March 2009 Archives

Massive Layoffs Ahead?

U.S. contractors face layoffs unless NASA moves faster, Reuters

"U.S. contractors involved in human spaceflight will have to lay off up to 10,000 workers unless NASA accelerates orders for a new lunar lander and the space shuttle replacement program, a senior Boeing Co official said on Tuesday. The five-year gap between the end of the space shuttle program in 2010 and the follow-on Constellation program's first flight in 2015 is a challenge for the companies involved, Brewster Shaw, vice president and general manager of Boeing Space Exploration, told reporters at a space conference."

Colbert: He Demands the Name, Newsday

"Or some part of it...like a node. That's the name that the vox populi (Read: viewers of "The Colbert Report") has chosen as its name for some room on the 'station and as you know from various reports last week, NASA is balking."

Stephen Colbert challenges NASA: "Name that node after me", TV Guy

"Colbert isn't in the mood for cooperation. He scoffs at the idea that the node might be called Serenity, and he threatens terrible retaliation. Oh, it's horrible."

Sorry, NASA: Colbert Conquers Final Frontier, E!Online

"However, while the cable-subscribing people may have spoken, NASA does have the final say over the space place. While the government agency said it will take the people's choice into serious consideration, it wisely reserved the right to the ultimate decision in the naming process."

Final Memorandum on Audit of the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) Program Management Effectiveness

"SOFIA Program management had made significant progress in identifying and addressing past problems associated with management structure, schedule, and quality assurance. Program management had established adequate risk assessment and quality assurance processes to oversee contractor performance with respect to the accomplishment of near-term goals. However, we found that Program management had not yet completed actions required to address the long-term servicing needs of the aircraft, had not requested an independent cost estimate (ICE), and lacked an effective cost control process to evaluate the Program's cost efficiency in meeting schedule milestones. As a result, Program management cannot accurately assess the effects of long-term aircraft servicing and maintenance on the Program's life-cycle costs, demonstrate cost efficiencies, or provide earned value for completed contractor work."

Selling Crap to NASA

Prosecutor: Faulty part could have destroyed shuttle, Houston Chronicle

"A Friendswood man pleaded guilty Monday to selling NASA a space shuttle part that prosecutors allege could have endangered astronauts' lives. Richard J. Harmon, 60, the former owner of Cornerstone Machining Inc. in Alvin, pleaded guilty to a federal felony charge of fraud involving a space vehicle part. U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes scheduled Harmon's sentencing for June when he could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine."

Mmm Good Space Food

Top 10 Worst Space Foods, Discovery

"Discovery Space previously featured some of the best foods ever gobbled up in space. Yet it left readers asking: What are the worst space foods? If anyone would know, it's Vickie Kloeris -- NASA's Johnson Space Center space food manager who has been whipping up zero-gravity recipes for 23 years. Below are her most notorious space menu picks, some so bad that they never flew at all ..."

Editor's note: One time when I was on Devon Island I ate some left over astronaut food that had been part of some experiment. The "Chilean Sea Bass" was simply awful and tasted like it had been scooped out of the "Bass-o-matic" that was once featured on Saturday Night Live in the 70's.

Lunar Serendipity

Mini-SAR nears completion of its first mapping cycle, Paul Spudis, Air&Space

"A particularly interesting and unusual feature was imaged by Mini-SAR almost by accident. Because of a timing error, we started a few mapping passes of the south pole early, before the scheduled start at 80 degrees south latitude. Good thing we did! We covered the fresh, spectacular Schroedinger impact basin, on the lunar far side. Schroedinger shows an unusual, keyhole-shaped crater along a long fissure on the basin floor. This crater is surrounded by optically dark material, which has been interpreted as volcanic ash deposits. The new Mini-SAR image shows that this material is also dark in radar reflectivity, exactly what would be expected from a fine-grained, block-free deposit. Thus, our radar images confirm the geological interpretation first derived in 1994 from Clementine images."

Report: cosmonaut grumbles about space bureaucracy, AP

"Squabbles on Earth over how cosmonauts and astronauts divide up the space station's food, water, toilets and other facilities are hurting the crew's morale and complicating work in space, a veteran Russian cosmonaut said, according to an interview published Monday. Gennady Padalka told the Novaya Gazeta newspaper as saying space officials from Russia, the United States and other countries require cosmonauts and astronauts to eat their own food and follow stringent rules on access to other facilities, like toilets. "What is going on has an adverse effect on our work," Padalka, 50, was quoted as saying in an interview conducted before he and his crew mates blasted off to the station last Thursday. They arrived safely at the outpost Saturday."

Senate budget panel: Shuttle can fly another year

"A $2.5 billion spending provision that would allow NASA to fly the space shuttle well beyond its scheduled retirement next year cleared a major legislative hurdle today, according to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. The provision, requested by Nelson, was included in the broader five-year spending plan that passed the Senate Budget Committee. The shuttle is scheduled to be retired in the fall of next year, and President Barack Obama's recently submitted budget plan provides only enough money for nine flights by the end of 2010. But Nelson has argued there should be no hard-and-fast deadline for launching those flights or mothballing the shuttle; and, that finishing all the shuttle's work safely should come first."

The last one out can turn off the lights..., Opinion, Dwayne Day Space Review

"There are other reasons why professional space reporting remains important. Professional media can pay to send reporters to get the story, or pay a reporter to operate in places--Houston, Cape Canaveral--where the stories are generated. Yes, the space blogosphere can operate from anywhere, but people won't do certain things, like call up sources or knock on office doors on a weekday, unless they're getting paid."

Editor's note: While Dwayne (on the staff of the NRC Space Studies Board) makes some valid points, he also oozes elitism as to how he thinks the media should cover space news and seems to think that the only good space journalism is one conducted by people paid to do it. He clearly does not understand the full extent of changes underway in all aspects of news reporting - space is only a subset thereof.

"Backdropped by the blackness of space and the thin line of Earth's atmosphere, the International Space Station is seen from Space Shuttle Discovery as the two spacecraft begin their relative separation.

Earlier the STS-119 and Expedition 18 crews concluded 9 days, 20 hours and 10 minutes of cooperative work onboard the shuttle and station. Undocking of the two spacecraft occurred at 2:53 p.m. (CDT) on March 25, 2009."

Images: high res (0.6 M) low res (40 K)

A Leisurely Skype Chat With Astrobiologist Dale Andersen on Axel Heiberg Island

Editor's note: I got an email from astrobiologist Dale Andersen (@daleandersen on Twitter) just before 8 pm EDT tonight telling me to get on Skype. Dale is currently working at the McGill Arctic Research Station (MARS) on Axel Heiberg Island. Within a few moments we had an amazingly good connection with excellent picture quality. Dale picked up his Macbook and used its webcam to give me a tour inside the hut and the went outside to give me a view of the surrounding terrain.

Astrobiologist Dale Andersen Twitters from Axel Heiberg Island at 79 Degrees North

"The following Twitter posts were made by Dale Andersen at @daleandersen from McGill Arctic Research Station (MARS) on Axel Heiberg Island on 27 March 2009. MARS is located 8km inland at Expedition Fjord, Nunavut, on Central Axel Heiberg Island in the Canadian High Arctic (approximately 7926'N, 9046'W). Established in 1960, MARS is one of the longest-operating seasonal field research facilities in the high Arctic. The station consists of a small research hut, a cook house, and two temporary structures. MARS can comfortably accommodate up to twelve persons."

The McMurdo Dry Valleys Long-Term Research Project -Life in Extreme Environments; An Antarctic Field Journal (1997)

Editor's note: Dale and I have been doing stuff like this for a long time - often with hardware and comms that are crude by today's standards. Have a look at the "How We Built This Website" section.

NASA STS-119 Report #27 2:30 p.m. CST Saturday, March 28, 2009

"After boosting the International Space Station to full power, the seven member crew of Discovery returned to Earth today, threading the weather needle for a landing at Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Mission managers waved off the first landing opportunity due to gusty winds and clouds at the Shuttle Landing Facility, but took advantage of improved conditions to land on the second opportunity at 2:14 p.m. CDT Saturday. Discovery's main landing gear touched down at 2:13:17 p.m., followed by the nose gear at 2:13:40 p.m. The shuttle's wheels stopped at 2:14:45 p.m., bringing the mission's elapsed time to 12 days, 19 hours, 29 minutes, 33 seconds. Discovery traveled 5,304,140 miles during its journey."

According to PAO "Mission Control has given space shuttle Discovery a "go" for the deorbit burn. The burn lasts three to four minutes, slowing Discovery enough to begin its descent. The deorbit burn will occur at 2:08 p.m. EDT, leading to a 3:14 p.m. landing at Kennedy Space Center, Fla."

Are you an expert in your field? Do you have a lot to say but lack the ability to reach a mass audience? Do you want to write for SpaceRef and NASA Watch? Then keep reading. In May SpaceRef is relaunching our online web site and we're on the lookout for experienced writers to write for SpaceRef and NASA Watch who are passionate about space science, space exploration, space policy, earth science, launches, NewSpace, satellites etc.

