Upcoming Awards at JSC: Marsha Ivins

2007 NASA Honor Awards Ceremony at JSC

"NASA DISTINGUISHED SERVICE MEDAL ... Marsha S. Ivins [NASA Distinguished Service Medal (Government employees only) The highest honor that NASA confers. It may be awarded to any person in the Federal service who, by distinguished service, ability, or courage, has personally made a contribution representing substantial progress to the NASA mission. The contribution must be so extraordinary that other forms of recognition would be inadequate.]"

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

Editor's note: The following was written by "Josh". I am not allowed to use his last name. Oh well. I find this a little odd given that he is so critical of people who post anonymously - which he is, for all intents and purposes - as well. I will say that he is a Hollywood movie professional with quite a background. He has never worked at NASA on a daily basis with Marsha Ivins, however (as have other people who have commented) but he has worked with her outside the agency. That said:

I'm appalled that people are able to arbitrarily bash Marsha Ivins without so much as signing their names. I've worked with Ms. Ivins on numerous projects inside and outside of NASA over the past five years and have found her to be a profoundly hard working, passionate, straight-forward, no-nonsense, informed personality with amazing accomplishments both on and off the planet! I have worked hard on projects with Ms. Ivins to faithfully illuminate NASA's enormous new mandate to "Return to the Moon" and beyond. I've always found her collaborative, grateful, available, inventive, reliable, artistic, respectful, a font of knowledge and always, ALWAYS an enormous asset! Does Marsha suffer fools gladly? In a word, "no". Does she cut to the chase? Yes! Does she travel the country and world constantly meeting with professionals and lay people in her field to collaborate on NASA projects? Perpetually! Does she make time to meet with the public at large and walk them through a dazzling presentation which she exhaustively updates making the wonder of space available to the average man or woman in the street? Over and over and over again! Does she put her own needs on hold to say "yes" to any request whenever possible? Absolutely! Has she devoted her life to the pursuit of space and the pursuit of technology to keep man in space? Yes! Does she know how important education, and exposure, and inspiring a largely apathetic public is? Yes, yes, yes, yes yes! Marsha doesn't particularly indulge nonsense, she doesn't carefully walk on eggshells when working hard for NASA, she tells it like it is. But I have never ever heard her make anyone feel stupid for asking any question no matter how obvious or uninspired. She takes the time to answer everyone, constantly. How do I know? I've seen her numerous times during presentations. Can her directness be slightly unexpected in a world where most people only tell you what you want to hear and then behind your back say the exact opposite? I suppose. Do I appreciate those qualities in Marsha? You bet!! I don't know the specific details surrounding the late plane and the 'guy' who invited Marsha to his apartment on the way to a presentation, but I know I would have said "no" emphatically to a stranger asking me to come over to his place!! I've said "no" to that particular invitation from people I know well! If Nasawatch is to become an honorable forum for discussing the state of affairs of space and our only agency which is pursuing the impossible, let's stop the petty whining when our best and brightest are racing from stop to stop doing yeoman's work. Marsha Ivins is the best of what NASA has to offer, I've seen that up close and consistently! Forgive me, but this "conversation" is tantamount to a Jr. High School gossip session about the lead in the school play who is doing everything possible on little sleep to make the show work but may have forgotten to sing one man's autograph at the stage door!

In my twenty years of working on NASA programs, I can honestly say that not only was Ms. Ivins the most unpleasent individual I ever met working there in any capacity, exhibiting a genuine pathological character disorder, but a true detriment to the spirit of our efforts. It's one thing to carry the burden of the tiniest minority of bad actors representing CB on the STS in the name of loyalty, diversity and the quirks that occasionally are characteristic of highly driven and accomplished people, but quite another to promote them to positions of responsibility on the biggest manned space project of our future. Can't NASA learn a few lessons, admit mistakes and cut its losses?

Reading these reminiscinces made my skin crawl! I too met Ms. Ivins very briefly in the professional setting of a conference room at Mission Control during STS-xx, standing by a plate of doughnuts. I cheerfully introduced myself and courteously mentioned that I came from the little town immediately adjacent to the one where she'd grown up and attended high school. Startlingly, she responded that it was certainly one of the worst places imagineable, the people were awful, how much she hated it and the only good thing about growing up there was getting away from it. I'll confess that I was stunned, incredulous and so shocked by her response that I was utterly speechless. I simply lowered my eyes and walked away, shaking my head. This was an astronaut and a NASA Ambassador? Although I passed her in the halls several times during the mission, assuredly I never attempted to greet or address her again. For own her part I don't think she even saw me.

