August 2006 Archives

Lockheed Wins Contract to Build NASA's New Spaceship, Washington Post

"But it was blamed for the 1999 disappearance of the Mars Climate Orbiter, which vanished into space or burned up in the Mars atmosphere after Lockheed engineers incorrectly programmed it using English rather than metric units. When the Genesis space capsule crashed in 2004, NASA said it was because of errors in designs prepared by the company. Lockheed's earlier effort to build a shuttle replacement -- the X-33 "space plane" -- was canceled in 2001 after it ran into technological and cost problems."

Lockheed Martin Wins NASA Contract, AP

"The last time NASA awarded a manned spaceship contract to Lockheed Martin of Bethesda, Md., was in 1996 for a spaceplane that was supposed to replace the space shuttle. NASA spent $912 million and the ship, called X-33, never got built because of technical problems. Lockheed Martin Vice President John Karas said his company will succeed with Orion compared to its failure with X-33, because "we're not shooting as far... I'd say it (Orion) is within reach."

Editor's note: somehow this comment by Mr. Karas just doesn't inspire a lot of confidence.

NASA farms out moon rocket, AP

"The program will reduce the risk of a fatal accident to astronauts from 1-in-200 currently for the shuttle to 1-in-2000 for the new Constellation program, Orion project manager Skip Hatfield said last week."

Editor's note: "1-in-200 currently for the shuttle"? Um, Skip: we haven't even had 200 shuttle flights yet - the number is actually closer to 100 - but we have had two fatal shuttle accidents thus far.

Layoffs Begin at KSC

Layoffs Hit Kennedy Space Center, Central Florida News 13

"In an exclusive report, David Waters at Central Florida News13 has learned that in a cost cutting move, one of NASA's contractors will be laying off workers at the Space Center. This move comes just days before another scheduled launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis. 75 NASA contractors will lose their jobs. They work for SGS, a contractor that keeps the infrastructure of the space center running. The contractor fought to keep some jobs, but now have to tell those 75 employees, they'll no longer have a job at the space center."

Lockheed Martin wins CEV contract, Orlando Sentinel

"Sources on Capitol Hill tell the Orlando Sentinel that Lockheed Martin has won the contract to build the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle that will eventually carry astronauts to the moon and on to Mars.

More details will be posted here after a 4 p.m. press conference."

NASA Selects Lockheed Martin To Be Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle Prime Contractor

"DDT&E work is estimated to occur from Sept. 8, 2006, through Sept. 7, 2013. The estimated value is $3.9 billion.

Sustaining engineering work will be assigned through task orders. The work is expected to occur from Sept. 8, 2009, through Sept. 7, 2019, with an estimated value of $750 million, if all options are exercised."

CEV Announcement

NASA Announces Contractor for Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle

"NASA Exploration Systems' managers will host a press conference at 4 p.m. EDT Thursday, Aug. 31, to announce the prime contractor to design, develop, and build Orion, America's next human spacecraft.."

Editor's 30 Aug 10:48 pm EDT note: According to an eyewitness, they are painting the grass green at the Northrop Grumman buildings in El Segundo. Apparently, this only happens on the eve of winning a very big contract so that a better TV backdrop is available. The last time this happened was when Northrop Grumman won the NPOESS contract.

Editor's note: Well, we're only hours away from NASA's announcement of the CEV winner(s). Rumours, of course, are swirling about who might win. I've heard nothing (yet) which is remotely reliable about who might win. None the less, here is a compilation of what I have been hearing as to how the selection might be handled:

  1. Either Northrop Grumman/Boeing or Lockheed Martin will be picked for everything.
  2. Both companies will get a piece of the action either by:
    • Dividing things into a prime/subcontractor arrangement spread across the CEV command and service modules.
    • Select one contractor to develop the command module and the other to develop the service module.

The Mars Landing Space Technology Helps to Locate and Remove Deadly Landmines Covering the Earth

"This technology was the key component that contributed to the 2nd successful Mars landing with the Beagle II and will be used by TaeCorp in its Aerial Landmine System."

Editor's note: "2nd successful Mars landing with the Beagle II"? I am not sure how this could be true since Beagle II crashed - the first time. As such, I am not so certain that I'd trust this technology to clear landmines.

From Anousheh Ansari's new website: "Goals ... To promote peace and understanding as a representative for millions of Iranians that, given the right opportunities, can achieve their dreams."

Editor's 30 Aug 12:15 pm EDT note: Word has it that some State Department folks are increasingly nervous about the possibility that Anousheh Ansari will use the ISS to make some sort of political statement or live TV broadcast that could undermine or hamper U.S. policy with regard to Iran - and that given her activities will be performed on the Russian segment of the ISS, using Russian downlinks, there is nothing that they can do about it. There is also an Iranian flag in her personal mission patch. Stay tuned.

Editor's 30 Aug 4:00 pm EDT update: A few hours after this posting on NASA Watch, Ansari's website changed the goals page, dropping comments about representing iranians, such that the last goal now reads "As the first space Ambassador, promote peace and understanding amongst nations" Gee, I wonder who gives out the nifty title "The first space Ambassador"? What nation is she the ambassador from - or to ?

Diary of a planet's demise, Nature (subscription)

"I am just disgusted by the way the IAU, which is meant to represent the best in science, handled this matter," says Alan Stern ... "We do not classify objects in astronomy by what they are near," he says. "We classify them by their properties."

Editor's note: NASA Watch has learned that the words attributed to Mark Sykes in this article are not accurate and that a correction by Nature has been requested. However Nature may have misquoted him, Sykes tells NASA Watch "I think the IAU definition is fundamentally flawed. I think a better definition can be easily obtained, getting a community consensus will require a thoughtful process that is far more inclusive and open than the IAU process was."

Editor's note: According to NASA HQ PAO: "If we don't have any ill effects from Ernesto, NASA would attempt a shuttle launch on September 6, 7, and 8. The Soyuz would go on the 18th if the shuttle launches and if not, the Soyuz would go on the 14th."

Atlantis may have three shots next week, Orlando Sentinel

"However, by eliminating one of two optional mission extension days that is included in Atlantis' flight plan, the 8th becomes available. The key is that Atlantis has to undock from the station by Sept. 17 to allow the Soyuz mission to proceed."

Schedule Pressure

NASA considers relaxing daylight rule if Atlantis misses September window, SpaceflightNow

"If the shuttle Atlantis fails to get off the ground before the Sept. 7 end of its current launch window - a scenario that could delay the flight to late October - NASA managers may reconsider an earlier decision to only launch in daylight to ensure photo documentation of the ship's heat shield and external tank, officials said today."

Editor's note: In other words NASA is considering lessening requirements as a result of schedule pressure.

Editor's note: Rick Tumlinson, co-Founder of the Space Frontier Foundation, appears today on CNBC television at 1:40PM Eastern/10:40AM Pacific. He'll be discussing public vs. private sector space transportation.

Rocco Petrone Has Died

Rocco A. Petrone, obituary, LA Times

"... He passed away August 24, 2006 at home in Palos Verdes Estates, California. He graduated from West Point in 1946 serving in the Army. He joined NASA in 1960 where he worked in the Apollo program. Later in his career he was with Rockwell's Space Transportation Division."

Editor's note: NASA has turned off all of its KSC webcams again. This is odd since you'd think that people would like to see damaage (or lack thereof) happens - in real time. Webservers and webcams normally run fine with little adjustment - so why not just leave them running?. Of course NASA could also look into installing some remote satellite webcams too. Again, they are not that difficult to set up and cost perhaps less than $10K per camera. Not much to spend when billions of dollars of assets are involved.

Indeed, these two webcams [1, 2] operate autonomously on Devon Island less than 800 miles from the north pole - and conditions there can get rather nasty - for months at a time. Its odd that NASA hasn't set anything like this up. It sure ain't rocket science.

What is even stranger is the fact that KSC's website has been shut down too. Now this is odd. Indeed, it is just plain dumb as well as unimaginative. I guess the notion of offsite hosting or mirror sites (on webservers outside of Florida) has never occurred to anyone at KSC. There are people at NASA who could keep an eye on things for a few days. So much for being able to post updates that KSC people who still have power - or have cellphones - can read. I have to wonder sometimes if NASA hires IT personnel who have ever worked in the real world. You'd think after all of these hurricanes someone might have learned a few lessons.

