Recently in Safety Category

Loss of Signal: Aeromedical Lessons Learned from the STS-107 Columbia Space Shuttle Mishap

"Loss of Signal presents the aeromedical lessons learned from the Columbia accident that will enhance crew safety and survival on human space flight missions. These lessons were presented to limited audiences at three separate Aerospace Medical Association (AsMA) conferences. As we are embarking on the development of new spacefaring vehicles through both government and commercial efforts, the NASA Johnson Space Center Space Life Sciences Directorate (SLSD)1 proceeded to make this information available to a wider audience engaged in the design and development of future space vehicles."

Risk and Exploration

Avalanches: Beauty, Wonder, and Danger - with video (May 2009)

Keith's note: There was a huge avalanche at Everest yesterday. So far it seems that 12 people were killed - all Sherpa guides. They were walking up the Khumu Icefall on their way to work. This (link above) is what Scott Parazynski and I witnessed in May 2009. At the time this was described as being a very, very big avalanche for Everest. As such, I can only imagine what yesterday's fatal avalanche at Everest looked like. No one was injured in the avalanche in this video.

Massive Avalanche Over The Lower Khumbu Icefall - with video (May 2009)

As I watched this equally huge avalanche (link above) a week later I was almost certain that Scott was in it. We did not know for a while if he was. As it happened Scott and Danuru Sherpa climbed fast and were above the Khumbu icefall when it happened. But Scott's climbing partner Rejean and his sherpa Dawa were caught in it. Dawa's quick thinking saved Rejean's life. Alas, one Sherpa guide was lost in this avalanche. It was a curious existence at Everest Base Camp. I awoke every morning to see the Khumbu Icefall outside my tent flap - calm and serene and always an instant away from becoming deadly. You get used to this - and then again you don't.

NASA has its risks and tragedies as well. That said it is always - odd - to watch both cultures (climbing and space) deal with risk. The similarities in risks are often eerily similar yet the ways that the risks are dealt with is often utterly different. FYI I noted this disaprity a decade ago and this led to the Risk and Exploration Symposium that John Grunsfeld and I put together for NASA in 2004. By coincidence, John Grunsfeld was in orbit while Scott and I were at Everest.

Life is very fragile - even for the strongest of climbers - or the most skilled astronauts. But that doesn't mean that all risks should be avoided. Many simply need to be confronted. The risks need to be understood and dealt with in a way that safeguards people while still allowing adventure and exploration to continue. Exploration is a risky endeavour - by definition.

NASA Should Use an Ethics Framework When Making Decisions About Health Standards For Long Duration and Exploration Spaceflights

"NASA should use an ethics framework when deciding whether, and under what conditions, spaceflights that venture outside low Earth orbit or extend beyond 30 days are acceptable if they do not meet current health standards, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences."

Expedition 39/40 Trio's Arrival at Space Station Delayed

"The next trio of crew members destined for the International Space Station is now looking forward to a Thursday arrival at the orbiting laboratory after their Soyuz spacecraft was unable to complete its third thruster burn to fine-tune its approach."

New Crew Launches to Space Station

"Three crew members representing the United States and Russia are on their way to the International Space Station after launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 5:17 p.m. EDT Tuesday (3:17 a.m. on March 26 in Baikonur)."

Marc's Update: The first additional burns have been completed successfully for the 34 orbit rendezvous. According to Space Station Mission Operations Integration Manager Kenny Todd "everything looks real good".

Ralph Roe Named NASA Chief Engineer, NASA

"As chief engineer, Ralph will be responsible for the overall review and technical readiness of all NASA programs. The chief engineer serves as the agency's principal advisor on the execution of our programs and projects with proper controls and management of technical risks and ensures our work is planned and conducted on a sound engineering basis."

Controversial Appointment At NASA, Daily Press (2003)

"A key player in the doomed Columbia shuttle mission was named director of a new safety office at NASA Langley Research Center on Friday. Ralph Roe, one of a team of people who dismissed falling foam debris as a threat to the shuttle during its final flight, is now director of the NASA Engineering and Safety Center."

NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel Meeting (Revised notice)

"SUMMARY: This is an amended version of NASA's earlier Federal Register Notice (13-153) previously published on December 23, 2013 (78 FR 77501). A USA toll free conference call number has been added to SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION."

