Oversight and Ineffective Incentives Leave NPOESS Program Well Over Budget and Behind Schedule", PDF

Outspoken: Mike Griffin on the NASA budget," Nature

Deep cuts to NASA astrobiology - Griffin: "I did think astrobiology was less important than traditional space science. It had less intrinsic subject matter to it, and was less advanced. If the community rises up and says it should be funded, we'll rethink it."

NASA Lacks Resources Needed to Sustain Vigorous Science Program, National Academy of Sciences

Report: "An assessment of Balance in NASA's Science Programs" [excerpt Page 20]: "The decadal surveys for astrophysics and for solar system exploration both embraced astrobiology as a key component of their programs, with the questions encompassed by astrobiology serving as overarching themes for the programs as a whole. The missions put forward in the solar system exploration survey are all key missions in astrobiology, whether they are labeled as such or not. And issues and missions related to astrobiology represent one of the key areas of interest identified in the astronomy and astrophysics communities.

Astrobiology provides the intellectual connections between otherwise disparate enterprises. NASAs astrobiology program creates an integrated whole and supports the basic interdisciplinary nature of the field. Further, the Vision is, at its heart, largely an astrobiology vision with regard to the science emphasis. In developing the future of the program, the missions actually feed forward from the basic science. Astrobiology is just beginning the type of synthesis and integration that will allow it to provide science input for future mission development. Without it, the science and the scientific personnel will not be in place to support the missions when they do fly.

At a time of increasing desire for cross-disciplinary programs, astrobiology represents an outstanding example of the development of a successful new interdisciplinary area."

Inside the PRCB

Tanking Test showdown revealed,

"The pros and cons of carrying out a Tanking Test ahead of STS-121 have been revealed in a MSFC document. The fascinating document, written by NASA/MSFC's Robert Champion, was presented to last week's PRCB (Program Requirements Control Board) - and was responsible for ending any possibility of carrying out the cryo-loading of ET-119, which had been pencilled in for June 1."

NASA CIO Leaving

NASA's Chief Information Officer Announces Plans to Step Down

"NASA's Chief Information Officer, Patricia L. Dunnington, announced Tuesday, May 9, she is stepping down from that position at NASA Headquarters. Here is a portion of her announcement: "It has been my honor and privilege to serve as the NASA Chief Information Officer. Over these past three years, we have realized significant accomplishments that benefit both NASA's mission and management functions."

Finalists picked in NASA's private space race, MSNBC

"Oklahoma-based Rocketplane Kistler and California-based Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, acknowledged that they were finalists. Other sources, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the official NASA reticence, indicated that the Virginia-based t/Space consortium, California-based SpaceDev, Texas-based Spacehab and Andrews Space in Seattle were also on the list."

A Crescent Enceladus, A Darkened Saturn, and Backlit Rings

"This image was taken on May 04, 2006 and received on Earth May 05, 2006. The camera was pointing toward Enceladus at approximately 2,108,298 kilometers away, and the image was taken using the CL1 and CL2 filters. This image has not been validated or calibrated. A validated/calibrated image will be archived with the NASA Planetary Data System in 2007."

More images at Saturn Today.

Vice president to address spring commencement, KATC-TV

"Vice President Dick Cheney will address more than 3,200 students at graduation ceremonies later this month at Louisiana State University. Cheney is the latest in a string of prominent conservatives at an LSU commencement ceremony. "Any time a vice president delivers a commencement address, he brings credit to the sponsoring university," Chancellor Sean O'Keefe said in a statement. "We are honored that he will visit our campus."

The Vision for Space Exploration: New Opportunities - A Speech by NASA ARC Director Simon P. Worden, SpaceRef

"Now these are the key questions then: How do we sustain the vision for space exploration to lead us to settlement? How do we afford it? How do we nurture it? My answer - and I think a lot of yours' - is the private sector. This is not necessarily easy or straightforward. For a start why would the private sector individual spend the money on space exploration? And if they do what is the role of the Government? And in particular how do we address the number one item in all space activities - how to get to space to start with?"

NASA Agrees to Cooperate With India on Lunar Mission

"NASA will have two scientific instruments on India's maiden voyage to the moon. Tuesday, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin and his counterpart, Indian Space Research Organization Chairman G. Madhavan Nair, signed two Memoranda of Understanding in Bangalore, India, for cooperation on India's Chandrayaan-1 mission."

