March 2008 Archives

Blog Picks

Women in Planetary Science Blog

"Planetary science, roughly, is the study of the planets, moons, comets, asteroids, atmospheres, and dust -- everything in the solar system besides the Earth and Sun. Women make up half the bodies in the solar system. Why not half the scientists?"

OIG on FY 07 Audit

NASA OIG: Status of FY 2006 Management Letter Findings and Recommendations, in connection with the audit of NASA's FY 2007 Financial Statements.

"E&Y separately reported in its "Report on Internal Control," dated November 13, 2007, certain matters involving internal control and its operation that it considered to be significant deficiencies and material weaknesses under standards established by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. E&Y also followed up on matters involving internal control (Enclosure) that were reported in the "Comments on Internal Control and Other Matters" letter issued February 1, 2007, as part of the fiscal year (FY) 2006 audit."

Final Memorandum on the Review of the National Aviation Operations Monitoring Service

"The Government may have missed an opportunity to foster a deeper understanding of the aviation safety environment from 2001 through 2004 because its working groups were unable to reach a consensus on the validity or value of the NAOMS data. As a result, NASA was reluctant to publish a report detailing research and conclusions garnered from the collected NAOMS survey data."

Additional Speakers Confirm for 24th National Space Symposium

"Actress Jolene Blalock, known for her role as Commander T'Pol on Star Trek: Enterprise, has also committed to serve as special guest award presenter for the Space Technology Hall of Fame Private Induction Ceremony and special guest master of ceremonies for the Space Technology Hall of Fame Dinner, on Thursday, April 10."

Ares I Vibration Problem Fixable, Aviation Week

"Horowitz, now an independent aerospace consultant whose clients include ATK, the Ares I first-stage contractor, and a "greybeard" advisor to NASA through the NASA Engineering and Safety Center, served on the tiger team that reviewed the thrust oscillation issue after it arose last fall. Garry M. Lyles, the senior NASA engineer who headed that review panel, is scheduled to brief Congress on his findings the week of March 31."

Earlier posts

ESMD's Revolving Door

ESMD's Revolving Door - Update

Everest OnOrbit Update

Scott Parazynski Everest Update: Day 8 - March 30, 2008 - Namche Bazar, Nepal (photos), OnOrbit.com

Scott Parazynski's Location: 31 March - 2 April 2008 (map)

"Scott Parazynski and his team left Namche Bazar on 31 March and headed to Tengboche. His team will spend a full day acclimatizing in Tengboche, and then depart on 2 April for Dingboche. The map below shows their general location."

Scott Parazynski Everest Update 28 March 2008, OnOrbit.com

"This morning I arose at 0530 to climb up to a high point above the village, where I saw Everest for the first time --- the sun rising dramatically from behind it. Huge swirling clouds over it and Lhotse, the fourth highest mountain in the world, showed the power of the jet stream at those altitudes."

Everest OnOrbit

JSC's Moon Truck

Not a Mercury or Saturn, but It Goes Way Off Road, NY Times

"It turns on a dime and parallel-parks like a dream. On the downside, its a little pricey (at $2 million or so) and its top speed is a pokey 15 miles an hour. Still, theres a lot to like about the concept car taking shape here at the Johnson Space Center. Did I say car? The new moon buggy conceived by space center engineers is anything but a car or a buggy. Its official name is Chariot, and this, my friends, is a truck. A heavy duty workhorse of a truck."

Reader note: "I haven't seen much coverage of NASA's NOMAD (email/exchange server) implementation bringing ALL of NASA into one centralized email system.

Some effects have been to have messages sent from the NASA Administrator classified as spam. It has also caused very large volumes of email (hundreds of thousands of non-spam messages) from non-NOMAD servers be delayed for hours on many separate occasions.

Recently, GSFC center director Ed Weiler sent a broadcast message to ALL GSFC employees about a sudden all-hands meeting concerning his move back to NASA HQ. This message was received after the event by most NOMAD integrated staff, while those few not yet migrated into the new system received the email within seconds. Only those staff who were telephoned about the meeting were able to attend.

In effect, this has caused huge numbers of NASA employees and contractors to use gmail or some outside email service as their reliable form of communication. In addition what used to be relatively free is now costs about $25/month/user to fund only 200 Mb of email storage space. A huge step down not counting the reliability issues."

NOMAD - NASA Operational Messaging and Directory Service

NOMAD Status

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

"The LYNX suborbital vehicle now under development at XCOR Aerospace."

Six High-Tech Earth Cities That Will Provide Blueprints for Martian Settlers, io9.com

"If humans land on Mars by 2037 as NASA hopes, they'll need cities modeled on ones that already exist in extreme climates on Earth. Here are six high-tech (and a few low-tech) cities that would have a passing shot at survival in the Martian climate. Of course there are the obvious choices, like research stations in Antarctica. But there are other possibilities, like the instant city model developed at Black Rock City, home to arts festival Burning Man, which you can see here nestled in a Martian crater. And there are others potential Martian city models that might surprise you, like ones in Nunavut, Canada and in ancient Native American pueblos."

SMD Update

NASA Weathers Departure, Rumors of Budget Cuts, NPR

"Audio for this story will be available at approx. 6:00 p.m. ET

Talk of the Nation, March 28, 2008 - Planetary scientist Alan Stern has announced that he is stepping down as NASA's associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, the head role in the space agency's science programs. His departure was unexpected, and the agency gave no reason for the sudden departure."

PM urged to veto new coal-fired generators, The Age

"Dr Hansen's letter, written as a private citizen rather than in his capacity as NASA's top climate scientist and Adjunct Professor at the Columbia University Earth Institute, is similar to the one he sent British Prime Minister Gordon Brown this year. In 2006 he accused the Bush Administration of trying to gag calls for urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and has urged colleagues to speak up in communicating their observations of the changing planet."

Editor's update: Hmmm ... if Dr. Hansen was really interested in expressing his views - as a "private citizen" - then why not use a pseudonym on this letter? This is all kind of silly. No one would really care what he had to say were it not for his obvious public connection to NASA. This way he gets listened to because of his NASA notoriety and yet he can also say that he is not representing NASA. Neat trick!

Editor's note: SMD Chief Scientist John Mather announced this [Wednesday] morning that he is going back to his JWST job full time.

Editor's update: Anyone who seeks to connect the dots, so to speak, and think that John Mather's decision has anything to do with Alan Stern's decision to leave would be incorrect.

Space Shuttle Interior, Panoscan

"These images were captured last in September 2001 for training purposes. The images were captured inside the high fidelity training mock up at the Johnson Space Center in Houston Texas. This mock up features the later "glass" cockpit design that was used in the Columbia. To view these images you will need QuickTime 7."

Challenger Center Webcast with Richard Garriott from Star City, Russia

"On April 21, 2008 at 12:00pm ET, Richard Garriott will hold an interactive live webcast with students and teachers. Students of all ages are encouraged to submit a question for Mr. Garriott on the Challenger Center for Space Science Education's website: http://www.challenger.org. Questions can be submitted in writing or by video. If a question is chosen for the webcast, Mr. Garriott will answer it during the live webcast. Student videos may also be used on the live webcast and posted on the Challenger Center YouTube site. Deadline is April 18th for submissions. All Challenger Center webcasts are free and open to the general public and archived for viewing post event."

Tracking Jules Verne

From ESA's ATV Blog: "We've come across a cool ATV online tracker gadget which we really want to share with you. Click through for Isana Kashiwai's GoogleSatTrack which uses Google Maps. Not only is it exciting to get a visualisation of where Jules Verne is flying right now, but you also get an idea of how fast it's whizzing round the planet up there. And, what's different about this tracker... on the same screen you can see the International Space Station chasing behind ATV."