NASA Is Not Allowing Remote Access to Some Advisory Meetings

"Notice anything missing? NASA is not offering Webex or dial in access to these meetings - something that the NAC has been offering for the past several years for its activities (these three are non-NAC committees). Several of these committees have had remote access before. By denying such access to these meetings, NASA is deliberately inhibiting the the public's ability to observe these meetings thus decreasing openness and transparency - something that all government agencies have been directed to do."

Female Astronauts Said To Face Discrimination Over NASA's Space Radiation Concerns, Huffington Post

"Depending on when you fly a space mission, a female will fly only 45 to 50 percent of the missions that a male can fly," Peggy Whitson, the former chief of NASA's Astronaut Corps, said. "That's a pretty confining limit in terms of opportunity. I know that they are scaling the risk to be the same, but the opportunities end up causing gender discrimination based on just the total number of options available for females to fly. [That's] my perspective."

NASA's Explosives Problem

NASA OIG: Review of NASA's Explosives Safety Program

"This Office of Inspector General (OIG) review found that NASA's Explosives Safety Program was poorly managed and exposed personnel and facilities to unnecessary risk. Specifically, we identified 155 violations of regulations, policies, procedures, and processes involving unsafe conditions and practices - some of which could have resulted in significant damage, injury, or death to NASA personnel, contractors, and the public."

NASA manager mused about what to tell Columbia crew if they had known space shuttle was doomed, AP

"When NASA started flying shuttles again, Hale told the new team of mission managers: "We are never ever going to say that there is nothing we can do." NASA developed an in-flight heat shield repair kit. ... Hale said he is now writing about the issue because he wanted future space officials not to make the mistakes he and his colleagues did. The loss of the Columbia astronauts -- people he knew -- still weighs on Hale. "You never get over it. It's always present with you," Hale said. "These are people I knew well. Several of them, I worked closely with. I was responsible for their safety. It's never going to go away."

Code Red: NASA Safety Panel's Warning on Funding Uncertainty, AIP

"Earlier this month the NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel issued its 2012 Annual Report. Looking for hazards across the space agency's wide-ranging portfolio of on-going and proposed operations and facilities, the panel assessed six issues and concerns. Only one of the six in the three-color-coded graphic was red: the continuing issue of funding uncertainty. "NASA's budget is the 'elephant in the room' both for commercial space and for longer term exploration" the panel warned."

Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel Releases Annual Report

"This report is based on the panel's 2012 fact-finding and quarterly public meetings; center visits and meetings; direct observations of NASA operations and decision-making; discussions with NASA management, employees, and contractors; and the panel members' past experiences. The report highlights issues that could have an impact on safety."

2012 ASAP Report

"In FY13, we predict this planning-funding disconnect will again drive a change to acquisition strategy, schedule, and/or safety risk. The ASAP is concerned that some will champion an approach that is a current option contained in the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) agreement. There is risk this optional, orbital flight-test demonstration with a non-NASA crew could yield two standards of safety--one reflecting NASA requirements, and one with a higher risk set of commercial requirements. It also raises questions of who acts as certification authority and what differentiates public from private accountability. Separating the level of safety demanded in the system from the unique and hard-earned knowledge that NASA possesses introduces new risks and unique challenges to the normal precepts of public safety and mission responsibility. We are concerned that NASA's CCiCap 2014 "Option" prematurely signals tacit acceptance of this commercial requirements approach absent serious consideration by all the stakeholders on whether this higher level of risk is in fact in concert with national objectives."

Keith's note: It is exceptionally odd that the ASAP gets all hot and bothered about certifying American-produced commercial crew spacecraft when the ASAP all too willingly said it was OK to fly Americans on Russian Soyuz spacecraft - spacecraft which have never been given the same level of formal safety certification by NASA - i.e. the certification that the ASAP apparently wants for domestically produced commercial spacecraft. A number of years ago, at a time when Americans living on Mir were exposed to repeated accidents, I asked (then) NASA Deputy Administrator Fred Gregory in a public setting if Russian spacecraft meet or exceed NASA safety requirements. Gregry said "clearly they do not". This question and response was subsequently referenced in a congressional hearing.

It is also a bit odd that the ASAP was perfectly happy with NASA's plan to fly crews on Orion/Ares 1 flight after only one unmanned test. The same (apparently) goes for the current plan for Orion/SLS. The ASAP's credibility suffers when they pursue contradictory and inconsistent paths such as this.

