News: July 2007 Archives

Editor's 1 Aug update: Jane Cherry is now listed on the NASA HQ organization page. I wonder how long it will be before her official biography documenting her extensive experience (and its relevance to NASA) will be posted.

Editor's 28 July note: The vacant White House Liaisonposition at NASA HQ has been filled with - surprise - a Bush Administration political appointee - Jane Cherry. Cherry is listed on NASA's internal phonebook as being detailed to "Office ID: AA000 - Office of the Administrator". She recently worked in the White House for Karl Rove as an associate director in the Office of Political Affairs

According to Muckracker.com (scroll down a bit) "Cherry has worked for Karl Rove at the WH for almost two years. She has been in the USA8 email loop, according to DOJ docs, and probably knows a lot about what has been going on at the DOJ and why. ... Prior to joining Karl Rove's hit squad, Jane Cherry worked for the RNC in Little Rock from 8/03 and 9/04, according to FEC records. She then worked for the RNC in DC from 9/04 to 6/05."

Cherry is named as one of the more prolific email users of an RNC email account whose messages (27, 482) have been retained by the RNC as part of a House investigation of possible presidential records act violations.

Cherry only made $50K working for Rove (up from 30K the previous year). I doubt she will be that cash-strapped now that she's at NASA for the next 1.5 years.

Editor's 31 Jul update: There's more on Jane Cherry here at the Daily Kos. "According to the 2004 Plum Book, pay for the politically appointed NASA White House Liaision is a GS-15 position. So Jane, graduating with a BA in June 2004, will make between $110,363 and $143,471 annually according to the DC pay scales."

Yes, I know, this happens all the time - regardless of who is in the White House. But placing Jane Cherry at NASA this late in a lame duck Administration - so she can cash in - is just blatant political cronyism of the worst kind. First NASA gets George Deutsch, another young political appointee. We all remember what he did. Then FEMA's former Deputy Director Patrick Rhode (a pal of Michael Brown's) is given a hiding place at NASA. Now, an overtly political White House staffer (it was her job to be overtly political) who is under at least one cloud with regard to ethics - suddenly lands at NASA where she gets a $60,000-plus pay raise.

Is NASA turning to a dumping ground for young Bush loyalists of questionable capability? Based on her political shenanigans at the White House, what could she possibly bring of value to NASA? Right now NASA needs to be steering clear of politics and focusing on the tasks at hand. Bringing young political hacks to NASA will only create problems.

NASA Shuns iPhone

Apple iPhone Out, BlackBerry 8800 In At NASA, Information Week

"According to the minutes, the decision was made by officials within NASA's ODIN program office. ODIN, or Outsourcing Desktop Initiative For NASA, is a program under which NASA is outsourcing computer supply and support to private-sector companies. The meeting minutes indicate that Jeff Stephens, an ODIN acting project manager who also works for defense contractor Lockheed Martin, broke the news that the iPhone won't fly at NASA. Reached Monday at his office in Washington, D.C., Stephens said only that, "I can't comment on that one way or the other."

Woes Enough to Drive NASA to Drink, NY Times Blog

"Shana Dale has an unenviable job to do this afternoon: Standing before the TV cameras and reporters and explaining that American astronauts may have flown while drunk. It's been an embarrassing couple of days for NASA, and the snockered rocket jockeys ain't the half of it. The agency also had to announce that somebody had deliberately sabotaged a computer meant for use on the international space station, and not even by some clever software hack: evidently the unnamed miscreant just cut a couple of wires."

NASA Also Lost $94 Million -- Possibly In Space, Probably Drunk, Wonkette

"NASA deputy administrator Shana Dale last made the news when she had to explain why NASA's astronuts were all crazy and why that one diaper-wearing lunatic Lisa Nowak was trying to kill the girlfriend of another astronut. Today, she gets to explain graft and drunken astronuts and sabotage and the latest loser news from the world's lamest space agency: How did NASA lose $94 million worth of computers and office crap?"

Editor's note:Let's see what NASA PAO - specifically - NASA JSC PAO - and the astronaut office does about this. Between the Nowak drama (which has yet to play out) and this latest scandal, NASA now has a double barrel public impression floating around that the astronaut office is a safe haven for "girls gone wild/frat boys on the prowl" sort of behavior.

If NASA does not seek to actively take control of this public discussion and focus it on reality - and do so by providing up-front, prompt, factual, and honest information, and making substantive changes in how things are managed at JSC, they will lose all control of this discussion. When that happens the media and late night TV will establish the public's perception of who and what astronauts really are. End result: NASA will have no one to blame but themselves and will have to live with the consequences. Heads up StratComm: it will take more than a bunch of inbred Powerpoint charts and talking points to deal with a situation like this.

