August 2007 Archives

Editor's 31 August update: Well, the Houston Chronicle printed Mike Coats' letter. But they also altered their OpEd and removed the comment about the non-NASA accident. Curiously, they did not have the journalistic honesty to admit to their readers that they made a mistake in the first place.

Curiously, these inept students of spaceflight history at the Houston Chronicle still do not get it. They state "... after hundreds of space shuttle flights". Um, "hundreds" would mean multiple hundred i.e. at least more than 200. NASA is nowhere close to mounting "hundreds of space shuttle flights". Nor will it ever do so.

Falling objects - NASA's rash of problems threatens to erode public confidence in the space program, editorial, Houston Chronicle

"This year NASA has suffered: .... An explosion at a rocket motor test sight near Edwards Air Force Base in California killed two persons and critically injured four others."

Editor's 26 August note: This unfortunate accident and loss of life had nothing to do with NASA. I am not certain why the sloppy editorial staff at the Chronicle stuffed it in here. The net result is to use someone else's tragedy to make a cheap editorial point. As for the other items raised in this piece, they don't speak well of the intelligence or research credibility of the Houston Chronicle. Oh yes - just what is a "rocket motor test sight"? Do they mean test "site"? These folks at the Chronicle certainly don't have space lingo down - an odd thing for a newspaper that counts the home of NASA's human space flight programs among its home turf - and has done so for decades.

NASA JSC Center Director Mike Coats' response to Sunday's Houston Chronicle op/ed

Editor's update: The following is the full text of NASA JSC Center Director Mike Coats' response to Sunday's Houston Chronicle op/ed provided to NASA Watch and SpaceRef by NASA JSC PAO:

"Sunday's Houston Chronicle (Falling Objects) presented an unbalanced and biased portrayal of NASA and the thousands of people working in our space program whose technological achievements have been a major contributor to the robust economy we enjoy and largely take for granted. I must take this opportunity to correct the misleading and inaccurate information portrayed as fact: The rocket engine explosion that killed two people in California involved a private company unrelated to NASA operating at a facility miles away from the Edwards Air Force Base. The "facts" in the editorial are completely in error.

Outsourcing Desktop Initiative for NASA (ODIN) Mission Focus Review (MFR) Decisions, NASA Ames Office of the Chief Information Officer (840K PDF)

"The agency Strategic Management Council (SMC) has approved two Mission Focus Reviews (MFR)s related to ODIN. The SMC decision includes:
- MFR#7 - Consolidate all cellular services (pagers, cell phones, smartphones/PDAs, and cellular Internet) under ODIN
- MFR#137 - Consolidate all laptop/desktop/workstation procurement and support under ODIN"

Griffin at IV&V

Editor's note: Mike Griffin spoke at IV&V today wherein he addressed dwindling research activities at NASA and how that may affect job security. Anyone who was at the speech is welcome to send in your notes/quotes on exactly what Griffin said. Send them to

Reader note: "Mike flew his own private plane out to Fairmont this morning. Bryan O'Connor also visited. After touring the facility (including a Shuttle landing simulator--where Mike safely landed on first try), there was QnA all-hands, not "a speech". I don't recall any mention of "dwindling research", but mostly how thinking about safety verification and validation, hardware or software, needs to be upfront in the design process for new systems as opposed to acting later in the "safe/unsafe umpire" way of doing business. Oh, also I don't recall anything about "job security" except for working through issues of uncovered capacity over the past 2 years and assigning space exploration work to previously "aero" centers. Some discussion of 10 healthy centers."

JPL Employees File Suit to End Background Investigations

"Twenty-eight senior scientists and engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL is a part of Caltech) have filed suit today in United States District Court for the Central District of California against NASA, the Department of Commerce and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) on behalf of a class of JPL employees who are being required to waive their privacy rights and submit to an unconstitutional intrusive background investigation in order to retain their jobs with JPL."

NASA Scientists Challenge Security Rules, The Nation

"Griffin came to JPL in June and told us this security decision was 'a direct result of 9/11,'" says Dennis Byrnes, chief engineer for flight dynamics at JPL and a thirty-year veteran of the lab. "But that was a lie. Other federal research labs aren't being required to go through this. Besides, if they're worried about terrorists, they should be checking all the UPS trucks that drive in here, not the scientists who have worked here for decades!"

Management Changes at USA

Richard Covey to Succeed McCulley as USA President and CEO

"Richard O. Covey has been named to succeed Michael J. McCulley as President and Chief Executive Officer of United Space Alliance, effective September 28, 2007. McCulley has announced his retirement following a distinguished career spanning 38 years as a Naval aviator, NASA astronaut and a highly respected space industry executive. Daniel C. Brandenstein of Lockheed Martin Mission Services has been named to replace Covey as USA's Chief Operating Officer."

Shifting the Blame

Commentary: Insanity Claim Makes NASA Look Inept, Discovery News

"In court documents, the lead attorney for ex-astronaut Lisa Nowak outlined several mental conditions which psychiatrists say made her legally insane when she allegedly attacked a romantic rival in an Orlando airport parking lot. At least two of the afflictions, obsessive-compulsive disorder and Asperger syndrome, a neurobiological condition related to autism, typically manifest in childhood or early adulthood."

Editor's note: There are a lot of people who are going to be outraged to learn that someone claiming to have Asperger syndrome - one of NASA's (former) finest - is stooping so low as to use Aspergers as part of an insanity defense. People with Asperger's are not insane. To be honest, based on what has appeared in media reports and court documents, I personally think that it is about time that Lisa Nowak started to accept a little responsibility for her actions. Moreover, If indeed she has Aspergers syndrome, why didn't she inform NASA of this? If things were this bad (as her lawyer seems to think), shouldn't she have been enough of a professional to have informed her superiors of this potentially debilitating condition - one that could have affected her performance? Lots of troubling questions here.

No Preflight Inebriation

Findings of NASA Safety Review Following Astronaut Health Reviews

"The lack of privacy on launch day makes it nearly impossible to hide alcohol use or alcohol-induced impairment. Could a crewmember drink to the point of inebriation in his/her room the night before launch? Certainly, but, from the time the crew wakes on launch morning until they lift off, they are surrounded by other astronauts, managers, support crew, television (TV) cameramen, still photographers, crew quarters staff and others. Breakfast, the first scheduled event, usually starts 30 minutes after wakeup and is held in the same dining room shared by support crew and operational managers."

"The result of my tours and interviews was this: alcohol is available in the crew quarters, but is only used during off-duty hours. None of the people I talked to or heard from admitted to witnessing anything more than moderate use on L-2, light use on L-1, and none at all on launch day before cabin ingress or scrub."

Ex-astronaut Nowak may rely on insanity defense, Reuters

"Former NASA astronaut Lisa Nowak may claim at trial she was insane when she stalked and attacked a romantic rival during the unraveling of a love triangle with a fellow ex-astronaut, according to court papers released on Tuesday."

NASA Releases Results of O'Connor Safety Review

"On Wednesday, Aug. 29, NASA will announce the results of a review conducted by NASA Chief of Safety and Mission Assurance Bryan O'Connor to evaluate allegations of improper alcohol use by astronauts."

Editor's note: Word has it that O'Connor's team was unable to substantiate any of the astronaut pre-flight drinking allegations made in the report issued in July.

Boeing Selected to Build NASA's Upper Stage for Ares I

"The Boeing Company has been awarded a NASA contract valued at approximately $514.7 million to produce the upper stage of the Ares I crew launch vehicle. This element provides the navigation, guidance, control and propulsion required for the ascent of the second-stage Ares I into low -Earth orbit."

NASA's Star Wars Stunt, IGN

"In honor of the 30th anniversary of Star Wars, NASA will launch Luke Skywalker's original Jedi lightsaber into space along with the crew of the space shuttle Discovery. The launch is slated for October."

Space program lunacy, opinion, LA Times

"... Indeed, one of the most popular complaints about space exploration is that it wastes billions of dollars that could be better spent on problems here. With global warming an increasing threat, NASA has a chance to prove what it has long asserted - that a space program provides practical benefits to Earth-bound humanoids."

Let's mine the blamed thing, opinion, Homer Hickam, LA Times

"So here we are, working to go again, and folks like Mr. Thornton feel obligated to come out and say it's a big waste of tax money. Don't get me started on how most of the federal budget is spent (i.e., tossed down a rat hole), but NASA's little 0.5% of it, and the even smaller percentage for our new moon program, is at least going toward something that might actually allow our country to have a future. That's right. I'm talking national survival, folks, because to get by, we might need to go to the moon and just mine the blamed thing!"

Ed Lu Goes to Google

Google Hires Former NASA Astronaut, Wired

"Ed Lu, who flew on two Shuttle flights and spent 6 months on the International Space Station after the Columbia disaster, will be moving to balmy California to start his next mission at Google."

NASA at 50: Looking for That Second Wind, SpaceRef

"Everyday life" is more than just what "spin offs" may (or may not) have had an origin somewhere, decades ago, in some research NASA did for another reason. "Everyday life" has to do with what you think about in the shower, on the way to work, and when you put your kids to bed.

What am I getting at? At the heart of all of this, in one way or another, is the notion "where do I fit in the whole scope of space exploration? What about me? Do I get to go? Do my kids get to go? If I don't get (or want) to go, how do I get to express my excitement and interest in those who do these amazing things? What did I do today that might have been different - less productive, or just simply less fun, had space exploration stayed inside science fiction books?"

Jerry Hammack

Jerry Hammack helped designed vehicles for space program, Obiturary, Houston Chronicle

"Jerome "Jerry" Hammack, an aeronautical engineer and member of the team that founded what is now the Johnson Space Center, died Monday of cancer. He was 85. Hammack also was associated with the design of the space capsule used in Project Mercury, NASA's first manned space program. He later had similar duties in the Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and shuttle projects."

NASA GSFC Solicitation: Night Sky Network Outreach Toolkit

"NASA/GSFC intends to purchase the services from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, under the authority of FAR 13.106-1(b)(1) for the acquisition of supplies or services reasonably available from one source. This vendor is the only organization that creates outreach kits for amateur astronomy clubs located across the country."

Night Sky Network, Astronomical Society of the Pacific

"Amateur astronomy clubs dedicated to sharing astronomy with the public are invited to apply for membership in the NASA Night Sky Network (, a free program specifically designed for amateur astronomy clubs that puts great resources right into your hands."

Editor's note: I think that this is great news that GSFC is getting involved in something like this and they should be commended for doing so. Yet I am a little confused. According to the NASA JPL Night Sky Network FAQ "Membership in the Night Sky Network is free." ... "The Night Sky Network is sponsored and supported by JPL's PlanetQuest public engagement program. PlanetQuest is a part of JPL's Navigator Program... The Origins Education Forum, based at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, is an association of the education and public outreach programs of the NASA missions seeking to understand and characterize the origins of the universe, planets, and life."

If this activity is free - and NASA JPL and the STScI (in Maryland) are already involved, why does GSFC have to procure anything? Can't they just sign up like everyone else? Can't JPL and GSFC work together on this - and invite all other NASA field centers to do so as well? Indeed, why does this need to be done on a center-by center basis? Everyone can see the sky. Shouldn't NASA HQ's Strategic Communications' Education organization be doing this for NASA - as an agency?

