News: August 2005 Archives

"The N55 ROCKET SYSTEM enables persons to communicate their protest in a concrete way. It is a low tech, low cost, highly efficient hybrid rocket propulsion system, fueled by a mixture of polyethylene and laughing gas (N2O). The N55 ROCKET SYSTEM makes it possible to distribute various things from high altitudes. For example, printed matter or plant seeds could be spread over a vast area.The rocket PROTEST, constructed to protest against large concentrations of power, can carry a payload of 2 kg to an altitude of approximately 5200 m."

LSU turned into emergency relief center for Katrina victims, WKYC

"O'Keefe, a New Orleans native and Loyola graduate, would not mind seeing his brother pass through LSU. "My oldest brother is down there (in New Orleans), and I cant account for where he is," O'Keefe said. "Haven't heard from him in 36 hours."

Editor's note: In addition, other New Orleans residents, former NASA General Counsel Paul Pastorek, and former NASA lawyer Lee Reid find themselves in similiar situations. And of course, many people at Stennis and Michoud are also similarly affected.

Editor's update: O'Keefe spoke with his brother late Tuesday night.

Message from NASA Headquarters - Communicating With the Public, NASA HQ

"To ensure a responsive public communications program and enhance public perception of NASA, each Center has designated a Public Inquiries Officer for managing communications, including letters, e-mails, faxes and telephone inquiries, from the general public." ... " Here is how the E-Gov Initiative works. Effective immediately, if you receive an e-mail from a member of the public, promptly forward it to the designated e-mail address for your Center" ... "In both cases, no follow up is necessary. You will not receive a reply that the e-mail has been successfully accepted, nor will you receive a copy of the response."

Editor's note: This is both utterly hilarious - and sad. I guess this is what passes for "strategic communications" according to Joe Davis. Instead of having the person at NASA who might actually know what they are talking about respond to a taxpayer's inquiry, some PAO flack will now do that instead - and the technical expert to whom the inquiry was addresed will never know how the agency responds. What a wonderful way to make true communication evaporate! Of course, the response time will now be positively glacial - and the response, once sent, will be laced with HQ PAO spin and devoid of the technical content only an expert can provide. No doubt a committee will have to approve every response. If ever there was a single action on the part of NASA that served to make the space agency less responsive and more isolated from the taxpaying public, this is it. Indeed, this action is also indicative of management - starting at the top of the agency (with Mike Griffin) - that is afraid of allowing its people to interact with those who pay their salaries - and whose interests they serve.

Obviously no one at NASA really thought this through. What is the "general public" anyways? Has it ever been formally defined? Does it mean someone who does not work at NASA? If you are a non-NASA scientist asking a NASA civil servant a question, does the PAO filter need to come into play before they respond? If the question is purely technical will PAO get their own independent expertise to answer it (do recall that this process takes the recipient out of the loop). What about asking questions of the contacts listed on all NASA procurement notices? Does PAO now take on that role? If I am an astronomer employed by NASA but send a quick note to someone in my carpool who works on the shuttle program asking when the next shuttle launch is, am I 'general public' (since this is a question many people would ask) ? What about questions asked of NASA speakers at grammar schools - does PAO need to screen them before a speaker responds? If someone sitting next to you on a plane asks you what you do for a living, do you need to check with PAO first?

Comments? Send them to

Editor's note: I stand corrected. Someone at JSC is using their head!

"Hi Keith--You sent a note to Linda Matthews-Schmidt of our staff asking for the value of our grant with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.The value of the grant is $65,000.The funding comes from the same source as money used to maintain the grounds. We are, like Marshall, in a cost-cutting mode and are hoping that the study will result in an environmentally-responsible plan that will allow us to let more of the grounds go to a "natural state," requiring less maintenance in the long run and thereby reduce our spending in that area. Rather than letting the non-native vegetation such as St. Augustine grassrun wild, wearehopingto find native plants thatrequire little or no maintenance. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center ( is a recognized organization that promotes the use of native plants in the ecosystem. Theywill be a good partner in helping us restorenative species to the area and--over the long run--save money in the process of doing so."

