Exploration: December 2006 Archives

NASA Story Ideas - Human Interest, NASA PAO

Doug Cooke, Deputy Associate Administrator Weekend yachting: Cooke has sailed and designed at the America's Cup level, travelling all over the world.

Cris Guidi, Ares Program Executive Greek marathon participant

Editor's note: One would think that NASA PAO would be encouraging government officials to focus their time during work hours talking about their job responsibilities - not their hobbies.

We will need specifics to evaluate proposal, editorial by Rep. Bart Gordon

" ...we will need more specifics from NASA and the president to fully evaluate the current moon base proposal for its value, feasibility and, of course, affordability. If a return to the moon is really the president's priority, he needs to come up with the funds required, not simply take money from NASA's other core missions and programs."

NASA's vision lost on Web generation, AP

"NASA's new vision of sending astronauts back to the moon by 2017 and eventually on to Mars, recent surveys show. Concerned about this lack of interest, NASA's image-makers are taking a hard look at how to win over the young generation -- media-saturated teens and 20-somethings growing up on YouTube and Google and largely indifferent to manned space flight."

Observations from the Second Space Exploration Conference: Listening to the Next Generation

"Keeping the past achievements of NASA in mind as we return to the Moon is important, but it should not define the agency as it is currently doing. To attract the future generation of explorers, NASA needs to establish itself as the agency of the future, not the agency of the past. A return to the Moon is merely the stepping stone necessary to set foot on Mars and beyond, but advertisements would have the audience think the return to the Moon is the main goal of the VSE."

Reader note: A cute webcomic on YouTube Moon landing comments you might appreciate:http://xkcd.com/c202.html

Marshall engineers set to refine rocket design, Huntsville Times

"We aren't even through with the design yet," he said. "There's no vehicle on a launch pad, and I'm confident by the time the Ares is stacked, it will have the power there the day we go fly it."

Editor's note: If the Ares 1 indeed has the power it needs to loft Orion, one would think that Dave King would be clamoring to say so. Since he doesn't say so, one has to assume that this is still an issue being worked.

Orion On Track But Overweight; Funding Crunch Could Hit In '07, Aerospace Daily

"NASA's Orion crew exploration vehicle remains on schedule to carry humans to the International Space Station no later than 2014, and possibly earlier, but it will need to go on a New Year's diet to lose about 3,000 pounds of excess weight."

Big Problems With the Stick, NASA Watch

"Sources inside the development of the Ares 1 launch vehicle (aka Crew Launch Vehicle or "The Stick") have reported that the current design is underpowered to the tune of a metric ton or more. As currently designed, Ares 1 would not be able to put the present Orion spacecraft design (Crew Exploration Vehicle) into the orbit NASA desires for missions to the ISS."

Editor's 18 Dec 2006 note: Based on some comments made recently by OMB Deputy Director Clay Johnson, there is not a lot of enthusiasm for what NASA is doing - especially the Vision for Space Exploration - at OMB.

Go to Government Executive's TV page - specifically, the Leadership series. Go to "A Look at 2007 Agenda" (12/06/06) - and then head for the 'discussion' portion of the event (link is in the media player box).

Johnson comments on NASA: "Is anyone from NASA here?" {pause - and laughter} - no answer. "Perfect. Can I edit the tape of this thing before ... I take exception with ... personally, I am a reform movement of one ... with a lot of NASA's mission statements - they want to be 'number one' - and they want to explore the heavens ... and they wanna ... what kind of a goal statement is that? How can you be held accountable for that? NASA officials - and the President - my good friend as you say - talk about where 'we are destined to explore the stars' and 'we are hard wired to explore over the horizon' and that we are 'just a people that just likes to explore' - {frown on his face} That's baloney!"

After trashing the initial premise for the VSE (as announced by the President in 2004), Johnson then goes on to talk about how investment bankers bankrolled Columbus, Magellan, and Lewis & Clark - and that it was 'real estate' that was behind all of that exploration. He then proposed that future expeditions be partially funded by the private sector.

There is lots of interesting - and confusing - thoughts to be found within Johnson's comments. I am certain, in retrospect, that Johnson wishes that he had indeed been able to edit the tape.

Coalition Webste Relaunched

Coalition for Space Exploration Launches New Web Site

"The Coalition for Space Exploration today launched its new Web site, which can be found online at http://www.SpaceCoalition.com ."

Editor's note: Just in case you missed this one from Sunday's edition of the Washington Post and this one from the Denver Post.

