October 2007 Archives

Extreme Explorers Discuss Martian Sand Dunes, Cat 5 Hurricanes, Exploding Shuttles, Wired

"A who's who of exploration have joined former NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe at Louisiana State University for two days of discussion on risk and exploration. The content is better than survivor and gives you a front row seat on some of the riskiest and most inspiring expeditions on and off the planet."

Dude, Where's My Moon Rover?, Wired

"Two weeks a year, Barbara Romig drives around the Arizona desert testing out the latest space suit designs and NASA plans for doing geology on the moon. Back in the Apollo days, NASA blasted their own crater field in Arizona for the crews to practice driving around and being geologists. Now at that same site, Barbara, 28, is the test coordinator for the EVA program, Desert RATS (Research And Technology Studies). She was one of the speakers in todays "Risk and Exploration" Symposium."

Apollo 8 crewmember speaks on risk, LSU The Reveille

"It may be a big risk scheduling that 8 a.m. class next semester, but risk took a different meaning for Apollo 8 crewmember Bill Anders. The astronaut spoke to participants of "Risk and Exploration: Earth as a Classroom," a conference hosted by the University from Sunday until Tuesday. He addressed how the Apollo missions balanced "risk versus rewards."

House Committee on Science and Technology Committee Members to NASA: Public Has a Right to See U.S. Air Safety Survey Data, House Science Committee

"Chairman Gordon and other Members called on NASA to release the data claiming the public has a right to know about the safety of travel in the nation's skies. Administrator Griffin announced at today's hearing that NASA would release the NOAMS data, reversing NASA's earlier stance. Several questions regarding the specifics of the release still remain, however, and the Committee plans to follow up with NASA to make sure the data is made publicly available in a timely manner."

NASA to release pilot survey - Hall urges balance of transparency and confidentiality, House Science Committee Republicans

"Today, Griffin agreed to release the data, once it is appropriately "scrubbed" to protect the anonymity of the pilots who were surveyed. He also expressed his regret for the language NASA used in responding the FOIA request, saying, "I regret any impression that NASA was in any way trying to put commercial interests ahead of public safety. That was not and never will be the case."

NASA to Release Disputed Data, NY Times

"The administrator of NASA told a Congressional hearing today that his agency would soon release data from tens of thousands of interviews with pilots about safety issues, information that NASA previously said could damage the airline industry. But at the hearing, the administrator, Michael Griffin, and the surveys designers disagreed so deeply about the purpose of the survey and the usefulness of its information that they barely sounded as if they were talking about the same project."

Bad News From the ISS

Astronauts Spot Rip on Solar Panel, AP

"Spacewalking astronauts bolted a solar power tower to the international space station on Tuesday, completing an ambitious three-day moving process that ended with elation when the beam's giant solar panels began to unfurl. Their joy turned to concern, however, when a rip was spotted in the second solar panel. NASA needs to get the tower up and running to prevent malfunctioning station equipment from delaying the addition of a much-anticipated European research lab."

CNN's Miles O'Brien to Speak at LSU's Upcoming Risk Symposium

"CNN anchor and Emmy winner Miles O'Brien will join an impressive list of speakers at LSU's upcoming international symposium on risk and exploration, Oct. 28-30. "Risk & Exploration: Earth as a Classroom," will be held on LSU's campus and is free and open to the public and the media. O'Brien is scheduled to speak on Monday, Oct. 29, from 9:05 to 9:45 a.m. Central time and will serve as moderator for a panel discussion titled "Risks of Nature: Impact of and Response to Hurricane Katrina," which is slated for 10:40 a.m. until noon. The panel will feature such guests as Baton Rouge Mayor-President Melvin "Kip" Holden, LSU Police Chief Ricky Adams and NASA-Michoud official Stephen A. Turner."

Editor's note: Each session will be webcast live. Within a short period after each session, links to a webcast archive - and a podcast archive - will be posted. - see www.riskexplore2007.com for all information on this event including webcast links.

Challenger Center News

Challenger Center for Space Science Education Adds New Members to Board of Directors

"The Challenger Center for Space Science Education has added three new members to its board of Directors. Meeting in Alexandria, Virginia last week, the Challenger Center's sitting board welcomed its new members aboard for three year terms. Added to the board were: Leroy Chiao, Carol Staubach, and Keith Cowing. .... Commenting on the new additions to the board, Challenger Center Founding Chairman and Board member June Scobee Rodgers said: "The Challenger Center concept began during a conversation in my home among the families of Challenger. In the two decades that have followed, more than 8 million students have been inspired and enriched by the Challenger Learning Centers - and our mission has only just begun!"

Challenger Center for Space Education Founder Speaks at LSU Risk and Exploration Symposium

"Exploration reaps benefits for all involved - whether they go on the trip - or stay at home. Yet there are risks inherent in all forms of exploration that accompany these benefits. No one knows this better than June Scobee Rodgers."

NASA to Announce Work Assignments to Enable Lunar Exploration, NASA HQ

"On Tuesday, Oct. 30, NASA will take another important step toward returning astronauts to the moon by assigning key future Constellation Program work to its field centers. The agency's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate will host a media roundtable at 1 p.m. EDT at NASA Headquarters, 300 E St., S.W., Washington."

ISS Rotary Joint Surprise

Spacewalkers make disturbing discovery: metal shavings inside solar wing joint, AP

"Spacewalking astronauts doing construction work outside the international space station Sunday made a disturbing discovery: what appear to be metal shavings inside a joint that is needed to turn a set of solar power panels. The rotary joint, 10 feet in diameter, has experienced intermittent vibrations and power spikes for nearly two months. Space station managers were hoping a thermal cover or bolt might be hanging up the mechanism, which would have been relatively easy to fix, and were disheartened when Daniel Tani radioed down that metal shavings were everywhere."

From: Anonymous at Marshall Space Flight Center Question(s): An alternative launch vehicle was proposed that has many advantages to Ares I/V. The direct STS derived vehicle offers more mass to orbit at $2B less per year, minimizes changes to the STS launch infrastructure while maintaining existing workforce, provides greater flexibility for lunar architecture options including global access anytime return, enables large science missions, and allows upgrades for Mars exploration. The vehicle is described in a Sept 2007 AIAA paper "Achieving the Vision for Space Exploration on Time and Within Budget", 2007-6231 (www.directlauncher.com). Is NASA considering a seldom encounter option of "better, faster, cheaper" as a slight change to the Ares I/V approach that opened the doors to exploration beyond low earth orbit? If not, why not?

Response: No, we are not examining this concept further at this time, because we have looked at this and similar designs on numerous prior occasions. We conducted a very thorough study of architectural alternatives to meeting our needs for ISS resupply and return to the Moon during the Exploration Systems Architecture Study (ESAS), over two years ago. At some point, the studying has to stop and the work has to commence. We are well past that point. The suggested approach has numerous shortcomings with regard to meeting our architectural requirements.

This column is not the place to cover all the pros and cons of that approach. If you are interested, I would suggest contacting Steve Cook, of MSFC, directly. As a courtesy, you should copy Constellation Program Manager Jeff Hanley and ESMD AA Rick Gilbrech.

Editor's note: There is an energetic little group of Internet denizens who love to wave their arms around and posit the notion that they - and they alone - have a solution to all of NASA's problems with the Ares I and V rockets. Technical merits (or lack thereof) aside, anyone who knows Mike Griffin and how he has been running NASA will tell you in a heartbeat that he will simply not deter from his current path so long as he is Administrator. As such all of these Powerpoint concepts are just that - concepts.

However, should Griffin leave or be replaced, the general consenus is that the entire VSE/ESAS universe would be revisited - from stem to stern - with an EELV-based architecture the strong favorite to replace it. If the powers that be reject Ares - they will reject any Shuttle-derived architecture.

Yawn. Next topic.

The Internet is a great way to share ideas. So far it is not the best way to (re)design NASA's rockets. That does not mean that it will not be capable of hosting such a "crowdsourcing" activity in the near future.

-- Just not this week.

Theron Bradley

Editor's note: Theron Bradley died today from brain cancer.

Bigelow Aerospace to offer $760 million for spaceship, New Scientist

"Bigelow Aerospace intends to spur development of a commercial space vehicle to take people into Earth orbit by offering to sign a contract worth $760 million with any company that can meet their criteria, company president Robert Bigelow says."

