News: September 2010 Archives

Bolden World Tour Update

KACST celebrating silver jubilee of Prince Sultan's space trip, Arabnews.com

"Participating in the opening session of the conference will be Prince Sultan, Gen. Charles F. Bolden, a NASA administrator and a veteran astronaut of four space shuttle flights," said the KACST chief. He added that they will be joined by Vice President of KACST Prince Turki bin Saud bin Mohammed, who is the pioneer developer of the Saudi space program. Both KACST executives, Al-Suwaiyel and Prince Turki, were part of the Kingdom's team of scientists who supported Prince Sultan's STS 51-G mission aboard Space Shuttle Discovery in 1985."

Saudi International Space and Aeronautics Technology Conference 2010

NASA Chief To Talk Climate Change Issues In Nepal, AHN

"NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden is arriving here Friday to attend a week-long high-level symposium on fostering regional and international cooperation to promote the use of and access to earth observation for improved scientific knowledge and understanding to support adaptation to climate change in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan (HKH) region. Bolden will receive VIP treatment from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He will meet Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and other senior government officials during his stay in Kathmandu."

"NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver will be available to answer media questions during a teleconference Thursday, Sept. 30, at 1:30 p.m. EDT. Garver will discuss the strong, bipartisan support Congress has given the agency and President Obama's ambitious plans for human space exploration with Wednesday night's approval of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2010. The Senate earlier this year approved the measure. Reporters may dial-in toll free at: 800-857-5728; passcode: authorization. Non-toll free and international callers should use: 212-287-1624 with the same passcode. Audio of the teleconference will be streamed live at: http://www.nasa.gov/newsaudio"

Keith's note: NASA ESMD is holding a participatory exploration meeting in Boulder, Colorado this week. Alas, this event is closed and attendance is by invitation only for NASA employees with a few speakers from outside the agency. Nothing is being webcast for taxpayers to see. No media advisories or press releases have been issued. Another stealth meeting.

Abundant irony is in evidence: no one outside of the attendees can "participate" in this meeting about "participatory exploration". How odd. Several people are tweeting from the event You can follow their 140 character descriptions here. That said, it is simultaneously hilarious and annoying to see NASA folks giddily tweeting about how "open" they are from within this "closed" meeting. FAIL.

IAC Update

International Astronautical Congress Quick Bits for Tuesday, September 28

"At the 2nd Plenary: Impact of Governments' Space Policy Changes on Industry saw a limited government view as only the European Space Agency and a Japanese representatives were available. On the industry side were five representatives from the United States, Japan and Europe (3). Industry reps cited "uncertainty" in the current market making things difficult and there is no current business model for the changes underway in the US. The plenary time was an hour and half but it was obvious given more time the the panel could have discussed a lot more. (Details to follow in a separate article by SpaceRef)"

Keith's update: This commentary (audio clip) was recorded at the end of the Space Agency Heads plenary at the IAC in Prague. The moderator asks what the panelists expect between now and the next Congress. According to SpaceRef's Marc Boucher who is covering the IAC, there are two things to listen for: Bolden describes NASA as being "the acknowledged leader in space exploration (corrected)". Perminov winces (although the picture barely shows it) and makes a hand gesture when the translator tells him that Bolden just said. Perminov's body language was, "No, I don't agree with that". Bolden then tells the audience, that they, the heads of agencies "are not around much longer ... in these positions."

Charlie Bolden's World Tour

Keith's update: I guess the real question that has me perplexed is why Bolden is making this trip to Saudi Arabia now? The 25th anniversary of the STS-51-G mission (with Sultan Salman Al Saud of Saudi Arabia on board) was in June. Right now NASA's future hangs in the balance as the Senate and Congress promote dueling versions of legislation that will undermine (one more than the other) the President's original proposal for space policy. Meanwhile, a more or less certain CR will leave NASA stuck in limbo in terms of its budget and its ability to implement the President's agenda - regardless of what authorization bill makes it to his desk.

