April 2009 Archives

Atlantis cleared for launch; shuttle layoffs to begin, Spaceflight Now

"With retirement of the space shuttle program expected next year after just nine more flights, NASA's managers Thursday announced the first major round of job losses, saying 160 contractor workers would face layoffs Friday, the first of up to 900 jobs that will be lost between now and the end of the fiscal year."

NASA Ames offers buyouts to hundreds of employees, Mountain View Voice

"A source at NASA Ames has emailed the Voice a list of over 400 employees who have been offered buyouts worth up to $25,000 in exchange for leaving their jobs."

Editor's note: We've received the following internal memo and PDF. The memo is similar to the one circulated in November last year. The PDF lists 454 eligible positions for buyout or early out.

NASA Ames Internal Memo: FY2009 Buyout/Early Out Opportunity Now Open, NASA Ames

NASA Ames List of Eligible Positions for buyout/early out (PDF)

NASA ARC Internal Memo: FY2009 Buyout/Early Out Opportunity Now Open, November 9, 2008

Space Florida docked (for now) $2 million for lobbying "misuse", Orlando Sentinel

"An upset Sen. Mike Fasano on Wednesday announced he wanted to cut the $4 million state appropriation for Space Florida in half after learning that the space economic development agency had spent nearly $300,000 on contract lobbying last year."

Dems: Space Florida a symbol of Gov. Crist's "House of Cards", Orlando Sentinel

Committee slashed Space Florida budget in half
, Herald Tribune

"The agency spent nearly $300,000 of its $4 million state allocation last year on lobbyists, including $195,000 to a Pennsylvania firm with ties to Space Florida's president."

- Space Florida Is Under Increased Scrutiny (Updated)

- Small Wonder Space Florida Is Having Problems

Editor's Update: Looks like they dodged another bullet.

Space Florida keeps its full $3.8M budget
, Orlando Sentinel

"Sen. Mike Fasano backed off his threat to strip Space Florida of nearly half its $3.8million state appropriation Thursday, saying he thought the agency understood his opposition to the nearly $300,000 it spent on lobbyists last year."

NASA Gives 'Go' for Space Shuttle Launch on May 11, NASA

"NASA managers completed a review Thursday of space shuttle Atlantis' readiness for flight and selected an official launch date for the STS-125 mission to upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope. Commander Scott Altman and his six crewmates are scheduled to lift off at 2:01 p.m. EDT, May 11, from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida."

Editor's note: The World Health Organization has increased its alert level to 5 which suggests that the Swine Flu outbreak is very serious. At this point it sees no reason to raise it to the next level which is a pandemic. On April 27 NASA wisely released a NASA Occupational Health - Health Alert. Today NASA Ames director released a statement on the Ames Pandemic Plan in part based on Governor Schwarzenegger declaring a state of emergency for California.

This weekend however it appears that JPL still plans on holding its open house which traditionally attracts a large audience including bus loads of tourists from Mexico. Although most cases of the Swine Flu have been mild is it still wise to go ahead with this popular event?

Editor's Update: From the Huntsville Times: Marshall Space Flight Center closes child center; employees allowed liberal leave Thursday and Friday

"Marshall Space Flight Center will close its child care center over the next two days, and employees are encouraged to take liberal leave today and Friday because of area school closings due to concerns over swine flu."

STS-125 Readiness Review Under Way at Kennedy, NASA

The Flight Readiness Review for space shuttle Atlantis STS-125 mission to the Hubble Space Telescope began at 8 a.m. EDT this morning at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Managers will hold a news conference on NASA TV following the review to announce the official launch date. The briefing is expected to begin no earlier than 5 p.m. EDT.

Editor's note: The press conference has been moved up to 5 p.m. EDT from the earlier announced 6 p.m.

As well for the first time the review meeting is Twittering live status updates periodically on NASA's News Twitter feed during the meeting. They just broke for lunch but will resume afterward and start off with the Orbiter Project's section.

NASA may abandon plans for moon base, New Scientist

"NASA will probably not build an outpost on the moon as originally planned, the agency's acting administrator, Chris Scolese, told lawmakers on Wednesday. His comments also hinted that the agency is open to putting more emphasis on human missions to destinations like Mars or a near-Earth asteroid."

"Under Scolese's predecessor, Mike Griffin, the agency held firm to its moon base plans. But the comments by Scolese, who will lead NASA until President Barack Obama nominates the next administrator, suggest a shift in the agency's direction. He spoke to the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies of the House Committee on Appropriations."

Editor's note: According to the New Scientist both Chris Scolese and Doug Cooke were vague on certain answers. If a shift is coming we'll have more details on May 6 when the 2010 budget is due.

Editor's Update: While I don't have Scolese's testimony at this time Rob Coppinger was Twittering the testimony. Here are the tweets with respect to a question on what impact the FY2010 budget would have on moon planning:

"- We are still looking at what we mean by Moon, is that an outpost that is very expensive or is it an Apollo

- Return to the Moon could just be extended sorties

- Scolese says return to Moon could be less than an outpost"

And here is the opening statement by Chairmain Alan B. Mollohan

- Opening Statement of Chairman Alan B. Mollohan

Editor's Update: Here's the testimony by Chris Scolese:

- Chris Scolese Written Statement
- Chris Scolese Oral Statement

Constellation versus everything else in NASA, O. Glenn Smith for the Orlando Sentinel

"It is time to reconsider whether we want to go ahead with the Constellation program to place a base on the moon. Many of us in the space community would be eager to recreate the thrill of Apollo. However, from the public's standpoint, going back to the moon in 2020 would not invoke the same sense of awe and inspiration it did 51 years earlier when it was a seemingly impossible task."

Scott at Everest - with the Sun Shining, Miles O'Brien

"Eventually, we are going to get these vidchats from Everest Base Camp down to a science. At 11pm EDT on Wednesday - 8:45am Thursday at EBC, I spoke with Scott Parazynski and Keith Cowing. The weather is much better at this time of day there - and so we finally saw the amazing peaks behind them."

Scott Parazynski checks in from Everest, Miles O'Brien

"Astronaut Scott Parazynski checks in from Everest Base Camp. He is resting and eating - a lot (5,000 calories a day) in preparation for his summit bid. What's his favorite food at EBC? Not the Yak!"

Skype vidchat with Astronaut Scott Parazynski at Everest Base Camp, Miles O'Brien

"Mallory, come quickly! - great chat with Scott Parazynski and Keith Cowing this morning (EDT) - their afternoon (Everest time). Scott is in good spirits and "feeling strong like bull". He was joined by Keith Cowing (who is his multimedia sherpa for this season). Eric Simonson, the lead dog at IMG made a cameo as well."

More info at onorbit.com/everest

House of Representatives Honors Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project, U.S. House of Representatives

"Ms. ZOE LOFGREN of California. Madam Speaker, I rise to commend the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project and all those who have contributed their time and effort to ensure that historic images and vital data from the Lunar Orbiter missions of the 1960s are not lost to future generations."

"Fortunately, Evans efforts caught the attention of Dennis Wingo and Keith Cowing, both of whom have been focused on space exploration for many years. They arranged to move the tapes and drives to NASAs Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. Ames director, Peter Worden, arranged for them to store the equipment in an old abandoned McDonalds, which they jokingly referred to as McMoons. Wingo and Cowing began working with Ken Zin, an army veteran, to get the drives up and running."

Resolution would end shuttle deadline, Florida Today

"Supporters say the resolution -- which is expected to be up for a final vote this week -- could help avert the type of schedule pressure that led to the 1986 Challenger and 2003 Columbia accidents."

NASA Shuttle Retirement Postponed ... Maybe
, Washington Post

"There is wide concern that a hard end date could jeopardize the safety of the eight remaining Shuttle missions and the thousands of government and private-sector jobs tied to NASA. Without FY 2011 funding, NASA would be unable to continue any missions that did not launch in time."

On NASA Watch yesterday:

Congresswoman Kosmas Wins Key Battle to Eliminate Hard Deadline for Shuttle Retirement

"Today, Congresswoman Suzanne Kosmas (FL-24) announced that the House and Senate conference agreement on the budget resolution (S.Con.Res 13) reflects her request to include a provision that removes the hard deadline for Shuttle retirement. The final budget resolution provides an additional $2.5 billion in fiscal year 2011 for the Shuttle program, giving NASA the flexibility it needs to fly the current manifest beyond 2010."

Editor's Update: One hurdle cleared for those seeking to prolong the life of the shuttle. The Senate vote is next week.

The House lawmakers in Washington vote to extend NASA space shuttle program, The Huntsville Time

"The budget resolution passed the U.S. House of Representatives today, it included money to extend the shuttle, and is expected to be taken up by the U.S. Senate this week."

Lyles takes name out of running for NASA's top job, Dayton Daily News

"Retired Air Force Gen. Lester L. Lyles said Wednesday, April 29, that the White House indicated he was the top candidate to become the next NASA administrator, but that he has taken his name out of consideration."

Editor's note: Since the White House seems incapable of actually finding a nominee perhaps it's time the public submitted a lit of top 5 candidates that are worthy and have not already said no or otherwise been politically torpedoed.

COTS D - Commercial Human Spaceflight to get at least $80m, Orlando Sentinel

"NASA and the White House have agreed for the first time to release money to the human spaceflight option in its Commercial Orbital Transportation Services, or COTS program.

Under an agreement hammered out with the White House, NASA announced today on Capitol Hill that it will provide $150 million of the $400 million given to NASA under President Barack Obama's stimulus plan to the COTS program."

Orion Slims Down

NASA slashes Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle crew size to four, The Huntsville Times

"NASA is slimming down its Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle by removing two seats and cutting its crew size from six people to four, a space agency spokesman confirmed late Monday."

"NASA made the crew size change "in order to improve schedule and cost confidence by minimizing multiple configurations under simultaneous development during the Program's early phases," Hautaluoma said. "While a four-person crew would save some mass, the issue of mass savings was not a major factor in the decision-making process. "

Editor's note: Weight was not a major factor, hmmm.

Editor's note (Keith Cowing): It is rather sad that Mike Griffin's grand design for Ares I can no longer meet even its most basic, high level requirements. So much for "Apollo on Steroids". What's next - a two-person lunar lander? If weight was "not an issue" then I suppose that Steve "the next von Braun" Cook won't need to be using any of the saved weight to solve Ares 1 upmass issues - since the rocket is perfectly designed as-is --- right?

Today the House Science and Technology Committee held it's first ever hearing on Keeping the Space Environment Safe for Civil and Commercial Users.

Below are links to the witness testimony and additional material.

Witness Testimony

- Lt. Gen. Larry D. James
- Mr. Nicholas Johnson (** Briefing Charts)
- Mr. Richard DalBello
- Mr. Scott Pace

Press Releases

Committee Examines Ways to Make the Space Environment Safer for Civil and Commercial Users, House Science and Technology Committee

Space-Faring Nations Must Better Monitor and Mitigate Space Debris, Witnesses Say, House Science Committee Republicans

Investment Needed to Combat Debris Threats to U.S. Space Assets, Aerospace Industries Association

"Space debris is a current and growing threat to U.S. exploration activities, and leaders must make situational awareness a top national priority, AIA President and CEO Marion Blakey said in congressional testimony Tuesday."