NEEMO Update

In undersea habitat, aquanauts learn about teamwork and task performance for the moon and Mars

"Between daily living, telemedicine activities and moon-walking simulations, participants in the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) 9 project helped National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) researchers study performance ability, problem-solving and team cohesion issues that could affect long-duration space flights."

Astrobiology Update

Report: NASA in need of new blood, AP

"NASA's work force is graying and the agency lacks a long-term plan for luring qualified workers to help send astronauts to the moon and Mars, a National Research Council report says."

OPAG, Day 2: Update from the NASA Advisory Committee meetings this week, Planetary Society Blog

"Fran [Bagenal] continued, "Mike Griffin recognized he made a mistake in dismantling the advisory structure before he put the new one in place; with no way to receive advice, mistakes were made. He said [the cuts to] R&A was his mistake. He emphatically said, 'We are going to the Moon.' He's been told we're going back to the Moon. He was appointed because he wants to go to the Moon. That isn't going to change. Secondly, it's clear he wanted to get rid of the ISS [International Space Station] and shuttle as soon as possible, but he can't, because of international agreements."

Can NASA Glenn be saved?, Cleveland Plan Dealer

"Although NASA officials suggest privately that Glenn's chances for managing the service module work look promising - and two internal agency reports show that its staff has the necessary know-how - other big opportunities that looked likely to go to Glenn didn't."

Metaphor misfires, MSNBC

"[Diamandis] tried to recover in a jocular tone: "But I guarantee you that the rest of us would happily be slave labor for that mission." As murmurs of "no" went through the audience, Diamandis instantly realized the misstep. "I should be careful about that," he said. "Can we erase that from the videotapes?"

Editor's note: Peter Diamandis, Chairman and CEO of the X-prize Foundation, spoke at an award ceremony Friday night in Los Angeles. I was in attendance with hundreds of other people and recorded his comments.

The thrust of his comments had to do with how to open up space to large numbers of people. One of the impediments to getting large numbers of people into space is the cost of the rockets needed. In addressing the need to lower launch costs and come up with more innovative financing alternatives, Diamandis made number of historical analogies.

One analogy in particular regarding V2 rockets, Nazis, and ignoring the use of slave labor was expressed in a rather troubling fashion. A verbatim excerpt from a recording made at this event follows:

China Space Update

Report: China Upbeat About NASA Talks, AP

"Zhang Qingwei, the program's deputy head, was quoted as saying he wanted personnel exchanges between the United States and China to become more "normal" and "reciprocal" following the planned visit by NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, the China Daily newspaper said."

NASA Announces Lunar Lander Analog Competition Agreement

"NASA's Deputy Administrator Shana Dale announced Friday the agency's Centennial Challenges program has signed an agreement with the X PRIZE Foundation to conduct the $2 million Lunar Lander Analog Challenge. Dale made the announcement at the International Space Development conference in Los Angeles. The challenge will take place at the X PRIZE Cup Expo in Las Cruces, N. M., Oct. 20-22."

"I'm currently participating in the NASA-sponsored bedrest study at the Cleveland Clinic. These are the chronicles of three full months of bedrest, in addition to the craziness leading up to it, and the who knows what afterwards."

Editor's note: Erin Peterson is certainly doing her part for the VSE! I certainly hope that all NASA Watch readers visit Erin's Blog to say hello.

Editor's update: Erin was featured in a live segment this morning on CNN and is expected to appear on CNN again before her participation ends. At the opening of today's sessions at the International Space Development Conference in Los Angeles, this image was shown and Erin received a hearty round of applause for her dedication.

Editor's update: To watch Erin's CNN interview, go to this page at CNN, look at the "Watch Free Video" section and click on "Lying down on the job, literally"

Editor's note: Based on reports from the NASA Advisory Council Science Subcommittees Planning Conference held today and yesterday, a number of NASA Advisory Council members admit that they are constrained by NASA lawyers in what they can or cannot discuss in terms of NASA programs. Some feel that they can't do their jobs adequately, Meanwhile, the NASA FY 06 operating plan has been rejected by Congress and NASA is being told to try again. At the same time all of this is happening, Mike Griffin still tells people that he thinks that Mary Cleave is doing a good job. Stay tuned.

Letter from Rep. Wolf outlining concerns by the House Appropriations Committee about NASA's FY 2006 Operating Plan.

