News: May 2006 Archives

Editor's note: Dean: If your skin is this thin you really need to find another line of work.

The New Gag Rules, editorial, Science (subscription)

"For at least two reasons, this event may establish a new high-water mark for bureaucratic stupidity. First, Hansen's views on this general subject have long been widely available; he thinks climate change is due to anthropogenic sources, and he's discouraged that we're not doing more about it. For NASA to lock the stable door when this horse has been out on the range for years is just silly. Second, Hansen's history shows that he just won't be intimidated, and he has predictably told the Times that he will ignore the restrictions. The efforts by Acosta and Deutsch are reminiscent of the slapstick antics of Curley and Moe: a couple of guys stumbling off to gag someone who the audience knows will rip the gag right off."

Working Together for Communication, Letters, Science (subscription)

Donald Kennedy's Editorial "The new gag rules" (17 Feb., p. 917) was quite disturbing. I was offended, not by the unfounded allegations of conspiracy at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), but by the Editorial's reckless disregard for the truth.

Capitol Police Probing Reports of Gunfire, AP

"Police sealed off a House office builing on Friday as they investigated reports that shots were fired in the garage of the building. Four ambulances were summoned. Capitol police were investigating "the sound of gunfire in the garage level of the Rayburn House Office Building," said an announcement on the internal Capitol voice alarm system."

Theoretical blueprint for invisibility cloak reported, Duke University

"Using a new design theory, researchers at Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering and Imperial College London have developed the blueprint for an invisibility cloak. Once devised, the cloak could have numerous uses, from defense applications to wireless communications, the researchers said. Such a cloak could hide any object so well that observers would be totally unaware of its presence, according to the researchers. In principle, their invisibility cloak could be realized with exotic artificial composite materials called "metamaterials," they said."

Editor's note: Wow - a new way for Mike Griffin to make the Space Station disappear!

Media 8 To Produce "Challenger" Directed by Philip Kaufman

"M8 Entertainment Inc., a leading film entertainment company engaged in the production, financing, acquisition, and worldwide licensing of theatrical feature films in a variety of genres, announced today that its principal subsidiary Media 8 will co-produce, finance, and distribute the feature film project "Challenger." Written by Nicole Perlman, the film will be directed by Philip Kaufman ("The Right Stuff," "The Unbearable Lightness of Being") and will star Academy Award nominee David Strathairn ("Good Night, and Good Luck") as world-renowned scientist and Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman."

Couple finds Uranium in an old NASA tool box, AP

"A Putnam County couple got a startling surprise when they found a piece of depleted uranium at the bottom of a box of tools. Susan and Lance Greninger called NASA because they had bought the box at an auction near the Kennedy Space Center. A Hazmat team from the fire department examined the metal and said it was a solid piece of depleted uranium about the size of a child's fist."

Editor's note: AN exercise like this, if properly planned, could be useful in getting stagnant civil servants to think outside the box - and perhaps tune their tasks to the big picture. Based on personal experience, such creativity is usually absent from such exercises - and the default assumption is that everyone will still have Blackberrys, Franklin Planners, performance plans, etc.

Reader note: "This was on @LaRC today. Is this how we spend scarce funds??? Perhaps we should give the money back to the taxpayers. It gets better with the next message."

"Call for Participants for the Center's Scenario Based Planning Workshop and Core Planning Team - This is a formal call for employees to participate in the Center's Scenario Based Planning activities for this year. Scenario Based Planning is a process whereby each participant is put into one of several plausible worlds or "scenarios" of the future - in our case 2025 - in a workshop environment.

NASA administrator shares his vision of returning to moon, DC Military

"In his presentation, "NASA's Exploration Architecture," Griffin laid out NASA's future plans to the midshipmen. Some of those plans include completing the International Space Station, safely flying the space shuttle until 2010 when NASA will retire the space vehicle which took astronauts like Neal Armstrong to the moon, and to develop and fly the new Crew Exploration and Crew Launch Vehicles no later than 2014."