Editor's Update: Pentagon may reach satellite analysis goal early, Reuters

"The U.S. military may reach its goal of doing collision analysis on 800 maneuverable satellites before October, and is examining the possibility of tracking 500 more satellites that cannot be maneuvered, a top Air Force general said on Tuesday."

STS-125 Mission Update - April 28 2009, NASA

"On NASA Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39A, radiator dents, caused by a falling socket in Atlantis' payload bay during payload installation operations last week, were photographed yesterday and a crack was observed. During an inspection last week, personnel noted a crease, but did not observe a crack in the dented radiator panel. Managers and engineers are reviewing the data and evaluating the repair options that may include adding a doubler or stop drilling to prevent the crack from spreading. Any repair necessary is not expected to delay the targeted May 11 launch."

Whos the boss?, Obama should speed up nomination of new NASA chief, Houston Chronicle

"A congressional mandate to delay action on the shuttles future expires on Thursday. At that point NASA officials will be free to start the phase-out of the fleet if they so choose. Presidential science adviser John Holdren has said, however, that no decisions will be made on the fate of the shuttle and the development of a replacement vehicle until a new administrator is in place."

Editor's note: So who's running NASA? Is it acting Administrator Christopher Scolese or Presidential science adviser John Holdren? With NASA set to to resume shutting down the Shuttle program next month this appears to go contrary to what Holdren is saying. I have an idea, why not nominate an administrator??

Here's a thought, by all accounts Christopher Scolese is doing a good job, heck why not take away the acting title? After all, that would be better than the current situation.

For a different viewpoint on the need for appointing a new administrator have a look at Miles O'Brien new blog posting "First Dog trumps Final Frontier?"

"There is a lot of hand-wringing in the space community these days about the Obama Administrations inability to fill the corner office on the ninth floor at NASA headquarters.

The incredulous refrain among space cadets: they picked the First Dog before they selected a NASA administrator!?

Editor's Update: This just in: Congresswoman Kosmas Wins Key Battle to Eliminate Hard Deadline for Shuttle Retirement

"Today, Congresswoman Suzanne Kosmas (FL-24) announced that the House and Senate conference agreement on the budget resolution (S.Con.Res 13) reflects her request to include a provision that removes the hard deadline for Shuttle retirement. The final budget resolution provides an additional $2.5 billion in fiscal year 2011 for the Shuttle program, giving NASA the flexibility it needs to fly the current manifest beyond 2010."

"The conferees agreed with Kosmas and the conference agreement explanatory statement contains the following language explicitly providing funding for the Shuttle program beyond 2010:"

The conference agreement recognizes the scientific and technological contributions of our nation's manned and unmanned space program and the strategic importance of uninterrupted human access to space, and supports efforts to reduce the impending gap in US human spaceflight. The conference agreement matches the President's request for NASA in 2010 (while acknowledging that an additional $400 million was appropriated for NASA exploration in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) and provides $2.5 billion above the President's request in 2011. The additional funding is provided in 2011 in anticipation that the funding is needed for the remaining eight space shuttle missions to safely fly and to complete the construction and equipping of the international space station.

We'll see how this plays out and if this passes.

Ames Wins 2008 NASA Government Invention of the Year Award, NASA

"NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., has been named the recipient of the 2008 NASA Government Invention of the Year Award. Ames won the award for developing a High Speed Three-Dimensional Laser scanner with Real Time Processing."

NASA's Langley Research Center, Hampton Roads, Va., won the 2008 NASA Commercial Invention of the Year Award for developing Composition of and Method for Making High Performance Resins for Infusion and Transfer Molding Processes. "

Keeping the Space Environment Safe for Civil and Commercial Users

Tuesday, April 28
2:00 p.m. 4:00p.m.

Editor's Update: I got the time wrong, it's still at 2:00 p.m.


- Lt. Gen. Larry D. James, Commander, 14th Air Force, Air Force Space Command, and Commander, Joint Functional Component Command for Space, U.S. Strategic Command

- Mr. Nicholas Johnson, Chief Scientist for Orbital Debris, National Aeronautics and Space Administration

- Mr. Richard DalBello, Vice President of Government Relations, Intelsat General Corporation

- Dr. Scott Pace, Director of the Space Policy Institute, George Washington University

2318 Rayburn House Office Building (WEBCAST)

NASA Occupational Health - Health Alert - April 27, 2009, NASA

"Within the past week human cases of a potentially new strain of the swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection have been identified in the U.S. and Mexico. As of April 27, there are now confirmed cases in five states (California, Texas, Kansas, Ohio, New York). Internationally, human cases of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection have been identified in Mexico and Spain, with testing of ill travelers from Mexico being conducted in New Zealand. The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling this a public health emergency of international concern. The current phase of the WHO Global Influenza Preparedness is Level 3 Pandemic alert: a new influenza virus subtype is causing disease in humans, but is not yet spreading efficiently and sustainably among humans. The WHO Emergency Committee is reportedly scheduled to meet later today to consider raising the pandemic alert level."

Obama pledges 3 percent of GDP for research, Infoworld

"Obama repeatedly used the early U.S. space program as a framing device for his remarks, calling that period "the high water mark" of government investment in research and development."

"It sparked a wide range of scientific innovation with benefits that went far beyond the historic Apollo missions, such as advancements in building materials and fire-resistant fabrics, he said."

Editor's note: The speech which includes $150 billion in R&D spending over 10 years did little for NASA other than offer some funding for climate change. Some highlights:

"...it supports efforts at NASA, recommended as a priority by the National Research Council, to develop new space-based capabilities to help us better understand our changing climate."

- He announced a Presidents Council of Advisors on Science and Technology
- The new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy, or ARPA-E modeled after DARPA
- Triples the number of National Science Foundation graduate research fellowships.
- Also announced was an initiative to " inspire tens of thousands of American students to pursue careers in science, engineering and entrepreneurship related to clean energy."
- There was some positive efforts for of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) programs

- Comments and transcript
- The Speech (MP3)

Editor's Update: Statement by Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon, Chairman Gordon Comments on Presidents Address Highlighting the Importance of Science

"Another important subject the president highlighted was the work being done at NASA in helping us to understand climate change. We cannot make a commitment to addressing climate change without being committed to NASA. NASAs work, along with the efforts of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), will be key to our efforts to monitor and understand the potential impacts of climate change, including shifting weather patterns, melting glaciers and ice sheets, sea level rise, and other phenomena."

Space University Report Offers Ways To Avoid Further Satellite Collisions, International Space University

"Prepared by a team of 30 students from 17 countries during ISUs Space Studies Program in summer 2007, the study took a hard look at the status of traffic management in earth orbit and focused on space traffic rules that would reduce the probability of debris causing collisions."

Editor's note: The 90 page report which might not have been widely viewed should be seen by a wider audience.

- Full Report

Related: Debris Precautions Set For Hubble Mission, Aviation Week

"The space shuttle Atlantis will drop to a lower orbit as soon as it releases the Hubble Space Telescope to reduce the risk from orbital debris on the upcoming mission to service the orbiting observatory."

Editor's note: I thought I would pass on that A.C. Charania, President of SpaceWorks Commercial is blogging the three day 2009 IAA Planetary Defense Conference from Granada, Spain. Updates seem to be comprehensive.

Editor's note: I arrived at Everest Base Camp at around 9:30 am Nepal time this morning (27 April). I have more or less settled in and have started to work. Scott is looking just fine - but tired after several days up on the mountain. He arrived back at the IMG base camp this morning the precise second I came around the last turn in the path toward the IMG tents. What timing! The NASA Trek Team is due here tomorrow morning and we are planning a satellite telephone call to the ISS crew around 7:22 GMT tomorrow. Stay tuned. Follow us at onorbit.com/everest and at SPOTscott on Twitter

New NASA Admin Rumors

Editor's note: There are more rumors making their rounds again as to who will be nominated as NASA administrator including one suggesting that Lori Garver, head of Obama's NASA transition team, would be the nominee. However our sources indicate that we should not put too much faith in recent rumors. So we'll just have to wait and see.

Even if a new administrator is nominated this week we know that acting administrator Christopher Scolese faces some tough decisions including resuming phased shutdown of shuttle operations on May 1. Once that process is started it will be difficult to add additional flights.

One man's quest to honor America's Saturn V rocket, Rocketry Planet

"On April 25, 2009, history will be made. At Higgs Farm in Price, Maryland, Steve Eves will enter the history books as the person who flew the largest model rocket in history. The rocket will weigh over 1,600 pounds, it will stand over 36 feet tall and it will be powered by a massive array of nine motors: eight 13,000ns N-Class motors and a 77,000ns P-Class motor. The estimated altitude of this single stage effort will be between 3,000 and 4,000 feet and the project will be recovered at apogee."

Editor's note: This is a great story and well worth read. Steve Eves has accomplished something great here and for the record books. If someone gets the video of the launch please let me know and I'll post it for everyone to see.

Editor's Update: I've added a YouTube video from Steve Eves explaining what they are going to do and a link to some blog posts and images.

Editor's Update: Steve Eves has successfully launched and recovered his Saturn V replica. We have several videos for you to watch, this was really impressive, well done Steve! At launch you can see the rocket lift-off in Steve's glasses in the image to the left.

As some of you may know NASA Watch founder and editor Keith Cowing is trekking to Everest base camp in support of an education and public outreach effort for former astronaut Scott Parazynski's attempted ascent of Mt. Everest. So I thought I would bring to your attention some of the creative writing and stunning images Keith has been posting to Everest OnOrbit.

Keith is resting as I write this as it's late in the evening in Nepal but he should have reached Gorak Shep today, a frozen lake bed covered with sand that sits at 5,164m or approximately 17,000 vertical feet and is the final acclimatization stop before he reaches Everest base camp on Monday.

International Mountain Guides meanwhile is reporting that Scott Parazynski is one of six people who have now setup at Everest Camp 3.

You can follow Scott's progress and Keith's adventure at Everest OnOrbit.

Here's Keith's updates, I think you'll like them.

- April 13: Heading to Everest, Waking Up Over Iraq
- April 14: On The Road to Kathmandu
- April 16: Goodbye Kathmandu, Hello Khumbu
- April 17: Climbing Up To Namche
- April 18: Awestruck in Namche
- April 19: Messages Across Time
- April 20: Webcasting from a Foggy Buddhist Monastery
- April 22: Utterly Improbable Terrain and Stealth Yaks in the Darkness

Mars Institute "Moon-1" Humvee Rover Successfully Completes 500 km Drive Along Northwest Passage, Mars Institute

"An international team of researchers led by Mars Institute scientist Dr. Pascal Lee successfully reached the arctic community of Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, Canada on Friday, 17 April, after an 8-day, 500 km vehicular trek on sea-ice along the fabled Northwest Passage. The team of five departed Kugluktuk, Nunavut on 10 April aboard the Mars Institutes Moon-1 Humvee Rover and two snowmobiles, and logged a record-breaking total of 494 km, the longest distance ever driven on sea-ice in a road vehicle."