VASIMIR update

Editor's note: These video clips and pictures show activity surrounding the VAriable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR). The first video shows some of the last shots of the VX-100 showing a few of the plasma diagnostics that Ad Astra Rocket Company uses. The second video shows images of a new vacuum chamber going into the company's new lab located at Highway 3 and Bay Area Blvd. This link shows a few pictures of John Young and George Abbey firing the last plasma shots of the VX-100.

Videos below.

Videos below.

Volunteer firefighters save mountaintop, SIgn On San Diego

"The top of Palomar Mountain hasn't burned in recorded history. Today, largely because of tireless volunteer firefighters and relentless air attacks, that still holds true."

Chang'e Heads For The Moon

China launches moon orbiter with patriotic blast, Reuters

"China launched its first moon orbiter on Wednesday amid a blaze of live-to-air patriotic propaganda celebrating the country's space ambitions and technological prowess. The Chang'e One orbiter lifted off from the southwestern province of Sichuan at 1005 GMT. Barring technical failure, it will reach its lunar orbit on Nov. 5 and spend more than a year scanning the lunar surface in preparation for an unmanned moon vehicle planned for 2012 and a manned landing in future decades."

1st lunar probe launch successful - official, China Daily

"The launch of the lunar probe "marks another milestone in China's aerospace program after man-made satellites and manned space flights", said Chinese vice-premier Zeng Peiyan, who was watching the launch at the Xichang launch center."

Editor's note: I will be on CNN Asia on Wednesday evening round 7:30 pm 7:45 pm EDT to discuss this launch.

Editor's update: Video of my Interview, CNN Asia - Ever wonder what would I say if I was the commander of an American lunar lander upon greeting some taikonauts who had already arrived on the Moon?

NASA Internal Memo: Message from the Administrator - October 24, 2007

"I have been made aware that a request from the Associated Press for information from a NASA safety survey of airline pilots was withheld under the Freedom of Information Act. The request was for raw data and other aspects of the ongoing project. In a letter to the news organization, one of the several reasons for denying the request for the data cited concerns for "public confidence" and for the "commercial welfare" of air carriers. This rationale was based on case law, but I do not agree with the way it was written. I regret the impression that NASA was in any way trying to put commercial interests ahead of public safety. That was not and will never be the case."

Opposing view: We value openness, Mike Griffin, USA Today

Earth to NASA: Sunlight, not secrecy, is the best way to stop accidents, USA Today

NASA Chief Regrets Agency's Statement, AP

NASA Offers $2 Million Lunar Lander Competition Prize

"During the X PRIZE Cup Oct. 27-28, NASA's Centennial Challenges Program will offer prizes totaling $2 million if competing teams successfully meet the requirements of the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge. The challenge will take place at Holloman Air Force Base, in Alamogordo, N.M. The purpose of the lunar lander challenge is to accelerate technology development leading to a commercial vehicle that could one day be capable of ferrying cargo or humans back and forth between lunar orbit and the moon's surface."

Editor's note: There are a lot of rumors swirling around about Ares I redesigns - specifcially, its upper stage. According to NASA ESMD PAO today: "NASA has no plans to redesign the Ares I or upperstage. In fact, yesterday we successfully completed the systems definition review for the upperstage, clearing us to proceed to the preliminary design review which is scheduled for later in 2008. We will be conducting a similar board meeting on the Ares I system next week."


Home Computers to Help Researchers Better Undestand Universe, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

"Want to help unravel the mysteries of the universe? A new distributed computing project designed by a University of Illinois researcher allows people around the world to participate in cutting-edge cosmology research by donating their unused computing cycles. The project is called Cosmology@Home, and is similar to SETI@Home, a popular program that searches radio telescope data for evidence of extraterrestrial transmissions."

"Sent on behalf of John Sullivan - Director, Center for Advanced Manufacturing (Purdue University)

Due to an emerging issue with aviation safety, NASA Administrator, Michael Griffin has asked Dr. Porter to cancel her trip to Purdue to handle this issue. Again, we will work with NASA to re-schedule her visit to campus. Below is the link to the news article regarding this important issue.


Editor's note: Have a look at these images from Genesis II. Either Bigelow Aerospace is going to run a gambling operation in low Earth orbit ("Bigelow Bingo") or he has lots of little itty bitty numbered satellites he is going to deploy.

Bingo in Soace, Bigelow Aerospace

STS-120 On-Orbit

NASA's Shuttle Discovery Begins Mission to the Space Station

"The space shuttle Discovery and its seven-member crew lifted off Tuesday, Oct. 23, from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 11:38 a.m. EDT to continue construction of the International Space Station. During the 14-day mission, designated STS-120, Discovery's crew will continue construction of the space station with the installation of the Harmony connecting module, also known as Node 2. The crew, led by Commander Pam Melroy, will conduct five spacewalks during the mission, four by shuttle crew members and one by the station's Expedition 16 crew."

China's Long March to the Moon, WSJ

"Tomorrow evening, the China National Space Administration is scheduled to fire a "Long March" rocket from a launch site in the southwestern province of Sichuan. If all goes well, it will propel a satellite into lunar orbit, an important step toward China's goal of beating Japan to become the first Asian nation to put a man on the moon."

KAGUYA (SELENE) Placed in Science Orbit Around the Moon, JAXA

"The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) injected the KAGUYA main satellite in its scheduled orbit and shifted its operation mode to the regular control mode. Both the KAGUYA main satellite and its two baby satellites are in good health. The "KAGUYA" (SELENE) is a lunar explorer launched by the H-IIA Launch Vehicle No. 13 (H-IIA F13) on September 14, 2007, (Japan Standard Time, JST) from the Tanegashima Space Center."

An Arduous, Risky Mission, editorial, NY Times

"After vigorous debate at an all-day review, however, NASAs top managers concluded that the risk was acceptable. Should the panels defects worsen during flight, the astronauts could attempt a repair in space or board the space station to await rescue by another shuttle. The astronauts, who were fully informed of the debate, endorsed the decision to launch. Well keep our fingers crossed that these judgments prove right. Another shuttle catastrophe would not only cost the lives of astronauts, it would also probably end the shuttle program and greatly delay completion of the space station."

NASA Sits on Air Safety Survey, AP

"A senior NASA official, associate administrator Thomas S. Luedtke, said revealing the findings could damage the public's confidence in airlines and affect airline profits. Luedtke acknowledged that the survey results "present a comprehensive picture of certain aspects of the U.S. commercial aviation industry." The AP sought to obtain the survey data over 14 months under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. "Release of the requested data, which are sensitive and safety-related, could materially affect the public confidence in, and the commercial welfare of, the air carriers and general aviation companies whose pilots participated in the survey," Luedtke wrote in a final denial letter to the AP. NASA also cited pilot confidentiality as a reason, although no airlines were identified in the survey, nor were the identities of pilots, all of whom were promised anonymity."

Editor's note: This is a yet another rather dumb public stance for NASA personnel to take. I wonder how the "public" will feel when they learn that their government is openly witholding important information from them regarding their safety?

File Your Own Freedom of Information (FOIA) Request and see what NASA does or does not send you.

Statement by NASA Administrator Mike Griffin on Pilot Survey

"I am reviewing this Freedom of Information Act request to determine what, if any, of this information may legally be made public. NASA should focus on how we can provide information to the public -- not on how we can withhold it. Therefore, I am asking NASA's Associate Administrator for Aeronautics Research, Lisa Porter, to look into this situation, including ensuring that all survey data are preserved, and report to me as soon as possible."

NASA Faces House Hearings on Air Safety, NY Times

"A House committee said Monday that it would hold hearings into why the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is withholding 24,000 responses by pilots for airlines and other companies to a government-sponsored safety survey."

Critics Assail NASA's Refusal to Release Air Safety Survey, Washington Post

"This is like a drug manufacturer finding out through trials that there are problems with a drug and not making the public aware because they don't want to reduce the sales of the drug or scare the public," said Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), chairman of the Science and Technology Committee. "It could be enormously helpful in a wide range of areas in trying to understand mishaps."

