October 2006 Archives

Editor's note: That's what Scott Horowitz' and Mike Griffin's pal Bob Zubrin wants you to think - note this excerpt from an official Mars Society email wherein Zubrin crows about his victory:

"The decision to save Hubble is a great victory for science, civilization, and the Mars Society. Alone among space advocacy groups, the Mars Society responded the former NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe's stupid and cowardly decision ... The Mars Society campaign provoked a hysterical response from O'Keefe's pet sycophant at nasawatch, but was welcomed by many NASA employees, who helped the campaign by leaking information showing that O'Keefe was lying. As a result of the debacle that followed, the Philistine bureaucrat was essentially forced from office, clearing the way for the appointment of a NASA Administrator actually committed to science and the human expansion into space."

Feel better now, Bob? One has to assume that your steering committee agrees with your armwaving, name calling, and sheer fabrication.

Oh yes, Zubrin also uses lines like "technically illiterate oaf", "sissified NASA", and "fraudulent" and suggests that O'Keefe was "essentially forced from office". What a wonderful way for a leader (as Zubrin professes to be) to represent his organization. Once again Bob, its time for you to sit down and shut up.

The text of Zubrin's official Mars Society newsletter follows:

Accepting Risk

NASA approves Hubble repair, Nature

"If the shuttle were damaged on assent by falling foam or other debris, then mission planners would have a maximum of three weeks to get a second shuttle into orbit a relatively short period of time. ... It's the sort of mission that the agency would never have bothered planning before the 2003 accident, but in the wake of the disaster, [Keith] Cowing says, such contingency work has become almost routine: "NASA has come a great distance in accepting the real risk of what they are doing," he says."

Space Science Cut Update

Editor's note: When asked by a reporter about the Administration's interest in supporting science, and the complaints that the science community has raised, Mike Griffin replied "I am bothered by the basic premise of the question". He then went on to explain how there would be less funding for science - and the he had the Bush Administration's backing in making these decisions. "There is nothing at NASA that is not science friendly" he added (whatever that means).

Editor's note: According to Mike Griffin, speaking at the 31 October HST SM announcement: "I was the one who took the deorbit module off of this mission because I thought it was idiotic."

Earlier post: NASA Program management Council Meeting Minutes and Actions Date: July 28,2005: Second Item of Business: Hubble Space Telescope (HST) - Decay Profile and Propulsion De-Orbit Module (PDM) Use

NASA Approves Mission and Names Crew for Return to Hubble

"Shuttle astronauts will make one final house call to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope as part of a mission to extend and improve the observatory's capabilities through 2013."

NASA Press Conference - Shuttle Return to Hubble - Transcript

Investing in the VSE

NASA Invests in Its Future With Venture Capital Firm, Washington Post

"Red Planet marks the first time that the federal government has started a venture capital fund for civilian purposes, but it is hardly a stretch. That is because a former president of the CIA-sponsored venture fund is Michael D. Griffin -- now the administrator of NASA."

Hubble Update

Editor's 28 October Update: Multiple sources note that few - if any - expect that the decision will be anything but an overt approval of the Hubble servicing mission. Indeed, many at NASA have been acting as if it were a done deal for quite some time - and some have said that it is indeed settled - some claim to have been told so. Many activities wherein real money is being spent on this mission have continued as if the flight was going to happen. Besides, look at the elaborate PAO activities planned in this press release "if" the mission is approved. PAO doesn't do that much work ahead of time unless it has to.

The main issue with this mission has always been the ability to go get a stranded Shuttle crew if the need arose. When Sean O'Keefe faced a decision point, that solution was simply not there - at least not to his satisfaction. That issue has now been solved. Mike Griffin now needs to spend the weekend thinking how he will explain - and defend - his formal decision to the media on Tuesday. Truth be known, as far as Griffin was concerned, this was not a slam dunk for quite some time. NASA had a lot of things to prove to him.

NBS Reunion

NASA MSFC Neutral Buoyancy Simulator Reunion

Editor's note: Author and former NASA engineer Homer Hickam (website) has provided these photos from the NBS (Neutral Buyoancy Simulator) Reunion at MSFC this past Sunday. Homer is one of the former NBS divers and suggests that "the tank could be ready in no time to train the next bunch of HST repair astros!" Top photo: Homer standing on the top deck of the NBS. Bottom photo: group photo of volunteer divers and staff.

NASA Announces Discovery Program Selections

"NASA Monday selected concept studies for missions that would return a sample of an enigmatic asteroid, probe the chemistry of Venus' atmosphere and reveal the interior structure and history of the Earth's moon."

Sex in Space: bizarre reactions, Laura S. Woodmansee, SpaceRef

"I am amazed how many people in the United States are so intimidated by the word "sex" and are unwilling to discuss its consequences. My latest book, Sex in Space, tackles both the fun and serious sides of this currently neglected topic. ... Yet I have encountered all sorts of bizarre problems when bringing up the topic of sex in space. Apparently, some people just don't understand that the book is intended to spark the public's interest in space exploration, settlement, and tourism. To illustrate my case, here are some examples."

- Puritans at JPL Ban Sex in Space Book, earlier post
- NASA On-Orbit Pregnancy Test procedures

Well Worth A Look

Crescent Venus and Moon Astronomy Picture of the Day, NASA GSFC

"There's something behind these clouds. Those faint graceful arcs, upon inspection, are actually far, far in the distance. They are the Earth's Moon and the planet Venus. Both the Moon and Venus are bright enough to be seen during the day, and both are quite capable of showing a crescent phase."

Private Spaceflight Industry Drawing Private, NASA Capital, AviationNow.com

"NASA is already talking to Virgin and the others about using their vehicles for both microgravity experiments and astronaut training. And the agency's interest in buying flights on the new vehicles extends beyond microgravity applications to using them for experiments in Earth's upper atmosphere as an analog for the thin atmosphere of Mars."

Editor's note: Not too long ago NASA was adamant that it did not want to see any presentations at technical conferences by Lockheed Martin about human-rating any of their Atlas launch vehicles. The reason was simple: this would conflict with NASA's plans. Now that they have won the CEV contract, and their announcement of a joint human-rating study with Bigelow Aerospace, Lockheed Martin seems to be much less shy about touting their capabiliies. See this page for details.

I wonder how many human-rated Atlas launchers NASA could buy for the same amount of money (still TBD) it will spend on developing the CLV - especially given all of the problems that the "Stick" has encountered. For that matter, how many Atlas- (or Delta-) derived HLVs could NASA buy for the money they will be spending on the CaLV? Meanwhile, industry sourcs note that ULA may soon be looking at human-rating options as well.

- CBO Report: Alternatives for Future U.S. Space-Launch Capabilities
- VSE Launchers: Why Recreate Something You Can Already Buy?, earlier post

Van Halen Fell Silent On Top of the World, Washington Post

"Last year my team on Mount Everest witnessed firsthand how lousy the iPod is. On our expedition, we brought enough electronic gadgetry to outfit an army. What broke first? The iPods. The batteries croaked, the cases scratched and the hard drives seized from the rarified air."

Editor's note: Well I wasn't at 29,000 feet - but I did take my first generation iPod to Devon Island at 75 deg north - twice - for a month each time and the little darlin' worked just fine throughout even though I was living and sleeping in a tent in a polar desert. I just took my fourth generation iPod on some parabolic (weightless) flights and it recorded every little hoot and giggle I made - again without incident.