NASA GSFC Solicitation: Military and Aerospace FPGA Applications Conference

Editor's note: I just love these "extra consideration Items" - especially: "Government rate for hotel rooms for 2 nights prior to the conference and 2 nights later at a reduced room block level" .... "yogurt during the continental breakfast". I can understand the extra night aspect - this way dozens of NASA civil servants and other attendees can show up early and/or stay late and get a mini-vacation in November in Palm Beach out of this (the Amendment 01 states "We require the availability of government room rate for approximately 25-30 guests two days before and after the conference.").

What has me baffled, however, is why having yogurt at breakfast is considered an "extra consideration" in this formal government procurment activity.

Editor's note:In order to display their Saturn V, the folks U.S. Space & Rocket Center (USSRC) in Huntsville are going to remove the star grain "mass dummy" located inside the Apollo Launch Escape System (LES) and discard it. According to a local source "The thing is so similar to the actual fuel, it shows up the same on a mass spectrometer." These photos (below) show the motor (full of star shape propellant simulant) that they are going to destroy.

Reader note: "Looks like it's now too late. The LES is mounted back on the Apollo Boilerplate in the new museum. What a loss."

Magnetic gravity trick grows perfect crystals,

"One of the few scientific success stories of the International Space Station has been its use to grow large, pure crystals in microgravity (see Space station unlocks new world of crystals). Now scientists from the Netherlands and Japan have shown that a strong magnetic field can mimic the effects of microgravity when growing protein crystals. The new Earth-bound technique could provide a cheaper and easier way to produce crystals of the same quality as those grown aboard the ISS."

Ordinary Guys Send Picture-Taking Balloon 22.27 Miles High, Gizmodo

"Behold the view from 117,597 feet, taken on August 11, 2007 by a camera hanging from a helium balloon launched by a group of guys in Alberta, Canada. Called the SABLE-3 (Southern Alberta Balloon Launch Experiment #3), it was packed with a Byonics MicroTrak 300 APRS tracking device, a Nikon Coolpix P2 digital camera set to snap one picture per minute, and filled with enough helium to take it to the edge of the earth's atmosphere."

Editor's note: Not to be out done, NASA has a somewhat retro avant-guard video online (below) - one that focuses on Mars Phoenix. Using 80's music works for me - indeed this video has a 80's MTV feel to it. Alas, while it probably hits the taxpaying demographic right in the middle, I am not sure how it connects with the younger crowd. That's OK. At least someone at NASA is trying. NASA now needs to expand on this experiment and be hitting multiple audiences using multiple approaches. I guess the producers of this video will need to do another one using music that is still on the charts. Of course, for me, the all time MTV classic video promoting space themes (even if overt pre-launch alcohol consumption is depicted) is still "Major Tom" by Peter Schilling (below). Look at the variants of this video that have also been produced ...

Orange County prepares for Nowak circus, Orlando Sentinel

" will offer live streaming video of the hearing which will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Sentinel will be using the pool feed, which is being produced for everyone by Court TV. "It's the best courtroom drama we have," said Tim Sullivan, Court TV News senior vice president."

Live blog

Editor's note:The narrator of the Sentinel's video of Nowak in her holding cell at Orlando International Airport claims that Nowak was in Florida "to confront rival astronaut Colleen Shipman". Newsflash: Shipman is not an astronaut.

Editor's note: Have a look at "The Hubble Deep Field: The Most Important Image Ever Taken". This video was made by Tony Darnell who runs I like it - a lot. In addition to using NASA images to make some important cosmological points, he also makes a few other points - such as our YouTube posting and viewing habits. Thanks to who alerted me to this video and who noted "... continuing along your lines about NASA's PAO, or lack thereof, why didn't we do this???"

Son of Dreamtime?

NASA and Internet Archive Team to Digitize Space Imagery

"Making NASA's important scientific and space exploration imagery available and easily accessible online to all is a service of tremendous value to America, and we're pleased to partner with the experts at Internet Archive to accomplish this effort," said Robert Hopkins, chief of strategic communications at NASA Headquarters, Washington."

NASA, Dreamtime Partnership Propels Space Information Age to New Heights

"Not only does this bring the space program into partnership with Silicon Valley," said NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin, "but the partnership also puts NASA at the forefront of the information age. This is innovative government at its best."

I Lost My Laptop in Outer Space, and Other Tales of Office Theft, NY Times

"I have periodically thought of that moment with embarrassment. Who on earth steals toilet paper? Then, last month, the Government Accountability Office released a report estimating that NASA employees had stolen $94 million in office supplies and equipment over the last decade. One thief appropriated an office laptop as his own by declaring the machine lost. It had been thrown from the International Space Station, he explained, apparently with a straight face, and burned up in the Earths atmosphere."

Property Management: Lack of Accountability and Weak Internal Controls Leave NASA Equipment Vulnerable to Loss, Theft, and Misuse, GAO

"This computer, although assigned to me, was being used on board the International Space Station. I was informed that it was tossed overboard to be burned up in the atmosphere when it failed."

A Good Day for Xcor

XCOR Rockets onto Inc.'s "500 Fastest Growing Companies"

"Each year, Inc. Magazine ranks the 500 fastest growing companies in America based on the percentage increase of revenue over a three-year period. It announced on August 23 that XCOR Aerospace, of Mojave, California, made the list. The small, privately-held California C-Corporation was ranked No. 446 overall with 646 percent three-year revenue growth from 2003 through 2006."

Set Back for Armadillo

Crash destroys rocket ahead of X Prize contest, New Scientist

"The front-runner for a $2 million NASA competition to build mock lunar landers has lost one of its two main vehicles in a fiery crash. The company, Armadillo Aerospace, says it will enter a smaller vehicle instead, but outsiders say the upset will level the playing field and add suspense to the upcoming contest."

Another NASA Spinoff

Editor's note: Have a look at this sample of "Pearls before Swine". There seems to be a Nowak theme running through it - an unintended NASA spinoff? (sigh).

Its Inventory Time Again

NASA ARC Internal Memo: Reminder to NASA Equipment Users that Deadline is Aug. 31, 2007

"Please note however that the changes submitted by the user in the Equipment User Validation System will not automatically change the NEMS data. The user's cognizant equipment specialist will need to make those changes to NEMS using information provided by the user in the Equipment User Validation System."

Editor's note: First of all, what "equipment" is covered by this memo? Desks? Pencils? Why does someone need to input all of this information if "The user's cognizant equipment specialist will need to make those changes to NEMS using information provided by the user in the Equipment User Validation System." Why can't the software do that on its own once the data is entered by the user and skip that step - after all, you are asking employees to verfy the information? On the other hand, why can't the "cognizant equipment specialist" do the data entry and thus remove the need for someone else to enter it and then have this "cognizant equipment specialist" actually make the changes?

No wonder NASA can't find things - it sends out confusing memos to its employees like this - and expects them to figure things out. Moreover, on one hand it trusts employees to have accurate information - but it does not trust them to enter that information into a final database. But NASA spends money instead on additional warm bodies to do that data entry. You know, I'll bet NASA could spend the same amount of money it wastes on hiring "cognizant equipment specialists" (and lost staff time) and have RFID tags put on everything. That way, things will update this database every time they are moved - without human intervention. If you can put a property tag on something, you can put an RFID tag on it. Besides, Ames, Silicon Valley is just outside your gate. Someone out there must know how to do this.

- Property Management: Lack of Accountability and Weak Internal Controls Leave NASA Equipment Vulnerable to Loss, Theft, and Misuse, GAO

- NASA Equipment Management Manual Last Updated 06/06/2007 CHAPTER 4: NASA Equipment Management Systems (NEMS)

Astronauts Thank Engineers, Scientists, AP

"Commander Scott Kelly also thanked the members of the public who wrote e-mails and letters to the editor questioning the decision to land without repairing the gash. While he said he appreciated their concern, he wanted them to know the crew never doubted NASA leadership. "We knew that they were going to take the appropriate amount of time and use the appropriate analysis to make the right decision, and they did," he said."

A Question Of Priorities

Space program lunacy, opinion, LA Times

"It's easy to be mesmerized by the promise of deep-space exploration by astronauts in otherworldly space suits. After all, the "Star Trek" franchise didn't hook its followers with tales of white-coat scientists crunching numbers over slide rules. But NASA's idealism is seriously endangering the world's ability to track its own changing and more dangerous climate. Indeed, one of the most popular complaints about space exploration is that it wastes billions of dollars that could be better spent on problems here. With global warming an increasing threat, NASA has a chance to prove what it has long asserted that a space program provides practical benefits to Earth-bound humanoids."

We Sing The Body Eclectic

Vintage Bradbury, Packaged Anew, NY Times

"I'm surrounded by my metaphors," said Mr. Bradbury, who acknowledges that the science in his books is often faulty and serves only as a vehicle for his fiction. He'll provide the inspiration, he says, and let the scientists worry about the particulars. "The arts and sciences are connected," he continued. "Scientists have to have a metaphor. All scientists start with imagination."

NASA Mars Exploration Rover Spirit Update: Dust from Martian Sky Accumulates on Solar Panels

"Dust from Martian Sky Accumulates on Solar Panels - sol 1284-1287, August 20, 2007: Even though the Martian sky above Gusev Crater continued to clear, solar power levels on NASA's Spirit rover remained fairly constant as dust settling from the atmosphere accumulated on top of the solar panels. Activities remained restricted. Measurements of atmospheric opacity, known as Tau, dropped from 3.6 on Martian day, or sol, 1283 (Aug. 12, 2007) to 3.3 on sol 1286 (Aug. 16, 2007), generating power levels of 301 watt-hours (100 watt-hours is the amount of energy needed to light a 100-watt bulb for one hour)."

FAA Head Moves to AIA

FAA administrator takes job with aerospace lobby, Reuters

"The administrator of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration was named chief executive of the Aerospace Industries Association on Tuesday, the top lobbying group for aerospace manufacturers. Marion Blakey's five-year term at FAA ends on Sept. 13. She will remain with the agency until that time, a spokeswoman said."

Hubble Teams With Google to Bring The Cosmos Down to Earth

"Imagine cruising the heavens from your desktop and seeing all the spectacular images from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. Exploding stars and faraway galaxies are just a mouse click away through Sky in Google Earth. Sky in Google Earth is produced by Google, the company that hosts the popular Internet search engine, through a partnership with the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, the science operations center for Hubble. To access the new feature, users will need to download the newest version of Google Earth, available free of charge."

Stern's Impact at SMD

Planetary Exploration Newsletter: NASA Science Mission Directorate Update - Alan Stern, Associate Administrator/SMD

"First, thanks to Mark Sykes for inviting me to write PEN subscribers about recent events since I assumed the reigns of leadership at SMD. But before I do that, I'll first say that when I arrived at SMD in April, I came with a set of specific goals that apply across all four of SMD's science themes - astrophysics, planetary, heliophysics, and Earth science. Those goals include: ... "

Shuttle launches with teacher aboard, AP

"After liftoff, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings sent congratulations from Washington and called Morgan "an inspiring example for our next generation of teachers, scientists, engineers, innovators and entrepreneurs."

Barbara Morgan Receives Challenger Center's Highest Honor

"The award was first given to President George H.W. Bush and first lady Barbara Bush in 1995. The award was then named after former President Bush and is the Challenger Center's highest honor. Only those who display exceptional leadership and who contribute significantly to the center's mission to inspire students to learn and explore receive this honor."

