October 2011 Archives

NASA Internal Memo: Goddard Libraries Transition to Electronic Services

"Beginning January 1, 2012, the NASA Goddard libraries at Greenbelt and Wallops will transition to an all-electronic activity. In response to changes in the research environment and to Center-driven resource priorities, we will no longer maintain a physical presence but will focus on supporting the research needs of the Goddard community electronically. ... Closing of the physical libraries is a strategic move to repurpose resources and refocus efforts toward enhanced electronic collections and new services vital for Goddard to continue to be productive and competitive in scientific research. "

Keith's note: So what does this mean with regard to the books and other printed items that already exist in the GSFC library i.e. "Closing of the physical libraries"? Is GSFC going to just get rid of everything? And if a book or journal is not in electronic format ... too bad. I am sure historians will just love this. And this is a "strategic move"?

Keith's note: President Obama will host the crew of STS-135 on Tuesday at 12:20 pm EDT in the Oval Office.

NASA to Announce New Agreement for Kennedy Facilities Monday

Boeing to sign lease for NASA's space shuttle hangar, Reuters

"The company has reached agreement with Space Florida, a state-backed agency working to expand space-related businesses in Florida, to lease Orbiter Processing Facility 3 at the center, Boeing spokeswoman Susan Wells said on Friday."

Keith's note: Oddly, as of 2:00 pm EDT neither Space Florida or the Commercial Spaceflight Federation have bothered to put out a press release regarding this big commercial space news (announced at 10:00 am EDT today) - even though Boeing confirmed this specific agreement last Friday. Neither organization had anything public to say about last week's commercial crew hearings either.

NASA Signs Agreement with Space Florida to Reuse Kennedy Facilities For Boeing CST-100 Development

"The next era of space exploration won't wait, and so we can't wait for Congress to do its job and give our space program the funding it needs. That's why my Administration will be pressing forward, in partnership with Space Florida and the private sector, to create jobs and make sure America continues to lead the world in exploration and discovery," President Barack Obama said."

We Can't Wait, Atlanta Journal Constitution

"The White House continues to run with the new theme of President Obama, "We Can't Wait," making the argument that if the Congress won't approve Obama Administration initiatives, then the President will do what he can on his own."

Boeing to Establish Commercial Crew Program Office in Florida

""Pending the continued selection of Boeing for future Commercial Crew development and service contracts, and sufficient NASA funding, we project a Commercial Crew program workforce ramping up to 550 local jobs by our scheduled operational date of December 2015."

Keith's note: This is interesting. An Obama 2012 campaign slogan is used in an official NASA press release. Just Google "Obama we can't wait" and you will see this campaign phrase embedded in virtually everything that the President says these days - especially when it relates to employment.

NASA Statement on Suspicious Terra Spacecraft Events

According to NASA PAO: "NASA experienced two suspicious events with the Terra spacecraft in the summer and fall of 2008. There was no manipulation of data, no commands successfully sent to the satellite, and no data captured. NASA notified the Department of Defense, which is responsible for investigating any attempted interference with satellite operations. While we cannot discuss additional details regarding the attempted interference, our satellite operations and associated systems and information are safe and secure. We are complying with the guidance in the National Space Policy to protect our critical space systems and have created a working group to establish and implement an agency-wide space protection program. NASA built Landsat-7 for the U.S. Geological Survey; all inquiries regarding Landsat-7 should be addressed there."

China key suspect in U.S. satellite hacks: commission, Reuters

"Larry Wortzel, one of the 12 commissioners, told Reuters on Friday. PLA is short for China's People's Liberation Army. Wortzel, a retired U.S. Army colonel and former military attache in China, cautioned that commissioners cannot be sure that the activity in question can be linked to China. But he said Beijing had conducted numerous tests on space warfare systems in 2007 and 2008. "I don't think it is a wild analytical leap to suggest that these hacks could have been part of that matrix of testing," Wortzel said in an email."

China denies it is behind hacking of U.S. satellites, Reuters

"Beijing on Monday denied a U.S. commission's claim that China may have been responsible for hacking incidents on U.S. environment-monitoring satellites, saying that the committee had "ulterior motives" in writing such a draft report."

Photo: Progress Reentry As Seen From The International Space Station

@astro_aggie (Mike Fossum) "Enjoy this picture I took #fromspace of the Progress cargo ship burning up after undock on Saturday."

Successful Progress Launch Sets Stage for Soyuz Flight

"The following is a statement from Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA Headquarters in Washington, on Sunday's launch of the Progress 45 spacecraft to the International Space Station. The rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 6:11 a.m. EDT (4:11 p.m. Baikonur local time). ..."

NASA should put KSC first, opinion, Florida Today

"The push by some members of Congress who might secure jobs from new development in Virginia is just a pork project."

Keith's note: Utterly hilarious. I guess this means that there is no "pork" involved in decisions affecting KSC. Pot - Kettle - Black, y'all.

- Florida Vs Virginia Food Fight In Space Update, earlier post
- Virginia's Invisible Spaceport (Updated), earlier post
- Florida's Sneaky Business Tactics, earlier post

Elon Musk Named Innovator of the Year Award in Technology by WSJ. Magazine

"WSJ. Magazine's first annual Innovator of the Year Awards honors the most creative, disruptive, and influential individuals in the world today. Musk was recognized for revolutionizing three of the biggest industries in the world -- automobiles, energy and space exploration -- simultaneously. Artist Tom Sachs, whose recent work is based on the imagery of space, presented the award to Musk."

Shooting for the Stars, Wall Street Journal

"Musk launched SpaceX in 2002 and built and designed his own engines from scratch. "I'm head engineer and chief designer as well as CEO, so I don't have to cave to some money guy," he says. He launched his rocket with a team of eight in the control room, instead of dozens. The result: He's offering to send a 10,000-pound payload to geosynchronous orbit for $60 million (compared to an industry standard many tens of millions higher).

Keith's note: Gee, I guess Wall Street Journal reporter Andy Pasztor was not on the selection committee for this award ;-)

NPOESS in Space (Finally)

NASA Launches Multi-Talented Earth-Observing Satellite

PCAST Meeting Featured Bolden (2011), earlier post

"Bolden also refered to NPOESS as "one of my nightmares" and that it is "also one of John Holdren's nightmares" and "we won't talk about that unless you really want to".

- Hearing on Polar Weather Satellites(2011), earlier post
- The NPOESS "Headache" Just Got Worse(2011), earlier post
- NPOESS Woes Continue (2009), earlier post
- Prepared Statements from Yesterday's NPOESS Hearing (2007), earlier post
- Another NPOESS Hearing (2006), earlier post
- More NPOESS Woes (2006), earlier post
- NPOESS Over Budget and Behind Schedule (2006), earlier post
- NPOESS Team Faces The Music (2005), earlier post

Obama readies to blast NASA, Bob Zubrin, Washington Times

"Word has leaked out that in its new budget, the Obama administration intends to terminate NASA's planetary exploration program."

NASA Planetary Science Not Being Killed, Says NASA Official, Universe Today

"This would all be horrible if true, but the director of NASA's Planetary Science division, Jim Green assured members of the NASA Advisory Council's Planetary Science subcommittee that it is not."

Planetary Science Lives, NASA Official Says, Space News

"Speaking at an Oct. 27 meeting of the NASA Advisory Council's Planetary Science subcommittee, Jim Green, director of NASA's Planetary Science division, took issue with an opinion piece claiming the agency was gutting its robotic exploration program following a pair of upcoming missions."

Keith's note: OK Bob. Please show show us the budget documents wherein OMB intends to "terminate NASA's planetary exploration program." No one else seems to know about this. Maybe you can reveal hard proof to support your claim next week at your event with the Planetary Society.

Ron Greeley

In Memory: Planetary Geologist Ronald Greeley

"Ronald Greeley, a Regents' Professor of planetary geology at Arizona State University who has been involved in lunar and planetary studies since 1967 and has contributed significantly to our understanding of planetary bodies within our solar system, died Oct. 27, in Tempe. He was 72. Greeley, a pioneer in the planetary geology field, served as the director of the NASA-ASU Regional Planetary Image Facility and principal investigator of the Planetary Aeolian Laboratory at NASA-Ames Research Center."

Special Facebook Page

Keith's note: Obviously Paul Martin has said nothing. I did not expect that he would - certainly not in response to anything I did or did not do on NASAWatch. For what it is worth there is extreme concern at senior levels of the agency (as expressed to me) that this sad episode has resulted in a black eye for NASA when in fact it was the NASA OIG who was responsible for this mess. Alas, hundreds of stories appeared in newspapers and online - with the fault focused on "NASA" in the headlines and lead sentences.

Due to the fact that Inspector Generals are independent of the agency they "inspect" (this is actually a very good thing) NASA has near zero ability to affect the behavior of the IG's office - or publicly comment on it. Paul Martin is apparently quite comfortable with not explaining to taxpayers (he works for them too) why an elderly woman was roughed up and detained by half a dozen police officers with weapons and then released - with no charges filed after 5 months. That is his call to make. Alas, only a truly insensitive creep would think that it was O.K. not to at least express regret that this situation happened to a small, elderly woman the way that it did. But Martin is tone deaf and oblivious to the real world aspects of what his office does.

To those of you who questioned why I used NASA Watch the way I did to make this point - well its simple: this is a matter of conscience for me. I make no apologies. This is just plain wrong. I have done things like this before and I will most likely do so again.

- It's up to you Mr. Martin. Say something., earlier post
- NASA IG Refuses To Comment on Official Abuse of Elderly Woman, earlier post
- NASA IG Sends Cops in Flack Vests After 74 Year Old, 4'11" Grandmother, earlier post

Huntsville and Houston mayors ask Obama for quick action to save space jobs, Huntsville Times

"The mayors point out that both cities have already lost jobs because of the end of the shuttle program and cancellation of the Constellation space exploration projects. Meanwhile, a number of components of the SLS are built and await completion of the rockets and trips into space."

