News: December 2004 Archives

Planets Change

The Washington Post has some vivid before and after satellite images of tsunami damage to Sumatra. As you view these images, ponder the fact that this all happened in the blink of an eye.

Planets change - especially our own.

Comments on Sean O'Keefe's resignation? Send them to and we'll post them here. Lets us know if we can use your name as well. Comments already received are listed below:

O'Keefe Departure Views

26 December 2004: NASA's Chief Bails Out

"Sean O'Keefe had the extreme bad luck to take the helm of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration less than 14 months before the shuttle Columbia disintegrated in the skies over Texas, throwing the agency into disarray. Through no great fault of his own, Mr. O'Keefe is leaving the space program in worse shape than he found it."

26 December 2004: O'Keefe's life goal was just to teach, The Adocate

"President Bush recruited him back to Washington to be NASA administrator in 1991 at a time when the agency was reeling with space station cost overruns. "You don't want an engineer to fix a budget problem, you need a financial manager," said Howard McCurdy, an American University public administration professor who has tracked NASA for the past two decades. "He agreed to do it, and he actually did it."

Name Game Update

22 December 2004: Editor's note: Sources now tell me that not only is Bob Walker's name not under consideration for NASA Administrator, but moreover, that he has made it clear to those who ask that he is not interested in the job.

19 December 2004: Editor's note: After a week of speculation and rumor mongering the following evolution of the purported names being considered for NASA Adminstrator has developed:

Names still in play: Steidle and Walker, and to a lesser extent, Kadish and Worden (despite Brownback's endorsement).

Names no longer in play: Bolden, Sega, Crippen, Culbertson, Elachi

They're Worried in Houston

22 December 2004: Lockheed to shed 1,000 local positions, Houston Chronicle

"Lockheed Martin will shut down as many as 1,000 jobs in Houston, following a decision by NASA last week to award a $1 billion contract to competitor Sverdrup Technology."

16 December 2004: NASA Awards Engineering & Science Contract

"A five-year contract to support engineering and science at NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC), Houston, has been awarded to Sverdrup Technology Inc., doing business as Jacobs Sverdrup. The contract has a total potential value of $1.15 billion."

Recreating a Piece of History

Block I Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC): How to build one in your basement

"This report describes my successful project to build a working reproduction of the 1964 prototype for the Block I Apollo Guidance Computer. The AGC is the flight computer for the Apollo moon landings, and is the words's first integrated circuit computer. I built it in my basement. It took me 4 years. If you like, you can build one too. It will take you less time, and yours will be better than mine."

Editor's note: You can contact the man behind this project, John Pultorak here.. In reading of this project, I am reminded of those who have built working replicas of Babbage's Difference Engine, The Antikythera Mechanism (an ancient Greek astronomical computer), and some of Leonardo's inventions. Go here for more information on the Apollo Guidance Computer.

Of course, there is also the woman in Oregon who recently put an entire Commodore 64 on a single chip.

20 December 2004: Professor Grinch, Space Review

"[Alex] Roland is always cited as a "former NASA historian," which supposedly lends weight to his comments. However, the reality is that Roland last worked as a NASA historian in 1981. Yes, you can be a "former" something forever, but two decades is starting to stretch things. A review of social science databases does not reveal any scholarly publications by Roland on the subject of human spaceflight in the past decade other than a few book reviews."

Background and contact information for Alex Roland

19 December 2004: Departing NASA Administrator O'Keefe's tenure offers a case study that warns us what the space agency shouldn't do next, Editorial, Houston Chronicle

"What NASA does not need is another administrator who can count the beans but can't see to the stars."

18 December 2004: NASA: Only the bold need apply, OpEd, Cooky Oberg, Houston Chronicle

"Worse, the arrogant, defensive, know-it-all NASA culture that was blamed for the Columbia disaster by the panel that investigated the calamity has not been changed or reformed by O'Keefe -- inviting speculation that trouble lies ahead. More than at any time in its history, NASA needs some tough love. President Bush will need to appoint a no-nonsense NASA administrator who has the technical background to understand space systems and the implications of his decisions -- something O'Keefe lacked with his narrow, bean-counting background."

Editor's note: You know, after reading these OpEds, and comments from NASA Watch readers, I am almost certain that the media (who have never worked at NASA) - and the employees of NASA (who do work there) - are never going to be satisified with who is at the helm of NASA.

