June 2006 Archives

Thoughts From A Veteran

Review done, dissension noted: Shuttle is ready, Opinion (Bill Readdy), Houston Chronicle

"It's said, "A ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for." It's time for Discovery and her crew to weigh anchor and leave the safe harbor again. It's time to move forward and complete laying the foundation for the decades of human space exploration beyond low Earth orbit to come."

NASA Internal Memo: New Office of Communications Planning

"Deputy Administrator Shana Dale today announced the formation of the new Office of Communications Planning (OCP). The OCP will focus on new and innovative ways to engage and inform a broader cross-section of the American public about NASA activities through the development of new technology and tools, enhanced outreach mechanisms and key partnerships, and will develop long-term communication strategies and plans for increasing public awareness and understanding of NASA and its missions. ... Dale has named Senior Advisor Robert Hopkins as assistant administrator of the new office."

FRR Document Update

Editor's note: From what I have learned, NASA PAO personnel are telling people that the FRR document decision was made "above PAO" and that senior NASA management is now seeking to "reverse" the precedent that was set with the release of STS-114 FRR documents - noting that PAO was railroaded into taking that action last year. Many people who have seen the FRR documents report that there is no overtly controversial content and wonder why there is such strong resistance on this issue. White House press secretary Tony Snow reportedly contacted NASA HQ and criticized the agency for being "in the news" earlier this month after the controversy arose following the STS-121 FRR. With the Vice President slated to attend the launch tomorrow, I am certain that the White House does not want to see headlines such as "Cheney to Attend Controversial Shuttle Launch"

Abort this space shuttle mission, opinion, LA Times

"Instead of risking another tragic or humiliating setback Saturday, NASA should abandon the shuttle and focus on more productive missions."

Rep. Calvert Responds to Critics of Discovery Launch

"Americans can only take cold comfort in the Los Angeles Times' belief that "A six year gap in manned space flight shouldn't be discouraging" mainly because it isn't true. Human spaceflights will continue over the next six years - - they'll just be done by Taikonauts and Cosmonauts, not American Astronauts. America's manned space program is at a crossroads and it doesn't deserve a slap in the face at this critical juncture."

Public Divided Over Money Spent on Space Shuttle Program - Americans continue to rate NASA positively, Gallup

"Forty-eight percent of Americans say the space shuttle program has been worth the money the government has spent on it. The same percentage, 48%, says that the money would have been better spent in some other way."

NASA International Space Station Independent Safety Task Force Meeting

"The agenda for the meeting includes the following topics: --Presentations related to the IISTF's charter to assessing any vulnerabilities of the ISS that could lead to its destruction, compromise the health of its crew, or necessitate its premature abandonment."

ISS End of Life Disposal (7 April 1999)

Editor's 26 June note : Several sources report that Andy Dantzler has resigned his position as Director of the Science Mission Directorate's Solar System Division at NASA HQ. No word as to who will replace him.

Editor's 30 June note : Dantzler is going to APL to become the Program Manager for "Living With A Star".

Editor's note: According to Rory Cooper, Director of Outreach and Intergovernmental Affairs at NASA's Office of Legislative Affairs, at 2:30 pm this afternoon NASA will formally announce that the names of its new launch vehicles. The Crew Launch Vehicle will be called Ares 1 and the Cargo Launch Vehicle will be called Ares 5. The names are meant to honor the launch vehicles that sent astronauts on their way to the moon (Saturn I and V) and to note NASA's eventual destination: Mars. Ares was the Greek god of war - and was known by the Romans as "Mars".

E-mails reveal doubts over safety of Discovery, Orlando Sentinel

"Key officials responsible for overseeing NASA expressed serious concerns about launching space shuttle Discovery without additional work to prevent foam insulation from breaking off the ship's fuel tank. Those concerns were voiced in e-mails sent from NASA's Office of the Inspector General to agency Administrator Michael Griffin and the chairman of an advisory panel that monitors NASA safety. In the e-mails, copies of which were obtained by the Orlando Sentinel, officials discussed lingering safety doubts about the foam threat and the reality of schedule pressures in the shuttle program."

NASA will not release FRR documents, Florida Today

"The legal reason cited for not releasing the documents from this year's FRR is that they are exempted from public release under a provision of the FOIA law that protects records that are part of a deliberative process."

Editor's note: This decision by NASA is in clear, blatant contradiction to NASA's own previous actions - most notably the public posting of FRR documentation for the first Return to Flight mission, STS-114, prior to that mission last year. Indeed NASA set a legal precedent by providing these documents in response to a FOIA request (as Florida Today notes) and then posted them. How NASA can make such an excuse with a straight face given previous FRR document releases is laughable. It is also troubling.

To be certain, keeping things secret does allow some people to speak their minds more openly knowing that their words will be kept from the public eye. However, this same secrecy also allows NASA to keep any instances of suppressed or contrary opinions from seeing the light of day.

Besides, if there is another serious incident involving a shuttle mission - even if no lives are lost - the inevitable investigation board is going to publish all of this information in their report anyway. Everyone in the FRR had to know that as they spoke.

Given the controversy that has surrounded Mike Griffin's overruling of objections raised by NASA's Safety Office and its Chief Engineer with regard to STS-121, and abrupt reassignment of JSC's Director of Engineering, Charles Camarda, (just days before launch), you have to wonder why NASA doesn't want anyone to see what was presented at this FRR - and hear what people said.

If everything was as cordial and collegial as Mike Griffin's team would have you believe, then there shouldnt be anything embarrassing contained within these materials, right?

Mike Griffin didn't have a problem with releasing STS-114 FRR materials. Why the sudden change of mind for STS-121? NASA has spoken of these two missions as being highly related to oneanother. Has something changed?

As such, what is it about this process that Mike Griffin is afraid to release? What is NASA trying to hide - and why are they trying to hide it?

Comments by Rep. Kucinich During Regarding Workforce RIFs During House Debate on NASA FY 2007 Budget

"... At the same time, I am concerned with the bedrock of NASA's success, its world class workforce. The 2005 NASA Authorization Bill enacted a moratorium on involuntary reductions in force until March of 2007. In addition, the act required 11.5 months between the submission of a complete workforce plan and the end of a ban on RIFs. However, NASA has thus far been unable to determine their existing skills mix and future skills mix demand. Any hasty action would cause NASA to lose irreplaceable intellectual capacity and institutional memory and would harm its recruiting capabilities."

Letter from IFPTE President to Rep. Wolf Regarding NASA's FY 2007 Budget

"The proposed Appropriations language expressing concern with uncovered capacity and urging a correction (p. 95) should therefore be removed as it invites NASA to begin laying off its civil-service experts in Fiscal Year 2007 based on overtly flawed data. Make no mistake about it, whether intentional or not, if this language is permitted to remain in this bill, it would give the green light for NASA to start RIFs, thereby undermining the technical excellence and independence of NASAs workforce for years to come."

House Appropriation Bill is Bad for NASA and the Nation, IFPTE

Statement by Gregory Junemann - Hearing: Does NASA Have the Right Strategy and Policies to Retain and Build the Workforce It will Need?, IFPTE

Questions orbit around future of NASA, USA Today

"The agency has announced no plans at all for the four- to six-month voyage to Mars, though the new spacecraft are being designed to make the trip. Griffin has said work on such a foray would take place in the 2020s. Even the most pessimistic space experts say America is unlikely to abandon a program as popular and prestigious as human space exploration. But few are putting the odds on a bright future. "I want to see (NASA) succeed," says [Roger] Launius of the Air and Space Museum. "I'm just very concerned" that it can't."

Issues Affecting the Future of the U.S. Space Science and Engineering Workforce: Interim Report, NAS

"The report presents a summary of highlights of a January 2006 workshop and a February 2006 committee meeting on the future of the U.S. aerospace space science and engineering workforce, and it provides some preliminary findings with respect to (1) current and projected characteristics of the workforce, (2) factors that impact the demographics of the affected workforces, and (3) NASA's list of the workforce skills that will be needed to implement the nation's vision for space exploration, both within the government and in industry. The report also presents initial recommendations that stem from these findings and initial conclusions."

