January 2008 Archives


Apollo, Challenger, Columbia: Thinking Back - Looking Ahead, New Moon Rising

"At the end of the event, Rona Ramon, Ilan's widow, spoke last. Steeling her emotions with grace and clarity, she spoke elegantly and briefly. She thanked all for coming. And then she talked of her husband, and the flight of the lost shuttle. "Our mission in space is not over, "she told the hushed audience. "He was the first Israeli in space that means there will be more."

Israel to NASA: Ready to provide first astronaut since Columbia disaster, Hareetz.com

"Israel would like to send another astronaut to participate in an expedition by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Benny Elon, chairman of the Knesset Science and Technology Committee, told members of a NASA delegation visiting Israel."

Editor's note: Of course, the answer to Israel should be an emphatic "yes".

Distant Memorials

Constructing the Space Shuttle Challenger Memorial Inukshuk on Devon Island

"On Wednesday, 18 July 2007, Leroy Chiao, Matt Reyes, myself and a group of Inuit students constructed a memorial inukshuk on Devon Island to honor the crew of Space Shuttle Challenger."

Arctic Memorials and Starship Yearnings

"Our task was a somewhat solemn one. We were here to erect a memorial to Columbia astronaut Michael Anderson. Two memorials have already been erected by members of the HMP Team. The memorials take the form of an inukshuk, a stone sculpture in rough human form used by the Inuit to mark territory. These stone structures serve as reference points for those who traverse this desolate place."

NASA TV to Air Columbia Crew Remembrance Service

"NASA Television will provide live coverage of the Astronauts Memorial Foundation's remembrance service honoring space shuttle Columbia's STS-107 crew. The ceremony will be held at the Space Mirror Memorial on the NASA Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex at 10 a.m. EST on Feb. 1, the fifth anniversary of the Columbia accident."

An Enduring Memorial

Planetarium to Honor Life of Fallen Arlington Son - Captain David M. Brown

"The Arlington School Board unanimously approved a recommendation to name the Planetarium in honor of Captain David M. Brown. Captain Brown, a Yorktown High School graduate, died while serving as a mission specialist on the NASA Space Shuttle Columbia mission on February 1, 2003. In November 2007, Arlington Public Schools received a letter from Arlington resident George Wysor, a childhood friend and classmate of Brown's and an APS alumnus, requesting that the APS planetarium be renamed in memory of Captain Brown."


Letter From President Bush Regarding The Fifth Anniversary of The Columbia Accident

"They assumed great risk so we could understand what lies beyond. the heavens. Americans are grateful for their service, and they will always be cherished."

Message from the NASA Administrator: Day of Remembrance

"The last week of January brings, every year, a confluence of sobering anniversaries that we honor this Thursday with our Day of Remembrance. On Jan. 27, we marked 41 years since the loss of the crew of Apollo 1, and with it NASA's loss of innocence. The Apollo fire made it clear that we bring to spaceflight the same human flaws as our forebears who first sailed the ocean or went aloft in stick-and-wire contraptions. Successive generations have known the same harsh truth; the crew of Challenger was lost to us on Jan. 28, 22 years ago, and on Feb. 1 we mark five years since the loss of Columbia."

Election 2008 Update

Getting Up to Speed on Space, Science (subscription)

"Blogs such as Space Politics and NASA Watch, and organizations such as the Mars Society, keep a close eye on every utterance by a candidate on space policy. They instruct their audience how to contact the campaigns and even coach readers on how to get a space question inserted into a presidential debate. And they are being heard. "It's a small but vocal group, and they've reached out from the beginning," says the Obama staffer. "I'm impressed with the grassroots effort," adds Lori Garver, a Washington, D.C., space consultant and former NASA official who advises Obama's chief rival, Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY). "They've done more than all the sophisticated lobbyists."

Alt.VSE Update

Scientists Hope to Adjust the President's Vision for Space, Science (subscription)

"When U.S. President George W. Bush laid out his plan for a revamped civilian space program in January 2004, he said it would provide "a great and unifying mission for NASA." That expansive vision included a launcher to replace the shuttle, a lunar base, and a slew of robotic missions to the moon and Mars that would put smiles on the faces of even the most skeptical planetary scientists. But 4 years later, that vision has instead triggered a civil war among competing interests within the space community. Some space researchers want to delay the launcher and a lunar base to protect the stalled science budget, whereas industry lobbyists are pressing hard to speed up those schedules."

Kistler Loses GAO Protest

B-310741, Rocketplane Kistler, January 28, 2008, GAO

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration could use a Space Act agreement under that agency's "other transactions" authority, and was not required to use a procurement contract, for the development and demonstration of a space transportation system, where the principal purpose of the announcement was not to acquire goods or services for the direct benefit of the agency, but to stimulate a public purpose authorized by law.

The protest is denied."

50 Years Ago Today

First U.S. Satellite a Triumph of American Ability and Vision, AIA

NASA JPL Explorer 1 website

Explorer I Resolution Introduced to Commemorate 50th Anniversary of the Birth of the U.S. Space Program

"January 31, 2008 marks the 50th anniversary of the launch of the first U.S. satellite - Explorer I - and the dawn of the U.S. space program. Leaders of the U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology marked that anniversary with the introduction of a U.S. House Resolution late yesterday remembering the landmark day and the remarkable advances the U.S. space program has yielded."

The following 4 videos offer different views of the launch and mission of Explorer 1. In the first video, MSgt. Stuart Queen talks about the Explorer 1 launch: "as a giant rocket was catapaulted into outer space".

Columbia Data Aids Sat Re-entry Planning, Aviation Week & Space Technology

"Re-entry debris data and analysis derived from the space shuttle Columbia accident is being applied to Pentagon studies of how much of the failed National Reconnaissance Office NROL-21 spacecraft will survive re-entry heating and strike Earth in late February or early March. Several hundred pounds of spacecraft debris could land anywhere between 58.5 deg. north and south latitude. The orbit overflies all of the world's most populated areas. But statistically, the debris is far more likely to land harmlessly in an ocean, since water underlies more than 90 percent of the ground track."

Reader note: "The planned launch of 50 Juno I model rockets from Cape Canaveral to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Explorer I launch has now been cancelled by the station's wing commander. Although the CCAFS has no quams about launching Deltas, Atlas and other massive rockets, they go into a complete tither when it comes down to launching a 12 inch long model rocket made of balsa wood and paper weighing just under 2 oz.

NASA Budget Briefings

NASA Announces FY 09 Budget Briefings for Press

"NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale will brief the news media about the agency's Fiscal Year 2009 budget at 2:30 p.m. EST, Monday, Feb. 4. The press conference will take place in NASA Headquarters' James E. Webb Memorial Auditorium located at 300 E St., S.W., in Washington."

The Stars Like Dust

The Growing-up of a Star, ESO

"The astronomers had a close look at the object known as MWC 147, lying about 2,600 light years away towards the constellation of Monoceros ('the Unicorn'). MWC 147 belongs to the family of Herbig Ae/Be objects. These have a few times the mass of our Sun and are still forming, increasing in mass by swallowing material present in a surrounding disc."

Editor's note: I see a lot of stunning images every day as I prepare and post items on SpaceRef.com. Yesterday, one image passed through my gaze and caused me to take notice.

This image reminded me of one I first saw 30 years ago - in a (pre-Hubble) book called "Colours of the Stars" - an image of a star field so dense that you could see thousands of them in a glance with no effort. Almost like stepping stones across a brook. This new image from ESO, titled "Around MWC 147", shows a similar distribution of stars. In some places, at full resolution, it seems that the stars are bumping into each other - almost like couscous or grits in a pot of hot water.

Of course, they are not bumping into each other - we are looking at a 2D image of a vast 3D structure. That said, the clustering of so many stars gives them a commonality - almost Saganesque i.e. like the proverbial grains of sand often used to describe how many stars there are.

As always, there are artifacts in electronic images - places where images have been pasted together or portions where data collection was less than perfect. Stars that are a bit less than a pixel in size do not fully appear. Kind of like watching digital cable TV when the bandwidth drops and things start to break down to isolated clusters of pixels.

In looking at the hi-res version of this image I noticed some of these artifacts - seams in the image. Given the sheer density of the stars in this image, I could not help but think that the home star of a sentient civilization could have inadvertently been omitted due to someone's Photoshop skills or the sensitivity of a CCD. A few pixels and someone's history is omitted.

Just recall the scene from the film "Apollo 13" where Tom Hanks (as Jim Lovell) holds his thumb up to obscure Earth - and his reaction to be being able to do so.

Zooming back out a bit, I get this impression that stars are not rare things. Indeed, they are common. And even if the conditions for life require a rather rare confluence of conditions, ample opportunities for life exist due to the sheer number of stars.

As I look at this image, I cannot help but think of the title of an Isaac Asimov novel "The Stars Like Dust" - for that is exactly what I am seeing.

So, take that, those of you out there who think we can learn nothing from exploring space - and ourselves - virtually and in person.

Editor's note: I got this email today:

"Dear Space Advocate, This week, the presidential candidates will be at the podium again discussing the significant topics of our nation, and YOU have a chance to ask about what's important. As a supporter of space, this is your opportunity to get questions about Space Exploration at the forefront of the debate. Please check out the following link: http://capwiz.com/spaceadvocate/utr/1/OSTZIARNGS/ATHLIARRAS/1699563546, and vote for your favorite question, or submit one of your own. Questions about candidates' views on Space Exploration have been in the top 10 for over a week. Let's keep these on the radar. Be sure to check out the "most popular" area in both the Democratic and Republican section to see the specific question and submit your vote. SpaceAdvocate.com is current undergoing maintenance at this time. However, you CAN make a difference by making your voice heard this week. Cast your vote or submit a question.... TODAY!

Sincerely, SpaceAdvocate.com and the Coalition for Space Exploration"

There is one small problem with this. If you go to SpaceAdvocate.com you will see that it is obviously no longer being operated by the Coalition for Space Exploration. Rather, a check of domain records shows that it is owned by some guy in Ankara, Turkey. I'm not certain how the Coalition folks could call this goof-up "maintenance" when they apparently have lost control of one of their prime websites.