Findings of the NASA Mars Forward Lunar Objectives Science Analysis Group (Draft)

"The Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG) has completed a preliminary analysis of the June, 2006 draft list of possible lunar objectives from the perspective of its relevance to preparation for human missions to Mars.

MEPAG has reached eight preliminary findings."

Astrobiology 101

The Astrobiology Primer: An Outline of General Knowledge - Version 1, 2006

"The Astrobiology Primer has been created as a reference tool for those who are interested in the interdisciplinary field of astrobiology. The field incorporates many diverse research endeavors, but it is our hope that this slim volume will present the reader with all he or she needs to know to become involved and to understand, at least at a fundamental level, the state of the art."

Hoot Gets the Boot

Is 60 too old to be a pilot?, Houston Chronicle

"Robert "Hoot" Gibson was not the happiest camper Friday, despite a party in his honor. Not only was the longtime astronaut piloting his last commercial airline flight because of a forced retirement, but the flight was five minutes late, to boot."

NASA's Challenge

"[Scott Horowitz] does not promise that this budget will be enough to get astronauts to Mars, however. Instead, he echoes a refrain heard frequently from Griffin: Americans won't complain about giving NASA more money once they understand what a tiny a piece of federal spending the agency accounts for."

Editor's note: Oh c'mon Scott. This has been true for decades and the general public has *never* been able to grasp NASA's relevance to the overall budget nor express concern or outrage even if they do learn of how little we spend on the agency. To base the success of the VSE (its future funding) on this premise is totally naive - especially when you consider NASA's ability to communicate its relevance and importance and your boss' antipathy to any sort of cogent community and public relations. Indeed, the President does not even mention the VSE in his own National Space Policy!

Space Adventures' Orbital Client, Charles Simonyi, Prepares for March 2007 Spaceflight

"As a software pioneer and aviator, Dr. Simonyi brings his passion for flight and engineering to the international cooperative effort in space."

Editor's note: Check out his official website

GAO Report on Space Tourism

FAA Needs Continued Planning and Monitoring to Oversee the Safety of the Emerging Space Tourism Industry, GAO

"In response to emerging issues in the commercial space launch industry, such as the potential development of space tourism, FAA has developed safety regulations and training for agency employees. The industry has raised concerns about the costs of complying with regulations and about the flexibility of the regulations to accommodate launch differences."

ULA monopoly concerns misplaced, Cramer says, Decatur Daily

"Cramer, D-Huntsville, was in Decatur on Thursday to congratulate Boeing Co. employees for getting initial Federal Trade Commission approval for the ULA, a proposed joint venture that would consolidate Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing satellite launch production in the Decatur plant."

FTC OKs Boeing, Lockheed creation of United Launch Alliance, MarketWatch

"The FTC's order acknowledges that United Launch Alliance effectively will have a monopoly."

Space Science Update

Comments by NAS Space Studies Board Chair Lennard Fisk, NAS

"There is consternation these days between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and its external science community. In August, three senior science advisors were dismissed from the NASA Advisory Council (NAC). In the aftermath, the Administrator of NASA, Mike Griffin, through correspondence with the NAC and its science subcommittees and through a major speech at the Goddard Space Flight Center, clarified how NASA will manage its science program, and the role of the science community."

NASA HQ Personnel Update

NASA Internal Memo: Doug Comstock, David Schurr Named to Leadership Positions

"NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale has announced the appointment of NASA Comptroller Douglas A. Comstock as the director of the agency's Innovative Partnerships Program Office. He will be succeeded as comptroller by David C. Schurr. Both appointments are effective Oct. 29, 2006."

Another Curious Omission

Speech by NASA Administrator Griffin at the NASA Langley Colloquium Series Sigma Public Lecture Series

Editor's note: Curiously, in this presentation made at LaRC today, Griffin cites a speech by OSTP Director Marburger, the President's original January 2004 VSE presentation, and the NASA Authorization Act of 2005. Yet no specific mention is made of the new National Space Policy quietly released 2 weeks ago - a document strong on national security and defense.

Robots With Attitude

Mars Rover Beginning To Hate Mars, The Onion

"NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientists overseeing the ongoing Mars Exploration Rover Mission said Monday that the Spirit's latest transmissions could indicate a growing resentment of the Red Planet."

Marshall set to blow a hole in the moon, Huntsville Times

"Marshall is developing two lunar missions that will be launched on the same rocket in October 2008 as part of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter program. The orbiter will take high-resolution photographs of the lunar surface, and the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite will be crashed into the moon to create a plume of lunar material. "We want to see what comes out, and hopefully there will be water" in the crater and surrounding debris, said Tony Lavoie, manager of the Marshall Lunar Precursor and Robotics Program.

Editor's note: Wait a minute, Tony. The last time I checked, LCROSS was being developed at ARC - or has MSFC taken this project away from ARC as well?

Belligerent Tone Mars U.S. Administration Space Policy, Lou Friedman, Planetary Society

"The policy is officially a revision of the policy issued ten years ago by the Clinton Administration and, in content, it makes relatively minor changes from previous U.S. policy. But is not the content that has attracted so much attentionit is the tone in which it is expressed. It is belligerent and bellicose, and reminiscent of a schoolyard bully."

Editor's note: Finally, someone has taken the time to craft a response to the new space policy that is well written and doesn't rely on inaccurate arm waving (Bill Nye) or misquotes (NY Times).

NASA Notice of proposed rulemaking: Cross-Waiver of Liability

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is proposing to amend part 1266 of Title 14 to update and ensure consistency in the use of cross-waiver of liability provisions in NASA agreements."

Progress 23P Launched

NASA Space Station Status Report 23 October 2006

"The new resupply ship, the 23rd Progress to visit the station, lifted off at 8:41 a.m. CDT (7:41 p.m. Baikonur time). Less than 10 minutes later, the cargo ship reached orbit, and its solar arrays and navigational antennas were deployed for the three-day trip to the orbital outpost."

- Photo Report: Progress M-58 Moved to Launch Pad
- Progress 23P Cargo Manifest as of 11 August 2006
- Earlier Progress Status and news
- NASA TV Airs Arrival of Next Space Station Cargo Ship

Editor's note: In its most recent anti-NASA editorial on the White House space policy, the anonymous author takes a cheap shot at NASA Administrator Mike Griffin by taking his comments out of context. Moreover, they do so in an attempt to make you think that Griffin's ulterior motives are far different than a full reading of his prepared remarks put forth:

Flexing Our Muscles in Space, editorial, NY Times

"The Bush administration has adopted a jingoistic and downright belligerent tone toward space operations. In a new "national space policy" posted without fanfare on an obscure government Web site, and in recent speeches, it has signaled its determination to be pre-eminent in space - as it is in air power and sea power - while opposing any treaties that might curtail any American action there."

Editor's note: If you go to this page on NASA.gov you will see this notice: "U.S. National Space Policy - PDF of the U.S. National Space Policy, released Oct. 6, 2006. (This link downloads the document from the Office of Science and Technology Policy Web site. NASA cannot warrant its permanent availability.)". Why can't NASA post this policy on its own website? It has been two weeks. Why haven't they issued a press release to let people know that this new policy exists and where to read it?

- White House Issues New Space Policy Document, 6 October NASA Watch posting
- Space Policy Is Not on Tony Snow's Top Ten List, earlier posting
- Bill Nye Is A Little Confused, earlier posting

FAA Notice: Commercial Space Transportation - Waiver of License Requirement for Blue Origin's Pre-flight Preparatory Activities Conducted at a U.S. Launch site

"The FAA waived a requirement for Blue Origin, LLC (Blue Origin), to obtain a launch license for certain launch processing activities at West Texas Launch Site. Blue Origin is authorized to conduct suborbital rocket launches under Experimental Permit No. EP 06- 001, which was issued by the FAA on September 15, 2006."

