December 2008 Archives

Editor's 30 Dec note: There is a post regarding the release date of the Columbia report on the blog Rocketsandsuch read by folks in and around NASA written by an unhappy employee at NASA that claims "One spokesperson said it was released now to keep the crew's children from having to deal with questions from their classmates the following morning. Don't believe that for a minute. No, today's release was another piece of the duplicitous campaign for the Emperor to keep his job. ... This man knows no bounds, using seven dead crew as a lever for advancing his own career."

I submitted the following comment which as yet to be posted:

"Your statement regarding the choice of release date is wholly and demonstrably false. It was chosen for precisely the reason given. I have that on sterling, irrefutable, personal authority. To make such a statement is reprehensible, plain and simple. As for the rest of Griffin's campaign to keep his job, that is a different story. But for you to drag the concerns of the families of the Columbia crew in on this complaint about Griffin's activities so as to score a cheap and knowingly false point - and to do so anonymously at that - is cowardly and beyond repugnant. You should be ashamed of yourself. The decent thing for you to do would be to post a written apology immediately."

I simply cannot fathom how Mike Griffin could ever be a party to something as repugnant as this anonymous poster claims. Period.

Editor's 1 Jan note: The editor of Rocketsandsuch blog posted 8 comments - but not mine. So much for tolerance of different opinions on that site. Keep that in mind when you read it.

NASA Report Reviews Crew Safety Measures During Columbia Accident, Recommends Improvements

"A media teleconference will be held at 3 p.m. CST Tuesday to discuss the report. To participate, reporters must contact NASA's Johnson Space Center newsroom at 281-483-5111 no later than 2 p.m. Space may be limited. Audio of the teleconference will be streamed live at:"


After the CAIB, Bill Parsons and Wayne Hale were informed that a lot of information was available that could be used to improve crew survival on future spacecraft. They asked a team to develop an NTSB-like report in this regard.

Report took as long as it needed to. Recommendations cover a broad array of subjects. Hale calls upon spacecraft designers around the world to read this report and implement its findings.

The accident was ultimately not survivable.

Columbia Report Issued

NASA Report: Understanding Columbia's Loss, SpaceRef

"Accidents are things to be avoided. However, by the very nature of how we currently send humans into space and return them to Earth, there is a substantial amount of risk involved. Much of that risk has been identified and is manageable. But not all of it. Of course, when you hear this discussion, someone inevitably says that the only way to make these things risk free is not to do them.

Well, we have decided to do these risky things, now haven't we?"

NASA Space Shuttle and Constellation Program Actions Resulting From SCSIIT Recommendations

The Columbia Report, Part 1, FreeSpace, Discovery News
The Columbia Report, Part 2, FreeSpace, Discovery News
NASA releases post-Columbia crew survival study, Spaceflight Now
NASA: Columbia crew equipment didn't work well, NewsDay
NASA to change spacecraft due to Columbia tragedy, Huntsville Times
New Report on 03 Disaster Details How Astronauts Died, NY Times
NASA faults equipment in Columbia shuttle disaster, CNN
Columbia crew had no chance, new NASA report says, Reuters
New Report Details Columbia Accident, Recommends Improvements, Universe Today
New NASA report details final minutes of Columbia, AP

Military rockets: Solution for NASA?, Orlando Sentinel

"According to documents presented to Obama's transition team three weeks ago -- including internal studies by the rockets' manufacturer, United Launch Alliance -- upgraded human-rated versions of the military EELVs would have enough power to take NASA's fully loaded Orion crew capsule into orbit. In fact, the studies say some configurations of the rockets can lift up to 6 metric tons more than NASA requires..."

... Industry officials say that a few days later, Griffin called Robert Stevens, the CEO of Lockheed Martin Corp., which jointly owns ULA together with Boeing Co., and demanded that Stevens stop what Griffin called the subsidiary's efforts to "kill Ares I" by promoting versions of its own rockets that could carry humans to space.

Mike Griffin's No. 1 Fan, FreeSpace, Discovery News

"Well, a couple of things. One, I've never read NASA Watch so I don't know what's on it, but I'll assume that what you're telling me is true. This petition is about Mike Griffin the man, about the administrator... "

... Just to close the very last step, were you asked, or did the idea of the petition spring solely from you?

"This was completely my idea. I didnt even tell Mike. In fact, I think he was a bit flabbergasted when he saw it. I take all the credit, good or bad. This was my idea."

From the Discovery Channel: "This week in space: Mars Dust Storms, Spirit Rover Anniversary, SPACEX/Orbital Sciences/NASA Deal, Virgin Galactic."

Video Below

Kazakhstan bans foreigners from Baikonur, other areas, Novosti

"The Kazakh government issued a decree on Friday banning foreigners from visiting four areas of the country, including the city of Baikonur, which services the eponymous space center. Baikonur, the town of Gvardeysk near the former capital, Almaty, and two regions in the Kyzylorda province have been closed to foreigners until 2015."

Editor's note: Gee, that is certainly going to make it rather difficult non-residents of Kazakhstan to ride Soyuz spacecraft to the ISS - or return home, isn't it? The "Gap" just became a void.

The Fight Over NASA's Future, NY Times

"The Obama transition team, in meetings and requests for information from NASA, contractors and others with a stake in the process, has asked whether increased financing can narrow the five-year flight gap by speeding development of the new spacecraft. The advisers have also asked what the costs and consequences might be of continuing to fly the shuttles for at least one or two additional flights, or even to keep flying them until the next system is ready. The team has also asked whether the development program is truly in trouble and, if so, whether the Ares I should be modified or replaced by rockets used by the Air Force to launch satellites, or the Ariane 5 rocket from Europe. While some involved in developing the rockets have read volumes into the questions, a spokesman for the transition team, Nick Shapiro, said that "the role of the agency review teams is not to make recommendations on any of the issues they are reviewing. They are fact-finding and preparing the full range of options for consideration by the incoming appointees."

FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation Notice of Approval on a Record of Decision for the Spaceport America Commercial Launch Site

"In accordance with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations and FAA Order 1050.1E, Change 1, the FAA is announcing the availability of the ROD for the Spaceport America Commercial Launch Site, Sierra County, New Mexico. The ROD provides the FAA's final environmental determination and approval to support the issuance of a Launch Site Operator License to the New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) to operate Spaceport America, as proposed in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) published in November 2008."

Editor's note: the following was sent out to the email list today - I checked and there a half a dozen or so space-related questions already posted.

"Dear Friend: We recently launched a new feature on called Open for Questions. Thousands of you responded, asking 10,000 questions and voting nearly a million times on questions from others. Now that we've answered some of the most popular ones from the last round, we are open for questions again. Ask whatever you like, and vote up or down on the other questions to let us know which ones you most want the Transition to answer. Get started now at We're looking forward to learning about what you want to know. Thanks, John D. Podesta, Co-Chair, Obama-Biden Transition Project"

Insight Into SpaceX and COTS

SpaceX: More NASA Launches, Less Money, FreeSpace, Discovery News

"I attempt to cover the news without bias, but privately I cheered NASA's selection of startup SpaceX and innovative Orbital Sciences over The Big Three collaborative (not automakers, aerospace contractors) bidding on $3.5 billion of government work to deliver stuff to the International Space Station. I thought it was a little weird that SpaceX's share, totaling $1.6 B to start, covered 12 missions, while Orbital, which got an additional $300 million, was responsible for eight. In a conference call with reporters to announce the award, NASA's spaceflight chief Bill Gerstenmaier said the agency didn't see anything out of line with Orbital's bid."

Editor's note: I have received several reports from folks here in the Metro Washington DC area that NASA is shipping copies of new book by Mike Griffin by priority mail. The book is titled "Leadership in Space: selected speeches of NASA Admistrator Griffin - May 2005 to October 2008" (NASA 2008-564). Isn't a little odd to be shipping a book by priority mail to a bunch of people who are on vacation, at work only to water the plants, or otherwise not inclined to read an anthology of Griffin's collected works? Or is the 9th floor thinking that this little tome will some how affect the decision making process of the Transition Team?

Editor's update: A reliable source at NASA tells me that the year end timing of this book's distribution is coincidental and that editing and other chores associated with producing this book pushed its release date back.

Editor's note: It would seem that Mike Griffin and Mike Coats want to be extra certain that everyone within NASA's contractor workforce knows what Neil Armstrong thinks about Mike Griffin and the Obama Transition Team.

-----Original Message-----
From: Coats, Michael {JSC-Center-Director}(JSC-AA)
Sent: Sat 12/27/2008 3:33 PM
To: JSC-DL-JSC-Contractors
Subject: FW: WSJ Letter by Neil Armstrong

-----Original Message-----
From: Griffin, Michael D. (HQ-AA000)
Sent: Saturday, December 27, 2008 8:38 AM

Future Space Opportunities Are the President's Call

You recently reported on the decisions that the new administration will face in connection with the American manned space program (" Tough Decision Looms on Space Shuttle's Fate ," U.S. News, Dec. 17). Your article indicated that President-elect Barack Obama's transition team "faces a tough early choice between extending the life of the aging space shuttle and accelerating its replacement."

COTS Pick: A Sea Change?

NASA Rejects Trojan Horse, Motley Fool

"On Christmas Eve-Eve, NASA finally announced the results of its long-running Commercial Resupply Services competition, and as the tidbit above correctly points out, neither Lockheed nor Boeing (nor Alliant Techsystems, for that matter) wound up in the winners circle. What you may not know, is that none of these three companies were actually bidding for the contract at all, at least not directly. Instead, these three giants of the aerospace industry chose to hitch their carts to a foal of a company named PlanetSpace, which acted as the prime contractor in the bid. Turns out, NASA was not amused -- nor impressed."

France's first woman in space hospitalized after suicide attempt, Scientific American

"The first French woman in space has been hospitalized after she tried to take her own life, according to published reports. Claudie Haignere, 51, was hospitalized late yesterday after she tried to commit suicide, an unidentified French government source told Agence France-Presse. Another source told AFP that Haignere overdosed on pills."

Offline Update

Editor's note: We were offline last night due to some power outages associated with bad weather on the West Coast. Everything should be working fine now.

Geek 4 Prez

Obama to boldly go where no geek has gone before, AP

"President-elect Barack Obama used to collect comic books, can't part with his BlackBerry, and once flashed Leonard "Mr. Spock" Nimoy the Vulcan "Live Long and Prosper" sign. That and other evidence has convinced some of Obama's nerdier fans that he'll be the first American president to show distinct signs of geekiness. And that's got them as excited as a Tribble around a Klingon. Obama is good at "repressing his inner geek, but you can tell it's there," especially when he goes into nuanced explanations of technical matters, said Benjamin Nugent, author of the book "American Nerd: The Story of My People." "One imagines a terrifying rally of 'Star Trek' people shouting, 'One of us!'" Nugent said, in an interview conducted by e-mail, of course."

Dear Santa

Santa Invited To Explore NASA's Moon And Mars Progress, NASA KSC

"When Santa Claus makes his routine pit stop at NASA Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility on Christmas Eve, he may do a bit more than chow down on milk and cookies. In the next few decades, humans could be living, working and playing on the moon, including millions of good little boys and girls counting on Santa to put presents under their trees, no matter where those trees are. So this year, Kennedy is inviting Santa to check out the progress being made with the agency's Constellation Program."

Editor's note: You know the end is near when NASA PAO issues inane pleas for technical assistance to Santa Claus. Alas, Santa is not likely to leave Mike Griffin much more than a few lumps of coal in his Christmas stocking this year.