Election 2008 Update

Young Engineer Leads Effort To Make Space a Topic of Presidential Debate, Space.com

"[John] Benac's call-to-arms read in part: "[W]e have a tremendous opportunity to put Mars on the political map for the presidential candidates. I have submitted a question for the Republican and Democratic debates that are happening in Los Angeles on January 30th. The way that this debate works is that people submit and vote for the questions that they like online, and the candidates are asked the ones with the most votes. Please tell everyone you think would act on this." Benac's plea to "put Mars on the political map" was quickly picked up and reposted by the Mars Society and the Web site NASAWatch.com, driving more traffic to the CNN/Politico.com Web site, resulting in the posting of new questions and votes for favorites."

NASA Watch on TV

Editor's note: I did an interview earlier today with CNN about the reentering NRO satellite that aired on CNN Moneyline this evening. I am taping an interview with Fox News tomorrow about space and the 2008 election.

Ares 1 Problems

Thrust Oscillation Issue Threatens Ares I Design, Aviation Week

"Modifications to correct a potentially deadly vibration from the solid-fuel first-stage of the Ares I crew launch vehicle could range from tweaking the geometry of the propellant inside the rocket motor to unlocking seat shock absorbers in the Orion capsule so they protect astronauts on launch as well as landing."

Space Imagery as Art

Editor's note: I was doing my regular walk through raw images sent back from Saturn by Cassini. The images are organized on the webpage as thumbnails, 12 at a time. This time, something emergent appeared in my mind as I looked at several pages of thumbnails. The first thing that came to mind - instantly - was "Frank Stella".

Now, some of you may get this instantly. Most of you will not. You see, I served time as an art major in the 70s and my brother-in-law runs a modern art museum in The Netherlands. My point? Pictures from space can be pretty and often inspirational in their own right as individual works of art. However, they can evoke unexpected responses when seen in groupings. Perhaps someone at NASA should be thinking of a travelling exhibit - an art exhibit in a large format - of images from space.

There is a precedent: NASA just took the transcendent step of producing a tactile art book of images taken by spacecraft for the blind.

Editor's note: Several readers brought these art activities to my attention today:

From Earth to the Universe - an exhibit of astronomical images, International Year of Astronomy

"IYA2009 is an unprecedented opportunity to present astronomy to the global community in a way that has never been done before. The "From Earth to the Universe" project is an exhibition arranged by the IYA2009 that will bring these images to a wider audience in non-traditional venues such as public parks and gardens, art museums, shopping malls and metro stations."

Universal art - Photos from the Hubble Space Telescope show that science and beauty go hand in hand, Baltimore Sun

"Mapping the Cosmos: Images from the Hubble Space Telescope presents a vision of the universe that normally is invisible to us, in part because of the great distances involved and the obscuring effects of our atmosphere, and in part because Hubble's unblinking eye, orbiting 350 miles above Earth's surface, detects wavelengths of light that our eyes can't see."

Reader note: This book, "Touch the Invisible Sky," is actually just the latest in a series of books for the visually impaired (including Touch the Stars, Touch the Sun, and Touch the Universe). The author's website has more information: http://youcandoastronomy.com. The prototype for the next book in the series, Touch the Solar System, is under development.

O'Keefe Endorses McCain

Former NASA Chief Sean O'Keefe Endorses John McCain for President

"John McCain has been my friend for over 25 years -- and over that span of time in the varied leadership roles I have held, I have witnessed John's passion for doing the right thing on behalf of and as a friend to all Americans. I am proud to support him for president," said Chancellor O'Keefe. "John McCain personifies the depth of character and integrity we need in our next president. His candor, service and sacrifice, and leadership experience in every crucial debate over the last 20 years will serve to inspire the next generation of leaders to serve causes greater than their own self interest."

Editor's note: Don't forget about the 30/31 January Democratic/Republican debates. They are now just days away. These are the last major televised debates before Super Tuesday. You still need to go to this link at Politico.com to submit/vote on space questions.

The frequency of space questions has dropped off and space questions are starting to slip in rankings. I have no idea when they will shut this off. Waste no time: add new questions, go to "most popular" for each party and make sure you have voted for the topic questions. Get your friends and family members to vote. And, if you are so inclined, you might want to vote at work, at home, at Starbucks, from your cellphone ... tell your spouse and kids to vote ... we need to use the same tricks that other "interests" use i.e. vote early - and often - and do so strategically.

You need to keep at this folks. Other "interests" have discovered this web page and are having an effect. This is a chance to make certain that the topic - and the veracity of its supporters - is known. These last few days are crucial. You have done a stellar job thus far - we can't let this opportunity slip as we head toward the home stretch.

As of 12:29 AM EST we are # 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 25 on the Democratic side - yet we are only #5, 8, 13, 15, 19, 20, 22, 23 on the Republican side.



Otherwise, just sit down and shut up. You had your chance.

Scott Parazynski at the Explorers Club: The Story of the International Space Station and the Mother of all Roadside Service Calls

"Tonight, The Explorers Club invites you to join Dr. Parazynski as he takes you along on one of the most dangerous spacewalks in NASA's history: enduring seven hours and 19 minutes of time working in the vacuum of space while risking potential electrical shock, sharp objects that could puncture his spacesuit and a long journey back to the safety of the station."

John McCain On the Issues: America's Space Program

"John McCain believes curiosity and a drive to explore have always been quintessential American traits. This has been most evident in the space program, for which he will continue his strong support."

Sen. McCain's comments on S. 2541 NASA Reauthorization Act

"Curiosity and a drive to explore have always been quintessential American traits. This has been most evident in the space program, which continues to show great advances in human knowledge. However, we are fully aware of the inherent risks and costs of space exploration, and the need to mitigate them wherever possible. Based on this knowledge, let us now embark upon this great journey into the stars to find whatever may await us."

Election 2008 Update

Candidates make room for space, Huntsville Times

"A month ago, I wouldn't have thought this the case, but (space exploration) is sort of in the candidates' face right now," said Keith Cowing, a former NASA astrobiologist who runs the Web site NASAwatch.com. "It seems as if something is happening (with space) and that hasn't been the case in years."Much of the political discussion centers on space exploration as a technology and education issue, Cowing said. "If you read some of the position papers carefully, then you see space and exploration as topics that are also linked to other aspects of technology development, balance of trade and education," Cowing said."

Editor's note: Check out the front page of today's (27 Jan) Sunday Huntsville Times. Also, the last line in this story, although attributed to me, was not something that I said. This error is being fixed by the Times.

Action Update: Submit Space Questions to the U.S. Presidential Debates, Planetary Society

"The U.S. Presidential primaries season is now in full swing, and debates among the candidates are taking place regularly before millions of viewers. It is a unique opportunity to push space topics onto the national political agenda. And you can help. Here's how: The sponsors of the debates are inviting the public to submit questions to the candidates online http://dyn.politico.com/debate/."

Look - Why Its a Big ....

Defunct Spy Satellite Falling From Orbit, AP

"A large U.S. spy satellite has lost power and propulsion and could hit the Earth in late February or March, government officials said Saturday. The satellite, which no longer be controlled, could contain hazardous materials, and it is unknown where on the planet it might come down, they said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the information is classified as secret. "Appropriate government agencies are monitoring the situation," said Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council."

Election 2008 Update

Guiliani's Gamble, Hartford Courant

"He told them a Giuliani presidency will return America to the dominance it has lost in space. "The U.S. will be the first nation that puts somebody on Mars," he said. "We're not a limited people. We're not a people who think small," he told them. "We're here because we came from people who had grand visions."

Republicans, Lost in Space, NY Times

"Campaigning in his make-or-break state of Florida last week, Mr. Giuliani released a statement promising to "make space a priority." Apparently, America is facing a crisis far greater than health care or education reform: when the current fleet of space shuttles is retired in 2010, it's going to take as much as five years--five years, people!--before we can send another guy into orbit."

Mapping Half a New World

Counting Mercury's Craters

"On January 14, 2008, MESSENGER flew by Mercury and snapped images of a large portion of the surface that had not been previously seen by spacecraft. Ever since the first images were received back on Earth one day later, January 15, MESSENGER team members have been closely examining and studying this "new" terrain with great interest and excitement."

NASA Hits The Road

NASA Celebrates 50th Anniversary at Seattle Future Forum

"Mayor Gregory J. Nickels has signed a proclamation recognizing NASA for its contribution to the space-related economy in the Seattle region, as well as its role in exploration, scientific discovery and research. The day of recognition coincides with a NASA Future Forum at the Museum of Flight in Seattle on Jan. 25, the first in a yearlong series of events across the country to mark the agency's 50th anniversary. NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale is the keynote speaker at the forum."

Stardust comet dust resembles asteroid materials

"Contrary to expectations for a small icy body, much of the comet dust returned by the Stardust mission formed very close to the young sun and was altered from the solar system's early materials. When the Stardust mission returned to Earth with samples from the comet Wild 2 in 2006, scientists knew the material would provide new clues about the formation of our solar system, but they didn't know exactly how."

Big Rock Set To Buzz Earth

Asteroid to Make Rare Close Flyby of Earth January 29

"Scientists are monitoring the orbit of asteroid 2007 TU24. The asteroid, believed to be between 150 meters (500 feet) and 610 meters (2,000 feet) in size, is expected to fly past Earth on Jan. 29, with its closest distance being about 537,500 kilometers (334,000 miles) at 12:33 a.m. Pacific time (3:33 a.m. Eastern time). It should be observable that night by amateur astronomers with modest-sized telescopes."

Message from the NASA Chief Information Officer NASA Records Management and E-mail

"The purpose of this memo is to bring to your attention NASA's policies regarding e-mail records management. In order to comply with the Federal Records Act, NASA is legally obligated to preserve records that document the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, and essential transactions of the agency."

Ares Design Issue Update

Ares "delay" puts NASA on the back foot, Nature

"Later, NasaWatch got hold of a NASA memo that seemed to show that the Ares launch had been delayed by 12 months (blog post, memo). However Griffin has denied this. His slightly tetchy denial is rather convoluted but he says this is not a delay but a "re-phasing" of milestones (NasaWatch blog post). Clear on that?"