- Expedition Images
- Google Earth KMZ file of Trek

Editor's note: Ok, full disclosure, one of the other hats I wear is that of President/CEO of the Mars Institute. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for the expedition and what an adventure it has been.

Marc Boucher

Another Long NOMAD Outage

NOMAD OutReach - Weekend E-mail Outage (45 Hours), NASA

"Facilities maintenance is necessary to support mission critical systems at Marshall Space Flight Center to avoid placing NASAs critical Space Operations Mission Directorate (SOMD) systems at an unacceptable risk. During the 45-hour maintenance period, e-mail will not be available."

Editor's note: NASA issued the following procurement notice on April 16th which was then modified yesterday. What should we make of this in that the number of minimum seats has been dropped from 18 to 3? Does this have anything to do with PlanetSpace losing their protest the day before and COTS-D moving forward?

Procurement of Crew Transportation and Rescue Services from Roscosmos, Federal Business Opportunities

NASA/JSC intends to contract with Roscosmos for these services on a sole source basis for a minimum of 18 Soyuz seats up to a maximum of 24 seats beginning in the Spring of 2012.The maximum number of 24 seats may be procured using multiple modifications in incrementsof 3 seats, to complete the entire effort.


"The purpose of this modification is to revise the minimum number of Soyuz seats which maybe procured from a minimum of 18 seats to a minimum of 3 seats. NASA is still accepting capability statements from interested organizations documenting their ability to provide Crew Transportation and Rescue Services requirements identified in the synopsis"

Scientists, Astronauts, and Lawyers Combat Asteroid Threat, Science

"An asteroid is hurtling towards Earth. Should we try to nudge it off course, or blow it to smithereens? Should we evacuate the projected impact zone? Who will make these decisionsand who will pay for the countermeasures?

Scientists, astronauts, and space law specialists are gathering today and tomorrow at the first ever conference to hash out a legal framework for guiding nations on how to deal with an impending cosmic collision. The meeting at University of Nebraska College of Law in Lincoln is taking up the gauntlet laid down by a report last September from the Association of Space Explorers calling for a global response to the threat of Near Earth Objects, also known as NEO's."

Experts to Dicsuss Dangers, Legal Issues of Thwarting Threatening Near-Earth Objects, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

"Near-Earth Objects are an increasing area of concern among the worlds space scientists. Experts believe that over the next 15 years, advances in technology will lead to the detection of more than 500,000 NEOs -- and of those, several dozen will likely pose an uncomfortably high risk of striking Earth and inflicting local or regional damage.

Taking part in the two-day program are members of a multinational committee who made recommendations last fall to the United Nations on establishing global framework to respond to NEO threats. That committee was commissioned by the ASE and chaired by former Apollo astronaut, Rusty Schweickart."

PlanetSpace, a partnership set up by Lockheed Martin Corp, Boeing Co and Alliant Techsystems Inc has had its protest denied by the U.S. Government Accountability Office on Wednesday.

SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corp can now resume work on contracts worth up to $3.5 billion. The contracts call for a total of 20 flights to the space station to deliver cargo after the space shuttles are retired in 2010.

From the GAO Docket:

PlanetSpace, Inc. (NNJ08ZBG001R)
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Outcome: Denied Date Decided: April 22, 2009

Previous: PlanetSpace Has Filed With the GAO a Protest to the Selection Decision of NASA Under the ISS Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) Competition

"After a careful review of all the facts and in consideration of all of the source selection documentation provided to date, PlanetSpace has filed a protest to NASA's award of the ISS Commercial Resupply Services Contract. PlanetSpace offered a superior proposal. It received a higher Mission Suitability score, from NASA's Source Evaluation Board (SEB), and was lower in Cost than one of the two proposals selected by NASA. Thus, the PlanetSpace proposal represented better value to the Government. We believe that the GAO will find that flaws in the procurement justify award to PlanetSpace. We look forward to the GAO's review of this case."

NASA faces deadline for tough decisions on shuttle, Forbes via AP

"NASA is facing a critical deadline to make its biggest decision in a generation: whether to go forward with plans to retire the space shuttle fleet and replace it with a new mode of space travel. But the agency still has no chief to make the $230 billion call."

NASA seems so far off the White House radar, said one presidential expert, that it might as well be on Pluto.

"I think that tells you something," said New York University public policy professor Paul Light, an expert in presidential appointments. "The lack of announced appointees is a sign of its priority within the administration."

Editor's note: Ouch, hmmm makes you wonder about the Administrations' commitment to NASA.

Editor's Update: And the news gets better.

NASA moon landing could be delayed, Orlando Sentinel

"NASA's plans to return astronauts to the moon are quietly being revised and are in danger of slipping past 2020.

In meetings over the last few weeks at Kennedy Space Center, agency managers have told employees and contractors that they are delaying the first lunar launch of the Ares V rocket -- a cargo hauler slated to be the most powerful rocket ever built -- by two years."

Frank's note: How much worse does it have to get before we as a community of spacers come together to call for support for human spaceflight from our political "leaders"? Go to the President's web site at whitehouse.gov and urge him to put his money-and his mouth-behind the civil space program-before there isn't anything left to rally around. The hour is grave-isn't it a time for a call to action from us all?

Editor's Update: The lack of a NASA administrator now causing real harm, Houston Chronicle

"UPDATE: Here are some comments made this morning by deputy space shuttle program manager LeRoy Cain on the effects of uncertainty on the space shuttle:

We're at a pivotal point. ... As we move forward in time it becomes more difficult from a funding standpoint because what we're doing is shaping the workforce and shaping the content of work for a completion of the shuttle mission in Sept. 2010. As we get closer and closer to the end it becomes more and more difficult, it requires more and more money to turn that around.

Since last Fall we have been asked through legislation to maintain the ability to continue and extend the shuttle through "Do Not Preclude" language through April of this year. We are coming to the end of that timeline.

In other words, April 30 looms as a very significant date."

GAO Says Costs and Schedule for NOAA's New Geostationary Weather Satellite Program Present Ongoing Risks, House Science and Technology Committee

"Recent events have raised doubts about the feasibility of the GOES-R launch date. Specifically, after the spacecraft segment Page 6 GAO-09-596T Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites contract was awarded and then protested in December 2008, NASA decided to re-evaluate the proposals. NASA now plans to re-award the contract in May 2009. Because NASA has agreed to a 72-month development cycle for the spacecraft segment (from contract award date to launch readiness), the launch date of GOES-R will likely be delayed until at least May 2015."

"Any delays in the launch of the first GOES-R satellite run counter to NOAAs policy of having a backup satellite in orbit at all times and could lead to gaps in satellite coverage. This policy proved useful in December 2008, when NOAA lost communication with GOES-12, but was able to use GOES-13 as an operational satellite until communication was restored. However, beginning in November 2014, NOAA expects to have two operational satellites in orbit (O and P), but it will not have a backup satellite in place until GOES-R is launched."

GAO Report (PDF)

The Soyuz Launch Site Receives its Muscle, Arianespace (Photo Report)

"The launch infrastructure at Soyuz' new operating base in French Guiana has literally risen from the pad as the system of two umbilical masts and four primary support arms has now been installed.

This marks another key step in preparations of the world's newest launch facility for the medium-lift Soyuz, which will join Arianespaces heavy-lift Ariane 5 and the future lightweight Vega in operations at the Spaceport."

Related: SpaceX Reaches Milestone as Draco Thurster Successfully Completes Qualification Testing, SpaceX

"Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) successfully completed a rigorous qualification of its new Draco spacecraft thruster and Draco propulsion tank at the SpaceX Test Facility in McGregor, Texas."

Mission to Save Hubble Could Launch a Day Early, Space.com

"NASA is hoping to launch the space shuttle Atlantis on the last service call to the Hubble Space Telescope a day earlier than planned to avoid schedule conflicts near its Florida launch site, agency officials said Thursday.

The long-delayed Hubble repair flight, which mission managers have now found to be less risky than initially thought, would lift off on May 11 at 2:01 p.m. EDT (1801 GMT) if the earlier target is approved next week."

Public Service in the 21st Century: An Examination of the State of the Federal Workforce,
Testimony of Gregory J. Junemann, President

"The consequences for NASAs long-term health are dire; NASA must reverse course in President Obamas first term or key intellectual capabilities will be lost and not replaced."

"Between 1993 and 2009, despite the fact that NASAs overall budget and responsibilities increased, NASA lost 6,787 civil-servant employees under the age of 40, who were never replaced (see purple oval for missing cohort). Without a course correction, the demographic distribution will become even more skewed with the proportion of NASA employees who are 50-59 increasing to nearly half the entire civil-service workforce by the 2014."

Editor's note: With an aging workforce not being replaced, an Obama administration that doesn't seem to think NASA is worth much attention these days, Constellation over budget and behind schedule, the news could hardly be worse.

Editor's note:

For those of you who didn't know, Astronaut Mike Massimino, a mission specialist for STS-125 to the service the Hubble Telescope, has been Twittering his personal accounts of training at http://twitter.com/Astro_Mike. Mike also hopes to Twitter from space.

Mike has now broken the 100,000 follower mark and at last check was at 107,152 followers. That ranks him at number 110 with the most followers on Twitter. Getting that many followers is another fantastic PR coup for NASA. And for those of you who may think Twitter is just a fad I would point out that NASA Watch in the last month received 6% of it's referral traffic from Twitter and that this number is growing each month. It's a social medium worth paying attention to.

Here's a list of some of the NASA Watch, SpaceRef Twitter accounts you can follow:

Keith Cowing, Editor
Marc Boucher, Editor
Space Weather
Space Shuttle and Space Station
Mars Today
Moon Today
Space Commerce
Space Education

If you would like a comprehensive list of Space Twitterers you should visit the OnOrbit ColabSpace SpaceMeme list. If you would like to be added to the list then just follow SpaceMeme on Twitter and you'll be added to the list.

Updated Web feature Shows How NASA Technologies Improve Lives, NASA

"NASA has launched an expanded version of an interactive online program that allows users to discover some of the many NASA technologies that positively impact everyday life. The interactive "NASA at Home" and "NASA City" sites are enhanced with many new features, including green-related information to coincide with Earth Day 2009."

Editor's note: The NASA City site is well worth a look especially for its education usefulness.

Entrepreneurial Space and Export Control: Red Tape in the Final Frontier, AIAA

"A half-day event exploring the impact of Americas export control regime on the job growth, competitiveness, and capabilities of domestic entrepreneurial space entities."

"Opening Keynote Spearker: The Honorable C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Chair, U.S. House of Representatives Permanent Select Subcommittee on Technology and Tactical Intelligence."

Download meeting flyer with RSVP information( PDF)

Editor's Update: It would seem there is some positive movement on the ITAR issue.

Freedom to fly - A small company wins an important legal challenge to Americas space-technology export-control regime The Economist

"In December 2007 one of those mammals, a company called Bigelow Aerospace, filed the first legal challenge to Americas rules for exporting space technology. It disputed the governments claim that foreign passengers travelling on a spaceship or space station were involved in a transfer of technology. The outcome suggests that there may be a chink in the armour of the export-controls regime."

