Space & Planetary Science: November 2010 Archives

Earth and space science missions have fewer risks if conducted by a single government agency

"Earth and space science missions developed and implemented by federal agencies in collaboration typically result in additional complexity and cost and increased risks from divided responsibilities and accountability, says a new report from the National Research Council. Federal agencies should not partner in conducting space and earth science missions unless there is a compelling reason to do so and clear criteria are met in advance.

"A common misperception among policymakers and individual agencies is that collaboration on these missions will save money or somehow boost capabilities," said D. James Baker, director of the global carbon measurement program at the William J. Clinton Foundation and co-chair of the committee that wrote the report. "However, multiagency partnerships generally have just the opposite effect and drive up overall mission costs because of schedule delays, added levels of management, and redundant administrative processes."

Keith's note: Just look at the membership rooster - its NASA/industry/advisory revolving door and inbred self-interest at work once again. Where's the incentive to change anything when you contune to ask the same people the same questions - only to get the same answers again and again? Oh yes: the report was paid for by NASA - so the answer was more or less pre-ordained. Various agencies do not get along becuase they do not want to get along - it is not in their self interest to be more efficient because that would undermine their individual budget request rationales every year. Oh well. I can't wait to hear Charlie Bolden's inane ghost written commentary on this.

Cometary Snow Storm

NASA Spacecraft Sees Cosmic Snow Storm During Comet Encounter

"The EPOXI mission's recent encounter with comet Hartley 2 provided the first images clear enough for scientists to link jets of dust and gas with specific surface features. NASA and other scientists have begun to analyze the images. The EPOXI spacecraft revealed a cometary snow storm created by carbon dioxide jets spewing out tons of golf-ball to basketball-sized fluffy ice particles from the peanut-shaped comet's rocky ends. At the same time, a different process was causing water vapor to escape from the comet's smooth mid-section. This information sheds new light on the nature of comets and even planets."

NASA Administrator Bolden Statement On The Webb Telescope

"However, I am disappointed we have not maintained the level of cost control we strive to achieve -- something the American taxpayer deserves in all of our projects."

Keith's note: "Disappointed"? That's the depth of your response to this? There was just a rather significant election a few days ago - one wherein the current Administration's approach to many things was repudiated. Add in the clear budget-cutting signal that permeated the electorate's response and one would think that you'd be a bit more agitated than being just "disappointed". Moroever, with the anti-incumbent message that the voters sent, one would think that you'd be contemplating a totally new approach to managing JWST.

This is not some small mission. This is a multi-billion dollar, multi-decade program which, by its very size, affects the ability of the entire agency to operate given its continuing cost overruns. The people in charge - Scolese and Weiler - either did not detect or did not respond to these danger signals that were being sent to them. This happened on your watch.

And all you are going to do is change the management chart leaving the same people at NASA HQ in charge? They did not catch these earlier problems. What makes you think that they will start to do so now?

Keith's note: The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) project started under NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD) Associate Administrator Ed Weiler. Virtually all of its chronic and unabated cost increases and schedule slips have occured under Weiler's watch either at NASA HQ or at NASA GSFC. When former SMD AA Alan Stern tried to bring the escalating costs of programs such as JWST and Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) under control, in 2008, multiple NASA sources note that Chris Scoelese and Ed Weiler maneuvered to force Stern's resignation, in a classic NASA "shoot the messenger" move, with Weiler taking Stern's place within barely a week.

Meanwhile in a statement prepared for Bolden, it is evident that the agency is in complete denial when it comes to the severity of its escalating costs for government projects. Didn't the recent election sent a rather clear message from the electorate with regard to their dissatisfaction with out of control government spending? Add in the soaring overruns on MSL (another Weiler managerial fiasco) and National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) - a project managed for the agency by Chris Scolese, and you see three large fiscal black holes sucking away at all the other things the agency is supposed to be doing for science, and exploration.

Bolden's response? He wants Weiler and Scoelese to spend more time watching JWST. These two have presided over years of cost growth and schedule delays that have damaged multiple projects within SMD, and which now threaten to damage the Agency's reputation as a whole. Perhaps it is Weiler and Scoelese that need to be changed out ...

This latest cost increase/schedule delay happened throughout Charlie Bolden's entire tenure with both Scolese and Weiler overseeing this program at NASA HQ under Bolden's direct, daily management. Perhaps Gen. Bolden doesn't realize his connection to the collective mismanagement of these projects is itself becoming as clear as the vacuum of space ...

Keith's update: Word has it that there will be a press conference on Monday where some heads will roll as this mess is reorganized under Chris Scolese. Stay tuned.

NASA GSFC Internal Email: Center Director Announces Organizational Changes - JWST

"For the past 8 years, the JWST team has been led by Phil Sabelhaus, and in my view, no one could have been more effective leading this government, industry, and international team, especially in light of the enormous challenges and constraints. That said, there are times in the life-cycle of a project when change is beneficial, not only to the undertaking but also to the individuals involved. On JWST, that time is now. Effective today, I have named Bill Ochs to be the JWST Project Manager, and Phil will replace Bill as the Landsat Data Continuity Mission Project Manager."

Keith's update: No press conference - instead, just a quiet internal email to everyone at GSFC instead.

NASA GSFC Internal Email: Center Director Announces Organizational Changes - JWST

Webb, The Giant Money Sponge

Telescope Is Behind Schedule and Over Budget, Panel Says, NY Times

"The report raised fear that other projects would be hurt. "This is NASA's Hurricane Katrina," said Alan P. Boss, who leads the subcommittee that advises NASA's astrophysics program. The telescope, he said, "will leave nothing but devastation in the astrophysics division budget."