It is horrifying that anyone would be compelled to work with her on anything or be compelled to take orders from her. Her new assignment, promotion is utterly baffling. How could NASA demonstrate such poor character judgement and undermine itself in this way?

Dear NASAwatch: (caveat: I have worked both sides of the NASA house--aero and space--and I've still got contracts on both sides. So anonymity is important for my job and company and other organizations we partner with. But if speaking anonymously, here's what I'd like to say re Marsha Ivins...)

I thought it was just me! As a NASA contractor of many years who has been valued by the agency, in Ms. Ivins I ran afoul of a person who was intent on marring or destroying the major projects in which I participated, no matter that they put NASA in a good light or had educational value. She did this for self-serving purposes, to further her own interests, and the impact was enormous in terms of inflated budgets or entire projects killed, and tax dollars wasted to the tune of, just in my case, hundreds of thousands of dollars. Since I am both a taxpayer and contractor, I was frustrated and disheartened--and, until now, without recourse. Inside HQ and JSC, she is referred to as "psychotic" and "a raving bitch" and as such, no one is willing to stand up to her. She is that downright vicious. (And yes, when word got out that an astronaut went off the deep end, MANY on the inside assumed it was Marsha.) Men who have strapped themselves to the top of a rocket and flown into orbit cower at the thought of facing Ms. Ivins, no matter how much damage she does to the agency they love.

Keith, Why in the heck would NASA give a medal to an astronaut they "fired?" This is totally baffling! As to "Ms. Ivins," I guess if you kiss enough rear ends at NASA, you can get a medal and run over whomever you want. Mike Griffin continues to surround himself withthe worstat NASA.

Since you have opened this to comments, here goes : First you publish a 16 page whining letter or resignation. 2 or 3 pages of which actually offer some legitimate and insightful comments regarding NASA's inability to articulate the "why" behind the new programs. The other 13 or so pages seem to be a combination of self promotion of his "Balance Point Process" (which no one has ever heard of), his genius in his chosen profession, bragging about how he knows people that know people in the White House and quotes from "Winning Behavior" and other Communications 101 drivel that looks like it belongs in a Stuart Smalley daily affirmation sketch. For being such a well seasoned veteran with years in his chosen field and a professional in high regard, he obviously couldn't handle the situation. And, so we get the usual self serving letter of martyrdom as he moves on to the next consulting job. OK, so you published the letter .. whatever. There was some value in the legitimate discussion of NASA's need to focus the message and communicate and I can see why you went ahead and posted it. But, you crossedthe line todaywhen you open up a forum to character assassination on Marsha Ivins or any single individual. Some lady and her tea and crumpets gathering get treated shabbily 14 fricken years ago and you publish a multi-page diatribe that looks like it was written by a high school cheerleader who got her feelings hurt. Seek Therapy ! Marsha is tough but, fair and she doesn't tolerate BS artists or con men lightly. Most people can't handle it because she asks direct, to the point questions and expects an answer. Most tap dance or outright lie, and some melt down because they perceive an honest and direct question as an "attack". Any of the 3 will get you blowtorched by Marsha. Tell the truth, know your stuff and admit when you don't know the answer to something and there are no problems. Marsha has helped more projects, produced more hardware andfixed more messes than any other person I know with a CB mail code.Unfortunately NASA now has a significant percentage of people who are hiding in their jobs, barely competent in their work and more interested in making sure everyone "feels good about the team and the discussion" rather than actually making things happen and getting the job done. Now, I really don't care what you think, or Betty from Colorado thinks or even Mr. Marketing with friends in the White House thinks but, you really ought to reconsider allowing open season character assassination on an individual when you have a single source and no first hand knowledge of the facts. Even then, it seems ridiculous to use the forum you have established to facilitate vitriolic claptrap from people who have an axe to grind from last month or 14 years ago

Giving someone the NASA Distinguished Service Medal typically means they are being prepped for a move even higher up in management. What these egotistical, self-egrandizing idiots fail to realize is, we promote them up into ineffective high-level management positions so they have less influence, and can inflict less harm, on the real work the rest of us are doing, and usually they fall right for it. ("The Peter Principle".)

