"NASA's New Horizons spacecraft successfully completed a flyby of Jupiter early this morning, using the massive planet's gravity to pick up speed on its 3-billion mile voyage to Pluto and the unexplored Kuiper Belt region beyond."
February 2007 Archives
"On February 15, 2007, the President signed into law a joint resolution stipulating FY 2007 funding levels for NASA and other Federal agencies. This appropriation reduces overall funding for NASA by $545 million from the President's FY 2007 request. The FY 2008 budget request could not possibly factor the impact of such a funding reduction from FY 2007 appropriation for NASA's carefully-considered multi-year programs, and thus, several programs in the FY 2008 budget request will be impacted."
Griffin now expects a 4-6 month slip in delivery of Orion, thus pushing delivery into FY 2015 - with delivery in December 2014 at the earliest.
Editor's note: Today's edition of the Washington Post has a half page color advertisement on page A12 [close up]. The ad was placed by United Technologies and focuses on a rather detailed diagram of how a spacesuit is constructed.
Alas, one thing is missing: the urine collection system i.e. "diaper" that is worn underneath. Normally, this would not be a big deal. Yet, given recent detailed news about how astronauts use diapers, you'd think that such a detailed diagram - one that deliberately begs the question as to how complex and functional these suits are - could do a public service by showing exactly how a spacesuit really works - including waste management.
Alas, UT not only avoids that issue - they compound the omission by putting the following quote in the ad - thus raising the topic: "Which leads us to the #1 question: How do the astronauts go to the bathroom? Like everyone else".
"Like everyone else"? I don't think so. Would you lock yourself in a bulky body bag for hours at a time without a way to pee?
Reader note: "Coincidentally, representatives of MTV's popular dating series, "Next," are interviewing candidates in the rooms next to three of the science subcommittees of the NASA Advisory Committee (NAC). Blonde ASU co-eds, spike-haired rock groups, and MTV production designers have been eyeing each other over coffee with Headquarters's bureaucrats, aging astronauts, and academics fashionably outfitted in their Dockers. So far, the "outreach" activities by the scientists consist of enquiring what MTV is and what does TV dating consist of these days."
Reader note: "So much for cooperation between NASA and Google. Langley's net nanny, Websense (AKA WebNonsense), is now blocking all access to Google videos at www.video.google.com yet they still allow full access to Youtube. I guess that's so we can all keep tabs on our PAO folks while they are on travel."
NASA PAO parties on travel, NASA LaRC PAO
Editor's note: According to the National Academies of Science, "Review of NASA's Space Flight Health Standards-Setting Process" (Letter Report) is due to be released in March by the Institute of Medicine. This report "Assesses the current process by which NASA establishes space flight health standards such as fitness-for-duty criteria and limits on radiation and other exposures. The standards are intended to mitigate health risks astronauts face during long missions."
"A February 15 memorandum from the Office of Management and Budget instructs the heads of federal departments and agencies not to obligate funding for earmarks contained in congressional reports or documents through September 30 of this year. Earmarked funding can only be provided for a project or activity if it has been specifically identified in statutory text. As a result, earmarks for thousands of projects remaining from previous years have been canceled."
"A hail storm at NASA Kennedy Space Center has damaged the external tank attached to Space Shuttle Atlantis. The damage is severe enough to cause the launch of Atlantis to be delayed at least one month - perhaps longer. According to Space Shuttle program manager Wayne Hale, a severe, localized thunderstorm developed over NASA Kennedy Space Center yesterday. The storm was rather intense and dropped a lot of golf ball sized hail on the launch pads. That hail was driven by 62 mph gusts."
"The International Space Station Independent Safety Task Force's final report is now available online. The report was released simultaneously Tuesday to Congress, NASA and the public. The Congressionally-mandated task force was chartered last year under Section 1281 of the NASA Authorization Act of 2005. It was charged with reviewing the International Space Station program to assess potential vulnerabilities that could threaten the station or its crew or lead to it being prematurely abandoned."
"... Within the program, three of the four projects are rated yellow: Orion, Ares and Ground Operations. Mission Operations Project is rated green at this time. ... Green is on target, yellow is off target but recoverable, red is unrecoverable."
"... Reserves posture: carrying 5-16% being held at the program level. This means that each project is not receiving full reserves at this time."
"... The program is driving toward development by 2012 and would like to get flight dates as close as possible to 2012, so they are working different combinations to do that. However, the reserves fall in between 2012-2014, not when needed."
Editor's note: Since this meeting, the LRO program has already gone $45M over budget, principally at GSFC, per FY 2008 budget documents. More importantly, this presentation was made before the 2007 budget CR was announced and enacted - a budget that just makes bothersome things much worse for ESMD.
"After six years of receiving pension checks that she had come to depend on, Lillian West received a shocking letter in December. The monthly checks had been sent in error and would cease immediately, the letter informed her -- but that wasn't all. The sender, Boeing Co., wanted all of its money back -- more than $32,000 -- in either a lump sum or 20 quarterly installments of $1,630.09."
Exclusive: Sealaunch Odyssey Returns Home, Dethroner
"A couple of weeks ago a rocket exploded on the pad at the Sealaunch facility in the Pacific. I wrote a short overview for Popular Mechanics, but wasnt able to secure the one thing I really wanted: pictures of the Odyssey launch platform after the explosion. Sealaunch told me they would likely never release images of the post-incident Odyssey launch platform."
No more coal power, says NASA, Courier-Mail
"There should be a moratorium on building any more coal-fired power plants until the technology to capture and sequester the (carbon dioxide emissions) is available," said James Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies."
NASA Program Management Council Minutes 1 November 2006. Rex Geveden, Associate Administrator: "Ownership of data: There have been recent issues that surfaced where data was denied to review teams needing access to perform their functions. Anyone requesting data for an internal review should have access. To deny access is unacceptable behavior. If it is embargoed data then tag it accordingly, but don't deny access."
NASA Program Management Council Minutes 14 September 2006: "Griffin acknowledged his long friendship with Cleave and noted she has made significant accomplishments over her tenure. Cleave had an agreement with Griffin at the onset that she wanted to retire in 20 months. Griffin specifically contradicted media reports suggesting that Colleen Hartman, Deputy AA SMD, had been asked to leave."
"Griffin stressed the extreme importance of understanding and using the Agency's governance structure. He reminded center directors that they do not tell a mission director how to run his/her program or what program to run. He told mission directors that they do not tell center directors how to manage their institutions."
NASA Releases More Earth Data for Google Earth, Google Earth Blog
"NASA continues to add some great visualizations for overlaying in Google Earth. This time they have added some data again from MODIS (Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer). As recently reported, you can get near real-time color imagery of the entire Earth viewable in GE4. Now, they have released more full-globe imagery which show different scientific data."
Teens Can Multitask, But What Are Costs?, Washington Post
"Researchers say there isn't any answer yet to whether multitasking helps, hurts or has no effect on teens' development. "Given that kids have grown up always doing this, it may turn out that they are more skilled at it. We just don't know yet," said Russell Poldrack, an associate professor of psychology at the University of California at Los Angeles, who co-authored a study that examined multitasking and brain activity."
"I don't think that we need to adapt our educational strategies to the short attention span of today's students," stated Dr. Porter. "Rather, I think that we need to teach them discipline and perseverance. We need to coach them not to expect instant gratification, but to recover from failure and keep going - a quality shared by productive aerospace engineers."
20 Feb 2007 Addendum: Memorandum with Management Comments provided in response to the 2 Nov 2006 Final Memorandum on Observations on the Review and Approval of Glenn Research Center's Relocation of the Altitude Combustion Stand Facility.
"Although events overtook our recommendation, the Agency's failure to comply with its own procedural requirements and ensure the appropriate use of resources remains troubling. ... Perhaps most concerning is the apparent belief that once NASA has built a facility to meet requirements for certain capabilities, that those requirements continue on indefinitely and justify the construction of replacement facilities years later without due consideration of whether there is a continuing need. There is no fiduciary duty to preserve capabilities that are no longer needed. There is a fiduciary duty to keep from investing in unneeded facilities, and this duty provides the underpinning for the requirements that NASA did not follow in constructing the ACS facility."
Editor's note: The Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee has scheduled a Hearing on NASA's Budget for 28 February - i.e. this Wednesday. Mike Griffin is testifying. Yet, if you were to rely on NASA's Legislative Affairs Congressional Hearing Calendar (last upated 17 January 2007) which says "NO SCHEDULED HEARINGS" you wouldn't know that this hearing was even happening. You would think that with all of the budget issues swirling around, that NASA HQ would want its people to know what is going on.