What NASA Won't Tell You About Air Safety, Slashdot

"According to a report out of Washington, NASA wants to avoid telling you about how unsafe you are when you fly. According to the article, when an $8.5M safety study of about 24,000 pilots indicated an alarming number of near collisions and runway incidents, NASA refused to release the results. The article quotes one congressman as saying 'There is a faint odor about it all.' A friend of mine who is a general aviation pilot responded to the article by saying 'It's scary but no surprise to those of us who fly.'"

Our View: Heads should roll if NASA wont release its airline-safety study., Faye Observer

"And to make sure that none of the information gets out, NASA also has ordered its survey contractor and all subcontractors who worked on it to return any information they have on the project and to dump it from their computers by the end of this month. NASA, of course, has a long and troubled history with safety issues, with tragic and preventable accidents marring a record of epic achievements. At times, the agency simply doesnt get the importance of making safety the No. 1 priority. This is one of those times."

Editorial: Why NASA secrecy?, New Albany Tribune

"The report cost taxpayers not NASA, not Luedtke, but the American taxpayer $8.5 million. The survey was conducted by the Battelle Memorial Institute, which interviewed about 24,000 commercial and private pilots over about four years. Let Luetdkes obfuscation speak for itself:"

Policy on the Release of Information to the News and Information Media, NASA (PDF)


(a) NASA, a scientific and technical agency, is committed to a culture of openness with the media and public that values the free exchange of ideas, data, and information as part of scientific and technical inquiry. Scientific and technical information from or about Agency programs and projects will be accurate and unfiltered.

(b) Consistent with NASA statutory responsibility, NASA will "provide for the widest practicable and appropriate dissemination of information concerning its activities and the results thereof." Release of public information concerning NASA activities and the results of NASA activities will be made promptly, factually, and completely."

Gordon, Miller, Udall Direct NASA to Halt any Destruction of Records Relating to the NAOMS Project

"By this letter, we are directing NASA to halt any destruction of records relating to the NAOMS project, whether in the possession of the agency or its contractors, and as defined in the attached Appendix. Destruction of documents requested as part of a Congressional inquiry is a violation of criminal federal law. 18 U.S.C. 1505."

Ames/Google Jet Update

Google guys get grand garage, Mountain View Voice

"In July, the company signed a two-year contract with NASA allowing its owners to use the coveted Moffett airstrip whenever they liked, along with the hangar space, in exchange for $2.6 million and the right to place scientific instruments on the planes. The deal, negotiated behind closed doors, was announced in mid-September."

Mary Cleave's New Gig

Dr. Mary Cleave Appointed to Board of Directors of Sigma Space Corp.

"Sigma Space Corp. announced the appointment of Dr. Mary Cleave to its Board of Directors, effective October 1st, 2007. Dr. Mary L. Cleave was the Associate Administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate until March of this year. She also served as deputy associate administrator (advanced planning) in the Office of Earth Science at NASA Headquarters."

Space Education News

Challenger Center names NASA Veteran Educator, Director of Educational Programs

"The Challenger Center for Space Science is pleased announce that Rita Karl has been named Director of Educational Programs. Ms. Karl has over 20 years of national and international experience designing and directing educational programs for NASA and in U.S. international development."

2 teacher-astronauts assigned to 2008 mission, Houston Chronicle

"Two more of NASA's classroom teachers turned astronauts have been assigned to their first spaceflights. Ricky Arnold and Joe Acaba, who left teaching posts three years ago to join NASA's astronaut corps, are among seven astronauts assigned to the same assembly mission to the international space station. Scheduled for the fall of 2008, the mission will deliver the last of four solar power modules to the orbital outpost."

Days Of Future Passed

Does Star Trek Appeal To Kids Today?, TrekMovie.com

"Here are some ways I think they could make Star Trek better for kids my age. Star Treks vision of the future has almost become a reality, because now we see automatic doors, cell phones, and microwaves every day. Maybe when they make a new Star Trek, they should give us a new vision of the future that we havent seen already."

Expedition 15 Comes Home

Expedition 15 Returns Home , NASA

"After bidding farewell to the Expedition 16 crew Saturday night, the Expedition 15 crew, Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and Flight Engineer Oleg Kotov, boarded their Soyuz TMA-10 spacecraft for the return to Earth. They undocked from the station around 3:14 a.m. EDT Sunday and landed in the steppes of Kazakhstan at 6:36 a.m."

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 10/21/07

"Instead of flying on the closed-loop-guided trajectory designed to reduce peak deceleration & heating while extending the downrange, the ballistic mode results in a steeper trajectory, ~2g's higher deceleration forces on the crew (7g max instead of 5g), and an undershoot of around ~250 mi. The crew was never in any increased danger, and the SAR (Search & Rescue) personnel did not require any additional time to reach the capsule, which they reportedly had in sight during parachute descent from ~4600m altitude down.]"

STS-120 Preps Continue

NASA counting down to Tuesday's shuttle launch, SpaceflightNow

"NASA's shuttle launch team started Discovery's countdown today for a launch attempt Tuesday on what many consider the most challenging space station assembly mission yet attempted. Forecasters are predicting a 60 percent chance of good weather. The countdown began on time at 2 p.m. NASA Test Director Charlie Blackwell-Thompson said earlier today there were no technical issues of any significance at launch pad 39A."

More ISS and Shuttle News

Pre-Flight Drinking Report Irks Spacemen, AP

"This weekend as the seven astronauts relax before Tuesday's blastoff into space, the beer will be cold and waiting at crew quarters at Kennedy Space Center. No one will monitor how much they drink, no breath tests given. "We're all professionals," says Scott Kelly, commander of the last space shuttle mission in August. While the outside world was aghast at a medical report a few months ago suggesting two cases of drunkenness just before launch, the men and women who fly NASA's space shuttles are indignant."

Editor's note: It must be really hard for Marica Dunn to dig up some real news these days. So instead she just creates "news" out of thin air. There is no story here Marcia.

Challenger Center Update

Challenger Center at Department of Labor: Inspiring a New Generation of Aerospace Engineers

"On October 18th, the Department of Labor (DOL) invited the Challenger Center for Space Science to participate in a conference with state lieutenant governors, NASA and leaders in aerospace education and industry. Discussions sparked by keynote speaker Dr. Eric Jolly, President of the Science Museum of Minnesota focused on the need for innovative solutions to inspire and motivate today's youth in the core subject areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to meet a critical shortfall of engineers in the workforce as baby boomers begin collecting their Social Security and leaving the workforce in droves."

SRB/Ares I Design Issues?

Space Shuttle Integration Lessons Learned, Boeing (PDF)

"Lesson - In spite of the relative configuration simplicity of the Ares I, L/O loads may be a significant design issue due to direct load path between the SRB and the upper stage"

NASA JSC Solicitation: Commerical Space Transportation Services Phase 1 Demonstration

"As a continuation of the COTS Phase 1 project, NASA/JSC plans to solicit proposals from all interested industry participants for Earth to orbit space flight demonstrations of any combination of the following mission capabilities:
A) External unpressurized cargo delivery and disposal,
B) Internal pressurized cargo delivery and disposal,
C) Internal pressurized cargo delivery, return and recovery,
D) Crew Transportation."

Spaceward Games 2007 Update

Spaceward Games Heads into the Home Stretch and Opens to the Public, Space Elevator Reference

"Qualifying lasted until the early hours of the morning with Centaurus the last team trying to qualify but failing at 1:00 am. At this point four teams have qualified to compete for this years chance at NASA's Centennial Challenge prize for power beaming which has a $500,000 prize. They are: ..."

The Space Elevator Reference - Videos and other updates

Live webcams - provided by SpaceRef.com and OnOrbit.com, The Space Elevator Reference

NASA JSC Special Notice HSPD-12 Deadline Has Now Been Extended to the New Calendar Year

"The following message is a correction to a JSC Special Notice regarding Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD)-12 rebadging. The deadline for rebadging all employees has slipped for the entire agency due to issues with the new badge. JSC Security will continue the rebadging process into the next calendar year, and will continue to accept current NASA badges until the rebadging process is complete."

Minor Hubble Glitch

NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report # 4470


Gyro 2's second flex lead failed on DOY (278) 10/05/07. An increase in the gyro's heater duty cycle from 10-12% to 26-38% revealed that additional heater power was compensating for the absence of motor current.

The second flex lead failure was expected. The first flex lead failed on August 31, 2007, after which Gyro 6 was turned on. The second flex lead's failure did not impact HST's operation."