Fueling Stations vs. Monster Rocket, Dana Rohrabacher, Space News

"At the end of our July 12 House Science, Space, and Technology Committee hearing, "A Review of NASA's Space Launch System," I asked NASA Administrator Charles Bolden about the relative cost of using the technology of on-orbit propellant depots instead of relying on new large heavy-lift launch vehicles. He replied that he believed the studies had been done, and the fuel depot solution proved to be more expensive, and promised to get me the full answer. As of this writing, I am still waiting for that answer. It has been more than three months, and NASA has not provided any analysis, or any data at all, that shows why depots are not a good solution or why they are more expensive."

- Rohrabacher Demands Release of NASA's Recent On-Orbit Fuel Depot Analysis, earlier post - Update on NASA's Hidden Fuel Depot Studies - NASA Studies Show Cheaper Alternatives to SLS, earlier post

Webb Budget Problems Linger

Budget fight rages over James Webb Space Telescope, Washington Post

"But if Congress provides less than the $530 million that NASA says the project needs next year, the schedule will slip further and costs will continue to rise. In 2006, NASA estimated that Webb would cost $2.4 billion and could launch in 2014. In 2008, the price tag rose to $5.1 billion. A congressionally mandated report released last year found that NASA had underestimated costs and mismanaged the project. This summer, NASA said it had already spent $3.5 billion on the project and needed a total of $8.7 billion to launch in 2018."

Keith's note: To reiterate and reinforce my post below with regard to the inability of NASA Inspector General Paul Martin to address the manner with which a 74 year old woman was roughed up by law enforcement officials participating in a NASA IG investigation. She has yet to be charged with any crime.

Since Paul Martin's staff have already been leaking investigation details to the media, this whole "no comment" charade is utterly moot. Martin now needs to say something publicly and take some responsibility. Not to do so reflects directly on the White House - they appointed him. It also besmirches the entire agency and everyone who works there.

To underscore that point, NASA Watch will lie dormant until Friday. It's up to you Mr. Martin. Say something.

Feds grab granny in moon rock sting (with video), CBS

"Davis recalled, "Someone is grabbing me from the back. Now they're pulling me out of the booth and they have a hold of me pretty darn good, and the force was like, unnecessary ... because I'm like 110 (pounds). I'm four-foot-eleven." Davis claims the agents bruised her arm and tailbone during the incident, but the emotional wounds are far worse. "I felt humiliated," Davis said. "I felt, this may not be proper to say, but I tell you, I felt raped. I really did."

Keith's note: This is all rather pathetic - still no public comment from the NASA Inspector General as to why this small, elderly woman was physically abused like this. Yet after many months she has yet to even be charged with anything. The standard OIG line is "no comment on an ongoing investigations". Yet clearly OIG staff was blabbing to the media before this story got hit the fan. Just whose best interests are being served here? I can't imagine that Charlie Bolden has nothing to say about this.

The NASA IG staff have already abrogated the "no comment" policy by virtue of the considerable detail with which news reports about this "ongoing case" have been sourced. NASA Inspector General Paul Martin should be personally embarrassed by this whole episode and should take the professional - and personal - responsibility to address the manner in which this elderly woman was treated. Not to do so borders on abject cowardice on Martin's part. What kind of person condones the treatment of a little old lady like this?

NASA IG Sends Cops in Flack Vests After 74 Year Old, 4'11" Grandmother, earlier post

NASA evacuates astronauts from deep-sea training

"NASA evacuated a crew of astronauts Wednesday from an underwater lab off the coast of Florida where they were training for a trip to an asteroid, due to the approach of Hurricane Rina. "Crew decompressed overnight and will return to surface shortly. Hurricane Rina just a little too close for comfort," the US space agency said in a message on the microblogging site Twitter. The NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) team climbed aboard support boats that were waiting at the surface and they were expected to be on dry land by 9:00 am (1300 GMT)."

Keith's 11:05 am EDT note: Nothing from NASA PAO on this. Just a picture on Twitter and this tweet "Crew has left Aquarius on their way to the awaiting support boats. On dry land soon." (earlier Tweet here)

I find it to be rather odd how NASA JSC PAO did not bother to tell anyone about this the way they tell people about everything else. Decompression for a return to the surface takes 17-18 hours - so they made this decision early yesterday afternoon - yet no one at JSC PAO said anything at the time. That is a deliberate decision to withhold information from the public - for no obvious reason.

If something similar happened on a shuttle mission or on the ISS, you know that NASA PAO would have been all over this - and not releasing that information would cause a firestorm in the media. Perhaps this is not as good of an analog of space travel as some would think since JSC PAO is either out of the loop or, as it seems, part of a deliberate plan to withhold critical information by NASA JSC managers. This is not a good sign of how missions of exploration should be conducted in the future.

NASA'S NEEMO Mission Ending Early Due To Hurricane Rina

"The six aquanauts of the NEEMO crew left the facility, where they lived for five days, and returned to the surface of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary in Key Largo on Wednesday morning."

Keith's 12:35 pm EDT note: 22 or so hours after decompression began (and one would expect 24 or more hours after a decision was made to evacuate NEEMO) NASA JSC PAO finally gets around to issuing a press release.

Full Committee Hearing: NASA's Commercial Crew Development Program: Accomplishments and Challenges

Panel One
- John Elbon, Boeing - statement
- Steve Lindsey, Sierra Nevada - statement
- Elon Musk, SpaceX - statement
- Charles Precourt, ATK - statement
- George Sowers, United Launch Alliance - statement

Panel Two
- Paul Martin, Inspector General, NASA - statement
- Bill Gerstenmaier, HEOMD, NASA - statement

- Rep. Hall: "Blue Origin declined to testify despite getting $14.9 million from NASA and will have to explain that to the rest of the committee."

- Hearing Charter
- Live webcast

Opening statements:

- Rep. Hall
- Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson
- Rep. Jerry Costello

Keith's note: Jack Forsythe has been removed from his position as Assistant Administrator for Protective Services at NASA HQ and has left the agency.

NASA Moon Rock Sting Terrifies Grandmother, AP

"Soon after settling into a booth, [74-year-old suspect Joann] Davis said, she pulled out the moon sample and about half a dozen sheriff's deputies and NASA investigators rushed into the eatery. When officers in flack vests took a hold of her, the 4-foot-11 woman said she was so scared she lost control of her bladder and was taken outside to a parking lot, where she was questioned and detained for about two hours. "They grabbed me and pulled me out of the booth," Davis claimed. "I had very, very deep bruises on my left side." Conley declined to comment and NASA Office of the Inspector General spokeswoman Renee Juhans said she could not talk about an ongoing investigation."

NASA wants grandma's moonrock, Politico

"Davis reportedly wrote to a NASA contractor in May in an attempt to sell the rock. "I've been searching the internet for months attempting to find a buyer," she said in an email. "If you have any thoughts as to how I can proceed with the sale of these two items, please call."

Granny: NASA scared me into returning moon rock, CNet

"Might it at least have been an idea for NASA to explain to her that this was not rightly hers, instead of mounting what appears to be a very expensive, heavy-handed, and slightly cheesy expedition?"

Has NASA gone loony? Moon rocks or bust, Opinion, LA Times

"But a 74-year-old Lake Elsinore woman emails a government agent asking about how she can sell her tiny bit of the moon to pay for her son's medical care -- never mind the question of what kind of country beggars people for getting sick -- and NASA swoops in on her at a Denny's like they'd found Osama bin Laden."

Feds grab granny in moon rock sting (with video), CBS

"Davis recalled, "Someone is grabbing me from the back. Now they're pulling me out of the booth and they have a hold of me pretty darn good, and the force was like, unnecessary ... because I'm like 110 (pounds). I'm four-foot-eleven." Davis claims the agents bruised her arm and tailbone during the incident, but the emotional wounds are far worse. "I felt humiliated," Davis said. "I felt, this may not be proper to say, but I tell you, I felt raped. I really did."

Keith's Note: This is just utterly ridiculous - and no one at NASA seems to have the spine to respond? What possible threat could this elderly woman have presented that warranted this sort of response? Funny how all of a sudden no one will "comment on an ongoing investigation" - yet someone close to what the IG was up to was clearly talking to the media - in great detail. Shouldn't the IG be going after these leakers too? If the individual(s) involved did what it is alleged they did then they deserve whatever punishment the legal system delivers. But treating an elderly woman like this is simply inexcusable.

Hearing: Efforts to Transfer America's Leading Edge Science to China

"Panel I
- Rep. Frank Wolf
- Thomas Armstrong, Managing Associate General Counsel, GAO
- John Holdren, OSTP Director
- Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator

Panel II
- Rick Fisher, Senior Fellow, International Assessment and Strategy Center
- Elizabeth Economy, Ph. D., Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations"

Office of Science and Technology Policy--Bilateral Activities with China, October 11, 2011

"Section 1340 prohibits OSTP from engaging in bilateral activities with the government of the People's Republic of China or Chinese-owned companies unless specifically authorized. Because OSTP was prohibited from using appropriated funds to participate in the Innovation Dialogue and the S&ED, OSTP violated the Antideficiency Act."

GAO: With China dialogues, WH violated, Washington Examiner

"Rick Weiss, an OSTP senior analyst and director of Strategic Communications for OSTP, said that White House OLC opinions take precedence over those of the GAO."

Keith's note: No doubt, amidst all of his arm waving, full-time, chronic China hater Frank Wolf will come within an inch of hinting that Bolden, Holdren et al are somehow traitors for implementing official Administration policy when in fact they were conducting the same sort of official diplomatic and trade activities that countless other U.S. representatives do on a daily basis in a broad variety of areas. The title of this hearing is quite revealing: "Efforts to Transfer America's Leading Edge Science to China". Wolf has already made up his mind - he just wants to point his finger at someone. Newsflash: Two iPads made in China will be flying to the ISS on a Russian Progress cargo freighter soon. There are already Chinese-manufactured Lenovo laptops up there - maybe Rep. Wolf should order a halt to this too and order that these tainted goods be banned as well.