Editor's update: After sitting untended for more than a month Code L updated this web page around 5:00 pm EST today.
Editor's note: According to an OPM status report: "The following message applies only to Monday, February 26, 2007 - Federal agencies in the Washington, DC, area are OPEN under an UNSCHEDULED LEAVE policy."
According to NASA GSFC: "Code Blue In Effect for Goddard Greenbelt Facility - As of 5:00 a.m., on Monday, February 26, 2007, the Goddard Greenbelt Facility is operating under CODE BLUE."
"A skull and crossbones, a running person and radiating ionizing waves, all on a deep red triangle, joined other more common warning symbols today as part of a United Nations effort to reduce needless deaths and serious injuries from accidental exposure to large radioactive sources such as food irradiation and cancer therapy equipment."
Editor's note: Personally, this symbol makes me think that big ceiling fans can send flaming arrows down to kill pirates and people crossing the street.
"Given the recent problems Lisa Nowak experienced - problems that emerged only months after she flew on a Space Shuttle mission - questions have arisen as to how NASA might deal with an individual who exhibited problems during a mission - as well as how to catch such problems on the ground ahead of time.
The following interview was conducted with NASA's Chief Safety and Mission Assurance Officer, astronaut Bryan O'Connor in April 2006 - a few months before Lisa Nowak's space shuttle mission to the International Space Station. As such, his thoughts certainly represent his recent thinking about safety.
As such, it is somewhat disconcerting to read a recollection wherein O'Connor talks about adding a combination lock to Space Shuttle Columbia's middeck hatch on STS-40 in 1991 due to concerns over the competency of several payload specialists. Moreover, he repeats several times that he thought this whole story was "humorous" and "funny"."
"This stunning view, showing portions of the Rosetta spacecraft with Mars in the background, was taken by the Rosetta Lander Imaging System (CIVA) on board Rosetta's Philae lander just four minutes before the spacecraft reached closest approach to the Red Planet earlier this morning. While the Rosetta orbiter instruments were switched off as planned during several hours around closest approach, which occurred at 03:15 CET today, some of the lander instruments were operational and collected data from Mars."
"Iran has launched a sub-orbital rocket for scientific research not a missile capable of reaching space as earlier reported, an aerospace official told an Iranian news agency on Sunday."
"Iranian media say the country has successfully launched its first rocket capable of reaching space. But officials later said it was for research and would not go into orbit. Experts say if Iran has fired a rocket into space it would cause alarm abroad as it would mean scientists had crossed important technological barriers."
Iran's Sputnik, Aviation Week & Space Technology (29 January 2007)
"Iran has just completed conversion of a powerful ballistic missile into a satellite launch vehicle. But the 25-30-ton rocket could be a wolf in sheep's clothing to test longer-range Iranian missile technologies. The Bush administration will likely view the vehicle as a rogue rocket developed in a cabal of Iran and North Korea. The new launcher has recently been assembled and "will liftoff soon," says Alaoddin Boroujerdi, chairman of the Iranian parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission."
"There has been some recent interest in the sorts of diaper products astronauts use in space. In addition to full sized adult diapers used during Space Shuttle launches and landings, and spacewalks, there are diaper related products on board the International Space Station (ISS) as well. As was noted in a previous article in December 2005, NASA flies Huggies brand products aboard the ISS. This practice continues today."
"It turns out NASA has a detailed set of written procedures for dealing with a suicidal or psychotic astronaut in space. The documents, obtained this week by The Associated Press, say the astronaut's crewmates should bind his wrists and ankles with duct tape, tie him down with a bungee cord and inject him with tranquilizers if necessary."
Editor's note: Yawn, this is not news. Excerpts from these documents were online here at NASA Watch and SpaceRef 7 years ago. For example, here is a suicide prevention procedure and here is one for acute psychosis. Oh yes, there's an on-orbit pregnancy test too. Mike Schneider could have just Googled NASA emergency medical and he'd have found this a lot faster.
Editor's 24 Feb Update: If you look here at the Smoking Gun you will note, by some unfathomable coincidence, that they grabbed precisely the same two emergency procedures I featured in this article (among many others that I have also linked to) and published them - without bothering to note their source.
Bigelow Shoots for the Moon, MSNBC
"In an exclusive interview this week, Las Vegas billionaire Robert Bigelow confirmed that his company has been talking about the concept with NASA and that the first earthly tests of the techniques involved would take place later this year. The scenario he sketched out would essentially make Bigelow ageneral contractor for the final frontier."
"NASA will conduct a single overview session with Industry on March 6, 2007. This session will be held with the declared Upper Stage Production potential Prime Contractor Teams who previously responded to the Notice of Intent and also attended the one-on-ones at the presolicitation conference. Industry participation shall be limited to five persons per team. The content of this session is for the Government to present a demonstration of the cost volume spreadsheets. Any questions and answers will be processed as stated in the Final RFP."
Editor's note: Small wonder there haven't been any human rated UK spacecraft ... yet. The best advice for situations such as the one depicted in this YouTube video was once offered by Monty Python: "Run Away!"
"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) currently provides reduced gravity flight services using NASA owned and operated aircraft. NASA will begin acquiring Reduced Gravity Aircraft services through outside sources."
Editor's note: The more I read the documents associated with this draft solicitation, the more convinced I am that the NASA civil servants who wrote this procurement are going out of their way to make it hard - if not impossible for a private contractor to meet these requirements. In so doing they serve to safeguard NASA's current monopoly. It is no secret that the folks at JSC see the operation of their reduced gravity airplane as a God-given right (or at least one handed down by George Abbey) - one they will not easily give up.
Editor's note: Late last year, NASA ARC's GeneSat-1 was launched from Wallops Flight Facility. This small satellite was unqiue in many ways for a NASA project - it's small size - and it's payload - cutting edge genomics instrumentation. In addition, the operation of the spacecraft had a hefty student component. (See GeneSat News)
These three YouTube videos document many of the activities by these students at Santa Clara University and their participation in the GeneSat-1 mission.
"Expedition 14 Commander Michael Lopez-Alegria and Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin retracted a stuck antenna on a cargo spacecraft during a 6-hour, 18-minute spacewalk that ended at 10:45 a.m. CST Thursday."
Astronauts prepare for record-setting spacewalk, New Scientist
"On Thursday, Tyurin and Lopez-Alegria will first use a hammer and a chisel to try to pound the antenna into place. If that does not work, they will try to cut two of the four metal struts that hold the antenna in place."
"NASA officials signed a memorandum of understanding Tuesday with a U.S. company, Virgin Galactic, LLC, to explore the potential for collaborations on the development of space suits, heat shields for spaceships, hybrid rocket motors and hypersonic vehicles capable of traveling five or more times the speed of sound. The memorandum is only a framework to explore potential collaborations. It does not include training of NASA astronauts, an agreement to buy seats on a Virgin Galactic flight, or provision of technical advice by NASA to Virgin Galactic."
Editor's note: According to the 5 February 2007 Aerospace Daily & Defense Report: "Investigators working for NASA's inspector general have confiscated computers and interviewed political appointees in the agency's public affairs shop as a congressionally requested probe into political spinning of government-funded climate-change research results comes to a head. Among those who have had to turn over their laptops to the IG's gumshoes is Dean Acosta, Administrator Michael Griffin's former press secretary, who has since left the agency."
Editor's note: An intellectually uplfiting game from the Game Show Network: "Astronaut Moonstalker: The happy couple is on a romantic getaway in space. But a jealous lady astronaut is flying her Space Lander to the Moon. The Mission: Terminate 'Love Fest.' Beware of Moon Slugs, dark caverns, the launch pad and more. In space no one can hear you pee."
As I noted when I posted a link to the "Jealous" Astronaut Video on YouTube, the challenge to NASA: imagine if you could harness and/or inspire the same amount of creativity and personal effort toward things that promote the exploration of space - and perhaps highlight some of the many things NASA does spectacularly well? How do you work to shift the discussion away from the bad behavior of a few astronauts and focus on the things they do that should make us all proud - and inspire young people to follow their example? The "game" is located below:
"NASA officials signed a memorandum of understanding Tuesday with a U.S. company, Virgin Galactic, LLC, to explore the potential for collaborations on the development of space suits, heat shields for spaceships, hybrid rocket motors and hypersonic vehicles capable of traveling five or more times the speed of sound. Under the terms of the memorandum, NASA Ames Research Center, located in California's Silicon Valley, and Virgin Galactic LLC, a U.S.-based subsidiary of Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group, will explore possible collaborations in several technical areas employing capabilities and facilities of NASA's Ames Research Center."