Reaction from Mike Gold, Director, Washington Office, Bigelow Aerospace

"Entrepreneurial firms arent just going to create new technologies, but they will also transform the legal and regulatory world around them. We require a paradigm shift both technologically and from a policy perspective. At Bigelow Aerospace, were not just about creating better technology, but creating a better future. When humanity goes to the stars we should leave our petty bigotries, biases and disputes aside, and move forward in peace for all of humanity. This ruling brings us one small step closer to achieving that dream."

Editor's Update: More reaction from the community.

Breaking news on US export control, Natasha Loder (Economist Writer)

"George Nield, associate administrator for commercial space transportation within the Federal Aviation Authority "We have not yet seen the commodity jurisdiction ruling, nor was the FAA involved in the review, so I really can't be very specific about what it says or what it will mean for Bigelow Aerospace.

However, to the extent that the U.S. government may now be willing to revise some of its export control restrictions to enable U.S. firms to be more competitive in their efforts to sell aerospace products and services globally, that would be very good news indeed"

Editor's Update: Interview with Mike Gold, Bigelow Aerospace, Economist (Audio)

The Ares Launch Vehicles, The Futures Channel

"Imagine a rocket the size of a small skyscraper. Now imagine shooting it into the air with so much force that it goes from zero to a thousand miles an hour in less than a minute. What kind of engines can generate that much thrust? And why is that rocket built in stages? Go inside Marshall Space Flight Center to meet members of the Ares Rocket team who can answer those questions and more."

Editor's note: Whether you are pro-Ares or just wish it would go away this 9+ minute provides a good profile on Ares.
Frank's note: How many readers think we will ever see an Ares V built and launched?

NASA Sets Briefings to Provide Update About Hubble Shuttle Mission, NASA

"NASA will hold news briefings April 23 to update reporters about the space shuttle's fifth and final servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. NASA Television and the agency's Web site will provide live coverage of the briefings from NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston and NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Shuttle Atlantis' 11-day flight, designated STS-125, is targeted for launch May 12 and will include five spacewalks to refurbish and upgrade the telescope with state-of-the-art science instruments. As a result, Hubble's capabilities will be expanded and its operational lifespan extended through at least 2014."

Former astronaut: Man not alone in universe, CNN

"Earth Day may fall later this week, but as far as former NASA astronaut Edgar Mitchell and other UFO enthusiasts are concerned, the real story is happening elsewhere.

Mitchell, who was part of the 1971 Apollo 14 moon mission, asserted Monday that extraterrestrial life exists, and that the truth is being concealed by the U.S. and other governments."

First Moon Images No Longer Lost in Space, AP

"Mankind's first up-close photos of the lunar landscape have been rescued from four decades of dusty storage. As AP's Haven Daley reports, they've been restored to such a high quality that they rival anything taken by modern cameras."

Discovered After 40 Years: Moon Dust Hazard Influenced by Sun's Elevation, AGU

"But it wasnt until late 2006, when O'Brien learned from NASAs website that the space agency had misplaced data tapes from its dust-detecting experiments, that he decided to revisit his own set of 173 tapes. NASA had sent him these tapes one by one in 1969 and 1970, when he was working at the Department of Physics at University of Sydney. He took them with him when, in 1971, he moved to Perth for a new job. O'Brien's tapes are now the only known record of data from those vintage experiments.

Working alone and self-funded, the 75-year-old scientist dedicated two years to analyzing paper charts printed out in 1969 and 1970 from the magnetic tapes, which contain 6 million measurements, most of them yet to be analyzed. "

Physicist Stephen Hawking very ill and in hospital, Reuters

Physicist Stephen Hawking, the author of "A Brief History of Time" who is almost completely paralyzed by motor neurone disease, has been urgently admitted to hospital, Cambridge University said on Monday.

Hawking, 67, was taken by ambulance to a local hospital in Cambridge, where he teaches as a professor of applied mathematics and theoretical physics.

"Professor Hawking is very ill and has been taken by ambulance to Addenbrooke's Hospital," the university said.

Editor's note: NASA Watch has obtained the following NASA presentations that offer an alternative to Ares, Orion and Altair. It wasn't meant for the public to see. We'll let you decide what you think of them.

Editor's Update: I think what needs to be noted here is the continuing discontent within NASA with the Constellation program. And in the absence of leadership the discontent will continue to fester. Isn't time the Obama administration appoint a new Administrator? Someone who has leadership credentials?

The Onion Strikes

NASA Embarks On Epic Delay, The Onion

"Delays of this magnitude were once the stuff of science fiction," Scolese told reporters during a noon press conference Monday that actually started around 3:15 p.m. "But now, thanks to a number of long-overdue technological advances, this historic delay will stretch the very limits of what humankind can push back indefinitely."

From aero-news.net:
FL Senator Pushing To Delay Shuttle Retirement
Sun, 19 Apr '09
Seeking To Protect Thousands Of Aerospace Industry Jobs

Florida Senator Bill Nelson, a former Space Shuttle astronaut himself, is working toward extending the shuttle program to protect thousands of jobs in his state that would likely be jeopardized by the programs' planned retirement at the end of 2010.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Nelson, a Democrat, feels that the 2010 deadline is an arbitrary date, rather than one timed to accomplish all nine remaining missions. The senator said a more realistic goal would be to complete those missions "and finish the international space station before shutting operations down," without the pressure of a rigid timetable..."

Senator Nelson flew as a Payload Specialist while a Congressman aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in January, 1986. While he himself rarely uses the term, he does nothing to dissuade the news media and others from referring to him as a "former astronaut". Readers, do you think Nelson was an astronaut?

NASA Celebrates Earth Day Across the Country, NASA

"NASA centers across the nation invite journalists and the public to see and hear about the agency's efforts and contributions to understanding and protecting Earth.

Begun in 1970, Earth Day is the annual celebration of the environment and a time to assess work still needed to protect the natural resources of our planet. The agency maintains the largest contingent of dedicated Earth scientists and engineers in leading and assisting other agencies in preserving the planet's environment. "

Editor's note: A list of events at each center is included in the press release.

Editor's note: According to sources Mike Griffin made reference to NASA Watch last night at the Goddard Memorial Dinner: "Tonight is the first night giving a speech in public where I won't wake up tomorrow and read about it in NASAWatch."

I hate burst your bubble Mike. I guess it is "tomorrow" - I may be sitting in a tea lodge in Namche, Nepal, but NASA Watch has eyes and ears everywhere.

Don't let the door ...

Editor's Update: We have conflicting reports about what was said. Our sources who were there provided the quote while others say Mike did not make this statement. Without a transcript to reference and since it seems we've heard a wide variety of comments on this issue I've decided to close comments. Marc Boucher

Save Mercury Mission Control

Senator John Glenn reflects on anniversary of Project Mercury, Zanesville TimeRecorder

"NASA was officially created on Oct. 1, 1958, but this month marks the 50th anniversary of how the space program started with Project Mercury. NASA selected the Mercury Seven on April 1, 1959, and they were introduced to the world on April 9, 1959."

Slowly Crumbling, NASA Landmarks May Face the Bulldozer, New York Times

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, National Historic Landmarks Program

Editor's note: It's come to my attention that the historic Mercury Mission Control Center is now scheduled to be demolished in early May. Shouldn't this historic landmark be restored and kept as a museum to inspire our youth?

Frank's Note: I'm sorry to offend but I agree with those readers who suggest it's time to let this artifact go to the dumpsters. Much of the important artifacts of the early Space Age have in fact been preserved. We spacers, for a relatively young history, spend too much time, IMHO, living in the past. Look at the time, money and energy spent on commemorations of the Apollo 11 landing. And what do we wind up doing every five years or so? Photo ops and grand speechifying. Heaven forbid that much needed funds be pumped into these faltering programs-that would be putting the $$ where the mouths of politicians are.
What makes people think that young people today will be "inspired" to dedicate their lives to space exploration and research by this hulking junk yard? You want to inspire them/ Give them a place in the space agency not fouled by bureaucratic mentality and meetings after meetings. Why is SpaceX so popular? Because instead of speeches about how important history is, they are making some new history of their own. What's past is past. Let's move on into the future!

Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel Releases Annual Report, NASA HQ

"Proposed Extension of the Space Shuttle Program

To maximize safety, minimize wasted effort, and bolster employee morale, any further debate regarding the future of the Shuttle should be undertaken immediately and completed without further delay. From a safety standpoint, the ASAP strongly endorses the NASA position on not extending Shuttle operations beyond successful execution of the December 2008 manifest, completing the ISS. Continuing to fly the Shuttle not only would increase the risk to crews, but also could jeopardize the future U.S. Exploration program by squeezing available resources (and, in the worst case, support) for the Constellation program."

Editor's note: Download report (PDF)

The Budgetary Implications of NASAs Current Plans for Space Exploration (PDF), Congressional Budget Office

"In response to a directive in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2008, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has updated its 2004 report analyzing the budgetary implications of the National Aeronautics and Space Administrations (NASAs) vision for the nations space exploration program."

"According to NASA, its current plans will require an average of $19.1 billion of funding annually from 2010 through 2025, with the Constellation program accounting for about half of the total by 2017. Under its current plans, the agency also intends to conduct 79 new robotic science missions through 2025, requiring funding of $4.7 billion annually, and to perform aeronautics research, at a cost of about $460 million annually."

Editor's note: The COB looked at 4 scenarios. No matter how you look at it, at current spending levels, NASA will continue to have program slips and will have to make cuts to other programs to keep Constellation anywhere near on schedule. COTS-D doesn't seem to have entered the COB equation:

Editor's Update: A couple more stories and commentary related to this.

Lawmakers Pressure NASA to Delay Shuttle's Retirement, Wall Street Journal

Budget report: NASA facing shortfalls, launch delays, USA Today

Former NASA chief moves on--NASA not so much, Scientific American

CBO costs out various NASA budget options, Space Politics

Scenario 1: Keep Funding Fixed and Allow Schedules to Slip

"By CBOs projections, with such cost growth and fixed annual budgets for the Constellation program, the initial operating capability for Ares 1 and Orion would be delayed from March 2015 to late 2016, and the first mission to return humans to the moon would be delayed from 2020 to 2023"
Finally, for this scenario, CBO assumed that NASA would forgo any missions on the space shuttles launch manifest that did not occur by the September 30, 2010.

Let's Talk ITAR

Space Florida Joins the California Space Authority in Washington D.C. to Promote Federal Space Reform, Space Florida

"Topics to Include ITAR Reform and ISS National Lab Utilization

Space Florida will join California Space Authority (CSA) officials next week in Washington D.C. to spend four days meeting with federal officials regarding vital space policy issues. Topics to be discussed include sustaining America's leadership in space, addressing export control restrictions, space commercialization issues and FAA licensing processes, in addition to the utilization of the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory. "

NASA's Green Idea

NASA Leads Team in Establishing a Renewable Hydrogen Fueling Station, NASA Glenn

"NASA's Glenn Research Center is leading a team of industry and university partners in demonstrating a prototype of a commercial hydrogen fueling station that uses wind and solar power to produce hydrogen from water. This initial installation will produce hydrogen from Lake Erie water to fuel a mass transit bus powered by fuel cells.

