News: April 2008 Archives

NASA Watch 3.0

Editor's note: You may see a new look and feel for NASA Watch appearing - and then disappearing. That's NASA Watch 3.0. We hope to have it online in the next few days or so. We're fiddling with things right now - so please excuse the mess. Once everything is working, we'll be featuring guest bloggers, a moderated comment feature, tagging capability for sites such as Digg, and a number of social networking and Web 2.0 features that further integrate our SpaceRef.com news, OnOrbit.com networking, and search capabilities.

It is rather amazing to see what can be done these days - considering that I started NASA Watch on a Mac Classic II webserver on an ISDN line in our condo in 1996 - and was coding HTML by hand. I was blogging before the word had even been coined. Oh well. I am certain NASA Watch 4.0 will be under development soon enough. Stay tuned.

Changes in Thinking at NASA, PBS Newshour, 29 November 1996. Scroll down a bit. Back then this website was called "NASA RIF Watch".

"Keith Cowing follows all of this in cyberspace. He's a former NASA engineer who set up an Internet site that functions as a kind of super water cooler for all of NASA's far-flung employees. He calls it "RIF Watch." It features rumors, editorial comment, jokes, cartoons. It also frequently publishes high-level internal memos that NASA employees send to Cowing. He says there are a lot of unhappy people out there in NASA Land."

Dammit Jim, I am a biologist, not an engineer.

Rockets Vs Fish

CCA Florida issues comments opposing NASA launch sites, Sport Fishing

"We have strong objections to both proposed alternatives. The Mosquito Lagoon and Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge areas are premier destinations in Florida's six billion dollar saltwater recreational fishery. Florida's recreational fishery is one of the major economic engines driving Florida's tourist economy," said Ted Forsgren, CCA Florida Executive Director."

Reader note: "In reference to "Rockets vs Fish", this is not without precedence. JAXA deals with this very issue. Their launch facility at Tanegashima has to work around the schedule for seasonal fishing, which is a primary industry of Japan. This can and does affect launch schedules from their facility. I can certainly respect the desires of local fishermen to keep their areas pristine, but ultimately both sides have to work together to do what's best for commercialization of space, providing recreational services to the public, and maintaining the economic benefits of the region."

India's PSLV Successfully Launches Ten Satellites

"In its thirteenth flight conducted from Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota, today (April 28, 2008), ISRO's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, PSLV-C9, successfully launched the 690 kg Indian remote sensing satellite CARTOSAT-2A, the 83 kg Indian Mini Satellite (IMS-1) and eight nanosatellites for international customers into a 637 km polar Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO). PSLV-C9 in its 'core alone' configuration launched ten satellites with a total weight of about 820 kg."

ISRO to send man into space in seven years, India PR Wire

"India will be in a position to carry out a manned space mission within seven years from now, said a top official of the Indian space agency here Monday."

Editor's note: In March NASA Watch reported that Ellen Engelman Conners had been selected as the new Director of External Relations at JSC replacing Eileen Halwey. Conners is a consumate Bush loyalist and overt politico. Well, nothing seems to have happened since then. She does not appear in the JSC X.500 directory and she does not seem to be on the job. She is also still listed as Senior Deputy Bureau Chief at the FCC in Washington, DC. Maybe someone changed their mind.

Just What JSC PAO Needs - An Overt Bush Politico, earlier post

The following reports are tentatively scheduled for release during May:

- United States Civil Space Policy -- A Workshop Summary [National Research Council]

Summarizes a November 2007 workshop that explored future directions of the U.S. civil space program.

- Ensuring the Climate Record from the NPOESS and GOES-R Spacecraft: Elements of a Strategy to Recover Measurement Capabilities Lost in Program Restructuring [National Research Council]

Prioritizes resources, especially those related to climate research, that were lost or placed at risk following recent changes to NPOESS and the GOES-R series of polar and geostationary environmental monitoring satellites, and presents strategies to recover these capabilities.

- Science Opportunities Enabled by NASA's Constellation System -- Interim Report [National Research Council]

Assesses potential space and earth science mission concepts that could take advantage of the capabilities of the Constellation system of launch vehicles and spacecraft being developed by NASA.

"CLEVELAND - NASA's Glenn Research Center has experienced a water main break, and for the safety of all employees, the center has been closed for the remainder of the day. In addition, Glenn's Visitor Center will be closed today and through the weekend."

