November 2006 Archives

Another Billion for USA

Space Shuttle and Space Station Operations Support and Shuttle and Station Related Constellation Program Effort - Letter Contract

"Contract Award Amount: NTE1131000000 [Not to exceed $ 1,131,000,000]
Contractor: United Space Alliance"

NASA Scientists Find Primordial Organic Matter in Tagish Lake Meteorite

"Organic matter in meteorites is a subject of intense interest because this material formed at the dawn of the Solar System and may have seeded the early Earth with the building blocks of life. The Tagish Lake meteorite is especially valuable for this work because much of it was collected immediately after its fall over Canada in 2000 and has been maintained in a frozen state, minimizing terrestrial contamination. The collection and curation of the meteorite samples preserved its pristine state."

Outspoken: Mike Griffin on the NASA budget," Nature

"Deep cuts to NASA astrobiology - Griffin: "I did think astrobiology was less important than traditional space science. It had less intrinsic subject matter to it, and was less advanced."

Statement by Baruch S. Blumberg at the Opening of the Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe

"The President's Vision for Space Exploration requires astrobiology as a major, if not principle, science support. The National Research Council report, An Assessment of Balance in NASA's Science Programs, and NASA's Advisory Council noted that astrobiology informs many of NASA's missions and has a powerful appeal to students."

HiRISE Team Begins Releasing a Flood of Mars Images

"The University of Arizona-based team that operates the high-resolution camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, in conjunction with NASA, is releasing the first of what will be a non-stop flood of incredibly detailed Mars images taken during the spacecraft's two-year primary science mission. The High Resolution Science Imaging Experiment (HiRISE) camera took almost 100 images during the first two weeks of its main science mission, which began Nov. 7. ... HiRISE began a new imaging cycle last week (Nov. 19) and begins another next week (Dec. 3). Over the next couple of weeks, the camera is targeting "all the easy-to-find hardware on Mars," McEwen said. That includes NASA's rover Spirit, the Viking 1 and Viking 2 landers, and Mars Pathfinder."

Rachael Visits the NASA Prep Kitchen, Rachel Ray Show

"Watch how science creeps in to prepare Rachael's Spicy Thai Chicken for a trip into space."

Special delivery for space station crew: Lattes on the way, USA Today

"Lopez-Alegria, who's lived on the station since September, will get 22 packets of instant latte to add to his dwindling stash. Food tends to be an afterthought on space shuttle missions. But NASA officials have slowly come to realize that food is central to the well-being of the astronauts living on the space station."

Editor's note: OK. That was cute. Perhaps NASA PAO can now get back to work explaining something just a little more important i.e. why we have a space station - and what it is doing for us - and perhaps put such popular interest stories in a somewhat better context - one more in the context of an expedition - perhaps like this:

Keith Cowing's Devon Island Journal 19 July 2003: Illness, Good Food, and Morale

"... By now I had been sick on and off for more than a week. Every time I ate cooked food I got sick. ... I was missing the interaction that was so key to how such an operation runs. Even a casual reading of material describing human an operation factors associated with submarine, infantry, or Antarctic living conditions speaks to the importance of having good chow - and lots of it."

STS-116 Is Go

NASA Gives 'Go' For Space Shuttle Discovery Launch

"NASA senior managers today unanimously recommended launching the Space Shuttle Discovery on December 7. Commander Mark Polansky and his six crewmates are scheduled to lift off at 9:35 p.m. EST on the STS-116 mission, one of the most challenging flights to continue building the International Space Station. During the 12-day mission and three spacewalks, the crew will work to install a new segment of the station's girder-like truss and activate the station's permanent, complex power and cooling systems."

Problems With ISS Reboost

Discovery launch set for next Thursday, pending ISS issues, Spaceflight Now

"Russian engineers must resolve a problem that cut short a space station rocket firing today about three minutes into a planned 18-minute 22-second burn."

A space dilemma: extend missions or start afresh?, Nature

"Possible extensions are not mentioned in the initial mission planning stages, so designing missions to last longer than planned is an easy way for mission scientists to buy into future budgets. There's also the public-relations value in terms of public image, it is better to say a mission will last for five years and then extend its life, than to say it will last for ten years and lose it after nine. The latter scenario would be seen as a failure, says Lori Garver, a former NASA associate administrator. She sees no problem with deliberately underestimating the life of a spacecraft. By the time a mission is ready to be extended, the big pots of money have already been spent on it, she says."

2 ex-NASA officials take issue with investigation, Orlando Sentinel

"Investigators wrote that O'Keefe was "not happy" with the audit, and after discussing the matter with then-Inspector General Roberta Gross, she "subsequently [was] asked to resign." The report notes "Cobb [was] selected" to replace Gross and "Cobb subsequently terminate[d] the contract with PWC [PricewaterhouseCoopers]." In an interview, O'Keefe said that the chronology in the report omitted several important details and ignored the timing of events that would have shown they had no connection."

Court extends detention of Russian space firm chief, RIA Novosti

"Analysts say Russian technology may have formed the basis of China's manned space program, with two successful orbital missions carried out to date."

Editor's note: DUH - have you folks ever looked closely at a Shenzhou? It sure wasn't copied from Apollo.

AIP FYI #135: New Benchmark Report Raises Caution Flag on Future of U.S. S&T Enterprise

"Twenty-one months ago, the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation issued "The Knowledge Economy: Is America Losing its Competitive Edge: Benchmarks of our Innovation Future." This 18-page report has been credited with helping to raise the awareness of policymakers about U.S. R&D leadership. ... The new report, "Measuring the Moment: Innovation, National Security, and Economic Competitiveness. Benchmarks of our Innovation Future II" was released on November 16 at a Capitol Hill press conference."

