June 2008 Archives

NASA Chief of Strategic Communications Robert Hopkins Joins Phillips & Company as Senior Vice President, Managing Director of D.C. Public Relations, Business Development Office

Strategic Communications Hopkins Leaving NASA, NASA

NASA Chief of Strategic Communications Robert Hopkins announced Monday that he will be leaving the agency for a position in the private sector. Hopkins served as a senior adviser to Deputy Administrator Shana Dale and as assistant administrator for the recently established Office of Communications Planning before assuming the strategic communications role.

KSC Job Loss Projections Drop, AviationWeek

"NASA Administrator Mike Griffin believes that contractor job cuts at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) following the planned end of the space shuttle program in 2010 will total 3,000-4,000, only about half of the worst-case scenario of cuts in the 6,000-7,000 range."

"The total Kennedy work force of both government and civil service personnel is currently about 14,000."


Minute Defect Delays SpaceX's Falcon 1 Launch Again, Space.com

"A tiny weld defect discovered in one of the Falcon 1's engine nozzles as the rocket was being readied for a late June launch contributed to Space Exploration Technologies' (SpaceX) decision to postpone its third attempt to put the rocket into orbit by at least a month."

"Elon Musk, founder and chief executive officer of the Hawthorne, Calif.-based rocket-start up, said June 27 that the defect was so tiny - about a tenth of millimeter - that it passed inspection before shipment and was unlikely to cause a problem during launch."

NASA Administrator Statement on the Death of Robert Seamans, NASA

The following is a statement from NASA Administrator Michael Griffin regarding the death Dr. Robert C. Seamans, Jr., NASA deputy administrator from 1965 to 1968:

"Robert Seamans was one of the early leaders in launching NASA's efforts to explore the new frontier of space. As NASA's associate administrator and then deputy administrator, Bob, as a top manager and consummate engineer, was instrumental in the decision making, planning and program execution that enabled the United States to meet President Kennedy's goal of landing men on the moon. He will be remembered as one of the great pioneers and leaders of America's space program."

Astronaut James Reilly Leaves NASA, NASA

Veteran space shuttle astronaut James Reilly has left NASA to accept a position in the private sector. Reilly flew on three space shuttle missions to two space stations.

"Jim Reilly performed superbly as an astronaut over the course of his career at NASA," Astronaut Office chief Steve Lindsey said. "His technical, operational and people skills contributed directly to the success of the space shuttle and International Space Station programs. He was a key leader in the Astronaut Office and will be missed."

If NASA Bricks Could Talk, They'd Say 'Save Me!', Discovery Channel

"The scoop: The scorched bricks beneath Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center have witnessed decades of spaceflight history. But after a recent space shuttle launch blew thousands of them from the pad, NASA intends to throw these pieces of history away."

Neuroscientists Discover a Sense of Adventure, Wellcome Trust

"Wellcome Trust scientists have identified a key region of the brain which encourages us to be adventurous. The region, located in a primitive area of the brain, is activated when we choose unfamiliar options, suggesting an evolutionary advantage for sampling the unknown. It may also explain why re-branding of familiar products encourages to pick them off the supermarket shelves. ... "Seeking new and unfamiliar experiences is a fundamental behavioural tendency in humans and animals," says Dr Wittmann. "It makes sense to try new options as they may prove advantageous in the long run. For example, a monkey who chooses to deviate from its diet of bananas, even if this involves moving to an unfamiliar part of the forest and eating a new type of food, may find its diet enriched and more nutritious.""

NASA Cassini Saturn Image: Stellar Horizon

"The nearest star system, the trinary star Alpha Centauri, hangs above the horizon of Saturn. Both Alpha Centauri A and B -- stars very similar to our own -- are clearly distinguishable in this image. (The third star in the Alpha Centauri system, the red dwarf Proxima Centauri, is not visible here.) From the orbit of Saturn, light (as well as Cassini's radio signal) takes a little more than an hour travel to Earth. The distance to Alpha Centauri is so great that light from these stars takes more than four years to reach our Solar System. Thus, although Saturn seems a distant frontier, the nearest star is almost 30,000 times farther away."

IAU Snobbery

Dwarf Planets Are Planets Too: Get Involved!, Alan Stern, Sky and Telescope

"Classification is an important and productive scientific tool that is employed in many branches of science, from biology to geology to chemistry and astronomy."

No Peace Over Pluto, MSNBC

"The latest round in the planethood debate may well provoke planetary scientists into a revolt against the international body that usually has the last word on astronomical terminology, according to the top scientist for NASAs mission to Pluto."

"Plutoids": the new name for Pluto-like dwarf planets, PhysicsWorld

"Catherine Cesarsky, president of the IAU, dismisses such past protests. "They form a very small part of the astronomy community," she told physicsworld.com. She added that "practically nobody" is now trying to get Pluto reclassified as a planet. ... Cesarsky admits that she has not yet heard the response from the astronomy committee for the rebranding. "I don't think there will be a big [reaction]," she says. "A few people make a lot of noise."

Editor's note: OK, perhaps Catherine needs some feedback on all of this from the 99.999% of humanity who had no say in all of this - people who are now being told that what they learned in school is now wrong - based upon esoteric, and hard to understand reasons. Well, you can tell her what you think. You can find out how to contact her by email or telephone here at the official IAU website. You can also contact the IAU directly at iau@iap.fr.

Editor's update: Some prominent planetary scientists have been joining in on this discussion ... "The argument that classifying round KBOs as planets will lead to there being "too many planets" is not in any way scientific. If our solar system has 200 planets, then that is what it has. It was not designed for our convenience." ... "It may be little and not dynamically important, but Ceres has physical properties that are far more analogous to other planets like Mars than the inert, irregular asteroids. From a geophysical perspective it makes sense to categorize Ceres as a planet."

Whatz My Job Agin?

Procurement notice: LEASE OF OFF SITE OFFICE SPACE FOR MSFC OFFICE OF THE CHEIF INFORMAITON OFFICER ENTERPRISE APPLICATION COMPETENCY CENTER

Editor's 11:34 am EDT note: Hmm, what does it say when MSFC's Chief Information Officer cannot even spell their own title properly?

Editor's 4:44 pm EDT note: I guess someone reads NASA Watch - a modification has been posted:

"This is a modification to the synopsis which was posted on June 27, 2008. You are notified that the following changes are made: This amendment hereby corrects the title of the synopsis to read, "LEASE OF OFF-SITE OFFICE SPACE FOR MSFC OFFICE OF THE CHIEF INFORMATION OFFICER ENTERPRISE APPLICATION COMPETENCY CENTER"."

Gee, I wonder what this cost in terms of staff time - i.e. to tell someone that there was a spelling error, assign the task of fixing it, actually fixing it, then uploading it. This is especially relevant when you consider that most software comes equipped with spell checkers these days - something the MSFC CIO's office should know something about - right?

Long Island Air National Guard Rescue Unit Supports NASA's Haughton-Mars Project, New York State Division of Military & Naval Affairs

"The 106the Rescue Wing will support NASA's Haughton-Mars Project Research Station located in the Canadian high arctic by flying in research equipment, personnel and supplies next week. Aircraft and personnel will launch their second of three missions on June 28th for NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California at which time they will provide transportation for scientists and researchers from various universities and agencies and cargo destined for Resolute Bay on Cornwallis Island."

Two Days to Initial Deployment to Resolute Bay, HMP

Haughton Mars Project
Mars Institute
HMP Research Station's photostream, Flickr
HMP Research Station Videos, YouTube
HMP Twitter Feed

NASA's Mars Phoenix Lander Returns Treasure Trove for Science

"This soil appears to be a close analog to surface soils found in the upper dry valleys in Antarctica," Kounaves said. "The alkalinity of the soil at this location is definitely striking. At this specific location, one inch into the surface layer, the soil is very basic, with a pH of between eight and nine. We also found a variety of components of salts that we haven't had time to analyze and identify yet, but that include magnesium, sodium, potassium and chloride." "This is more evidence for water because salts are there. We also found a reasonable number of nutrients, or chemicals needed by life as we know it," Kounaves said. "Over time, I've come to the conclusion that the amazing thing about Mars is not that it's an alien world, but that in many aspects, like mineralogy, it's very much like Earth."

Position Opening: Challenger Center for Space Science Education: President

"Challenger Center for Space Science Education (CCSSE), an international nonprofit education organization founded in 1986 by the families of the Challenger 51-L astronauts, seeks an innovative and experienced leader to serve in the position of President.

Using space themed simulation experiences, CCSSE creates educational opportunities through our growing network of Challenger Learning Centers (CLC) and through web-based programming to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers."


NASA Hosts Industry Day to Discuss IT Infrastructure Acquisitions

"On Wednesday, July 23, NASA will host an Industry Day to discuss upcoming agency-wide acquisitions for the Information Technology (IT) Infrastructure Improvement Program, or I3P. The program strategically will procure information technology infrastructure services for NASA."

