News: March 2007 Archives

Editor's update: I spoke with DARPA PAO and they will be providing me with additional information. Suffice it to say that after some software uploads, ASTRO now controls the Orbital Express stack. However, an anomaly earlier in the mission having to do with ASTRO's reaction wheels seems to be at the heart of the spacecraft's earlier problems.

Editor's note: Check out this Orbital Express status page at Boeing. What is being downplayed here, according to sources, is the fact that Ball's NextSat spacecraft has been controlling the stack (NextSat/ASTRO) since arriving on orbit last month due to the fact that Boeing's ASTRO spacecraft experienced a series of on-orbit anomalies due to GN&C software and hardware problems. Indeed, were it not for NextSat, Boeing's portion of the spacecraft would not have been able to orient the solar arrays properly - and power itself. This is a cool mission. It is also an expensive one. I certainly hope things get fixed.

Orbital Express, DARPA

Orbital Express - Good News - And Not So Good News, earlier post

North Hollywood junkyard: one giant heap for mankind, LA Times

"Jonathan Goff, a 26-year-old rocket engineer, climbed atop a mound of titanium spheres once used to store highly explosive liquid oxygen rocket fuel and scanned the area for used rocket parts. "This is definitely a cool place," he said. For almost five decades, Norton Sales Inc. in North Hollywood has been collecting the nuts, bolts and heat exchangers from the rockets that helped American astronauts shrug off the steely embrace of gravity. This is where the bits and pieces of America's space program came to die."

Editor's note: Its great to see that some people actually try to use this engineering legacy - one taxpayers poured an enormous amount of money into - instead of buying these artifacts as props for their den (or their garage) - where they can serve no future purpose.

1 KM Long Hoytether Set for March 27 Launch, Space Elevator Reference

"Tethers Unlimited will launch the MAST Experiment March 27 on a Dnepr rocket. The Multi-Application Survivable Tether (MAST) will be the secondary payload. The MAST experiment consists of three staked picosatellites. Once on orbit, the picosatellites will separate and deploy a 1,000 meter (1 KM) long Hoytether structure."

Issues Du Jour - Mike Griffin

"Good morning. Thank you for inviting me to speak here again this year. The American Astronomical Society's annual Goddard Symposium is one of those events I look forward to each year, an opportunity for all of us to catch up with old friends."

Editor's note: (online text) Um, hate to break it to you Mike, but the Symposium has been sponsored by the American Astronautical Society (also AAS) for decades ... In all fairness - someone at the event said that Griffin simply said "AAS" ....

To: All NASA Public Affairs staff
From: David Mould, AA Public Affairs

Effective today, Bob Jacobs is serving as acting deputy assistant administrator for public affairs. Bob will be in charge while I am on vacation, beginning tomorrow (Friday). I'll be back in the office April 2. Please contact Bob or Jason Sharp with anything that needs attention during that time. Bob has been effectively serving in this capacity, in addition to news chief duties, since Dean and Doc departed. I'm pleased to have him in the capacity officially. Thanks for everyone's support as we move forward.

Killing NIAC

Editor's update: Word has it that NASA intends to cancel funding for NIAC the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts. This is just plain stupid. Let me repeat this for clarity's sake, Mike, (whoever made it) this is A STUPID DECISION. Advanced spacesuits that will open the surface of the moon - and then Mars- to meaningful and productive human exploration, tethers and other innovative and upmass-saving technologies, and other in-space techologies.

Where are you going to get all of the things you need to put on those Ares rockets so as to allow their crews to carry out their missions, Mike? Or do you "just need a good map"? Explorers without the right tools die - or turn around - and head back home. Wrong answer, Mike.

Futuristic NASA think tank to be shut down, New Scientist

"But Keith Cowing, editor of the independent website NASAWatch, which broke news of the likely shutdown on Tuesday, says it does not make sense for NASA to cut funding to the institute. "This is one of the few places at NASA that embodies far-thinking, new stuff," he told New Scientist. "When they're cutting stuff like this, they're desperate, or stupid, or both."

NASA's Dreamers, Put to Sleep?, Wired

"We're hearing word that NASA is planning to kill off its way-out research arm. "This is just plain stupid," say the long-time space observers at NASA Watch. For sure. $3 million is a piddling amount of money for $16 billion organization."