Erasing History (update)

Editor's note: It would seem that there is still imagination at work at Downey in Bldg. 1:

18 December 2004: Out of This World - The Designer Behind 'Lemony Snicket', Washington Post

"Shot on 10 soundstages on the Paramount lot here and at a retired aerospace factory in nearby Downey (where Boeing made space shuttles and where the filmmakers built the largest indoor water tank in North America), the environment created for "Lemony Snicket" is entirely the handmade creation of Hollywood: Not a scene was filmed outdoors or on location."

12 October 2004: Former NASA site beginning its transformation, Press-telegram

"What was formerly a hub of the aerospace industry took its first step toward transformation into what city leaders expect will be a vital economic engine for Downey."

Editor's note: There was a lot of history in this facility. In the early 80's I worked in Building 1 for a number of years. As I walked past parts of Space Shuttles Discovery and Atlantis being assembled, echoes of Apollo were everywhere. I hope someone is saving some of that.

17 December 2004: GenCorp Elects Charles F. Bolden to its Board of Directors; Robert A. Wolfe to Resign

"GenCorp Inc. announced today that Charles F. Bolden, Jr. has been elected to join its board of directors effective January 1, 2005."

O'Keefe Gets the Job

16 December 2004: Departing NASA chief recommended as next LSU chancellor, AP

"A search committee unanimously recommended O'Keefe for the post Thursday afternoon and the LSU Board of Supervisors also unanimously voted to offer him the job that evening."

16 December 2004: O'Keefe accepts LSU position, Houston Chronicle via Orlando Sentinel

"I am delighted to be the seventh chancellor of Louisiana State University," O'Keefe said to board Chairman Stewart Slack. "I accept, sir."

No Hope for NASA?

16 December 2004: Astronaut Says Space Shuttle Safer, AP

"Legendary astronaut John Young said Thursday, on the verge of his retirement, that NASA has not changed its safety culture since the Columbia accident but has done all it can to improve the space shuttle and should return to flight as soon as possible. NASA and the nation should just accept the failure rate of 1-in-57 shuttle flights, Young said, stressing that space exploration is well worth the risk."

Editor's note: To be certain, there is such a thing as 'acceptable risk'. To fly in space, one must accept that a certain level of risk will always be there. But to just throw up your hands, as Young has done, and say nothing has changed - and that its not worth the effort to try and get better - is defeatism of the first order. It is curious that he feels this way when you recall that a contemporary of his, Gene Kranz, coined the phrase "failure is not an option". If someone with Young's incredible career feels this way about NASA, what sort of message does this send to those still at NASA - and those who aspire to work there? Not a good one if you ask me. [And yes folks, thanks for reminding me, I know that Kranz never actually uttered that phrase - but he has since embraced it as his own and titled a book with those words].

Tell me why ....

16 December 2004: Analysis: O'Keefe's exit may save Hubble, UPI

"The timing of NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe's sudden announcement Monday that he was resigning from the space agency to return to the academic world suggests his reasons were more complicated than he stated in public."

Editor's note: Here we go again. Yet another story by a reporter about what he thinks he knows as opposed to what he actually knows. I wonder if he has ever even discussed this topic with Sean O'Keefe. Perhaps he will ask him about this at Friday's press event. Every day I get complaints from NASA Watch readers about the toll their job has taken on them and their families. Why is it so hard to accept the fact that a parent can make their family a priority above the direction other people think their career should take - just because that parent happens to be the Administrator of NASA?

Brownback Endorses Worden

16 December 2004: Brownback Urges General Worden for NASA Administrator

"U.S. Senator Sam Brownback today urged the Bush Administration to choose Brigadier General Simon P. Worden (USAF, Ret.) as the next head of NASA. Worden is a former legislative fellow in Brownback's office."

The Name Game

16 December 2004: Ex-astronaut says NASA job not offered, Knight Ridder

"Retired Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden Jr. is proud his name is among a handful being mentioned as the next head of the U.S. space agency. But he's keeping his day job."

15 December 2004: Walker mentioned for top job at NASA, Intelligencer Journal

"I am not seeking this position and I know nothing about them seeking me for it," Walker said in a statement read by his assistant, Peter Baca."

15 December 2004: NASA's Future Is Rising From 'the Swamp', Washington Post

"So Steidle went, and "I never left," he said. "One day, I'm sitting next to [astronaut] Buzz Aldrin. The next day, I'm sitting with [astronaut] Tom Stafford. The next day, I'm working on programs to go back to the moon. Who couldn't love that?"