International deals to mold lunar base use, Huntsville Times

"Congress and other nations are likely to judge NASA on how well it manages the cost and development of the space station, said Keith Cowing who runs the online watchdog site NASAWatch.com. "When real planning for a lunar base kicks off, the space station will have truly come into its own," Cowing said. "The International Space Station will be a big issue that paces the development of a lunar outpost. It won't be like other NASA programs; I don't think Congress is just going to hand over a blank check when it comes to a lunar outpost."

Why the moon? And why Mars?, St. Petersburg Times

"Griffin: You mentioned a lunar base. What we're talking about there is a man-tended research station ... very much like what we see in Antarctica today. But what I'd say is hit the rewind button. ... Humans had been to Antarctica in 1912 ... And then nobody went again for 40 years. And when we went back it was with completely different technology and with research in mind and a long-term presence....That's the kind of thing we're talking about on the moon. By the time we go back it will be 50 years since we've been and we'll be going back with different technology and in much greater force."

Transcript of PBS NewsHour Interview with NASAWatch. com Editor Keith Cowing 5 December 2006, PBS

" ... And this is not unlike if you look at what we did in Antarctica. This is something very analogous, except it's in a much harsher environment and it's much further away from home."

Wright Brothers Day, 2006 - A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America

"Today, our Nation follows the Wright brothers' example of innovation as we continue to explore the frontiers of air and space. My Administration has outlined a vision for space exploration that includes a return to the Moon and a long term human and robotic program to explore Mars and the solar system. By working to expand the realm of the possible, we can gain a better understanding of the universe and continue the journey that the Wright brothers began more than a century ago."

AIP FYI #141: Slipping Away: FY 2007 Budget Increases for DOE Office of Science, NSF, NIST

"On Monday, Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) and Rep. David Obey (D-WI) announced their support of legislation that in almost all cases would keep funding flat, and in other instances reduce or eliminate funding, for almost every federal department or agency through September 30, 2007."

Byrd, Obey Set Plan to Finish 2007 Bills, Senate Appropriations Committee

"Unfortunately, there are no good options available to us to complete the unfinished work of the Republican Congress. After discussions with our colleagues, we have decided to dispose of the Republican budget leftovers by passing a year-long joint resolution. We will do our best to make whatever limited adjustments are possible within the confines of the Republican budget to address the nation's most important policy concerns."

2007 funding measure will differ from continuing resolution, Dems say, Federal Times

"The measure that Democratic leaders of the next Congress are crafting to fund federal agencies for the remainder of the 2007 fiscal year will be a far cry from the continuing resolutions that agencies are accustomed to. Instead of providing a set amount of funding which in the case of the current continuing resolution, is the lowest of the House-approved, Senate-approved, or fiscal 2006 level lawmakers plan to create a much more specific document that may provide additional money where necessary to keep the agencies operating."

Editor's note: The continuing resolution regarding budget matters that Congress now seems set to adopt is causing major concerns in ESMD. ESMD needed a 700 million dollar rampup in FY 2007 in order to proceed with Constellation as planned. That budget increase won't happen if the NASA budget is fixed at FY 2006 levels - which is what this continuing resolution woudl do. As such, everything is apparently on the table. As one NASA source put it "a new round of carnage can be expected as what's left gets cut up to feed the Constellation dragon."

Back to the Moon! But Why?, NY Times

Editor's note: The Mars Society sent out this comment today in response to this recent NY Times article. As for some dramatic change occuring on 21 January 2009, yes, there could indeed be some change: No VSE and no human exploration - anywhere. NASA already has difficulty just getting back to the Moon (and retiring the shuttle and finishing the ISS) - all with insufficient funds. Why would anyone replace that initial task right now with a vastly more complex and expensive one i.e. Mars? As for the derisive comments about the Moon, oh well, this little missive is from the "Mars" Society, after all. Pay no attention to that nearby world three days away. There's nothing there to benefit humanity ;-)

"Overbye's argument's are certainly to the point. NASA's only honest counter to them, to wit, "We are aiming for the Moon because that is what President Bush decided we should do," will vanish as a programmatic foundation on January 21, 2009. A better foundation for the human exploration vision needs to be laid, one based, not on an arbitrary decision made by a political transient, but on truth."

