Keith's 4:38 pm Update: Well, if nothing else, PeTA finally got a protester inside the International Space Station. As readers of NASA Watch know, I am all for making the ISS relevant to the public in new ways and for making childish jokes at NASA's expense whenever possible. But given the immense cost of the ISS, its untapped potential for research, and complaints from potential users that there is not enough upmass or crew time, I have to wonder why NASA goes out of its way to highlight such stuff - especially when people like Sen. Grassley already criticize some of the real science done on ISS.
I did not hear back from NASA PAO on my initial request so I sent the following questions to NASA PAO. Someone will tell me to go file a FOIA request and then NASA will try to weasel out of answering that request. But if they can spend money flying a gorilla suit into outer space then they can waste some more time explaining why they did it. The answer may well be simple and routine but NASA will make the process as complicated as they possibly can.
- Can you tell me what the Gorilla suit is made out of i.e. what kind of material(s)?
- Is this Gorilla suit COTS (where was it purchased?) or was it specially made? How much did it cost?
- Was the Gorilla suit subjected to standard outgassing, flammability, microbial, and particulate standards? Did it meet those requirements or was a waiver granted?
- How much does the Gorilla suit weigh and how much volume did it use inside the cargo vehicle that carried it up?
- Is the suit considered "crew preference", "crew clothing", or "education and outreach"?
- Will the Gorilla suit remain on the ISS after Kelly leaves? If so where will it be stored?
- Did the shipping of the Gorilla suit to orbit bump anything off the manifest - if so, what was bumped?
- Was this manifested by JSC or CASIS?
- Who approved of the shipping of the gorilla suit to the ISS? Was NASA HQ involved in the decision making process?
Keith's 6:23 pm update: ULA says that it charges something around $100 million for an Atlas V launch. ULA also says that it charges $164 million for a Atlas V launch. Lets go with the lower number. The most recent Cygnus OA-4 carried 7,745 pounds of cargo. Lets not even bother to include what it cost to build the Cygnus. Assuming a $100 million launch cost simple math shows a per pound cost of $12,911. If you use the higher number its $21,174 per pound. This amazon.com gorilla suit weighs 4.3 pounds. Lets assume that the gorilla suit in space is a generic gorilla suit. That means that NASA probably spent between $55,517 and $91,052 to ship a gorilla suit to the ISS that will probably only be worn once - and only for an hour or two. In other words it will probably end up as trash at some point and be thrown away. Then, of course, there was the personnel cost to certify that it could fly safely, pack it, etc. etc. So the real cost goes up a lot - certainly close to $100,000. Scott Kelly has already completed more than 99% of his mission. He could have waited another week to wear the gorilla suit and saved NASA a lot of money. Just sayin'
Keith's 24 Feb 2016 8:07 pm update: Still nothing from NASA.
Keith's 25 Feb 2016 4:04 pm update: Still nothing from NASA.