A New Low for Florida Today

Editor's note:Florida Today is featuring this cartoon on their website - and presumably in their newspaper. The caption ends with Sean O'Keefe saying "please, I have to do this for me". I just don't get it. Someone (O'Keefe) steps down from a prominent, exciting - even powerful position, so that he can use all of his skills to earn the funds to give his children the best education he can provide - as well as spend more time with them after 4 years of earning substantially less than he is capable of earning - and spending far too much time away from home. And all Florida Today can do is mock his sincerity. How creepy - and hypocritical as well given all of the ink Florida Today gives to issues affecting the KSC workforce and their families. If I were a reporter for Florida Today I'd be embarassed to work for such a publication.

15 December 2004: Bush Prepares for Possible GPS Shutdown

"President Bush has ordered plans for temporarily disabling the U.S. network of global positioning satellites during a national crisis to prevent terrorists from using the navigational technology, the White House said Wednesday."

14 December 2004: United States - Russian Federation Joint Statement on the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS) and the Russian Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS)

"Both sides reiterated their commitment to continuing these talks and reaffirmed that the United States and the Russian Federation intend to continue to provide the GPS and GLONASS civil signals appropriate for commercial, scientific and safety of life use on a continuous, worldwide basis, free of direct user fees."

"Shortly before his resignation as NASA Administrator, Sean O'Keefe sat down with Aerospace America to discuss the president's space exploration initiative, and how NASA will proceed with its implementation."

Full article (PDF)

O'Keefe Visits LSU

15 December 2004: NASA chief's rsum alluring, The Advocate

15 December 2004: Former NASA chief hopes for chancellor job despite a limited background, The Advocate

"The first - and possibly last - LSU chancellor candidate to visit the university said today that he hopes his limited background in education will be enough to get him the job."

15 December 2004: O'Keefe visits LSU campus, UPI

"O'Keefe's resume was e-mailed to the student body, and they were excited to hear about his open door policy for students when he was at Syracuse University."

15 December 2004: Missile Defense Flight Test Conducted, Missile Defense Agency

"The Missile Defense Agency announced today it was unable to complete a planned flight test after the interceptor missile experienced an anomaly shortly before it was to be launched from the Ronald Reagan Test Site, Republic of the Marshall Islands, in the central Pacific Ocean."

Everyone Has An Opinion

15 December 2004: Sean O'Keefe's tenure, OpEd, Orlando Sentinel

"Sean O'Keefe led NASA during a tumultuous time. Even so, he will leave the space agency in better shape than when he became its administrator three years ago."

15 December 2004: NASA in Wonderland, OpEd, LA Times

"Lavishing billions on nostalgically rich but scientifically poor missions like returning astronauts to the moon, the budget starves NASA of funding for projects with abundant scientific worth."

Cuts a LaRC Spark Concerns

15 December 2004: Cuts at NASA Langley surprise some, Daily Press

"NASA Langley officials downplayed the cuts, saying financial adjustments will come as the center reorganizes under the exploration priority."

Sean O'Keefe Has Resigned

13 December 2004: NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe Resigns

"Administrator Sean O'Keefe, who over the past three years led the National Aeronautics and Space Administration through an aggressive and comprehensive management transformation and helped the agency through one of its most painful tragedies, resigned today. In his resignation letter to the President the Administrator wrote, "I will continue until you have named a successor and in the hope the Senate will act on your nomination by February."

O'Keefe to Depart NASA

11 December 2004: NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe to Depart Soon, SpaceRef

"Sean O'Keefe will step down as NASA Administrator."

Editor's note: The White House will release O'Keefe's formal letter of resignation as early as Monday but no later than Tuesday. As to when O'Keefe will speak publicly, given that LSU will make its decision on chosing a new Chancellor on Thursday, it is all but certain, according to NASA sources, that O'Keefe will give an all hands speech to the agency on Friday.

13 December 2004: NASA's O'Keefe to leave, Orlando Sentinel

"White House press secretary Scott McClellan said today that O'Keefe had indicated that he plans to resign. President Bush has not yet received a resignation letter from O'Keefe, White House spokesman Taylor Gross said."

O'Keefe Departure Analysis

13 December 2004: NASA Chief Is Resigning After 3 Years, Officials Say, NY Times

"Dr. John Logsdon, director of George Washington University's Space Policy Institute, said in an interview on Sunday that it was generally believed in Washington that Mr. O'Keefe was hoping for a high position at the Pentagon in the second Bush administration."

Editor's note:Just because something is "generally believed" doesn't mean that it is true, John.

12 December 2004: NASA chief applies for LSU chancellor, AP

"[Joel Tohline] said O'Keefe was the 21st applicant, and the committee is still encouraging other people to apply. He wouldn't say whether any others among the half-dozen they're "very interested in" are among the 21 who have applied."