Roger Boisjoly

Roger Boisjoly, 73, Dies; Warned of Shuttle Danger, NY Times

"Six months before the space shuttle Challenger exploded over Florida on Jan. 28, 1986, Roger Boisjoly wrote a portentous memo. He warned that if the weather was too cold, seals connecting sections of the shuttle's huge rocket boosters could fail. "The result could be a catastrophe of the highest order, loss of human life," he wrote. The shuttle exploded 73 seconds after launching, killing its seven crew members, including Christa McAuliffe, a high school teacher from Concord, N.H."

Russia to postpone next manned space launch, AFP

"Krasnov said that delays came after the re-entry capsule of the Soyuz TMA-04M space ship to be used in the mission was shown in testing not to be hermetically sealed and could not be used for safety reasons. That means the next mission will have to replace it with the re-entry capsule intended for the following mission scheduled May 30, which in turn will be delayed."

NASA's Day of Remembrance

Photo: NASA Day of Remembrance Wreath Laying Ceremony

"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, NASA personnel, and others, participate in a wreath laying ceremony as part of NASA's Day of Remembrance, Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012, at Arlington National Cemetery. Wreathes were laid in memory of those men and women who lost their lives in the quest for space exploration."

Statement by the President on NASA Day of Remembrance

"Today, our Nation is pursuing an ambitious path that honors these heroes, builds on their sacrifices, and promises to expand the limits of innovation as we venture farther into space than we have ever gone before. The men and women who lost their lives in the name of space exploration helped get us to this day, and it is our duty to honor them the way they would have wanted to be honored - by focusing our sights on the next horizon."

Statement by the Charles Bolden on NASA Day of Remembrance

"In the face of our greatest accomplishments, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that each time men and women board a spacecraft, their actions carry great risk along with the opportunity for great discoveries and the chance to push the envelope of our human achievement."

ROSAT re-entry, DLR

"Currently, the re-entry date can only be calculated to within plus/minus three days. This time slot of uncertainty will be reduced as the date of re-entry approaches. However, even one day before re-entry, the estimate will only be accurate to within plus/minus five hours. All areas under the orbit of ROSAT, which extends to 53 degrees northern and southern latitude could be affected by its re-entry. The bulk of the debris will impact near the ground track of the satellite. However, isolated fragments could fall to Earth in a 80 kilometre wide path along the track."

@DLR_en Tweet earlier today: Current prediction of #ROSAT re-entry: 20 to 25 October 2011

Final Update: NASA's UARS Re-enters Earth's Atmosphere

"NASA's decommissioned Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite fell back to Earth at 12 a.m. EDT (0400 GMT), as Friday, Sept. 23, turned to Saturday, Sept. 24 on the United States east coast. The Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California has determined the satellite entered the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean at 14.1 degrees south latitude and 189.8 degrees east longitude (170.2 west longitude). This location is over a broad, remote ocean area in the Southern Hemisphere, far from any major land mass. The debris field is located between 300 miles and 800 miles downrange, or generally northeast of the re-entry point. NASA is not aware of any possible debris sightings from this geographic area."

What Would NASA Do If A Soyuz Landed In America? (2003 - with NASA contingency plans), SpaceRef

"As was the case with a Shuttle accident, NASA (in cooperation with Russia) has developed plans for what to do in case of a contingency Soyuz landing in North America. Although the entire, final plan has not been made public, we can provide, for the first time, portions of the plan under development a year or so ago."

Keith's note: Although NASA has yet to get any more detailed impact data from the DoD, odds are that most if not all of the UARS that made it to the surface of Earth landed in the Pacific Ocean. But it could have also hit land. While the statistics are on the side of no one getting hurt (or close to being hurt), the risk is not Zero. Skylab's impact taught us that. What would have happened if large pieces of UARS smashed into a populated area? NASA would have had little warning perhaps a few hours at most.

Does NASA have a quick reaction team in place to deal with events such as this? The answer no - not for crashing satellites. There are several partial exceptions: the contingency plan in place (and activated) during the loss of Columbia and also, as is seen in this article I wrote in 2003, in case a Soyuz lands in North America. While these documents were in draft form a decade ago, they do show that someone was thinking of how to mobilize a lot of people fast and what they needed to be thinking about. But clearly these lessons learned have not been shared across the agency.

Oh yes, the 2,400 kg ROSAT satellite, launched by the U.S. for Germany in 1990 is going to be making an uncontrolled reentry in the next month or two. Pieces are likely to survive reentry and reach the Earth's surface. ROSAT's orbital inclination is 53 degrees. UARS orbited at 57 degrees. So, a similar swath of the Earth's surface will be exposed to the non-zero possibility of being hit.