Mapping Titan

A Vector Map of the Unnamed Methane Sea on Titan, io9.com

"Peter Minton is a California teacher who loves to make vector maps in his spare time. His favorite places to map are islands and coastlines, and so when the Cassini-Huygens probe sent back images from Saturn's moon Titan he was happy to discover the geographical features he loves most. There, on the pole of Titan, was a sea full of islands. An unnamed methane sea, but still mappable using vectoring software. This is the map he created, with longitude and latitude lines."

Introducing Iarpa! It's Like Darpa, But for Spies, Wired

"Picture Q as a tall blond woman with an American accent, and you've got Porter. Lisa Porter. She's the first head of America's new Q branch, the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity -- Iarpa for short -- a fledgling office charged with outfitting US spooks with the highest-tech information-gathering gadgetry."

SpaceX Conducts First Three-Engine Firing of Falcon 9 Rocket

"Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) conducted the first three-engine firing of its Falcon 9 medium to heavy lift rocket at its Texas Test Facility outside McGregor, on March 8, 2008. At full power the engines generated over 270,000 pounds of force, and consumed 1,050 lbs of fuel and liquid oxygen per second. This three-engine test again sets the record as the most powerful test yet on the towering 235-foot tall test stand. A total of nine Merlin 1C engines will power the Falcon 9 rocket."

Budget Update

AIP FYI #41: Bad News/Good News: Congress Takes First Steps in FY 2009 Appropriations Cycle

"... the general sentiment in Washington is that the probability of concluding the FY 2009 budget cycle by its start on October 1 is very slim. There is a widespread consensus that Congress and President Bush will find it necessary to use a series of stopgap funding bills to maintain program spending in the new fiscal year at this year's levels. This is expected to have grave ramifications for the programs of most federal agencies, which will grow worse as the standoff continues into what is expected to be early 2009."

Everest OnOrbit Update

Scott Parazynski Everest Update 26 March 2008

"We depart for the KTM airport at 0500 local tomorrow to fly to Lukla, when the trek really begins. We met up as a full IMG team for the first time late this afternoon, and I just returned from our welcome dinner at a nearby rooftop garden restaurant."

Astronaut to Climb Everest for his Vacation, Wired

"Five time Space Shuttle Astronaut Scott Parazynski, 46, will be fulfilling a life long dream of climbing Mt. Everest "on his own time and on his own dime" this May. True to form, Parazynski's packing list would make any Shuttle commander proud, down to the weight in grams of everything he is taking with him."

Rocket Scientist Training, NASA Everest Trek

"Here's a training routine you can use if you want to be a rocket scientist"

Everest OnOrbit Timeline

"The following is a timeline for Scott Parazynski, Keith Cowing, and the NASA Everest Team treks to Everest Base Camp. This schedule is tentative and subject to revision."

More updates at Everest OnOrbit, OnOrbit.com

Endeavour Is Home

Space Shuttle Endeavour Lands at Kennedy Space Center

"With Commander Dominic Gorie and Pilot Gregory H. Johnson at the controls, space shuttle Endeavour glided to a picture perfect landing at Kennedy Space Center, Fla. The STS-123 crew began its mission March 11 and arrived at the International Space Station March 12. The astronauts delivered the Japanese Logistics Module - Pressurized Section (JLP), the first pressurized component of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Kibo laboratory to the station. The crew of Endeavour also delivered the final element of the station's Mobile Servicing System, the Canadian-built Dextre, also known as the Special Purpose Dextrous Manipulator."

NASA Administrator Announces Science Mission Directorate Leadeship Changes

"NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin issued the following statement Wednesday regarding the announcement that Dr. S. Alan Stern, NASA associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, has decided to leave the agency."

From: Stern, Alan (HQ-DA000): "SMD Colleagues-- Yesterday I offered and Mike Griffin reluctantly accepted my resignation as Associate Administrator. Mike will shortly be naming an interim AA. I will remain at NASA for a few weeks. It's been my privilege to serve the NASA and the scientific community, and to work with you. I also want you to know that Mike and I remain on good terms. He remains in my eyes the best Administrator NASA has ever had."

From an internal email by someone@smd.nasa.gov: "Today Alan Stern announced that he had resigned his position as AA. In his talk to the Science Mission Directorate he said that the management issues were about cost control and that he did not see a way for him to do what needs to be done. He didn't go into details. Evidently there are extremely strong opinions about all this. ... Staff reaction to the resignation was I think a bit of a shock and a great sense of loss. Alan brought a breath of fresh air and a new spirit to the organization that was a lot of fun for me to share."

Editor's note: Mike Griffin seems to have an uncanny ability to cause anyone with talent, energy, and dedication to walk away from NASA. This departure by Alan Stern is troubling - no, it is downright depressing. Indeed, I think it clearly signals the end of Mike Griffin's ability to credibly manage the agency.

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

XCOR Wins Contract for Operations Demonstrations With New Suborbital Vehicle

"The Air Vehicles Directorate of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has awarded, pending successful contract negotiations and signature by the Government Contracting Officer, XCOR Aerospace a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II contract to develop and test operationally responsive features of one of the firm's commercial vehicles. The suborbital space vehicle, named the Lynx, is designed to carry a pilot and a person or payload on suborbital flights."

Major NASA projects over budget, USA Today

"Two-thirds of NASA's major new programs are significantly over budget or behind schedule, according to the agency's latest report to Congress. NASA's nearly stagnant budget requires the agency to cut projects to make up for unexpected expenses, and cost overruns nearly shut down one of the rovers on Mars -- until it got a reprieve Tuesday. They also threaten completion of a climate-change satellite called Glory."

Mars Rovers Survive NASA's Budget Crunch, Washington post

"Closing down either of the rovers is not on the table," Brown quoted Griffin as saying Monday night. Then yesterday NASA released a statement that said: "This letter was not coordinated with the administrator's office and is in the process of being rescinded. The administrator has unequivocally stated that no rover will be turned off."

NASA holds off on budget cuts to Mars rover program, LA Times

"Griffin's statement blamed the cost overruns "in large part" on an underestimate of the design problems connected with building a rover as complex as the MSL, which has cooking ovens and a laser that can zap rocks from a distance. Other factors include a need for a larger than expected workforce at JPL, as well as the cost of redesigning the heat shield for the rover after the original shield failed in tests."

NASA: Mars Rovers Won't Be Cut, AP

"NASA says it has absolutely no plan to turn off either of the Mars Rovers because of budget cuts. NASA is saying Tuesday that it has rescinded a letter that recommended budget cuts in the Mars Rover program to cover the cost of a next-generation rover on the Red Planet."

NASA cut means no roving for Mars rover, AP

"Scientists plan to put one of the twin Mars rovers to sleep and limit the activities of the other robot to fulfill a NASA order to cut $4 million from the program's budget, mission team members said Monday."

Mixed signals from NASA about fate of Mars rover, CNN

"There is a process that has to be followed for any mission to be canceled and the cancellation of the Mars Exploration Rovers is not under consideration," Jacobs said. "There is an ongoing budget review within the agency's Mars exploration program. However, shutting down of one of the rovers is not an option."

Editor's note: JPL is spinning this as if Spirit is being put to death as an innocent victim. It is already in hibernation for the winter and will stay that way for quite some time. Even if it was fully active its ability to do meaningful science is all but at an end - and its useful lifetime has vastly exceeded everyone's wildest expectations. [note: I will admit that I was a little harsh on Spirit's lack of usefulness. It is just sad that JPL is holding it hostage in order to make its political points]

Meanwhile, yet another outrageous cost overrun on MSL due to JPL's bad management has forced NASA to cough up $200 million in an attempt to fix things. If keeping a hobbled rover, as spunky and adorable as it is, alive is that important you'd think that JPL could find a way to work that $4 million out of the $200 million they have all but extorted from NASA HQ.