Life on the Moon, NPR

"This hour On Point we'll talk with a lunar scientist, a NASA watcher and an astronaut about the case for the moonbase, and the nuts and bolts of living on the moon. (Traci Watson, Paul Spudis, Howard McCurdy, Michael Clifford)"

Mike Griffin Hits a Home Run

Opposing view: 15 cents a day, Editorial response, Mike Griffin, USA Today

"Our great-great-grandparents accepted the challenge of their frontier. Will today's generation do less? And if so, why? To save 15 cents per day? To save six-tenths of 1% of the federal budget? Because that is the cost to the average citizen of our nation's space program. Whether we wish to explore space or not, to say that we cannot afford space exploration is ridiculous."

Editor's note: Now if only Mike Griffin can get his in-house PAO and policy apparatus to speak as clearly, and precisely (as he has) with one voice - a voice coordinated across the agency - with a clear, cohesive strategic plan - something he does not currently have.

Transcript of PBS NewsHour Interview with NASAWatch. com Editor Keith Cowing 5 December 2006

"But in terms of it being an endeavor that the American people and possibly other nations are going to be asked to spend billions of dollars, I do think NASA -- and they're working on this -- but I do think NASA has to come up with some crisper answers, ones that just don't reach to one part of the populace, but to young people, as well as your Joe six-pack, to people who are retired and wondering who's going to be paying their medical bills."

Back to the Moon! But Why?, NY Times

"Why, if Mars is so fascinating, does NASA now have a fixation on the Moon? In last week's first announcement, the agency said it would build a permanent international base, probably near one of the Moon's poles, by 2024. In one of those twists that must make it fun to be the American starship commander these days, that is to say, the NASA administrator, the dual (one is tempted to say dueling) announcements underscored the disparity between these two visions of space adventure. On the one hand there is the Red Planet, home of mythical canals and yearning. Astrobiologists are dying to get their hands, or at least their robots, on it - oops, astrobiology research was slashed in the last NASA budget."

Observations from the Second Space Exploration Conference: Listening to the Next Generation

"Keeping the past achievements of NASA in mind as we return to the Moon is important, but it should not define the agency as it is currently doing. To attract the future generation of explorers, NASA needs to establish itself as the agency of the future, not the agency of the past. A return to the Moon is merely the stepping stone necessary to set foot on Mars and beyond, but advertisements would have the audience think the return to the Moon is the main goal of the VSE."

Rep. Boehlert Asks OMB for Additional Science Funding in FY 2008, Stresses Importance of ACI

"Last, but not least, NASA needs additional funding if it is to move ahead with both the Vision for Space Exploration and the space science, earth science and aeronautics research required by the NASA Authorization Act of 2005. There is no reason to launch the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle before 2014, and there is every reason to retire the Space Shuttle in 2010, as planned."

Man on the moon, II, Boston Herald

"Our spirits were lifted last week by NASA's announcement that it intends to establish a permanent moon base starting in about 2020. Not only is this a first step toward putting humans on Mars someday, it also offers outstanding opportunities for adventure, real scientific work and a few long-odds opportunities for gangbuster technological advances."

How much for a moon base? Don't ask, AP

"You ask what things will cost, I don't know yet," said NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, a detail-oriented engineer. "We just rolled out a very preliminary architecture."

A Condo on The Moon..., Time

"It's getting hard to find many Americans who remember where they were the last time men set foot on the moon. Not only had most of us quit paying attention to lunar landings by then, but 48% of us hadn't even been born by December 1972, when the last moon walkers left the lunar surface and headed for home."

Q&A: A Missionary for Mars Exploration, US News and World Report

"What is your opinion about NASA's announcement this week? ZUBRIN: ... The idea that your strategic goal is the moon as opposed to Mars I think is wrong. I think it's too timid. I think it's, well, un-American."

Editor's note: Gee Bob, since former Mars Society Steering Committee members Mike Griffin and Scott Horowitz are 200% behind a return to the Moon, does that make them "un-American" too? Oh yes, the VSE clearly states that Mars is the ultimate goal - and Griffin and Horowitz have stated this multiple times.

Think before you speak, Bob.

Back to the Moon, Permanently, editorial, New York Times

"If this nation is to continue a human space flight program it makes sense to pick a more exciting destination than a space station circling endlessly in low Earth orbit. Our main concern is that the political proponents of the Moon-Mars adventure will not provide money commensurate with the task. NASAs crowning scientific achievements have come from its unmanned probes to distant worlds and its orbiting observatories. It would be a shame if an underfinanced program to return to the Moon on a permanent basis and then venture on to Mars forced reductions in research programs of higher scientific value."