Son of COTS Announced

NASA to Open New Competition for Space Transportation Seed Money

"NASA announced Thursday it will conduct a new competition for funding that remains in NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services Project, known as COTS. The new competition follows NASA's decision to terminate its funded agreement with aerospace firm Rocketplane Kistler of Oklahoma City, which repeatedly failed to meet agreed-upon milestones in its effort to develop and demonstrate commercial transportation capabilities to low Earth orbit."

NASA Updates Media on Status of COTS Project Thursday

"Thursday, NASA will provide an update about the status of the agency's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services Project, also known as COTS. NASA will host a news media roundtable at 2:30 p.m. EDT at NASA Headquarters, 300 E St., S.W., Washington. Alan Lindenmoyer, manager of the Commercial Crew and Cargo Program at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, will participate in the briefing."

Editor's 18 Oct note: Once again ESMD seems to be going out of its way to screw up media participation. The only notice I am aware of was emailed late this morning. I only got mine in my email account an hour before the event itself. Did ESMD just dream up this telecon today? Or did they know about it yesterday? Its almost as if PAO and ESMD just don't care any more.

Editor's 19 Oct update: I just got a media advisory from JSC for an upcoming event that was held yesterday:

"From: info@JSC.NASA.GOV
Date: October 19, 2007 10:35:46 AM EDT

Either this proves that JSC PAO sends things out without reading them - or people in that office never took that Calendar 101 class. Either way the word "inept" pops up in my mind.

Animation depicting an Ares V launch and the deployment of a very large telescope.

Video below.

Today's Spinoff

Franklin Digital Cooler, Gadget Universe

"We have the technology that no one else has. The same technology used by NASA for spacecraft has now been modified for consumer use. Now with a tiny NASA microchip we have made the first portable fridge that can go from hot to FREEZING cold in a matter of minutes."

Editor's note: I did not know that NASA manufactured and sold microchips.

"The Technology Tycoons qualifying attempt on the 100 foot ribbon. Success is at hand despite the lack of sunshine."

Video below

Spaceward Games 2007 Update

Spaceward Games 2007 Update, The Space Elevator Reference

"This afternoon teams had the opportunity to improve on their qualifying results of yesterday. Because of the bad weather yesterday, provisional qualifying was held indoors to see if teams could attach their climbers and show they could climb the ribbon, stop and descend the ribbon safely. All the teams except Centaurus succeeded."

The Space Elevator Reference - Videos and other updates

Live webcams - provided by SpaceRef.com and OnOrbit.com, The Space Elevator Reference

Finalists for 2007 Pete Conrad Spirit of Innovation Award

"The ten finalists for the inaugural Pete Conrad Spirit of Innovation* Award will have their ideas on display at the 2007 X PRIZE Cup. Teams of high school students from all over the United States proposed ideas that could accelerate the personal spaceflight industry. Winners will be chosen by popular vote and announced at the closing ceremonies on Sunday, October 28, at noon. The first place team will receive a $5,000 grant, followed by $2,500 for second place and $1,500 for third."

SpaceX Successfully Completes NASA Critical Design Review for First Commercial Transportation System to the International Space Station

"SpaceX has successfully completed the Critical Design Review (CDR) for its first Falcon 9 / Dragon mission as part of the NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) demonstration program. During a three day period, SpaceX hosted a group of over forty top level NASA representatives and key SpaceX customers for a review of the design of the Falcon 9 rocket, Dragon spacecraft and associated ground systems for the first COTS demonstration mission."

NASA Science Web Federation Workshop

"Of key interest are the plans for the first annual NASA Science Web Federation Workshop November 13th-16th, 2007, at Ames Research Center. The intent is for this workshop to focus on NASA application of web technology. You may want to participate as an observer or share your solution to a particular challenge."

NASA virtual space tour set to launch at museum, Courier Press

"A portal to the heavens is opening in the Evansville Museum's parking lot this week. Housed in at 53-foot-long semitrailer, NASA's "Vision for Space Exploration Experience" exhibition, an interactive multimedia virtual encounter with the cosmos, will settle in the museum's parking lot sometime today."

Editor's note: Great news, ESMD! I seem to have missed the press release. Gee, why tell anyone what you are doing?

A New Space Party

China Mulls Communist Branch for Space, AP

"China might not have a permanent presence in space yet, but the country's rocket men are already thinking about setting up a Communist Party branch in the outer reaches. Now 14-strong, the Chinese astronaut corps more than meets the party's minimum requirement of at least three members for a branch, the official Xinhua News Agency said Thursday."

Senate rejects raid on NASA budget, Houston Chronicle

"The Senate fended off an effort Tuesday to raid $150 million from NASA's budget, rejecting a Republican senator's effort to shift funds to a program that reimburses Texas and other states for incarcerating illegal immigrants. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and other NASA defenders argued vigorously that the space agency already is suffering from inadequate budgets and that its missions would be compromised if the cuts were enacted."

STS-120 Go for 23 October

NASA Gives "Go" for Space Shuttle Launch on Oct. 23

"NASA senior managers Tuesday completed a detailed review of space shuttle Discovery's readiness for flight and selected Oct. 23 as the official launch date.

Commander Pam Melroy and her six crewmates are scheduled to lift off at 11:38 a.m. EDT on the STS-120 mission to the International Space Station."

NASA ARC Internal Memo: All Hands Meeting on NASA's Communications Policy

"Robert P. Hopkins, NASA's chief of strategic communications and assistant administrator for the Office of Communications Planning, will present and discuss the agency's policy on the release of information to news media, Thursday, October, 18, 2007, at 10 AM, in the Main Auditorium (N-201). The presentation will be followed by a question-and-answer period."

Q&A: Astronaut's Son Takes New Route to Space, Discovery News

"Who could blame Richard Garriott? He grew up in Houston, surrounded by astronauts, including his dad Owen. He wasn't particularly turned on by math and science, but he did have a sharp eye for engineering -- computer games that is. By the time he was in high school, he was earning more than his astronaut dad. He tried college, but as the game business grew, his grades flagged until finally he dropped out. Garriott, 46, is ready now to make a daring play in a game that's been building for 10 years. Unlike the quests in his medieval/fantasy series Ultima, the new gig is for real. Garriott is going to space like dear ole' dad, but he's doing it the new-fashioned way: by making out a check for $30 million."

Rudy Courts ET Voters

Giuliani: Preparedness key, even if aliens attack, AP

"Presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani on Sunday said preparedness will be key for all crises, even an attack from outer space. During a town hall meeting in Exeter, a young questioner asked the former New York mayor about his plan to protect Earth. "If (there's) something living on another planet and it's bad and it comes over here, what would you do?" the boy asked."

Challenger Center Webcast: Students Help Astronauts to Breathe Easier on the Moon

"In the future, astronauts will use plants to provide food, oxygen, clean water and waste recycling while living on the Moon. Join the Challenger Center for Space Science Education and NASA's K-12 Engineering Design Challenge and design a mini-greenhouse for use by future astronauts living and working on the moon. Challenger Center is pleased to announce a series of live interactive chats with NASA expert space farmers on October 16th, 23rd, and 30th at 2:00 (ET) giving students and teachers the opportunity to discuss their ideas for growing plants on a future lunar base."

Direct link to webcast participation information

Space Station: Internal NASA Reports Explain Origins of June Computer Crisis, IEEE Spectrum

"Aboard the International Space Station, the three Russian computers that control the station's orientation have been happily humming away now for several weeks. And that's proof that the crisis in June that crippled the ISS and bloodied the U.S.-Russian partnership that supports it, has been solved. ... The critical computer systems, it turned out, had been designed, built, and operated incorrectly--and the failure was inevitable. Only being so relatively close to Earth, in range of resupply and support missions, saved the spacecraft from catastrophe."

Workers Without Pay After Government Contractor Goes Bankrupt, Fox 5

"More than two dozen workers are without jobs and paychecks after the government contractors that employed them [Information Network Inc. at NASA GSFC] filed for bankruptcy."

DPS: NASA Night: Sweetness and light, Planetary Society

"... Well, things have changed, a lot. A majority of the people leading NASA Headquarters and its various divisions have been replaced in the last year, and all four of the people on stage for NASA night at DPS 2007 were new to Headquarters, but not new to the science community. They quickly had the gathered scientists eating out of the palm of their collective hand."