Bush Administration Nixed NASA's U.S.-China, Aviation Week

"NASA tried and failed to obtain Bush administration approval of an overture to China for a cooperative U.S.-China space mission, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin tells Aviation Week & Space Technology. The White House believes that a higher level of cooperation is too great a reward to China for its human rights and arms-trafficking violations of international law. But the new Obama administration may resurrect the idea."

NASA Response to Aviation Week and Space Technology Article

"Unfortunately, Aviation Week's recent article of Dec. 21, 2008, entitled "Bush Administration Nixed NASA's U.S.-China Cooperation Idea," is inaccurate and misleading. As an initial matter, NASA has never asked the White House for a cooperative mission such as the one described in the article. The fact is that the White House has been very supportive of a deliberate and careful establishment of relations between NASA and the China National Space Administration (CNSA) over the past two years."

NASA Awards Space Station Commercial Resupply Services Contracts

"NASA has awarded two contracts -- one to Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., and one to Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, Calif. -- for commercial cargo resupply services to the International Space Station. At the time of award, NASA has ordered eight flights valued at about $1.9 billion from Orbital and 12 flights valued at about $1.6 billion from SpaceX. These fixed-price indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contracts will begin Jan. 1, 2009, and are effective through Dec. 31, 2016. The contracts each call for the delivery of a minimum of 20 metric tons of upmass cargo to the space station. The contracts also call for delivery of non-standard services in support of the cargo resupply, including analysis and special tasks as the government determines are necessary."

The Worst Leadership Performances of 2008, Washington Post

"Act Clueless Award: Michael Griffin. The incumbent administrator of NASA judged Lori Garver, head of president-elect Obama's NASA transition team, as "not qualified" to evaluate the merits of the return-to the moon Constellation rocket program. Griffin then sought an audience with the president-elect. Speculation is that Griffin is afraid that the Obama administration will gut his pet project and so he has asked NASA contractors to withhold information on Constellation."

Orlando Sentinel on NASA

We think: NASA's chief should welcome Obama team's scrutiny, opinion, Orlando Sentinel

"As NASA prepares to come under the direction of a new president, Mr. Griffin might believe he is saving the Constellation program by shielding it from outside interference. In reality, he does the program and his agency no favors if he stands in the way of a robust review of the current plan and any alternatives. Without such a review, the Obama administration might be hesitant to commit the billions of dollars needed to carry out the program. Its transition team already is looking critically at chronic cost overruns at NASA."

NASA's essential place in space is saving Earth, commentary, Orlando Sentinel

"Griffin says the agency should not be evaluated by how well it estimates costs. That is an astounding statement. How are we are supposed to judge NASA programs if NASA can't give us a dollar figure with which to weigh cost and benefits? At least he is being honest. Like many government agencies, NASA's strategy has long been to underestimate costs and overestimate benefits."

New Report Details Aerospace Workforce Needs, Remedies, AIA

"A new report from the aerospace industry promotes the need to convince more students to study math and science and makes proposals to senior policy makers to improve those education disciplines. The new report, "Launching the 21st Century American Aerospace Workforce," documents steps the industry is taking to head off a potential workforce crisis and makes nine policy recommendations to government partners. The report is a follow-up to an analysis released earlier this year that detailed the goals and actions the industry must take to meet the challenge."

Falcon 9 Gets Real

SpaceX Falcon 9 to Be Fully Integrated by December 31

"Yesterday we lifted the first stage off the shipping truck and lowered it onto the integration assemblies (shown below). With all of the F9 hardware currently at or on its way to the Cape, we are on track for a fully integrated launch vehicle by year's end. Barring any unforeseen delays, the second stage and fairing are expected to arrive at the Cape by December 28th and will be mated on December 31st, just in time for the New Year. The erector is also on track towards operational status in early January, with the base assembly to be aligned and tacked by December 26th and welding to be complete early in the New Year."

NASA Might Change Hubble Mission Requirement to Keep Ares 1-X on Schedule,

"Current plans call for having Atlantis and Endeavour occupy Pads 39-A and 39-B, respectively, during preparations for the planned May 12 launch of the STS-125 Hubble servicing mission. But NASA officials now are considering launching Atlantis and then rolling Endeavour out to Pad 39-A, said Jeff Hanley, Constellation program manager at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. This would make Pad 39-B available to undergo the three to four months of modifications necessary to support the Ares 1-X flight, he told reporters in a Wednesday press briefing."

Editor's note: After several years of safety-driven planning, Mike Griffin is now allowing Ares schedule pressure to drive the implementation of shuttle safety decisions in a last minute effort to try and salvage Ares. How quickly NASA forgets.

Rocket Science 101

Rocket science treks to real world, Houston Chronicle

"For nearly three hours, Brett Williams' 24 teen-age rocket-designers faced one tough question after another from some of NASA's most experienced aerospace engineers. But the outcome was no smackdown of Generation Y. The polite juniors and seniors from Fredericksburg High didn't falter before their interrogators and methodically detailed their plans to build and launch a Red Bird rocket this spring. At the end of the design review session, the graying space agency engineers, some with experience dating back to the Apollo era, praised the poise and talent of the youths -- a few of whom may find a career at the space agency in the years ahead. "I'd have given my right arm to be in a class like this," said Lee Graham, a 25-year veteran of NASA's Johnson Space Center who leads the planning for a moon lander. "This is exactly what we need to inspire the next generations of engineers and scientists."

From The Earth to the Moon

Forty years ago, three men left for the Moon

"[Sunday] marks the 40th anniversary of the launch of the Apollo 8 mission, Americas first human mission to the Moon and by any measure, still a remarkable achievement. Its difficult from our position so many years later to appreciate what a bold, giant leap this mission was, in some ways even greater than the subsequent lunar landing of Apollo 11. Before Apollo 8, no one had ever ventured more than a few hundred kilometers above the Earth. No one had ever seen, with their own eyes, the glowing disk of a full Earth nor the cratered dusty surface of the Moon up close. And no one had ever experienced the isolation of being on the far side of the Moon, cut off from all contact with the Earth and everything the human race has ever known."

Replacement for shuttle must serve as bridge craft, Steve Lindsey, Houston Chronicle

"NASA spent several years studying architectures and researching every available commercial rocket to find the design that could best accomplish those dual mission objectives in the safest, most reliable way. The conclusion we reached was that a space shuttle and Apollo derived vehicle was the best choice. Many have challenged this decision and still are advocating the use of existing commercial launch vehicles. Those have been studied extensively and fall short of our requirements for several reasons. First, existing commercial launch vehicles can lift only a fraction of the mass required for station and lunar missions in a single launch. Second, existing commercial launch vehicles have been designed and built to carry unmanned payloads; they would need to be heavily modified to meet our human rating requirements."

Editor's note: The X- Prize Foundation has submitted a 3 page document "Five years out from the announcement of a new vision for America's Space Exploration program, important lessons about what NASA should be doing and how it can best meet those goals are available."

Do you have something (document, study, memo, etc.) to share with the Transition team? Send it here. You can see what they have posted online here.

Earlier Transition Team items

Transcript: President-elect Barack Obama's Radio Address

"Right now, in labs, classrooms and companies across America, our leading minds are hard at work chasing the next big idea, on the cusp of breakthroughs that could revolutionize our lives. But history tells us that they cant do it alone. From landing on the moon, to sequencing the human genome, to inventing the Internet, America has been the first to cross that new frontier because we had leaders who paved the way: leaders like President Kennedy, who inspired us to push the boundaries of the known world and achieve the impossible; leaders who not only invested in our scientists, but who respected the integrity of the scientific process.

Because the truth is that promoting science isnt just about providing resources - its about protecting free and open inquiry. Its about ensuring that facts and evidence are never twisted or obscured by politics or ideology. Its about listening to what our scientists have to say, even when its inconvenient - especially when its inconvenient. Because the highest purpose of science is the search for knowledge, truth and a greater understanding of the world around us. That will be my goal as President of the United States - and I could not have a better team to guide me in this work."

From: "Henderson, Edward M. (JSC-MG)"
Date: December 11, 2008 3:56:59 PM CST
Cc: "Reed, Rebekah D. (JSC-MG)"
Subject: SBSP Demo Team Termination

Dear Team Members,

It is with a heavy heart that I tell you that we have been asked to terminate all NASA's support on the SBSP demo activity. This direction was just received from management and I wanted to pass it along to you as soon as possible to avoid wasting any more additional work that you have most graciously been volunteering. Management provided the following explanation:

This is Just Not Right

NASA, Space Gateway Support Fail to Make Apology, The Earth Times

"NASA and Space Gateway Support still have not issued an apology to identity theft victim David Welch after software engineer Kevin Landivar used a NASA computer to destroy Welchs credit in July."

Smoothing Out The Transition

We think: NASA's chief should welcome Obama team's scrutiny, editorial, Orlando Sentinel

"For NASA, the transition between the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama has been a bumpy ride. The blame goes to NASA Administrator Michael Griffin. Last week the Sentinel reported that Mr. Griffin, trying to protect the space agency's Constellation program, was obstructing information-gathering by Mr. Obama's transition team. With its goal of sending astronauts to the moon and Mars, the program is considered Mr. Griffin's signature project. Mr. Griffin vehemently disputed the report. But a NASA spokesman confirmed to The Washington Post that the administrator had told the head of the transition team, a former associate administrator at NASA, that no one on her team had the engineering qualifications to evaluate the agency's choice of rocket for the program."

Report on "Cross-Generational Discussions and Activities",

"Last April, representatives of the next generation workforce community attended the NASA Strategic Management Council (SMC) at Stennis Space Center to discuss strategic workforce issues. The SMC is a top-level meeting with the NASA Administrator and top senior leadership across the agency."

Editor's note: What mystifies me is why this crowd can only seem to present things in Powerpoint. I have yet to see an actual written report from them - one that uses words in sentences, paragraphs, and chapters, and goes into depth in describing the issues that are raised. Relying on Powerpoint slides composed of pictures and one sentence catch phrases does not do the topic the justice that it deserves since this is all that 99.99% of the audience not in attendance ever sees. The response that is often offered is that these slides were used as part of a presentation. OK, where's the video of that presentation? And why is it that this material can only (seemingly) be presented in the form of Powerpoint slides that someone has to then explain and expand upon? Can't someone come up with a self-contained presentation that speaks for itself - in full detail - one that can be read? If the proponents of the ideas listed on these slides cannot explain themselves in writing, what does that say about their ability to fully communicate?

Short blog posts just don't cut it.

Editor's update: One of my readers pointed out that there was a report - but the link is all the way at the bottom of a blog posting. My oversight. You guys might want to make these links a bit more prominent - and fix the broken link that starts with "ohttp://www .... ".

The report "NASA Center Cross-Generation Discussions Summary of Efforts & Results from Ames, Dryden, Glenn, Goddard, Johnson, Kennedy, Langley, Marshall & Stennis" is mostly a loosely knit shopping list of things that people are doing or that people want to see done. The underlying reason(s) for doing these things, i.e. why they are important, how they are chosen, and ow their effectiveness measured, is more or less absent. There is also mention of a "One NASA Philosophy" - something that is not defined - is this just something for civil servants or is NASA's (much larger) pool of contractor employees part of this as well? Nor is there any description of just what generation(s) are being discussed, who fits into which one, and why this "next gen" should be getting different treatment than previous generations. In addition, no author names or contact information is included. How does one seek more information on these topics or offer help? Oddest of all is why the bulk of the visibility and public discussion for this official NASA effort is being done by NASA employees via their own privately-run website. Shouldn't all of NASA be in on this?