Space Elevator Update

Space Elevator Update

"We now have 7 teams that have climber hardware and are intending to show up for the 2005 competition. The competition date has been pushed back 3 weeks - we will start accepting hardware on the original Sept 30th date, but will spend 3 weeks debugging both our infrastructure and the team's hardware - this is the first time this hardware is being brought together, and we expect integration to require some extra time and attention."

A Hoist to the Heavens, IEEE Spectrum

More information at

Editor's note: As far as I can tell the only thing talking head Tony Blankley has ever done in his career is flap his mouth. Otherwise, he doesn't really 'do' anything - certainly nothing risky. But he sure does like to criticize those who do take risks. In this case, his target is STS-114 Commander Eileen Collins who, along with her crew, risked their life in service to their country. Oh, and just to certify his Neanderthal credentials, Blankley also tosses in some sexist jabs at Collins as well.

Geveden Selected as NASA Associate Administrator

"NASA Administrator Michael Griffin today named Rex Geveden as the agency's associate administrator. In this capacity, Geveden has oversight for all the agency's technical missions' areas and field center operations. He will be responsible for programmatic integration between NASA's mission directorates and field centers. He has been serving as acting associate administrator since June."

Earlier post 23 June 2005: Stadd Out - Geveden In as Acting Associate Administrator

"Mike Griffin has appointed Rex Geveden as Acting Associate Administrator. The position will be competed at a later date. Geveden will be responsible for day-to-day operations and management of the Agency. He will also retain his current position as Chief Engineer. Courtney Stadd will reportedly be leaving the 9th floor very soon - perhaps as early as tomorrow."

Editor's note: Even though he has formally left the 9th floor, Courtney Stadd is still very much involved in advising Mike Griffin on management of the agency.

Earlier post 13 July 2005: Stadd Sighting at KSC Press Site

"Alas, despite not having been a NASA civil servant for a number of years, Stadd was sporting a NASA civil servant badge and no discernible media credentials."

NASA Solicitation: Photovoltaic Power System for Hangar One

NASA Proposal Would Prevent Demolition of Moffett Field Landmark, SJ Mercury News

"NASA has a revolutionary vision for Hangar One, the toxics-coated hulk that once housed a dirigible at Mountain View's Moffett Field: Wrap the 200-foot-high landmark with a solar-paneled skin that pumps out electricity. The Silicon Valley icon could become the largest solar-powered building in the state by the end of next year, generating enough juice to power 3,000 homes and house a new aerospace museum. That is, if the U.S. Navy -- charged with the toxic cleanup -- doesn't decide to demolish the hangar first."

A Very Special Advisor

Editor's note: The Mars Society just finished their convention and added some people to their Steering Committee. There is one curious member who apparently remains in that group:

"The Board of Directors voted to allow for a larger Steering Committee. This list is being modified to add new members, and removing a few. This list was last updated August 14, 2005."

Dr. Mike Griffin - Former NASA Associate Administrator for Exploration (U.S.A)

Editor's update: well, they fixed Griffin's title, but he still remains a member of the steering committee which is formally charged with "the duty of determining the policy, campaigns, and projects of the Mars Society." Its rather odd that a sitting administrator would allow himself to be overtly identified with an organization that lobbies Congress.

Cuts Underway at LaRC

NASA LaRC Internal Memo: CD COMM #2005-10 Contract De-scoping

"In response to an anticipated $200 million budget reduction from FY04 to FY06, we are making plans to reduce the scope of about 20 contracts at the Center. Most of the reductions will be in institutional support as well as in areas of research for which we expect reduced or no funding in FY06. We have begun notification and negotiation to identify work that will be reduced, deferred, or cancelled."