Moreover, given that they screwed up, you'd think they'd dip into the fee (i.e. their profit) that they get from their contract to NASA. But no, JPL only knows how to stick their hand out - and not into their own pocket.

That said, the rovers are still an astonishing investment that can be capitalized on for mere peanuts - its just a shame that JPL has let the situation stoop to this new low and allows the rovers to be held hostage.

Some folks mumble behind the scenes that HQ forced JPL into the situation it now finds itself in. All I can offer is to ask what this says about JPL's ability to understand the real cost of its programs. Moreover, it speaks volumes as to the lengths JPL will go to get missions including looking the other way when they know that the numbers don't add up.

Stay tuned. I am certain that Lou Friedman and the Planetary Society will soon sound off on Pasadena-centric Mars politics once again.

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

Editor's note: It would seem this image (S123E00737B) of a specially outfitted Kermit the Frog aboard the ISS appeared - and then disappeared - from the NASA Human Spaceflight website. Larger image.

What gives? Does NASA PAO have something against frogs?

"Astronaut Scott Parazynski soon sets off for a new expedition. This time, he won't be leaving Earth."

NASA's Space Shuttle Endeavour to Land Wednesday

"The space shuttle Endeavour crew is expected to complete its 16-day flight to the International Space Station with a landing at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday, March 26. The STS-123 mission began March 11 and delivered the first segment of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Kibo laboratory and the Canadian Space Agency's two-armed robotic system, known as Dextre. The flight also brought a new crew member to the station and will return an astronaut who has spent nearly seven weeks aboard the complex."

Editor's note: For those of you who looked at the recent NASA Gen Y presentation, I suggest that you look at this Powerpoint presentation created by the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) organization in Nepal. The similarities both in format - and message - are striking.

I am headed to Nepal in a few weeks and am hoping to bring my OLPC XO solid state drive laptop with me to Everest Base Camp - as an operational backup for my modified Macbook - and as something to use in the villages Scott and I will visit on our way back down to Kathmandu.

- NASA Generation Y Briefing, 2.4 MB PDF
- Donate a n XO Laptop to a child in a developing nation
- Attention Gen Y

Everest On Orbit Update

Astronaut Scott Parazynski's Everest Journal: Leavin' on that 2:16 plane to Katmandu

"OK, so Gladys Knight has a better knack for lyrics, but I'm about to depart on a pilgrimage today that I've been dreaming of (and preparing for) my entire life --- a trip that I hope will take me all the way to the summit of Mount Everest."

What Gear Does An Astronaut Bring to Climb Mt. Everest?

Editor's note: Scott left for Nepal on Sunday. I leave on 18 April. That said, Scott's gear database is 95% similar to what I will be bringing - except that my gear (in terms of insulated clothing) will be adequate for nearby ascents we'll be making up to 20,000 feet. Scott is headed for 29,000 feet at -40F above more than half of Earth's atmosphere. He'll be standing in the jet stream.

Scott is also a bit more weight (up mass) conscious than I am. I am bringing a lot of electronic gear and will have two porters carrying my gear. At first I felt like a total wimp (I have climbed 1,000 foot cliffs) to pay someone to carry my stuff. It costs USD $250 to get a duffel bag (I will have 2) to Everest Base Camp and back. Alas, I live at sea level so I am just going to shut up and accept the situation.

Then I learned that this number just also happens to be the average annual income for someone in Nepal. As such, I am inclined to think of more things to carry up - and perhaps more porters to pay. I'll also be spending a week or so by myself in a desperately poor third world country trekking at high altitude with two porters and a Sherpa with minimal English skills.

It is truly another world that Scott, I, and others will be entering even before we reach Everest Base Camp.

NASA Everest Trek Team Biographies

Team NASA Everest Gear

The Team NASA Everest Gear Store is now online at Cafepress. Team NASA Everest is a group of 18 NASA employees led by EVA flight controller Sabrina Singh who will be trekking in to Everest Base Camp in the first week of May.

Team NASA Everest Trek Team Biographies

No place for partisans on NASA, space exploration, editorial, Houston Chronicle

"Because of the 2008 presidential election, our nation's human spaceflight program is at a perilous crossroad. While Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain all have made allusions to supporting the program, none has made it a priority. In fact, in late 2007 Obama went on record as saying he planned to pay for his $18 billion education plan by taking it out of the hide of NASA. In defending his desire to delay the Orion and Ares programs (the next generation crew spacecraft and rockets), he stressed, "We're not going to have the engineers and scientists to continue space exploration if we don't have kids who are able to read, write and compute."

Why Bother Exploring

Mars plan is lost in space, opinion, Washington Times

"As I read the plans to bring back rock samples from Mars and build bases on the moon, a few questions come to mind. First, how much do we really want to know about other planets and heavenly bodies? As an extreme example, take Phobos, the moon of Mars. Phobos is a large rock. Photos at reasonable resolution are clearly of scientific value, as would be determination of the type of rock. Beyond that, what is worth knowing? It"s a rock."

Childhood's End

Sci-fi writer Clarke laid to rest, BBC

"Music from the film 2001: A Space Odyssey was played at the funeral and members of the family which had adopted him cried as his coffin was lowered. "Here lies Arthur C Clarke. He never grew up and did not stop growing," his gravestone in Colombo is to read, in accordance with the author's wishes."

Dom In Space

Volunteer spends 12 weeks in bed to help NASA, Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Dom Prinzo will end his mission and return to earth on Monday, March 31. Soon after his 7 a.m. wakeup call, he'll be tilted upward in his bed, a few degrees every half hour. He'll be vertical by 11 a.m. Then, maybe a bit like Frankenstein's monster, he'll take his first careful steps after 12 weeks in bed at the Cleveland Clinic."

Editor's note: Dom Prinzo has dedicated a substantial period of his life to space exploration. Please take the time to read Dom in Space - Dom's official blog - and be certain to say hello and thank him for his contribution to human spaceflight.

Join The Challenger Center Student Art Contest Supporting Richard Garriott's Space Flight

"Students of all ages are encouraged to submit their design for a student patch or t-shirt that celebrates the educational aspect of Richard Garriotts upcoming flight. The student design should symbolize the adventure and discovery of spaceflight from the students point of view. The winning student design may appear on both a patch and a t-shirt. Challenger Center for Space Science Education plans to post some of the submitted students designs on their national website, and will award the winner with a certificate and t-shirt with his/her design later this year. The design may even get flown into space!"

NASA Continues to Grapple With Ares 1 Vibration Issues, SpaceRef

"18 March 2008: Sources at NASA rpeort that NASA Ares manager Steve Cook is trying to get a new job (and get out of his current one). Meanwhile, some of you may remember the "Tiger Team" that was assembled to examine Ares 1 vibration issues. Well, sources report that this Tiger Team has been quietly disbanded and its activities have been rolled up into overall project activities. As such, there is no Tiger Team report due for release in March - because there is no Tiger Team to issue it. But there is an internal "Core Team" that now seems to be working toward a presentation of sorts on 9 May 2008."

Editor's 20 March update: According to ESMD PAO (who contacted me) the "Tiger Team" is still in place. There seems to be some internal differences as to what this group is called - thus my sources' (and my) confusion. That said, ESMD says that there will be a congressional hearing on 3 April where some preliminary information may be released but that the Tiger Team report will not be made in March as was originally stated by ESMD earlier this year. Also, according to ESMD PAO Steve Cook's official statement is that he is "in it for the duration" and that he is not seeking to leave his current job. All I can say is that the unofficial information I get on a daily basis points to the contrary. ESMD PAO offered no comment on the charts that I posted.