Nice start - but this is simply a Powerpoint presentation with lots of words. Maybe the Obama folks will re-initialize this entire discussion such that it results in progress agency-wide and not just verbiage posted in niche locations.

(yet another) Powerpoint presentation below

Deal on used vehicle simply too sky high, Huntsville Times

"We don't have that kind of money and to be able to do that kind of fundraising effort in this economy is unrealistic," Al Whitaker, spokesman for the Space Center, said Thursday. After all, it took the center nearly 5 years to raise about $22 million to refurbish its Saturn V rocket and build the new Davidson Center for Space Exploration, $20 million less than what NASA wants for a shuttle, Whitaker said."

Editor's note: Why not follow the time-honored tradition in Huntsville (and elsehwere) and get Congress to shove it into NASA's budet as gratuitous pork?

Editor's note: Multiple sources report that John Holdren will be President-Elect Obama's science adviser. Word has it that this signals how some additional science and technology agency appointments are going to be made and what the Obama Administration is going to be focusing on. Stay tuned.

Wikipedia: "John P. Holdren is the Teresa and John Heinz Professor of Environmental Policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He earned a bachelor's degree from MIT in 1965 and a PhD from Stanford in 1970. His work has focused on global environmental change, energy technologies and policies, nuclear proliferation, and science and technology policy. Dr. Holdren currently (2007) serves as the chairman of the board of directors of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and is director of the prestigious Woods Hole Research Center."

Lubchenco Will Helm National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Washington post

"President-elect Barack Obama has tapped Oregon State University professor Jane Lubchenco, one of the nation's most prominent marine biologists, to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Lubchenco, a conservationist who has devoted much of her career to encouraging scientists to become more engaged in public policy debates, is also a vocal proponent of curbing greenhouse gases linked to global warming. The transition team could not be reached for comment, but several sources confirmed today that Lubchenco had been picked and was headed to Chicago for the upcoming announcement."

From "Barack Obama names more Cabinet members, Obama takes heat because of Rick Warren, and the Obama team considers rockets to replace space shuttles." Starts at 2:20.

Video below

Warp Drive for ISS

NASA Administrator Hails Agreement with Ad Astra

"NASA's Associate Administrator for Space Operations William Gerstenmaier and Ad Astra's President and Chief Executive Officer Franklin Chang Diaz signed the agreement on Dec. 8. The agreement is structured in a series of "gates," designed to allow the parties to assess milestones on an incremental basis while proceeding to flight. Upon the achievement of these milestones, NASA and Ad Astra envision that VASIMR will be launched to the station and be tested, for the first time, in the vacuum of space."

NASA and Ad Astra Rocket Company sign Agreement for flight test of the VASIMR rocket engine aboard the International Space Station

"The NASA Authorization Act of 2005, Section 507 (P.L. 109-155) designates the US portion of the ISS a National Laboratory. While smaller projects have already been initiated for installation at interior locations of the ISS, the Ad Astra project will serve as a "pathfinder" by demonstrating a new class of larger, more complex externally-installed science and technology payloads, encouraging others to pursue similar projects and facilitating their efforts with a model for implementation."

NASA Strategic Management Council Meeting 9 July 2008

"Griffin stated his desire to see a Space Act Agreement signed to fly a Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR) experiment, stating that the engine needs a test in space. ... Action: Space Operations Mission Directorate is to report back to the Strategic Management Council on the status of the Space Act Agreement to conduct a Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR) experiment on the International Space Station."

Presidential Inaugural Committee Invites NASA To March In Parade

"The Inauguration Committee for President-elect Barack Obama officially extended an invitation Wednesday for NASA to be part of the 56th Inaugural Parade on Jan. 20. The crew of NASA's recent STS-126 space shuttle mission and other agency officials will join representatives from across the country and our armed forces in this historic parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington following swearing-in ceremonies on the steps of the Capitol."

Another idea below.

Launching Orion on EELVs

Obama Team Considers NASA Use of Modified Military Rockets, Wall Street Journal

"President-elect Barack Obama's transition team, considering ways to reduce the cost and risk associated with manned space exploration, has broached the idea of using modified U.S. military rockets to launch the eventual replacement for the space shuttle. No decision has been made and the concept raises major technical, funding and policy issues. But in recent weeks, the transition team assigned to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has been asking aerospace industry officials about the feasibility of such a dramatic shift in priorities."

Editor's note: When asked in today's ESMD about moving Orion to an EELV Doug Cooke said "We do not have any data on that specifically." This is certainly a rather odd thing for Doug to say given that he and his staff regularly tell people that they know that using Ares 1 to launch Orion would be cheaper and safer than using an EELV. In order to know that Ares 1 is cheaper, don't you need to know what the cost of launching Orion on an EELV is Doug? Otherwise, how can you do the math to show that it is cheaper?

ESMD Telecon

NASA to Update Reporters about Constellation Program

"To participate in the call, reporters should dial 800-790-1836 and use the pass code "ESMD update." Replays of the call will be available through Dec. 24 by dialing 866-507-3617 and entering the pass code 52368."

Editor's note: When you call 800-790-1836 (I have tried twice) you get "Video Professors' free CD hotline". Oh well. I don't think there will be very many people on this telecon today.

Editor's update: The actual number is 888-790-1836

Telecon Notes starting at 4:00 - 4:10 pm EST:

AP's Seth Borenstein asked Doug Cooke a question about $2 billion in underfunding for Ares as was presented to industry in a recent briefing. Cooke denied having held any such briefing saying "I do not know what briefings you are referring to." Doug Cooke is not telling the truth. Steve Cook and ESMD representatives met with industry representatives this morning at NASA HQ to discuss Ares, Orion, and Constellation issues. This was sponsored by the Space Business Roundtable. Multiple sources report that this $2 billion underfunding was discussed. NASA PAO was not there.

Doug Cooke: 2008 milestones. Completed System Baseline Review for Orion completed. Administrator participated. Looked at what is needed to proceed to PDR. Launch Abort motor test completed. Jettison motor test as well. In the next week we have the HTA test that will test valves of Launch Abort Motor.

Ares 1 PDR completed with one open review with one item that will be subject to a delta PDR in the Spring. This was the first time in 35 years that we have had a review like this. J2-X reviews under way. Getting ready for RFP for Ares V in the next few days or early next year. Ares V Industry Day on 3 December. 11 July Ares 1-X launch contingent upon shuttle issues.

First lunar program milestone - lunar capabilities concept review completed that set in place point of departure designs for Altair and Ares V. This is the first programatic milestone in returning humans to the moon. LRO will be our first step on the way back to the moon. LRO has been in thermal vacuum testing and due to be done with this soon. LCROSS will launch with LRO - no real issues with that.

Analog surface testing of vehicles and EVA capabilities have gone well. Tested out ISRU to extract Oxygen from soil. COTS - we signed agreement with OSC for Space Act Agreement. Also have one with Space X. Have milestones where we provide payment and invest in their capabilities. Working to cargo capability in 2010. Space Space X had a successful Falcon 1 launch and Falcon 9 engine test. Do not know what changes lie ahead with the new Administration. We do have follow up to Ares 1 PDR that deals with Thrust Oscillation issue. Pad Abort 1 test in the Spring - no date set yet for that - waiting for HTA test next week.

NASA Watch: You are quoted on as saying that "I attended the review myself, and despite what was said in the blogosphere and the sensational media, it was very professionally done,". I am wondering how you justify such statements when your own internal PDR review documents as posted on NASA Watch were riddled with complaints about incomplete and inaccurate documentation?

Cooke: There are always items that are to be worked - and there were. The review was where is should be and for the issues that we identified we made sure that there were plans that were logical to mitigate those issues.

NASA Watch: Why are you rushing ahead with the Altair RFI which requires that lots of people work over the holidays when it is all but certain that the incoming Obama team is going to put all ESMD activities on hold pending an internal review? Is this the wisest way to be spending everyone's time?

Cooke: In the world that we live in we have a budget that we work to - we have to work to the direction that we have. We feel it is important to keep moving on things. I actually asked the question if we should wait until after the holidays and contractor community wanted it early.

When asked about moving Orion to an EELV Doug Cooke said "We do not have any data on that specifically."

NASA Solicits Ideas for Displaying Retired Space Shuttles and Main Engines

"NASA today issued a Request for Information seeking ideas from educational institutions, science museums and other appropriate organizations about the community's ability to acquire and publicly display the space shuttle orbiters and space shuttle main engines after the conclusion of the Space Shuttle Program. Sponsored by NASA's Office of Infrastructure, the RFI seeks input from appropriate officials and decision-makers from museums, science centers, institutions and other organizations dedicated to education or educational outreach with experience in public display of space hardware and nationally recognized historic artifacts. NASA will use information gained from this RFI to develop strategies for eventual placement of two space shuttle orbiters and a minimum of six unassembled space shuttle main engine display "kits."

NASA Request for Information on Space Shuttle Orbiter and Space Shuttle Main Engine Placement

NASA seeks shuttle suitors: Museums may need to cover the costs for retired orbiters, Collectspace

"Though NASA has three orbiters -- Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour -- only two will be available for donation. NASA plans to reserve the third for the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, assuming they too can meet the same financial and facility requirements as the other museums."

"Dr. Worden will survey NASA'a activities in Earth science, climate modeling, and environmental technology. He will also discuss the information technology under development (some in partnership with Google) for disseminating and analyzing the massive data generated by these activities."

Video below

XCOR Fires Lynx Engine

XCOR Aerospace Completes Successful First Test Fire of Engine for Lynx Suborbital Launch Vehicle

"XCOR Aerospace, Inc., announced today that it has successfully completed its first test fire of the rocket engine that will be used to power its Lynx suborbital launch vehicle to the edge of space. liquid oxygen and kerosene. The engine was fired Monday, December 15th, 2008 at XCOR's rocket test facility located at the Mojave Air and Space Port. The first test of the engine was performed using pressure-fed propellants whereas the final version of the engine will be fed using XCOR's proprietary cryogenic piston pump for liquid oxygen and a similar piston pump for kerosene."

Google Lunar X PRIZE Announces Two New International Competitors at Google Headquarters

"Two new international teams in the Google Lunar X PRIZE, a $30 million competition by the X PRIZE Foundation to land a vehicle on the Moon, travel 500 meters, and transmit a "Mooncast" back to Earth, were announced today in a tele-press conference from Google Headquarters. The announcement was held as part of a Team Summit at Google Headquarters and NASA Ames. These recent additions bring the total number of teams to 16, from seven different countries."

Google Lunar X PRIZE to Announce 'Mystery Team' at NASA Ames

"The X PRIZE Foundation will reveal the identities of a "Mystery Team" competing for the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE during a media briefing hosted at NASA's Ames Research Center on Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2008."

Editor's 16 Dec note: It would seem that MicroSat Systems has something to do with the so-called "Mystery Team". Stay tuned.

Mystery Team for the Google Lunar X Prize Reveals Team at NASA Ames Research Center

"Next Giant Leap, a small company that was the fourth team to register for the Google Lunar X-Prize, publically announced its name and team members at a press conference held today at the NASA Ames Research Center. The lead systems integrator is MicroSat Systems, Inc., known for its innovation in small spacecraft."