The personality characteristics seen lately coming out of the NASA Astronaut Corps are not suited to long term exploration missions and they should be weeded out from the beginning by putting applicants on a 6 month, uninterrupted nuclear submarine tour under the polar ice as a part of the initial selection criteria. All existing astronauts should also be subjected to this personality certification in order to retain their positions. You really get to know someone when you go to sea with them on a long cruise. (Finding out in space that you've got a headcase, it's too late -- get the duct tape and the syringe!)

I did an appearance years ago at [deleted]. Marsha had done it a year or two prior. They gave me similar feedback, quite unsolicited! Amazing. No wonder some folks think that astros are all a bunch of stuck up prima donnas. Huge blind spot that Griffin has so empowered her. - Former NASA Astronaut

As one of your commenters said, "FINALLY! Someone calls out Marsha Ivins for what she is."

While reading your article, I was quite surprised the name "Marsha Ivins" came up. However, it didn't take me long to figure out that what this particular contractor was describing was exactly the same behavior I witnessed when I had the very unfortunate experience of dealing with Ms. Ivins, as she likes to be called. (She told me that in no uncertain terms it was to be "Ms. Ivins).

The particular incident in which I had to deal with this woman was in 1993 for an astronaut appearance in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I was living there at the time while working as a flight instructor at the Municipal airport. I was the vice chairman of the local chapter of the 99's, the International Women's Pilots Organization. Our chapter was co-sponsoring an event with the local glider society and they were looking for a dinner speaker. I had previously been at one of Ms. Ivins' presentations in El Paso, Texas earlier in the year at a 99's meeting and since she mentioned she was a glider pilot, I thought she would be a perfect speaker for our event in Colorado Springs. How grotesquely wrong I was.

I worked tirelessly to secure donated airline tickets as well as hotel accommodations for Ms. Ivins. United Airlines graciously donated a first-class round trip ticket with basically no strings attached. Times could be changed, cities could be changed, etc., etc. The local Antlers Doubletree Hotel also donated a VIP room for the visit. They only asked that their hotel manager be allowed to see the presentation, which of course was no problem with us. We really wanted them there and we invited them before they asked.

I worked with the ladies in the Astronaut Appearances Office to set up this visit and jump through all of the NASA hoops required at the time of the visit. You had to pay in advance for everything even if you had donated tickets and such. You would be refunded after the appearance if there indeed was a refund due. We would also be providing all meals for Ms. Ivins - those were donated as well by the hotel and the glider society. We also provided to the CB office, a very detailed itinerary of where and what Ms. Ivins would be doing. There was no confusion as to what was to happen. CB office even said it was a very detailed and appreciated itinerary.

Anyway, Ms. Ivins did come to the Springs via United Airlines. Due to a particularly nasty afternoon thunderstorm, flights into Denver were delayed, thus the connecting flight to Colorado Springs was delayed. By the time she was finally on the ground in Colorado Springs, it was nearly two hours late. Not anybodys fault at all. Just the way the weather was that day. When I saw Ms. Ivins come off the airplane, I approached her and said "Hello, Marsha". This was before I knew she was to be called Ms. Ivins. She blatantly ignored me and walked by me continuing down the terminal. I finally had the gate agent at United page her and they paged "Ms. Marsha Ivins to gate...." In all of my dealings with the CB Appearance Office, I was never told there was a specific protocol on how to address and deal with Ms. Ivins. They told me "we are not that formal here, so Marsha is fine." How wrong could they be? Did they not know how she behaved or did they honestly believe she would shape up for this visit?

Ms. Ivins then insisted we must go immediately to the hotel so she could change into her flight suit. I asked if we could stop instead at my apartment since it was on the way to the event and we were going to be over 3 to 4 hours late. Of course, that got a big no and to a degree I can understand that due to safety and security issues. I had absolutely no issues with that item. However, she also insisted that she must check and answer all of her e-mail (long before the Internet at that time but they still could check their JSC e-mail) and respond to phone calls. I told her we didn't have time for all of that and the clothes change would be it. We could not stand-up a group of ladies who wished to hear her speak at their dinner presentation which had been long scheduled on their calendars. She was very, very nasty about not being able to check e-mail. She also denied there was a weather issue in Denver which caused the delay. I said, look we're both pilots here with several thousand hours a piece of experience and we both knew weather was a huge issue that day so don't pull my chain here.