Editor's 30 Aug 9:00 am EDT note: KSC's website is (apparently) operational again - but the webcams are not.

Reader note: "Regarding webcams being turned off... My daughter is a senior at Florida Institute of Technology (Florida Tech) down the road in Melbourne. Their webcam is running as normal. Maybe KSC needs some FIT students to show them how to do it?"

Editor's note: Some Cocoa Beach area webcams (still online) which apparently use more advanced technology than NASA has:

  • Cocoa Beach Wecam, (free streaming image times out after 30 sec), Surfline
  • Webcam (Cape Canaveral), Two Palms
  • Cocoa Beach, MMD Factory
  • Cape Canaveral webcam, WESH TV
  • Space Science Cut Update

    The Sorry State of Science Politics in NASA, Planetary Society

    "The resignation this month of three noted leaders in space science from the NASA Advisory Council is a disaster.... now the NASA Administrator says he does not want the considered advice of scientists about space science and exploration -- he wants it only about the decisions already made for the new exploration program focused entirely on the Moon and NASA's already decided architecture for it."

    Editor's note: Many have observed that NASA is trying to recreate the capabilities already present - or easily obtainable - from private sector launch vehicles so as to implement the VSE. Specifically, capabilities exist in EELVs (Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle) for which taxpayers have already spent billions of dollars to develop. COTS is a step in the right direction, but some feel that NASA could do much, much more in utilizing existing private sector launch capabilities.

    Editor's note: NASA HQ called me twice today to tell me about a JSC telecon (they won't put me on their list at JSC for some reason). JSC called to link me up to this second telecon but never called on me. Oh well. My question would have been: NASA is an agency which seeks to describe its programmatic risks in a number of ways - most of them numerical. What numerical level of confidence do you have that the predictions you are relying upon will be valid throughout the storm's passage? If there is no numerical evaluation, can you describe how you made this decision and what established criteria you based that decision upon?

    [Follow up/alternate question] Given that you spent several days pondering whether or not to scrub and do the rollback to the VAB in the first place - and then suddenly reversed your decision in just a few hours today, do you feel that your decision to return to the pad was given enough consideration, and, if so, did you therefore spend too much time debating the initial decision to roll back to the VAB?

    Atlantis going back to the pad, Orlando Sentinel

    "In a stunning turnaround, shuttle Atlantis is being rolled back to the launch pad after getting halfway to the Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building."

    Editor's note: Less than 2 hours ago NASA completed a telecon with reporters regarding the roll back of Atlantis to the VAB. At that time not the slightest hint whatsoever was dropped by either Wayne Hale or Mike Suffredini that there might be a change in NASA's plans. Now it is sending Atlantis back to the pad. It would seem that NASA is making these major decisions in near realtime - otherwise, why spend an hour answering questions (between 12:00 and 1:00 pm EDT) based on the premise that a roll back to the VAB was a done deal?

    Atlantis no longer seeks shelter and returning to pad, SpaceflightNow

    "Atlantis' rollback began at 10:04 a.m. after a long debate about the forecast and whether to ride out the storm at the pad. In the end, Leinbach decided predictions of 65-knot gusts were too much and the slow move began."

    Editor's note: The Tuesday 29 Aug weather weekly outlook from the 45th Weather Squadron at Patrick AFB calls for sustained winds at 50 knots with gusts up to 60 knots on Wednesday evening. That forecast has a differential of 5 knots from the number Leinbach determined was unacceptable - and warranted a rollback to the VAB. Comparing 60 with 65 knots, a 5 knot differential is around 7%. Is NASA that confident that their forecast is that accurate - in terms of storm track and expected conditions on the pad? It would seem so. It will be interesting to see how they assure that nothing hit the ET so as to cause underlying foam damage - especially given the ease with which ET workers - and woodpeckers - have been shown to damage it.

    Reader note: "The forecast you referred to was posted at 8am using the 5am NHC bulletin... As I think you are aware, NHC downgraded the threat at 11am and even further at 2pm, which was one of the last tidbits they used to stop the rollback and return to pad. The number Mike gave was 70kts as the cutoff for being on the pad, not 65kts."

    Editor's note: I stand corrected - alas, portions of the audio we had on the phone bridge - especially the beginning - were unintelligible due to overlapping echoes. None the less, my point remains: is the difference between the wind speeds comensurate with the accuracy with which NASA has been assured that the weather predictions are correct?

    KSC Shutting Down

    Kennedy Space Center Closes for Tropical Storm Ernesto, NASA KSC

    "As a result of Tropical Storm Ernesto approaching Central Florida, Kennedy Space Center will close at midnight tonight. All non-essential KSC employees are being asked not to report to work on Wednesday, Aug. 30. Based on current conditions, the center is expected to reopen Thursday, Aug. 31, or as soon as the "all clear" is given."

    Shuttle Launch Options

    Rollback continues, launch options discussed, Orlando Sentinel

    "After Ernesto passes, NASA cannot get back to the launch pad in time to lift off by Sept. 7. The next launch opportunity after the Russian flight that would meet lighting requirements is Oct. 26-27. In short, NASA will suffer at least a two-month launch delay unless one of two things happens: (1) The Russians agree to give Atlantis more opportunities by landing the Soyuz mission in the middle of the night or (2) NASA relaxes its daylight launch requirements."

    Roll Back

    NASA Decides to Move Shuttle Atlantis Off Launch Pad

    "NASA has decided to roll the Space Shuttle Atlantis off its launch pad and back inside the protection of the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla. The roll back of Atlantis is targeted to start at approximately 10:05 a.m. EDT Tuesday.The decision was made due to Tropical Storm Ernesto's track. Ernesto is expected to bring high winds as it passes Kennedy."

  • KSC Video Feeds
  • Hurricane Ernesto Updates, NOAA
  • Lightning, Hurricanes, Russians - and Space Shuttles, SpaceRef

    "Launching Space Shuttles has always been complicated - thousands of people and millions of parts all have to work just right - all while nature (and sometimes human politics) cooperate. All it takes is one small thing - and a bit of bad luck - and a launch can be delayed again - and again.

    This time NASA's bad luck arrived in threes."

    Editor's 28 Aug 9:50 am EDT update: The briefing has slipped to 10:15 am EDT.

    Editor's 28 Aug 7:50 am EDT update: The briefing has slipped to 10 am EDT.

    Editor's 28 Aug 7:30 am EDT update: Dean Acosta just announced in the newsroom that NASA mission managers decided this morning to scrub Tuesday's launch attempt . Rollback preparations will begin, but the actual decision to rollback will not be made until midday tomorrow. There will be a news briefing at 9:00 am EDT.

    Editor's 28 Aug 7:25 am EDT update: Newsroom staff are now saying "yes. but its not official" with regard to questions about roll back.

    Editor's 28 Aug 7:10 am EDT update: The KSC launch site news room staff suddenly dashed out a few moments ago. Those who remain are talking about "rollback".

    Editor's 27 Aug 9:10 pm EDT update: NASA did indeed announce that they have put off a final decision as to whether they will proceed with launch preparations - or prepare to roll the shuttle back to the VAB until 7:00 am EDT on Monday. The track of Ernesto seems to have developed in a way that gives NASA some optimism that it will not affect launch preparations. In addition, analysis of the SRBs shows that the lightning strike most likely did not affect SRB systems.

    Editor's 27 Aug 7:41 pm EDT update: NASA will announce at 8:00 pm EDT that they have not made a decision after all and that we have to wait until 7;00 AM EDT Monday for a final answer. Meanwhile, a L-1 MMT meeting is being planned for 10 am EDT on Monday.

    SMD Management Update

    Reader note: "There was a listing in the Washington Post today (Section F, pg. 6) for the SES jobs of Director & Deputy Director, Planetary Science Division in SMD at NASA Hq ..."

  • New Faces at SMD?, earlier post
  • Shuttle Update

    Solid rocket booster tests could be ordered, Spaceflightnow

    "NASA managers are meeting tonight to discuss whether or not to conduct additional tests to make sure a lightning strike Friday didn't cause any problems with the shuttle Atlantis' solid-fuel booster rockets. If such tests are ordered - and the booster project team is making that recommendation - launch could be delayed until the middle of the week, sources said this evening."

