Astronauts: May 2017 Archives

Which Astronaut Recently Got Fired From NASA for $1,600 in Fake Taxi Receipts?, Gizmodo

"Last December, an astronaut with NASA was fired for submitting over $1,600 in fake reimbursements for taxis they didn't take. And strangely enough, we don't know who it is. ... In the end, the NASA OIG office suggested something that has been redacted (we're going to guess termination, but who knows?) and the astronaut ultimately resigned at some point in December 2016. Curiously, the exact date of resignation has also been redacted."

Keith's note: (sigh) Gizmodo can't make up their mind. "Fired", "Termination", "Resigned"? Pick one. Oh wait - the OIG says that the astronaut "resigned". While the end result is more or less the same (the astronaut no longer works at NASA) resigning is not the same as being "fired" or "terminated". People get caught at NASA doing lots of things and they often keep their jobs.

As to who the astronaut is, well ... check out this press release which refers to an astronaut who retired in December 2016: "Astronaut Cady Coleman Leaves NASA". My sources tell me that Cady Coleman is indeed the astronaut mentioned by the OIG. This was not exactly a secret at NASA HQ over the past few months. I was not going to say anything - until I read the FOIA response that Gizmodo got. I'm sort of at a loss for words. Think of the millions of people who'd love to be a NASA astronaut - and then this is how one of them throws away that job.

Oh yes: I can guarantee you that the time that the OIG spent on this investigation in terms of their own staff's salaries was a lot more than $1,600. Just sayin'

Keith's note: Last night there was a panel at the Humans To Mars Summit about risk and exploration. The panel was moderated by Leonard David and consisted of NAI Director Penny Boston, former astronaut and SMD AA John Grunsfeld, former Google space lead Tiffany Montague, and NASA SMD's Rick Davis. At one point the 2004 Risk and Exploration Symposium that John and I put together back in 2004 was mentioned. The proceedings are online for free download here. I am currently writing two books - one on Astrobiology expeditions and the other as a follow-up to the 2004 Risk and Exploration Symposium (and another we did in 2007 at LSU).

For both of my books I have been amassing information on what risks people have taken (on expeditions in space and elsewhere) and how they have been called upon to take these risks. Specifically, I have been focusing on this question: "Would you be willing to deliberately risk your life to discover evidence of life on another world?". Along with that question I'm wondering "Will NASA astronauts bound for Mars be asked to sign waivers with regard to risk as part of overall risk evaluations and informed consent? Will they only be allowed to go if they specifically agree to accept these risks?".

At one point last night John said this:

Clearly this issue is part of the overall risk assessment that astronauts make albeit somewhat personalized and ad hoc. By coincidence John was in orbit in May 2009 taking care of Hubble while another astronaut, Scott Parazynski, did his own risk analysis as he summitted Mt. Everest. I was 2-3 linear miles away from Scott doing education and public outreach for his climb at base camp recovering from an illness that left me with some permanent damage. So ... I think about this topic a lot. As the notion of NASA sending humans to Mars starts to get serious, many more people will need to be thinking along these lines. Matt Damon got back OK in "The Martian". But that was a movie.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago when Peggy Whitson broke the U.S. space endurance record. People who engage on expeditions to risky and dangerous places on Earth regularly waive certain safety and medical regulations in order to participate. I have done it more than once in the arctic and at Everest. You consider the risks, weigh the benefits, and then sign the forms. There are lifetime radiation exposure limits for astronauts that are supposed to be used to guide the selection of ISS crews. Now, these limits are apparently subject to selective waiver. So are these "limits" now becoming "guidelines"? Are astronauts now doing something similar to what terrestrial explorers do in order to spend more time in space? What is the process whereby NASA makes this waiver decision? What are the implications for the whole #JourneyToMars thing?

Accepting even a small increase in risk be it from radiation, weightlessness, or surface hazards on Mars can have a significant impact on mission design i.e. cost and schedule. Right now cost and schedule are the biggest risk to going to Mars in the first place.

Thoughts?

