Exploration: May 2007 Archives

Editor's Note: I was supposed to be at a media briefing with Scott Horowitz at NASA HQ today - right now. But chores associated with the morning's news stories threw me off schedule. Also, for some reason, ESMD PAO refuses to allow telephone hookups for these events (as nearly all other PAO events ususally do) so I was unable to listen in. The topic was advertised as being "Management 101". Oh well, I guess that would have been interesting. I suppose I could have asked him about Marsha Ivins' role in his organization - and her management style.

Editor's note: This letter (500 KB PDF) was written by a NASA subcontractor to JSC management in February 2007 regarding experiences on Constellation outreach and public relations.

Multiple NASA sources have authenticated this document - yet I have deleted information that would easily identify the author. This letter has been making the rounds, via faxed photocopies of photocopies, so I am certain it won't be that heard for someone to identify the author if they have a mind to do so. I just do not want to make it easier for that to happen than I need to. The reason: people who speak out at NASA often find future work prospects suddenly evaporating. Besides, it is the content of this letter that is important, not the identity of its author.

I find myself in near total agreement with the opinions expressed by the author with regard to the dysfunctional way NASA conducts public affairs and outreach. As to the problems the agency has in carrying such activities out, the author describes them perfectly. The author also offers some intelligent analysis and solutions that NASA would do well to consider.

Several years ago, something called "One NASA" appeared on everyone's to do list at NASA. It sounded great - for about 10 seconds - until you realized what it actually called for: the agency acting as one cohesive, integrated entity with all people and organizations helping one another so as to speak with a unified voice. In other words, everyone was supposed to put aside parochial issues and work for the common good.

We all know that NASA is utterly incapable of doing this - especially when it comes to PAO and outreach. Headquarters directorates, programs, and agency field centers all have their own outreach efforts (and budgets) over which PAO or Headquarters (the 9th floor) itself has little or no oversight. And none of these things are ever integrated properly with other projects and programs resulting in needless conflicts and duplications.

And of course, everyone has their little petty political games to play so as to posture themselves, their project, and their field center in a position so as to benefit the most and/or thwart others from doing so. This letter outlines a classic example of how NASA simply cannot get out of its own way. Marsha Ivin's behavior is utterly unprofessional and inexcusable.

I went back and forth as to whether I should post this. I eventually decided that the document already had a wide distribution. But much more importantly, I feel that the author has written some important things that need to be heard. Will posting this make the agency and some people who work there look bad? I guess so. But so long as these problems are allowed to fester unattended - things will only get worse.

The VSE will call upon every resource - and every person - at NASA to contribute together as a team. The activities described in this letter are anything but teamwork.

To be certain, there are people at PAO and Strategic Communications at NASA HQ who are trying to do the right thing and are addressing some of these lingering issues. But if, in the end, NASA is incapable of moving beyond the petty antics and confused messages that are outlined in this letter, the VSE will never result in one single piece of functional hardware.

Comments? Send them to nasawatch@reston.com. Your Comments thus far:

NSS Chief: Can NASA and Bush Get It Done?, WIred

WN: Does space exploration depend on an injection of energy from citizens and entrepreneurs? I'd guess more Americans have heard of Burt Rutan than have heard of Bush's New Visions for Space Exploration.

George Whitesides: (laughs) I think you are right. Absolutely the future of space is participatory. One of the things that NASA needs to break out of is rigid control over product. It really needs to throw opens its processes, its produces and the results of its exploration to the broad population, and not just the elite of science. Make it feel like it not just "the space program," which is over there, but an effort that we are all part of. I don't actually think New Visions will work if NASA pursues a rigid, top-down approach to development.

Lunar robotics office staying put, NASA says, Huntsville Times

"Griffin sent Shelby's office a letter Wednesday saying that the office would remain at Marshall and that several other programs, including a NASA education program and a future space telescope mission, would be included in the budget. Reversing the decision could become a problem for Griffin and his successors, and "it opens up their decisions for further second-guessing," said Keith Cowing, who runs NASAWatch.com. "It makes a joke of any leadership on Mike Griffin's part if he makes a decision and then he reverses it because Senator Shelby or (Rep. Bud) Cramer tell him to back off," Cowing said. "How can NASA administrators actually manage if they constantly have Congress reversing decisions they don't like?"

LSU to Host International Symposium on Risk and Exploration, LSU

"Louisiana State University announced today that it will serve as the host for a symposium devoted to examining how risk factors into the exploration of - and beyond - our home planet. Titled "Risk and Exploration: Earth As A Classroom," this event will be held on the LSU campus from Oct. 28-30 with the financial sponsorship of the Northrop Grumman Corp. This three-day event is modeled after a previous symposium, "Risk and Exploration: Earth, Sea, and the Stars," held in Monterey, Calif., in September 2004."