    Lightning strike forces postponement of Shuttle launch, Orlando Sentinel

    "The lightning strike, described by NASA managers as the largest ever recorded at the launch pad, occurred about 2.p.m. Friday. The bolt hit the pad's lightning suppression system and caused some electrical components on Atlantis and ground-support equipment to show brief spikes."

    STS-115 Launch Postponed

    "The Space Shuttle Mission Management Team decided Saturday afternoon to postpone the launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis for at least 24 hours to allow more time for teams to assess ground and flight systems following a strong lighting strike to the lighting protection system at the launch pad on Friday afternoon."

    Editor's note: Yesterday's lightning strike may have caused some damage to the shuttle launch pad. NASA scrubbed tomorrow's STS-115 launch for a least 24 hours to investigate possible pad damage. A MMT (Mission Management Team) meeting Sunday morning will discuss this topic. Word of a launch attempt on Monday - or a further delay - will be announced midday Sunday. Right now we are under a stage 2 lightning alert and the press center is being pounded by rain.

    Upcoming NAS Reports

    "The following reports are tentatively scheduled for release during September. However, release dates of National Academies reports depend on successful completion of the review process and publishing schedules."

    Inside Pluto's Demotion

    Pluto vote 'hijacked' in revolt, BBC

    "On Thursday, experts approved a definition of a planet that demoted Pluto to a lesser category of object. But the lead scientist on Nasa's robotic mission to Pluto has lambasted the ruling, calling it "embarrassing". And the chair of the committee set up to oversee agreement on a definition implied that the vote had effectively been "hijacked"."

    Editor's note: The IAU claims to have 8,857 members worldwide. But when it comes to making important decisions - such as deciding what a planet is (or is not) only a very small fraction of that membership was allowed to participate. Only 428 members (less than 5% of IAU's global membership) were allowed to vote. You had to be in the meeting room in Prague yesterday in order to be eligible to vote. The remaining 95% of the IAU's membership had no say in this decision. According to individuals familiar with the vote on planet definition, the vote in Prague was more or less split on the Pluto issue. A backlash is reportedly brewing among the ISU membership. Stay tuned.

    Reader note: According to my spies in Prague, your account is incorrect. The vote on resolution 5A, which defines a planet and demotes Pluto, was about 400 to 20. The vote on resolution 6B, which would have defined Pluto-like objects to be formally called 'plutonian objects', went down by a close vote of 183 to 186.

    Planetary Silliness

  • Xena Awarded "Dwarf Planet" Status, IAU Rules; Solar System Now Has Eight "Classical" Planets
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Solar System
  • What's in a Name? Explore ALL Worlds, says The Planetary Society -- Planet or Not -- Pluto is Waiting for Us
  • JHU: Astronomers Mixed Reactions to Pluto's "Demotion"
  • IAU 2006 General Assembly: Result of the IAU Resolution votes
  • Editor's note: While it is important to have some precision when it comes to scientific terminology, there was a certain silliness to this whole process. It is almost as if the words were more important than the objects they described. Oh well.

    I can't wait for the IAU to re-look at the definition of the term "planet" when it comes to other solar systems. How will they handle the large bodies that orbit brown dwarfs? What about planet-sized bodies (already observed) that don't orbit a star? What about planets stuck orbiting inside an expanding red giant giant? What about bodies that orbit multiple stars? What about planet-sized objects which have formed in a young solar system - but are still sweeping up debris in the neighborhood?

    Reader note: Hi Keith: Several of the objects you describe have already been defined by the IAU's Working Group on Extrasolar Planets, which I chair. Please see: http://www.dtm.ciw.edu/boss/iauindex.html Our working definition of a planet was approved at the last IAU General Assembly, in Sydney in 2003. - Alan Boss

    Reader note: Dear Keith: It might be useful to remind everyone that while scientific societies are democracies (ideally, at least), science itself hews solely to the authority of Nature. - Sincerely, Bill McKinnon, Member of both the IAU (though not in Prague) and the DPS Committee

    Editor's note: It is interesting to see how astronomers considering a much more expansive collection of objects (more than a hundred) viewed the definition of what a "planet" is as opposed to the group who confined themselves to the more parochial task of describing the worlds in our single, local solar system - one where local politics must be taken into account!

    I got to thinking. If Pluto, Ceres, etc. are "dwarf planets" - this is in comparison to what? Earth? Jupiter? I haven't done the math but I would think that a comparison between Ceres and Earth would not be all that different in terms of relative size between Earth and Jupiter - both of which are "planets". Why is this size disparity OK in one direction - but not another? Looking at the extrasolar planets discovered thus far (albeit the largest are the easiest ones to find) many are much larger than Jupiter. Wouldn't that make Earth a "dwarf planet" too when compared to the range of objects that we call "planets" thus far?

    We already routinely refer to "terrestrial" planets and "gas giants".... no one has every really baselined those terms - yet I do not see IAU types getting upset when the terms are used.

    And yet this definition of "planet" vs that of "moon" is also silly when you somehow denigrate large worlds like Titan, Triton, and Ganymede etc. as being just "moons" when they are larger than a classical "planet" (Mercury) while other "moons" can be a rock just a few kilometers across. Its is time for the keepers of terminology to describe reality as it actually is - not as they would like it to be so as to make grant proposal writing easier.

    What's the cost of the space station?, MSNBC

    "How much does the international space station cost? Because we're talking about government work here, it's a tricky question to answer. But the estimates start at roughly $35 billion which is what the Government Accountability Office says Congress has appropriated for the station project since 1985 and rise to $100 billion, which is roughly what the GAO said would be the total cost "to develop, assemble and operate" the station."

    Forgetting the Future

    Space station science gets squeezed, MSNBC

    "But as NASA resumes space station construction with the scheduled Sunday launch of the space shuttle Atlantis, the station often comes off sounding more like an obligation rather than an opportunity - a $100 billion white elephant to be finished, then quickly forgotten as NASA turns its attention to the moon, Mars and beyond. "It's almost as if the space station is an albatross," said Keith Cowing, who worked on the initial designs for the space station in the 1990s while at NASA and now monitors the agency through his Web site, NASA Watch. "It's almost like NASA has corporate attention-deficit disorder."

    What's being studied on the station?, MSNBC

    "Despite the criticism, even Cowing agrees with Uhran's statement that the station will be an "extraordinarily capable spacecraft" once it's finished. He worries that the station could fall victim to "a bad habit NASA has often times, of pooh-poohing the previous space program." But if the push to the moon, Mars and beyond is held up for some reason over the next decade, the international space station just might become the jewel in NASA's crown, he predicted. "Suddenly the station will become the hip place to be," Cowing said."

    SOFIA Yanked From ARC

    Editor's note: Yesterday the PMC decided to take SOFIA away from ARC and give it to DFRC. Mary Cleave got her way once again. Mike Griffin was not at the PMC (he was at KSC).

    NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 24 August 2006

    "Update on CDRA: With Vozdukh in the SM still off, CDRA (CO2 Removal Assembly) performance testing continues in the Lab. Vozdukh will be turned back on tonight at ~6:00pm EDT. [Preliminary data this morning indicated a ppCO2 of 4.3 mmHg, with sporadic overnight spikes in excess of ~6 mmHg, i.e., CDRA is not performing as well as expected. Troubleshooting/repair steps are being considered but no final decision has been made yet. Adequate CDRA performance is critical for the CSCS (Contingency Shuttle Crew Support, "Safe Haven") scenario.]"

    Union of Plutonic States Contests Earthlings' Demotion of its Status. No Retaliation Planned, But Planned Aid May Be Delayed

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - FRIGEON, August 24, 2006/Plutonic News via Deep Space Net/ -- /The High Council of the Union of Plutonic States notes with the greatest disappointment that the inhabitants of the third rock from the Sun, otherwise known as Earth, have unilaterally declared that Pluto is no longer a planet.

    ISS Prepares to Grow

    NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 24 August 2006

    "Good-bye XPOP: On Saturday (8/26), ISS attitude, currently still in sun-oriented XPOP (x-axis perpendicular to orbit plane), will be changed to earth-fixed LVLH XVV (local vertical local horizontal/x-axis in velocity vector). With solar Beta angle decreasing below 40 degrees and P3/P4 with new solar arrays arriving on 12A, XPOP attitude will no longer be required for the ISS in the future."

