August 2008 Archives

Shuttle Extension Update

NASA requests shuttle options, Huntsville Times

"It's not really a formal study, though," Yembrick said, "but an informal request. As an agency we realize we want to be prepared and look at our options across the program." Yembrick said the options would be part of briefings and testimony to White House officials, Congress and other decision makers NASA has to speak to about the subject, and it should take about a month to complete. Informal requests are often cloaked studies, said Keith Cowing, who runs the online site "Whenever NASA gets caught in a study, but doesn't want anybody to know it is a study, then they try to call it something else," said Cowing."

For Sale: Moon and Mars, NY Times

"Would you like to buy some real estate on Mars or the Moon? No, this would not be the equivalent of buying the Brooklyn Bridge, at least according to a review of legal precedents and treaties published in the Journal of Air Law and Commerce. The authors, Alan Wasser and Douglas Jobe of the Space Settlement Institute, conclude that the international Outer Space Treaty prohibits nations from claiming sovereignty over the Moon or Mars, it does not preclude private land claims, and they point to legal precedents establishing the necessary condition for anyone making a land claim: living there."

Editor's note: Sorry Al and Doug: I claimed all of the lunar surface 5 minutes before you guys did - whenever that was. How? Because I say so.

President of Free Space

The President of Free Space, Part 1, Free Space

"Rational thought, the foundation of science, the reason why there are rovers scratching the sand on Mars today, has been largely absent from the American political scene, and perhaps the American way of life for a long time now. Institutions created to solve specific problems, became incarnated (think FDR's New Deal and LBJ's Great Society) and never went away. That's what NASA is fighting now. Its leaders know the agency needs to dematerialize, shed its expensive and deadly shuttle program, and return to its core roots of space exploration."

Editor's note: And yet despite the occasional, rational reasons for mentioning space in this election, space is getting some play for other reasons: its iconic, inspirational aspects. Hillary Clinton went down the visceral, emotional path when she mentioned the number of female astronauts NASA now has as an indication of how far women had come in our society. And a pre-speech film about Barack Obama showed Apollo footage as he spoke about seeing Apollo astronauts returning home - and his grandfather's suggestion that if Americans can do this - they can do anything.

Alas, despite Obama's grandfather's statement, it is apparently going to take longer for NASA to send humans back to the Moon than it did the first time - and the rocket science seems to be harder this time than it was the first time around.

EXCLUSIVE: NASA to study extending shuttle era to 2015, Orlando Sentinel

"NASA Administrator Michael Griffin has ordered his suborbinates to study how the agency could fly the space shuttle beyond its planned retirement in 2010, according to an internal e-mail obtained by the Orlando Sentinel. The decision signals what could be a huge change in NASA policy. Griffin repeatedly has rejected the notion of extending the shuttle era beyond its 2010 retirment date, arguing it could cripple the fledgling Constellation program, a system of new rockets and capsules meant to replace the shuttle in 2015."

NASA Internal Email: Shuttle Extension Assessment, Courtesy of the Orlando Sentinel

"The SSP program in conjunction with Cx and ISS have been asked by the administrator to put together some manifest options to assess extending shuttle flights to 2015. SSP would like to have some options developed for review by senior management by the end of September. The result of the review might be a formal budget assessment of a option(s)."

Today on the Space Show

Editor's note: Today on the Space Show: Richard Garriott will appear live from Russia on this live streaming Internet radio show. Listen LIVE 9:30-11:30 AM PDT.

More on ISS Virus

Computer virus in space - NASA astronauts get hit, Economic Times
Stowaway computer virus sent into orbit, Times Online
Password Stealing Worm Catches NASA Napping, InternetNews
Virus Found On Computer In Space Station, Information Week

Reports: Laptop infected with virus on space station, USA Today

"A laptop on the International Space Station is infected with a virus, according to SpaceRef, a website that covers the space program."

Virus Infects Space Station Laptops (Again), Wired

"NASA declined to name the virus, but, which broke the story, reported that the worm was W32.Gammima.AG worm -- a worm first detected in August 2007 that installs software that steals credentials for online games."

State senators backing request to extend space shuttle program

"Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, agreed with the letter's intent and called for a cessation of Russian hostility to its neighbors. He said he fears the 15-year-old joint U.S.-Russian space station agreement could end if relations continued to slide, he said. "If Russia continues to act irresponsibly, our partnership in space will have to end. If that occurs, we will need to maintain our own launch capability in the future," Sessions said. The letter called for support of the Ares program, the Orion crew capsule and for support for commercial rockets, such as the Delta IV manufactured by the United Launch Alliance in Decatur."

Wayne Hale's NASA Blog: Shutting Down the Shuttle

"Hey, I am the biggest shuttle hugger there is. I think it is the best spacecraft ever built. But I also deal in the real world. Where does the money come from? Where do the people -- who should be working on the moon rocket -- where do they come from? We started shutting down the shuttle four years ago.

That horse has left the barn."

NASA and Challenger Center Combining Efforts for Students

"NASA and the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, Alexandria, Va., announced Thursday a cooperative Space Act Agreement to work together to encourage students to focus more on science, technology, engineering and mathematic studies and programs. Through hands-on interactive educational activities, NASA and the Challenger Center will engage students, their teachers, their families, and the general public to help increase overall science and technology literacy."

No Rest for the Myth-Makers, Free Space

"Parts of the show are pretty goofy, but I enjoyed watching a chop-chop version of the scientific process in action. I hope Im not ruining the ending for anyone who missed it last night and wants to catch a re-run, but Mythbusters says the only hoax going on is the one put forth by people who say the moon landings are a hoax. Unfortunately, this probably wont make a whit of difference to anyone who doesnt ascribe to rationality and logic -- the foundations of science, even science-lite like Mythbusters -- and its concerning that these attributes have waned faster than the bull market."

NASA Discovers Computer Virus Aboard the International Space Station

"Reader note: This information was discussed at the ISS 30P SORR last week:

Special Topic on Virus detected onboard

- W32.Gammima.AG worm. This is a level 0 gaming virus intended to gather personal information.
- Virus was never a threat to any of the computers used for cmd and cntl and no adverse effect on ISS Ops."

Virus Infects Space Station Laptops (Again), Wired

"NASA declined to name the virus, but, which broke the story, reported that the worm was W32.Gammima.AG worm -- a worm first detected in August 2007 that installs software that steals credentials for online games."

Space Station computer infected, Houston Chronicle

"A laptop computer aboad the international space station detected a virus with a low level threat late last month, NASA acknowledged Tuesday."

McCain asks Bush to tell NASA not to dismantle shuttle infrastructure, Orlando Sentinel

"Sen. John McCain -- joined by Republican colleagues Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and David Vitter of New Orleans -- sent a letter to President Bush this week, saying that in light of tensions with Russia, the White House should tell NASA to stop any further dismantling of the shuttle infrastructure for at least a year to keep open the possibility of more shuttle flights beyond 2010."

Full text of letter

Editor's 25 Aug note: The following farewell message was openly sent to several hundred employees at NASA MSFC. It is well worth reading.

Editor's 26 Aug Update: The author of this memo has responded with additional comments.

From: Finckenor, Jeffrey L. (MSFC-EV32)
Sent: Monday, August 25, 2008 8:23 AM
To: [Hundreds of people at NASA MSFC and Elsewhere]
Subject: Farewell Address

I wanted to let you know that I am leaving NASA. I am leaving civil service and going to work on Army helicopters, within walking distance of my current desk. My last day here is September 5.

In my 19 years here I have always been struck and humbled by the amazing level of talent of all of you. As well as how friendly, helpful and dedicated so many people have been. During much of my career here I've been tickled that I could actually get paid to do things that were so much fun.

As many of you can probably guess, the immediate cause of my departure is the CAD/PDM issue, but even I realize that this is just a symptom of much larger, agency wide problems. It just happens to be the particular symptom I'm close to and know something about. Over the last few years numerous people have asked if there was any hope the CAD/PDM problem could be fixed. My answer was usually that "I'm still here, so I still have hope". Well, I no longer have hope. With catastrophic level risks accumulating across the program, and a steadfast refusal to accept reality, it's become clear to me that as bad as things are they are going to have to get a whole lot worse before the pieces can be picked up and we can get something that works.

Review: Fly Me To The Moon,

"I had a chance to see the new animated feature "Fly me to the Moon" the other day - in IMAX. If you manage to suspend concern for strict adherence to Apollo mission profiles and the laws of physics, its a fun little movie. While the humans rendered in this film are less than is possible with state of the art CGI, the main characters are very well done. And some of the scenes are rather dramatically imagined. There are also some humorous references to both "2001 A Space Odyssey" and the classic Simpson's episode "Deep Space Homer"."

Editor's note: Check out the rocketshadow Twitter feed from XCOR. Henry Vanderbilt got tapped for right seat with Rick Searfoss flying. Check in to see how that flight is going.

Russia Update

US reviewing 'entire relationship' with Russia: White House, AFP

"The United States is reviewing its "entire relationship" with Russia, the White House said Monday, charging that Moscow was still violating a ceasefire deal for the Georgia conflict. "We're reviewing our entire relationship with Russia, both for the medium term and the long term," said spokesman Tony Fratto, who charged there is "no question that Russia has not lived up to the ceasefire agreement."

US-Russia chill threatens NASA space program, AFP

"In an election year, it was going to be very difficult to get that waiver to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to an increasingly aggressive Russia," Nelson said. "Now, I'd say it's almost impossible."

When the shuttles retire, Baltimore Sun

"Congress should approve the waiver NASA needs to keep sending astronauts to the space station as planned, and it ought to be prepared to do more if Russia proves uncooperative. America must remain a leader in space. The U.S. space program is at a crucial juncture, and the country can't afford to let it be held hostage to dust-ups abroad with Russia or to partisan bickering at home."

Cosmonaut Photographed South Ossetia From ISS, Aviation Week

"On Aug. 9 Cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko used a digital camera equipped with an 800mm telephoto lens and a video camera to photograph "after-effects of border conflict operations in the Caucasus," according to the ISS status report for that day published by NASA on its website."

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 9 August 2008

"Also working from the discretionary task list, Oleg Kononenko conducted another session of the Russian GFI-8 "Uragan" (hurricane) earth-imaging program, using the D2X digital camera with the F800 telephoto lens and the HVR-Z1J SONY video camera. Uplinked target areas were glaciers on the north slope of the main Caucasus Ridge, the Dombai region, after-effects of border conflict operations in the Caucasus ..."