Editor's note: It would be so much more efficient - for all involved - if the NY Times would simply come out against sending humans into space once and for all - and then reprint that editorial once a month.

Coalition for Space Exploration Launches Space Advocacy Web Site

"The Coalition for Space Exploration today launched a new space advocacy Web site, which can be found online at www.spaceadvocate.com."

Editor's note: Included in this press release is a link to the Coalition's website. Alas, when you go there you see that there is nothing online. It is "under construction". Yet this version of the Coalition's website is still online with all of the old, outdated information. [update: the coalition finally got the hint and shut this website off.] I am not sure which is worse in terms of presenting a public face to people and wanting them to take you seriously: putting out a press release about a new website you have launched while taking your current one offline (so as to prevent people from learning who you are) or leaving the old one online so that people see how infrequently you update your websites. Alas, the Coalition has managed to do both!

Perhaps if the Coalition took some of the money they spend on lavish receptions for inside the beltway types (they held one in Houston this week) and spent the money on a solid webmaster instead, they'd be able to have a crisp, coherent, and up to date message out there for people to hear.

Editor's note: The second day of the conference is now underway. Updates below.

Global Exploration Strategy and Lunar Architecture Briefing (transcript)

"It doesn't sound like a big deal, but that led us to the conclusion that we are going to go after a lunar base, and so a lunar base will be the central theme in our going-forward plan for going back to the Moon and preparation to go to Mars and beyond. So it is a very, very big decision. It is one of the few where I have seen the science community and the engineering community actually agree on anything, where we finally have a place that is very interesting from an operational and engineering perspective because of continual sunlight, because of the ability to maybe get after materials on the moon, and also have such interesting scientific sites that are near the poles."

NASA Watch on NewsHour

Editor's note: I had a chance to discuss the new Lunar architecture on PBS Newshour this evening. You can listen to an audio file here: MP3 - Real Audio

Transcript of PBS NewsHour Interview with NASAWatch. com Editor Keith Cowing 5 December 2006

"But in terms of it being an endeavor that the American people and possibly other nations are going to be asked to spend billions of dollars, I do think NASA -- and they're working on this -- but I do think NASA has to come up with some crisper answers, ones that just don't reach to one part of the populous, but to young people, as well as your Joe six-pack, to people who are retired and wondering who's going to be paying their medical bills."

Our view on the return to the moon: NASA, the costly frontier, opinion, USA Today

"On a practical level, this project raises a number of obvious questions. Why go back to the moon? Why build what is partially rationalized as a base camp for an eventual trip to Mars in the gravitation sink hole of a planetoid? Where's the scientific reward that would justify such an expense? And, given the entitlement-driven budget crises that will arrive about a decade from now, can such an expensive venture retain support?"

Editor's note: The event opened this morning with a lavish (and no doubt expensive) series of videos, a children's choir (of volunteers), and a military colorguard.

Coverage continues below.

NASA To Evaluate Non-recoverable First Stage for Ares I Launch Vehicle, SpaceRef

"Some of the people working on the design of NASA's new Ares I launch vehicle want to delete the requirement to recover and reuse the rocket's first stage. The reason: the weight of hardware required to make recovery possible - and practical. One of the main attributes of the current Ares I design is the use of a Solid Rocket Booster (SRB) - one that has a common heritage with proven hardware from the Space Shuttle program. This commonality and reliability is regularly touted as one of the Ares I's current advantages over other possible launch systems."

NASA: Global Strategy for Exploring Moon Unveiled

"NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale, who is guiding the long-term strategy development effort among 14 of the world's space agencies, said, "This strategy will enable interested nations to leverage their capabilities and financial and technical contributions, making optimum use of globally available knowledge and resources to help energize a coordinated effort that will propel us into this new age of discovery and exploration."

NASA Says It Will Set Up Polar Moon Camp, AP

"In the wake of the space shuttle Columbia accident, President Bush announced in 2004 a plan to return astronauts to the moon by 2020. His plan would take 16 years, twice as long as NASA's first trip to the moon took in planning. NASA has refused to estimate a price tag for the project."

NASA Plans Lunar Outpost, Washington Post

"NASA officials declined to put a price tag on what will clearly be an extremely expensive venture. But they said that with help from international partners and perhaps space businesses, the agency would have sufficient funds to undertake the plan without any dramatic infusion of new money."