Nasa grounds its ideas factory, The Guardian

"Former Nasa scientist Keith Cowing said the decision to close Niac was "just plain stupid". Writing on his Nasa Watch website, he directed comments to Nasa's administrator, Mike Griffin: ..."

Former Vice President Al Gore To Testify On Climate Change

"The House Science & Technology Committee's Subcommittee on Energy and Environment will hold a joint hearing along with the Energy & Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Energy & Air Quality to receive testimony from Former Vice President Al Gore and others on global climate change. The hearing titled "Perspectives on Climate Change," will be held Wednesday March 21, 2007, at 9:30 a.m. Vice President Gore will appear as the witness on the first panel. Dr. Bjorn Lomborg, Adjunct Professor, Copenhagen Consensus Center, Copenhagen Business School will appear on the second panel."

Webcast

Congressional Testimony on Climate Change by Al Gore
Testimony By Bjrn Lomborg
Gore and Lomborg Testify on Climate Change
Vice President Al Gore Testifies Before Joint Subcommittee Hearing

Independent Analysis of Alternatives To Divert a NEO on a Likely Collision Course With Earth, Russell L. Schweickart

"Based on our recent email exchange and your invitation to, "Send us your specific criticisms, or come in and talk, either way, and we will hear your concerns, and respond" I have put together an independent analysis for your consideration. What I attach is approximately a parallel analysis of the various alternatives for diverting a threatening NEO to that which NASA submitted to the Congress. In it I provide the basic logic and resultant conclusions and then juxtapose them with the NASA response commenting on why the apparent difference."

Editor's note: Have a look at this cartoon. NASA's public image is changing as a result of recent events.

Of course, sophisticated New Yorkers seem to find the same topic humorous as well...

Censorship at NASA

Statement of Rep. Henry A. Waxman Hearing on Political Interference with Science: Global Warming

"NASA scientist James Hansen is one of the nation's most esteemed experts on climate change. George Deutsch is a young and inexperienced former NASA public affairs officer who was tasked with managing the public statements of Dr. Hansen and other NASA scientists. Today. we will hear from both of them about their experiences."

Testimony by James Hansen: Political Interference with Government Climate Change Science

"... These orders were delivered orally, as usual, as was a threat of "dire consequences" if I did not comply. However, a new young political appointee at Public Affairs, apparently was not well-schooled in the rules and left a paper trail, including a description of a specific instance in which Public Affairs barred me from speaking to NPR, offering the Associate Administrator in my stead."

Testimony by George C. Deutsch III - House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

"Subsequently, several media reports accused NASA political appointees and others of censoring Dr. Hansen. I can only speak for myself and my time at NASA. I never censored Dr. Hansen, and I do not believe others at NASA did either."

Other testimony

Chairmen Request Further Information on Science Media Policies

"In the wake of the Hansen story, NASA adopted a new media policy that was designed to provide some protections to scientists enabling them to talk about their work. Following the release of that new policy, the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Dr. John Marburger, wrote to all the federal agencies conducting science and shared a copy of the NASA policy, encouraging them to review their rules and consider adopting like standards as needed."

Ball Aerospace's NextSat Launched for Orbital Express Mission

"The first-of-its kind, autonomous servicing demonstration satellite launched on Thursday, March 8, 2007, aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The three-month space mission is sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)."

Editor's note: Word has it that the Ball portion of this mission (Nextsat) is performing perfectly. However, it seems that Boeing's contribution (Astro) is having some problems (shhh!).

Stay tuned.

Coburn claims court could KO conferences, Federal Times

"That result could prompt Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., to try to block other federal conferences, says Roland Foster, an aide to Coburn. Coburn has been a consistent critic of what he says is excessive spending on federal conferences. ... He cited as an example last week's Planetary Defense Conference 2007, partly funded by NASA, where the agency argued it needs more funding for its program to deflect asteroids headed toward Earth. Such calls, while permissible on Capitol Hill, amount to political lobbying that should be banned at federally funded conferences, according to Foster."

Editor's note: Perhaps if this over eager staffer were to have stopped waving his arms for a moment and actually done a little homework - such as reading NASA Authorization Act of 2005: Conference Report - he'd have learned that Congress directed NASA to conduct this NEO study and to make its findings public as well as deliver a report to Congress. NASA was simply following the law as set forth by Congress. Indeed, Congress has already made its mind up on this issue. Also, there are some people at NASA who were not totally thrilled about doing this study in the first place.