Editor's note: New Horizons continues on its trip to Pluto. All the while, its is Twittering on a regular basis as to its progress and the activities of its support team here on Earth. Recent Tweets from NewHorizons2015:

"Yesterday's DSN pass was nominal-- all's well out there beyond Saturn. On Earth, our backup spacecraft simulator is now completed & in test."

"Solar distance now 10.77 AU. Tomorrow the Student Dust Counter begins a calibration of noise thresholds & detector gains in quiet cruise."

Sign up with Twitter and follow along.

Editor's note: Have a look at this page at - it is Ariel Waldman's page. Ariel is a quasi-famous Gen Y blogger and "digital anthropologist" in Silicon Valley who recently started to work at NASA ARC.

Check out the 12 second videos. Yea, can't do much in 12 seconds, right? It's just like Twitter. 140 characters. How profound can you get with such constraints? But wait - just like the telegrams used by a previous generation, doesn't that forced brevity make you pause and think about your words and what you really NEED to say?

For you NASA folks - recall that dumb phrase you hear at NASA i.e. the "elevator speech" - what would you say to someone about what you are doing at NASA if you only had an elevator ride for a few floors to make your point. Consider this an online example - with video.

Join up - i.e. ask for an invitation to join - and send us your links for your 12 second videos: why is space exploration important, why does your job matter, or whatever you think needs to be said.

Editor's update: Check the comments section. Michael Mealing is the first person to create a video - and it is a good one.

Budget Update

AIP FYI #85: Senate Bill Would Provide Additional Science Funding

"When Congress returns from its summer recess next month one of the items on its packed schedule will be a bill crafted by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert C. Byrd (D-WV) that would provide additional FY 2008 science funding. Under this draft legislation, Department of Energy science programs would receive $150 million. An additional $250 million would be slated for NASA to speed production of a replacement for the space shuttle, and $500 million would be provided to the National Institutes of Health for new research grants."

Video: Astrobiology Rap

"Tune in for the all new 'Astrobiology Rap', written by Jonathan Chase for the latest Astrobiology Magazine European Edition (AMEE) -- the Nordic Invasion. Jon is an early career researcher in science communication. Multi-talented, Jon has undergraduate degrees in both Aerospace Engineering, and Science and Science Fiction. As a post-graduate practitioner in communicating science, Jon is actively involved in a number of science communication activities."

Video below

NASA and ATK Investigate Failed Launch of Hypersonic Experiments

"An Alliant Tech Systems suborbital rocket carrying two NASA hypersonic experiments was destroyed shortly after liftoff from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia Friday. No injuries or property damage were immediately reported. Most debris from the rocket is thought to have fallen in the Atlantic Ocean."

Media Telecon Scheduled to Discuss Rocket Launch Failure

"Representatives from NASA and Alliant Techsystems, or ATK, will hold a media teleconference Friday morning at 10:30 a.m. EDT to discuss this morning's failure of a rocket launch carrying two NASA hypersonic experimental payloads."

Lack of funding shortchanging NASA on mission research, Houston Chronicle

"NASA is not receiving enough money for research and, as a result, faces significant challenges in developing technologies for living on the moon or flying to Mars, a study said Thursday. Little money is left over to study the hazards faced by astronauts during months-long missions into deep space, said the study by a National Academies of Sciences panel, because most of the research funds go into studies of the obstacles to short-term flights to the moon."

Panel warns NASA is focused on short-term goals, New Scientist

"NASA may get its Moon-Mars programme off the ground, and even land astronauts on the Moon. But it's going to have trouble establishing a long-term lunar base or making the big leap to Mars, says an expert review panel."

NRC Says ETDP Needs Corrective Action, earlier post

From: Forsythe, Jack L. (HQ-LG000)
Sent: Thu 8/21/2008 12:38 PM
To: [Senior NASA Management]
Subject: Badge Holder Safety

Recently there has been a safety concern with the new badge holder from Identity Stronghold that is being issued to ensure compliance with Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD-12). A badge holder safety notice was released at Kennedy Space Center on August 15, 2008 (see attachment). The current issue with the badge holder is the possibility of the badge holder becoming a Foreign Object Damage (FOD) hazard to flight hardware, or a projectile hazard under certain circumstances.

As a precautionary measure, I am directing a temporary hold on issuing the badge holder from Identity Stronghold until such time additional evaluations are conducted and all issues surrounding the FOD and hazard issues with the badge holder have been resolved. Centers may revert back, on a temporary basis, to using the original clear plastic badge holder to allow for continued issuance of Center access badges.

The Office of Security and Program and Protection is working with key personnel in addressing security compliance requirements, operational needs, training, deficiencies, and safety issues in order to mitigate all concerns. Thank you in advance for your cooperation in this matter.

Jack L. Forsythe
Interim AA Office of Security and Program Protection
300 E Street SW
Washington, DC 20546

Editor's note: Attachment below

KSC Open On Friday

NASA Kennedy to Reopen for Normal Operations Friday

"Managers at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla., plan to reopen the center for normal operations Friday morning for workers' first shift. A slow-moving Tropical Storm Fay has kept Kennedy closed since Tuesday. The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex also will reopen Friday. The center was set to open Thursday morning for limited operations, but Fay stalled off the coast from Kennedy overnight and continued to bring heavy rain and tropical storm force wind to the area through mid-day."

Washington, we have a problem, The Economist

Earthbound, The Economist

"In the spring of 2006 Robert Bigelow needed to take a stand on a trip to Russia to keep a satellite off the floor. The stand was made of aluminium. It had a circular base and legs. It was, says the entrepreneur and head of Bigelow Aerospace in Nevada, "indistinguishable from a common coffee table". Nonetheless, the American authorities told Mr Bigelow that this coffee table was part of a satellite assembly and so counted as a munition. During the trip it would have to be guarded by two security officers at all times."

NOMAD Is Acting Up Again

NOMAD service to Treo users is not working properly again

Thursday, August 21, 2008 - 12:15 P.M. Central - The exchange server that was the source of the NOMAD connectivity problems this morning was scheduled to be rebooted between 12:00 and 12:30 this afternoon. The 4500 or so users on these two servers might experiencing a 2-5 service interruption. The Goodlink server is also being rebooted.

Editor's note: Everything is now working again.

Iran plans to launch humans into space, New Scientist

"Iran plans to send a crewed rocket into space in the next 10 years, state television said on Thursday, just days after the Islamic Republic announced it had put a dummy satellite into orbit. "One of the aims of Iran's 10-year space programme is to send a manned rocket into space," state television quoted Reza Taghipour, the head of Iran's aerospace organisation, as saying. "Within the next six months to one year, the exact date of this mission will be determined."

"NRC Report: A Constrained Space Exploration Technology Program: A Review of NASA's Exploration Technology Development Program

"The Committee to Review NASA's Exploration Technology Development Program is broadly supportive of the intent and goals of the VSE, and finds the ETDP is making progress towards the stated goals of technology development, but is operating within significant constraints which limit its ability to successfully accomplish those goals the still dynamic nature of the Constellation Program requirements, the constraints imposed by a limited budget, the aggressive time scale of early technology deliverables, and the desire to fully employ the NASA workforce...

... The committee found that in 20 of the 22 ETDP projects, corrective action leading to project improvement was either warranted or required. However, the committee felt that the ETDP contains a range of technologies that will, in principle, enable the realization of many of the early endeavors currently imagined in the Exploration Systems Architecture Study architecture, i.e., the development of a transportation system to the International Space Station, and the early human exploration of the Moon. The committee concluded that the ETDP, if adequately and stably funded and executed in a manner consistent with the planning process, would likely make available the required technology on schedule to its customers in the Constellation Program."

NASA and ATK to Launch Suborbital Hypersonic Experiments

"Two NASA hypersonic experiment payloads are scheduled for launch no earlier than Aug. 21 from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia atop a two-stage suborbital rocket developed by Alliant Techsystems, also known as ATK, of Salt Lake City."

Wallops Island rocket launch rescheduled for tomorrow, PIlotOnline

"A launch planned for this morning from Wallops Island has been delayed by one day.
The launch is scheduled for tomorrow morning [22 Aug] between 5:10 and 6:10 a.m."

KSC Reopening Delayed

Fay Delays NASA Kennedy Space Center Partial Reopening

"Managers at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla., are delaying reopening the center for mission essential personnel Thursday morning because of slow-moving Tropical Storm Fay. Personnel should not report for work at 10 a.m. EDT as previously directed, but instead should check the center's status through the hurricane phone lines and emergency operations center Web site at noon. Plans still call for the center to open to all employees and return to full operation Friday."

Tropical Storm Fay forces more evacuations, could bring 30 inches of rain, AP

"About 10,200 homes and businesses in Brevard County were without power early Thursday, and about 134 people spent the night in shelters, she said. The county is home to NASA's Kennedy Space Center, which has been closed to most workers and all visitors since Tuesday. The center reported no significant damage."

Going Into Space

Going to Space? First Stop: Eight Months of Grueling Training in Russia's Star City, WIred

"... Then you have to fork over $30 million to Space Adventures, a company that serves as go-between with the Russian space program. Just don't call its clients space tourists. "That term implies you are there to take photos and hang out," Garriott says. "I'm trying to prove you can actually be a valuable contributor to the activities on board the space station." He notes that he'll be conducting research on protein crystal growth on behalf of a biotech firm. But he doesn't deny that he's really going up because it will be a friggin' blast. "I'd be misleading you if I didn't admit that it's a very selfish activity," he says."

NASA Tests Orion Parachute (Result: Spectacular Failure), Gizmodo
Orion Test Set-Up Parachute Fails, Mockup Crashes, Wired
Spacecraft crash due to test setup, not design flaw, New Scientist

NASA releases Orion crash photos, Scientific American

"Budding astronauts, avert your eyes. NASA has posted photos of a failed test landing (read: crash) of a mock-up of the Orion crew exploration vehicle, part of the Constellation program to replace the shuttle in 2015."

Reader note: "I'm currently at ISU SSP in Barcelona working as a TA with the team project focused on the Google Lunar X-prize. In this project, the intent is not to design yet another competitive team, but to take all of the work from the various teams and build a cohesive program with wider ranging impacts and influence across the globe. One the the activities that the student team is pursuing is an online survey to try to get a market feel for the more/most important stakeholders which the teams and the foundation can then use to focus the efforts.

The students would really like to have a large audience in the response (we are shooting for about 3,000 responses total for this survey). The intro to the survey is as follows. The turn around needed for this is in the next 4-5 days, so anything that you can do would be most appreciated."