Space trip deal with NASA, The Sun
"Virgin Galactica (VG) President Will Whitehorn confirmed the company had signed a co-operation deal with Nasa at midnight."
Editor's note: Gee, they can't even get the name of one of their country's more prominent and newsgrabbing business ventures correct. ("Galactica" is a TV show). Then again. what can you expect - this "newspaper" posts pictures of naked women everyday.
Virgin Galactic to train Nasa astronauts, Telegraph
"Virgin Galactic, the space tourism company set up by Sir Richard Branson, has signed a deal to help train Nasa astronauts. In return Nasa will offer technical advice to the pioneering firm, which hopes to send its first customers into space in 2008."
Editor's note: Wrong again, mates: According to NASA "The memorandum is only a framework to explore potential collaborations. It does not include training of NASA astronauts, an agreement to buy seats on a Virgin Galactic flight, or provision of technical advice by NASA to Virgin Galactic."
"Over the next several months the Center will undertake a systematic future planning process. The foundation of this effort will be a cultural and current state assessment of the Center. Upon completion of this assessment, the Center leadership team will conduct a series of planning processes and establish the strategies for implementation. The cultural and current state assessment and subsequent planning processes will be designed, implemented and managed with consultation, support, and a proven track record in facilitation of the process from Frontier Associates."
Editor's note: This is curious. Shortly after Mike Griffin arrived, all of the 'culture' contracts NASA had put into place after Columbia were quickly ended. Now, the need for such activities has (apparently) resurfaced. I wonder what would have happened if NASA had simply stuck with what it was already doing (culture-wise) back in 2005.
"Effective immediately, this memo provides new procedures in getting notification and funding out to all NASA Research and Analysis (R&A) proposers to planetary opportunities. It is important to note that this procedure is completely consistent with SMD Policy Document SPD- 08 that states all the requirements for completing R&A Selection Decision Documents (SDD). As the Selection Official (SO), it has been determined that I will be able to make decisions on some proposals and defer the decision on other proposals until later, under certain situations."
"SPACEHAB, Incorporated, a leading provider of commercial space services, today announced that the Company has filed for a formal dismissal with prejudice of all litigation against NASA relating to losses incurred by SPACEHAB as a result of the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia accident. In January 2004 the Company initiated a formal proceeding against NASA in which the Company was seeking damages in the amount of $87.7 million for the loss of its Research Double Module (RDM) as a result of the Columbia accident."
"SIGNIFICANT EVENTS: Flash Report: SBC - preliminary results - The first SBC images (science and calibration) were acquired today (Day 051). All the telemetry indicates normal conditions. The first internal flats and dark frames are consistent with those pre-dating the ACS Side 2 failure. There may be a small degradation in sensitivity (on the order of 1% or less at the shortest wavelengths). More sensitivity data will be acquired in the coming week."
Flash Report: As of 047/16:22:43 ACS is configured to its Safe mode on Side 1, and the on-board SMAC20 has been updated to the new version M to support ACS Side 1 SBC-only operations. Flash Report: As of 048/00:28:33. ACS CS FSW 4.02A has been successfully loaded, validated, and activated in the transition to the Operate state. ACS is configured to intercept the 050 SMS and resume SBC science activities. Flash Report: Results of the ACS SBC Filter Wheel Test ACS completed the SBC filter wheel test. Flash Report: The SI SEs at GSFC have been notified that ACS Flag 2 can be cleared for normal SBC operations."
"He said he supports the president's moon and Mars goals but not at the expense of the space station, which is only two-thirds complete. Glenn, a Democrat who represented Ohio from 1975 to 1999, said the station shouldn't be abandoned, especially after costing taxpayers billions of dollars. "We will not even begin to realize its potential," he said."
Slashdot's take on this article
"Astronomers are scheduled to announce new findings about planets beyond our solar system at a media teleconference Wednesday, Feb. 21, at 10 a.m. PST. The findings are from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope."
"The detection of HD 189733b's spectral continuum, accomplished with only 12 hours of Spitzer time, is a remarkable demonstration of the capability and utility of the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Infrared Spectrograph."
"Here we report a measurement of the infrared spectrum (7.5--13.2 micron) of the transiting extrasolar planet HD209458b. Our observations reveal a hot thermal continuum for the planetary spectrum, with approximately constant ratio to the stellar flux over this wavelength range. Superposed on this continuum is a broad emission peak centered near 9.65 micron that we attribute to emission by silicate clouds."
"[Republican presidential candidate John McCain] also said he strongly supports missions to Mars and that Florida should continue to play a major role in space exploration. "There's too much invested there. There's infrastructure that's very expensive and very extensive there," he said."
Editor's update: An email received today by students from Sonya Greene at UNCF says: "We appreciate your patience over the past few weeks as we continuously worked with NASA to resolve your payment issues. I am pleased to inform you that your remaining stipend payments and tuition are now being processed. You should receive them by early next week. I will personally email you when they have been mailed out. If you have not yet received your $500 partial payment, which was mailed out on February 8th, 2007, please email myself, or Tamika Wiggins, ASAP to verify your mailing address. This is imperative, as your payments may be further delayed if we do not have your correct information."
"The Coalition for Space Exploration today announced a partnership with the Texas Space Grant Consortium to sponsor the 2007 NASA Means Business competition. NASA Means Business (NMB) is a program that provides an opportunity for college students in marketing, advertising and media to demonstrate and develop their skills by producing a communications plan that will inform and inspire the public to support America's space program."
Editor's note: It seems the new leadership at the Coalition for Space Exploration has gotten the message that an increasing number of people have been sending lately i.e. that more of an effort needs to be made to enlist and reach out to younger people with regard to space exploration. The group that will be funded in Texas has already made some amazing stuff - most notably, in my opinion, the short Public Service Announcement titled "Reach". This selection is an excellent first step. Much, much more remains to be done however.
Reach Video link, NASA Means Business competition in 2003
Reader comment: "Check out today's (Tues Feb 20) USA Today, Page A10 - a full page ad touting National Engineers Week, sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration,the National Science Foundation, the US Army Corps of Engineers and the US Nave Nuclear Propulsion Program. --- Where's NASA?"
NASA Goes Deep, op ed, NY Times
"After years of spending our nation's space budget building an orbiting space station of questionable utility, serviced by an operationally expensive space shuttle of unsafe design, NASA has set a new direction for the future of human spaceflight. Once again, we have our sights on the Moon ... and beyond. We are finally, bodily, going to make our way into space, this time to stay."
Editor's note: While I agree (strongly in most cases) with almost all of what Dr. Porco has written, I have to disagree with her gratuitous slap at human spaceflight. It simply serves no useful purpose to dump on one space project - in this case the International Space Station Program - as part of a justification for the value of another program (hers i.e. Cassini).
Fiscal Year 2007 Joint Funding Resolution, Senate Appropriations Committee, 14 Feb 2007:
"NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION (NASA) The Appropriations Committee does not provide additional funding for NASA. However, unlike the base CR, specific funding levels for NASA sub-accounts are designated."
"While I would have liked to have increased funding for NASA, there was simply not enough extra funding available for us to do so. Within the limits of NASA's FY 06 operating plan, we added an extra $460 million to exploration while protecting other critical NASA programs in science and aeronautics. With only seven months left in this fiscal year, I believe NASA will be able to manage their programs in exploration with minimal impact to the overall schedule."
"Adventurer Robert Swan sets sail on a polar expedition next week to launch what he says is the world's first online education center in Antarctica that will offer children a real-time glimpse of life on the ice."
The eBase at Bellinshausen, Inspire Antarctic Expedition 5
As low as an astronaut can go, Opinion, Houston Chronicle
"Nowak's actions set a standard of sorts to define what an astronaut can do, and not be asked for his or her resignation. Who else at NASA can stalk and then pepper spray a rival in an extramarital affair, and keep his or her job? This fits a clear pattern at NASA. Rise high enough in the organization and your responsibility for flawed actions ceases to be an issue. Not a single major participant in the Columbia disaster has been fired. Not one. In the seemingly unlikely event that Nowak avoids prison, history tells us that she will survive in her job."
Editor's note: The Houston Chronicle has certainly stooped to a new low by publishing a rambling diatribe by space policy wannabe Robert Oler - one wherein he cites the actions of one troubled individual as being representative of the job performance of all within the agency. Oler's comparison is not only unsupportable it is despicable and insulting to the vast majority of employees at NASA.