NASA Internal Memo: Message From the Deputy Administrator - IEMP SVU and CMM Projects

"The Integrated Enterprise Management Program (IEMP) has two major projects, which will become operational on Nov. 13, 2006. The SAP Version Upgrade (SVU) project is implementing a version update to NASA's financial system. ... The Contract Management Module (CMM) project is implementing a new commercial application, which streamlines and provides efficiencies to the procurement process, including contract writing, management and reporting."

X Prize Cup Update

Much Needed Elektron Parts

ISS Consumables Status: On-orbit Capability For 3 Crew (August 8, 2006)

"Projected On-Orbit Capability including 12A, 13S/12S, 23P - O2 if no Elektron* - Date to Skip Cycle - October 27, 2006"

NASA Space Station Status Report 20 October 2006

"The Progress is filled with more than two tons of food, fuel and supplies for the station and its crew. Also aboard are new spare parts for the Russian Elektron oxygen-generation system, which has been shut down since last month."

Chart: ISS On-Orbit Oxygen Without Elektron 18 Sep 2006

Chart: ISS On-Orbit Oxygen Status 18 Sep 2006

A Final Commercial Frontier, Washington Post

"If the Commercial Orbital Transportation Systems program works, NASA will have a low-cost way to service the space station, freeing up money for exploration of the moon and Mars. Companies will get a lot of help developing the space vehicles of the future, which promise to lower the cost and increase the reliability of space travel. The help will consist of not just dollars but also the kind of expertise and access to facilities that only NASA can offer."

Press Briefing by White House Press Secretary Tony Snow 20 October 2006: NASA Excerpt

"Q Tony, can you say a few words about the new Bush space policy that was released, strangely enough, on a Friday afternoon before Columbus Day, on the website of the Office of Science and Technology --

MR. SNOW: You mean the strategy that, strangely enough, was announced in July?

Q No, it was put on the website on the weekend of Columbus Day."

Asking for Trouble, Creepy, and Weird, Bill Nye, Planetary Society

"Yesterday, the United States government established new laws for its "space policy."

Editor's note: Actually Bill, the White House issued the document two weeks ago - see White House Issues New Space Policy Document, posted here on 6 October, for details.

In addition to being confused about when this policy was released, Nye is confused about some other things as well.

Agreement between NASA and The X Prize Foundation for the Lunar Analog Challenge

"The purpose of this Agreement is to establish collaboration between the Parties to conduct the Lunar Lander Analog Vehicle Challenge ("Challenge"), a technology demonstration competition resulting in monetary awards to the winning participants."

More NPOESS Woes

Editor's update: Word has it that the Cross-track Infrared Sounder (CrIS) instrument scheduled to fly on the NPOESS Preparatory Project was broken while undergoing vibration testing yesterday.

Editor's update: According to NASA sources, X Prize Cup has refused to allow NASA to webcast any of the event's activities. As a result of this refusal, NASA has now decided to not air any X Prize activity on NASA TV. X Prize officials called NASA on Wednesday of this week to inform them that they had signed a commerical partner for the webcast and that NASA was in no way allowed to put any of this material on its website.

You would think that these sort of issues would have been settled some time ago - not a day or so before the competition. This all goes back to the Space Act Agreement that was signed between NASA and the X Prize Foundation wherein NASA gave up complete media control to the X Prize Foundation. Apparently all parties within and outside of NASA were not on the same page as to what this really meant.

As it stands, the X Prize Cup now loses a substantial free global distribution of video coverage of the event - unless they can come to some agreement with NASA (not likely) - or buy satellite services - overnight. Meanwhile, television networks in Germany are angry since they had hoped to use the NASA TV feed to broadcast the event.

X Prize Comments by Mike Griffin

" ... "partnership" with NASA is not a synonym for "helping NASA spend its money". Just as with our international partnerships, I expect commercial and venture capital partners to have "skin in the game", contributing resources toward a common goal that is greater than that which could be easily afforded by NASA alone, while figuring out how to make a profit from it!"

Editor's update: The X Prize folks should take this advice under serious consideration given the way they botched TV and webcast issues with NASA.

Space Elevators 101

The Space Elevator Reference

"Climbers ascend a ribbon, 100,000 km long, strung between an anchor on Earth and a counterweight in space. Connecting Earth and space in a way never before possible, the space elevator will enable us to inexpensively and completely expand our society into space. This site will serve as a reference tool for those interested in exchanging ideas on the scientific, engineering, economic and policy challenges inherent in constructing the solar system's first space elevator."

Let The Space Elevator Games Begin, earlier post

Imaginova's SPACE.com Becomes Exclusive Online Syndicator of Wirefly X PRIZE Cup Content

"The Wirefly X PRIZE Cup announced today that Imaginova Corp.'s award-winning SPACE.com is the official exclusive syndicator of Wirefly X PRIZE Cup content over the Internet. The 3-year deal will bring Wirefly X PRIZE Cup news year-round to SPACE.com partners including MSNBC.com, Yahoo!, FoxNews.com and other leading news sites. ... There will be no other place online where the public can find live video streaming, video features, images, and exclusive stories about the Wirefly X PRIZE Cup."

Editor's note: How can the X Prize organization prevent - or make exclusive - news coverage of things such as the NASA-sponsored Lunar Lander Challenge Competition, the 2006 Beam Power Challenge, and the 2006 Tether Challenge - events sponsored with millions in tax dollars?

Editor's note: At a meeting yesterday to discuss the recent security rules for media access to NASA HQ, NASA PAO and Security representatives (David Mould, Eric Sterner, and David Saleeba) informed a dozen or so reporters that the media advisory containing this new policy was released - by mistake - before being approved, that this new policy will not be approved or implemented, and that access to reporters will remain more or less exactly as it was before the advisory was released. All in attendance were comfortable with this clarification and this matter has been put to rest in a professional fashion.

During that meeting, however, I pointed out to Security AA David Saleeba that there is an easy way to gain access to NASA HQ in the east lobby. Here's how you can get in:

Lunar Lander Challenge

Editor's note: Want to keep up with the Lunar Lander Challenge? Check out this blog by Robin Snelson.

NASA KSC Solicitation: Institutional Base Support Restructure

"NASA KSC and the United States Air Force 45 Space Wing (45 SW) plan to conduct an industry day for the recently identified Institutional Base Support Restructure on November 15, 2006. ... Preliminarily we anticipate as many as 18 contracts for the following functions: NASA Protective Services, Air Force Security, Air Force Fire and Emergency Preparedness, NASA Infrastructure O&M, Air Force Infrastructure O&M, Medical/Environmental, IT & Communications, Custodial, Logistics, Propellants and Life Support, Mail, Technical Training, Airfield Services, Laboratories, Grounds, Refuse Disposal, Vehicle Ops, and Facility Modifications."

Astrobiology Update

Director's Corner - Message from NASA Astrobiology Institute Director Carl Pilcher, NAI

"The clearest expression that astrobiology doesn't "measure up" comes from the Administrator of NASA himself, Mike Griffin. Mike has testified before Congress that he does not see astrobiology as having the same importance as other components of the NASA science portfolio. He's also been quoted as saying that it has less intrinsic subject matter, is less advanced, and that its questions are more vague. Shortly before I left NASA Headquarters I had the opportunity to have an "elevator conversation" with Mike about some of his perceptions about astrobiology."