Mrs. Bush Congratulates Barbara Morgan, Astronaut on Space Shuttle Endeavour and Former Teacher

"This morning, Mrs. Laura Bush called Barbara Morgan, an astronaut and former teacher who will travel to space for the first time on the flight of the Space Shuttle Endeavour to the International Space Station."

Post Landing Opinions

The Space Shuttle Hobbles Onward, editorial, NY Times

"NASA will now look for quick fixes to reduce debris-shedding in the next few flights while it pursues a longer-term solution. But it has become increasingly clear that the shuttles design, which puts a huge external fuel tank insulated with foam above a fragile spacecraft, is fundamentally flawed. This problem wont be solved until the shuttles are replaced with a new vehicle."

Editor's note: I just don't get it. Once again Mike Griffin went out of his way to diminish the history - and legacy - behind Barbara Morgan's presence on the STS-118 mission. Moments ago, in a post flight press conference, Griffin sought to reduce the media's emphasis on Barbara Morgan's global notoriety as a teacher and educator by saying "Once upon a time she was a teacher" and "Barbara Morgan is not an Educator-Astronaut".

If this is the case, then why did NASA PAO put out this 2002 press release "NASA's Educator-Astronaut Assigned First Flight" regarding Morgan's assignment to STS-118? Look at her official bio - this is not your typical astronaut's membership listing: "ORGANIZATIONS: National Education Association; Idaho Education Association; National Council of Teachers of Mathematics; National Science Teachers Association; International Reading Association; International Technology Education Association; Challenger Center for Space Science Education."

NASA just flew a teacher in space - millions of kids paid attention - as did their parents. The agency - starting with its leader - ought to be making mention of that fact at every possible opportunity - if for no other reason than to show that NASA has relevance - something it seems to be rather incapable of doing these days.

Barbara Morgan is both 100% teacher - and 100% astronaut. I think that says something powerfully important about both career paths.

Reader note: "What is this man's problem? Furthermore, does he actually know anything about his astronauts? If he did, he would know that all across the site, Morgan is profiled/promoted as an Educator Astronaut. Examples:

The latter is specific in its notation about STS-118 that "In addition to delivering the Starboard 5 Truss Segment and the External Stowage Platform 3 to the ISS, it will be the first flight of an Educator Astronaut, mission specialist Barbara Morgan."

In the press introduction of the Astronaut class of 1998, Morgan introduced herself as an Educator Astronaut and Mission Specialist. It is featured on a clip that NASA has played numerous times on NASA TV prior to and during STS-118. Was she lying?

As an educator myself, I have ordered education materials and videos from NASA. All of those related to Morgan and STS-118 promote her as an Educator Astronaut. These are materials printed by NASA itself. Perhaps Mike Griffin needs some time back in the classroom before he goes shooting himself in the foot as he attempts to cram it in his mouth."

Editor's update: A simple search of yielded the following overt examples from 2007 wherein "Educator Astronaut Barbara Morgan" is mentioned. I have to wonder just who is advising Mike Griffin on this topic. Griffin clearly has no idea what his own agency has been telling the public about who/what Barbara Morgan is - for years - and recently as well.

  • Barbara Morgan, Educator Astronaut Poster: "Educator Astronaut Barbara Morgan makes her first spaceflight on STS-118. Educator Astronauts are teachers with expertise in K-12 classrooms who are selected by NASA to become fully qualified astronauts. With their backgrounds, Educator Astronauts will help lead NASA in the development of new ways to connect space exploration with the classroom and to inspire the next generation of explorers. The back of the poster lists information for teachers on how and where to obtain NASA resources."
  • NASA Educator Astronaut Program: "Barbara Morgan, and the Educator Astronauts who will follow her, will bring the excitement of space flight and the importance of science, technology, and mathematics to the Nation's teachers and students."
  • August 2007 -- First Spaceflight of an Educator Astronaut Extra: "As the first Educator Astronaut launches into orbit, NASA's mission for education aims to inspire, engage and educate the nation's future workforce"
  • An Educator and an Astronaut: "When Space Shuttle Endeavour launched on Aug. 8, 2007, it carried NASA's first Educator Astronaut into space. Despite her historically unique status, Morgan is much like her crewmates on the STS-118 mission as she is a fully trained and certified astronaut.

I guess this tactic on Griffin's part somehow fits into the master "Strategic Communications" plan that NASA Chief of Strategic Communications Bob Hopkins is promoting since Hopkins oversees all NASA Education efforts. Curiously, education and students are mentioned repeatedly in Hopkins' official NASA Message Construct. Why is Griffin departing from his own agency's official Message Construct? Why have one if the boss ignores it?

Larger View - different angle

Endeavour Is Home

Space Shuttle Endeavour Lands at Kennedy Space Center

"Space Shuttle Endeavour touched down at Kennedy at 12:32 p.m., ending its mission to the International Space Station. Endeavour returned home two weeks after it launched from the Florida space port. Endeavour arrived at the station on Aug. 10 with the seven STS-118 astronauts quickly beginning joint operations with the Expedition 15 crew."


More ISS and Shuttle News

NASA to Announce Contractor for Ares I Upper Stage Production

"NASA will host a news conference at 4 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, Aug. 28, to announce the selection of a contractor for the upper stage element of the Ares I rocket that will help launch future human missions to the moon. The Ares I will carry to low Earth orbit the Orion crew exploration vehicle, which will succeed the space shuttle as NASA's primary vehicle for human space exploration."

Use Microsoft Photosynth To Examine Shuttle Endeavour's Tiles, Microsoft

"Prior to docking at the international space station the Space Shuttle Endeavour did a complete somersault enabling astronauts in the International Space Station to photograph the shuttle's bottom-side. The photos were then sent back to NASA for analysis. The Space Administration has been kind enough to share those images with Microsoft Live Labs. We have taken the photos and created a "synth" so people around the world can take part in the NASA experience."

Imagery for the People

Europlanet : Conference Conundrum, Planetary Society

"... I want to explain to people what happens when you take the brave step of throwing raw imagery on the web quickly - something which we've seen with MER and Cassini, but currently you couldn't imagine any ESA mission considering doing. The mosaics, animations, software, maps, graphs that people make - even the suggestions for images that the New Horizons team considered - and took."

Whining about Whiners

Eats, shoots, and leaves, The Space Review

"The Internet has not exactly contributed to good manners. Internet writers frequently employ various below-the-belt rhetorical tricks to attack people they don't like. One of the most common is to state that another writer is "whining." It's an attempt to label the other person as immature and petty, a baby."

Editor's note: I find it rather silly - and sanctimonious - that Dwayne Day (who works for the prestigious National Academy of Sciences Space Studies Board) has taken to whining about whiners - and does so using pretty much the same tactics he chastises others for using. People who live in glass houses ...

NASA Solicitation: Disaster Roundtable

"NASA Headquarters (HQ), Science Mission Directorate, Office of Applied Science Program, plans to continue it's participation in the National Academies, Disasters Roundtable (DR). The DR provides a multi-disciplinary forum for discussions of urgent and important issues related to natural, technological, and other disasters. It emphasizes the exchange of ideas and facilitates personal working relationships between the federal agencies, the private sector, and experts in related fields of science, engineering, and health."

From: Konstantin Penanen (Jet Propulsion Laboratory)
Date: 17-Aug-2007

Question(s): Mike, During your recent all-hands meeting at JPL a number of employees raised their concerns about the implementation of HSPD-12 and the resulting intrusive investigations. While you expressed your own basic comfort with the directive, you emphasized that the process is government-wide and your hands were tied.

Changing Mindsets

Caution Over Shuttle Shows Shift at NASA, NY Times

"Confronted with the same kind of problem that doomed the space shuttle Columbia, NASA officials, chastened by years of criticism and upheaval in the agency, took a markedly different approach during the current mission of the Endeavour, calling on an array of new tools and procedures to analyze and respond to the problem."

Private-Rocket Venture Failing to Win Investors, Wall Street Journal

"In a potentially serious blow to privately supported space-exploration efforts, a project to develop a private-sector rocket to serve the International Space Station has failed to secure investors. Negotiations between a group of prospective commercial investors and a reusable-rocket venture led by closely held Rocketplane Kistler Inc. have broken down, according to industry officials familiar with the details. Alternative funding for the $500 million needed to keep the project on track is uncertain, these officials said."

California Dreamin': Kicking Back With the NASA Academy, Wired

"The NASA Academy is a 10 week summer program for technical and leadership training for college students offered at four different NASA centers. This weekend I gave a workshop on Space Leadership at the NASA Academy at Ames out in Mountain View California (host to the largest Yuri's Night '07 celebration.)"

NASA Ames Research Center Starts Preparations for Hosting 2009 International Space University

"Some Ames employees have already volunteered to be guest lecturers for ISU. "I have signed letters of intent from several scientists stating that they want to participate," said James. James is setting up an ISU Ambassador Program. With this program, Ames employees agree to work with ISU students, helping acclimate them to the area."

NASA Cooperative Agreement Notice: coordination and integration of the education and public outreach activities in Science Mission Directorate

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Science Mission Directorate (SMD) is releasing a Cooperative Agreement Notice (NNH07ZDA002C) for submission of proposals to support the coordination and integration of the education and public outreach activities in SMD. Four awards are anticipated, one Division Support Group for each of the four SMD Science Divisions: Astrophysics, Earth Science, Heliophysics, and Planetary Science."

PongSats Away!

JPA Announces: Away 34 - including space for 50 PongSats!, SEDS PongSat Blog

"JP Aerospace has spots for 50 PongSats aboard Away 34. Mission date is set for mid-September in Black Rock, NV. For those interested in flying their experiment, please e-mail to register."

NASA OIG Final Memorandum on Audit of NASA's Compliance with Federal Internal Control Reporting Requirements

"We found that NASA's process for complying with Federal internal control requirements was not adequate in FY 2006. While the FY 2007 process will see progress (e.g., additional guidance to be issued), additional improvements are needed. NASA's internal control reporting process was, and continues to be, developed without a well-defined and structured approach. We found that NASA's FY 2006 guidance, as well as the guidance being drafted for FY 2007, were incomplete or lacked sufficient clarification and were not distributed in a timely manner."

Following The Pork

NASA OIG Audit of NASA's Management and Funding of Fiscal Year 2006 Congressional Earmarks

"NASA's FY 2006 budget of $1 6.6 billion included 199 earmarks with congressionally directed finding of $568.2 million' or 3.4 percent of the Agency's budget. The total cost of the 199 FY 2006 earmarks was $576.2 million, which included the $568.2 million in congressionally directed funding plus $8 million in Agency oversight and administration costs."

Business Modernization: NASA Must Consider Agencywide Needs to Reap the Full Benefits of Its Enterprise Management System Modernization Effort, GAO

"Since GAO last reported on NASA's IEMP efforts, NASA implemented its IEMP contract management module and upgraded the software used for its core financial module. NASA has also taken steps to improve its processes for managing IEMP--including implementing improved requirements management and testing processes, enhancing its performance metrics related to tracking system defects, and developing an IEMP risk mitigation strategy. Further, NASA has developed quantitative entry and exit criteria for moving from one phase of an IEMP project to another--a recognized industry best practice. However, NASA has not yet addressed weaknesses in the areas of requirements development and project scheduling, which ultimately caused the agency to assume a greater risk that it would not identify significant system defects prior to implementation of the core financial upgrade."