Rutan: NASA's crew exploration vehicle doesn't make sense, AP

"Maverick aerospace designer Burt Rutan on Thursday criticized NASA's decision to use an Apollo-style capsule to return to the moon, saying it "doesn't make any sense" to build a new generation of space vehicles using old technology."

Reader note: "It makes even less sense to employ new, unproven technologies that nearly crash and burn during sub-orbital publicity stunt flights. Talk is cheap. Crew-rated robust performance is not."

Reader note: "Must be nice to be able to throw stones without having to actually come up with a solution."

NASA Lacks Resources Needed to Sustain Vigorous Science Program

"NASA does not have the resources necessary to maintain a vigorous science program, complete the International Space Station, and return humans to the moon, says a new congressionally mandated report from the National Academies' National Research Council. "There is a mismatch between what NASA has been assigned to do and the resources with which it has been provided," said Lennard A. Fisk, chair of the committee that wrote the report."

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

"I've read the report, and there is not much good in it for us. Not surprising, however, coming from Len Fisk ... The kind of criticism we're receiving in connection with the ISS, in the report Trish references, needs to be addressed for ISS, and needs to be "headed off at the pass" for the Moon."

Mikulski Says NASA Budget Priorities Headed in Wrong Direction

"This should be a wake-up call for NASA and the White House. I call upon the Bush Administration, which proposes to cut billions from NASA's science budget over the next five years, to rethink its priorities and restore balance to our space program."

Planetary Society Mounts Public Effort to Fight NASA Science Cuts, SpaceRef

"The Planetary Society was quick and forceful in expressing its outrage at cuts in the Administrations proposed FY 2007 budget when it was first announced earlier this year. At a press conference held during International Space Development Conference which opened today in Los Angeles, the Society's Executive Director Louis Friedman and TPS Vice President Bill Nye ("The Science Guy") addressed the issue."

Thousands Sign Planetary Society Petitions to Save Our Science

"The Planetary Society announced today the progress of the "Save Our Science (SOS)" Campaign to rescue NASA's space science program, currently under attack in the proposed NASA budget for fiscal year 2007."

ISDC Opens in LA

International Space Development Conference Opens In Los Angeles, SpaceRef

"Charles Elachi, Director of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory began his talk with a quote from President Theodore Roosevelt. The quote is familiar to many who ponder why people explore: "Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat." Elachi then noted "anyone who lives in the twilight has no business being here [at this meeting]".

Send In Your Ideas

NASA Solicitation: Seeking Offers to Engage Americans Through Educational Programs for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

"For nearly 50 years, NASA's journeys into air and space have deepened humankind's understanding of the universe, advanced technology breakthroughs, enhanced air travel safety and security, and expanded the frontiers of scientific research. These accomplishments share a common genesis: education. NASA will continue the Agency's tradition of strengthening the Nation's education programs and supporting the country's educators who play a key role in preparing, inspiring, exciting, encouraging, and nurturing the young minds of today who will manage and lead the Nation's laboratories and research centers of tomorrow."

NASA Sued Over Fraudulent Contract Data by American Small Business League

"Lloyd Chapman, President of the American Small Business League, has filed suit in Federal court against the National Aeronautics and Space Administration under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in order to obtain the names of firms to which NASA has awarded small business contracts. Efforts by Chapman to obtain the information through FOIA were largely ignored by NASA personnel -- no written response was ever received -- however, NASA did acknowledge receipt of the requests by telephone."

Space Stars Will Shine at 25th Annual International Space Development Conference in Los Angeles

"A stellar gathering of space entrepreneurs, scientists, and visionaries will appear at the International Space Development Conference (ISDC), May 4-7, 2006 at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel in Los Angeles, California. For the first time, the annual conference will be cosponsored by both The Planetary Society and the National Space Society. The Presenting Sponsor of the Conference is NASA."

Editor's note: Both NASA Watch and SpaceRef are Official Media Sponsors of ISDC. We'll be there covering the conference - look for live updates here.

NASA's Chief of Strategic Communications Leaves for Private Sector

"NASA announced Wednesday that Joe Davis, chief of strategic communications, is leaving the agency to take a position with a private sector public affairs firm. Davis served on the senior management team for NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, overseeing the offices of legislative, public, external affairs and education."