Editor's note: I did a text search of the 2005 report document. "NASA" shows up once, "aerospace" ("space") shows up twice. "Aeronautics" is not mentioned.

I did a text search of the 2006 report. "NASA" shows up once, "aerospace" ("space") shows up 34 times (mostly as references). "Aeronautics" is mentioned 5 times.

In neither report is any mention made of the Vision for Space Exploration or anything related to NASA's manned and unmanned missions. It would seem that the bulk of what NASA does is not covered under the introductory quote in the 2006 report ie. "To keep America competitive, one commitment is necessary above all: We must continue to lead the world in human talent and creativity." - President George W. Bush, State of the Union Address, January 31, 2006

Sadly, space exploration was often touted as an example of America's technological prowess - and a harbinger of things to come in our nation's future. Now it doesn't even rank worth a mention when the topic of "our Innovation Future" is discussed. Yet nations such as China and India see such things as a source of national pride - and something to aspire toward - accomplishments we now seem to have forgotten.

Honoring A True Genius

Stephen Hawking to Receive Medal Flown on Space Shuttle

"The British Royal Society is awarding Professor Hawking its prestigious Copley Medal on Nov. 30 for his contributions to theoretical physics and theoretical cosmology. The silver gilt medal flew on space shuttle Discovery's July 2006 mission to the International Space Station, at the initiative of crew member Piers Sellers, a native of Britain. NASA Administrator Michael Griffin will travel to London to help make the medal presentation."

Lunar Astronomy

Astronomers Discuss Moon Opportunities, AP

"While some have criticized the limited amount of time available for research on space missions, Grunsfeld said about 18 percent is usually available for research. While that may seem like very little time, it is comparable to limitations faced by researchers in other harsh environments, such as the Antarctic, he said."

New Horizons Gets First Glimpse of Pluto

"New Horizons, Not Quite to Jupiter, Makes First Pluto Sighting The New Horizons team got a faint glimpse of the mission's distant, main planetary target when one of the spacecraft's telescopic cameras spotted Pluto for the first time.
The Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) took the pictures during an optical navigation test on Sept. 21-24, and stored them on the spacecraft's data recorder until their recent transmission back to Earth."

Save Centennial Challenges - Space Leaders Call on Congress to Restore Funding

"Created with an appropriation of just under $10 million in FY2005, Centennial Challenges is currently returning highly leveraged and efficient research, development, and engineering benefits to NASA at extremely low costs and stands ready to accomplish even loftier goals if given additional funding. Unfortunately, although the House of Representatives voted to support the program in 2007, such funding was zeroed out in the 2007 Senate appropriations bill for NASA. If the program is to be restored to full funding, it must happen during Congressional conference deliberations in the final phase of the budget process."

Editor's note: Doug Stanley, the leader of the ESAS last year has been making some interesting posts at A friend referred one posting in particular to me. It would seem that Dr. Stanley has some issues with things that were posted on NASA Watch regarding the ESAS.

Curiously, throughout the ESAS process - and in the full year following its release - not once did I ever get a request from Doug Stanley to address issues on NASA Watch - with attribution - even though he was quite aware that he (like any other reader) could do so. Instead, he chose another website on which to do so. Of course, that is his right. In so doing, however, Doug Stanley wants to have it both ways. In particular, I found this excerpt to be most illuminating:

Earth Has A New Satellite

NASA Space Station Status Report 23 November 2006

"Tyurin's golf shot was part of a demonstration for a commercially sponsored endeavor between a Canadian golf company and the Russian Federal Space Agency. The golf club and three balls were flown to the station on recent Russian Progress cargo ships. NASA's safety analysis showed that the balls will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere and burn up in about three days. The balls weigh only about as much as three one-dollar bills."

What a shot! A golf drive in a spacewalk really soars, but how far is the question, AP

"That drive went 1 billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) or will by the time it eventually comes down in a couple years said Nataliya Hearn, the president of Element 21 Golf Company. The Toronto firm is paying the cash-starved Russian space agency an undisclosed amount for the golf stunt to promote its new golf club that includes a space-program-derived metal. That's a huge exaggeration, according to NASA's lead spacewalk flight director, Holly Ridings. She said NASA's calculations are that golf balls would only stay up two to three days, which would put the drive closer to a mere million miles (1.6 million kilometers)."

Editor's note: Either NASA's orbital mechanics math is (way) off or Element 21 Golf openly uses false information in its advertisements.

NASA Strategic Communications Framework Validation Session Presentation

"The Office of Communications Planning (OCP) is charged with developing long-term communication strategies and plans for increasing public awareness and understanding of NASA's mission and goals.

You are here today for the presentation of the NASA Strategic Communications Framework. We are requesting your inputs by Monday, November 27, 2006.Together, we embark on a new Communications Approach for the Agency. Today is the first step."

Editor's note: I have to say that I am impressed with what has emerged from this activity thus far. Of course, it is one thing to observe problems and propose solutions. It is quite another to actually implement the solutions - especially ones that require a change in culture and require years of determined effort. Stay tuned.

In Hoyer's Rise, Backers Eye Payoff, Washington Post

"As the Democratic congressman from Southern Maryland prepares to assume the post of U.S. House majority leader, constituents and officials in his district hope that the move will put Hoyer in a stronger position to do what has earned him much loyal support in his 25 years in Congress: bring home the bacon. ... Hoyer has helped to steer billions of federal dollars for several projects, including the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt ..."