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Settling In at MSFC

Lightfoot to get long Marshall interim term, Huntsville Times

"I'd say Robert Lightfoot should probably be getting comfortable in his role as acting Marshall director," said Keith Cowing, who runs the space agency watchdog Web site NASAWatch.com. "A center director position is generally appointed, with input from Congress, by the NASA administrator, but being that there is no permanent NASA administrator, this is a sort of unique time. "Even if a person was named to take over Marshall it could be months before that nominee is approved. Lightfoot is in charge for some time."

"In this week's Discovery Space Wrap Up: The Hubble Space Telescope captures a moon parade around Saturn, GOCE the gravity mapping satellite launches, the International Space Station gets its wings."

Video below

An Inspector General Under Fire, editorial, NY Times

"President Obama has rightly pledged to root out waste and fraud as he ramps up federal spending. With such publicly expressed doubt about Mr. Cobb's effectiveness and objectivity, it is hard to see how he can conduct audits and investigations that will be trusted and believed. The president should let him go and nominate a qualified successor."

King Retires as Director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center

"David King, director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., is retiring from the agency to accept a position as executive vice president of Dynetics in Huntsville, effective immediately."

NASA MSFC Internal Memo: Message From the Center Director

"We have built a great team, and I am leaving the Center in great hands as Robert Lightfoot assumes the position of acting Center Director."

In a shakeup at Marshall Space Flight Center, Director Dave King resigns to become an executive vice president at Dynetics

"Critics have decried the Ares development as being behind schedule and over budget, but King has said in the past "any new program as complex as a new rocket design is going to run into problems and delays. If we knew how to do it then we wouldn't be developing Ares - we would be flying it," King told The Times."

Editor's note: According to MSFC sources, one of Dave King's last acts was to remove Jim Reuter from his position as Ares 1 Vehicle Integration Manager. Hmm ... doesn't this strike anyone else (besides me) as being a little odd? Why did King wait until his last day on the job to do this? Did the rationale to make this management decision only emerge yesterday? Or was King unwilling/unable to do this while still on the job?

US Senate budget panel tells Obama not to get too attached to 2010 shuttle retirement date, Orlando Sentinel

"... [A] fixed retirement date could create dangerous scheduling pressures," notes the Senate Budget committee resolution, which outlines Congress' spending priorities but has little effect on the actual spending, as congressional appropriations committees are responsible for doling out dollars. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, took credit for inserting the language as he sits on the budget committee and wants to limit the time between the space shuttle's retirement and the first launch of its replacement, now slated for 2015."

Space Beat Getting Smaller, FreeSpace (Irene Klotz)

"Anyone who tells you theyre not worried about losing their job either works for the government or lives in the land of Denial. So while it was a surprise, it certainly wasnt totally unexpected to learn of the departure of a 23-year colleague and friend on the space beat, Mark Carreau, from the Houston Chronicle."

Editor's note: Craig, then Miles, now Mark. Why are only the good ones getting canned?

New Astronaut Crew Launches to International Space Station

"The 19th crew to live and work aboard the International Space Station launched into orbit Thursday morning from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, aboard a Soyuz spacecraft. NASA astronaut Michael Barratt, Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, and spaceflight participant and U.S. software engineer Charles Simonyi lifted off at 6:49 a.m. CDT."

Space Adventures' Orbital Spaceflight Client Charles Simonyi Successfully Launches to the International Space Station

"Dr. Simonyi will make history during his spaceflight by becoming the first private explorer to complete a second mission to space. He previously flew to the ISS in spring 2007 as Space Adventures' fifth orbital client. On his return mission, Dr. Simonyi aims to continue to make contributions toward space research, and advance civilian space travel while inspiring kids in their studies of science and math."

NASA's Web Future

NASA Ames CIO Blog: Chris Kemp: Lets Start A Conversation About NASA's Future On The Web

"Let me start with a brief introduction of myself. I am the Chief Information Officer at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. Being the CIO of a NASA field center means I am responsible for most of the IT infrastructure (networks, datacenters, systems, etc.) here at NASA Ames, and several NASA-wide services, including the NASA Security Operations Center. Before becoming CIO in 2007, I lead the strategic business development office at Ames where we forged several innovative new partnerships for the Agency (for example with Google, which made it to the news here and there). Prior to joining NASA, I helped create a number of cool businesses including Classmates.com and Escapia. I am 31 years old, and am the youngest member of the Senior Executive Service."

NASA Ames CIO Blog: Why Make A Universe of Data Available To The Public?

"A little over 2 years ago, in my previous role as strategic business development lead here at NASA Ames, I negotiated the NASA Google collaboration. At the time, I aspired it to be the first in a series of Space Act Agreements NASA would sign with companies that share my vision to make NASA's data - and America's investment in space exploration - more accessible to the world on the Internet. Having since moved on to become the NASA Ames Chief Information Officer, today's announcement of our collaboration with Microsoft - which we worked on for over 18 months - signifies another exciting step in this direction."

Boy finds fame with smelly shoes, BBC

"Mr Aldrich's credentials as an olfactory adjudicator date back to his days conducting smell tests for American space agency Nasa."

Editor's note: Just what was he sniffing at NASA?

Remarks by The President With The Crew of the Space Shuttle and Space Station (Transcript) 24 March 2009

"THE PRESIDENT: Well, obviously we're really proud about the extraordinary work that our American astronauts are doing. You are representative of the dedication and sense of adventure and discovery that we're so proud of. But one of the things that's wonderful about this is that it is an international space station. And I know that we have our Japanese and Russian counterparts on board, as well. We'd love to say hello to them -- and hope that this is an example of the kind of spirit of cooperation that we can apply not just in space but here on the ground, as well."

NASA Student Ambassadors Virtual Community

"This proposed procurement is a continuation of an existing contractual agreement for the developed prototype NASA Student Ambassadors Virtual Community (NSAVC) web site. ... NASA HQs intends to issue a Sole Source Procurement to the Omni Media Cast Technologies, LLC to continue performance for the NASA Student Ambassadors Virtual Community web communication tool. ... Interested organizations may submit their capabilities and qualifications to perform the effort in writing, by FAX or E-Mail, to the identified point of contact not later than 11:00 a.m. (EST.) on April 1, 2009. Such capabilities/qualifications will be evaluated solely for the purpose of determining whether or not to conduct this procurement on a competitive basis. A determination by the Government not to compete this proposed effort on a full and open competition basis, based upon responses to this notice, is solely within the discretion of the government."

Editor's note: Wow. One full week to determine "whether or not to conduct this procurement on a competitive basis." That is not exactly expending much in the way of effort to conduct a meaningful evaluation. NASA clearly wants to sole source this and not waste any time, it would seem. Also, how can other interested organizations even provide a credible response when this virtual community is not even available for their inspection? Neither are any requirements for the operation of this "virtual community" provided. Curious.

NASA Solicitation: Student Ambassadors Program STEM, earlier post

NASA Appropriator Says: Stephen Colbert Is Out of This World

"Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA) says 'democracy in orbit' should govern NASA's new space nodule. Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA) says every vote counts, even if it's for an election that is out of this world. "NASA decided to hold an election to name its new room at the international space station and the clear winner is Stephen Colbert," said Fattah. "The people have spoken, and Stephen Colbert won it fair and square - even if his campaign was a bit over the top."

Editor's note: Um, Congressman, the portion of the ISS being named is a "Node" not a "Nodule". According to WIkipedia a "nodule" can be: "a small knobbly rock or mineral cluster, such as a manganese nodule; a small aggregation of cells; a lesion similar to a papule; or Root nodule, an outgrowth formed on the roots of legumes that house symbiotic bacteria that fix atmospheric nitrogen and provide it to the plant in exchange for carbon."

Honoring Spacebat, More People Get Launched Into Space, Gizmodo

"For this week's Photoshop Contest, we asked you to depict more people and things being tossed into space in honor of Spacebat. You didn't disappoint."

Editor's note: ARC Center Director Pete Worden will be on The Space Show today, from 2:00 - 3:00 PDT.

Editor's update: The Space Show folks got confused about the date, it would seem, when they Twittered about their schedule today. Pete Worden was on their show yesterday.

NASA and Microsoft To Make Universe of Data Available To The Public

"MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. -- NASA and Microsoft Corp. announced Tuesday plans to make planetary images and data available via the Internet under a Space Act Agreement. Through this project, NASA and Microsoft jointly will develop the technology and infrastructure necessary to make the most interesting NASA content -- including high-resolution scientific images and data from Mars and the moon -- explorable on WorldWide Telescope, Microsoft's online virtual telescope for exploring the universe. "Making NASA's scientific and astronomical data more accessible to the public is a high priority for NASA, especially given the new administration's recent emphasis on open government and transparency," said Ed Weiler, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington."