Ex-Langley official reassigned after shuttle doubts, Daily Press

"James Hartsfield, writing for Johnson Space Center on the Web log NASA Watch, wrote that Camarda "was not fired as a civil servant. ... His comment likely reflects his opinion that he was 'fired' from his influential position as director of engineering at JSC."

Editor's 28 June note: I have no idea where the Daily Press' Jim Hodges got this odd idea. James Hartsfield has never written for NASA Watch. I spoke with Hodges and he said he wasn't sure where he got the quote but that he'd have the text of this article changed.

Editor's 29 June note: No one has bothered to alter this article to correct this error. It would seem that the Daily Press doesn't have a problem with publishing demonstrably false quotes.

Discovery's Goal: A Quiet Trip, Washington Post

"The space shuttle Discovery is poised for launch Saturday for what NASA engineers hope will be an uneventful mission, knowing that another mishap, even a minor one, could doom the shuttle program and deflate President Bush's ambitions for future space exploration. Countdown for the flight began late yesterday afternoon, but the shuttle is flying without approval by NASA's top safety officer."

NASA Space Shuttle Processing Status Report 29 June 2006

"U.S. Air Force weather officers are forecasting a 60-percent chance of weather prohibiting a launch attempt on Saturday. The primary weather concerns are anvil clouds from inland thunderstorms, cumulus clouds within 10 nautical miles of the flight path, and showers within 20 nautical miles of the Shuttle Landing Facility. The forecast is similar in the event of a 24-hour delay."

Virtual Launch Center

Launch Forecast, PAFB (PDF)

Hubble Update

NASA HST Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) Status Update

"On Thursday afternoon, June 29, the HST's senior managers attended the Flight Readiness Review (FRR) of the activities required to install flight software into, and transition the ACS to its Side 2 (redundant) electronics. The review was also attended by Dr. Jennifer Wiseman (NASA HQ) and the ST ScI Director, Dr. Matt Mountain."

House Rejects Bid to Curb Mars Funding, AP

"This is the United States of America. We are a nation of pioneers and explorers," said Rep. Dave Weldon, R-Fla. "We are destined to explore not just Mars but go on to other stars. It's in our nature as human beings."

Editor's note: Mars is a planet, not a star.

AIP FYI #86: House Appropriators Complete FY 2007 NASA Funding Bill

SIZE OF NASA'S WORKFORCE: "With respect to the agency's workforce, the Committee is concerned with the budgetary impact of maintaining employment levels in excess of what is needed to accomplish NASA's mission. The Committee expects NASA to undertake the necessary workforce planning to correct what NASA refers to as 'uncovered capacity'. The Committee supports NASA's efforts to develop and maintain a world-class workforce."

House to Vote on Mars Mission Funding, AP

"Critics in the House are taking aim at $700 million that President Bush wants to spend next year toward sending man back to the moon and eventually on to Mars. A comparable effort last year to cut money for the moon-Mars mission lost on a 230-196 vote."

Editor's note: The House is expected to resume action on H.R. 5672 which contains the current House version of NASA's FY 2007 budget.

Hubble Update

NASA Issues Hubble Space Telescope Status Report

NASA Hubble Space Telescope: Update on Suspension of ACS Operations, STSCI

"At this point, the ACS is in a safe configuration, and analysis of engineering data at the time of the suspension is ongoing. Initial indications are that there is a problem with one set of electronics used to provide power to the CCDs. A review board is meeting June 29 to determine the best course of action."

NASA's Cassini Spacecraft Marks Mission Halfway Point, NASA

"As the Cassini spacecraft reaches the halfway mark in its four-year tour of the Saturn system, discoveries made during the first half of the mission have scientists revved up to find out what's in store for the second act."

Nine new moons for Saturn, Planetary Society

"If you're keeping score, Jupiter is still in the lead with 63 moons, but Saturn is running a close second now with 56. Uranus has 27 known moons and Neptune has 13, but both of those planets almost certainly have a lot more than anyone has spotted yet."

CMG Problems on ISS?

NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 23 June 2006

"Yesterday, CMG-3 (Control Moment Gyroscope 3) exhibited offnominal signatures in SMCC (Spin Motor Commanded Current) and vibrations, first appearing coincidental with the SSRMS (Space Station Remote Maneuvering System) checkout. They stabilized and returned to normal values after ~5.5 hours. [Such elevated SMCCs and vibrations have been seen before during Robotics ops, but their long persistence is clearly unusual.]"

Space debris to pass metres from ISS, AFP

"The object, which could pass 240 metres above the station, is a piece of abandoned American cargo launched in 1963" and weighing 79 kilogrammes (175 pounds), said a spokesman for the centre, Vsevolod Latychev."

VP Cheney to attend launch, Orlando Sentinel

"Vice-President Dick Cheney and his wife will travel to Cape Canaveral to attend Saturday's planned launch of space shuttle Discovery, his office confirmed Tuesday."

Shuttle crew arrives in Florida for launch, AP

"Space shuttle Discovery's crew of seven arrived at the Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday for this weekend's launch, a day after a top NASA engineer who praised his colleagues for voicing doubts about the wisdom of going ahead with the flight was removed from his job."

Shuttle engineer says he's off team, Houston Chronicle

"Dean Acosta, NASA director Michael Griffin's spokesman, would not comment on the action either other than to say it should not be construed as an attempt by the administrator to prevent engineers with dissenting opinions to speak out."

Blue Origin West Texas Commercial Launch Site Environmental Assessment, FAA

"The proposed action is for AST to issue one or more experimental permits and/or licenses to Blue Origin. Blue Origin proposes to launch reusable launch vehicles (RLVs) on suborbital, ballistic trajectories to altitudes in excess of 99,060 meters (325,000 feet). To conduct these operations, Blue Origin would construct a private launch site, which would include a vehicle processing facility, launch complex, vehicle landing and recovery area, space flight participant training facility, and other minor support facilities."

"We drove a half hour out of town to the first transect site. The teachers separated and went with different scientist to collect samples of the rocks and soil. Our sampling tools consisted of sterile spoons, plastic gloves and zip-lock baggies. The scientists are all passionate about their work here and the teachers are excited to be doing real science along side the scientists. We were still working out the kinks of cooperation and communication. We kept hearing the term "herding cats", which was a good description of the progress of our group."

NASA's Science Mission Aborted, Technology Review

"Although the International Space Station remains a budgetary priority, some scientists feel that its usefulness for carrying out scientific research has already been diminished, by, for example, the cancellation of a large centrifuge seen as essential for biological research. That cancellation, says Keith Cowing of the watchdog website NASA Watch, will "set back the ability" to develop ways to prevent the loss of muscle and bone by astronauts in prolonged weightlessness. And yet, he says, President Bush's exploration initiative is supposed to be leading toward trips to "Mars and beyond," where such measures will be essential."

U of M study examines kidney stone prevention in astronauts

"At least 14 American crew members have developed kidney stones in the last 5 years, and as missions become longer, the number is likely to grow. While astronauts have exercised in space to attempt to combat bone loss, the lack of gravity makes it difficult to achieve enough resistance to maintain their pre-flight fitness levels."

Reader note: "Astronaut Charlie Camarda has been replaced as Director of Engineering at JSC by Steve Altemus. This happened rather suddenly. No reason for this change has been provided - officially."

Editor's note: The following email was sent by Camarda to a large distribution list: [excerpt]:"I cannot accept the methods I believe are being used by this Center to select future leaders. I have always based my decisions on facts, data and good solid analysis. I cannot be a party to rumor, inuendo, gossip and/or manipulation to make or break someone's career and/or good name."

A Risk Not Worth Taking in Space, editorial, NY Times

"The decision to proceed with the launch anyway - made by Michael Griffin, the administrator of NASA - was a gutsy call. It even seems reasonable, if you accept the constraints he was operating under. But if you believe, as we do, that the benefits to be gained from further shuttle flights are minimal, this looks like an unnecessary risk to the spacecraft and to the astronauts who will be riding in it."

