Exploration: January 2007 Archives

NASA Seeks To Set the Record Straight on Ares 1 and Orion, SpaceRef

"Last week, NASA's Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD), Scott Horowitz, sat down with reporters to discuss the Ares 1 and Orion programs.

The impetus for this briefing, according to Horowitz, were recent stories - of varying accuracy - regarding weight and performance issues."

Editor's note: Mike Griffin often refers to a multitude of college degrees he has managed to amass over the years. Clearly, based on the sketch below which has been appearing in internal NASA Powerpoint presentations, he clearly doesn't have a degree in Art.

NASA's Dilemma

Space Exploration: Real Reasons and Acceptable Reasons, Mike Griffin

"We have a very interesting conundrum at NASA, and we have been spending a lot of time lately thinking about it. In national polling, NASA as an American institution enjoys a hugely positive approval rating, broadly in the range of 65-75%, an amazing result for a government agency. But when you ask people why, they are not really sure, or at least cannot express it clearly. When you ask people what we do, beyond the broad category of "space", again they aren't quite sure. And if you ask them what we're planning to do, they're even less sure. But they know that they love NASA. So NASA has what in the marketing discipline would be called very strong brand loyalty, even though people are not familiar in detail with what we do or why they like it."

Why Explore Space?, Mike Griffin

Editor's note: ESMD AA Scott Horowitz held a media briefing at NASA HQ today to discuss the Ares 1 and Orion projects.

Topics covered included Ares 1 performance, weight margins, Orion design, possible changes in booster design, and testing of the Orion spacecraft on both the Ares I - and possibly - the study concept vehicle dubbed by some as "Ares IV".

Horowitz presented several charts that illustrate the Ares 1 design process and weight, performance, and programmatic margin status.

NASA and Woods Hole Linkup Connects Space and Sea Explorers

"Two extreme explorers will connect in a unique call Friday, Jan. 26, linking the depths of the ocean with the heights of Earth orbit. NASA and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Mass., will host the ultra-long distance call between International Space Station astronaut Sunita "Suni" Williams and marine biologist Tim Shank in the Alvin research submersible. The call will take place at 1:45 p.m. CST, and will be broadcast tape-delayed on NASA Television between 2 p.m. to 2:45 p.m."

Not seeing eye to eye on the Vision, The Daily Aztec

"Space exploration does not call for the frills of a propaganda campaign. This sort of fascination taps into nearly every human imagination. So, before you start a committee to find what music will be on your MySpace page, get back to the science. Fire your "message spinners" and stop hiring survey firms. Because the 18- to 25-year-olds will front the bill and provide the expertise in the future, don't think you can convince us of what we want, or worse, shout the same message repeatedly when you know it's what we don't want. "

NASA Internal email: Proposal by NASA Astronaut Marsha Ivins for a TV Special on Project Constellation and Exploration

"History: I have a friend who works for New Line Cinema who is a screen writer, director, producer and huge space buff. I approached him with a thought about making a Discovery Channel or equivalent special, or series, on this new program NASA has to build the first new space vehicles of this generation, return to the moon, be once again great in an exciting and imaginative way. He loved the idea. ... The head of the group said to me the one sentence we would kill to hear any big time production company say - this is not a story that will make money for us but it's a story that MUST be told. When can we start! - A week later my friend said the head of New Line told him that he'd never seen any New Line group so excited and in fact they have moved out quicker on this idea than on any one they've had to date I'm told."

Coalition for Space Exploration Names New Leadership

"The Coalition for Space Exploration's Public Affairs Team today officially announced its new leadership for 2007. Joe Mayer of The Boeing Company has been named the organization's new chairman, and will be serving a one-year term effective January 2007 through December 2007. ... The Coalition also named a deputy chair for 2007. Joan Underwood, Senior Manager of Communications for Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, will support Mayer in formulating an annual public outreach plan, supervising project teams and managing operations of the Public Affairs Team."

Editor's note: Hopefully this new team will actually do something useful with all of that money the coalition has gathered from the aerospace industry since 2004. As far as I can tell the only major publication the Coalition has generated is a coloring book aimed at children and members of Congress.

A Moon Full of Opportunity - NASA gave six reasons for going back to the Moon when only one was needed, Paul Spudis

"From the beginning, there was dissention within NASA and the broader space community about the meaning of the Vision for Space Exploration (VSE). Was it a call for a permanent moon base? Was it all about sending humans to Mars? Perhaps it was really a stalking horse to terminate human spaceflight completely. The alt-space community whined about it being another big government boondoggle. The Mars Society whined about the focus on the Moon. The scientific community just whined. Much of this confusion stems from preconceived interpretations about the new policy and has been exacerbated by resulting changes to the status quo. This confusion, nurtured by design or misinformation, must be corrected and the Vision's direction clearly understood."