Editor's note: President Obama called the shuttle and ISS crews this morning at 9:49 a.m. EDT. The President was joined by Acting NASA Administrator Scolese, members of Congress, and children from local schools.

Video (via Collectspace.com) Below

NASA OIG: Evaluation and Oversight of NASA's University-Affiliated Spaceport Technology Development Contract Needed Improvement

"We found that performance evaluation factors used to assess ASRC Aerospace Corporation's performance were not TO-specific and did not provide the basis for a fair and objective assessment of the USTDC contractor's performance. Because performance evaluation factors were not TO-specific and tied to desired outcomes as required by acquisition regulations, the performance evaluations provided little evidence that the approximately $2.2 million in USTDC award fees for FY 2007 were fully justified or were an accurate reflection of the contractor's performance."

Who Will Serve as NASA Administrator?, Washington Post

"President Obama will speak with Shuttle Discovery astronauts today as they wrap up a series of spacewalks high above. But they still don't have a boss back here on Earth. "I will soon be appointing a new NASA director," Obama recently told a group of reporters from regional newspapers. "I think it's important for the long term vibrancy of our space program to think through what NASA's core mission is, and what the next great adventures and discoveries are under the NASA banner." Two weeks since that statement however, there's still no NASA chief and two candidates once believed to be finalists have been tapped for other government jobs: Steve Isakowitz was reappointed chief financial officer at the Energy Department and retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Scott Gration will serve as a special envoy to Sudan."

Next NASA chief remains a subject of speculation and rumors, Orlando Sentinel

"Whatever the case, insiders say that Obama is unlikely toname anybody to the job before next month, despite urging byFlorida legislators that hepick somebody for thepost soon."

Return to Everest 2009 Update 23 March: Travel Notes From Scott Parazynski, OnOrbit.com

Day 1/March 22, 2009 (Sunday) The first steps are some of the hardest

"Every journey begins with a single, critical step. Once in motion, keeping your heading and inertia becomes much easier, the goal more in focus. I am now thankfully very much in motion, half a world away from home, blogging from the comfort of a cafe in the Frankfurt (Germany) airport, ABBA playing somewhat annoyingly the background. Ten hours ago, riding to the airport with Gail, Luke and Jenna, I had a tight knot in my stomach, trying to make light of the "quick trip" I had planned to Everest's summit and back, and otherwise trying to remain upbeat despite the anguish of separation we'd soon face. A curbside drop-off with two enormous and overweight duffels made the goodbye hugs pass too quickly, but once inside the terminal I pushed away any uncertainty I might have had and strode with confidence towards the Lufthansa counter. With just under 4 hours of sleep last night and weeks of planning and training, plus months of daily dreaming of it, I was finally on my way back to the Himalayas!"

Former Astronaut To Take Social Media to New Heights, Universe Today

"In 2008, astronaut Scott Parazynski came within 24 hours of reaching the summit of Mt. Everest when a painful back injury forced him to abandon his climb. Now, Parazynski is on his way back for another attempt at summitting the world's highest mountain peak. But this time, he wants to take the rest of the world with him. If everything works as planned, Parazynski will blog, podcast, vodcast and more during the climb, and he even wants to Twitter from the summit."

Follow Scott on Twitter at SPOTScott

A Node Named Colbert?

Oops: Colbert wins NASA space station name contest, AP

"NASA's mistake was allowing write-ins. Colbert urged viewers of his Comedy Central show, "The Colbert Report" to write in his name. And they complied, with 230,539 votes. That clobbered Serenity, one of the NASA choices, by more than 40,000 votes. Nearly 1.2 million votes were cast by the time the contest ended Friday. NASA reserves the right to choose an appropriate name. Agency spokesman John Yembrick said NASA will decide in April, but will give top vote-getters "the most consideration."

Editor's note: There is a link on the cover page of the STS-119 FD 08 Execute Package that says "NCAA Basketball Championship Brackets, Second Round (pdf - Electronic Only)" The FD09 Execute Package refers to "NCAA Basketball Championship Brackets, Weekend Wrap-up (pdf - Electronic Only)" - both links are inside the JSC firewall.

Hmmm ... why can't NASA publish this? Moreover, why are they NOT sending NASA Mission Madness brackets up to the crew? Inquiring minds want to know.

Restoring History

NASA's early lunar images, in a new light, Los Angles Times

"Rising over the battered surface of the moon, Earth loomed in a shimmering arc covered in a swirling skin of clouds. The image, taken in 1966 by NASA's robotic probe Lunar Orbiter 1, presented a stunning juxtaposition of planet and moon that no earthling had ever seen before. It was dubbed the Picture of the Century. "The most beautiful thing I'd ever seen," remembered Keith Cowing, who saw it as an 11-year-old and credited it with eventually luring him to work for NASA. But in the mad rush of discovery, even the breathtaking can get mislaid. But in the mad rush of discovery, even the breathtaking can get mislaid. NASA was so preoccupied with getting an astronaut to the moon ahead of the Soviets that little attention was paid to the mountains of scientific data that flowed back to Earth from its early space missions. The data, stored on miles of fragile tapes, grew into mountains that were packed up and sent to a government warehouse with crates of other stuff. And so they eventually came to the attention of Nancy Evans, a no-nonsense woman with flaming red hair that fit her sometimes-impatient nature."

Newly Restored "Picture of the Century": Lunar Orbiter 2's View of Copernicus

"The Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) has released another iconic image taken during the Lunar Orbiter program in the 1960's. This image, which shows the dramatic landscape within the crater Copernicus was often referred to as the "picture of the century" by many people at the time of its original public release in 1966. This image was taken by the Lunar Orbiter 2 spacecraft at 7:05 p.m. EST on 24 November 1966 from an altitude of 28.4 miles above the lunar surface, 150 miles due south of Copernicus. At the time this image was originally released most views of the lunar surface involved looking straight down. Little, if any, sense of the true elevation of lunar surface features was usually available. This photo changed that perception by showing the Moon to be a world with tremendous topography - some of it Earth-like, much of it decidedly un-earth-like."

Editor's note: A larger, raw version (2.2 GB in size) is now online at NASA's Lunar Science Institute.

NASA STS-119 Execute Package FD07

"Good Morning Discovery! ISS now looks like the artist renderings that we've been seeing for years. A day to celebrate!"

Space station now at full length, full power, Collectspace

"Spanning the length of a football field (including the end zones) and weighing approximately the same as a loaded space shuttle orbiter, the International Space Station's (ISS) integrated truss, or backbone, was completed in orbit this week after nine years of assembly."

NASA STS-119 Report #11 Friday, March 20, 2009 - 8 p.m.

"Four pair of arrays were attached to the station in December 2000, September 2006, June 2007 and March 2009 bringing the total surface area to 38,400 square feet, or .9 acre. (1 acre = 43,500 sq ft)"

NASA To Sign Agreement With Three Companies to Participate in a Massively Multiplayer Gaming Initiative

"Officials from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are finalizing negotiations for a Space Act Agreement (SAA) with three gaming companies whose joint proposal for a massively multiplayer online (MMO) game has been selected for collaborative development. The three companies - Project Whitecard, Inc., Virtual Heroes, Inc., and Information In Place/WisdomTools - teamed up to create a proposal for "Astronaut: Moon, Mars, and Beyond," a game concept developed for NASA's MMO gaming initiative, which is designed to increase student interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects and career fields."

Who is Scott Gration? , The New Republic

"But there are also a few reasons for Darfur interventionists to worry. Significantly, Gration originally had his heart set on running NASA. Obama tried to put him there until defense lobbyists scotched the idea. This raises questions about whether this new assignment is an afterthought for both Gration and the administration. If Obama sees the Darfur envoy simply as a patronage job for loyal supporters--like the multilateral affairs job that went to Power--then he may not be that ambitious about Darfur."

President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts, White House

"President Obama also made the following announcement today: Steve Isakowitz, Chief Financial Officer, Department of Energy - Steve Isakowitz was sworn in June 1, 2007 as Chief Financial Officer of the Department of Energy after being unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate."

Hacking Bill Nelson

Lawmaker hacked off over cyber invasions

"Cyber-invaders thought to be in China have recently hacked into the computer network in U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson's office, according to the senator's office. Two attacks on the same day this month and another one last month targeted work stations used by three Nelson staffers - a key foreign-policy aide, the deputy legislative director and a former Nelson NASA adviser. But the hackers didn't make off with any classified information, which isn't kept on office computers, a Nelson spokesman said. Nelson is a member of the Senate's Intelligence, Armed Services and Finance committees; and, he heads a Senate subcommittee that oversees NASA. "I have had my office computers invaded three times in the last month. One of them, we think, is serious," Nelson acknowledged Thursday, during a Senate Armed Services hearing that touched upon the subject of hackers trying to invade U.S. military computer networks."