Budget Update

House Report 109-520 - To accompany H.R. 5672 - NASA, House Appropriations Committee

"The recommendation includes funds to support NASA's new vision and mission for space exploration, while supporting requested funds for the continued operation of the Space Shuttle. The Committee is very concerned about the need to maintain the nation's leadership in science and technology. To this end, the Committee has provided additional funding above the request for aeronautics research and science programs. The recommendation makes modest changes to NASA's request to achieve a balance between exploration and NASA's other core mission programs."

Shuttle Tank Problem, Central Florida News 13

"Workers at the Kennedy Space Center just found out that Hurricane Katrina caused a problem no one was aware of on space shuttle Atlantis' fuel tank. The workers were fixing a dent they made on the tank earlier this week, and noticed beads of water coming out of the tank's foam. They say it must have gotten in during Hurricane Katrina when the tank was being processed at its facility in New Orleans."

NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report #4141

"ACS Transition to Operate1 - Ops Request 17802-0 was completed at 173/21:11:12, successfully transitioning ACS from Suspend to its Operate1 state. In this state, ACS normal engineering data collection can be observed."

NASA Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys Suspends Operations, STSCI

"On Monday, 19 June 2006, at 1:15 pm EDT (17:15 UT), the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) issued status buffer messages indicating that the +15V and +5V power supply voltages in the CCD Electronics Box (CEB) were above their high limits, causing the ACS to suspend. This event occurred in a period with no ACS commanding and outside the SAA. A dump of the relevant data showed that a total of 36 CEB items exceeded limits at the time of the event."

New Book on Space Exploration and Astronaut Safety, AIAA

"Part history, part technology and part policy analysis, Space Exploration and Astronaut Safety, a new book by Joseph N. Pelton, reviews the history of NASA's space exploration program, its astronaut safety program, the present status of the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station ..."

Editor's note: I just hope Pelton has spent a little more time on the technical research aspect of this book than was done for the sloppy papers he and his colleagues presented on exactly the same topic back in 2004/2005.

How to Waste $300,000, NASA Watch

"The report makes heavy reliance upon newspaper and trade publication articles. Indeed, with the exception of several GAO reports, there are no technical references whatsoever upon which the report arrives at its findings and recommendations."

SEAS Receives $300,000 Grant to Study Astronaut Safety, George Washington University

Draft Paper Provides Insight Into NASA Space Policy Options, SpaceRef

Planetary Society: Congress Committee Hears Your S.O.S.!

"The Planetary Society's Save Our Science campaign has made a huge impact in Washington, D.C. We -- all of us -- made a difference. The petitions you signed, the newspaper ads and the congressional presentation you helped fund, and your tremendous support have been all important in influencing a favorable consideration by the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee."

2007 NASA BUDGET: Space Scientists Score a Modest Victory in House Spending Bill, Science

"After months of fretting, arguing, and lobbying, earth and space scientists got some good news last week. The House panel that funds NASA proposed adding $75 million--mostly for research grants--to the agency's science programs next year. That is less than half of what the National Research Council (NRC) urged in a May report, but it demonstrates that researchers have the political muscle to battle the Administration's campaign to replace the space shuttle and return humans to the moon at the expense of several scientific projects."

Strike at MDA

- Professional Association at MDA Brampton (SPATEA) Statement Regarding Current Labour Dispute
- Withdrawal Of Engineering Services at Brampton Operations at MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd.
- "Houston, we have a problem....", Strike Blog (this has been pulled offline)

Reader note: Engineers at MDA who built, maintain, and provide flight support to the Shuttle arm are on strike as of 21 June.

Destination Space, Central Florida News 13

"In other NASA news, workers at the Kennedy Space Center damaged the external fuel tank for Space shuttle Atlantis. NASA says the workers accidentally struck the tank with a mobile work platform, denting the foam. The dent is about 3/8 of an inch deep on the upper part of the tank very close to the centerline."

FRR Media Update

NASA officials confident of shuttle crew safety, Orlando Sentinel

"NASA's top safety official and chief engineer voiced confidence today that space shuttle Discovery's crew will be safe to launch July 1 despite the managers' "no-go" votes at a flight readiness review last weekend. Safety chief Bryan O'Connor and Chief Engineer Chris Scolese said their position was based on concern that possible debris shedding by foam insulation ramps on the ship's external fuel tank posed an unacceptable risk to shuttle Discovery. However, both were satisfied that NASA's ability to provide the astronauts safe haven on the international space station and launch a rescue flight to bring them home made it OK to proceed."

Pluto's Twins Get Their Names, Science Now

"Pluto's baby twin moons, formerly known as S/2005 P 1 and S/2005 P 2, have been christened Nix and Hydra. The objects, discovered last year by the Hubble Space Telescope, received their names from the International Astronomical Union (IAU). A formal announcement will be issued this Friday, 23 June."

NASA Cancellation Letter for Inspiring the Next Generation of Earth Explorers Grants

"The Office of Education's FY 06 budget of $166 million has been adversely impacted by congressionally-directed appropriations or earmarks totaling $82.7 million, approximately 50 percent of the total budget. Accordingly, we must absorb these unfunded requirements out of the existing Office of Education budget."

Editor's note: Reliable sources report that NASA knew that these grants were to be cancelled a long time ago (months) and yet didn't have the courtesy of telling the PIs that this was going to happen until just before their first year funding was to run out. The scope of these earmarks has been known for quite some time. Had NASA exercised a little professional courtesy there would have been time for these PIs to submit other grants or look into other ways of extending these outstanding programs. But again, NASA chose not to.

NASA Wallops Flight Facility Trip Report: Billy Shannon, SpaceRef

"The adventure was unbelievable. It was great. It was really worth it. It was definitely worth writing an essay to go. I am going to send Mrs. Ghaffarian some of my essays from middle school next year. She should like that.

Thank you to everyone who helped us be able to go. You gave me a great adventure that I will never forget."

Safety Chief at Odds With NASA, AP

"NASA's public affairs office - which earlier this year was accused by top global warming scientist of trying to muzzle his media interviews - said on Monday that O'Connor and Scolese would not talk to the media about their objections. NASA chief spokesman Dean Acosta said it was a decision by the two men. He released a two-paragraph statement and said O'Connor and Scolese "composed it together." O'Connor, who readily agreed to a 20-minute phone interview, said the statement was actually written by the public affairs office and approved by the two officials."

Editor's note: Either Bryan O'Connor changed his mind about talking to the press, or PAO misled the media into thinking that O'Connor was not interested in talking. But wait - O'Connor and Scolese refused to talk with CBS on Monday:

Opposition to flight hinges on risk to shuttle, not crew, SpaceflightNow

"Both men declined requests for interviews Monday by CBS News."

Editor's note: Go to NASA SOMD's Human Spaceflight home page. Do you see links to the VSE, ESMD or anything connected to NASA's exploration efforts on that main entry point? Go the news page and you will see a similar lack of information on exploration. Now go to NASA's Exploration home page. There are no links to NASA SOMD's Human Spaceflight page - yet SOMD and ESMD are supposed to be working together to transition from current to future space systems. Oh yes - I don't see any links between ESMD's page and SMD's home page either - yet they are supposed to be developing hardware and science hand in hand. Indeed ESMD has created their own versions of pages that SOMD's website already has online.

I find this continued stove piping and duplication of effort in terms of education and outreach, web design, etc. to be rather odd. Yet Mike Griffin tells everyone that exploration is what NASA is about and that SOMD, ESMD, and SMD are one big happy family. Alas, they can't even bother to link to each other's home pages. What does this say about how they really get along? This is just silly folks.

STS-121 FRR Materials

Editor's note: Paul Hertz, Chief Scientist for Science Mission Directorate, told a NAS meeting this morning that NASA's Lunar Exploration program "is not science driven". He said this three times. Yet a chart he presented said "It is essential that NASA adopt the very strongest science program possible for the Moon right from the outset because advocated weak science would be questioned and could jeopardize the entire lunar program". The NAS panel repeatedly questioned Hertz on this seeming inconsistency i.e. that while the lunar program is not driven by science NASA seems to want to get the science community to support it because of its science content. This of course reflects the problems Mike Griffin has with reconciling science and exploration.