Library Downsizing

Memo from NASA Ames Federal Employee Union, IPFTE local 30 Re: "Library Reshaping"

"Despite multiple good faith attempts within the system to mitigate the damage of proposed Library cuts by numerous interested parties over the past few months, you implemented a policy of dumping large numbers of books behind building 202 without proper notice to employees or lower-level management and without adequate safeguards to protect this incredibly valuable asset for the Center, the Agency, and its employees. Many dumpsters filled with books have already been lost (see attached photo taken this Wednesday evening)."

- NASA ARC Solicitation: Packing Dismantling, and Reconstruction of Main Technical Library
- NASA ARC Internal Memo: Library Reshaping

NASA sets its sights on travel to Mars, Boston Globe

"Meanwhile, NASA officials have said the shuttle fleet will be permanently grounded in about 2010. Plans are underway to construct its replacement, the Crew Exploration Vehicle, which will be designed to carry at least 40 people beyond Earth's orbit and eventually to the moon and Mars." ... "NASA officials have said the Crew Exploration Vehicle will be smaller and sleeker, like a giant space airline service that can transport a large human crew to the moon and beyond."

Editor's note: A CEV crew of 40? "giant space airline service"? Who was this reporter talking to at NASA?

Risk and Exploration

Proceedings from the NASA Administrator's Symposium: "Risk and Exploration: Earth, Sea and the Stars"

"The goal of this Symposium is to engage in an open discussion about the issue of risk - identifying it, mitigating it, accepting it - all in the course of exploration. During this symposium, we want to examine the similarities between space exploration and other terrestrial expeditions, and examine how society accepts risk."

Editor's note: For the record, I donated my time to assist in the organization of this symposium and in the editing and preparation of these proceedings and was not compensated in any way by NASA. I thought this was an important topic - one that needed discussion - within and outside of NASA.

Editor's rant note: I would urge all members of the media covering NASA - all of whom (apparently) consider themselves competent enough (in one way or another) to expound on the issue of acceptable risk to take the time to read the presentations contained in this volume. Rarely does anyone take the time to set the risks - and rewards - inherent in NASA's exploration activities against the broader context of the risks that we and others take in our daily lives - risks we deem to be perfectly acceptable. Moreover, when set against the even broader context of the risks taken in history of exploration, NASA's efforts are often vastly safer by far - even when all accidents are taken into account. Yet you would not get that impression from reading recent news and editorial accounts.

Spaceship Earth - An astronaut is up above the clouds, National Review Online

"With the shuttle seemingly falling apart around her, Collins might spend a little time worrying about how she's going to get her crew safely back to terra firma, even if it is badly polluted. Home, sweet home be it ever so humble."

Editor's note: Ah, the semi-weekly space update from the ill-informed wonks at the National Review Online - you know, the guys who sit behind their desks all day - and their spouse picks them up in the SUV at the train station at 5:30. Meanwhile, Eileen flies a spaceship for a living.

I'll take Eileen's "view from above the clouds" over the rants of some armchair wannabes - any day of the week.

Anti-astronaut Tripe From NRO (earlier post)

Chase to move to NASA HQ

Editor's 6 Aug note: Brian Chase is now listed as "AA Legislative Affairs" in NASA's personnel database (uniqueIdentifier: HQ010169) and has been assigned an email address.

Editor's 30 Jul note: Brian Chase, currently at the Space Foundation will be joining NASA soon as AA for Legislative Affairs.

Reinventing History

Redesign Is Seen for Next Craft, NASA Aides Say, NY Times

"By drawing on existing technology, the plan is meant to speed President Bush's goal of revitalizing human space exploration. At the same time, it would upend the strategy of NASA's previous administrator, Sean O'Keefe, who wanted to discard the shuttle in favor of military rockets, which would have required costly upgrades to make them safe for humans. And their payloads would have been relatively small, requiring strings of multiple rocket launchings."

