News: March 2008 Archives

Introducing Iarpa! It's Like Darpa, But for Spies, Wired

"Picture Q as a tall blond woman with an American accent, and you've got Porter. Lisa Porter. She's the first head of America's new Q branch, the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity -- Iarpa for short -- a fledgling office charged with outfitting US spooks with the highest-tech information-gathering gadgetry."

Editor's note: For those of you who looked at the recent NASA Gen Y presentation, I suggest that you look at this Powerpoint presentation created by the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) organization in Nepal. The similarities both in format - and message - are striking.

I am headed to Nepal in a few weeks and am hoping to bring my OLPC XO solid state drive laptop with me to Everest Base Camp - as an operational backup for my modified Macbook - and as something to use in the villages Scott and I will visit on our way back down to Kathmandu.

- NASA Generation Y Briefing, 2.4 MB PDF
- Donate a n XO Laptop to a child in a developing nation
- Attention Gen Y

Childhood's End

Sci-fi writer Clarke laid to rest, BBC

"Music from the film 2001: A Space Odyssey was played at the funeral and members of the family which had adopted him cried as his coffin was lowered. "Here lies Arthur C Clarke. He never grew up and did not stop growing," his gravestone in Colombo is to read, in accordance with the author's wishes."

Dom In Space

Volunteer spends 12 weeks in bed to help NASA, Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Dom Prinzo will end his mission and return to earth on Monday, March 31. Soon after his 7 a.m. wakeup call, he'll be tilted upward in his bed, a few degrees every half hour. He'll be vertical by 11 a.m. Then, maybe a bit like Frankenstein's monster, he'll take his first careful steps after 12 weeks in bed at the Cleveland Clinic."

Editor's note: Dom Prinzo has dedicated a substantial period of his life to space exploration. Please take the time to read Dom in Space - Dom's official blog - and be certain to say hello and thank him for his contribution to human spaceflight.

NASA's Skylab Trainer Is Still Rotting In The Rain

"In March of 2007 the temporary weather cover put in place by the volunteers was blown off one third of the low deck during a storm. Despite repeated requests to the curator and CEO of the US Space and Rocket Center, no effort has been made to pull the weather cover back in place. It's now been one year. This is blind neglect of a historic space artifact."

Reader note: "The US Space and Rocket center is allowing people who contribute $10,000 to have private time in the Apollo 16 command module. For your $10,000 you and an unlimited number of guests get to sit in it, sit on the crew couches, play with the controls, and do anything you want. I wonder if the National Air and Space Museum knows about this? This is abuse of a space flown national treasure."

Editor's update: It would seem that the USSRC is denying that people are allowed inside the Apollo 16 Command module to look around and pose for pictures. This image shows a USSRC employee and a donor inside the Apollo 16 command module. I know who the donor is and have blurred his face. He is a very decent person and only wants to help the USSRC out i.e. he has done nothing wrong. Why the USSRC is denying things like this happen is odd. Perhaps they know that it is in violation of Smithsonian policies. Oh yes. I have more images.

Griffin's Coronation

FSC Cites Administrator of NASA

Editor's note: Check out the photo. Thanks IK!

Editor's note: Ellen Engelman Conners has been selected as the new Director of External Relations at JSC replacing Eileen Hawley (who will be missed). Conners is a consumate Bush loyalist and overt politico - and a Huckabee supporter. Looks like she is burrowing into a career SES position now that the Bush Administration is coming to an end. She is currently the Senior Deputy Bureau Chief at FCC Headquarters in Washington DC. Prior to that she was at the NTSB. As for her previous experience with space exploration: by all accounts it is zero. Oh well - a hearty welcome from NASA Watch, Ellen!

Safety Chief in Holding Pattern - Relations With Colleagues Called Frosty and Petty

"Engleman Conners has not been popular among her peers at the board. Last year, she got into a high-profile spat with three of the four other board members that led to members' not speaking to one another and Engleman Conners working much of the time from the NTSB Academy in Ashburn, Va., rather than at headquarters in Washington."