Attention Gen Y

Editor's note: The following has been circulating around the web for a while - someone sent it to me today. I am not certain of the original source. While I am obviously a strong supporter of new ways to communicate and the need for today's leaders to better understand the generation that is working its way up the ladder, the dialog needs to be reciprocal. For all of you Gen Y folks demanding to be let into NASA programs and leadership: today's world did not just pop into existence. Someone had to create it - and the things that led up to it. And the people who did these things got the opportunity to do so based on their ability - not their age. We old folks are not going to just fade away either - and we're multitasking and adopting all of your nifty cyber tools faster than you might think:

Dean Acosta, Linkedin (public profile)

"Before Qorvis, I served as chief spokesperson, press secretary and deputy assistant administrator for public affairs at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). I led NASA's public affairs and communications activities during one of its most challenging periods following the space shuttle Columbia accident in 2003."

Editor's note: Gee, I seem to recall that Glenn Mahone was in charge of NASA Public Affairs when Challenger Columbia (my error - I type that word a lot these days) was lost and that Glenn was the one who "led" these activities - certainly not Dean. Truth be known, Dean really did not have any significant responsibilities at that time. Indeed, a new position was created for him when the White House sent him over as a political hire. He most certainly did not do what he claims to have done in this bio. I sent Dean (who is now at Boeing) a note about this discrepancy a number of months ago. Alas, he doesn't seem to care that his Linkedin profile is demonstrably false. Curiously his official NASA PAO profile makes no mention of this heroic accomplishment on Dean's part. I wonder why.

Editor's update: Dean Acosta has sent me a response (below). Other than my obvious Challenger vs Columbia error, he's trying to spin a totally misleading statement, in my opinion, and is trying to let stand the notion that he was the only person in charge of PAO after Columbia.

David Low Obituary

G. David Low, 52: Cerebral Astronaut Flew on 3 Shuttles, Washington Post

"G. David Low, 52, a NASA astronaut who served on three space shuttle missions before becoming a space industry executive, died March 15 of colon cancer at Reston Hospital Center. During his 12 years as an astronaut, he logged more than 714 hours in space while circling the Earth more than 540 times."

NASA Culture Survey

NASA 2007 Culture Survey

"The analysis of the 2007 NASA Culture Survey (NCS) results was part of a broader study that included focus groups, center assessments, literature searches and the additional comments provided by survey respondents. The overall findings were presented at a Senior Management Council in January 2008, and a determination was made that more can be expected across our organization regarding open communications and organizational support in getting the job done."

Challenger Center and President George H.W. Bush award NASA Educator Astronaut Barbara Morgan with the President George H.W. Bush Award

"On March 19th at the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas, Challenger Center for Space Science Education and former President George H.W. Bush presented NASA Educator Astronaut Barbara Morgan with Challenger Center's top honor, The President George H. W. Bush Award. The award was first given to President and Mrs. George H.W. Bush in 1995 for their support in continuing the mission of the Challenger 51-L crew that was tragically lost in 1986. Prior to the ceremony Barbara Morgan gave a brief presentation sponsored by the Marilyn Kent Byrne Student Success Center to students from Texas A&M."

NASA's Skylab Trainer Is Still Rotting In The Rain

"In March of 2007 the temporary weather cover put in place by the volunteers was blown off one third of the low deck during a storm. Despite repeated requests to the curator and CEO of the US Space and Rocket Center, no effort has been made to pull the weather cover back in place. It's now been one year. This is blind neglect of a historic space artifact."

Reader note: "The US Space and Rocket center is allowing people who contribute $10,000 to have private time in the Apollo 16 command module. For your $10,000 you and an unlimited number of guests get to sit in it, sit on the crew couches, play with the controls, and do anything you want. I wonder if the National Air and Space Museum knows about this? This is abuse of a space flown national treasure."

Editor's update: It would seem that the USSRC is denying that people are allowed inside the Apollo 16 Command module to look around and pose for pictures. This image shows a USSRC employee and a donor inside the Apollo 16 command module. I know who the donor is and have blurred his face. He is a very decent person and only wants to help the USSRC out i.e. he has done nothing wrong. Why the USSRC is denying things like this happen is odd. Perhaps they know that it is in violation of Smithsonian policies. Oh yes. I have more images.

Space Adventures Announces the Acquisition of Zero Gravity Corporation

"Space Adventures, Ltd., the world's leading space experiences company, announced that as of January 1, 2008, the company completed an acquisition of the Florida and Las Vegas based Zero Gravity Corporation (ZERO-G) by increasing its equity stake to 100% ownership. .. Diamandis, also a co-Founder of Space Adventures, will continue as the CEO of the ZERO-G operating unit, but also joins as Managing Director of the parent company Space Adventures, Ltd. Byron Lichtenberg, co-Founder of ZERO-G and former NASA astronaut, will continue as CTO of ZERO-G."

Hubble Update Today

Hubble Detects Organic Molecule on an Extrasolar Planet

"NASA will hold a media teleconference at 2 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, March 19, to report on the first-ever detection of the organic molecule methane in the atmosphere of a planet orbiting a distant star. Though the planet is too hot to support life as we know it, the finding demonstrates the ability to detect organic molecules spectroscopically around Earth-like planets in habitable zones around stars."

Editor's note: I am sorry that I did not post this earlier. Despite repeated requests NASA PAO seems to be incapable of putting me on a simple email list so as to allow me to get these media updates as they are issued. Of course, I complain, and PAO says that I am on the list - yet I seem to miss out on a fair number of things. Curiously, no one else on Earth seems to have a problem getting email to - or from - me. Sometimes I get things at 4 or 5 in the afternoon that have been sent to a distribution list at 10 in the morning.

Arthur C. Clarke Has Died

National Space Society Statement on Arthur C. Clarke's Legacy

NASA Statement on the Death of Arthur C. Clarke

Sir Arthur C. Clarke Has Died, Marc Boucher, Space Elevator Reference

"It is with a heavy heart I write that Sir Arthur C. Clarke has died. He died early Wednesday at a hospital in Colombo, Sri Lanka. I had the privilege to meet Sir Arthur in 1997 in Sri Lanka, his home of 52 years. His creative mind inspired many people including myself. He will be missed but his creativity will live on through the people he inspired."

Sir Arthur C. Clarke Has Died, Keith Cowing, SpaceRef

"Noted author and visionary Sir Arthur C. Clarke has died at age of 90 in Sri Lanka. I am not even certain where to begin to describe just how profoundly this man's writing affected me as a child - and as an adult."

Arthur C. Clarke, Wikipedia

The Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse, SpaceRef

Video (below): Sir Arthur Clarke Speaks on his 90th Birthday, December 2007

Challenger Center News

Go For Launch! Challenger Center Heads to the International Space Station

"Richard Garriott is a preeminent game developer and son of NASA Skylab Astronaut Owen Garriott. As the next civilian to fly into space, Richard plans to follow the lead of Educator Astronaut Barbara Morgan, STS-118, through interactive lessons that will motivate and inspire students. His flight is currently scheduled for lift-off to the International Space Station on October 12, 2008. Richard is a former student of Dr. June Scobee Rodgers, the Founding Chairman of Challenger Center for Space Science Education and widow of that flight's Commander, Dick Scobee."

NASA Request for Information: New Science Investigations Using Existing NASA Spacecraft

"NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD) currently sponsors approximately 85 flight missions, involving over 90 spacecraft, divided between missions in development and missions in operations. One of SMD's programmatic objectives is to maximize the science return for the Nation within the available budget. This Request for Information (RFI) solicits input from the broad space science community that would contribute to NASA's study of possible new uses for current NASA spacecraft beyond their current missions. Responses to this RFI (NNH08ZDA005L) will be used to inform NASA's program planning."

David Low Has Died

Editor's note: Astronaut David Low died on Saturday from colon cancer. A funeral mass will be held after Easter at Our Lady of Hope in Sterling, VA. Details to follow.