NASA's Mars Global Surveyor May Be at Mission's End

"NASA's Mars Global Surveyor has likely finished its operating career. The spacecraft has served the longest and been the most productive of any mission ever sent to the red planet."

NASA Responds To Stick Rumors

NASA Internal Memo From Constellation Program Manager Jeff Hanley

"All, between articles like this one (see below) and the wave of 'better ideas' for architecture that have waded into recent notoriety, I thought it was time to level set folks on where things stand and dispel these rumors and hearsay surrounding the "issue" of the Ares 1 performance and overall implications to the architecture."

Big Problems With The Stick, earlier post

Editor's 14 Nov. note: In closing his memo, Jeff Hanley notes: "We will continue to get these faux expressions of concern from those who wish to see us fail. They will be disappointed."

For the record, Jeff, I do not want to see you fail. I want to see you succeed.

What is really annoying about comments like Hanley's is the simple-minded and intellectually lazy way that NASA people deal with criticism. If you dare to criticize their approach - in any fashion - you are automatically against them. And, if you are outside the agency, then you are automatically unqualified to have an opinion. It never seems to occur to these NASA folks that the people who highlight potential issues may actually be concerned that they will not succeed unless these issues are addressed.

But no, it is so much easier to manufacture enemies - that way you have something external to blame things on when programs run into trouble.

Reader comments (send yours to

Space Science Cuts Persist

Campaign Update: Congressional Inaction Leaves Science Still Devastated, Planetary Society

"Congress is back to work in what is known as a lame-duck session. (This means Congress members are still serving after the November election but before the start of new terms, which will begin in January.) As I described in my last update, Congress still has not acted on many government budget items, including NASA's fiscal year 2007 budget."

Save Skylab

Skylab Restoration Project Status Report November 2006

"We received news Friday that Skylab will not go indoors for the next 2 years. This leaves use out in the cold (literally). We are still on schedule to be completed with our restoration efforts by June 2007. In work now are efforts to understand how we can preserve Skylab while it remains outside for the additional year. We need to develop methods to keep the humidity down, water out, mold under control and the animals away. We have also been asked by the Space and Rocket Center to raise $20,000 to buy them a building to hold Skylab."

Northrop Grumman, Booz Allen Hamilton, SpaceX to Host Networking Event for Current, Future Space Exploration Leaders

"University students, young professionals and first-level managers from NASA and the aerospace industry will be able to meet and share their views on the nation's space exploration program with space leaders from NASA and the aerospace industry at a reception being planned by Northrop Grumman Corporation in partnership with Booz Allen Hamilton and Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX)."

NASA Provides Mars Global Surveyor Update

"NASA will hold a media teleconference at 1 p.m. EST, Tuesday, Nov. 21, to discuss the status and science accomplishments of the Mars Global Surveyor. The 10-year old spacecraft is the oldest of five NASA spacecraft currently active at the red planet."

Editor's note: "currently active"? That's news. The last time I checked, NASA had been unable to communicate with the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft for several weeks.

He's Ba-ack

American space boffin in town,

"The Star Centre at Keighley College has been visited by a leading figure in the history of American space flight. Apollo 13 rescue team member George Abbey explored the trailblazing centre, which teaches youngsters about science and technology."

Abbey raps space plan, Bay Area Citizen

"Not everybody in the space community is excited about NASA's new crew exploration vehicle, Orion. In fact, one credible man believes retiring the space shuttle fleet is a costly mistake. Former Johnson Space Center Director George Abbey was full of blunt opinions at a Space Advocates for (Congressional candidate) Nick Lampson luncheon last Thursday, saying it was a mistake to retire the shuttle in 2010 and that NASA must shatter several barriers to move forward."

Yuri's Night 2007 Executive Team Applications due 29 November 2006

"This year will mark the 7th Yuri's Night as well as the 20th anniversary of ISU! We are now putting together our 2007 executive team to expand the impact of Yuri's Night, to recruit and support events around the world, to organize a global webcast, plan a zero-g flight sweepstakes, and to bring Yuri Gagarin's tradition of planting a tree after each mission to our parties here on Earth- with our new Yuri 'Plant-a-Tree' Mission."

Constellation Battles the Blogosphere, Space News

"Hanley said in an interviewhe normally does not respond so directly to what he characterized as misinformation that appearsin "the pseudo media-blogs and so forth." But the NASA Watch post spurred him to action. Hanley sent his e-mail, he said, to "a few dozen Constellation leaders throughout the program" - a long enough distribution list, it would seem, to ensure the message leaked to an even wider audience."

Editor's note: Jeff Hanley went to great lengths to make certain that I got his email. The way he did so (I have the original distribution list) makes me wonder why he was so eager to use other people to get his thoughts to me - but not do so himself - either directly - or through PAO. Moreover, if Hanley holds PAO- accredited news sources such as NASA Watch in such distain, one wonders why he'd even bother to reply in the first place. Just one of life's little mysteries, I suppose.

- NASA Reiterates its Official Support for Ares I, Earlier post
- NASA Responds to Stick Rumors, Earlier post
- Big Problems With The Stick, Earlier post

Inspecting the Inspector

Complaints fuel probe of NASA inspector, Orlando Sentinel

"A federal probe of NASA Inspector General Robert Cobb outlines allegations that he stifled investigations, mistreated department employees and maintained a close personal relationship with top officials of the agency he was supposed to independently monitor. Preliminary findings from a 10-month investigation into Cobb's conduct have been forwarded to an oversight group, the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency. That group is expected to make a final decision before the end of the year on what, if any, action to take."