    NASA Announces Contractor for Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle

    "NASA Exploration Systems' managers will host a press conference at 4 p.m. EDT Thursday, Aug. 31, to announce the prime contractor to design, develop, and build Orion, America's next human spacecraft."

    GAO Report: NASA: Long-Term Commitment to and Investment in Space Exploration Requires More Knowledge

    "NASA's current acquisition strategy for the CEV places the project at risk of significant cost overruns, schedule delays, and performance shortfalls because it commits the government to a long-term product development effort before establishing a sound business case. NASA plans to award a contract for the design, development, production, and sustainment of the CEV in September 2006-before it has developed key elements of a sound business case, including well-defined requirements, a preliminary design, mature technology, and firm cost estimates."

    NASA 14 CFR Part 1213: Release of Information to News and Information Media - Final rule

    "The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is amending NASA regulations on release of information to news and information media. These amendments will establish NASA policy, responsibility, and procedure for providing information to news media on NASA activities. These amendments set forth procedures for internal review of public information, updates the designations of officials responsible for the accuracy of information contained in press releases and other forms of public information, and provides guidance to employees on authorities governing the release of information."

    The IAU draft definition of 'planet' and 'plutons', IAU

    "The draft "Planet Definition" Resolution will be discussed and refined during the General Assembly and then it (plus four other Resolutions) will be presented for voting at the 2nd session of the GA 24 August between 14:00 and 17:30 CEST."

    Reader (Renowned Planetary Scientist) note: IAU's definition 5A just passed - the one that excludes Pluto as a planet. Look at the murky wording, it also excludes Earth and Jupiter because their zones are not cleared (NEOs, Trojans, respectively).

    The Final IAU Resolution on the definition of "planet" ready for voting

    "RESOLUTION 5A ... (1) A planet1 is a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (c) has cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit."

    21 August 2006 Email from Mike Griffin to NASA Advisory Council Members

    "More broadly, there has been a view, which in my opinion has been both too widely and too long held, that NASA is somehow responsible to a variety of external constituencies, a list of which is far too long to reproduce here, even if I could remember them all! In fact, the Agency is responsible to the President and to the Congress, in practice through our Congressional oversight committees. It operates within and subject to the dictates of Presidential policy and, most importantly, the appropriations and authorization legislation voted by Congress. We strive very, very hard to meet all of these requirements; this is not an easy task. ... There are many, many other groups who enjoy giving, or who believe themselves to be empowered to give, advice to NASA."

    Editor's note: In addition to his blatant lack of interest in science - and education, there is a troubling, dismissive - and elitist - arrogance in Griffin's words as he describes who he feels NASA is "responsible" to i.e. who tells him what to do. He clearly seems to miss the point that, as part of the federal government, NASA is responsible to 300 million citizens - not just a handful of people who work in marble office buildings in Washington D.C.

    Mike, all citizens are "empowered to give advice" as to how you are running their space agency. Its in the Constitution. Its about time you got used to this. We pay your salary. You work for us.

    Golf Stunt Back On Track

    Space station lined up for golf promotion, AP

    "Russian flight engineer Mikhail Tyurin will show off his swing to promote a Toronto golf club manufacturer during a spacewalk Nov. 23. NASA safety officers have cleared the stunt, saying it poses no threat to the space station or the crew since the golf ball weighs only three grams and will return to Earth's atmosphere in three days."

    Reader note: I guess it's not a real golf ball. Regulation golf balls have a mass of 45.9 grams, not 3. (For a while I thought it was just another English to metric error but this is 1.62 ounces not 3 oz..) If it weighs 3 grams and will reenter in 3 days, it must be a hollow plastic ball. On second thought, even a hollow ball wouldn't deorbit from 350 km in three days. Could it be that they are just trying to ignore it?

  • Golf or Science: What is NASA's Plan for the Space Station?, SpaceRef
  • Space Station Golf Stunt Update, earlier post
  • ISS Golf Stunt Update, earlier post
  • NASA Solicitation: Survey of Program Office Size, Structure, and Practices

    "This procurement is to develop a questionnaire and survey between 30 and 50 diverse corporations for information on program office size, structure, organization, and practices, and to develop a series of algorithms that might be useful in sizing future program offices. ... There are no alternative sources that have established and sustained a knowledge-sharing network with such diverse corporate entities to support the development of benchmarks of program management practices, structures, and size across multiple industries."

    Editor's note: Oh C'mon. There are "no alternative sources" anywhere? This sounds like someone responding to an action item. NASA seems to spend more time on these studies about how other organizations do things than they do on the actual rocket science work they are supposed to do in the first place. Most of these studies end up being shelved or ignored. Scott Horowitz's use of the NESC - supposedly an independent safety center - to rehabilitate spacecraft designs - clearly ignores the original intent of the NESC.

    NAC Resignation Update

    NASA Chief Blasts Advisors, ScienceNow

    "[Wes] Huntress says Griffin told him that his advice exceeded the council's charge. "This is a different NAC. Our advice was simply not required nor desired," Huntress told Science. The current council, he adds, "has no understanding or patience for the science community process." Kennel, who had been named chair of the NAC's science committee, was unavailable for comment, but Norine Noonan, a former NAC member and dean of math and science at South Carolina's College of Charleston, called Griffin's action "very distressing" for scientists. "If we can't have a robust debate at the NAC level," she says, "then where in the heck is it supposed to happen?"

    D.C. area space policy student note: How can you adapt the current planet definition criteria (under consideration) to also define what a politician is?

    Astronaut Office Changes

    Editor's note: Astronaut Steve Lindsey has been selected to head the Astronaut Office. CB's current Chief, Kent Rominger, is going to be leaving NASA. The change is effective 1 October. Also, astronaut Mike Bloomfield will become Deputy Director of the Flight Crew Operations Directorate (FCOD). FCOD's current director is astronaut Ken Bowersox.

    The Day We Lost Pluto, Sky & Telescope

    "It's beginning to look as if astronomers will arrive at one of two possible outcomes this week in their much-publicized attempt to agree on a formal definition of the word "planet." Either they will fail to reach a consensus, or they will adopt a definition that is rather different from the one proposed last week and that kicks Pluto out of the planet club."

    Orion Revealed

    Astronaut lets name of new spaceship slip, AP

    "The name of the new vehicle that NASA hopes will take astronauts back to the moon was supposed to be hush-hush until next week. But apparently U.S. astronaut Jeff Williams, floating 220 miles above Earth at the international space station, didn't get the memo. Williams let it slip today that the new vehicle's name is Orion."

    NASA Names New Crew Exploration Vehicle Orion

    "NASA announced Tuesday that its new crew exploration vehicle will be named Orion."

    NASA's New Spacesuits

    NASA Constellation Space Suit Systems (CSSS) Industry Day Presentation on Suit Systems

    "Space Suit System Architecture: NASA perceives that a single suit system providing LEA, zero-G EVA and surface EVA capabilities is a feasible approach and potentially offers the following: Reduced upmass; Reduced logistics and sparing; Reduced life cycle costs."

    Science Vs Stunts

    Devon Island like no place on Earth, Chicago Tribune

    "Tight-lipped geologists from the De Beers diamond company were quietly scouting the island this summer in search of likely spots to mine for the precious gems. And amateur Mars enthusiasts from a group called the Mars Society run a kind of extraterrestrial summer camp some years, hosting tourists who live aboard a simulated Mars capsule they've built here. The visitors dress in mock spacesuits and go out on pretend exploratory missions.

    There's no pretending in [Pascal] Lee's [Haughton Mars Project] camp, however: Everything is very real, and very uncomfortable. When it rains or snows, as it does occasionally, the researchers get wet; when it freezes--summertime temperatures normally range from 30 to 50 degrees--they shiver."

    NAC Resignation Update

    Science: Lost in Space, Inside Higher Ed

    Two Scientists Are Forced Off NASA Panel in Disagreement Over Research Dollars, Chronicle of Higher Education

    "Mr. Acosta disagreed with that characterization and explained the resignations this way: Mr. Griffin is "looking for advice based on the priorities that NASA has and the parameters that have been set" for the agency's future. Mr. Huntress and Mr. Levy "chose to get outside of the parameters we had." Mr. Acosta added, "If you want a debate about how much money we should be getting, that's outside the control of the administrator."