New Strife at the NTSB under Engleman-Connors Leadership

"NTSB members are strongly dissatisfied with the way in which Board chairman Ellen Engleman Conners is attempting to curb their activities. Three Board members-Carol Carmody, Richard Healing and Deborah Hersman-sent a letter to the chairman late this summer expressing their concerns."

Transportation safety board's Engleman Conners withdraws nomination for second chairmanship term, Progressive Railroading

"National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) member Ellen Engleman Conners recently sent a letter to President Bush to withdraw her nomination for a second term as board chairman. The president nominated her in April."

Exiting From the Game Doesn't Dispel Clouds, WS Journal

"MOVING OVER: National Transportation Safety Board insiders twitter over the FCC's hiring of former chairwoman Ellen Engleman Conners for the managing director's office. Internal strife marred Conners's three-year NTSB term, where complaints, including from fellow Republicans, ranged from how she resolved a backlog of safety issues to how she divvied up office supplies."

Safety Chief in Holding Pattern - Relations With Colleagues Called Frosty and Petty

"She often joked to colleagues that she was determined to live the life of a spinster aboard her houseboat on the Potomac with her five cats -- each of which had its own life preserver."

NASA Policy on the Release of Information to News and Information Media, 30 March 2006

"(a) NASA, a scientific and technical agency, is committed to a culture of openness with the media and public that values the free exchange of ideas, data, and information as part of scientific and technical inquiry. Scientific and technical information from or about Agency programs and projects will be accurate and unfiltered."

The Reality of Tomorrow: Speech by NASA Administrator Michael Griffin at the Goddard Memorial Symposium 5 March 2008

"Let us speak openly and honestly about the problems we face in carrying out our nation's space program. Over the course of my career in this business, I have often been disheartened by the large number of diverse "entrepreneurs" in search of NASA funding who place their self interests over the greater good of the aerospace community. They do not respect the priorities set out for NASA by our duly-elected stakeholders in the White House and Congress, or even the priorities of their own respective science communities in National Academy decadal surveys. Even worse, the rift and harsh rhetoric between proponents of robotic science and human spaceflight does not help our nation's overall space effort one iota, but it does cause division that weakens us. If we wish a better reality for tomorrow, we as a community must police this behavior; those who engage in it must be made to feel, and be, unwelcome in the community at large. My hope for today is that there will in the future be more respect for each others' work."

Editor's note: Mike Griffin's statements at the Goddard Memorial Symposium last week would seem to utterly contradict what NASA put forth in the communications policy issued in March 2006. And just who does Mike Griffin think he is by advocating that anyone should "police" speech in a country where such speech is protected by the Constitution - under any possible circumstance as it relates to NASA? Moreover, what possible moral or legal authority does he have to suggest that "those who engage in it must be made to feel, and be, unwelcome in the community at large"? The fact that a Presidential appointee would say things like this in public - on the record - is troubling.

I hear a clock ticking.

Ah, Those Wacky Brits

First advert to be broadcast into space, University of Leicester

"The campaign to broadcast the first ever advert into space is launched today ... On 12th June, the space-bound ad will be broadcast from a 500MHz Ultra High Frequency Radar from the EISCAT Space Centre in Svalbard, which lies in the Arctic Ocean about midway between northern Norway and the North Pole."

Jodrell Bank fears funding loss, BBC

"Scientists at one of the world's most advanced observatories are facing an uncertain future, with a closure threat hanging over its flagship project."

UK astronomers to broadcast adverts to aliens, The Telegraph

"The cosmic stunt marks a small step for man, a giant leap for advertising hype and underlines the desperation of British astronomers to find new sources of funding as they struggle to cope with swingeing cuts that now threaten institutions such as Jodrell Bank, the world famous observatory in Cheshire."