Editor's note: There are some serious errors in this paragraph in Bill Broad's article: Mike Griffin is far more eager to get rid of the space shuttle than Sean O'Keefe ever was; no decision to use EELVs was ever made by O'Keefe; and Shuttle derived launch systems, such as are now being proposed, have been under study since the moment the VSE was announced. Indeed, if you go to this 17 Feb 2004 presentation, made by Mike Kostelnick just one month after the President's VSE speech, you will see SRB/CEV and ET/Cargo launch systems pictured on slides 11 and 13.

Shuttle replacement to have familiar look, New Scientist

"The shuttle-derived launcher (SDL) is another break with the decisions of Griffin's predecessor, Sean O'Keefe, who had favoured replacing the shuttle with bigger versions of existing "evolved expendable launch vehicles".

Editor's note: 6 Aug: It would seem that Jeff Hecht at New Scientist is under the same missimpression as to what happened before Mike Griffin arrived on the scene.

Politics at JSC on Friday

Sen. Hutchison to Tour Johnson Space Center, Meet with Administrator Griffin

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Congressman Tom DeLay To Speak to Discovery's Crew, and Meet With Media

NASA Administrator Announces Media Roundtable

"NASA Administrator Michael Griffin hosts a media roundtable discussion this afternoon at NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC). The Administrator will discuss a variety of topics including the Space Shuttle Discovery Return to Flight mission (STS-114)."

NASA Watch on the Air

Editor's note: I was on CSPAN's Washington Journal this morning starting at 7:45 am EDT and will be on CNN radio this afternoon at 2:00 pm EDT.

Slipping in the Polls

Poll: Public Up In Air On Shuttle, CBS

"Americans have become more concerned about the costs and risks of the Shuttle program. While a majority still thinks the Space Shuttle is worth continuing, the program receives its lowest level of support in this poll since CBS News started asking about it in 1986."

From Giant Leaps to Baby Steps, OpEd by Gene Kranz, NY Times

"To read and listen to the coverage about the space shuttle, you would think NASA's mission team has taken careless risks with the lives of the seven astronauts who went into space on the Discovery last Tuesday. During the launching, foam fell off the external tank. For the risk-averse, the only acceptable thing to do now is retire the shuttle program immediately and wait for the divine arrival of the next generation of spacecraft. I am disgusted at the lack of courage and common sense this attitude shows."

Editor's note: Contrast that with with this:

New slogan at NASA: Confusion is an option, Editorial, Palm Beach Post

"NASA deserves credit for being so transparent with the public during what is the most scrutinized space mission in history. Administrators have amplified damage, however, with their confusing statements and reversals. NASA is better off saying nothing or admitting that it doesn't know, rather than making comments that have to be retracted the next day. Floridians have a stake in the agency's future because of the thousands of jobs throughout the state that depend on the space program."

Editor's note: And this:

The View from Here: Lily-Livered Pansies, Elliot G. Pulham President & Chief Executive Officer Space Fopundation

"No country ever built an airplane by running for the hills and abandoning the program the first time a bolt sheared or a rivet popped during test flight. Our effort to conquer the seas was not cast on the trash heap of history the first time some ship sprung a leak. These points seem to be lost on our current generation of lily-livered commentators and pundits, and even a few faint-hearted friends in Congress."

Bush on Space

Bush confident NASA will achieve Mars goal (Interview), Houston Chronicle

"I am confident NASA will be able to implement the vision I laid out and that is to use the moon as an exploratory base to go further into space," Bush said in a wide-ranging interview with five Texas newspapers."

News From Hampton

Strangely silent, opinion, Daily Press

"An advocacy and lobbying group, NASA Aeronautics Support Team, supported by local governments, has worked behind the scenes to try to gain ground in Washington. It's time to wonder: When will there be some in-front-of-the-scenes action, some noise from the community, some demonstration of support for NASA Langley and aeronautics? When will the speechifying, hand-wringing and battle-crying begin in aid of NASA Langley?"



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