Reader note: "1. Description: It is proposed that a basic building block architecture with a large built-in growth potential be used to provide mission capabilities for LEO, lunar and Mars missions. By using a common core and launch facilities, two, four, or six standard RSRM's could be added for meeting various mission requirements. Available and operational space transportation equipment, technologies and processes would be incorporated to save both time and money and to ensure safety and reliability of the system. A new launch facility would be a pacing item.

Memo From NASA Assistant Administrator For Legislative Affairs Regarding The FY 2007 budget in the 110th Congress

"- The House-proposed reduction of 1/3 of the request would impact all NASA Centers, particularly Ames Research Center, Glenn Research Center, Langley Research Center, and Marshall Space Flight Center, resulting in increased uncovered workforce of approximately 165 FTEs.

- Senate-proposed cut jeopardizes bringing the CLV on-line, including the planned early 2009 CLV demonstration (33 months from now) and 2014 First Human Launch.

- A reduction of $33.4M in MUSS would force NASA to consider layoffs of critical staff and the potential mothballing of the Payload Operations Integration Center and Payload Operations Integration Function (POIC/POIF) at MSFC."

Q&A: Bart Gordon, Nature (subscription)

"Does NASA have its priorities right? Do you feel that a realistic number has been put on the cost of sending humans to Mars?

I would like to see NASA do all that it is proposing and more. But we need to do a better job of oversight. I want to see if all of the numbers add up, and frankly I don't think they will. If they don't, we will have to take a hard look at priorities. I don't want to pass problems on to others. What we have seen with NASA is that prior administrators just keep on passing on problems. Someone needs to take oversight."

Gordon Steps Up to House Science Post, Science (subscription)

"As chair of the committee's space panel in the early 1990s, Gordon developed an interest in space-related issues that is likely to translate into closer scrutiny of the Bush Administration's proposed moon-Mars exploration program and its impact on space science. "I think that both are underfunded," he says, "but I think we need to know more before we can move ahead."

House Appropriations Update

Mollohan in Line For Appropriations Spot, Wheeling News-Register

"Mollohan, D-W.Va., brought millions of dollars to Fairmont for the creation of the I-79 high-technology corridor. And now that Democrats will regain control of the U.S. House of Representatives, Mollohan possibly could chair the subcommittee that oversees government spending for NASA."

Show Me The Money

Fly Me to the Moon, Smart Money

"NASA has created Red Planet Capital, a venture-capital firm based in San Mateo, Calif., that'll support budding technologies that have applications for space exploration."

MGS - Asleep or Lost?

Mars orbiter silent, Astronomy

"NASA enlisted its Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) in the search for the silent probe. Late Wednesday, MRO attempted to capture a low-resolution image of MGS to help determine its position. Tomorrow MRO will attempt this maneuver again, this time using its high-resolution camera."

Good News For NPOESS

Northrop weather satellite gets positive US review, Reuters

"Northrop Grumman Corp.'s $9 billion project to build the National Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) appears to be on track after a major restructuring last June, an Air Force spokeswoman said on Thursday.'

NASA Completes Milestone Review of Next Human Spacecraft System

"An example of the activity was a review and analysis that confirmed the planned Ares I launch system has sufficient thrust to put the Orion spacecraft in orbit. In fact, the Ares I thrust provides a 15 percent margin of performance in addition to the energy needed to put the fully crewed and supplied Orion into orbit for a lunar mission. Engineers established Orion's take off weight for lunar missions at over 61,000 pounds."

Editor's 14 Nov. note: Alas Jeff, some people in your organization would beg to differ on what you have stated. Meanwhile, some of your folks are still not certain that the first stage of Ares I (as designed) can be recovered and reused due to the currently planned reentry, descent, and splashdown profile. And if it can be recovered, many believe that it would not make financial or operational sense to do so. Further wind tunnel tests in the coming weeks are needed before this can be fully understood.

Your employees also talk of the extra billions and additional years that will likely be required before the Ares I design can be made to work. Yet it is also important to note that while a number of folks within NASA, while agreeing - and commenting on - troubles withn the Ares I program, have also said privately that they and their coworkers are committed to trying to make this work - even if agency politics seem to have already arrived at the official answer.

Nature on Funding the VSE

Congressional agendas, editorial, Nature (subscription)

"The damage done to America and the rest of the world by unsustainable deficits is real, and any lack of zeal in facing this problem would be a mistake. In that context, this would be a good time for Congress to look again at Bush's plans for NASA to re-establish a human presence in deep space. The outgoing Republican Congress gave its Republican president too much benefit of the doubt on this undertaking. The new Congress must, at the very least, articulate more convincing reasons than have yet been heard for such a colossal expenditure."

Boxer plans Senate hearings on global warming, McClatchy Newspapers

"... Boxer said Tuesday that starting in January, her priority will be to begin "a very long process of extensive hearings" on global warming. "I think there ought to be a global-warming bill that looks at all the contributors to carbon-dioxide emissions," she said. She cited California's legislation requiring automakers to reduce emissions as "an excellent role model."

Investigations begin into whether Bush administration muzzled climate research, AP

"Sen. Frank Lautenberg, (D-N.J.), said he was informed that the inspector generals for the Commerce Department and NASA had begun "co- ordinated, sweeping investigations of the Bush administration's censorship and suppression" of federal research into global warming."