One would think that Bolden would stay in Washington to help see that process through. Instead, he's off on a personal trip down memory lane - one that the White House still does not support - in great part due to the faux pas he committed the last time he was in the region. Since the media can't ask him about this, we'll never know. Let's hope that his trip to China and Indonesia does not turn out to be yet another exercise in stealth and media avoidance.

Video: NASA's Charles Bolden Answers Questions at the Agency Heads Plenary of the 61st International Astronautical Congress, SpaceRef

"Below are the four questions in which NASA Administrator Charles Bolden answered questions from the moderator and the audience. The question context is in reference to a statement that Bolden made earlier this in which he said NASA would work towards getting humans to Mars not in months but weeks."

About Bolden's Saudi Trip, National Review Online

"While in Saudi Arabia, on Saturday, October 2, 2010, Administrator Bolden will represent NASA at an aerospace technology conference and a commemorative event in honor of the 25th Anniversary of space shuttle flight STS-51G in Riyadh. The 1985 STS-51G mission aboard shuttle Discovery included among its crew astronaut Sultan Salman Al-Saud. Administrator Bolden and some of the active and retired astronauts who comprised the international STS-51G crew (including a French space agency astronaut) will also participate.

This trip including the visit to Saudi Arabia is driven by specific, appropriate agency-level objectives. It was not initiated by the White House, State Department or any other entity and has no objective other than those identified above. However, all such activities are coordinated through established State Department channels."

Bolden and Middle East Outreach: Take II, earlier post

Keith's update: At the formal request of NASA Headquarters I have removed the official itinerary for Bolden's trip to Saudi Arabia and Nepal. Suggestion for Mike O'Brien and NASA international affairs: if you are going to be as careless and lazy with regard to such things (as you collectively seem to be) you should not be at all surprised to see things like this floating all around the world. Suggest that you get some people in your organization who actually know what they are doing.

I am still wondering why Mike O'Brien's wife gets to go on this junket at taxpayer's expense. Moreover, despite all of the events that the Administrator of NASA will be attending in an utterly official and formal capacity, there will be little (if any) media availability nor any public record made of his activities, statements, etc. More stealth Charlie.

There are a total of 11 quests going on this trip. Given how they are all bouncing from Europe to Saudia Arabia to Nepal and then back to the U.S., each traveller's airline ticket is going to be $2,000 - $3,000. Add in hotels, ground transportation, per diem, etc. and the cost is easily $5,000 - $6,000 per person or upwards of $50-60,000 for the entire group. And yet no one is ever going to learn about what was said during this trip. To be certain, there are things of great value being done on this trip. However, by not allowing visibility into the trip, NASA passes on an opportunity to explain itself to the taxpayers whose money is being spent.

Israel's Space Ambitions

'Smaller is better' as Israel launches itself as space contender, Jewish Herald Voice

"The State of Israel is hoping to carve out a niche in the world space market while, at the same time, grow its space-related collaborations with the United States. Israeli-pioneered "mini satellites" - which are comparatively small, lightweight and durable, yet inexpensive - are key to these efforts."

Deja Vu All Over Again

Reader note: "This document was found in an office at KSC recently. It's from Jim Slade, a commentator for ABC News at the time. It was written at August 12, 1991. It sums up in the last paragraph exactly what is going on today. This is making its way around the email chains at the different centers."

Wayne Hale's note: "I have this document in my files and scanned in a copy last summer which I emailed around. I wonder if this a copy of that scan. Anyway, the more things change the more they stay the same. Gridlock and indecision in Washington while a lot of good people are working their tails off making sure the last couple of launches are perfectly successful, so a grateful nation can give them the pink slip." More.

NASA inspector general faults space agency boss, Houston Chronicle

"NASA's chief found himself mired in another controversy Monday, this time for making "inappropriate" contact with an oil company while considering an alternative fuel project. The space agency's inspector general reported that a 10-minute phone conversation last April between Administrator Charles Bolden Jr. and a senior Marathon Oil Corp. official was inconsistent with the ethics pledge he signed upon taking office last year. It also raised concerns about an appearance of a conflict of interest, the inspector general said."