NASA Tests Launch Abort Parachute System - Releases Crash Photos

"NASA tested the parachutes for the recovery system on its Orion crew exploration vehicle above the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona on July 31. The test proved unsuccessful when a test set-up parachute failed..."

Editor's 19 Aug 3:00 pm note: ... And the test vehicle crashed into the desert floor. Nowhere does NASA mention that the vehicle slammed into the desert floor or crashed. They just say that "the result was a landing that severely damaged the test mock-up."

Nor has NASA issued a media advisory or a press release to alert people of the images it claimed that it did not have last week. No, they just quietly mentioned that some pictures will be online later to some reporters. And when these images were posted quietly on the NASA website, they were on a page titled "NASA Tests Launch Abort Parachute System". No mention of a failure, a crash etc. Nor is there any mention on the media page or on the ESMD page.

[Hat tip to eagle eyes Robert for spotting this]

Editor's 20 Aug note: ESMD is still not making any mention of this video or photos on its website. Why is this being hidden?

Editor's 20 Aug update: The links are finally up.

More Details on PTV Test Failure and Crash, earlier post
NASA Orion Parachute Test Vehicle Fails Drop Test, earlier post

Crash video below

Editor's note: According to the National Research Council, a new report will be released at 11 am EDT, 21 August 2008. Titled: "A Constrained Space Exploration Technology Program: A Review of NASA's Exploration Technology Development Program", this report "looks at the quality of technological research conducted at NASA and determines how well-aligned it is with President Bush's Vision for Space Exploration. Specifically, the report examines the degree to which technology development at NASA includes exploration beyond the Moon. The report also identifies gaps in the current research program and estimates the likelihood that needed technologies will be developed in time for the flight schedules outlined by the agency's Constellation Program."

AIAA Report Now Online

AIAA Inside Aerospace Report and Recommendations Now Available Online

"AIAA's Report and Recommendations resulting from the sessions and discussions
held at Inside Aerospace--An International Forum for Aviation and Space Leaders,
held 13-14 May 2008 at the Doubletree Hotel Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia,
is now available online."

Campaign Update

McCain, Obama compete to be seen as friend of NASA, Houston Chronicle

Obama Suggests $2 Billion In New Funding for NASA, Washington post

"Sen. Barack Obama has detailed a comprehensive space plan that includes $2 billion in new funding to reinvigorate NASA and a promise to make space exploration and science a significantly higher priority if he is elected president.

Campaigning in Florida yesterday, Sen. John McCain responded by telling business leaders that Obama has changed his position on some key questions of NASA funding in recent months and should not be trusted to support the program."

NASA To Brief Media About Ares I Thrust Oscillation Plans

"NASA will host a media teleconference on Tuesday, Aug. 19, at 11:30 a.m. EDT, to discuss results and recommendations from the Ares I thrust oscillation focus team."

Editor's note: Last week NASA decided to implement the so called "Option 2B Active Aft Skirt Reaction Mass Actuator (RMA) option" with "damping and isolation at the FS frustum/US region" in order to deal with the thrust oscillation problem with the current design of the Ares 1 launch vehicle. This decision is a hybrid of sorts between two earlier options - one called "Dual Plane Isolation Plus Passive TMAs)" and the other "Active TMAs Plus Single Plane Isolation".

On Telecon

-- Jeff Hanley, manager, Constellation Program, NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston
-- Steve Cook, manager, Ares Projects, NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
-- Garry Lyles, associate director for technical management, NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center

Notes below

Heads Up KSC

NASA's Kennedy Space Center Closes for Tropical Storm Fay

"NASA's Kennedy Space Center will be closed Tuesday, Aug. 19, because of the potential threat from Tropical Storm Fay. Current plans call for the center to be closed for 24 hours, starting with workers' first-shift Tuesday morning. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex also is closed Tuesday. Kennedy managers are scheduled to meet again at 5 p.m. EDT to reevaluate the storm's status and its impact on the center."

Tropical Storm Fay making landfall at Cape Romano, Orlando Sentinel

"All hurricane warnings have been discontinued as Tropical Storm Fay makes landfall on the Florida peninsula. Fay's tracking path again moved a bit more to the east. It's on a track that will now take it east of Orlando late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning. But at that point, forecasters think Fay's winds will be down to between 35-45 mph. At 5 a.m., the center of Tropical Storm Fay was located on the Florida coastline at Cape Romano."

Tropical Storm Fay, NOAA
5 Day Track Forecast Cone, NOAA

McCain hears pleas to extend shuttle and accelerate Constellation, Orlando Sentinel

"In one exchange with a top Lockheed Martin government relations executive, McCain pressed him for one solution to the gap. The executive, Adrian Lafitte, said increasing funding to speed the development of the new Ares rocket would be his top choice. Although, he and others pointed out alternatives that included funding a short-term solution using existing expendable rockets to launch NASA's proposed Orion spacecraft."

MilSpace Shake Up Ahead?

Panel Wants Massive Milspace Reshuffling, Aviation Week

"A blue-ribbon panel of national security space experts is calling for a number of "bold steps" - including the abolishment of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) as they exist today - to shake up today's ineffective national security space procurement and operations structures and provide cohesive governance of this increasingly vulnerable area for the Pentagon."

In Florida, McCain jabs Obama on NASA funding, Christian Science Monitor

"I know that earlier this year, Senator Obama proposed cutting the NASA budget and delaying the timetable for our return to the Moon and the Mars mission," McCain said. "I believe that he later repudiated his own plan. Sometimes it is difficult to know what a politician will actually do once in office, because they say different things at different times to different people. This is a particular problem when a candidate has a short, thin record on the issues as in the case of Senator Obama."

McCain says he's the one to keep US in space, Reuters

"On a visit to Florida's Space Coast, home to the NASA complex at Cape Canaveral, the Arizona Republican said as U.S. president, he would make space exploration a top priority and ensure that the United States retains its leadership role."

Barack Obama: Advancing the Frontiers of Space Exploration
Earlier Election 2008 postings

Florida Democratic Party: Straight Talk On McCain's Failed NASA Record

"While John McCain is visiting Titusville today, holding a closed door meeting to talk about NASA issues, the Florida Democratic Party thought Floridians might appreciate some Straight Talk about John McCain's failed record on space issues. "How can the Space Coast trust John McCain when he has failed us so many other times? In the Senate, Chairman McCain was the one man that could have stood up to prevent the space flight gap and save thousands of Space Coast jobs, however, as is the case with so many other issues, McCain instead stood with President Bush. And to add insult to injury, McCain fought against NASA funding calling it pork barrel spending," said Eric Jotkoff, Florida Democratic Party spokesman."

McCain Space Policy Paper, earlier post
Earlier Election 2008 postings

Iran ready to put Muslim countries' satellite in orbit, Reuters

"Iran said on Monday it was ready to help fellow Muslim states launch satellites into orbit after it successfully put a dummy satellite into orbit -- a move that may increase Western suspicions over its atomic ambitions."

Pentagon doubts Iranian rocket test succeeded, CNN

"The Pentagon does not believe an Iranian rocket test over the weekend was successful, despite reports in the official Iranian media saying the Islamic Republic had launched its first vehicle capable of placing a satellite in orbit. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, left, looks at an Iranian rocket before the recently reported launch. "The Iranians did not successfully launch the rocket," a senior U.S. defense official told CNN Monday."

Confusing Media Strategy

NASA JSC Solicitation: Media Rating Services

"NASA/JSC has a requirement for media tracking services. NASA will produce multiple Public Service Announcements (PSA) to promote science and math education to America's youth and inform the general public about the space program. NASA/JSC is seeking a firm that is capable of tracking the PSAs and providing detail information about the PSAs."

Editor's note: "NASA/JSC has a requirement"? Why is a NASA field center issuing a solicitation like this? Don't get me wrong, PSAs to promote science and education are certainly a wonderful thing and NASA should be heartily encouraged to do many, many more of them. But why is this not being done for all of the agency's educational and outreach activities so as to understand their market penetration, response rate, etc. on a national scale? Should this not be done by NASA's Office of Strategic Communications and other entities at NASA HQ? Otherwise, all of the field centers could just go off and do this - each with different metrics, messages, local priorities etc. All you get from a balkanized approach like this is a bunch of partial pictures instead of a cohesive, broad understanding of how the public is receiving NASA's messages - and how they need to be improved. Just curious.

IPP Lunar Lander Challenge

NASA Notice of Centennial Challenges Lunar Lander Challenge

"The Lunar Lander Challenge is now scheduled and teams that wish to compete may now register. The NASA Centennial Challenges Program is a program of prize contests to stimulate innovation and competition in space exploration and ongoing NASA mission areas.

The Lunar Lander Challenge is a prize contest designed to accelerate technology developments supporting the commercial creation of a vehicle capable of ferrying cargo or humans back and forth between lunar orbit and the lunar surface."

Obama vows to find $2bn for NASA, Orlando Sentinel

"But until Sunday, the democratic policy, while clearly ambitious, was lacking in details of how much an Obama administration would give to NASA, and where the funds to try to speed up development of a successor rocket to the space shuttle were going to come from. According to Nelson, the Obama campaign has pledged to find $2 billion for NASA by clawing back pork barrel earmarks, such as, Nelson said, "a highway in Alaska to nowhere."

Evolving Obama now supports $2 billion more for NASA, Houston Chronicle

"The most important change in Obama's past positions is that he now favors at least one additional space shuttle mission before it is retired. Nelson said Obama's staff assured him that the presidential candidate now favors the congressional plan to add $2 billion to NASA's budget."

Barack Obama: Advancing the Frontiers of Space Exploration
McCain Space Policy Paper, earlier post
Earlier Election 2008 postings

Editor's note: Looks like the folks who live in San Francisco may find soon themselves dealing with a space weapons initiative on the November ballot. Based on this video, it would seem that they have quite a problem with space weapons right now.

Then again, Industrial Light & Magic does have a big office in The Presidio. Maybe this is all just some innocent SFX that got a little out of hand ...

Video below.

Obama favors fast track for new space ferry, St. Petersburg Times

"... These details are included in a seven-page policy statement the campaign is expected to formally release today. John McCain has previously said he supports the moon-and-Mars exploration strategy, and that he, too, will work to minimize the number of years in which NASA has no way to send astronauts into space."