Election 2008 Update

Tell McCain and Romney in Your Own Voice, ActionForSpace

"Tomorrow, January 24, all space supporters in Florida: at 6:45 p.m, Governor Romney attends a pre-debate rally at Bogart's Bar & Grille: Muvico Palace 20, 3200 Airport Road, Boca Raton, FL 33431 Go get yourself a burger, sidle up to good 'ole Mitt, and tell him why he needs to give NASA a couple billion more dollars. Tell him what effect if will have on your vote. He seems like a nice enough guy to talk to."

Editor's note: An effort to examine alternate approaches to NASA's current Vision for Space Exploration has been in the news of late. For every one of these efforts that makes the news, several others - also involving people of equal stature within the space community - are also underway albeit without nearly as much fanfare.

NASA will have a hard time arguing with some of the logic that enters into and emerges out of these activities. Some alternate architectures will be mostly science-driven whereas the VSE is destination/Presidential decree-driven. Some will be a hybrid - with commerical goals included.

All approaches will have merits. All will have weaknesses.

To be honest, I am a bit agnostic about the specific destinations so long as the policy is inherently logical, linked to a firm budget, politically realistic, linked to commercial opportunities, and harnessed to engineering reality - so long as the endpoint is expansion away from Earth in a self-perpetuating and sustaining fashion. If done properly, we'll eventually get to visit everything.

If we reset the VSE every election cycle I am a bit afraid that each reiteration will be weaker than the previous one - and that NASA will be (rightly) accused of having attention deficit disorder.

However, forces are aligning that seek to refine/replace George Bush's VSE - and there is not much NASA can do about this if the notion catches on - especially if this effort has the support of one or more of Bush's prospective successors.

The legacy we all should be thinking about leaving behind as we dabble in alternate visions must be how vibrant the notion of a "vision" for space exploration is. And in so doing, we must assure that whatever vision emerges and moves forth to become our nation's next iteration of space exploration quidance is able to morph and adapt to changing circumstances - such that the core notion of exploration and moving forward - and outward - is always retained.

Moon Stuck, Aviation Week

Letter to the Editor Regarding Aviation Week Article "Moon Stuck"

Examining the Vision - Balancing Science and Exploration (Draft agenda, speakers)

"10:00 - 11:30 Panel: Space Science as Exploration Moderator: Len Fisk Panelists: Wes Huntress, John Klineberg, Doc Horowitz, Owen Garriott"

Virgin's Green Spaceship

Richard Branson's Remarks at the Unveiling of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo

"If our new system could carry only people into space, that would be enough for me, because of the transforming effect it will have on the thousands who will travel with us. It is quite clear from every astronaut that I've ever spoken to -- including Brian Binnie and Mike Melvill -- that seeing the planet from out there, surrounded by the incredibly thin protective layer of atmosphere, helps one to wake up to the fragility of the small portion of the planet's mass that we inhabit, and to the importance of protecting the Earth."

Virgin Galactic Unveils Spaceship Designs

"Virgin Galactic today unveiled the design of its new, environmentally benign, space launch system based on the X Prize winning technology of SpaceShipOne, which successfully flew into space for the third time in October 2004 and won the $10m Ansari X Prize. The construction of the White Knight Two (WK2) mothership, or carrier aircraft, is now very close to completion at Scaled Composites in Mojave, CA and is expected to begin flight testing in the summer of 2008. It is the world's largest, all carbon composite aircraft; it has a unique high altitude lift capacity, capable of launching SpaceShipTwo and its eight astronauts into sub-orbital space flight."

Hawleys Departing NASA?

Editor's note: Word has it that Steve Halwey and Eileen Hawley will be leaving NASA soon. NASA sources report that Steve Hawley has accepted a position at the University of Kansas.

NASA Johnson Space Center Astronaut and Flight Surgeon Survey Report

"In response to findings of both the internal JSC review and NASA Astronaut Health Care Committee, JSC decided to gather additional data. JSC collected information directly from astronauts and flight surgeons through an anonymous survey, to understand if changes in current policies or procedures are needed."

Mystery image of 'life on Mars', BBC

"An image of a mysterious shape on the surface of Mars, taken by Nasa spacecraft Spirit, has reignited the debate about life on the Red Planet. While some bloggers have dismissed the image as a trick of light, others say it is evidence of an alien presence. The image is a recent Nasa posting of the Spirit's landing in 2004."

Alt.VSE Update

Dissent Grows as Scientists Oppose NASA's New Moon Mission, Popular Mechanics

"NASA's current plan for manned space exploration focuses on establishing a base on the moon, as a vital stepping stone for a visit to Mars. The initiative has been trumpeted by the Bush administration, which wants the first mission to launch by 2020. But trouble is brewing as a growing group of former mission managers, planetary scientists and astronauts argues against any manned moon mission at all. One alternative, they say: Send astronauts to an asteroid as a better preparation for a Martian landing."

Election 2008 Update

Space becomes primary frontier as candidates court voters in Fla., ATlanta Journal Constitution

"For the first time in decades, space policy is emerging as a presidential campaign issue and, political strategists say, could become a decisive factor in the race to the White House. In the run-up to Florida's Jan. 29 primary, candidates have begun to talk about their views on the future of human space exploration. On Friday, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani stopped at Kennedy Space Center to pledge he would give NASA the money it needs to return Americans to the moon and go to Mars. On Monday, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney followed suit."

Time to put the Heat Onto Barack, Political Action For Space

"Barack Obama is opening up a campign office in Huntsville in a few hours! Go there and tell him (or his campaign people) that his space policy needs to be revised!"

ESAS 101 For Dummies

NASA Administrator Mike Griffin's Remarks to the Space Transportation Association (with audio)

"Today's topic is motivated by the inquiries I've had lately, in one forum or another, concerning various aspects of NASA's post-Shuttle spaceflight architecture. None of the questions is new, and all of them were elucidated during our Exploration Systems Architecture Study (ESAS)... But more than two years have gone by, and the logic behind the choices we made has receded into the background. People come and go, new questioners lacking subject matter background appear, and the old questions must be answered again if there is to be general accord that NASA managers are allocating public funds in a responsible fashion."

Editor's note: I just find it curious that Mike Griffin can get so thin skined as to refer to my question's tone as being "pejorative" and then be snide and insulting in response when I declined to "remove that tone" - and then turn around and say - using a pejorative term - that his employee "screwed up" a moment later. Gee Mike, I know I'm not a pleasant person to interact with, but isn't there a more professional way you could have characterized Jeff Hanley's actions?

Mike Griffin speaks and takes questions at the Space Transportation Association Breakfast, 22 January 2008, Washington DC

Cowing: Last week I asked a question of ESMD Public Affairs about whether the Ares 1-Y flight had been delayed. They replied "NASA has not announced a 12 month postponement of any Ares or Orion test flights and has no plans to do so". Yet several days before that. Jeff Hanley, the Constellation program manager, wrote a memo that said exactly that - that he had internal plans and changes and that the Ares 1-Y had been shifted by one year. Now, are you going to be shifting the launch of Ares 1-Y and if not, why is your Constellation Program Manager announcing this to more than 80 people within the agency?

Griffin: Well, if you could take the pejorative tone out of your voice I'll actually try and answer your question.

Cowing: No ... I'm not going to remove it.

Griffin: You're not going to remove the pejorative tone from your voice?

Cowing: No sir.

Griffin: I guess you're not capable of it. Um .. I'll answer your question.

Um, actually, Jeff screwed up.

NASA Internal Memo from Constellation Program Manager Jeffrey Hanley: Update to Constellation Program (CxP) Internal Launch Dates

"Pursuant to recent analysis of program resource execution plans, the Program is adjusting the internal launch dates for the CxP Flight Manifest as follows:

  1. Ares 1-Y shifted 12 months from September 2012 to September 2013
  2. Orion 1 shifted 9 months from March 2013 to December 2013
  3. Orion 2 shifted 6 months from September 2013 to March 2014
  4. Orion 3 shifted 3 months from March 2014 to June 2014
  5. Orion 4 is not shifted and remains on September 2014"

- Original 16 January Hanley memo, PDF
- Original 18 January Hanley memo rescinding 16 January memo, PDF

Talk Of Ares Launch Delays, earlier post

NASA ESMD PAO: "NASA has not announced a 12-month postponement of any Ares or Orion test flights and has no plans to do so."

Editor's note: A memo sent out under signature across the entire agency to its senior leadership (check the 80+ cc: list) announcing: "Ares 1-Y shifted 12 months from September 2012 to September 2013" sure sounds like it was "announced" and that this was part of a "plan" i.e. a "recent analysis of program resource execution plans". Until someone put a halt to this, it would seem. I wonder who? We'll find out Tuesday morning at the STA breakfast - Mike Griffin was supposed to be the sole guest. Now Jeff Hanley and Steve Cook will be joining him to answer questions.

I just love it when ESMD is accurate in their responses to my questions.

ESMD Responds to Ares and Orion Questions, earlier post

Comments? Send them to nasawatch@reston.com

Editor's note: The HiRes version of the new Star Trek trailer is online. Turn up the volume and watch it on a big monitor. If you go to this official website there are "webcams" that will show you the Enterprise under construction (so to speak). There are little sliders (the green bar) under each webcam feed that allow you to fine tune the webcam image so as to make it nice and crisp. The trailer is also on YouTube (below):

Wolf Blitzer: What would you ask the Democrats in South Carolina?, CNN Politics.com

"I am going to be hosting a Democratic presidential debate on Monday, January 21, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina"

Editor's 20 Jan note: Wolf Blitzer just (11:44 am EST) read a space-oriented question on the air at CNN selected from those that have been submitted to this web page. Lets see if you can give him some more!

And don't forget about the 30/31 January Democratic/Republican debates. Go to this link at Politico.com to submit/vote on space questions. The frequency of space questions has dropped off and space questions are starting to slip in rankings.

You need to keep at this folks.

Editor's 20 Jan note: Rudy Giuliani was on CNN (12:23 pm EST) with Wolf Blitzer and made a fleeting mention of "having access to our space shuttle" as he talked about being in Florida.

Star Trek Immortality

Inspirational Professor Given Part In Star Trek, Trekmovie.com

"Dr. Randy Pausch is a highly respected and honored professor of Computer Science and co-founder of the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is also a Trek fan. In November Dr. Pausch was offered a role to be in the new Star Trek movie, and it all started with a very special lecture he gave two months earlier."