HSPD-12 Update

Injunction in NASA-JPL background checks extended, AP

"A federal appeals court on Thursday extended an injunction sought by more than two dozen workers at NASA's premier robotic exploration lab who claim a Bush administration directive requiring background checks invaded their privacy. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week issued an order that enjoined NASA through Thursday after a lower court sided with the government. The new order means the injunction remain in place during the appeal process. A hearing was scheduled for December."

Text of Court Order (PDF)

NASA Announces Plan To Bring Wi-Fi To Its Headquarters By 2017, The Onion

"NASA has suffered from a public credibility crisis in recent years due to perceived incompetence, a failed mission to Mars, the damaged and dormant Hubble telescope, and its inability to procure a long enough USB cable to reach all the way over to engineer William Chen's cubicle. But NASA officials argue that a secure high-speed line could prevent disasters such as a 2005 incident in which an employee attempting to download the movie trailer for Cheaper by the Dozen 2 crashed the Mission Control Center mainframe computer for two weeks."

Bruner Named Head of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs

"NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale on Thursday announced the appointment of Bill Bruner as assistant administrator for legislative and intergovernmental affairs. Bruner has served as acting assistant administrator for the office since June."

Islamic scholars produce guide to praying at 17,000mph, The Guardian

"Although Muslim Malaysians believe that Islamic rites should be rigorously observed at all times, the doctor and part-time model, chosen from 10,000 applicants, has been given a certain latitude during the flight. The Islamic scholars' rulings so fascinated Malaysians - bursting with pride over the mission in the country's fiftieth year of independence - that newspapers published supplements detailing their edicts."

TPS Issues With Discovery

NASA Studies Problem With Shuttle Wings, AP

"NASA spokesman Allard Beutel said the outer coating on three of the wing panels shows degradation, an issue that the NASA Engineering and Safety Center has been reviewing for the past several months. The safety center recommended Wednesday that the three panels be replaced before Discovery flies. But the shuttle program is leaning toward leaving them alone, for now, and proceeding with the launch based on data from other engineers, Beutel said."

New Space Solar Power Organization Announced - The Space Solar Alliance for Future Energy, NSS

"The Space Solar Alliance for Future Energy (SSAFE), a new organization advocating investment in space-based solar power technologies to address the planet's future energy needs, was announced today at the National Press Club. The coalition of thirteen leading research organizations and space advocacy groups focused their inaugural event on the announcement of a new study of space-based solar power led by the National Security Space Office (NSSO).'"

Advance Comments on NSSO-led Study on Space-Based Solar Power, Space Frontier Foundation

Editor's note: On Tuesday night NASA Science Mission Directorate Associate Administrator Alan Stern announced that NASA plans to form a NASA Lunar Science Institute (NLSI) patterned on the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI).

Speaking tonight at the Division for Planetary Sciences meeting in Orlando, Stern said that the initial selection would be done of 4 to 5 lead teams at a cost of $1-2 million each.

As is the case with the NAI, the NSLI would be managed by NASA Ames Research Center.

Students From 9 Countries Join For Global Celebration Of Space Age's 50th Anniversary And To Inspire Education In Science And Math Worldwide, Zero Gravity Corp

"On October 6, Students from Bahrain, Italy, Nigeria, Colombia, Czech Republic, Thailand, China, Norway and United States Celebrated Pioneers of Man's Greatest Adventure aboard Zero-Gravity Flight; Identical Weightless Flight Experience Used by NASA to Train Its Astronauts."

Editor's note: Gee, the guy with the beard (see larger photo) sure looks like Courtney Stadd ... (it is)

High School Musical Star Corbin Bleu and Los Angeles-Area Teachers Take Part in Northrop Grumman Foundation Weightless Flights of Discovery

"The Northrop Grumman Foundation launched 53 teachers from the greater Los Angeles area into weightlessness today as part of the Northrop Grumman Foundation Weightless Flights of Discovery program. The goal: To inspire and prepare the next generation of scientists, mathematicians and engineers - critical areas where the U.S. has fallen behind globally."

The Gap Looms

Thousands Of NASA Jobs In Jeopardy, Channel 13

"In just three years, NASA plans to shut down its manned spaceflight operations until the new constellation program comes on-line around 2014. That could put 4,000 jobs at the Kennedy Space Center in jeopardy. Indirectly, 15,000 jobs could be lost, thanks to a slump in the Brevard County economy."

Hearing: Near-Earth Objects - Status of the Survey Program and Review of NASA's Report to Congress

Editor's note: According to the House Science and Technology Committee this hearing has been postponed. Congress cancelled all business for this Thursday due to the funeral for Rep. Jo Ann Davis. When Congress is not in session, the Committee cannot hold a hearing. The new date is 8 November.

NASA Internal Memo from Constellation Program Manager Jeff Hanley: 10/6 Cx Weekly Update

"I've recently enjoyed a handful of books on key explorers, such as Magellan, Columbus, and Capt Cook, and am struck and fascinated by their courage and commitment to their task despite incredible odds against their success. On Magellan's voyage alone, of the multiple ships and over 400 crew that departed on the voyage, only a couple dozen scurvy-ridden crew aboard a single vessel returned to tell the tale. Magellan himself fell victim of his own hubris and was killed by inhabitants of one of those far off lands he was credited with 'discovering'. In their time, exploration was frought with risk and unknown unknowns."

Do As I Say - Not As I Do

Rocketplane Kistler President Resigns, SpaceNews

"RpK came in with a lot of promises and a half baked business plan and the market place is weeding them out," [David] Gump said. "It's disingenuous to now say they were shocked - shocked - they would have to compete for ISS cargo business. That was plan[ned] in the original ISS cargo announcement. Everybody who bid knew it.

Editor's note: With regard to "... a lot of promises and a half baked business plan": You know what they say about people who live in glass houses, David...

NASA's Clean Rooms Aren't

In NASAs Sterile Areas, Plenty of Robust Bacteria, NY Times

"Researchers have found a surprising diversity of hardy bacteria in a seemingly unlikely place the so-called sterile clean rooms where NASA assembles its spacecraft and prepares them for launching. The findings are significant, the researchers report, because they can help reduce the chances of stowaway microbes contaminating planets and other bodies visited by the spacecraft and confounding efforts to discover new life elsewhere."

Spacehab Announces Receipt of NASDAQ Staff Determination Letter

"SPACEHAB, Incorporated (NASDAQ:SPAB), a leading provider of commercial space services, today announced its receipt of a NASDAQ Staff Determination letter on October 2, 2007 indicating that the Company fails to comply with NASDAQ Marketplace Rules 4310(c)(4) and 4310(c)(3), and that its securities are, therefore, subject to delisting from The NASDAQ Capital Market."

Texas Investor Eyes Space Station as Orbiting Pharma Lab, WIired

"Pickens' father made a fortune in oil, became a corporate raider, and now runs a hedge fund. He's worth $2.5 billion. No wonder his son looked to the heavens to make his fortune. Spacehab recruited the younger Pickens earlier this year to turn the company around. The 20-year-old penny stock firm has a market cap of about $5 million.'"

ISU Auction

International Space University to Host eBay Auction - Proceeds to Go Towards Scholarships

"On October 4, the 50th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik 1, the International Space University (ISU) will be conducting a 10-day auction on eBay of unusual and interesting Space-related and Sputnik/Apollo era items. Turn your office or home into a museum, dine with an astronaut, party with a movie director, attend a rocket launch, own priceless books and memorabilia, send a payload to orbit, all of these are at your finger tips through an eBay auction."

Ninth Circuit Issues Injunction Against NASA and Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Unconstitutional Requirement of Invasive Background Investigations

"Today the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals entered an emergency injunction against the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The Court ruled that NASA could not require Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientists and engineers holding non-sensitive positions to sign waivers of their privacy rights. If the Court had not issued this injunction, thousands of scientists would have had to choose between waiving their privacy rights and keeping their jobs."

NASA JPL Internal Email: Subject: HSPD-12 Temporary Injunction

"Shortly after 4:00 pm today, the Ninth Circuit granted JPL employees a temporary injunction until October 12, 2007 or further order of the court. What this means is that any employee who has not submitted a questionnaire for a non-sensitive position, including the authorization forms for release of information, is not required to do so until October 12, 2007 or further Order of the Ninth Circuit."