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

"The next step out is the Moon. We're going to get, and probably already are getting, the same criticisms as for ISS. This is the "why go to the Moon?" theme. We've got the architecture in place and generally accepted. That's the "interstate highway" analogy I've made. So now, we need to start talking about those exit ramps I've referred to. What ARE we going to do on the Moon? To what end? And with whom? I have ideas, of course. (I ALWAYS have ideas; it's a given.) But my ideas don't matter. Now is the time to start working with our own science community and with the Internationals to define the program of lunar activity that makes the most sense to the most people. I keep saying -- because it's true -- that it's not the trip that matters, it's the destination, and what we do there. We got to get started on this."

Editor's note: According to reporters I have spoken with on Monday afternoon, NASA PAO has received a number of interview requests for both Bryan O'Connor and Chris Scolese with regard to their "no go" stance at the recent STS-121 Flight Readiness Review. NASA PAO has turned down these interview requests saying either that O'Connor and Scolese are not available to speak or that they have both specifically declined the invitation to speak with the media. This is rather odd.

ULA Close to Approval

Rocket venture green light, Rocky Mountain News

"The federal government has signaled it's prepared to approve Lockheed Martin and Boeing's joint rocket-launch ventures. The two companies said the Federal Trade Commission - after a lengthy antitrust review - handed over a draft agreement giving the duo the green light to merge their rocket operations."

Boeing, Lockheed get draft US OK for rocket merger, Reuters

"The draft consent order was sent to the companies about 10 days ago by the Federal Trade Commission, which must give the final U.S. approval, said Tom Jurkowsky, a Lockheed spokesman."

Being There

Astrobiology Field Report from Dale Andersen 19 June 2006

"Keith: We arrived in Resolute Friday evening but we are still in here awaiting better weather. Its been cloudy with periods of light snow and rain along with low cloud and fog so getting north has been a bit problematic. But that is life in the fast lanes... We may try to get up to Eureka later today but I am not betting the farm. Hard to believe that we started blogging from the McMurdo Dry Valleys in the Antarctic nearly ten years ago. I know that "blog" along with the images have been available online at your astrobiology website since."

Spaceward Bound program in Atacama Desert, NASA ARC

"What are seven NASA Explorer School teachers doing in the Atacama desert in Chile? They are studying side-by-side with NASA scientists who search for life in extreme environments, closely approximating what they expect to find on other planets. Why the Atacama -- an inhospitable, seemingly lifeless, sun drenched spot that is probably the driest place on Earth?"

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

Editor's note: According to an email widely circulated within the Mars Society from Tony Muscatello "Robert Zubrin and I have canceled FMARS 2006 because of funding uncertainties".

A Curious Omission

NASA Marshall Space Flight Center's Jim Snoddy recognized as Engineer of the Year, Marshall Star

"Jim Snoddy, manager of the upper stage engine in NASA's Exploration Launch Projects Office at the Marshall Center, has been named "Aerospace Engineer of the Year" by the Alabama-Mississippi section of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics."

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

"A rigorous assessment and decision process for managing risk includes ongoing evaluation of NASA's priorities. In DART's case, the lack of adequate risk management contributed to a zero- fault tolerant design and inadequate testing that resulted in an insufficient collision avoidance system, among other things."

Editor's note: Nowhere in the Marshall Star article is mention made of the fact that Jim Snoddy was also DART Project Manager. Gee, I wonder why?

Editor's note: As talk of possible layoffs and RIFs at NASA continues to be heard, it might be instructive to look at this letter which is online at Onecle as an example of a business contract. Will NASA employees get an offer such as this?

August 22, 2001

Dr. Michael D. Griffin

Dear Mike:

This letter of agreement ("Agreement") serves to acknowledge that your last day of employment at Orbital Sciences Corporation is August 24, 2001. You will be eligible for severance benefits, conditional upon your signing this Agreement. The following information relates to your pay, benefits, and other employment-related issues:

Chinese Moon Walkers

China aims for the moon, Reuters

"A top official in China's space program has set 2024 for the country's first moonwalk, a Hong Kong newspaper reported on Monday, cementing its position as a new space power."

STS-120 Crew Announced

ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli assigned to crew for Shuttle flight STS-120, ESA

NASA Assigns Crew for Space Shuttle Mission STS-120

"NASA has assigned crew members to the space shuttle flight that will launch an Italian-built U.S. module for the International Space Station."

Note from Aviation Week: "Mike Dornheim, senior engineering editor and Los Angeles bureau chief for Aviation Week & Space Technology who died in a June 3 car accident in the Santa Monica Mountains near Malibu Calif. will be buried in a graveside service attended by only close family and friends June 24 near Washington D.C."

Guy Fogleman, Ph.D. To Become FASEB Executive Director

"Dr. Fogleman was formerly Director of the Biomedical Research Division and Associate Director for Human Health and Performance at NASA, where he led NASA's biomedical and biological science and technology programs."

Flooding in Houston

Heavy rains prompt flood watch, road closures, AP

"Flooding also was forecast along Armand Bayou, between Ellington Field and the Johnson Space Center."

Editor's update: I sent several 'customer complaint' emails to David Saleeba, AA for Security and Program Protection at NASA HQ last week. I haven't heard back from him. Not that I am horribly upset by my most recent encounter with his with his security staff, mind you - based on past experience I wasn't at all surprised at how they screwed things up. But having gotten no response back from Saleeba does lead me to conclude that such poor performance is acceptable at NASA.

Editor's 15 June note: I picked up my new press badge today. While NASA PAO went out of their way to help me, NASA Security went out of their way to make things difficult.

Despite Objections, NASA Decides to Launch the Space Shuttle on July First, SpaceRef

"Griffin was rather clear about what would happen if there was a larger problem. "If we have another major incident with the launch of the shuttle I would not want to continue with the program." Griffin added later "If we lost another vehicle I will tell you right now that I would be moving to shut the program down. I am sorry if that sounds too blunt for some but that's where I am."

Shuttle launch date set despite safety objections, Spaceflight Now

"NASA Administrator Mike Griffin, overruling objections from the agency's chief engineer and safety office, cleared the shuttle Discovery for launch July 1 on a mission to service and resupply the international space station."

Editor's note: Looks like the space collectors are now arguing among themselves about the authenticity of the confederate flags (supposedly flown on ISS) that were put up for sale on eBay (see earlier post). It seems that they are also afraid that this will drive up the cost and/or decrease the availability of the things they collect and sell.

Editor's note: Check out this image from the ISS inside Destiny Module. Look at the upper left hand corner of the image - at high resolution.

Is that a bunch of party balloons? Are they evidence of an on-orbit birthday party? Jeff Williams' birthday is on 18 January. Pavel Vinogradov's is on 31 August. Guess not. However, this ISS status report noted that "Vinogradov and Williams had a day off on Monday, Russian Independence Day" and this image was posted the next day. I'll ask NASA PAO (they deserve a fun question to answer every now and then)

Editor's update: Allard Beutel from NASA PAO just called to tell me that the balloons were actually part of a surprise birthday greeting for Jeff William's wife during a private family session a few weeks ago.

NASA Cutbacks Cause Uncertainty Among Space Researchers, Science Careers

"NASA's space science program is at risk, according to a recent report from a National Research Council (NRC) panel. The panel, which was tasked with assessing the impact of the proposed FY 2007 NASA budget, concluded that the budget provides the agency with insufficient funds to allow it to meet all of its mandates while remaining strong in science. "NASA is being asked to accomplish too much with too little," says the report."

Shuttle Shutdown Blues

Marshall confident tank foam no threat, Huntsville Times

"Even if NASA launches three flights this year, Cowing said, "and that's a big if, NASA is left with launching at least four flights a year, and maybe five flights one year." NASA "will have to generate a flight rate it hasn't done in a long while. Is the work force and the (shuttle) program up to that? That's a real question that has to be answered and hasn't right now."