Also, FYI, there is no "Clear Lake Group". In reality it is two guys, one of whom does not even live in Clear Lake, who pretend to understand space policy - and sucker naive publications into publishing their rants. Indeed, Oler is so sloppy when it comes to detail that he seems not to have noticed that he got the spelling of Lindsey's name wrong half a dozen times.
Editor's update: Mr. Oler has some further (sickening) thoughts on Lisa Nowak - check out this link - scroll down a bit - its the first posting by Mr. Oler under "comments".
Comments? Send them to email@example.com. Comments thus far:
"...companies, universities and even government agencies like NASA are investing time and dollars as they take a hard look at how people interact with technology. "Design is starting to change who succeeds and who fails," said Alonso Vera, a senior research scientist at NASA Ames Research Center who's also a senior systems scientist at Carnegie Mellon University. "A few years ago that wasn't true. If I had a better algorithm, I would win," he said."
"Taking multitasking to new heights, NASA launched the five THEMIS satellites aboard a single Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 6:01 p.m. EST. Racing into space on the flaming power of three rocket stages and nine solid rocket motors, the THEMIS satellites will soon disperse around Earth to monitor auroras like the Northern Lights."
Woman in astronaut case drops request for protective order, Houston Chronicle
"Colleen Shipman, 30, withdrew her petition for "protection against repeat violence" Thursday, officials said today. Nowak still faces charges of attempted murder and attempted kidnapping."
"A NASA astronaut has entered a written plea of not guilty to a charge of attempted murder, according to court records."
"Mike Griffin and Shana Dale will be visiting Ames the week of February 19 for, among other events, the NASA Strategic and Program Management Councils. They would like to take that opportunity to talk to the Ames community at an all-hands gathering."
GAO: NASA's Management of its Contractor Award Fees Needs to be Improved, House Science and Technology Committee
"Given NASA's dependence on cost-plus-award-fee contracts, I'm concerned that GAO's investigation found that NASA has failed to follow its own long-standing guidelines governing award fees," stated Chairman Gordon in response to the GAO findings. "While there can be mitigating factors, I don't think it makes sense for contractors to receive a majority of the allowable award fee if they don't meet the contract's cost, schedule, or performance requirements. I want to make sure NASA is using taxpayer dollars as wisely and efficiently as possible."
"NASA officials expressed satisfaction with the results of the contracts we reviewed, and this was further evidenced by the extent of fee paid. NASA's satisfaction was based on its evaluations of contractor performance against criteria established in the award-fee plan. While NASA's evaluations would indicate generally good contractor performance, that performance did not always translate into desired program outcomes. That disconnect raises questions as to the extent NASA is achieving the effectiveness it sought through the establishment of guidance on the use of award fees."
Editor's note: Last May I spent some time in a windowless warehouse in an undisclosed location north of Los Angeles. While there I was interviewed for a TV special being produced in connection with the Star Trek prop auction held in New York last year. Two Star Trek related TV shows will air on the History Channel on 19 February. Star Trek: Beyond the Final Frontier and Star Trek Tech (airs on both 18 and 19 February). I am not sure if I will be in these shows since my footage was in and then out at one point while the shows were being edited.
Even if I don't get included, it was sure fun to see this collection of cultural icons. Imagine a warehouse the size of a supermarket with aisle after aisle of Star Trek props. Captain Kirk's rock climbing shoes, T'Pau's gown, phasers, gold-pressed latinum, transporter pads, and lots of Borg parts. It was all there. Part of my interview took place while I sat in a Klingon commander's chair (right image). They even beamed me in and out of it! (you actually do feel a little tingly for a moment).
While I sat there and talked about connections between NASA and Star Trek, I was fiddling with some of those colored floppy disks from Kirk's Enterprise and some isolinear chips from Picard's ship. Lots of fun.
"Some people are trying to sell dozens of items on eBay that are supposedly connected to astronaut Lisa Nowak, including a diaper."
Motion-sensitive spacesuits could generate power, New Scientist
"Astronauts' spacesuits may one day be covered in motion-sensitive proteins that could generate power from the astronauts' movement, according to futuristic research being conducted by a new lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts, US. Such "power skins" could also be used to coat future human bases on Mars, where they could produce energy from the Martian wind."
"Liquid or gas flowed through cracks penetrating underground rock on ancient Mars, according to a report based on some of the first observations by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. These fluids may have produced conditions to support possible habitats for microbial life. These ancient patterns were revealed when the most powerful telescopic camera ever sent to Mars began examining the planet last year. The camera showed features as small as approximately 3 feet (one meter) across."
JPL Continues Battle of Budget, Arcadia Weekly
"Congressmen Adam Schiff and David Dreier have been the budget bodyguards for the local space center, which Schiff calls the "crown jewel" of the nation's space program. Budget cuts for NASA and continued efforts to direct priorities to the manned space program and the space shuttle has put the robotic explorations popularized by JPL into a secondary position."
JPL Budget Not Likely to Lead to Lay-offs, Valley Sun
"JPL is budgeted project by project, O'Toole said. The projects that JPL is now working on have already had their budgets approved. It is this year's budget constraints that are more of a concern for O'Toole than the 2008 purposed budget."
"Louisiana and NASA officials committed Thursday to wide-ranging discussions on ways to expand research and development at the space agency's Michoud Assembly Facility in eastern New Orleans. State economic development leaders hope the agreement will help spur rebuilding and job growth in an area struggling to recover after Hurricane Katrina, while retaining 2,000 jobs at Michoud."
Editor's note: Of course, there re 'cat people' and there are 'dog people'. As such, dogs have been flown on parabolic plane rides as well. In this instance, the weightless pooch seems to be having a little more fun than the cat did - even if he has a somewhat puzzled look on his face. Thanks to A.S. for finding this.
Want to fly with NASA? Don't admit your problems, New Scientist
"We can never be sure how much Lisa Nowak's job or her space flight aboard the shuttle Discovery last July affected her state of mind. But her arrest for attempted murder last week has raised questions over the stress astronauts must cope with and the processes in place to deal with problems when they occur."
"The President's 2008 Budget for NASA is $17.3 billion, a 3.1 percent increase over the President's 2007 request, reflecting a strong commitment by the Administration to the continued pursuit of the Vision for Space Exploration. The 2007 House-passed full-year CR, however, reduces the 2007 Budget by $545 million to $16.2 billion. If NASA is not provided its 2007 request level of $16.8 billion, the agency needs flexibility within its appropriation accounts to reduce the adverse consequences of a top-line reduction."
Lawmakers, administration clash over science funding, Government Executive
"[House Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon] also noted that NASA is not included in the president's competitiveness agenda, and he questioned whether that means the administration does not view aeronautics, earth and space sciences as "world-class" sciences."
Editor's note: They say that cats always land on their feet (at least mine do - so far) when you drop them. But what happens when there is no "down" to guide them as they fall? I am not sure what the context of this video is - i.e. under what conditions they decided to fly a cat on a series of parabolic flights. And I am certain that the cat was probably rather freaked out (these are clearly not cat people). Indeed, the folks on this flight are wearing blue suits i.e. NASA. I wonder if this was just a stunt - a rather
bad cruel one at that (from the cat's perspective). That said, the cat's reactions to freefall are interesting.
Sent: Wed Feb 14 18:04:44 2007
Subject: Operating Status Update
The following message applies only to Thursday, February 15, 2007
Federal agencies in the Washington, DC, area are OPEN under an UNSCHEDULED LEAVE policy.
Editor's note: The New Horizons Project has a rather new cool video online - one that is a radical departure from the pretty, but somewhat sterile animations that NASA picks - videos that often have dorky narration and ill-fitting music. This video is very reminiscent of the promos that the Star Trek series "Enterprise" used and the ones now being used to promote the remastered episodes from the original Star Trek series. Mike Buckley, Kerri Beisser and others at APL put this video together. The person behind the New Horizons mission is PI Alan Stern - soon to be the new Science Mission Directorate Associate Administrator at NASA Headquarters. Are videos like this a preview of things to come? A link to the video is below.
Dana Rohrbacher and gassy dinosaurs, The Hill
"During a hearing last Thursday of the House Science Committee, Rohrabacher, who obviously has serious questions about how mankind relates to global warming, said, "We don't know what the other cycles were caused by in the past. It could be dinosaur flatulence. Who knows?" In just a few days, that comment quickly made the rounds on the Internet. Google searches for "Rohrabacher and dinosaur flatulence" hit 693 yesterday."
