JSC Flyover: Missed Opportunity

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: If you look at this trip route the Shuttle and the 747 flew from Carswell Field Airport (KNFW), down to Houston for a flyover, and then up to Barksdale AFB (KBAD). Trip time was 2:07. A quick look at this route suggests that this detour to Houston doubled the trip time.

NASA has been quoted as saying that the trip cross country (around 3,000 miles) will be $1.8 million or around $600 a mile. According to Google the linear distance from Forth Worth to Houston is 240 miles. The distance from Houston to Barksdale AFB is 248 miles. The distance from Forth Worth to Barksdale AFB is around 220 miles.

So, this trip of 488 or so miles required at least an additional 268 miles of flight. Again, using my quick rough guess, that detour for the JSC flyover cost around $160,000. I have asked NASA PAO for some cost numbers. Let's see how good my guess is.

Was this worth the cost? If you have never seen a shuttle flyover like this, let me tell you it is an impressive and awe inspiring sight. Houston has some 2,000,000 residents. If you take my cost estimates, that's around $12.00 $0.08 per person for the flyover detour. But, cost aside, if people do not know it is going to happen, what's the point of doing this in the first place?

I see no mention of this event on the public JSC home page or on its news release or events pages. I do not seem to recall any media advisories or stories in local media giving Houston residents a heads up that this was going to happen.

The only people who seem to have had a heads up are people reading Bob Jacob's Twitter postings and word of mouth onsite at JSC. No mention of the flyover is present at NASA HQ's Shuttle page. All it says is "The Shuttle Carrier Aircraft took off from Ft. Worth at 12:08 p.m. EST and is expected to arrive at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana around 2 p.m. and remain there until Friday." Given this paltry advance notice, I'd have to say that this was a waste of money. So many more people could have marveled at the sight - but JSC and SOMD PAO dropped the ball.

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on December 11, 2008 3:50 PM.

Today's Video: Orbital Skydiving was the previous entry in this blog.

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