- NASA Astronaut Andy Thomas is Still Bashing China On The Job, earlier post
- Video: China Uses "America The Beautiful" on Their Space Station Propaganda, earlier post
- Bolden is "Rooting" For Chinese Success in Space, earlier post
- Frank Wolf Doesn't Like China, earlier post
- White House Was Against Bolden's China Trip Before They Were For It, earlier post

More stories

Huntsville's Last Stand?

NASA's plan to build new rocket in tight budget times? "Run 'till apprehended", Huntsville Times

"How is NASA approaching the challenge of building a multibillion-rocket in the tightest Washington budget environment in years? "We run till apprehended," one top manager said in Huntsville Tuesday morning. Dumbacher's comment was a joking ice-breaker, but his humor and that of others Tuesday morning was a way for top NASA administrators to acknowledge they're not sure what the budget process will bring, but they are optimistic about the ultimate outcome and they're going to move forward as hard and as quickly as they can with the funds available."

NASA Hosting Human Space Exploration Workshop

"NASA will host a three-day Human Space Exploration Community Workshop in San Diego starting on Monday, Nov. 14. The agency will introduce the International Space Exploration Coordination Group's Global Exploration Roadmap during the event. ... Due to space limitations, reporters are invited to watch the workshop via webcast and submit questions via email. For details, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/exploration/about/isecg/ger-workshop.html"

Keith's note: This meeting is being held at the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego an immense hotel which brags about having "More than 125,000 square feet of flexible function space" and the "Largest ballroom in San Diego.". And yet NASA cannot find a way to fit in - oh a dozen or so media? This is just nonsense. NASA does not want media to interfere with the people at this event - so they simply ban them from being present physically and then impose a filter on what they can/cannot ask and who they will be allowed to question. So much for transparency and openness.

iPads in Space?

Keith's Note: If you watch the live video from the Aquarius undersea habitat you can see that the NEEMO-15 crew are currently using tablet computers. According to an interview I did a few minutes ago, NEEMO-15 crew member Astronaut Shannon Walker says that they use these tablet computers to track their mission tasks. Walker also said that there will be several tablet computers aboard the next Progress cargo flight to the International Space Station. When asked, she was not able to say what brands of tablets would be going up.

Keith's update: According to NASA Public Affairs, the Russians plan to fly two iPads on the December Progress mission as a replacement for the iPod they currently have on the ISS The only use for these two iPads will be for entertainment. The Russians have no plans to use them operationally. NASA is still reviewing other tablet systems and plans to fly at least one more next year although the brand that they will fly is still TBD.

A question of money, not competition, op ed by Frank DiBello, Richmond Times Dispatch

"In a recent op/ed in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, much seems to have been made of alleged efforts by Space Florida and others to stifle the growth of Wallops Flight Facility (WFF) in Virginia as a potential competitor spaceport. Nothing could be further from the truth, but this incident provides a great opportunity to again draw attention to what we do oppose: the corrosive costs of duplicative federal infrastructure and wasteful spending. This is about the taxpayer, not the state!"

- Virginia's Invisible Spaceport (Updated), earlier post
- Florida's Sneaky Business Tactics, earlier post

Commercial Crew Initiative Called Underfunded, Aviation Week

"Funding for NASA's commercial crew space transportation services initiative appears headed for funding problems that could undermine the agency's efforts to regain the independent U.S. human launch capability that lapsed with the shuttle program's retirement earlier this year, members of NASA's Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) warned Oct. 21."

Comments by NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight

"While not a new idea, it should not be surprising that this increased emphasis and investment has now reached the stage where a real threat exists to the status quo. It is only natural that this success has "inspired" a negative reaction by vested interests. History is rich with examples of industries and entities in transition - those whose livelihoods and in some cases very lives were threatened by a new paradigm often choose the bitter fight instead of, or in some cases, in advance of, their own adaptation."

NASA OIG Report: NASA's Challenges Certifying and Acquiring Commercial Crew Transportation Services, earlier post

"Our review found that NASA is making sustained progress toward its goal of obtaining commercial crew transportation services. However, the Agency faces a series of significant challenges, including the need to select an acquisition strategy, modify existing human-rating requirements to make them applicable to commercially developed systems, and establish the appropriate insight/oversight model for commercial partner vehicle development."

Keith's Note: It seems that the folks from Ohio managed to get the 5,000 signatures needed to get the White House to respond to their petition to have Space Shuttle Enterprise moved to Ohio instead of New York. The rules for this petition system have changed effective 3 October so you now need 15,000 signatures before the White House will respond. All the White House promises to do is respond when a petition reaches a certain threshold. But it does get their attention.

So, Seattle and Houston (and other contenders) why not try this route yourself? Imagine if every visitor to the Museum of Flight or Space Center Houston were given a card with a website address or a QR code that takes them to a similar petition asking that Enterprise be sent to their location. Local papers could also donate free advertising. At some point, e.g. naming things in space after Stephen Colbert, it is possible that some rethinking might be applied to where Enterprise shows up.

Here's how you set up a petition at WhiteHouse.gov.

Indeed, why shouldn't other locations who did not apply before give it a try? New York won and yet it doesn't even own the property upon which it wants to exhibit Enterprise.

Keith's note: Just saw this posted on Twitter by the National Press Club (NPC): "Watch today's #NPCLunch with @HarveyLevinTMZ live at 1pm on http://press.org. See the webcast live here - http://ow.ly/76ZHK". I find it rather hilarious how the esteemed National Press Club hosts the guy who runs a Hollywood gossip website/TV show but refuses to allow long-time space media reps (me and others) to cover their space-related events without possession of a plastic laminated badge.

- Lunch at The Dinosaur Club, earlier post

"The NPC is supposed to be promoting journalism and news coverage - yet they put a barrier between media who cover their events by requiring all questions be submitted in advance. In addition, they pick and chose as to what media allowed to "cover" the event based on whether or not they have some sort of laminated name tag (they are not exactly clear on where you get these tags). And those who do not meet their criteria have to pay money to have access to the government official who is speaking."

- Shielding Bolden From Unfiltered Questions, earlier post


"In 2011, United Space Alliance had several employees diagnosed with breast cancer. This group of survivors recently banded together and decided they wanted to do something to help raise awareness of breast cancer issues within the aerospace community during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. So, we decided to do our own USA "Pink Glove Dance" with a space twist on it. Everyone who participated was a volunteer and did so on their own time. It was shot and edited by USA volunteers and students from the University of Houston-Clear Lake Digital Media Studies Program. We worked with NASA and Space Center Houston to shoot in certain facilities. The goal from beginning to end has been to show support to the USA breast cancer survivors and raise awareness among our peers that early detection saves lives."

NASA Is Considering Fuel Depots in the Skies, NY Times

"Although General Bolden promised to provide the information, [Rep. Dana] Rohrabacher said he had obtained the study about propellant depots only through unofficial channels. "I'm shocked that the leadership in NASA would try to keep a report as significant as this away from decision makers of the legislative branch," Mr. Rohrabacher said, adding that the study gave him "the ammunition to make a case" to revisit NASA's plans for human spaceflight."

Propellant depots: the fiscally responsible and feasible alternative to SLS, Space Review

"The information presented here proves that the propellant depot architecture is a viable alternative to the Space Launch System. Just as importantly, the propellant depot strategy fits within the country's need for programs that are in sound monetary policy. NASA needs a strategy that NASA leaders and employees can back in private, as well as in public."

In-orbit Fuel Depots vs. NASA's Heavy Lift Space Launch System (SLS) for Dummies, TMC.net

"In November, NASA engineers will meet in Washington to discuss how to leverage propellant depots to get further into space and enable "more ambitious missions" using the agency's heavy lift Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, according to an October 22, 2011 piece. But apparently NASA officials aren't interested in trying to convince/fight Congress about the time and cost savings a fuel depot architecture would offer deep space missions."

NASA May Create Refueling Stations In Space, MyFox, Houston

"This study highlights some interesting benefits of depots, but it is too singularly focused," NASA official William Gerstenmaier said in a statement. "NASA is actively studying depots and how they can be used with other proposed elements to provide the lowest cost, sustainable exploration plan."

- NASA Studies Show Cheaper Alternatives to SLS, earlier post
- Fuel Depots and Congress, earlier post
- In-Space Cryogenic Propellant Storage and Transfer Demonstration Mission Concept Studies, 2011, NASA GRC, earlier post
- Using Commercial Launchers and Fuel Depots Instead of HLVs, earlier post
- The HLV Cost Information NASA Decided Not To Give To Congress, earlier post

The Astronaut's Secret, Kickstarter

"What is "The Astronaut's Secret"? "The Astronaut's Secret" will be a 30 minute documentary about the life of Astronaut Rich Clifford. It will uncover how he and NASA kept his Parkinson's Disease a secret for 17 years, explore the impact of the end of the Shuttle Program on Rich's life, and follow him as he speaks nationwide about the importance of Early Detection of Parkinson's Disease."

The Astronaut's Secret, official website

Keith's note: NASA Watch readers need to fund this project. I just donated $100. Rich has a compelling story to tell.

Dayton City Paper Donates Full Page Ad to Space Shuttle Enterprise Petition Effort

"The quest to land retired Space Shuttle Enterprise at the National Museum of the United States Air Force received a major boost when Paul Noah, the publisher of the Dayton City Paper, donated a full page ad supporting the White House petition effort in the Oct. 18th LWV voters guide issue.

The petition launched two weeks ago, has picked up approximately 3,500 4,100+ supporters. According to the White House petition policy: "To cross the first threshold and be searchable within WhiteHouse.gov, a petition must reach 150 signatures within 30 days. To cross the second threshold and require a response, a petition must reach 25,000 signatures within 30 days."