Reader note: "Hello Keith:

I thought you might be interested into what I have seen on the KSC Video Feeds Page [enlarge] just a moment ago. Someone seems to be watching dragster racing during business hours.

Have a look.

Regards, [NASA Watch reader] from Irmenach, Germany"

Shuttle Diplomacy, commentary, The Conservative Voice

"This culture of arrogance and ignorance is the same reason that we've already lost 2 shuttles and their crews. But this culture is by no means unique to NASA.It's the same culture that allowed Minnesota commuters to cross that bridge, without giving them what many would consider adequate warning about its true condition. It's the same culture that told Utah miners it was safe to descend into that mine. It's the same culture that allows innocent children to be repeatedly raped and murdered by sexual deviants all across the US. It's the same culture that allows US soldiers to continue patrolling Iraqi highways in lightly armored Humvees, knowing that terrorists would rather plant a roadside bomb or hit them with a VBIED, than confront them directly."

Editor's note: Just as the author was about to make a point about engineering and operational risk assessments. he goes off the deep end - linking NASA accidents to child sexual abuse and military tactics in Iraq ... yea right.

Play Cosmic DJ

What Would You Put on a New Golden Record, NASA JPL

"NASA's twin Voyager spacecraft launched in August and September 1977. Aboard each spacecraft is a Golden Record, a collection of sites, sounds and greetings from Earth. If a new Golden Record were to be created, what one item from the past 30 years would you include? Give use your ideas by Sept. 5, 2007 (the 30th anniversary of Voyager 1's launch) and our Voyager Mission team will pick what they think would be the best additions. Just click on the Comment link at the bottom of this page."

Reader note 19 Aug 7:40 pm EDT: "Unless my calendar is wrong, Voyager 2 celebrates 30 years of mission ops tomorrow [20 Aug]. Nothing on NASA, JPL web sites. I suppose us old fogies who even remember that craft are no longer in NASA's 'target demo.' Having followed this mission since I was 11 years old (yes, I still have boxes of Neptune and Uranus PBS "All Night' tapes), I find the lack of even a mention on NASA sites a bit sad, but, unfortunately, not unexpected given their recent communication skills..."

Editor's note 20 Aug 8:30 am EDT: When I posted this reader's note last night I could find nothing on any NASA website about Voyager 2's impending 30th anniversary. Indeed, at that point it was already 20 August in many parts of the world. A reader in Germany noted (overnight) that this website at JPL now reflects that anniversary. Alas, as I post this note there is still nothing on either the NASA or JPL home pages that link to this Voyager page. Sources at NASA also tell me that in contrast to the apparent absence of any celebratory notes online, that quite a lot is planned to celebrate this anniversary. Why NASA did not get the word out to the public and the media in advance is curious. Its not like the date of the 30th anniversary wasn't known - for the past 30 years ... Stay tuned. Of course, NASA's Strategic Communications people are no where to be seen on this. Voyager's saga is ripe with wonderful analogies about NASA's capabilities and contributions. You'd think they'd be jumping on a chance to crow about some positive news for once.

Editor's note 20 Aug 10:00 am EDT: NASA HQ now has some links up. Yet there is still nothing on JPL's home page. What is just plain silly is the fact that you can set your web editing software to post things automatically at a certain date and time. Either they do not know how to do this at JPL, they can't get out of their own way to do so, or someone forgot to do this on Friday - yet the folks in the office down the hallway know how to reprogram ancient computers billions of miles away on an interstellar spacecraft. Go figure.

NASA GRC Reader note: "The Glenn Research Center, who was responsible for launching both Voyagers on Titan/Centaur, had a 30th anniversary celebration at our visitor center this past Saturday."

Editor's note: Gee, too bad NASA could not coordinate these Voyager events across its field centers - with each one linking to the other's events. They only had 30 years to plan this. Then again, the OneNASA concept is no longer needed since the agency is fully integrated as a single entity, right Mike?

Pioneering NASA Voyager Spacecraft Mark Thirty Years of Flight

"NASA's two venerable Voyager spacecraft are celebrating three decades of flight as they head toward interstellar space. Their ongoing odysseys mark an unprecedented and historic accomplishment."

Editor's 20 Aug 12:00 pm EDT note: Finally. A press release.

Scientific secrecy is a danger to all, editorial, Boston Herald

"The number changes dont greatly affect worldwide averages - but they reveal a disturbing arrogance among scientists in the community of global-warming true believers. ... Science is not supposed to work by secrecy. Stonewalling by NASA will only increase the number and fervor of the skeptics."

Editor's note: I have to wonder NASA hasn't hammered back on this topic. Oh wait, I already know why. Every time something like his pops up - and NASA sits on its hands - the critics are emboldened when the next chance to slap the agency emerges (usually a week later). Indeed, they go out looking for more things to throw at NASA - and it is hard to blame them for doing so since NASA makes itself into such a good target. And when something really bad gets out into the blogosphere/news arena and NASA does manage to complain - no one listens. Or if they do listen they just respond by heaping more upon NASA since they know NASA will just sit there and take it - or try some sort of limp spin control.

Where is the 'strategic' communications we've all been promised? Why isn't anyone using that nifty new Message Construct?

Doesn't this agency have a spine any more? Or has NASA just decided to give up as it turns 50?

Reader note: "Funny you should use that word to describe the new communication strategy!Ian Murphy used that same description on Friday during an interview for the SpaceTaskForce podcast. Check it out at"

Endeavour Undocks from Space Station

"Space Shuttle Endeavour undocked from the International Space Station at 7:56 a.m. EDT today, ending an almost nine-day stay at the orbital outpost for the STS-118 crew. Undocking was moved up a day in preparation for landing on Tuesday. The earlier landing opportunity was selected in the event Hurricane Dean threatens the Houston area. It allows an opportunity for the shuttle to land before Mission Control, Houston, would be shut down in preparation for a storm. Mission managers are continuing to monitor the situation and assess their options."

More ISS and Shuttle News

NASA Arctic Mars Analog Svalbard Expedition Field Report (AMASE 2007): Arriving in Longyearbyen, Kirsten Fristad, NASA GSFC

"I became more and more excited the closer I got to Longyearbyen, Svalbard. After a busy year working in the SAM Lab at NASA Goddard I am returning to the arctic as part of the Arctic Mars Analog Svalbard Expedition, otherwise known as AMASE 07. No longer a 'newbie' to AMASE, I know I am quickly approaching long work days, sleepless nights and instrument malfunctions. I am also approaching jovial camaraderie, new experiences and the most beautiful landscapes I have ever set eyes on."

ESA AMASE student blog: Arrival at Longyearbyen, Thea Falkenbergand, ESA

"We arrived at Longyearbyen at about 14:00 yesterday with only a single suitcase missing, which fortunately turned up later when the rest of our cargo was located. About half of the expedition arrived on this flight, some with up to 200 kg overweight ;-)."

Arctic Mars Analog Svalbard Expedition
Previous AMASE postings (2006 and 2007)

NASA's Moral Failures: A Clue to Culture?,

"You may not have noticed but there has been a rash of scandals, moral failures, human errors and the like coming out of NASA in the past year."

Editor's note: Link a series of unrelated things at NASA together, exaggerate - and then blame everything on sex. Yea, that's right. It is so obvious to me now. How could I have missed it?

On CNN Again

Editor's note: I was on CNN International at around 12:15 pm EDT today. Same topic as yesterday - tile repair.

Wikipedia Edits - Government Goes Wild, All Spin Zone

"Want to know what agencies in the U.S. government are making changes to Wikipedia? Try this "top 25 list on for size (from Government Executive Tech Insider): 1. National Aeronautics and Space Administration ( 6,846"

Reader note: "Here's the interesting piece of the puzzle: look up wikipedia entry for ATK. You will find the history tells a story the Challenger was the result of NASA specs. No spec for cold weather performance. -

No mention of pressure applied to potential whistle blower from Morton Thiokol about risk of launch in cold weather and subsequent subtle implied threat regarding contracts for furture work and relation to current job..."

Reader note: "Re the Wikipedia write-ups, I clicked on the Thiokol link and then, under the 1986 history item, on "space shuttle Challenger". Here is what that says for STS 51L (bolding is mine): "The mission ended in disaster following the destruction of Challenger 73 seconds after lift-off because of the failure of an O-ring seal on Challenger's right solid rocket booster, which led to the rapid disintegration of the shuttle stack due to overwhelming aerodynamic pressures. The seven-member crew was killed some time after the breakup of the vehicle."

Now, given that today's college students do much of their research by perusing Wikipedia, can one wonder why they are so relatively ignorant?"

Shuttle Endeavour, Space Station Crew News Conference

"The 10 astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the space shuttle Endeavour and the International Space Station will participate in a news conference at 12:34 p.m. CDT on Friday, Aug. 17. Date: Aug. 16, 2007"


Editor's note: Looks like I will be on CNN Domestic/CNN International at around 12:30 pm EDT today - just before the press conference.

"Forging the Future of Space Science" A Nationwide Public Seminar Series on the Next 50 Years of Space Science

"Next month, the Space Studies Board (SSB) of the National Research Council will kick off a yearlong series of public lectures and colloquia in cities across the country and abroad. "FORGING THE FUTURE OF SPACE SCIENCE - THE NEXT 50 YEARS" will celebrate the spectacular achievements of space and earth science, examine new discoveries in both fields, and look ahead at what the next 50 years may bring."

NASA decides no shuttle repairs needed, Endeavour safe to fly home with gouged belly, AP

"NASA decided Thursday that no repairs are needed for a deep gouge in Endeavour's belly and the space shuttle is safe to fly home. Mission Control notified the seven shuttle astronauts of the decision right before they went to sleep, putting an end to a week of engineering analyses and anxious uncertainty both in orbit and on Earth. "Please pass along our thanks for all the hard work," radioed Endeavour's commander, Scott Kelly. Mission Control replied, "It's great we finally have a decision and we can press forward."

Editor's note: The following was posted by Rand Simberg on his "Transterrestrial Musings" blog. Yes, I guess it is still funny for some sickos to make jokes about more astronauts getting killed - and to make sure to get a link to a drunk crazy astronaut story in the process.


Apparently, the concern is not for loss of the vehicle (and of course, the crew, but we have lots of astronauts*, and only three orbiters left)

* Of course, the fact that we'd lose Barbara Morgan, the other "teacher in space" (quotes because she's officially an astronaut) would have dire PR effects.

Our Spin is Better Than Yours: NASA's Hype Gets the Third Degree, Wired

"Let's say the temperature average for the last decade is 14.438 degrees celsius, roughly the average temperature of the last five years of the 1990s. Obviously it's going to be higher, but this works to illustrate the degree of NASA's error. That temperature of 14.438 degrees celsius becomes becomes 14.443. That's how important NASA's error is. That's the difference between a fraudulent hype and and total irrelevance. Point zero zero five degrees. I think my "spin" is a whole lot more truthful than Greg's."

The Ultimate Power Source

Editor's note: I had the distinct honor of being in the Challenger Center in Alexandria, Virginia this morning as Barbara Morgan did her live downlink and teaching session with a group of students. Although no one among the adults in the room was overtly sobbing, there wasn't a dry eye in the room this morning. Nor were there any expressions other than big smiles.

