Shuttle News: June 2006 Archives

Thoughts From A Veteran

Review done, dissension noted: Shuttle is ready, Opinion (Bill Readdy), Houston Chronicle

"It's said, "A ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for." It's time for Discovery and her crew to weigh anchor and leave the safe harbor again. It's time to move forward and complete laying the foundation for the decades of human space exploration beyond low Earth orbit to come."

FRR Document Update

Editor's note: From what I have learned, NASA PAO personnel are telling people that the FRR document decision was made "above PAO" and that senior NASA management is now seeking to "reverse" the precedent that was set with the release of STS-114 FRR documents - noting that PAO was railroaded into taking that action last year. Many people who have seen the FRR documents report that there is no overtly controversial content and wonder why there is such strong resistance on this issue. White House press secretary Tony Snow reportedly contacted NASA HQ and criticized the agency for being "in the news" earlier this month after the controversy arose following the STS-121 FRR. With the Vice President slated to attend the launch tomorrow, I am certain that the White House does not want to see headlines such as "Cheney to Attend Controversial Shuttle Launch"

Abort this space shuttle mission, opinion, LA Times

"Instead of risking another tragic or humiliating setback Saturday, NASA should abandon the shuttle and focus on more productive missions."

Rep. Calvert Responds to Critics of Discovery Launch

"Americans can only take cold comfort in the Los Angeles Times' belief that "A six year gap in manned space flight shouldn't be discouraging" mainly because it isn't true. Human spaceflights will continue over the next six years - - they'll just be done by Taikonauts and Cosmonauts, not American Astronauts. America's manned space program is at a crossroads and it doesn't deserve a slap in the face at this critical juncture."

Public Divided Over Money Spent on Space Shuttle Program - Americans continue to rate NASA positively, Gallup

"Forty-eight percent of Americans say the space shuttle program has been worth the money the government has spent on it. The same percentage, 48%, says that the money would have been better spent in some other way."

E-mails reveal doubts over safety of Discovery, Orlando Sentinel

"Key officials responsible for overseeing NASA expressed serious concerns about launching space shuttle Discovery without additional work to prevent foam insulation from breaking off the ship's fuel tank. Those concerns were voiced in e-mails sent from NASA's Office of the Inspector General to agency Administrator Michael Griffin and the chairman of an advisory panel that monitors NASA safety. In the e-mails, copies of which were obtained by the Orlando Sentinel, officials discussed lingering safety doubts about the foam threat and the reality of schedule pressures in the shuttle program."

NASA will not release FRR documents, Florida Today

"The legal reason cited for not releasing the documents from this year's FRR is that they are exempted from public release under a provision of the FOIA law that protects records that are part of a deliberative process."

Editor's note: This decision by NASA is in clear, blatant contradiction to NASA's own previous actions - most notably the public posting of FRR documentation for the first Return to Flight mission, STS-114, prior to that mission last year. Indeed NASA set a legal precedent by providing these documents in response to a FOIA request (as Florida Today notes) and then posted them. How NASA can make such an excuse with a straight face given previous FRR document releases is laughable. It is also troubling.

To be certain, keeping things secret does allow some people to speak their minds more openly knowing that their words will be kept from the public eye. However, this same secrecy also allows NASA to keep any instances of suppressed or contrary opinions from seeing the light of day.

Besides, if there is another serious incident involving a shuttle mission - even if no lives are lost - the inevitable investigation board is going to publish all of this information in their report anyway. Everyone in the FRR had to know that as they spoke.

Given the controversy that has surrounded Mike Griffin's overruling of objections raised by NASA's Safety Office and its Chief Engineer with regard to STS-121, and abrupt reassignment of JSC's Director of Engineering, Charles Camarda, (just days before launch), you have to wonder why NASA doesn't want anyone to see what was presented at this FRR - and hear what people said.

If everything was as cordial and collegial as Mike Griffin's team would have you believe, then there shouldnt be anything embarrassing contained within these materials, right?

Mike Griffin didn't have a problem with releasing STS-114 FRR materials. Why the sudden change of mind for STS-121? NASA has spoken of these two missions as being highly related to oneanother. Has something changed?

As such, what is it about this process that Mike Griffin is afraid to release? What is NASA trying to hide - and why are they trying to hide it?

Discovery's Goal: A Quiet Trip, Washington Post

"The space shuttle Discovery is poised for launch Saturday for what NASA engineers hope will be an uneventful mission, knowing that another mishap, even a minor one, could doom the shuttle program and deflate President Bush's ambitions for future space exploration. Countdown for the flight began late yesterday afternoon, but the shuttle is flying without approval by NASA's top safety officer."

NASA Space Shuttle Processing Status Report 29 June 2006

"U.S. Air Force weather officers are forecasting a 60-percent chance of weather prohibiting a launch attempt on Saturday. The primary weather concerns are anvil clouds from inland thunderstorms, cumulus clouds within 10 nautical miles of the flight path, and showers within 20 nautical miles of the Shuttle Landing Facility. The forecast is similar in the event of a 24-hour delay."

Virtual Launch Center

Launch Forecast, PAFB (PDF)

VP Cheney to attend launch, Orlando Sentinel

"Vice-President Dick Cheney and his wife will travel to Cape Canaveral to attend Saturday's planned launch of space shuttle Discovery, his office confirmed Tuesday."

Shuttle crew arrives in Florida for launch, AP

"Space shuttle Discovery's crew of seven arrived at the Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday for this weekend's launch, a day after a top NASA engineer who praised his colleagues for voicing doubts about the wisdom of going ahead with the flight was removed from his job."