Veteran Astronaut Scott Parazynski Joins Wyle Business Development Staff in Houston

"A former astronaut and veteran of five space shuttle flights has been named a director of business development for Wyle's Integrated Science and Engineering Group based in Houston, Texas. Dr. Scott Parazynski joins Wyle to assist in the company's continued growth and diversification providing integrated science, engineering, and human health and performance services to the Federal Government. He will also assume the role of medical director for Wyle's Antarctic operations including support of the National Science Foundation's United States Antarctic Program. Wyle is competing for this program as a team member of Antarctic Research Support (ARS), a joint venture between CSC and EG&G."

Scott Parazynski: Everest Part Deux, in 3-D

Editor's note: You can follow Scott's climb at onorbit.com/everest and on Twitter at SPOTScott

Second Part of Space Station Solar Array Deployment Completed

"The deployment of the S6 3B solar array wings resumed 1:11 p.m. EDT and finished at 1:17 p.m. There were no difficulties encountered, the "ripple" area flattened out naturally and the crew and Mission Control report the array extended to its full length of 115 feet."

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 20 March 2009

"Today, S6 Solar Array Wings 1B & 3B were deployed nominally (1B at ~11:55am, 3B at ~1:20pm). Each SAW consists of two photovoltaic blankets, each made up of 31.5 individual segments (bays). The two wings together add 21-30 kilowatts of usable power to the station, one quarter of the stations full power supply."

More ISS and Shuttle News

Follow @ShuttleStation on Twitter.

Bring NASA Back to Earth, Huffington Post

"Thus another recent NASA PR move is to tell Congress and the public that it is out to find 'life' on Mars and other planets. When many people hear references to life, images of Martians spin through their heads; some even envision civilizations that we could ally ourselves with, maybe against China, at least against some other aliens in some other galaxy. Actually, what the multi-billion dollar agency is looking for is some organic material, the size of amoebas or--even less, say, signs that once there was water on Mars. It would be nice to know, I grant you; however, given other priorities, it hardly belongs at the top of the list of what ought to be studied. Indeed, even if one insists that these funds are to be used for exploration--and not, say, finding better ways to fight disease or poverty--much more promising targets are near by, right here on Earth, in the oceans."

Editor's note: This guy has a bias and he wants to convince others that his oceans bias is better than their space bias. There is a simple solution: explore BOTH space and the oceans. The merits for so doing are equally compelling and relevant.

Mission Madness

NASA Hosts 'Mission Madness' Tournament to Vote on Greatest Mission

"This interactive Internet online feature enables you to share your opinion about the agency's greatest missions. Space fans will be able to view a lineup of 64 missions, learn about their goals, and predict which missions fellow exploration fans will vote for during this bracket-style, single elimination tournament."

NASA Has a March Madness Bracket... Say What?!, Discovery Channel

March Madness for Space Geeks, Universe Today

NASA holds best mission tournament, Huntsville Times

NCAA mounts full-court press on trademark violations, LA Times

"One of the latest targets is NASA, the federal space agency. The NCAA recently asked NASA to stop advertising Mission Madness, which lets fans vote on its greatest-ever mission. The promotion featured a bracket system like that used in the college tournament as well as basketball icons. "There was no reason to use basketballs," Masters said. An agency spokeswoman said she knew nothing about any complaints from the NCAA. Mission Madness remains online."

Go to Mission Madness

"On March 15th 2009 a Bat fulfilled his dream to become the first Bat in space.
Sadly it was also his last flight. We wipe away a tear and salute this true hero and we shall always remember SPACE BAT!"

Video below

Do As I Say Not As I Do

Editor's note: I find it interesting how NASA employee Nick Skytland @skytland sits at his desk at work, Twittering about NASA, and as a taxpayer, I am not allowed to follow his Twitter feed. Yet curiously, Nick is one of the more vocal NASA Gen Y employees calling for increased openness and use of these social networking tools. Seems somewhat hypocritical.

Editor's update: If I did not find clear value in what Nick Twitters as part of his job at NASA, I would not be complaining about the impediment he has put in place regarding my access to it.

Editor's note: Now that Steve Isakowitz has been shot down by Sen. Nelson, and Scott Gration is headed to Africa, a new name has started to circulate inside the Obama Administration as a possible NASA Administrator: Mae Jemison. Dr. Jemison is a former astronaut who flew on STS-47 in 1992. Jemison went to college with Valerie Jarrett, a senior advisor to President Obama. Jemison has been present at some initial Administration planning activities when Jarrett was in attendance. Stay tuned.

Marking Womens History, an Accomplished Troupe, Washington Post

"First Lady Michelle Obama will celebrate Womens History Month on Thursday by bringing a star-studded group of female actors, singers and others to visit 11 schools in the Washington area. .. Mae C. Jemison, a former astronaut, will also meet with students."

Florida lawmakers urge Obama to name new NASA chief, Orlando Sentinel

"Two Space Coast lawmakers today urged the Obama administration to quickly pick a new NASA chief as the agency "faces numerous time-sensitive challenges and needs decisive leadership," according to a letter signed by U.S. Reps. Suzanne Kosmas and Bill Posey. Most pressing is the fate of NASA's human spaceflight program. The space shuttle is set for a 2010 retirement, but its replacement is not scheduled to fly before 2015 at the earliest -- which likely would leave thousands of Kennedy Space Center workers without jobs."

First lady tells students to aim their goals high, AP

[Photo] "First lady Michelle Obama, left, hugs former NASA Astronaut Mae C. Jemison, right, as she welcomes guests to the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, March 19, 2009, as she hosted a series of events in celebration of Women's History Month."

3 senators urge Obama to remove NASA inspector Cobb, Orlando Sentinel

"Three U.S. senators drew a bull's eye on NASA's "Moose," calling for the removal of the agency's inspector general, Robert "Moose" Cobb. The bipartisan trio of senators announced Wednesday that they sent a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to remove Cobb from his job as the government's in-house watchdog on NASA spending. The senators - Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV, D-W.V., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa - pointed to "years of complaints and investigation's into Cobb's work."

GriffinSpace, LLC

Editor's note: Rebecca Griffin has been sending this email around the Washington aerospace community:

"Dear Colleagues, As all of you know, Mike has left NASA and I am now free of his conflict of interest restrictions and am able to accept consulting engagements again. To that end, Mike and I have set up a woman-owned small business, GriffinSpace LLC, of which I am the president and Mike is the chief operating officer. Please discard your prior contact information for me and use: ..."

Apparently the online home of their new company, GriffinSpace, LLC will eventually be http://www.griffinspace.net/

"On March 20, 2009, at 1:00 p.m. EDT, join a panel of scientists for a live Sun-Earth Day Webcast on www.nasa.gov and NASA TV. During the webcast, scientists will share discoveries about the sun, while students monitor the sun and prepare their own space weather forecast."

Video below

Scratch Gration

Source: Obama picks retired Air Force pilot, close friend, Africa expert as Sudan envoy, AP

"A senior administration official says President Barack Obama has chosen retired Air Force Gen. J. Scott Gration to be a special envoy to war-wracked Sudan. Gration is a close personal friend of Obama and has considerable experience on African issues.

The administration official told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Gration is the pick of both Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The announcement was being made Wednesday."

The Adventure Continues

Educator Astronauts Continue the Legacy of Christa McAuliffe, Challenger Center for Space Science Education

"I touch the future; I teach" are the inspiring words often quoted by our nation's first Teacher-in-Space, Christa McAuliffe. Challenger Center for Space Science Education is thrilled to see Christa's dreams fulfilled by former science and math teachers Joe Acaba and Ricky Arnold who are now officially "Educator Astronauts" in orbit around the Earth and successfully docked to the International Space Station. ... Daniel Barstow, President of Challenger Center for Space Science Education, says "The Space program helps to invigorate science education by combining hands on learning with the thrill of exploration and discovery. Teachers have the innate ability to breakdown these complex subjects and present them in an understandable and inspiring way. Educator Astronauts Acaba and Arnold's mission follows in the footsteps of Barbara Morgan's successes on STS118 and serves as a reminder of the awesome role that educators play in our lives."

Teens capture images of space with #56 camera and balloon, The Telegraph

"Taking atmospheric readings and photographs 20 miles above the ground, the Meteotek team of IES La Bisbal school in Catalonia completed their incredible experiment at the end of February this year. Building the electronic sensor components from scratch, Gerard Marull Paretas, Sergi Saballs Vila, Marta Gasull Morcillo and Jaume Puigmiquel Casamort managed to send their heavy duty #43 latex balloon to the edge of space and take readings of its ascent. Created by the four students under the guidance of teacher Jordi Fanals Oriol, the budding scientists, all aged 18-19, followed the progress of their balloon using high tech sensors communicating with Google Earth."

ISS Docking completed

Hatches Opened Between Space Station and Shuttle Discovery at 7:09 p.m. EDT

"At about 7:30 p.m., Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Astronaut Wakata will become a member of the station's Expedition 18 crew and Sandra Magnus will become a member of Discovery's crew. Magnus will have been a space station crew member for 121 days."