The demonstration, featuring a unique, high-capacity electrolyzer that separates water into its elemental components of hydrogen and oxygen, is part of an economic development program in the Cleveland area. Local workers will design and build the electrolyzer using commercially available components."

Last Chance Photo Op

NASA's Kennedy Space Center Holds Unique Media Event, NASA KSC

"Following rollout of space shuttle Endeavour from the Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Pad 39B on Friday, April 17, two shuttles will be on the launch pads at the same time at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla., for what is expected to be the last time. "

SpaceX Falcon 1 Flight 5 Update, SpaceX

"SpaceX is preparing to launch a Falcon 1 on it's 5th flight with a primary payload of Malaysia's RazakSAT as early as April 20 as everything reportedly remains on schedule."

Editor's Update: SpaceX Signs Argentina's Space Agency for Two Falcon 9 Launches, SpaceX

"Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has signed an agreement with CONAE, Argentina's National Commission on Space Activity, for two launches aboard SpaceX's Falcon 9 medium-to-heavy lift vehicle. The flights will send the SAOCOM 1A and 1B Earth observation satellites into sun-synchronous orbits, where they will provide imagery for natural resources monitoring, as well as emergency and disaster management."

Editor's Update: RazakSAT Launch Delayed, The New Straits Times

"Abdul Hanan said SpaceX will be doing the repairs which will take at least six weeks."

Editor's Update: RAZAKSAT Launch Postponed, SpaceX

Oiling the Wheels

Frank's Note: Check out this report on federal campaign contributions for last year's campaign cycle at Open Secrets

Honeywell lead the defense/aerospace sector with a total contributions of $2.5 million. Lockheed was right behind at $1.6 million and Boeing in third place at $1.3 million. Interestingly enough, their contributions were almost evenly divided between Dems and the GOP, with Dems slightly ahead in the dollars donated. Of course, from the perspective of the aerospace giants, this just makes good (political) sense. But how do readers think change will come about if the status quo is so well represented?

Griffin set to return to class, The Huntsville Times

"An excited crowd of students, educators and Huntsville business leaders filled the entrance hall of the Shelby Center for Science and Technology to meet the man they believe can make UAH "the Cal Tech of the South, a great aerospace university."

"We're here because we want to be here," he said. "The offer extended to me by the (UA system) trustees was not the highest I received; it wasn't even the fifth highest that I received, and that's just a fact."

Frank's Note: Maybe an enterprising student will ask Mikey why Marsha Ivins was able to dominate human spaceflight development during his tenure at NASA HQ. I mean, inquiring minds and all that...

MEPAG Chair's letter on Mars Inputs to the Decadal Survey, NASA MEPAG

"A significant part of the discussion at the townhall meeting related to the kinds of inputs the Decadal Survey panels need or could benefit from to achieve their purpose, and the timing required in order for those inputs to be useful. As stated on Slide #9 of the presentation cited above, "broad community input is a defining feature of a decadal survey". For Mars, we can see two classes of written inputs to the process: 1). White papers prepared by MEPAG on behalf of the entire community, and 2). White papers prepared by subsets of the Mars community on topical areas of interest. "

Editor's note: Here's Steve Squyres presentation for you to download.

There's a special note about Mars in the presentation: "Mars missions will be considered on an equal basis with all other missions. No set aside for Mars exploration will be assumed a priori."

With the Mars Science Laboratory significantly over budget and with the launch delayed one wonders what's to become of the Mars program over the next decade. When will the coveted Mars Sample Return mission be slotted in?

House Panel Raises Conflict of Interest Concern at NASA, Congressional Quarterly

"The House Science Committee is taking aim at NASA over a recent contract award that its chairman says wasnt scrutinized enough for possible conflicts of interest.

The contract in question, worth $1.2 billion over five years, is for managing and operating NASAs system of space-to-ground receivers and transmitters that allow the agency to communicate with its spacecraft, including astronauts in orbit"

NASA names treadmill after Colbert, AP (Via San Francisco Chronicle)

"On Tuesday's "The Colbert Report" on Comedy Central, astronaut Sunita Williams announced that NASA which always maintained it had the right to choose an appropriate name would not name the node after Colbert.

Instead, Node 3 will henceforth be called Tranquility, the eighth most popular response submitted by respondents in the poll. The node's name alludes to where Apollo 11 landed on the moon the Sea of Tranquility.

NASA and Colbert compromised by naming a treadmill used for exercising in space after Colbert. NASA, itself an acronym (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), often names things so they spell out something fun. And that's what they did with the Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill (COLBERT)."

Editor's note: A compromise that saved NASA some embarrassment and provided some comic relief and lots of PR.

Kudo's to Robert Pearlman of CollectSpace for the early tip.

NASA names space module for moon base ...not Colbert

"Tranquility was the eighth most popular name written-in by visitors to NASA's website between February 19 and March 20 of this year. Though its impossible to know why so many chose that name, its relation to one of the most notable events in NASA's 50 year history is clear.

"Tranquility" is also defined as a calm state, or serenity."

Editor's note: Here's the press release from NASA.

NASA New Space Station Module Name Honors Apollo 11 Anniversary, NASA HQ

Editor's note: For those who didn't see the show we now have the video available.

Shuttle Shutdown Coming

Countdown to shuttle's end resumes, Orlando Sentinel

"A top NASA official said Monday that the agency plans to resume shutting down the space-shuttle program next month despite calls from Florida lawmakers to fly the orbiter beyond its planned retirement in 2010.

Congress barred NASA last year from taking any steps that would prevent shuttle flights beyond 2010. But that ban expires April 30, and NASA Associate Administrator Bill Gerstenmaier said the agency must begin dismantling the program or risk running out of money before the shuttle completes its final eight or nine flights into low-Earth orbit."

Wayne Hale
NASA and Education, Wayne Hale NASA Blog

"Education is one of the most important topics to Americans. As a nation we devote huge resources to educating our children, local school boards and state government last year spent over $800 billion on education. At the federal level, the Department of Educations budget last year was just over $57 billion. This represents substantially more money than the nation spent on national defense in all its aspects including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, national intelligence, and the department of homeland security."

"Yet, by all objective measures, American students are significantly lagging in almost every area to their foreign counterparts. Math, Science, even language testing scores lag significantly behind other modern industrialized nations."

Editor's note: Wayne Hale has responded to some of the comments.

"It is certainly far from my intention to denigrate teachers. For example, my daughter is a passionate high school English teacher who inspires her students daily. Teacher preparation and passion are key to motivating students. Certainly I was motivated by interesting, passionate, well prepared teachers during my formative years.

My thesis was not that NASA can solely transform education, but rather that space exploration does interest many students and can provide motivation for more to pursue careers in science, engineering, and mathematics.

Finally, on a different note, my NASA blog is open to the public and I am completely comfortable with excerpts or the entirety of any post appearing in other places on the internet as long as there is proper attribution.

Wayne Hale"

Mike Griffin
Former NASA chief Mike Griffin being considered for UAH posting, The Huntsville Times

"Griffin, who was NASA administrator from April 2005-January 2009, is being considered for employment as an "eminent scholar and tenured professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at" UAH. "

"Griffin is the only item on the committee's 10 a.m. "

Editor's note: I wonder what the folks at Marshall think about this?

Editor's Update: It's official, Griffin will join the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

NASA Administrator Dr. Mike Griffin will join the University of Alabama in Huntsville as an eminent scholar, The Huntsville Times

Editor's Update: I just got heard from Keith in Katmandu and he had this comment on Mike's new job; "Keith Cowing suggests that this will give him a front row seat as the Ares program is redesigned."

Editor's Update: Here's the press release about Griffin's appointment.

NASA's Michael Griffin appointed eminent scholar, professor at University of Alabama at Huntsville, University of Alabama-Huntsville

Editor's Update: Looks like Mike's salary will be a nice $350K

Boldly Going Nowhere, New York Times OpEd by Seth Shostak, SETI Institute

"The pace of improvement in rocketry is languid. It will be a decade before NASAs new Orion spacecraft allows humans to revisit the Moon, a short cosmic hop. And while todays launching vehicles are more powerful than their predecessors, the speeds are hardly impressive. The New Horizons probe cleared the pad at a clip barely twice that of the Atlas rocket that hoisted John Glenn into orbit at the dawn of the space age.

So while theres little doubt that humanity will soon explore and eventually colonize the Moon, Mars and the satellites and asteroids of the outer solar system, sending humans beyond that is impractical for the foreseeable future.

But theres another technology thats developing at a breakneck clip, and with which our grandchildren could make virtual trips to other solar systems. Its called telepresence a collection of technologies that extends vision, hearing and touch far beyond the corporeal confines of our nervous system."

Frank's Note: I guess the NYT never heard of the VASIMR rocket....

A NASA Earth Day Poll

Online Poll for NASA's Greatest Hits for Earth Begins Today, NASA HQ

"NASA is inviting the public to vote online for the most important contribution the space agency has made to exploring Earth and improving the way we live on our home planet. NASA is conducting the survey as part of its celebration of Earth Day, April 22. Voting begins today, and closes on April 21. Poll results will be announced on NASA's Web site on Earth Day."

Editor's Note: On the day NASA will announce the Colbert Node, oops, I mean the new name of Node 3, NASA announces a new poll aiming for your vote. To note, Colbert is not an option.

NASA to Announce New Space Station Module Name April 14

"NASA's newest module for the International Space Station will get a new name on April 14. The agency plans to make the announcement with the help of Expedition 14 and 15 astronaut Sunita "Suni" Williams on Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report." The program will air at 11:30 p.m. EDT. The name, which will not be publicly released until the program airs, was selected from thousands of unique suggestions submitted on NASA's Internet site, www.nasa.gov. The "Help Name Node 3" poll asked people to vote for the module's name either by choosing one of four NASA options or by offering their own suggestion. The poll closed on March 20."

Editor's Update: I bet everyone can't wait to watch Colbert today.

Give Node 3 an inspirational name, Houston Chronicle

"You dont know me, and I dont know you, so I cannot ask for a favor, and I cannot argue that the votes from the public favor naming Node 3 the Colbert. However, I would like to ask only that you consider this from the perspective of legacy. While I appreciate the influence your position affords you, I cannot help but feel that if a name must be attached to Node 3, it deserves to be in the honor of those who have risked and sacrificed so much for the greater good of all. Seventeen people have lost their lives in accidents aboard U.S. spacecraft over the history of the U.S. space program, and none has his or her name attached to a spacecraft. Node 3 cannot be named after those 17, or the countless thousands who work day in and day out across the country in the many facets of the space program, but doesnt Node 3 deserve a name that at least encompasses the work, dedication and sacrifice that so many have made to make it and the rest of the International Space Station a reality?"

Space Solar Power: The Next Frontier?, PG&E

"As part of PG&E's commitment to providing more renewable energy to its customers, the utility has supported a wide range of technologies, including wind, geothermal, biomass, wave and tidal, and at least a half dozen types of solar thermal and photovoltaic power.