According to "Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts and the Return of Objects Launched into Outer Space" The U.S. as the "launching authority" bears at lest some responsibility for any damage ROSAT's reentry may cause. Maybe its time that NASA gets its act together and comes up with a plan. Space junk re-enters every day. Sooner or later someone is going to have a bad day.

NASA's dead satellite falls, starting over Pacific, AP

"NASA's dead 6-ton satellite plunged to Earth early Saturday, but more than eight hours later, U.S. space officials didn't know just where it hit."

Jonathan's Space Report No. 647 2011 Sep 25

"I would have expected the DSP missile early warning satellites to have detected infrared radiation from the entry - they do keep a close watch on the eastern Pacific in case of a submarine-launched missile attack on the US. It is a bit surprising to me that there's apparently no information from that source - or at least none that's been admitted."

Keith's note: This is just a little too odd. Something this large, with a demise so widely anticipated well in advance, the subject of international coordination among space agencies - and no one knows where it hit? NASA declined to have someone from the DoD (Joint Space Operations Center - JSpOC) on its weekend teleconference - yet NASA's expert, Nick Johnson, repeatedly claimed that the effort to track the satellite's reentry was a "success". When asked (by me) about the used of the term "success" in the media telecon, NASA PAO's Beth Dickey blocked Johnson from answering.

I find it rather unlikely that DoD/Intelligence "assets" in orbit and on the ground were unable to track and pinpoint the demise of UARS. Videos taken from locations that were along the UARS' final ground track have appeared on YouTube but NASA says nothing about them. 36 60 hours after the reentry of UARS and neither NASA or JSpOC have still said anything more definitive about its impact site or the veracity of videos and other sightings. The FAA issued a NOTAM for the UARS re-entry that asks pilots to report anything they might see with regard to UARS. The FAA has not responded as to whether any reports were received.

There is more to this story than NASA is willing/able to discuss.

UARS Reentry Update

Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite Reentry Update #6 Wed, 21 Sep 2011 08:03:34 AM EDT

"As of Sept. 21, 2011, the orbit of UARS was 120 mi by 130 mi (195 km by 210 km). Re-entry is expected Sept. 23, United States time. The time reference does not mean that the satellite is expected to re-enter over the United States. It is simply a time reference. Although it is still too early to predict the time and location of re-entry, predictions of the time period are becoming more refined."

Russian Federation unwilling to allow Space X demonstration, Examiner.com

"Vladimir Solovyov, head of the Russian segment of the ISS mission control center made a statement on Friday that Space X will not be granted docking permission to dock its Dragon spacecraft at the International Space Station (ISS) during a planned test flight on or around November 30, 2011."

@NASA: "Sorry, despite @ria_novosti reports, a decision has yet to be made regarding the upcoming @SpaceXer test flight to ISS. Incorrect story."

Keith's note: I suspect that this is yet another case of bad translation from Russian to English and/orRussian bluffing and/or a negotiating tactic for more money. They have done this before.

Space Satellite UARS Adrift and Heading for Earth, ABC

"A nearly 6-ton satellite is heading toward Earth and could crash into the planet as early as Sept. 23, NASA officials said."

Keep Sept. 23 open: A satellite is heading our way, CBS

"NASA has been watching the 6-ton satellite closely. On Friday officials moved up their prediction for its arrival to Sept. 23, give or take a day. Scientists have calculated that the satellite, named the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, will break into 26 pieces as it gets closer to Earth. The agency will offer the public more detailed information early next week."

NASA Studying Shuttle Retrieval of Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) (2001)

"EVA Project Office personnel supported a concept review for the possible Space Shuttle retrieval of the UARS on May 3, 2001. At this point, several different options are still under consideration. The mission would require at least one scheduled EVA to secure various deployable components on the spacecraft. UARS was originally designed to be compatible with EVA operations, so most of the tasks appear to be feasible. An EVA splinter meeting is scheduled for May 10, 2001, to further discuss the EVA requirements for this proposed mission."

NASA Needs Strategic Plan to Manage Orbital Debris Efforts; Risks Increasing for Satellites, Space Station, National Research Council

"Although NASA's meteoroid and orbital debris programs have responsibly used their resources, the agency's management structure has not kept pace with increasing hazards posed by abandoned equipment, spent rocket bodies, and other debris orbiting the Earth, says a new report by the National Research Council. NASA should develop a formal strategic plan to better allocate resources devoted to the management of orbital debris. In addition, removal of debris from the space environment or other actions to mitigate risks may be necessary."