Court Ruling, PDF


Excerpt from Congressional Record Regarding U.S. Senate Action to Add $1 Billion To NASA's Budget For Space Shuttle Return to Flight Activities

"Ms. MIKULSKI. ... "So 50 years after the birth of our great Apollo Program, we need to make sure we keep our commitment to exploration and discovery. I urge my colleagues to support this bipartisan amendment."

Excerpt from Congressional Record Regarding U.S. Senate Action to Add $1 Billion To NASA's Budget For Space Shuttle Return to Flight Activities

Senate Passes Mikulski-Hutchison Amendment to Add $1 Billion in NASA Funding

"U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Space, Aeronautics and Related Sciences, and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), the Chairman of the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriation (CJS) Subcommittee, today passed an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2008 CJS appropriations bill to provide $1 billion in additional funding for NASA. The funding will reimburse the agency for costs incurred for returning the Space Shuttle to flight status following the Columbia disaster and implementing recommendations of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board."

Senate Dear Colleague Letter: Introduction of NASA Restoration Amendment

"Dear Colleague: We are writing to urge you to support our amendment to the CJS bill to add $1 billion to NASA's budget to reimburse NASA for costs of safely returning the space shuttle to flight after the Columbia accident. Following the tragic loss of the space shuttle Columbia on February 1, 2003, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) worked tirelessly with the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) to identify the causes of the accident and to return the Space Shuttle to flight to support the completion of the International Space Station."

Senate Floor Schedule: Thursday, Oct 4, 2007: 9:00 a.m.: Convene and begin a period of morning business. Thereafter, resume consideration of H.R.3093, the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2008.

Mikulski Delivers on Commitment to Pay NASA Back, Includes $1 Billion in Budget

"NASA was hit with a terrible tragedy with the loss of Columbia. The agency was never fully reimbursed and was forced to make dramatic cuts to other programs," said Senator Mikulski. "I am committed to restoring this agency's budget to ensure the continued safety of our astronauts, and to supporting the critical programs that are the hallmarks of their success."

U.S. Senate Votes to Add $1 Billion to NASA Budget, Planetary Society

"The final bill will then be sent to the President for signature. President Bush has already stated that he will veto the CJS Bill as passed, since it is several billion dollars over his request (even before the NASA $1 billion increase). If the bill is vetoed, it will be sent back to the House and Senate to begin the process again. If this happens, most of the appropriations bills will likely be wrapped into an "Omnibus Spending Bill." Final action on this legislation is not likely until the end of the year."

Statement of Administration Policy H.R. 3093 - Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2008

"The Administration strongly opposes S. 1745 because, in combination with the other FY 2008 appropriations bills, it includes an irresponsible and excessive level of spending and includes other objectionable provisions."

NASA JSC solicitation: Hotel and Conference Facilities for Space Flight Awareness Program STS-122 Event

"This notice is being issued as a Request for Quotations (RFQ) for Hotel and Conference/Banquet Facilities for the Space Flight Awareness (SFA) Program STS-122 Event. NASA's Space Flight Awareness Launch Honoree Award is our most prestigious recognition and honors those employees who contribute to ensuring astronaut safety and mission success. The award is presented to approximately 300 NASA civil servants, NASA contractors and international space agency employees. These employees are rewarded with a visit to the Kennedy Space Center as NASA VIPs. The honorees have the opportunity to view a shuttle launch, attend a reception/dinner in their honor, and meet with top NASA, industry and international space agency officials as well as members of the Astronaut Corps."

Editor's note: If NASA and its employees really wanted to relay the importance and experience of space travel - imagine what impact could be generated on America's educational system if you invited 300 teachers - or 300 students - to a launch - at Government expense. I am very familiar with how awardees are selected at NASA having once been a NASA employee myself. While many honorees have indeed worked very hard to get an award, it is usually a matter of managers looking around to see who hasn't been to a launch yet (or for a while). These shuttle launches are a dwindling commodity - one that will be followed by "The Gap" where no humans leave Earth from American soil. As such, NASA should use these remaining opportunities wisely - for maximum effect and value.

Reader note: Without SFA we would have no path to award great employee performance at this level. SFA is a very unique program and management has worked hard to focus events on employees and not parties and trinkets. While I cannot make apologies for the whole of NASA, I know that SOMD has sponsored folks like our video and pennant winners to launches. SOMD is also sponsoring the Node naming contest winner as well. Employee recognition is critical during this transition timeframe. Some of us would rather do more recognition. Many folks believe just as you have portrayed - it is a frivolous party expense. I have seen management fight to save it from budget cuts while keeping the focus on the employee. This is a consistent theme of the entire NASA-Industry advisory board. One of the reasons for the busses particularly is that fact that we have to house folks in Orlando. The cruise business has killed us in Cocoa Beach.

NASA chief: China will beat us back to the moon, AP

"I personally believe that China will be back on the moon before we are," NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said in a low-key lecture in Washington two weeks ago, marking the space agency's 50th anniversary, still a year away. "I think when that happens, Americans will not like it. But they will just have to not like it."

Editor's note: When he first arrived Mike Griffin used the Chinese threat as a way to generate support in Congress and elsewhere for his accelerated exploration architecture. Now he has apparently given up.

If NASA's Administrator is ready to admit defeat on something that is still perhaps a decade away why should anyone at NASA try and work harder now?

What a nice way to motivate your workforce, Mike.

Excerpt from Congressional Record Regarding U.S. Senate Action to Add $1 Billion To NASA's Budget For Space Shuttle Return to Flight Activities

"Ms. MIKULSKI. ... This is not acceptable. We cannot let China get to the Moon before the United States does."

Sulu To Speak at ARC

George Takei, aka Star Trek's "Lieutenant Sulu," to Speak at Ames on October 11, 2007

"The NASA Ames Research Center Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity, the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Advisory group, and the Asian American-Pacific Islander Advisory group invite you to attend our first observance of National Coming Out Day. The keynote speaker for the event will be George Takei, the charismatic actor who portrayed "Hikaru Sulu" in the original "Star Trek" television series and a number of the "Star Trek" feature films."

Group Renames Asteroid for George Takei, AP

"The celestial rock, discovered by two Japanese astronomers in 1994, joins the 4659 Roddenberry (named for the show's creator, Gene Roddenberry) and the 68410 Nichols (for co-star Nichelle Nichols, who played Lt. Uhura). Other main-belt asteroids are already named for science fiction luminaries Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov."

7307 Takei (1994 GT9), NASA JPL

NASA Scientist Available for Interviews About New Jupiter Findings, NASA ARC

"A NASA scientist will be available to reporters Tuesday, Oct. 9, to discuss Jupiter findings to be published Friday, Oct. 12, in the journal Science.

What NASA's Pluto-bound New Horizons spacecraft found when it flew by Jupiter on Feb. 28, 2007, stunned scientists who now are releasing more information in nine journal articles in Science."

Hillary Clinton's Agenda to Reclaim Scientific Innovation

"Hillary will enhance American leadership in space, including:

- Pursuing an ambitious 21st century Space Exploration Program, by implementing a balanced strategy of robust human spaceflight, expanded robotic spaceflight, and enhanced space science activities.

- Developing a comprehensive space-based Earth Sciences agenda, including full funding for NASA's Earth Sciences program and a space-based Climate Change Initiative that will help us secure the scientific knowledge we need to combat global warming.

-Promoting American leadership in aeronautics by reversing funding cuts to NASA's and FAA's aeronautics R&D budget."

Scientific Integrity and Innovation: Remarks at The Carnegie Institution for Science by Sen. Hillary Clinton

"Fifty years ago, Sputnik marked the dawn of the Space Age and the beginning of a new era filled with new challenges. Fifty years later, there is no single, galvanizing event to steel our resolve and to lift our eyes to the heavens. The challenges we face are more complex and interconnected. From the rise of globalization to the threat of global warming. These challenges require big ideas and bold thinking."

Editor's note: What is surprising to me is the extensive portion of the overall speech devoted to space exploration and space policy. I am not sure that any presidential candidate has said this much in public about space in a long time.

Watch the speech on YouTube

NASA.gov Honors Sputnik

Editor's note: NASA.gov has a cool flash animation - online today only.