Now PG&E is extending that approach to tap renewable energy at an entirely new level: solar power in space.

PG&E is seeking approval from state regulators for a power purchase agreement with Solaren Corp., a Southern California company that has contracted to deliver 200 megawatts of clean, renewable power over a 15 year period."

Frank's observation: For less than half the cost of a single Space Shuttle mission, a solar power space demo could be conducted to verify this technology once and for all. Readers: why do you think that such a potentially revolutionary power capability remains marooned on Earth?

NASA Spirit Rover
Computer Reboots Raise Concerns About Mars Rover Spirit, NASA JPL

"The team operating NASAs Mars Exploration Rover Spirit is examining data received from Spirit in recent days to diagnose why the rover apparently rebooted its computer at least twice over the April 11-12 weekend."

"We are aware of the reality that we have an aging rover, and there may be age-related effects here," Callas said. "

Editor's note: Old age may be setting in but this is one mission that's done NASA proud.

NASA International Space Station Advisory Committee Meeting, Federal Register

"Five seats will be reserved for members of the press. The purpose of the meeting is to assess NASA and Roscosmos plans to support a six-person crew aboard the International Space Station, including transportation, crew rotation, training, and micro meteoroid and orbital debris shielding."

Senator Shelby Speaks

Senator Richard Shelby, America can't afford space shuttle, station and Ares rockets, The Huntsville Times

"The Tuscaloosa Republican told members of The Huntsville Times editorial board this morning that America probably could not afford to continue flying the space shuttle past its set September 2010 retirement date, continue supporting the $100 billion space station past 2015 and build the shuttle's intended successor - the Ares I."

Editor's note: Video available.

NASA Constellation logo

Where Things Stand with Constellation, NASA Blog Contributed by Jeff Hanley, Constellation Program Manager

"First, some facts: NASAs commitment has been and continues to be to achieve the first human launch of Orion by March 2015. We see that as eminently achievable, but its not a guarantee there is no such thing in any large scale development program and especially for one where the available funding is never known more than one year in advance."

"NASAs Constellation Program is rejuvenating an agency and an industry."

Naming Spacecraft

Naming Spacecraft: Confusion Reigns, Collectspace

"Sometimes the spacecraft-naming process became controversial and resulted in battles of will between the flight crews and self-appointed screening experts at NASA headquarters. Gus Grissom almost ran afoul of the approval loop but won out in the end. See sidebar, What's In A Name?, (below). His choice, "Molly Brown," was eventually approved. However, the NASA Headquarters bureaucrats were so "ticked off" after the Grissom incident no names were allowed for the remaining Gemini flights (4 through 12) and Apollo flights 7 and 8, merely the official numerical designations were used. i.e. Gemini 4, 5 etc., and Apollo 7 and 8."

Space Station Nears an Extension, Wall Street Journal

"The U.S. and major foreign partners on the International Space Station have agreed in principle to keep it operating through 2020, at least five years beyond the current deadline, according to government and industry officials. There had been looming questions about the future of the space station -- which took nearly two decades and more than $100 billion to design and build -- because until now, the major partners hadn't committed to keeping it going past 2015. An extension could give new momentum to the scientific research conducted there, which initially was delayed by false starts and problems finishing assembly of the station."

According to @NASA "NASA will announce the name of the newest space station module on Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report" April 14 at 11:30 p.m. EDT."

Heading Off To Everest

Editor's note: I leave on Sunday for Nepal and will be there until 31 May. I will have Internet access while I am trekking in to Everest Base Camp via a variety of means albeit limited. At Everest Base Camp, I should have good comms, but they are expensive and I need to conserve them for the tasks at hand. As such, I really won't be responding to email, phone calls, etc. the way that I normally do. My email will be monitored by Marc Boucher and important messages will get to me. I hope to keep an eye (and a hand) on NASA Watch from time to time while Marc and guest bloggers hold down the fort.

You can follow what Scott Parazynski and I are up to at onorbit.com/everest. I will also be blogging for the Discovery Channel. Once I begin trekking you can follow me at SPOT. And of course, I will be twittering as well at KeithCowing.

Back in the States, Miles O'Brien will be our main anchor or "news sherpa" at our main expedition webpage. Scott, Miles, and I - plus the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, NASA PAO, Discovery Channel, Explorers Club, Boy Scouts, and SPOT - plan to try some things that have not been done before from this remote location.

We plan to do all of this in the spirit of what has now come to be called "participatory exploration" at NASA. If all the technology, weather, climbers, and logistics work out, we will have some interesting - and unprecedented - things to share with everyone. We will also be soliciting your imput at our main website.

Ad Astra - and Namaste

Sending The Wrong Message

First World Released to DVD Sales to Benefit the SETI Institute and the National Space Society

"Screened at over 20 science fiction conventions in the United States, Australia, India, Japan, Ireland and the United Kingdom, First World is set in the year 2018 and is a fictional account of what NASA discovered and covered up during the Apollo space program. The secret is now unraveling on the eve of the next space race to the Moon between China and the United States with the world bracing itself for the dramatic outcome."

Editor's note: Oh great, what a wonderful message for the SETI Institute and National Space Society to be associated with.

Ed Wardle: Everest Base Camp, Discovery

"For those trekking up from below, it spells hardship, extreme cold, nausea, headaches that won't go away and the risk of potentially lethal altitude sickness. For those climbing down from the dangers above, it's a haven with hot water, comfortable beds, warm climate, good food and safety. Right now, everyone is coming up to Everest base camp from below."

Scott parazynski: Icefall Revisited, then well-needed rest, OnOrbit

"It took 2 and a half hours to get to our high point, and a full 2 hours to return to Crampon Point ("Crampoff Point?"). I was totally exhausted coming back into camp, and after lunch I completely cratered in my tent for the rest of the afternoon! In retrospect, I didn't stop to drink and rest often enough, and as a result ended up with a mild altitude-related headache in the evening. This morning I feel much better owing to lots of warm tea and orange drink (I think a knock-off of Tang, which I used to love as a kid, but can hardly stand now!)."

Nick Lampson "still in the running for NASA top job", Orlando Sentinel

"It seems the reports about former Democratic congressman Nick Lampson's demise as a contender for the NASA administrator's job have been greatly exaggerated. A person extremely close to Lampson has told the Orlando Sentinel that the Houston Chronicle misinterpreted remarks by the former Houston representative about being ready to "move on" with his life as meaning he was not interested in the NASA job. "Nick Lampson is still in the running despite earlier reports from the Houston Chronicle," the person, who is very familiar with the situation, said."

Chairman Gordon Disappointed in NASA's Decision to Award Contract Despite Ongoing Investigation

"Today, NASA awarded a $1.2 billion award for the Space Communications Networks Services (SCNS), despite an ongoing investigation into organizational and personal conflicts of interest."

Miles O'Brien Interviews Scott Parazynski About His Return to Everest

"Preparing for a space shuttle flight or an EVA is a very intense process. It's the physical training, of course, since going on a space walk is very physically demanding. There is also mental preparation and knowing your tasks. There is knowing your equipment and how it works and how the gear might fail. Then there is the process of going through everything in your head, training runs - the things that you will be doing outside on a space walk. Going to Mount Everest is quite similar. You need to be getting your body ready, your gear, mentally preparing for the rigors of summit day and what leads up to it. It takes a lot of work. There are a number of differences as well. Out on a spacewalk we are wearing what is essentially our own personal spacecraft. We a have a visor, an oxygen backpack, cooling systems, battery power, and protection from the elements. Similarly, on our summit day on Everest, for example, we will have a down suit, an oxygen system, goggles to protect us from the ultraviolet radiation that could basically fry our eyeballs in very short order. The physical workload of that summit day, in particular, is very, very intense. But when you are out on a spacewalk you are typically very comfortable. There are brief bursts of very hard physical work that. But on the mountain you have to give it everything you have got every step of the way."

NASA Air Safety Update

NASA's National Aviation Operations Monitoring Service Project Was Designed Appropriately, but Sampling and Other Issues Complicate Data Analysis

"In reviewing a draft of this report, NASA reiterated that NAOMS was a research and development project and provided technical comments, which GAO incorporated as appropriate. NASA also expressed concern about protecting NAOMS respondents' confidentiality, a concern GAO shares. However, GAO noted that other agencies have developed mechanisms for releasing sensitive data to appropriate researchers. The Department of Transportation had no comments."

Chairman Gordon, Science and Technology Committee Members Release GAO Report on NAOMS

"This was a well-designed project that failed because it was executed without proper agency oversight and didn't have the support it needed from its primary customer--the FAA," said Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN)."

NASA safety survey a mystery, AP

"Years after thousands of pilots told NASA about their in-flight safety experiences and NASA shut down the survey without divulging any findings, the pilots' views remain a mystery. A congressional investigation to be released Thursday offers little new insight into what the pilots said during the telephone survey or what it might reveal about safe skies. NASA cut off the interviews in 2004 and chose not to analyze the results."

NASA Air Safety Survey: Redacted Air Carrier Survey Responses with Unknowns in Flight Activity Fields, earlier post
Committee Asks GAO to Analyze NASA's Air Safety Survey Data, earlier post
Air Safety Survey: NASA's Sluggishness Made Things Worse Than They Needed To Be, earlier post

In Full Interview, John Holdren Eschews New Nukes, Hints at Space Flight Delays, Science Insider

"Speaking this morning with ScienceInsider, Holdren discussed why he thinks the United States doesn't need new nuclear weapons. He warned of likely delays beyond 2015 in replacing the space shuttle and the possibility that China would launch U.S. astronauts during the interim."

Obama looking at cooling air to fight warming, AP

"[Holdren] said the Bush administration's plan to return astronauts to the moon was underfunded so money was taken from science and aeronautics. Those areas, including climate change research, were "decimated," he said. The administration will "rebalance NASA's programs so that we have in space exploration, a suitable mix of manned activities and robotic activities," Holdren said. Doing that "will only get under way in earnest when a new administrator is in place." Holdren, who advises the president on such decisions, said he hopes Obama will pick a new NASA boss soon."

President Obama's science adviser talks about his new job, Nature

"Do we know when that is going to happen? I certainly hope we have a new [NASA] administrator in place in the next month that is a hope, and not a prediction."

Boeing wins royalty in patent case against NASA

"Boeing Co. may get hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation after winning a patent-infringement claim against NASA over an aluminum alloy used to build the space shuttle. Boeing developed a lighter structure for frames in the 1970s and 1980s to save on jet fuel costs. It claimed the technology was used in the external fuel tank that provides the backbone of the shuttle during launch and sued the government in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington in 2000."

Scott Parazynski is heading up the Khumbu Icefall on Mt. Everest. Track him here - pick the "satellite" view.

Space Frontier Foundation Urges NASA to Respect Popular Vote on New Name for Space Station Waste Recycling Module

"The Space Frontier Foundation urged NASA to respect the results of a nationwide contest to name a new waste re-cycling module for the International Space Station (ISS). The Foundation proposed using either the first or second place winners of the contest: "The Colbert" (for the popular comedian) or "Serenity" (for the popular sci-fi television and film) as the official name for the module, whose purpose is to re-cycle human waste products and is the first of its kind to be flown in space."