James Webb Telescope Project Project Reviewed and Reorganized In Wake of Massive Cost Overruns, Popsci

"JWST already consumes almost half of NASA's Astrophysics Division budget, according to Boss, who was not involved in the report but chairs a different NASA committee on astronomy. Infusing it with even more cash could hurt remaining astronomy programs, such as the Wide-Field Infrared Space Telescope (WFIRST), a project that earned top priority in the Astro2010 astronomy decadal survey. If Webb fails, astronomy could be set back a generation."

Latest $1.5B in JWST Cost Overruns Imperils Other High-priority Projects, Space News

"Alan Stern, a former associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said the cost growth could ravage the agency's $1.1 billion annual astrophysics budget, 40 percent of which is already consumed by JWST development. "Are we going to turn off all the many existing astrophysics satellites and kill the support to analyze the data from them and stop building anything else, just so JWST can continue to overrun?" Stern said. "That's the question that the astrophysics community has to ask of itself, and that NASA should be asking."

Hubble's over-budget successor may be delayed for years, New Scientist

"I doubt we're going to find $200 million [per year]," NASA Associate Administrator Chris Scolese told reporters on Wednesday. "We're in a time of fiscal [conservatism] where we have to make every dollar count." New management It is not yet clear whether NASA will try to funnel money from other projects to JWST to make the 2015 launch date or whether the mission will get delayed even further."

Keith's note: Let's see: JWST needs $400 - $500 in the next two budgets. That money is not there. NASA already does not have the money for the Congressionally mandated STS-135 mission (a similar amount). Between ongoing CRs and expected budgeteering by the new Republican-led Congress NASA certainly does not stand to get more money. Indeed it will probably get less money. So ... where does the money come from, Chris? Do you and Ed Weiler continue to erode the remainder of NASA's astrophysics program or do you go after other things in SMD's budget? Get in line - MSL already has its sights on that money. Do you therefore go outside of SMD to fix JWST? Good luck with that.

NASA's new space telescope costs shoot the moon, AP

"We were missing a certain fraction of what was going on," NASA associate administrator Chris Scolese said in a late Wednesday afternoon teleconference. ... The fault "lies with us, no question about it," Scolese said. ... The Webb telescope is already late. When first announced more than a dozen years ago, it was supposed to launch in 2007. That was eventually delayed until 2014. The new report, issued at the request of the Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., says the earliest launch date now would be September 2015. Scolese said technically the telescope was not confirmed as a project until 2008 -- even though many millions of dollars had been spent on it and NASA had been promoting it since 1998. In 2008, NASA said it would cost $5 billion and that's the number to use for how overbudget it is, Scolese said. But previous numbers that NASA provided said it would cost $3.5 billion."

James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) Independent Comprehensive Review Panel (ICRP) Final Report

"The earliest launch date possible--and hence the minimum cost to complete--is September 2015 and would require an additional ~$250 million above the current FY 2011 President's Budget profile in both 2011 and 2012. In addition, the critical management change noted above, along with the restructuring of the JWST Project office, supplemented by additional changes outlined in the report, must go "hand-in-hand" with additional funding.

In the time available, it was not possible to do an independent estimate of the cost-to-complete. As such, the Panel approached the question from several different points of view as described later in this report, leading to a judgment that the total LCC will be in the range of $6.2 billion to $6.8 billion."

Letter from Independent Comprehensive Review Panel to Charles Bolden regarding The James Webb Space Telescope

"In summary, the Panel concluded that the JWST Project is in very good technical shape. There is no reason to question the technical integrity of the design or of the team's ability to deliver a quality product to orbit. The problems causing cost growth and schedule delays have been associated with budgeting and program management, not technical performance."

NASA Administrator Bolden Statement On The Webb Telescope

"I appreciate the work done by the James Webb Space Telescope's (JWST) Independent Comprehensive Review Panel (ICRP), and want to thank Sen. Barbara Mikulski for initiating this review. The ICRP report makes clear that, while JWST technical performance has been consistent with the project plan, the cost performance and coordination have been lacking, and I agree with these findings."

Chang'e-2 Moon Photos

China Reveals First Chang'e-2 Photos!, Luna-C/I

"China has released the first photos from it's recently-launched Chang'e-2 lunar orbiter! Released with some fanfare, the images get more or less straight to the point: they're of the Bay of Rainbows (Sinus Iridium), which China has slated to be the potential landing location of it's Chang'e-3 rover mission."

Cassini Enters Safe Mode

Cassini Spacecraft Enters Safe Mode

"Engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., are working to understand what caused NASA's Cassini spacecraft to put itself into "safe mode," a precautionary standby mode. Cassini entered safe mode around 4 p.m. PDT (7 p.m. EDT) on Tuesday, Nov. 2. Since going into safe mode, the spacecraft has performed as expected, suspending the flow of science data and sending back only data about engineering and spacecraft health. Cassini is programmed to put itself into safe mode automatically any time it detects a condition on the spacecraft that requires action from mission controllers on the ground."

NASA's EPOXI Mission Successfully Flies By Comet Hartley 2

"NASA's EPOXI mission successfully flew by comet Hartley 2 at about 7 a.m. PDT (10 a.m. EDT) today, and the spacecraft has begun returning images. Hartley 2 is the fifth comet nucleus visited by a spacecraft. Scientists and mission controllers are currently viewing never-before-seen images of Hartley 2 appearing on their computer terminal screens."

NASA Spacecraft on Final Approach Toward Comet

NASA to Host Live Events for November 4 Comet Encounter

Images are online here.



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This page is an archive of entries in the Space & Planetary Science category from November 2010.

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