Space station could be at risk if crews are forced to leave temporarily, USA Today

"NASA International Space Station Program Manager Mike Suffred says evacuation is a distinct possibility in mid-November if Russian Soyuz rockets are not flying, writes Florida Today's Todd Halvorson. Past NASA risk assessment shows a one in 10 chance of losing the station within six months if there is no crew aboard to handle critical system failures. That soars to a 50% proability if it remains crewless for a year, the newspaper says."

Upcoming flights to and from space station face delays, CNET

"It's not a trivial thing," Suffredini said. "If you look at...risk assessments, some of the numbers are not insignificant. There is a greater risk of losing the ISS when it is unmanned than if it were manned. That's why, when we made our decision after the Columbia accident to keep the station manned, that is exactly why, because the risk increase is not insignificant."

NASA Names Terry Wilcutt Agency Safety Chief

"Terrence W. Wilcutt has been appointed NASA's chief of safety and mission assurance, effective Sept. 1. Wilcutt is a retired Marine colonel and veteran astronaut who is serving as director of safety and mission assurance at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. He will assume the post from Bryan O'Connor, who will retire from the agency on Aug. 31. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden announced the appointment Tuesday."

Monopolizing ISS Access

Russian space agency won't let private US spacecraft dock with ISS until reliability proven, AP

"Russian news agencies are quoting a top space official as saying Russia won't permit a U.S. commercial spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station until it is satisfied the ship conforms to safety standards. The California-based Space Exploration Technologies Corp. has asked NASA for permission to send an unmanned cargo capsule to the space station later this year. The hookup also would need Russian clearance."

Keith's note: What a great way to continue a monopoly on access to the ISS. Curiously, the "digital" Soyuz was allowed to dock despite its ongoing problems.

Software and Risk

A Not-So-Simple Truth, Wayne Hale

"February is a month for introspection for me, and the events of 8 years ago have been on my mind. In the Columbia accident investigation report, there are several pages devoted to the use of a computer program called "Crater" which analyzed potential damage to the thermal tiles. The results provided from that computer program indicated that no serious damage had been done to Columbia's tiles and therefore a safe landing would occur. Disaster occurred instead."

CertifyingSoyuz, Wayne Hale

"So as new human certification ratings are proposed, they rely heavily on new standards and specifications, requirements for analysis, engineering calculation, computer simulation, piece-part testing and just a little bit on flight demonstration. Of course, the Shuttle and the Soyuz don't comply with those standards; they were built in different times with more primitive standards. But they demonstrate a level of reliability or safety that is apparently acceptable. If someone were to build their own spacecraft and/or launch vehicle; fly it successfully many times, demonstrate its capabilities in actual flight; then I suspect the new human rating requirements would be tossed aside in favor of demonstrated actual flight performance."

- Soyuz Procurement That Falls Short of NASA's Own Commercial Crew Requirements, earlier post
- NASA Releases LEO Commercial Crew Certification Requirements, earlier post

Final Memorandum Assessing Launch Services Program's Interim Response Team Training Requirements

"While the mishap plans we reviewed appropriately identified roles and responsibilities for managing contingency actions, NASA has not established training requirements for Interim Response Team members. In addition, we found that training requirements for Interim Response Team members in the Launch Services Program's mishap plan were inconsistent with mishap plans developed by Kennedy Space Center, the Science Mission Directorate, and the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate. We also determined that none of the 16 safety and mission assurance personnel assigned as Kennedy Interim Response Team members during the Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter/Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LRO/LCROSS) launch missions had completed all of the required training included in the mission-specific mishap plans, and only 3 of the 16 had completed the "Introduction to Mishap Investigations" training course required by the Kennedy Mishap Plan."

FAA, NASA Vie for Authority Over Commercial Space Safety, WS Journal

"Congress hasn't yet voted on White House proposals to outsource manned space flights to private enterprise, but the concept already is prompting a bureaucratic tussle over which federal agency should be responsible for ensuring the safety of such flights. The Federal Aviation Administration believes it should be the agency in charge, while National Aeronautics and Space Administration believes the flights fall under its jurisdiction. The dispute came into public view Thursday during a hearing of a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee. The panel's chairman, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, home to thousands of NASA jobs, indicated that he views the space agency as the final arbiter of astronaut safety."

Obama Plans Florida Forum to Discuss NASA's Future, NY Times

"Joseph R. Fragola, a safety consultant, said the review had found no critical flaws for Constellation. "Money is the problem," he said. "It's not technical."