Congress's sci-tech agenda to shift under Democrats, Christian Science Monitor

"Another area ripe for tighter oversight is NASA and the president's Vision for Space Exploration, adds Ray Williamson, with the George Washington University Space Policy Institute. In hearings before the House Committee on Science, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have expressed support for the effort in general. But, he notes, they worry that the White House isn't giving NASA the money it needs to do the job without sacrificing other important activities."

Va. Commercial Space Industry Poised for Takeoff, Washington Post

"If all goes as hoped, at about 7 a.m. Dec. 11, a new day in the local aerospace industry will begin when the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport launches a 69-foot, green and white Minotaur I rocket carrying satellites for the Air Force and NASA."

An Alternate Approach towards Achieving the New Vision for Space Exploration, Team Vision

NASA Internal Memo From Constellation Program Manager Jeff Hanley

"In summary, many who carp from the sidelines do not seem to understand the systems engineering process. They instead want to sensationalize any issue to whatever end or preferred outcome they wish. So be it, that is the world we live in."

Editor's note: According to the host of the website where this concept can be downloaded: "The AIAA paper has now been downloaded over 2,000 times. Almost half of those downloads have been to a domain. A number of emails from ex-NASA employees/contractors have also been received that are very supportive of the general approach outlined. In addition, a significant number of secondary referrals and write-ups from around the world via internet/blogsphere as far way as China have also directed significant amount of international interest towards the alternative of achieving VSE."

Editor's note: Interesting - a thousand have downloaded this paper. That is more than just a passing interest - from the real rocket scientists.

The President's Space Policy: The Facts, The Truth, and The Myths, Washington Space Business Roundtable

"*Please note all parts of this presentation are to be strictly off the record."

SPEAKER: Damon R. Wells, Senior Policy Analyst Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP)

Editor's note: It sure looks like Damon Wells and the rest of OSTP are afraid that taxpayers will be able to learn about what they have to say about the nation's space policy - you know, the one they developed. Small wonder that Mike Griffin and Shana Dale (who used to work at OSTP) never mention it - or that the White House never mentions the VSE in their new space policy. What I simply do not understand is how a civil servant, speaking in an official capacity, can talk to a group of people about what they are paid to do (with tax dollars) - yet their comments cannot be relayed to the tax paying public. There's an ethical issue here, folks. Indeed, this is the height of arrogance as far as this Administration is concerned. For the Washington Space Business Roundtable to agree to such conditions calls their own ethics into question. This is abject cowardice on the part of Damon Wells and the White House.

A space policy that cannot be discussed in public is one that is doomed to fail.

First Launch for Blue Origin

Bue Origin Blasts Off, MSNBC

"The hush-hush space effort funded by founder Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin, executed a test launch from its West Texas spaceport today, air traffic controllers confirmed. Based on the Federal Aviation Administration documents governing the test, it was a relatively low-altitude blastoff - but itcomes at the beginning of a launch schedule thatcould lead to tourist rides to the edge of outer space by 2010."

Space Policy Analysis

Not really lost in space: the new National Space Policy, The Space Review

Editor's note: Another version of this article, also written by National Academies of Science Studies Board Senior Program Associate Dwayne Day, was published in the July-September 2006 issue of the Space Studies Board News.

Editor's note: Industry sources note that an announcement from Bigelow Aerospace and Lockheed Martin is forthcoming - perhaps very soon. The new announcement concerns the on-going work that Lockheed Martin and Bigelow have been doing regarding the launching of human-rated spacecraft aboard Atlas rockets. The initial announcement of this partnership was made at an AIAA meeting in San Jose in September. Stay tuned.

- Bigelow Aerospace and Lockheed Martin Agree to Study Human-qualified Atlas V Rocket for Entrepreneurial Space Development, September 2006 press release

Big Problems With The Stick

Editor's note: Sources inside the development of the Ares 1 launch vehicle (aka Crew Launch Vehicle or "The Stick") have reported that the current design is underpowered to the tune of a metric ton or more. As currently designed, Ares 1 would not be able to put the present Orion spacecraft design (Crew Exploration Vehicle) into the orbit NASA desires for missions to the ISS. This issue is more pronounced for CEV missions to the moon.

The Ares 1 SRR (System Requirements Review) was held last week at MSFC. Mike Griffin was in attendance. Others participated off-site via

It is widely known that both Mike Griffin and Scott Horowitz are reluctant (to say the least) about abandoning their current launch vehicle concept. Alternate approaches such as using EELVs are not welcome solutions by either Griffin or Horowitz.

One possible solution to the Stick's current design problems is to add side-mounted solid rocket motors. Many inside the program are not so sure that this solution is worth the effort. Others suggest that starting from a clean sheet of paper may be the only prudent course of action.

Stay tuned.

Florida's Capitol Hill Democrats ready to wield clout in committees, Palm Beach Post

"Nelson, who flew aboard the space shuttle Columbia when he chaired the House subcommittee on space in the mid-1980s, is in line to chair the Senate's subcommittee on science and space. He said he'll push for more money for NASA so it can complete work on the next generation of manned space vehicles to replace the aging shuttle fleet by 2012, rather than the anticipated deadline of 2014. He said he also wants to see the National Aeronautics and Space Administration pursue repairs to the Hubble space telescope."

Switch leaves Texans in minority in Senate, AP

"Hutchison also is chairwoman of the science and space subcommittee of the Senate's Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., will chair that panel. "Dianne Feinstein and I have taken care of each others priorities well on military construction ... Bill Nelson and I have the same objectives in NASA, so I feel we're going to be in good shape in Texas," Hutchison said."