Judge Rejects Background Checks Claim, AP

"A federal judge denied a request Wednesday by more than two dozen workers at one of NASA's research labs to block a Bush administration directive requiring background checks and access to personal information."

JPL Employees to Appeal Negative Ruling by Judge

"Hundreds of JPL employees have taken issue with the background checks. In addition to the 28 plaintiffs, more than 200 employees have signed an on-line statement stating that they completed the questionnaire under duress in order to keep their jobs. Many others are yet to comply with NASA's requirements. As pointed out by Caltech attorney Mark Holscher in court Monday, only 4100 out of 7500 JPL employees and contractors have initiated the required paperwork."

Saving Arecibo

HR 3737: To provide for National Science Foundation and National Aeronautics and Space Administration utilization of the Arecibo Observatory

"(3) Arecibo Observatory's planetary radar has unique abilities worldwide for research on our solar system, including near-Earth asteroids. Besides their scientific importance, near-Earth asteroids may be both a significant hazard to Earth and a potential source of future resources."

Hearing: Near-Earth Objects - Status of the Survey Program and Review of NASA's Report to Congress

Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee Meeting

NSF Dear Colleague on the Senior Review: Arecibo

Boeing Donates $10 Million to Science Education at Chicago Museums

"The donation will be split equally between Chicago's Adler Planetarium and the Museum of Science and Industry where the money will be used to create educational exhibits and programming that will inspire young people to pursue careers in areas associated with science and technology."

NASA LaRC Internal Memo: CLOSED: Outreach Resource Center

"Effective Sept. 28, 2007, the Outreach Resource Center (ORC) in Bdg. 1213, Rm. 139, was permanently closed. Due to budget constraints, the ORC is no longer available for walk-in customers or requests for hard-copy public information materials."

NASA Langley to Open to Public for One Day

"Come see some of NASA Langley's latest breakthroughs for yourself Saturday, October 27, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Help stimulate your child's imagination with a look at real-life space-age discoveries that may one day be part of everyday life. Enjoy a rare opportunity to step back in time and view where astronauts learned to land on the moon."

Editor's note: This sends a confusing message. On one hand LaRC opens itself up to the public - on the other hand it closes itself off from them.

Texas Man Linked to Past and Future of Space Exploration by Sputnik and Soyuz, NY Times

"And, [Richard Garriott] added, he is hoping to accomplish something on the flight that no other space tourist has done: take a spacewalk, an option Space Adventures announced last year for an extra $15 million. "But that is NOT yet set in stone," he wrote. He has had two suited-up training sessions in a Russian underwater facility, he said, and "It's MUCH harder than it looks." Air pressure stiffens the suit, and every movement is a struggle."

Sputnik at 50

With Fear and Wonder in Its Wake, Sputnik Lifted Us Into the Future, NY Times

"Fifty years ago, before most people living today were born, the beep-beep-beep of Sputnik was heard round the world. It was the sound of wonder and foreboding. Nothing would ever be quite the same again in geopolitics, in science and technology, in everyday life and the capacity of the human species."

The Space Age, NY Times Special Section

First Contact: Sputnik, NASA

"To say the least, it was incredible. The news relayed by the voice on the other end of the phone line hit the president of the San Gabriel Valley Radio Club like a blow to the head. Too incredible, Henry Richter hoped, to be true."

Chairman Gordon Introduces House Resolution Honoring Landmark Space Anniversary

"The Chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology Bart Gordon (D-TN) introduced a House resolution today aimed at honoring the 50th anniversary of the dawn of the Space Age."

Is Space Solar Power Back?

New Alliance for Space Solar Power to Be Announced, NSS

"On October 10, 2007, leading space advocacy organizations and Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin will announce the formation of a new alliance to advance a common goal: Ensuring that the benefits of renewable clean energy from space solar power are understood and supported by business, governments and the general public."

Russia Hitches A Ride

NASA Spacecraft to Carry Russian Science Instruments

"NASA and the Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos have agreed to fly two Russian scientific instruments on NASA spacecraft that will conduct unprecedented robotic missions to the moon and Mars."

Science Policy Speech by Hillary Clinton

"Tomorrow morning, Hillary will be giving a speech on her science policy, and we'd like you to attend. After six years of George Bush putting ideology ahead of science, America is ready for a change, and Hillary will lay out her plans to support scientific research and restore the role of science in decision-making. Space is limited and RSVPs are required. RSVP now:"

Editor's note: Word has it that Sen. Clinton will make some very specific and detailed recommendations for the space policy she'd implement as President.

Adobe Announces 2007 MAX Awards Winners, Adobe

"Adobe Systems Incorporated today announced the winners of the 2007 MAX Awards. Now in its fifth year, the global awards program recognizes innovative applications of Adobe software for creating engaging experiences. Adobe received nearly 600 entries from 30 countries in seven categories. Finalists in these categories also competed for a Peoples Choice Award selected by the MAX attendees. - In the Public Sector category the winner was NASA for its International Space Station: An Interactive Reference Guide."

NASA's Interactive Space Station Guide presentation

More Bad News For Kistler

Editor's note: Word has it that Randy Brinkley has left Rocketplane Kistler.

NASA GSFC Internal Memo: 2007 NASA Culture Survey Response Rate

"The survey has been open for 3 weeks and according to the current statistics, we are the lowest responding Center at only 9.64%. I encourage you to respond to the NASA Culture Survey and provide open and honest feedback regarding your perceptions with respect to management credibility, upward communication and organizational support."

NASA Internal Memo From Constellation Program Manager Jeff Hanley: Avoid Verbal Orders

Mike G has encouraged me to share the following with the team, in hopes that this helps to clarify his position on how 'governance' explicitly relates to Constellation and the institutions executing our plan... "It is NASA's job to figure out a way to "support" ESMD and Cx. Not the other way around. A "successful" independent review board, or review process generally, is one that serves the Program Manager. Not the reverse. The institution devises and imposes standards and processes solely for the purpose of aiding programs to be successful, not as a matter of doctrinaire adherence to a standard of "technical purity". There is no such thing as a "successful" independent review board, or a "successful" NASA, without a successful Cx. If 7120.5D does not serve Cx well, meaning help produce a good outcome, it is the document that will be revised, not Cx."

Science education initiatives are critical to the future of U.S. aerospace, Rep. Mark Udall, The Hill

"As chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee's Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, I see the unique role that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) plays in supporting math and science education. NASA's inspiring science, aeronautics, and human space flight and exploration missions are a natural attraction for children and students. In addition, NASA's educational initiatives can provide direct assistance to building science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills in pre-kindergarten through post-doctoral students."

Advantages of space exploration include fostering technological, economic growth, Rep. Ralph Hall, The Hill

"America's manned space exploration inspired generations of students, but we are falling behind other nations in the number of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) graduates. Congress is working to improve those numbers in a host of ways, and keeping manned space exploration a top priority is one of the best motivators we could have."

OMB Report on NASA Education, previous post

Performance - Collecting performance data consistently and annually for all program activities, reporting performance against the program's established metrics and targets, and using results to improve performance. - No action taken

Performance - Conducting independent evaluations to assess the program's effectiveness and efficiency against the program's established metrics and performance goals and applying resources based on the results. - No action taken

Thoughts on Sputnik at 50

Maintain U.S. supremacy in space, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, The Hill

"Today, we are on the verge of another Sputnik moment. In November, China will launch its first lunar orbiter - a major milestone in its rapidly-developing space program. In fact, China's progress has been so substantial they're planning on landing a man on the moon by 2020. A decade or so from now, the Red Flag may be flying on the lunar surface."

Herman Lee Patterson, Jr.

Herman Lee Patterson, Jr., (Pat) died peacefully Saturday, September 29th after a lengthy hospital stay in Bristol, TN. Pat grew up in Lynchburg, VA. He served the United States Air Force and was stationed in Seoul, Korea. Pat worked for Wackenhut Services Incorporated 40+ years in many capacities and was their longest serving employee. He spent 20 years at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida where he rose through the ranks from a security officer to the Chief of Security

NASA's role revisited at 50-year mark, Government Executive

"The focus of space exploration today is in the economic arena," Griffin remarked. "We see the transformative effects of the space economy all around us through numerous technologies and life-saving capabilities," like global positioning systems and satellite-based hurricane forecasts. Space fans say that is true -- but NASA isn't taking the message to heart. "NASA's often its own worst enemy," said Keith Cowing, editor of NASAWatch.com and a former NASA scientist. He is of the mindset that NASA has value, but no one seems to understand that value. If NASA disappeared today, the space economy would continue, Cowing said. "There's enough of an impetus in the private sector," plus the satellites are built and launched by private companies."