Editor's note: Have a look at "The Jealous Astronaut". This short animated cartoon has a certain retro Jetsons/I Dream of Jeannie thing going on. It has been one week since this story broke. People were posting YouTube videos within hours. Now, more sophisticated animations are appearing online.
The challenge to NASA: imagine if you could harness and/or inspire the same amount of creativity and personal effort toward things that promote the exploration of space - and perhaps highlight some of the many things NASA does spectacularly well? How do you work to shift the discussion away from the bad behavior of a few astronauts and focus on the things they do that should make us all proud - and inspire young people to follow their example? The video is also on YouTube (below)
"Loretta and George Whitesides, the first couple to honeymoon in space, launched a new website on Valentine's Day to share the excitement of their upcoming adventure with the public. Loretta and George are two of 100 Virgin Galactic 'Founders'- the people who have paid in full to be the first to fly on Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic Spaceline. The Space Love website will document the preparation and lead-up to the flight, and include suggestions for others who wish to celebrate their own honeymoons, anniversaries or even weddings in space."
"Manned" Mission to Mars, Smart Girls Rock
"I can hear it now. "Just look what might happen." "Well you remember what happened with Lisa Nowak back in 2007." "There's proof right there that women should not be sent on these first few missions." The "Nowak Event" will overshadow Shannon Lucid's record-breaking stay in space, Eileen Collins' turn as the first woman (in the Universe) to command a space mission, Cady Coleman's excellent work with the Chandra X-Ray Observatory and so many other "big steps" for women in the space program."
"Dr. Charles Simonyi's site, was created to further advance his three space mission objectives: to advance civilian space flight, assist in space station research, and involve the world's youth in the science of space travel. ... From training to landing, Dr. Simonyi is dedicated to making the experience as tangible as possible. He considers his flight to be one more step in the inevitable progression towards civilian space travel. "
"The nation is getting ready to spend a lot of money to deal with climate change in the coming years. I'm worried that we are going to be 'flying blind' if we don't ensure that America's Earth observation satellite system is up to the task of continuing to collect critical climate science data needed to guide our policy decisions," said Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN)."
"The National Academies decadal survey states that the Nation's system of environmental satellites is "at risk of collapse." The report goes on to say that the current state of "budgetary constraints and programmatic difficulties at NASA and NOAA have greatly exacerbated this concern. At a time of unprecedented need, the nation's Earth observation satellite programs, once the envy of the world, are in disarray."
"The world's first private female space explorer, Anousheh Ansari is writing a memoir of her life experiences with the assistance of Homer Hickam, author of the No. 1 New York Times best-seller "Rocket Boys," which was made into the critically acclaimed movie "October Sky. "Homer and I share a deep love of space, as well as a passion for educating people about the importance of space in solving problems here on Earth," said Ansari, who plans to donate her proceeds from the book to charity"
Prayers and questions aplenty in astronaut case -- but few answers, Houston Chronicle
"But [NASA Watch.com editor Keith] Cowing said rumors are circulating on the Internet and even around NASA, and he's worried that NASA, which has struggled with image problems, won't be able to stop a new perception of its astronaut corps as being wild and promiscuous. A recent "Saturday Night Live" skit full of sexual innuendo poked fun at the situation, with an actor portraying Oefelein explaining it by saying "Look at me, I'm a hunk!"
"Unfortunately, the impression you get is that the astronaut office is a bunch of frat boys on prowl at 'Girls Gone Wild' because we have just one data point to make judgment." The silence of most astronauts raises more questions, he said. Morin was the only one, out of dozens of astronauts, who returned a call seeking comment.
"It's incumbent on the astronauts corps, for its own integrity, to (address) this," Cowing said."
Editor's note: Just to be clear: I was refering to the impression that the media gets - and then shares with the public - when an event like this happens and no one at NASA tries to dispute the characterizations that are swirling about and provide a picture of the actual situation.
"To implement the President's Vision for Space Exploration, the United States must commit to the early establishment of a Moon base by 2015. This Lunar base will be an ideal testbed for opening new frontiers to human exploration by maximally employing commercial and private products and services. The AIAA/SCTC recommends that specific RDT&E goals be implemented. This will be accomplished by establishment of the scientific and industrial capabilities of a permanent Lunar settlement and development of the commercial revenue sources on the Moon."
"President Bush recognizes NASA astronauts Joan Higginbotham, right, and Robert Curbeam, during a ceremony honoring African-American History Month, Monday, Feb. 12, 2007, in the East Room at the White House in Washington. Curbeam and Higginbotham were crew members of Space Shuttle Discovery's STS-116 mission to the International Space Station in December 2006. It was the first shuttle mission with two African-American crew members."
Editor's note: Too bad the Pilot of STS-116 (Billy O) is hiding from the media in Florida and was not able to attend this important event.
Meanwhile, word has it that Robert Curbeam will replace Lauri Hansen as the Constellation Level II Safety, Reliability and Quality Assurance Manager. Hansen will reportedly become the Program Manager for development of the Lunar Lander (LSAM).
"The spaceflight community, and NASA in particular, has a serious problem on its hands. A substantial majority of the paying public, space exploration's so-called constituency, doesn't really care much about real spaceflight."
Hangar One rumor confirmed, Mountain View Voice
"Marv Christensen, NASA deputy director, told a local newspaper that any plan would require a "synergistic" partnership with the companies, the names of which were not disclosed. Despite rumors to the contrary, Google reportedly said it has no need for an airstrip, and eBay founder Jeff Skoll also claims to have no involvement in the talks."
"Looking ahead at the transition from the Shuttle and International Space Station to exploration, if there is no change in the way NASA does business, more and more of its work will go to contractors. Griffin is not looking to increase the number of NASA civil servants, but wants to ensure that in the future NASA civil servants are more involved in architecture and technical work."
NASA-Ames readies for budget cuts, Mountain View Voice
"Even though President Bush's budget proposal calls for a 3.1 percent increase in funds to NASA, officials at the agency, including NASA-Ames Director S. Pete Worden, say ambitious future projects mean it may not be enough to meet upcoming needs. Even so, Worden said, activities at Moffett Field are currently moving ahead as planned, with 50 new civil servant positions slated for the coming year."
Editor's note: as is mentioned by the author of this article "William D. Griffin, a NASA administrator" is somewhat erroneous.
"An unexpected circuit breaker trip early Sunday caused a power outage on the International Space Station, but the safety of the Expedition 14 crew and the complex was never an issue. All systems were back up by Monday morning with no impact to operations on board. The first indications of a problem came with the loss of communications between the station and mission control just after midnight CST Sunday when an electrical switching unit experienced a brief malfunction that appropriately caused a breaker to trip, which protects the electrical system of the station much like a circuit breaker protects electrical systems and equipment in a home."
"NASA Administrator Michael Griffin announced Monday that Dr. S. Alan Stern will be the agency's associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, effective April 2. Stern succeeds Dr. Mary L. Cleave who announced her retirement. Stern joins NASA from the Southwest Research Institute's Space Science and Engineering Division, Boulder, Colo., where he has been serving as executive director of the Space Science and Engineering Division."
Editor's note: Attention GSFC employees: if you notice that things around the office are dirty, smell funny, or look messy, just blame Congress (see following memo):
Editor's note: An AIAA email going around today: "Charles D. Brown, 76, longtime AIAA author, professional development instructor, and associate fellow, died 20 January 2007. Known to the book and professional development staff as Charlie, he was one of our most cherished assets. His teaching inspired his three successful AIAA textbooks and home study courses. Spacecraft Mission Design, Spacecraft Propulsion, and Elements of Spacecraft Design all have been widely adopted for university classroom use."
Editor's 12 Feb update: I originally posted this comment Thursday night. I am rather surprised that the Florida Today folks haven't responded. Either they do not read NASA Watch, or they simply do not care that this juvenile insult mongering goes on in connection with the articles they post on their website. Given that this material remains online, I have to assume that John Kelly and his staff do not mind if this material is featured on the very same page as their articles.
Go to page 4 of the comments and scroll down to the poem by "ddwise21". Pure Shakespeare.
Editor's 8 Feb note: There's some rather unsophisticated, sexist, and outright crude postings about Colleen Shipman, Lisa Nowak, et al over at Florida Today - as well as some third grade level "diaper" postings linked from (and contained within) this article.
And this is supposed to be a family newspaper - and a serious source for space news? Florida Today owes the people mentioned in these posts an apology.