HSPD-12 Update

Was the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit too liberal in stopping NASA background checks? You decide, ComputerWorld

JPL scientists resist NASA's bargain-basement inquisition, LA Times via SJ Mercury News

"For the last four years, two robot rovers operated from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory have been moving across the surface of Mars, taking photographs and collecting information. It's an epic event in the history of exploration, one of many for which JPL's 7,000 civilian scientists and engineers are responsible - when they're not fending off the U.S. government's attempts to conduct an intimidating and probably illegal inquisition into the intimate details of their lives."

Election 2008 Update

Time to put the Heat onto Romney, Political Action For Space

"Mitt Romney won the Nevada primary this morning. He also accepted the same invitation the Giuliani had acted on yesterday to meet with the Economic Development Council of Floridas Space Coast."

Giuliani pledges to send astronauts to the moon and Mars, Political Action For Space

"Giuliani stated boldly and unequivocally today his commintment to send humans to the Moon and Mars, among other things."

Rudy at KSC today; Mitt coming Monday, Orlando Sentinel

"Next up is Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor plans to visit KSC on Monday for a closed tour and then meet with the Economic Development Commission of Floridas Space Coast, which also lobbied Giuliani."

Blog; NASA/NSF/ILC Dover Antarctica 2008

"11 Jan Today started with the Inflatable Hab fully inflated on the site. Most of the morning was spent making sure the anchors were in place properly and outfitting the interior. Work continued on the preparation of the sensors and the "weather station" was installed. This will help folks back at JSC monitor the actually conditions at the structure's site after we leave and during it's one year deployment. The floor was also installed."

Using a Planetary Analog To Test a Prototype Inflated Habitat for NASA, SpaceRef

"I had a chance to visit the manufacturing facilities at ILC Dover in Frederica, Delaware last week to see the new inflatable habitat that they have developed. Together, NASA, ILC Dover, and NSF will put this habitat through a one-year test at McMurdo Station in Antarctica starting in January 2008."

Moon Stuck, Aviation Week & Space Technology

"Some of the most influential leaders of the space community are quietly working to offer the next U.S. president an alternative to President Bush's "vision for space exploration"--one that would delete a lunar base and move instead toward manned missions to asteroids along with a renewed emphasis on Earth environmental spacecraft. Top U.S. planetary scientists, several astronauts and former NASA division directors will meet privately at Stanford University on Feb. 12-13 to define these sweeping changes to the NASA/Bush administration Vision for Space Exploration (VSE)."

Talk Of Ares Launch Delays

Editor's note: NASA sources report that Jeff Hanley recently issued a memo wherein the need to delay the first Ares missions was discussed - and recommended. NASA sources also report that Mike Griffin did not agree with this recommendation and that he has countermanded the recommendations that Hanley made. When I asked NASA ESMD PAO about this issue today they replied:

NASA Moon Rocket May Shake Too Much, AP

"Senior managers were told of the findings last fall, but NASA did not talk about them publicly until the AP filed a Freedom of Information Act request earlier this month and the watchdog Web site Nasawatch.com submitted detailed engineering-oriented questions. The response to those questions, given to both Nasawatch and AP, were shared with outside experts, who judged it a serious problem. NASA engineers characterized the shaking as being in what the agency considers the "red zone" of risk, ranking a five on a 1-to-5 scale of severity."

Severe vibration problem plagues moon rocket design, Houston Chronicle

"The vibration problem was disclosed today by NASA Watch, an Internet Web site focused on space agency issues. The space agency declined requests for interviews today but provided a lengthy written response in which it identified the problem as "thrust oscillation," an issue that surfaced in October during a design review. It characterized the problem as a pulsing of the thrust late in the burn of the Ares I first stage rocket."

NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate Responds to Ares 1 and Orion Questions

Editor's note: Earlier this month I submitted a series of questions to NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD) regarding the Ares 1 and Orion projects. The following was provided to me by ESMD PAO on Thursday: ...

Werner Dahm Has Died

Huntsville has lost another one of the original team of German rocket scientists, Huntsville Times

"Werner K. Dahm, an internationally recognized rocket pioneer whose work in Germany and the United States made important contributions to the nation's ballistic missile programs and its manned and unmanned rocket programs, died late Thursday afternoon in Huntsville at an assisted living center. He was 90 years old."

NASA IPP Solicitation: Development of a NASA-Based Massively Multiplayer Online Learning Game

"The NASA LT Project Office is requesting information to support the development of a NASA-based STEM educational MMO. A high quality synthetic gaming environment is a vital element of NASA's educational cyberstructure. This new synthetic world would be a collaborative work and meeting space as well as a game space of a kind familiar to increasing numbers of American students. Games and challenges in the MMO would engage students in a way that is both familiar and comfortable for them. In turn, participation in the MMO would build increased student awareness of STEM fields and lead more students to pursue STEM courses of study. The MMO will foster career exploration opportunities in a much deeper way than reading alone would permit and at a fraction of the time and cost of an internship program."

Editor's note: Wow. Looks like this got a lot of attention overnight:

Nasa investigates virtual space, BBC
Information Requested for NASA-Based MMORPG, Slashdot
World of NASAcraft?, NextGeneration
NASA Planning Educational MMO, Gaming Today
NASA To Recruit Via Online Gaming, Web Pro News
Space agency seeks gaming expertise for massively multiplayer game, GameDaily

Googling NASA

Google's Schmidt to NASA: Be more 'open', CNet

"Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt on Thursday suggested NASA could learn a few things from his company. Speaking at a luncheon series to commemorate the agency's 50th anniversary this year, Schmidt urged the space agency to take after what Google attempts to accomplish with its products: Build open, collaborative systems, not closed ones--a reference to NASA's legacy of creating mission-specific vehicles. Create simple platforms upon which others can build. And while you're at it, why not let spacecraft talk to each other?"

Editor's 14 Jan note: If you are wondering why the presidential candidates don't spend more time talking about space exploration, here's your chance to try and change that situation and toss questions at them. Go to this link at Politico.com and submit a question to the Democratic and Republican candidates for the CNN/Politico/LA Times debates at the end of the month. Imagine what would happen if they had a thousand questions from NASA Watch readers submitted ... its time for y'all to put up or shut up. Send in a question. Send in more than one question.

Space Supporters Hit the CNN Presidential Debate Website Hard, Wired

"This is clearly not random chance. NASA Watch, a private website, ran a note about the website two days ago and it appears the readers (and likely the reader's friends, families, and associates) took this idea and ran with it."

Editor's 17 Jan a.m. update: Space questions continue to do well. There are still 2 weeks until the actual debates- so the trick now is to keep the momentum going. Vote for space questions, keep submitting your own, and try and focus on a single, clear question and avoid long speeches on one narrow topic, etc.

Meanwhile there is another debate where CNN is looking for your input:

Editor's 18 Jan a.m. update: It looks like activity has slacked off. The number of space-oriented questions has fallen from the top portion of the list - most notably on the Republican side. Things are better on the Democratic side but there has been erosion there as well. As best I can figure it there needs to be a constant influx of new questions while people vote for the older ones. The easiest way to do this is to check the "most recent" link several times a day and go down and click on all of the space questions you like. This way you don't miss any. In addition, going to the "most popular" page usually only works for new visitors (or for those of you using another computer). In essence: perseverance, new questions, and new people are required to keep this up. You have done a great job thus far - keep at it!

Space: The Final Electoral Frontier?, Orlando Sentinel

"The surge followed an appeal from NASA Watch, a private website, encouraging space supporters to flood the debate website with questions about space. The request appears to have struck a nerve as NASA Watch aficionados and other space fans came out of the woodwork, inundating the website with inquires about the candidates' views on missions to the moon and mars, robotic exploration and climate change."

Submit Your Space Questions to the Debates, Planetary Society

"When you go to the site, you will see that numerous space-related questions already have been submitted, in large part thanks to the efforts of Keith Cowing, editor of the website NASAWATCH."

Earlier posts:

Chancellor Sean O'Keefe Announces Resignation, LSU

"The university system leadership clearly has the authority and deserves the prerogative to empower those who can take the university to the next level and I wish them every success in that quest. It is evident to me that LSU needs a campus leader who enjoys the full confidence of the board and the president. I have no doubt they will be successful in that endeavor."

Editor's note: No folks, contrary to idle speculation, he most certainly was not fired.

2007 Was Tied as Earth's Second Warmest Year, NASA GISS

"As we predicted last year, 2007 was warmer than 2006, continuing the strong warming trend of the past 30 years that has been confidently attributed to the effect of increasing human-made greenhouse gases," said James Hansen, director of NASA GISS."

HSPD-12 Update

Inquisition at JPL, opinion, LA Times

"NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, however, is one of the Bush administration's true believers, and his first reflex always is a crisp salute. He directed Caltech, which has a contract to run JPL for NASA, to make sure all of the lab's employees complied. The university initially resisted, then caved when NASA threatened to withdraw its contract. Worse, the government demanded that the scientists, in order to get the badges, fill out questionnaires on their personal lives and waive the privacy of their financial, medical and psychiatric records. The government also wanted permission to gather information about them by interviewing third parties."

NASA MESSENGER's First Look at Mercury's Previously Unseen Side

"When Mariner 10 flew past Mercury three times in 1974 and 1975, the same hemisphere was in sunlight during each encounter. As a consequence, Mariner 10 was able to image less than half the planet. Planetary scientists have wondered for more than 30 years about what spacecraft images might reveal about the hemisphere of Mercury that Mariner 10 never viewed."

National Science Board Science and Engineering Indicators 2008, NSF

"Science and Engineering Indicators, published by the National Science Board, provides a broad base of quantitative information on the U.S. and international science and engineering enterprise."

NSB Science and Engineering Indicators 2008: Science and Technology: Public Attitudes and Understanding: Highlights

page 7-13: "Relative to other topics, including S&T-related topics, interest in space exploration has consistently ranked low both in the United States and around the world. Surveys in Europe, Russia, China, and Japan document this general pattern."

page 7-26/27: "Although support for federal research investment is at historically high levels, other kinds of federal spending generate even stronger public support (appendix table 7-18). Support for increased spending is greater in numerous program areas, including education (73%), health care (72%), assistance to the poor (68%), environmental protection (67%), and Social Security (61%). Scientific research ranks about on a par with mass transit (38%) and well ahead of Science and Engineering Indicators 2008 7-27 space exploration (14%) and assistance to foreign countries (10%) in the proportion of the U.S. population favoring increased spending."

