News: October 2006 Archives

Van Halen Fell Silent On Top of the World, Washington Post

"Last year my team on Mount Everest witnessed firsthand how lousy the iPod is. On our expedition, we brought enough electronic gadgetry to outfit an army. What broke first? The iPods. The batteries croaked, the cases scratched and the hard drives seized from the rarified air."

Editor's note: Well I wasn't at 29,000 feet - but I did take my first generation iPod to Devon Island at 75 deg north - twice - for a month each time and the little darlin' worked just fine throughout even though I was living and sleeping in a tent in a polar desert. I just took my fourth generation iPod on some parabolic (weightless) flights and it recorded every little hoot and giggle I made - again without incident.

Hoot Gets the Boot

Is 60 too old to be a pilot?, Houston Chronicle

"Robert "Hoot" Gibson was not the happiest camper Friday, despite a party in his honor. Not only was the longtime astronaut piloting his last commercial airline flight because of a forced retirement, but the flight was five minutes late, to boot."

Editor's note: At a meeting yesterday to discuss the recent security rules for media access to NASA HQ, NASA PAO and Security representatives (David Mould, Eric Sterner, and David Saleeba) informed a dozen or so reporters that the media advisory containing this new policy was released - by mistake - before being approved, that this new policy will not be approved or implemented, and that access to reporters will remain more or less exactly as it was before the advisory was released. All in attendance were comfortable with this clarification and this matter has been put to rest in a professional fashion.

During that meeting, however, I pointed out to Security AA David Saleeba that there is an easy way to gain access to NASA HQ in the east lobby. Here's how you can get in:

Plum Brook Costs Rising

Decommission costs rising for NASA reactor, Toledo Blade

"Decommissioning of the NASA Plum Brook Station reactor, originally expected to cost $160 million and be completed by 2007, won't begin its final phase for at least four years and will cost millions more."

Editor's update: This document is the report NASA sent to Congress in response to the NASA Authorization Act of 2005. I am not at all impressed with this - it seems more like a preliminary (and incomplete) concept outline for a real report than an actual report itself. But Congress asked for a "plan" not a "report". It would seem that this last product from Joe Davis' tenure at NASA has underwelmed the folks currently at StratComm as well since they are now out to totally re-think NASA's strategic communications. Stay tuned.

Editor's note: According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2005 (Public Law 109-155) (see text below) NASA was supposed to have submitted a plan for a "National Awareness Plan" to the House and Senate in Spring 2006. Curiously, no public mention of this plan has been made by NASA (or by Congress) - nor have any of NASA's outreach efforts been specifically connected to the contents of such a plan.

Editor's update: A few weeks ago NASA PAO announced a new security policy effective 1 October 2006 whereby all media visiting NASA Headquarters would be required to have an escort at all times. This includes, as I have since learned, having someone from PAO stand outside the bathroom while you use it. The rationale given to me for this change was so that HQ security would be more in line with what is done at the field centers. Alas, if this is so, they have it totally backwards. I was at GSFC this morning and no one escorted me - anywhere.

NASA Internal Email from Associate Administrator Rex Geveden Re: Mission Focus Review

"At the Strategic Management Council held Aug 23, I announced the formation of a small team to conduct a Mission Focus Review (MFR) to look broadly across the Agency to identify resources that can be redeployed to more directly support our missions. As a point of philosophy, this is not another exercise about doing more with less, although I am interested in operational efficiencies. Rather, this is an exercise about doing less--about literally no longer doing those things that do not contribute to our missions."

Editor's note: This reminds me of a line from Monty Python. How Sad. As NASA starts down the path toward turning 50 it now thinks of things it can no longer do. And what do we say to those who look up to NASA? "Nevermind"? "Go away"? This is unacceptable. This is Launch Complex 34 mentality (image above).

The prime reason that Geveden sends out such an email? Lack of imagination - on his part - and on the part of the agency. This is not budgetary pragmatism, rather, it is managerial and institutional laziness and lack of imagination.

NASA is stuck in a rut. It went from zero to the moon in a decade - more than a generation ago. Flash forward: entire companies - and agencies - can be run via a little gizmo in your pocket - and the damn thing is filled with NASA spinoffs. Yet NASA can't adjust to the times - and utilize the very same technology it helped create to become more efficient - and relevant? And now it will take longer to go back to the moon than it did to go there in the first place?

Something is broken at NASA.

Editor's update: There is a "hit list" of sorts with items that Geveden is looking to cut with 80-90 or so items on it. This process uses a system of "leveraging points" to determine the value - or lack thereof - of things under consideration for deletion.

Katie Couric's Notebook: To The Moon, CBS

"In today's Notebook, Katie remembers the dawn of the space age, with the launch of Sputnik on this date -- and wonders if all the money for space exploration has been well spent."

Editor's note: Katie clearly has the laziest staff in television. Either that or she spent all of 30 seconds thinking about this herself. She sits there in front of the camera and complains about NASA's $17 billion budget and wonders whether that money could be "better spend on solid ground". Well guess what Katie, it is all spent on solid ground. Every penny. There are no stores or banks in space. Every dollar is spent on Earth - and ends up as salaries in the pockets of real people - and profits for companies who buy advertisements on CBS so as to pay your enormous salary ($60 million over the next 5 years)

NASA Advisory Council Meeting

"The meeting will be open to the public up to the seating capacity of the room. All U.S. citizens desiring to attend the NASA Advisory Council Meeting at the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) must provide their full name, company affiliation (if applicable), place of birth, and date of birth to the GSFC Security Office no later than the close of business on October 4, 2006...If the above information is not received by the noted dates, attendees should expect a minimum delay of two (2) hours. ."

  • Agenda
  • Editor's note: If you do not comply with NASA's byzantine new rules you will not be allowed to attend the NASA Advisory Council Meeting at GSFC on 12 October - or you will have to sit and wait somewhere for 2 hours while the ever-efficient NASA security guards prove your identity. Since the meeting starts at 8:00 am that means you'd have to show up at 6:00 am to be certain to get in. Then again, I wonder if the identity checking system even operates that early in the morning.

    Other agencies simply allow taxpayers to show up, show an ID, and attend meetings in keeping with the spirit of the original FACA law. FAA regularly has these FACA meetings in their HQ building without any requirement for prior notification. Yet NASA no longer seems to care about being responsive and considerate of taxpayers.

    This could all be solved by reverting to an earlier practice: holding the NAC in hotels and other public places. That might cost a few thousand dollars. I wonder, in an era of full cost accounting, what it costs to provide all the security for this NAC meeting at GSFC? I'll bet there is little difference.

    Given the new security requirements in place at NASA HQ - (which require that all visitors - media and the public - be escorted) - requirements that are supposed to be modeled on those in place at the field centers, will GSFC PAO escort all media - at all times? What happens at lunch time? Will GSFC personnel escort attendees to and from a cafeteria? How do these rules apply to non-media attendees? Will GSFC personnel have to escort them everywhere as well?

  • New Media Security Policy at NASA Headquarters: More Confusion, Less Security, SpaceRef
  • Making the NAC Less Accessible to the Public

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

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