News: April 2006 Archives

United 93 - The filmmakers got it right, By David Beamer - Todd Beamer's Father, Wall Street Journal

"Paul Greengrass and Universal set out to tell the story of United Flight 93 on that terrible day in our nation's history. They set about the task of telling this story with a genuine intent to get it right--the actions of those on board and honor their memory. Their extensive research included reaching out to all the families who had lost loved ones on United Flight 93 as the first casualties of this war. And Paul and his team got it right."

Editor's note: So much for the notion that ordinary people cannot become spontaneous heroes - and fight for things they believe to be more important than their own lives.

KSC Daily News - 4/19/06 - NASA & Contractor: Roadkill Roundup

"During the lunch of STS-114, the vehicle struck a vulture shortly after liftoff. Fortunately, there was no severe damage to the External Tank.However, that risk is unacceptable for launch. In an effort to reduce the risk associated with vultures, both for commuters and Space Shuttle launches, SGS Roads and Grounds has organized a "road kill posse" with support from the NASA Shuttle and Environmental Programs."

Statement by NASA Administrator Michael Griffin before the Senate Subcommittee on Science and Space

"As part of his FY 2007 budget request to Congress, the President proposed the American Competitiveness Initiative, or ACI, to encourage American innovation and strengthen our Nation's ability to compete in the global economy. Many have asked why NASA is not a part of the ACI. My response is that it is the mission of NASA to pioneer the future of space exploration, scientific discovery, and aeronautics research, while the ACI is focused on bolstering the Nation's economic competitiveness in areas such as information technology and nanotechnology."

Editor's note: Huh? Are we reading the same official White House documents, Mike? They even cite the Apollo program as an example! "Information technology and nanotechnology" are listed along with multiple other areas - many of which directly relate to what NASA does. Given the proposed increase in government funding for other scientific research endeavors, and the money lavished upon ACI, one can only draw the conclusion, by its overt omission, that NASA is not ranked as highly as are other research and technology programs. Trying to divert notice of that fact by trying to suggest that ACI is not really focused on things relevant to NASA is disingenuous, to say the least.

American Competitiveness Initiative

An important element of the American Competitiveness Initiative is Federal investment in research and development (R&D). Under President Bush, this investment has increased by more than 50 percent to $137 billionthe largest sustained increase since the Apollo space program in the early 1960's. Similarly, President Bush and Congress have provided historic funding increases for K-12 education over the last five years and have successfully instituted critical policy reforms as a part of the President's No Child Left Behind Act.

Editor's note: As some of you may know, the venerated board game of "Monopoly" is changing its look and feel to be more hip. The public is being asked to pick new places and things to be featured in the revamped version - including "favorite landmarks". If you go to this link, and click on "Houston" you can vote for JSC as the location of choice for Houston!

You can vote once a day. JSC is currently leading with 84% - more than 55,000 votes have been cast.

Editor's note: Last week Risk Management Corporation sent out an email to all of the participants of the recent NASA Risk Management Conference VI regarding a DVD of the proceedings which has been mailed to each registered participant. This morning John Tinsley at NASA HQ sent out an email - to all 407 participants saying "Please disregard this email. It was not approved for distribution and was sent out in error. Official instructions regarding the DVD will be forthcoming from NASA." I am not certain what Tinsley is referring to, but when I popped the DVD into my Mac I had to fish around for the right file to open (manually) in my browser. None of the videos worked despite some fiddling with settings on my part. Clearly no one thought to test this out on a Mac before publishing and distributing it. Oh yes - you can't eject the DVD from your Mac unless you quit your browser first.

This is unfortunate since this was a really good conference. I hope they fix these glitches.

NASCAR Driver to Join NASA Director on April 21 Mining Symposium Panel

NASCAR and NASA Team Up, Wheeling News Register

"Phil Bounds, director of NASA's security management division at the agency's Washington, D.C. headquarters, then relayed his experiences in coordinating recovery efforts following the 2003 loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia and in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Following Katrina, Bounds was charged with recovery at two NASA sites in Texas and Louisiana."

Editor's note: I was not present for the presentation, so I don't know what was said. That caveat aside, it is curious that NASA sent someone to talk about the risks associated with Earthbound recovery efforts, but did not send someone to address the risks that go with strapping one's self into a vehicle that undergoes a dangerous journey - and the reasons why they take that risk - and the public's reaction to that risk taking.