- More Inconsistencies From the Ares 1 Risk Guru, earlier post
- Hanley Changes His Story On Ares 1 Safety - Again, earlier post

Human Rating A Spacecraft

Wayne Hale's Blog: Human Rating A Spacecraft

"Recently you may have heard about former astronaut Scott Parazynski's adventure to climb Mt. Everest. He carried a sliver of a moon rock from Apollo 11 with him, and then picked up a sliver of a rock from the top of the highest mountain in the world. These two rocks were encased in plastic, handed over to NASA, and flew aboard the space shuttle to be installed in the new Tranquility module of the International Space Station. All very inspiring and good.

Now for the rest of the story."

Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel Releases Annual Report

"The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, or ASAP, a congressionally mandated group of independent experts established after the 1967 Apollo 1 fire, has released its 2009 annual report."

ASAP Public Meeting First Quarter 2009, page 5-6: "Acknowledging that General Bolden raised an important point, Admiral Dyer commented that the ASAP would recommend almost a new communications genesis. The ASAP suggested that the new Administration and the in-bound Administrator take time to consider a new approach that would explain not only the level and range of risk associated with space exploration, but also the importance of the work, the reward that justifies the risk, and the acceptance of that risk by willing and knowledgeable astronauts. The public discourse thus would be more direct and clearer, with less interpretation required. General Bolden agreed, contending that American citizens can handle difficult issues, so NASA should quit treating them as if they are children who do not understand, instead bringing them in as partners."

Keith's note: Wow. If Bolden means to attempt to do this as Administrator, this would be quite an astonishing accomplishment i.e. treating "American citizens as partners" in what NASA does - and how it does it. Go for it Charlie.

James Cameron: The Lessons of Titanic and other Reflections, Risk and Exploration: Earth, Sea and Sky" NASA Administrator's Symposium

"So my message is in whichever realm, be it going into space or going into the deep sea, you have to balance the yin and yang of caution and boldness, risk aversion and risk taking, fear and fearlessness. No great accomplishment takes place, whether it be a movie or a deep ocean expedition, or a space mission, without a kind of dynamic equipoise between the two. Luck is not a factor. Hope is not a strategy. Fear is not an option."

PETA Protests NASA Plan to Radiate Monkeys, Scripps Howard Foundation Wire

"A man in an astronaut suit stood outside the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Thursday morning. Normal enough, given the contents of the building before him. But he was not promoting an exhibit, nor was he affiliated with the museum. He and a group of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals activists were brandishing signs and distributing pamphlets protesting a NASA program."

Prepared Statements

Gabrielle Giffords
Bretton Alexander
Joseph Fragola
Jeff Hanley
John Marshall
Bryan O'Connor
Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Thomas Stafford

House Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Hearing Ensuring the Safety of Human Space Flight

Keith's note: The hearing was held today, 2 December 2009 from 10:00a.m. -12:00p.m. EST. NASA TV will rebroadcast the House Science & Technology hearing on spaceflight safety at 2 p.m.and 7 p.m. EST at http://www.nasa.gov/ntv

Astronaut-safety hearing becomes pro-Constellation rally, Orlando Sentinel

"A congressional hearing on astronaut safety turned into a pep rally for NASA's troubled Constellation moon-rocket program, with lawmakers and witnesses endorsing it as the best replacement for the space shuttle even as critics complained the hearing was one-sided. ... The one-sided panel of witnesses didn't escape the notice of U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif. "I think that we did need a little more diversity on the panel," he said. "When people like myself are probing ... we [need] to have someone there who would keep everybody honest."

Badge Update

NASA's PIV project didn't meet fed rules

"NASA's Office of Inspector General released a report stating that the agency didn't fully comply with federal regulations for the issuance of PIV credentials. As of January, NASA had issued more than 70,000 credentials to staff and contractors, more than 98% of the PIV cards NASA planned to issue. The problem is the credential issuer had not been accredited because NASA did not fully comply with federal guidance. If NASA's PIV issuer reveals that the problems still exits the agency could be required to stop issuing credentials and reissue other cards at a minimum of a $1 million cost."

NASA's Processes for Providing Personal Identity Verification Cards Were Not Completely Effective in Meeting Federal Requirements, NASA OIG

"As of January 9, 2009, NASA had issued more than 70,000 PIV cards to staff and contractors, more than 98 percent of the PIV cards NASA planned to issue, from a PIV card issuer that had not been accredited because NASA did not fully comply with Federal guidance."

