Update on NASA NEO Report Release

B612 Foundation Posts Entire NASA NEO Report, earlier post

Editor's note: According to NASA sources, the reason why the longer report was not formally released (in electronic form) as to do with the mundane realities of government rules and dealing with Congress - not anything having to do with the actual content of the report.

When work on this report began, NASA's intent was focused on a large, several hundred page treatise on the topic. When inital versions of this report began to be circulated, NASA Legislative Affairs got hold of a copy and raised a flag saying that the report was too voluminous and that Congress would not know what to do with it. After some internal discussion, direction was given from the 9th floor that work on this large document be halted, and that preparation of a smaller, more condensed version (which was eventually released) be pursued.

But wait, there's more. In order to publish an electronic verison of this report, it (like all other government documents online) must be Section 508 compliant - i.e. accessible to the visually impaired. There are some charts and graphics inside this report that would be very difficult - if not - impossible to convert into 508 compliant versions (according to NASA). As such, the longer (earlier) report continued to circulate in print form only well after the shorter version was publicly released in electronic form. A scanned version of this printed version is what B612 has published on their ebsite.

This situation will soon change since there is one notable loophole to the 508 requirements: they do not apply to FOIA requests. The FAS (and others) have requested copies of this report and all annexes, etc. When mulitple FOIA requests are made, electronic versions are eventually posted on NASA's FOIA site. I am told to expect seeing an electronic copy of the final version of all materals produced in the near future posted on NASA.gov.

I must add that although this 'excuse' may seem trivial, 508 compliance (a good thing in my personal opinion) can be a rather difficult thing to achieve on occassion when it comes to putting things online.

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


Hi Keith: After initial review of the first draft of the study generated by the study team (aka the 'Big Report'), PA&E was encouraged to consider the Big Report as "input". The Big Report became the technical basis for the Report released to Congress, however NASA was under no obligation to accept the recommendations or findings of the study team. NASA considered the input then brought forward the recommendations we thought we could handle, given our budgetary and programmatic priorities, in close coordination between PA&E, ESMD, and SMD. If one carefully reads the report submitted to Congress, it will be evident that while the study is cited as a technical source, no conclusions or recommendations are attributed to the study team or to the Big Report.

The ADA and Section 508 compliance requirements are a reality for the Agency, and some of the charts are extremely problematic to describe and understand. Section 508 was, therefore, key in the decision not to post the Big Report on the web. The lack of quality control, and obvious author bias, in the Big Report (especially the appendices) made limiting the release of the printed document a wise choice.


I don't think I agree with what they are saying - at all.

Because that one-tenth size Congress-submitted report is NOT just a condensation of the big report (the latter meeting the intent of what the law required nasa to do).

The conclusions were clearly changed, including going to the most important conclusion of all: Do Nothing, which is what was reported to Congress. That is NOT in the big report. Nor is the emphasis on nuclear weapons the official report has. Nor is the Mike Griffin testimony of March 15 to the House Science Committee where he says it is not NASA's job to protect the Earth; something that caused Cong. Udall to look at him with some astonishment.

And remember---the printed copies were NOT being made available publicly, either. Only 100 went out, Fedexed et al, to the Select Few and the Participants - and , to my knowledge, not a single person in Congress. Nor during the March 15 hearing was Congress told that what they were given was not the real report, or that it didn't meat the thrust of what that report was about. Watching the hearing, they clearly thought that abbreviated - and, changed- version, was truly It, and All there Was. It isn't.

At the Planetary Defense Conference, there was no impression in the room that the (smaller, changed) NASA report would not correctly at least reflect the intent of the larger one. Everyone left that conference not having seen the redacted version, which was officially released the day after the conference ended. They all - to a person - thought it was just going to be an abbreviated, honest, executive-summary version. It isn't.

Part of me is tempted to put this in the same category of a White House re-writing global warming and evolution studies to say that neither thing exists; but in actuality this is different. No one, not even the White House or NASA HQ, is denying NEOs exist. They are denying that a single dime should be spent on it, no matter what the potential threat. And the current Administrator goes further, denying that NASA has any business worrying about it. So in this sense, the final version was a true 9th-floor/White House collusion to not meet the law passed by Congress; as well as to not do a single other thing, either (not one more dime for NEO observations etc.).

Even those things that are relatively cost free - like, designating someone....anyone....in the USG to be in charge of the subject, whether they have a budget or not...even that was not addressed.

Bush's first head of FEMA said after Katrina that when he couldn't get anyone to listen to him about the condition of New Orlean's levies in the first term, he finally had had it and went directly into the head of OMB's office, and threw on his desk a piece of broken, dilapidated, New Orleans dike. He said the head of OMB just glared at him saying nothing. But, the head of OMB HAD gotten the message that a decision needed to be made. So one was made: that FEMA director was replaced by eventually a more compliant, "team-player" White House staffer nicknamed Brownie. Who did exactly what was wanted: nothing. No waves.

Recently re-read a paper by Mike G. from 1994 where he says that everything NASA does should be subsumed to the true and only goals, of going to Mars via the moon. What has happened here is consistent with that philosophy. But let's not take at face value bureaucratic impediments to putting PDFs online, ok? There was very real effort to make sure the print copy did not get distribution to the public, or to Congress, or even to the NASA HQ library, if I'm not mistaken. None of that has anything to do with the physically handicapped.

To stick our head in the sand and not even do reasonable efforts to detect the damn things that could cause the deaths of millions may be seen a decade or two from now as criminally irresponsible. Of course, that's just my opinion.

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on May 10, 2007 10:54 AM.

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