Reader note: "This author needs to learn about space and the various launch vehicles used by the NASA over the years. I didn't know the Space Shuttle was operational in '69 and capable flying to the moon and returning. At least, since it wasn't in quotes so I'm assuming it wasn't Griffin who made the comment."

Editor's note: Oh yes, it's "Neil" not "Neal" Armstrong

Better, Faster Spacecraft Designs: New Software System Offers Promise of NASA-wide Collaboration, NASA MSFC

"The suite of design tools is called PARSEC, short for the Preliminary Analysis of Revolutionary Space Exploration Concepts. It enables engineers to share design ideas, access the same highly technical information and see the latest test results - all from their desktop computers."

NASA Report: Overview of the DART Mishap Investigation Results - For Public Release, NASA MSFC

"Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) - The MIB determined that analyses to identify possible hardware/software faults failed to consider a sufficient set of conditions that could lead to the mishap. For example, the analyses focused on the effects of a complete loss of functionality of the navigation system's components, but did not address the impact of a degraded functionality of those same components."

Editor's note: It sure looks like the software screw-ups that led to MSFC-managed DART failure have caused the MSFC folks to get religion as far as software design goes. However, using the words "Better, Faster Spacecraft" as the title of their press release is a little scary (Mars Climate Orbiter anyone?). At least they did not use "cheaper". And why isn't IV&V mentioned? You'd think they'd be part of this (i.e. an outside evaluator). Oh wait, "OneNASA" was one of those silly O'Keefe ideas.

VEEP Speaks at LSU

Vice President Delivers the Commencement Address at Louisiana State University

"Since the middle of the 19th century, LSU's alumni have gone on to lives of high achievement in Louisiana, and well beyond. And year after year LSU attracts men and women of extraordinary talent to study, to teach, and to do research. Your chancellor, Sean O'Keefe, is a former administrator of NASA and an old friend of mine. He pointed out to me that America's early space capsules were designed by an LSU alum, and that one of our astronauts has recently been hired to join your faculty."

LSU Hires Leroy Chiao - Raborn/Faget Chair Professorship

Christie's New York to Mark Star Trek's 40th Anniversary With First-Ever Official Auction of Star Trek Studio Items

"In celebration of the 40th anniversary of Star Trek, Christie's is honored to be holding a remarkable auction on October 5 - 7, 2006 of official Star Trek contents from the archives of CBS Paramount Television Studios. Over 1,000 lots from the never-before-released archives of CBS Paramount Television will include material from all of the Star Trek television series and movies, encompassing costumes, props, weapons, set dressings, detailed models of the Enterprise and various alien ship and space stations."

NASA Solicitation: Strategic Messaging and Communication Services

"NASA/HQ has a requirement for the services of a firm with extensive experience providing strategic messaging and strategic communication products and services to provide speech writing for presentation by NASA officials to business and government leaders."

Editor's note: Meanwhile, the search to replace Joe Davis as Chief of Strategic Communications at NASA HQ continues. One name that has been circulating at NASA is Jeff Carr who currently works for USA in Houston.

NASA GRC Internal Memo: Announcement of Glenn Research Center Role for the Crew Exploration Vehicle Service Module

"There have been several recent news stories stating that the Glenn Research Center (GRC) will be responsible for managing the service module work package of the Crew Exploration Vehicle prime contract. This information reported in the media was not provided by NASA, and it is unfortunate that it was released before either the Agency or I had a chance to notify you of this development.

This new assignment is just one element of a broader announcement that is to be made in early June. I know that the employees at GRC have lots of questions, and they will be answered as soon as more complete information is known."

