"Ask the White House" - Wednesday's guest at 4:00pm (ET): Dr. John Marburger, Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy
News: January 2006 Archives
Heavens, what a waste of space, long pointless rant, Times of London
"As Nasa remembers the Challenger astronauts, it should pay them a tribute that is 20 years overdue. The shuttle's next flight should be to the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum, and the grandiose Moon and Mars plans belong in the bin. The bad-taste joke of 1986 was that Nasa stood for Need Another Seven Astronauts. In truth, it doesn't need any at all."
Editor's note: Mark Henderson: and the last time the UK launched humans into space, or sent humans (or anything for that matter) to the moon was ...? And what happened to your hitchhiking Mars probe (can you say "splat")? Call back when you folks actually accomplish something in space, Mark. Our biggest failures accomplished more than your greatest successes.
Editor's update: To those several U.K. residents who sent me comments this morning suggesting that the Times does not speak for the U.K.: please show me an editorial from a UK publication about American space exploration which does not dump on the U.S.
Editor's update: Apparently there are non-snarky voices in the UK:
In praise of ... Stardust, The Guardian
"Good science cannot long persist in an atmosphere of intimidation. Political figures ought to be reviewing their public statements to make sure they are consistent with the best available science; scientists should not be reviewing their statements to make sure they are consistent with the current political orthodoxy.
NASA is clearly doing something wrong, given the sense of intimidation felt by Dr. Hansen and others who work with him. Even if this sense is a result of a misinterpretation of NASA policies - and more seems to be at play here - the problem still must be corrected."
Mike Griffin After Nine Months, Orlando Sentinel
"Orlando Sentinel: 2006 is an election year. Your predecessor, Mr. [Sean] O'Keefe, went out and campaigned for some candidates. Do you plan to do the same?
Griffin: No. I don't know if Mr. O'Keefe did that or not, but my understanding of the Hatch Act is that I am prohibited from engaging in political activities or supporting particular candidates. So I certainly will not be doing that."
Editor's note: Let me get this correct, Mike: are you saying publicly that Sean O'Keefe may have broken the law? You really should check with the experts on things like this - and what you can and can't do as a Senate-confirmed, Presidential appointee.
Political Activity and the Federal Employee, OSC (PDF)
"NASA selected the mishap investigation board to determine why the Demonstration of Autonomous Rendezvous Technology (DART) spacecraft did not complete its mission on April 15."
Editor's note: It has been more than 9 months. Why hasn't there been any word as to when the DART Mishap Investigation Board will issue its findings? The results of the investigation have actually been known by NASA for quite some time.
"The year 2005 may have been the warmest year in a century, according to NASA scientists studying temperature data from around the world."
Debate on Climate Shifts to Issue of Irreparable Change, Washington Post
"When Hansen posted data on the Internet in the fall suggesting that 2005 could be the warmest year on record, NASA officials ordered Hansen to withdraw the information because he had not had it screened by the administration in advance, according to a Goddard scientist who spoke on the condition of anonymity."
"Dean Acosta, deputy assistant administrator for public affairs at the space agency, said there was no effort to silence Dr. Hansen. "That's not the way we operate here at NASA," he said. "We promote openness and we speak with the facts."
"The fresh efforts to quiet him, Dr. Hansen said, began in a series of calls after a lecture he gave on Dec. 6 at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. In the talk, he said that significant emission cuts could be achieved with existing technologies, particularly in the case of motor vehicles, and that without leadership by the United States, climate change would eventually leave the earth "a different planet."
The administration's policy is to use voluntary measures to slow, but not reverse, the growth of emissions.
After that speech and the release of data by Dr. Hansen on Dec. 15 showing that 2005 was probably the warmest year in at least a century, officials at the headquarters of the space agency repeatedly phoned public affairs officers, who relayed the warning to Dr. Hansen that there would be "dire consequences" if such statements continued, those officers and Dr. Hansen said in interviews."