View the petition at "We The People" at WhiteHouse.gov"

Keith's update: Apparently the earlier rules prior to 3 October 2011 required only 5,000 signatures for the White House to respond (this petition was submitted prior to that date). Alas, the main organizer of this activity is sending out emails saying "If this petition gets 5,000 signatures by October 30th (it already has 3,743), the Obama administration will reconsider the decision." I see nothing anywhere that even hints that the White House will "reconsider" this decision as to where Space Shuttles will go. Their "response" may well just say "thanks for your concern, we appreciate your interest, etc. but we have already made up our mind. Have a nice day.". If signing a petition on this White House website is going to force the White House to actually "reconsider" its decisions then their webservers will most certainly melt under the pressure from people wanting to change everything.

German ROSAT Satellite Has Fallen to Earth, Say NASA Sources, ABC

"The German ROSAT satellite fell back to Earth Saturday evening, U.S. time, NASA sources told ABC News. DLR, Germany's scientific research agency, said the satellite re-entered the atmosphere between 9:45 and 10:15 p.m. ET. It was the second time a satellite large enough to for debris to reach the Earth's surface has fallen from orbit in the past month, an occurence that typically happens only once per year."

Damage From Falling Satellites? Insurance Will Cover It, New York Times

"The odds of a fragment hitting your little patch of earth are extremely low. But not to worry: if you are unlucky enough to have some space shrapnel fall on your house or car, standard insurance policies will most likely cover the damage, says the Insurance Information Institute, an industry group."

Marc's note: According to the German Aerospace Center (DLR) the latest prediction on ROSAT re-entry: Between 22 October 2011, 18:00 UTC & 23 October 2011, 12:00 UTC. Follow the DLR tweets for the latest re-entry updates.

Marc's Update: German satellite hits east of India, centre says, CBC

"Parts of a defunct German research satellite have returned to Earth and likely fallen into the Bay of Bengal, east of India, the chair of the German Aerospace Centre says."

Breaking The Soyuz Habit

NASA: Pay the Americans now ... or pay the Russians later, MSNBC

"If NASA can't provide as much support for U.S. spaceship-builders as it's hoping for, it'll have to keep paying the Russians $450 million for every year of delay, the space agency's No. 2 official said today. NASA's deputy administrator, Lori Garver, laid out that "pay now or pay later" message at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight in Las Cruces, N.M."

Back space taxis or pay more for Russian rides, Reuters

"The Obama Administration is requesting $850 million for the [commercial] program for the fiscal year that began Oct 1. Bills pending in the House and Senate cut that to $312 million and $500 million, respectively. Without full funding in 2012, the United States' ability to stop buying rides from Russia in 2016 is at risk, NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver said at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight, under way in Las Cruces, New Mexico, this week."

NASA may extend Russian contract to fly to space station, Orlando Sentinel

"Top NASA officials are quietly working to extend a contract with Moscow that would continue using Russian rockets to fly U.S. astronauts into space until 2016 and beyond -- a move that underscores how much the U.S. now relies on its former Cold War adversary. Already, NASA is committed to pay Russia $1.5 billion during the next five years to transport its astronauts to and from the International Space Station, a necessary arrangement because the U.S. no longer flies a human-rated spacecraft since NASA retired the space shuttle last summer."

Soyuz flight VS01 Lifts Off From French Guiana (with video)

"Soyuz lifts off for the first time from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana, carrying the first two Galileo In-Orbit Validation satellites. Following the liftoff join ESA live webstreaming for the separation phase, expected at around 16:20 CEST. Streaming recommences at 15:40 CEST."

Keith's note: This comment from NASA's Phil McAlister via Jeff Foust on Twitter from the ISPCS (International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight) is somewhat revealing as to NASA's preceptions in terms of the appropriate size of a government oversight office.

@Jeff_Foust: McAlister: Comm'l Crew office capped at 250, which for NASA is a very lean program; "not a standing army but a platoon." #ispcs

According to Wikipedia (and other references) a platoon contains 26-55 individuals. McAlister is off by a factor of 5 to 10. What McAlister is actually talking about is an organization that is somewhere between a large company or a lean battalion in size.

I'd love to see a NASA management tree and job description for each of these 250 positions in the commercial crew office. If NASA was truly interested in the use of commercial means to accomplish its mission - but also interested in the underlying managerial philosophy inherent in private sector operations - then NASA would learn to mirror the way that the private sector works. Or at least try. These comments make me question if they ever will. I wonder what the government/supplier ratio will be in terms of government oversight for Shuttle Vs commercial crew and cargo flights. Add in the people across NASA matrixed to the commerical crew office and I will bet that the total workforce greatly exceeds 250.

Reader note: "Someone check my math but the full taxpayer cost of 250 NASA civil servants is approx. $75 M per year. Does this come off the top of the appropriated funds (Senate Appropriations recently set at $500 M for 2012)? That's a 15% overhead for the program office alone - not to mention the Center technical oversight."

Reader note: "250 CS employees would be about $55M. I know our center uses about $220k for an FTE. Don't know the exact number since it changes. $300k/FTE is way high."

Keith's 21 Oct 8:37 am EDT Update: Early this morning Anlyn Bankos from NASA's commercial office sent me an email with two reports attached "NASA's Return on Investment Report October 2011" and "CCDev 2 Milestone Schedule". When I sent an email asking for the URLs at the NASA Commercial Office I got this message back from Bankos "I will be out of the office from Wednesday, February 16-Friday, February 18.If you have any questions, please contact Dick Smart.". Wow. Its October. I guess they are not very busy - at least not busy enough for their "customers" to notice that this message is 6 months out of date.

Keith's 21 Oct 2:00 pm EDT Update: NASA's Return on Investment Report October 2011 and CCDev 2 Milestone Schedule are now online at NASA. It took 6 hours for them to make a simple website update.

Crowdsourcing Science with Zooniverse and NASA at the NEEMO-15 Underwater Asteroid Mission

"Analyzing the vast amount of data that NASA brings back from its missions is an enormous task. In order to improve collaboration internally, as well as engage citizens in NASA's mission, the Open Government team is experimenting with different ways to process mission data quickly. The NASA OpenGov team has enlisted the help of established NASA partners Zooniverse and Vizzuality, who have pioneered the analysis of large datasets through crowdsourcing, using the power of elegant interfaces, to engage citizen scientists in the NEEMO mission."

SpaceX Completes Key Milestone to Fly Astronauts to International Space Station

"Today, SpaceX announced it has successfully completed the preliminary design review of its revolutionary launch abort system, a system designed for manned missions using its Dragon spacecraft. This represents a major step toward creating an American-made successor to the Space Shuttle. NASA's approval of the latest design review marks the fourth successfully completed milestone under the agency's Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program and demonstrates the innovation that's possible when NASA partners with the private sector."

Bigelow Aerospace Lays Off Half Of Its Employees Due To Space Taxi Delays, Reuters via Huffington Post

"We no longer can say with some certainty when the transportation is going to be there," said Bigelow, who spoke with reporters after a speech at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight under way this week in Las Cruces."

Did NASA Hide In-space Fuel Depots To Get a Heavy Lift Rocket?, TCMnet

"Last week, a 69 page NASA Powerpoint presentation on the costs of in-orbit fuel depots was leaked to SpaceRef.Com. The July 21, 2011 document, a preliminary report of a more detailed in-house NASA study that at least one Congressman has requested and been promised, says it would be dramatically faster and cheaper to use existing rockets in combination with in-orbit fueling to get to the Moon, an asteroid, and other deep space destinations than to build the heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. The Tea Party in Space (TPIS) is calling it an "integrity issue" for NASA."

Is This NASA Document Saving or Killing Manned Private Spaceflight?, Popular Mechanics

"NASA, which wants to send its astronauts aboard privately built spacecraft, recently released the first draft of a document detailing how it would ensure those ships are safe. The contract is a tome of legalese, but buried inside the hundreds of pages are provisions that have some private space companies worried that NASA's oversight could slow them down."

Keith's note: As you can see from these charts taken (out of context) from the 13 July 2010 NASA HEFT presentation "EELV Capacity Analysis", NASA clearly did quite a bit of comparison and contrast between various existing expendable launch vehicles - foreign and domestic - analyses that did not always include use of a SLS-class heavy launch vehicle. Indeed, one chart is titled "International Partners Have Lots of Capacity". The rest of this presentation contains procurement-sensitive information and will not be published here.

That said, it is obvious that even a year ago pragmatic thought was given to how a variety of launchers could be used for human, cargo, and other launch purposes including ways that mission profiles (DRM 4) usually associated with a HLV could be accomplished in whole or in part by the use of expendable launch vehicles. A more detailed look at what was being reviewed last year can be found at "Human Exploration Framework Team Presentation Online".

- NASA Studies Show Cheaper Alternatives to SLS, earlier post
- Using Commercial Launchers and Fuel Depots Instead of HLVs", earlier post
- The HLV Cost Information NASA Decided Not To Give To Congress, earlier post

Florida's Governor Visits KSC

Governor Scott tours Kennedy Space Center for first time, 13 News

"Florida's governor toured the Kennedy Space Center for the first time since taking office Tuesday to get a look at progress of the next generation of NASA spaceflight. He also talked about ways to lure more companies to the Space Coast and Florida to employ jobless space shuttle workers. Scott and his cabinet walked through the Operations and Checkout Building where the Orion spacecraft is being built and fine-tuned for future deep space missions."

Florida governor visits NASA facility to talk jobs, CNN

"It's no longer your daddy's NASA," said Carroll, who also heads Space Florida, the state's aerospace advocate. "It's going to be the 21st century NASA for our grandchildren."