Editor's 15 Jan update: ESMD PAO just sent me a note: "We're converging on a final answer for your many questions, and my clients in ESMD have asked me to tell you that we expect to have the answer to you within 48 hours."

Editor's 14 Jan note: A week ago I submitted a series of questions regarding Ares 1 development to ESMD PAO. With the exception of a short email from someone at ESMD PAO last Monday ago telling me that they'd "update me tomorrow" I have heard absolutely nothing. Senior ESMD management was cc:ed on the original email. They know that these questions have been asked. What are they afraid of? Why won't they answer? Stay tuned.

Editor's 15 Jan update: Here are the specific questions I asked ESMD PAO - questions that they are either unwilling or unable to answer:

Your chance to ask the candidates a question, MSNBC

"Watch the Jan. 15th 2008 Democratic Presidential Candidates' Debate the first debate since the New Hampshire primaries on MSNBC TV and MSNBC.com to see if your question is asked."

Editor's note: Looks like the Space Interferometry Mission (SIM) is not only back, but it is going to eat SMD's lunch for the remainder of this decade and part of the next. The Omnibus Appropriations bill signed into law in December 2007 brings SIM back to life and puts it on a path toward launch.

If you look at this document, page 108, you will see wording for SIM inserted into legislation at the insistence of JPL via its congressional supporters:

"A total of $60,000,000, an increase of $38,400,000 above the budget request, has been provided for the Space Interferometry Mission (SIM). The Appropriations Committees disagree with the Administration's budget request of refocusing the Navigator Program to fund only core interferometry and related planet-finding science and reducing SIM to a development program. It should be noted that this mission was recommended by the National Academies Decadal Astrophysics report in 1990 and 2000 and should be considered a priority. With the funds proposed, NASA is to begin the development phase of the program in order to capitalize on more than $300,000,000 already invested by the agency. The SIM program has successfully passed all its technological milestones and is thus ready for development."

This means that Congress is pushing to actually do this mission i.e. it is pushing it from "studies" and "risk reduction" into an overt development phase. Of course, SIM development was not in SMD's budget. In so doing, JPL and its Congressional friends are putting NASA on a clear path toward needing more than $1 billion to make this mission happen over the coming years - money that will simply get carved out of the top line for SMD's budget for years to come. Of course, this is a budget that has no prospects for growth to counter this unplanned for addition - a budget many complain has already suffered too much at the hands of the White House and Congress. Stay tuned - the planetary science community is not exactly happy about this. Let's see if the Planetary Society gets hot and bothered by this Pasadena-centric issue.

Address By Mike Griffin Before the American Astronomical Society

"But let me be clear. As it stands now, my recommendations have not been adopted. The Fiscal Year 2008 Congressional direction for NASA "to begin the development phase" of SIM is quite clear. It disregards the community-based recommendations of the NRC and NASA's other advisory committees for maintaining a balanced portfolio of large and small missions, along with basic research and technology investments. The Congress does not dream up such direction on its own; clearly, external advocacy for SIM has been successful. If it stands, then the mission will be executed, and the remainder of the astrophysics portfolio will suffer. I hope this is what you want, because it appears likely to be what you will get."

Editor's update: Now, according to Nature, the name of the lobbying firm, the organization who paid it to lobby, they target of the lobbying is clear:

Funding edict for mission has NASA over a barrel, Nature

"Such advocacy is not a secret; nearly all major research institutions have a presence on Capitol Hill. SIM is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, which, as a NASA research centre, is forbidden from directly lobbying Congress. But the lab's operator, the California Institute of Technology, also in Pasadena, can. It has previously employed Washington-based Lewis-Burke Associates to lobby for it. Certainly, someone was able to bend the ear of Adam Schiff, a Democrat who represents Pasadena in the House of Representatives. Schiff is on the subcommittee responsible for funding NASA, and he was instrumental in pushing through the language specifying $60 million for SIM, saying the project is too important scientifically for NASA to kill it. "Congress is not willing to take a back seat on this," Schiff says."

Lewis-Burke Associates - note their clients


Letter From IFPTE To Congress Regarding NASA Handling of NAOMS Data Release, IFPTE

"On December 31st 2007, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin released redacted NAOMS data to the public. That moment should have been the beginning of a redemptive process in which NASA could move past this embarrassing episode. Alas, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin decided not only to repeat the inaccurate derogatory claims made at the October 31st House Science Committee hearing, but also to add a number of new inaccuracies to the mix (see a summary of ongoing disinformation below). His words, actions, and bellicose public behavior have seriously damaged NASA's credibility"

"False Statement #4: NASA's standard format for data release is PDF (portable document format)
At the press conference, the Administrator stated that "our standard format for data release is PDF format. ... I am sure that you know that the reason why we use PDF format is that the data cannot then be altered by others without our knowledge and still claim that it is NASA data." NASA however has no such policy. In response to a union query, NASA HQ responded that "First, the data to which Dr. Griffin refers pertains to data/information released by NASA Public Affairs (e.g., press releases), not scientific and technical information. Second, the use of the PDF format is a standard practice (not a policy) to protect the integrity of this data/information when released to the public."

Editor's note: This one takes the prize and clearly demonstrates blatant ignorance on the part of Mike Griffin and/or whatever staffer told him this. Mike, you can copy material out of these PDF files easily and import it to other software programs. Try it some time - you'll see.

Message from the NASA Administrator: 2008 National Aviation Operations Monitoring Service (NAOMS)

"Some have said that the initial release date of 31 December was chosen because it was a "slow news day". That is not the case. It was the earliest date we could achieve."

Editor's note: Perhaps if you had not dragged your feet for a month you could have issued this information earlier.

"Finally, we have been criticized for releasing the data in PDF. This is the standard form in which we release data publicly when no particular format has been specified or requested. However, it is true that the sheer volume of NAOMS survey data makes the use of PDF data somewhat cumbersome. Accordingly, I have made an exception to our standard practice in this case, and both the initially redacted data, and all subsequent data, will be published on our website in Excel format."

Editor's note: When is the last time NASA issued 16,000 pages of data in PDF format? You may be a super brain, Mike, but the rest of us can't just ingest all of that data and analyze it in the format it was provided in.

Air Safety Report Update

NASA Updates Aviation Safety Data Website

"NASA updated its National Aviation Operations Monitoring Service (NAOMS) website Monday to add a Microsoft Office Excel formatted version of previously posted files containing pilot survey responses."

Lawmakers hit NASA air safety report, Huntsville Times

"U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, wants the full report released to the public and he chided NASA officials for not releasing it in a way people could understand. "It took three years to compile the data and then another three years to publicly release it - in the form of a cumbersome and heavily redacted report." Shelby said in a statement to The Times. "If the NASA report was worth spending millions of dollars on, don't the taxpayers who paid for it deserve to see the results?"

Earlier NASA Watch posts

Countdown to Mercury Flyby

Today MESSENGER Flies by Mercury!

"Today, at 19:04:39 UTC (2:04:39 pm EST), MESSENGER will fly 200 kilometers (124 miles) above Mercurys surface. As the spacecraft continues to speed toward the planet, the Narrow Angle Camera, part of the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) instrument, acquired this crescent view of Mercury. The image was taken on January 13, when the spacecraft was about 760,000 kilometers (470,000 miles) from Mercury. Mercury is about 4,880 kilometers (about 3,030 miles) in diameter, and the smallest feature visible in this image is about 20 kilometers (12 miles) across."

MercuryToday (Twitter)

21st-century pioneer, USA Weekend

"Leroy Chiao's preoccupation with the heavens has led to his becoming a leading member of two of the most elite and exclusive groups on Earth: NASA astronauts and, now, one of many pioneers in the frontier of commercial space flight. If he has his way, flying to the moon will be as common for our kids as hopping a flight to Grandma's."

Sir Edmund Hillary, a Pioneering Conquerer of Everest, Dies at 88, NY Times

"Sir Edmund Hillary, the lanky New Zealand mountaineer and explorer who with Tenzing Norgay, his Sherpa guide, won worldwide acclaim in 1953 by becoming the first to scale the 29,035-foot summit of Mount Everest, the worlds tallest peak, has died, New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark announced Friday in Wellington. He was 88."

Sir Edmund Hillary, Honorary Chair, Explorers Club

"In 1985, Hillary accompanied Neil Armstrong in a small, twin-engine ski plane over the Arctic Ocean and landed at the North Pole. He thus became the first man to stand at both poles as well as the summit of Everest."

current webcam current images - a tribute to Edmund Hillary, Hillary Field Centre briefing room, Scott Base, Antarctica

An Antarctic Photo Album, Dale Andersen, Astrobiology.com: "During a recent visit with our New Zealand colleagues, we had the opportunity to meet briefly with the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Rt. Hon. Jim Bolger and others in his party including Sir Edmund Hillary."

Editor's note: Perhaps NASA can name a new, large feature on Mercury which will soon be discovered by MESSENGER after Edmund Hillary - and one for Tenzing Norgay as well.

Sir Edmund Hillary - The Man and His Mountain (1992), Joel Achenbach, Washington Post

"Sir Edmund Hillary and Neil Armstrong were on their way to the North Pole -- sounds like the set-up for a joke. But it happened six years ago, they were celebrity guests on some private polar expedition, and two famous explorers found themselves bunking down together in a hut above a frozen lake on an island in the Arctic Ocean. Two aging guys who long ago went somewhere far away and came back changed."

Federal court of appeals rules in favor of JPL employees in suit against Caltech and NASA over intrusive background investigations, HSPD-12.org

"Today, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion in favor of the JPL employees who sued Caltech and NASA over intrusive background investigations. A lower court had dismissed the employee's claims and the employees won a temporary injunction from the ninth circuit court of appeals. Yesterday' the same lower court dismissed Caltech as a defendant in the case. Today's action by the court of appeals overules the lower court."