Frontiers of Flight Museum to Welcome Local Space Explorer Back to Earth, Prodea

"Anousheh wrote a blog at spaceblog.xprize.org that invited readers to share her experience. The blog captured international attention, garnering more than 25 million hits and featuring about 500,000 comments from readers around the world."

Editor's note: If you go to the website, and look at all the postings that have been made, and add up the number of comments posted, you'll get a few thousand comments - at most. Certainly not 500,000. And if you go to the lower right hand corner of the webpage under "Space Blog Stats", as of the time of this posting, there have been 1,403,640 hits. That is no where close to 25,000,000.

Plum Brook Costs Rising

Decommission costs rising for NASA reactor, Toledo Blade

"Decommissioning of the NASA Plum Brook Station reactor, originally expected to cost $160 million and be completed by 2007, won't begin its final phase for at least four years and will cost millions more."

Post Increment Evaluation Report Increment 11 SSP 54311, 1.4mb PDF, NASA

"On 16 June 2005 (GMT 167/23:09) 18 Progress M (353) launched with a nominal orbital insertion and deploy of the arrays and antennae at GMT 167/23:20. The Progress successfully docked to the ISS on 19 June 2005 (GMT 170/00:41). The ISS Commander performed the docking manually utilizing the Teleoperator Control System. Due to a loss of command, telemetry and video at the Shelkovo Russian Ground Site, Russian ground controllers were prevented from issuing the automated docking initiation command. A problem with the Baikonur ground station was previously recognized by the Russian ground controllers, but MCC-M believed they could initiate automated docking prior to entering the inactive ground stations control zone. However this did not happen due to the problems at Shelkovo, thus requiring the manual docking sequence."

South: the story of Shackletons last expedition 19141917, Sir Ernest Shackleton C.V.O.

"... The task now was to secure the safety of the party, and to that I must bend my energies and mental power and apply every bit of knowledge that experience of the Antarctic had given me. The task was likely to be long and strenuous, and an ordered mind and a clear programme were essential if we were to come through without loss of life. A man must shape himself to a new mark directly the old one goes to ground."

Manifest/RSC-E Telecon Minutes - DRAFT September 12, 2006

"RSC-E asked NASA if the astronaut's book found while working with Baikonour specialists is an additional item, as it was not packed as crew preference. NASA replied that it is indeed, and that a fax has been sent as an official request to add as US Cargo. Natalya Ortiz read the fax to RSC-E. NASA stated that they will pay for the notebook this time, although it has always gone as crew preference in the past. This is still an open issue and will be worked accordingly."

NASA HQ Solicitation: Inside NASA Management and Operations

"This notice is provided as information only. NASA intends to award this effort on a sole-source basis to its FFRDC/JPL contractor. ... Statement of Work: The contractor shall provide support services for the management, design, development, and operations of the InsideNASA and NASA portal. These support services will include content creation, content management, infrastructure operations, user support, system engineering, security and integration with other NASA IT components."

NASA Advisory Council Meeting Notes

"According to NAC Chair Harrison Schmitt "the ISS budget run out seems to have an artifact which shows that U.S. funding of the ISS ends after 2016. [NAC member] John Logsdon reports that our partners look at this as reality in terms of their own ISS planning." Schmitt went on to suggest that NASA needs to be a little clearer about what this means." ... "A back-up CR 009951 chart notes: "Presidential direction to meet Assembly Complete and retire Shuttle by September 2010. 18 remaining Shuttle flights (including ULF1.1). ULF4 & ULF5 are "contingency" flights"

Strategic Management Council: Meeting Minutes and Actions - Date: 16 May 2006 Time: 8:00 a.m. 4:55 p.m. (PDT) Location: Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Building 167 conference room. Eleventh Item of Business: FY2008 Budget Formulation Update

"- David Schurr, PA&E, provided members with status information on the preparation of the Agency's FY2008 budget.

"Schurr noted that the decision yet to be made on the International Space Station retirement date will have impacts within the current budget horizon."

Full Cost Simplification

Strategic Management Council: Meeting Minutes and Actions - Date: 16 May 2006 Time: 8:00 a.m. 4:55 p.m. (PDT) Location: Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Building 167 conference room

Twelfth Item of Business: Full Cost Simplification - David Schurr, PA&E, presented the status of the effort to eliminate service pools.

China Space Update

China's Space Activities in 2006

"It has been 50 splendid years since China embarked on the road to develop its space industry, starting in 1956. For half a century, China has worked independently in this field. It has made eye-catching achievements, and ranks among the world's most advanced countries in some important fields of space technology. China is unflinching in taking the road of peaceful development, and always maintains that outer space is the common wealth of mankind. While supporting all activities that utilize outer space for peaceful purposes, China actively explores and uses outer space and continuously makes new contributions to the development of man's space programs."

Saving Astrobiology

Carl Sagan Center Formed to Study Life in the Universe

"The proposed 50-percent cut in the NASA Astrobiology budget for 2007 is a clear reminder of how volatile government support for science can be,'' said Hubbard, former director of NASA Ames Research Center. "Our immediate goal is to raise $4-6M over the next 3 years so that we can sustain our top researchers. The longer term vision is to establish endowed chairs and create additional laboratory capabilities," Hubbard stated. As the Sagan Chair, Hubbard will provide ongoing strategic guidance for the new Center."

NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report #4220, STSCI

"Flash Report: ACS HRC Biases and Darks look good - Everything looks nominal. The frames are clean. The CCD appears to have annealed well, and the C-amplifier readnoise is at the expected (historical) level. The bias levels in these first images are just a bit above the historical averages (a few % high), but this is expected for biases obtained soon after the HRC is configured for science operations. We expect the bias levels to drop to the nominal values within a few hours, and this return to the historical average should be evident in the next set obtained on Wednesday. Looks like we have another terrific ACS camera back on line and operating well."

ISS Assembly Sequence Slip

NASA May Delay Some Shuttle Launches, AP

"NASA will likely delay by as much as a month some space shuttle launches scheduled for next year because of a backlog in processing the shuttles' external fuel tanks, an agency spokesman said Monday."

NASA Advisory Council Meeting Notes, SpaceRef

"A back-up chart notes: "Presidential direction to meet Assembly Complete and retire Shuttle by September 2010. 18 remaining Shuttle flights (including ULF1.1). ULF4 & ULF5 are "contingency" flights. Must complete ISS Assembly and launch sustaining H/W to support ISS functionality through 2015. ULF5 is July 2010 (using Current FAWG manifest). Provides only 2 months for slips at the end of the sequence"

Editor's update: This document is the report NASA sent to Congress in response to the NASA Authorization Act of 2005. I am not at all impressed with this - it seems more like a preliminary (and incomplete) concept outline for a real report than an actual report itself. But Congress asked for a "plan" not a "report". It would seem that this last product from Joe Davis' tenure at NASA has underwelmed the folks currently at StratComm as well since they are now out to totally re-think NASA's strategic communications. Stay tuned.

Editor's note: According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2005 (Public Law 109-155) (see text below) NASA was supposed to have submitted a plan for a "National Awareness Plan" to the House and Senate in Spring 2006. Curiously, no public mention of this plan has been made by NASA (or by Congress) - nor have any of NASA's outreach efforts been specifically connected to the contents of such a plan.