Tough Decision Looms on Space Shuttle's Fate, Wall Street Journal

"Keeping the Shuttle flying is not without risks, however. An internal National Aeronautics and Space Administration study projects that extending the program until 2015 would cost up to an additional $13 billion and could increase the chances of accidents with astronauts aboard. Findings of the study, which has not yet been released, are likely to be discussed during a NASA news briefing on Wednesday."

Editor's note: Additional space-related documents have appeared at The Coalition for Space Explorationhas submitted a one page description of their organization and 12 page report of a Gallup poll they conducted on space in 2008. NACA submitted a 3 page document on "top aviation issues".

Do you have something (document, study, memo, etc.) to share with the Transition team? Send it here. You can see what they have posted online here.

Earlier Transition Team items

Burying The Hatchet

Competitors for space suit to work together, AP

"Two companies that competed against each other in a contested bid to design the next-generation space suit for NASA will now work together in a joint enterprise. Dan Coulom, a spokesman for Hamilton Sundstrand, which is a partner of ILC Dover in the project, said Tuesday the venture will bid for the $745 million contract with Oceaneering International Inc."

Dodd Weighs In On Space Suit Competition, earlier post
Hamilton Sundstrand Fights Back, earlier post
Changing Horses, earlier post

Steven J. Ostro

Editor's note: From the DPS: "IN MEMORIAM: STEVEN J. OSTRO: We are very sorry to report the news that pioneering JPL radar astronomer Steve Ostro died early on the morning of Monday December 15th. The following appreciation is based on a note sent by Bonnie Buratti to Steve's Cassini colleagues."

NASA Calls for Comment on Draft Altair Request for Proposals

"NASA has released a draft request for proposals, or RFP, to seek industry support for the design of its Altair lunar lander vehicle, part of NASA's Constellation Program. Altair will deliver four astronauts to the moon's surface late in the next decade, fulfilling U.S. space exploration goals. A pre-solicitation conference is scheduled for Dec. 18 at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. The conference is designed for information sharing about the Altair conceptual design contract with potential offerors."

Editor's note: Typical NASA ESMD procurement silliness: they post a procurement notice and issue a press release toward the end of the working day (4:30 pm EST) on 16 December and announce a pre-proposal conference for 18 December - but they then tell you that you have to RSVP for that meeting on 16 December. What a nice way to limit participation.

Responses are due no later than 12 January 2009 which means little or no time off for the holidays. It is curious that ESMD is rushing to do all of this over the holidays - for an activity the Transition Team may well put on hold a week or so after the due date as it evaluates where it wants the agency to go with regard to the previous Administration's various initiatives. Lets see if all of this work over the Holidays simply has to be redone.

Of course, this is all part of a plan by Mike Griffin's soon-to-be departing ESMD staff to force the Obama Administration's hand by shoving as much as they can into the procurement process so as to make it all that much harder to alter what they have done after noon on 20 January 2009.

bnjacobs " The @NASA starts today. It's a soft roll out until we find our rhythm in posting and answering questions. Be patient! We're newbies."

Changing Course - AGAIN?

A new vision for people in space: MIT report outlines goals for future of human space program

"The report offers "primary objectives" for sending human beings into space as those that can only be accomplished through the physical presence of human beings and are worthy of significant risk to human life. Says Mindell, "we argue for including notions of risk, human experience, and remote presence into the fundamental rationales for sending people into space. The results show that the United States might want a rather different human spaceflight program from the one now planned."
And it is essential that whatever goals are set for human spaceflight, the funding should be adequate to meet those goals. "Trying to do too much with too little is exactly what caused the last two shuttle accidents," he says."

Griffin to Speak at JHU

NASA Head to Speak at Leaders & Legends Series, JHU Gazette

"Michael Griffin, NASA administrator, is the scheduled speaker for this month's installment of the Carey Business School's Leaders & Legends breakfast speaker series, to be held from 7:30 to 9 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 18, at the Renaissance Harborplace Hotel."

NOMAD Has Issues This Morning

""Potential Issue Connecting to the Exchange Server - Monday, December 15, 2008, 9:05 a.m. Central: The NOMAD/ODIN team is looking into a possible issue affecting the user's ability to connect to the NOMAD server. An update will be posted in 30 minutes."

9:39 a.m. Central: The NOMAD/ODIN team has determined that an issue with connecting to the JSC exchange server exists. Webmail is available as an alternative at for those unable to connect through their desktop or laptop mail client. An update will be posted immediately once the issue is resolved. If the issue is unresolved, an update will be posted in approximately 1 hour.

10:30 a.m. Central: The connectivity issue experienced by some customers on the JSC Exchange servers has been resolved. All NOMAD systems have been restored to normal operations."

The Future is TBD at NASA

Uncertainty Clouds Transition at NASA, Washington Post

"These are awkward times at NASA, which may or may not have a new leader soon and may or may not be on the verge of building a brand-new moon rocket. There has been a kerfuffle about a tense discussion in the headquarters library between NASA Administrator Michael Griffin and the leader of President-elect Barack Obama's transition team for the agency. There have been reports of cost overruns and delays in major NASA missions. Someone leaked an e-mail in which Griffin referred to a Bush administration "jihad" against the space shuttle. A former NASA official blasted the agency in an op-ed column. The comments posted on space blogs are full of rancor, accusations and anxiety."

Cooke on change and the blogosphere, Space Politics

"Cooke also mentioned criticism of the Ares 1 development in particular, mentioning the recent preliminary design review. "I attended the review myself, and despite what was said in the blogosphere and the sensational media, it was very professionally done," he said. The number of "yellow and orange" evaluations that came out of the PDR, he said, was because the review was focused on those issues. "So we asked a lot of hard questions, and I have to say that the team was especially well-prepared."

Ares PDR Was Not As Smooth As NASA Says It Was, earlier post

"Below are verbatim commments provided to an online review website by the actual PDR recipients...

42. Not allowing RIDs to be written against the SRD and declaring it a finished document prior to the PDR was just arrogant and wrong. This was further evidenced and confused by the introduction of two version of the SRD, showing that it was in fact being changed behind the scenes.
43. This one goes to both this team and those above them. It is impossible to have adequate review of parts or the integrated vehicle if the schedules for other Elements does not allow for participation.
44. Allow adequate time for issues raised in Element or sub-system reviews to be addressed and brought forward. If we are actually building an integrated vehicle, then we need to pay attention to all the parts. We were directly told in training that the results of the US and Avionics reviews didn't matter to this review.
45. Not enough actual design documentation was available for review, many of the products were in poor shape for a pdr."

Editor's note: and so on ... But according to Doug Cooke, comments made on MSFC's official PDR participant review website are the imagination of "sensational media".

NASA to Update Reporters about Constellation Program

"4 p.m. EST, Wednesday, Dec. 17 NASA will host a media teleconference to brief reporters about recent developments and ongoing progress in NASA's Constellation Program."

A Sense of Purpose, Fall Commencement Address by NASA Administrator Michael Griffin

"Many people have asked me how I found the time over the years to take those classes while working, raising kids, and amidst the various distractions life brings. The answer is that I don't watch any television apart from the evening news, an occasional old movie, and a few rounds per year of major-championship golf, my other life-long passion. I'll never be able to complete a People magazine crossword puzzle, and I don't know who hosts which TV talk show, or care. I first heard of Saturday Night Live through all the hoopla surrounding their twenty-fifth anniversary. But being ignorant of those things has given me more time to learn, and to apply what I've learned, to the physics, engineering, and management challenges of my profession, aerospace. If that makes me a "nerd" or "geek" or a "workaholic", then it does. I know the conventional wisdom about leading a balanced life, but I have not done it. The people I know who set out to accomplish something meaningful in their careers have not done so either. They too are nerds, geeks, and workaholics. Frankly, I think our society owes a great deal to such people."

NASA, Audits, and Lawsuits

NASA's budget history threatens its future, Orlando Sentinel

"NASA is currently embroiled in a lawsuit with an auditing company hired to review NASA contracts. The firm, Horn and Associates of Utah, says it has found millions of dollars in overpayments but was unable to get a full picture of the problem because NASA refused to let it see all its records. In a complaint filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, the firm cited one example in which a NASA employee at Johnson Space Center in Houston defended contractors, whom she called her "customers," and refused to go after some of the companies to refund the money that was overcharged. NASA disputes the claim and the incident at Johnson Space Center."

The View From The Left

What NASA Could Be, Daily Kos

"It's no secret I have mixed feelings about Griffin. He is not an unqualified crony or industry lobbyist. Griffin was at the very least a passive observer and at worst an active instigator in the shameful censorship of climate change data that was finally brought to light by courageous action of the legendary Dr. James Hansen. Dr Alan Stern, coming from a completely different direction, noted in a pointed NYT editorial last week that another ongoing internecine battle pits the cancerous cost over run NASA culture against an up and coming progressive approach that could save taxpayers billions."

Editor's note: In the opening sketch on Saturday Night live last evening, Gov. Blagojevich is depicted on C-SPAN shaking down a Senate Committee for bailout money to solve his own personal problems. At one point, his wife comes up to him and demands to be "put on the NASA Board".. Blagojevich tells her "but you're not qualified". She replies "But I just got my class 3 real estate license!".

Editor's note: I have been featuring space-related items that I have found posted on President-elect Obama's official website for a week - as well as the ways to submit and view items on their website. Curiously, the crowd at NASA - the Gen Y types - who have been the most vocal about how they want to change NASA to suit their lifestyle and way of working and collaborating have not submitted a darn thing (at least not that I can find) to Obama's website.

This is very odd when you consider all of those web and powerpoint things they are so fond of generating, their incessant Twittering, and frolicking via avatars at NASA "meetings" in Second Life. Indeed, this is even more peculiar when you consider that the Obama administration is overtly sympatico with the whole social networking paradigm - indeed, they used it to get elected! You'd think that the NASA Gen Y crowd would be all over this opportunity.

So much (it would seem) for the NASA Gen Y/Web 2.0 crowd - at least, those self-selected few who have been vocal and doing all of the arm waving this past year. Perhaps a new group - one that is more willing to actively engage with (and work to transform and enhance) the status quo - can step up to the plate and continue the discussion?

To be fair, NASA employees have been told in no uncertain terms that they are not to communicate with the Transition team outside of the formal NASA process that has been established. But these documents and reports that have been generated have been widely shared outside of the NASA and contractor workforce. They have all been featured on NASA Watch. Is no one outside of NASA willing to send them in? Could it be that the "reach" outside of the agency that the Gen Y folks at NASA are so fond of pointing to is far more shallow and under-motivated than they thought?

Wonkette on NASA/Obama Flap

NASA Head Trying To Keep Outer Space Secrets From Obama Transition Team, Wonkette

"Like grimy Chicago leeches, the Obama "transition team" (AS IF) has sent review panels to every federal agency to decide which budget items need to be cut, forever, to finance the next $100 billion wave of AIG bailouts. Agencies like FEMA probably abandoned their entire offices before their transition team appointments, just to avoid the embarrassment, whereas places like NASA -- which holds valuable information about quasars, space monsters, and the planets Mars and Neptune -- are simply telling the transition team "YOU WOULDN'T GET IT YOU STUPIDS -- PHYSICS." Space nerds"

Editor's note: Yes the commentary is rude and often obscene - as are the reader's comments. That said, this is a must-read blog inside the beltway - where first impressions and crude jokes can affect official policy faster than you might think (or want).