Obama: Let's go to moon, and maybe Mars, Orlando Sentinel

"The policy puts new pressure on McCain ahead of his private meeting with space-industry leaders. McCain's low-key visit to the Space Coast comes more than two weeks after Obama held a town-hall meeting in Titusville where he pledged his support to a robust space policy and said he would no longer seek to raid NASA's budget to support his education-reform plans. McCain, on the other hand, has been quiet about his space policy beyond endorsing sending Americans to the moon. He recently released his own enhanced position on the issue on his Web site without any fanfare."

McCain Space Policy Paper, earlier post

Earlier Election 2008 postings

Barack Obama: Advancing the Frontiers of Space Exploration

"When I was growing up, NASA united Americans to a common purpose and inspired the world with accomplishments we are still proud of. Today, NASA is an organization that impacts many facets of American life. I believe NASA needs an inspirational vision for the 21st Century. My vision will build on the great goals set forth in recent years, to maintain a robust program of human space exploration and ensure the fulfillment of NASA's mission. Together, we can ensure that NASA again reflects all that is best about our country and continue our nation's preeminence in space." ...

... "Human spaceflight is important to America's political, economic, technological, and scientific leadership. Barack Obama will support renewed human exploration beyond low earth orbit. He endorses the goal of sending human missions to the Moon by 2020, as a precursor in an orderly progression to missions to more distant destinations, including Mars."

McCain Space Policy Paper, earlier post

Earlier Election 2008 postings

OSU's cadaver tests help NASA design spacesuit

"Crash-test dummies are designed for a frontal crash; they don't have the instrumentation to predict injuries that could occur when landing a spacecraft," Bolte said. The bodies of three men who died in their 50s and 60s were used to test for injury at forces of 10 and 20 times the gravitational force we feel on Earth -- the landing forces used in Wright-Patterson tests."

Using Cadavers To Test Orion, earlier post

Frosty Scenery

NASA Mars Phoenix Camera Sees Morning Frost at the Landing Site

"Water frost appears in an image the SSI took on Aug. 14, 2008, at 6 a.m. local Mars time on Sol 79, the 79th Martian day after landing. The frost begins to disappear shortly after 6 a.m. as the sun rises on the landing site."

Editor's note: Have a look at the last image sent back by Webcam #2 at the Haughton Mars Project Research Station on Devon Island. This place is often called "Mars on Earth". As is the case with Mars, it too has a frosty coating (albeit from a recent snowfall). If you look at the time lapse video (below) of imagery taken from the same webcam you will see this frost building up toward the end of the day.

Concerns Over Russia Grow

Discord With Russia a Worry for NASA, Washington Post

"[NASA Administrator Michael] Griffin made clear that he did not consider NASA's near-total reliance on the Russians in the future to be a good or prudent thing -- he called it "unseemly" -- but he said the agency lacked the funds to build a shuttle replacement more quickly. The waiver (which was first passed in 2005) has been endorsed by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, but the Senate has taken no action on it."

Russia-Georgia clash prompts space station worries, AP

"Sen. Barbara Mikulski says the possible impact of the Russia-Georgia military conflict on the International Space Station is a "critical issue" that must be resolved. Mikulski, chairwoman of the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee that funds NASA, issued a statement today saying the Bush administration must work with Congress to find a bipartisan solution."

Russia-Georgia conflict could affect NASA funding, Houston Chronicle

"Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, who voted for the measure in the Foreign Affairs Committee, said NASA should now consider using the shuttle fleet past its retirement date. "We should look at whether there is any possibility of revisiting the space shuttle extension even for short period of time while we are in the middle of this political and diplomatic and military nightmare," she said. "It is difficult to engage in a nation when you have a sizable amount of disagreements."

Washington, we have a problem..., New Scientist

"The price might also be more than money. There's already a non-monetary problem on the US side: the Iran Non-Proliferation Act bars buying from the Russians unless the Russians stop helping Iran with its nuclear programme, and Congress is balking at giving NASA another exemption from this. Two can play that game. What if the Russian government's price for more Soyuz rides is that the US concede Russian control of parts of Georgia?"

Could the Russia-Georgia conflict jeopardize U.S. space plans?, Scientific American

"So what's the backup plan? That's the problem, experts said: There isn't one. Getting Orion ready faster isn't in the cards. NASA this week confirmed a report leaked last month when it announced that flat budgets and technical problems would delay testing of Orion until late 2014."

NASA To Take Corrective Action In Spacesuit Contract Protest

"NASA anticipates that corrective action will involve reconsideration of its procurement decision. The pending protest litigation is subject to a Government Accountability Office Protective Order."

NASA to re-open bidding for space suits -letter, Reuters
NASA May Cancel Contract For New Spacesuit, Rebid It, Wall Street Journal
Hamilton Sundstrand Fights Back, earlier Post
Changing Horses, earlier Post
NASA OIG Audit of NASA's Pre-Acquisition Planning for the Constellation Space Suit System

United Space Alliance Files Lawsuit Against ATK

"United Space Alliance (USA), NASA's prime Space Shuttle contractor, filed a lawsuit in Brevard County Circuit Court in Florida today against Alliant Techsystems, Inc., and ATK Launch Systems, Inc., seeking damages for fraud and breach of contract, and seeking an injunction against further piracy of USA employees with skills essential to flying out the Space Shuttle manifest.

... ATK concurrently undertook an aggressive campaign to hire critically skilled USA employees, who have been performing specialized work in support of both the Ares and Space Shuttle programs in order to solely perform work on Ares."

NASA contractors locked in legal battle, Orlando Sentinel

"According to industry officials, there is a possibility that if USA does not get satisfaction in its dispute, the company could stop work on preparations for next years test flight of ATKs Ares I-X rocket. The test rocket is considered an important step toward developing the complete Ares I rocket that is supposed to replace the shuttle by 2015. A delay in the test could impact the already behind schedule Ares I."

Editor's note: This certainly does not bode well for a smooth transition from Shuttle to Ares operations.

Election Debate on Space

Initial thoughts from the Mars Society debate, The Space Review

"There was a sharp contrast between Garver and Cunningham. Garver has been working space policy issues for a long time, and recently has been working with the Obama campaign (she noted that she has had the opportunity to talk with Obama several times, including recently). Cunningham, on the other hand, does not appear to have an active role in the McCain campaign, at least on space issues; he mentioned that after he was invited to participate he had to read up on what both campaigns had said on the issue. Or, as he put it, "I don't talk to the senator. He calls me." This made it difficult at times to separate what Cunningham was saying on behalf of the campaign and what were his own opinions."


Editor's 11:35 am EDT update: An email to the NASA purchasing agent and a correction was made in a matter of minutes! Now THAT is efficiency!

NASA opts to leave shuttle launch dates as scheduled, SpaceflightNow

"NASA managers today decided to stick with Oct. 8 as the target launch date for shuttle mission STS-125, a long-awaited flight by the shuttle Atlantis to service and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope. They also agreed to stick with Nov. 10 for launch of the flight after that, a space station assembly mission by the shuttle Endeavour."

Editor's note: The field season at the Haughton Mars Project Research Station (HMPRS) on Devon Island is coming to a close. The HMPRS webcams will go offline at some point today as everyone starts to pack up. You can get one last look at the three webcams: one that is looking out at HMPRS, another that is located inside the office tent, and another that is looking down at HMPRS from a nearby hill.

An archive of time lapse videos of these webcam feeds can be found here. Further information on the HMPRS is online here.

The time lapse video below shows a day's activities (12 August) inside the office tent where the HMPRS is managed.

Tyson and Sykes Duke Out the Great Planet Debate; Flatow Almost Flattened, Universe Today

"A debate today between astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson and planetary scientist Mark Sykes, moderated by NPR's Ira Flatow, addressed the issue of Pluto's planetary status. There was lots of arm-waving and finger-pointing, endless interruptions, disagreements on details big and small, and battling one-liners. The two scientists sat at a table with the moderator between them and Flatow was often obscured by Tyson and Sykes getting in each other's faces in eye-to-eye confrontation. At one point, Flatow was hit by Tyson's ebullient arm motions. Yes, it was heated. But it was fun, too."

Mike's Woes

Editor's note: Klyde Morris has perfectly described Mike Griffin's woes these days ... reprinted with permission. Copyright 1999-2008 Wes Oleszewski

NASA Cassini Pinpoints Source of Jets on Saturn's Moon Enceladus

"In a feat of interplanetary sharpshooting, NASA's Cassini spacecraft has pinpointed precisely where the icy jets erupt from the surface of Saturn's geologically active moon Enceladus. New carefully targeted pictures reveal exquisite details in the prominent south polar "tiger stripe" fractures from which the jets emanate."

NASA Blog: Cassini Flyby of Enceladus: We Nailed It!

"Then, finally, it was our turn--the Goddard team completed the CIRS calibration this morning, and I downloaded the data. More nervousness, until the plots started coming up on the screen and showed a beautiful spike in the signal strength, right when we expected to be staring at Damascus. It was obvious that we were pointing right at the warm fracture, just as planned. We nailed it!"

John Bull

John S. Bull, former NASA astronaut, dies, CollectSpace

"John Bull, a former NASA astronaut who due to illness was forced to resign while supporting what would become the first crewed mission to the Moon, died August 11 at age 73."

Editor's note: This video of a Space Shuttle launch was taken recently from an Air Canada flight. The video was posted on 24 July 2008. It is not clear when it was shot. Perhaps it is STS-124? Oh yes, the guy with the camera was clearly impressed with what he was seeing.

Reader update: "This is the launch of a Delta 2, most likely GPS 2R-18 on December 20th. The YouTube original was posted "seven months ago" according to the tag. You can see the first set of SRBs burn out and the other ignite at 55 seconds into the video."

Video below

Experts: Reliance on Russia makes NASA weak, CNN

"Election-year politics combined with increasing concerns about Iran and the ongoing crisis in Georgia all but guarantee that lawmakers will not vote for the exemption, said Nelson. That means NASA could lose access to the $100 billion space station unless it continues to fly the shuttle or strikes some sort of deal with another space agency willing to put forward money for additional Soyuz seats, the Senator explained to CNN. "It is a lose-lose situation," said Nelson. "If our relationship with Russia is strained who knows if Russia will give us rides in the future?" Nelson continued. "Or if they give us rides will they charge such an exorbitant price that it becomes blackmail?"

KARI signs a Statement of Intent for participation in the ILN August 12th, 2008, rescommunis

"Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) signed a Statement of Intent to participate in the International Lunar Network at NASA Ames Research Center on July 24, 2008. The International Lunar Network (ILN) is a network for the exploration of the lunar environment and resources by landing 6 - 8 stations on the lunar surface led by NASA."