Bush Lands at ARC

Bush, Schwartzenegger Arrive at Cisco Systems, CBS5.com

"Schwarzenegger was the first to greet Bush, along with the mayor of Sunnyvale and the acting director of NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Chris Christensen."

Griffin on C-SPAN

The Future of Space Flight C-SPAN Newsmakers Airs on CSPAN-2 at 8:00 pm EDT 21 April 2006

"Michael Griffin was interviewed about the future of space flight and the shuttle program, as well as other NASA projects. After he left, the reporters discussed his responses with the host."

NASA Glenn sets its sights on space travel, Cleveland Plain Dealer

"The director of NASA Glenn Research Center, Woodrow Whitlow, is reorganizing the Northeast Ohio icon to try to grab a fatter chunk of the agency's lucrative budget for space exploration. "It shouldn't take any more than a month from now," Whitlow said of launching an office focused on fighting for, and running, NASA space projects. "I'd like to do it sooner," he said at a news conference Wednesday."

NASA NEEMO-9 Crew Sends Greeting To NASA Bedrest Study Participant

Editor's note: The following note and photo were sent by the NASA NEEMO-9 crew, currently located within the Aquarius habitat off the coast of Key Largo, to Erin Peterson, currently flat on her back as part of a 3 month NASA bedrest study at the Cleveland Clinic.

NASA's Bedrest Volunteer Is Hanging - and Lying - In There, earlier post

Ignoring Exploration at NASA, earlier post

What does Russia plan to do in outer space?, Opinion, RIA-Novosti

"In mid-April, the Energia management, which has completely different plans, unveiled a concept of the national manned space-flight program for the next 25 years. This document states expressly that the initial stage of the manned lunar program will involve Soyuz spacecraft, Soyuz-FG and Proton launch vehicles and DM-type boosters. Energia officials said that the ISS' Russian segment should be used to assemble an inter-orbital space complex bound for the Moon, and that this approach would make it possible to launch the first lunar expeditions in the near future."

Mission to nowhere, Opinion, The Australian

"This is the pub where NASA's astronauts come to play after a hard day of mission training. It is therefore one of the few places where they can talk frankly and freely about what has gone right - and wrong - with America's space program. But lately NASA might be relieved that it cannot hear the Budweiser-fueled rantings of its astronauts."

Reader note re: "Mission to Nowhere" "Keith: Yet another opinion piece that attempts to consign the shuttle program to the purgatory of banality by deliberately omitting any mention of the awesome (I use the adjective very deliberately) advances in astronomical knowledge brought about by the missions that deployed or serviced orbiting observatories. Every time I read one of these slanted, vacuous rants, I just want to scream."

Reader note re: "Mission to Nowhere" "I was wondering if you noticed on the sidebar of the opinion piece from the Australian newspaper "Mission to Nowhere" that they reversed the Challenger and Columbia accidents. How can you have an informed opinion on the space program if you cannot get your facts straight?"

Wedding dress for use in space, Seihin-World

"Space Couture Design Contest supported by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is now being held. Prior to the contest, Eri Matsui, chairperson of the contest committee, designed a wedding dress which looks beautiful both under gravity and zero-gravity (picture on the left: under gravity, right: under zero-gravity). Her design stimulates our dream that we may get married in space soon."

Editor's note: Meanwhile, the U.S. could certainly use a little fashion sense on-orbit. Have a look at this recent image (right) of Expedition 13 Science Officer Jeff Williams. Check out his space booties - complete with fake fur trim. Is it just me - or do these look like the things your grandmother wears in the winter when she goes out to get the newspaper in the morning? Get this guy a fashion makeover - quick. Maybe JAXA can help.

Reader comment: "Keith: The "outer space fashion emergency" just looks like a pair of fine, old fashioned, Russian felt boots (valenki)"

Reader comment: "Keith: While out of fashion, the space booties are not quite so far back as your grandmother. They resemble the NASA version of Uggs, which were still in style merely a year ago..."

Confusing RFI from JPL

NASA Solicitation: JPL Request for Information (RFI) for a Basic Ordering Agreement (BOA) in Support of Spacecraft Mechanical Engineering (Sec. 352)

"REQUIREMENTS: The subcontractor shall provide the below-described materials, equipment facilities, and/or services in the quantities and at the times determined by JPL during the period from the date of this subcontract through TBD years thereafter. This is not a total requirements order; however, a minimum amount of $TBD shall be ordered during the above term."