NASA OIG SemiAnnual Report

NASA Office of Inspector General SemiAnnual Report (April 1 - September 30, 2008)

"NASA's most pressing management and performance challenge continues to be the transition from the Space Shuttle to the next generation of space vehicles. In this regard, NASA's new authorization legislation directs the Agency to conduct two scheduled Shuttle contingency flights and one additional mission. NASA's philosophy has been to have "the last flight as safe" as the first flight after return to flight. While the authorization language puts responsibility on the Administrator to abort the additional mission if it is not safe to fly, safety is incremental and fluid, not fixed. For example, as hardware becomes scarce, program risk tolerance may expand due to less flexibility in flight hardware decisions."

Editor's note: A number of NASA and space-related documents have started to appear online at the Obama Transition Team website at The NASA Alumni League submitted a document wherein they say that they want everything that has been cut over the past few years restored and that they want NASA's budget to be increased from 0.6% of the Federal budget to 0.8%.

Arianespace has submitted a one page document "Arianespace Briefing for NASA Transition Team" that focuses on the ATV and the ISS. SpaceX has also submitted a one page document which is essentially a thank you note to Lori Garver for a visit SpaceX made to the Transition Team. Boeing submitted a one page documentthat is a summary of topics for discussion for a 9 Dec 2008 meeting with the Transition Team and a 2 page document on "NASA priorities for civil aviation."

The Association of Space Explorers submitted a 54 page document on Asteroid Defense.

Do you have something (document, study, memo, etc.) to share with the Transition team? Send it here. You can see what they have posted online here.

Mars exploration: Phoenix: a race against time, Nature

"On missions led by principal investigators, such as the Discoveries and Scouts, NASA is supposed to defer to the scientist in charge on all matters of scientific operation. But Phoenix was high profile and some of its instruments a little erratic. At headquarters, everyone from Administrator Michael Griffin down was involved in daily reviews of the mission, says Doug McCuistion, Mars exploration programme chief at NASA. At the end of June, word came down that the Phoenix team was to treat its next TEGA sample as its last, and to go after a sample of rock-hard ice before it did anything else. The Tucson team had lost its autonomy. "We stepped in, I'll be honest," says McCuistion. Boynton -- a bit of a bulldog when it came to keeping control over his instrument -- acknowledges the logic: "NASA was really afraid ... that if we never got the ice it would be embarrassing." But he and Smith still resent the way that the mission was taken over. "That's not the way you do these things," says Smith. "That's why we were pushed at the end."

Leaders search for ways to save NASA Langley, Daily Press

"The downward trend in NASA Langley Research Center's budget almost looks like a going-out-of-business sale - and it's up to leaders in the region to urge the new presidential administration to care. That message was delivered to a group of political, community and business leaders Thursday by Hampton University President William Harvey."

Endeavour Heads to KSC

Space Shuttle Ferry Flight Arrival On NASA TV's Public Channel

"Mounted atop a modified Boeing 747 shuttle carrier aircraft, Endeavour is scheduled to land at Kennedy at 2:30 p.m. EST after a three-day cross-country ferry flight from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif."

Editor's update: check the comments section for this posting and you will see some comments by John Shannon wherein he explains the thought/planing process that lead to one flyby and not another (weather).

Editor's update: Endeavour is now home at KSC. Alas, I only received this media advisory from NASA PAO 10 minutes after the actual landing time. But at least someone thought to send something out (unlike the JSC PAO crowd yesterday). However, I did know about the landing due to a Twitter posting hours ago by Bob Jacobs from NASA PAO. Once again new tools like Twitter prove their value over antiquated NASA tools such as their Listserv.

Editor's earlier note: Space Shuttle Endeavour is on the move again from Barksdale AFB to NASA KSC. Apparently, making a detour so as to fly over MAF and SSC or MSFC so that other NASA employees can see Endeavour is too much to ask. This is all rather odd given how little of a cost or planning issue it was for the JSC folks to do. Oh well. You can track its flight here (Note: FlightAware has been overloaded with users today so you may not get through). You can watch the arrival live on NASA TV at 2:30 pm EST.

Reader note: "A request to JSC to authorize a 20 mile detour so the folks of the Antelope Valley, CA (home to DFRC/Edwards AFB) could get a look was denied by JSC. But a longer detour over Texas was OK. What's right about that?"

JSC Flyover: Missed Opportunity, earlier post

Editor's note: A link to the Orlando Sentinel article is featured near the top of Drudge Report titled as "SCIENCE FIGHT: NASA becomes transition problem for Obama..."

Keith Olbermann did a segment on this story tonight. Go to this page and click on "NASA to Obama: Out of my space!" Orlando Sentinel reporter Mark Matthews was interviewed.

Obama vs. NASA, round 1, opinion, LA Times

"Indefensible as Griffin's actions are here, the NASA administrator's stonewalling to incoming Obama bureaucrats doesn't come entirely unprovoked. Griffin's agency is the patriotic window-dressing to which elected types love to promise support for futuristic human space exploration when constituents are watching but don't actually pay for when it's budgeting time."

Tracking the transition: NASA not cooperating?, Federal Times

"If cooperation is truly a problem at NASA -- or any another agency for that matter -- perhaps it's time for the White House and Obama's transition office to sit those folks down and make them watch the Sesame Street clip below. Because as any preschooler can tell you: cooperation makes it happen."

Transition team trouble at NASA, Nature

"When one member of the team, who are meant to smooth the transition from Bush-rule to Obama-rule, told Griffin they were "just trying to look under the hood" Griffin replied: If you are looking under the hood, then you are calling me a liar. Because it means you don't trust what I say is under the hood."

Lost in space: NASA chief fighting with Obama, Facing South

"As chief of NASA, Griffin is also in charge of overseeing NASA's role in tackling global warming -- which Griffin isn't sure is really a problem."

Re-establishing NASA's Leadership, Huffington Post

"To allow NASA to accomplish its lofty goals while simultaneously stimulating the American economy, NASA must continue to engage this new commercial space community. This new commercial space industry should be viewed not as a competitor, but as a critical partner. Therefore, trailblazing commercial programs such as COTS, Centennial Challenges, and the now-defunct Mercury Fund should be renewed, expanded, and emulated throughout NASA's mission directorates."

Does Obama Want to Ground NASA's Next Moon Mission?, Time

"The mere fact that the story is making the rounds reflects the very real friction between NASA and the transition team -- which has sparked a groundswell of support among space agency employees to keep the boss. Within NASA, there is a real concern that while the Obama campaign rode the call for change to a thumping victory in November, change is precisely what the space agency does not need."

Star wars between NASA head and Obama transition team, Ars Technica

"The main bone of contention, Cowing told us, is the Bush administration's troubled "Vision for Space Exploration" moon program, which Griffin had been charged with bringing to fruition. "He pretty much threw out what was done before and started from scratch," says Cowing. "He came up with a plan that a lot of people say really wasn't ready for prime time, and he just shoved it down everyone's throat."

Griffin denies he clashed with Obama official, Huntsville Times

"It has never occurred that a president-elect has picked a (NASA administrator) before that date," said Pace, a NASA associate administrator from 2005 until May. "There's a first time for everything, though. This administration is interested in civil space. So, I wouldn't rule it out because there is no historical precedent."

Griffin Responds - Partially

A Message From the NASA Administrator

"A recent report in the Orlando Sentinel suggested that NASA is not cooperating with members of President-elect Obama's transition team currently working at Headquarters. This report, largely supported by anonymous sources and hearsay, is simply wrong."

Editor's note: Of course the witnesses who have provided information on your comments do so anonymously, Mike. That is due to the way that you deal with dissent at your agency.

NASA transition sparks sharp talk, MSNBC

"The Sentinel report quoted NASA's chief of strategic communications, Chris Shank, as acknowledging that Griffin felt the transition team members dealing with NASA lacked the engineering expertise to make a proper assessment of some of the information they have been given."

Griffin says he is cooperating but some don't agree, Orlando Sentinel

"Sources close to the transition team said Thursday that Garver and her five colleagues until now have been getting cooperation from "most" NASA staff on most programs except Constellation. According to one very informed official, "[Griffin's office] is definitely resisting, and telling others to resist." The team, however, does not appear to be intimidated."

Major NASA Kerfuffle, Achenblog, Washington Post

"John Logsdon, former director of the Space Policy Institute of George Washington University, said he could see but not hear the conversation as he signed books across the room. "No voices were raised. No blows were struck. It was an eyeball to eyeball in the sense of two people having an intense discussion, people gingerly walking around them," Logsdon said. "These kind of conversations are going on all over town now. But almost all of them are behind closed doors. What's different on this one is that it was in a public setting."

Early friction plagues talks between NASA, Obama team, Houston Chronicle

"There is natural tension," said John Logsdon, a space historian who has served as director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University. "The transition team is asking questions that are on everyone's mind. The NASA administrator is saying, 'Trust me. You don't need to ask these questions.' The transition team can't accept that response."

Editor's update: According to NASA AO: they agree with the 1 hour extra flight time estimate. "The mated SCA burn rate is ~5000 gal/hr. At our average November DOD fuel cost, this would be approximately $14,400." So it was not all that expensive. Like I said, I was just using the numbers at hand - and I am leaving all of my bad guesses (and math) online for y'all to see.

Several people have suggested that there might be security issues involved. OK, let's consider that. Why does NASA publicly announce where the plane will be sitting for hours (days) at a time next to public roads? Why do they put the shuttle in the air twice as long as it needs to be, circling over a major metropolitan area at an abnormally low speed and altitude? That's sure not too smart if you do not want the bad guys to know where it is or point something at it.

For NASA to do something like this, and only tip off its employees that it is going to happen, while going out of their way not to tell the overwhelming majority of people who could have seen it, is just inexcusable regardless of the cost.

What is really troubling is the folks (at JSC) who have commented saying "I don't care what it cost". If ever there was a single comment that so aptly epitomized the biggest problem that NASA has today, that is it.

And NASA wonders why people have a problem connecting with what it does. They can't even announce a simple flyover - something that has the power to amaze everyone who sees it. What a bungled opportunity.

If an extra hour's flight time @$14,400/hour is not an issue, then I would hope that NASA considers trying to fly over the communities surrounding MAF and SSC, or MSFC on the way back to KSC - and give advanced notice such that a few more people can actually see this marvelous sight. Or is this something only JSC gets to see?

Reader note: "A request to JSC to authorize a 20 mile detour so the folks of the Antelope Valley, CA (home to DFRC/Edwards AFB) could get a look was denied by JSC. But a longer detour over Texas was OK. What's right about that?"

Editor's update: Is there any mention here at JSC of the flyover - photos, public reaction, etc.? No. Here on the events page? No. Here at the Shuttle page? No. Here at NASA HQ? No. The best flyby photos are online here and here. Non-PAO employees take better pictures and get them online when NASA PAO cannot figure out how to do so. This is so very odd given all of the commentary by JSC employees about my postings. NASA Watch has given the flyby more visibility than JSC's website has.

Earlier post below

Editor's note: This is just too cool. Stop what you are doing and watch this video. Turn up the sound too. Thanks to William Pomerantz at X Prize on Twitter.

Video Below

Endeavour Flies Over JSC

bnjacobs: The people of Houston will get a nice air show around Noon CST when Endeavour flies overhead

bnjacobs: Around Noon we hope to have live video of Endeavour's flyby above JSC on NASA TV and

Editor's note: Here's a photo of the flyover via kittell on Twitter. More photos including the one on the right here via Saroy on Twitter.