- Florida is Getting Greedy About Human Space Flight, earlier post
- Virginia's Invisible Spaceport, earlier post

Republicans Send Deficit Reduction Recommendations to Select Committee (NASA excerpts)

"We propose reductions of $177 million (based on the FY12 request) by taking the following actions:

* Cancellation of OCO-2 mission (received $89.0 million in the FYI 1 CR; $91 million savings in FY 12; $149 million savings over five years). Life cycle cost savings could be higher as NASA struggles to define a launch vehicle to carry OCO-2 to orbit.

* Reduce by 20% "Other Missions and Data Analysis" account within the Earth Systematic Missions (received $274 million in the FY11 CR; $74 million in savings in FY 12; $584 million in savings over five years). The FY12 request represents a 66.8% increase over FY2010 enacted, with an average annual increase thereafter of 32%.

* Reduce by 20% "Venture Class Missions" account within the Earth System Science Pathfinder Missions (received $32 million under the FY11 CR; $12.4 million savings in FY12; $144 million savings over five years). Venture Class Missions is a new activity for NASA, begun in response to a recommendation from the National Academy of Sciences. It is, in essence, a new start. While we support the program's goals, we simply propose that growth in the spending profile be moderated."

Keith's note: Of course the Republican staffers on this authorizing committee could have picked any mission with a similar cost range to cut but they chose OCO-2 because its mission is directly related to global change issues. Alas, the National Academy of Sciences sees the replacement of OCO-1 as being important. I guess that just makes it a bigger target for climate change deniers. Why get data, eh? Take a look at the other cuts that are recommended. It is clear that there is an anti-Earth science bias running throughout. If you were to collect all of the input that the Super Committee as received from here and there you'd see all manner of proposed cuts - some obvious, some wacky, and many overtly partisan. Keep that in mind when you read this.

Virginia Governor McDonnell Visits NASA Wallops Flight Facility (With Photos)

"Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell paid a visit to NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on October 17 for a first-hand look at the development of Orbital Sciences Corporation's Taurus II rocket that will start carrying supplies to the International Space Station in 2012. Orbital will be conducting missions for NASA under the agency's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services project and Commercial Resupply Services contract. During the visit the Governor also received a construction update on the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport's launch pad 0A from which the Taurus II will launch."

Keith's 9:09 am EDT note: While NASA Wallops makes mention of the visit of the Governor of Virginia, no menion is made of this visit on his own website, at the MidAtlantic Regional Spaceport Authority, or at Orbital Sciences. This is not at all surprising since virtually everyone here in Virginia seems to be oblivious to the fact that we have a real rocket factory in our midst and that our state can actually launch things into space - soon, to the ISS itself. Florida really doesn't need to worry about launch competition from Wallops. We hardly even know it is there ourselves.

Keith's 10:55 am EDT update: At 10:40 am EDT Orbital tweeted "Orbital is proud to have hosted Gov. McDonnell to our @NASA_Wallops facilities for a tour and briefing yesterday." and also retweeted a pic originally Tweeted by @NASA_Wallops. Still no press release or mention at Orbital's website.

Keith's 2:00 pm EDT update: Still no press release from Orbital. MidAtlantic Regional Spaceport Authority made an update. The Virginia Governor's office did make an update - for an unrelated 18 October event - but posted nothing about yesterday's event at Wallops. Commercial space is clearly not a big priority here in Virginia - its yours for the taking, Florida.

Keith's 2:49 pm EDT note: In response to a tweet about this posting, @OrbitalSciences just tweeted: "@NASAWatch Really? Then why did @GovernorVA make a special trip to the launch site? Comm'l space isn't about press releases and photos." My tweeted response "Well, since you asked, @OrbitalSciences , you can't even bother to put a simple press release out? Not everyone reads Twitter you know". Governors also visit county fairs and shopping mall openings - and you see media alerts for those things. Not for commercial space. If no one reads or knows about visits like this - they did not happen. What a missed opportunity.

If the commercial space sector in Virginia wants to be taken seriously - and have an effect (i.e. draw commercial space business to the state and then keep it there), then both government and private sector players will need to emulate what the folks are doing in Florida. They are constantly in the news - via all modes. They get it - and they are successful. Virginia does not get it - and various local stakeholders whine and complain when Florida make moves to protect its space sector.

Everyone in Florida knows where the rockets take off in their state. But how many people in Virginia know where the rockets are launched within their state - and when - and why?

EELV: DOD Needs to Ensure New Acquisition Strategy Is Based on Sufficient Information, GAO

"Broader issues exist as well, regarding the U.S. government's acquisition of, and future planning for, launch services--issues which GAO believes should be addressed, given that they could reduce launch costs and assure future launch requirements are met. ... Policymakers could benefit from additional insight into these issues, but it is not clear that DOD will address these issues in its upcoming strategy."

GAO Report Raises Serious Concerns over ULA Block Buy, SpaceX

"The report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the nonpartisan, investigative arm of the U.S. Congress, found serious flaws with a proposal that would guarantee ULA's monopoly over Department of Defense (DoD) launches. The report states that while ULA is pushing the 40-rocket purchase, the methodology and data used by ULA to justify the purchase were severely flawed, there is no justification for the five-year timeline, and a block purchase could kill opportunities for competition by forcing the government to commit to more boosters than are actually needed."

A Pre-Mission Conversation With NASA NEEMO Aquanaut Steve Squyres

"I had a chance to chat with NEEMO 15 crew member Steve Squyres today as he waits out some bad weather before his 13 day underwater mission begins. According to Steve its looking like Thursday before they can "splash down" and begin their mission."

NASA OIG Annual Report: Federal Information Security Management Act: Fiscal Year 2011 Evaluation

"Overall, the Agency established and is maintaining a program for each of the 11 areas listed above. However, the Agency's programs for risk management, configuration monitoring management, and POA&M need significant improvements as they do not include all required attributes identified by the Department of Homeland Security."

William H. Smyth 1941-2011

William H. Smyth passed away on Friday Sept. 30, 2011 after a long illness. Bill was a leader in planetary exospheres and conducted pioneering research on the exospheres of Io, Europa, Mercury, the moon, comets, and the Saturnian H cloud, especially in complex orbital environments. His expertise on Io's neutral clouds and the plasma torus were second to none. Go to: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/bostonglobe/obituary.aspx?n =William-Smyth&pid=154005618 to sign a guest book for recording memories and condolences.)

Internal NASA Studies Show Cheaper and Faster Alternatives to Space Launch System

This presentation "Propellant Depot Requirements Study - Status Report - HAT Technical Interchange Meeting - July 21, 2011" is a distilled version of a study buried deep inside of NASA. The study compared and contrasted an SLS/SEP architecture with one based on propellant depots for human lunar and asteroid missions. Not only was the fuel depot mission architecture shown to be less expensive, fitting within expected budgets, it also gets humans beyond low Earth orbit a decade before the SLS architecture could.

Moreover, supposed constraints on the availability of commercial launch alternatives often mentioned by SLS proponents, was debunked. In addition, clear integration and performance advantages to the use of commercial launchers Vs SLS was repeatedly touted as being desirable: "breaking costs into smaller, less-monolithic amounts allows great flexibility in meeting smaller and changing budget profiles."

- Using Commercial Launchers and Fuel Depots Instead of HLVs" (March 2011), earlier post
- The HLV Cost Information NASA Decided Not To Give To Congress (January 2011), earlier post

- Discuss this post at the new SpaceRef Forum

Andy Dantzler 1962-2011

Andy Dantzler

"Andy worked at NASA from 1984-2006, serving as an optical engineer, EOS manager, Landsat 7 manager, assistant chief of the Laboratory for High Energy Astrophysics, and Director of the Solar System Exploration Division at NASA Headquarters. In 2006, Andy joined The Johns Hopkins University APL's Civilian Space Business Area to lead the Living with a Star Missions. Andy was also the first Program Manager for Solar Probe Plus, which will journey closer to the Sun than any probe has ever gone. Andy was promoted to Program Area Manager for Civilian Space in 2009, overseeing program management for projects such as the MESSENGER mission, now in orbit about Mercury and the New Horizons mission on its way to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt."

Bolden's Plan for Webb

NASA head visits Baltimore to show off Webb telescope

"Bolden said Friday he does not intend to cut any single program to make sure that Webb proceeds as planned. Instead, NASA is working with the White House to provide Wolf and his subcommittee with a list of cuts across the agency, he said. "We didn't want to reward Webb by killing a program that was doing well," said Bolden, who became the head the agency about two years ago. The cuts would be proposed from both the institutional and science sectors of NASA, he said."

Republicans Send Deficit Reduction Recommendations to Select Committee (NASA excerpts)

"Cancellation of OCO-2 mission ... Reduce by 20% "Other Missions and Data Analysis" account within the Earth Systematic Missions ... Reduce by 20% "Venture Class Missions" account within the Earth System Science Pathfinder Missions ... "

Keith's 14 Oct note: It would seem that NASA Astronaut Andy Thomas is rather comfortable with his China-bashing Powerpoint slide and that NASA JSC openly condones his use of it in official presentations he makes representing the agency. Check out this link - it points to the same presentation (Thomas_10-12-11.pptx) he gave a month ago - this time revised for use on 12 October 2011 on a NASA Future In Space Operations (FISO) telecon with that very same slide with Taikonauts trampling a U.S. flag on the Moon. Additional links (and audio) here.

Keith's 16 Oct note: He uses the same flag stomping picture with a slightly different caption i.e. "We must make sure this is not the metaphor of our future" vs "We must make this event inconsequential". In the audio file Thomas refers to this as the same picture he used in the earlier presentation - one that got "leaked to NASA Watch".

Bolden's rational comments are in stark contrast to the picture that astronaut Andy Thomas included in an official NASA presentation - one that showed Chinese astronauts trampling on a U.S. flag on the lunar surface. Bolden speaks of Chinese successes in space as motivations for us whereas Thomas uses overt, provocative images wherein China desecrates our flag as his motivation.