Editor's note: According to NASA PAO: "At 5:19:53: p.m. EDT, Space shuttle Discovery docked to the Pressurized Mating Adaptor on the front of the International Space Station's Harmony module. Docking occurred over Lake Wells, western Australia. Hatches between Discovery and the station will be opened at about 7 p.m., followed by the traditional welcoming ceremony."

Students Compete in Lego Robotics Match

"Student teams from 12 local elementary, middle and high schools will pit their software-enabled, battery-powered Lego robots against the clock in the 3rd Annual Southern California NASA Explorer School Robotics Competition at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, Calif., on Tues., March 17."

Live Streaming TV below:

NASA, Universities Unveil Plans to Build New Campus at Ames

"The University of California, Santa Cruz, (UCSC) and Foothill-De Anza Community College District today announced a dynamic new partnership with NASA Ames Research Center to establish a sustainable community for education and research at the NASA Research Park at Moffett Field."

Editorial: Great partnership in the making at NASA Ames, San Jose Mercury News

"Hurdles remain. After completing environmental reviews on the land, the partners must find a private developer with the heft to design and build the community. But within a decade, we could look back at this as a pivotal moment when the region's colleges and universities broke down barriers between them in pursuit of a new frontier."

Wayne Hale's Blog: Encouraging Innovation at NASA

"I have another video for you to watch, but before you do let me give you a little context. On this date, March 16, 1926, Dr. Robert Hutchings Goddard, professor of Physics at Worchester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts tried out his newest invention in his Aunt Effie's cabbage patch near Auburn, Massachusetts. Pretty old cabbages in that garden in March in Massachusetts. Dr. Goddard's invention? The world's very first liquid fueled rocket. It flew; not very high nor very far, but it flew. And attracted the attention of the town's volunteer fire department - they asked Dr. Goddard not to do any more experiments there."

Editor's note: According to NASA sources, JPL Center Director Charles Elachi sent an internal email out earlier today that said: "I am announcing today that Pete Theisinger has agreed to return to the Mars Science Laboratory as its Project Manager as we prepare for launch in 2011. Richard Cook will assume the role of Deputy Project Manager."

More Space Junk

Space station may have to duck orbiting debris, AP

"Another piece of space junk is drifting toward the international space station just as the space shuttle is headed that way. NASA will decide later Monday whether to fire the space station's engines to nudge it out of the path of an orbiting piece of a Russian satellite. The satellite debris is projected to come within about half a mile of the space station early Tuesday. Space station astronauts had to move into an emergency capsule last week for about 10 minutes because another piece of space junk came too close for comfort."

Editor's update: According to @NASA "The International Space Station will not need to maneuver tonight to avoid satellite debris. ISS Cmdr. Mike Fincke was just informed."

The Space Elevator Spring Chat Series begins March 17 and will be running every Tuesday for at least 4 weeks. Our first guest will be: Ben Shelef, Co-founder, The Spaceward Foundation & the International Space Elevator Consortium. Join the Chat: March 17 2:30 PMEastern Time/ 11:30 AM Pacific Time Topic: The Space Elevator concept including an update on the Space Elevator Challenges http://www.spaceelevator.com/chat

Public Views of Space Exploration, An independent national survey conducted by The Everett Group, February 2009

"The Everett Group, a full-service audience research firm in the DC area, specializes in surveys and focus groups on military and aerospace topics. This pilot survey on space exploration opinion was part of a larger methodological project the Everett Group conducted examining the differences between landline and cell respondents on telephone surveys. The results from this survey are statistically generalizable to the overall U.S. population, with a margin of error of +/-5.2%."

Top 16 Canadian Space Agency Astronaut Candidates Introduced

"Today, Canadian Space Agency (CSA) President Steve MacLean introduced the Top 16 candidates who are participating in the Agency's National Astronaut Recruitment Campaign. This announcement provides insight into the process of selecting the next two members of Canada's Astronaut Corps. This group was selected from over 5351 online and screened applicants to the National Astronaut Recruitment Campaign, which was launched in May 2008. Over the last several months, the CSA has interviewed candidates and put them through a series of medical exams as well as physical and skills tests in what were sometimes extreme conditions. They have also been tested for their creativity, teamwork skills and physical fitness to determine their ability to meet the demands of astronaut training and space flight."

Editor's note: Special congratulations to my Devon Island colleague Matt Bamsey!

Return to Everest

Scott Parazynski: Everest Part Deux, in 3-D

"Mount Everest is calling me again. A week from today I will begin to answer that call, my first step being a very long flight to Katmandu. Last spring, after 59 arduous days on the mountain, I came tantalizingly close to reaching the summit, but had to turn back due to a severe back injury. Since then my determination to reach the summit has only strengthened, and I am physically and mentally ready for another shot at it. As I make this second summit bid, I hope to bring many of my friends - both old and new - along with me via this website. While this is a personal quest for me, in many ways, what I do - and how I do it - resonates with many other types of exploration, both on here on earth and in space. Therefore, I hope to use this climb to allow a wider audience, young and old alike, to gain some insight into how the business of exploration is done ... Please join me, Sherpa Danuru (who will be my climbing sidekick this season --- much more about him later), Keith Cowing, Miles O'Brien and the NASA trekking team as we undertake this epic adventure!"

Editor's note: You can follow Scott's climb at onorbit.com/everest. You can also follow Scott's Everest Climb on Twitter at SPOTScott

STS-119 Update

NASA's Shuttle Discovery Launches to Fully Power Space Station

"Space shuttle Discovery and its seven-member crew lifted off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center at 7:43 p.m. EDT Sunday to deliver the final set of power-generating solar array wings and a new crew member to the International Space Station. Discovery's STS-119 flight is carrying the space station's fourth and final set of solar array wings, completing the station's truss, or backbone. The arrays will provide the electricity to fully power science experiments and support the station's expanded crew of six in May. The 13-day mission will feature three spacewalks to help install the S6 truss segment to the starboard, or right, side of the station and deploy its solar arrays. The flight also will replace a failed unit for a system that converts urine to potable water."

Mario Humberto Acua

Mario Humberto Acua, Washington Post

"Mario Humberto Acua, 68, a NASA astrophysicist whose scientific instruments have flown on more than 30 NASA missions to every planet in the solar system, including the sun, died March 5 of multiple myeloma at his home in Bowie."

Driving Across The Northwest Passage to Make Polar History

"An international team of scientists has launched an expedition to drive the Northwest Passage on sea-ice this spring, marking the first time the Passage has ever been travelled in a road vehicle. The team, led by Mars Institute scientist Dr. Pascal Lee, has a dual goal of studying climate change on Earth and advancing the human exploration of the Moon and Mars. The mission is an integral part of the Haughton-Mars Project (HMP) on Devon Island, High Arctic, where research in space science and exploration is being conducted by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA)."

STS-119 Launch Update

NASA Sets Saturday Briefing for Discovery's STS-119 Mission

"NASA managers will hold a prelaunch news conference no earlier than 3 p.m. EDT on Saturday, March 14, to discuss the status of space shuttle Discovery's mission to the International Space Station. The briefing will air live on NASA Television and the agency Web site. Launch is scheduled for 7:43 p.m. on Sunday. Saturday's news conference will follow the conclusion of a NASA mission management team meeting that starts at 1 p.m."

Space Shuttle Discovery Repair Work Proceeds - Weather Forecast is Good

"Repairs are under way on the Ground Umbilical Carrier Plate (GUCP) interface, where gaseous hydrogen leaked during Wednesday's launch attempt."

Editor's note: Well, it certainly seems that Sen. Nelson is of the mind that he is going to decide who is - or rather - who is not the next NASA Administrator. It should be no secret by now that Nelson would like to see former astronaut Charles Bolden nominated. Widely regarded as a sterling individual, few people dislike Bolden or question his capabilities.

However, the White House seems to have other ideas as to who they'd like to nominate. Nelson made it quite clear that he did not want Scott Gration to be the nominee due to a lack of space experience. Now, Nelson has made it clear that he does not want to see Steve Isakowitz as the nominee either and has taken active steps to block Isakowitz's name from moving forward.

It would seem that Nelson's prime, personal criteria for picking a NASA administrator is staunch support for human space flight - and keeping the shuttle flying as long as possible (thus reducing job loss in Florida). Alas, there are are other things besides human space flight on NASA's agenda.

This is starting to get silly - and is becoming counterproductive so far as NASA's best interests are concerned. It is time for Sen. Nelson to stop being selfish and allow the remaining members of the Senate to have some say in this matter - and to let the White House actually nominate someone to run NASA - someone who can run the agency for the entire nation, not just Florida.

Bill Nelson and Co. take down Obama's NASA frontrunner , Orlando Sentinel

"Nelson and other NASA boosters did not like Isakowitzs reputation as a tough fiscal manager. Nelson aides blamed Isakowitz for helping kill a repair mission to the Hubble Space Telescope -- a decision that was later reversed under former NASA chief Mike Griffin -- and they worry that he would not be a strong supporter of human spaceflight. Manned spaceflight is vital for KSC, which launches the space shuttle and would be in charge of preparing its replacement for missions."