US, allies weigh punishment for Russia, AP

"Scrambling to find ways to punish Russia for its invasion of pro-Western Georgia, the United States and its allies are considering expelling Moscow from an exclusive club of wealthy nations and canceling an upcoming joint NATO-Russia military exercise, Bush administration officials said Tuesday."

Russia May Turn Focus to Pro-U.S. Ukraine After Beating Georgia, Bloomberg

"Now that Russia has humiliated Georgia with a punishing military offensive, it may shift its attention to reining in pro-Western Ukraine, another American ally in the former Soviet Union."

Russian invasion threatens the Space Station, Orlando Sentinel

"U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., acknowledged Tuesday that Russias five-day invasion of the Georgian province of South Ossetia makes it extremely unlikely that Congress will vote to exempt the Russian-built Soyuz capsule from a law that bans trade with nations that sell nuclear material to Iran. NASA had been counting on the waiver to enable it to continue carrying people and cargo to the space station after the space shuttle is retired in 2010. The Soyuz is NASAs only proven alternative to get to the station."

Editor's note: Right now Russians outnumber Americans on ISS - but wait, one of the "Russians" (the ISS Commander) was actually born in the Ukraine ... things could get complicated if Ukraine continues to openly side with Georgia and all of the political tension spills into how the ISS program is run ...

Barnstorming Enceladus

NASA Cassini Enceladus Rev 80 Flyby Skeet Shoot #4

"This image is the fourth skeet-shoot footprint taken during Cassini's very close flyby of Enceladus on Aug. 11, 2008. Cairo Sulcus is shown crossing the upper left portion of the image. An unnamed fracture curves around the lower right corner. (The image is upside down from the skeet-shoot footprint shown here.) The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Aug. 11, 2008, a distance of approximately 2,621 kilometers (1,629 miles) above the surface of Enceladus. Image scale is approximately 20 meters (66 feet) per pixel."

McCain Space Policy Paper

John McCain: America's Space Program

"Current U.S. space operations policy commits the U.S. to completing the International Space Station (ISS) by 2010 and then terminating the Space Shuttle flights, with the completion of the ISS. The NASA vision for space exploration calls for sending a robotic lunar lander to the Moon in 2008/2009 time period to begin searching for potential base sites and for development and deployment of a new manned space craft for lunar missions. The current policy also calls for new vehicles (referred to as the Orion crew vehicle and the Ares launch vehicle) to be ready for Earth orbit by 2015 and lunar landing by 2020 with an eventual mission to Mars. As President, John McCain will ... "

Election 2008 News

Editor's note: I am curious about this line: "a robotic lunar lander to the Moon in 2008/2009 time period" I wonder what NASA planning documents the McCain folks are reading ...

NASA to Realign Constellation Program Milestones, August 2008

"In a news conference Monday, NASA managers discussed how the agency will be adjusting the budget, schedule and technical performance milestones for its Constellation Program to ensure the first crewed flight of the Ares I rocket and Orion crew capsule in March 2015."

NASA's Exploration Systems Architecture Study -- Final Report, Nov. 2005, Executive Summary, section 1.1.1

"Dr. Michael Griffin was named the new NASA Administrator in April 2005. With concurrence from Congress, he immediately set out to restructure NASA's Exploration Program by making its priority to accelerate the development of the CEV to reduce or eliminate the planned gap in U.S. human access to space. He established a goal for the CEV to begin operation in 2011 and to be capable of ferrying crew and cargo to and from the ISS."

NASA JSC Center Director's Systems Engineering Forum Planned Aug. 21

"A successful Constellation Program at NASA will require the application of superb system engineering competencies. Currently, we face unique system engineering challenges that must be addressed to effectively design a complex manned space vehicle, develop new sub-systems and integrate existing elements that were designed for other missions."

Editor's note: In yesterday's ESMD media telecon, Jeff Hanley kept repeating how NASA folks need to have a certain engineering culture instilled in them - implying (not too subtly) that such a culture is not already in place. NASA once had ths collective expertise, right? Why is NASA teaching all of this engineering stuff for Ares and Constellation employees now - at a time when these people are all in the middle of actual design reviews? Its great to give folks a refresher, but it often seems as if NASA feels that it needs to teach its own people how to do their jobs - skills they should already have.

Shouldn't this have been done before design process even started? Moreover, if the people who have been given these design tasks need this sort of remedial training, isn't this an indication that NASA should have been looking elsewhere - perhaps the private sector - where such skills still exist?

Question for Mike Griffin: Isn't there a certain folly inherent in marching into a task that rivals Apollo when you have a workforce that you know is not totally equipped to handle that challenge?

ASAP Report Released

NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel Releases Annual Report

"The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, or ASAP, has released its 2007 Annual Report. The report examines NASA's safety performance and advises the agency on ways to better that performance."

NASA safety panel worries about moon ship design, AP

"NASA is not properly emphasizing safety in its design of a new spaceship and its return-to-the-moon program faces money, morale and leadership problems, an agency safety panel found Monday. The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel cited "surprising anxiety among NASA employees" about the Constellation moon program and said the project "lacks clear direction." Its 143-page annual report specifically faulted the agency's design of the Orion crew capsule for not putting safety features first."

NASA ARC Internal Email: New Code I Directorate Established

"I am pleased to announce the formation of the Information Technology directorate, Code I, at Ames Research Center. The mission of the new directorate is to maximize the productivity of all employees by providing innovative, reliable and secure information technology services. As a part of an agency-wide initiative, all of the center's IT support functions are being consolidated under this new directorate, which is led by the Chief Information Officer (CIO). Goals of the new organization include: ... "

NASA To Brief Reporters About Constellation Program

"NASA will host a media teleconference Monday, Aug. 11, at 3 p.m. EDT, to brief reporters about ongoing assessments regarding the budget and schedule for the Constellation Program. NASA managers will discuss evaluations being made as part of an annual budget planning cycle that considers program design and development activities in relation to available funds."

Editor's note: I asked Doug Cooke why ESMD was eager to highlight its success but was simultaneously reluctant to openly volunteer information about failures such as the recent Orion Parachute Test Vehicle crash on 31 July. Specifically, I asked why ESMD refused to release pictures of that test despite repeated requests for that imagery. Cooke replied that ESMD has "not received any pictures" of that test.

I then asked Jeff Hanley about his statements to the effect that additional money would not accelerate Orion development to any great extent yet Mike Griffin is on the record before Congress stating that additional funds would help to close the gap. Hanley said that he was "not privy" to what was contained within Mike Griffin's congressional testimony.

Hanley then went on to note that "the window to accelerate Orion is closing". He suggested that some things could be speed up "If new money should be available - and it depends on the timing of it - and it depends on where the program is."

Doug Cooke said "I do not think there is an inconsistency between what Mike Griffin said and what Jeff Hanley said."

Other notes (below):

NASA Compares Ares/Orion Targets To Funding, Aviation Week

"The official IOC for an Ares I crew launch vehicle able to send a crew of six to the International Space Station (ISS) in the Orion crew exploration vehicle is March 2015. But NASA has maintained an "aggressive" internal IOC target with a 65 percent level of confidence that falls late in 2013 or early in 2014, Griffin said. "We're going to adjust that internal date and let that slip out a little bit, by how much I don't know yet because it depends on facts not yet in evidence, like what is the magnitude of the CR, and what do we expect to see, and progress we've made to date," he said."

Hubble Space Telescope Unveils Colorful and Turbulent Star-Birth Region on 100,000th Orbit Milestone

"In commemoration of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope completing its 100,000th orbit in its 18th year of exploration and discovery, scientists at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., have aimed Hubble to take a snapshot of a dazzling region of celestial birth and renewal. Hubble peered into a small portion of the nebula near the star cluster NGC 2074 (upper, left). The region is a firestorm of raw stellar creation, perhaps triggered by a nearby supernova explosion. It lies about 170,000 light-years away near the Tarantula nebula, one of the most active star-forming regions in our Local Group of galaxies."

Bush says violence in Georgia is unacceptable, AP

"On Sunday, Vice President Dick Cheney told Georgia's pro-American president that "Russian aggression must not go unanswered, and that its continuation would have serious consequences for its relations with the United States," Cheney's office reported."

Editor's note: Oh great - and these are the same Russians that the U.S. will have to rely upon for 5 or mre years to provide Americans with exclusive access to the ISS.

Abandoned NASA Trailer Found Roadside, Full of Retro NASA Awesomeness, Gizmodo

"Since it came about in the 1930s as NASA's rocket research lab, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory has been a part of just about every major unmanned U.S. space mission to date. JPL also has a somewhat surprising history of running major missions out of modular trailers scattered around their Pasadena HQ, which are packed with all of the stuff you need to, oh, I don't know, monitor a spacecraft on its way to Mars. Photographer Richard Harrington stumbled upon one of these trailers, abandoned on a dusty lot somewhere between L.A. and Las Vegas, which as you would expect is retro space-tech dream inside."

Editor's note: If the hardware shown in these pictures is powered (i.e. operational) then this is certainly not "abandoned" as the blog posting suggests. According to the photographer's website this trailer is apparently on the "edge of town" In Bishop, CA. I hope the folks at NASA who own this hardware know that people can apparently wander inside whenever they want and fiddle with things. Padlocks anyone?

Four kids on NASA trip go missing, Hindustan Times

"Four students from a school in Parowal village who went on a trip to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have gone missing in the US. One of the teachers accompanying them has also not returned as she reportedly got married."

On trip to NASA, six students from Doaba go 'missing', The Indian Express

"Six students from Doaba region have over the past fortnight gone missing in the US, where they had gone as part of academic trips to the NASA centre."

Trafficking trick: School kids vanish on NASA trip, Times of India

"It doesn't take rocket science for Indians to disappear in the US. Or does it? In fact, such is the craze for settling abroad that they keep devising new ways to do so ... The latest in the long list of their tricks is taking the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) route."

Editor's note: When this story first appeared there were 4 missing students. Now there are 6 students missing ...