If only NASA could fully understand (no small task) - and then react to and harness - the immense pride the parents in attendance had in their children, the awe the kids felt at having an opportunity, the obvious sense of future accomplishments all of us adults saw, and the wonderful feeling of completing a circle (Challenger), NASA would never have to worry about inadequate budgets again - nor would it have to worry about being out of step - or unappreciated by the public.

Editorial: NASA needs better glue, editorial, Waco Tribune

"Now, shuttle Endeavour is in space with a damaged heat shield due to another piece of foam that came loose during launch. NASA has had plenty of warnings. It must fix this dangerous problem."

NASA right to emphasize safety, editorial, Newsday

"Let's hope - and pray - that NASA has made the right call and that the crew remains safe during re-entry, which is scheduled for next week. Let's also hope that, as long as there is a manned space program, NASA continues to improve its record on safety."

NASA nears decision on shuttle fix, AP

"Officials have to balance those fears with the risk that astronauts wearing 300-pound spacesuits and carrying 150 pounds of tools could bang into the shuttle and cause more damage as they try to fix the gouge. Putting the wrong amount of the caulk-like repair goo into the gash or failing to put it in exactly the right spot could make the problem worse, Shannon said."

Costly redesign only cure for shuttle's debris woes, USA Today

"Shannon has said he is "cautiously optimistic" that the gouge does not need to be fixed. It poses no risk to the crew, he has said, but could lead to structural damage on the shuttle."

Long Time Between Lessons

Astronaut Teaches in Space, and Lesson Is Bittersweet, NY Times

"Barbara R. Morgan got back to teaching yesterday. The students were in Idaho; she was in space, orbiting aboard the International Space Station. Students at the Discovery Center of Idaho questioning astronauts on the International Space Station on Tuesday. One of the astronauts, Barbara R. Morgan, had been a teacher in Idaho. The lesson was just over 20 minutes, but it was supposed to make up for more than 20 years, and it had a bittersweet air for those who knew the history."

The Future Of NASA, Forbes

"Orbiting approximately 200 miles into the heavens, the space shuttle Endeavour has a small but deep gash in its belly, caused by falling debris during liftoff last week. NASA officials have taken days to decide whether the hole threatens the safety of the crew or if the astronauts need to get out to repair the damage. The U.S. space agency is already weathering a veritable meteor shower of problems, including allegations of corruption, underfunding, drunken and disturbed astronauts, and even murder. Can anything be done to turn things around?"

Opportunity for the Use of the ISS by U.S. Non-government Entitites for Research and Development and Industrial Processing Purposes

"In preparation for the ISS post-assembly phase, NASA is announcing limited opportunities for U.S. non-government entities to conduct R&D activities on the ISS. Under this arrangement, NASA may enter into Space Act Agreements with such entities to allow access to NASA facilities, personnel and technical information as the need and situation warrants, however, there will be no provision of funds. Respondents will be responsible for financing their own activities."

NASA Weather Error Provokes Tempest in a Teapot, Wired

"In short, it wasn't a big deal. The changes were not, as described by and repeated by the Wall Street Journal, "truly astounding." There was a legitimate, small mistake that NASA, when notified, quickly corrected. End of story."

NASA Revisions Create a Stir in The Blogosphere, Washington Post

"NASA has slightly revised its record of average annual temperatures in the United States since 2000 -- modifications that researchers say are insignificant but that some conservative commentators and bloggers have seized upon to assert that global warming has been hyped as a problem. The revisions, which were first posted on the Web site of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, stemmed from an error noticed by Canadian blogger and global warming skeptic Stephen McIntyre. James Hansen, director of the institute, said McIntyre brought the error to the institute's attention, and the error was corrected."

Red faces at NASA over climate-change blunder, The Star

"But the revisions have been seized on by conservative Americans, including firebrand radio host Rush Limbaugh, as evidence that climate change science is unsound. Said Limbaugh last Thursday: "What do we have here? We have proof of man-made global warming. The man-made global warming is inside NASA ... is in the scientific community with false data." However Stephen McIntyre, who set off the uproar, described his finding as a "a micro-change. But it was kind of fun."

1934 and all that,

"Another week, another ado over nothing. Last Saturday, Steve McIntyre wrote an email to NASA GISS pointing out that for some North American stations in the GISTEMP analysis, there was an odd jump in going from 1999 to 2000. On Monday, the people who work on the temperature analysis (not me), looked into it and found that this coincided with the switch between two sources of US temperature data. There had been a faulty assumption that these two sources matched, but that turned out not to be the case. There were in fact a number of small offsets (of both sign) between the same stations in the two different data sets. The obvious fix was to make an adjustment based on a period of overlap so that these offsets disappear."

Will NASA's Reforms Fix Endeavour?, Time

"Dr. Jonathon Clark, husband of astronaut Laurel Clark who lost her life aboard the Columbia, says the agency can't afford to make anything less than a well-thought-out decision. "This is the kind of rock and a hard place scenario that you're in," Clark told TIME. "Realistically, I think NASA's going to do the right thing. And the right thing may not necessarily result in a good outcome but they really are trying to do their best. The world is hanging on to what's going to happen here."

NASA And Its Hang Ups, Michael Graham WTKK

Editor's note: You know, I thought I had encountered just about every sort of vapid idiot in the media until I had the pleasure of being ambushed on Michael Graham's talk show Tuesday morning as he giggled about astronauts dying on Space Shuttles. Then again this is not the first time this twit has said things like this on the air - check this link. His producer Eric had called me half a dozen times to get me on the show before I finally said yes. Now I see why Eric did not tell me exactly what the specific topic would be nor the means whereby Graham would address it. Given what Graham said about NASA's "death machine" I tried to imagine Graham facing someone who rode into space - risking their life - for Graham and every other American. Then, to my surprise this guy has the nerve to post this:

"If Mr. Cowing finds my questions difficult to answer, he should hope not to face any from the families of the 14 dead astronauts."

Well guess what, you pathetic moron, I will be doing EXACTLY THAT Wednesday morning at 9:00 am in Alexandria, Virginia as an invited guest at the Challenger Center for Space Science Education. This is why I will be there.

Editor's earlier note: I just did a morning commute interview with Michael Graham on WTKK radio in Boston. The producer simply said that they wanted to talk about the shuttle. When I got on air Graham staged an ambush and kept hammering away at me saying things like "the space shuttle is the most efficient killing vehicle in use today" etc. and laughing and chuckling all the while as he tried to get me to agree that it as a "horrible mistake and should be replaced". When I told him "guess what, it is being retired" he was silent for a moment and then switched back to his astronaut killing rant. I then suggested that he just interview himself since he had already made his mind up on the topic. He continued to be obnoxious, so I hung up. No one is ever going to change this twit's mind.

I have done hundreds of radio interviews like this and have never hung up during one. This guy wins the a--hole of the day award from NASA Watch. Anyone who chuckles while talking about astronaut deaths - or anyone's death - has a few loose screws.

STS-120 Delay?

NASA May Delay Next Shuttle Flight, Aviation Week & Space Technology

"NASA is pondering whether the next space shuttle mission in October should be delayed for modifications to thwart a new external tank (ET) debris threat, following the discovery of a serious tile divot on Endeavour. The STS-118 crew conducted a focused inspection of the belly tile damage Aug. 12 using laser imaging sensors on the Orbiter Boom Sensor System (OBSS). The key area of concern is a damaged area extending 3.48 x 2.31 inches and spanning two tiles."

Legendary Band Three Dog Night to Open Strategic Space and Defense 2007, Space Foundation

"Legendary music icons THREE DOG NIGHT will open Strategic Space and Defense 2007 with a performance on Tuesday, 9 October 2007. Presented by the Space Foundation and Space News, Strategic Space and Defense 2007, a global security conference for space and defense professionals, will take place at the Qwest Center Omaha Convention Center in Omaha, Neb., 9 -- 11 October 2007. The opening ceremony will begin at 6 p.m. in the lower level of the Qwest Center."

Editor's note:Wow. This makes me want to make my reservations right now! I wonder how much this cost - probably enough to send a student to college for a year. Oh well, I am sure my fellow 50+ white male cohorts will be singing along and clapping ...

Editor's note: In his latest "What's New" rant, AIP's resident curmudgeon Bob Park reveals his chronic and absolute ignorance with regard to biology when he says:

2. ENDEAVOUR: NOT THE FIRST TIME IN SPACE FOR S. PNEUMONIAE. School teacher Barbara Morgan, we're told, has been busy using the camera on the robot arm to examine the shuttle skin for signs of damage from three pieces of foam that broke off the fuel tank on launch.Not a word though on how Streptococcus pneumoniae is doing.A vial of the pneumonia bacteria was taken up on Endeavour to study how microbes adapt to microgravity.Are they kidding?In the human space flight program this is called "science." Of course, S. pneumoniae have been to space many times before - they're in the upper respiratory tract of 40% of the population.Why didn't they just swab the nasal passages of astronauts?

Streptococcus pneumoniae colonizes the nasopharyngeal cavity in 5 - 70% of adults in the population depending primarily on whether they have recently been in close proximity to small children. As such, Park's claim of 40% is an oversimplification. It is precisely because this organism may colonize otherwise healthy adults and cause them no problems unless or until they become immune-compromised (which indeed may occur during long-duration exploration-class missions), at which point space life scientists really do need to know whether S. pneumoniae behaves differently under conditions of microgravity.

There is precedent for changes in potentially pathogenic bacteria when grown in the microgravity environment (see papers by Duane Pierson et al). The researchers for this experiment and others (Cheryl Nickerson, Arnold Dement) see changes in patterns of gene expression or production of secondary metabolites in ground-based analogs of microgravity.

Alas, Bob Park never bothers to research the actual science behind things before he dumps on them. Then again, "What's New" about that, eh Bob?

IAM Sues NASA for Misconduct

"The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) today filed suit in the United States District Court in the District of Columbia against the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for interfering in the negotiations for a new contract for almost 500 workers represented by IAM Local Lodge 2061 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The IAM-represented employees provide launch services to NASA through the United Space Alliance (USA), a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and the Boeing Co. A copy of the complaint is available at"

Charles Force Has Died

NASA Mourns the Loss of Charles T. Force

"NASA notes with sadness the passing last week of Charles T. Force, former associate administrator for the agency's Office of Space Communications. Force left NASA in May 1996 after an aerospace career that spanned more than four decades. He joined NASA in 1965 as director of the Guam tracking station used to support the Apollo lunar landings. He would later go on to help develop, construct and employ NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System, known as TDRSS."

Skydiver plans head-first freefall from the edge of space in dizzying bid to break Mach 1, Daily Mail

"He will leap head-first from a weather balloon 25 miles above Earth and plummet at more than 1,000mph with only a parachute for company. He will face external temperatures of minus 100c while inside his carbon-fibre suit it will be a stifling 65c - almost 150 fahrenheit. And most amazing of all, Michel Fournier is actually looking forward to it."

Meet the New Horizons Pluto Pals!