Editor's: In case you missed it, Billy O made an appearance on Saturday Night Live last night and charmed Weekend Update host Amy Poehler with a variety of lines - including a few diaper references. You can even go to this official NBC discussion board topic: "Astronaut Diaper Woman, write your joke for the story that writes itself" and post your own diaper jokes.
I have also seen online references where people use "going NASA" as a replacement for the 'gone wacko' phrase "going postal". This ain't good folks.
Alas, Isn't it curious that NASA often can't get itself into the news when it wants to - and can't get out of the news when it would rather not be there.
At least there's an upside (of sorts). Previously, a surprising number of NASA-related videos people posted on YouTube seemed to focus primarily on UFOs or faked moon landings. Now they seem to focus on Lisa Nowak's misadventures.
Imagine if people (especially the 'next generation') were as equally inspired to produce and post videos which focused on the promise and adventure of space exploration. What does NASA need to do in order to help that happen? The PR certainly can't get much worse.
Editor's note: At the NASA Advisory Council Meeting today several NASA charts were shown to illustrate progress being made by NASA's Office of Communications Planning. These two presentations were the source of these selected charts - and provide an overview of current Strategic Communications thinking at NASA.
"Griffin complimented the thoroughness of the study. He stated that NASA is not funded to do anything more than the current detection program. Members discussed the origin of the congressional language and its intent. SMD Associate Administrator Mary Cleave suggested that NASA should not be in the business of building and operating ground-based telescopes but that portion of any program could be done in partnership with the National Science Foundation. Griffin stated his intent to provide the Agency's response to Congress by the due date of 28 December 2006."
"Opportunity Flips 10,000 Kilometers and Tests New Drive Software"
Editor's note:I know converting to metric is hard for the folks at JPL, but I think this should read "Opportunity Flips 10,000
Kilometers and Tests New Drive Software"
Editor's update: JPL fixed the error.
"Granada America, which has produced made-for-TV films based on other real-life personalities, optioned a Times article written by reporter John Schwartz, who will serve as a researcher on the project."
Editor's note:This AP story is TOTALLY FALSE. John Schwartz has nothing to do with this project. AP has recalled this story but it seems not everyone got the message.
"National Aeronautics and Space Administration: In reducing NASA's overall budget by $528 million from the President's 2007 request, the House also specified funding levels for NASA programs within NASA's appropriation accounts, reducing funds for exploration by $577 million below the President's request, while funding other programs in the same account at levels substantially above the request. This unbalanced allocation could jeopardize NASA's ability to develop new exploration capabilities in a timely manner. The Administration strongly urges the Senate to provide NASA with the flexibility it needs to achieve the goals and timeline of the Vision for Space Exploration, while maintaining balanced programs in space science, Earth science, and aeronautics."
Editor's note:The fact that NASA made it into the SAPdemonstrates some committment from the White House to ensuring funding for the Vision. However, the language "The Administration strongly urges the Senate to provide NASA with the flexibility it needs to achieve the goals and timeline of the Vision for Space Exploration, while maintaining balanced programs in space science, Earth science, and aeronautics." is so limp that it conveys virtually no seriousness of purpose.
NASA Tries to Make Space for Science, Science
"It is clear, however, that NASA's science program remains in crisis after having to pony up $2.44 billion from its 2007-2011 budget plan to cover shuttle and space station shortfalls. No spacecraft are slated to follow the large Earth-observing platforms now in orbit, and the earth sciences budget will remain at about $1.5 billion for the foreseeable future. Several important astrophysics flights, such as the Space Interferometry Mission, remain on hold because of budget constraints."
"NASA's astrophysics program has achieved the agency's highest priority goals by focusing on large missions such as the Hubble and James Webb space telescopes but in doing so, it has squeezed out smaller missions that could be laying the foundation for future scientific discovery, says a new report from the National Research Council."
What makes an astronaut crack?, Opinion, Homer Hickam, LA Times
"As a former NASA astronaut training manager responsible for crew training for shuttle missions, I was not entirely surprised by the initial reports of the sad, bizarre case of Lisa Marie Nowak. This isn't the first case of astronauts having difficulties in their personal lives. Usually, the straying astronaut simply resigns or retires, and everything is hushed up. But being charged with assault, attempted kidnapping and attempted murder is far greater than anything I ever observed or imagined could occur. Perhaps this tragedy will bring some of the agency's long-ignored problems into the open."
Astronaut takes leave to join victim of alleged attack, Houston Chronicle
"Astronaut Bill Oefelein has taken a leave from NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston to join girlfriend Colleen Shipman in Florida following the alleged attack on her by astronaut Lisa Nowak, a space agency official said Thursday."
Nowak's lawyer gains reputation as 'smart and aggressive',Orlando Sentinel
"Donald Lykkebak doesn't shy from high-profile cases. So it was no surprise to see him in court Tuesday representing Lisa Marie Nowak, the NASA astronaut accused of attempted murder. In his 36-year legal career, the prominent lawyer has represented defendants accused of selling missiles to Middle Eastern countries, a Disney executive's wife accused of stealing $1 million and a 540-pound man who claimed obesity drove him to traffic in cocaine."
Life after space often a challenge, USA Today
"Nowak's arrest Monday on attempted murder and other charges has drawn attention to the pressures on America's astronauts. All cope with exhausting schedules and the deflation of literally coming down to Earth after a flight. Female astronauts face extra difficulties in balancing work and family, a struggle heightened by the unusual nature of the job."
"NASA's failure in this area has always been an overreliance on astronaut's own assessment of their mental health and their inability to recognize that interpersonal issues, stress and psychological factors can have a profound impact on performance. This reticence to submit to formal psychological support programs can lead, [Veteran NASA flight surgeon and professional psychiatrist Patricia] Santy argues, to a worrisome practice secret, private counseling shielded from NASA."
Fit For Flight?, Newsweek
NASA has announced that it will be conducting a review of its psychological screening and evaluation procedures. What would you recommend the agency do differently?
"... I see the news coming out with headlines like "Lust in Space" or "Astronuts," I certainly would be reluctant to reveal an interpersonal issue, and I can certainly imagine why astronauts would be reluctant to reveal that when it jeopardizes their flight status. Those are the kinds of attitudes that need to be changed."
"Griffin sees no institutional element as having veto power; he is not willing to cede the authority of the administrator to any single organization or manager. He does not want to put the Agency is the position where it can be brought to a halt by a single manager whose risk tolerance is out of bounds with the rest of the leadership. Griffin is not limiting the question to astronauts. He posed the question: how does NASA decide whether an activity will or will not be authorized?"
Editor's note: OK. I have spouted off enough on the Nowak saga. What do you think about all of this? Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Some comments thus far:
Editor's note: Looks like MSFC is finally clamping down on its ITAR/SBU security system - from a recent internal memo by Steve Cook:
"8.DATA PROTECTION ACTIVITIES: The Integration Office is working with Marshall Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) and Protective Services representatives to develop an Organizational Work Instruction that provides roles and responsibilities and specific guidance regarding how to handle Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU) information. Chief Engineers will be engaged to provide an appendix of specific Ares launch vehicles technologies that fall under this category. The Integration Office also is preparing for a mass sign-up for Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) encryption software."
"We are very concerned about the tragic situation involving astronaut Lisa Nowak and are deeply concerned about the safety and well-being of Lisa, Air Force Captain Colleen Shipman, and Astronaut Bill Oefelein. This is, of course, a personal and legal matter -- and NASA is, therefore, limited in its involvement and ability to discuss many of the details. However, we know there are a number of questions about NASA policies and procedures, and we would like to address those today, to the extent that we can."
Editor's 7 Feb update: Dwayne Brown at PAO got me the answer about Astrobiology funding: FY07: $31.3 million; FY08: $31.9 million.
Editor's 5 Feb note: A press briefing and telecon was held Monday afternoon with Science Mission Directorate AA Mary Cleave and her senior staff. I asked SMD's Planetary Science Division's Michael New what the funding situation would be for Astrobiology in FY 2008. At first he seemed a little unsure. Then he answered that it would be similar to what happened in FY 2007. No budget numbers were offered.
When I asked him (again) for specific funding numbers for the FY 2008 budget he paused, looking a little bewildered, and said that he did not know. Several of Cleave's staff then whispered between themselves, pointed to several 4-inch thick budget briefing documents, and then said that they did not know either. PAO's Dwayne Brown will be getting back to me with numbers.