A New Look at Apollo

Reaching For the Moon At Sundance, Washington Post

"The film by David Sington, "In the Shadow of the Moon," premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and included footage unearthed from the NASA vaults that has never been widely seen before. Some of it is amazing. Discovery has acquired rights to show the movie on television and is seeking a distributor to put it into theaters. The documentary is different from its genre in that it appears to be about feelings, which is not something the Apollo astronauts are famous for displaying."

Earth Vs The Moon

Blinding Ourselves in Space, opinion, NY Times

"With little new money to carry out these costly tasks, the agency has been forced to rein in other parts of its budget, including earth science studies. Unless Congress gives NASA more funds, the agency should shift money internally to give Earth observations higher priority. Studies that could affect the livability of the planet seem vastly more consequential than completing a space station or returning to the Moon by an arbitrary date."

Today's OpEds

To The Moon And Beyond, Opinion , Michael Griffin, Hartford Courant

"The Pilgrims had to learn to survive in a strange new place across a vast ocean. If we are to become a spacefaring nation, the next generation of explorers is going to have to learn how to survive in other forbidding, faraway places across the vastness of space. The moon is a crucially important stepping stone along that path - an alien world, yet one that is only a three-day journey from Earth."

Japan recommends scrapping moon mission, AP

"Japan's space agency has recommended scrapping its first moon mission after more than a decade of delays, a spokeswoman said Monday, in the latest blow to the country's beleaguered space program. The Lunar-A probe was envisioned as planting two seismic sensors on the lunar surface to gather information about the moon's core and learn more about the origins of the Earth's only natural satellite."

Space travel - Sealing wax and string, The Economist

"When George Bush redirected America's space agency, NASA, away from scientific research and towards manned space exploration in 2004, many were disappointed. Human spaceflight is expensive and, since the end of the Apollo programme in 1972, has yielded little or nothing in the way of science. Robotic missions, by contrast, have visited every planet in the solar system, many moons, several asteroids and even the odd comet. This week plans were unveiled to mitigate the disaster. Scientists from three continents, having accepted the inevitable, have been working quietly on plans to rescue something useful from it. Intriguingly, their chosen forum has been not NASA, but the European Space Agency, ESA."

Griffin Says NASA Will Protect CEV, Station Against Flat-Budget Squeeze, Aviation Now

"We will find what we believe are the lowest priority half-billion dollars in content, and we'll extract it, across the agency," he says, stressing that does not mean programs at the core of the redirected U.S. space program as defined by President Bush almost three years ago. "I will do everything I can to keep Orion and Ares I on schedule," he says. "That will be right behind keeping shuttle and station on track, and then after that we'll fill up the bucket with our other priorities."

Space Generation Advisory Council Survey: Key Events in the Next 50 Years of Space

Editor's note: The Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC) is organizing a survey to find out what visions for the next 50 years of space are shared by the world's youth: "The input sought at this time are key events and timing that are thought to be important for space activities over the next 50 years. We hope to capture the input in a publication tentatively titled: "Looking Back, Looking Forward: The Next Generation's 50-Year Vision for Space"

Editor's note: Allan Miller, Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow at the National Science Foundation - and a NASA Educator Astronaut finalist - has returned from a tour of duty in and around Antarctica. His journals can be read online at http://www.polartrec.com/allanmillerjournal. Miller was part of an expedition - the first of at least 30 - which will allow classroom teachers to travel to field research sites in the Arctic and Antarctic and work with scientists engaged in many different types of polar research throughout the upcoming International Polar Year (IPY - 2007-2009).

Editor's note: Update from the Sklab Restoration Project: "We received a request for data about the Multiple Docking Adapter (MDA) docking ports from the Orion project at JSC. The MDA docking port may serve as a guide or model (even a good starting point) for Orion's passive docking capability. Skylab's grid decking is servicing as a guide for a new way to mount avionics for Ares 1. It's good to see the Constellation program is drawing on Skylab."

NASA Extends Ares I Development Contract, NASA MSFC

"This Ares I first stage contract action will increase a first stage task under an existing shuttle contract by $48 million for a total work effort valued at $111 million. These activities are a preparatory effort leading up to the Ares I first stage prime contract, which will be awarded in the February 2007 timeframe."

Editor's note: usually when you "extend" a contract it involves adding more time to the time period under which work is performed - as well as more money to pay for that work. NASA only mentions the addition of money in this press release thus giving the impression that this is simply cost coverage - not contract extension.

Astronaut Don Pettit: Greetings From the Bottom of the World

"In May 2003, astronaut Don Pettit returned home from his five-month stay aboard the International Space Station. Living in isolated conditions in an extreme environment, he spent much of his time conducting scientific research. Now, he's doing it again, but this time he's not leaving the planet. Pettit is currently in Antarctica on a scientific expedition to look for meteorites."