Great Security at JPL

SoCal man receives 3 years in prison for NASA satellite dish fire, AP

"A man who pleaded guilty to setting fire to a satellite dish at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has been sentenced to three years in state prison."

Weightless, for 25 seconds at a time, AP

"As I dreamed at night, I floated free of gravity, arms out like Superman with nothing but air underneath me. I was flying. This wasn't just some dream about freedom. I was reliving a real-life wild ride through the wonders of weightlessness -- experiencing a feeling I can't quite recapture while awake. It is a feeling of freedom from limits -- a feeling that, after it was quickly over, went right to my gut, my emotional center, but wouldn't stick around in my conscious mind for easy recall."

More Tourists Weigh Zero Gravity Flights, AP

"Science teacher Mike Hickey has long understood the difference between mass and weight. Now, floating in zero gravity, he doesn't just understand it, he feels it. Hickey, all 197 pounds of him, is drifting along with 38 other teachers inside a specially modified jet diving over the Atlantic Ocean."

Video of AP reporter Seth Borenstein during weightless flight, AP video

Editor's update: Go to SciTech and click on "Teachers, Tourists Fly in Zero Gravity"

- Weightless Over Cleveland - Part 1: Floating Teachers, SpaceRef
- Weightless Over Cleveland - Part 2: Learning to Fly, SpaceRef
- Northrop Grumman Concludes Weightless Teacher Program in Nation's Capital

"Donate $100.00 (Tax Deductible) to the Skylab Restoration Project and we will send you a flight qualified Solar Cell."

Editor's update: Go to saveskylab.org for details. According to the site "One full scale mockup, used by astronauts and engineers at MSFC during the 3 crewed Skylab missions (73-74) was on display for many years at the US Space and Rocket Center (USRC) located in Huntsville Alabama. Several years ago the Skylab exhibit was moved outside. The original temporary weather coverings have failed and Skylab has suffered the effects of rain, sun, wind, plants, dust/dirt, mold, animals and vandals. Right now the Skylab artifact is nearing a point of no return."

Decadal Survey of Civil Aeronautics: Foundation for the Future, Steering Committee for the Decadal Survey of Civil Aeronautics, National Research Council

"The U.S. air transportation system is very important for our economic well-being and national security. The nation is also the global leader in civil and military aeronautics, a position that needs to be maintained to help assure a strong future."

Hubble ACS Fixed

Hubble Space Telescope Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) Status Report #2

"Early on October 9 engineers sent commands to Hubble Space Telescope to toggle the suspect relay. Telemetry confirmed that the relay cycled open and closed as expected. Engineers determined this action succeeded in restoring the HRC at 5:40 am on October 9 during the first opportunity to restore power to the +35V bias line. Since this test was fully successful, further workarounds will not be required. NASA engineers believe the cause of the open circuit was a tiny particle of dust or fabric physically interfering with the electrical contact."

Name a Node

NASA Student Competition to Name International Space Station Node 2

"The student competition to name the Node 2 module of the International Space Station has begun. NASA Education, which is responsible for the competition, is running the contest via an existing program called NASA Exploring Space Challenges (ESC). The competition is being conducted during the fall 2006 semester. Deadline for classes/schools to register for the competition is Nov. 17, with entries due Dec. 1."

NAC Update

NASA Advisory Council Meeting Notes, SpaceRef

"Clearly there are a lot of tight curves NASA and its partners need to navigate as the remainder of the ISS is lofted into orbit. How the U.S. is going to use the ISS in the near term was also an issue. With an emphasis on assembling the station, utilization is all but non-existent until such time as the majority of the ISS is on orbit. The NAC is seeking to understand the utilization plans for ISS as well as what its designation by Congress as a "national laboratory" actually means in actual practice."

Editor's update: A few weeks ago NASA PAO announced a new security policy effective 1 October 2006 whereby all media visiting NASA Headquarters would be required to have an escort at all times. This includes, as I have since learned, having someone from PAO stand outside the bathroom while you use it. The rationale given to me for this change was so that HQ security would be more in line with what is done at the field centers. Alas, if this is so, they have it totally backwards. I was at GSFC this morning and no one escorted me - anywhere.

ISS Gyro Shut Down

Station gyro off line; impact on shuttle flight assessed, SpaceflightNow

"One of the international space station's four control moment gyroscopes, used to keep the outpost properly oriented without jarring, fuel-consuming rocket firings, was taken off line late Monday because of concern about repeated instances of excessive vibration."

NESC Break Up Begins

NASA Announces New Cleveland Safety Center

"The center will complement the NASA Engineering and Safety Center based at Langley. Both centers will support safety but have separate and independent supervisory chains to ensure consideration of various points of view about technically complex issues. The Cleveland center will report to the Office of Safety and Mission Assurance at NASA Headquarters, Washington."

Editor's update: This strikes me as a reversal of the initial intent of the NESC - one derived from CAIB recomendations. Its almost as if NASA is now redistributing the singular, focused safety role away from the NESC back out to field centers - where that expertise came from in the first place. Not only does NASA have NESC in a position to duel with programs and centers over safety, it has set the stage for two separate field-centered based "independent" safety organizations to duel with each other - and, in so doing, diminishing the singular, independent role that NESC could have played.

Reader Comments:

NASA Selects New Education Assistant Administrator

"NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale announced Wednesday the selection of Joyce L. Winterton as the agency's new assistant administrator for education, effective Oct. 16. She succeeds John M. Hairston, Jr., who has served in an acting capacity since June."

Northrop Grumman to Sponsor Lunar Lander Challenge

"The Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge will be staged for the first time on Oct. 20-21 at the Las Cruces International Airport, Las Cruces, N.M. as part of the Wirefly X PRIZE Cup space exposition."

NASA MSFC Solicitation NNM06169943R: Final RFP (excerpts) - Office of Strategic Analysis and Communications Support Services

Editor's update: It certainly looks like Dave King has decided to create his own version of what NASA Headquarters is supposed to be doing in terms of Strategic Communication, including direct interaction with Congress.

"Enabling message-sharing and exchange to promote an accurate and positive representation of Marshall throughout NASA and the external community with communication products and services"

"Support the strategic research & analysis function to include concentration on Agency, legislative, political, economic, social, technological, and macro- and micro- event monitoring relevant to Marshall's mission assignments;"

CBO Report: Alternatives for Future U.S. Space-Launch Capabilities, Congressional Budget Office

"In considering manned lunar missions, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) explored alternatives that would use existing launch vehicles; those that would require minor modifications to the designs of existing launchers (termed "close derivatives"); as well as those that would call for major modifications to existing vehicle designs to develop essentially new and much more capable launchers."

Letter From Space Journalists to NASA Administrator Griffin Regarding Recent Security Policy Changes at NASA Headquarters

"As journalists who cover NASA, we are deeply concerned about the new policy effective October 1 barring all news media from entering headquarters in Washington without an escort from the Office of Public Affairs. This policy, made without consultation with the media, runs directly counter to the space agency's longstanding tradition and reputation for openness and cooperation with reporters and editors."

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin says agency had 'lost its way' until recent changes in defence of space policy, Flightglobal

"Although [Griffin] says NASA and the US must "finish the international space station (ISS) as per its agreements with the 15 international partners, many continue to question the value and worth of the space station. If we'd fully had our wits about us it is fair to say we'd probably not have been spending the huge amount of money on it that we're doing. But it is important to keep to those commitments."