We did arrive at the dinner and of course nothing was to Ms. Ivins' liking. What is interesting is the CB Office was very specific on what would be required for Ms. Ivins and her presentation. We had every single thing on the list and she knew it. She proceeded to pitch a fit about the movie projector not being to her liking. My dad then stepped in as he was able to see what was going on here more clearly than I was at the time. I was too busy trying to get everything done and couldn't deal with an attitude at the time. My dad indicated to Ms. Ivins in no uncertain terms this was the projector requested and approved by the CB Appearance Office and this projector would have to do. It went on and on for about 15 minutes. I was beginning to become embarrassed about Ms. Ivins behavior as I could tell others were beginning to take notice. I even had several 99's and glider society members ask me are you sure we want to hear this woman? She sounds like a bitch. (Sorry, Keith, I know that isn't a nice word to use but that's what was said about her.) Somehow, my dad got her calmed down. I can only imagine what was said. Keith, my dad is a fire chief here in Arizona and he was an assistant chief in Denver at the time. He knows how to deal with this type of BS and get things resolved so everybody is on the same page. I'd venture to guess he didn't give Ms. Ivins a rosy, politically correct answer. He likely told her, get the stick out of your butt and work with us. He has a very unique way of dealing with people like her and apparently it was effective for a few minutes at least.

We finally got the presentation from Ms. Ivins but it came with the my "$hit don't stink attitude". I was absolutely appalled at her attitude during the presentation. She spoke down to us as if she was somehow supremely superior to all of us. Well, as we both know, she isn't superior to anybody. She's no better than the dirt on the ground. She bitterly complained about the spaghetti dinner that was served for everyone and refused to eat any of it. She did not want to eat with us little people. She was an astronaut after all. I was to the point I was ready to tell her, then if you don't want to eat, fine, then starve, I don't care.

On the ride back to the hotel, I finally had to ask her, are you ok because you don't seem to be very happy with anything that has happened. She indicated she could not believe "she had to speak to a group of glider pilots and that she was stunned it was a group of women glider pilots and 99's". There were spouses there and such so it was not simply a group of only women. This woman was absolutely appalled that she had just spoken to a group of "women" glider pilots. I tried to quickly get off that subject and perhaps change it to something she was more familiar with, like her two previous spaceflights of STS-32 and 46. Nope. That didn't work either. What she proceeded to do was trash all four of her 32 colleagues and some of her 46 colleagues. I was absolutely floored. We all know that not everything is rosy within the CB office. Never has been and never will be. But to openly trash and badmouth crew members to someone whom you didn't know the day before, is beyond unprofessional. After hearing this, I really felt sorry for her 32 and 46 crew mates for having to put up with her BS for the duration of training and the flights themselves. One person in particular that she just shredded was Jim Wetherbee. I know I have read things previously about him on NASA Watch, such as being one of George Abbey's Bubbas (later confirmed to me by an astronaut now living here in Phoenix) but I can't form an opinion on him as I've never met him and really don't know much of anything about him. All I can really tell you is that I have heard he is very nice in person to people that have seen his presentations and that they enjoyed talking with him. But I'm telling you, Ms. Ivins absolutely shredded him to pieces. I can only remember one specific that she said. She said "he can tell you what the number pi (3.14.....) is down to the 15th number but he couldn't find his place in a checklist to save our lives. I had to do everything for him." Maybe this is true. I don't know, but to say this to somebody that doesn't work for the CB Office just absolutely blew my mind and came across as more than bitchy and downright unprofessional. Trust me, Keith, she had no kind words for anybody on those two flights except Andy Allen. She actually had nice things to say about him. At the time, she was assigned to fly STS-62 and she trashed all four of her crew mates for the scheduled 1994 flight. She just abhorred Pierre Thuot and Sam Gemar. No idea why but it was crystal clear to me she especially disliked those two members of 62.

The best thing about the Ivins' visit was me putting her on the plane the next morning. Thank God!!! Of course, she refused to fly United the next morning despite the fact United provided a first-class ticket that could be changed around to her needs. This ticket was beyond flexible. She refused to fly United because she did not have a frequent flyer account with them. She had to fly Continental because that's where her mileage was. Despite the fact that someone else was paying for her tickets to appearances, she collected the mileage without batting an eyelash. Now I believe that too is abusing the privileges of being an astronaut and wasting people's money. Here's another one for you. She told me, "now do you know why I do all of the overseas appearances? I collect the big miles from them depsite the fact somebody else is paying the beancounters."