Highlights of NASA's FY 2008 Budget Request and the Year Ahead (Speech by Michael D. Griffin at the National Space Club)
"For those of you who might cynically believe that, under a future administrator, NASA will simply resort to flying the shuttle past 2010 if Orion is not far enough along, let me remind you of what the CAIB referred to as an inescapable conclusion, one that I share: The CAIB observed, "Because of the risk inherent in the original design of the space shuttle, because that design was based in many aspects on now-obsolete technologies, and because the shuttle is now an aging system but still developmental in character, it is in the nation's interest to replace the Shuttle as soon as possible as the primary means for transporting humans to and from Earth orbit." For this very reason, the CAIB expressed dismay at how "previous attempts to develop a replacement vehicle for the aging shuttle represent a failure of national leadership" and called for a rigorous vehicle safety recertification if the Shuttle were to be operated past 2010."
Editor's note: Check this Flight schedule for NASA2 Gulfstream - from Ellington Field to and back from the KSC SLF. Was this routine or was it related to the Lisa Nowak case? Using government transport to get her home was discussed internally at NASA. Nowak was released late Monday afternoon. In addition, two astronauts flew to Orlando Tuesday on government T-38 jets to "assist authorities and NASA personnel as needed" according to JSC PAO. It is certainly good that NASA takes care of its own - and speaks well of the people involved. But is it proper for taxpayer dollars to be spent on jet aircraft flying back and forth to handle a legal situation created by an employee on their own time?
Editor's Wednesday update: Lisa Nowak is arriving via commercial jet in Houston right now. If you examine the link above which tracks NASA2 you'll see that it took off from a point east of Orlando - at KSC- which would violate the court's limits on Nowak's travel. None the less, the issue of sending NASA personnel - astronauts and psych experts - via government transport - for a civil servant's personnal legal troubles - remains at issue.
Editor's Wednesday update: I just spoke with Eileen Hawley at NASA JSC PAO. She told me that the flight orders for the 6 Feb flight of NASA@ to KSC were signed back on 27 January and that this was a routine ISS training flight. As for sending NASA personnel to Florida, she said that Steve Lindsey was sent out when it was only known that Lisa Nowak had been arrested (no reason given) and that his job as her supervisor was to find out what was going on with one of his employees. Events then unfolded quickly after that.
"We will not be granting interviews at this time, but do want to issue the following statement in response to numerous media requests."
Editor's note: It has been 24 hours since the Lisa Nowak story broke. NASA management knew about it some time before it became public knowledge. Yet, with the exception of some brief comments from JSC PAO and briefer comments from astronaut Steve Lindsey, the agency is seemingly incapable of releasing an official statement. As such, the media are in complete control of this story and are running away with it at a frantic pace. If NASA does not exert some decisive leadership and say something soon, they will never regain any sort of influence on this issue and it will be defined by the likes of Fox, late night TV, and bloggers.
Editor's update: After taking 24 hours to figure out what to say, this statement was finally released just after 6:00 pm EST. I am certain that a dozen lawyers poured over it all day. Indeed, if they had more time, I am certain they could have made it even shorter! Curiously, although terse and measured, the words spoken by Steve Lindsey earlier today were much more personal.
The following is a statement from Michael Coats, director of NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, regarding the status of astronaut Lisa Nowak.
"We are deeply saddened by this tragic event. The charges against Lisa Nowak are serious ones that must be decided by the judicial system. She is officially on 30-day leave and has been removed from flight status and all mission-related activities. We will continue to monitor developments in the case."
Editor's note: Was is strangely absent from all of this is the fact that there is a victim in this sad saga - and it is not Lisa Nowak. Rather, it is the woman who was sprayed in the face with pepper spray - and stalked (so she alleges) for more than 2 months.
Arrest mars stellar career, Reuters
"But despite the superstar culture, NASA has always known that its astronauts are "actually rather normal people," said Keith Cowing, a former NASA employee who now runs the nasawatch.com Web site. "The only difference between her (Nowak) and any other technology professional is that sometimes she gets to walk around in a silver space suit. She's subject to all the temptations and weaknesses as everybody else," Cowing told Reuters."
Editor's note: The 'silver spacesuit' comment was a reference to an earlier comment I made about the "Right Stuff" image many associate with astronauts.
Crashing to Earth, Dr. Sanity (Pat Santy)
"I'm sure it is shocking to find out that they have unhappy marriages; engage in affairs; have problems with their kids; act out in all sorts of inappropriate ways. Why, they even get depressed at times. Of course, you don't hear about this side of things too much. Nor should astronauts private lives be the subject of Hollywood gossip columns."
"After Laurel Clark died in the Columbia accident in 2003, Nowak helped Jonathan Clark sort out the paperwork from the Navy and also cared for the Clarks' son Iian. "Sometimes bad things happen to good people, and that's certainly the case here." Clark, who has voiced criticism of NASA since his wife's death, says the agency has turned a blind eye to both astronauts' mental troubles and their extramarital affairs. "Now you seee this is the consequence of not dealing with it you have someone whose life is destroyed," he said. "Maybe they'll start dealing with it."
Editor's 4:26 pm EST note: Lisa Nowak was in court again. The judge is granting her release on $25,500 bail and is requiring that she wear a GPS tracking device.
"Florida authorities were planning to charge a NASA astronaut with attempted first-degree murder charges for allegedly attacking a woman that she considered her rival for the love of another astronaut, officials said today. Jail spokesman Allen Moore told Associated Press that Orlando police were in the process of filing the more serious charge against Navy Capt. Lisa Marie Nowak, who flew last summer on a shuttle mission to the International Space Station."
Editor's note: When such personal tragedies are discussed in the "NASA family" it is important to bring the astronauts back to Earth - i.e. reality. They are actually rather normal people (despite the NASA-manufactured Right Stuff aura) and, as such, they are as vulnerable to life's temptations and susceptible to illnesses as anyone else.
Lisa Nowak clearly has some serious personal issues to deal with. She clearly crossed the line of acceptable behavior and she needs to deal with the consequences.
The unfortunate emotional problems one person has - and perhaps one coworker's indiscretion - should not be used to impugn the entire agency any more than is the case with similar situations which happen every day across the country.
However, the one possible issue to take up with NASA is how someone with such obvious problems could have been allowed any where near a space shuttle so recently.
Alas, just watch as the ill-informed try and wrongly transform this personal tragedy into one that encompasses all that NASA does, everywhere.
Editor's note: Word has it that Parachute Drop #3 for the Ares 1 first stage recovery system has failed. The Drop Test Vehicle that was used reportedly smashed into the ground at Yuma and was destroyed. Stay tuned.
Editor's note: Shep Smith's lack of knowledge - about anything - was clearly demonstrated once again today:
With regard to a possible defense: "I assume they must come up with some "post-astronaut something - or other..."
"She was caught wearing diapers. You know astronauts wear these diapers while they wait in the space shuttle. Maybe she had some lying around the house. Who knows"
But wait, there's more: Fox's pop analyst and pompous windbag Neal Cavuto just tried to compare Lisa Nowak's plight with that of convicted Wall Street inside trader Ivan Boesky.
Moments later, while John Gibson talked to some instant experts, a map showing Nowak's trip titled "900 Mile Diaper Drive" flashed on the screen. One Fox expert then said that "space and lack of gravity" caused her problems. Gee, what's next Fox? Poo jokes?
"We have many challenges ahead of us. We are on track making progress in tackling them. The FY08 budget request demonstrates commitment to our Nation's leadership in space and aeronautics research, and while we may be taking a hit with the FY07 appropriation, we will carry on, though not at the pace we had hoped."
Editor's note: NASA seems to have forgotten to mention yet another entry in the COTS effort to resupply NASA's space missions ...
"We have many challenges ahead of us, but we are on track and making progress in tackling these challenges. The FY 2008 budget request demonstrates commitment to our nation's leadership in space and aeronautics research, and while we may be taking a hit with the FY07 appropriation, we will carry on, though not at the pace we had previously hoped."
Sen. Hutchison Applauds NASA Funding Increase in the President's Fiscal Year 2008 Budget Request
Gordon on President's FY08 Budget: Lacks Priorities, Consistency to Ensure U.S. Competitiveness
Space Foundation CEO: FY2008 Budget Proposal Inadequate to Assure Continued U.S. Leadership in Space
NASA Can Fix Its Budget Problems By Buying from Private Industry Instead of Competing with It!
"As for NASA, the overall budget would increase by 3.1 percent. As promised, the President has prioritized funding for NASA, which speaks volumes for his dedication to funding American competitiveness and keeping our nation at the cutting edge of human space flight and exploration."