Editor's note: In the mean time, while NASA PAO can't quite figure out what is or is not being done to pressure/not pressure Dr. Hansen with regards to his data, the U.S. State Department has reissued Hansen's news (NASA Scientists Say 2005 Was the Warmest Year in a Century) for dissemination around the world - with a link to a recent press release at NASA and a link to additional data at GISS - a page that includes a link to Hansen's supposedly notorious 64 page 6 Dec 2005 AGU presentation. This story is also the top link on the State Department's Climate Change page
If higher ups in the Administration are so upset about this, then why are they so overtly linking to Hansen's work over at the U.S. State Department? This strikes me as yet another instance of one hand not knowing what the other is doing at NASA PAO - and of NASA's frequent disconnect within the NASA's Strategic Communications office with regard to the broader aspects of White House policy outside space exploration.
'Greatest risk is to take no risk', Orlando Sentinel
"The children of the seven astronauts who died aboard shuttle Columbia three years ago received an avalanche of condolences from around the world, but one heartfelt message was unique."
"The widow of Challenger's commander laid a wreath of roses and carnations at a memorial honoring fallen astronauts, just miles from the launch pad where the doomed space shuttle blew apart 73 seconds after lifting off 20 years ago Saturday."
'Mars' looks fine, thanks to IMAX, USA Today
'Roving Mars' Seizes An Opportunity With Spirit, Washington Post
Editor's note: Everyone I have talked to has said that "Roving Mars" is an amazing film. Hoping to avoid a multi-hour trip into and out of downtown Washington just to see it (and write a review) I thought I'd drive 10 miles to see it at the Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center next to Dulles Airport. Well, in order to see "Roving Mars" at the Udvar-Hazy Center you have to pay $8.50 admission (no complaint). But you also have to pay $12.00 to park. That's $20.50 for one person to see a film 40 minutes long. Oh well, at least I have several places close to home where I can see it eventually. Meanwhile, people who work at JPL (on the actual ongoing rover mission itself) have to travel hundreds of miles to the bay area (Dublin, San Jose, or San Francisco) to see it - even though there are IMAX theaters all over southern California. You'd think that some of the same creativity that went into the mission - and the film - and the generosity of LockheedMartin - would be put into making this film a little more accessible to the public by IMAX - and the Smithsonian.
Editor's note: Once again, like clockwork, NASA has issued two ever-so-slightly different versions of the same space station status report within minutes of each other (see earlier post).
All of the text in these two reports which is identical has been put in boldface. This week (see below) it would seem that the contribution made by either J.D. Harrington (HQ PAO) and/or James Hartsfield (JSC PAO) was to take a status report issued a few minutes earlier by MCC, remove two paragraph breaks, and insert a new one. Or maybe it was the other way around. Either way, this is just plain silly. Why not just send ONE version of this status report instead of having one group prepare it and then have some PAO folks doing pointless edits - and charging to overhead for the time that this needless and redundant task takes - and then sending BOTH reports out to the same distribution list. There's no "strategic communication" at work here.
NASA HQ Special Notice: NASA's Day of Remembrance [Long - internal distribution]
Administrator's Statement on NASA's Day of Remembrance [Short - public distribution]
Editor's note: It seems a little odd to me that such a short statement would be issued for public consumption - yet a longer (better) version is distributed internally. One would think that such sentiments would be the same - and shared equally - regardless of the audience. Meanwhile, NASA.gov has a nice flash presentation. Oh well - yet another quirky aspect of Mike Griffin's PAO.
Reader note: "JPL is sending employees home today due to the flying debris, falling trees and building damage caused by 80 MPH winds. It's incredible to watch: gusts punish one tree while the one next to it stands completely still until the wind shifts and hits it too. There are drifts of debris everywhere."
"The blaze was quickly contained after burning about 10 acres but firefighters remained concerned that the wind, gusting to as high as 80 mph, could kick up embers and ignite new blazes."
Navy to name ship after Alan Shepard, Manchester Union Leader
"Astronaut Alan Shepard Jr. added another feather to his cap yesterday: a 1,000-foot combat ship that will join the U.S. Navy's fleet by March 2007"
T-AKE Program, General Dynamics
"The T-AKE 1 is a dry cargo/ammunition ship, the lead ship in the Lewis and Clark class. Designed to operate independently for extended periods at sea while providing underway replenishment services, the T-AKE will directly contribute to the ability of the Navy to maintain a forward presence."
Editor's note: The first two ships in this class are named for American explorers: USNS Lewis and Clark and USNS Sacagawea.