NASA administrator Charlie Bolden rapped for violating ethics pledge, Orlando Sentinel

"But Martin's team concluded that "the contact was not consistent with the Ethics Pledge he, as an Administration appointee, had signed, and that it raised concerns about an appearance of a conflict of interest involving the NASA Administrator and a large oil company to which he had financial ties."

NASA administrator rapped over "conflict-of-interest", Nature

"The report confirms allegations that Bolden contacted Marathon Oil, a company in which he holds stock "valued at between $500,000 and $1 million," for technical advice about a NASA project called "Offshore Membrane Enclosure for Growing Algae" or OMEGA, a $10 million effort to use algae and wastewater to generate fuel. At issue was whether Marathon had biofuels projects that might have benefited from a slow-down in OMEGA."

NASA Chief Did Not Violate Ethics Law, Report Finds , space.com

"NASA administrator Charles Bolden did not break any laws but did breach an ethics pledge by consulting with one of his former employers on NASA business, an investigation by the space agency has concluded."

Alleged Ethics Violation by the NASA Administrator Involving Marathon Oil Corporation.

"In sum, we found no evidence that Bolden or Marathon received a present or promised financial benefit as a result of Bolden's call. We also found that the information Bolden received from Marathon did not cause him to withhold funding to the OMEGA project or to direct that the proposed MOU with the Navy be abandoned. We concluded that Bolden's contact with Marathon regarding OMEGA did not violate federal laws or regulations pertaining to conflicts of interest. However, we found that the contact was not consistent with the Ethics Pledge he, as an Administration appointee, had signed, and that it raised concerns about an appearance of a conflict of interest involving the NASA Administrator and a large oil company to which he had financial ties. When interviewed by the OIG about this matter, Bolden readily acknowledged that he had erred in contacting Marathon. Bolden said he has since recused himself from issues involving OMEGA and has received supplemental training regarding his ethical responsibilities."

... Finally, we believe that apart from the obligations imposed by the statute and NASA policy, OGC attorneys did not serve the best interests of the Administrator or NASA by failing to report the matter to the OIG. At issue was whether the top NASA manager had complied with his ethical obligations. Because the OIG enjoys a level of independence from the Administrator not shared by OGC attorneys, Bolden's actions should have been referred to the OIG for its review and disposition."

- Charlie Bolden's BP Moment, earlier post
- MSNBC Video: OMEGA, Marathon, and Bolden, earlier post

Keith's note: I still find it rather startling that someone of Bolden's stature would not have been throughly briefed on such ethical issues prior to taking the job and that he now needs "supplemental training" to deal with such issues. Although he is probably one of the most honest people you'll ever meet, his contact still had the clear scent of an apparent conflict of interest - however inadvertent. Indeed, I am startled that Bolden even picked up the phone in the first place.

Keith's update: NASA PAO has issued this statement from Charlie Bolden: "I have reviewed the report and I readily accept the findings of NASA's Inspector General. My intention was to gather an outside perspective about a potential agency research project. However, I should have explored the implications of my inquiry prior to acting. As soon as a possible conflict of interest was identified, I proactively contacted our General Counsel and fully supported an independent review of my actions. The OMEGA research project continues to move forward and its future development will be decided solely on its technical merits. Although the Inspector General found that no laws were broken, this incident serves as a reminder that we must all strive to hold ourselves to the highest standards of ethical conduct - and I have a responsibility to set that example for NASA and its senior leaders."

Conflict over NASA spaceflight program complicates funding, Washington Post

"NASA's human space program, long the agency's biggest public and congressional asset, has become instead its biggest headache. As never before, NASA watchers say, an agency that generally is funded and directed through White House and congressional consensus has become the focus of a brutal, potentially crippling and politically topsy-turvy battle for control that is likely to come to a head next week. NASA politics have always defied labels. But now a series of unlikely alliances and negotiating positions have left Congress in an especially difficult bind, with the distinct possibility that the fiscal year will end this month without an approved 2011 budget. The result, congressional negotiators and observers say, would be layoffs and a very unpredictable agency future."