Editor's note: Several weeks ago NASA posted a number of new artist's depictions of Orion and Ares hardware online. I have been getting emails from readers with these images complete with other website's credit/watermark attached as if the images were exclusive or unreleased. They're not. I suppose I should have posted these links back at the beginning of May. You can find them here: 1 2 3 4

Reader's note: "So just out of curiosity, how does the abort motor plume curve like this without any aero: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/vision/technology/hires/jsc2007e20991.jpg (Apparently copy-paste is not just for word processors any more ...)"

NASA JSC Solicitation: Constellation Program Lunar Lander Project Office

"The Project Office, which is located at JSC, is currently being staffed-up with personnel from across the Agency. The Project Office plans to develop a preliminary government design and, following an independent, agency-wide review, create draft vehicle design requirements. At that point, the Project Office will actively seek comments and input from industry."


NASA Space Simulation and Training Project: NEEMO 12

"May 7-18, 2007, the 12th mission of NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) will take place in the Aquarius habitat off the coast of Key Largo, Florida."

Live webcams
Additional NEEMO Updates
NASA NEEMO 12 Mission Journal Thursday, May 10, 2007
NASA NEEMO 12 Mission Journal Wednesday, May 9, 2007
NASA NEEMO 12 Mission Journal Tuesday, May 8, 2007
NASA NEEMO 12 Mission Journal Monday, May 7, 2007
NASA NEEMO 12 Topside Journal May 6, 2007

Editor's note: While NEEMO is given prominent mention on NASA's home page, (once again) no mention is made on the SOMD or ESMD home pages - the two organizations supporting this project - one with significant public outreach potential.

Building a Better NASA Workforce: Meeting the Workforce Needs for the National Vision for Space Exploration, National Academy of Sciences

"A problem faced by the committee was a lack of data, as well as differing interpretations of future requirements for certain skills and an absence of information correlating levels of expertise required with the numbers of employees anticipated to be needed. Based on available demographic data, however, the committee concluded that, in the broadest sense, there is no looming national shortage of skilled scientists and engineers to implement the VSE over the long term."

Hearing: Building and Maintaining a Healthy and Strong NASA Workforce (17 May 2007)

Plan B for Outer Space, Russell Saunders, Jr.

"As events unfold, it appears that the Vision for Space Exploration (VSE), the President's plan to return humans to the Moon and then onto Mars, is on the classic pride-before-the-fall trajectory. In the spirit of collegial exchanges, I offer the following observations and thoughts for our recovery. To my fellow rocket scientists and space enthusiasts, the time has come let go of last century's space dreams and start working toward a more contemporary future."

Comments? Send them to nasawatch@reston.com Your comments thus far:

Devon Island Update

Haughton-Mars Project Research Station Pre-Field Season Visit Report , Mars Institute

"A pre-field season visit to the Mars Institute's Haughton-Mars Project Research Station on Devon Island was conducted on April 24, 2007."

External webcam (shows greenhouse)
Internal webcam (inside of greenhouse)

Editor's note: Images are updated daily. Ignore the date on the images - they are out of date.

Train Derails Carrying NASA Rocket Motors, AP

Bridge Collapse Causes Train Crash, Fox 6

"A train carrying a load for NASA crashed Wednesday when the bridge it was crossing collapsed, injuring six people."

"From: Cook, Stephen A. (MSFC-JP01)
Sent: Wednesday, May 02, 2007 11:11 AM
To: [Long List]
Subject: ATK train derailment

Team, Just found out there was a derailment of a train car shipment early this morning. Several cars containing new segments coming from Utah are off the track and on their sides by early accounts. The crew in the car that rides along sustained critical injuries. The derailment occured in Pennington, AL. This is a 1st to the best of our knowledge. More to come as the day progresess. Steve"

Russia sees moon plot in Nasa plans, Telegraph

"Mankind's second race for the moon took on a distinctly Cold War feel yesterday when the Russian space agency accused its old rival Nasa of rejecting a proposal for joint lunar exploration. The claim comes amid suspicion in Moscow that the United States is seeking to deny Russia access to an isotope in abundance under the moon's surface that many believe could replace fossil fuels and even end the threat of global warming."

Editor's note: To be certain, there has to be a certain amount of UK tabloid armwaving, Russian paranoia, and bad translations involved here. But the core premise of this article is just goofy i.e. that the U.S. is trying to block Russia from mining Helium-3 on the moon.

NASA denies snubbing Russia's moon offer, New Scientist

"NASA denies that it has received any proposal from Russia to conduct joint moon activities, despite media reports to the contrary. Still, some experts say the US agency is pursuing an increasingly isolationist stance and could be left behind as other nations forge new partnerships to explore space."



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About this Archive

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

Exploration: April 2007 is the previous archive.

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