Stupid Movie Alert

Astute reader observation: "Well, Keith, at least now when I see a rerun of the old Space: 1999 TV show, I'll know that more than 24E18 GJ of energy was required to send Moonbase Alpha off into deep space! LOL You have many talented readers."

David James Elliott to lead 'Impact', Hollywood Reporter

"Impact" chronicles the aftermath of a meteor shower during which a piece of a dwarf star lodges itself in the moon. That triggers a series of anomalies on Earth, including cell phone service interruption, exaggerated tides and the occurrence of sporadic weightlessness. Astrophysicist Alex Kinter (Elliott), with a help of a female astronomer, discover that the moon has been dislodged from its orbit and is on a collision course with Earth."

reader math note: "For what its worth ..... Just a quick note on your stupid movie alert: The minimum delta-V required to put the moon on a collision course with earth is about 4 km/sec. Assuming a lunar mass of 7.348300E+22 kg the kinetic energy equivalent is about 6x 10^14 giga joules. This equates to roughly 1.42 million 100-megaton Fusion warheads exploding simultaneously - and they won't have long to wait for collision .. about 4 1/2 days."

Another reader math note: Noticed that the kinetic energy calculations needed to cause a moon-Eartn collision were a bit off. If a delta V change of 4km/sec is needed then the kinetic energy required is 6 x 10^17 trillion Joules (1/2*m*v^2). The number of 100 Megaton weapons required to release this energy is 1.24 trillion.

And yet another reader math note: "For what it's worth I think the first calc is right 1/2mv^2 = 8*7.34E22 joules = 6E23 joules = 6E14 Gjoules ... no? Don't know how many nukes that is but "a lot" would be a reasonable number ..."

And yet still another reader math note: WRT Stupid Movie Alert, some correct physics: Lunar mass is 73.5E21 kg; required deceleration impulse is--on average--809.3 m/s; kinetic energy exchange is thus 24E18 GJ, the equivalent of 57.5E6 100 MT bombs, "a lot."

The reader math notes keep coming : Here are the kinetic energy calculations: KE = 1/2 m*v^2, KE = 1/2 * 7.35E22 Kg * 4000 m/s * 4000 m/s, KE = 5.9E29 Kg*m^2/s^2, 1 Joule = 1 Kg*m^2/s^2, KE = 5.9E29 Joules

more reader math: Lunar mass is 73.5E21 kg; required deceleration impulse is--on average--809.3 m/s; kinetic energy exchange is thus 24E18 GJ, the equivalent of 57.5E9 100 MT bombs, "a lot more than before."

Editor's note: There has been a disappointing development in how the NASA Advisory Council posts things on its website. Although they were not the fastest organization at NASA (often taking months simply to post documents that were already completed), they did eventually manage to post the presentations.

Well, now it would seem, presentations made at these meetings (which are open to the public) can only be obtained by asking Paul Iademarco, the NAC Executive Director (see Feb 2008, Oct 2007 July 2007 etc.).

So much for openness at NASA.

Friday afternoon I asked Iademarco for a copy of a Gen Y perspectives presentation that was made at the NAC meeting yesterday. He told me by email "I will post the presentations when the minutes are completed. It usually takes about 3-4 weeks on average. However we always strive to get everything posted sooner."

Oh yes, have a look at the minutes that have to be prepared - October 2007 for example. This short document takes 3-4 weeks to prepare? Moreover, it has been 11 weeks since the 7 Feb meeting and the minutes/recommendations for that meeting are not even posted yet. Gee, why bother - its all stale by now.

Anyone attending this meeting could have gotten a hardcopy of the presentation or taken pictures of it on the screen. The Gen Y folks certainly have a valid point to make when they suggest that things could be done much more efficiently and effectively at NASA if only NASA personnel took the time to learn how to use the tools at hand - and if they truly wanted their part of the agency's activities to be responsive and transparent.

Ironically it seems that the very place where NASA gets this sort of advice is one of the places most in need of applying this advice.

German schoolboy, 13, corrects NASA's asteroid figures: paper, AFP

"Nico Marquardt used telescopic findings from the Institute of Astrophysics in Potsdam (AIP) to calculate that there was a 1 in 450 chance that the Apophis asteroid will collide with Earth, the Potsdamer Neuerster Nachrichten reported. NASA had previously estimated the chances at only 1 in 45,000 but told its sister organisation, the European Space Agency (ESA), that the young whizzkid had got it right."

Editor's note: Reliable sources report that this story is inaccurate - at best. Stay tuned.