Editor's note: Oh yes, then there is the issue of the thousands of people NASA will be laying off from USA as the Shuttle program shuts down. How do you keep workforce excellence up while sending that many people packing? Not an easy task. NASA claims publicly that they do not yet know what that layoff number is - even though they have done internal studies. 30 September 2010 (end of FY 2010) is little more than four years away...

NASA To Announce Answer To Black Hole Paradox

"Astronomers using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory for research are hosting a media teleconference at 1 p.m. EDT Wednesday, June 21, to explain how black holes light up the universe."

The magnetic nature of disk accretion onto black holes

"... accepted for publication in Nature ... Here we report that an X-ray-absorbing wind discovered in an observation of the stellar-mass black hole binary GRO J1655-40 must be powered by a magnetic process that can also drive accretion through the disk. Detailed spectral analysis and modeling of the wind shows that it can only be powered by pressure generated by magnetic viscosity internal to the disk or magnetocentrifugal forces. This result demonstrates that disk accretion onto black holes is a fundamentally magnetic process."

NASA Wallops Flight Facility Trip Report: Cameron Wade, SpaceRef

"The next day, we went to the Wallops Flight Facility. We had a pre-mission briefing. There are lots of people who make sure the rocket goes up. Later we flew our model rockets. I had a payload of 4 dimes in my nosecone. My rocket didn't go as high as some other ones did. All my dimes fell out in the ball field, so I didn't get to keep them. We could see how the different payloads made the rockets go different amounts. My rocket still flew pretty high. It was fun to launch them. We practiced our presentation that night. We needed to look and sound good because we were representing our class and our school."

Earth Science Update

Earth to NASA: Help!, editorial, Boston Globe

"Someone should sit NASA's leaders down and have them read the part of the agency's mission statement that says NASA will work to "understand and protect our home planet." Budget cuts, commitments to the International Space Station, and President Bush's plan to send astronauts to the moon by 2020 have forced the cancellation or postponement of projects aimed at better understanding what is happening on Earth."

NASA Internal Report: Readiness Assessment of the Glenn Research Center

"Senior Leadership. As NASA turns its focus toward VSE projects, GRC faces a fundamental difficulty due to its lack of a strategy to position itself as a meaningful contributor to the pursuit of the vision. The failure to develop and implement such a strategy led the center to become dependent on the declining aeronautics, microgravity science, and space technology programs for its future health and viability. This failure was due in part to the fact that the majority of its senior management team did not have space flight experience."

Job Opening at OMB

OMB Opening: Program Examiner - DUTIES: Serves in the branch of OMB that has budget responsibilities for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Smithsonian Institution and other federallysupported museums, small arts and planning agencies, and overall Federal research and development coordination.

Budget Update

Opening Statement of Rep. Frank Wolf - Subcommittee on Science, State, Justice, Commerce and Related Agencies FY 2007 Budget

"For NASA, the bill includes $16.7 billion. This level ensures that the President's vision for space exploration is adequately funded while at the same time restoring a portion of the damaging cuts that were proposed for NASA's aeronautics research and science programs. The bill includes increases of $100 million for aeronautics and $75 million for science."

NRC Report: Decadal Survey of Civil Aeronautics: Foundation for the Future, NRC

"With leadership comes opportunity, particularly with regard to setting international standards for aircraft certification and operations. A position of continued leadership would allow the United States to ensure that viable, global standards continue to be established for the application of emerging technologies and operational concepts. Without such standards the global aviation market and the global transportation system will be fractured into separate fiefdoms ruled by national and regional aviation authorities acting independently."

NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report #4134

"DOY 164/2006 Zero-Gyro Sunpoint (ZGSP) Safemode Flash Report - At GMT 164/20:35:26 the vehicle entered ZGSP Safemode due to the failure of the Magnetic Field Position safemode test. The initial investigation shows no signs of hardware issues. ... The recovery of HST from the Zero Gyro Sun Point safemode entry is proceeding nominally."

NASA Watch on CBC

Editor's note: I will be doing 5 minutes interviews on CBC radio up in Canada this afternoon on the following stations (all times EDT):

3:10 Ottawa, 3:20 St. John's, 3:50 Halifax, 4:10 Windsor, 4:40 St. John, 4:50 Whitehorse, 5:20 Toronto, 5:40 Thunder Bay

NASA Take Note

A History and Informal Assessment of the Slacker Astronomy Podcast

"Slacker Astronomy is a weekly podcast that covers a recent astronomical news event or discovery. The show has a unique style consisting of irreverent, over-the-top humor combined with a healthy dose of hard science. According to our demographic analysis, the combination of this style and the unique podcasting distribution mechanism allows the show to reach audiences younger and busier than those reached via traditional channels.."

Confederate flags on space station draw ire, MSNBC

How Did A Confederate Flag Get Aboard the International Space Station?, SpaceRef

Editor's 13 June 6:40 pm EDT update: I just spoke with Alex Panchenko, the person who posted this item on eBay. Panchenko called to tell me that he had spoken with Salizhan Sharipov today and that Sharipov knew absolutely nothing about these flags. Panchenko told me that his source for these flags was a third party and not Sharipov. As such he is now convinced that these flags are not what they were presented as being and that they are forgeries.

Moreover, Panchenko told me that he was unaware of the controversy that surrounds this flag in the U.S. until he consulted a history book. He told me that had he known what this flag represents to some people he would never have posted it on eBay in the first place or even consider selling it at all. Panchenko is now making certain that everyone knows that this was the result of an honest mistake and is trying to get eBay to pull the item off of its website.

NASA Genesis Mishap Report - Executive Summary

"Faster, Better, Cheaper Philosophy - As demonstrated by several failures, NASA's use of the Faster, Better, Cheaper philosophy encouraged increased risk taking by the Projects to reduce costs. Although NASA Headquarters had solicited and selected Genesis under the Faster, Better, Cheaper paradigm, the way JPL chose to implement the Genesis Mission substantially reduced their insight of the technical progress of the project. This precluded them from ensuring that the Project was executed within the range of previously successful mission implementation practices, thereby adding additional risk. The Discovery Program Office accepted these arrangements implicitly by way of the selection and subsequent management review processes.

The potential pitfalls of this approach became clear when the Mars Climate Orbiter and Mars Polar Lander missions failed."

Workforce Update

NASA's Workforce Challenges to Be Exammined at House Science Committee Hearing

Editor's note: According to testimony given by Toni Dawsey, NASA Assistant Administrator for Human Capital Management, training NASA employees to perform new tasks is called "reskilling".

Statement by Rep. Ken Calvert
Statement by Rep. Mark Udall
Statement by David Black
Statement by John Douglass
Statement by Gregory Junemann
Statement by Toni Dawsey

Missing Aviation Week writer found dead, magazine official says, AP

"This afternoon we learned the tragic news about the loss of our friend and colleague Michael Dornheim," Aviation Week President Tom Henricks said in a statement. "For almost 25 years Mike served Aviation Week as an outstanding journalist whose award-winning reports were respected and greatly admired by the global aerospace industry."

Hawking Says Humans Must Go Into Space, AP

"The survival of the human race depends on its ability to find new homes elsewhere in the universe because there's an increasing risk that a disaster will destroy the Earth, world-renowned scientist Stephen Hawking said Tuesday. The British astrophysicist told a news conference in Hong Kong that humans could have a permanent base on the moon in 20 years and a colony on Mars in the next 40 years."

Hawking's cosmological riff, CNet (Nov 2005)

"When asked about his thoughts on President Bush's proposal to put a man on Mars within 10 years, Hawking simply replied: "Stupid."

A Sight to Behold - Saturn and Titan

"Cassini's "eyes" -- its powerful imaging cameras -- bear witness to the majestic and spectacular sights of the Saturn system, as this views attests. Here, the probe gazes upon Titan (5,150 kilometers, or 3,200 miles across) in the distance beyond Saturn and its dark and graceful rings. This view was taken from above the ringplane and looks toward the unlit side of the rings."