    Daisuke Enomoto Grounded

    Japan space tourist cedes rocket seat to US woman, Reuters

    "Ansari will be the world's third space tourist. U.S. entrepreneur Dennis Tito pioneered space tourism, flying to the ISS in April 2001. He was followed by South African Mark Shuttleworth in April 2002."

    Editor's note: Gee, what about Greg Olsen?

    NASA RFI: Crew Launch Vehicle Upper Stage Notice of Intent: Ares I Upper Stage Production and Ares I Instrument Unit Solicitations

    NASA RFI: Ares I Upper Stage RFI Update August 2006

    "The planning for the development and production of the Ares I (previously Crew Launch Vehicle (CLV)) Upper Stage continues and the following information is provided to assist Industry in planning for upcoming acquisitions."

    Editor's note: Meanwhile, ESMD AA Scott Horowitz has been using the NASA Engineering and Safety Center (NESC) at LaRC as an ad hoc Skunk Works to try and rehabilitate CLV and CEV designs that his "Smart Buyer" and engineering teams at JSC and MSFC have already found to have serious flaws. Most concerns focus on the "Stick". Stay tuned, doubts not withstanding, CEV contractor selection is still on track for 7 September 2006.

    New Faces at SMD?

    Editor's note: Are big changes ahead at NASA's Science Mission Directorate? With the recent departure of Carl Pilcher and Andy Dantzler from SMD, mounting concern in Congress and the scientific community about NASA's committment to space science, and the recent resignation of Wes Huntress, Eugene Levy, and Charles Kennel from the NAC Science Subcommittee, something needs to be fixed. SMD AA Mary Cleave's retirement - perhaps as early as November 2006 - has been discussed with some people. With senior SMD personnel departing, and many others at SMD in temporary or acting positions, now would be a good time for Mike Griffin to clear the decks and bring in a new team to get the SMD back on its feet.

    Then again, with Griffin's accelerating evisceration of NASA space science projects ...

    NASA LaRC Solicitation: Sensors for Lunar Landing System

    "We are requesting information concerning existing, prototype and conceptual sensors capable of providing Altimetry, Velocimetry, Terrain Relative Navigation (TRN) and Hazard Detection and Avoidance (HDA) measurements for lunar landing vehicles as set forth in the attachments. This document is for information and planning purposes and to allow industry the opportunity to verify reasonableness and feasibility of the requirement, as well as promote competition."

    Editor's note: When ARC did something like this recently, MSFC went into full battle alert mode, screamed to NASA HQ Code L and Congress (once again) about turf encroachment, and eventually had the procurement killed. Let's see what happens this time. Note to Dave King: per direction from Mike Griffin, you are not supposed to whine run to Congress when you don't agree with what the agency is doing. Fight that urge.

  • NASA ARC Solicitation: Micro-Lander Propulsion System
  • Dave King's Less Than Accurate Statement About RLEP
  • Horowitz Yanks RLEP Away From ARC - Gives it to MSFC
  • At NASA, Wikipedia = Porn

    Editor's note: someone@larc.nasa.gov writes: "Please be aware that our [Langley] IT Security have blocked wikipedia as a "General Pornography" site. I have put in a request for access, but, based on past interactions, our IT office may not have any idea why anyone would want to have access to an on-line encyclopedia."

    Click on the screen grab below for a larger image.

    COTS Winners Announced

    NASA Selects Crew and Cargo Transportation to Orbit Partners

    "NASA selected SpaceX, El Segundo, Calif. and Rocketplane-Kistler, Oklahoma City, to develop and demonstrate commercial orbital transportation services that could open new markets and pave the way for contracts to launch and deliver crew and cargo to the International Space Station.

    NASA and the two companies signed Space Act Agreements that establish milestones and objective criteria to assess their progress throughout Phase 1 of the competition. Once a capability is demonstrated, NASA plans to purchase crew and cargo delivery services competitively in Phase 2."

    A Bright Ray of Hope

    Editor's note: I have spent the last few days as a participant in the NASA Next Generation Exploration Conference at NASA ARC - a fascinating assembly of young space professionals and students from around the U.S. - and the world. This has been a refreshing break from the cynicism I usually encounter as I "watch" NASA. These folks see their future in space - and they are determined to make it happen. A moment ago I made an offer to all participants to post anything they might wish to send me about this conference - and what they'd like to see come from it.

    Send your comments to nasawatch@reston.com

    Attendees only, please - and let me know if I can use your name and affiliation.

    Your comments thus far:

    NASA, Zoo Set Ribbon Cutting For Prairie Chicken Facility, NASA JSC

    Editor's note: At the same time NASA is cutting science clearly relevant to the agency's Vision for Space Exploration (VSE) and its administrator seeks to diminish the importance of funding education programs clearly relevant to NASA and the VSE, JSC seeks to promote this silly local project as being "part of JSC's educational outreach program, which fosters the next generation of explorers by encouraging young people to study scientific and technical subjects. The facility gives area students an opportunity to see first-hand the importance of habitat conservation and protection."

    How about picking - and then funding - a topic with some actual connection to NASA's exploration program - and promoting that? You really have to wonder if anyone on the 9th floor at NASA HQ is paying any attention whatsoever to the public impressions NASA is sending out when inane and trivial press releases such as this are sent out.

    Students advised to seek experience in the private aeronautics sector, Salt Lake Tribune

    "It simply is not among the top priorities I have at NASA to fund student experiments," Griffin said during a question-and-answer session."

    Mars Society conference report: Griffin and Elon not ready for K2 summit push, MountEverest.net

    "How do we motivate students to study astrobiology if this science is not favored in the budget?" asked a teacher. "If they want to work for government money, they must look at what the government wants - not what they think it should want. If they want to work with something the government doesn't want, they'll have to find other money to fund it," Griffin stated."

    Editor's note: O.K. If I am to take Dr. Griffin at his word, then funding a NASA chicken ranch in cooperation with a local zoo is more important than funding actual space life science and astrobiology research - because that is what the government is asking him to fund.

    NASA's vision needs some corrective eyeglasses.

    Reader note: "The only good thing about the NASA Chicken Ranch at JSC is that they can have a free barbeque when the project is terminated due to further budget cuts."

    NAC Resignation Update

    NASA advisers resign amid science debate, AP

    "Kennel resigned by choice, but Huntress and Levy were asked to leave by NASA Administrator Michael Griffin."

    Editor's note: When you don't like the advice you are getting, get rid of your advisors.

  • NAC Science Committee Continues to Shrink, earlier post
  • A memorial service for the late Mike Dornheim, senior engineering editor and Los Angeles bureau chief for Aviation Week & Space Technology killed June 3 in a car accident near Malibu, Calif. will be held Aug. 19 at 2-5 p.m. PDT at the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

    GRC Layoff Update

    NASA Glenn layoff plans on hold for now, Cleveland Plain Dealer

    "NASA Glenn Research Center employees whose jobs were threatened by budget cuts got a reprieve last week: Management is "indefinitely postponing" the process of preparing for layoffs, a memo issued to employees said."

    Editor's note: The NASA Advisory Council (NAC) Science Committee has just lost three of its members. Charles Kennel (Chair), Wes Huntress, and Eugene Levy have resigned. More to follow.

    Editor's update: Word has it that the three committee members who quit were asked to quit because of their insistence that they wanted to give advice to NASA regarding its entire range of science research - not just the subset relating to moon exploration.

    Memo From NASA Advisory Council Chair Schmitt Regarding 3 NAC Resignations

    "As some of you may have heard, there have been recent changes with regards to the Science Committee of the NASA Advisory Council. This week, the NASA Administrator accepted the resignations of three members of the Science Committee of the Council: Wes Huntress, Charlie Kennel, and Gene Levy."

    Editor's note: From "Inside Marshall" (internal access only): "The Ares I Quarterly Progress Report #1 is available for viewing on Inside Marshall. The video showcases Marshall-led test activities conducted across the country at partnering NASA centers and industry facilities for the design and development of NASAs future launch vehicles, Ares I and Ares V keys to NASAs exploration goals to return to the moon and travel to Mars and beyond. Closed captioning is available. To view the video, click a link below.

    Real Player
    Windows Media w/cc

    Ansel J. Butterfield, Daily Press

    "... in 1969 where he was one of the key project managers for the Viking Project to send a lander to Mars. His name is one of only a few that appears on a small plaque attached to the lander that remains on the planet to this day."