NASA Solicitation: NASA Headquarters Agency-wide Infrastructure Improvement Program Industry Day

"NASA will NOT conduct an open Question and Answer session as a part of this meeting."

Editor's note: According to NASA sources, Spacehab notified NASA on 29 May 2008 that it was requesting that its COTS (Commercial Orbital Transportation Services) Space Act Agreement (SAA) be terminated within 30 days. The reason given by Spacehab is an inability, on Spacehab's part, to meet SAA-specified milestones with the use of internal funds. NASA will terminate the SAA on 28 June 2008. Spacehab has confirmed this information but says that no formal press release is expected at this time.

SPACEHAB Statement on COTS Loss Mitigation Strategies, earlier posting
Spacehab Realigns Corporation - Company Positioned to Capture NASA COTS Business, earlier posting
NASA Signs Commercial Space Transportation Agreements, earlier posting

Glenn, Garn, Nelson: What Bush doesn't know about NASA, Opinion, Orlando Sentinel

"... NASA needs additional guidance from Congress on what its future course should be. It especially needs that guidance, because this administration has thoroughly failed to provide the direction -- or the funding -- necessary to achieve what President Bush called for in January 2004 when he announced the Vision for Space Exploration. We can only attempt to explain why the administration has undermined the Vision for Space Exploration, though we suspect it can be explained by Bush not knowing all the facts about what the real impact of NASA's annual budgets has been since the loss of the Columbia in 2003."

KSC Folks: Call Paul Shawcross, earlier post

Editor's note: The sad thing about all of this these days is that OMB's Paul Shawcross has more say as to what happens at NASA than NASA's Administrator does. You can yell at Mike Griffin until you are blue in the face but it is Shawcross and the OMB who calls the shots.

Senate Commerce Committee Approves National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2008

"The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation today unanimously approved a bill to reauthorize the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The bill would provide a $19.2 billion baseline authorization of appropriations for fiscal year (FY) 2009 to fund the various activities of the agency. The bill also would provide an additional $1 billion authorization of appropriations to accelerate the initial operational capability of a U.S.-owned human spacecraft and an additional $150 million for the development of a commercial crew vehicle. The total authorization of appropriations would be $20.35 billion."

Infinity and Beyond

Disney's Buzz Lightyear and Wall-E explore space for NASA, CollectSpace

"Everybody's favorite space ranger, Buzz Lightyear!" the sergeant restated, but Buzz was no where to be found. Instead, his creator, John Lasseter, jumped to the stage. "I forgot to tell you that Buzz blasted off on a special mission in outer space. Not toy outer space... real outer space," explained Disney-Pixar's chief creative officer."

The Power of Many, When We Left Earth, Discovery.com

"As a mountaineer, I'm measured not so much by my summits, but by my performance, my behavior all the way up the mountain and all the way down. If you're lucky enough to have a touch-and-go at the summit, that's great, but I've turned away from several summits over my many years of climbing for weather, running out of water, gear problems, what have you. It is important to keep your wits about you so I take some pride in knowing that I can still do that even with the temptation of the summit," [Scott Parazynski] says."

Earlier updates

Mars Down Under

Sailing Through Space -- Or Something Like It, Next Generation, Discovery Channel

"There are a lot of different aspects to traveling in space, especially the kinds of long-duration flights required to get to another planet, or to spend a stint on the International Space Station. Some aspects of those missions can be simulated on Earth, and many can't. But among those that can are the physical and psychological demands of spending a long time in a small space under challenging and occasionally life-threatening conditions."

Status reports

Editor's note: I just got back from a visit to the Smithsonian's Folklife Festival on the National Mall in downtown Washington, DC. The featured participants are NASA, Bhutan, and Texas. NASA has managed to cover a rather impressive amount of territory - both physical and topical - and the tents were already filled with people on this first day of operation. No doubt, as the 4th of July approaches and tourists flock to DC, this attendance will become even more impressive.

FWIW I will be speaking on 3 July t 2:15 pm about "new media". I am not exactly sure who I will be sharing the stage with.

Oh yes, by all means skip the Texas food tents and try the Bhutanese food. Yum.

Editor's note: This interesting video "Bounty Hunters!", by Politico.com, talks about John McCain's proposal for a $300 million prize for an advanced electric car battery, Barak Obama's suggestion that President Kennedy did not need to offer a prize to get America to the Moon (that the government was better), the X Prize, and Darth Vader's pursuit of the Millenium Falcon.

NASA Internal Email From NASA Constellation Program Manager Jeff Hanley

"So there is a lot going on. You are making it happen. Through the spring we've had the chance to interact with agency leadership on a number of occassions, and they have been uniformly complimentary of the work you have done. We have plenty of challenges, but this program is changing the way NASA works, and our success to date is because of your hard work and dedication."

Griffin Gets Snarky at DC Breakfast, earlier post

Griffin: "Um, actually, Jeff screwed up."

Editor's note: You may have seen Buzz Aldrin the other night in the last few minutes of the TV show "Numbers" - you know, that show where geeks and detectives use math and computers to solve crime. Well, Buzz also did a geeky TV ad for VW back in 1972 ...

Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation: Executive Session Full Committee

"Committee members will consider: S. ____, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2008"

Shuttles Would Complete Missions Under Bill, CQ Politics

"According to a Senate Democratic aide, the draft also contains language that would prevent NASA from retiring the shuttle fleet in 2010 if scheduled missions remain on its flight manifest. The administration decided to retire the shuttle fleet in 2010 and develop a new craft that could take astronauts farther into space."

Does Ares V + I = VI?

NASA Study Provides Next Step to Establishing Lunar Outpost

"To accomplish those objectives, the current configuration of the Ares V will use six RS-68B liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen engines on a core stage along with two five-and-one-half segment solid propellant rocket boosters, which are a direct evolution from the first stage of the Ares I rocket."

Editor's note: So, Mike, is this latest redesign going to be called the Ares VI?

Challenger Center Student Design Selected to Represent Richard Garriott's Educational Mission to the International Space Station

"This spring Challenger Center for Space Science Education invited students to use their creativity to design an original piece of art for a student mission patch for private space explorer, Richard Garriott. As the next civilian to fly to space, Richard plans to engage students around the world with his flight to the International Space Station planned for October 2008. The design was intended to symbolize the adventure and discovery of spaceflight. The winning design by Sarah Nakata, a student from the Brownsburg Challenger Center in Indiana, will appear on a special t-shirt that Richard will fly into space."

SpaceX pushes back target date for next Falcon 1 launch, SpaceflightNow

"The military informed SpaceX last week that mandatory support equipment and tracking stations in the Pacific Ocean are booked through the end of July, forcing officials to delay launch of the next Falcon 1 rocket, the company's founder said Friday. Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of Space Exploration Technologies Corp., said the U.S. Army range at Kwajalein Atoll will be busy with other activities for the next month. "Launch is no sooner than late July to early August," Musk said. "We will use the time to do additional checkouts."

NASA estimates 3,000 to 4,000 shuttle job losses, AP

"Although as many as 6,000 to 7,000 shuttle jobs will be eliminated at Kennedy Space Center, about 3,000 positions will open up in the new exploration program, said NASA Administrator Michael Griffin. Those jobs will be created to build and fly new spaceships to the international space station and, ultimately, to the moon."

NASA: Layoffs not so dire, Orlando Sentinel

"I can't say it's good news," said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who organized the Senate subcommittee hearing about the future of KSC, "but it's certainly news that's a step in the right direction."

Editor's note: OK, but are the KSC folks who are laid off re-hired - instantly? Or are they unemployed for months - or years? Mike left those details out of his attempt at happy news.

Metaphysically Speaking, Free Space, Discovery

"On Monday, NASA chief Michael Griffin told a Senate oversight committee itd run a few hundred million dollars for the extra flight, with one huge caveat: That figure presumes there is no extension of any shuttle equipment contracts. Griffin wouldnt come straight out and say it, but what he means is that if the AMS flight is added on, there wont be a shuttle available to mount a rescue mission. Since Columbia, NASA routinely adds the contingency mission to every flight."

OMB Statement of Adminstration Policy H.R. 6063 - National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2008

"... the Administration strongly opposes H.R. 6063 because it mandates specific Space Shuttle flights that greatly threaten NASA's ability to retire the Shuttle in 2010, an action that is critical to implementing the President's Vision for Space Exploration. In addition, the Administration has other serious objections to several provisions of H.R. 6063 that must be satisfactorily addressed prior to final congressional action on reauthorization legislation."

Editor's note: The sad thing about all of this these days is that OMB's Paul Shawcross has more say as to what happens at NASA than NASA's Administrator does. You can yell at Mike Griffin until you are blue in the face but it is Shawcross and the OMB who calls the shots.

Note to Paul: what is "critical to implementing the President's Vision for Space Exploration" is that you and your fellow budgeteers provide NASA with the funds to do the things the President tasked them to do - or - you change the tasks. You can't have it both ways, Paul. Right now you have more or less abandoned the agency - and a large chunk of its work force.