NASA Multimedia News

NASA Schedules First Live HDTV Broadcast From Space

"NASA makes history next week with the first live broadcasts from space in HDTV. NASA, in cooperation with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Discovery HD Theater and Japanese broadcast network NHK will produce the broadcasts on Nov. 15."

NASA Presolicitation Notice: NASA Headquarters Multimedia Division Television and Web Support Services

"Services will include daily operations and engineering support for the NASA Multi-Channel Digital Television Service and facility at NASA Headquarters and NASA Web Portal support. The Government does not intend to acquire a commercial item using FAR Part 12."

JPL and ClickStar Form Distribution Relationship for Space Footage and Original Productions

"ClickStar and JPL have established a relationship to distribute space-related educational content about NASA missions managed by JPL-Caltech."

NASA Loses Contact With Mars Global Surveyor

"Engineers are striving to restore full communications with NASA's Mars Global Surveyor on the 10th anniversary of the spacecraft's Nov. 7, 1996, launch. On Nov. 2, one orbit after commands were sent for a routine maneuver to move the solar panels, the spacecraft reported that the motor moving one of the arrays had experienced errors. Onboard software responded as programmed, switching the spacecraft to a backup motor controller, then to a backup circuitry connection."

NASA struggles to contact lost Mars probe, New Scientist

"If communication cannot be restored soon, NASA may try to diagnose the problem by having another spacecraft, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, take pictures of MGS."

'Aliens could attack at any time' warns former MoD chief, Daily Mail

"UFO sightings and alien visitors tend to be solely the reserve of sci-fi movies. So when a former MoD chief warns that the country could be attacked by extraterrestrials at any time, you may be forgiven for feeling a little alarmed. During his time as head of the Ministry of Defence UFO project, Nick Pope was persuaded into believing that other lifeforms may visit Earth and, more specifically, Britain."

Democrats Take Control of the Senate, AP

"Democrats wrested control of the Senate from Republicans Wednesday with an upset victory in Virginia, giving the party complete domination of Capitol Hill for the first time since 1994. Jim Webb's squeaker win over incumbent Sen. George Allen gave Democrats their 51st seat in the Senate...."

Editor's note: Sen. Allen has just conceeded the election to Jim Webb.

It is one thing if only the House is run by Democrats. It is quite another if the Senate is run by them as well. Given that the Democrats seem to be intent upon placing all of the Bush Administration's activities under closer scrutiny, NASA should expect much more oversight than it has had in previous years. And that scrutiny is no longer going to be modulated by the White House.

The Changes That Lie Ahead

Democratic Congress unlikely to cut defense, space, experts say, Huntsville Times

"If the Democrats have control of both the House and Senate, said Keith Cowing, a NASA expert who runs, "then you can expect a lot of hearings and much, much more oversight of NASA programs, and the government in general." "That also means things won't just be shunted down to Marshall Space Flight Center because the Alabama delegation wants it," he said. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, and Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, have both been influential in winning money and support for NASA and Pentagon programs over the past 10 to 12 years."

Russia, China Plan Joint Space Projects, AP

"We have switched from cooperating on technological elements and devices to developing big scientific projects in space research," Yuri Nosenko, a deputy head of Russia's Federal Space Agency, told reporters in a televised hookup from Beijing, where he and other officials were attending a Russian national exhibition. He said the space-related contracts Russian companies had signed with China were worth tens of millions of dollars."

And the Winners Are ..., Tucson Weekly

"Democrat Gabrielle Giffords will replace retiring Congressman Jim Kolbe after she crushed Republican Randy Graf on Election Day. ... When Giffords was asked whether she thought astronauts or cavemen would win in a fight, she said, "I am going with the astronauts." (Of course, Giffords famously has an astronaut for a boyfriend, something she endlessly pointed out while he was on a space shuttle mission during her primary race.)"

Reader note: "[She] Is indeed a space supporter. Her advisor on space affairs is George Abbey, who made a joint appearance with her in Tucson prior to the primaries."

Democrats on Track to Win Control of House, Senate Remains Too Close to Call, Washington Post

"Democrats were on track tonight to win control of the House of Representatives, chalking up a steady stream of victories against Republican incumbents. But a majority in the Senate remained up for grabs, with several key races too close to call."

Editor's note: What does this mean for the Democrats who sit on committees that oversee NASA? Given that there are many issues with how the VSE is being implemented, it is likely that members of the opposition party will be much more likely to take NASA and the Administration to task than has been the case in recent years.

Wednesday's Mercury Transit

Mercury transit foreshadows future planet hunt

"The Mercury transit will take place on 8 November from 11:12 a.m. - 4:10 p.m. PST (2:12 p.m. - 7:10 p.m. EST). Portions of event will be visible from the Pacific, the Americas, eastern Asia, Australia, and New Zealand."

- GONG network to broadcast the transit of Mercury on Nov. 8, 2006
- Upcoming Mercury/Sun Transit Whets the Appetite for MESSENGER Discoveries
- Mercury Transit Hawaiian Style Webcast November 8

McManus Heading for DOC

McManus moves from NASA to Commerce,

"John McManus, NASAs deputy chief information officer and chief technology officer, will start Nov. 13 as the Commerce Departments deputy CIO and CTO, Commerce CIO Barry West said Nov. 6."

Y2K-like fears create shuttle scheduling crunch, New Scientist

Computer glitch limits next shuttle launch, Reuters

"The shuttle computers were never envisioned to fly through a year-end changeover," space shuttle program manager Wayne Hale told a briefing."