    Guy Etheridge Memorial Information, Astrobiology.net

    "To the Gravitational and Space Biology Family: We have all been saddened by the passing of Guy Etheridge this week. His death is a great loss for NASA and especially for KSC. We will miss him in many ways."

    Delgado Named NASA's Small Business Assistant Administrator

    "NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale announced Tuesday Glenn A. Delgado has been appointed the assistant administrator for the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization."

    Students advised to seek experience in the private aeronautics sector, Salt Lake Tribune

    "It simply is not among the top priorities I have at NASA to fund student experiments," Griffin said during a question-and-answer session. "It is nice when we can afford to do student experiments in the context of a university, but right now, as strapped for cash as we are, I'm simply not sure that is a luxury we can afford." ... "Griffin responded that it is not NASA's job to broker deals to put student projects into space. "NASA is not the galactic overlord of space, nor should it be," Griffin said."

    NASA chief justifies cuts during session at USU, Deseret Morning News

    "Mike Griffin, NASA's administrator, was feisty in defending the space agency's deep cuts in science projects during a question-and-answer session Monday at the Utah State University Small Satellite Conference." .... "I respectfully disagree with you that you have to wait until you're an employee of an aerospace company to start getting enthusiastic about space, to start learning the discipline that will make a good employee," [Gil] Moore said. "The generation that you need to be targeting . . . is the educational level of the university student."

    NAI Gets a New Director

    NASA Ames Announces Change in Astrobiology Management

    "Dr. Carl Pilcher, senior scientist for astrobiology at NASA Headquarters, Washington, has been appointed director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) based at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. The appointment is effective Sept. 18, 2006."

    Rockets 101

    NASA ESMD Commercial Space Vehicles Lessons Learned Workshop

    "NASA is preparing to release information from the last 50 years that will enable and aid the private sector in building future space vehicles. You are invited to a special gathering to share with NASA what you consider to be the highest value information we can provide to you. Representatives from large and small firms are invited. We anticipate 100 companies will be represented at this conference, and would like to count you among them."

    Lost History Update

    Houston, our tapes have gone missing, The Independent

    "Until now, they have kept the story out of the press because, they say, they do not want to embarrass NASA. They insist it is wrong to characterise the tapes as "missing". "They're not missing," Mr Lebar said, "we just haven't found them."

    NASA can't find original tape of moon landing, Reuters

    "I wouldn't say we're worried -- we've got all the data. Everything on the tapes we have in one form or another," [NASA spokesman Grey] Hautaloma said."

    Editor's note: Not true Grey. NASA has low resolution copies of higher resolution television imagery. You know - kind of like having blurry, faded photocopies of Columbus' original log books and maps. I would be willing to bet that the search for these historic tapes was a low priority matter at NASA until the media picked up on the story.

    COTS Announcement

    NASA Announces Crew and Cargo Transportation Partners

    "NASA Exploration Systems' managers will host a press conference at 4 p.m. EDT Friday, Aug. 18, to announce the organizations selected to develop and demonstrate commercial orbital transportation services. The services could pave the way for contracts to launch and deliver crew and cargo to the International Space Station."

    Guy Etheridge Has Died

    Man faces charges in crash that killed 2, Orlando Sentinel

    "Passers-by got all of the occupants out except the driver of the GMC, Guy John Etheridge, 43, of Merritt Island, who died at the scene."

    Reader note: Keith - I don't know if you knew Guy Etheridge from KSC, but he was tragically killed in a car accident this weekend when he was hit by a drunk driver.

    STS-115 Update

    Shuttle communications antenna bolts a concern, Spaceflight Now

    "Engineers are trying to determine whether critical bolts holding the shuttle Atlantis' KU-band antenna box in place are securely threaded, a potentially serious issue that could require tricky repairs before the ship's Aug. 27 launch, sources said Sunday."

    NASA Announces Post Readiness Review Press Conference

    "NASA officials will host a news conference no earlier than 2 p.m. EDT, Wednesday, Aug. 16, following a two-day detailed assessment of the readiness of Space Shuttle Atlantis for launch. The briefing will air live on NASA TV from the Kennedy Space Center, Fla."

    NASA Sets Sights on the Next Generation of Explorers

    "For a copy of the NASA Education Strategic Coordination Framework and information about agency education programs, visit: http://education.nasa.gov/about/strategy/index.html"

    Editor's note: This document was clearly written by NASA personnel. You'd think that such a document - one that might be read by professional educators and people outside of NASA (the purpose of the press release, I assume) - would at least have gone through a screening by a professional editor first - both for grammar - and accuracy.

    Editor's note: At a press conference today ISS Manager Mike Suffredini was asked about the status of science cuts on ISS. Instead of trying to explain his program's current actions, he declined to go into any detail - other than to say that NASA was always studying "a lot of things thta never get implemented" and that these studies are part of an annual process that is driven, in part, by "which way the winds blow from Congress". Based on this letter from the leaders of the primary Senate authorizing and appropriations subcommittees which deal with NASA, it should be rather clear which way that wind is blowing.

    Senator Hutchison Expresses Concern at Possible International Space Station Research Suspension

    "This week, U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Science and Space, in a letter to NASA Administrator Dr. Michael Griffin expressed concern that NASA may be considering suspension of International Space Station (ISS) research for up to a year. Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL), Richard Shelby (R-AL), and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) co-signed the letter. The text of the letter follows:"

    "... we want to make it clear that any option to further reduce, or curtail altogether, research aboard the ISS would be an unacceptable option and entirely inconsistent with the policy guidance enacted by the Congress, as well as, we believe, the intent of the Vision for Exploration."

    NASA threatens to axe science on space station, Nature (subscription)

    "I can't believe that they would discuss this with a straight face," says former NASA employee Keith Cowing, who broke the story on his website, NASA Watch."

  • Shutting Down Space Station Science To Save Money, Initial NASA Watch post on this topic
  • Final Memorandum NASA Educational and Training Grants.

    "The purpose of this Memorandum is to notify NASA management of an issue we identified during our current audit of NASA Educational and Training Grants. Specifically, during our audit fieldwork, we identified an occurrence whereby one institution received duplicate funding in the form of grants from two different NASA centers, in violation of NASA requirements."

    NASA Notice of proposed revisions to an existing Privacy Act system of records

    "This system of records is being revised to describe the additional types of information being collected by NASA required by Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (Policy for a Common Identification Standard for Federal Employees and Contractors) and FIPS 201 (Personal Identity Verification (PIV) of Federal Employees and Contractors)."

    Back To The Future (2)

    Old rocket science tied to today's at Marshall, Birmingham News

    "Marshall engineers recently removed parts from a Saturn I rocket on display at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, said Al Whitaker, spokesman for that museum. "We've had folks from NASA and subcontractors looking at the old Saturn V (display) ... and in the archives over the course of the last year and a half or so," he said."

    Back To The Future, earlier post

    SMD Personnel Update

    Internal NASA GSFC Memo: Space Science Management Changes

    "I'm pleased to inform you that our own Jim Green, currently head of the Science Proposal Support Office (SPSO), will be detailed to NASA HQ as the Acting Director of the Planetary Science Division of SMD. ... Anne Kinney has agreed to become the acting head of SPSO in Jim's absence."

    Skylab Restoration Update

    Volunteers fix up decaying Skylab mock-up, AP

    "A full-size training mock-up of Skylab is slowly rotting away outside the Alabama space museum where it spent years on display. Flecks of gray paint from a wall dot its mesh floor, and a bird's nest rests in an equipment compartment."

    NASA analyst to take helm of NCSU's graduate school, Triangle Business Journal

    "North Carolina State University on Wednesday named a NASA senior policy analyst as dean of its graduate school. Terri Lomax, who also works as a professor at Oregon State University, will take over the helm of the NCSU Graduate School on Oct. 1. She succeeds Robert Sowell, who retired in June after a 36-year career with the university."

    Space Science Cut Update

    Don't Abandon Science at NASA, Planetary Society

    "In the July/August 2006 issue of The Planetary Report, Charles Kennel, director of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, stresses that we need to commit to a strong science program at NASA to better know our own planet and its place in the cosmos."