House Science and Technology Committee: Minority Views and Estimates Committee on Science and Technology Fiscal Year 2010 - NASA Excerpts

"The Committee has sought to enable NASA to succeed as a multi-mission agency in carrying out the goals expressed in the NASA Authorization Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-422). In general, Committee Republicans concur with the Majority that the budget seems consistent with the priorities of the NASA Authorization Act of 2008, including retirement of the Space Shuttle following completion of the International Space Station and one additional flight to deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. We applaud the Administration's reaffirmation of NASA's initiatives to return humans to the Moon by 2020 as part of a robust space exploration program, while also stimulating the privatesector to develop and demonstrate commercial crew and cargo delivery services to the International Space Station."

12 March 2009: Questions Of the Day: Is America's Space Program Worth the Money?, ABC News

There was a close call in space today. Space junk nearly hit the International Space Station forcing the astronauts to race to the Soyuz escape rocket until the danger passed. Space exploration is the subject of todays question: Given the tough economic times, given the ballooning deficits, is the nations space program still worth the money? NASAs budget is close to $20 billion.

Editor's note: Sources report that the Space Enterprise Council was recently eliminated by the US Chamber of Commerce.

Where Next?

Increased funding for NASA would stimulate economy while keeping American industry strong, op ed by Rep. Ralph Hall

"Accelerating development of the Constellation system would keep American tax dollars working for us here at home and have a multiplier effect throughout the economy by stimulating high-tech manufacturing and networks of suppliers around the country. This would expand our economic output and help our industries remain competitive in the global marketplace. By fostering this kind of innovation, the U.S. has earned a leadership role in human spaceflight, the economic benefits of which are far-reaching."

An Astronaut's Letter to President Obama: Six Space Policy Musts, Tom Jones

"En route to the moon forty years ago, Apollo 11's astronauts executed a course correction maneuver, an 8-mph rocket burn that fine-tuned their aim. You gave NASA a course correction with the 2010 budget plan. The $19.2 billion NASA budget (just half a percent of federal spending) may seem trivial amid the trillions spent to boost the economy, but such decisions will make or break America's status as the world leader in space. Here are six moves we need to keep NASA--and the United States--on the right trajectory."

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 12 March 2009

"At 12:39pm EDT, the ISS had a conjunction with a small piece of orbital debris (Object #25090, PAM-D debris) which passed by the station inside the Red Threshold. Due to late notification, which was well beyond the timeline for maneuvering, a DAM (Debris Avoidance Maneuver) could not be performed. As a precaution, the three crewmembers withdrew to the Soyuz 17S capsule at 12:35pm, leaving the spacecraft's hatch open (in case the Soyuz itself was struck). The crew returned to the ISS at ~12:45pm. [The late notification was due to the high uncertainty of the object's location on its low-perigee (154 km), high eccentricity orbit, which resulted in an error in solar radiation pressure prediction. Subsequent correction of this value brought the object into the Red box.]"

Space station's close call with junk: More to come, AP

"Russia's state-run Vesti-24 television reported on a lighter moment in the space station evacuation. Apparently the crew members left an instruction manual on board and Fincke had to be told by Mission Control how to go about getting back onto the station once the threat had passed."

Editor's note: Hey Spanky - we have some of the manuals online here ;-)

NASA JSC Solicitation: Recovery Industry Day for Construction

"National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)-Johnson Space Center (JSC), Houston, TX, is hereby soliciting firms for attendance at the "RECOVERY Industry Day for Construction." Recovery Industry Day for Construction will consist of informative presentations to Industry regarding construction services, associated with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) - Cross Agency Support, to be performed at NASA-JSC. Recovery Industry Day is open to all firms (Large and Small Businesses); both companies that have performed work at JSC and those that have not performed work at JSC, and who are interested in pursuing construction contracting opportunities under NAICS Codes 238160 Roofing Contractors and 236220 Commercial and Institutional Building Construction."

Obama calls NASA an agency 'adrift' and in need of new mission, Orlando Sentinel

"OBAMA: ... I will soon be appointing a new NASA director. I think it's important for the long term vibrancy of our space program to think through what NASA's core mission is and what the next great adventures and discoveries are under the NASA banner. The space shuttle program has yielded some extraordinary scientific discoveries, but I think it's fair to say that there's been a sense of drift to our space program over the last several years. We need to restore that sense of excitement and interest that existed around the space program. Shaping a mission for NASA that is appropriate for the 21st century is going to be one of the biggest tasks of my new NASA director. Once we have that vision, then I think that it's going to be much easier to build support for expanding our space efforts. What I don't what NASA to do is just limp along. And I don't think that's good for the economy in the region either. ..."

"OBAMA: First of all, we have authorized were budgeted for additional shuttle launches that had not been scheduled. So we're extending the life of the shuttle because a) I think it is doing some important work and b) we are very mindful of the economic impact of the space program in the region."

NASA FY 2010 Budget Details

"NASA will fly the Space Shuttle to complete the International Space Station and then retire the Shuttle in 2010; an additional flight may be conducted if it can safely and affordably be flown by the end of 2010."

Editor's note: I am not sure how you can be saying that you will be "extending the life of the shuttle" at the same time that you state in budget documents that you are going to "retire the Shuttle in 2010".

Lawmakers: NASA watchdog lacks bite, needs to go, CNN

"Apparently, Mr. Cobb thought he was supposed to be the lap dog, rather than the watchdog, of NASA," Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tennessee, told CNN."

Letter to the President Regarding Inspector Genteral Cobb, House Science and Technology Committee

"President Barack Obama: In the almost $800-billion economic recovery package you signed into law last week, federal inspectors general offices were allocated millions of dollars of additional funding so that they have the resources to oversee spending of stimulus money. We are confident that many of the sitting inspectors general are capable of meeting this new challenge. However, Robert Cobb, the inspector general (IG) of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), cannot be relied upon to carry out this important task. With an agency budget of more than $17 billion and another $600 million proposed in the economic stimulus package, NASA cannot afford another four years with an ineffective inspector general. We are asking that you take immediate steps to remove Mr. Cobb."

STS-119 Update

NASA Shuttle Launch Targeted for No Earlier Than March 15

"Space shuttle Discovery's launch to the International Space Station now is targeted for no earlier than March 15. NASA managers postponed Wednesday's planned liftoff due to a leak associated with the gaseous hydrogen venting system outside the external fuel tank. The system is used to carry excess hydrogen safely away from the launch pad. Liftoff on March 15 would be at 7:43 p.m. EDT. The exact launch date is dependent on the work necessary to repair the problem. Managers will meet Thursday at 4 p.m. to further assess the troubleshooting plan. Discovery's STS-119 flight is delivering the space station's fourth and final set of solar array wings, completing the station's truss, or backbone."

Gas Leak Postpones Space Shuttle Launch, AP via NPR

"NASA has until Monday to send Discovery to the space station, otherwise the flight will have to be put off until April. That's because a Russian Soyuz rocket is slated to blast off in two weeks, on a higher priority mission, with a fresh space station crew. Discovery's liftoff originally was targeted for mid-February, but concern about the shuttle's three hydrogen gas valves resulted in four delays."

Spaceflight Now to host live launch broadcast

"Spaceflight Now is excited to be joining forces with veteran space broadcasters Miles O'Brien and David Waters to provide unrivaled video coverage of space shuttle Discovery's next mission, scheduled for launch on Wednesday, March 11."

Editor's note: Mission managers just gave a "go" to fuel space shuttle Discovery's external tank. Weather is 95 percent "go" for tonight's 9:20 EDT launch.

Editor's note: From @milesobrien: "We want to take your questions during our webcast starting @ 4:30pm. For Twitter, direct message @milesobrien". Keep an eye on this webcast and the Twittering. Miles O'Brien and I will soon be doing something very similar from Everest Base Camp.

Editor's note: Have a look at this Shutttle pad photo, by Bill Ingalls, NASA HQ. This photo is also featured on the White House website.

Editor's Update: The STS-119 launch was scrubbed at 2:37 p.m. due to a hydrogen leak in a Liquid Hydrogen vent line between the shuttle and the external tank. The launch team is currently beginning the process of draining the external fuel tank. Next launch attempt tomorrow at 8:54 p.m. EDT.

Miller's Select Crabmeat -- It's Out of This World

"Miller's Select Crab will soon be heading for the International Space Station. Each astronaut is allowed a "bonus food allotment" to bring some of the comforts of home to outer space. For one of the astronauts, the choice includes several cans of Miller's Select Jumbo Lump Crab Meat."

When It Comes to Living in Space, It's a Matter of Taste, Scientific American

"Astronaut Scott Parazynski--a physician and veteran of five shuttle missions who has studied human fluid shifts during spaceflight, subscribes to the nasal congestion theory. "It's the same as having a cold or allergies," he says, "a stuffy nose definitely dampens your sense of smell and consequently your sense of taste." As for his own experience, Parazynski, who admits he is not a fan of shrimp cocktail on Earth, says he couldn't get enough of it on orbit. He's not alone--this is a favorite among astronauts, particularly because of the spicy, horseradish-based sauce that coats the shrimp."