Editor's note: Let me get this straight: JPL is asking companies to submit some very specific information about very specific services - yet JPL cannot provide a time span or cost range under which such services would be rendered.

Is NASA Glenn in this fight?, Cleveland plain Dealer

"Year in and year out, whenever the NASA budget comes up for review, Ohio's congressional delegation puts up a heroic struggle to keep the NASA Glenn Research Center from getting shoved farther into the background. But it gets harder every year to believe that NASA's top brass see Glenn as anything more than an expensive little sideshow. An e-mail written by NASA Administrator Michael Griffin and obtained recently by The Plain Dealer comes right out and says that research centers, like Glenn, just don't fit the overall mission anymore: "We are not, any longer, a technology agency to any significant extent. Wishing otherwise is nice, but irrelevant."

Editor's note: Gee Mike, Maybe you could do something about reversing that situation? Instead, you are making things worse by cutting basic research and technology programs at NASA. I find it rather odd that you think that NASA has the capability to implement the VSE - yet seem to feel that NASA no longer has the technological smarts to do so.

Of course, the Cleveland Plain Dealer did not publish your email. Perhaps if PAO released the full email message we'd know exactly what you said - and the context within which you said it.

NASA Blunder Leads To VoIP Shutdown, WOIP News

"According to an internal NASA memo circulated the following day, the system shutdown occurred when a contracted technician inadvertently deleted the entire NASA Headquarters VoIP user database while adding 19 new VoIP user accounts to the system. Although a safety net is built into the system, and a warning question appeared advising against the action, "the technician answered the question incorrectly," the memo said."

ARC News

NASA/Ames takes pride in its role, Knight Ridder

"Throughout the decades, the NASA/Ames Research Center has been intertwined with the space shuttle program -- which Wednesday celebrated the 25th anniversary of the day two astronauts blasted off in the Columbia, the first reusable spacecraft."

NASA Ames' New Supercomputer, PC World

"Presently NASAs Columbia supercomputer at Ames is fourth on the Top500 list of supercomputers around the world. The fastest Intel-based machine in the world, Columbia has delivered about 61 teraFLOPS, with its 10,240 processors, according to officials at NASAs Advanced Supercomputing facility (NAS). The new NASA machine is expected to deliver about 250 teraFLOPS. Althoug impressive, it's not record breaking. Already up and working, IBMs Blue Gene/L at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory holds the world record, delivering almost 281 teraFLOPS with its 131,072 processors."

Toxic cleanup complete at NASA/Ames site in Mountain View, SJ mercury News

"Three formerly toxic sites at the NASA/Ames Research Center in Mountain View have been certified as clean, the state Department of Toxic Substances Control said today."

Alleged NASA hacker to hear fate next month, C|NET

"A British former systems administrator who faces extradition to the U.S. if convicted of hacking American military computers will learn his fate next month. Gary McKinnon appeared in court in London on Wednesday, in the latest stage in a protracted legal process. His defense has argued that he should not be extradited, as he could be tried under the tough antiterrorism laws in the U.S., sent to Guantanamo Bay and imprisoned for up to 60 years."

Editor's note: If your're watching CNN International at 10:30 am EDT (1430 GMT) or 7:35 pm EDT (2335 GMT) today you'll see my smiling face.

Party Your Asteroid Off

Yuri's Night now on all 7 Continents!

"We are very pleased to announce that the 7th CONTINENT will be joining us for this years Yuri's Night for the 3rd time! Yuki Takashi, who has been a part of Yuri's Night since the first LA party in 2001 (we have pictures to prove it), spent two months in Antarctica this (southern) summer working on a special telescope project that he helped build! One of his teammates is still there wintering over through the long dark Antarctic winter and will be hosting the Yuri's Night event at the South Pole Station!"

Boeing Remembers History

Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Receives Record $15 Million Donation from Boeing

"The National Air and Space Museum will receive a donation of $15 million from The Boeing Company in continued support of its education and preservation efforts. It is the single largest corporate gift ever presented to the Smithsonian Institution."

Boeing also has a website dedicated to the 25th anniversary of STS-1.