Editor's note: While some in NASA are concerned about this issue, others are not as worried. According to someone in the astronaut office, tests were conducted to see if going from one year to the next during a mission would be an issue. "We called it YERO for "Year End Roll Over Test". YERO was an all day long test with MCC in the loop. It required bringing GPC's down and up per normal flight procedures. Some of us spent many hours at the Shuttle Avionics Integration Lab (SAIL) performing this test. SAIL or OV-95 as it is refered to in the drawings is a replica of the shuttle wiring with flight rated boxes and software. Basically it is the real thing. The passing criteria of a SAIL is that the test has to be performed from beginning to end without any procedural mistakes. We never had a problem with the rollover."

The Lunar Ice Debate

Ice on the Moon, Paul Spudis

"In contrast to some recent claims, this debate is still open and nothing has occurred in the last few years to cause participants in the debate to abandon their positions. In a nutshell, poor or incomplete coverage by a variety of marginal data has led to much heat, while casting little light on the issue of lunar polar water. Here, I present the evidence to the reader, noting the strengths and weaknesses of each data set, and attempt to identify the remaining unanswered questions."

An Alternate Approach towards Achieving the New Vision for Space Exploration, Team Vision

"Before us is a watershed opportunity to increase the depth of space exploration and development. The Exploration Systems Architecture Study (ESAS) provides a vital first step towards this important long term goal. Based on the key objectives contained in the ESAS, an alternate space exploration architecture was formulated by the author that reduces complexity, time, risk and cost while simultaneously improving Lunar and Mars mission, affordability, safety and expandability."

Put Your Name Into Space: America's Most Ambitious Student Satellite is Your Canvas!

"In 2010, a small unmanned research spacecraft designed by students will launch into Earth's orbit. The science on board will help pave the way for humankind to explore our solar system. We invite you to participate in this landmark mission by uploading content to be printed on our spacecraft. Use your "space in space" to fly your name, signature, corporate logo, photograph, or other MIT-approved imagery."

NASA workers snoozing on job, World Net Daily

Photos Released Of Space Workers Sleeping On Job, AP via WKMG

"The photos released on the watchdog Web site NASA Watch showed three employees at the Huntsville, Alabama, space center sleeping at consoles and a fourth playing an online card game."

Editor's update: At least no one was photographed reading NASA Watch... Here is yet another photo.

Editor's note: The following note - plus a number of pictures - was sent by a former NASA MSFC employee (using his real name) to a long email distribution list - one that includes media, astronauts, MOD personnel - and MSFC Center Director Dave King. I cannot vouch for the veracity of the claims this person makes, but the pictures speak for themselves.

Three photos of people (apparently) sleeping in the Payload Operations Center at NASA MSFC and one of someone apparently playing an online game of Gin while sitting at his console. [1] [2] [3] [4]

"I worked at MSFC for 5 years and these are the types of things I witnessed and documented. This is only a handful of people that I observed sleeping and playing video games. In addition to playing video games I also documented Teledyne Brown Engineering Employees surfing pornography sites, participating in online gambling, betting on fantasy football and playing video games for extended periods of time. Even though these were NASA contractors the NASA Payload Operations Director wasin the room and did not do anything to correct the problem.

"Welcome to - the site that empowers space exploration supporters to connect with others across the U.S. to advocate for the Vision for Space Exploration with our nations leaders. Here youll find news, reference information and hot actions related to space issues. With, you can join thousands of other people across the U.S. who are just as passionate as you are about carrying the mission of space exploration from the grassroots of our country... all the way up to Capitol Hill."

Editor's note: Over the past several years I have been wondering just what it is the Coalition for Space Exploration does - given that their website is out of date and a coloring book seems to have been their only visible product. Well, it seems someone has finally done something. Alas, if you go to their main website, there is no mention of this new advocacy website. Moreoever, no one seems to have bothered to issue a press release to alert the media. What good is a website like this if the people who are supposed to use it are unaware of its existence?

- Is the VSE Running out of Steam?, earlier post
- What does the Coalition for Space Exploration Actually Do?, earlier post

Propulsion lab work at Marshall to pick up, Huntsville Times

"Advanced propulsion is just like aeronautics. It is something NASA and America has been on the cutting edge of for decades," said Keith Cowing, who runs the Web site. "Cut this type of research, and America runs the risk of losing that edge, and other nations will zoom ahead." Cowing said the lab hasn't been used much because "that building is an echo of things begun under former administrators Dan Goldin and Sean O'Keefe." Advanced propulsion was part of a Goldin-era Space Launch Initiative program, and O'Keefe supported finding ways to increase spacecraft speeds to travel to Mars and other planets."

NSS Space Art Contest

National Space Society Space Settlement Art Contest

"The National Space Society is sponsoring an art contest in which artists are to create visions of a spacefaring future - a future of space settlement, be they on the Moon, on Mars, on asteroids, or orbiting independently in space. Twelve winning entries will be chosen to illustrate the NSS 2008 Space Settlement Calendar."

NASA Internal Memo: ESMD resources Weekly: September 25-29, 2006

"Doc had his first hearing yesterday. We have a few actions but it was well received. It's one of the toughest jobs in Washington to sit in the line of fire like that. Ex Comptroller Mal Peterson aptly called it Kabuki theater. Some basics to keep in mind:

- Show no weakness. They may want to take advantage.

- Stay calm. Be prepared to answer some questions repeatedly. You know much more than they do about the details and what seems to be second nature to you is not to them.

- Rarely should you turn around and ask if someone behind you has anything to add. Most effective reply is a direct answer or say you'll get back.

- What if the witness does not agree with the budget his President has submitted? Say it is adequate over and over with a smile."

