You Just Can't Trust Those Former Astronauts

If You Quit The NASA Astronaut Corps You Lose Your JSC Badge, SpaceRef

"After October 1, I emailed the administrative assistant in the astronaut office to find out what I needed to do in order to get a new badge. I was told that I could not get one. I was told that the only way that I can get on site would be to check in at the JSC security office to get a temporary badge, one that was good for up to five consecutive days of access. This is one of those badges that you get when you forget yours at home."

Comments? Send them to nasawatch@reston.com Your responses thus far:


Hi Keith. There's lots of stories of NASA Security SNAFUS that would be very amusing, if they weren't such a sad commentary on how clueless and worthless the bureaucratic side of the agency is. Here's one about current astronauts as "security risks."

The night after we landed from STS-90 back in May 1998 the crew and I and our families were on board a NASA - very well marked - bus transiting from crew quarters to a downtown hotel. It was after about a 20 hour day from waking up on orbit, doing deorbit prep, deorbit, reentry, landing, post-landing, about 10 hours medical tests as part of the payload studies, and post-flight press conference.

As we were not to fly back to Houston until the next day I coordinated with NASA management approval that we could stay in town at the family hotel. As you might expect, we were absolutely exhausted and wanted nothing more to get to the hotel ASAP and fall into bed.

As we were riding in this NASA bus on the Cape side, one of the clueless rent-a-cops pulled the bus over. The bus driver was a little flummoxed as he hadn't been speeding and had committed no violation. After a couple minutes of just sitting there, I decided that the CDR needed to take some action so I hopped off the bus to go inquire of the security guy just what was going on.

As I was walking back towards the rent-a-cop car, he used his megaphone to shout "Get back on the bus, now!" Since I figured this might be one day in my life where I might just be bullet-proof - after all I had brought their $2 billion spacecraft home safe and sound just 12 hours earlier - I shook my head no, continued on (wearing my blue flight suit BTW) and got in this guys face with some pretty pointed questions about just what the heck he thought he was doing. He mumbled some paltry excuses about no one telling him there was to be a "vehicle movement."

So as nicely as I could manage given the rising frustration of interacting with this guy, I informed him that I had an exhausted space crew that I felt deserved at least the chance to get a little rest and that he had one minute to solve his little issues or first thing the next morning both the KSC director and 45th Space Wing commander would be getting calls from me highlighting a number of shortfalls reflecting on his competence.

As I hopped back on the bus I smiled and told the crew (five of whom were rookies and thought that they would get this great hero welcome back), "Well guys, this is the way it really is - you don't even get your 24 hours to bask in the limelight, it's back to the end of the line and back to being just another underappreciated government empoloyee!"

So glad I don't work for the government anymore. Being out in the private sector has shown me over and over again just how hopelessly mired in bureaucracy any civilian government agency is...

Rick Searfoss


I'm commenting on the comment from the recently retired JSC astronaut about not being able to get a badge for long-term access to JSC. This unnamed individual commented somewhat derisively about the NASA Alumni League and the fact that it's members can get a photo access badge good for the year-long period of their membership.

The NASA Alumni League is not associated with NASA, but is an organization of NASA retirees who like to stay in touch with one another, participate in social and educational activities, try to influence national legislation in favor of the space program, and who support NASA whenever the opportunity arises. There are NASA Alumni League Chapters in Washington, KSC, JSC, aned Stennis areas. The Washington bunch acts as the Headquarters function for the national group, which is a 501c3 not-for-profit group.

The JSC Chapter provides a lot of services to JSC at their request, primarily associated with tapping into special expertise of the retirees for special projects. In addition we support the JSC Scholarship fund, the Space Center Houston educational program, The Challenger Center at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, etc. We have several technical dinner programs each year to allow our members to keep up with NASA activities; and we have a monthly social (beer bust) to get together and visit and "catch up". Our dues are $30 per year - the JSC Chapter keeps $5 and $25 goes to the national office in Washington to support office expenses and the cost of running the organization. National Chairman is James Beggs, and ex-Administrator.

A few years ago, based on the service the JSC Chapter provides to JSC, I made an agreement with the JSC Center Director that NAL members could obtain a photo badge good for a year's access to JSC (during the year period of the membership). In addition I was able to negotiate some increased JSC gymnasium time during off-peak hours for all retirees.

The NASA Alumni League is a great organization which serves its members and JSC and provides value for the $30 annual dues. Membership is strictly optional. There is no organizational link between the NASA Alumni League and NASA.

All retirees are welcome to join and can evaluate for themselves whether they think their membership is worth the cost. At this point several hundred folks are members.

Norman Chaffee President, JSC Chapter


About the article on Astronaut loses his NASA Badge. That has been in effect for retirees for a while. It used to be a retiree badge could get access but no more. It really breaks my heart that this person has to revert to the process of the common man including joining the NASA Alumni League. I do not know exactly what good a retiree badge really does except as a ID for expediting a Temporary Visitors Badge. By the way, I retired after 42 years at JSC which included working with both Confidential and Secret Stuff and going through the type of rigorous Security Clearance they used to do and badges that indicated the level of clearance on had.


Comment : My husband also lost his permanent retirement badge. The reason the policy was changed was because of a certain astronaut who used his retirement badge to gain unlimited access to NASA and it's people after the Columbia accident. His comments about NASA were,to say the very least, caustic, unflattering. I don't know whether they were true or not, but he took his thought directly to the press instead of working within the NASA system to address his concerns (which he could have done). Because of this, no retiree has a permanent badge anymore. I have not heard about the $30.00 badge re-instatement but will have my husband check it out. Please do not use my name as I am a current NASA employee...Thanks

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on December 13, 2006 9:56 AM.

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