NASA OIG: Antideficiency Act Violations at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

"NASA, as a result of action by officials in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO), violated the ADA by authorizing and obligating funds without apportionment from OMB. Specifically, during fiscal year (FY) 2005, NASA authorized and obligated about $1.6 billion in unobligated balances carried over from FY 2004 before requesting apportionment from OMB. During FY 2004, NASA authorized and obligated about $30.4 million more than the amount of funds that OMB had apportioned for one account."

More Griffin Misquotes?

U.S. will fail to create new spaceship by 2010 to replace shuttle - NASA, Interfax

"NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said Sunday the U.S. will likely fail to create a new spaceship by 2010 when the space shuttle program is closed. Griffin told a news conference at Mission Control at Korloyov, following the return of Expedition 12 from the International Space Station that, NASA, of course, will not be able to meet the 2010 deadline, and more time will pass from 2010 to the end of the work to develop a new spaceship."

Editor's note: I doubt Mike Griffin said these words - as he is quoted here. As such, this is one of those times when an official NASA transcript of this event would be helpful. Or will PAO just let these inaccurate quotes float around the world for a week as they did with the Delay pseudo-endorsement remarks? Word has it that Strategic Communications AA for Public Affairs Dave Mould was in Russia for the Soyuz launch, then flew back for the National Space Symposium, and then flew back to Russia for the Soyuz landing. One would think he (or someone on his staff) would have the presence of mind to pull out a digital recorder and record an event like this. Stay tuned.

Sea Change at NASA

NASA Marks 25 Years, Preps for Sea Change, AP

Almost 2,000 NASA civil servants and more than 15,000 contractor employees work on the shuttles, mainly for United Space Alliance. Many contractor workers who either have retired or resigned recently aren't being replaced and those sticking around are worried about significant job cuts, said Lynn Beattie, a crane operator at the Kennedy Space Center.."

Bias

Brazil's Man in Space: A Mere 'Hitchhiker,' or a Hero?, NY Times

"But many Brazilian scientists, along with newspaper columnists and editorial writers, have criticized the voyage, which ends early Sunday, as a boondoggle. They argue that the roughly $10.5 million that Brazil paid Russia to launch Colonel Pontes aboard a Soyuz rocket would have been better spent on research here on Earth or invested in rebuilding a space port destroyed in 2003 in a launching pad explosion that killed 21 scientists and technicians."

Editor's note: This strikes me as the sort of article you get when a reporter (who does not specialize in space) decides what personal point he wants to make - and then works backward to find the quotes that help him do so. I have to wonder if what he portrays as being Brazil's feelings about this flight truly reflect the collective aspirations of a nation which has just joined an exclusive club by virtue of having a fellow citizen fly in space - a nation whose flag is filled with more stars than any flag on Earth - except America's.

Ad astra, Brazil

Remarks by NASA Administrator Michael Griffin at the National Space Symposium

"So, imagine what kinds of Europa or Titan or Enceladus missions we could plan in 2016, if we know that we will have the 100 metric ton Cargo Launch Vehicle available to put them out there. Maybe the 25 metric ton Crew Launch Vehicle would suffice for such missions. That's more capability than anyone was planning on having to low earth orbit until exploration came around. So, let's think creatively about what we could do with these launch vehicles, which would never be built to support robotic science missions alone."

Space Symposium Update

Remarks by Deputy NASA Administrator Shana Dale at the National Space Symposium

NASA says manned, robotic space flights should co-exist, EE Times

"Shana Dale, deputy administrator for NASA, said that Congresss NASA Authorization Act of 2005 showed that legislators bought into the main points of the Bush Mars vision, "but I must caution against taking this vision for granted." Being able to finance a follow-on the space shuttle and a new heavy-lift launch vehicle requires that NASA finish the International Space Station and retire the shuttle by 2010, she said. "These are doable goals, but the hard work in the transition cannot be underestimated for NASA," Dale said."

DeLay to Announce Resignation From House, AP

"Leader Tom Delay intends to resign from Congress within weeks, closing out a career that blended unflinching conservatism with a bare-knuckled political style."

Editor's note: So much for the effect of Mike Griffin's tacit endorsement...

Date: Mon, 03 Apr 2006 16:47:03 -0400
Subject: The Administrator's Remarks on March 24
Point of Contact: Dean Acosta, Office of Public Affairs, (202) 358-1400

The Administrator's Remarks on March 24

On March 30, 2006, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin and Deputy Administrator Shana Dale held a NASA Update. In response to a question, the administrator offered to provide to NASA employees an excerpt from the speech he gave at the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement Foundation Banquet on March 24.