Editor's update: The Funeral Mass has been scheduled for 10:30 am, Monday, March 24, 2008, at Our Lady of Hope Roman Catholic Church, 46639 Algonkian Pkwy, Sterling, VA.

NASA STS-123 Execute Package FD07

"We've been thinking hard about wear and tear on EMU gloves, and you'll be glad to know we have a prototype solution in the works. It's called the Mmod Resistant Handling Aid for Normal Dexterity (MR HAND). Here is one of our technicians modeling MR HAND."

Griffin's Coronation

FSC Cites Administrator of NASA

Editor's note: Check out the photo. Thanks IK!

Editor's note: Ellen Engelman Conners has been selected as the new Director of External Relations at JSC replacing Eileen Hawley (who will be missed). Conners is a consumate Bush loyalist and overt politico - and a Huckabee supporter. Looks like she is burrowing into a career SES position now that the Bush Administration is coming to an end. She is currently the Senior Deputy Bureau Chief at FCC Headquarters in Washington DC. Prior to that she was at the NTSB. As for her previous experience with space exploration: by all accounts it is zero. Oh well - a hearty welcome from NASA Watch, Ellen!

Safety Chief in Holding Pattern - Relations With Colleagues Called Frosty and Petty

"Engleman Conners has not been popular among her peers at the board. Last year, she got into a high-profile spat with three of the four other board members that led to members' not speaking to one another and Engleman Conners working much of the time from the NTSB Academy in Ashburn, Va., rather than at headquarters in Washington."

New Strife at the NTSB under Engleman-Connors Leadership

"NTSB members are strongly dissatisfied with the way in which Board chairman Ellen Engleman Conners is attempting to curb their activities. Three Board members-Carol Carmody, Richard Healing and Deborah Hersman-sent a letter to the chairman late this summer expressing their concerns."

Transportation safety board's Engleman Conners withdraws nomination for second chairmanship term, Progressive Railroading

"National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) member Ellen Engleman Conners recently sent a letter to President Bush to withdraw her nomination for a second term as board chairman. The president nominated her in April."

Exiting From the Game Doesn't Dispel Clouds, WS Journal

"MOVING OVER: National Transportation Safety Board insiders twitter over the FCC's hiring of former chairwoman Ellen Engleman Conners for the managing director's office. Internal strife marred Conners's three-year NTSB term, where complaints, including from fellow Republicans, ranged from how she resolved a backlog of safety issues to how she divvied up office supplies."

Safety Chief in Holding Pattern - Relations With Colleagues Called Frosty and Petty

"She often joked to colleagues that she was determined to live the life of a spinster aboard her houseboat on the Potomac with her five cats -- each of which had its own life preserver."

Sean O'Keefe To Head GE Aviation's Washington D.C. Operations

"Effective June 2, Sean O'Keefe, 52, will head GE Aviation's Washington D.C. operations, replacing Dr. Thomas Cooper, who is retiring after serving in the role with distinction for 21 years."

Hey Dextre, Wake Up

NASA struggles to wake space station robot, USA Today

"The International Space Station's new $210 million robot, a two-armed giant named Dextre, refused to come to life on command Thursday, jeopardizing NASA's plans to get the robot up and running over the next week. Mission Control tried to power up the robot's pieces early Thursday soon after they were installed on the station, but there was no response. Engineers plan to make a software fix sometime after 5 a.m. ET Friday that might wake the robot from its sleep."

House Science and Technology Subcommittee Expresses Concern over Budgetary Outlook for NASA Science Programs

"Added Udall, "NASA's challenging new science initiatives are to be built on a budget that increases by only 1% through FY11, and that assumes only inflationary increases at best in the years beyond that. There will be little new money--instead, there will be a continuing need to transfer of funds across the science accounts to support each new initiative--an approach some might call 'robbing Peter to pay Paul'. I'm very concerned that such an approach will not prove sustainable or credible."

Witnesses: FY 2009 NASA Science Budget Makes Best of Limited Resources

Statement of Alan Stern
Statement of Jack Burns
Statement of Berrien Moore
Statement of Lennard Fisk
Statement of Steven Squyres

NASA STS-123 Execute Package FD04

"Today, you will open up the JLP and add to the total square footage of ISS. The Harris County tax assessors estimate that this will increase the value of the station by $43.6 M, and the millage rates will be increased accordingly. We may have to dip into your per diem as we had not counted on the higher resulting rent for your crew. The good news is that if we add a bathroom and bamboo flooring to the JLP, we can more than double that assessed value in resale price!"

iPod sighted Inside Space Shuttle Endeavour by Someone Inside the International Space Station

"If you look into the window of Space Shuttle Endeavour, as viewed in this photograph taken yesterday from inside the International Space Station, you will see that someone left their iPod on near the co-pilot's window. This is not the first time that an iPod has been photographed in space, but it is the first time that one has been photographed inside one space vehicle - by someone inside another space vehicle."

Remarks by NASA Administrator Griffin to the 39th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference

"Talking about the Space Act reminds me of the kerfluffle that ensued, a couple of years ago, when I changed our mission statement to be consistent with our legislated responsibilities. I thought the ensuing squabble was "Much Ado About Nothing", and that a larger point was missed."

Senators Collins and Lieberman Raise Concerns about Changes to NASA Mission Statement (August 2006)

"Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT) sent a letter to National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator Dr. Michael D. Griffin expressing concerns about the organization's elimination from its mission statement of the phrase "to understand and protect the home planet."

Editor's note: Mike, I am confused. If NASA's legislated responsibilities do not include the task "to understand and protect the home planet" then why did you recently expand NASA's Earth Science mission portfolio (with White House approval)? Shouldn't you be decreasing or shrinking Earth science research and missions if such things are not within NASA's purview?

Michael Griffin Redux, Starstryder (Blog)

Grad Student: How do we convince the Government to get us money?

Griffin: We're not allowed to lobby Congress

Grad Student: NASA Produces great educational materials

Griffin: Yes we do, but ... Let me remind you that NASA is not the department of education. NASA spends $15 million each year on education - that's enough money for one more Discovery mission, and we can't do that mission because of the education we do. I'm not saying that is money badly spent, but ... NASA is the only thing in the domestic discretionary part of the Federal budget that hasn't received cuts.

Grad Student: I'm not trying to make fun of NASA - I'm trying to say I want to live in a world in 30 years where people are better educated in Science, Math, and Technology

Griffin: That's not NASA's job

Grad Student: (pause) Do you have any insights from your work with politicians on how we can get more science education?

Griffin: I don't generally get any insights from politicians

Endeavour Docks With ISS

Space Shuttle Endeavour Docks Successfully to the International Space Station

"Space shuttle Endeavour docked successfully to the International Space Station at 11:49 p.m. EDT. About an hour before docking, STS-123 Commander Dominic Gorie and Pilot Gregory H. Johnson guided the shuttle through a back-flip maneuver, giving the Expedition 16 crew the opportunity to take pictures of the orbiter's protective heat-resistant tiles. These photos will be sent to engineers on Earth for analysis."

Additional ISS and Shuttle news

Editor's note: According to NASA sources Cassini's flyby of Saturn's moon Enceladus occurred today around noon Pacific time.

As scheduled, no contact was made with the spacecraft until around 7:00 PM PST today. Science data collection was been completed and Cassini has reoriented itself so as to point at Earth and play back the data that was collected. This playback will continue until tomorrow afternoon.

Early science results may be available Thursday afternoon.

NASA chief addresses the Gen-Y problem. Does he care?, Houston Chronicle

"I've got to say that, yeah, young people are not as motivated by space as we would like. But I remember also when I was young and I was motivated by other things. I used to say when I was in college my primary career was golf in the daytime and girls at night, and if I had time I would attend class. I don't think I was atypical from young people then or today."