S.F. appeals court bars government's probes of NASA scientists, SF Chronicle

"After a hearing later Friday at which a federal judge in Los Angeles formally issued the injunction, Stormer said NASA had announced it would refrain from conducting the investigations of similar employees at any of its installations nationwide. NASA representatives were unavailable for comment."

Court Allows Scientists to Work at NASA Until Trial Over Background Checks, NY Times

"Michael Cabbage, a spokesman for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, said, "NASA will, of course, comply with any rulings from the court of appeals."

Is Space Exploration Worth the Cost? A Freakonomics Quorum, NY Times

"Keith Cowing, founder and editor of NASAWatch.com and former NASA space biologist. ... Right now, all of America's human space flight programs cost around $7 billion a year. That's pennies per person per day. In 2006, according to the USDA, Americans spent more than $154 billion on alcohol. We spend around $10 billion a month in Iraq. And so on. Are these things more important than human spaceflight because we spend more money on them? Is space exploration less important? Money alone is not a way to gauge the worthiness of the cost of exploring space."

NASA tentatively plans Feb. 7 launch for Atlantis -- if repairs pan out, Orlando Sentinel

"NASA on Thursday set a tentative launch date of Feb. 7 for Atlantis' long-awaited mission to deliver a European laboratory module to the international space station. The delay -- almost exactly two months after the originally scheduled Dec. 6 launch -- gives NASA extra time to fix faulty fuel-cutoff sensors in Atlantis' giant orange external fuel tank."

NASA gets bipartisan push from Texas lawmakers for more money, Houston Chronicle

"In a show of bipartisan support, Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Democratic Rep. Nick Lampson said Thursday they will try again this year to get an additional $2 billion in NASA funding to help close a five-year gap between the space shuttle's retirement and the maiden voyage of the Orion moon ship."

Obama On Space Exploration

Barack Obama's Plan For American Leadership in Space

"Over the decades, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has embodied the adventurous spirit that lifted this nation to greatness and inspired people around the world. Barack Obama believes that the United States needs a strong space program to help maintain its superiority not only in space, but also here on earth in the realms of education, technology, and national security. Over the years, NASA technology has been applied to improve everything from computers and medical technology to baby formula and automobiles. Work done at NASA, whether here on earth or in outer space, impacts the daily lives of all Americans."

Election 2008, previous posts

Changes at NOAA

President George W. Bush today announced his intention to nominate four individuals to serve in his Administration, White House

"The President intends to nominate William J. Brennan of Maine, to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere. Dr. Brennan currently serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for International Affairs and Acting Director of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program."

MESSENGER Set for Historic Mercury Flyby

"On January 9, 2008, the MESSENGER spacecraft snapped one of its first images of Mercury at a distance of about 2.7 million kilometers (1.7 million miles) from the planet. The image was acquired with the Narrow Angle Camera, one half of MESSENGER's Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) instrument."

MESSENGER Team Receives First Optical Navigation Images of Mercury, Mercury Today

"MESSENGER mission operators at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., have received the first eight optical navigation images from the spacecraft."

NASA Teleconference to Preview Messenger's Flyby of Mercury, Mercury Today

"NASA will host a media teleconference at 1 p.m. EST on Thursday, Jan. 10, to preview the historic Jan. 14 spacecraft flight past Mercury that will explore some of the last major never-seen-before terrain in the inner solar system."

MercuryToday (Twitter)

CSA President Quits

Canadian Space Agency President Resigns Amid MDA Deal, Nano2sol.com

"A day after the MDA deal to sell its space division to ATK we learn that the Canadian Space Agency president Laurier Boisvert resigned in December and was replaced on January 1st by Guy Bujold, an assistant deputy minister at Industry Canada."

Reader note (from Russia): "On New Year holidays Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko (who is now staying on board ISS) during the live broadcast on Ukrainian TV channel "1+1" (www.1plus1.tv), showed how things behave themselves in weightlessness. This thing appeared to be Ukrainian VODKA. After this cosmonaut proposed a toast to New Year holidays and drank vodka. Drinking vodka in weightlessness already has a big resonance in Ukrainian media. We don't know the position of Russia, especially of ROSCOSMOS. Please look the video. You can find it here:"

NASA and X PRIZE Foundation to recognize 2007 Pete Conrad Spirit of Innovation Award Winners

"The winners of the 2007 Pete Conrad Spirit of Innovation Award will be recognized at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. on January 18, 2008. NASA will unveil a Spirit of Innovation traveling exhibit, and the X PRIZE Foundation will announce plans for the Conrad Award Scroll to be carried to the International Space Station in the fall of 2008."

HSPD-12 Update

District Court Hearing on Injunction Restricting Background Investigations of JPL Employees

"Background: The case evolves from a hearing last year in which employees of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory sought injunctive relief against their employer Caltech and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in order to prevent intrusive personal background investigations. Caltech and NASA argued that these intrusions were required under Homeland Security Presidential Directive #12, an executive order signed by President George W. Bush. The JPL employees do no classified work."

Editor's note: Reliable sources report that Rudy Giuliani's visit to the KSC area tomorrow (Wednesday) is almost certainly being put off for a week - perhaps until 18 January.

Editor's Update: Just confirmed - he will be at KSC next week on 18 January.

Geospatial Businesses of MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates

"Alliant Techsystems (NYSE:ATK) announced that it has negotiated definitive agreements with Canadian-based MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (TSX: MDA), to acquire its Information Systems and Geospatial Information Services businesses for $1.325 billion (CDN)."

ATK'S Acquisition of MDA's S[ace Division is Bad for Canada, Nano2Sol.com

"Yesterday's acquisition of Canada's MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) by Alliant Techsystems (ATK) is bad for Canada for so many reasons. It's reminiscent of when Avro Canada closed down and most of their talent headed to the US and were instrumental in helping them with the Apollo program."

Favorite Cassini Image Contest Draws Space Enthusiasts, And Winners, From Across The Globe, Space Science Institute

"Thousands of enthusiastic fans of NASA's Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft have chosen a color picture of a tiny, dot-like planet Earth, cradled by Saturn's rings during a total solar eclipse, as the most popular image of all those so far returned by the Cassini mission. People from across the globe visited the official website of Cassini's Imaging Team, http://ciclops.org, during the month of December to vote for their favorites in the categories of color images, black & white images and movies."

"The Box" Casting Call For NASA LaRC Employees

"Casting representatives are now accepting submissions from NASA Langley employees to appear as background actors for Richard Kelly's upcoming feature film, "The Box" starring Cameron Diaz and James Marsden."

Editor's note: NASA Associate Administrator for Aeronautics Lisa Porter is leaving NASA to be the Director of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA). Her last day will be 1 February 2008.

Jaiwon Shin will be the acting AA for Aeronautics.

No doubt the Market Inn (directions) will be jammed at COB on 1 February with sad HQ personnel.

Internal email from Lisa Porter below:

Tips on Organizing Your Room from the Zvezda Space Habitat, io9.com

"If you've ever lived in a dorm or a small apartment, you know how hard it can be to cram in all your computers, books, and general stuff while still staying organized. This problem has reached epic engineering proportions in the International Space Station's "living quarters" on the the Zvezda Module. Three people use the 43-foot cylinder for sleeping, eating, relaxing, cleaning up, going to the bathroom, exercising, doing science experiments, and using their computers. What can you learn about space saving from people in space? Turns out there are three basic rules of organization on Zvezda that are useful on Earth, too."

Griffin At AAS

Astronomy and NASA - Rewards and Challenges: Address By NASA Administrator Mike Griffin Before the American Astronomical Society

"My relationship with the scientific community during my time at NASA has been frustrating at times, despite the fact that I think there has not been an Administrator who understands and appreciates, at a relatively deep level, the richness of what you do - not just the astronomers, but all of science. But from my first days at NASA, as with one voice, there has been a single concern - the budget is not what once was promised - and little further discussion has been possible."

Editor's note: Last month I submitted a series of questions to NASA ESMD PAO (see ESMD'S Revolving Door). After a delay of several weeks, I finally got a response which was some what lacking in detail. I was directed to approach NASA LaRC PAO since "NESC is an independent NASA entity and ESMD does not keep track of the duties of NESC employees."

I heard back from LaRC PAO today only a few days after asking my initial question.

Shuttle delays endanger space station, USA Today

"Like many home-improvement projects on Earth, NASA's most ambitious building effort in space languishes half-done. Now new delays, combined with the space shuttle's looming retirement, are raising worries about whether it can be finished at all."

Editor's note: What a bad choice of words for a headline. A headline contains the words you first see and is supposed to represent the gist of an article. In this case the headline is misleading - to say the least. There is no "danger" (i.e. as being "endangered") to the space station if this mission is delayed. The crew are quite safe. Nor is the station "endangered" if a number of shuttle flights with space station parts never get launched. No one is going to cancel it. The space station will stay in orbit and work just fine - without being "endangered" - with whatever parts are launched - just as it is doing right now.

Editor's note: NASA will be holding a "Think Tank Roundtable" next Tuesday at NASA HQ. This event will include briefings for several dozen representives of Washington, DC organizations, think tanks, and industry on NASA's budget and major programs.

Runaround on Air Safety, editorial, NY Times

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has grudgingly released data from a four-year survey of pilots about the safety of American aviation. The information was released the day before New Years, with no interpretation of the findings and in a format that is very difficult for outsiders to analyze. If the agency intended to show contempt for the flying public, it succeeded."

Black Hole - What part of 16,208 pages from NASA is comprehensible?, editorial, Washington Post

"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," wrote NASA associate administrator Thomas S. Luedtke. That rationale was beyond unacceptable. Mr. Griffin was right to reverse course and promise Congress that the data would be released by the end of the year. Who knew he would do it in such a snit?"

Planetary Exploration Newsletter Volume 2, Number 2 (January 5, 2008)

"With the passage of the NASA budget it is now possible to provide you with some of the good news in the R&A portion of Planetary's budget."

Friendly skies?: Only NASA knows the truth, editorial, Salt Lake Tribune

"In a display of institutional and bureaucratic arrogance that is distressingly commonplace in the Bush administration, NASA, aka the gang that couldn't fly straight, is stonewalling the press and public."