"New Horizons wasn't the only voyage launched on January 19, 2006 - this week we welcome the "Pluto Pals" to the New Horizons team, five kids who were born on the same day our spacecraft embarked on its historic journey the outer solar system. The idea for the club came to New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern last year as he scanned news coverage of the spacecraft's launch. "I saw a fantastic Florida Today image of two boys watching the launch," he said. "It made me think it would be fun to follow some children who would grow up during our 9 1/2 year trip to Pluto."

New Horizons Mission to Begin Pluto Encounter April 12th, 2015 in Salute to Early Space Explorers

"Yuri's Night is proud to announce that New Horizons, the NASA spacecraft currently en route to the ninth planet, Pluto, and the Kuiper Belt, will begin its final encounter with the Pluto system on April 12, 2015."

Help NASA Innovate

General Engineer: "This position is that of the Program Executive for the Innovation Incubator program element, Innovative Partnerships Program Office, located within HQ, NASA. The mission of this organization is to provide leveraged technology for NASA's Mission Directorates, Programs, and Projects through investments and technology partnerships with industry, academia, government agencies, and national laboratories. The programs and initiatives directed by the NASA IPP foster technology partnerships, commercialization and innovation in support of NASA's overall mission and national priorities. The incumbent of this position is responsible for providing management and oversight of several activities which encourage new sources of innovation and technology to help NASA achieve it's mission objectives including the Centennial Challenges program which encourages creative solutions to specific technological problems of the Agency."

Exciting NASA Air Competition Full of Dull Planes, Gizmodo

"NASA handed out $250,000 in prize money this weekend to aircraft designers who competed in a competition to create personal air-vehicles. But don't be fooled by the picture and think that the event was full of flying cars, experimental planes and UFO-shaped discsall the entrants were standard-looking planes, as you will see in the videos after the jump. The event was part of the Centennial Challenges, the government-sponsored competitions that aim to have us all flying to the office in the morning and taking holidays on the moon as soon as possible. The money was given out in six categories: speed, short takeoff, efficiency, handling, noise and overall best."

Space: the search for a political consensus, Frank Sietzen, The Space Review

"For many of us George W. Bushs silence in neither explaining nor defending his Vision for Space Exploration is not surprising. What propelled the Bush administration to set in motion the series of interlocking policy decisions that became known as the Visionretirement of the Shuttle in 2010, redirection of ISS research, returning astronauts to the Moon and development of the capability to send humans to Marswas neither interest in space nor a systematic review of federal science policy. It was the February 1, 2003 Columbia accident."

Keith Cowing's Devon Island Journal - 10 July 2007: Back to the Arctic

"For me this is my third trip to Devon Island - my third mission, if you will. My first trip in 2002 involved the establishment of a greenhouse that my company donated to the Haughton-Mars Project. The second trip involved follow-up activities for that greenhouse's operations. Both of those trips were a few days shy of a month in length. As such, I got a nice healthy dose of what life was like in a remote and extreme location.

Yet there had to be more than just these two trips."

11 July 2007: Heading North
12 July 2007: Dropping Onto Devon Island
13 July 2007: Teaching About Roses on Mars
14 July 2007: Using an iPhone on Mars
15 July 2007: Surreal Landscapes and Late Evening Thoughts
16-17 July 2007: Webcasts, Robots, Astronauts, and Dogs
18 July 2007: Ancient Memorials for Modern Space Explorers
19 July 2007: Sheer Audacity
20-22 July 2007: The Persistence of Memory
27 July 2007: Polar Deserts and Global TV

Tile Damage Update


Inspection shows gash though tiles, NASA analyzing options, AP

"The unevenly shaped gouge-which straddles two side-by-side thermal tiles and the corner of a third-is 3 1/2 inches long and just over 2 inches wide. Sunday's inspection showed that the damage goes all the way through the 1-inch-thick tiles, exposing the felt material sandwiched between the tiles and the shuttle's aluminum frame."

NEEMO 13 Underway

NASA Announces Next Undersea Exploration Mission Dates and NEEMO Crew

"NASA will send three astronauts and a Constellation Program aerospace engineer into the ocean depths off the Florida coast from Aug. 6 to 15. They will test lunar exploration concepts and a suite of medical objectives for long-duration spaceflight."

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Previous NEEMO news

Editor's 10 Aug update: NASA PAO as dropped the ball with NEEMO yet again. If you go to NASA's NEEMO page there are no NASA updates at all with regard to the NEEMO 13 mission - even though it is now half way completed (day 5 out of 10). Yet if you go to this University of North Carolina website there are several reports (with images) - but they are from someone who is not inside NEEMO. Why conduct these events (they are not cheap) if you don't tell anyone what you are doing, NASA?

Editor's 12 Aug update: NEEMO updates are now being posted. Read them all here.

NASA STS-118 Execute Package FD04


The following procedure should be followed on MCC "Go" to perform a sneakernet transfer of execute package messages from the ISS SSCs to the Shuttle PGSCs. During the docked timeframe, the Shuttle Ku coverage is very limited in the hours before crew wakeup due to ISS blockage. The Shuttle OCA OFFICER will uplink the Shuttle execute package to a Shuttle PCMCIA card (inserted into an ISS SSC) and you (shuttle crew) will move the PCMCIA card to a Shuttle PGSC in the morning and run a batch file to copy the execute package files to their standard location on the KFX PGSC."

Why Progressives Should Care About Human Destiny in Space, AlterNet

"The crew of the Challenger, which perished on Jan. 28, 1986, when the space shuttle disintegrated over the Atlantic Ocean 73 seconds after liftoff, had backups. Christa McAuliffe, who was selected to be the first "schoolteacher in space," was herself backed up by another schoolteacher. Her name was Barbara Radding Morgan, who taught elementary school in Fresno, Calif., and was then 34 years old. On Wednesday evening, more than 21 years later, Ms. Morgan, now 55, went up on the space shuttle Endeavor as NASA's first "educator in space" to continue the mission that Ms. McAuliffe began two long decades ago. And she's doing it from the same place where McAuliffe sat -- in the middle of the lower deck."

A Piece of Space History

Apollo 12 trailer resurfaces at a fish farm?, Huntsville Times

"The U.S. Space & Rocket Center has landed a prize catch at a west Alabama fish farm.
Museum officials found a long-lost Airstream trailer that was used to quarantine Apollo 12 astronauts returning from the moon in November 1969."

Editor's note: Gee, I hope that the U.S. Space & Rocket Center takes better care of this historical artifact than the Skylab hardware it has allowed to sit outside and rot.

SWIFT Problems?

Swift Trigger 28742: False trigger due to star tracker loss, NASA GSFC

"At 19:54 UT, Swift suffered a loss of star tracker lock, and the Burst Alert Telescope (BAT) then interpreted Sco X-1 as a GRB (trigger=287421). The BAT position notice correctly contained the comment line: COMMENTS: This trigger occured while the StarTracker had lost lock, so it is possibly bogus. Star tracker recovery is currently underway."

Ed Lu Is Leaving NASA

Astronaut Ed Lu Leaves NASA

"Veteran International Space Station astronaut and space shuttle flyer Ed Lu has left NASA to accept a position in the private sector. Lu flew on two shuttle missions and lived six months aboard the station as a member of the orbiting laboratory's seventh crew."

NASA Administrator Announces Senior Leadership Appointments

"On Friday, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin named Richard J. Gilbrech as associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, the NASA division designing the next generation of spacecraft to return astronauts to the moon and eventually journey to Mars. Gilbrech currently serves as the director of NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. Griffin also named Robert D. Cabana, deputy director of NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, to replace Gilbrech as center director at Stennis."

Editor's note: I was looking through the various NASA-related photos that have been posted on Yahoo in the past 24 hours when I came across this. It was on the third page of photos at the time I looked (7:56 am EDT). Lets see how long this caption stays up.

So far, no evidence of drunk astronauts: NASA, Reuters

NASA chief questions alcohol abuse allegations, Houston Chronicle

"I have difficulty attaching credibility to the charges," Griffin said in an interview at the Kennedy Space Center, where the shuttle Endeavour was in the final hours of a countdown to launch. "I've never seen one of our astronauts or for that matter one of our flight directors, flight controllers or anyone else on operational side of these things behave in such a way that their partying got in the way of their job," Griffin said."

Nowak Update

Ex-Astronaut Asks to End Use of Ankle Bracelet, NY Times

"Capt. Lisa Marie Nowak wants to get rid of her ankle bracelet. A lawyer for Captain Nowak, the former astronaut charged with attempted kidnapping after driving more than 900 miles from Texas to Florida to confront a romantic rival in February, argued in papers filed in a Florida circuit court in Orlando this afternoon that the electronic monitoring device is a personal, physical and financial hardship. She has been wearing the device as a condition of her release from jail."

Familiar Wake Up Song

Endeavour Undergoes Heat Shield Inspection

"The crew of the space shuttle Endeavour was awakened for its first full day in orbit at 8:37 a.m. EDT by the song "Where My Heart Will Take Me," performed by Russell Watson. It was played for Mission Specialist Rick Mastracchio."

Editor's note: You may find this song to be somewhat familiar. This is not the first time it has been played either.

Message from the Chief, Office of Strategic Communications Updated Memo on NASA Messages - August 9, 2007

"The Message Construct serves to guide your communication efforts with the general public. We are asking that you use the Core Message: "NASA explores for answers that power our future," in the text of your communications material, when appropriate and that it be used verbatim. We also have developed a graphic element to illustrate and enhance the Core Message. The graphic element is: Inspiration + Innovation + Discovery = Future. It is recommended, not required, that the graphic element be used on agency communications materials. The other messages in the Message Construct are also market tested and should be used where best applicable."

Hopkins says: "The graphic element is: Inspiration + Innovation + Discovery = Future." But wait Bob, those are words, not a "graphic element" - or are you still referring to the graphic that you put in this 1 August 2007 memo and this 5 June 2007 memo? I am not the only person who is confused.

Further, Bob Hopkins now says "It is recommended, not required, that the graphic element be used on agency communications materials." Whereas he was much more explicit about its universal usage when he said here just last week that "The graphic element is to be used on all Agency communications materials.". So Bob, did you change your mind? Did someone change it for you? Or was this a flawed attempt on your part to communicate this aspect of NASA's overall Strategic Communications Framework Implementation Plan? Are the "Core Message" and the "Graphic Element" one in the same? That is how you show them in the "graphic" you have been putting in memos and briefings.

If you meant to say that the words "Inspiration + Innovation + Discovery = Future" are what is to be posted on everything then say "words" or "phrase" not "Graphic Element". And if the words within the blue triangle graphic are to be used as the "Core Message" then you might want to call out the words - as words - and not present them as part of a Graphic Element.

What is just plain hilarious about this is the initial memo purports to communicate the new communications message to NASA's leadership - yet it fails to communicate and cannot clearly differentiate between "words" and "graphics". Anyone with such a blatant lack of writing expertise should be kept as far away from communications activities as possible. The same goes for anyone (Bob Hopkins) who approves the issuance of such a confusing memo - to say nothing of the vapid and mediocre content it contains.

And yet, does StratComm contact me or other news media to clarify the issue - one that is spreading across the agency? No. They just wait until sends me the memo they distributed internally - to a wider list than they sent the earlier memo to, by the way.