U.S. Satellite Shootdown: The Inside Story, IEEE Spectrum

"Assessing technological risk is a thorny enough problem here on Earth, even with our experience and our intuition about familiar uncertainties, factors, and processes. But transport the problem into the unearthly venue of outer space, where human experience is limited, and sound assessment becomes astronomically more challenging. A notable and illuminating case in point was the U.S. decision earlier this year to use a missile to knock out a derelict spy satellite, to head off the possibility of its splashing a half ton of toxic hydrazine fuel somewhere on Earth. That official explanation of the shootdown--and, it turns out, an entirely plausible and credible explanation--nonetheless met with a chorus of public criticism and skepticism. Coming as it did barely a year after China shot down one of its satellites with a missile, in what struck many observers as an obvious antisatellite weapon demonstration, the U.S. shootdown was widely, but I believe incorrectly, seen as a response to that event."

Internal Memo Details Failed NASA Orion Parachute Test Vehicle Drop Test

"According to an internal NASA memo CPAS Cluster Development Test 2 (CDT2) experienced a test failure on 31 July 2008. Initial observations indicated that
the programmer parachute did not inflate properly when the Parachute Test Vehicle (PTV) separated from the test pallet.

The programmer parachute puts the PTV into the proper position and thus sets up proper initial conditions for descent to the ground. In this test, the programmer parachute failed to inflate.This was due to the fact that the programmer parachute did not take in enough air to fully inflate and produce the proper drag. This situation occurred because of hard buffeting produced by the wake formed by the PTV and the stabilization parachutes."

Pilots' reports on low fuel, AP

"The Aviation Safety Reporting System -- a database maintained by NASA -- has reports from pilots expressing safety concerns about airline directives pressuring them to fly with uncomfortably low fuel levels. NASA deletes names and other identifying information to encourage pilots, flight crews, dispatchers and others to identify safety problems, including their own mistakes."

Earlier NAOMS postings

NASA ARC Internal Memo: Message from the Center Director - Center Management Update

"Effective immediately, Marvin "Chris" Christensen is now the Special Assistant to the Center Director, working as an adviser on a number of centerwide issues. I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank Chris for his leadership and service to the agency. Lewis Braxton III is the acting Deputy Center Director."

More rumblings over Ares I; Is the stick dying? , Orlando Sentinel

"There are rumblings of discord in the NASA family over the agency's troubled Ares I moon rocket. According to well-placed sources inside NASA, the astronaut office is deeply unhappy with the design of Ares as it emerges from an important review that is in the process of being finished up now. The concern is so great, the sources say, that there is some talk at the highest levels of NASA about the possibility of ditching the Ares, with its unconventional stick-like solid rocket booster first stage, in favor of a more conventional rocket design - one that sounds like the shuttle launch system without the shuttle."

Editor's note: NASA sources report that a week or so ago the Ares 1 PDR Board pulled a presentation on thrust oscillation solutions because of concerns voiced by the Astronaut Office. At this point the favored solution seems to be heading for "Option B - Active Pulsing RCS Plus Single Plane Isolation" which involves using thruster packs that are aimed upward on the aft end of the first stage plus hardware at the upper end of the first stage to isolate/dampen loads.

Editor's 7 Aug note: I have made multiple requests of ESMD PAO starting on 2 August for pictures of the recent crash of the Orion Parachute Test Vehicle. AlI get back from ESMD PAO are responses such as "I don't, but I'll let you know when I know." Pictures were taken - to document the test and its aftermath. So why won't ESMD PAO release these pictures? What are they afraid of? Is there an ITAR issue? Or is this just an attempt to stall the release of images that would be bad PR for NASA? Is it time to file another FOIA request?

Orion Drop Test Fails, earlier post

Ares Architecture and ELVs

Pre-solicitation Synopsis of Proposed Contract Action for Ares Electric Thrust Vector Control Prototype Risk Reduction Procurement

Editor's note: I am a little confused (it happens). According to the Electric TVC Prototype Specification (PDF) contained in this pre-solicitation notice: "The heritage TVC (Thrust Vector Control) System does have some shortcomings: ... The system is a design that has not been in production for 20 years. The Ares launch architecture may seek expendable launch vehicle solutions and the cost associated with production of new heritage hardware would be prohibitive."

Does this mean that NASA MSFC is looking for ELV component solutions (Thrust Vector Control) for use in the Ares I/V launch vehicles (as currently being designed) or that NASA is looking to use ELVs as part of their Ares launch architecture?

"The New Built-In Refrigerator from Sub-Zero features a new Air Purification system for cleaner air and fresher foods. Discover the new Built-In Refrigerator from Sub-Zero, the leader in kitchen appliances. This system uses technology originally developed for NASA."

Video below

Surf's Up---On Saturn's Moon Titan, Cassini Mission Reveals, Examiner

"On December 24, 2004, Cassini sent the Huygens probe down to Titan's surface. The probe arrived safely on Jan. 15,2005. Since then the two craft have been shipping exploration information back home via three microwave antennas."

Editor's note: Huygens only operated for a matter of hours on the surface of Titan after landing. All of the data it collected has long been sent back to Earth. Therefore it cannot still be "shipping" anything back home.

Editor's update: What a coincidence - they corrected the story after I posted my note. Here is a cached version of the original article.

Video below

Plasma Reboost

Plasma Rocket May Be Tested at Space Station, Discovery Channel

"NASA is considering flying a prototype plasma rocket engine designed by a former astronaut to the International Space Station for testing, officials said Wednesday. The engine is called a Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket, or VASIMR, and if that sounds like something you'd see on Star Trek, you're not too far from the truth."

Rocket Man? Obama Tries to Hitch a Ride on Space Politics, Washington Examiner

"And some people, like Sen. Barack Obama, find the religion in space exploration when it's late in the campaign season, criticisms over his anti-space views are flying, and rumors of a Democratic party split over space are gaining velocity."

Space a Potential Fracture Line at Democratic National Convention?, Washington Examiner

"On the other hand, there's the presumptive nominee, Sen. Barack Obama, who's widely regarded as anti-space, despite this weeks's Google spin."

Editor's note: Question for author (former NASA PAO) Patricia Phillips: And you base these statements of yours on ... facts? You only seem to be citing "rumors". If you actually have some facts, please provide that underlying information to prove that Obama is indeed "anti-space" or perceived to be that way. For this to be an issue that is splitting the party thousands of people within the Democratic Party would need to be aware of this issue. You'll need to prove that too.

Oh yes, Patricia Phillips, who openly touts her NASA credentials, seems to be totally ignorant of a few historic facts as they relate to space exploration. NACA was the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics. NACA became NASA in 1958. But Obama is not talking about NACA. If Phillips had taken the time to carefully read or listen to what Obama said, she'd have seen that he was talking about bringing back "the National Aeronautics and Space Council". The Space Council, an advisory body operated by the White House and chaired by the Vice President is not - nor has it ever been - the same thing as NACA. Do a little more research before you dump on people in the future, Patricia.

Editor's update: I just got a really weird email from Patricia Phillips. Either she does not understand that she made an error or she does but has no intention of fixing it. Publicly released text and video of Sen. Obama speaking in Florida utterly refute her claim that he was talking about NACA. Oh well.

P.S. She also thinks a company named "McDonnell-Douglas" still exists.

SpaceX Determines Cause of Falcon 1 Launch Failure

"According to Elon Musk: We have a definitive understanding of what went wrong on Flight 3. The problem was due to a design error not a production or quality assurance issue. The thrust transient was longer than it was for the prior flight. The previous flight had an ablatively cooled engine. Flight 3 had a regeneratively cooled engine. The gap between engine cut off and staging was 1.5 seconds - which was fine for the ablatively cooled engine on Flight 2. But on Flight 3, with the regeneratively cooled engine, there was some residual thrust after engine shut down and this caused the first stage to be pushed back toward the second stage after separation and there was a recontact between the stages."

Editor's note: SpaceX puts everything on line - live - and comes back with a cogent failure analysis within a matter of days - for all the world to see. Contrast this with NASA's Ares/Constellation program wherein test failures are hidden and design flaws are suppressed.

I think I know who will get hardware on-orbit first.

Google Lunar X PRIZE T-Shirt Design Competition!

"We've got rockets. We've got rovers. We've got a race. But what we don't have is a creative, original T-Shirt that perfectly captures the spirit of exploration and innovation of the Google Lunar X PRIZE.

And is any world-wide competition complete without a cool T-Shirt? No! So we're reaching out to you, our biggest fans, to help us solve this grand challenge, in true X PRIZE Foundation fashion (no pun intended)."

Martian Chemistry

NASA Mars Phoenix Spacecraft Analyzing Martian Soil Data

"Within the last month, two samples have been analyzed by the Wet Chemistry Lab of the spacecraft's Microscopy, Electrochemistry, and Conductivity Analyzer, or MECA, suggesting one of the soil constituents may be perchlorate, a highly oxidizing substance."

Editor's note: Heads up NASA PAO: This press release says: "perchlorate, a highly oxidizing substance". Shouldn't that actually read "perchlorate, a (highly?) oxidized substance"? There is a difference between the two terms - and this release is all about science after all...

Orion Drop Test Fails

NASA Orion Parachute Test Vehicle Fails Drop Test

"All but one of the 18 parachutes inflated. Although all other parts of the test and the system itself performed as intended, the parachute responsible for getting the mockup to the correct test conditions - called a programmer chute - did not inflate during the test. As a result, the test failed. The engineering team will be studying the hardware and the parachutes, as well as analyzing computer models and imagery, to determine what caused the problem."

NASA proposed Rule: Personal Identity Verification of Contractors

"NASA proposes to revise the NASA FAR Supplement (NFS) to update procedures for compliance with Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Subpart 4.13, Personal Identity Verification of Contractor Personnel. FAR 4.13 requires that agencies include their implementing guidance of FIPS 201 and OMB guidance M-05-24 in solicitations and contracts that require the contractor to have routine physical access to Federally-controlled facilities and/or access to Federally- controlled information systems. NASA further proposes to designate The Assistant Administrator, Office of Security and Program Protection as the official with overall responsibility for verifying contractor employee personal identity."

NASA Mars Phoenix Team Opens Window on Scientific Process, NASA

"The Phoenix project has decided to take an unusual step" in talking about the research when its scientists are only about half-way through the data collection phase and have not yet had time to complete data analysis or perform needed laboratory work, said Phoenix principal investigator Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, Tucson. Scientists are still at the stage where they are examining multiple hypotheses, given evidence that the soil contains perchlorate. "We decided to show the public science in action because of the extreme interest in the Phoenix mission, which is searching for a habitable environment on the northern plains of Mars," Smith added. "Right now, we don't know whether finding perchlorate is good news or bad news for possible life on Mars."