An Inside Look at SpaceX

Inside SpaceX: Dragon Debut with Falcon 9 Launch set for October 23Inside SpaceX: Dragon Debut with Falcon 9 Launch set for October 23, Ken Kremer for SpaceRef

"SpaceX granted me eyewitness access inside their launch facilities and rocket processing hanger at SLC-40 for a detailed up close tour where I observed the initial operational Dragon and Falcon 9 booster first hand after they had just been bolted together for the first time prior to the countdown test."

International Space Transport Association Trade Organization Launched, ISTA

"One of the main goals of the International Space Transport Association is to facilitate the development of new regulations for the commercial space industry, which will help establish a more precise responsibility and liability structure, in line with UN resolution 2222-XXI Art VI."

Marc's note: I read the press release, I visited the web site and I wonder how much success this European based organization will have. From what I can tell they have no industry members registered as yet.

NASA Awards Launch Services Contracts, NASA

"NASA has the ability to order a maximum of 70 launch services missions with a maximum cumulative potential contract value of $15 billion. The NLS II contracts are multiple award indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity, spanning a 10-year period.

NASA selected four companies for awards: Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company of Denver; Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Va.; Space Exploration Technologies of Hawthorne, Calif.; and United Launch Services, LLC of Littleton, Colo."

NASA's Constellation Hallucination and the Congressional Money Drug, Rick Tumlinson on The Huffington Post

"In the coming weeks some in Congress will try to kill America's future in space as they desperately work to prop up the tax sucking, pork eating dream murdering monster known as the Constellation rocket program. Right now a bought and paid for cabal of hypocritical puppets in the House and Senate are trying to prop up this corpse of a dead end plan to go to the Moon and Mars that not only failed to deliver on President Bush's promise of a permanent U.S. presence in space, but continues to eat the budgets of the very exploration it was meant to support."

Ex-NASA administrator: Congress will shape U.S. space strategy, not Obama, Paul Gattis, The Huntsville Times

"We are no longer facing a future in which the administration's proposal is one of the possible outcomes," Griffin said in his speech. UAH provided a copy to The Times."

Marc's note: How could I pass up Rick's rant? What prose. As for Griffin, well we know where he stands. The truth is, the coming weeks will see a rigorous debate continued in Washington with both sides fighting it out. Will it be a continuing resolution? Or will compromise legislation win this round of the ongoing battle? And Rick is right on two points, it's partly about jobs and votes, and yes, you the public (taxpayer) do have a say.

More Recent Water on Mars

NASA Data Shed New Light About Water and Volcanoes on Mars, NASA

"Data from NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander suggest liquid water has interacted with the Martian surface throughout the planet's history and into modern times. The research also provides new evidence that volcanic activity has persisted on the Red Planet into geologically recent times, several million years ago.

Although the lander, which arrived on Mars on May 25, 2008, is no longer operating, NASA scientists continue to analyze data gathered from that mission. These recent findings are based on data about the planet's carbon dioxide, which makes up about 95 percent of the Martian atmosphere."

SpaceX and EADS Astrium Announce Agreement to Bring Falcon 1 Launch Capabilities to the European Institutional Market, SpaceX

"Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and Astrium announced a commercial agreement to provide dedicated launch services to the European institutional small satellite market.

Under the agreement, Astrium intends to work with SpaceX to market Falcon 1 launch capabilities to various space agencies and other institutional customers in Europe for launches to take place through 2015."

Kennedy Space Center Closed Today, Discovery's Rollover Delayed, NASA

"NASA's Kennedy Space Center is closed today due to a major water main leak. Only essential personnel (security, fire/rescue, operations) are at the center. Crews are working on a break in a 24-inch pipe located at the LC-39 Complex turn basin across from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). They're also assessing Kennedy's water system to identify any other potential problems. Currently, there is no potable water at the center. Shuttle Discovery's move, known as rollover, from its hangar, Orbiter Processing Facility-3 to the VAB, which had been scheduled for 6:30 a.m. EDT this morning, is postponed until at least tomorrow morning (Sept. 9). Today's delay is not expected to affect Discovery's targeted Nov. 1 launch on its STS-133 mission to the International Space Station."