Top NASA official 'rooting for' China's success in space exploration, Daily Caller (with audio)

"We haven't talked about the Chinese," Bolden said. "We can't work with the Chinese right now. But I'm rooting for them. They're probably going to put a spacecraft called Shenzhou into orbit here, hopefully by the end of the year. It's going to be the first capsule of their space station. And the reason they are doing that is that we are not allowing them to be partners right now. So they're going alone. They need to be successful to drive us."

NASA Exploration Ideas - With Added China Bashing (Update), earlier post

Keith's 16 Sep note: This presentation "Towards Deep Space Exploration: Small Steps versus One Giant Leap" (download) was presented by astronaut Andrew Thomas on 6 September 2011. There is one problem I have with this document - and it has to do with one specific graphic (page 28 - larger view). Had the author noted that China's plans for the Moon should not spur us to do things out of fear or paranoia or something like that, I'd agree. But using an image that shows a Taikonaut on the lunar surface, planting the flag of the PRC while trampling an American flag is troubling. Are there really people inside NASA who think like this - enough that they go out of their way to create and use a provocative image like this? Alas, China-hater Rep. Frank Wolf will just love this chart.

Ohio Senator Asks NASA to Wrest Shuttle From Intrepid Museum, NY Times

"This report makes it evident that New York City was, and still is, woefully unprepared to house the Enterprise space shuttle. This also raises further questions about the thoroughness of NASA's selection process -- and I urge NASA to revisit its decision to send the Enterprise to New York."

After Winning Coveted Shuttle, Museum Changes the Plan for It, NY Times

"The tentative state of the plan highlights how much less certain the Intrepid's proposal was than those of some other museums that lobbied for one of the shuttles. The Museum of Flight in Seattle, for example, spent $11 million to build a structure that would house a shuttle, but did not get one."

Texas lawmakers press NASA for a "real" space shuttle for display in Houston, Houston Chronicle

"American taxpayers "deserve to know" whether the Intrepid Museum will fulfill promises to NASA "before any further action is taken with respect to locating Enterprise at the Intrepid," the lawmakers said. Olson launched his effort just days after Space Center Houston privately arranged to obtain an exhibition model of the shuttle known as Explorer from the Kennedy Space Center visitors' center."

High Altitude Rocket On-board Video: Qu8k - BALLS 20 - Carmack Prize Attempt, NASAHackSpace

"On September 30, 2011 at 11:08am, Derek Deville's Qu8k (pronounced "Quake") launched from the Black Rock Desert in Nevada to an altitude of 121,000' before returning safely to earth. Above 99% of the atmosphere the sky turns black in the middle of the day and the curvature of the earth is clearly visible."

Team America Rocketry Challenge Registration Opens, AIA

"Registration for the world's largest student rocket competition is open now through November 30. The Team America Rocketry Challenge will accept up to 1,000 student teams in grades 7-12 from any U.S. school, home school or non-profit youth organization."

data.nasa.gov API

data.nasa.gov API Now Available

"The data.nasa.gov API allows a machine-readable interface to return metadata from the site organized by category, tag, date, or search term. We're hoping this allows new and creative visualizations of the data resources NASA provides to the public. Additionally, it is a learning experience for us as we work to expand transparency, participation, and collaboration at NASA through new uses of technology. You can view documentation on the API directly on data.nasa.gov."

"What's Next?" in space exploration - Coalition for Space Exploration announces video contest

"During this historic time of change within the space industry, the Coalition for Space Exploration (Coalition) wants to hear from the American public about what they envision for the future of space exploration. The Coalition is launching a contest based on a simple question, "What's Next?" Participants are encouraged to share their ideas for the future direction of America's space program in a video. The creator of the winning video entry wins an iPad2."

ROSAT re-entry, DLR

"Currently, the re-entry date can only be calculated to within plus/minus three days. This time slot of uncertainty will be reduced as the date of re-entry approaches. However, even one day before re-entry, the estimate will only be accurate to within plus/minus five hours. All areas under the orbit of ROSAT, which extends to 53 degrees northern and southern latitude could be affected by its re-entry. The bulk of the debris will impact near the ground track of the satellite. However, isolated fragments could fall to Earth in a 80 kilometre wide path along the track."

@DLR_en Tweet earlier today: Current prediction of #ROSAT re-entry: 20 to 25 October 2011

Keith's note: Why is a former NASA astronaut (i.e. employee) allowed to pose on his campaign website wearing the NASA logo? The last time I checked NASA was rather strict about the use of its logo - especially in situations where affiliations or endorsements might be implied by its use.And why is Hernandez using the same Twitter account - @Astro_Jose - with which he attracted over 200,000 followers when he was a NASA employee? (NASA's official @Astronauts account still follows @Astro_Jose). Did these followers agree to follow him because he was an astronaut or because he was going to run for Congress? the caveat "Astronaut(Ret) The opinions on this page do not reflect those of NASA" was only added after he had this huge NASA-generated following. Seems a little deceptive to me. Also ... why does his Twitter page say he lives in "Houston, TX" when he is running for a congressional seat in California?

And just in case some of you folks get on the bus to crazy town and try and read something into my comments, if I could, I'd vote for him. I just do not think NASA makes its policies clear on social media and use of NASA logos nor do I think that they apply these policies equally with regard to all of their employees - past and present.

Keith's update: I just got an email from Amber Moon, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's western regional press secretary. She noted "In 2009, Hernandez flew on the space shuttle Discovery's mission to the International Space Station and became the first person to tweet in Spanish from outer space." Once again it is clear that a lot of his followers on Twitter were attracted as a result of a NASA-funded activity. Amber Moon also asked NASAWatch to share this Univision story "Ex-astronaut Hernandez seeks congressional seat".

NASA Money Sponge Update

Editorial: Identify JWST's Bill Payers, editorial, Space News

"... the Space Launch System, which per the House and Senate spending bills is slated to receive nearly $2 billion next year, is an appropriate bill payer for JWST. Given that NASA has no established exploration destination requiring the heavy-lift rocket on the schedule mandated by Congress, stretching out its development to help fund an observatory of undeniable scientific merit -- its substantial problems notwithstanding -- is a fair trade."

JWST and SLS: Dueling Giant Money Sponges, earlier post

"So, we have one giant money sponge (JWST) already sucking up dollars with yet another money sponge (SLS) on the drawing board. Since the money simply is not there to do either project to begin with, trying to do both of them together will devour funds from smaller NASA programs. It will also pit these money sponges' ever-growing chronic need for dollars against the other's similar insatiable appetite. And all of this will happen while the Federal budget is almost certainly going to be constrained - regardless of who wins the 2012 election. So, will someone explain to me how NASA is going to build and launch both JWST and SLS and have money left over to do all of the other things that it is both chartered to do - and directed to do - by Congress?"

Secretive US X-37B Space Plane Could Evolve to Carry Astronauts, Space.com

"The maker of the X-37B robotic space plane has outlined new plans for the spacecraft and a scaled-up version to support space station cargo deliveries or even carry astronauts into orbit. The Boeing X-37B robotic space plane -- also known as the Orbital Test Vehicle or OTV -- is being operated by the U.S. Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, toting top-secret payloads into Earth orbit. An X-37B OTV and derivatives plan was outlined here by Arthur Grantz, chief engineer, Experimental Systems Group at Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems in Seal Beach, Calif. He spoke at Space 2011, a conference organized by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA)."

Free Teleconference: Space Act Agreement or Procurement Contract: How NASA Decides

"About the teleconference: 11 October 2011 - 12 pm EDT - Courtney Graham, the Associate General Counsel for Commercial and Intellectual Property in the NASA Office of General Counsel, will discuss NASA Space Act Agreements, how they differ from traditional Government procurement contracts under the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR), and how NASA decides when to use each type of contract. She will use NASA's recent decision to switch from Space Act Agreements to FAR-based procurement contracts for the next round of NASA's Commercial Crew Development program as a case study in how this decision is made."

Kennedy: Florida snipes at Virginia's launch market competition, Richmond Times DIspatch

"Virginia would never use an environmental study to seek to undermine the recently announced $38 billion American taxpayer-funded civil space rocket booster to launch from Florida's coast. The Space Florida effort is an abuse of federal environmental law process. Worse still, by seeking to deprive Virginia of space business investment and jobs, Space Florida makes clear its desire to establish a monopolistic space launch practice, thereby increasing costs. America needs business competition -- now more than ever. ... It is wrong for Space Florida to gain billions of dollars in federal civil space contracts while begrudging Virginia's right to secure commercial space launch jobs for the Eastern Shore facilities. It is wrong for Florida to seek hundreds of millions of dollars to enhance its space launch facilities while seeking to deny Virginia any small measure of opportunity."

Letter From Space Florida To NASA Regarding WFF Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement

"Enhancing the capabilities of WFF to allow NASA greater collaboration with other federal agencies is commendable and is to be encouraged. However, the potential development by NASA of not only duplicative, but also competing, launch infrastructure for orbital human spaceflight, funded in part by our tax dollars, gives the State of Florida standing in this federal process."

Letter From Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast To NASA Regarding WFF Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement

"The most pressing issue for the Florida workforce is the sense of betrayal that their tax dollars might be used in establishing a competing orbital human spaceflight launch capability in another state when they have so well and ably done the job here in Florida. It is recognized that commercial human spaceflight launch capabilities will arise throughout the country and elsewhere over time, but it makes no sense for NASA to be making such an investment."

Keith's note: It is blatantly obvious that Florida's space community is hijacking the intent of an Environmental Impact Statement to inject local and national politics and complaints that have nothing to do with environmental impact. Do these Florida-based organizations issue press releases about these letters? No. Do they post them on their own websites? No. Why? Becuase they know that this is a sneaky, somewhat slimy way to do things.

- NASA Assessing Environmental Impacts for Wallops Flight Facility's Potential Future Operations

- Site-wide Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for expanding operations at Wallops's Flight Facility (WFF)

YouTube SpaceLab Lifts Off With Lenovo Aboard

"Lenovo ThinkPad laptops have played a critical role aboard dozens of NASA space shuttle missions since 1995 and are currently used by astronauts in critical operations onboard the International Space Station."