Odyssey Moon RFI Released

Odyssey Moon - Request for Information for a Payload Flight Opportunity on the Odyssey Moon "MoonOne" (M-1) Lunar Lander

"Odyssey Moon Limited (OML) is a private commercial lunar enterprise offering lunar services and products to aid humanity's sustained return to the Moon. Odyssey Moon will be sending a series of small robotic missions to the Moon in support of science, exploration and commerce in the coming decade. In December 2007, the company was unveiled as the first official competitor for the Google Lunar X PRIZE. It was also announced that mission design work had begun by the company's prime contractor, MDA Space Missions of Canada."

Editor's note: Check out Matt Reyes' STS-123 launch video at the OnOrbit STS-123 Video channel (below). Make certain to pump up the volume once the shuttle clears the pad.

Foam Strike?

Shuttle prepares to deliver Japanese lab to space station, LA Times via Boston Globe

"NASA safety officials were reviewing video and photographs of the launch, but it appeared there was only one significant incident of insulating foam coming off the giant fuel tank that the shuttle is strapped to like a bull-rider. The chunk of foam came off at about 83 seconds into the launch, when atmospheric forces are near their maximum. Any foam coming off the tank then would be accelerated to potentially damaging speeds."

NASA Policy on the Release of Information to News and Information Media, 30 March 2006

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

The Reality of Tomorrow: Speech by NASA Administrator Michael Griffin at the Goddard Memorial Symposium 5 March 2008

"Let us speak openly and honestly about the problems we face in carrying out our nation's space program. Over the course of my career in this business, I have often been disheartened by the large number of diverse "entrepreneurs" in search of NASA funding who place their self interests over the greater good of the aerospace community. They do not respect the priorities set out for NASA by our duly-elected stakeholders in the White House and Congress, or even the priorities of their own respective science communities in National Academy decadal surveys. Even worse, the rift and harsh rhetoric between proponents of robotic science and human spaceflight does not help our nation's overall space effort one iota, but it does cause division that weakens us. If we wish a better reality for tomorrow, we as a community must police this behavior; those who engage in it must be made to feel, and be, unwelcome in the community at large. My hope for today is that there will in the future be more respect for each others' work."

Editor's note: Mike Griffin's statements at the Goddard Memorial Symposium last week would seem to utterly contradict what NASA put forth in the communications policy issued in March 2006. And just who does Mike Griffin think he is by advocating that anyone should "police" speech in a country where such speech is protected by the Constitution - under any possible circumstance as it relates to NASA? Moreover, what possible moral or legal authority does he have to suggest that "those who engage in it must be made to feel, and be, unwelcome in the community at large"? The fact that a Presidential appointee would say things like this in public - on the record - is troubling.

I hear a clock ticking.

NASA STS-123 Report #01 Tuesday, March 11, 2008 3:00 a.m. CDT

"Space shuttle Endeavour delivered an early sunrise to the Florida coast this morning, lifting off at 1:28 a.m. CDT from the Kennedy Space Center to begin a 16-day mission to the International Space Station. Aboard the shuttle are Commander Dominic Gorie, Pilot Gregory H. Johnson and Mission Specialists Robert Behnken, Mike Foreman, Rick Linnehan, Garrett Reisman and Takao Doi, a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut."

NASA Launch Blog

More Shuttle and ISS news

36% of scientists at NASA are Indians: Govt survey, The Times of India

"The extent to which desis have made an impact in the US was reeled off in the Rajya Sabha -- as many as 12% scientists and 38% doctors in the US are Indians, and in NASA, 36% or almost 4 out of 10 scientists are Indians."

A Letter to Rep. Adam Schiff on the Mars Exploration Program, Planetary Society

"We support the new proposed direction for Mars sample return proposed by NASA. But it is being offered with no funds in the next five years."

Editor's 3 March 2008 note: NASA has set aside $68 million for Mars Sample Return mission studies so Friedman's claim is demonstrably wrong - as are many other things in this letter (what else is new?) Stay tuned.

Editor's 10 March 2008 note: Have a look at this presentation from the LSPC and some of the disinformation that is being sewn regarding SMD projects: Mars Program Myth Busters (PDF), SMD

Everest OnOrbit Update

Everest OnOrbit 2008: An Overview

"Scott Parazynski leaves for Nepal on 23 March 2008 to climb Mt. Everest asa non-guided member of the International Mountain Guides (IMG) group composed of Scott, Adam Janikowski, Kami Sherpa and Ang Namgya Sherpa. The summit window extends (approximately) from the second to the third week in May - although it can be a little earlier - or later - depending on weather - and "traffic" on the mountain. Sabrina Singh will lead Team NASA to Everest Base Camp in early May."

Editor's note: Everyone going on this trip is paying 100% of their total costs and is going on vacation time.

Facebook Group
Twitter Feed
Everest OnOrbit, OnOrbit.com

Obama a little confused about today's state, The Swamp (Baltimore Sun)

"During the question-and-answer portion of an event at a recreational center here, Obama was asked about the nation's space program. "I grew up on Star Trek," Obama said. "I believe in the final frontier." But Obama said he does not agree with the way the space program is now being run and thinks funding should be trimmed until the mission is clearer. "NASA has lost focus and is no longer associated with inspiration," he said. "I don't think our kids are watching the space shuttle launches. It used to be a remarkable thing. It doesn't even pass for news anymore."

Do you have a comment? (please limit them to space policy and/or Obama's comments about space) Send them to nasawatch@spaceref.com. Your comments thus far:

S. Korea Announces Woman as First Astronaut, NY Times

"The Russian space agency has stressed that a minor mistake and disobedience can cause serious consequences in space," Mr. Lee said at a nationally televised news conference. "So the honor of becoming South Korea's first astronaut now goes to a woman."

First Korean Astronaut Switched to Woman, Korea Times

"A 29-year-old female mechanical engineer was belatedly filled in Monday as the first South Korean in space, after Russia's space authorities dismissed Seoul's original choice on security rule violations ahead of next month's mission. The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology told a news conference that Russia's Federal Space Agency asked for Ko San's replacement, as the 31-year-old repeatedly broke training protocol by taking sensitive training material outside of the Russian space center."

Jules Verne Launched

ESA's Jules Verne Is In Orbit

"Jules Verne, the first of the European Space Agency's Automated Transfer Vehicles (ATV), a new series of autonomous spaceships designed to re-supply and re-boost the International Space Station (ISS), was successfully launched into low Earth orbit by an Ariane 5 vehicle this morning."

Europe's resupply rocket a good step, Huntsville Times

"For intents and purposes, the ATV is like a mini-space station or a separate module. It's automated and can dwell in orbit for an extended period of time and then dock with the station," said Keith Cowing, editor of NASAWatch.com. "It's really an alternative to what the Russians have, the Progress (capsule). Progress has worked well for decades, but the ATV brings new capabilities to the station."

Jules Verne ATV Blog

Marburger's Speech, Selenian Boondocks

"For a short duration before Griffin got in as NASA's Administrator, NASA was actually acting in a way to more fully fulfill mandate to "promote commercial as well as international participation "to further U.S. scientific, security, and economic interests." Under the guidance of O'Keefe and Steidle, NASA setup several billion dollars worth of "Human and Robotic Technologies" research to help develop and field the technologies that would allow it to more effectively achieve its exploration goals. It was set to operate its exploration architecture in a way to leverage to the maximum extent possible existing and future commercial capabilities. To act as though NASA can't do that is to ignore the fact that that was its very plan up until Griffin took the reigns."

Growing Crowd Joining Weldon To Criticize Plan to Cede Space Leadership to Russians and Chinese

"For five years or more, the United States will be dependent on the technology of others to reach the (international space) station, which American taxpayers largely paid for. To complicate things further, the only nation now capable of flying astronauts to the space station is Russia, giving it a strong bargaining position to decide what it wants to charge for the flights at a time when U.S. - Russian relations are becoming increasing testy," the story says. "Given Russia's recent track record, it is also likely that Russia will use this advantage to extort geopolitical concessions from the United States government; concessions that will remain hidden from public view."