KSC folks: You can drop Paul an email at pshawcro@omb.eop.gov, call him at 202-395-3807, or send him a fax at 202-395-4652. You can find him in room 8225 in the New Executive Office Building or send him a note at Paul Shawcross, Chief, Science and Programs Branch; Energy, Science, and Water Division, OMB, 725 17th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20503.

White House Memo Calls For Slashing Remaining Space Shuttle Flights, earlier post

NASA Watch on ABC

Global Warming 20 Years Later, ABC News

Editor's note: I did an interview for ABC news today in this piece on Jim Hansen.

If you listen with an open mind, you can learn a lot from people who disagree with you. Even questioning the fundamentals from time to time is a good exercise to make sure we are on the right track and not on the proverbial bus trip to Abilene.

I really resonated with the comment by Joe Fitzgerald of Boston, reading his children the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. When my children were small, we read the whole series at bedtime, one chapter a night. I particularly liked "Farmer Boy" but all of the books are good because they are true and very well told. After reading those books, I always wondered if I was tough enough to be a pioneer; probably not.

Link To Launch First Small Step draws Giant Crowd

"The "Link to Launch" rally at Port Canaveral drew an estimated 1,000 people who joined hands, counted down with the roar of a shuttle launch recording, and stretched their linked hands skyward as the first step in raising the awareness that space is critical to US security, culture and economic competitiveness. The crowd of citizens included children, retirees and those representing small and large businesses, unions, and civic organizations gathered in throngs outside the field hearing of the Senate sub-committee on Space."

Editor's note: To the people holding signs up like this at the rally: in so doing you call your intentions into question - and you invite sad historical comparisons to one shuttle mission departing from- and one heading back to KSC. Neither one ever made it home. Grow up.

Another photo of this sign apears here (3rd album, 7th photo) with the caption "USA Statement of Pride". How creepy.

Editor's note 10:26 am EDT : Hansen is on the Diane Rehm show right now at WAMU at FM 88.5 Listen

Hansen will be testifying today at 3:00pm EDT today before the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

Put oil firm chiefs on trial, says leading climate change scientist, The Guardian

"James Hansen, one of the world's leading climate scientists, will today call for the chief executives of large fossil fuel companies to be put on trial for high crimes against humanity and nature, accusing them of actively spreading doubt about global warming in the same way that tobacco companies blurred the links between smoking and cancer." ....

"He is also considering personally targeting members of Congress who have a poor track record on climate change in the coming November elections. He will campaign to have several of them unseated. "

Editor's note: I'd love to see PAO's talking points on this one ... meanwhile, isn't using one's position at NASA like this a potential violation of the Hatch Act? Does Hanesen give these overtly political, partisan interviews and make these campaign suggestions while sitting at his desk?

Editor's update: I was on cue to ask a question - but the show ended just before I was called upon. This is what I submitted by email and would have asked:

Griffin: "The only thing that could have prevented this Gap would have been a significantly higher budget so that we could operate during development. [Congress] did not do that. ... Within the context of the resources available, we are doing the best that we can."
---
Nelson: "For every direct job at KSC it is multiplied to [creating] 2.5 jobs in Florida. The question is the reverse of that: do you anticipate the total jobs lost to be 2.5 jobs to be lost for every job lost at the Space Center?"

Griffin: "Yes sir, that is the multiplier that we are talking about."

Florida Link to Launch Rally to Include Addresses from Federal, State Officials

What: Link to Launch: Floridians will gather, link their hands and countdown from 30 seconds when they will lift them skyward in a gesture to show solidarity and awareness of the importance of the Space Program to America. The rally is scheduled to coincide with a Senate subcommittee hearing being held inside the Port Authority Offices. The Link to Launch movement was started by people in on Florida's Space Coast to raise the awareness of the nation and our policy makers that Space is a critical element in our nation's security, our culture and global economic competitiveness. A limited number of media seats on helicopters are available for aerial photography.

When: Monday, June 23

Senate Commerce Committee Hearing: Preparing for the Workforce Transition at Kennedy Space Center

"Monday, June 23, 2008 09:00 AM. The hearing will examine issues surrounding the retirement of the Space Shuttle and the transition to the new Orion/Ares system. Specifically, this hearing will focus on workforce related challenges at the Kennedy Space Center and analyze potential solutions to mitigate the transition's effects on the community. The hearing will be located at the Canaveral Port Authority, Commission Room, Port Canaveral Maritime Center Offices, 445 Challenger Road, Port Canaveral, Florida. [map] Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) will preside."

Editor's note: Even though Mike Griffin seems to think that jobs and space are not campaign issues, they certainly are in Florida. This could get ugly if local Space Coast employees show up (as they should) at this hearing and take Mike Griffin on, face-to-face, about job cuts and the effect upon themselves and their families. The "I don't do feelings - just think of me as Spock" [audio -- original story source] approach certainly will not work in that situation.

Florida is a key state in both Obama's and McCain's strategy to win the election. I wonder if the White House really wants an embarassment in Florida over huge job cuts and what will be portrayed as "George Bush's Moon Program" (despite repeated Congressional buy in). Stay tuned.

Apollo Job Loss on Steroids, earlier post
Politics? I Don't See Any Politics In Space Exploration, earlier post
Yes, The Party Is Indeed Over at KSC, earlier post
The Party Is Over at KSC, earlier post
Shuttle Job Cuts: Its About Time Florida Took Notice, earlier post

NASA remains silent on rocket that could rescue the Cape, Orlando Sentinel

"NASA denies there ever was such a study [Direct]. But e-mails obtained by the Orlando Sentinel and interviews with NASA employees and contractors indicate that a study was initiated last fall to compare Ares and alternatives in case a backup plan was needed."

Constellation Update, NASA Watch, 15 May 2008

"Editor's note: When I asked Steve Cook if any of his employees were working on the "Direct" or "Jupiter" project he said that he was not aware of that anyone was. When asked if this would be allowed during or after hours, he said that it would not and that this would be "unapproved" work."

Griffin: NASA Is Not Looking at Ares I Alternatives, NASA Watch, 11 Jan 2007

"Editor's note: This morning, at a breakfast sponsored by the Space Transportation Association, I asked Mike Griffin if NASA was working on any designs or plans for an alternate way to get Orion - and humans into orbit. Specifically, I asked if NASA was working on an alternative to the Ares I. Griffin said, rather emphatically, "No". Griffin's answer seems to contradict a variety of supposedly authoritative rumors suggesting that NASA is indeed seeking alternatives. Stay tuned."

Editor's note: Either Steve Cook was being less than truthful in responding to my qustion or he did not know what his own employees were up to. Either that, or everyone that the Orlando Sentinel (and others) have talked to are wrong. Someone has to be helping these Direct guys (a former submarine engineer, a software engineer, an art director, a mathematician/astronomer, and an IT guy who sells rocket models and uses an icon of von Braun instead of his own picture) since none of them has the technical background to produce the sophisticated launch vehicle design analyses and performance trades that they refer to in their pretty powerpoint slides.

This is not the first time NASA has been caught talking out of two sides of its mouth on this issue (below).

India takes on old rival China in new Asian space race, Times Online

"The world's two most populous countries -- and biggest emerging economies -- have fought one war on land and are rapidly modernising their air, naval and nuclear forces in case of another. Now India and China are taking their rivalry into orbit, with Delhi determined to catch up with Beijing in what is starting to look like an Asian version of the Cold War "space sace". General Deepak Kapoor, India's Chief of Army Staff, has spoken publicly for the first time of his fears about China's military space programme and the need for India to accelerate its own."

Ecuador boy sets zero-G flight record, AP

"A 7-year-old Ecuador boy has become the youngest passenger ever aboard a zero-gravity flight. Jules Nader says he wasn't scared during the four minutes of weightlessness he experienced aboard an air force plane."

Previous record:

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

Editor's note: Jason_1_Project Is Twittering about both Jason-1 and OSTM/Jason-2.

Planet Pluto fans rebel against 'plutoid' designation, New Scientist

"Defenders of "planet Pluto" have not been appeased by its latest name-change, and are marshalling support for a major scientific meeting devoted to debating its place in the solar system."

Pluto's identity crisis hits classrooms and bookstores, USA Today

"Meanwhile, many kids are nearly certain Pluto is still a planet. "I think it's a planet. But me and my friends, we talk about it sometimes and we go back and forth," said Natalie Browning, 9, sitting in a park in Manhattan with her family. "Right now, I'm not 100%. I'm just 75%" sure that Pluto is a planet."

The Great Planet Debate: Science as Process

John Lindsay

Reader note: It is with tremendous sadness that we announce the passing of John F. Lindsay at the age of 67. John, who was a visiting scientist on the staff of the Lunar and Planetary Institute, died early this morning after a valiant battle against cancer.

Editor's note: The MarsPhoenix Twitter feed now has 24,659 followers - and is more popular than the CNN Breaking News Twitter feed which only has 22,653 followers.