This will not simply go away.

NASA OIG Update

Report: NASA Employee Stole More Than $150,000, Local6.com

"A former NASA employee is accused of stealing more than $150,000 from government coffers, according to a report released Thursday. Elizabeth Ann Osborne, 52, who resigned in October after 31 years at the space agency, pleaded guilty to embezzling public money as part of an agreement made with the U.S. Attorney's Office on July 17."

Property Management: Lack of Accountability and Weak Internal Controls Leave NASA Equipment Vulnerable to Loss, Theft, and Misuse, GAO

Explanations Provided for Equipment Loss in Which No One Was Held Accountable

Equipment description - Equipment value (dollars) - Explanation provided

Desktop computer and laser printer - 4,855 - My wife needed a computer at home to perform her work as a real estate broker so I checked one out from the surplus stock available. I turned the computer back in when she was done using it but never received a receipt.

Laptop computer - 4,265 - This computer, although assigned to me, was being used on board the International Space Station. I was informed that it was tossed overboard to be burned up in the atmosphere when it failed.

Various missing property, 65 items - 850,321- A thorough and reasonable search was conducted but we were unable to locate the missing property. In general, the missing items consist of older equipment that has been replaced or is no longer necessary for standard operations.

Source: GAO analysis of NASA's fiscal year 2006 equipment loss reports.

Reader note: The GAO report says that out of "$35 billion of property, plant, and equipment (PP&E) and materials" that NASA reports on, $94 million was lost. That's a quarter of one percent. (In retail, 1.5% "shrinkage" is considered "industry average"). And they say "In general, the missing items consist of older equipment that has been replaced or is no longer necessary for standard operations."

I don't think that we need "ten actions aimed at strengthening users' accountability for old and unnecessary equipment," I think we need to stop having GAO waste our time on trivia. -signed, Anonymous@nasa.gov

NASA Administrator Names Ryschkewitsch as New Chief Engineer

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin has named Michael Ryschkewitsch as the agency's chief engineer. He succeeds Christopher Scolese, who Griffin selected as NASA's associate administrator on July 11.

Editor's note: I am currently on Devon Island, in Nunavut, Canada less than a thousand miles from the North Pole as part of the Haughton-Mars Project's activities. It would seem that I also have in my possession Earth's northernmost iPhone. Check out the video. Click on Image to play.

Leading your leaders

Memo From NASA's Wayne Hale: Leading your leaders

"When I was a new NASA employee, my branch chief put together a training class that has been in my mind recently. Among the other things he taught us new employees was that we had to lead our leaders. That has always been good advice. I'd like to share some of those thoughts and expand on them.

First of all, remember that your leaders are not very smart.

OK, maybe Mike Griffin is smart, but the rest of us need a lot of help."

Shuttle's Name Misspelled On NASA Launch Pad Sign, Local 6

"The first NASA sign at launch pad 39A encouraging the next launch of space shuttle Endeavour at Kennedy Space Center was misspelled and noticed by someone looking at the craft."

Editor's note:Given some of the Powerpoint presentations I have seen, having only one typo is rather good for NASA...

Horowitz Leaving NASA

Editor's note: ESMD AA Scott Horowitz will be leaving NASA effective 1 October 2007.

"Everyone,

It is true. I will be departing on or about October 1st of this year which will mark the end of my "2 year tour of duty." I need to devote more attention to my family responsibilities. I will discuss in more detail at our All Hands meeting next week. It is an honor and a privelage to serve our country, NASA, our administrator, and to work with such an outstanding group of people on such an incredible adventure. We have come a long way and have a lot more to do during the next 3 months until my successor takes the helm.

Thank you, "Doc"

NASA is putting together a promising string of successes, editorial, Caller-Times.com

"Another positive sign from the NASA front came last weekend with the launching of an unmanned spacecraft that will make its way to the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter."

Editor's note: Huh? Dawn's launch has been delayed to September.

Another NASA Vehicle Having Trouble Landing, Wonkette

This was posted an hour ago in the Washington DC travel forum on Trip Advisor:

"From: NewNasa
Posted on: 12:12 pm, June 28, 2007
Which garages in Georgetown, part of the Washington, DC, area will allow parking of a large bus, approximately 55 passenger bus, for about two hours? The parking space will be needed on a weekend morning.
my e-mail address is ----- @hq.nasa.gov

What sort of lunatics need to garage-park a giant bus for two hours? Oh, right, its NASA. They probably built the bus themselves, so it probably falls apart in the rain or sunshine or humidity."