Marc's note: Updated story from Ken Kremer for NASA Watch.

Space Shuttle Discovery Move Delayed When Water Main Break Closes KSC, Ken Kremer

"Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex were closed Wednesday morning when a 24 inch water main suddenly broke for unknown reasons.

KSC re-opened in the afternoon for the second shift after water was restored to the center except for one administrative building and the Press Site. Crews were able to isolate the break in the pipe which sent water gushing out very near to buildings which prepare the Space Shuttle for flight. Teams are assessing Kennedy's water system to confirm there aren't any other potential problems."

NASA Wants To Share Great Ideas, NASA

"NASA is seeking information from potential partners who could provide no-cost brokerage services for intellectual property transactions, such as patent brokering, to help transfer NASA-owned technologies into the U.S. marketplace."

"Technology transfer always has been an important objective of America's aeronautics and space program," said NASA Chief Technologist Bobby Braun at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "We want to accelerate the agency's efforts to get groundbreaking technologies and innovations from development efforts out into commercial markets. We're asking for information from broker services on how they might help us do this, without any cost to the taxpayer."

Challenger Center Heads to Arizona for NASA Desert RATSChallenger Center Heads to Arizona for NASA Desert RATS, Challenger Center for Space Science Education

"For the next ten days Challenger Center will be reporting live from NASA's Desert RATS in Arizona as humans use robots and rovers to learn what it would be like to live and work on another world. This is the second year in a row for Challenger Center's participation in Desert RATS. Challenger Center's participation in this NASA activity is facilitated by a Space Act Agreement between the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, and NASA."

Keith's note: The first NASA Edge/Challenger Center live webcast from Desert RATS will be today at 10 am PDT at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nelivedrats2010. Guests: Keith Cowing and Jake Bleacher. We hope to be doing these live webcasts daily for the next week ago - plus some other things. You can follow us at http://onorbit.com/DesertRats

NASA: Scientists Talk about Asteroids Passing Near Earth WednesdayNASA: Scientists Talk about Asteroids Passing Near Earth Wednesday, NASA

"Two asteroids will pass within the Moon's distance from Earth on Wednesday, Sept. 8. NASA scientists will be available for satellite interviews Tuesday, Sept. 7, and Wednesday morning to discuss these near- Earth objects.

The Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Ariz., discovered both objects on Sunday, Sept. 5. The Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass., reviewed the observations and determined the preliminary orbits. The center's personnel concluded both objects would pass within the distance of the Moon to Earth, approximately 240,000 miles. The asteroids should be visible with moderate-sized amateur telescopes."

NASA Loves A Good Challenge - Not Business As UsualNASA Loves A Good Challenge - Not Business As Usual, NASA

"NASA's pioneering use of prize competitions and innovation challenges is a dramatic departure from government's traditional "business as usual."

The agency's innovation and technology challenges include prizes that encourage independent teams to race to achieve bold goals -- without any upfront government funding. NASA benefits from private sector investments many times greater than the cash value of prizes, and the agency only pays for results."

Replace NASA?

Dissolve NASA?, Aviation Week

"It might have come as too much of an exogenous shock for some at Space 2010, but Bran Ferren certainly fired up the crowd when asked what his first step would be to boost public interest in space and revive U.S. leadership. "I'd start by dissolving NASA and then starting again. I'd create the National Exploration Agency - searching for life, protecting our nation and inspiring the next generation." Speaking at the AIAA conference in Anaheim, Calif., Ferren says the 'NEA' would include sea as well as space. "These are the areas to explore, and we should make it a national priority. Everyone will finish work at NASA on Friday and on Monday start work at NEA and help invent the future."