NASA Releases DART Accident Report Summary

NASA Report: Overview of the DART Mishap Investigation Results - For Public Release

"In the case of DART, a lack of training and experience led the design team to reject expert advice because of the perceived risks involved in implementing the recommendations. In turn, this led to inadequate navigation system design and testing." ... "For the DART mishap, the MIB determined that there was an inadequate, system-level integration process, which failed to reveal a number of design issues contributing to the mishap" ..."The MIB determined that one of the root causes of the mishap was an inadequate GN&C software development process." ... "Schedule pressure was identified as the cause for the inadequate testing of a late change to the navigation logic's gain setting." ... "In the case of DART, the MIB concluded that insufficient technical communication between the project and an international vendor due to perceived restrictions in export control regulations did not allow for adequate insight." ... "The MIB determined that in several instances, the NASA DART insight team failed to identify issues that led to the mishap because of an inadequate assessment of project technical risk and insufficiently-defined areas of responsibility." ... "The MIB noted cases where the DART team failed to fully use the resources of available subject matter experts." ... "The MIB concluded that internal checks and balances used by DART's prime contractor failed to uncover issues that led to the mishap, such as the undersized spherical envelope surrounding the AVGS range transition waypoint."

Editor's note: Yikes! ITAR issues aside, it is obvious why NASA sat on this report for a year - it has a high embarassment coefficient.

"I'm currently participating in the NASA-sponsored bedrest study at the Cleveland Clinic. These are the chronicles of three full months of bedrest, in addition to the craziness leading up to it, and the who knows what afterwards."

Editor's note: According to Erin Peterson's Blog: "ok, ok! i should be sleeping now. but wow, i'm too excited. valium has had zero effect. the tickertape of the unconscious is still going : i'm getting out of bed tomorrow, i'm getting out of bed tomorrow, i'm getting out of bed tomorrow."

Editor's 5 May update: Erin was featured in a live segment this morning on CNN and is expected to appear on CNN again before her participation ends. At the opening of today's sessions at the International Space Development Conference in Los Angeles, this image was shown and Erin received a hearty round of applause for her dedication.

Readdy Joins AvWeek

Editor's note: The 8 May 2006 edition of Aviation Week & Space Technology notes that former pilot/astronaut William Readdy is becoming an editor-at-large and staff test pilot at AvWeek.

NASA Should Improve Employee Awareness of Requirements for Identifying and Handling Sensitive But Unclassified Information (Redacted), NASA OIG

"Overall, NASA's policies and procedures for handling SBU information are consistent with Federal laws and regulations.... However, we found that NASA lacks a comprehensive SBU training program for civil servants and contractors on the requirements for protecting SBU information."

Democrats Demand Answers on NOAA Satellite Project
Opening Statement by Rep. Ehlers
Opening Statement by Rep. Boehlert
Opening Statement by Conrad Lautenbacher
Opening Statement by Johnnie Frazie

"The report we are releasing today, "Poor Management Oversight and Ineffective Incentives Leave NPOESS Program Well Over Budget and Behind Schedule," describes problems that have contributed to this vital program being more than $3 billion over initial life-cycle cost estimates and 17 months behind schedule, according to the Government Accountability Office. Despite these problems, the contractor has received $123 million in incentive payments84 percent of the amount available under the NPOESS award fee contract for the first six award periods."

Department of Commerce Inspector General Report, "Poor Management Oversight and Ineffective Incentives Leave NPOESS Program Well Over Budget and Behind Schedule", PDF

Vice president to address spring commencement, KATC-TV

"Vice President Dick Cheney will address more than 3,200 students at graduation ceremonies later this month at Louisiana State University. Cheney is the latest in a string of prominent conservatives at an LSU commencement ceremony. "Any time a vice president delivers a commencement address, he brings credit to the sponsoring university," Chancellor Sean O'Keefe said in a statement. "We are honored that he will visit our campus."

Can NASA Glenn be saved?, Cleveland Plan Dealer

"Although NASA officials suggest privately that Glenn's chances for managing the service module work look promising - and two internal agency reports show that its staff has the necessary know-how - other big opportunities that looked likely to go to Glenn didn't."