Space Manners

Astronauts offer etiquette lessons to space tourists, New Scientist

Space Etiquette: Top Ten Tips From Astronauts, Space Docs and the Giz, Gizmodo

"So you're going into space? Don't laugh, many of you reading this will probably be space tourists, and some of you may even end up living there. These space veterans have some tips for that first space mission you're planning, making life easier for everyone on board:"

Today's Bad Science Lesson

Back to the moon, The Courier-Journal

"With the cost of gas hovering between $2 and $3 a gallon and the oil supply declining, scientists at NASA have discovered a potential new energy source -- helium-3. When combined with water, the element creates energy."

Editor's note: What mystifies me is why a book on "sex" would cause JPL to "establish new procedures" and yet other book signings and "use of JPL facilities for non-JPL-related events" did not trigger such an internal review. In the mean time this memo still doesn't explain why the "Ethics Officer" at JPL felt that it was in her power to take this book out of the JPL store.

I just spoke to someone at the JPL Store and asked if the book "Sex in Space" was for sale. The guy who answered the phone said that they had ordered it but that they were told to take it off the shelves. When I asked if it was the JPL Ethics Office that ordered this he said "yea, something like that" I sent an inquiry to the JPL Ethics Office. Let's see if they respond.

This book ban is rather odd for JPL (part of Caltech) - especially when you go to the Caltech online bookstore (there's a link on the JPL Store page) and see all of the sexually oriented material they openly sell. Just click "search" and do a global search for "sex". Scroll down and things get racier. Search for "sex in space" and the DVD for "Lust in Space" pops up. I think it is clear that the prudes are at JPL - not Caltech.

From: Stephen Kulczycki
Sent: Thursday, November 02, 2006 10:30 PM
To: All Personnel
Subject: Book Signing Cancellation

On September 21, a message was sent to JPL's all-personnel email list about the cancellation of a book signing at the JPL Store. The message stated that the event was being cancelled due to ethical issues.

Investigations begin into whether Bush administration muzzled climate research, AP

"Two federal agencies are investigating whether the Bush administration tried to block government scientists from speaking freely about global warming and censor their research, a senator said Wednesday. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, (D-N.J.), said he was informed that the inspector generals for the Commerce Department and NASA had begun "co- ordinated, sweeping investigations of the Bush administration's censorship and suppression" of federal research into global warming."

Expedition 14 Planning

NASA Increment Definition and Requirements Document for ISS Increment 14 SSP 54014

"This document provides the assignment of flight dates, resources and accommodations, as well as defines the requirements for Increment 14 in Planning Period 6. Requirements are provided for both joint International Space Station (ISS)/mated vehicle operations and ISS-only continuous operations stages of the increment. The schedule for products (i.e., documentation, reviews, etc.) that must be developed to support Increment 14 is found in the Common Schedule Database (CSD)."

"This year's Florida Space event, scheduled for Dec. 5-7, 2006, at the Buena Vista Palace in Orlando, Fla., has been cancelled due to launch processing requirements by NASA, the Air Force and the contractor community for the early December launches of both the Atlas vehicle and the Space Shuttle Discovery. We are currently in the process of contacting all of those affected by this decision, including speakers, registrants, sponsors, and exhibitors. If you have any questions, e-mail us at or call us at (800) 691-4000." (Source: Space Foundation)

Space Science Update

Remarks by Shana Dale at AAS/AIAA Seminar on the Importance of International Collaboration in Space Exploration

"NASA simply cannot afford every mission that every astronomer would like us to do as soon as they would like us to do it. With significantly under-estimated costs for the James Webb Space Telescope, additional costs for the next Hubble Servicing Mission and continuation of the SOFIA program, we decided the best course was to turn the Space Interferometry Mission and Terrestrial Planet-Finding missions into technology development efforts for the time being."

Oxygen Problems Concern Space Station Managers, SpaceRef

Editor's note: The Expedition 14 crew has been unable to get the Russian Elektron Oxygen generation unit to operate normally. As can be seen below this has been an ongoing problem with serious issues arising more than a month ago.The STS-116 mission is slated for launch no earlier than 7 December 2006.

Much Needed Elektron Parts, earlier post

Breathing Easy in Space Is Never Easy, IEEE Spectrum

Going Back - To Stay

On the Verge of the International Polar Year, NSF Commemorates the 50th Anniversary of First Flight To Land at the South Pole

"Fifty years ago, on Oct. 31, 1956, a tiny U.S. plane made that science possible when it landed on the ice sheet at the southern end of the world, 9,300 feet above sea level. That landing will be commemorated at a ceremony today at the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Fla. The ceremony is scheduled to include a telephone call from NSF Director Arden Bement to personnel at the South Pole."

Editor's note: Half a century ago we did such things, and Antarctic exploration moved from visits to habitation. We have been there ever since. Not so on the Moon. If/when America returns according to the VSE's schedule, it will have been half a century - of absence. Will we return to stay? Given the enormous costs that Mike Griffin's plans call for, I am not sure we can afford it - especialy when you hear talk of a $5 billion annual cost associated with two lunar sorties and $5-6 billion to build the first LSAM.

NASA International Space Station De-crewing and Re-crewing Plan SSP 50715

"De-crewing of the International Space Station (ISS) could occur as a result of several scenarios including; major system failure (unrecoverable or resulting in emergency condition), medical emergency or related problem, or insufficient consumables. Each of these scenarios initiates a decision making process where the de-crewing event will be classified as "planned" or "unplanned" for discussion purposes in this document. The approach to de-crewing is directly related to the scenario classification and additional definitions provided herein."



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