Susanne P. Schwenzer, a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Lunar and Planetary Institute sent this photo of the flyover taken from the LPI parking lot.

It's Time To Go, Mike

NASA has become a transition problem for Obama, Orlando Sentinel

"NASA administrator Mike Griffin is not cooperating with President-elect Barack Obama's transition team, is obstructing its efforts to get information and has told its leader that she is "not qualified" to judge his rocket program, the Orlando Sentinel has learned. In a heated 40-minute conversation last week with Lori Garver, a former NASA associate administrator who heads the space transition team, a red-faced Griffin demanded to speak directly to Obama, according to witnesses. In addition, Griffin is scripting NASA employees and civilian contractors on what they can tell the transition team and has warned aerospace executives not to criticize the agency's moon program, sources said. Griffin's resistance is part of a no-holds-barred effort to preserve the Constellation program, the delayed and over-budget moon rocket that is his signature project."

Editor's note: Mike: everyone seems to have gotten the message - except you. It is time to go.

The Transition Team is doing what the White House has said that they want them to do. The White House wants them to be able to "look under the hood" at all levels of government and has directed you to cooperate with them. How you can think that this unprofessional behavior on your part will endear you to the incoming Obama team is baffling.

Fact Sheet: Ensuring a Smooth and Effective Presidential Transition, White House
Executive Order: Facilitation of a Presidential Transition, White House

NASA scientists report on new technology to help protect US troops from infectious diseases

"Representatives from NASA convened in New Orleans today to report at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene Annual Meeting the results from a NASA-enhanced computerized system to assess environmental and health concerns for deployed U.S. forces. The Global Situational Awareness Tool (GSAT), developed and operated by the Air Force Special Operations Command, is a computerized set of linkable databases that characterizes and predicts health risks and other dangers to U.S. troops and multi-national forces in Afghanistan and other areas."

Gore Talks Climate Change With Obama and Biden

"All three of us are in agreement that the time for delay is over," Obama told reporters as he sat between Gore and Biden at the transition headquarters after the meeting. "We all believe what the scientists have been telling us for years now," Obama said, "that this is a matter of urgency and national security, and it has to be dealt with in a serious way. That is what I intend my administration to do."

Obama says climate change a matter of national security, Reuters

"Obama hopes addressing climate change can create the kind of jobs that will help pull the U.S. economy out of a deepening recession. He has begun to lay out plans for a massive recovery program to help stimulate the U.S. economy and create about 2.5 million jobs."

NASA Chief Questions Urgency of Global Warming (2007), NPR

"I have no doubt that ... a trend of global warming exists. I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with."

Editor's note: Ok, so how would Griffin fit in with the Obama team on this issue? Not well, it would seem.

PAO Snarkiness at JSC

16 Days in Space and ??? To Get Home, Free Space, Discovery News

"I got curious about how the weather actually turned out on Dec. 1, the day the shuttle likely would have landed if a 24-hour delay had been ordered. Apparently, I wasn't the only one, because Bill Johnson, the news chief at KSC, had the report on the ready: North to northwest winds up to 10 knots. Visibility: Unlimited. In other words, a good day for landing. The response from JSC was not so warm. "Wow, you're the weather forecaster now," sneered one public affairs officer whom I'll not name on the condition that he promise to refrain from using sarcasm in the future when responding to uncomfortable questions like, "Why didn't NASA wait a day to see if the weather in Florida got better?"

Editor's note: If you watch this video you will eventually see KSC PAO's Allard Beutel drink official recycled urine - and utter several classic bad PAO quips in so doing. He drinks from a bottle that actually has a NASA brand label on it listing the ingredients. What a guy. Alas, you have to wait through 8 minutes of NASA technobabble to see Allard actually take a sip.

Video below

NASA ODIN Outreach: New and Improved eCatalog!

"On December 15, 2008, Lockheed Martin IT and Desktop Services will officially launch its new eCatalog revealing a fresh new look to the main tool for ordering services. We encourage you to take a look around to see what has changed! The new eCatalogs' added features include a more modern display of seats with description, browse capability to the hardware, software, and services on the main page. The new design is more in line with industry standards and represents our continued commitment to delivering current Information Technology (IT) products and services to NASA. The main eCatalog page now features a "Specials Available" section for items on Clearance, Top Sellers, and Daily Specials. Items listed in this area are in stock and available for purchase through the eCatalog."

NASA HQ PAO and Twitter

Editor's note: PAO's Bob Jacobs (bnjacobs) has been showing the value of NASA Twitter use today. Several examples:

"Watch the 747 with Endeavour leave California at 10 a.m. EST on NASA TV and"

"The next leg is underway. Check it out at"

Another SpaceX Test Success

SpaceX Draco Thruster Performs Long-Duration Firing and Restart (with video)

"Just days after the successful full mission-length test firing of the nine-engine first stage of Falcon 9, Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) marked another significant advance with the performance of its smallest rocket engine, Draco. Known as a "thruster," the new engine fired continuously for ten minutes in a specially constructed vacuum test chamber that simulates the space environment. After a ten-minute thermal soak period, Draco was restarted for an additional minute, simulating its typical use in space. Performed at the SpaceX Texas Test Facility outside McGregor, this marks the longest firing of the Draco thruster, as well as the longest test on the new vacuum test stand, built by SpaceX and first put into operation in March 2008."

A Random Letter

Revive NASA, Letters to the Star Ledger

"The space program has produced many useful spin-off products -- items like air-cushioned sneakers, safer runways, satellite TV and solar panels, to name a few. But NASA is not the agency it used to be. From an exciting and innovative agency, it has become a timid bureaucracy. NASA in not the destination of choice for our best scientists, as it was during its pioneering days."

NASA NOMAD: Upgrade to Microsoft Exchange 2007 Starts Next Week

"Improved Disaster Recovery (DR) and Continuity Of Operations (COOP) Capability. During a hurricane or other disaster, users will have access to their full mailbox once the failover procedures have been completed. We plan to make this feature available before the start of the 2009 hurricane season."

Editor's note: Unless, of course, NOMAD shuts you off before the disaster, does not have backup generators in case of fires or other routine disruptions, or just goes dark.

NOMAD Fixes Self-inflicted Damage, earlier post
Another Planned NOMAD Blackout - Cancelled, earlier post
NOMAD Goes Down Again Due To Power Outage, earlier post
NOMAD Learned a Lesson - or Did It?, earlier post
Only NASA Would Create a Zero Fault Tolerant Email System, earlier post

NASA LaRC Internal memo: CD Comm # 2008-02 - Improving Financial Performance: Look What's New in Langley's Awards Program!

"Have you ever wanted to say "thank you" to a co-worker or a colleague for a job well done or for going above and beyond in order to help you complete a project or important task? Maybe because of colleague's assistance, you were able to complete a project on time and move on to the next one. Now you will be able to say "thank you" using the new Langley Peer Award."

Editor's note: What can I say. Its juvenile, sophomoric - and funny.

Video below

Mailbox Stores Temporarily Offline

"Monday, December 8, 2008, 8:20 a.m. Central: Some NOMAD mailbox stores went offline briefly this morning. Those users who had their mailboxes moved last week in anticipation of the scheduled facilities power outage at MSFC would have been impacted. All mailbox stores are now back online, and all NOMAD services are up and running."

Another Planned NOMAD Blackout - Cancelled, earlier post

Are We Preparing Our Children to Lead in Science?, Huffington Post

"On October 4, 1957, history changed with the Soviet Union's successful launch of Sputnik I, the world's first man-made satellite. Americans were alarmed that we had been outpaced technologically and saw the Soviet feat as a threat to our national security. In order to catch up with the Russians, our nation swung into action and infused new funding and resources into scientific research on a priority basis that resulted in new labs springing up all over the country. To support this national initiative, schools upgraded and expanded math and science instruction at every level. Congress established scholarships and grants to enable young people to pursue science and engineering majors in college and graduate schools. These efforts paid off as a new generation of American scientists and engineers was produced and the United States became the Mecca for scientific research in virtually all fields. Now, five decades later, we are again on the verge of falling behind technologically, largely because of a failure to provide world class science and math instruction in our schools."

Secretive Space Vehicle Tested at Private Texas Site,

"Blue Origin is now noting that, in addition to providing the public with opportunities to experience spaceflight, New Shepard will also provide frequent opportunities for researchers to fly experiments into space and a microgravity environment. To help shape this activity, the group has announced that interested parties should contact Blue Origin's independent representative for research and education missions, Alan Stern, the former NASA chief of space science."

Bailouts Cost More Than All U.S. Wars and Many Big Programs Combined, PR Newswire

"Casey Research has analyzed the costs of the government bailouts of the housing crisis, the credit crisis and others and has concluded that the total is $8.5 trillion - more than the cost of all U.S. Wars, the Louisiana Purchase, the New Deal, the Marshall Plan and the NASA Space Program combined. "When we consider the costs of these programs, even when adjusted for today's dollars, we see that our most expensive government efforts of the past were relative bargains and that we are wasting a terrible sum of money with the current bailout," said Olivier Garret, CEO of Casey Research."

Message from the Assistant Administrator for Human Capital Management: Survey of NASA's Employee Performance Communication System

"On Dec. 8, the NASA Shared Services Center will ask you via e-mail to participate in an important NASA civil service employee survey. This survey will give you an opportunity to evaluate NASA's current performance management system, the Employee Performance Communication System (EPCS). The EPCS does not cover Senior Executive Service (SES), Senior Scientific and Technical (ST) or Senior Level (SL) employees. One purpose of the EPCS to create a performance culture that focuses on two-way communication and accountability for results that contribute to the accomplishment of the agency's mission. Another purpose of the EPCS is to provide a means to differentiate between high and low performers. Your honest, thoughtful and candid responses to the survey will help us determine whether or not the intended purposes of the EPCS are being met and identify changes that may be necessary."

Griffin on Space Commerce

NASA Administrator Mike Griffin: Risk and Rewards in Commercial Space

"I would like to take this opportunity to speak about something of interest to me and many of you assembled here: the role of prizes, such as NASA's Centennial Challenges, in spurring innovation through competition. I also want to talk about how and why NASA not only should, but must, pursue and nurture appropriate partnerships with the emerging commercial space sector when it is reasonably within the grasp of such firms to meet our needs. I believe that these issues are important, and I have been consistent in my emphasis upon them throughout my tenure as Administrator."

Snow on Mars

Snow On Mars!, commentary by Peter Smith, Forbes

"Last month, the Phoenix Mars Lander sent its final signal after working for 151 Martian days photographing, digging and testing samples in the arctic there. During those days, its findings reshaped what we know about Mars, the prospects of future space exploration and our approach to undertaking that mission. All reports provide reason for optimism about the scientific advances of the United States and the world, as well as excitement about the future for those of us involved in this landmark NASA mission."

Making NASA Relevant Again

Obama Offers First Look at Massive Plan To Create Jobs, Washington Post

"Obama said the massive government spending program he proposes to lift the country out of economic recession will include a renewed effort to make public buildings energy-efficient, rebuild the nation's highways, renovate aging schools and install computers in classrooms, extend high-speed Internet to underserved areas and modernize hospitals by giving them access to electronic medical records."

Obama won't sneak smokes in WH, Politico

"The president-elect said his administration is interested in "elevating science once again, and having lectures in the White House where people are talking about traveling to the stars or breaking down atoms, inspiring our youth to get a sense of what discovery is all about."