Retiring shuttle may doom 38,200 Space Coast jobs, Orlando Sentinel

"Shuttle Discovery is set to launch from Kennedy Space Center at about 9:20 tonight, leaving only eight more scheduled missions before NASA retires the fleet in 2010 -- and devastates the Space Coast economy. Figures released by NASA this week predict the retirement of the shuttle will result in the loss of at least 3,500 jobs at KSC. Some industry officials say the number could be as high as 10,000. The best-case scenario would result in the loss of about 9,870 other jobs in the surrounding community; the worst-case number is 28,200. But the one Floridian in Washington who has the most stature and clout to fight to keep that from happening -- U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat who once flew aboard the shuttle -- has been able to do little to prevent the looming economic disaster."

Obama Puts His Own Spin on Mix of Science With Politics, NY Times

"The document orders Mr. Obama's top science adviser to help draft guidelines that will apply to every federal agency. Agencies will be expected to pick science advisers based on expertise, not political ideology, the memorandum said, and will offer whistle-blower protections to employees who expose the misuse or suppression of scientific information."

Can NASA take a joke? Try space station Colbert, AP

"Earth to Space Station Colbert: The cosmic joke may be on NASA. Comedian Stephen Colbert, who couldn't get his mock presidential campaign off the ground, is polling better by aiming higher. He's convinced his many fans to write in his name in NASA's online public vote to name a new room to be added to the international space station. So instead of NASA's suggested choices -- Serenity, Legacy, Earthrise or Venture -- the space station's new addition may wind up with the name "Colbert."

Editor's update: Well, Bill "NASA Man" Gerstenmaier managed to survive his encounter with Colbert, but he shied away from giving a direct answer when it comes to how NASA will actually decide upon a name for Node 3. While I do think that such activities are a great way to involve people in what NASA does, I have to wonder why NASA is running a contest where you ask people to suggest names if their votes may or may not mean anything - and the process for selection of a final name is not explained.

Name the Node Contest

Video below

Pastorek Update

The gospel according to Paul, Business Report

"The man at the helm of Louisiana's ailing public schools is both admired--and reviled--for moments like these. He speaks his mind, and quite frequently, the message isn't popular. He calls the state's best districts "average." He pushes for taking over schools--not just in New Orleans, but now Baton Rouge and Shreveport, too. He wants board members unpaid, educated and term-limited. He insists the notion that some low-income black kids just can't learn is "crap." Pastorek is both passionate, proven reformer, and impatient, pricey lawyer-turned-education-boss rolled into one dapper persona. But does he have what it takes to make good on his promise to deliver world-class education to Louisiana?"

Canadian Leadership in Space: International Experts to Discuss Need for Cohesive Policy

"The need to shape a Canadian space policy is being addressed this week by a special roundtable of international experts meeting in Ottawa, a discussion that will focus on what is required to spur government action on space activities."

Media Advisory: National Astronaut Recruitment Campaign-Canadian Space Agency Introduces Top 16 Candidates

"The President of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) Steve MacLean will introduce the top 16 candidates remaining in the National Astronaut Recruitment Campaign during a news conference on Monday, March 16."

Canadian NewSpace: Domestic and International Opportunities for 2009 and Beyond

"Canadian NewSpace will be a gathering of industry professionals seeking to assess domestic and international opportunities in space commerce that may be for the immediate future and beyond."

From the Earth to Mars - Steps Towards a First Human Mission to the Red Planet

"Join Dr. Pascal Lee, Director of the Haughton-Mars Project, Mars Institute for this free lecture at the H.R. MacMillan Space Center in Vancouver."

Photo: Waiting To Fly

Editor's note: Have a look at this Shutttle pad photo, by Bill Ingalls, NASA HQ.

Former NASA official accused of steering funds to consulting client, CNN

"Courtney Stadd, 54, a former NASA chief of staff and White House liaison, is facing charges of making false statements and committing acts affecting a personal financial interest. When Stadd left NASA, he founded a management consulting firm called Capitol Solutions that specialized in providing services for clients in aerospace-related industries. One of those clients was Mississippi State University's GeoResources Institute. According to the indictment, in 2005, Stadd helped steer NASA funds from an earth science appropriation to his client."

Former NASA Official Charged in Scheme to Steer "Earmarked" NASA Funds to Consulting Client

"An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of criminal laws and every defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty."

Text of full indictment

Editor's note: Let me reiterate: "An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of criminal laws and every defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty."

"Presumed innocent" is the operative concept.

Editor's update: Courtney Stadd has posted a comment.

Space Economy Symposium

Congressman Parker Griffith (D-AL) to Keynote Space Economy Symposium

"The Space Economy Symposium is an initiative of George Mason University in collaboration with Phillips & Company and hosted by the Space Enterprise Council of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce at its headquarters in Washington, D.C. Friday, March 13, 2009. The purpose for the Symposium is to initiate a robust policy dialogue to gain greater understanding of space-related activities as a key contributor to national competitiveness. Through presentations, panel discussions, and participant interaction, the Symposium will promote new perspectives and insights about present and future impacts of space on the economy, the roles of government, industry and entrepreneurs in developing the space economy, and trends in commercial space that will drive the space economy."

Deimos in Color

NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Images of Deimos

"HiRISE captured these enhanced-color images of Deimos, the smaller of the two moons of Mars, on 21 February 2009. Deimos has a smooth surface due to a blanket of fragmental rock or regolith, except for the most recent impact craters. It is a dark, reddish object, very similar to Phobos, shown here in enhanced HiRISE colors (near-infrared, red, and blue-green). HiRISE took images of Phobos on 23 March 2008. There are subtle color variations--redder in the smoothest areas and less red near fresh impact craters and over ridges or topographic highs (relative to its center of gravity). These color variations are probably caused by the exposure of surface materials to the space environment, which leads to darkening and reddening. Brighter and less-red surface materials have seen less exposure to space due to recent impacts or downslope movement of regolith."

Sens. Voinovich and Brown Lead Letter to Obama on Strengthening NASA in Ohio

"We would encourage you to pay particular attention to the Glenn Research Center and its testing facility, Plum Brook Station," the letter states. "While we are excited by all the work that has been done to date, it is but the beginning of opportunities that will span generations. Ohio has a skilled engineering labor force and manufacturers that have proven themselves on multiple NASA flight projects. When combined with NASA Glenn's experienced federal workforce and world-class facilities, Ohio is a competitive choice for the location of additional contract and sub-contract work in design, development, manufacturing and testing."

NASA's cost overruns soar, too, AP

"The Mars Science Laboratory, which has ballooned to a $2.3 billion price tag, is a good example of NASA's approach. In 2003, its cost was put at $650 million on the National Academy of Sciences wish list, which NASA used to set priorities. But on Tuesday Doug McCuistion, who heads NASA's Mars exploration program, said the proper estimate to start with was $1.4 billion, not $650 million, because it was not an official NASA projection. By December, the number was up to $1.9 billion. Then technical problems delayed launch plans from this year to 2011, adding another $400 million. The extra money came from cuts to other science projects. "The costs of badly run NASA projects are paid for with cutbacks or delays in NASA projects that didn't go over budget," Stern wrote. "Hence the guilty are rewarded and the innocent are punished."

Worm Watch

Art of the Seal, NY Times

"Some things seem doomed to divide us: Lennon versus McCartney, Yankees versus Mets, boxers versus briefs and so on. If you love one, you'll probably loathe the other, and each camp makes an equally convincing case as to why its choice is right. For design nuts, one of those alpha-versus-beta divisions is choosing between the two logos of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, also known as NASA. One is the symbol that NASA adopted in 1959 and still uses today. It's the NASA Insignia, commonly known as ''the meatball'' for the obvious reason that it looks like one. The other is the logo that replaced it from 1975 to 1992. It, too, has an official name, the NASA Logotype, and a similarly self-explanatory nickname, ''the worm.''

Meatballs Devour Worms!!, NY Times (1999)

Worm Watch, NASA Watch

Kepler Is On Its Way

The Kepler Mission Begins

"The Delta II rocket carrying the Kepler planet-hunting spacecraft lifted off on time at 10:49 p.m. EST from Launch Complex 17-B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The spectacular nighttime launch followed a smooth countdown free of technical issues or weather concerns. The Kepler spacecraft will watch a patch of space for 3.5 years or more for signs of Earth-sized planets moving around stars similar to the sun. The patch that Kepler will watch contains about 100,000 stars like the sun. Using special detectors similar to those used in digital cameras, Kepler will look for a slight dimming in the stars as planets pass between the stars and Kepler."

STS-119 Update

Editor's note: There is a news conference targeted for 2:30 p.m. EST where NASA managers will announce space shuttle Discovery's offical launch date.