Workshop Report: Building and Maintaining the Constituency for Long-Term Space Exploration

"This report documents the results of an invitation-only experts' Workshop organized and hosted by the Center for Aerospace Policy Research in the School of Public Policy of George Mason University July 31-August 3, 2006. Thirty-eight participants, mainly from the U.S., with some from Europe and Canada, were brought together to discuss the topic of "Building and Maintaining the Constituency for Long-Term Space Exploration."

Editor's note: This interesting report is well done and worth reading. Now if only NASA will pay attention to the issues raised in this report during the NASA Strategic Communications Workshop being held this week in Washington.

Communicating Visions, AIAA Houston Section

"... That got me thinking. How can NASA communicate with the public more effectively - not necessarily just regarding the Vision, but overall? There may be an as-yet untried way for NASA to help get the picture across.

During the years from about 1930 to 1960, news items were spliced together into short "newsreels" and shown at the local theatre before a feature film. Imagine the ET-cam footage, or a selection of Saturn or Mars images presented on the big screen prior to a movie."

Virtual Flying at ARC

NASA's virtual space exploration, CNet

"NASA's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley is home to SimLabs--simulation laboratories where you can take control of a virtual airport or explore the skies and space with the Vertical Motion Simulator. Take a look inside the facility."

NASA Strategic Management Council Meeting Minutes and Actions
Date: 17 March 2006 Time: 8:00 AM 2:00 PM (EST)
Location: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Building 1, Rooms E100 D&E

"SMC Action: Michael Wholley, General Counsel, offered to provide members with some guidance on management responsibility in ensuring open communication without fear of retribution.

Michael Coats, Director of the Johnson Space Center, presented Griffin with The Complete Idiot's Guide to NASA by former astronaut Thomas Jones."

NASA Seeks Undergrads to Experiment in Lunar and Zero Gravity, NASA JSC

Editor's update: Well, the folks at JSC clearly do not like the idea of private sector competitors encroaching upon their turf and the Aircraft Operations folks (and someone at JSC OIG) are actively blocking companies from using NASA facilities such as the SLF at KSC. Stay tuned.

Editor's note: Too bad NASA can't find a way to open this program to private sector participation - it would certainly be cheaper than paying to have this plane on call 24/7/365. But I am biased: I have seen this with my own eyes.

Utah State astronaut speaks out, Salt Lake Tribune

"Bosses in the White House, hundreds on the Hill and internal managers in the space agency gave her the task of "trying to make a decision that's going to make everybody happy." "That never works," [Mary Cleave] said, adding that this "multibody problem" is compounded by the fact that many of the people she works with don't understand the intricacies of deep space science."

NASA Strategic Management Council Meeting Minutes and Actions
Date: 16 May 2006 Time: 8:00 a.m. 4:55 p.m. (PDT) Location: Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Building 167 conference room

Second Item of Business: Agency Strategy Discussion. Griffin opened the floor for discussion:

- Communications: Horowitz raised the issue of too much reliance by Agency leaders on email communication and not enough face-to-face interaction. Members voiced several strategies for dealing with the huge volume of email. General discussion raised the following points:

Communicating Exploration

Exploration, Science, and Art: A Book Review of Terra Antarctica and Driving to Mars, SpaceRef

"When it comes to exploration, there's nothing like being there. Yet at some point, all explorers need to tell others what they have seen - as well as find a way to understand and recall the experience themselves. Exploration is pointless if it is not shared.

It is the process whereby explorers put new vistas and experiences into a context they can internalize - and then how these impressions are shared with others that fascinates author William Fox. In his two most recent books "Terra Antarctica" and "Driving to Mars" Fox recounts his own experiences - and those of others - at Earth's two poles."

NASA's Greatest Fan Video Contest

"Kayla LaFrance, age 21, of Spokane, WA, is the creator of "Mars Mates Forever" and shares a lifetime of memories set to the song "Atlantis," performed by NASA's astronaut band, Max-Q. Her love of space connected her to her best friend."

Editor's note: When this contest was "announced" there was no press release. Now that there is a winner, there is no press release. I am told that a number of the entrants learned about the contest via my postings on NASA Watch and SpaceRef. Why is is so hard for NASA to promote its own great ideas?

Great Idea - Poor Execution, Earlier post
Another Great Idea From NASA - That No One Knows About (Podcast contest), Earlier post

Rutan's Predictions

Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Awards 2006

"What's ahead in space travel?

[Burt] Rutan: I believe in its first 12 years, the ship I'm building in the shop can fly 100,000 people. And when you fly that many people to space, you'll have somebody figure out things to do that we don't even know about."

U.S. National Space Policy, OSTP

"In order to achieve the goals of this policy, the United States Government shall: Develop Space Professionals. Sustained excellence in space-related science, engineering, acquisition, and operational disciplines is vital to the future of U.S. space capabilities. Departments and agencies that conduct space related activities shall establish standards and implement activities to develop and maintain highly skilled, experienced, and motivated space professionals within their workforce."

Nation's Astronomers Continue Dialog with NASA Administrator Mike Griffin, American Astronomical Society

"We do not have a looming problem or a workforce crisis. 25% of the NASA workforce will be eligible to retire within the next five years, though of course not all will do so. I regard this as an opportunity to bring in the next generation of scientists and engineers, who will take us to the Moon and Mars"

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."

Editor's note: Mike: If you are not going to step up and help generate the "next generation of scientists and engineers, who will take us to the Moon and Mars", who is?

Ed's ISS Transits Page

"This would be my first attempt at an ISS lunar transit after the deployment of the new solar arrays. The ISS was going to be at a range of only 260 miles ... I knew where to point my telescope. The transit would occur very near impact crater Tycho!"

U.S. National Space Policy, Office of Science and Technology Policy

"The President authorized a new national space policy on August 31, 2006 that establishes overarching national policy that governs the conduct of U.S. space activities. This policy supersedes Presidential Decision Directive/NSC-49/NSTC-8, National Space Policy, dated September 14, 1996."

NASA Internal Email from Associate Administrator Rex Geveden Re: Mission Focus Review

"At the Strategic Management Council held Aug 23, I announced the formation of a small team to conduct a Mission Focus Review (MFR) to look broadly across the Agency to identify resources that can be redeployed to more directly support our missions. As a point of philosophy, this is not another exercise about doing more with less, although I am interested in operational efficiencies. Rather, this is an exercise about doing less--about literally no longer doing those things that do not contribute to our missions."

Editor's note: This reminds me of a line from Monty Python. How Sad. As NASA starts down the path toward turning 50 it now thinks of things it can no longer do. And what do we say to those who look up to NASA? "Nevermind"? "Go away"? This is unacceptable. This is Launch Complex 34 mentality (image above).

The prime reason that Geveden sends out such an email? Lack of imagination - on his part - and on the part of the agency. This is not budgetary pragmatism, rather, it is managerial and institutional laziness and lack of imagination.

NASA is stuck in a rut. It went from zero to the moon in a decade - more than a generation ago. Flash forward: entire companies - and agencies - can be run via a little gizmo in your pocket - and the damn thing is filled with NASA spinoffs. Yet NASA can't adjust to the times - and utilize the very same technology it helped create to become more efficient - and relevant? And now it will take longer to go back to the moon than it did to go there in the first place?

Something is broken at NASA.

Editor's update: There is a "hit list" of sorts with items that Geveden is looking to cut with 80-90 or so items on it. This process uses a system of "leveraging points" to determine the value - or lack thereof - of things under consideration for deletion.