Editor's note: This is where the new Administration's immediate priorities are going to focus: fixing the economy and the underlying infrastructure that keeps it going. Where NASA fits in this refocused political environment is not clear. If NASA can be seen as a player in the overall renewal of infrastructure, education, and increased efficiency, etc. then maybe it has a shot at getting some of that money. But when it comes to continuing an expensive "return to the moon" plan initiated by an unpopular president - one whose benefit to a battered economy and society is hard to explain, the future does not seem very bright. That said, Obama is also looking to inspire people once again - especially the youth of America. Despite its problems, some part of what NASA does always seems to be inspirational.

But you need more that inspiration as a reason to place an emphasis on space exploration and NASA. NASA's tired old excuses as to why it is important or relevant will no longer work. People at NASA need to start paying attention to this new political reality and where NASA does or does not fit into it.

Editor's note: Do you have something (document, study, memo, etc.) to share with the Transition team? Send it here. You can see what they have posted online here.

Ares V Update

NASA Calls for Comment on Draft Ares V Request for Proposals

"This document is a draft of the final version of the RFP for Phase I, expected in January 2009."

Ares V to Support Heavy Lift for U.S. Space Exploration, Industry Day Conference 2008, December 3, 2008 (PDF)

- Issued Draft RFP Nov 25, 2008
- Pre-solicitation Conference Dec 3, 2008
- Plan is to Synopsize RFP Dec 19, 2008
- Plan is to Issue RFP Jan 5, 2009
- Proposals Due Feb 9, 2009
- Clarification of Proposals Complete Feb 16, 2009

Fourth Item of Business: Ares V, NASA Strategic Management Council, 27 August 2008

Steve Cook, MSFC Ares Projects Manager, presented the approach to initiating and acquiring Ares V.

- Cook would like to get industry involved as early as possible. He stated that a point of departure design has been identified, along with key technology areas, such as a composite case booster. He noted that lessons learned from the Ares 1 vehicle integration are being applied, as well as from previous contract constructs. He stated that the contracting approach includes maintaining NASA ownership of overall Ares V vehicle system architecture and key discipline areas; there will be government led contractor teams acquired through dedicated contract activity; the contracted work will involve severable entities with clear evaluation criteria so NASA can go elsewhere if needed; 5 work packages are being considered; and the request for proposal is in development with an aim to release it mid-December. He noted that when the NASA civil servants feel ownership of the products, the morale, excitement, and quality goes up dramatically.

Griffin confirmed that he really likes this approach, an acquisition strategy used in the Apollo days. He observed that NASA never gets rid of the ownership and that it is important to feel ownership, because the Agency, in fact, owns the system and its design.

No decision, no action required.

Obama-Biden Transition Team: Your seat at the table

"As an extension of the unprecedented ethics guidelines already in place for the Obama-Biden Transition Project, we take another significant step towards transparency of our efforts for the American people. Every day, we meet with organizations who present ideas for the Transition and the Administration, both orally and in writing. We want to ensure that we give the American people a "seat at the table" and that we receive the benefit of their feedback. Accordingly, any documents from official meetings with outside organizations will be posted on our website for people to review and comment on. In addition to presenting ideas as individuals at, the American people deserve a "seat at the table" as we receive input from organizations and make decisions. In the interest of protecting the personal privacy of individuals, this policy does not apply to personnel matters and hiring recommendations."

Editor's note: Do you have something (document, study, memo, etc.) to share with the Transition team? Send it here. You can see what they have posted online here.

Obama-Biden Transition Project: Space Solar Power (SSP) -- A Solution for Energy Independence & Climate Change

"A National Security Space Office (NSSO) study concluded in October of 2007 that "The magnitude of the looming energy and environmental problems is significant enough to warrant consideration of all options, to include ... space-based solar power." This NSSO report also concluded that SSP has "enormous potential for energy security, economic development, improved environmental stewardship, advancement of general space faring, and overall national security for those nations who construct and possess a (SSP) capability." We urge the next President of the United States to include SSP as a new start in a balanced federal strategy for energy independence and environmental stewardship, and to assign lead responsibility to a U.S. federal agency."

Let the sun shine in, The Economist

"Today it is not just robots in science-fiction tales who are believers in the wonders of space solar power (SSP); the idea also has a small but growing number of human adherents. The basic idea is simple. Light from the sun is the most abundant and cleanest source of energy available in the solar system."

Editor's note: According to a Twitter posting Peter Diamandis "Mike Griffin announced that NASA is moving 100% of their parabolic flights from the C9 to our 727". This is a very smart move by Mike Griffin and NASA and is also very good news for space commercialization.

Alas, not everyone has gotten that message at JSC it would seem. There is a confusing solicitation notice "NASA JSC Solicitation: DC-9 Flight Training" that was released on 5 December 2008 from JSC which states "The Aircraft Operations Division (AOD) currently uses a DC-9 aircraft to support the Reduced Gravity Program at the Johnson Space Center. The members of the Division's aircrew, who fly the DC-9, have all completed the required DC-9 initial transition training. The objective is to acquire DC-9 aircrew refresher training. This training shall thoroughly cover aircraft systems, operational procedures, normal/abnormal procedures, and systems integration for the DC-9 aircraft."

Why is JSC seeking to continue DC-9 aircrew proficiency for parabolic flights if Mike Griffin is moving provision of these flights to a private sector vendor?

NASA Administrator Mike Griffin: Risk and Rewards in Commercial Space

"We have conducted several flight tests with the Zero-G Corporation to determine whether they can meet the requirements for microgravity experiments that are currently performed on the government C-9 aircraft. These test flights included five experiments from small businesses developing technology under the auspices of NASA's SBIR program. While the tests are not yet complete, project managers are confident that Zero-G can meet NASA's needs. Thus, we are planning for the transition of all microgravity flight activities from the NASA C-9 to the commercial aircraft, while the C-9 continues to support Space Shuttle operations and acts as a backstop for the commercial microgravity service if necessary."

Obama Policymakers Turn to Campaign Tools, Washington Post

"Barack Obama's incoming administration has begun to draw on the high-tech organizational tools that helped get him elected to lay the groundwork for an attempt to restructure the U.S. health-care system. ... It is the first attempt by the Obama team to harness its vast and sophisticated grass-roots network to shape public policy. Although the president-elect is a long way from crafting actual legislation, he promised during the campaign to make the twin challenge of controlling health-care costs and expanding coverage a top priority in his first term."

Editor's note: Is this a preview of the new way in which the Obama Administration will pursue policy initiatives? If change is in store for America's space policy at some point, would these "high-tech organizational tools" be used to generate and/or enhance support? Is NASA going to be using them as well? And if so, how will this approach fare when it collides with the long-feared (but often hard to specifically define) "prohibition against marketing and lobbying" by NASA? This will be interesting to watch.

NASA Mars Science Lab Launch Delayed Two Years

"NASA's Mars Science Laboratory will launch two years later than previously planned, in the fall of 2011."

Delays and Cost Overruns Epidemic at NASA, Former Official Charges,

"But [former SMD AA Alan] Stern says that MSL's delay and cost overrun are prime examples of a pervasive problem within NASA to "reward" missions that go over-budget and punish those that don't. "It is unhealthy" to the entire NASA program, Stern told, and is the reason he resigned earlier this year from his NASA job."

Technical glitches force delay of Mars mission, USA Today

"MSL is "a marvelous mission, it will do wonderful things. But at what cost?" said Keith Cowing, editor of the NASA Watch website. "And how often do we have to watch cost overruns on these NASA missions where projects get too big to cancel?"

Editor's note: In a nutshell: The only specific hardware issue with MSL seems to be the complex motor actuators that allow various systems to operate. The delay will cost $400 million. The money will come from other Mars missions and if that is not enough, from other space science missions. Total cost for MSL could be as much as $2.3 billion - up from an initial cost of $650 million (or $1.6 billion depending on what starting point you favor). Griffin claims that the way that NASA estimates mission costs should not be linked or held to the same standard as the way in which it designs missions since NASA is doing things that have never been done before. He said "If we are to judge the worth of our work by our ability to estimate, then that is a standard I am not ready to apply or to accept." Oh yes, Griffin also said that the Webb Space Telescope does not have a cost overrun.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this press conference was the lack of media interest in this huge cost overrun and the nonchalant, dismissive way in which the NASA Administrator and his staff discussed it. No one on the stage seemed to be at all upset or concerned about this latest delay and this latest failure of NASA to understand and/or control the way it spends money. Other than gratuitous reference to "how hard this is", no one seemed to be at all committed to trying to fix this chronic problem once and for all. Business as usual at NASA i.e. "watch us spend your money the way we want to spend it".

JPL Director Elachi "takes full responsibility" for all of these MSL problems. Gee, that's nice. It is also rather hollow. His predecessor took responsibility for MCO and MPL. Yawn. There are no consequences for things like this at NASA. No one is ever reprimanded, no one is ever reassigned, costs continue to climb, and NASA wants everyone to just accept this situation and leave them alone.

Watch the automaker bailout hearings today in Congress. Just substitute "NASA" for any one of the carmakers' names as you listen ... does any of this sound familiar?

A Sad Day for CNN Viewers

Miles O'Brien To Leave CNN. Network Shutters Science, Space and Tech Unit

"TVNewser has learned 16-year veteran CNN correspondent and anchor Miles O'Brien will soon be leaving CNN. O'Brien's departure comes as the network dismantles its science, space, environment and technology unit in Atlanta. That includes O'Brien as well as six producers."

Science sphere condemns CNN cuts, Nature (The Great Beyond)

"Science bloggers and media pundits have been collectively sounding off and scratching their heads about CNNs decision to cut its entire science reporting staff."

CNN Cuts Entire Science, Tech Team, Columbia Journalism Review

"Indeed, others who know the CNN science staff agree that the network is making a bad decision. "I'm baffled," said Keith Cowing, who runs and has been a friend of CNN's Miles O'Brien for years. Cowing has appeared on air with O'Brien a number of times. "Miles is a reporter's reporter. In terms of the [scientific] research, it's him. He walks in - and this is why he's so good - and just knows it. To me, there's an economy there where you don't have to have a bunch young researchers running around. You've got the guy who can say, 'Got it,' and go right on air." While CNN credited O'Brien as a "terrific reporter," Cowing added that he is surprised the network doesn't care to hold on to that expertise."

Editor's note: I give up. First Av Week cans Craig Covault now this.

You can follow Miles on Twitter.

Budget Update

AIP FYI #113: End of Appropriations Cycle in Sight

"NASA: Both committees approved their bills, but only the Senate has released its report. Senate appropriators recommended an increase of 2.8 percent in NASA's budget, but recommended a 3.9 percent funding reduction for Science."

XCOR Lynx Suborbital Experience Video

"XCOR partners with RocketShip Tours to provide a complete suborbital experience for our customers. Hear our chief test pilot, former NASA astronaut Richard Searfoss, describe the experience."

MSL Delays?

NASA To Provide Mars Science Laboratory Update

"NASA will hold a briefing at noon EST, Thursday, Dec. 4, about the agency's Mars Science Laboratory, or MSL. The briefing will take place in the James E. Webb Memorial Auditorium at NASA Headquarters, 300 E Street, S.W., Washington. The briefing participants are:

- Michael Griffin, NASA administrator
- Ed Weiler, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington
- Doug McCuistion, director of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters
- Charles Elachi, director of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

Editor's note: Word has it that there will be a telecon or briefing for affected NASA employees before the press conference.