Editor's note: Someone at SFF needs to do a little research before they put these things out. The module's "purpose" is NOT to recycle human waste - only one rack inside Node 3 does that. There are all other sorts of things there as well - life support, robotics, etc. The description of the node is obvious on the NASA page for the naming activity. Its like saying that your home exists to house a toilet because it has one.

Administrator Update

Lost in Space: Months After Obama's Inauguration, NASA Is Still Without a Chief, Fox News

"Not all experts are troubled about the agency's fate in the interim. Former NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe, who preceded Griffin, told FOXNews.com that Scolese is an "extraordinarily competent guy" who has a deep knowledge of engineering and of the "pulse and the rhythm of the agency." "He's got it -- he's going to be in fine shape," said O'Keefe. "It's not like the wheels are going to come off the cart."

We think: NASA needs a leader, opinion, Orlando Sentinel

"With the federal government now borrowing trillions of dollars to prop up the economy, it's understandable that Mr. Obama would weigh carefully the value for taxpayers in every federal program. But if big changes are coming in the space program, the price of delaying them, in money and time, could be steep. If the Obama administration intends to switch rocket designs for Constellation, for example, it should cut off work on Ares as soon as possible."

Whither NASA?, Achenblog, Washington Post

"Here's a name to add to the NASA Administrator-to-be Rumor Mill: Rep. Bart Gordon, head of a House science committee that oversees NASA. I asked him the other day if he was going to be administrator, and he said he already has the best job in the world and isn't going to trade it in for another. But I'd still keep his name on the list. He didn't outright deny that he might be the next boss on the ninth floor at NASA headquarters."

"Going through some old papers, I found a school publication which contained an essay I wrote in 1971. If memory serves, I had just read Gerard K. O'Neill's "The Case for Space", and of course, the Apollo lunar expeditions were in full swing.

I would like to hear your thoughts on how these arguments have held up for the last four decades. Are they true, has time shown them to be specious, or have they been overcome by events?

Your comments please on this tidbit of history."

Wow, What a Photo

Picture Perfect Soyuz Landing in Kazakhstan

"Two members of the 18th crew to live and work aboard the International Space Station and a spaceflight participant returned to Earth at 2:16 a.m. CDT Wednesday. NASA astronaut Mike Fincke, Russian cosmonaut Yury Lonchakov and spaceflight participant Charles Simonyi safely landed their Soyuz spacecraft in the steppes of southern Kazakhstan."

Editor's note: This is today's Image of the day at NASA.gov. Bill Ingalls has out done himself this time.

Scratch Lampson

Ex-Rep. Lampson not headed to top NASA job, Houston Chronicle

"Former Rep. Nick Lampson said Tuesday he is no longer a contender for the $177,000-a-year NASA administrator post. The Stafford Democrat, who lost his seat in a predominantly Republican district in southeastern Texas last fall, told the Houston Chronicle that White House officials had "not made any kind of offer" after approaching him about the post. "I understand this (selection) is not easy. It is a slow, deliberate process," Lampson said in a telephone interview. "But at the same time, I feel comfortable in moving on with my life. That is what I've done."

Gordon on NASA Budget

AIP FYI #42 Chairman Gordon on FY 2010 Budget

NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION: "I am pleased that the Administration has requested $18.7 billion for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in Fiscal Year 2010, which I consider to be welcome recognition that NASA needs additional resources to carry out the important tasks that the nation has given it. I strongly urge the Subcommittee to provide at least this level of funding, and hope that you will give serious consideration to providing appropriations for NASA consistent with the funding level authorized in the NASA Authorization Act of 2008.

"Last year, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of NASA. As we look ahead to the opportunities and challenges facing NASA over its next 50 years, I believe that we must do what we can to enable NASA to continue to engage in the most cutting-edge research and serve as inspiration for the next generation of scientists and engineers. To do this, NASA will need resources that are sufficient to allow it to fulfill each of its diverse missions, including space and Earth science, microgravity research, human space flight and exploration, aeronautics research and development, and education, as productively as possible."

Making a NASA Themselves, The Harvard Crimson

"Why has NASA had such a dismal track record since the Apollo program? Reduced funding tells part of the story. The space program received around $40 billion a year (adjusted for inflation) in the mid-1960s, which was at least four percent of the federal budget. But, back then, Americans also had a much greater tolerance for risk: The first successful Apollo mission was launched just eight months after the three astronauts in Apollo 1 died during testing. NASAs tighter leash today means that riskier programs like nuclear-powered spacecraft dont make it off the drawing board. Ultimately, NASAs 1960s miracles were enabled by widespread public and congressional support fueled by the Cold War race to the moon."

Astro Twitter

NASA Astronaut Tweets Provide Inside Look at Mission Training

"NASA astronaut Mike Massimino is using Twitter to provide a unique, behind the scenes peek at the last weeks of his training for the fifth and final shuttle servicing mission to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope."

"NASA, don't make Stephen launch an intern into space with a can of spray paint."

Video below

Posey Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Close the Space Gap

"Specifically the American Space Access Act extends the life of the space shuttle until either NASA's next generation space system, Constellation, comes online or a domestic supplier is certified by NASA as capable of taking humans into space and docking with the space station. The bill also calls for bringing the Constellation program online earlier and authorizes the funds that are necessary for both of these activities. Rep. Posey said his legislation limits the upgrades performed on the shuttle to safety upgrades to reduce costs."

Editor's note: Small wonder Space Florida is having problems. At a time when people question its value, you'd think that their media people would be making things available to the press in the easiest possible format for them to utilize. You would think. Instead, they picked the goofiest way imaginable to send out a press release: the sent a picture of it. No online database or search engine is going to find it like this - nor are any news services going to send it out to their readers - unless someone takes the time to retype it. That is not too likely. They did send me a text version (posted here) - but their media rep told me that she was told to send it out as pictures for "security reasons".

Administrator Update

NASA Awaits Word on Where It Is Going Next, Washington Post

"The Obama White House has twice been on the verge of making a formal nomination for a new head of the space agency but has pulled back both times because of grumbling from members of Congress with influence over space policy. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) has lobbied openly for the nomination of Marine Gen. Charles Bolden, a former astronaut, but the White House has not seemed eager to oblige the senator. "I am frustrated, because I don't know what the delay is," Nelson said recently."

NASA still has room at top, Huntsville Times

"It's become almost a running joke within" the space community, said Keith Cowing, who runs the NASA watchdog Web site NASAWatch.com and monitors aerospace issues daily on Capitol Hill. "There's been all sorts of names floated and re-floated. It's really anybody's guess almost at this point. "But there have been some front-runner names out there recently that may have gained some traction."

Editor's 12:00 am note: Scott Parazynski checked in a few minutes ago at Everest Base Camp using his SPOT Satellite Personal Tracker. After settling in we should start to get a lot more from Scott via a BGAN (INMARSAT satellite) phone. You can track Scott's progress here and on Twitter. You can see the path he took (and the one I will take in a week or so) here.

Editor's update: More updates just in from Scott at Everest Base Camp:

Trip Up Memory Lane: Pheriche to Lobuche
Rest Day in Lobuche: The Clinic is Open
Everest Base Camp with an extended stay at Gorak Shep

Replacing Soyuz

Russia to unveil spaceship plans, BBC

"Roscosmos should name the ship's prime developer, which has competed to win government funds for the project. The proposed new spacecraft should enter into service sometime towards the end of the next decade. It will replace the venerable three-seat Soyuz capsule, which has carried Russian cosmonauts into orbit for more than four decades. Although Roscosmos has remained tight-lipped about the upcoming presentation, the agency has quietly released its requirements for a future manned transport system to the Russian space industry. In doing so, the agency has shed some light on the ship's likely design and its possible missions. The spacecraft, currently known only by the Russian abbreviation PPTS, for Prospective Piloted Transport System, would be able to reach low-Earth orbit or to enter orbit around the Moon."

Pelosi Likes Lampson

Pelosi mum on 2010 retirement date for shuttle; gushes for Lampson as NASA chief

"However, Pelosi did have good things to say about former U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson, the Texas Democrat who once represented the Johnson Space Center area and has been mentioned as a candidate to become the next NASA chief under Obama. "I think he is a great person for it. I really know Nick Lampson. I think he would be fantastic," she said. "He was a champion for NASA."

Space Tourism Program Still Ticking, FreeSpace, Discovery News

"Space Adventures, the Virginia-based firm that so far has cornered the market on commercial spaceflight, isn't letting a little thing like no more flight opportunities spoil its business plans. In a conference call with reporters, company president Eric Anderson said the ongoing flight of space tourist Charles Simonyi (they prefer the term "spaceflight participant") shouldn't be its last."

Editor's note: There is an interesting post titled "Same Choices, Same Story Here" on NASA's blog site. No name is affixed to the posting.

Editor's update: NASA PAO tells me that ESMD PAO representative Gray Hautaluomawrote this post with input from ESMD staff.

"There've been a lot of stories in the press lately about Constellation and its progress or supposed lack thereof. The alleged danger that the program is in. Could it be that when there's nothing real to report that people try to stir up old news?

The fact is that Constellation is targeting March 2015 for the first crewed flight to the International Space Station, with Orion aboard the Ares I rocket. That date hasn't changed for some time. We did originally give our teams a very tough challenge in the early days of the program of making this milestone in September 2013. And they worked hard toward it. But the fact is, we needed more money early on. Given the way budget cycles work, we were given a budget to initial operational capability, but the critical mass we would have needed to make that earlier date just wasn't there right away.

Rebalancing NASA's Workforce, posting by Nick Skytland, opennasa.com

"I'd like to share with you some very important workforce policy news. Two weeks ago on March 19, the Agency's Strategic Management Council (SMC) decided to take action to rebalance our aging workforce. It is now agency policy that we have a goal of 50% of all new civil servant hires will be fresh-out hires. I list the main action here, then the remaining actions below."

Editor's note: "Agency policy? Oh really? Is this in the form of a NASA Policy Directive (NPD)? I can't seem to find it at NODIS. If, however, this is formal agency policy then it would be a new record given the time it usually takes for things to get through the legal gauntlet at NASA. Also, I would think that the agency would also use formal Human Resources means to inform the workforce of this major decision - and not let a unofficial website announce it. As such, I think a few folks have jumped the gun and/or are confused as to what the distinction is between an "action" coming out of an internal management meeting and a formal, governmental policy decree.

Now, don't get me wrong, NASA certainly has a skill mix and age imbalance that it desperately needs to fix in order to accomplish the tasks that lie ahead, but this starts to sound like slow-motion age discrimination to me. And to be quite honest, I am not certain that the job market for fresh-out hires can support NASA's needs or that an arbitrary 50% of the open positions within the agency can be (or should be) filled with people with little or no experience.

The process is a little more complex than a few people reacting to some Powerpoint charts. You can't just Twitter a policy into existence - at least not yet. Stay tuned.

