Astronauts: September 2011 Archives

NASA's Development of Radiation Monitoring Instruments for the International Space Station

"This Office of Inspector General (OIG) review found that NASA has poorly managed the development of these replacement radiation monitoring instruments. Specifically, total estimated ARI Project costs increased approximately 62 percent, from $16 million to $26 million; the Project has been de-scoped and will not include all planned elements; and delivery of the new instruments has been delayed by almost 3 years. In addition, until April 2010 NASA was developing an instrument that did not meet stated radiation monitoring requirements. We also found that the ISS Program has never monitored astronaut exposure to neutrons in accordance with Program requirements and had not adequately analyzed, planned, tracked, or controlled the resulting risk."

Photo: Ron Garan's Last Day in Space

@ASTRO_RON: "How I spent my last day in space.

That's me in the cupola of the International Space Station off the coast of Australia taking my last of over 25,000 pics that I still want to share w/ everyone."

Keith's note: I am confused. Astronaut Ron Garan flies to the International Space Station and sends a non-stop stream of personal - and cool - photos back to Earth via Twitter and Twitpic. Well, these photos usually do not always end up on NASA's Human Spaceflight website but some of them appear on his personal (?) website at (the domain is registered to some anonymous individual in Bellveue, Washington) - a website that never seems to use the word "NASA" - unless you scroll to the small text at the bottom of the page with a micro NASA logo. Guess what - that link is to . Try it. It does not work. It should say which does work. Looks like no one bothered (or cared) to check.

Are NASA funds used to run this website? If so, then why the lack of coordination with If not, then why isn't NASA running such a high profile site that highlights such a prominent activity that its own official website seems to not want to highlight? Some (but not all) of these photos and commentary by Ron Garan also appear at NASA's blog site.

Ron Garan is a NASA civil servant who was on official duty at taxpayer expense on the ISS. We paid his airfare. We should all be seeing everything he sends back to Earth, without having to hop around various websites, right? NASA should endeavour to collect all that he sends back to Earth - in one place - so as to maximize this dissemination of information to the public. But that is not the case.

These "NASA" sites do not even link to each other. Who is in charge here? NASA PAO?, HEOMD? Ron Garan? Until NASA figures out how to coordinate its "messages" it will be hobbled by stove piping and hobby shop approaches to education and public outreach. The scattered nature of this otherwise inspiring series of photos and operations exposes just how uncoordinated NASA is these days when it comes to telling the taxpaying public what it is doing and why. And then they have the nerve to complain when the public does not seem to understand what they are doing.

Cool stuff Ron. You done good. Some of your stuff is jaw dropping. As a result, perhaps the rest of the agency can learn how to work together as one cohesive and cooperating entity in the future?

This is an awesome image worth spreading across our planet. Is it featured at


Keith's note: From what I have been able to piece together HEOMD's Beth Beck (the creator of the failed NASA BuzzRoom) is behind this site. Elyse David is the "Executive Producer and Founding Crewmemeber" of Fragile Oasis according to her Twitter page. Beth Beck does more or less whatever she wants to do on this website with near zero coordination with NASA PAO. Despite multiple requests in the past for metrics and a plan for education and public outreach Beth has been unwilling/unable to provide me with anything. Yes, Ron Garan's photos and commentary have been amazing - but when they are not coordinated with's much larger distribution system, they suffer from less than full visibility they might otherwise attain. The net result is that NASA's limited funding for such things is not being spent in the best way possible. Once again one part of NASA simply does not care to coordinate with the other.

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. Inside you will find some interesting stuff regarding the use of existing ISS and Shuttle era plus international and commercial capabilities - all matrixed together allowing us to go to new places. It also mentions problems that occur with the public and Congress when things go over budget or seem to not show any real progress or benefit, and how to use smaller steps to incrementally achieve things in space that are relevant, affordable, and show visible progress within everyone's short attention span.

Of course this is all "notional" i.e. ideas that NASA won't connect officially with any actual project or budget anywhere. But that's OK since it shows that people are thinking outside the box, cognizant of limited budgets, and aren't afraid to use old stuff for new purposes. The ideas and approach contained in this document are summarized as follows: "This is not a Program, it is not a Destination; it is a series of activities that aggregate to a deep space capability with US Leadership".

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.

P.S. If some graphics do not work or load it is because the original Powerpoint file's format did not exactly work perfectly for me.

Keith's update: Neither Astronaut Andy Thomas, the Astronaut Office, JSC, or NASA PAO have commented on the use of this image. One would therefore have to assume that they are afraid to comment and/or that there is tacit approval of the use of this image in official NASA presentations. None of these assumptions are remotely acceptable. So much for transparency and openness at NASA. I guess its "Lets say nothing and hope this goes away ...".

It will not go away.

NASA Needs to Preserve Skilled Astronaut Corps In Post-Shuttle Era, Says New Report

"NASA should take steps to ensure that it maintains a highly trained astronaut corps to meet International Space Station (ISS) crew requirements while accounting for unexpected attrition or demands of other missions, says a new report by the National Research Council. NASA's current plans for staffing the U.S. astronaut corps do not provide sufficient flexibility to reliably meet projected ISS mission needs."



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This page is an archive of entries in the Astronauts category from September 2011.

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