Editor's update: Informed speculation is that NASA is going to announce that the launch date for MSL is going to be slipped. One option that has been under consideration would be to launch MSL in 2010, park the spacecraft in a solar orbit (1 AU), do an Earth flyby in 2011, and then send it on to Mars. The additional cost for this option was estimated by NASA to be around $300 million. Another option would be to wait to launch until 2011 (directly to Mars) at a cost a few tens of millions above the cost of launching in 2010.

Stay tuned.

MSL Cost Overruns: More Smoke and Mirrors from NASA, earlier post
Lack of Discipline = Slaughter of the Innocents, earlier post
Shooting The Messenger at NASA, earlier post
MSL Commentary in Science Magazine, earlier post
What the MSL Bailout Looks Like, earlier post
NASA SMD's Cost Overrun Coverup (updated with Telecon notes), earlier post

Departure Trajectories

NASA Deputy Administrator Dale to Resign on January 17

"NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale announced Wednesday her intent to resign from the agency, effective Jan. 17, 2009, in advance of the new administration coming into office. She has served as NASA's second-in-command since November 2005.

"It has been an honor and a privilege to work with Shana for these last three years," NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said. " ... I will miss her."

Editor's note: This is a somewhat curious thing for Mike Griffin to say i.e. "I will miss her". Shana Dale is leaving effective 17 January and the Inauguration is on 20 January. That is a total of 3 days. Its not as if Griffin is going to be staying at NASA all that long after she departs ... or is he still harboring a plan to pull a Goldin maneuver?

NASA ODIN Internal Memo: ODIN Catalog Product Pricing Instruction

"For years, NASA civil servants have actively worked to get the best value for information technology (IT) products and services. Many have followed a "cost re-determination" process when the ODIN catalog price is greater than 15 percent of that of a tier-one vendor, such as Office Depot, CDWG, or PCMall. This instruction is being issued to formalize a "best practice" that has been in use for the past year. ... If you find IT peripherals that are priced 15 percent or more below the ODIN catalog price, then you should notify the delivery order contracting officer technical representative (DOCOTR) at your Center or submit a quote request to the ODIN vendor."

Reader note: "This is absurd! Why can't we just buy the better value instead of the bloated ODIN price? The policy seems to be gouge ya if they can, but if you find a better price (and you will), fill out some paperwork and maybe they will lower ODIN's price."

Editor's note: Another way to look at this: A 15% cost differential between ODIN costs and real world costs is apparently not an issue for ODIN management. They will happily charge that. Apparently, ODIN will only consider changes in pricing if it is more than 15% cheaper to buy it outside of ODIN - and only if YOU do the research and then YOU tell them about it.

Initial Evaluation of ADN as Oxidizer in Solid Propellants for Large Space Launcher Boosters

"NASA/GRC has a requirement to produce a more environmentally friendly oxidizer for solid rocket boosters. The oxidizer is called ammonium dinitramide (A.D.N.).

NASA/GRC intends to purchase the items from The Swedish Defence Research Agency (called FOI for Forskningsinstitut) to produce a more environmentally friendly oxidizer for solid rocket boosters. The oxidizer is called ammonium dinitramide (A.D.N.). The U.S.A. had terminated their research in this area in the late 1990's due to the budget reductions from the work funded by the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR). The oxidizer, A.D.N., was found to have some sensitivity to temperatures that made its density low with poor packing of the oxidizer particles. The research proposed by the F.O.I. has begun to overcome these issues with temperature sensitivity and oxidizer density. Currently, the F.O.I. is the only organization that has the capability of performing this research. Their organization has significantly invested in this oxidizer development and garnered world-renowned propellant experts from several nations to complete their current internal research goals and developments."

Editor's note: Really? No one in America can do this research?

Budget Outlook

Lawmakers hope alliances will avoid deep space cuts, Houston Chronicle

"The trick will be to show what manned space flight can do for the nation, rather than what the nation can do for manned space flight," said Pace, a former NASA associate administrator. ... With difficult times facing the space agency, critics such as Alan Stern, an astrophysicist who served as an associate administrator, are raising questions about the agency's habits. Stern sees "a NASA culture that has lost control of spending." "The costs of badly run NASA projects," he added in a New York Times op-ed article, "are paid for with cutbacks or delays in NASA programs that didn't go over budget."

Transition Update

Obama Teams Are Scrutinizing Federal Agencies, Washington Post

"Wearing yellow badges and traveling in groups of 10 or more, agency review teams for President-elect Barack Obama have swarmed into dozens of government offices, from the Pentagon to the National Council on Disability. With pointed questions and clear ground rules, they are dissecting agency initiatives, poring over budgets and unearthing documents that may prove crucial as a new Democratic president assumes control. Their job is to minimize the natural tension between incoming and outgoing administrations, but their work also is creating anxiety among some Bush administration officials as the teams rigorously examine programs and policies."

"This year, say it in stars! Send your friends and relatives best wishes for the season with our printable holiday cards. Messages of joy and peace are illuminated by the natural splendor of the universe. The cards are designed to be printed out at photo stores or online photo labs, though you can also use a home printer."

Download cards here

NASA Extends Contract with Russian Federal Space Agency

"NASA has signed a $141 million modification to the current International Space Station contract with the Russian Federal Space Agency for crew transportation services planned through the spring of 2012. The firm-fixed price extension covers comprehensive Soyuz support, including all necessary training and preparation for launch, crew rescue, and landing of a long-duration mission for three station crew members. The crew members will launch on two Soyuz vehicles in the fall of 2011."

Editor's note: That's $47 million per crew member flown up and down. That is much more than the $30 million that Richard Garriott paid for his flight and all of the ancillary training and support services that went with it. I wonder what SpaceX would charge? The Transition Team seems to be interested as well.

NASA NOMAD Update: CANCELLED: Planned Outage This Weekend

"In order to support computer processing related to the Shuttle Endeavour's return to Florida, the facilities outage at Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) scheduled for this weekend has been cancelled. Therefore, there will not be any disruption in NOMAD services (Email, Calendaring, Webmail (Outlook Web Access - OWA), Instant Messaging (IM), BlackBerry, Treo and Windows Mobile Devices). Scheduled activities to relocate VIP and Critical user accounts from the servers at MSFC to JSC will be discontinued. VIP and Critical users mailboxes that were relocated on Monday, December 1, 2008 will be provided additional information at a later date."

NASA NOMAD Memo: Major Planned Outage Saturday December 6, 2008 - Sunday, December 7, 2008

"Many computer systems and networks will be unavailable for 43 hours due to a facilities maintenance outage necessary to support mission critical systems at Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC). This preventive maintenance activity is being performed to avoid placing NASA's critical Space Operations Mission Directorate (SOMD) systems at an unacceptable risk. The following services will not be available to you during the weekend outage (Dec 6-7): Email, Calendaring, Instant Messaging (IM) and Webmail (Outlook Web Access - OWA) services. You will not be able to send or receive email messages using your email client on your desktop or laptop computer. Email messages sent during the time of the outage will be queued and delivered to your mailbox once the servers have been brought online."

SpaceX Adds Two DragonLab Missions to Manifest

"Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) announces the addition of two DragonLab missions to its manifest, as a result of demand from a successful workshop held at SpaceX headquarters on November 6 to introduce the new DragonLab product. The first two flights are scheduled for 2010 and 2011 respectively from the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch site at Complex 40, Cape Canaveral, Florida. SpaceX is currently working contractual arrangements with multiple prospective customers. DragonLab is a free-flying, reusable spacecraft capable of hosting pressurized and unpressurized payloads to and from space. It is the newest commercial offering from SpaceX. DragonLab launches to orbit aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle."

Aerospace and Defense Manufacturers Launch Outreach Campaign

"The Aerospace Industries Association is launching an outreach campaign to underscore the value of the aerospace and defense industry to our nation's economic health. The initiative, aimed at the incoming administration and Congress, will encourage leaders to consider the industry as an economic driver that will help our nation overcome our current financial challenges."

Editor's note: Those of you who get the Washington Post print edition were greeted with a full page advertisement in this morning's edition about this effort by the AIA.

Smooth iPhone Killer?

Nokia Launches N97 Wants to Dominate iPhone, OnOrbit Gadget Blog

"The Nokia N97 has a large 3.5" touch display with a full QWERTY keyboard. The home screen of the Nokia N97 features the people, content and media that matter the most to the user. This is one smartphone specifically designed to be the king of social networking. Friends, social networks and news are available by simply touching the home screen."

XCOR is Selling Tickets

RocketShip Tours to Sell Rides to Edge of Space Aboard XCOR's Lynx

"Jules Klar, founder of Phoenix, AZ-based RocketShip Tours, has announced that his company will immediately begin selling rides to the edge of space for $95,000 per flight. Participants will fly XCOR Chief Test Pilot and three-time Space Shuttle Pilot and Commander, Rick Searfoss said the Lynx will carry people or payloads to the edges of space up to four times a day."

No Frills Tickets to Space to Go on Sale, Discovery

"It has been more than 10 years since Rick Searfoss, a retired Air Force colonel, test pilot and NASA shuttle commander has been in space, but that is about to change. His new gig should put him beyond the atmosphere as often as four times a day -- and maybe put you in the cockpit right next to him."

Huntsville Woman Pleads Guilty in High-Speed Chase That Killed NASA Worker, News 10

"A Huntsville woman accused of murdering a NASA worker on Redstone Arsenal has pleaded guilty in the case. Valorie Cox was driving the car in the high-speed chase with Huntsville Police on May 30. She drove onto the Arsenal and crashed into a pickup truck driven by 39-year-old Darren Spurlock."

Step Out Tonight, Free Space

"What are you doing this evening, right around sunset? Have a minute to step outside? Should be more than worth your time. Face south and look up. No matter where you live, no matter how bright your cities' lights. As long as it's not cloudy, you will see a beautiful and inspiring sight: two bright planets and the crescent moon. That'd be Venus and Jupiter, for those of you who like to name names."

Send Us Your Jupiter and Venus Pics!,

"Alan Dyer and Irene Klotz have astutely pointed out that Venus and Jupiter are set to glorify the night sky around sunset tonight (Monday, December 1st)."

NASA Integrated Communication Services NICS

"The purpose of this synopsis is to provide notification to industry that NASA/MSFC intends to release in the near future a draft Performance Work Statement (PWS) for the purpose of communicating the preliminary requirements of the pending "NASA Integrated Communications Services (NICS)" acquisition.

Stimulus Plan - and NASA

Stimulus can help NASA reach goal, op ed, Houston Chronicle

"... opportunities may exist if these decisions are placed in a broader context and seen as a complement to addressing the financial crisis the nation is now facing. One of the first orders of business for Congress and our new president will be to take up a new stimulus plan in the next session that could rival the cost of the recent $700 billion financial bailout. The Obama space policy provides a blueprint for leveraging increased NASA funding to meet the new administration's broader economic, innovation and environmental goals. Key areas for stimulus investments might be: ..."

AIP FYI #110: Senate Economic Stimulus Bill Includes New Science Funding

"NASA: "For necessary expenses, not otherwise provided for, in carrying out return to flight activities associated with the space shuttle and activities from which funds were transferred to accommodate return to flight activities, $400,000,000, with such sums as determined by the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as available for transfer to 'Science', 'Aeronautics', 'Exploration', and 'Space Operations' for restoration of funds previously reallocated to meet return to flight activities."



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