Interesting Neighbors?

Alpha Centauri should harbor detectable, Earth-like planets, according to new study by UC Santa Cruz astronomers

"A rocky planet similar to Earth may be orbiting one of our nearest stellar neighbors and could be detected using existing techniques, according to a new study led by astronomers at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The closest stars to our Sun are in the three-star system called Alpha Centauri, a popular destination for interstellar travel in works of science fiction."

Ah, Those Wacky Brits

First advert to be broadcast into space, University of Leicester

"The campaign to broadcast the first ever advert into space is launched today ... On 12th June, the space-bound ad will be broadcast from a 500MHz Ultra High Frequency Radar from the EISCAT Space Centre in Svalbard, which lies in the Arctic Ocean about midway between northern Norway and the North Pole."

Jodrell Bank fears funding loss, BBC

"Scientists at one of the world's most advanced observatories are facing an uncertain future, with a closure threat hanging over its flagship project."

UK astronomers to broadcast adverts to aliens, The Telegraph

"The cosmic stunt marks a small step for man, a giant leap for advertising hype and underlines the desperation of British astronomers to find new sources of funding as they struggle to cope with swingeing cuts that now threaten institutions such as Jodrell Bank, the world famous observatory in Cheshire."

Editor's note: Where do I start? I hate to break it the Brits, but the first advertisements "broadcast into space" were sent out nearly a century ago (didn't you guys see "Contact"?). Second, if you are so concerned about the prospect of closure of your country's radio telescope at Jodrell Bank, why not spend the money in the UK by mount a PR campaign, and send the message from Jodrell Bank - instead of going up to Svalbard?

Address by OSTP Director John Marburger at the Goddard Memorial Symposium

"I agree completely with the third point about international collaboration and the opportunity for United States leadership, but there are phrases in the other points that make me uneasy. Yes, it is time to go beyond LEO with people as explorers. But no, the purpose of sustained human exploration is not "to go to Mars and beyond." The purpose of sustained human exploration is, as the second point states "to serve national and international interests." And I think of those interests as much broader than simply going somewhere and coming back. Our current space exploration policy says "The fundamental goal of this vision is to advance U.S. scientific, security, and economic interests through a robust space exploration program." Exploration that is not in support of something else strikes me as somehow selfish and unsatisfying, and not consistent with the fact that we are using public funds for this enterprise, no matter how small a fraction of the total budget they may be."

NASA FOIA Images: Mitt Romney Tours SSPF-Pad 39A at KSC on 21 January 2008

NASA caption: "Images taken of the Mitt Romney tour at KSC are not, in any way, intended to reflect the endorsement of any candidate by NASA. These images were taken during a tour that is typically provided to other VIP's. NASA has not authorized the use of these images for campaign purposes and has obtained a commitment from the Romney campaign NOT to use these images for campaign purposes. These images are being released in response to FOIA requests."

Editor's note: Click to enlarge image. Isn't it a little odd that most people who are seen in this location are required to wear bunny suits and caps - and yet politicians and their spouses are not? [see comments below as KSC folks correct my assumptions regarding bunny suits - but not about the special access granted to Romney]. Let's see how NASA answers my FOIA request as to what constitutes a "VIP" and what the process is for evaluating and approving (or denying) requests for these personal tours and photo ops - conducted at taxpayer expense.

Kerry Blows Opportunity at KSC, 2004 post

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

NASA Wary of Relying on Russia, Washington Post

"Griffin has testified that while the waiver is essential, it is "unseemly, simply unseemly, for the United States -- the world's leading power and leading space power -- to be reduced to purchasing services like this. It affects, in my view, how we are seen in the world, and not for the better." NASA's budget calls for spending $2.6 billion for transportation to the space station between fiscal 2009 and 2013. As it stands now, much of that would go to the Russians."

More Money For NASA?

Some House members want to increase NASA's budget, Daily Press

"House budget writers signaled Wednesday they will try to increase NASA's budget for next year, warning that President Bush's spending request would leave the aerospace agency unable to fully conduct its missions. Democratic and Republican leaders of a key House panel told NASA Administrator Michael Griffin they were uneasy with a budget that they said fails even to keep up with inflation. "You're cash-strapped," said Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va., chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA. "The budget is categorized as staying the course. It doesn't seem adequate anymore."

Statement by NASA Administrator Griffin Before before the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies

Editor's note: Of course, most Congress watchers here in Washington are almost certain that the next budget will end up as yet another continuing resolution. So don't look for any dramatic increases in NASA's budget - especially in an election year when everyone is preoccupied. Of course, knowing that this is a likely scenario, its easy for members of Congress to say that they want to plus up NASA's budget - when they know that they'll never really have to deliver on that desire. Ah, Washington.

NASA's Gen Y Speaks Out, Wired

"At the recent NASA Next Generation Exploration Conference at NASA Ames, two young NASA employees, Nick Skytland and Garret Fitzpatrick gave a powerful presentation called "The Gen Y Perspective"-- a set of charts they had delivered to their center management the week before that made it all the way up to the Administrator's desk. Now they were presenting it at a conference of their peers, with special guest moon walker Buzz Aldrin listening."

NASA Generation Y Briefing 2.4 MB PDF

Next Generation Exploration Conference Convenes at NASA's Ames

Editor's update: While some portions of NASA are paying close attention to how the real world is using the Internet, including the 9th floor at NASA Headquarters, other parts of the agency are hiding their heads in the sand. One notable example: JSC and DFRC are blocking access to Twitter. Twitter is one of the fastest growing "microblogging" services in the world and is exceptionally popular with Gen Y. A growing number of NASA personnel use Twitter on a daily basis as tool in their job. I have an account and find it exceptionally useful. There is also a NASA Watch feed on Twitter as well. If you want to see the amazingly global aspect of Twitter check out Twittervision as the Earth moves and messages from all over the world appear in near real time.

However, if Twitter is such a treat that JSC, GRC, and DFRC see fit to ban it, why isn't the entire agency blocking it? What do the CIOs at JSC, GRC, and DFRC know that the rest of the agency does not?

Rather, as I suspect is actually the case, what is it that JSC, GRC, and DFRC's CIO's do not understand?

Editor's update: Curiously, NASA has its own official Twitter feed. Why put something like this online and then block your own employees from seeing it? Typical NASA.

NASA's Johnson Allows Phone Participation in Mission News Briefings

Editor's note: Doesn't ANYONE proof read these press release titles at PAO before they go out? ("NASA's Johnson"). The first thing that came to mind was this segment from Austin Powers... (yes it is a slow news day).

Editor's note: The following is from a NASA Watch reader in regard to the recent GEN Y posting. Personally, I belive that this person's attitude is an example of why many parts of the NASA family are becoming further isolated from the real world - as opposed to becoming more closely aligned to it. My biases aside, this person's comments do represent a viewpoint prevalent at NASA - and that viewpoint needs to be heard. Other reader comments follow. Send yours to nasawatch@spaceref.com.

"Keith: Just wanted to provide some feedback to you as a NASAWatch reader and contractor out of Houston regarding the stories about the "Gen-Y" presentation.

Although I did not attend the NGAC at Ames, I was invited and my civil servant "counterpart" did attend. I have read the Gen-Y presentation and reviewed your articles.

Personally, I find the entire "Gen-Y" discussion quite pathetic. This is one of those times where I wish I was *not* part of the group, as I really do not think there was much substance to the presentation. I've seen better presentations in powerpoint from children in middle school. Truly, as someone born in 1980, I wish I was born a little earlier so I could be "Gen-X" rather than Y.