Editor's note: This story title appeared today at Fox News: Martian Dust Storm Could Destroy NASA Rovers. It's actually a republished story originally written and posted at Space.com with the slightly less apocalyptic title "'Scary Storm' on Mars Could Doom Rovers". "Scary storm" is derived from what someone working on the project actually said. No one really thinks that this storm will physically destroy the rovers - just cause them to run out of power and shut down.

There's a difference between what people say and what they don't say, Fox. I guess someone in your web production department just saw Transformers and liked the scene on Mars where an uber robot crushes a puny little rover from Earth.

No space for space artifacts, Huntsville Times

"There has been criticism about the way some of the space center's artifacts have been handled, chiefly a one-of-a-kind Skylab trainer - basically a full-size mock-up of NASA's first space station. The trainer was left exposed to weather for years."

Skylab not forgotten, say center officials, Huntsville Times

"Hancock and the volunteer group started to restore the Skylab trainer a year ago and, after working many weekends, "we felt it was about 80 percent back in good condition. There was still some work needed, painting and such, but we had made a lot of progress." Then the project was shut down in December. "We were never given an official reason," Hancock said. "We came out and the locks had been changed." Capps said there were liability concerns when volunteers work on a restoration project as complex as the Saturn V or Skylab restoration."

Editor's note: So let me get this straight: the Skylab trainer hardware has been allowed to sit outside for years and rot by the U.S. Space & Rocket Center (USSRC). The USSRC did nothing to preserve the hardware except throw a tarp over it. A group of concerned citizens organized and donated their own time and money to try and halt the destruction and preserve the hardware. After their efforts show some results (and made the USSRC look bad) the USSRC thinks that the volunteers were doing something wrong and locks them out. And now the hardware continues to rot and yet the USSRC does nothing but try to look concerned. This is pathetic. It is also a rotten way to say "thank you" to volunteers who sought to do the job that USSRC has clearly failed to do i.e. to preserve the articfacts that have been entrusted to it.

According to earmarks (pork) inserted ito NASA FY 2008 Appropriations, Sen. Shelby the USSRC is due to get $500,000 for "completion of a long overdue update for the museum and exhibits". Perhaps the USSRC could publicly state that this project will be at the top of the list of things to beneft from this influx of funds - and that the first priority will be to cover the hardware (properly) such that "birds and rodents" no longer live inside it.

The photo below (taken 48 hours ago) shows the extent of deterioration that the USSRC allows to persist . If the USSRC thinks that it is OK to let things get this bad ... Oh yes, according to a local resident, "those pieces are sitting outside the fence. Anybody can just pop up and get at them."

NASA Does Hip Hop?

Byrn, Waits, M.I.A., RZA, ODB, YYYs on NASA LP, Pitchfork

"Squeak E. Clean, aka director Spike Jonze's brother Sam Spiegel, has teamed up with DJ Zegon, aka Ze Gonzales, to release a debut album together under the name NASA (North America South America)."

NASA Strategic Management Council 25 April 2007: Strategic Communications Framework Implementation Plan

"Members questioned some of the technologies cited in the testing as growing out of NASA research and development, stating that NASA does more fundamental than applied research. Porter specifically questioned including smoke detectors in the list and stated that there are aeronautics inventions that NASA can take full credit for having done the research. Members stressed the need to be accurate.

SMC Decision: The Administrator directed that the Office of Communications Planning thoroughly vet NASA claims that the Agency was responsible for the research that enabled technologies ultimately used by the general public (e.g., smoke detectors) with in-house experts before it can be included in Agency messages.

SMC Action: The Office of Communications Planning is to vet the current list of NASA "spinoff" technologies being used in the Office's message testing with in house experts, specifically the Innovative Partnership Program Director Doug Comstock, Howard Ross of PA&E, and, with specific regard to smoke detector technology, Aeronautics Research Associate Administrator Lisa Porter, due by the next meeting."

Editor's note: A gold star for Lisa Porter! Wouldn't you think that a NASA office that does "strategic communication" would want to adopt a "strategy" of checking their facts regarding NASA's purported spinoffs BEFORE they put a plan together around them?

If you search through NASA's Spinoff Database for smoke detectors (I assume NASA StratComm has access to this) you will see that the smoke detector mentioned as a spinoff (from 1979) "is no longer being manufactured." Wow. Is NASA bragging about something that has not been manufactured for 28 years? Why would anyone be impressed by that?

NASA Spinoff website


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