ULA Update

US Air Force sees Boeing rocket deal after June 30, Reuters

"Meanwhile, Boeing and Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed Martin Corp, are still waiting for the Federal Trade Commission to approve a merger of their rocket launch units 13 months after they unveiled the United Launch Alliance."

Gyorgi Ligeti Has Died

2001: A Space Odyssey Composer Gyorgi Ligeti Dies, AP

"Composer Gyorgy Ligeti, who fled Hungary after the 1956 revolution and gained fame for his opera "Le Grand Macabre" and his work on the soundtrack for Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey," died Monday. He was 83."

Editor's note:I first saw "2001" at the age of 13 on a giant Cinerama screen when it was first released. To this day I am not certain what part of the film left the greatest impression on me at the time - the imagery, the story, or the music - especially Ligeti's haunting compositions - which served to knit everything together.

Going global - Playing with the big boys in aviation means playing with Airbus, Opinion, Daily Press

"Subsidization could work both ways. An Airbus contract would help support researchers and facilities that would be available for other, homeland-focused work. It might help stop the loss of jobs at NASA Langley, which totaled 600 last year. Europe's investment in aeronautics research would, in effect, help fill the gap left by the United States' abandonment of it as a priority."

Editor's note: As I have said before, on one hand, I think it is great that companies such as Airbus are committed to supporting such research and that their interest goes beyond political boundaries. However, on the other hand, I think the need to seek such foreign support is a sad indicator of the state of aeronautical research - both government and private sector - here in the U.S.

NASA IT Update

NASA Tests Out an Alternative for Federal Agencies Seeking IT Work, Washington Post

"A new government-wide contracting vehicle sponsored by NASA could become the first choice of federal agencies, surpassing General Services Administration schedules, according to the space agency and companies planning to bid for a place in the new program."

Audit finds security weaknesses at NASA center, Government Computer News

"At a time when the public has a heightened awareness of computer security problems at government agencies, the NASA inspector general has found that one of the space agency's centers has not put in place sufficient IT security to protect data and systems from possible compromise."

NASA Workforce Update

NASA execs downplay effect on jobs of new vehicle work, Crain's Cleveland Business

"There's little doubt the decision to award NASA Glenn Research Center in Brook Park with substantial work on the space shuttle's replacement vehicle goes a long way in securing the center's future. But if Northeast Ohioans are expecting Glenn's work on the crew exploration vehicle to bring a bonanza of high-paying jobs and an economic boost to the region, they may be in for a rude awakening."

Cuts at NASA lead to 20-30 layoffs at USU, Deseret Morning News

"Cuts in NASA's science budget are causing pain in Utah: 20 to 30 employees of Utah State University's Space Dynamics Laboratory will lose their jobs in July, and more layoffs are possible by next year."

NASA Admits Wrongdoing In Not Allowing Top Scientist To Discuss Climate Change Research

"Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT) have received written confirmation from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) that a media request to interview a top official on his climate change views was wrongly denied. Collins and Lieberman raised concerns with NASA's alleged censorship of scientific views in a letter dated February 15, 2006, following media reports that Goddard Space Flight Center Chief Dr. James Hansen was prevented from fully conveying his findings."

Reader note: "Jim Hansen is at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, not the Goddard Space Flight Center."

Workforce Update

NRC Report: Issues Affecting the Future of the U.S. Space Science and Engineering Workforce: Interim Report

"Finally, NASA's mono-generational employee age distribution (i.e., having a peak at only a single age; see Chapter 2) is different from the distribution seen for the DOD and industry, both of which were described at the workshop as being either bimodal or more nearly like the distribution of the U.S. workforce as a whole. However, so far NASA has only begun to examine skill distribution and is becoming aware that it has an age distribution problem, but the committee saw no indication that the agency has begun to act on this concern."

Space Science Update

NRC Report: An Assessment of Balance in NASA's Science Programs

"Astrobiology provides the intellectual connections between otherwise disparate enterprises. NASA's 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"

Grammar Police

Go and synergize no more, Language Log

"... comes from a blog called NASA Watch by Keith Cowling"

Editor's note: I just love it when the language police try and make a grammatical point - and misspell the name of the person they cite for having committed the grammatical offense ...

NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 8 June 2006

"Elektron is off, having shut down offnominally last night after running for several hours on 24 amps without apparent issues. Cause of the shutdown is currently unknown (suspect: the power supply), and troubleshooting by RSC-Energia will get underway tonight with diagnostic system tests. [There is no immediate impact, since oxygen represses can still be performed from either Progress 20P or 21P O2 tanks.]"

Space Medicine Men Mislead Congress, Bob Zubrin

Editor's note: "Fakers"? "Bunk"? Gee, I just love it when an engineer like Mike Griffin's good friend Bob Zubrin (Griffin is a former Mars Society Steering Committee member) tries to argue physiology with a physiologist - a topic Zubrin clearly doesn't understand - a topic he none the less tries to dismiss with semantical sleight of hand. It is obvious that Zubrin didn't actually listen to the hearings. Had he done so he would have heard Pawelczyk talk about centrifugation and countermeasure research needed in that area. But why get all the facts eh?

It should be interesting to see what sort of arm waving Zubrin does when Mike Griffin, Brian Chase, Scott Horowitz (who is still listed as a member of the Mars Society Steering Committee) and other senior NASA personnel share the stage with Bob at the Mars Society Convention this summer. Some advice Bob: sit down and shut up before you look even more foolish than you already have.

"In testimony June 7 to the Senate Subcommittee on Science and Space, fakers associated with the NASA space medicine program presented grossly misleading statements to congress to attempt to justify continued funding of their wasteful and unethical program of human guinea pig research. Exemplary of the bunk presented to the committee was the testimony of James A. Pawelczyk, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Physiology, Kinesiology and Medicine, Pennsylvania State University."

NPOESS/Nunn-McCurdy Findings Leave Unanswered Questions on the State of U.S. Weather Forecasting Satellites
Statement by Rep. David Wu
Statement by Rep. Bart Gordon

"What do I know based on what has been shared? I know that the best case interpretation of this plan is that for more than $4 billion above the original cost estimate, we are on a path to purchase four satellites instead of six, with fewer instruments and reduced capability."

Air Force, NOAA, NASA Officials Currently Testifying on Revised NPOESS Satellite Program, House Science Committee

"I don't know how we're supposed to do our jobs on behalf of the public if we can't see how decisions were made. We need to be able to judge the validity of the $11.5 billion price tag for this program and understand what it would cost to do more or less than has been proposed. For an agency whose previous cost estimates have been off by more than 66 percent to tell us "trust us" is preposterous, and we will not stand for it. We will make sure we get what we need to oversee this program. In the meantime, work on NPOESS instruments and the preliminary satellite, NPP, is continuing, and apparently has been going relatively smoothly."

Statement by Rep. Sherwood Boehlert
Statement by Rep. Vernon Ehlers
Statement by Conrad Lautenbacher
Statement by Ronald Sega
Statement by Michael Griffin

Editor's 8 June 11:50 am EDT note: This calendar has now been fully updated.

Editor's 7 June 6:22 pm EDT note: If you look at the calendar of upcoming congressional hearings at NASA you see that there are supposedly "no hearings confirmed to date" yet there was a NASA science hearing today. There will be a NPOESS hearing (with Mike Griffin et al) tomorrow and a NASA workforce hearing on 13 June.

Space-age education, Daily Press

"Money from Europe for aeronautical research? Bring it on, says Bob Lindberg, president and chief executive of the National Institute of Aerospace, answering critics of his organization's courtship of business from Airbus, which is owned by Belgian and British interests."

Editor's note: On one hand, I think it is great that companies such as Airbus are committed to supporting such research and that their interest goes beyond political boundaries. However, on the other hand, I think the need to seek such foreign support is a sad indicator of the state of aeronautical research - both government and private sector - here in the U.S.