Editor's note: NanoSailD is now Twittering. It is a NASA payload awaiting launch aboard a Falcon 1 on 25 June.

Editor's update: PreSat is also a payload on this launch and is Twittering now as well.

NASA backers up ante, send message to next president, Orlando Sentinel

"President Bush "strongly opposes" the measure -- saying it costs too much -- but its backers said the bill isn't meant for him. It's intended to show presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama that NASA has support in Congress. "We're really on to the next administration at this point. That's 99 percent of our focus," said U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney, R-Oviedo, one of the bill's sponsors. "By an overwhelming, enthusiastic and bipartisan majority, the U.S. House has endorsed an aggressive promotion of NASA in general and human spaceflight in particular."

Editor's note: I got my question in during the Phoenix telecon about permafrost, ice, microhabitats, endolithic organisms, and how Phoenix is digging its trenches. In essence, I inquired about how the trenches were being analyzed in terms of the layers that might represent different freeze/thaw layers where small potentially habitable niches (for albeit putative Martian life forms) might exist.

Having dug and drilled holes down to permafrost myself on Devon Island (where Peter Smith has also visited) I recalled looking at the walls of holes I had dug in the thawed soil and seeing differences in how the rock grains were arranged as you moved down from the surface to the actual ice layer.

On Earth there are organisms called endoliths that can actually live inside of rocks and tap the solar energy that manages to penetrate the rocks. I asked if the team was guided by potential habitats wherein water in liquid form might persist. Smith et al replied that there was a Biological Potential Theme Group within their team and that these things were very much on their minds. Right now they have the prime aspects of the mission to work through (surface, top of the ice layer) but that some layering (up to 4 layers) has indeed been seen in the walls of the trenches - and that some suggestions include the possibility that these layers could be places where salts have been left behind as water evaporated.

Keith Cowing's Devon Island Journal - 28 July 2002 Drilling into permafrost
Terrestrial Lithophytic Communities - Battleship Promontory, Alatna Valley, McMurdo Dry Valleys Antarctica
Bright Chunks at NASA Phoenix Lander's Mars Site Must Have Been Ice

Senator Mikulski Pledges to fight to restore Senate-funded initiatives

"Specifically, Senator Mikulski is frustrated with cuts to critical investments proposed by the Senate for fisheries disasters, Byrne formula grants administered through the Department of Justice (DOJ), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and National Science Foundation (NSF)."

Chairwoman Mikulski Focuses on Community Security and Competitiveness in CJS Spending Bill

"The bill provides $17.8 billion for NASA, $200 million above the President's request."

Editor's note: Rep. Obey has all but conceded that the only appropriations bills that he will allow to move to a floor vote are Defense and perhaps Homeland Security. The common consensus is that the rest of the agencies will see their budgets bundled into a Continuting Resolution. As such, all of the budget increases that are being tossed around are seen more as more guidance for the next Adminstration than the current one. Whether these numbers end up in budgets is TBD.

Letter From IFPTE to House and Senate Appropriators Regarding NASA's Budget

"As both House and Senate Appropriators prepare for the full-committee mark-up of their respective Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) appropriations measures, the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), NASA's largest Union, would like to thank House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey for his decision to increase the CJS allocation, and House CJS Subcommittee Chairman Allan Mollohan for his decision to use almost $200 million of that increase to begin the restoration of NASA's Science, Aeronautics, and Education programs."

Bright Chunks at NASA Phoenix Landers Mars Site Must Have Been Ice

"Dice-size crumbs of bright material have vanished from inside a trench where they were photographed by NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander four days ago, convincing scientists that the material was frozen water that vaporized after digging exposed it. "It must be ice," said Phoenix Principal Investigator Peter Smith of The University of Arizona, Tucson. "These little clumps completely disappearing over the course of a few days, that is perfect evidence that it's ice," Smith added. "There had been some question whether the bright material was salt. Salt can't do that."

More Of This, Please

NASA and Disney Invite Kids to Explore Space With Wall-E

"An animated robot and his spacefaring companion are leading a campaign by NASA and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures to promote interest among schoolchildren in science and technology. NASA and Disney have signed a Space Act Agreement for a series of educational and public outreach activities related to Disney-Pixar's new movie, WALL-E, opening in theaters nationwide on June 27, 2008. This collaboration highlights the similarities between the movie's storyline and NASA's real-life work in robot technology, propulsion systems and astrophysics."

Smithsonian's Folklife Festival Celebrates NASA's 50 Years

"Moon buggies, stardust and space food are a few of the things visitors will learn about at the "NASA: 50 Years and Beyond" program during this summer's Smithsonian Folklife Festival. The program will showcase the role men and women of NASA have played in broadening the horizons of American science and culture, and the role they will continue to play in shaping the future through exploration and stirring the public imagination. The festival will be held outdoors on the National Mall between 7th and 14th streets from Wednesday, June 25, through Sunday, June 29, and Wednesday, July 2, through Sunday, July 6. Admission is free."

Richardson's presidential campaign donated to help get spaceport tax passed

"Gov. Bill Richardson's unsuccessful presidential campaign was the largest contributor to a political action committee that pushed for passage of a spaceport tax referendum in Sierra County last April, according to reports submitted to the New Mexico Secretary of State's office. The Richardson for President campaign gave $10,000 to People for Aerospace of Sierra County on April 8, two weeks before the April 22 vote in which Sierra residents overwhelmingly approved the tax, clearing the way for a spaceport taxation district."

New Gallup Poll Reveals Americans Strongly Support Space Exploration, Believe it Inspires Younger Generation, Coalition for Space Exploration

"Approximately two-thirds (68%) of adults surveyed agree that the benefits of space exploration outweigh the risks of human space flight. "

Editor's note: Ok, so Americans support space exploration - but do they want to pay (more) to do it? There is a difference between "support" (words) and reaching for your wallet.

Gallup Poll Results (PDF), Coalition for Space Exploration

"Approximately one in every two (52%) adults say they would support increasing NASAs budget from one-sixth of one percent to one percent of the federal budget (14% strongly support and 38% support this). Nearly as many (45%) report they oppose increasing the budget (30% oppose it and 15% strongly oppose it)."

But

"When the public is asked how willing they would be to support an increase in taxes if the money was to go to NASA to help close the budget deficit, 43% said they would be willing however, more than half(57%) report they would not be willing. There was not a great deal of variation in responses by gender, age or education a majority in each of these groups said they would not be willing to support an increase in taxes to help close this five-year budget deficit."

Editor's note: In essence, a razor thin majority in this poll supports more budget money for NASA - so long as it comes from somewhere else - but not if it means that they have to pay more taxes. Sounds like broad, but thin and diffuse support for NASA. I'd be curious to see what a poll of the same people would show if mention of "NASA" was omitted and questions were simply asked about space exploration - as a concept - regardless of how it would be done (private and/or private sector).

If the Coalition for Space Exploration really wants to further the notion of a robust taxpayer-funded program of space exploration - one based on a solid footing of public support - then they need to start paying attention to what their polls actually say and stop trying to skew the results to say something that the numbers do not support. If, however, they want to support space exploration - regardless of how it comes about - then they need to re-examine their motives - and ask different questions.

People might not want to pay more taxes for space exploration, but they might be interested in buying a ticket.

House Passes H.R. 6063

House Overwhelmingly Approves NASA Reauthorization Act

"The bipartisan consensus we have reached on H.R. 6063 signals that Congress believes a balanced NASA program of science, aeronautics, and human spaceflight and exploration is important and worthy of the nation's support," said Gordon. "Yet, I want to emphasize that H.R. 6063 takes a fiscally-responsible approach to providing that support."

House Passes H.R. 6063 to Reauthorize Wide Array of NASA Programs

"With broad support, the House of Representatives today passed H.R. 6063, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2008, authorizing programs at NASA for fiscal year 2009 (FY09). The bill passed the House by a vote of 409 to 15."

House Passes NASA Re-Authorization Bill, IFPTE

"IFPTE is pleased that workforce provisions proposed by Representatives Kucinich and Danny Davis were added by Chairman Gordon's manager's amendment. The layoff moratorium is essential for improving employee morale as it will allow NASA's workforce to focus on technical productivity and on program continuity, not on job security."

OMB Statement of Adminstration Policy H.R. 6063 - National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2008

"... the Administration strongly opposes H.R. 6063 because it mandates specific Space Shuttle flights that greatly threaten NASA's ability to retire the Shuttle in 2010, an action that is critical to implementing the President's Vision for Space Exploration. In addition, the Administration has other serious objections to several provisions of H.R. 6063 that must be satisfactorily addressed prior to final congressional action on reauthorization legislation."

Bay Area pilot Janet Christine Dietrich dies, SF Chronicle

"At the dawn of the space race in the early 1960s, Bay Area pilot Janet Christine Dietrich was one of 13 women who underwent secret astronaut testing, passing the same rigorous physical and psychological assessments as the men who became immortalized as America's first astronauts."