Editor's note: This is, of course, a wonderful thing for the team to do and I applaud them for doing so. People - you know the 99.99% of the real world outside of NASA - are really interested in what these Mars folks do - and they pay the bills. The more insight the public has, the more they are inclined to see the value of these missions and feel as if they are participating - albeit vicariously.

Alas, at the press briefing, I asked if the team had already decided to undertake this "unusual step" before the news broke - or if they would have done it had the news not broken. I really did not get a crisp answer. I then asked why it is, after a decade of having the Internet surprise NASA PAO again and again with news getting out ahead of NASA's planned release, that the agency has still not learned to adapt to this ever shifting fact of life in the 21st century. No real answer to that question either - and what I heard had a certain grumpiness to it. Listen for yourself.

NASA PAO is still in denial about how the world works. And so are the scientists who work on these missions, after-the-fact openness notwithstanding. They drop hints to the media and then get indignant when their hints appear online. Perhaps this latest instance will teach a few of them something. Alas, I am not holding my breath.

Rumor Control

NASA quickly goes into rumor-control overdrive over Mars findings, SF Chronicle

"It took Dwayne Brown, a leading NASA public affairs spokesman to tell a press teleconference: "There have been reports over the weekend that NASA had made a major finding that it was withholding from the public and this speculation has fueled a host of rumors." Neither the White House nor the President's science advisers have been briefed on the new findings by anyone, Brown stated. Then he turned the teleconference over to the scientists at Phoenix mission headquarters in Tucson. Well, it all turns out that indeed the scientists working with data from their analytical instruments aboard the spacecraft had detected something significant."

Phoenix Found More Than Water on Mars, earlier post
News From Mars: Soil Less Earth-like Than Thought, earlier post
NASA Uses Twitter To Shoot Down Mars Story, earlier post
Is Mars Poisonous? Tasty? Confusing? Tune In And See, earlier post

Dwayne Brown: Replays of this telecon will play all week. [Now online here] There were reports over the weekend that NASA was withholding information. This caused lots of rumors. This briefing will set the record straight. Mike Meyer, Michael Hecht, Peter Smith, Bill Boynton on telecon.

Mike Meyer: Media discussion could be significant but research results not conclusive. That is why NASA did not include perchlorate results. More result is needed. Results will be publicised widely once confirmed.

X PRIZE Foundation Announces Ten Teams Vying for Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge

"The X PRIZE Foundation today announced that ten teams will compete in the 2008 Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge, which will take place at Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo, New Mexico, October 24-25, 2008.

The Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge is a two-level, two million dollar competition requiring a vehicle to simulate trips between the moon's surface and lunar orbit."

HTV spacecraft could take off - Japan's transport vehicle eyed as replacement for U.S. space shuttle, Daily Yomiuri

"In February this year, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration made reference to the HTV in its budget message for fiscal 2009, saying it is possible it might purchase the HTV in the future. At a press conference one month later, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin expressed high hopes for the HTV, saying it was expected to make a large contribution in the supply of goods to the ISS."

Editor's note: Apparently the folks at the Daily Yomiuri are breathing their own fumes. NASA already responded to an earlier story 2 weeks ago and denied that HTV purchases are being considered.

Gutting COTS - Update, earlier post

NASA Names New Associate Administrator for Program Analysis and Evaluation

"NASA Administrator Michael Griffin announced the appointment of W. Michael Hawes as the associate administrator for Program Analysis and Evaluation (PA&E). Hawes will succeed Scott Pace, who will leave the agency later this month to become director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University."

NOMAD Status

Monday, August 4, 2008 - 5:36 P.M. Central: Due to a power outage at MSFC, there is no connectivity to the NOMAD infrastructure. Although servers are operational, there is no connectivity; therefore, users with accounts hosted at MSFC have no ability to send and receive email on desktops, laptops, Outlook Web Access (OWA), Instant Messanger (IM) or handheld devices. More info to come.

Monday, August 4, 2008 - 6:41 P.M. Central: Some NOMAD customers at various Centers are having some success connecting to the resources hosted at MSFC. There are still others close to or located at MSFC who are not able to access any of the applications hosted at MSFC. Additionally, NOMAD customers who are on the JSC NOMAD cluster are able to access their NOMAD Services and have never been impacted by the events at MSFC.

Monday, August 4, 2008 - 7:26 P.M. Central: Connectivity to all NOMAD services has been re-established. Some messages that are still in queue need to be delivered to BlackBerry and Treo users, but they will be delivered shortly. This outage was caused by an Army power failure at the Redstone Arsenal.

Editor's note: A power outage at an Army base crashes NASA's NOMAD? Every modern ISP I have ever heard of has back-up power - especially when critical services are hosted. I guess NASA went the cheap route. Does this mean that NASA has accepted an IT solution such that NOMAD-supported services can go down across the U.S. due to a single point failure in Alabama - one that the Army oversees? Who came up with this ingenious plan?

NASA Mars Phoenix Data More Negative On Potential For Life, Aviation Week & Space Technology

"NASA will announce today that new data from the Phoenix Mars lander indicate that it is looking less conclusive that soil analyzed by the lander's soil chemistry experiment is Earth-like and can support life.

An initial soil test by the Microscopy, Electrochemistry, and Conductivity Analyzer (MECA) instrument indicated that the soil is highly Earth-like. The second test, however, is leading scientists to view the data as more inconclusive."

NASA: Reports of Martian-Life Announcement 'Bogus', Fox

"Note the [Aviation Week] story said very, very clearly three times or so, NO life on Mars detected and Phoenix can NOT [detect life] in the first place," Covault wrote in an e-mail."

NASA Phoenix Lander Spacecraft Analyzing Martian Soil Data, NASA

"Scientists are analyzing results from soil samples delivered several weeks ago to science instruments on NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander to understand the landing site's soil chemistry and mineralogy."

NASA's Mars News Is Not Life, But Perchlorate, Slashdot

"In an update to the little green men story of not-life-on-Mars, NASA has twittered: 'The buzz this weekend was due to an interesting soil chemistry finding, still preliminary, but now avail here:' where 'here' is NASA Spacecraft Analyzing Martian Soil Data. The exciting bit: 'Within the last month, two samples have been analyzed by the Wet Chemistry Lab of the spacecraft's Microscopy, Electrochemistry, and Conductivity Analyzer, or MECA, suggesting one of the soil constituents may be perchlorate, a highly oxidizing substance.

JSC Closing for Edouard

Editor's 12:34 pm EDT note: Word has it from JSC employees that the center is closing at noon and that it will be closed tomorrow as well due to the impending arrival of tropical storm Edouard. However, the JSC Center Status website has not been updated to reflect that - yet.

Editor's 1:32 pm EDT update: NASA JSC Center Closing Announcement

"JSC will close at noon today (except for those employees completing critical closure activities in advance of Tropical Storm Edouard). The center will remain closed tomorrow, Aug. 5, and will resume normal operations on Wednesday, Aug. 6. Employees should be off site by 5 p.m. today."

NASA's Griffin Tells Forum Crowd There Are No Guarantees In Space Travel,

"The US and its partners have invested $100 billion in the [ISS]," said Griffin, "so it does seem short-sighted to not spend the $3 billion a year to maintain the Shuttle. " Directing his comments to the children in the audience, "Sometimes Washington does silly things."

What Mike Griffin *Really* Thinks About NRC's Space Station Report (2005 posting)

"I'm copying a bunch of folks on this note because it concerns the nucleus of a strategic problem for us in going forward with the VSE. Bottom line, we're going to have to answer the specific issues in this report. We're going to have to define the program of activity for ISS that obtains from it the utility that it can provide. We may NOT be able to fund that activity at present; I consider that almost a fact on the ground. But we can put in place the kind of peer-reviewed science that we WOULD do, given the money, and that we WILL do, when we can afford it."

Why the U.S. should return to the moon and venture on to Mars, (edited transcript), USA Today (2005)

"Q: In retrospect, was the shuttle program a mistake?
Griffin: My opinion is that it was.

Q: Was the space station a mistake?
Griffin: I would not have built the space station. We are now trying to change the path while doing as little damage as we can."

Editor's note: First the ISS and the Shuttle were "mistakes" (Griffin's own words). Now their imminent demise is "short sighted".

NASA's Griffin Tells Forum Crowd There Are No Guarantees In Space Travel,

"A few audience questions centered on the vibration issues associated with the Constellation launch. Dr. Griffin expressed the opinion that much of the concerns were "media induced" and that NASA was close to fixing the problem."

Editor's note: I wonder why the Ares PDR is having such a difficult time with this "media induced" design issue, Mike? They just can't seem to solve it no matter what they try. Could it be that there are just too many journalists on NASA's payroll particpating in the PDR?

NASA's Griffin Tells Forum Crowd There Are No Guarantees In Space Travel,

"When asked what would he do if "wishes were free" and NASA's budget were doubled (the equivalent of the inflation-adjusted program for Apollo), the Administrator's response was as follows: 1) [We] wouldn't rely on another country and would develop a new system in parallel to continuing to use the Space Shuttle; 2) Begin working on vehicle systems sooner; and 3) Do more advanced research, the "blue sky stuff."

Editor's note: Wait a minute: after 3 years of saying that NASA must retire the Space Shuttle, is Mike Griffin now saying that he'd continue flying the shuttle if he had enough money - despite what the CAIB recommended (safety, recertification etc) ? Hmm ... this sounds a lot like something one of the presidential candidates (and their surrogates) has been saying ...

Michael Griffin at Oshkosh, The Space Review

"[Griffin] did point out that, contrary to press reports, the Bush administration has not interfered with political appointments on staffing. He said that he wanted control of who was on his staff because he doesn't want to work with "idiots" (and he did use the word "idiots").

Editor's note: Ah, so Mike Griffin actually asked the White House if he could hire former deputy FEMA Director Patrick Rhode (who has left NASA), Karl Rove's political operative Jane Cherry (now NASA's White House Liaison), and of course, George Deutsch to come to work at NASA HQ? I am not suggesting that any of these folks are idiots (since Mike has decided that they are not) but they were all overt political appointees foisted upon NASA - however Mike Griffin wants to try and spin things.

Editor's note: NASA PAO has had absolutely nothing to say about the article in Aviation Week regarding additional discoveries made by Mars Phoenix.

However, of all things, the MarsPhoenix Twitter feed commented on this issue overnight: "Heard about the recent news reports implying I may have found Martian life. Those reports are incorrect" and "Reports claiming there was a White House briefing are also untrue and incorrect."