    Fake Sources

    Wired News Writer Faked Info, Wired

    "Wired News has removed three articles from its website after an internal investigation failed to confirm the authenticity of a source used in the stories. "Tribal Curse Haunts Launch Pad" (June 27, 2006), "NASA Boosts Heart-Monitoring Tech" (July 7, 2006) and "Don't Flush It -- Breathe It" (July 14, 2006), all by Philip Chien, relied in part on quotes and citations from Robert Ash, described in the first two stories as a "space historian" and in the last as an "aeronautical engineer and amateur space historian."

    Editor's note: Some of you may recall that Phil Chien once asked (during a NASA press conference) if cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko (who got married while on-orbit) would be able to consumate his marriage upon return to Earth.

    James Van Allen Has Died

    U.S. Space Pioneer, UI Professor James A. Van Allen Dies, University of Iowa

    "Dr. James A. Van Allen, U.S. space pioneer and Regent Distinguished Professor of Physics in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, died this morning, Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2006 at the age of 91. Arrangements are pending. Though he retired from active teaching in 1985, he continued to monitor data from Pioneer 10 throughout the spacecraft's 1972-2003 operational lifetime and serve as an interdisciplinary scientist for the Galileo spacecraft, which reached Jupiter on Dec. 7, 1995."

    IFPTE Reponses to Questions for The Record: NASA Workforce Hearing

    "IFPTE believes that most employees are pleased to see, once again, a bright, dedicated, and fully technically engaged Administrator at the helm. Unfortunately, despite his many talents, Dr. Griffin cannot turn straw into gold, nor can he make the Vision for Space Exploration a reality with the proposed budget. IFPTE is very grateful for the strong bi-partisan endorsement that NASA received from its Authorizers in their call in the Authorization Act of 2005 for sustained growth in NASA's budget to match the sustained growth in NASA's responsibilities. Unfortunately, neither the President nor House Appropriators seem to have listened."

    Editor's note: Have a look at U.S. Patent 6,962,310:

    Inventors: Bigelow; Robert T. (Las Vegas, NV): An inflatable satellite bus is claimed for use with a mission payload. The inflatable satellite bus is comprised of a core adapted to receive a mission payload. There is an expandable shell attached to the core and substantially enclosing the core. The core has an attitude control device and a power system attached to the core and operated by a controller.

    All Hands @ LaRC

    Town Hall Meeting at NASA LaRC

    "You are invited to attend a Town Hall Meeting with Director Lesa Roe this Thursday, August 10, from 9 to 10:30 a.m. at the Reid Conference Center."

    One Man's Rest is Another Man's Research, NASA JSC

    "Astronaut Don Thomas visited members of the bed rest study in June, posing for souvenir photos -- like this one, with volunteer Beth Ann Shriber -- and expressing gratitude for their work: "Twenty years from now, when we land on Mars, I hope you're watching it," he told them. "I really appreciate the effort you're putting in. This is important stuff."

    Editor's note: Meanwhile George Viebranz has begun his 3 month bedrest stint at the Cleveland Clinic - the same facility where Erin Peterson participated in an earlier study. Visit his blog and say hello. Once again there is zero interest by NASA GRC PAO in what is going on at Cleveland Clinic.

    Earthbound Astronaut Stands Up - And NASA Ignores Her, earlier post

    AMASE 2006 Updates

    Kirsten Fristad's NASA Arctic Mars Analog Svalbard Expedition Field Reports

    "The last two days have been very busy with instrument testing, gathering last minute supplies and attending an arctic training course. The cold temperatures here pose a serious challenge to our instruments here as it can greatly affect our power consumption, pressure readings and pumping capabilities."

    NASA Arctic Mars Analog Svalbard Expedition Field Reports:

    Lunar Charlatans

    Editor's note: Alas, Mars Society leader Bob Zubrin just can't seem to fight the urge to go after people who do not agree with his plans 100%. In this case, he lumps anyone who sees value in lunar exploration (which would have to include Mike Griffin) into a rather strange classification.

    Mars aboveground (movie review), The Space Review

    "One of Zubrin's public speaking weaknesses is his inability to hide his contempt for anybody who disagrees with him. Most of his verbal ticks don't come through in the documentary, but his contempt for NASA and those who question his philosophy and technical ideas do rise to the surface at times. A polite way to say it is that he does not suffer fools gladly, except that Zubrin obviously considers the population of fools to be very large. Like many very intelligent people who are passionate about their ideas, he exhibits little patience for those who do not simply take his word that something is possible and want to check his math and maybe his chemistry as well."

    Help Save Skylab

    Editor's note: To save Skylab the Alabama/Mississippi section of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) started the Skylab Restoration Project (SRP). AIAA is seeking volunteers to help save this unique part the U.S. Space Program. Visit their website at http://saveskylab.org/ for photos and videos of the sad state that this historic hardware is currently in.

    William G. Bastedo; Dedicated Life to Space Exploration, Washington Post

    "William G. Bastedo, 76, whose family landed on American soil before the Revolutionary War and who spent his life launching the nation into space, died of complications from intestinal surgery Aug. 1 at the University of Virginia Hospital in Charlottesville."

    Lost History

    One giant blunder for mankind: how NASA lost moon pictures, Sydney Morning Herald

    "...just 37 years after Apollo 11, it is feared the magnetic tapes that recorded the first moon walk - beamed to the world via three tracking stations, including Parkes's famous "Dish" - have gone missing at NASA's Goddard Space Centre in Maryland. A desperate search has begun amid concerns the tapes will disintegrate to dust before they can be found."

    Former Astronaut Glenn in Car Accident, AP

    "Former senator and astronaut John Glenn and his wife were taken to a hospital with minor injures after being involved in a car accident, police said. Glenn, 85, and his wife, Annie, 86, were in fair condition early Saturday morning at Grant Medical Center, a nursing supervisor said."

    Mars Society conference report: Griffin and Elon not ready for K2 summit push, MountEverest.net

    "How do we motivate students to study astrobiology if this science is not favored in the budget?" asked a teacher. "If they want to work for government money, they must look at what the government wants - not what they think it should want. If they want to work with something the government doesn't want, they'll have to find other money to fund it," Griffin stated."

  • What Griffin Thinks - and the Academy Says - About Astrobiology, earlier post
  • NASA Advisory Council Science Committee Presentation 18 May 2006
  • Saving Astrobiology at NASA, SpaceRef
  • Editor's note: If you look at the bottom of this recent ISS image with Thomas Reiter you will see a can of Wasabi peas. I don't know if Emeril Lagasse has anything to do with these wonderful snack items being on-orbit, but let me tell you, if I were going to spend a few months up there, they'd be on my shopping list too. I'd also have a collection of hot sauces not unlike that can be seen on the Service Module wall between Ed Lu and Yuri Malenchenko - especially the big squeeze bottle of Sriracha.

  • Space Station Crew to 'Kick It Up a Notch' With Chef Emeril Lagasse, NASA
  • Keith Cowing's Devon Island Journal 19 July 2003: Illness, Good Food, and Morale (more photos of on-orbit spicy goodness)
  • Winston Scott's New Job

    Editor's note: The following memo announces the hiring of former Director of the Florida Space Authority Winston Scott at ESCG.

    Senators Collins and Lieberman Raise Concerns about Changes to NASA Mission Statement

    "Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT) sent a letter to National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator Dr. Michael D. Griffin expressing concerns about the organization's elimination from its mission statement of the phrase "to understand and protect the home planet."

    Changes at NASA HQ PAO

    Editor's note: Joe Pally and Dolores Beasley have recently left NASA HQ PAO. Meanwhile, veteran reporter Beth Dickey (most recently at Government Executive) will be joining PAO in a few days and will be working in Exploration.

  • Comments by NASA AA for Legislative Affairs Brian Chase at the Mars Society Convention
  • Presentation by NASA AA for Exploration Systems Scott Horowitz
  • Remarks by Michael Griffin to the Mars Society

    "... NASA's stakeholders at the White House and Congress have provided clear direction on the policies and programs that the Agency must carry out. And so, while some of you might wish it to be otherwise, NASA's strategic goals are neither solely nor initially focused upon Mars. We are charged with carrying out a broad portfolio of missions in space exploration, scientific discovery, and aeronautics research. With the resources projected to be available to NASA over the next five years, properly balanced with our other national priorities of Earth and space science as well as aeronautics research, NASA is on course to complete the International Space Station by 2010 and to bring the CEV on-line no later than 2014."