Reader note: "Attached is a flowchart showing the process for getting someone in our department at MSFC approved to attend or present a paper at a conference. Unbelievably ridiculous."

NASA Policy on the Release of Information to News and Information Media

"This directive sets forth policy governing the release of public information, which is defined as information in any form provided to news and information media, especially information that has the potential to generate significant media, or public interest or inquiry. Examples include, but are not limited to, press releases, media advisories, news features, and web postings. Not included under this definition are scientific and technical reports, web postings designed for technical or scientific interchange, and technical information presented at professional meetings or in professional journals."

Editor's note: It would seem that the process whereby professional presentations are approved also needs to be revisited. This chart looks more like an overview of rendezvous and docking software than a management procedure.

American Astronomical Society Releases Statement on NASA FY2007 Budget

"Large, medium, and small programs have been abruptly cut or cancelled. This change has taken place without the broad consultation within the community that we expect when it is necessary to shape NASAs program in times of finite resources. This seems unwise, wasteful of effort, and damaging to the nations ability to develop its capabilities in science."

Bruce Peterson, pilot of NASA 'lifting body' aircraft, dies at 72, AP

"Bruce A. Peterson, a NASA test pilot who flew the wingless "lifting body" vehicles that led to development of the space shuttles and survived a filmed crash that became part of the opening scenes of "The Six Million Dollar Man" TV show, has died. He was 72."

Money in Space

NASA Announces Plan To Launch $700 Million Into Space, The Onion

"Officials at the Kennedy Space Center announced Tuesday that they have set Aug. 6 as the date for launching $700 million from the Denarius IV spacecraft, the largest and most expensive mission to date in NASA's unmanned monetary-ejection program."

Editor's note: A reliable source reports that there was a fundraiser at Two Quail restaurant today for former Congressman Nick Lampson who is running for the seat currently occupied by Rep. Tom DeLay. Former Kerry campaign space advisor Lori Garver organized the fundraiser. Around $10,000 was raised from the 25 or so people who attended the event.

Space Transportation Association Breakfast with Congressman Tom DeLay

"Congressman DeLay will discuss NASA and the Space Exploration Vision."

Editor's note: I guess this is a farewell party. I am not sure what DeLay can do for NASA since he's just another member of Congress right now - and an outgoing one at that. Then again he was once quite capable of helping the agency out - so I am sure he has some interesting observations to make.

Taxpayer Alliance supports senate bill broadening access to federal research

"The Alliance for Taxpayer Access (ATA) gives full support to the "Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006," introduced today by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT). The bill requires federal agencies that fund over $100 million in annual external research to make electronic manuscripts of peer-reviewed journal articles stemming from their research publicly available via the Internet."

NASA KSC Director Announces Retirement

"James W. Kennedy, the eighth director in the history of NASA's Kennedy Space Center, today announced his intention to retire in January 2007 after 35 years of government service. Kennedy spent 31 of those years with NASA and four with the U.S. Air Force. Kennedy's successor will be announced at a later date."

Reader note: "Eight months of a lame duck? That doesn't compute in any management system I know of."

Some Thoughts Regarding Presidential Science Advisor John Marburger's Speech on Space Exploration and Utilization

"Recently Dr. John Marburger, head of the Office of Science and Technology gave the keynote address at the 44th Robert H. Goddard Memorial Symposium in Greenbelt, Md. To me, as a long time space advocate, this speech is the most important statement on the development of the space frontier from the government since John F. Kennedy's fateful endorsement of the Apollo program."

GRC All Hands Fiasco

Editor's note: The right thing to do after yesterday's all hands fiasco at GRC would be to air a video of the presentation by GRC Director Woodrow Whitlow. That will apparently happen today on GRC TV on Channel 13 and Wednesday at 10:00 am, 2:00 pm, and 4:00 pm. A well thought out white paper and accompanying charts would be useful for the vast majority of GRC employees who were not able to hear about the reorganization plan. Whitlow's charts from yesterday have now been posted on the internal GRC website.

As is the case with most NASA Powerpoint presentations these charts are sloppily prepared - and the new management structure is shown with charts that say "Draft". This presentation was apparently created by Whitlow himself since it was created on 21 April 2006 and says "last saved whitlw".

Right now, the net result of this botched attempt by Whitlow to communicate with his workforce is that the majority of GRC employees have only word of mouth or these sloppy charts as their guide to how GRC is being reorganized. Playing the video will help - but someone should have stopped to think this out such that hundreds of people weren't wandering around GRC yesterday.