How safe is air travel, really?, Smarter Travel

"Just how ambivalent NASA was about making the report public can be clearly seen in the timing of the release. Adopting a tactic universally utilized to minimize media attention and coverage, NASA issued the report on New Year's Eve, the year's slowest news day."

NASA's unreliable survey of air mishaps leads us around in circles, Cincinnati Inquirer

"NASA, which is charged with keeping an eye on the sky, reportedly has been keeping scary secrets about what really goes on in the wild blue yonder. Fasten your seat belt, because even figuring out the air safety report released on New Year's Eve gets hairy."

NASA Insults Pilots, Press and Public, Tampa Tribune

"This insult comes after the agency originally refused to release the information to the Associated Press on the grounds it "could materially affect the public confidence in, and the commercial welfare of, the air carriers." Which is it: too frightening or nothing to see? We deserve better, and if we don't get it, NASA needs better leadership."

NASA's stalling on study raises fear and questions, Denver Post

"The flying public still doesn't know whether to be concerned about safety in the skies or to take the word of NASA administrator Michael Griffin, who says the survey shouldn't be cause for worry. The only thing that is certain is that NASA did a poor job of handling the situation. This chain of events does not exactly inspire confidence in the judgment of the people who send astronauts into space."

NASA, not pilot, error, Plam Beach Post

"But Mr. Griffin's idea of disclosure is more subterfuge. The New Year's Eve release was a heavily redacted version of the study, and it was too disjointed to analyze. The edited information made it impossible to determine the responding pilot's experience, what type of plane the pilot flew, or details of the incidents described. Mr. Griffin said NASA wanted to protect the anonymity of respondents. Bunk. The real reason is what the agency has been saying all along: The survey's publication might damage public confidence in flying."

NASA taking prize for arrogance, Sun Sentinel

"Anything that can give the public understandable safety information on air travel is valuable. Congress knows that. The public knows that. And if NASA officials weren't so arrogant, they'd know it, too."

NASA Handled Study On Safety Improperly, The Intelligencer

"NASA, like any other federal agency, is supposed to serve the people, not any business or industry. It may be time for Congress to remind the agency of that."

NASA Releases Air Safety Report, Sort Of, Hartford Courant

"NASA released the heavily redacted survey results on New Year's eve without analysis, and presented it in such a way that independent analysis seems to be very difficult. It's as if we asked a waiter for a glass of water and he came back and dumped it on our heads."

Whither NASA? Safety study raises questions about space agency, Worcester Telegram

"The questions are inescapable: Why spend $11.3 million on a report that is useless to researchers and policymakers? Why is NASA dabbling in air safety studies rather than focusing on expanding the boundaries of human knowledge? Does the agency that put mankind on the moon have the right stuff to plan and execute the next phase of manned space exploration?"

Air Safety: Cause for study, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"It looks like NASA has taken lessons on how to handle intelligence from the CIA. The way the civilian agency has dealt with the release of a flight safety survey stinks of paranoia and secrecy."

NASA should provide clarity on air-safety report, Kansas City Star

"The immediate problem - magnified by NASAs bungling - is how to interpret the data."

Shuttle Battles In Space

. . .And Races Into Space, The Wall Street Journal Asia

"At a minimum, Washington should delay the planned 2010 retirement of the Space Shuttle until a new space plane can replace it, as a way to retain a deterring potential military capability. China's unwillingness to comment on its military space plans, coupled with the Shenlong space plane, confirms its larger aversion to military transparency. The U.S. and its allies have little choice but to develop the capabilities to defend their interests and assets in space."

Editor's note: "Censoring Science: Inside the Political Attack on Dr. James Hansen and the Truth of Global Warming" by Mark Bowen is out. Early reports (no I have not read it) suggest that the book does not shy away from name calling, whining, and finger pointing. Indeed, one NASA person is referred to as the "Anti-christ". Oh well. The author has written some really good books - so I am certain that the book is entertaining, if nothing else.

Mark Bowen's website

A J Roy has died

"A.J." Roy Jr., longtime NASA employee, dies at 78, Houston Chronicle

"Arda Joseph "A.J." Roy Jr., who left North Dakota for the skies above Texas, devoting most of his career to NASA, died on Friday. He was 78. Born in Minot, N.D., Roy joined the U.S. Air Force shortly after graduating from St. John High School in St. John, N.D. He earned his pilot's wings in 1953 and left the Air Force three years later."

Editor's update: According to NASA PAO sources there is no ITAR sensitive material in this report online at NESC. What is odd is why they did not issue this report back in 2006 - but rather just released a portion thereof sans correspondence and other items. Oh well.

Overview of the DART Mishap Investigation Results - For Public Release (15 May 2006)

"NASA has completed its assessment of the DART MIB report, which included a classification review by the Department of Defense. The report was found to be NASA-sensitive, but unclassified, because it contained information restricted by International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and Export Administration Regulations (EAR). As a result, the DART mishap investigation report was deemed not releasable to the public. The following provides an overview of publicly releasable findings and recommendations regarding the DART mishap."

Editor's update: Well, here is the full MIB report (or something certainly much longer than the summary that was released) online at NESC. So much for ITAR concerns, I guess.

New Year's Message From Alan Stern Associate Administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate

"Make no mistake, we understand that there is far more work in front of us than behind us to turn SMD around, but we have already made some very real progress. So as this New Year 2008 dawns, I want to provide you with some examples of what we accomplished across our Earth and space science programs since April of 2007 when our new team took the reigns at SMD. Then I will say some things about the challenges that face us this year."

NASA Solicitation: Simplifying NASA Announcements of Opportunity - Science Mission Directorate

"Alan Stern, Associate Administrator for Science Mission Directorate (SMD), has initiated an effort to simplify NASA Announcements of Opportunity (AOs). This AO simplification effort is being led by Paul Hertz, Senior Advisor in SMD at NASA Headquarters responsible for the AO process, and Brad Perry, Head of the Science Support Office at NASA Langley research center and responsible for the technical/ management/ cost (TMC) review process."

Editor's note: Last night's Iowa election results left several messages (to me at least). For both parties, it seems that change is in the air and that manufactured candidates pushed by big party interests did not go over all that well (at least in Iowa). For the Republicans, it is unclear whether Huckabee's win is a flash in the pan or the beginning of a trend. For the Democrats, Obama's win over Hillary Clinton (Oh yes Edwards beat her too) signals a potential tectonic shift whereby traditional constituencies that common thought would suggest go for/against a female candidate and for/against a person of color where turned on their heads. Also "experience" and "change" seemed to trade places in terms of importance to voters. Again, we have only one data point thus far: Iowa. The weeks ahead will tell whether these two trends - together or individually will pan out into trends and/or paradigm shifts.

Obama clarifies his space policy, Spacepolitics.com

"Obama believes we should continue developing the next generation of space vehicles, and complete the international space station. While Obama would delay plans to return to moon and push on to mars, Obama would continue unmanned missions, and use NASA to monitor the forces and effects of climate change, support scientific research, and maintain surveillance to strengthen national security. Obama also believes we need to keep weapons out of space."

Space Makes it into the Presidential Debate, earlier post

"Cooper: Governor Huckabee?

NASA pumps some -- let's see, how many -- $5 billion into Florida's economy.

Huckabee: Whether we ought to go to Mars is not a decision that I would want to make, but I would certainly want to make sure that we expand the space program, because every one of us who are sitting here tonight have our lives dramatically improved because there was a space program -- whether it's these screens that we see or the incredible electronics that we use, including the GPS systems that got many of you to this arena tonight.(Laughter)

Some of you were late because you didn't have one, by the way. Or whether it's the medical technologies that saved many of our lives or the lives or our families, it's the direct result of the space program, and we need to put more money into science and technology and exploration. Now, whether we need to send somebody to Mars, I don't know. But I'll tell you what: If we do, I've got a few suggestions, and maybe Hillary could be on the first rocket to Mars."

Election 2008, Earlier posts

Given Obama's initial and then restated policies on space exploration, and those expressed by Huckabee, what do their respective wins (and possible future wins) mean for space policy? Do they mean anything at all?

Send your comments to nasawatch@reston.com Your comments thus far:

Herrington Resigns from Rocketplane, The Chickasaw Nation

"Former astronaut and retired Navy Commander John Herrington resigned Dec. 21 from Rocketplane Global, Inc. "I was fortunate during my tenure at Rocketplane to work with an incredibly talented group of professionals," said Cmdr. Herrington. "My decision to leave was a difficult one."

STS-122 Update

NASA Announces Teleconference About Next Shuttle Mission

"NASA will host a media teleconference with Space Shuttle Program Manager Wayne Hale at 5 p.m. EST, Thursday, Jan. 3, to discuss the status of ongoing work to prepare shuttle Atlantis for its launch to the International Space Station."

Editor's note: John Shannon said that today's PRCB looked at possible launch dates. Went over mods to feed through connector. Connector sent to MSFC for testing. Sensor ready for cryostat testing unit. Hope to replicate December launch attempt and tanking test. That should take 2 weeks starting next Monday. Reviewed mod to external plug. Will solder pins on feed through connector. This should solve problems based on Atlas Centaur experience by inhibiting movement inside of connector. Expect new connectors installed on ET 125 before next wednesday. If we learn something new through testing then that will need to be tested.

Work to reinstall foam and ablator - will take until 27 Jan. Need to see how long foam needs to cure until 2-7 Feb. 24 Jan is the earliest launch day that Shannon needs to proctect. As we go through next week we will see what we need to do. No way can we go an earlier than 24 Jan. "It is a stretch that we'd make the 24th. The weather would have to cooperate and we'd have to have no testing glitches. It is more likely that we'd be ready to go in the 2-7 Feb time frame ... We really did not pick a launch date today."

Planning NASA's future, Physics Today (subscription required)

"PT: What is your management style for running NASA?

GRIFFIN: If I had my way, I would do the job under an assumed name. I am not interested in ceremonial aspects of the job. They do exist, and I recognize that responsibility, but I don't like it. It's one of the aspects of the job that I would say was on the debit side of the balance sheet as opposed to the credit side, in taking the job.

Anytime that I can avoid a public appearance or anytime that I can be participatory as opposed to directive in a management meeting, I would do that. I would like people, if possible, to buy into my ideas on how NASA should be structured, organized, and run rather than accept them as commands. I am very comfortable with an agency in which there is discourse, argument, debate, and discussion before a decision is made.