NASA's Mars Rover and Orbiter Team Examines Victoria Crater

"NASA's long-lived robotic rover Opportunity is beginning to explore layered rocks in cliffs ringing the massive Victoria crater on Mars. While Opportunity spent its first week at the crater, NASA's newest eye in the Martian sky photographed the rover and its surroundings from above. The level of detail in the photo from the high-resolution camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will help guide the rover's exploration of Victoria."

A Review of NASA's 2006 Draft Science Plan: Letter Report, NAS

"However, the committee does have some concerns about the draft plan. The committee found that the lack of a comparison of the current plan to plans produced in 2003 obscured the fact that NASA's space science plans have been significantly scaled back due to budget changes, and it recommends that NASA include a comparison between the current plan and those produced in 2003 for the Earth and space sciences."

Volunteer Observatory WASP-1b Observations, Fleenor Astronomy Webpage

"I am pleased to report my successful observation of WASP-1b, on 2006.10.02 UT from my backyard observatory in Knoxville, TN (USA). This is a newly discovered exoplanet in the constellation Andromeda orbiting the star GSC 2265: 0107."

Meeting Minutes and Actions

Date: 15 June 2006
Time: 12:30 p.m. 4:55 p.m. (EDT)
Location: NASA Kennedy Space Center, Headquarters Building, 4th floor conference room

First Item of Business: Agency Strategy Discussion

Mike Griffin led the members is a discussion of the need for everyone to fully adopt and support the Agency's strategic plan.

The Irony of NASAs Nobel, editorial, NY Times

"NASA is basking in the glow of a Nobel Prize awarded to one of its scientists and to a Berkeley astronomer for research performed on a satellite built by NASA. The award is richly deserved, and the agency deserves great credit for making the work possible. Too bad the program that yielded these pioneering discoveries was reined in not long ago so that NASA could pour billions of dollars into resuming shuttle flights, finishing the international space station, and developing spacecraft to pursue the Bush administration's ambitious space exploration program."

Editor's note: If NASA had a "big picture" plan in place - one wherein all that NASA does is linked into a cohesive whole - NASA would be able to respond honestly to such lopsided opinion pieces. The President's Jan 2004 speech was a wonderful step in that direction. Too bad NASA has wandered away from it ever since, with science squeezed along the way - thus giving the anti-human space flight folks at the NY Times a soapbox to stand on.

Katie Couric's Notebook: To The Moon, CBS

"In today's Notebook, Katie remembers the dawn of the space age, with the launch of Sputnik on this date -- and wonders if all the money for space exploration has been well spent."

Editor's note: Katie clearly has the laziest staff in television. Either that or she spent all of 30 seconds thinking about this herself. She sits there in front of the camera and complains about NASA's $17 billion budget and wonders whether that money could be "better spend on solid ground". Well guess what Katie, it is all spent on solid ground. Every penny. There are no stores or banks in space. Every dollar is spent on Earth - and ends up as salaries in the pockets of real people - and profits for companies who buy advertisements on CBS so as to pay your enormous salary ($60 million over the next 5 years)

Beam Me Up

First Quantum Teleportation between Light and Matter. Max Planck Institute

"Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Garching and the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen have succeeded in transferring a quantum state of light to a material object - an ensemble of atoms. The concept of quantum teleportation - the disembodied complete transfer of the state of a quantum system to any other place - was first experimentally realised between two different light beams. A team has now shown that the quantum states of a light pulse can also be transferred to a macroscopic object, an ensemble of 10 to the power of 12 atoms."

Elektron Woes Continue

NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 4 October 2006

"Elektron Update: Mikhail Tyurin performed the scheduled troubleshooting on the failed Elektron oxygen generator, conducting diagnostic checks with electric connectivity tests of the circuits controlling Elektron Liquid Unit (BZh-9) valves (KE-1, KE2, KE3) by measuring resistance between connectors. Results are TBD, but it already appears that a fuse affecting communication with Elektron is blown on a panel. [Stored O2 from 22P is currently being used to maintain cabin ppO2 within desired limits.]"

Editor's note: During its mission last month a piece of orbital debris struck space shuttle Atantis.

The debris aka Micrometeoroid Orbital Debris (MMOD) impacted Atlantis' right hand payload bay door radiator and left a hole .1 inch in diameter.


Rep. Gordon Seeks Answers on NOAA's Cover-Up of Hurricane Report

"U.S. House Committee on Science Ranking Member Rep. Bart Gordon today asked the NOAA Administrator for all documentation relating to the suppression of a NOAA Hurricane FAQ report. A Nature report last week noted that scientists at NOAA had composed a consensus statement on factors contributing to the more intense and more frequent hurricanes that have occurred in recent years. Among the factors mentioned in that report is the impact of global warming. Nature reported that the chair of the NOAA panel charged with composing that report received directions from an unnamed Commerce Department official that the report was not to be released."

Editor's note: If you go to this page you will see that APL is now listed as a NASA Center - not only at the top of the page - but also along with the award notices listed below. It would certainly seem that NASA sprouted another field center overnight (with a contract award amount of $750,000,000 for the 5 year base period and an option for and extensive of equal length and value) - one where its Administrator was last employed - and one that is also located in the home state of someone who could become the next chair of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that controls NASA's budget. I don't see any mention of this new "center" status in the press releases that were issued. Click on image to enlarge.

  • NASA Awards Research, Development and Engineering Contract to the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory
  • Aerospace Research, Development, and Engineering Support
  • NASA Awards Applied Physics Lab R&D, Engineering Contract
  • "APL is one of three government or university affiliated institutions with the capability to perform all aspects of robotic space missions. This contract will provide a means to preserve this essential capability at APL, consistent with NASA's evolving needs. The contract includes extension options for up to an additional five years."

    Neiman Marcus gift book offers space flight, BMW, Reuters

    "Luxury retailer Neiman Marcus may have the perfect gift idea for the loved one who wants to get away from it all: a space trip that includes a spectacular view of Earth and a chance to experience weightlessness."

    Partnership in Space Activities - Speech by NASA Administrator Griffin at the International Astronautical Congress 3 October 2006

    "Space exploration, whether human or robotic, is still the grandest and most technically challenging expression of human imagination of which I can conceive. Thus, I believe it to be in our best interests in this unique human endeavor to work together on occasion, to ask each other as different countries and different cultures how we should go about solving the unique problems of this unique endeavor."

    Editor's note: I also spoke in Valencia recently - last Friday to be exact. I addressed the Space Generation Congress. But unlike Mike Griffin who has to use airplanes, I used magic.

    Resistance Is Futile

    Rocket Monopoly Approved - Boeing-Lockheed Alliance Likely to Increase Costs, Washington Post

    "Monopolies almost always lead to higher prices, lower quality and inferior services," Michael R. Moiseyev, assistant director of the FTC's bureau of competition, said in a July letter that was made public yesterday. "Here, the competition that would be lost is significant, and the economic benefits that may materialize are unlikely to trump the transaction's harm to competition."

    FTC Gives Clearance To United Launch Alliance, Lockheed Martin

    United Launch Alliance Joint Rocket Venture Cleared by Federal Trade Commission, Boeing

    FTC OKs Boeing, Lockheed creation of United Launch Alliance, MarketWatch

    "The FTC's order acknowledges that United Launch Alliance effectively will have a monopoly. The U.S. government is the only major customer for medium- and heavy-lift rocket launches, and Boeing and Lockheed are the only companies that currently provide such services. "The commission's proposed consent order does not attempt to remedy the loss of direct competition between Boeing and Lockheed Martin," the FTC said, citing the Pentagon's support for the deal on national security grounds. The agency said the commission's vote was unanimous."