Keith's note: This is not exactly accurate. Lenovo completed its purchase of IBM's laptop division - the original manufacturer of ThinkPads - in 2005. Only in the past year or so have these original IBM-manufactured Thinkpads on the ISS begun to be replaced with laptops manufactured by Lenovo. One recent example is this photo showing "a new [Lenovo] T61p laptop to replace the previous A31p as OCA Router in the Joint Station LAN/Local Area Network (JSL LAN).". Also, a ThinkPad flew on a shuttle mission in 1993 several years earlier than Lenovo claims.

2001: A Space Laptop, earlier post

YouTube SpaceLab Lifts Off With Lenovo Aboard

Keith's note: NASA Signed a Space Act Agreement with Space Adventures - with the word "YouTube" in the title. Yet no one from YouTube (or its parent company Google) ever signed the SAA. Now, when you go the YouTube SpaceLab page you see NASA's logo along with YouTube's logo and Lenovo's logo - yet neither company is mentioned in the body of the SAA. If you click on the "Technology in Orbit link" you will see Lenovo's own page where it talks about its products in space - again with NASA's logo prominently displayed.

But wait, Lenovo has no agreement with NASA - it has one with YouTube - but YouTube has no agreement with NASA either (despite being mentioned in the SAA's title) - just with Space Adventures - unless you count the NASA/Google Space Act Agreement signed several years ago. But again, Google did not sign this SAA either. Neither Lenovo or Youtube's relationship with Space Adventures is mentioned. Given that the vast majority of the project itself focuses on YouTube and Lenovo, this is rather odd.

As I said before, this is trully an interesting way to get novel ideas onboard the ISS - and possibly to spark careers. Moreover, it is a way to show that the ISS has utility beyond the experiments proposed by a small cadre of insiders. I wish the organizers total success. But NASA sure needs to get its act together with regard to the processes they implement for these new relationships. Right now the legal instrument (SAA) that enables this activity has flaws, inconsistencies, and large omissions.

NASA, Google, and Lenovo Team Up for ISS Educational Project, earlier post

Former Florida shuttle workers still struggling to find jobs, Orlando Sentinel via Washington Post

"NASA officials predict the KSC workforce will number roughly 8,200 next year -- about half the 15,000 employed there in 2008. A few hundred contractors are giving the shuttles last rites before they, too, join their former colleagues in a brutal job market."

Kennedy Space Center to build new $300M HQ, Orlando Business Journal

"The project will "provide job potential through the design, engineering and construction to transition KSC from shuttles to new government and commercial vehicles," said Lynda Weatherman, president and CEO of the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast. "This complex keeps talent local and enhances our overall competitiveness on the global economic development stage."

NASA Solicitation: Kennedy Space Center Space Processing and Manufacturing Capability

"NASA Kennedy Space Center (KSC) is looking to preserve an inventory of processing and manufacturing equipment for current and future mission support. This Request for Information (RFI) describes this equipment, currently underutilized as a result of the transition from the Space Shuttle Program to the future mission activities authorized by Congress. NASA KSC is seeking to identify potential industry interest in the operation and/or maintenance of this NASA property."

Rep. Lamar Smith Seeks Investigation on the Politicization of NASA

"Congressman Lamar Smith, the vice-chair of the Space & Aeronautics Subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, today called for NASA's inspector general to investigate the politicization of the agency. This stems from a NASA-internal report showing that Obama Administration political appointees "focus on Democratic political goals, not national goals," creating a dysfunctional and hostile work environment for NASA's career civil servants."

Keith's note: Yawn. And when Republican political appointees at NASA where doing the exact same thing that has Lamar Smith all hot and bothered, he never uttered a peep. And who works on Smith's staff? Former NASA political appointee Chris Shank (R). Pot, Kettle, Black.

NASA OIG: Investigative Summary Regarding Allegations that NASA Suppressed Climate Change Science and Denied Media Access to Dr. James E. Hansen, earlier post

"...it is our conclusion that the NASA Headquarters Office of Public Affairs' actions were inconsistent with the mandate and intent of NASA's controlling legislation--the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 (Space Act) and NASA's implementing regulations--insomuch as they prevented "the widest practicable and appropriate dissemination" of information concerning NASA's activities and results. While we could not substantiate that Administration officials employed outside NASA approved or disapproved or edited specific news releases, we do, however, find by a preponderance of the evidence that the claims of inappropriate political interference made by the climate change scientists and career Public Affairs Officers were more persuasive than the arguments of the senior Public Affairs officials that their actions were due to the volume and poor quality of the draft news releases."

Internal NASA documents portray a dysfunctional, political agency, Houston Chronicle

"[Rep. Smith's] request was prompted by NASA internal documents that date to February, 2010. They come from briefings on Team Development Assessment Reports. Essentially center directors, non-technical leaders at NASA HQ and technical leaders at NASA HQ were surveyed at the time about the morale, and concerns about the agency. The briefing chart below reflects a summary of the survey results for center directors (such as Johnson Space Center's Mike Coats)"

Keith's note: In the very near future NASA, Google, and computer manufacturer Lenovo are set to announce an interesting educational project. As I understand the gist of the effort from various sources, students will be asked to come up with ideas for experiments that can be performed on the ISS and submit a video via YouTube that describes their idea. Winners will be selected and the experiments described in the videos will actually be performed aboard the ISS. This is an interesting way to get novel ideas onboard the ISS - and possibly to spark careers. Moreover, it is a way to show that the ISS has utility beyond the experiments proposed by a small cadre of insiders.

The odd thing about this, however, is that the largest shareholder of Lenovo is an agency of the Chinese government. According to Wikipedia: "50.4% of Lenovo is owned by public shareholders, 42.3% by Legend Holdings Limited ... Because the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a Chinese government agency, owns 65% of Legend Holdings, effectively the Chinese government owns about 27% of Lenovo and is the largest shareholder." As such, this announcement is certain to gain attention from members of Congress (such as Rep. Frank Wolf) who are constantly putting NASA on the spot vis a vis any interactions with China - direct or by proxy. One would have thought that NASA would have found a way to work with a sponsor without such an overt link to the Chinese government.

Reader note: "I received an email invite to a Lenovo / YouTube webcast on the 10th about an "interesting" and "educational" project. I'm not sure why it's embargoed until Tuesday, but I'm guessing that it relates to this post. The email I received didn't mention NASA at all though."

Keith's 7 Oct update: Here is the Space Act Agreement between NASA and Space Adventures that outlines this competition. What is odd about this Space Act Agreement is that it has milestones for this project starting in June 2011 - yet the agreement was only signed a few weeks ago in September 2011. Also, "YouTube" appears in the title of this Space Act Agreement yet no one from YouTube (or Google who owns YouTube) signed this agreement. How can they be bound to this agreement if they are not a party to it? Also, the contest is supposed to be announced in October 2011 and students only have one month to come up with an experiment. And then "certified hardware [will be] provided to NASA for launch" in March 2012 with a launch to the ISS in May 2012. Wouldn't you want to give students more time so as to have more experiments submitted - and more thought put into the preparation of the proposals? These students also have their regular classwork to do. Also, since when does NASA have an expedited process whereby payloads can go from zero to flight in 6 months? Why isn't this capability more widely advertised?

Keith's 7 Oct update: NASA PAO just issued this press release: "NASA Performs Student Experiments For Whole World To See". In this release there is a link is provided to a YouTube site called "SpaceLab" where you will see a countdown clock that says "SpaceLab Launching with Lenovo" that reaches zero at noon on Monday. Why they picked a federal holiday to announce this is a little odd.

There is some disparity between the Space Act Agreement that formally enables this project and what this press release says. The press release says "Contest entrants may submit up to three experiments in either life sciences or physics. They must submit a two-minute video application by Dec. 7 via YouTube.com." However the Space Act Agreement says "entry deadline November 2011". The press release says "Six regional finalists will be selected in March 2012. Regional finalists will receive get a flight on a ZERO-G aircraft." but the Space Act Agreement says "finalists announced January 2012".

YouTube has started its viral prelaunch marketing by tweeting "T-minus 3 days and counting... What's a @YouTube Space Lab? #SpaceLab" today and tweeting this yesterday "There's going to be a BIG launch in four days time... Subscribe at http://goo.gl/5hWYC #spacelab". No mention on the Space Adventures, YouTube, Google, or Lenovo websites though.

Keith's 8 Oct update: According to a retweet by @LenovoEducation "RT @YouTube T-minus 3 days and counting... What's a @YouTube Space Lab? #SpaceLab". A tweet from @Lenovo_ANZ "There's going to be a BIG launch in a few days time @YouTube ... Subscribe at http://goo.gl/5hWYC #spacelab". Still nothing from @SpaceAdventures

Keith's note: I have posted questions for Beth Beck at HEOMD, sent email requests, and yet no one has responded. Based on previous dysfunctional interactions with HEOMD (SOMD and ESMD) I have to conclude that my requests are being ignored - on purpose. Yawn. Oh well, this is not exactly a new behavior on NASA's part. So much for the openness and transparency policies established by the White House that the Open.gov folks love to brag about. NASA seems to think it is exempt. I guess it is time for a bunch of old-fashioned FOIA requests.

And yes Beth, I will FOIA your complaints about me to the OGC, etc.

- NASA, Google, and Lenovo Team Up for ISS Educational Project, earlier post
- Yet Another Stealth Website NASA Can't Coordinate, earlier post
- Questions for Beth Beck Regarding FragileOasis.org, earlier post

Keith's note: This time lapse film by Dustin Farrell is best viewed in HiDef. First noticed on Gizmodo. The music on this video is from the soundtrack of the film "Sunshine". Crank up the audio. Wake up the person in the cubicle next to you. Savor the moment. Relish the planetary and celestial goodness. NASA creates similar stuff on a daily basis - yet they stumble when it comes to doing so a coordinated way to leverage their websites and brand visibility so as to get things out to the widest audience possible.