"GRIFFIN: We are not, in your words, we are not "whacking" the space science program to pay for human exploration. This is not "The Sopranos," we don't whack people or programs here. We have, of course, in this nation I do not need to be the one to tell you this a difficult budgetary environment. NASA is not looking forward or expecting any gifts of robust growth from either the administration or the Congress. We expect to keep approximately the funding we have, which will essentially be a very low growth funding profile and therefore, all of the components, each separate component of what NASA does can expect to have, at best, only modest growth. The difference between cuts and modest growth, I guess, needs to be explained to people. I think we're doing well and within NASA the space science program is doing well and will continue to do well."
Editor's note: With regard to "we don't whack people or programs here.", I hate to be the one to break the news to you, but that is exactly what you've done, Mike. Look what has happened to NASA's life sciences programs - and the people who did that work - during your tenure. This was a capability that took decades to create - then it was gone in an instant. Sure sounds like it has been "whacked" to me.
Hickam will speak at rites for 12 miners, Huntsville Times
"Huntsville author Homer Hickam, whose family is from the mining town of Coalwood, W. Va., will speak today in Buckhannon, W. Va., at the memorial service for the 12 miners killed in the Sago Mine disaster. Hickam, author of "Rocket Boys" and books about his coal-mining roots, was invited by officials to attend the memorial."
Take a leap into hyperspace, New Scientist
Welcome to Mars express: only a three hour trip, The Scotsman
"An extraordinary "hyperspace" engine that could make interstellar space travel a reality by flying into other dimensions is being investigated by the United States government. The hypothetical device, which has been outlined in principle but is based on a controversial theory about the fabric of the universe, could potentially allow a spacecraft to travel to Mars in three hours and journey to a star 11 light years away in just 80 days, according to a report in today's New Scientist magazine."
"This paper describes a novel space propulsion technique, based on an extension of a unified field theory in a quantized, higher-dimensional space, developed by the late B. Heim (1977) in the 50s and 60s of the last century, termed Heim Quantum Theory (HQT)."
Reader comment: Marc G. Millis, from NASA GRC Notes: "I have recently been barraged with requests to comment about the Heim theory and its "hyperspace" propulsive implications as posted in New Scientist, 7-Jan-2006. The New Scientist article is online, but only for subscribers: http://www.newscientist.com/
My assessments below are only a cursory response rather than the result of a full technical review. If I had done a full technical review, I would have submitted it to a journal. Given the level of interest, however, and the habit that many of us have to jump to conclusions (pro or con), I thought I should comment.
"A faulty digital television receiver has sparked a helicopter rescue mission after sending out a rogue distress signal, the Royal Air Force said. The "freeview" box -- which normally allows television viewers access to dozens of digital TV and radio channels via a standard, rooftop aerial -- sent out a signal identical to that for emergency beacons at sea."
"We need to develop a lot of new technologies to build a life-supporting system, a space capsule with safety features to survive and a recovery operation to complete the mission. "If it is decided, we do not want to lag behind in our preparations," Nair said, adding it will take at least seven to eight years for the agency to prepare for the mission."
Electrical Fire Breaks Out At NASA, New Channel 5
"A fire broke out inside a building at NASA Glenn Research Center, NewsChannel5 reported."
Editor's update: Internal GRC email from Safety and Mission Assurance Directorate describing event:
Lockheed rapped for skipping Genesis test, Rocky Mountain News
"Lockheed Martin failed to do a critical prelaunch test that would have uncovered the flaw that doomed NASA's $264 million Genesis capsule, investigators have concluded. The test would have revealed that four tiny switches designed to trigger the release of the Denver-built capsule's parachutes were installed backward. The installation error, combined with the omitted test, sealed the fate of the blunt-nosed capsule, said Michael Ryschkewitsch, chairman of the Genesis Mishap Investigation Board."
Editor's note: Previous LockMart crashes: MPL: tests not performed - spacecraft crashed; Mars Climate Orbiter: metric/english conversion not done - spacecraft burned up - then crashed; NOAA-N: 24 bolts missing in support stand - spacecraft dropped - crashed - on floor. The tally for taxpayers is getting close to $1 billion for all these crashes.
Editor's note: From CBS' Survivor website: "Dan Barry was born in Norwalk, Connecticut, but considers South Hadley, Massachusetts his hometown. He is a former astronaut who currently spends his time building robots for his own company, Denbar Robotics."