My final decision will not improve because of my reluctance to hear opposing views. So I try to run my management meetings like any community of science and engineering professionals, by putting out theories, judgments, designs, and proofs or critique. And then the hope is that when we have all the best minds looking at the problem, the best answer emerges."

NASA plans to blow up Mars if asteroid misses, The Spoof

"We are all psyched up for a big explosion", said NASA administrator Michael Griffin. "If the asteroid doesn't hit then the American people will be disappointed. Therefore, we will send a small part of our nuclear arsenal to the red planet so we can see the big Kaboom!"

Editor's note: Heck - It should work - and ought get the media distracted from the ill-planned air safety plan rollout. After all, Anna Nicole's death saved NASA from additional bad Lisa Nowak news.

Maxim magazine note: Maxim magazine is doing a big feature on the wacky world of NASA and they are looking to do a short segment on How to Speak NASA-ese. To use an example from NASA Watch, Holly Ridings was quoted saying "...we ingressed into Node 2..." Translation: "...we entered Node 2..." If you know of any great NASA-ese moments, please email the editors of Maxim at NASA@maxim.com.

I Think I'm Speaking NASAese - I Really Think So, Earlier Post

Slippery PR ploys trip up practitioners, Opinion, USA Today

"At first glance, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and NASA chief Michael Griffin don't have much in common. Huckabee is no rocket scientist, and Griffin is no presidential aspirant. But their respective recent forays into the field of communications illustrate a common point: Sometimes it is easy to look dumb trying to be clever."

H.R. 4916 Aeronautics and Space Prize Act

"To create a National Endowment to advance private sector development of aeronautics and space technologies by way of the National Advanced Space and Aeronautical Technologies Prize Award Program."

H.R. 4917 To formulate situation and decision analyses for deflecting and mitigating potentially hazardous near-Earth objects

"To formulate situation and decision analyses, and to select procedures and systems, for deflecting and mitigating potentially hazardous near-Earth objects."

ESMD's Revolving Door

Editor's update: I finally heard back from ESMD PAO today - three weeks after I asked them a few questions - and only after sending multiple emails. They replied "If you recall back when you originally posed your questions about Dr. Horowitz, I told you that he is a special government employee. Here, for your reference, a relevant excerpt from 18 US Code Section 202 that defines special government employee. And here's a link, if you want to look it up for yourself: http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode18/usc_sec_18_00000202----000-.html. As you can see, a special government employee is employed directly by the federal government."

Alas they still have not answered all of the questions I asked i.e. Is Scott Horowitz working on composite structures for the CEV at the NESC? Did Scott Horowitz oversee and/or fund work on composite structures at the NESC while he was the ESMD AA?

Editor's update: I just got an answer - a non-answer - the same one that ESMD PAO sent me in November: "Scott Horowitz is serving NASA in a very limited capacity as a special government employee. On occasion, he is called in as a technical advisor reporting to Ralph Roe, who manages the NASA Engineering and Safety Center. From time to time, Horowitz will be asked to review projects and milestones that may or may not be part of NASA's Constellation Program. Horowitz has not taken an office at the Langley Research Center. He continues to live and work in Park City, Utah."

In other words when I ask specific questions I cannot get a simple 'yes' or 'no' but instead get this non-answer with regard to what Horowitz is working on i.e "from time to time", "may or may not" etc. Why NASA ESMD PAO is being so elusive escapes me.

Editor's further update: But wait there's more: The latest email from ESMD PAO states: "NESC is an independent NASA entity and ESMD does not keep track of the duties of NESC employees. If you have further questions about Dr. Horowitz's specific duties, your best option is to ask the public affairs office at Langley, which serves NESC."

ESMD at NASA HQ sends multiple tasks down to NESC - many at the personal behest of Mike Griffin. Moreover, the former ESMD AA now works there. Yet NASA Headquarters does not know and/or cannot tell me what Horowitz - or other employees working on ESMD tasks - are doing?

Curiously, Horowitz's name is nowhere to be found on the NESC's official management chart. You'd think that someone of his prominence (past and present) would be listed.

And yet then there is this picture on the NESC website - with an update of 19 December 2007 - that shows Horowitz sitting front and center at a Max Launch Abort System (MLAS) Team meeting with the caption "MLAS team members pictured above, attending a technical interchange meeting held at LaRC in November 2007." Horowitz left his position at NASA in October 2007.

As for what people are doing at NESC, a November 2007 presentation by NESC Director Ralph Roe states "NASA's Former Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, Scott Horowitz, asked the NESC to develop an alternate design as risk mitigation for the Orion Launch Abort System (LAS) concept. The alternate concept will be demonstrated by a pad aboard test." It sure sounds to me like they have been sending design work to NESC. I cannot imagine that ESMD does not have the same level of oversight/insight into this task as they do with other Orion and Ares tasks at other NASA locations.

Curiously Horowitz is shown attending a meeting focused on a task that he himself sent to NESC while ESMD AA - and he is doing so as a "special employee" at NESC after he left his ESMD AA position.

Earlier postings below.

Second Life To Mars

NASA Dreams of an Interplanetary 'Second Life' for Mars Crew, Wired

"... But NASA thinks it has an answer to the psychological challenge of interplanetary isolation. While aerospace engineers are designing the Ares rockets to be deployed in the Mars missions, a more starry-eyed contingent at NASA is testing networking and virtual reality technologies that they think will connect the first wave of Mars pioneers with their families, friends and colleagues back on Earth, in a 3-D virtual world cut from the mold of Second Life or World of Warcraft. "We want to help our remote explorers 'phone home' in a way that lets them sit around a dinner table with their family, help their children with homework and analyze the latest findings with their Earth-bound peers," says Jeanne Holm, chief knowledge architect at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory."

NASA Awards Contract for Microgravity Aircraft Services, NASA GRC

"NASA has awarded a contract to Zero Gravity Corporation of Las Vegas to manage and operate an aircraft to perform reduced gravity parabolic flights while carrying NASA-operated experiments and personnel. The parabolic flights will provide the means to replicate the reduced gravity environment of space for various areas of research needed to further NASA's understanding of space travel. These include aeronautical research, fluid physics, combustion, material sciences and life sciences."

Zero Gravity Corporation Wins NASA Contract to Provide Parabolic (Weightless) Flights for Research and Personnel Training

Eight-Year-Old Boy Enjoys Adventure of A Lifetime as Youngest Person in History to Experience Zero Gravity Flight

Tough Love at SMD

Wielding a Cost-Cutting Ax, and Often, at NASA, NY Times

"With today's tight budgets, he said, it is unfair to expect NASA to raid other programs or stop initiating programs to pay for the excessive costs of current projects. "The mission that makes the mess is responsible for cleaning it up," Dr. Stern said. He acknowledged that NASA shared responsibility for some problems, noting that "the blame goes all around." The agency needs to change the way it does business, he said, in part by avoiding the tendency to micromanage projects and by doing a better job of picking more experienced people to lead programs. "The person at the helm should not be a rookie," he said."

NASA Releases Heavily-Redacted Airline Safety Study, Washington Post

"NASA Administrator Michael Griffin told reporters in a conference call that the agency had no plans to study the database for trends. He said NASA conducted the survey only to determine whether gathering information from pilots in such a way was worthwhile. Despite the lack of analysis by NASA scientists, Griffin said there was nothing in the database that should concern air travelers. "It's hard for me to see any data the traveling public would care about or ought to care about," he said. "We were asked to release the data and we did."

Editor's note: With regard to Mike Griffin's comment "It's hard for me to see any data the traveling public would care about or ought to care about." I am really wondering if Griffin even read these documents. I can't imagine that he'd be so dismissive if he had. Given his snooty, aloof remarks, I doubt that he even bothered to do so.

Oh yes - why is Aeronautics AA Lisa Porter so utterly silent about all of this ?

Below are some of the more troubling comments in this survey - I went through this one section and highlighted the ones that caught my eye. I am part of "the traveling public" and this stuff certainly troubles me.

NASA Air Safety Survey: Redacted Air Carrier Survey Responses with Unknowns in Flight Activity Fields

"Section D - a brief set of questions designed to elicit respondent feedback on the interview experience. Note: The responses to free text narrative questions D3A and D5 were disaggregated from the parent survey responses and were subsequently randomized."


NASA Says Study All But Worthless, AvWeb

"It's hard for me... to see any data here that the traveling public would care about or ought to care about." [Griffin] told puzzled reporters who thought they might be covering a press conference about aviation safety. Instead they witnessed the political lid being firmly closed on an issue that has dogged NASA for two months and which Griffin clearly wanted no more part of."

NASA Offers Airline Safety Data, NY Times

"Mr. Gordon and Representative Brad Miller, Democrat of North Carolina, who is chairman of the investigation and oversight subcommittee, pledged to push NASA further. Mr. Miller said that "if 80 percent of the pilots they ask agree to sit still for a half-hour survey, voluntarily, my conclusion is the pilots had something they wanted others to know about." "This is now 3 years old, and it's been dumped, unanalyzed and scrubbed of much of the useful information," Mr. Miller said."

Redacted Air-Traffic Safety Survey Released, Washington Post

"Jim Hall, a former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, also criticized the way NASA released its database. "When a government agency is not transparent with the American people, particularly on an issue like safety, they are not fulfilling their responsibilities and earning their pay," Hall said."

Report containing thousands of pilot complaints is released, CNN

"Robert Dodd, the principal investigator on the study for seven years, said he was "disappointed and perplexed" when he learned NASA initially would not make the findings public."

NASA releases a cryptic study of air traffic safety, Houston Chronicle

"We are willing to release the data, but we -- NASA -- are not willing to draw conclusions from it," Griffin said. "NASA does not have any plans to analyze it. That is for the broader community."

Public served poorly by NASA's grudging release of safety data, The Morning Journal

"Without adequate information from NASA about how to look at and interpret the mountain of data, outsiders such as news organizations have a formidable task in trying to understand the problems identified by pilots and then trying to measure the performance of the FAA and aviation industry in dealing with the problems. If that doesn't worry NASA or the aviation industry, it should worry the public. NASA should be forced to present the report's findings in a manner that the public can find meaningful."



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