Top NASA Spin-offs, Rankopedia

"NASA, a branch of the USA government, has provided a huge number of technological spin-offs since founding in 1960. But which one(s) are the best? Integrated circuits? Sel-righting life-rafts? Automated urinalysis? The sports bra? What's your call?"

Editor's note: I will be in Nepal between 18 April and the beginning of June. I will be providing support at Everest Base Camp (elevation 17,500 ft.) for a month for a team of climbers who will be heading for the summit. Among the climbers is STS-120 astronaut Scott Parazynski. We'll also have a bunch of NASA folks visiting us at Base Camp for a few days during the month of May. I am going on this trip representing the Challenger Center for Space Science Education on whose board of directors I serve. I will have regular Internet access - most of the time - but it will be slow and somewhat expensive. While I will be providing updates on life at base camp and the team's progress (that is what my job will be) over at OnOrbit.com I will not be able to run NASAWatch in the fashion that you folks are used to. My solution: guest bloggers.

If you are interested in being a guest blogger on NASAWatch send me an email at nasawatch@spaceref.com.

Editor's update: I have gotten a nice response from potential bloggers. I will get something out to all of you within a week or so once I figure out to best feature your diverse talents and interests. In the mean time there are still openings for guest bloggers on NASA Watch.

Donald Lopez Has Died

National Air and Space Museums Deputy Director and Aviation Legend Donald Lopez Dies

"Donald S. Lopez, 84, deputy director of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, died of a heart attack on March 3. Mr. Lopez had been with the Smithsonian Institution since 1972, when he became part of the team led by Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins responsible for planning the construction and opening of the National Air and Space Museum."

NASA Mars Exploration Rover Update March 3, 2008

"Spirit has achieved a northerly tilt of 29.9 degrees! As a result, based on power projections, Spirit has a fighting chance of surviving another winter on Mars, if the weather and environment cooperate. Plans for sol 1471 (Feb. 22, 2008) called for a test of the stability of Spirit's new perch prior to using the rock abrasion tool by having the rover touch the Martian surface with the Moessbauer spectrometer and apply 10 newtons of pressure (called a pre-load)."

Write Your Own VSE

Return to Luna: A Short Story Science Fiction Contest by the National Space Society

"WE ARE LOOKING FOR: Science Fiction stories that show the adventure of lunar settlement. We want to feel the romance of life there, the wonder of the lunar frontier, of its magnificent desolation. We prefer near future (50 to 150 years from now), realistic stories about human lunar settlement. We want good characterization and well-written, tight prose. We want to feel what it's like to live on the Moon."

Looking Ahead

Remarks at 3rd Annual Space Exploration Conference by NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale

"So let me make this point clear. There's more than a vision at NASA. There's a program, a plan, and a clear direction for the future. Today, NASA is well engaged with the work to build the spacecraft, launch vehicles and space systems, and define the exploration strategy that will enable the establishment of a lunar outpost in the 2020s. We will honor our commitment to our partners and finish assembly of the International Space Station with the Space Shuttle fleet, while building a 21st century space transportation system for humans, the Orion crew exploration vehicle, that will make its first flight to the space station by 2015 and first mission to the Moon by 2020."

Silent Sputnik

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin's Remarks to the Space Flight Suppliers Conference

"And when it comes to being a recognized leader in the world, is it any wonder why China has emerged in recent years as one of the three spacefaring nations? They understand the value of space activities as a driver for innovation and a source of national pride in being a member of the world's most exclusive club. China today not only flies its own taikonauts, but also has plans to launch about 100 satellites over the next five to eight years. It should be no surprise, especially to those who have read Tom Friedman's book "The World is Flat" or John Kao's "Innovation Nation", that this environment in China is breeding thousands of high-tech start-ups. As John Kao couches the issue, America is currently facing a "Silent Sputnik" where "many countries are racing for a new innovation high ground while our own advantages are showing signs of serious wear."

China Plans EVA

China to carry out first spacewalk in late 2008, China View

"China plans to carry out its first spacewalk in second half of the year, an official of the nation's manned space program said here on Thursday. The Shenzhou VII spacecraft will be launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the northwestern province of Gansu latein the year and the astronauts will leave their spacecraft for the first time, the official told Xinhua."

NASA IG: Manage official e-mail messages better, FCW

"NASA employees are not properly managing their official e-mail records due to unfinished guidance and a lack of training, according to an inspector general's report."

Final Memorandum on Audit of Retention of NASA's Official Electronic Mail, NASA OIG

Avalanches on Mars

NASA Spacecraft Photographs Avalanches on Mars, NASA

"A NASA spacecraft in orbit around Mars has taken the first ever image of active avalanches near the Red Planet's north pole. The image shows tan clouds billowing away from the foot of a towering slope, where ice and dust have just cascaded down. ing Experiment (HiRISE) on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter took the photograph Feb. 19. It is one of approximately 2,400 HiRISE images being released today."

Editor's note: I just got the following email from the producer of a popular Showtime TV series. I declined the offer to participate since they have already made up their mind on the topic and anything I might say would likely be ignored or possibly edited and used out of context:

"I'm working on a Showtime series documentary/comedy series called "Penn & Teller: Bullsh*t." The program is in production on its sixth season, and is unlike anything else on TV. We mix irreverent comedy with the foundation of a series documentary - shining a spotlight on controversial issues such as the death penalty, prostitution, world peace and even things like circumcision, bottled water, PETA and pet love.

I'm working on an episode about NASA and was wondering if you had any interest in participating with our show?

We're going to basically say that NASA has been in decline since the Apollo missions, some of the current plans (moon base!) are bogus, and worst of all the culture of NASA created a safety situation that ended in the horrible deaths of the Challenger and Columbia astronauts.

We've interviewed NASA critics, supporters, insiders and even a Challenger family member. I'm just wondering if you agree or disagree with our basic position - and if you have anything else to add?

Google Earth showed protesters way to conquer parliament, Times Online

"Demonstrators revealed yesterday that they had used Google Earth to plot their protest on the roof of the Houses of Parliament last week against the expansion of Heathrow, writes . The website, which allows users to zoom in on satellite photographs of Earth, "showed us all the walkways, steps and other details we needed to make our way across the roof from the door to the far side where the public could see us", said Leo Murray, one of the five protesters."

NASA's popularity rises as vote nears, Houston Chronicle

"In the countdown to Tuesday's Texas primary, the candidates still in the race are positioning themselves as astronauts' best friends -- but what they would actually do for manned space travel once elected remains up in the air. Under President Bush's current plan, the space shuttle will be retired in 2010. And with every candidate coming to Texas and professing devotion to NASA, space-watchers are trying to determine what the candidates actually will do when faced with a reeling economy and a record federal debt."

Candidates' Views Differ on Space Exploration, NPR

"Advocates of NASA's plan to return to the moon are concerned that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has said he will raid NASA's budget to fund education. While the issue of space exploration hasn't gotten much attention this campaign season, it is a topic on which the candidates do differ."

Hillary Clintons Statement in Support of U.S. Aerospace and Aviation

"Hillary will double NASA's and FAA's aeronautics R&D budgets as part of her plan to reverse the Bush administration's war on science. She will pursue a balanced strategy of robust human spaceflight, expanded robotic spaceflight, and enhanced space and Earth science activities. She will speed development, testing, and deployment of next-generation launch and crew exploration vehicles to replace the aging Space Shuttle program."

Space Policy Under an Obama Administration, SpaceDemocrats

"Many space constituents are publicly critical of the Obama campaign for campaign rhetoric that is less overtly supportive of the status quo of the US space program than that of the Clinton or McCain campaigns. However, to this constituent of space, Obama's ambivalence makes him THE MOST ATTRACTIVE Presidential candidate in this campaign. Why?"


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