Why is PAO letting a robot take the flack on this? Oh yes, the Av Week article did not claim that Martian life had been found. I guess robots do not read all that well. There is a vast difference between "potential" for life and "discovery of life". Aviation Week is very clear on what it is reporting. Why can't NASA PAO be equally as precise - officially - in what it is denying?

White House Briefed On Potential For Mars Life, Aviation Week

"Sources say the new data do not indicate the discovery of existing or past life on Mars."

Rumors Abound About 'Potential for Life' on Mars, Wired

"The reason that all this seems so hush-hush is due to a future paper and press release that appears likely to pop out of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and its Science magazine," Leonard [David] writes. "Whatever the poop is from the scoop that's been studied by Phoenix, that information is purportedly going through peer-review."

White House Briefed On "Potential For Life" On Mars, Slashdot

"FTA: It would appear that the US President has been briefed by Phoenix scientists about the discovery of something more 'provocative' than the discovery of water existing on the Martian surface. This news comes just as the Thermal and Evolved Gas Analyzer (TEGA) confirmed experimental evidence for the existence of water in the Mars regolith on Thursday."

Rumors of Life on Mars are Greatly Exaggerated, io9

"But the Twittering voice of the Phoenix, NASA news services manager Veronica McGregor, told tweeters they shouldn't get too excited ... And the Mars Phoenix wouldn't lie to us, would she?"

NASA prepares for possible announcement on potential for life on Mars, Tech Herald

"However NASA, through its Twitter account, denied any such claims."

Apparently there's something more exciting yet to be announced by Phoenix, Planetary Society

"According to Craig Couvalt of Aviation week, it was interesting enough to brief the President's Science Advisor; however, the Phoenix mission's Twitter feed denies this."

NASA's next small step may be into Martian manure, Sydney Morning Herald

"NASA has said little about the claims, although it has used the social networking site Twitter to downplay the reports..."

Infrastructure needed for future space exploration, The Space Review

"We need to establish a broader set of space mission interests and requirements based on overall national goals--not just those perceived by the NASA--and carefully identify the existing and planned space program capabilities that could relate to this unified need. We also need to establish independent advisory and review teams that could help to ensure that the national plan reflects a sound basis for achieving national goals and which is not swayed by regional and shortsighted special interest groups."

Audio recording of short press conference (quality is poor, sorry)

From: Elon Musk
Sent: Saturday, August 02, 2008 9:45 PM
To: Space Exploration Technologies
Subject: Plan Going Forward

It was obviously a big disappointment not to reach orbit on this flight. On the plus side, the flight of our first stage, with the new Merlin 1C engine that will be used in Falcon 9, was picture perfect. Unfortunately, a problem occurred with stage separation, causing the stages to be held together. This is under investigation and I will send out a note as soon as we understand exactly what happened.

The most important message I'd like to send right now is that SpaceX will not skip a beat in execution going forward. We have flight four of Falcon 1 almost ready for flight and flight five right behind that. I have also given the go ahead to begin fabrication of flight six. Falcon 9 development will also continue unabated, taking into account the lessons learned with Falcon 1. We have made great progress this past week with the successful nine engine firing.

As a precautionary measure to guard against the possibility of flight 3 not reaching orbit, SpaceX recently accepted a significant investment. Combined with our existing cash reserves, that ensures we will have more than sufficient funding on hand to continue launching Falcon 1 and develop Falcon 9 and Dragon. There should be absolutely zero question that SpaceX will prevail in reaching orbit and demonstrating reliable space transport. For my part, I will never give up and I mean never.

Thanks for your hard work and now on to flight four.


Video below

Falcon 1 Launch Anomaly

SpaceX Sets August 2 for Falcon 1 launch

"Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) has scheduled the launch of the Falcon 1 Flight 3 mission for Saturday, August 2nd. The launch window will open at 4:00 p.m. (PDT) / 7:00 p.m. (EDT) and remain open for five hours. If launch is delayed for any reason, SpaceX has range availability to resume countdown through August 5. Lift-off of the vehicle will occur from SpaceX's Falcon 1 launch site at the Kwajalein Atoll, about 2500 miles southwest of Hawaii."

Editor's note: Check here for SpaceX updates. You can also follow the PreSat and NanoSailD (payload) Twitter feeds for more information.


Editor's update: SpaceX update: "Launch control says that there has been an anomaly on the vehicle". (see this link for more info)

Florida Democratic Party: McCain's Low Road on NASA

"Once again, John McCain and his campaign have decided to take the low road rather than defend his own record on NASA issues, which Florida Today called "downright schizophrenic." Not only has McCain voted to take funding from NASA to fund other priorities, but his "fantasy" plan to pay for making the Bush's tax cuts permanent by freezing discretionary funding and vetoing every bill with earmarks would cost the Mars mission millions.

Here are the facts on John McCain's record on NASA funding:"

Editor's note: During a campaign appearance in Titusville, FL on Saturday, Democratic candidate Sen. Obama commented on NASA. As part of a response to a question on oceanic research, he brought up the topic of NASA. He said "I know it's still being reported that we were talking about delaying some aspects of the Constellation program to pay for our early education program. I told my staff we're going to find an entirely different offset, because we've got to make sure that the money that's going into NASA for basic research and development continues to go there. That has been a top priority for us."

"This is an administration that is anti-science. They have rejected science - I want us to be a science-based society."

Editor's note: If you look at this original version of "Barack Obama's Plan For Lifetime Success Through Education" as first posted officialy some months ago, Section IX says "The early education plan will be paid for by delaying the NASA Constellation Program for five years". Yet, if you read the current version, that sentence about NASA is now gone. So this was more than just an issue of something "being reported". It was on Obama's own website, in one of his official position papers. This certainly strikes me as a policy reversal - albeit a positive one.

Obama says he will protect NASA jobs, budget, Orlando Sentinel

"That position had been "reported" on Obama's official campaign Web site until it was removed Saturday. The campaign of Republican rival John McCain was quick to point that out, declaring in a news release, "Barack Obama once again demonstrated that his words really don't matter."

Editor's update: According to the official Obama Blog:

"Barack was in Titusville, Florida this morning for a "Working for Change" town hall. Along with the economy, Barack talked about the need to focus on space exploration and the effect it has on Florida residents. He said..."

White House Briefed On Potential For Mars Life

"The White House has been alerted by NASA about plans to make an announcement soon on major new Phoenix lander discoveries concerning the "potential for life" on Mars, scientists tell Aviation Week & Space Technology. Sources say the new data do not indicate the discovery of existing or past life on Mars. Rather the data relate to habitability--the "potential" for Mars to support life--at the Phoenix arctic landing site, sources say. The data are much more complex than results related NASA's July 31 announcement that Phoenix has confirmed the presence of water ice at the site."

Editor's note: The folks at have gone into smug elitist mode again. This time it is regard to the emerging story first reported by veteran Aviation Week reporter Craig Covault about possible news from Mars Phoenix experiments - results significant enough to have caused interaction with the White House.

The bulletin board's moderator, Doug Ellison, expresses some issues that he has with Covault's reporting in his response to a post about the way in which Covault asked a question at a recent Mars Phoenix press conference. Ellison wrote "In private, after the press conf or by telephone. Not by raising a nightmare of almost certainly inappropriate speculation and hyperbole by being quite so smug and veiled. I like Craig, I like his articles, and I like the fact he'll take creations by people here and publish them. But I really don't like the way he's handled this. If nothing else, he's given us an admin headache."

Oh, how unfortunate Doug - you "really don't like the way he's handled" this potentially exciting news because it has caused your BBS to have an "admin heacache". You guys dump on Craig for "inappropriate speculation and hyperbole", yet the title of the discussion thread at on your website is "The MECA story, A place for speculation". Why is your "speculation" appropriate and Craig's alleged "speculation" inappropriate? Get a grip, Doug - you can't have it both ways. Besides, I'll bet he has far better access to the facts than you do.

Of course, the denizens of that BBS will soon enage in attacks on me and NASA Watch in response - things that Mr. Ellison loftily claims to forbid on his website - but allows to persist when he sees fit. Oh well, Doug, so much (again) for consistency ...

SpaceX: First 9 Engine Firing of Falcon 9 Launch Vehicle (with video)

"Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX ) conducted the first nine engine firing of its Falcon 9 launch vehicle at its Texas Test Facility outside McGregor on July 31st. A second firing on August 1st completed a major NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) milestone almost two months early. At full power, the nine engines consumed 3,200 lbs of fuel and liquid oxygen per second, and generated almost 850,000 pounds of force - four times the maximum thrust of a 747 aircraft. This marks the first firing of a Falcon 9 first stage with its full complement of nine Merlin 1C engines . Once a near term Merlin 1C fuel pump upgrade is complete, the sea level thrust will increase to 950,000 lbf, making Falcon 9 the most powerful single core vehicle in the United States."

Shuttle Job Cuts Begin

Lockheed Martin informs external tank workers of possible job cuts, Huntsville Times

"Lockheed Martin Corp. today informed its external fuel tank workforce in Huntsville and New Orleans that jobs on the space shuttle support program would be cut starting in the fall, according to a company spokesman. About 100 Lockheed Martin people work on the program in Huntsville, said Marion LaNasa, spokesman for Lockheed at the Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans where the aerospace giant manufactures the 15-story fuel tank for NASA."

Statement by John Chapman, External Tank Project Manager, About Work Force Reductions at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility

"While the reductions associated with the shuttle's retirement will result in fewer people doing NASA work at Michoud, the agency plans to locate significant work there in the future. Boeing employees will manufacture and assemble the Ares I upper stage, and conduct avionics systems integration and checkout. Lockheed Martin will build structures for the Orion crew exploration capsule as well as the capsule's Launch Abort System. In future years, the Ares V core stage and Earth departure stage, which will be needed for the return to the moon, will be built at Michoud."

Eclipse Imagery

NASA Brings Total Eclipse of the Sun to the Masses

"On August 1, a total solar eclipse was visible in parts of Canada, northern Greenland, the Arctic, central Russia, Mongolia and China. The eclipse swept across Earth in a narrow path that began in Canada's northern territory of Nunavut and ended in northern China's Silk Road region.

Though the eclipse was not visible in most of North America, NASA TV and the Exploratorium made streaming video of the event available online."

NASA GSFC Internal Memo: Outlook Calendars

"There have been several instances where individuals who have been invited to a meeting have forwarded the meeting invitation to other individuals. Even though this is an option that is available in Outlook, it is not advisable for several reasons. It is considered poor meeting etiquette to invite other people to a meeting who are not on the original guest list."



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