Editor's note: Posted on NASA Watch at the request of the NASA Federal Credit Union: "Today, NASA Federal Credit Union discovered an e-mail fraud attempt, known as "Phishing," that appeared to be from NASA Federal Credit Union. This e-mail was sent to the general public and to some credit union members. It instructed the recipient to click on a link to verify credit union information."
Reader comment: "Our Administrator, Mike Griffin, was here at Marshall Space Flight Center this past Friday (1/6/06). We had an opportunity to ask him some direct questions. One of our guys asked him "Since some type of advanced propulsion will be essential for ever getting humans beyond Mars was there any way he could provide some support in the somewhat near term for advanced propulsion research." He answered very strongly, "NO !!!", followed by a very long silence.
Waco teachers take 'trip of a lifetime' to NASA, Waco Tribune-Herald
"Touring NASA facilities, inspecting flight and anti-gravity simulators and talking with some of the world's top engineers was a bit overwhelming, said Gwen Butler, Tennyson Middle School technology teacher."
Editor's note: I'm confused. Was this the (totally nonexistent) NASA device that simulates anti-gravity or was it the other (totally nonexistent) simulator that uses anti-gravity to train astronauts?
Reader comment:"What you have to understand is this teacher (and others like her) just simply are not up to speed with the space age. I'm sure she was overwhelmed. Most of the text books they use in schools here in Waco might have one or two pictures of the Mars Pathefinder mission and a picture of the ISS with two or three modules.
NASA keeps giving with free use of ice shanty, River Valley Newspapers
"NASA keeps pointing skyward. There's no stopping this outdoors group. "Never," according to Tony Christnovich, one of the founding fathers of the North American Squirrel Association. NASA has accomplished more than anyone could imagine in the past several years."
NASA Terminates Gore's Eye on Earth, Science (subscription)
"The Deep Space Climate Observatory began life in March 1998 when then-Vice President Al Gore proposed a mission, called Triana, to beam back real-time images of the whole Earth. Ridiculed by Republicans as Goresat, the project was resuscitated after a 2000 report from the National Research Council of the National Academies said it could do important research. But last month, NASA science chief Mary Cleave wrote scientists that "the context of competing priorities and the state of the budget for the foreseeable future precludes continuation of the project."
"Sometime in the near future, a spaceship will be flying toward a lunar research base. That spaceship will contain equipment made with the greatest expertise and care in the Crescent City here at Michoud. And when that spaceship is en route to the Moon, we should all look back in time and say a word of thanks to the Marshworks volunteers and the other heroes of Michoud."
Michoud Assembly Facility Employees Honored with NASA Exceptional Bravery Medal: Ronald Adams, Joseph Barrett, Donald Bollich, Fred Castle, Dan Doell, John Fisher, James Ford, Stephen Francis, Monroe Frazier, Ernest Graham, William Hale, Willie Henderson, Paul Herrin, Royal Holland, Guy Jackson, Ivory Jordan, Joe Kennedy, Donald Leon, Michael Moore, Daryl Ordes, Michael Parquet, John Pucheu, George Rogers, Steven Roshto, Alan Rovira, Joan Savoy, Vickie Schmersahl, Patrick Shea, Henry Sissac, Aline Sullwold, Steve Thompson, Richard Treat, Stephen Turner, Byran Walker, Edward Watts, Roland Williams, Terry Winchester, Malcom Wood
Editor's note: It has been more than a month since the NASA Advisory Council met - and the presentations from that meeting are still not online. This is a notable departure from the previous norm in recent years where the NAC was very good about posting things online within days - sometimes hours - of a meeting.
People With Dizziness, Motor And Movement Disorders Find Their Balance Again Thanks To NASA-Developed Technology, Rush University Medical Center
"Developed for use by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), computerized dynamic posturography (CDP) testing generates a comprehensive report, with treatment protocols individualized for each patient to direct and monitor the plan of care."
"How are today's generation of Chiropractors having such amazing results with disc compression? Nasa discovered technology virtually eliminates need for invasive disc surgeries."
Editor's note: While the Rush University press release goes into specific detail about the NASA spinoff now being used in therapeutic practice, the chiropractors issue an utterly misleading press release. Other than the title and this intro sentence, no "NASA technology" whatsoever is mentioned, discussed, or even alluded to in this "press release".
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What's In and Out for 2006, Washington Post
"Out: NASA; In: Virgin Galactic"