After she was safely on the plane and out of the Colorado Springs area, I called the CB Appearance Office and made my displeasure known. Sadly, they weren't surprised when I told them how nasty she had been to everyone involved. Since it's been 14 years ago, I obviously don't remember whom I spoke to but they weren't surprised and they apologized profusely for her behavior. I was very kind to the lady I spoke to but I got the message through. This Ivins woman was the nastiest person I have ever met. She gives new definition to the term bitch (again, sorry) and that if I never saw her again, that would be a good thing. I also asked why this type of behavior was tolerated and how exactly did Ivins get on crews if she vehemently hated people so much. They didn't have an answer for either of those questions. I'd love to see what her crew mates said about her and after thinking about this event and then reading what Mark Kelly and Mike Fossum said about Lisa Nowak, I'd say some of their comments would have to apply to Ms. Ivins. If you remember some of the papers that were released by the Florida prosecutors and there were comments about Nowak's behavior at an appearance in Washington, D.C., if I didn't know better, I'd swear it was Marsha Ivins and not Lisa Nowak they were talking about. I am referencing the DC incident where it was reported Nowak got nasty about using a pen and blocking a drawer when someone told her there were pens in that drawer. I am not in any way referencing the other Nowak romantic stuff. Just the pen incident and how it sounds just like Marsha Ivins.

I really have to agree with the author of this letter regarding Ms. Ivins' behavior.I saw it first hand at this 1993 event. She abuses her so-called title of "astronaut" and she abuses tax payer monies. She's nasty, speaks down to people and feels she is above everyone else. NASA knows about it yet to those of us who are on the outside, it appears her behavior is tolerated, approved and allowed. How this woman ever got on 5 shuttle missions is beyond my comprehension. I cannot imagine ever being a crew mate with her and living in a shuttle type environment for two weeks. I know there are good men and women in the Astronaut Office who do treat people with courtesy and kindness. I had the pleasure of meeting 5 of the 6 STS-121 crew members this past December (sans Sellers) and every one of them treated the children and adults with courtesy and decency. They were at a Fiesta Bowl event at the Peoria Challenger Space Center. Yes, Lisa Nowak was there (just 4 weeks prior to everything hitting the fan). She seemed shy but pleasant to everyone and I spoke with her about robotics issues. She was very kind and signed a photo for me. No "prickliness" there. Steve Lindsey, Mark Kelly, Mike Fossum and Stephanie Wilson were also very kind and courteous to everyone. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting them. It's their courtesy to us that almost makes up for the horrible Ivins experience of 1993. I know the possibility exists that they could be real jackasses behind the scenes but at least they didn't show it to the participants at this Fiesta Bowl event. Ivins would have been a disaster to have at this event. There are some astronauts who have great reputations with the public, such as Eileen Collins, Pam Melroy and Mike Fossum to name a few. But it is individuals such as Marsha Ivins who work very hard to destroy those reputations and sour people on having astronaut appearance events.

Thank you Keith for allowing me to tell my little story. When I read the memo this morning, it sure did have some familiar tones to it and that being the Ivins behavior issue or lack thereof. No need to publish my story as it really doesn't pertain to the overall subject of the memo and the VSE. I can however say Ms. Ivins is the nastiest most unpleasant individual, male or female, that I have ever met. There is absolutely no doubt about that whatsoever. I am hopeful that CB Office honchos Steve Lindsey, Ellen Ochoa and JSC Director Mike Coats take a close look at this memo and do something about it. She shouldn't be just ignored or pushed aside. They need to remove Ms. Ivins from her cushy little astronaut job (yep, she called it that) and send her out to the real world. She'd never survive out here with her attitude. I think the title of 3rd fired astronaut would be good for Ms. Ivins. Not likely to happen but one never knows anymore.

Again, thanks for listening. Enjoy the site a lot and visit daily. Like I said, I may not agree with everything but it is really nice to have a decent, credible website where I can learn all sorts of information about NASA. You do a great job and I enjoy seeing you on TV when you make appearances. At least we don't get the NASA PAO sanitized version of things. We get the truth from you and that's what I enjoy, agree or disagree. We get the truth.

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on May 30, 2007 5:50 PM.

Petty Politics and Uncoordinated Outreach at NASA was the previous entry in this blog.

Upcoming Awards at JSC: Lisa Nowak is the next entry in this blog.

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