    NASA Advisory Council Meeting

    "The meeting will be open to the public up to the seating capacity of the room. All U.S. citizens desiring to attend the NASA Advisory Council Meeting at the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) must provide their full name, company affiliation (if applicable), place of birth, and date of birth to the GSFC Security Office no later than the close of business on October 4, 2006...If the above information is not received by the noted dates, attendees should expect a minimum delay of two (2) hours. ."

  • Agenda
  • Editor's note: If you do not comply with NASA's byzantine new rules you will not be allowed to attend the NASA Advisory Council Meeting at GSFC on 12 October - or you will have to sit and wait somewhere for 2 hours while the ever-efficient NASA security guards prove your identity. Since the meeting starts at 8:00 am that means you'd have to show up at 6:00 am to be certain to get in. Then again, I wonder if the identity checking system even operates that early in the morning.

    Other agencies simply allow taxpayers to show up, show an ID, and attend meetings in keeping with the spirit of the original FACA law. FAA regularly has these FACA meetings in their HQ building without any requirement for prior notification. Yet NASA no longer seems to care about being responsive and considerate of taxpayers.

    This could all be solved by reverting to an earlier practice: holding the NAC in hotels and other public places. That might cost a few thousand dollars. I wonder, in an era of full cost accounting, what it costs to provide all the security for this NAC meeting at GSFC? I'll bet there is little difference.

    Given the new security requirements in place at NASA HQ - (which require that all visitors - media and the public - be escorted) - requirements that are supposed to be modeled on those in place at the field centers, will GSFC PAO escort all media - at all times? What happens at lunch time? Will GSFC personnel escort attendees to and from a cafeteria? How do these rules apply to non-media attendees? Will GSFC personnel have to escort them everywhere as well?

  • New Media Security Policy at NASA Headquarters: More Confusion, Less Security, SpaceRef
  • Making the NAC Less Accessible to the Public
  • Huge 'launch ring' to fling satellites into orbit, New Scientist

    "Aside from microsatellites, the launch ring would be ideal for delivering supplies to support human spaceflight, such as food and water, which are not sensitive to such high accelerations, Fiske says. "Nearly all of this materiel could be shipped via launch rings, resulting in major reductions in the cost of manned space activities," he told New Scientist."

    Nobel Prize in Physics for 2006

    "The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize in Physics for 2006 jointly to John C. Mather, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, USA, and George F. Smoot University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA "for their discovery of the blackbody form and anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background radiation"."

  • NASA Telephone Conference Scheduled With Nobel Prize Winner
  • NASA News Conference Scheduled With Nobel Prize Winner
  • George Smoot Wins Nobel Prize in Physics, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
  • NASA Scientist Shares Nobel Prize for Physics, NASA
  • Editor's note: According to a notice sent to reporters by NASA HQ PAO: "We will hold a news conference in HQ auditorium, Tuesday at 3 p.m. EDT with Dr. John Mather regarding today's Nobel Prize announcement. Look for a media advisory. We will also likely follow up with a Media Telecon and support with a news release, etc.

  • This the first Nobel Prize ever by a NASA civil servant scientist.
  • COBE was built entirely in-house by NASA, including all instruments.
  • The Nobel Prize in Physics is the biggest prize in Science
  • For the past 10 years, Mather has been lead scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope."
  • Reader note: "Just a note to let you know, COBE was not built entirely in-house by NASA. The superfluid helium dewar that cooled the spacecraft's infrared instruments was built by Ball Aerospace in Boulder, Colorado. They built three helium dewars: the other two flew on IRAS and Spitzer."

    Senator Inhofe and CNN Anchor in Heated Exchange over Global Warming Coverage, Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works

    "O'BRIEN: The concern, of course, is ice that goes into the water, because ultimately that is what leads to -- from the land to the water -- leads to a rise in sea levels. And that's the big concern. And that's what they're talking about here. You dont discount that?

    INHOFE: Well, yes, I do discount that, because in some areas you might find that the sea level is rising, not in other areas."

    Editor's note: HUH? Perhaps the Senator can explain how sea levels rise in some areas but not others given that all the world's oceans are actually one large body of water. This is Physics 101. When you add more water to the sea the mean sea level rises. The ancient Greeks had this all figured out thousands of years ago.

    I have seen a lot of silly things in this town in the past 20 years - but I have never seen an elected official offer such vapid, contradictory, and evasive responses - responses that evidence a complete lack of knowledge about the topic he is trying to argue - than does Sen. Inhofe in this series of exchanges and rants.

    Editor's note: One reader writes: "Sealevel" is not the same around the world...So while Senator Inhofe wasn't quite right, neither was your critique...for full explanation, consult http://www.pol.ac.uk/psmsl/puscience/#3

    My response: "If you increase the total amount of water the levels will rise everywhere. It may rise more in some areas than others due to the factors cited on this page - but it will rise everywhere. Imhof said it might not rise in some locations."

    If you look at Imhof's responses he dodges many of them by trying to disparage people's political viewpoints or motives (i.e. McCain, Boehlert etc.) - and not by using facts. Here is one example:

    Surgeons Do First Near-Weightless Surgery, AP

    "Martin and his team became the first doctors to perform microsurgery under zero-gravity conditions in 2003, mending the artery in a rat's tail - an operation far more complex than the one Wednesday."

    Reader note: "The group in France did do the first operation on a human in weightlessness, and they deserve credit for that. But AP also stated that they were the first group to do surgery on an animal, back in 2003. The first recovery surgery in space was done on the Neurolab mission in 1998 (see enclosed report). Also the mission included a series of other technically demanding dissection procedures. The SLS-2 mission also included tasks similar to those you need to do surgery."

    NASA Extends Prize Funding for Space Elevator Challenges to 5 Years, Spaceward Foundation

    "The new agreement expands the time-frame of both the Beam Power and the Tether Challenges from one year to five years through the year 2010, and provides incrementally larger total purses for years two through five above the $200K purse in year one for each contest. For the second through the fifth years, the total prize purses to be offered for each competition each year are$300K, $400K, $500K, and $600K, respectively."

    Teams From as Far As Europe to Compete in Space Elevator Games, Spaceward Foundation

    Editor's note: Be certain to visit The Space Elevator Reference, a site which serves as a reference tool for those interested in exchanging ideas on the scientific, engineering, economic and policy challenges inherent in constructing the solar system's first space elevator.

    Victoria's Secret, Aviation Week & Space Technology

    "The Mars Rover Opportunity is beginning complex and dangerous science operations 242 million mi. from Earth at the massive Victoria crater, the most spectacular and potentially significant target of the entire $800-million twin-rover Mars surface exploration mission.

    The rover has made dozens of sampling stops over the last 21 months. At the mission's outset, no one dreamed that Opportunity could reach Victoria, imaged well south of the landing site by the Mars Global Surveyor orbiter."

    Weightless Over Cleveland

    Weightless Over Cleveland - Part 1: Floating Teachers, SpaceRef

    Weightless Over Cleveland - Part 2: Learning to Fly, SpaceRef

    "A few weeks ago I had an experience - one that I will remember for a lifetime. Along with several dozen teachers, I flew aboard a jet aircraft as it went through a flight profile designed to produce authentic weightlessness - the kind space travelers experience - albeit in small, bite-sized chunks. Alas, the experience was far too short for my liking. As someone told me just before we took off, this can become addictive. I can see why now. I'd love to do this again - and again."



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