Shuttle engineer says he's off team, Houston Chronicle

"Dean Acosta, NASA director Michael Griffin's spokesman, would not comment on the action either other than to say it should not be construed as an attempt by the administrator to prevent engineers with dissenting opinions to speak out."

A Risk Not Worth Taking in Space, editorial, NY Times

"The decision to proceed with the launch anyway - made by Michael Griffin, the administrator of NASA - was a gutsy call. It even seems reasonable, if you accept the constraints he was operating under. But if you believe, as we do, that the benefits to be gained from further shuttle flights are minimal, this looks like an unnecessary risk to the spacecraft and to the astronauts who will be riding in it."

Shuttle Tank Problem, Central Florida News 13

"Workers at the Kennedy Space Center just found out that Hurricane Katrina caused a problem no one was aware of on space shuttle Atlantis' fuel tank. The workers were fixing a dent they made on the tank earlier this week, and noticed beads of water coming out of the tank's foam. They say it must have gotten in during Hurricane Katrina when the tank was being processed at its facility in New Orleans."

Strike at MDA

- Professional Association at MDA Brampton (SPATEA) Statement Regarding Current Labour Dispute
- Withdrawal Of Engineering Services at Brampton Operations at MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd.
- "Houston, we have a problem....", Strike Blog (this has been pulled offline)

Reader note: Engineers at MDA who built, maintain, and provide flight support to the Shuttle arm are on strike as of 21 June.

Destination Space, Central Florida News 13

"In other NASA news, workers at the Kennedy Space Center damaged the external fuel tank for Space shuttle Atlantis. NASA says the workers accidentally struck the tank with a mobile work platform, denting the foam. The dent is about 3/8 of an inch deep on the upper part of the tank very close to the centerline."

FRR Media Update

NASA officials confident of shuttle crew safety, Orlando Sentinel

"NASA's top safety official and chief engineer voiced confidence today that space shuttle Discovery's crew will be safe to launch July 1 despite the managers' "no-go" votes at a flight readiness review last weekend. Safety chief Bryan O'Connor and Chief Engineer Chris Scolese said their position was based on concern that possible debris shedding by foam insulation ramps on the ship's external fuel tank posed an unacceptable risk to shuttle Discovery. However, both were satisfied that NASA's ability to provide the astronauts safe haven on the international space station and launch a rescue flight to bring them home made it OK to proceed."

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.

STS-120 Crew Announced

ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli assigned to crew for Shuttle flight STS-120, ESA

NASA Assigns Crew for Space Shuttle Mission STS-120

"NASA has assigned crew members to the space shuttle flight that will launch an Italian-built U.S. module for the International Space Station."

Despite Objections, NASA Decides to Launch the Space Shuttle on July First, SpaceRef

"Griffin was rather clear about what would happen if there was a larger problem. "If we have another major incident with the launch of the shuttle I would not want to continue with the program." Griffin added later "If we lost another vehicle I will tell you right now that I would be moving to shut the program down. I am sorry if that sounds too blunt for some but that's where I am."

Shuttle launch date set despite safety objections, Spaceflight Now

"NASA Administrator Mike Griffin, overruling objections from the agency's chief engineer and safety office, cleared the shuttle Discovery for launch July 1 on a mission to service and resupply the international space station."

Shuttle Shutdown Blues

Marshall confident tank foam no threat, Huntsville Times

"Even if NASA launches three flights this year, Cowing said, "and that's a big if, NASA is left with launching at least four flights a year, and maybe five flights one year." NASA "will have to generate a flight rate it hasn't done in a long while. Is the work force and the (shuttle) program up to that? That's a real question that has to be answered and hasn't right now."

Editor's note: Oh yes, then there is the issue of the thousands of people NASA will be laying off from USA as the Shuttle program shuts down. How do you keep workforce excellence up while sending that many people packing? Not an easy task. NASA claims publicly that they do not yet know what that layoff number is - even though they have done internal studies. 30 September 2010 (end of FY 2010) is little more than four years away...

ET Redesign Approved

NASA clears shuttle fuel tank for flight, Reuters

"NASA approved a major design change in the space shuttle's fuel tank on Wednesday, clearing the last major hurdle before shuttle flights can resume as early as July 1, officials said. "There were no surprises. Everything went smoothly," NASA spokeswoman June Malone said after managers and engineers approved the new tank design at a meeting at NASA's fuel tank manufacturing plant near New Orleans."

NASA's "Go" for Launch, But Is the Space Shuttle?, Tom Jones, Popular Mechanics

"With Discovery barely into her first day in orbit, NASA effectively grounded the shuttle fleet until the foam problem could be licked. Whatever relief Discovery's crew felt at having literally dodged a bullet was crushed by the clear evidence that NASA's attempts to solve the foam loss problem for good had failed. Now, after nearly a year of troubleshooting and repeated delays, the question remains: Is the shuttle safe?"

STS-115 ET Problems?

NASA trying to head off Shuttle launch delay,

"STS-115's launch date could slip, should NASA fail to find a solution to the continuing problems with ET-118, which is having processing issues at the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in New Orleans."

STS-121 Update

Launch debris review clears Discovery for July liftoff, SpaceflightNow

NASA confident shuttle tank won't shed dangerous debris, Orlando Sentinel

"NASA managers expressed confidence today that the space shuttle's redesigned fuel tank won't shed dangerous debris during launch despite ongoing concern about at least one potential hazard. After a two-day engineering review at the Kennedy Space Center, shuttle officials decided the issue would not be an obstacle to Discovery's planned liftoff in July. Their conclusion: Small bits of the foam insulation that covers the tank's exterior still will break loose during launch, but the pieces are "an acceptable risk" not expected to cause serious damage."



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This page is an archive of entries in the Shuttle News category from June 2006.

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