NASA Statement on Student Asteroid Calculations

"Contrary to recent press reports, NASA offices involved in near-Earth object research were not contacted and have had no correspondence with a young German student, who claims the Apophis impact probability is far higher than the current estimate."

Yuri's Night Follow up

NASA Ames' director talks Yuri's Night, Google, and more, CNet

"Q: Why is NASA hosting this event?

Worden: Tonight, there are at least four NASA centers doing it. The fundamental issue facing NASA is that we're embarking on the most significant step that has ever been done in space. The next step is settling the solar system."

Opinion L.A., LA Times

"And the iPods, all $800 bucks' worth, were purchased by a NASA supervisor who -- and I stress, this is true -- had his name engraved on each of them. Obviously there are more egregious cases in the GAO study, but these are the most fun ones."

Governmentwide Purchase Cards: Actions Needed to Strengthen Internal Controls to Reduce Fraudulent, Improper, and Abusive Purchases. GAO-08-333, March 14.

Page 8: "At the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), a cardholder used the government purchase card to acquire two 60GB iPods. Although NASA officials maintained that the iPods were essential for official data storage, we found that the cardholder personalized the iPods with the requester's and agency's names and used the iPods to store songs and music videos. Although the iPods had some business files on them, we concluded that the purchase was abusive because other data storage devices without video and audio capabilities were available at lower costs."

Reader note: I am a NASA civil servant at the Marshall Space Flight Center with a current government travel card and previous holder of a government purchase card. I don't know if our purchase restrictions are at the Center or Agency level (your story would suggest Center level) but at Marshall, they put in strict controls over what can be purchased, to the point of legitimate meal purchases (bag of chips at a gas station) being denied. ...

NASA Officials Say No Chemicals Released During Incident at Goddard

"NASA Goddard officials have announced that an incident earlier this evening in a building at Goddard did not involve a chemical spill or release of any hazardous material. Managers believe that a malfunction in the high volume air conditioning system caused humidity to vent and a condensation cloud to form."

Beam Me Up Dana

Editor's note: Today's hearing on NASA's exploration program was rather routine - and mundane. At least it stayed that way until Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) asked a rather odd question. Rohrabacher, the former space subcommittee chair, asked the panel if they knew of any "antigravity research" being done at NASA. After an awkward pause they all said "no". Rohrabacher did not give a reason for asking this question and seemed satisfied with the answers he got.

Of course, antigravity would be a nifty way to solve all of Ares 1's weight problems.

Before you write this off as just a nutty question, I suspect that he asked this question just to get a pesky constituent off his back. You may think Rohrabacher is listening to a different drummer at times, but do recall that he was an early proponent of planetary defense from NEOs - and characterizing the potential threat they pose - something that has gone from fringe to mainstream - despite NASA's foot dragging. Then there was his constant pursuit of NASA on cost overruns, commercialization, technology transfer, and other things NASA has little inherent interest in pursuing. He also tried to teach Dan Goldin how to surf.

Oh yes. He is also one of the prime reasons why this Democrat (me) gets to ask questions at NASA press events.

So let's not write him off - just yet.

2001: A Space Odyssey, Wikipedia

"2001: A Space Odyssey is a 1968 science fiction film directed by Stanley Kubrick, written by Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke. The film deals with thematic elements of human evolution, technology, artificial intelligence, and extraterrestrial life, and is notable for its scientific realism, pioneering special effects, provocatively ambiguous and often surreal imagery, sound in place of traditional narrative techniques, and a very minimal use of dialogue. ... The film's world premiere was on April 2, 1968, at the Uptown Theater in Washington, D.C."

Editor's note: Have another look at the film's opening (below). Please play this as loud as you possibly can.

Google and Virgin announce Mars expedition and colony

"The Virgle 100 Year Plan's milestones will include Virgle Pioneer selection (2008-2010), the first manned journey to Mars (2016), a Virgle Inc. initial public offering to capitalize on the first manned journey to Mars (2016), the founding of the first permanent Martian municipality, Virgle City (2050), and the achievement of a truly self-sustaining Martian civilization with a population exceeding 100,000 (2108).

"Virgle is the ultimate application of a principle we've always believed at Google: that you can do well by doing good," said Google co-founder Larry Page, who plans to share leadership of the new Martian civilization with Branson and Google co-founder Sergey Brin."

Editor's note: Yes, I know, it is April Fool's day - but this is fun ... so why not play along!


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