Metaphor misfires, MSNBC

"[Diamandis] tried to recover in a jocular tone: "But I guarantee you that the rest of us would happily be slave labor for that mission." As murmurs of "no" went through the audience, Diamandis instantly realized the misstep. "I should be careful about that," he said. "Can we erase that from the videotapes?"

Editor's note: Peter Diamandis, Chairman and CEO of the X-prize Foundation, spoke at an award ceremony Friday night in Los Angeles. I was in attendance with hundreds of other people and recorded his comments.

The thrust of his comments had to do with how to open up space to large numbers of people. One of the impediments to getting large numbers of people into space is the cost of the rockets needed. In addressing the need to lower launch costs and come up with more innovative financing alternatives, Diamandis made number of historical analogies.

One analogy in particular regarding V2 rockets, Nazis, and ignoring the use of slave labor was expressed in a rather troubling fashion. A verbatim excerpt from a recording made at this event follows:

ISDC Opens in LA

International Space Development Conference Opens In Los Angeles, SpaceRef

"Charles Elachi, Director of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory began his talk with a quote from President Theodore Roosevelt. The quote is familiar to many who ponder why people explore: "Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat." Elachi then noted "anyone who lives in the twilight has no business being here [at this meeting]".

Space Stars Will Shine at 25th Annual International Space Development Conference in Los Angeles

"A stellar gathering of space entrepreneurs, scientists, and visionaries will appear at the International Space Development Conference (ISDC), May 4-7, 2006 at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel in Los Angeles, California. For the first time, the annual conference will be cosponsored by both The Planetary Society and the National Space Society. The Presenting Sponsor of the Conference is NASA."

Editor's note: Both NASA Watch and SpaceRef are Official Media Sponsors of ISDC. We'll be there covering the conference - look for live updates here.

Reader note: "Attached is a flowchart showing the process for getting someone in our department at MSFC approved to attend or present a paper at a conference. Unbelievably ridiculous."

NASA Policy on the Release of Information to News and Information Media

"This directive sets forth policy governing the release of public information, which is defined as information in any form provided to news and information media, especially information that has the potential to generate significant media, or public interest or inquiry. Examples include, but are not limited to, press releases, media advisories, news features, and web postings. Not included under this definition are scientific and technical reports, web postings designed for technical or scientific interchange, and technical information presented at professional meetings or in professional journals."

Editor's note: It would seem that the process whereby professional presentations are approved also needs to be revisited. This chart looks more like an overview of rendezvous and docking software than a management procedure.

Money in Space

NASA Announces Plan To Launch $700 Million Into Space, The Onion

"Officials at the Kennedy Space Center announced Tuesday that they have set Aug. 6 as the date for launching $700 million from the Denarius IV spacecraft, the largest and most expensive mission to date in NASA's unmanned monetary-ejection program."

Editor's note: A reliable source reports that there was a fundraiser at Two Quail restaurant today for former Congressman Nick Lampson who is running for the seat currently occupied by Rep. Tom DeLay. Former Kerry campaign space advisor Lori Garver organized the fundraiser. Around $10,000 was raised from the 25 or so people who attended the event.

Click on image to enlarge [Other images]

"I'm currently participating in the NASA-sponsored bedrest study at the Cleveland Clinic. These are the chronicles of three full months of bedrest, in addition to the craziness leading up to it, and the who knows what afterwards."

Editor's note: Erin is certainly doing her part for the VSE! I certainly hope that all NASA Watch readers visit Erin's Blog to say hello - and also to say "thank you". She could also use some cheering up right now - picture what would go through your head on a very long space mission while you are isolated from the rest of humanity. She's experiencing that now. Keep your eyes on CNN - Erin is expected to be a guest on 3 or 4 May.



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This page is an archive of entries in the News category from May 2006.

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