"In his 2006 State Of The Union Address, President Bush announced the American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI) to encourage American innovation and strengthen the nation's ability to compete in the global economy. His failure to include NASA in the initiative has meant a diminished Bush administration priority. Agencies included in the initiative, like the National Science Foundation (NSF), received an increase of 7 percent in the President's 2008 budget compared to his 2007 budget, while NASA only saw a 3 percent increase compared to his 2007 budget."
Editor's note: When I showed up today at NASA HQ for the budget press conference, the guards ordered me to go through a security scanner/metal detector. Not unexpected since my press badge (like the rest of the media's) is no longer valid. I was not given a badge after being screened, but was allowed to go into the auditorium. What was annoying is the fact that while I (and others) were required to go through this hassle, other people - without badges of any kind - were allowed to walk in off the street, cross the lobby, and enter the Webb Auditorium without being stopped or forced to go through the metal detector.
Later, when I was heading up to the afternoon AA briefings on the 5th floor, the guard told me that I could not go up, but that I had to be cleared and badged (since no one thought of that the first time) and then go through the metal detector (again).
People at HQ assure me that NASA security is getting its act together. Based on today's experience, it seems they are as confused as ever.
Cassini's Extended Mission Tour, Planetary Society
"We have a Cassini extended mission tour! A metaphorical puff of white smoke emerged from Building 167 at JPL on Thursday afternoon as the Cassini science team leaders met in executive session and made their final decision. Tour PF6h9 it is. I wasn't there for the final decision (I'm not that high in the Cassini hierarchy), but I participated in a lot of the deliberations that led up to that moment and found the whole process fascinating."
"NASA Administrator Michael Griffin briefs the media about the agency's Fiscal Year 2008 budget at 1 p.m. EST, Monday, Feb. 5. The press briefing is in NASA's main auditorium located at 300 E Street S.W. in Washington."
The NASA budget and supporting information will be available at 1 p.m., Feb. 5, on the Internet at:
"Former Vice President Al Gore, a leader on the issue of climate change, has accepted an invitation from Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Dingell (D-MI) and Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) to testify on the issue before Congress."
Editor's note: A National Research Council Assessment of NASA's Astrophysics Program will be released on Wednesday, 7 Feb. at 4:00 pm EST. This congressionally mandated report assesses the strategies, goals, and priorities of NASA's program to study celestial objects and the physical laws that govern the universe. The report identifies ways NASA can reduce mission costs and boost the diversity of its missions.
Shooting for the Stars With the Webb Telescope, Washington Post
"Last week's news that the orbiting Hubble observatory's most productive and far-seeing camera may be irreparably damaged sent a chill through the world of astronomy. Even if astronauts return to the Hubble next year as planned to repair and replace several instruments, fixing the electrical malfunction in the Advanced Camera for Surveys is not expected to be on the schedule."
Hubble News and Status Reports, SpaceRef
Hubble News, earlier NASA WAtch postings
Too drastic - Our position: The cuts for NASA would seriously endanger the space effort, editorial, Orlando Sentinel
"NASA Administrator Michael Griffin has warned that his agency could lose much of its skilled work force if the interval between the shuttle's retirement and Orion's launch is too long. That's what happened in the 1970s, when the agency hemorrhaged talent in the gap between the Apollo and shuttle programs. House Republicans are griping that they didn't have any input into the stopgap spending plan. It's hard to feel too sorry for them; their failure to pass a budget when they still had control on Capitol Hill opened the way for Democrats to put together their own plan reflecting their own priorities."
Budget battles will get tougher, Huntsville Times
"An unfinished 2007 budget and the November election that put Congress under Democratic control have shuffled federal spending priorities. Over the past week, two major Huntsville programs were slashed by the House - $545 million from NASA's return to the moon and $3 billion in Pentagon spending needed to move military work here as part of the 2005 BRAC plans."
"Specifically, the transition plan did not comprehensively address the following elements: A work breakdown structure that divides the transition activities into manageable segments; Detailed cost estimates to support the budget preparation process and facilitate cost control; Metrics for measuring transition progress and success; Periodic milestone reviews; Internal and external communication plans to facilitate an efficient flow of information to the stakeholders; Asset end-state requirements and security provisions for Space Shuttle Program property; A centralized data management system to document transition-related recommendations and decisions; and Clearly defined responsibilities for the components of the transition governance structure and designation of the component responsible for post-2010 decisions.
NASA acknowledged that its transition plan does not address these elements, given that the plan "serves as initial, top-level strategic guidance and a governance framework for the development of lower-level directorate, program, and project transition planning guidance documents that will comprehensively capture and address all of the elements necessary for efficient and effective execution of. . ." the transition."
"And in an unusual move, NASA on Friday sent one of its ER-2 aircraft, a civilian version of the U-2 spy planes like the one U.S. Air Force pilot Gary Powers was flying when he was shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960. The solo-piloted aircraft, equipped with both video and high-resolution digital cameras, spent three hours scouring about 7,000 square miles off the coast, in the hopes the cameras might pick up the boat or debris it may have left behind."
"Our friend and colleague Jim Gray set out sailing last Sunday and is missing. There is an all-out effort to search through available satellite images, with the hope that one of us might spot his boat."
Still no sign of sailor or his 40-foot boat, SJ Mercury News
"Amazon.com engineers used imaging software to split photos from a DigitalGlobe satellite into smaller segments, then loaded them onto Amazon's ``Mechanical Turk'' Web site -- where volunteers and other ``Friends of Jim'' can scan them from their own computers. To participate in the MTurk image analysis effort, go here.
"U.S. and Russian officials changed the International Space Station's orbit to keep it clear of debris from a satellite destroyed by China, a report says."
Editor's note: Reliable sources report that this incident UPI reports NEVER happened.
U.S. halts China space ventures, Washington Times
"The Bush administration has suspended plans to develop space ventures with China, including joint exploration of the moon, in reaction to Beijing's Jan. 11 test of an anti-satellite weapon that left orbiting debris threatening U.S. and foreign satellites. National Aeronautics and Space Administration spokesman Jason Sharp said the weapon test undermined an agreement reached between President Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao during an April summit."
"U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon, M.D. (R-FL), who represents many workers from NASA and Kennedy Space Center, called the cuts draconian, saying the Democrat leadership is using NASA and our nation's space program as a piggy bank for other liberal spending priorities.."
Editor's note: As if Republicans never "use NASA and our nation's space program as a piggy bank for other [conservative] spending priorities" ! This is one of the silliest, half-baked partisan slams I have seen in a Congressional press release in a long time.
"Yesterday afternoon, the House of Representatives voted to substantially increase FY 2007 funding for the Department of Energy Office of Science, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. H.J. Resolution 20 now goes to the Senate, with the intention to get this bill on the President's desk before current funding expires on February 15."
"On Wednesday, NASA agreed to cooperate with PlanetSpace Inc. of Chicago and Transformational Space Corp. (t/Space) of Reston, Va., to facilitate the commercialization of low-Earth orbit as they develop capabilities to transport goods and people to orbital destinations. The non-reimbursable Space Act agreements signed by NASA and the two companies involve no agency funding to the companies. The pacts establish milestones and objective criteria by which the companies can gauge their own progress, as part of the agency's Commercial Crew and Cargo Program."
Editor's note: Well, it sure looks like Mike Griffin is really getting the budget shaft - this time from both the White House and Congress. When it comes to the budget he needs to implement the very same exploration policy that the White House initiated and Congress voted to approve, no one seems to care anymore. What's a NASA Administrator to do? Yes, this video offers one silly solution - but it seems almost logical when you look at the bait and switch approach currently being taken at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.
"Pursuant to a request from 14 United States senators, the NASA Office of Inspector General (OIG) is conducting investigative and audit activities regarding alleged "repeated instances of scientists ... having publication of their research blocked, solely upon their views and conclusions regarding the reality and impacts of global warming."
Bush spaces out during Sputnik moment, opinion, Boston Globe
"This is not surprising for a president who has thrown away every report on climate change as a silly bauble. Bush told us he was waiting for "sound science." Eisenhower heard the sound of Soviet science -- the beep of Sputnik -- and prepared America for blastoff. It appears Bush will not understand the need for science until dead satellites rain down on the White House lawn."
Space exploration: Where 24 men have gone before, Nature (cover story - free access)
"Already the agency is facing some tough financial choices. The 7% over five years that President Bush spoke of did not end up in his budgets; in the White House's budget request for fiscal year 2007, produced last January, NASA's budget was kept essentially flat. "I would give Bush an 'A' for vision and a 'C-' for follow-through," [NASA Watch editor Keith] Cowing says."