The Budget Road Ahead

House Approves Budget, Including Commitment to Science and Technology Funding

"Today, the House of Representatives approved H.Con.Res.85, which sets budget levels for fiscal year 2010 through 2014. .. Budget levels for National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and Department of Energy Office of Science are included in function 250."

"(3) General Science, Space, and Technology (250):

Fiscal year 2009: (A) New budget authority, $35,389,000,000. (B) Outlays, $30,973,000,000.
Fiscal year 2010: (A) New budget authority, $31,139,000,000. (B) Outlays, $32,467,000,000.
Fiscal year 2011: (A) New budget authority, $31,493,000,000. (B) Outlays, $32,407,000,000.
Fiscal year 2012: (A) New budget authority, $33,373,000,000. (B) Outlays, $32,465,000,000.
Fiscal year 2013: (A) New budget authority, $34,419,000,000. (B) Outlays, $33,614,000,000.
Fiscal year 2014: (A) New budget authority, $35,686,000,000. (B) Outlays, $34,835,000,000."

Farewell, Moose

NASA Inspector General Robert Cobb Resigns

"NASA Inspector General Robert Cobb submitted a letter of resignation to the White House on Thursday, April 2, 2009. President Barack Obama accepted Cobb's resignation, which is effective April 11."

Editor's note: That's right, Steve Cook wants to be Deputy Center Director at Marshall. He has been telling people he is now aiming for the job. Given that Cook already has a posse that goes around portraying him as a leader - including making certain that he is introduced at meetings as "the next von Braun" - such grand ambitions are not at all out of character. It will be interesting to see what Steve's official bio looks like when that is announced - with his previous accomplishments i.e. his role in the failures of X-33, X-34, ISS Propulsion Module, and (soon) Ares 1. At least he is consistent in his job performance.

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

"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."

NASA ARC Memo: Message from the Deputy Center Director Status Report on FY09 Conference Attendance

"We would like to take this opportunity to share our latest understanding on where the agency is on the Conference Limitations requirement addressed in the March 11, 2009, Omnibus Appropriations Act (P.L. 111-8). In that Act, Congress modified what is affected by the $5 million conference cap at NASA to exclude education, scientific and technical conferences. Some conference attendance will still be subject to the $5 million conference cap. The Agency is in the process of revising the NASA Interim Directive (NID) 9312.1, "Requirements Relating to Conference Attendance, Obligation and Expenditures" to clarify the changes. However, we are still under the requirement to track and report all conference expenditures to Congress."

NASA's estimates for new rocket soar again, Orlando Sentinel

"The cost of getting NASA's next-generation rocket to the international space station has ballooned from an initial $28 billion to about $44 billion today -- and that number is likely to keep rising, according to NASA studies and government officials. The soaring costs are driven by a host of technical troubles and made worse by the way NASA budgeted the Constellation program, which is supposed to return astronauts to the moon by 2020. The cost overruns and other problems are likely to delay the rocket's launch from March 2015 to late 2016, widening the gap between the planned retirement of the space shuttle in 2010 and the first Constellation flight, while extending thousands of job losses in Brevard County."

Nick Lampson talks with KFDM about top NASA job, KFDM

"KFDM News spoke with Lampson by telephone Thursday morning. He told us he hasn't been contacted by the Obama administration nor spoken with anyone in the administration about the NASA post. "They are keeping it real close to the vest," said Lampson. I don't know anything about it. I'd be flattered if I were asked. I'd certainly give it consideration. I'd be honored to serve if I'm asked."

April Fool! Look What's in Kevin Petersens Parking Space! (photo)

"Retiring NASA Dryden Flight Research Center director Kevin Petersen got an April Fool's Day surprise when he drove in to work on April 1st -- the HiMAT remotely piloted research aircraft sitting in his parking space in front of Dryden's main building. The sub-scale aircraft had been in storage at NASA Ames Research Center since the Highly Maneuverable Aircraft Technology project, on which Petersen had been a research engineer, ended in 1983. With the assistance of Dryden's maintenance chief Tom Grindle, the HiMAT aircraft was brought back to Dryden recently without Petersen's knowledge, cleaned up and positioned in his parking space overnight. The HiMAT aircraft will eventually be placed on permanent display at Dryden."

Tired of April Fools Gags? Wait, There's More, Wall Street Journal

"Then there is an entirely different category of things that leave you scratching your head-like the news that Rackable Systems is paying just $25 million for once-mighty Silicon Graphics, which is filing for Chapter 11 protection for a second time. When a reporter sent the news release to the public affairs office of NASA Ames Research Center-which operates a massive supercomputer built by Silicon Graphics-the agency phoned backed quickly to ask an important question: "Is this an April Fool's Joke?"

NASA, Intel, SGI Plan to 'Soup Up' Supercomputer, NASA ARC

"Under the terms of a Space Act Agreement, NASA will work closely with Intel and SGI to increase computational capabilities for modeling and simulation at the NASA Advanced Supercomputing (NAS) facility at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif."

Fallen star SGI to sell most assets for $25M, San Jose Mercury News

"In 2000, it sold its interest in supercomputer maker Cray Research. In 2003, it vacated its Mountain View headquarters and leased the buildings to Google. Two years later, it hired a turnaround company to help it stop hemorrhaging money. But in May 2006, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and emerged from that status in October."

Former Highflier's Final Landing, Wall Street Journal

"Silicon Graphics Inc., once one of the computer industry's highest fliers, filed for bankruptcy protection for a second time and will sell its assets to Rackable Systems Inc. for $25 million."

Editor's note: So much for the notion that ARC PAO benefits by their physical proximity to Silicon Valley. Perhaps adding a public "awareness" functionality to NASA ARC public "affairs" responsibilities is in order. This applies to all NASA facilities, by the way - especially when the Wall Street Journal starts to take notice. If I had a massive asset such as ARC's supercomputer, I'd sure want to pay attention to the health of the company that sold it to me - and keeps it running especially since NASA has a Space Act Agreement with SGI and Intel and SGI already had entered into bankruptcy twice in the past three years.

No to shuttle extension if move would delay Ares, Huntsville Times

"Flying the shuttle while continuing the Ares development is likely to create budget conflicts with the space agency's future rounds of funding, said Keith Cowing, who runs the space agency watchdog Web site NASAWatch.com. "There's two schools of thought on extending the space shuttle," he said. "One is that is would be a way to close the looming gap, but there are people who fly the shuttle and who work on the program that feel that it is time to retire the shuttle because it is not safe to fly. "If there's money across the budget years to fly shuttle and develop Ares, then it is possible," said Cowing. "If the money goes away, then it's impossible."

Ed at 4000 Meters in His Kitchen: An Email From Ed Wardle to Trisha Creekmore, Discovery.com Interactive Producer, Discovery Channel

"Dick mentioned you might want me to write somoething for the web this year and I thought this cd be an inetersting starter. Im doing an experiment with a new piece of equip,ent that simulates breathing at altitiude. Despite spelling like a drunk man, right nowIm totally sober an dhavent had a drink in weeks. Its 730 am and I'm siting in my kitchen at home in Londonbreathing air at 4000m in preparation for Everest. I have to concenrate really hard to type this. I have to look at the keys and punch in each letter."

Editor's note: I will be blogging for the Discovery Channel from Everest Base Camp during the Spring climbing season.

Editor's note: Two names to watch in the coming days: Charles Bolden and Nick Lampson. Lampson reportedly had a meeting with Rahm Emanuel in the past few days, and I saw Bolden in Washington on the Hill last week at a NSBRI event. Stay tuned.

Editor's update: Nick Lampson is Twittering. Quick, everyone follow him and DM him about NASA ... meanwhile. Administration sources suggest that it is unlikely that any movement will occur on the NASA front until well after the President and his staff get back from their trip. So cool your thrusters, folks.

From: "Tooley, Craig R. (GSFC-4510)
Date: Tue, 31 Mar 2009 23:11:08 -0500
Conversation: LRO Launch Date - Clarification
Subject: RE: LRO Launch Date - Clarification

The official NASA Flight Planning Board position is the LRO/LCROSS launch date is NET 6/2/2009. We will plan for this and this is consistent with the launch vehicle schedule we integrate our schedule to. But there is still an open trade concerning LCROSS science that could push it to the second June window which opens June 17th. The LRO team should work to 6/2/2009.

My apologies for any confusion I have promulgated.


Editor's note: According to the Planetary Socety's blog: "I got an email late yesterday from David Kass, one of the members of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mars Climate Sounder team, forwarding a report he had just issued to the rest of the orbiter's science and operations teams. In brief: over the last few days Mars Climate Sounder has detected sharply rising temperatures in some regions of the atmosphere, strong indications that normal regional dust activity in the south is escalating into what may now be a planet-encircling dust event. (If you're wondering why David contacted me with this update, it's because The Planetary Society is the official education outreach partner on the Mars Climate Sounder investigation ..."

Cool stuff, yes? Well then why is this important scientific research information from a taxpayer-funded spacecraft not being provided to the news media by JPL PAO? I see no mention of it at the official NASA website here or here or at JPL's main website. If Planetary Society has the responsibility for getting news out to the media they sure stumbled on this.

NASA Watch Turns 13

Editor's note: NASA Watch (then called NASA RIF Watch) went online on 1 April 1996 with this posting as one of its top news items. Mal Peterson continues to try and wiggle out of this to this day (feel free to comment, Mal). A special thanks to the "mother" of NASA Watch, be she ever anonymous!

28 March 1996 Mal Peterson: the value of fear in managing corporate-downsizing

"Mal Peterson (NASA HQ Comptroller's Office) personally briefed NASA program managers (Centers and HQ) yesterday (27 March) and gave instructions for planning and implementing a RIF by Summer 1997, the reduction to be completed by October 1998, to a total complement level of 17,500, as called for by the President for the year 2000, to be completed by 1998. Vugraphs were shown concerning "the value of fear in managing corporate-downsizing." (That is a direct quote) They have statistics on the number of personnel supposed to be within retirement range and everyone will be encouraged to retire asap, though these numbers will not prevent a RIF. He strongly indicated that congressional backing would be soon forthcoming."

29 Nov 1996: Changes in Thinking at NASA, PBS Newshour

"TOM BEARDEN: Goldin and his associate administrators want their people to make quick decisions and fix mistakes later, instead of doing what he says NASA used to do, study a problem to death for fear of failing. Keith Cowing follows all of this in cyberspace. He's a former NASA engineer who set up an Internet site that functions as a kind of super water cooler for all of NASA's far-flung employees. He calls it "RIF Watch." It features rumors, editorial comment, jokes, cartoons. It also frequently publishes high-level internal memos that NASA employees send to Cowing. He says there are a lot of unhappy people out there in NASA Land.

KEITH COWING, RIF Watch: Dan Goldin's approach is he'll walk into--metaphorically--into a stockyard with a machine gun and shoot up all the cows. And somebody will come back later and say, now, where's that prize bull, and he'll hand em hamburger and say, here, put it back together; it's all there. Dan constantly changes things, but he never leaves them in place long enough to accomplish anything."



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