Have a look at this photo and this photo taken by this photographer at NASA Desert RATS. I am certain the video will be amazing.

NASA employee advice: Walk down the hallway and tell the bureaucrat jerk who stands in your way of telling taxpayers what it is you do - and tell them to go pound sand. If NASA does not start to promote things like this - then others will. NASA does not have an exclusive license on promoting what is cool ... NASA runs the risk of becoming irrelevant - despite its accomplishments.

Keith's 5 Oct note: What an amazing photo (larger). I found it on the FragileOasis Facebook page. But is it online at the official NASA Expedition 29 photo gallery? No. This is just insane. HEOMD EPO Lead Beth Beck doesn't even coordinate these things with other HEOMD websites, to say nothing of ignoring NASA PAO and the vastly larger audience this image would otherwise get at NASA.gov.

I am tired of watching [SOMD + ESMD = HEOMD] absolutely bungle the utilization and awareness of the vast potential of the ISS - simply because their mediocre staff are incapable of coordination with the rest of the agency with the greater good as the ultimate intent. Amateurs are not what is called for. NASA can - and must - do MUCH better.

Questions for Beth Beck Regarding FragileOasis.org, earlier post

Keith's 7 Oct note: So, Beth Beck, HEOMD EPO Lead, why isn't this utterly astonishing photo - indeed, an image that is ethereally transcendental in terms of its colors and what it depicts - an image that simply takes one's breath away - not on spaceflight.nasa.gov and http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station ? What is it that you do any way? If your job is to promote ISS activities, well, you have failed. NASA.gov is not carrying your stuff and promoting it to the public.

Be like Steve Jobs. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

"Steve Jobs was 6 months older than me. I am certainly not done with life.

Given his tectonic impact, he was clearly not ready either - even if he had faced his fate."

NASA, ESA: No Agreement on Mars Mission, Aviation Week

"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and his European Space Agency counterpart, Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain, failed to settle their differences on restructuring the two agencies' joint robotic Mars exploration program at a meeting Oct. 3, and now hint that it may be time to bring Russia or another partner into the mix. At issue is how much of the joint program that was worked out when the two agencies had a brighter fiscal outlook can be salvaged in today's tougher economic environment."

Crowdsourced Product: Know When ISS Flies Over Your House

"Human space flight is an awesome part of living in the future. But why does it still seem so abstract? There are people in space right now! Did you know that? Do you know how many there are? ISS-Notify is a simple attempt at making our space program more real. Many times a day the international space station passes overhead unnoticed."

Keith's note: An interesting new website International Space Station Live!, hosted at JSC, is now online. It displays a variety of telemetry and data feeds from the ISS. But NASA is not telling anyone about this website. If you go to NASA's ISS home page there is no mention of this website. Nor is there any mention at spaceflight.nasa.gov, NASA.gov, the ISS National Laboratory page, the HEOMD home page, or the NASA Office of Education (a sponsor).

Once again, one has to ask who is actually in charge of NASA's communications activities? Clearly people at NASA's centers, directorates, and missions seem to feel that they can do anything they want - and not bother to coordinate with anyone else including NASA PAO. Now if only HEOMD's crack EPO squad can find a way to couple this real time ISS telemetry website with the Google/YouTube/Lenovo/NASA student science contest and FragileOasis.org and you could have something very, very cool to engage the public. Alas, this is unlikely to happen.

HEOMD Management Update

Keith's note: Several months ago Assistant Associate Administrator for the International Space Station Mark Uhran had been telling people that he was going to leave NASA on or around 1 October. Those plans have apparently changed. Former Deputy Associate Administrator for NASA Exploration Systems Mission Directorate Laurie Leshin's departure led to a change in the new HEOMD management structure (due to the fusion of ESMD and SOMD) and Uhran is staying. Stay tuned.

Keith's 4 Oct note: Astronaut Ron Garan recently returned to Earth. While he was on the ISS he was a rather active, creative, and effective communicator. However, the vast majority of what he sent back to Earth did not appear on a NASA.gov website. Instead, it appeared on his own effort - the officially semi-official "Fragile Oasis". Beth Beck from HEOMD runs this site. The site is operated independent of NASA PAO and of any oversight by NASA's office of communications. Contrary to established agency policy Beck decided to run it outside of the NASA portal and makes little if any effort to coordinate with the way that the rest of the agency coordinates with NASA PAO. Indeed, if you even try to find who owns the domain fragileoasis.org you are unable to do so since that information is hidden.

Now this effort has created a project wherein a Fragile Oasis Prize which is apparently going to be given out to people. Prize medals were even flown in space. According to the website: "By becoming a Fragile Oasis Crewmember, you will be able to nominate and vote on projects that you believe are making the world a better place. You can encourage those that you feel are making a difference and receive encouragement from others. You can discover people and organizations with similar goals and interests and get involved with beneficial projects."

Ron Garan did a wonderful job while he was in space as he reached out to people back on Earth - one that is worthy of emulation by future crews. It is unfortunate that Beth Beck chose to implement this project in a way that diminished its reach via the vastly more popular NASA.gov web audience.

Questions for Beth Beck:

- How much has the FragileOasis.org effort cost NASA HEOMD to date? What is the budget for this entire project?
- How long will this project continue?
- Who owns the content on this website? Who actually owns the domain FragileOasis.org?
- Which contractors have been paid to run FragileOasis.org and how much has each of them been paid?
- How were the contractors that operate FragileOasis.org selected and how is their performance on this activity tracked?
- What are the metrics you use to track FragileOasis.org effectiveness?
- What are your web traffic numbers? What is the age and geographical break down of your web traffic?
- How much web traffic did fragileoasis.org send (refer) to NASA.gov? How much web traffic did nasa.gov send to fragileoasis.org?
- What information do you retain for people who visit and join your website and is this being done in accordance with NASA/government requirements?
- How many people have signed up to "join" your website?
- What target audience(s) is this project designed to reach?
- How many times have FragileOasis.org Tweets been retweeted or mentioned?
- How many of the images and videos that Ron Garan sent back to Earth were published on a NASA.gov website?
- Why is this official (is it official?) NASA website not hosted within the NASA.gov portal?
- What are the criteria for evaluating and selecting Fragile Oasis prize winners? Who are the judges?
- How long does this FragileOasis.org competition last? How many prizes will be awarded?
- Why have there been no NASA press releases about this prize?

One last thing. Beth Beck does not like public scrutiny when it comes to questions like the ones I have asked. Not at all. Sources inside the agency report that she has formally complained to the NASA Office of General Counsel about my repeated public comments and formal inquiries about how she does her job and how her projects accomplish their intended purpose. You will recall that her disastrous NASA Buzzroom efforts were featured on NASA Watch.

Any communications or outreach person with skin this thin is most certainly in the wrong job.

Ron Garan's Earth Gazing - Who Is Actually In Charge of NASA Public Affairs?, earlier post

Keith's 5 Oct update: I haven't heard anything from Beth Beck or anyone at HEOMD or FragileOasis.org. I did not really expect to hear anything. They also deleted the link I put to this posting on the FragileOasis Facebook page. So ... I guess I'll just submit a FOIA request - and then wait for months as they drag their feet developing a non-answer to my request.

3 U.S.-born scientists win physics Nobel for revealing universe's expansion is getting faster, Washington Post

"Three U.S.-born scientists won the Nobel Prize in physics on Tuesday for overturning a fundamental assumption in their field by showing that the expansion of the universe is constantly accelerating. ... Riess, 41, is an astronomy professor at Johns Hopkins University and Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland."

Keith's note: Nothing from NASA PAO. NASA funds the Space Telescope Science Institute. All three have used Hubble and other NASA resources.

New Astronauts Sought

NASA To Seek Applicants For Next Astronaut Candidate Class

"In early November, NASA will seek applicants for its next class of astronaut candidates who will support long-duration missions to the International Space Station and future deep space exploration activities. After applicant interviews and evaluations, NASA expects to announce the final selections in 2013, and training to begin that August."

NRC Report on NASA's Astronaut Corps Released, earlier post

"Subject to U.S. Bankruptcy Court Approval: Bulk Sale Offering of Capital Equipment, Patents, Rights, and Technology of Rocketplane Inc., an advanced developer of a fully reusable space transportation vehicle."

Keith's note: The official auction website is located here.

Marc's Update: The auction has been moved to November 11.

Video: NASA Tests Deep Space J-2X Rocket Engine

"NASA conducted a 40-second test of the J-2X rocket engine Sept. 28, the most recent in a series of tests of the next-generation engine selected as part of the Space Launch System architecture that will once again carry humans into deep space. It was a test at the 99 percent power level to gain a better understanding of start and shutdown systems as well as modifications that had been made from previous test firing results."

Keith's note: DARPA is hosting a conference for its 100 Year Starship project between 30 September - 2 October in Orlando. The agenda is interesting and ecclectic. We'll be onsite at the conference covering this event via live blogging at our new sister site NASAHackSpace.com. You can also follow via Twitter at @NASAhackSpace or see Tweets from other participants on Twitter via the hashtag #100yss.

Space Oddity? China Plays 'America the Beautiful' During Space Lab Launch, Spacecom

"State broadcaster CCTV and the Chinese space agency collaborated on a short video to mark the liftoff of China's unmanned Tiangong 1 space lab Thursday night (Sept. 29), The Guardian newspaper reports. The 98-second video gives an animated look at the launch and Tiangong 1's mission -- all set, puzzlingly, to an instrumental version of "America the Beautiful."

NASA Exploration Ideas - With Added China Bashing (Update)

Keith's note: Gee, the Chinese certainly seem to like the U.S. - quite a contrast from the chart that astronaut Andy Thomas used recently within an official NASA presentatino wherein several Chinese astronauts are shown having trampled an American flag left on the Moon by Apollo astronauts.



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