Don Pettit's Space Chronicles on Ice:

IFPTE Calls for Balanced and Transparent NASA Budget Preserving Science & Aero, Core Technical Capabilities Achievable Within FY06 baseline

IFPTE Letter To House and Senate Democratic Appropriators Regarding NASA FY 2007 Budget

"The Vision for Space Exploration is deeply embedded in the American psyche and cannot be dismissed as a mere political ploy or passing fancy. Administrator Griffin has performed a masterful job of moving this Vision towards reality and deserves high praise for the successes thus far in the Return-to-Flight of the Shuttle and in the Preparation-for- Flight of the new Exploration Vehicles. Although the budgets, schedule, and contracts of the Vision will need to be carefully scrutinized as we move into FY08, Dr. Griffin and NASA have earned the small budgetary increase needed in FY07 to keep the Constellation program moving forward at a reasonable pace and thus to minimize the gap between Shuttle retirement and the first manned launch of NASA's next space vehicle."

NASA workers fight layoffs, seek spaceship aid, Government Executive

"In terms of layoffs, Mikulski said, "I do not want any RIFs [reductions in force] at NASA this year or any other year." NASA officials declined to comment on the budget until it is signed into law. NASA headquarters spokesman David Steitz said, "Regardless of budget deliberations, RIFs are not anticipated."

NASA MSFC Solicitation: Ares I Upper Stage Production

"This pre-solicitation notice coincides with the release of a Draft RFP issued for Industry comments. The response due date identified in this synopsis is for the comments to the Draft RFP. Detailed information on the process to submit comments are contained in the attached DRFP cover letter. The anticipated release date of the final RFP is on or about Feb 23, 2007 with an anticipated proposal due date in accordance with the information provided in the Draft RFP."

"Ares I Launch - June 2011
Orion 3 (First Human Flight) Launch - October 2013"

NASA Completes Review Milestone for Ares I Launch Vehicle

"The review process also identifies technical and management challenges, and addresses ways to reduce potential risks as the project goes forward."

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 note: Just after Christmas, an AP article describing NASA's lack of success in reaching a broader, younger generation went online. The article soon found its way into hundreds of newspapers and websites around the world. Around that same time I stumbled across a silly item on a NASA web page touting story ideas - including a suggestion that reporters might want to interview ESMD Deputy AA Doug Cooke about his sailing hobby.


Yesterday, I was reminded of a new PBS series that aired Wednesday evening - one aimed at the younger, techno-savvy sector of our society - the one NASA has problems connecting with. Among the stories was a nicely done piece on NASA's NEEMO project. True to form, NASA PAO did absolutely nothing to promote this upcoming segment - even though a PBS press release specifically mentioned the air date in its title back on 18 December. Of course, neither SOMO or ESMD make any mention of this on their websites.

I suppose one could blame this on the impending holidays - except that this is a common occurrence at NASA these days. NASA constantly complains that people do not know what value it provides - yet they continually stumble over obvious chances to promote things the agency does that can effectively convey that message. And when they are not passing up opportunities, they are wasting them by suggesting to reporters that stories about employee's unrelated off hours hobbies might be more interesting than what NASA does during the day.

And then there is this blog I stumbled across yesterday evening. The enthusiasm this young woman exudes for her new job at NASA is utterly infectious. She describes things at KSC better than many reporters - and certainly better than PAO. Her career aim is unabashed and direct: she intends to become an astronaut - and she is going to tell all of us how she is going to make that happen - in real time. This is the sort of activity - and the sort of people - NASA needs to put forward as its public face.

So long as NASA PAO - and the associated organizations responsible for outreach and public relations - continue to screw up things that colleges teach in Public Relations 101, the more the agency is going to continue to slide down a slippery slope toward increasing irrelevancy. And in so doing, it has no one to blame but itself.

How I am becoming an astronaut, by Damaris Sarria

"I started this blog to document the actions I am taking in trying to become an astronaut.

It's my ultimate goal, my dream.

Every week or so I post a new update to recap the week or add interesting pictures.

I hope you enjoy the site and remember to follow your dreams no matter what others may think of them."

Ignoring NEEMO (Again)

Finding NEEMO, Wired Science, PBS

"Pulitzer Prize winner Dan Neil dives underwater to find NEEMO, NASA's Extreme Environment Mission Operations program, and talks with crewmembers from the underwater lab Aquarius. Aquarius serves as an analog to the International Space Station, as NEEMO crewmembers experience some of the same challenges underwater as they would in space."

Watch: Quicktime | Windows

Editor's note: Once again NASA JSC PAO seems to have no interest whatsoever in promoting NEEMO - including this high visibility PBS production. PBS issued a press release announcing this show back on 18 December 2006 - so its not as if JSC did not know the air date. What has me baffled is why JSC PAO went to all the logistical expense of allowing a reporter visit NEEMO - and then ignored the airing of the report that he prepared - a report that is 100% positive PR for NASA!

On the other hand, HQ PAO does have a link to another PBS Discovery Channel program on this evening which features ISS HDTV footage.

Editor's 4 Jan update: A link to the NEEMO segment suddenly appeared at nasa.gov a few minutes ago ...



Monthly Archives

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries in the Exploration category from January 2007.

Exploration: December 2006 is the previous archive.

Exploration: February 2007 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.