Why they call me the Rocket Boy, Homer Hickam, LA Times

"So rather than being an impediment, NASA can and should be the driver of commerce, the provider of the technology necessary to make some big money in space. The truth is that private enterprise already has a huge presence up there. It's not NASA but commercial companies that send all those communications satellites rocketing aloft to the tune of billions of dollars of profits every year. Boeing, LockMart and hundreds of other companies, large and small, work in the space business, and they also create new techniques and technology; but they'd be nowhere if NASA and the Department of Defense hadn't shown the way by funding the first big rockets and satellites."

How NASA helped invent Silicon Valley, CNET

"Several companies in what would become Silicon Valley benefited from the ambitious goals and budget largesse of the Apollo space program," said Dag Spicer, the senior curator of the Computer History Museum, in Mountain View, Calif. "The stringent quality and performance requirements of (integrated circuits) for Apollo allowed early semiconductor companies to learn at government (that is, public) expense, a technology that would soon have broad application and whose price would plummet as these companies perfected manufacturing methods."

Community Letter to NASA and NOAA Regarding Concerns Over NPOESS Preparatory Project VIIRS Sensor

"We have become increasingly concerned that VIIRS (Visible Infrared Imager/Radiometer Suite), the ocean color sensor on the NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) mission, will be incapable of providing imagery for climate science applications. VIIRS on NPP was supposed to be the next ocean color mission to follow SeaWiFS and MODIS on Aqua and extend key biological and biogeochemical oceanographic observations. Importantly, this requirement of continuing the EOS-level climate science observations across all Earth Science disciplines was built into the recommendations of the NRC's Decadal Survey committee."

Judge to bar NASA background checks on drugs for time being, AP

"A federal judge said he planned to temporarily bar NASA from asking workers at one of its research centers during background checks whether they had ever used drugs. The drug use question was only a small part of a lawsuit filed by 28 scientists, engineers and staff at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena who claimed the new security measures invaded their privacy. They include senior scientists and engineers on high-profile missions including the Galileo probe to Jupiter and the Cassini spacecraft to Saturn. U.S. District Court Judge Otis Wright said Monday he wanted to balance workers' rights with national security."

Media Advisory JPL Employees vs Caltech, NASA and Department of Commerce Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12

Earlier stories

Moon Huggers

Space Frontier Foundation Comment on the Draft Constellation Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS), Space Frontier Foundation

"Although environmental impacts on the Moon are currently left outside the scope of the PEIS, the lunar activities discussed within the PEIS do raise significant environmental impact issues and concerns. As just one illustration, NASA is currently in the process of making technical decisions between using toxic and non-toxic propellants in the lunar lander propulsion system. Since this architecture element will repeatedly transport humans and cargo to and from the lunar surface, the use of toxic propellants could have a significant negative impact."

And the Winner of the NASA Slogan Contest Is...., Wired

"After sifting through over 4,000 entries by hand, I am pleased to share with you the Top 25 NASA tagline submissions and the Top 5 humorous submissions (after the jump). I hope you will enjoy them as much as I did and I hope that we will find ways to put all this crowd sourcing effort to good use! Over the past month, this crowd sourcing article was viewed by over 50,000 people. I just want to thank everyone who read it, passed it on, blogged about it and especially those that submitted."

Two Views Of NASA

Why is NASA the only game in space?, Opinion, LA Times

Homer Hickam: "... did you know the Department of Labor (that this department exists at all deserves another ! from me) gets four times more money than NASA? Health and Human Services 26 times more? Housing and Urban Development (!!!) gets twice as much? You want to talk about waste? Just peruse a list of their programs! It will make you weep. And what do those outfits and most federal bureaucracies give back to the economy? Nada. NASA, on the other hand, is an organization that gives our economy a positive jolt with all its inventiveness. It's worth every penny. No, I take that back. It's worth more pennies than we give it and if we keep underfunding it, we're idiots."

Rand Simberg: "You contend that NASA's human spaceflight program is underfunded. I would argue that, given its paltry ambitions, it's vastly over-endowed because the results won't be worth the money. If NASA were to put forth a plan by which it enabled hundreds or thousands of people to go into space, I think that would be worth going back and asking the Congress and Office of Management and Budget to fund. Sadly, NASA isn't capable of that, by its nature as a federal agency, because it would mean too much relinquishing of control to what it perceives to be a frighteningly uncertain and unpredictable private sector, with too few opportunities for pork in specific districts."

Editor's note: Homer is honest about the fact that NASA sends him a retirement check on a regular basis as he gives NASA a nice dose of tough love. Yet what always amuses me about NASA haters such as Rand is that while he publicly rips into NASA, he is content to quietly feed off of this very same inefficiency he loathes as a consultant to NASA Exploration projects. If this work NASA does is so odious and counterproductive to human exploration, shouldn't he avoid taking any of it as a matter of principle? Just say no, Rand.

Buzz Aldrin -- Bossed in Space, TMZ.com

"He reached the astronomical height of fame when he walked on the moon in 1969, but former astronaut, author and recent plastic surgery patient Buzz Aldrin still gets paparazzi attention ... After Lois ordered Buzz to acknowledge the camera, Aldrin waved and quickly returned squabbling."

Asia could win next 'Space Race', US scientists fear, AFP

"When we celebrate 100 years of Sputnik, we might celebrate the 20th anniversary of man landing on Mars," Frank Griffin, NASA's chief administrator said recently.

Spacehab Announces NASDAQ Deficiency Notice and Going Concern Qualification, Spacehab

"SPACEHAB, Incorporated (NASDAQ:SPAB), a leading provider of commercial space services, today announced its receipt of a notice from NASDAQ Staff on September 25, 2007 stating that the Company does not comply with Marketplace Rule 4310(c)(3). Marketplace Rule 4310(c)(3) requires the Company to have $500,000 of net income from continuing operations for the most recently completed fiscal year or two of the three most recently completed fiscal years; or $35,000,000 market value of listed securities; or $2,500,000 in stockholders' equity."

Sputnik Thoughts

Spacemen are from Mars, Economist

"Fifty Years ago the Soviet Union launched the world's first artificial satellite. Sputnik burst into orbit on October 4th 1957, in the midst of the cold war. It was a surprise to the world, a shock to many Americans, and the starting gun for the space race between the superpowers. Thereafter, America vied with the Soviet Union for supremacy in aerospace's equivalent of "mine's bigger than yours", as successively taller rockets lobbed larger payloads further afield."

Secrets of 1957 Sputnik Launch Revealed, AP

"... 50 years later, it emerges that the momentous launch was far from being part of a well-planned strategy to demonstrate communist superiority over the West. Instead, the first artificial satellite in space was a spur-of-the-moment gamble driven by the dream of one scientist, whose team scrounged a rocket, slapped together a satellite and persuaded a dubious Kremlin to open the space age."

Sputnik's Legacy, James Oberg

"The 'flight revolution' of my grandfather's lifetime, a transportation technology quantum leap, brought peoples and places on Earth much closer together. It changed exotic foreign lands and their inhabitants into neighbors, for good or for ill. It changed each person's own native land into just another country, one of many. Sure, the communication revolution helped too, but airplanes were "the point of the spear"."

Space station partners bicker over closure date, AFP

"NASA administrator Michael Griffin has told space station partners that the US agency has no plans for "utilisation and exploitation" of the science research lab for more than five years after it is completed, Dordain said."

Editor's note: In situations such as this, I just have to say: who cares what Mike Griffin thinks or says? Seriously. He will most certainly be job hunting in 15 months and a new Administration - and a new Administrator - will be making (or reversing) such important decisions - not Mike Griffin.

Reader note: I actually spoke to several European space program leaders while in Hyderabad last week, and the questions were certainly in the air: what about ISS? what about the Moon? What about the Vision for Space Exploration? What about Dr. Griffin's programs and restrictive policies on international participation in lunar infrastructures?



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