Culture: November 2014 Archives

Earth and Life Sciences, Aircraft Ops Under Microscope in NASA Consolidation Effort, Space News

"NASA's latest attempt to right-size its 10 U.S. field centers will begin with a focus on a roughly $3 billion cross-section of the agency's nearly $18 billion budget that could affect some 10,000 civil servants and contractors, a senior agency official said here Nov. 20. .. Roe, former director of NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, is co-leading NASA's Technical Capabilities Assessment Team (TCAT) along with her boss, NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot. TCAT began in 2012 but will not be in full force until after February, when NASA plans to appoint so-called capabilities leaders to monitor its 10 field centers and point out areas where two or more centers are spending money on the same things."

Keith's note: Once a decade (maybe more than once) NASA spins up an effort like this (Zero Base Review, Synthesis Team, Faster Better Cheaper, ISO 9000 etc.) The team members semi-earnestly look for overlaps and synergies, suggest how to re-tune things, and then ... (dramatic pause) all of the field centers promptly ignore the recomendations - backed by their respective congressional delegations - because: why change? We've seen this movie before. As such, you can ignore any and all "efficiency" TCAT babble from Robert Lightfoot and Lesa Roe - since the White House no longer cares about that babble (hey - where's Charlie?)

Visiting Interstellar's Spacecraft, SpaceRef

"I had an opportunity to stand next to a spaceship from the film "Interstellar" this morning and fly through a simulation of yet another spacecraft from the film. I am not going to post a review yet for "Interstellar" since I can't really discuss the film in any detail without revealing important aspects. That said, there have been trailers and other PR efforts online for months now. One thing you can't miss in these previews is the spacecraft used in the film."

Keith's 4 Nov note: I saw "Interstellar" this evening - in 70mm IMAX on the largest screen in Virginia. I saw "2001: A Space Odyssey" in Cinerama - the IMAX of the day - when the film first came out and was stunned by the experience. That happened again this evening. Interstellar is deep and a wonder to behold. It is profound and loud and yet sublime and simple - simultaneously. I am going to have to think carefully about what I write so as to not spoil it for anyone. Let's just say that you take away from Interstellar what you bring to it.

Keith's 6 Nov update: I saw the film again last night at a really nice reception and showing at the National Air & Space Museum's IMAX theater sponsored by Northrop Grumman. The cast and director were there too. The "Ranger" spacecraft will be on display starting tomorrow at the NASM Udvar Hazy facility along with an Oculus Rift demonstration of the fictional "Interstellar" world.

Past Transit Tragedies Point to a Way Forward for Virgin Galactic, Smithsonian

"Private spaceflight hit a large bump in the road to orbit last week, with Orbital Sciences' rocket explosion followed days later by Virgin Galactic's fatal spaceplane crash. But if early aviation and aerospace efforts can teach us anything, it's that the key to surviving such tragedies is transparency and learning from any mistakes. And in a counterintuitive twist, the disasters may even increase public support for spaceflight and space tourism."

Keith's note: Video of Challenger's and Columbia's loss is seared in our collective consciousness - both accidents caused prolonged self-examination and questioning as to whether it was all worth doing. Even commercial advertisements comparing consumer items to the shuttle were pulled. Yet NASA returned to flight - twice. When the shuttle fleet was retired there was exceptional interest and heated debate and overt food fights about who got the remaining shuttles - because of what they represented in people's minds. Indeed huge portions of the population demanded that NASA keep them flying. Remember the flyovers and parades? Major cities stopped everything - just to watch. Yet these very same shuttles that flew over America to such acclaim are identical to the two shuttle vehicles we all saw torn apart with their crews on board. A symbol of tragedy - twice - is now a symbol of American pride.


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This page is an archive of entries in the Culture category from November 2014.

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