The NASA General Counsel has determined that it would not be appropriate to distribute this excerpt through NASA INC. However, the speech has been the subject of several media reports, and public interest in the administrator's remarks has made it appropriate to release this excerpt to the press. Employees who are interested in this matter may refer to those accounts for details.

Editor's note: What could possibly be wrong with distributing the comments made by the Administrator of NASA - coments made in an official capacity as an invited quest at this event? Did Griffin do something that was not "appropriate"? Moreover, this memo tells employees that they have to go to some external media source to find out what their boss said while on the job. Yet NASA routinely publishes transcripts of Griffin's appearances at many other speaking events.

In other words, NASA can tell its employees in an official memo that it can't distribute the text - yet simultaneously, in the very same memo, NASA is allowed to mention the event and the existence of a transcript (which it can't release to them); that NASA is going to give that transcript (in an official capacity) to reporters so that news outlets can publish it; and then tell employees that they can find that transcript in locations external to the agency.

Please tell me how such a convoluted chain of informing employees is, in any way, keeping with the spirit of a new, efficient, and more open communications policy? What is Griffin afraid of? This is just goofy.

Editor's note: In the webcast last Thursday Mike Griffin made it very clear that he wanted to release this transcript and Dean Acosta said it would be done. Well, it has been more than 4 days and this short excerpt has not been posted on NASA's website - you can only find it here (below) on NASA Watch. As such, you really have to wonder if anyone at PAO is actually committed to better communications when such a simple task - one which would serve to better communicate what was said on a controversial topic - can't even be accomplished.

In addition, contrary to what a questioner from JPL suggested, NASA Watch did not quote Mike Griffin. Rather, I repeated a portion of what a newspaper had printed - clearly labeled as such. I was not at the event - and NASA had told me there was no recording of the event - so how could I quote Mike Griffin?

Finally, as to Mike Griffin's claim that no one sought to get a clarification from him about his remarks: totally false. On 29 March I sent an email request to Dean Acosta and Dave Mould making a very specific request for a transcript. Dean Acosta called me back a few hours later (4:37 pm EST to be exact) to say that there was no recording or transcript but that he had specifically spoken about this topic with Mike Griffin. I posted all of this on NASA Watch the day before this webcast (see this posting).

Editor's 30 March note: Dean Acosta just sent me this excerpt at 5:28 pm EST. Contrary to the impression Mike Griffin gave at the NASA employee update, there is not an transcript of the entire event in NASA's possession, just this small portion. Why NASA sat on this for more than 24 hours utterly escapes me - unless they were afraid of what people might think once they read it. Well, based on the words below, this strikes me as someone saying that they hope that Rep. Delay stays in Congress. Seems like a tacit endorsement to me.

JSC Today: Program Logos and Other Emblems

"Therefore, no other identifiers, such as NASA center identifiers or logos or any other type of graphic representation for any project, program, office, experiment, unmanned missions, payloads and others, will be authorized for use on NASA communications materials. The only exception is astronaut crew emblems. These emblems may be designed by the crew members to be used on items specific to that particular mission, such as crew clothing/uniforms, lapel pins, press kits and crew lithographs."

Editor's note: Every several years some bored civil servant at NASA PAO tries to play logo cop. The inevitable result is that all such "directives" are promptly ignored. And of course, the Astronaut office gets special treatment.

If you need proof of flagrant ignoring of such PAO guidelines, just take a look at the New Horizons and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter being integrated with their launch vehicles - logos for missions and contractors appear in clear violation of earlier NASA PAO logo rules supposedly in force way back in 2000.

Then again, I guess PAO has gotten used to logo policing given that a certain previous Administrator did have a certain meatball fascination, of sorts.

What's next? Retroactive logo upgrades for existing spacecraft? If this silliness goes on I guess I may have to bring Worm Watch back - but expand its scope to cover all unacceptable logos. For starters, the STEREO and Kepler mission websites need to purge some unnacceptable logos.

Porn Raid at NASA HQ

Senior NASA Manager's Office Searched for Child Porn, AP

NASA HQ Raided In Kiddie Porn Probe, The Smokking Gun

"The Washington headquarters of NASA was raided this week as part of a kiddie porn probe targeting an executive with the space agency, The Smoking Gun has learned."


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