House adds extra shuttle flight in NASA budget

"The House on Wednesday approved a $20 billion NASA spending bill that calls for an extra Space Shuttle flight before the spacecraft program is shut down. ... The purpose of the additional flight would be to deliver to the International Space Station the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer for experiments in seeking out unusual matter in space."

GAO Sustains Boeing Bid Protest - Agency Recommends Air Force Reopen the Bid Process

"The Government Accountability Office (GAO) today sustained the Boeing Company's protest of the Department of the Air Force's award of a contract to Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation for KC-X aerial refueling tankers. Boeing challenged the Air Force's technical and cost evaluations, conduct of discussions, and source selection decision."

Former NASA Science Chief Alan Stern joins Odyssey Moon, the first registered competitor in the Google Lunar X PRIZE

"Odyssey Moon, a commercial lunar enterprise, announced today that former NASA Associate Administrator Dr. Alan Stern has accepted a role with the Isle of Man-based company. Dr. Stern was a recognized engine of change and innovation as chief of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, championing new science programs while being a stalwart advocate of cost and value control when he served at NASA."

University dominates the solar system -- for cheap

"Space researchers at the University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics are not only brilliant (they are, after all, rocket scientists), but it turns out they're pretty thrifty too. On Tuesday, scientists from LASP returned a check -- a very large, shiny, aluminum "space" check -- to NASA for a cool $2,997,000. The extra money was shaved from efficient operation of a satellite -- known as SORCE, for Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment -- that measures the sun's radiation."

Editor's note: OHMYGOD. Refunding money to NASA because a project is more efficient than was originally anticipated? That's heresy! What happens if this catches on and other NASA missions and projects turn out to be more efficient and issue refunds? That could ruin everything!

Then again, it would provide a new source of funds for SMD to use to cover MSL and JWST overruns.

NASA popular, but tax hike for funding isn't, poll finds

"Key arguments being made by supporters of increased NASA funding are not resonating with the American public, a new Gallup Poll released Tuesday found. The poll conducted for a business group called the Coalition for Space Exploration found that voters strongly approve of the venerable space agency's work but are reluctant to pay more taxes to finance new initiatives."

Starting a conversation is hard. Getting off on the wrong foot can happen so quickly and then any chance of a meaningful encounter is lost. I am really interested in starting a conversation. Not a conversation on any subject, but a conversation about space exploration and why that effort is meaningful.

Perhaps you agree, perhaps you disagree, but you certainly know some things I don't. And I am really interested in finding out what I don't know (which is a lot!)

Space Education Update

Lockheed Martin Partners With Bay Area Teachers to Inspire Future Generations of Scientists and Engineers

"Lockheed Martin is hosting 20 elementary school, middle school, and high school teachers over the summer as part of the company's on-going partnership with the Bay Area-based Industry Initiatives for Science and Math Education (IISME). The IISME organization works to foster a strong, highly skilled workforce in mathematics, science and technology."

Students Chosen as Cassini Scientists for a Day

"Four students have won the Cassini Scientist for a Day contest, with most choosing Rhea, Saturn's second-largest moon, as the best place for scientists to study using NASA's Cassini spacecraft."

Former NFL Player Ken Harvey Teams Up With Challenger Center and Richard Garriott

"Can you play sports in space? Challenger Center and Richard Garriott, the next civilian to fly into space, teams up with former NFL player and four time pro bowler, Ken Harvey and his company JAKA Consulting group to promote a series of fitness activities that students can do here on earth."

New Gallup Poll Reveals Americans Strongly Support Space Exploration, Believe it Inspires Younger Generation

"As America prepares to celebrate the 50th anniversary of NASA later this year, a new Gallup Poll released today shows strong support for the U.S. Space Exploration Program. The most recent poll, conducted in May 2008, is the latest in a series of four polls commissioned by the Coalition for Space Exploration in an effort to better understand the extent of support and public attitudes toward America's space program. The first three polls were conducted in June 2005, March 2006 and August 2006."

Editor's note: Great news! Too bad the Coalition can't seem to figure out all of that advanced Internet stuff so as to have a way to let people visiting its website i.e. the main home page, the press releases page, and oddly, the Gallup Poll page, and find these poll results easily. Oh yes, where's the emailing to media and space websites? Or is NASA Watch no longer on your list?

Editor's note: I came across this Tweet (a Twitter posting) from BoreholeGroup (conducts scientific research by lowering tools into oceanic boreholes). An interesting education and public outreach spinoff from NASA:

"NASA has had great success with Send Your Name to Space program. We should be able to come up with a Send Your Name to Ocean Depths program."

Editor's note: The NASA Astrobiology Institute is now Twittering at AstrobiologyNAI

You can also get the latest Astrobiology news at the Astrobiology Twitter feed or at Astrobiology.net and Astrobiology.com

Fixing 39A

What it will take to fix launch pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center, Orlando Sentinel

"Up close, the area underneath Kennedy Space Center's main shuttle launchpad looks like a cross between an archaeological dig and a crime scene after a bomb blast. There's a 75-by-20-foot swath in a wall where bricks that protect the pad's concrete foundation were blasted off by the roaring exhaust of the shuttle Discovery two weeks ago."

Editor's note: NASAGLAST is now twittering about its on-orbit checkout and initial operations.

NASA Astrobiology Research: Astronaut, Scientists Explore Lake to Learn More About Life (Video and links added)

Editor's note: NASA Ames Public Affairs has dropped the ball again. They did not bother to mention the word "astrobiology", Astrobiology Science and Technology for Exploring Planets (ASTEP), or the NASA Astrobiology Insitute. Yet this entire activity is all about Astrobiology. Nor did they bother to link to the Pavilion Lake Research Project's website or to the SETI Institute or the Deep Worker's provider, Nuytco Research.

Why they'd omit any mention of this signature activity at Ames is simply baffling.

NASA Edge: These ARE the droids you are looking for...

"If Luke could have put NASA's Chariot, ATHLETE, K-10 and the LSMS on the south ridge near his home on Tatooine, he could have joined the rebellion much sooner, avoided kissing his sister and even saved his father. Okay, maybe I'm stretching things a little bit. But after only 10 seconds of seeing these vehicles in action, it is tough to supress my enthusiasm. We arrived late in the afternoon in the thick of multiple simulations. The pictures don't quite capture the 20 mph wind, dust devils and chaotic temperatures, but each projects' team and hardware didn't seem phased. They were vigilantly putting everything, including themselves through the data collection ringer... And loving every minute of it. I have to hand it to them all. They are real troopers."

OMB Statement of Adminstration Policy H.R. 6063 - National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2008

"... the Administration strongly opposes H.R. 6063 because it mandates specific Space Shuttle flights that greatly threaten NASA's ability to retire the Shuttle in 2010, an action that is critical to implementing the President's Vision for Space Exploration. In addition, the Administration has other serious objections to several provisions of H.R. 6063 that must be satisfactorily addressed prior to final congressional action on reauthorization legislation."

Chairman Mollohan's Statement on FY 2009 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee Markup

"The subcommittee recommendation provides ... $17.8 billion for NASA. Increases above the request for NASA are spread nearly evenly between science and aeronautics."

Ares Family Problems

Editor's note: It would seem that ESMD's implementation of the exploration architecture put forth in the ESAS study is not going smoothly . The original Ares V concept (named/modeled after Apollo's 5 engine Saturn V) was not capable of launching what NASA needs to launch. So, an internal study recommends adding a 6th engine to Ares V and stretching everything else to boost performance. Meanwhile, the vibration problems that have plagued Ares 1 have not been solved. Stay tuned for some bad news and another schedule slip in the near future.

Twitters From Mars! A Ghost-Written Micro-Blog Makes NASA's Robot Lander Less Alien, Washington Post

"... But the experiment got such a great response -- it now has more than 20,000 followers -- that the team has continued to use Twitter to share details of their findings on Mars."

All the twitter about the Mars Phoenix lander, Federal Computing Week

"For JPL, the social-networking sites are a great source of feedback, McGregor said. Shes documenting her experience with Twitter to create a best practices document for others at JPL and NASA to use. The agencies have already set up pages for future missions, she added."

MarsPhoenix, Twitter

A bad cut, editorial, Houston Chronicle

"In its 50-year history, NASA has made the United States the world's leader in space exploration, research and innovation, and has perfected technology and advances that have become part of daily living. Now, other nations are closing the technological gap, and the administration should encourage, not obstruct, NASA's continued vitality. After all, the war in Iraq is costing American taxpayers $3 billion a week. The White House is objecting to a NASA budget increase of $2.6 billion. That looks like quite a bargain in comparison."

Space Shuttle Discovery Returns to Earth

"Space Shuttle Discovery landed at Kennedy Space Center this morning at 11:15 a.m. on runway 15 at the shuttle landing facility. Commander Mark Kelly performed the deorbit burn at 10:10 a.m. EDT to begin space shuttle Discovery's descent to Kennedy Space Center for landing."