Keith's 4 May update: @DanaPerino deleted this tweet (but it is still on her Instagram page). Why would she do that - unless she did something wrong? This is what the tweet looked like - before it was deleted.

Keith's 5 May update: Now @Astro2fish has deleted his tweet as well. Why would he do that - unless he also did something wrong? This is what the tweet looked like - before it was deleted.

The only reason that the text of these embedded tweets still appears is that I embedded them before deletion and the words are in the embed code. If you click on the date/time you will get a deletion message. This is what they both looked like - with pictures - before Dana Perino and Jack Fischer deleted them.

Keith's 4 May update: I sent an inquiry to NASA HQ and JSC PAO and got this response:

"- Is there a Space Act Agreement or MOU in place between NASA and Dana Perino and/or Fox News that allows a NASA civil servant on board the ISS to use their NASA position and work place to promote Dana Perino's book?
- Can you provide me with a copy of the official NASA process whereby book authors/publishers can apply to have astronauts conduct promotional activities while aboard the ISS? Have other book authors applied for this promotion aboard ISS?
- What cost to NASA is associated with these on-orbit book promotions? (What is the cost of launching this Felt Jasper, NASA personnel time to coordinate with Perino/Fox, TDRSS bandwidth etc.)
- Did the NASA OGC at JSC or NASA HQ issue a waiver and/or give formal written permission to Jack Fischer to conduct these commercial promotion activities with Dana Perino and Fox News while on board the ISS?
- Under what payload allocation was the "Felt Jasper" flown to the ISS? Did Jack Fischer carry it with him on his Soyuz flight or was this launched on a cargo vehicle? Is this a personal item or is it a NASA PAO-endorsed activity?
- Did NASA PAO interact directly with Fox News to coordinate the coverage given on Dana Perino's Twitter account and/or provide NASA imagery of the Felt Jasper on "The Five" segment that aired last night on Fox News?
- What will be done with the Felt Jasper that Fischer has in orbit? Will it be returned to Earth and used for commercial purposes?
- Will Jack Fischer and Dana Perino be doing any further commercial promotion activities for Perino's book on-orbit or when he returns to Earth?
- Did Jack Fischer personally send the following tweet from the ISS? If he did not, who sent it? "@Astro2fish Well, finally got a chance to show Felt Jasper the office @DanaPerino & pretty sure he dug the view-I know I did! #SpaceDogWalks #NASARocks 5:59 PM - 2 May 2017"

This is what I got back:

"Hi Keith, Astronauts are permitted to take personal mementos to space. Jack Fischer's flight of a "Felt Jasper" as a personal memento and his subsequent release of imagery of that memento via his social media does not imply an endorsement of any commercial activity. Thank you, Jenny, Norma Jennifer Knotts, Public Affairs Specialist"

Apparently Trumpish commercial endorsement behavior is the new normal at NASA. An astronaut is allowed to use his official government position and work place to give significant social media visibility to a book written by a former Bush press spokesperson who appears on the President's favorite news channel (Fox). And that visibility is repeated on Fox News. Yet none of the Trump political appointees on the 9th floor at NASA HQ see anything wrong with this and are OK with a two sentence non-response. Tick tock.

Keith's 2 May note: Now it is apparently acceptable for NASA astronauts to do on-orbit promotion tie-ins for books written by Fox News celebrities like @DanaPerino who has a book out titled "Let me tell you about Jasper". Since Fischer has the mini-Jasper in orbit this promotion had to have planned this ahead of time. How much did Perino pay for this - or did NASA give this orbital PR away for free? Check out her Twitter banner. This a rather overt tie-in. Apparently Fischer and Perino already knew each other prior to his departure - here he is holding a copy of her book at some event they both attended. The "felt Jasper" is something that is used to promote Perino's book.

Keith's update: Fox Five just aired a piece about the Felt Jasper book promotion dog in space and Perino's book. Of course all of this PR and product promotion stuff was coordinated and approved by NASA PAO, right?


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This page is an archive of entries in the Astronauts category from May 2017.

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