Once again, Woodrow Whitlow owes his entire workforce an apology.

NASA Advisory Council Science Subcommittees Planning Conference

"The Planning Conference will feature plenary session information briefings by NASA officials on science program status and plans and the NASA FY 2007 budget proposal."

"Thirty minutes will be set aside for verbal comment by members of the general public, not to exceed three minutes per speaker, at 8 a.m. on May 4, 2006."

Editor's note: Wow. Three whole minutes per person. Talk fast, folks.

Europeans psych themselves up for a trip to Mars, Astrobiology Magazine

"Guillaume Dargaud is an engineer who participated in the first winter-over at Concordia in 2004. In his own words, he experienced "one year away from friends and family, four months of total darkness, minus 79C [minus 110F] winter temperature and ten months of total isolation." He didn't find the isolation particularly difficult to deal with, but said "it depends on the people. One needs to be solitary without being antisocial. The people who break down early are not necessarily those without anything to do, they are those who don't know how to fill their time." Asked if he thought he could survive a long-duration space mission after surviving Antarctica, his simple answer was, "Where do I sign up?"

2nd Winterover at Concordia Station (2006) blog by Eric Aristidi, LUAN (Laboratoire Universitaire d'Astrophysique de Nice)

17 - 23 Avril: "During this time, I sleep heavily. Bedtime for me is around 4 am and I wake up just before noon. I then vaguely come downstairs to the coffee machine. People I cross tempt to communicate with me : the answer is generally a happy smile with some inquiring grunt. Speaking facility has not rebooted at this early time."


NASA Solicitation: NASA ARMD Research Oportunities In Aeronautics NRA

Point of Contact
Name: Jay Dryer
Title: Senior Technical Advisor
Phone: (000) 000-0000
Fax: (000) 000-0000

Editor's note: I don't think Jay wants any phone calls about this solicitation.

Reader note: "GRC voice mail announced today that Center Director Woodrow Whitlow will announce a GRC reorganization in an all-hands meeting on Monday, May 1 at 1:00 PM EDT."

GRC Reader note: "Just an update on today's scheduled briefing at GRC. Unbelievable lack of planning for such a critical announcement. Briefing was scheduled for 1:00 to 1:30 in Bldg. 500 auditorium which has a seating capacity of about 500. Depending on which media reports you read, the lab has around 3,000 combined CS and contractor employees.

No arrangements were made for overflow seating or broadcasting. Streams of people started walking over to Bldg. 500 around 12:30, and extra bus capacity was operating. I started walking over around 10 till 1, and ran into a large group turned away due to lack of space. As I was walking back, I saw more people walking over, *and* the extra buses were still running even though there was no place to hear the briefing!

Lots of taxpayer dollars tied up between those spending time to get over early enough to get a seat in the only place to see the briefing, those extra buses, and those who had to go back. And we still don't know what was said!"

Editor's update: C'mon Woodrow - this has to be the most inept attempt at communicating vital information to NASA employees I've heard of in a long time. You owe your people an apology.

NASA Astronaut Eileen Collins Completes Career of Space Firsts

"Astronaut Eileen Collins is leaving NASA. Collins was the first woman to command a space shuttle and the leader of Discovery's Return to Flight mission last year. She plans to pursue private interests and spend more time with family."

NASA's Greedy Overseers, Editorial, NY Times

"The space agency is struggling to mount a vigorous program of exploration and scientific research within a tight budget. So what has Congress been doing to help it along? Not much, judging from revelations that hordes of greedy senators and representatives have siphoned more than half a billion dollars from NASA's budget for the 2006 fiscal year to finance pet projects. It is a terrible diversion of money."

Click on image to enlarge [Other images]

"I'm currently participating in the NASA-sponsored bedrest study at the Cleveland Clinic. These are the chronicles of three full months of bedrest, in addition to the craziness leading up to it, and the who knows what afterwards."

Editor's note: Erin is certainly doing her part for the VSE! I certainly hope that all NASA Watch readers visit Erin's Blog to say hello - and also to say "thank you". She could also use some cheering up right now - picture what would go through your head on a very long space mission while you are isolated from the rest of humanity. She's experiencing that now. Keep your eyes on CNN - Erin is expected to be a guest on 3 or 4 May.



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