[click on image for larger photos of launch and students] "The launch of the NASA Orion sounding rocket carrying experiments developed by students from across the country was successfully conducted this morning at 7:11. The payload reached an apogee of 51 km. The payload has been recovered and is now making its way back to Wallops. The students will remove their experiments from the payload later this morning and begin their data analysis." - Keith Koehler, Wallops Public Affairs Office

Help These Kids See Their Experiment Reach Space, earlier post

ET Redesign Approved

NASA clears shuttle fuel tank for flight, Reuters

"NASA approved a major design change in the space shuttle's fuel tank on Wednesday, clearing the last major hurdle before shuttle flights can resume as early as July 1, officials said. "There were no surprises. Everything went smoothly," NASA spokeswoman June Malone said after managers and engineers approved the new tank design at a meeting at NASA's fuel tank manufacturing plant near New Orleans."

House Science Committee Hearing Charter: The Future of NPOESS: Results of the Nunn-McCurdy Review of NOAA's Weather Satellite Program

Revised NPOESS Weather Satellite Program to be Examined at House Science Committee Hearing With Agency Heads

"The June 8 hearing will focus on the results of the statutorily required review, known as a Nunn-McCurdy review. Under the law, any DOD-funded program that is more than 25 percent over budget must be reviewed to see if it should be continued and if so, in what manner."

- Previous NPOESS items, SpaceRef
- More NPOESS Woes, earlier post
- NPOESS Team Faces The Music, earlier post
- NPOESS Costs Continue to Soar, earlier post

Senate Commerce Committee's Subscommittee on Science and Space Hearing: NASA Budget and Programs: Outside Perspectives

"The Senate Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Science and Space will hold a hearing on NASA Budget and Programs: Outside Perspectives on Wednesday, June 7, 2006 at 2:30 p.m. in the Dirksen Building room 562."

Live webcast

Statement by Charles Bolden
Statement by Peter Voorhees
Statement by Roy Torbert

Statement by James Pawelczyk

"The next generations of space life scientists perceive a bitter lesson that is difficult to assuage: as the result of a shell game of agency-wide reorganization, life science is no longer recognized or valued within NASA."

"Musculoskeletal deconditioning remains a paramount concern. In the past two years our ability to differentiate the trabecular bone network in the hip has helped us to appreciate that the risk to bone during spaceflight may be even greater than we previously anticipated. The rate of osteoporosis in astronauts equal patients with spinal cord injury, and exceeds that seen in post-menopausal women by a factor of 10 or more."

NASA Scientists Find Infant Solar System Awash in Carbon

"Scientists using NASA's Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer, or FUSE, have discovered abundant amounts of carbon gas in a dusty disk surrounding a well-studied young star named Beta Pictoris."

The Carbon-Rich Gas in the Beta Pictoris Circumstellar Disk

"Here we report the detection of singly and doubly ionized carbon (CII, CIII) and neutral atomic oxygen (OI) gas in the Beta Pic disk; measurement of these abundant volatile species permits a much more complete gas inventory. Carbon is extremely overabundant relative to every other measured element.[Accepted for publication in Nature]."

NASA's "Go" for Launch, But Is the Space Shuttle?, Tom Jones, Popular Mechanics

"With Discovery barely into her first day in orbit, NASA effectively grounded the shuttle fleet until the foam problem could be licked. Whatever relief Discovery's crew felt at having literally dodged a bullet was crushed by the clear evidence that NASA's attempts to solve the foam loss problem for good had failed. Now, after nearly a year of troubleshooting and repeated delays, the question remains: Is the shuttle safe?"

NASA Orion Sounding Rocket Launch From Wallops Flight Facility Delayed 24 Hours

"The launch of the NASA Orion sounding rocket carrying experiments developed by students from across the country that was scheduled for June 7 has been postponed. The weather is not expected to be favorable in the morning. The launch window is 6 to 9 a.m., Thursday, June 8. The launch will be web cast at www.wff.nasa.gov/webcast beginning at 3:30 a.m."

Help These Kids See Their Experiment Reach Space, Earlier Post

Association of American Universities Letter to Rep. Wolf Regarding FY 2007 Funding for NASA Science and Aeronautics

"As president of the Association of American Universities (AAU), representing 60 leading U.S. public and private research universities, I respectfully request that, as you develop the FY07 Science, State, Justice, and Commerce Appropriation Act, you strive to appropriate no less than $5.5 billion and $959 million in federal funding for NASA's science and aeronautics mission directorates respectively."

More NPOESS Woes

Pentagon could replace Northrop on NPOESS-letter, Reuters

"Top Pentagon arms buyer Ken Krieg plans aggressive oversight of a troubled Northrop Grumman Corp. weather satellite program and warned he could still replace Northrop as prime contractor, according to a letter obtained by Reuters on Tuesday."

A Fleece in the Forecast?, NBC Nightly News

"They're supposed to be the next generation of state-of-the-art weather satellites -- improving forecasting and even saving lives. So why are they way behind schedule, and billions over budget? Is it true your tax dollars are falling off the radar? Watch our "Fleecing of America" report tonight."

House Science Committee Hearing: The Future of NPOESS: Results of the Nunn-McCurdy Review of NOAA's Weather Satellite Program (8 June - Mike Griffin is among the witnesses)

- NPOESS Team Faces The Music, earlier post
- NPOESS Costs Continue to Soar, earlier post

Constellation Updates

NASA details exploration plans, Orlando Sentinel

"The Kennedy Space Center will manage launches and landings for a new generation of spacecraft that will travel to the moon and beyond, NASA announced Monday."

Ohio, Ala. to play bigger roles for NASA, AP

"They really have got to learn how to do this cheap," said American University public policy professor Howard McCurdy, who has written several books about the space agency. "That's the big challenge. In 1960, the challenge was how to do it fast. Now the trick is to do it cheap."

NASA Glenn To Gain Jobs With New Work Assignments

"NASA Glenn provides a vital component for both NASA and greater Northeast Ohio, and I will continue to work to secure the vision for NASA Glenn's long-term growth," said Voinovich."

NASA Glenn wins lead role in spacecraft project, AP

"NASA Glenn Research Center, which has lost hundreds of jobs in recent years, will have a lead role in developing the spacecraft that will fulfill President Bush's goal of returning to the moon."

NASA Ames Reveals Tasks for New Spaceship Development

"Our history of innovation and our prime location in Silicon Valley will enhance our ability to deliver the cutting-edge technology NASA needs to implement the Vision for Space Exploration," Worden added."

AFEU concerned for health of Ames Research Center

"More importantly, the current assignments do little to keep NASA's Scientific Research and Technology Development capabilities healthy at Ames, or JPL, Glenn, Marshall, Goddard, and Langley for that matter. We are, however, pleased that Administrator Griffin said that Science will be incorporated in the Constellation plan 'when the Scientists say so'. We look forward to that happening soon, before NASA's in-house Science and Technology capabilities are allowed to atrophy."

Editor's update: Language use at NASA is more of an imprecise art than a science. Verbs can be nouns and vice versa - just like that. No one really seems to care. And capitalization? Read a letter written by more than one person at NASA and the rules can change several times in the course of one page. As for spelling. NASA has problems in that department as well. Check out this new solicitation. "NUETRAL"?

Editor's update: I got a call from Dean Acosta who took responsibility for the events I complained about and is looking to rectify the situation such that things like this do not happen again. He also noted that it is not PAO who determines who attends these employee events - other than the presence of news media. In the meantime, I still have not heard back from Mike Braukus at NASA PAO about my initial question to Scott Horowitz submitted on 26 May. But then again, Horowitz more or less answered it today - so the point is moot, I suppose.

Russia's Lunar Return, Aviation Week and Space Technology

"Russia, which pioneered and then abandoned robotic exploration of the Moon after loss of the Space Race and collapse of the Soviet Union, is starting the development of its first lunar mission in 30 years. The ambitious flight, entering initial design, will include a lunar orbiter that, under the current plan, will also simultaneously deploy 13 probes across diverse regions of the lunar surface."