More ISS/Shuttle news
STS-124 Twitter Feed

Changing Horses

NASA Awards Contract for Constellation Spacesuit for the Moon

Oceaneering Announces NASA Space Suit Contract

Hamilton Must Wait For NASA Rationale, Hartford Courant

"It will be at least 10 days before NASA makes public its rationale for abandoning Hamilton Sundstrand as its spacesuit supplier after more than 40 years. The federal space agency announced Thursday that it has awarded a contract for the next-generation spacesuit to Oceaneering International of Houston, the only bidder competing against a Hamilton partnership called Exploration Systems and Technology."

NASA: Metal clip fell off shuttle but not problem, AP

"A metal clip fell from Discovery's brakes on Friday but NASA said it won't delay the space shuttle's scheduled landing on Saturday. The astronauts reported to Mission Control earlier Friday that they saw a rectangular object, about 1 to 1 1/2 feet long, floating away from the tail of the shuttle. It turned out to be one of three metal clips around thermal insulation. The insulation is in the shuttle's rudder speed brake, which is used to slow the spacecraft as it comes in for a landing. NASA says the missing clip isn't critical for landing. It's used to protect the speed brake from high temperatures during the shuttle's launch."

Editor's note: Technically speaking, nothing "fell" off of Discovery. Rather, it became detached and drifted away, following its own independent orbit ...

Editor's note: WayneHale Is now Twittering. He has 16 followers. Maybe he will add a few more. Update: in 2 hours he more than doubled his number of followers.

Oh yes MarsPhoenix currently has 20,057 followers. CNNBreaking News has 21,667 followers. Soon Phoenix may be more popular than CNN on Twitter - and will have done so in mere weeks.

The Real Value of Twitter To NASA's Space Missions, Wired

"What better way to reach a multi-tasking, short-attention-spanned Gen Y'er than to limit your messages to 140 characters? I think my favorite NASA Baby Boomer reaction to Twitter (a micro blogging tool that lets you send 140 characters to subscriber's Instant Messaging programs or cell phones) is, "Well, there is a technology that solves a problem I don't have."

Editor's note: Yawn, yet another example of someone parsing new Internet capabilities (such as Twitter) into false dichotomiesas belonging to either Gen Y or Baby Boomers. This is getting old. Look at the most popular Twitter feeds. I can see a large number of authors/topics whose feeds are most certainly NOT being authored by someone from Gen Y. Can't we all just get along and use these tools without applying an inaccurate litmus test?

Reader note: "Check these two images out. They show the range in size of "planets" in our solar system, and some well known "stars". One might ask, given on the size range, if Pluto isn't a "planet", why would the Sun be a "star"?"

Images below

Everest Recap

Astronaut's adventures don't end in space

"Parazynski joined NASA's astronaut corps in 1992 and flew to Russia's Mir space station as well as its successor, the international space station. He crewed on a shuttle flight in 1998 with John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, and in Houston he trains astronauts for spacewalks. He's unsure whether he will be given an opportunity for a sixth trip into space.

But the desire burns, close to his quest for another shot at Everest's summit. "The mountain will always be there," he said. "It's not that I need to prove anything. The more I thought about it coming home, the more I longed for going back. "I just want to see it with my own eyes."

More information on Scott's climb at EverestOnOrbit

HSM4 Intro, John Frassanito & Associates

Link below.

9th Rock from the Sun

Plutoid chosen as name for Solar System objects like Pluto, IAU

Pluto's namesakes: Similar bodies are 'plutoids', AP

"It was not enough to satisfy leading Pluto-as-a-planet advocate Alan Stern, a former NASA space sciences chief and principal investigator on a mission to Pluto. Stern said a rival group could be formed to the IAU, which he said was too secretive in its decision-making. "It's just some people in a smoke-filled room who dreamed it up," Stern said. "Plutoids or hemorrhoids, whatever they call it. This is irrelevant."

Editor's note: This letter has been going out to Apollo program veterans from United Space Alliance:

"I was given your name by some folks here, who told me you were involved in the Apollo program. I am part of the NASA/Contractor Process Control Focus Group and we develop awareness products for suppliers and the workforce.

With Shuttle coming to a close in the next couple of years, we were brainstorming ideas that would have an impact on our workforce. Then we thought about the Apollo program and what the environment was like when the folks knew the program was coming to an end. I assume it is similar to our current situation, the folks are nervous, preoccupied, etc. and therefore the potential exists for more process escapes.

IFPTE Letter To Congress Regarding NASA Re-Authorization bill H.R. 6063

"Although IFPTE supports the bill and the resources called for in H.R. 6063, we continue to have reservations with some of the provisions. We are particularly concerned that adding three additional Shuttle flights to the official manifest may move Shuttle Operations past the Columbia Accident Investigation Board's (CAIB) firm deadline of retirement by the end of 2010. In addition to the daunting safety considerations, should the Shuttle timeline slip past this deadline, many billions of dollars of additional costs will be required, dollars that are not contemplated in H.R. 6063 and not likely to be appropriated."

Let's Steal the Soyuz, Discovery Space Diary

"Well not "steal" it exactly, just do what Japan has done to our automobile industry, China to textiles and India to tech support. Import it, then re-label 'Made in America.' It'd be a neat way around the prohibition against buying Soyuz from the Russians, who are being punished -- not really -- for providing technology and dangerous ideas widely available on the internet to Iran, which is next door to Iraq and probably what the Bush Administration was really aiming for when they got us embroiled in the bruhaha over there."

ISS As A Space Port

Space Adventures Announces Google Co-Founder Sergey Brin as Orbital Spaceflight Investor and Founding Member of Orbital Mission Explorers Circle

Space Adventures Announces Agreement for the First Private Mission to the International Space Station

"Space Adventures, the only company that provides human space missions to the world marketplace, announced today that it has finalized an arrangement with its long-standing partner, the Federal Space Agency of the Russian Federation (FSA), to launch the first private mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The mission is scheduled to launch in the second half of 2011. This private spaceflight opportunity will be a fully dedicated mission of the Soyuz-TMA spacecraft with two seats available for private space explorers, along with a comprehensive package of mission services including science, education and media program options."

Space Shuttle Discovery Undocks from International Space Station

"Discovery undocked from the International Space Station today at 7:42 a.m. EDT, ending its almost nine-day stay at the orbital outpost. On Tuesday, The STS-124 and Expedition 17 crews bid one another farewell, and closed the hatches between the two spacecraft at 4:42 p.m. STS-124 arrived at the station June 2, delivering the Japanese Pressurized Module, the second pressurized component of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agencys Kibo laboratory, to the station."

More ISS/Shuttle news
STS-124 Twitter Feed

NASA Balks at Taking Physics Gear Into Space, NPR

"NASA has scheduled just 10 more space shuttle flights before retiring its fleet for good. But the space agency may have to add one more mission, to bring a seven-ton $1.5 billion physics experiment into space."

Review: The Universe in a Mirror, Space Review

"Zimmerman does appear to go too far when he tries to link the December 2004 resignation of Griffins predecessor, Sean OKeefe, with a report critical of his decisions to cancel the shuttle mission and study a robotic repair option, released five days before OKeefes announcement."

Editor's note: There is no linkage.

Leland Belew

Reader note: Leland Belew died Friday afternoon after a long illness. He was 83. Mr. Belew joined the the Von Braun team in 1951 and 1958 he was appointed Manager of Engine Programs for MSFC where he was responsible for engine development for a variety of vehicles including the Saturn V. Mr. Belew was later Apollo Applications (Apollo-Soyuz) Manager and Manager of the Skylab program at MSFC. Mr. Belew was Deputy Director of Science and Engineering at MSFC when he retired from NASA.

Tony Lavoie reassigned to the Senior Executive Service position of Space Systems Department deputy manager

"Pending final approval by NASA Headquarters, I am pleased to announce the reassignment of Mr. Tony Lavoie to the Senior Executive Service position of Deputy Manager, Space Systems Department, Engineering Directorate, Marshall Space Flight Center."

NASA Lunar Surface Systems Concept Studies Broad Agency Announcement

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is currently studying lunar outpost architecture concepts, including habitation, mobility and communication systems, to support U.S. lunar exploration and science objectives. NASA is in the process of defining functional capabilities and concepts for architectural elements to provide core capabilities.

NASA conducted a discussion of a planned Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) for Lunar Surface Systems Concept Studies on June 6, 2008, at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, DC."

EPOCh Observations: NASA EPOXI's Spacecraft Observes the Earth-Moon System

"As part of the EPOXI mission's objectives to characterize the Earth as a planet for comparison with planets around other stars, the spacecraft looked back at Earth collecting a series of images. In the left image the Earth-Moon system is seen with the Moon beginning its transit in front of Earth. It was taken on May 29, 2008 through three filters: blue, green and orange, centered at 450, 550 and 650 nm respectively, while the spacecraft was 0.33 AU (49,367,340 km and 30,675,43 miles) from Earth. The image on the right is a simulation showing the view of Earth from the spacecraft's perspective."