Worden Shakes Up Ames

NASA ARC Memo: Message from the Center Director: The Great Worden Quake of '07

"The May 11 exercise will be Ames Research Center's first ever Center-wide, all-hands, earthquake drill. The exercise, dubbed the Great Worden Quake of '07, (no, I did not select the name) will be a several hour event for most of you and an all day event for many of you. This is a rare opportunity for all of us. This exercise is an order of magnitude greater than any of the previous disaster exercises that we have conducted at Ames in the past. It is my belief that we will all learn a lot, not only from a Center perspective, but also from a personal perspective."

Tracking of Killer Asteroids Runs Low on Money and Short on Time, NY Times

"William Ailor of the Aerospace Corporation, a not-for-profit Air Force research group that sponsored the planetary defense conference, said the problem of finding killer asteroids could be solved more easily if more countries were involved. Interest is growing, he said, noting that the European Space Agency is considering a mission called Don Quijote to test ways to deflect an asteroid. "Should one nation, the United States, be responsible for the entire planet?" Mr. Ailor asked."

Defending Earth

NASA Near-Earth Object Survey and Deflection Analysis of Alternatives Report to Congress

"Section 321 of the NASA Authorization Act of 2005 (Public Law No. 109-155), also known as the George E. Brown, Jr. Near-Earth Object Survey Act, directs the NASA Administrator to transmit an initial report to Congress not later than one year after the date of enactment that provides: (1) an analysis of possible alternatives that NASA may employ to carry out the survey program of near-Earth Objects (NEO), including ground- based and space-based alternatives with technical descriptions; (2) a recommended option and proposed budget to carry out the survey program pursuant to the recommended option; and (3) an analysis of possible alternatives that NASA could employ to divert an object on a likely collision course with Earth."

NASA ARC NEO News (03/09/07) Planetary Defense Conference Part 2

NASA ARC NEO News (03/07/07) Planetary Defense Conference

B612 Foundation

The NEO Threat: International Policy Issues, Association of Space Explorers

Review of NASA's Space Flight Health Standards-Setting Process, NAS Committee to Review NASA's Space Flight Health Standards

"The committee's overall assessment is that the initial space flight health standards represent a diligent and well-reasoned effort. The approach uses an occupational health model recommended in Safe Passage and provides an analytical framework for enhancing the safety of human space flight."

'Planet Killer' Not in the Stars, Asteroid Research Indicates, Washington Post

"The agency said it is technically feasible to meet the congressional goal of identifying most small "near Earth objects" by 2020, but it said it would have to rely on telescopes built for other purposes and on spacecraft being developed by other agencies. It did not address who would fund research on ways to destroy or divert an asteroid before it became a danger."

Editor's note: First this calendar item goes out this afternoon from the House Committee on Science and Technology:

House Subcommittee on Investigations & Oversight - Business Meeting to Consider Issuing Subpoenas in the Matter of the Investigation into NASA's Inspector General - 7 March 2007

Editor's note: Then this press release is issued a few hours later:

Administration Agrees to Hand Over Investigative Report on NASA's Inspector General Subpoena Meeting is Cancelled

"Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC), Chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology's Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, cancelled tomorrow's scheduled subpoena meeting concerning the investigation of NASA Inspector General (IG) Robert Cobb after reaching agreement with the President's Commission on Integrity and Efficiency (PCIE) to provide to the Subcommittee the requested report on Cobb by April 2, 2007."

Reader note: "Discussion at the Planetary Defense Conference in Washington today revealed that there are a variety of ways for NASA to meet the Congressional mandate to find 90% of the Near Earth Asteroids larger than 140 meters diameter by 2020. Not surprisingly, these options come with different costs attached.

If we accept an 85% discovery goal by 2020, or if the goal is framed in terms of retiring 90% of the impact risk rather than finding 90% of the asteroids, it can likely be meet with a combination of two new-technology groundbased survey telescopes already planned. The Pan-STARRS survey telescope in Hawaii is being financed primarily by the U.S. Air Force, and the LSST in Chile by the NSF. NASA's direct costs to extract the asteroids from the data streams from these two telescopes might be as low as $10-$20 million per year."


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