Crowded Blue Triangles, Core Messages, Message Constructs, and Graphic Elements - NASA's Office of Strategic Communications - starting at the top - is clearly in over its collective head. This parade of confusing messages and terminology - and the hollow, half-completed, and uninspired ideas that are put forth - is proof positive that this crowd is out to lunch, adrift without a clue, oblivious to the obvious, etc. and needs to be replaced.

NASA: Progress Made on Strategic Human Capital Management, but Future Program Challenges Remain, GAO

"NASA recognizes that critical skills now present in the civil service and contractor Space Shuttle workforce are needed to complete present and future mission objectives, but also understands that additional capability will also be needed in certain areas. Given this, NASA is looking ahead and considering how best to mitigate any potential loss of skills and knowledge that could take place in the period between the Space Shuttle's retirement in 2010 and the resumption of human space flight in 2015."

Machinists Union to Testify Before House Science and Technology Committee on NASA Workplace Issues, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers

"We welcome the opportunity to testify about the serious issues faced by workers at NASA's facility at Cape Canaveral," said Johnny Walker, District 166 Directing Business Representative who will be testifying for the IAM. The IAM represents more than 2,000 workers at NASA facilities at Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center."

Boeing and IAMAW Local Lodge 1163 Reach New Collective Bargaining Agreement

"The Boeing Company and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) Local Lodge 1163 have reached a new three-year collective bargaining agreement that affects 92 employees of the Checkout, Assembly and Payload Processing Services (CAPPS) program at Kennedy Space Center, Fla."

Reader note: Keith, Upon reading your intro to the blue triangle story, I was inspired to look up the USDA food pyramid online. If you go to, on the right hand side you will see animation of the food pyramid launching into space towards the stars ending with an image of an astronaut and planet. It is a link to the My Pyramid Blast Off game that kids can play. How sad that NASA HQ can't come up with anything remotely as NASA as the USDA can.

I used to work in public outreach for NASA. There was never any recognition by management of the talent needed to do the job nor any realization that outreach deserved a proper budget. Now outreach is saddled with misguided direction from HQ such as the CMR guidelines and this latest crap.

I frequently was asked by the public, "Where can I go to find out about all the things we have learned from the over 100 shuttle missions?". The answer, as far as I was ever able to determine, is that there is no place to go. NASA likes to talk about hardware and how it works but not what we have learned along the way. That sure makes it hard for the tax payer to care about NASA.

Former NASA Public Outreach Peon

Challenger's Legacy

Keith Cowing's Devon Island Journal: 18 July 2007: Ancient Memorials for Modern Space Explorers

"A day or so later a package arrived. As I opened it I told my wife, with a bit of a tear in my eye, "this is history". I had been sent one of the few items Dick Scobee had left in his briefcase when he took off for his last mission: a business card and a mission lapel pin. I am certain that his family has so little in the way of such items. As such I was really honored that the family had chosen this inukshuk we planned to build on Devon Island, as the place where such precious items would rest. I explained these items as well as I placed them in the inukshuk - and read the card that June Scobee Rogers had included - in it she said: "Looks like we share similar missions - inspiring, exploring, learning".

Registration Opens for New NASA Engineering Design Challenge: Lunar Plant Growth Chamber

"As space shuttle Endeavour and 10 million cinnamon basil seeds are set to launch on a mission to the International Space Station, NASA has opened registration for the Lunar Plant Growth Chamber challenge."

SEDS 'Got Vision' Space Art Contest Now Accepting Submissions

"The Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) today formally announced the opening of submissions for a nation-wide all-student space art contest."

Sally Ride Science Launches Blog to Help Teachers Fuel Students' Interest in Science

"What is it like to go from zero to 17,000 miles per hour in just over eight minutes? Or to orbit 220 miles above earth? When the Space Shuttle Endeavor blasts off tomorrow for its 12-day mission in space, teachers and students can follow the activities of NASA astronaut and teacher Barbara Morgan through the Sally Ride Science blog."

Keith Cowing's Devon Island Journal: 16-17 July 2007: Webcasts, Robots, Astronauts, and Dogs

"We also answered a lot questions sent in by students. Matt, Leroy, and I just answered them ad hoc - without a net, so to speak. Again, since we all know the topics rather well, spontaneous unrehearsed answers always sound better. I learned later that each time I read out the student's name there was a cheer from the other students in the room."

Editor's note: The HSPD-12 issue has not gone away at JPL. Quite the contrary - people are more alarmed than ever. For further information on the JPL rebadging issue check out this website: and this one:

Video of employees protesting HSPD-12 outside JPL and handing out flyers as other employees arrive at work.

You can also join a Yahoo group devoted to this issue.

Reader note: You might be interested to know that things are heating up at JPL around the implementation of HSPD-12. At this point in the process, virtually all employees have been assigned a 10-day window to submit the forms authorizing an unlimited background check, but according to the official JPL HSPD-12 web site there has been only about 50% compliance. The actual number quoted on the site are (note that there are approximately 6000 employees, and that the second category below is a subset of the first):

Internal NASA Memo from Robert Hopkins, Chief, Office of Strategic Communications: NASA Messages

"The Message Construct serves to guide your communication efforts with the general public. We are asking that you use the Core Message: "NASA explores for answers that power our future," in the text of your communications material and that it be used verbatim. We also have developed a graphic element to illustrate and enhance the Core Message. The graphic element is: Inspiration + Innovation + Discovery = Future. The graphic element is to be used on all Agency communications materials. The other messages in the Message Construct are also market-tested and should be used where best applicable."

Editor's note: Oh great: a big honking government logo that looks like the USDA healthy school lunch pyramid to teach us why space is important. Where are the astronauts, planets, and rocket ships? THAT is what makes people think about space!

This document is just another stale product written by faceless swarms of people sitting in government office cubicles who think they understand the real world. They always manage to miss the mark. This one misses it by a mile. This whole effort purports to be the new way NASA reaches out - and makes itself relevant to - the tax paying public.

Yet there is not a thing in here that addresses the core reason - the core emotion and aspiration - that most people associate with space exploration: that they can get to go there - personally. Where is the "me" in all of this? If I gave this to someone in 4th - 6th grade would they understand it? Not really. Would they feel like this was a personal invitation? I doubt it. And if you have lost the most impressionable sector of our society you ain't gonna get the rest of us interested.

Everything in this document and the stilted PowerPoint slides that back it is stale, recycled, and doomed to fail. NASA's Strategic Communications Office simply doesn't get it.

Time to start over.

Comments? Send your comments to Your comments thus far:

Space Shuttle Endeavour Launched on STS-118 Mission

"Cheers and shouts can be heard throughout the Space Center as Endeavour, carrying the STS-118 crew, roars off the launch pad into the late afternoon sky to begin the 22nd mission to the International Space Station. "

Additional ISS and Space Shuttle News

Editor's attempt at humor: The Graphic Element runners-up continue to surface. This idea ignores the triangle and focuses on the verbal equation. I am told that this one was a particular favorite of Spock's Mike Griffin's due to the "smartest guy in the room" approach it uses to pitch the idea.

Alas, Bob Hopkins and his Strategic Communications experts decided that most people can't do math and that this would confuse them. Besides, NASA only uses whiteboards - not chalkboards.

NASA's Exploration Mission: And the Children Shall Reach Out - and Lead, SpaceRef

"Every now and again even the most cynical of us stumble across something so simple - and yet profound - as to take one's breath away - and remind us of why we are so captivated with space exploration's broader ramifications."

Editor's note: Every now and then NASA gets it right. This video comes from the pre-Bob Hopkins era. This may not work for all audiences (there is more than one audience out there, Bob) but it works with some - I have seen it work with my own eyes.

Editor's attempt at humor: Some of the runner up concepts for the Graphic Element aka 'Blue Triangle' have begun to surface.

Although they are not any better at conveying NASA's value - and potential - to the public, at least some of them indicate that a few people on Bob Hopkins' Strategic Communications staff have some inkling of what comprises popular culture these days.

Human failings serve as NASA wake-up call: How medical rules were bent -- and why remedies are needed, MSNBC

"To the embarrassment of NASA officials, and to the glee of far too many outside cynics, the public has been treated to a ghastly parade of human failings from space workers that might have led to disaster if they occurred during flight: February's story of a love triangle gone wrong, which resulted in the arrest of astronaut Lisa Nowak; a murder-suicide at NASA's Johnson Space Center; and last month's tales of heavy alcohol use in the astronaut corps."

Editor's attempt at humor: NASA Strategic Communications Commander Robert Hopkins moved swiftly late Tuesday to consolidate his power and begin implementation of his new Graphic Element. NASA meatball logos began to disappear all across the agency - at a speed faster than even the old NASA worm logos disappeared - to be replaced by the NASA's new Graphic Element. This image is one example of the Graphic Element properly applied (click to enlarge)

Henceforth all NASA meatball logos are to be removed and replaced with the new Graphic Element. Anyone caught not using the Graphic Element will be sent to Wallops for Graphic Element re-education.

In addition, all NASA employees will be required to memorize the Core Message and complete training in the proper implementation of the Message Construct. Spot inspections will be performed on a random basis so as to assure 100% compliance.

All employees will be expected to have Elevator Speeches with one another whenever riding in an elevator so as to confirm each other's proficiency with the Message Construct and the Core Message. This also applies to after hours use of escalators, moving sidewalks at airports, and amusement park rides (you can tell people that the momentary weightlessness you feel is actually a NASA spinoff).

And of course, to be compatible with the format of the Message Construct and the Core Message, incomplete sentences and thoughts are the preferred mode of conversation at all times when discussing this topic. Further information can be found here.

You will comply.

Reader note: "Thats an awesome picture. Time to repaint the VAB and also paste that pathetic triangle on the Hubble next year when they service it.Maybe they should have used a rhombus instead."

A wide-ranging interview with the leader of NASA, CBS/SpaceflightNow

"Griffin: ... There is and there will continue to be much debate on the scientific merits of the space station and I think there should be that debate, that's fine. We will find a way to utilize the space station to help benefit human exploration of the solar system. But leaving all of that aside, it is the most amazing construction project ever attempted by human beings."

Editor's note: There are some reports and rumors circulating that NASA has decided to redesign the Orion spacecraft to land in water only - and not on land with airbags. According to a short statement from NASA PAO to - one corroborated with ESMD (specifically, with ESMD Deputy AA Doug Cooke): "NASA has not abandoned the concept of land re-entries. The decision has not been made."

Editor's update: When contacted for comment on these rumors and reports, and asked "Has NASA deleted the requirement that Orion make routine landings on land instead of in the ocean? Has NASA directed Lockheed Martin to make these changes in the design of Orion?" ESMD AA Scott Horowitz told "No. Still being studied, currently part of the trades to see what effects each requirement (including land landing nominally) has on weight."

Editor's update: According to this article Orion landings to be splashdowns - KSC buildings to be demolished on "NASA Constellation and Lockheed Martin have deleted the airbag landing system from the next Orion design cycle (Orion 607) in a weight saving measure, opting to return to an Apollo-style splashdown for the vehicle's end of mission.". The author of this article just stated "We totally stand by our story as 100 percent accurate."

What can I say - I have statements that deny that this change has been made to Orion's design directly from Scott Horowitz, the NASA ESMD AA - and his deputy - and also from NASA PAO - all on the record. Everyone can't be right on this - and I doubt Scott and Doug suddenly decided to start being dishonest with me.