NASA chief urges Europe to build manned spaceship

"NASA encouraged Europe on Thursday to develop its own manned spaceship, which would give the world -- and particularly the U.S. -- another way of reaching the international space station. Europe became "a full-fledged space power," the agency's administrator said, when flight controllers at a European Space Agency center guided an unmanned cargo ship to the international space station in April, successfully delivering food, water and clothes."

McCain Wants a Man on Mars, Washington post

"Yes, I'd be willing to spend more taxpayers dollars,'' McCain said, adding he thought Americans respond to setting goals for specific projects. McCain said ever since reading Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles, "I'm intrigued by a man on Mars. I think it would excite the imagination of the American people . . . Americans would be very willing to do that.''

Video Of McCain's comments (scroll down a bit)

NASA to Announce Constellation Spacesuit Contract Award

"The spacesuit system contract is for the design, development, test, evaluation, production, processing and sustaining engineering of extravehicular activity equipment to support astronauts aboard the Orion crew exploration vehicle and the Altair lunar lander.

The Constellation Program is building spacecraft and systems to carry astronauts on trips to the International Space Station, and later, to the moon."

Generation Y Characterizations Presentation (June 2008, 196k), opennasa.com

Editor's note: This presentation was made at ISDC. There is nothing really new in here when you consider the previous presentations this group of younger, so-called "Gen Y" NASA employees has been making.

The tone of this briefing is often annoying. Its almost as if this generation (assuming that this presentation is the definitive description thereof) thinks they are the first ones to be different than their parents, and that they see the world in a different way than their parents, and that they need to be treated differently.

Stylish Moon Buggies

Move over Phoenix: Moonstream Mars rover, the best view of the Red Planet, DVICE

"Anthony Sims, a student at the Art Center College of Design, conceptualized the Moonstream rover after forms found in nature, such as turtles and whales, and modeled it after working NASA designs. Each wheel, for instance, can walked upon just like NASA's Athlete robot. Inside, astronauts will find a cabin built for comfort and security, with space that allows some privacy as well as ample room to work and sleep. Form isn't fighting function here, either the driver lies against an independently suspended pod that allows the pilot to spot troublesome terrain as well as remain stable through rough riding."

Letter From Reps. Kucinich and Davis Regarding Workforce Provisions Within H.R. 6063, the NASA Authorization Act of 2008

"We applaud your efforts and those of Chairman Udall to revitalize NASA by authorizing a budget that will allow NASA to succeed in all of its critical missions. We also support your goal of securing new workforce provisions within H.R. 6063, the NASA Authorization Act of 2008, to preserve and re-invigorate NASA's workforce. Over the last 7 years, NASA's workforce has experienced turmoil and uncertainty, leading to a decrease in morale as indicated by the results of NASA's recent "Culture Survey." Last year, the National Research Council reported that NASA was facing a workforce crisis caused by a sustained failure to recruit and train the next generation of technical employees."

Reps. Danny Davis, Kucinich defend NASA workforce, IFPTE

"International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) President Gregory Junemann expressed his appreciation for Chairman Davis' and Rep. Kucinich's pro-active effort to restore full protection to NASA's workforce"

NASA And Google Announce Lease at Ames Research Center

"NASA and Google Inc. Wednesday announced plans to develop a new high-technology campus at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif. Under the terms of the 40-year agreement, Google will lease 42.2 acres of unimproved land in NASA Research Park at Ames to construct up to 1.2 million square feet of offices and research and development (R&D) facilities in a campus-style setting.

Today's announcement is the latest in a series of collaborations dating back to September 2005, when NASA and Google announced plans to work together on a variety of technology-focused R&D activities. NASA and Google signed a memorandum of understanding that year, launching negotiations for this development in NASA Research Park. Located at Ames, NASA Research Park is a world-class, shared-use educational and research-and-development campus."

House Science and Technology Committee Committee Approves NASA Authorization Act

"H.R. 6063, introduced by Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Chairman Mark Udall (D-CO), authorizes appropriations for NASA's activities - science, aeronautics, exploration, education, space operations, inspector general, cross-agency support programs - for Fiscal Year 2009. FY 2009 funding for NASA is $20.21 billion. This bipartisan legislation was originally cosponsored by the Science and Technology Committee's Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN), Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX), and Subcommittee Ranking Member Tom Feeney (R-FL). "H.R. 6063 will help point NASA towards a more productive and sustainable future," stated Udall."

AIAA President Urges House to Pass NASA Authorization Act, HR 6063

Scott Parazynski Everest Photo Update 4 June 2008

"Image: a self-portrait just before going to bed at CIII on O's"

Pictures From the Summit of Mt. Everest, OnOrbit.com

"These two photos were taken of Scott Parazynski's good friend and climbing partner Adam Janikowski on the summit of Mt. Everest. Adam is shown posing with memorial banners for cosmonauts and astronauts who died during their missions (which were left at the summit) and Explorers Club Flag #114 (which will be returned to the Explorers Club along with a report)."

Astronaut and Mountaineer Scott Parazynski Brings Explorers Club Flag to Mount Everest, OnOrbit.com

Astronaut Scott Parazynski: Many Small Steps to the Summit of Mt. Everest, OnOrbit.com

U.S. Rep. Bud Cramer still hasn't chosen Obama or Clinton, Birmingham News

"Cramer said Obama had positions about space exploration and how far along the space agency was in funding a return trip to the Moon and on to Mars. He said Obama made it clear that the exploration program was not just a signature of the Bush Administration, but one that many congressmen had wanted for years. "I wanted them to look at the issues more thoroughly ... I just got a commitment that they would," he said."

A survivor in Greenland: A novel bacterial species is found trapped in 120,000-year-old ice, Penn State

"A team of Penn State scientists has discovered a new ultra-small species of bacteria that has survived for more than 120,000 years within the ice of a Greenland glacier at a depth of nearly two miles. The microorganism's ability to persist in this low-temperature, high-pressure, reduced-oxygen, and nutrient-poor habitat makes it particularly useful for studying how life, in general, can survive in a variety of extreme environments on Earth and possibly elsewhere in the solar system."

One week after landing, the NASA Mars Phoenix lander practices digging, University of Arizona

"A glint of bright material appears in the scooped-up soil and in the hole from which it came. "That bright material might be ice or salt. We're eager to do testing of the next three surface samples collected nearby to learn more about it," said Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St. Louis, Phoenix co-investigator for the robotic arm."

Instant Messaging Proves Useful in Reducing Workplace Interruption, Ohio State

"Employers seeking to decrease interruptions may want to have their workers use instant messaging software, a new study suggests. A recent study by researchers at Ohio State University and University of California, Irvine found that workers who used instant messaging on the job reported less interruption than colleagues who did not."

Hacking Phoenix

Hacker changes Phoenix Mars Lander's website, spokeswoman says, AP

"A spokeswoman for the Phoenix Mars Lander mission says a hacker took over the mission's public website during the night and changed its lead news story. Spokeswoman Sara Hammond says a mission update posted Friday was replaced with a hacker's signature and a link redirecting visitors to an overseas website."

Space exploration on the cheap: America misses its moment, The Hill

"... All achieved by the clear vision laid out by President Kennedy when he told the nation that our goal was to be on the moon by the end of the 1960s. By comparison, today's lack of political leadership when it comes to space exploration is embarrassing.

Don't get me wrong. This is not a Republican or a Democratic matter. And politicians are not the only ones to blame. We the people, who have not exactly demanded excellence from our government over the past few decades, share a big part of the blame as well. Maybe even most of the blame."

Wreck, death prompts review of gate security, Huntsville Times

"Radio systems may have slowed the warning to guards. Redstone Arsenal military officers will investigate how a vehicle breached Gate 1 Friday during a high-speed chase with the Huntsville Police Department, and, although unrelated to the fatal chase, several gates will receive security improvements over the next month, the post's senior commander said Monday."

Twittering Planck

ESA's Planck spacecraft is now Twittering.

NASA Solicitation: NASA Lunar Science Institute

"On June 2, 2008, NASA SMD, in cooperation with ESMD, is releasing a Cooperative Agreement Notice soliciting proposals for the NASA Lunar Science Institute (NLSI). Proposers will be required to clearly articulate an innovative, interdisciplinary, lunar research program, together with plans to advance the full scope of NLSI objectives as defined in the Institute's Mission Statement. Proposals may address science of the Moon, on the Moon, and from the Moon, including objectives that meet NASA's future lunar exploration needs. NASA anticipates making $8-10M per year available for this selection, leading to 5 to 7 awards at least one of which will be focused on exploration objectives. Awards will be for 4 years duration."

NASA's own watchdog: Agency misled on global warming, AP

"NASA public affairs officials criticized by the report called it wrong, saying they were always open and truthful. Not so, according to the report. The report did not directly accuse them of lying, but used more nuanced terms such as "mendacity" and "dissembling." The space agency complained those terms were unjust."