BP oil well declared to be no longer a threat to gulf, LA Times

"The latest step in the undersea drama involved removing the old blowout preventer -- which had failed to stop the gusher. ... Engineers cleaned out and hoisted the 50-foot, 300-ton blowout preventer to the surface and loaded it on a large vessel Saturday night, Allen said in a statement. Under the supervision of federal investigators including the FBI, the device will be hauled to a NASA facility in New Orleans for storage."

Lori Garver at Space 2010

Prepared Remarks at AIAA Space 2010 By NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver

"We have so many resources that we need to channel for the future of continued success. And you ask what's next. First, I think we're going through some philosophical changes - better determining what government can and should do; what we as a people can do; what is possible, desirable, necessary. There will always be a government role to buy down risk, push the technology envelope and open new markets, but then get out of the way. The government should always be at the leading edge of what's next, but it's going to be up to established and emerging companies to carry the ball forward. As we continue to push forward new technologies making space exploration more efficient and effective, we will increase opportunities for the private sector to use these technologies in unimagined ways, growing the space economy even more. As always, we have a young generation who is passionate, who wants to make a difference and contribute to the world. Like any generation, though, they want a future as exciting, more exciting, than the past."

Greg Shaskan

Keith's note: The following note was sent by Peggy Whitson:

"Dear All: I'm sorry to have to inform you that one of our Star City doctors, Dr. Greg Shaskan passed away early this morning, Moscow time. He was currently on rotation at Star City. Greg is survived by his wife, Sharon, and his 10 month old daughter, Francesca. Details are currently worked to return Greg to his family in Chicago. Once more details are known regarding any services, I will let you know. There is a card in the front office for folks to come by and sign. Please keep Greg's family in your thoughts during this tragic time. - Peg"

Congrats ASM Residents!, UTMB

"Greg Shaskan and Ronak Shah each presented cases at Aerospace Medicine Grand Rounds. Ronak presented on vertebrobasilar insufficency due to cervical disc disease, and Greg presented on musculoskeletal injury in an astronaut during EVA training."

NASA May Enlist Astronauts, Celebrities to Entertain Trapped Chile Miners

"The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration may help organize astronauts and celebrities to entertain 33 miners trapped in a mine in Chile during a rescue that may take as much as four months. The miners, who have been trapped in the San Jose underground mine in the Atacama Desert for a record 26 days, have already received messages of support from Chilean soccer star Ivan Zamorano and the national coach Marcelo Bielsa and have spoken on the phone with President Sebastian Pinera. "As we progress through in the coming weeks and months there might be an opportunity to have others make contact with the miners," James Duncan, deputy chief medical officer at the Johnson Space Center, told reporters in Santiago today. They may include famous Chileans or NASA astronauts, he said."

On ice and in space, lessons for Chilean miners, Washington Post

"The lessons that could help keep 33 trapped Chilean miners safe and sane during their months underground were learned at desperate times in isolated places: ice-bound sailing ships, prisoner-of-war camps, malfunctioning capsules whizzing through space."

Bold Endeavors: Lessons from Polar and Space Exploration, Jack Stuster, Excerpt from "Risk and Exploration: Earth, Sea, and the Stars", NASA SP-4701

"What happened on board the Belgica is well-documented. The crew gradually slipped into a malaise that was paralyzing to some of them. One man died because of what Cook thought was the effects of the isolation and confinement. One man developed a temporary deafness. Another man developed a temporary blindness. One man, each night, would find a place below deck where he could hide and sleep, because he thought people were going to kill him. Roald Amundsen served his apprenticeship as an explorer as mate on the Belgica, and later wrote, "Insanity and disease stalked the decks of the Belgica that winter." He credited Frederick Cook with saving the expedition from certain psychological collapse."

Keith's note: I took Jack Stuster's book "Bold Endeavors" to Everest Base Camp with me in 2009. Alas, I did not really read much there. I read some of Edmund Hillary's "High Adventure" (still very accurate, 50 years on), "The Ascent of Rum Doodle" ("send down more champagne" - a requirement), and a portion of Jack's book that focused on polar epics - until it got too cold to turn the pages, that is. Another lesson to be learned: let's invent books that turn their own pages at -20F (hint to iPad developers).


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