Earlier HSPD-12 stories
Earlier security badge stories
HQ Security Fumbles Again
WARNING: NASA Badges Can Be Hazardous To Your Health

ASAP Report Released

NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel Releases Annual Report

"The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, or ASAP, has released its 2007 Annual Report. The report examines NASA's safety performance and advises the agency on ways to better that performance."

NASA safety panel worries about moon ship design, AP

"NASA is not properly emphasizing safety in its design of a new spaceship and its return-to-the-moon program faces money, morale and leadership problems, an agency safety panel found Monday. The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel cited "surprising anxiety among NASA employees" about the Constellation moon program and said the project "lacks clear direction." Its 143-page annual report specifically faulted the agency's design of the Orion crew capsule for not putting safety features first."

Internal NASA Documents Give Clues to Scary Soyuz Return Flight, IEEE Spectrum

"Although the technical investigation will take weeks to resolve, NASA and Russian engineers have come to several credible preliminary conclusions. And internal NASA documents, such as "15S Ballistic Entry Outbrief" by George Kafka, chief of the Safety & Mission Assurance Directorate for the ISS program, reveal a plausible idea of what probably happened."

Man Kills Hostage, Self at NASA Building, AP

"The gunman was able to take a snub-nosed revolver past NASA security and barricade himself in the building, which houses communications and tracking systems for the space shuttle, authorities said."

Editor's note: The more I think about this, the more I can't fight the urge to comment. Someone drove onto JSC property with A LOADED GUN and KILLED SOMEONE. This happened days after the Virginia Tech slaughter and NASA is now going to re-evalute its security polices? Gee, it's about damn time, Mr. Saleeba. Something sure ain't working properly. The word incompetence (on someone's part) comes to mind. Metal detectors have been known to detect guns. Car searches have been known to find prohibited items. More importantly, people are under enormous stress at NASA these days with programs being shut down and many people certain to loose their jobs. Someone needs to be paying much more attention to this as well. Treating the symptoms is not enough. NASA to needs to recognize - and threat - the cause(s) as well.

Comments? Send them to nasawatch@reston.com.

One note: for those of you who are utterly convinced that additional screening and metal detectors could never work at NASA, I invite you to come up to Washington DC. Everywhere you go there are security scans and detectors. It has been like this for years - even before 9-11. Indeed, everyday every single visitor to the National Air and Space Museum goes through a metal detector and has their bags searched. That's tens of thousands of people every day - and most of these visitors are novices in terms of being scanned and searched. Alas, even though there are metal detectors at NASA HQ entrances, regular (badged) employees are not required to go through them. Only visitors are. NASA has the tools in place but only uses them to partial effect.

As for all of you who are dumping on me for suggesting that every person entering JSC be screened and and their car searched every day, guess what? I never said that! Read this post again. But since you folks seem to want to discuss that topic, I wonder what would be easier to do: screen every one entering a facility - with one landlord - a facility with vast amounts of land, large parking lots, and a small number of controlled campus entrances (JSC) -- or -- scan the same number of people entering hundreds of government offices and buildings every day in Washington, DC. It is not impossible, folks. You just do not want to be inconvenienced in the same way that we are up here in Washington every day - and that is certainly understandable. Alas, everyone seems to be trying to out do the previous person in saying how impossible enhanced screening would be at NASA. I am also rather startled that so many responses suggest that nothing can be done and that it should simply be assumed - and accepted - that people can - and will - carry guns to work at JSC.

Your comments thus far:

The Curious Use of Combination Locks By NASA During Space Shuttle Missions, SpaceRef

"Given the recent problems Lisa Nowak experienced - problems that emerged only months after she flew on a Space Shuttle mission - questions have arisen as to how NASA might deal with an individual who exhibited problems during a mission - as well as how to catch such problems on the ground ahead of time.

The following interview was conducted with NASA's Chief Safety and Mission Assurance Officer, astronaut Bryan O'Connor in April 2006 - a few months before Lisa Nowak's space shuttle mission to the International Space Station. As such, his thoughts certainly represent his recent thinking about safety.

As such, it is somewhat disconcerting to read a recollection wherein O'Connor talks about adding a combination lock to Space Shuttle Columbia's middeck hatch on STS-40 in 1991 due to concerns over the competency of several payload specialists. Moreover, he repeats several times that he thought this whole story was "humorous" and "funny"."

Making Risky Decisions

NASA Strategic Management Council Meeting: Who Decides About Taking On Risk?