Investigative Summary Regarding Allegations that NASA Suppressed Climate Change Science and Denied Media Access to Dr. James E. Hansen, A NASA Scientist

Editor's note: This report really goes to extreme - and I think slightly absurd - lengths not to use the word "lie". Yet multiple instances where someone at NASA was not telling the truth - or telling slanted/partial truths - was meticulously documented. Unless I am mistaken some of the words used instead mean exactly - or darn close to the word "lie". All you need is to type these words into Google to see what they really mean.

Page 47: "We uncovered no direct evidence to substantiate their beliefs, but the circumstantial evidence (to include the apparent mendacity of one or more senior Public Affairs officials)"

mendacity:

"1. The condition of being mendacious; untruthfulness.
2. A lie; a falsehood."

Then there's this instance:

NASA MSFC Internal Memo Regarding Darren Spurlock and Kathleen Lundy

"I am sure that today is a day of unrest around the center, and rightly so. Even after a successful space shuttle launch on Saturday, the tragic automobile accident on Friday that resulted in the death of our co-worker and friend, Darren Spurlock and injury of Kathleen Lundy, has us all feeling down, and asking questions about how and why."

Memorial information

Pad Damage at KSC

Shuttle launch pad damaged during Discovery's liftoff, Spaceflightnow

"Launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center suffered extensive damage during the shuttle Discovery's blastoff Saturday, NASA officials say. Photographs by news media photographers and others provided by NASA sources show heat-resistant bricks lining large sections of the "flame trench" wall beneath the shuttle's mobile launch platform were blown out by Discovery's booster exhaust, littering the area behind the pad and damaging a perimeter fence."

NASA'S Griffin: Space is not an election issue, Orlando Sentinel

"In a quick interview before Discovery was set for liftoff on Saturday, NASA Chief Mike Griffin dismissed the notion promoted by many political strategists in Florida that space was an election issue. He also said he was confident that the successor to the shuttle program would survive the change of administration next year.

"Space is not an election issue," Griffin said. "Iraq is an election issue. The economy is an election issue. The deficit is an election issue. But space is not an election issue and they [the candidates] are not focused on it, and I don't expect them to be."

His blunt assessment runs contrary to efforts being made by space supporters on Capitol Hill to make NASA and money for human space flight an election issue, especially in Florida. Leading the charge is Florida's democratic senator Bill Nelson, who earlier this week told the Washington Space Business Roundtable that space will be critical to winning Florida, and thus the White House."

But wait - there's more

Editor's note: Gee Mike, what about the thousands of jobs to be cut - cuts based on political decisions - and your implementation thereof? The fact that you don't see real world aspects of how the space program actually works simply confirms your oft-noted total lack of political radar.

Investigative Summary Regarding Allegations that NASA Suppressed Climate Change Science and Denied Media Access to Dr. James E. Hansen, A NASA Scientist

"Regardless of the aforementioned Space Act standards, we otherwise found that the Agency mismanaged this activity insomuch as it occurred over a sustained period of time until senior management was eventually alerted by congressional staff and the media. That senior management did not know before then was emblematic of ineffective internal management controls such as a dispute resolution mechanism between contributing scientists and public affairs officials. This is especially true in that relations between NASA's climate change science community and the NASA Headquarters Office of Public Affairs had somehow deteriorated into acrimony, non-transparency, and fear that science was being politicized--attributes that are wholly inconsistent with effective and efficient Government. The investigation also uncovered that one of the underlying contributing factors of these problems may have, in fact, been in the very structure of the NASA Headquarters Office of Public Affairs, where political appointees were placed in the seemingly contradictory position of ensuring the "widest practicable" dissemination of NASA research results that were arguably inconsistent with the Administration's policies, such as the "Vision for Space Exploration."

Excerpts below

NASA's Space shuttle Discovery Arrives at the International Space Station

"Space shuttle Discovery docked with the International Space Station at 2:03 p.m. EDT, delivering the STS-124 crew, a new Japanese module and a new crew member to the orbital outpost. Discovery carries with it the second component of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Kibo laboratory, the Japanese Pressurized Module (JPM). The JPM will join the first component of Kibo, the Japanese Logistics Module, which was launched on the last shuttle flight, STS-123, in March."
Mission information

LRO Is Now Twittering

Editor's note: LRO is now twittering! But it only has 39 followers - so far.

Editor's update: I just twittered: "Maybe @MarsPhoenix can send a note of encouragement to @LRO_NASA who is Twittering from the (boring) white room right now (ala C3PO/R2D2)". Perhaps Phoenix can send some new fans to LRO.

Hmm ... you could take little SMD snippets about what each mission does and have a little conversation ... one that also brings followers down a path to understanding both missions ...

@MarsPhoenix: "Hey I think found lots of water ice - here's a pic http://tinyurl.com/5leso8"

@LRO_NASA: "Yea well, I may find some too - here's where I'll be looking http://tinyurl.com/5g8kf4"

Sort of a social networking/EPO precursor version of the Interplanetary Internet ...

Editor's update: LCROSS_NASA just went online at Twitter.

Ames Federal Employees Union Memo: EPCS awards

"The Ames Federal Employees Union is pleased to inform you of the agreement we have entered into with Ames Research Center concerning awards based on EPCS ratings (but please note the concern stated below). For your reference, our Record of Negotiation, and the NASA wide rule under which they were negotiated, are provided below (see attached signed copy)."

Convergent Events

Machine Dreams, BLDG BLOG

"Two unrelated bits of news this week strangely merged for me, to surreal effect. First, we learned that two monkeys were able to move a robotic arm "merely by thinking." Second, the New York Times reported that "NASA's Phoenix Mars lander has successfully lifted its robotic arm" up there on the surface of another planet."

Space Politics at ISDC

The so-so space debate, Space Review

"Those interested in space policy this election year have suffered from conflicting feelings. On the one hand, there have been plenty of opportunities for the candidates to speak about space issues, more so than in a typical election cycle, due perhaps to the length or intensity of the campaign. From formal policy statements to questions posed at town hall meetings, all three of the major remaining candidates--Senators Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Barack Obama--have had multiple opportunities to talk about how they would handle various space-related issues as president."

Editor's 31 May 11 pm EDT update: The MarsPhoenix Twitter feed now has 11,667 followers whereas the Twitter feeds for Twitter's Co-founder Biz Stone only has 11,178, Stephen Colbert has 10,593 followers, and Gen Y techie favorite Wil Wheaton (Star Trek actor) has 11,270 followers.

Editor's 1 June 12 am EDT update: One hour later and there are now 12,119 followers. That's nearly a 5% increase in just one hour.

Editor's 1 June 12 pm EDT update: Now up to 13,970 followers. Twitterholic now ranks it at 20th most popular.

Editor's 2 June 12 am EDT update: Now up to 15,038 followers. While the Twitterholic ranking has not been updated, this number of followers would rank it at around 14. At this growth rate MarsPhoenix will break into the top ten in a matter of days - and all of the great science news has just started to arrive.

Editor's 2 June 12 pm EDT update: Its now up to 15,626 followers. Twitterholic shows it ranked as the 14th most popular Twitter feed. Next big hurdle: passing CNN Breaking News (cnnbrk) with 20,330 followers.

Earlier posts below

1 killed, 5 hurt in pursuit, Huntsville Times

"A Marshall Space Flight Center employee was killed Friday when a woman being pursued by Huntsville police crashed into the man's truck on Redstone Arsenal. The woman's vehicle T-boned 50-year-old Darren Spurlock's truck at Martin and Rideout roads. He died at the scene, police said."

Memorial services

Editor's 29 May note: On June 4th there will be a full committee markup of the HR 6063, the NASA Authorization Act of 2008. It will be webcast live such that anyone can watch. This legislation is a follow-on to a similar bill in 2005 which puts much of the VSE into public law. Given that the Coalition for Space Exploration was created to promote the VSE, you'd think that they'd want to tell people about continuing legislative progress in keeping the VSE on track. Is there any mention of this important event on the calendar on the Coalition's website? No.

Editor's 2 June note: It has been 4 days. Still no mention of this important step at keeping the VSE on track. Have the folks that run the Coalition's website bother to add an update? No.

Two Crashes Shut Down Part Of S.R. 528, cf13news.com

"A massive crash on the Beachline left one person dead Monday morning and snarled commuter traffic. As of 9:10 a.m., both the westbound and eastbound lanes of the Beachline are closed. Eastbound is closed at mile marker 29, one mile before State Road 520. Traffic is being diverted at State Road 417. If drivers are traveling eastbound on S.R. 528, they will not be allowed to travel past S.R. 417."

A Very Cool Photo

Woody from Toy Story waves good bye to Buzz, Orlando Sentinel

"It's hard to explain how much I love this photo. Kudos to Sentinel photographer Red Huber, who strategically placed a plastic doll of Woody from the movie Toy Story in a tree near the remove cameras that he always sets up for shuttle launches."


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