NASA Exploration Strategy and Lunar Architecture Briefing

"NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale and senior executives from the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate will host a press conference at 1 p.m. CST Monday, Dec. 4, to announce the agency's global exploration strategy and lunar architecture.

The global exploration strategy explains the themes and objectives of lunar exploration. The lunar architecture explains how the moon will be explored."

Editor's note: Despite the contents of a memo (and rumors) circulating around some parts of NASA, it is a certainty that Shana Dale will give this briefing - not Mike Griffin.


Northrop Grumman, Booz Allen Hamilton, SpaceX to Host Networking Event for Current, Future Space Exploration Leaders

"University students, young professionals and first-level managers from NASA and the aerospace industry will be able to meet and share their views on the nation's space exploration program with space leaders from NASA and the aerospace industry at a reception being planned by Northrop Grumman Corporation in partnership with Booz Allen Hamilton and Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX).

The Future Exploration Leaders Networking Reception is scheduled to occur on Tuesday, Dec. 5 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in Exhibit Hall E of the George R. Brown Convention Center, Houston. Registration for the event begins at 4:30 p.m. The reception is being held in conjunction with the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics' (AIAA) 2nd Space Exploration Conference, which runs Dec 4-6

The Future Exploration Leaders Networking Reception is one of many educational events that Northrop Grumman supports to help ensure that NASA and the nation have the technically trained workforce required to successfully undertake and fulfill the goals of Vision for Space Exploration."

NASA Looks to the Future With Eye on the Past, Washington Post

"But Wes Huntress, a former NASA associate administrator and ex-member of the NASA science advisory board, said that ever since Bush announced the space exploration vision, the administration has refused to give the agency additional funding to accomplish its mission. The result is that "Griffin has had to cannibalize the agency to get the money for the new program," Huntress said. "Even at that, I don't think there are sufficient funds to support even the return to the moon once the program gets really moving."

GRC Gets Busy on the CLV

Ares I boosts NASA Glenn, Cleveland Plain Dealer

"The completion of a prototype tuna can at Glenn in mid-October - with production models to come next year - is an early sign that NASA's ambitious new exploration plan is moving into high gear. The $34 million project also shows the Cleveland center is back in the thick of the nation's space flight program."

This Really Should Happen

Stephen Hawking In Space, MSNBC

"British billionaire Richard Branson says he's sending over a medical officer to talk with physicist Stephen Hawking about getting him into space. That's how the founder of Virgin Galacticrespondedto Hawking's comment that "maybe Richard Branson will help" him achievehis long-held goal ofreaching the final frontier, even though he's a quadriplegic who needs a blink-controlled computer to communicate. Branson and other Virgin executives indicated today that if there's any way on earth to accommodate the good doctor-with-a-disability, they'll do it. And for practice, Hawking could conceivably experience weightlessness aboard a Zero Gravity Corp. plane as early as next year."

Star Wars Redux: Democrats to Gut Missile Defense/Bush To Announce "Orbital Battle Station", Pajamas Media

"By Taylor Dinerman - Democratic leaders are poised to gut America's missile defense - at the same time North Korea and Iran are testing long-range missiles that can strike the U.S. and its allies, including Israel, Japan and Britain. Meanwhile, sources inside the missile-defense community tell Pajamas Media that the Bush administration is planning to ask Congress to begin funding development of an "orbital battle station."

Editor's note: Oh great. If this is true (please count me among the skeptics) then space exploration detractors in Congress and elsewhere will soon be lumping all of George Bush's space ideas together as "Star Wars" and the VSE is going to be the loser. This won't make getting to the Moon any easier.

Continuing the Voyage: The Spirit of Endeavour - Remarks to The Royal Society of the United Kingdom by NASA Administrator Michael Griffin

"Some of these lessons are in evidence in my own land. America's origins do not begin on a specific date, nor do they involve any one particular group of people. Many of us in America are the descendants of pioneers from Spain, Portugal, Holland, Scotland, England, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, and many other countries, who emigrated over many generations and settled in what became the United States, in search of new riches, new freedoms, and new beginnings."

Editor's note: This is a nice speech, finely tuned to the audience it was presented to - one that links exploration of the past with that of the present - and the future. Yet, looking back at other speeches Mike Griffin has given on this topic, I can't help but notice a clear, almost exclusionary focus on Western civilization in his comments.



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This page is an archive of entries in the Exploration category from December 2006.

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