NASA KSC Solicitation: Construction of the Constellation Crew Launch Vehicle Mobile Launcher

"NASA/KSC is issuing Request for Proposal (RFP)] NNK07201535R for the Construction of the Constellation Crew Launch Vehicle (CLV) Mobile Launcher (ML). This RFP is for the construction of the Constellation CLV ML. This acquisition will be conducted as a negotiated full and open competition. The ML acquisition evaluation is being conducted in two parts due to the aggressive Constellation Program schedule and need for the ML."

Microsoft And NASA Team Up For 3-D Space Shuttle Tour, Wired

NASA, Microsoft Launch Collaboration With Immersive Photography, NASA

Groundbreaking Digital Experience for Endeavour Shuttle Launch. Microsoft Live Labs

"For the first time, people around the world can view 3-D images of the space shuttle Endeavour and surrounding buildings at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida before it launches into space, through a collaboration between Microsoft Corp. and NASA. Microsoft(R) Live Labs and NASA developed the environments using hundreds of photographs and a photo-imaging technology called Photosynth(TM). Photosynth uses hundreds of standard digital camera images to construct a 3-D view of an environment that can be navigated and explored in a highly intuitive manner."

Editor's note: You are out of luck, Mac users. According to this site: "The Photosynth technology preview runs only on Windows XP SP2 and Windows Vista.". I have seen this software demonstrated with my own eyes (on a PC) and it is jaw dropping.

Letter from NASA Astronaut and STS-118 Commander Scott Kelly Regarding Media Coverage of Astronaut Health Committee

"My understanding and that of the rest of my crew with regard to NASAs policy on alcohol and flying aircraft, or spacecraft, was no different before this panels report was released than it is now. It simply does not happen."

Why America Needs to Explore Space, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Parade Magazine

Editor's note: If NASA's Strategic Communications folks worked on getting more articles like this out there (I do not know if they had a hand in this) they'd do a lot more for the cause of space exploration than a bunch of awkward PowerPoint slides and "elevator speeches". Dr. Tyson conveys more eloquence in one sentence than NASA does in a pile of its internal studies. Millions of people were exposed to this as the cover story in their weekend newspapers. Alas, looking at the reader comments appended to Dr. Tyson's article, StratComm still has a long way to go to convince people that NASA actually does anything of value - for them personally - or for us as a nation.

A Side of Mercury Not Seen By Mariner 10, e-Print archive

"More than 60,000 images of Mercury were taken at ~29 deg elevation during two sunrises, at 820 nm, and through a 1.35 m diameter off-axis aperture on the SOAR telescope. The sharpest resolve 0.2" (140 km) and cover 190-300 deg longitude -- a swath unseen by the Mariner 10 spacecraft -- at complementary phase angles to previous ground-based optical imagery. Our view is comparable to that of the Moon through weak binoculars. Evident are the large crater Mozart shadowed on the terminator, fresh rayed craters, and other albedo features keyed to topography and radar reflectivity, including the putative huge ``Basin S'' on the limb."

Photos From Space: What Astronaut Clay Anderson Is Reading, SpaceRef

Editor's note: "It is getting harder and harder to find interesting things in the photos sent back from the ISS. Not only are there fewer internal photos being sent back these days, but someone is clearly screening them so as to not let anything interesting slip through. I am told that Mike Griffin's favorite communications guru Marsha Ivins used to do this screening personally."

Reader Comments: "Regarding your last commentary - Clay has a daily trivia quiz that he does with MCC-Houston and (I think) the POCC at Goddard for fun. Apparently that's where he gets his questions from."

"Right after Clay arrived at ISS, he started a ritual of asking ground controllers in Houston and Huntsville trivia questions, getting the answer the following day. He apparently uses the book to get the questions and answers."

Bad Research at Wired

Ex-Astronaut's Lonely Mission: Save Earth From Asteroid Strike, Wired

"Former astronaut Rusty Schweickart has already earned his place in the history books by going to the moon with the Apollo 9 mission. However, should an asteroid crash into the Earth anytime soon, killing millions and causing catastrophic damage, he'll also be remembered as the guy whose warnings we ignored."

Editor's note: Rusty did not go to the moon on Apollo 9. Nor did the Apollo 9 mission. Indeed, just do a lazy Google of "Apollo 9" and only read the first entry that pops up. No mention of going to the moon. And that picture of the Apollo 9 LEM - the blue stuff in the background is not the Sea of Tranquility. Rusty is a rather articulate fellow so, I guess that means ....

This historical error aside, it is an interesting article - about an important topic.

NASA JSC Solicitation: Digital Cameras and Digital Peripherals

"NASA/JSC has a requirement for multiple digital cameras and camera peripherals. The digital cameras and all camera peripherals must be manufactured from the same lot. NASA has a requirement for 48 Nikon D2XS SLR Digital Cameras. The cameras must be lubricated with Braycote lubricating grease which is approved for spaceflight during the manufacturing process. Attempts to compete similar efforts have been unsuccessful due to the camera equipment having to be manufactured from the same lot and items requiring Braycote lubricant grease having to be lubricated during the manufacturing and assembly process."

Editor's note: This Expedition 15 photo should give you an idea of what camera gear they already have on orbit.

Phoenix Rises

NASA Spacecraft Heads for Polar Region on Mars

"NASA's Phoenix Mars Mission blasted off Saturday, aiming for a May 25, 2008, arrival at the Red Planet and a close-up examination of the surface of the northern polar region. Perched atop a Delta II rocket, the spacecraft left Cape Canaveral Air Force Base at 5:26 a.m. EDT into the predawn sky above Florida's Atlantic coast. The spacecraft established communications with its ground team via the Goldstone, Calif., antenna station of NASA's Deep Space Network at 7:02 a.m. EDT, after separating from the third stage of the launch vehicle."

Spacecraft Projection Galaxy, Bigelow Aerospace

"History in the making. For the first time, Bigelow Aerospace is able to project images on the outside of a spacecraft!"

NASA's Space Shuttle Mission Postponed by 24 Hours

"The launch of space shuttle Endeavour on mission STS-118 has been postponed 24 hours to allow the shuttle processing team additional time to complete routine work before liftoff. The new launch is targeted for Wednesday, Aug. 8, at 6:36 p.m. EDT. The additional day will provide time to complete the processing and allow the countdown to begin at 8 p.m. Sunday. Despite the delay, the STS-118 crew will still arrive at Kennedy Space Center, Fla., at 5 p.m. EDT Friday. NASA TV will have live coverage of the arrival. On launch day, live coverage starts at 8:30 a.m."

NASA Selects Astrophysics Projects for New Science on the Moon

"NASA has selected four proposals focusing on astrophysics priorities in lunar science to facilitate the nation's exploration program. The proposed studies are part of a NASA effort to develop new opportunities to conduct important science investigations during the planned renewal of human exploration of the moon."

AIP FYI #84: Landmark S&T Bill Passed by Congress

Gordon: House Passes Landmark Bill Investing in America's Students, Teachers, Workers

Competitiveness Package Passes House - Republicans Voice Concerns over Spending Authorization Levels

Conference Report, 21st Century Competitiveness Act, 2007 (NASA Excerpts)

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration shall be a full participant in any interagency effort to promote innovation and economic competitiveness through near-term and long-term basic scientific research and development and the promotion of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education, consistent with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's mission, including authorized activities."

In Defense of Drunk Astronauts, opinion,

"Cut these cowboys some slack. These are not wobbly Northwest Airlines pilots trying to get off the runway and steer through clouds and densely occupied airspace. An ascending space shuttle, I assure you, encounters very little traffic. And for much of liftoff, the astronaut is little more than spam in a can -- not pilot but guinea pig. With opposable thumbs, to be sure, yet with only one specific task: to come out alive."

Editor's note: On one hand, Krauthammer places the risks that astronauts take into a true persective - sort of. I think he wa trying to be funny when he wrote this. Trying. Yet on the other hand he seems to be condoning the use of alcohol by astronauts during launch activities - the same behavior NASA said that it will not tolerate. As is usually the case with his bombastic writing about NASA, Krauthammer does not have a clue how the things he pontificates about actually work. What would happen, let's say, if the crew suddenly had to scramble out of an orbiter during an abort on the pad? Or make an emergency TAL abort landing due to some malfunction? You certainly need every physical and mental system running at full capacity for that. Details, Mr. Krauthammer, details. That's why they call it "Rocket Science".

Online Registration Now Open for $9,000 Pete Conrad Spirit of Innovation Award

"The X PRIZE Foundation announced the availability of online registration for a new education competition designed to interest students in space, science and technology. The Pete Conrad Spirit of Innovation Award, named in honor of the celebrated Apollo astronaut, will be presented for the first time at this year's Wirefly X PRIZE Cup in October. The award will be presented to the high school team that develops the most creative, new space concept to benefit the emerging personal spaceflight industry."


Accidents Won't Stop Private Space Industry's Push to Final Frontier, Wired

"The private space industry suffered a setback last Thursday when an explosion ripped through a rocket-engine test area in the California desert, killing three workers and seriously injuring three others. The industry's first fatal accident is already becoming a defining event in the history of commercial spaceflight -- it's the private rocketeers' Apollo 1."

Lunar living - Virginia engineers are testing an inflatable, expandable habitat, Times-Dispatch

"Engineers here are testing an inflatable, expandable planetary surface habitat. The early model is a 20-foot-high, 12-foot-wide capsule on legs and covered in white nylon webbing. Later models could be used someday as living quarters, storage units and air locks for astronauts stationed on the moon."

DFRC to become AFRC?

NASA center may get Armstrong name, DailyNews

"Four California congressmen, including both of the Antelope Valley's representatives, have introduced legislation to rename the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center after test pilot and Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first to walk on the moon. The legislation would re-designate NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center as the Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center, but would still honor the center's current namesake by naming the Western Aeronautical Test Range as the Hugh L. Dryden Aeronautical Test Range."

SMD AA Telecon

NASA Science Chief to Reveal Cassini Plans; Discuss Programs

Alan Stern, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, will host a media teleconference at 1 p.m. EDT, Wednesday, Aug. 1.



Stern: There is a new vigor at SMD and a new way of holding costs. With regard to reusing spacecraft, a peer reviewed process selected these two proposals. We originally have three comet flybys in the modern era. Now we are going to have 5.

With regard to future opportunities: In the last 3 months we have been looking at a process to standardize selection of these missions of opportunity - and have an annual call for proposals across a variety of disciplines so that we can get the most out of the spacecraft that we already have as well as with our partners on those missions.

Leaky Shuttle

NASA Probing Space Shuttle Cabin Leak, AP

"A week before Endeavour's planned liftoff, NASA was analyzing a cabin leak in the space shuttle Tuesday. The leak was detected over the weekend. NASA thought it fixed the problem by tightening a loose bolt, but testing Monday night confirmed air was still escaping from the crew cabin, said NASA spokeswoman Tracy Young. Engineers have yet to pinpoint the leak, which could require so much work that NASA might not be able to launch Endeavour on Aug. 7."

Geveden @ TBE

Geveden takes over as new Teledyne president Wednesday, Huntsville Times

"Rex Geveden takes over as the new president at Teledyne Brown Engineering on Wednesday. Geveden, 46, worked at Teledyne in the 1980s as a technologist. He would go on to a 17-year career at NASA, where he rose to the No. 3-ranking official, associate administrator."



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