12 December 2004: O'Keefe expected to leave NASA job, Orlando Sentinel

"The news of O'Keefe's decision was first reported by, a Web site that tracks the space program. There has been speculation in Washington for months that O'Keefe might leave to go back to the Pentagon."

11 December 2004: O'Keefe poised to step down from NASA post, Houston Chronicle

"O'Keefe's tenure has been marked by triumph and tragedy, none more pivotal than Columbia's breakup. He embraced the reforms outlined in the often critical findings of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board. Investigators concluded that O'Keefe inherited rather than instigated the safety and management lapses the led to loss."

11 December 2004: Reports: NASA chief Sean O'Keefe may leave agency, CBS/Spaceflight Now

"While many NASA insiders never warmed to O'Keefe's bureaucratic style, one said today "we've got a vision and the funding to go with it and we wouldn't have had it without him." "As far as what he brought to the agency, he brought the agency closer to the administration, got us support from the administration, got the administration's backing for the funding to go with it," he said. "So for that, you've got to give him high marks."

7 December 2004: NASA Internal Memo: Immediate Freeze on All Nonessential Publications and Materials, NASA HQ

"We have taken a macro look at many of our most frequently distributed communications material. As a result of this effort, we have identified areas of significant duplication, redundancy, and waste among many of these materials that must also be reviewed from both a consistency in messaging and cost-perspective basis. Therefore, effective this date, I am ordering an immediate Agencywide freeze on the design and production of all nonessential publications and communications material produced anywhere in the Agency.This freeze is applicable to all offices at Headquarters, NASA Centers, including JPL, and component facilities."


8 December 2004: JPL Community Mourns Loss of Three Colleagues, NASA JPL

"The Laboratory is mourning the loss of Dorothy Forks, an employee in JPL's Human Resources Department; Jane Galloway, a manager in JPL's Business Operations Office and Kerri Lynn Agey, an administrator for Wackenhut Security, a contractor at JPL."

We Owe it All to Bob Zubrin

"The Mars Underground is the incredible true tale of one scientist fighting impossible odds to change the direction of the space program, turn science fiction into science fact and lead human beings into the next great frontier."

NAC Changes Ahead

7 December 2004: NASA advisory panel to split?, Huntsville Times

"How the board will be transformed will be decided at its meeting today, but there has been discussion in the past of dividing the council, with one board having a slant toward government policy and another a focus on science."

Dick Keefe Has Died

Editor's note: J. Richard Keefe, known to all of us NASA life science alumni as "Dick", died last night of pancreatic cancer. Dick was one of the most dedicated NASA employees I ever had the pleasure to know. He was also a sheer joy to work with. Pick up a NASA life science planning document at random. Search back and trace the document back to its base assumptions or key references. You will see Dick's name at the end of every search. His impact is much more than many people will ever know. He will be missed.


6 December 2004: Inside the Ring, Washington Times

"Word has reached us that one potential replacement for a senior position at the Pentagon is Sean O'Keefe, a former Navy secretary who now heads the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Mr. O'Keefe is a close ally of Vice President Dick Cheney and could end up with the jobs of deputy or even secretary of defense."

Editor's note: Highly unlikely. Indeed, very unlikely.

Moving On

5 December 2004: John Young will retire from NASA, Orlando Sentinel

"He will be honored for his 42-year NASA career during a celebration Tuesday at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington."

Here Come the Buyouts

3 December 2004: NASA Langley makes buyout offer, Daily Press

"In an unusual move, five NASA centers, including Langley, simultaneously announced early-out options for government workers."

Editor's note: The following notice was sent by email to all NASA LaRC civil servants this morning at 7:49 am: "There will be an All Hands Meeting on Friday, December 3, 2004 from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. at the Reid Conference Center with overflow at the Pearl Young Theater. All NASA civil service employees are encouraged to attend and I will bring you up to date on some important activities at the Center. If you cannot attend, the meeting will also be televised on NASA TV Langley Channel 9. However, questions will only be taken from the RCC or PYT. Cordially, Roy D. Bridges Jr."

2 December 2004: NASA Administrator O'Keefe Meets with CNSA Administrator Sun, NASA HQ

"Photo: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator Sean O'Keefe (r) welcomes Administrator Sun, China National Space Administration (CNSA) to NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC. Administrator Sun and his delegation came to NASA Headquarters for a courtesy visit."



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This page is an archive of entries in the News category from December 2004.

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