Editor's update: Shuttle Discovery is scheduled to launch from Kennedy Space Center March 11 @9:20 p.m.EDT. NASA managers set the official launch date today.

Editor's note: There is continued Congressional interest in Washington in Steve Isakowitz as a possible NASA Administrator - Sen. Mikulski in particular. A very small "bring back Mike" contingent is also still at work in and around Capitol Hill albeit without much success. And a "draft Len Fisk" effort is also underway. Whether any of these efforts will have any effect remains to be seen. Stay tuned.

Quality Control at NASA

NASA official says counterfeit parts a growing problem, Houston Chronicle

"The acting administrator of NASA told Congress Thursday that some of the cost overruns besetting the space agency stem from counterfeit parts inadvertently installed on space craft. "We find out late they are counterfeit parts,'" Christopher Scolese, the space agency's acting administrator, told a House Science and Technology subcommittee. "We find out about it while sitting atop a rocket or, worse, find out about it in space." NASA has been trying to weed out counterfeit parts for years, Scolese said."

Prepared Statements

Chairwoman Gabrielle Giffords
Christopher Scolese
Cristina T. Chaplain
Gary P. Pulliam

Editor's note: From Colbertnation.com - name Node 3 after Stephen Colbert.

NASA, Cisco Partnering For Climate Change Monitoring Platform

"NASA and Cisco Inc. announced Tuesday a partnership to develop an online collaborative global monitoring platform called the "Planetary Skin" to capture, collect, analyze and report data on environmental conditions around the world. Under the terms of a Space Act Agreement, NASA and Cisco will work together to develop the Planetary Skin as an online collaborative platform to capture and analyze data from satellite, airborne, sea- and land-based sensors across the globe. This data will be made available for the general public, governments and businesses to measure, report and verify environmental data in near-real-time to help detect and adapt to global climate change."

Green Light for STS-119

NASA agrees to Wednesday shuttle launch, Houston Chronicle

"NASA's shuttle managers decided Wednesday to launch the space shuttle Discovery next Wednesday for a two-week mission to the International Space Station. The decision to fly was reached after the managers spent most of the day studying engineering tests and computer simulations involving a critical fuel valve that cracked on a flight in November. Top space agency officials will meet Friday to review the decision."

NASA officially moves up Discovery's launch date, SpaceflightNow

"Shuttle managers met today to review tests and inspections of suspect hydrogen flow control valves and agreed enough progress had been made to justify another flight readiness review Friday and a March 11 target launch date for the shuttle Discovery's delayed space station assembly mission."

Kennedy Space Center might lose thousands of jobs to Huntsville, Orlando Sentinel

"Aerospace-industry leaders plan to tell Florida legislators today that unless some miracle takes place to breathe new life into the space business at Cape Canaveral, the state's most skilled workers will almost certainly be leaving in droves to take jobs in Alabama. Thousands of top engineers are needed by 2011 at the Missile Defense Agency, an arm of the Pentagon in charge of developing an integrated U.S. missile-defense system for the country. The agency is moving its operations from its current home in northern Virginia to Huntsville, Ala. Already NASA's shuttle contractor, United Space Alliance, is negotiating with the Huntsville Chamber of Commerce to find work for many space-shuttle engineers when the shuttle program ends 18 months from now."

Editor's note: Multiple sources report that Mike Griffin is mounting a quiet, but persistent comeback campaign on Capitol Hill and elsewhere. So far, none of the people in the Obama Administration who let him go and/or those who could have kept him in the job seem to be remotely interested in asking him back. Stay tuned.

Editor's note: In his opening presentation Mike Meyer was dumping on bloggers again because they do not seem to understand the way that NASA is running its Mars program.

Editor's note: From MEPAG organizers: Mike Meyer: "The lack of money is pushing sample return further out. We just cannot do it yet. This is due to the MSL slip. We are taking a lot of money out of Mars technology. A benefit of collaboration (with ESA for example) is that it affords us an opportunity sooner rather than later, using combined resources, to do sample return in the 2020 time frame. But the reason I say that we have to have a program that does not have sample return in the program is because you have to have a program that stands on its own legs even if sample return is at a distant time."

ESA presentation: EXOMARS: solutions to cost problems: we could ask for more money, we could seek to cover financial shortfall via collaboration with international partners, or we can reduce the ambitions of the mission. We are talking about a 2016 restructured mission with NASA. We have discussed with Russia possible position of a Russian launcher for EXOMARS and possibly some Russian science hardware. A major payload review is currently under way.

Editor's note: From MEPAG organizers: "All, Questions at the MEPAG meeting can be emailed to: mepag-admin@lists.nasa.gov We will do our best to get all you questions into the meeting."

Editor's note: You can dial in too: 1-888-456-0353 passcode 6939533 - just note that a radio feed is apparently playing through the telephone feed making it almost impossible to understand at times. "We've talked to the manager but it does not seem to have resulted in any action" said the speaker. Update: now it seems to work.

Editor's note: From MEPAG organizers: Dear colleague, For those unable to attend the March 3-4 MEPAG meeting in person, you may remotely participate via WebEx and teleconference. The meeting will run from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm (Eastern Standard Time) on March 3 and from 8:30 am to 3:00 pm on March 4.

To register to remotely access the meeting online (this will allow you to see the presentations):

Editor's note: According to an internal NASA memo dated 27 Feb 2009, Richard Gilbrech has been named to the position of Associate Director of Stennis Space Center.

Interesting Internship

Space Adventures Ltd./ZERO-G Paid Marketing Internship

"Space Adventures, Ltd.., the world's premier private space exploration company and the only company currently providing opportunities for actual private spaceflight and space tourism, is looking for talented, enthusiastic students to intern in our Vienna, Virginia, offices. Our internship program offers part and full time, paid internships and is designed to compliment and enhance academic studies through participation in different assignments and professional responsibilities. We currently have an opening at ZERO-G (a wholly owned subsidiary of Space Adventures, Ltd.) for a Marketing Intern. This challenging position offers the opportunity to work directly for the Executive Vice President of Sales."

GAO Report: NASA: Assessments of Selected Large-Scale Projects

"GAO assessed 18 NASA projects with a combined life-cycle cost of more than $50 billion. Of those, 10 out of 13 projects that had entered the implementation phase experienced significant cost and/or schedule growth. For these 10 projects, development costs increased by an average of 13 percent from baseline cost estimates that were established just 2 or 3 years ago and they had an average launch delay of 11-months. In some cases, cost growth was considerably higher than what is reported because it had occurred prior to the most recent baseline. Many of the projects we reviewed experienced challenges in developing new technologies or retrofi tting older technologies as well as in managing their contractors, and more generally, understanding the risks and challenges they were up against when they started their efforts."

House Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Hearing: Cost Management Issues in NASA's Acquisitions and Programs. Thursday, March 5, 2009

Mr. Christopher Scolese, Acting Administrator, NASA
Ms. Cristina T. Chaplain, Director, Acquisition and Sourcing Management, Government Accountability Office
Mr. Gary P. Pulliam, Vice President, Civil and Commercial Operations, The Aerospace Corporation

China Space Update

China's lunar probe Chang'e-1 impacts moon, Xinhua

"Chang'e-1, China's first lunar probe, impacted the moon at 4:13 p.m. Beijing Time (0813 GMT) Sunday, said sources with the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense. The satellite ended its 16-month mission Sunday when it hit the lunar surface at 1.50 degrees south latitude and 52.36 degrees east longitude."

Unmanned space module to be launched in 2010, await space docking, Xinhua

"China plans to launch an unmanned space module into orbit as early as the end of 2010. It is expected to meet with another unmanned spacecraft, Shenzhou-8, which is scheduled to be launched in early 2011. It would be the country's first space docking. A spokesman with China's space program said Saturday that scientists on the ground would control the space docking between the orbiter and the unmanned spaceship. The module, named Tiangong-1, is designed to provide a "safe room" for Chinese astronauts to live and conduct scientific research in zero gravity. Weighing about 8.5 tonnes, Tiangong-1 is able to perform long-term unattended operation, which will be an essential step toward building a space station."

Editor's note: Just when I thought I could stay home and enjoy the snow CNN called and I have to shoot an interview on China's space program. Should air tonight.

Editor's note: NASA LaRC and GSFC are closed today due to the snow received over night. NASA HQ opened several hours late OPM advisory for Washington DC.

Steve Isakowitz leads the pack for NASA Administrator job, Orlando Sentinel

"But the frontrunner, at least for now, appears to be Isakowitz. He was sworn in as the Energy Department's CFO on June 1, 2007, after being unanimously confirmed by the Senate. Prior to that he has distinguished career serving at the Office of Management and Budget, the CIA and NASA. At NASA he was Deputy Chief Financial Officer and Comptroller, and Deputy Associate Administrator in charge of major space exploration programs. An engineer, he used to work for Lockheed Martin."

Editor's note: "Appears" is the operative word...


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