NASA KSC Staff To Present Exploration Program Update
NASA JSC Director Available to Discuss NASA Exploration Update

NASA Update with the Administrator - June 5: Distribution of Constellation Work Among NASA Centers

"You are invited to join Administrator Michael Griffin for a special NASA Update on Monday, June 5, at 1 p.m. EDT, live from NASA Headquarters. The program will be broadcast on NASA TV and will be available on the Internet."

NASA Cassini Image: Titan's Atmosphere and Saturn's Rings

"This image was taken on June 02, 2006 and received on Earth June 03, 2006. The camera was pointing toward Titan at approximately 2,338,094 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."

STS-115 ET Problems?

NASA trying to head off Shuttle launch delay, NASASpaceflight.com

"STS-115's launch date could slip, should NASA fail to find a solution to the continuing problems with ET-118, which is having processing issues at the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in New Orleans."

Additional Passings

W.B. Huston, NASA physicist, 93, Arizona Republic

"Wilber B. Huston, a NASA physicist whose career in science was spurred by Thomas Edison, died May 25 in Fountain Hills. He was 93. In 1929, Huston was about to graduate from high school when inventor Edison announced that he would search the nation for a boy who could have a promising career in science."

Biker hits deer, van runs over biker, Daytona Beach News-Journal

"[Jimmy] Proffitt, 46, of Edgewater, was pronounced dead near his wrecked motorcycle after the unusual accident about 6 a.m. just south of Payless Drive in Oak Hill. ... Tuesday's accident was not Proffitt's first encounter with wildlife on his motorcycle. He once hit a wild hog while riding along State Road 3 in the Merritt Island National Wildlife refuge, the route he regularly took to work at the Kennedy Space Center."

AIAA Mourns The Loss of Past President Holt Ashley

"Holt Ashley, professor emeritus, Stanford University, and past president of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) died of natural causes May 9, 2006."

Editor's note: If you look at the HQ organization page you will see "Strategic Communications Chief: Eric Sterner (Acting)"

Perplexed NASA Watch reader note: "OK, it's a good idea to see how JPL can cut energy consumption in case there's a power crunch. But the exercise says to "turn off unnecessary office and task lighting" for two hours. Then, I presume, we are to turn this unnecessary lighting back on? Why not just leave it off if it's unnecessary? And, if it can be identified as unnecessary, why was it on in the first place?"

Memo follows:

Editor's note: Looks like LaRC management made sure that their workforce saw the Porter all hands. Now if only the rest of the world could see (or read) what she actually said. See following memo:

NRC Report on NASA's civil aeronautics program

"Decadal Survey of Civil Aeronautics Foundation for the Future, a new report from the National Academies' National Research Council, provides a list of high-priority aeronautics research projects NASA should pursue to improve the air transportation system and help the U.S. remain a world leader in the field."

Editor's note: Sources report that Aeronautics AA Lisa Porter went to Capitol Hill on Wednesday afternoon. LaRC officials were also asked to meet yesterday (Thursday) with Sen. Warner's office - that delegation consisted of LaRC Center Director Lesa Roe, Dave Hinton, and Howard Lewis. Yesterday I submitted a request to HQ PAO asking for a verbatim transcript of Porter's LaRC all hands (which J.D. Harrington have told me that they have) and asked for additional information on these Congressional visits.

Editor's update: I just got a call from Harrington who confirmed these two visits and said that Porter's visit to the Senate Appropriations Committee was scheduled "weeks ago". Harrington would not tell me what was discussed during these visits. In addition, he told me that they do not have a transcript of the entire Porter all hands event and that he only had a portion (the 757 question) transcribed. When I asked why the entire event was not transcribed (so as to dispel confusion) he said that this was not PAO policy to do so and that the "target" audience heard what she had to say. I suggested posting audio recordings (i.e. podcasts) so that there would be no confusion over what was - or was not said - and he said he would forward that suggestion to his management.

What Lisa Porter Said - And What NASA Wants You To Think She Said (earlier post)

Langley's "flying lab" could be on chopping block, AP

NASA 757's fate is up in the air, Daily Press

"Lisa Porter, associate director for NASA's Aeronautics Research Management Division in Washington, D.C., has told employees at NASA Langley that her group questions the need for research airplanes in general. "We did not see a need to specifically have the 757," she said in a meeting at Langley that was not open to reporters."

A Human NEO Visit?

Adventures in Near-Earth Object Exploration, Science (subscription)

"If we are seeking a new vision for human exploration in space, it should be emphasized that astronauts could visit a small NEO without developing a lot of new space hardware. Veteran astronaut Jones and his colleagues (13) have put forward a mission concept where a modified Soyuz crew vehicle, refueled and docked to the International Space Station (ISS), takes astronauts on a several-month "vacation" to rendezvous with an Earth-approaching asteroid, returning to the ISS for stories of adventure to be told around the galley. Perhaps asteroids are the logical, achievable first focus for human rocketry beyond the Moon; if so, then missions such as Hayabusa are paving the way."

13. T. D. Jones et al., in The Future of Solar System Exploration, 20032013, M. V. Sykes, Ed. (ASP Conference Series, vol. 272) (Astronomical Society of the Pacific, San Francisco, 2002), pp. 141154.

Space Science Update

NASA's Science Programs Threatened by Missions to Put Humans in Space, Newhouse News Service

"NASA's science programs, the impetus for profound discoveries about the nature of our universe and the restless planet we call home, are in deep trouble. With marching orders from President Bush to reach the moon and Mars, and with spiraling costs to keep the aging shuttle fleet flying and to finish the International Space Station, NASA administrator Mike Griffin is doing what he vowed last fall would not happen. The space agency is making sharp and long-lasting cuts in its science budgets in order to pay for human spaceflight projects."

NASA's Reverse Thrust, Scientific American

"The NASA budget announced in February mows down a scarily long list of science missions, from a Europa orbiter to a space-based gravitational-wave observatory. Research grants to individual scientists, traditionally kept safe from high-level budget machinations, have taken a 15 percent hit, retroactive to last fall; hundreds have already received "termination letters" canceling their projects."

The Goldin Days of Space Exploration, Space Foundation

"By the late 1990s, Goldin had inherited a flawed and discredited Mars exploration architecture that had produced a string of embarrassing disasters."

Editor's note: Elliot Pulham makes some very good points - and people should pause to recall how we got to where we are. The only major item I differ with Elliot on is the paragraph above. While Dan Goldin did "inherit a flawed and discredited Mars exploration architecture", he also created one in response to what he was given. By the time MPL and MCO crashed he had been administrator for 6 years - well within the responsibility zone. These spacecraft were the agency's response (under his leadership) to the Mars Observer failure. However, the American spacecraft orbiting and roving Mars today are an example of learning from one's mistakes inasmuch as they represent how Goldin got the agency to overcome mistakes he (in part) led it to make in the Faster-Better-Cheaper era.

Internal NASA memo: "After several days of progress, Yoram took a serious turn for the worse yesterday. We have received the sad news that as of last night, he is showing no signs of brain activity and the family has given the direction not to resuscitate.

Editor's note: Look at this video. I love my cats. I love my macs. But ....

Editor's update: Some folks at NASA cannot view this short video (a kitten attacking a Mac Powerbook screen saver) and get this message:

"Restricted Categories: Dating/Social Access to this site has been blocked by the GRC third-party web filtering service which has categorized it as being non-work-related because it contains *Dating/Social* material."

STS-121 Update

Launch debris review clears Discovery for July liftoff, SpaceflightNow

NASA confident shuttle tank won't shed dangerous debris, Orlando Sentinel

"NASA managers expressed confidence today that the space shuttle's redesigned fuel tank won't shed dangerous debris during launch despite ongoing concern about at least one potential hazard. After a two-day engineering review at the Kennedy Space Center, shuttle officials decided the issue would not be an obstacle to Discovery's planned liftoff in July. Their conclusion: Small bits of the foam insulation that covers the tank's exterior still will break loose during launch, but the pieces are "an acceptable risk" not expected to cause serious damage."


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