    Ares 1 Update

    New details on Ares 1, Orlando Sentinel

    "The "biggest unknown" for engineers remains how to control the Ares 1's steering and roll during flight. Engineers are using computer models and other analyses to solve the problem."

    Editor's note: multiple sources have reported that MSFC engineers have looked to video from the Challenger accident to see how SRBs fly on their own.

    Frank Kutyna Has Died

    Francis Anthony Kutyna, Glaveston Daily News

    "Francis Anthony Kutyna, 64, passed away at his home on July 31, 2006, in Dickinson, Texas. He was born December 27, 1941, to Frank and Isabel Kutyna and was retired from NASA Space Biomedical Research Inst. as a neuroscientist.

    A funeral Mass will be held on Friday, August 4, 2006, at 11:30 a.m. at the Shrine of the True Cross, 300 FM East, Dickinson, TX. 77539."

    Editor's note: Two new HMP Research Station webcams are now online and updating every 10 minutes. These webcams are sponsored by SpaceRef and make use of new PlanetNet wireless technology, a CSA funded experiment, led by Simon Fraser University. This brings a total of four webcams now available from Devon Island including the two from the Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse.

  • Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse Webcams Online
  • Space Station Crew Chats with FC Barcelona Soccer Team

    "During a visit to NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston, the team will stop in Mission Control to make the call. NASA TV will broadcast the event live. The FC Barcelona team will be in Houston to play an Aug. 9 exhibition game against Club America, one of Mexico's top club teams."

    Editor's note: Let's see: a Spanish soccer team is in town to play a Mexican soccer team and JSC decides to let them talk with the ISS crew about ...? Meanwhile, do we see any interviews which get to the substance of what the ISS is all about as eagerly promoted by PAO?

    NASA JSC Solicitation: Constellation Space Suit System (CSSS)

    "The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)/Johnson Space Center (JSC) may issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the design, development, certification, production, and sustaining engineering of a space suit system to meet the needs of the Constellation Program. Industry is invited to submit a response to this inquiry to assist NASA in the planning for the Constellation Space Suit System (CSSS) acquisition development. The contemplated CSSS procurement is not a follow-on effort to any existing contract. The Government does not intend to acquire a commercial item using FAR Part 12. See Note 26."

    No more protection, editorial, Nature (subscription)

    "It is bad enough that Earth science at NASA has already fallen victim to cuts and cancellations as has, for what its worth, astrobiology. Now an important rhetorical basis for resisting more attrition has been removed, feeding fears that a real understanding of how the climate works is not high on the administration's agenda. Earth sciences are still well represented in NASA's plans, but they have been symbolically set aside to further a vision that looks only outwards, never back."

    NASA threatens to axe science on space station, Nature (subscription)

    "I can't believe that they would discuss this with a straight face," says former NASA employee Keith Cowing, who broke the story on his website, NASA Watch."

    Space Station Crew to 'Kick It Up a Notch' With Chef Emeril Lagasse, NASA

    "After tasting several of Lagasse's creations, the three-person crew will talk to the chef at 1:30 p.m. EDT Aug. 10 in a special hookup carried live on NASA TV."

    Editor's note: Oh well, since there's no science left to do, why not float around and eat gourmet food. I just hope Emeril doesn't yell "BAM" - they might think some orbital debris hit the ISS.

    ESA Huygens Scientific Archive Data Set Released, ESA

    "The unique data obtained by the six Huygens experiments are now being archived in the ESA Planetary Science Archive (PSA). A copy of the archived data set is also available in the NASA Planetary Data System (PDS). Access to the Huygens archive is open from today to the wide scientific community."

    NASA MSFC's Lunar e-Library Puts Space History to Work, Marshall Star (NASA MSFC)

    "The free DVD document collection is available to NASA and aerospace professionals and can be obtained by filling out two forms ..."

    Editor's note: This article is a little misleading. When you go to the links in this story you learn that "this DVD knowledgebase contains 1100 (.PDF) items with an emphasis on documents produced during the Apollo/Saturn era". But when you see how to get a copy you get a stern warning that "Distribution: Available upon request to US citizens only" and that "All software developed or provided through the SEE Program server has been determined to have export restrictions.". You also have to sign some scary agreements.

    I'll be willing to bet that most - if not all of the material included in this compendium is easily available without restriction elsewhere - and has been so for decades (look here). If there are some truly sensitive things in there why not deal with that stuff on a case-by-case basis separately - instead of just dumping everything into the "U.S. Citizens-only" category.

    This is most curious. Data (much of it public domain) from a lunar program completed more than a third of a century ago is still considered too sensitive to share with other countries - yet we are trying to get them to join in on the VSE and go back to the very same Moon. At the same time we openly share things on ISS using much more recent hardware - and ESA is willing to share all that it learned from Huygens. Something is a little lopsided here.

    I spent 3 minutes and started an annotated version of this page showing materials available online. Anyone who has some links to add (or comments about this secrecy policy) send them to me at nasawatch@reston.com.

    Kliper: too many unknowns, RIA Novosti

    "Overnight everything changed. Late in June, speaking at the Farnborough aerospace show, the Roskosmos leadership suddenly announced that they were suspending the [Kliper] tender and would instead adopt a multi-stage program of creating a space transport vehicle. Now the main emphasis is on the time-tested orbital workhorse, the Soyuz spacecraft."

    More Security Regs

    NASA Security Requirements for Unclassified Information Technology (IT) Resources - Proposed Rule

    "NASA's current contract requirements for IT Security are defined in the clause at NFS 1852.204-76, Security Requirements for Unclassified Information Technology Resources. In order to comply with the Government-wide requirements of FISMA, the proposed revision to 1852.204-76 incorporates several new requirements."

    DSN Woes

    Key antenna failure threatens Deep Space Network

    "NASA uses antennas at three sites around the world - in Spain, California and Australia to be able to point at any given direction in space at any time. This Deep Space Network (DSN) is essential for receiving data sent back by all US interplanetary craft, including the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and the Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn. Now some of that data could be lost because a 70-metre dish near Madrid will be unavailable for the rest of the year following damage to two of the four huge bearings that carry the antennas weight as it turns."

    Reader note: Hi, Keith. I was amused by this obvious typo on the main Space Shuttle news site at http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/main/index.html:

    "With the tracks of the crawler transporter visible in the foreground, Space Shuttle Atlantis is in position at Launch Pad 39B for lift off of mission STS-115 to the International Space Photo Station."

    I suppose by dropping microgravity research, and the whittling away at life science research, all that will be left is an "International Space Photo Station".

    Editor's note: NASA fixed it.

    Mars Institute HMP EVA Medical Evacuation Simulation Update 1 August 2006

    "The 2006 HMP Lunar Medical Contingency Simulation demonstrated that an injured suited crewmember could be safely extracted from difficult terrain, similar to what might be expected in a lunar EVA, and transported to a remote site for diagnostic and therapeutic care. A number of issues developed unexpectedly during the sim that challenged the crew and sim planners. However, the team was able to complete the mission, which involved real-time communications and coordination between members of the Exploration Payload Operations Center at NASA-Johnson Space Center, International Space University in Strasburg, France, and the Payload Tele-Operations Center in Ottawa, Canada."

    Charles Barnes Has Died

    Charles Julian Barnes, Washington Post

    "Charles Julian Barnes died on Friday, July 28, 2006 at Prince William Hospital, Manassas, Virginia. Mr. Barnes was a Program Manager for NASA."

    Bad News for Dnepr

    "A manufacturing defect could have caused a Dnepr launch vehicle carrying 18 satellites, to crash into an unpopulated area in Kazakhstan on July 27."

    We'll Try And Do Better

    Boeing vows better ethics at U.S. Senate hearing, Reuters

    "Boeing Co. Chief Executive James McNerney told lawmakers on Tuesday he was determined to build "one of the most robust ethics and compliance programs in corporate America" after paying $615 million to settle two high-profile criminal investigations."

    NASA HQ Solicitation: Leadership Development and Executive Coaching

    "NASA/HQ has a requirement for accountability and improving performance to mission success. Through collaborating efforts NASA has developed a leadership development, fellowship, and executive coaching program. The present model contains highly confidential data and analysis."


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