Editor's note: Where do I start? I hate to break it the Brits, but the first advertisements "broadcast into space" were sent out nearly a century ago (didn't you guys see "Contact"?). Second, if you are so concerned about the prospect of closure of your country's radio telescope at Jodrell Bank, why not spend the money in the UK by mount a PR campaign, and send the message from Jodrell Bank - instead of going up to Svalbard?

NASA's Johnson Allows Phone Participation in Mission News Briefings

Editor's note: Doesn't ANYONE proof read these press release titles at PAO before they go out? ("NASA's Johnson"). The first thing that came to mind was this segment from Austin Powers... (yes it is a slow news day).

Top NASA Spin-offs, Rankopedia

"NASA, a branch of the USA government, has provided a huge number of technological spin-offs since founding in 1960. But which one(s) are the best? Integrated circuits? Sel-righting life-rafts? Automated urinalysis? The sports bra? What's your call?"

Editor's note: I will be in Nepal between 18 April and the beginning of June. I will be providing support at Everest Base Camp (elevation 17,500 ft.) for a month for a team of climbers who will be heading for the summit. Among the climbers is STS-120 astronaut Scott Parazynski. We'll also have a bunch of NASA folks visiting us at Base Camp for a few days during the month of May. I am going on this trip representing the Challenger Center for Space Science Education on whose board of directors I serve. I will have regular Internet access - most of the time - but it will be slow and somewhat expensive. While I will be providing updates on life at base camp and the team's progress (that is what my job will be) over at OnOrbit.com I will not be able to run NASAWatch in the fashion that you folks are used to. My solution: guest bloggers.

If you are interested in being a guest blogger on NASAWatch send me an email at nasawatch@spaceref.com.

Editor's update: I have gotten a nice response from potential bloggers. I will get something out to all of you within a week or so once I figure out to best feature your diverse talents and interests. In the mean time there are still openings for guest bloggers on NASA Watch.

Silent Sputnik

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin's Remarks to the Space Flight Suppliers Conference

"And when it comes to being a recognized leader in the world, is it any wonder why China has emerged in recent years as one of the three spacefaring nations? They understand the value of space activities as a driver for innovation and a source of national pride in being a member of the world's most exclusive club. China today not only flies its own taikonauts, but also has plans to launch about 100 satellites over the next five to eight years. It should be no surprise, especially to those who have read Tom Friedman's book "The World is Flat" or John Kao's "Innovation Nation", that this environment in China is breeding thousands of high-tech start-ups. As John Kao couches the issue, America is currently facing a "Silent Sputnik" where "many countries are racing for a new innovation high ground while our own advantages are showing signs of serious wear."

NASA IG: Manage official e-mail messages better, FCW

"NASA employees are not properly managing their official e-mail records due to unfinished guidance and a lack of training, according to an inspector general's report."

Final Memorandum on Audit of Retention of NASA's Official Electronic Mail, NASA OIG

Editor's note: I just got the following email from the producer of a popular Showtime TV series. I declined the offer to participate since they have already made up their mind on the topic and anything I might say would likely be ignored or possibly edited and used out of context:

"I'm working on a Showtime series documentary/comedy series called "Penn & Teller: Bullsh*t." The program is in production on its sixth season, and is unlike anything else on TV. We mix irreverent comedy with the foundation of a series documentary - shining a spotlight on controversial issues such as the death penalty, prostitution, world peace and even things like circumcision, bottled water, PETA and pet love.

I'm working on an episode about NASA and was wondering if you had any interest in participating with our show?

We're going to basically say that NASA has been in decline since the Apollo missions, some of the current plans (moon base!) are bogus, and worst of all the culture of NASA created a safety situation that ended in the horrible deaths of the Challenger and Columbia astronauts.

We've interviewed NASA critics, supporters, insiders and even a Challenger family member. I'm just wondering if you agree or disagree with our basic position - and if you have anything else to add?


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This page is an archive of entries in the News category from March 2008.

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