"Griffin sees no institutional element as having veto power; he is not willing to cede the authority of the administrator to any single organization or manager. He does not want to put the Agency is the position where it can be brought to a halt by a single manager whose risk tolerance is out of bounds with the rest of the leadership. Griffin is not limiting the question to astronauts. He posed the question: how does NASA decide whether an activity will or will not be authorized?"

NESC Break Up Begins

NASA Announces New Cleveland Safety Center

"The center will complement the NASA Engineering and Safety Center based at Langley. Both centers will support safety but have separate and independent supervisory chains to ensure consideration of various points of view about technically complex issues. The Cleveland center will report to the Office of Safety and Mission Assurance at NASA Headquarters, Washington."

Editor's update: This strikes me as a reversal of the initial intent of the NESC - one derived from CAIB recomendations. Its almost as if NASA is now redistributing the singular, focused safety role away from the NESC back out to field centers - where that expertise came from in the first place. Not only does NASA have NESC in a position to duel with programs and centers over safety, it has set the stage for two separate field-centered based "independent" safety organizations to duel with each other - and, in so doing, diminishing the singular, independent role that NESC could have played.

Reader Comments:

Editor's note: In response to a request by NASA Watch three weeks ago, NASA has posted the following Contingency Shuttle Crew Support (CSCS) (Safe Haven) Documents on its website:

  • CSCS/Rescue Flight Resource Book (2.3 MB PDF)
  • STS-121 CSCS Capbility Report (104 Kb PDF)
  • CSCS Flight Rules (36 Kb PDF)
  • Calculating Risk

    NASA Says Shuttle Risk Overstated; Yet Some Risk Unavoidable, Popular Mechanics

    "NASA's official overall probability risk assessment number (PRAN) for complete loss of life and vehicle for the Space Shuttle remains at the widely quoted 1/100. Theoretically, there's a one percent chance of catastrophe. While the agency stresses that Space Shuttle flights are extremely dangerous missionssending humans into space always isofficials worry that the risk has been overstated. According to NASA, in practice, it's not as bad as it sounds."

    NASA International Space Station Independent Safety Task Force Meeting

    "The agenda for the meeting includes the following topics: --Presentations related to the IISTF's charter to assessing any vulnerabilities of the ISS that could lead to its destruction, compromise the health of its crew, or necessitate its premature abandonment."

    ISS End of Life Disposal (7 April 1999)

    New Book on Space Exploration and Astronaut Safety, AIAA

    "Part history, part technology and part policy analysis, Space Exploration and Astronaut Safety, a new book by Joseph N. Pelton, reviews the history of NASA's space exploration program, its astronaut safety program, the present status of the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station ..."

    Editor's note: I just hope Pelton has spent a little more time on the technical research aspect of this book than was done for the sloppy papers he and his colleagues presented on exactly the same topic back in 2004/2005.

    How to Waste $300,000, NASA Watch

    "The report makes heavy reliance upon newspaper and trade publication articles. Indeed, with the exception of several GAO reports, there are no technical references whatsoever upon which the report arrives at its findings and recommendations."

    SEAS Receives $300,000 Grant to Study Astronaut Safety, George Washington University

    Draft Paper Provides Insight Into NASA Space Policy Options, SpaceRef

    Safety Chief at Odds With NASA, AP

    "NASA's public affairs office - which earlier this year was accused by top global warming scientist of trying to muzzle his media interviews - said on Monday that O'Connor and Scolese would not talk to the media about their objections. NASA chief spokesman Dean Acosta said it was a decision by the two men. He released a two-paragraph statement and said O'Connor and Scolese "composed it together." O'Connor, who readily agreed to a 20-minute phone interview, said the statement was actually written by the public affairs office and approved by the two officials."

    Editor's note: Either Bryan O'Connor changed his mind about talking to the press, or PAO misled the media into thinking that O'Connor was not interested in talking. But wait - O'Connor and Scolese refused to talk with CBS on Monday:

    Opposition to flight hinges on risk to shuttle, not crew, SpaceflightNow

    "Both men declined requests for interviews Monday by CBS News."

    STS-121 FRR Materials

    Editor's note: According to reporters I have spoken with on Monday afternoon, NASA PAO has received a number of interview requests for both Bryan O'Connor and Chris Scolese with regard to their "no go" stance at the recent STS-121 Flight Readiness Review. NASA PAO has turned down these interview requests saying either that O'Connor and Scolese are not available to speak or that they have both specifically declined the invitation to speak with the media. This is rather odd.


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