Keith Cowing: July 2003 Archives

July 2003



31 July 2003: Report not singling out Marshall, Huntsville Times

"Cramer, D-Huntsville, said the Columbia Accident Investigation Board is set to release its report by the end of August. Cramer met privately with board Chairman Adm. Harold Gehman earlier this month to discuss what Congress could do to help NASA. During that discussion, Cramer asked if Marshall would be singled out."



31 July 2003: NASA studying landing flight paths to lower risk on the ground, Orlando Sentinel

"I can't imagine that we would want to change the landing trajectory and course simply to avoid that in the future," NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe said in June. "That would be the equivalent of stopping all commercial airline traffic in all metropolitan areas."



27 July 2003: NASA Watch Editor Keith Cowing on "Next@CNN" 27 July 2003 (Transcript), CNN



27 July 2003: Spacelift Washington - A Forge of Consensus: Political Leadership and the Future of Space Exploration, SpaceRef

"The Columbia Space Shuttle tragedy was unexpected, unforeseen, and unavoidable. But it has spawned a unique opportunity to lay out a positive new direction for the U.S. civil space program. Such a chance for change comes but once in a generation, when circumstances force public leaders to look beyond the headlines to comprehensive policy prescriptions, whose cost and complexity often stifle their prospects."



27 July 2003: Foam likely to hit next shuttle, Orlando Sentinel

"In 1988, shuttle Atlantis was raked with a hardened insulating material that broke off the nose cone of a solid rocket booster. It sustained 707 hits, with 298 an inch or larger that required extensive repair. One insulating tile was knocked off, and the orbiter's metal skin was partly melted. "It looked like we had been shotgun-blasted," said retired astronaut Robert "Hoot" Gibson, who commanded that flight, recalling video images taken of the damage from the shuttle's robot arm while Atlantis was in orbit. "I looked at those pictures and said 'We are going to die' to myself."


26 July 2003: NASA chief promises to break culture of silence that contributed to Columbia accident, but some say that's not enough, AP

"Whatever the reason for the chilling silence, NASA chief Sean O'Keefe is promising dramatic change. He told employees this past week he is committed to "creating an atmosphere in which we're all encouraged to raise our hand and say something's not right or something doesn't look safe."

26 July 2003: Lawmaker cautions NASA against 'magic date' for next launch, Houston Chronicle

"I think we know where to lay the blame if there's any blame to be laid," he said. "It's on the culture and the attitude that we know how to do this and we know how to do this well. They haven't been nearly as skeptical as they should be. There's not enough openness or willingness on the part of upper management to listen to the concerns expressed in the lower levels."

26 July 2003: Congress to Monitor Shuttle Program Closely, Lawmaker Says, NY Times

"Mr. Boehlert told reporters at a briefing that he envisioned at least three or four hearings, starting on Sept. 3 or 4, that would dissect the report and its recommendations for the shuttle program."

26 July 2003: Hill Asserts Role in Shuttle's Future - Return to Flight Is Not Up to NASA, Head of House Science Panel Says, Washington Post

"I think it's going to be largely guided by what we say and, obviously, the feelings expressed at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue," Boehlert said during a Capitol Hill news conference. "I think quite frankly we're in the driver's seat, as we should be, on determining that."

Editor's Note: It's the White House's decision to make - not Congress'. If the White House chooses to listen to Congress (not an unwise decision) as it makes this decision, that's fine. But Congress appropriates funds for NASA's programs. It does not operate space transportation systems. Moreover, Sean O'Keefe answers directly to the President. The fly/no fly decision is a call that the President needs to make - not Congress.




23 July 2003: Post-Columbia NASA hunkers down, Op Ed, Jim Oberg, MSNBC

"But when it came time to assess the hazard of foam impact on the special high-temperature leading-edge panels - the reinforced carbon-carbon, or RCC - they had no test data, no analysis tools, no database of flight experience. So they just guessed. They assumed it would be OK. And NASA officials -particularly Linda Ham, who was in charge of that meeting - let them get away with it."




23 July 2003: Full Transcript of NASA Press Conference with Linda Hamm, Phil Engelauf, and LeRoy Cain, NASA HQ



22 July 2003: Remorse from NASA manager who dismissed foam danger, AP

"In her first public appearance since the space shuttle disaster nearly six months ago, Ham acknowledged that with 20-20 hindsight, there are things the mission management team and all of NASA could have done better."

22 July 2003: NASA Team Believed Foam Could Not Damage Space Shuttle, NY Times

22 July 2003: NASA Managers Differed Over Shuttle Strike, Reuters




22 July 2003: NASA Workforce Bill Approved By House Science Committee, House Science Committee

"The House Science Committee today approved, by a vote of 21 to 14, Chairman Sherwood Boehlert's (R-NY) legislation to address the "brain drain" at NASA. H.R. 1085, the NASA Flexibility Act of 2003, would give NASA more flexibility to recruit and retain a highly skilled workforce."

22 July 2003: House Science Committee Bill Fails to Deal with Safety and Vision at NASA, House Science Committee, Democratic Membership

"Waiting to have the Gehman report in hand could only have strengthened the Committee's hand in moving a bill," commented Mr. Gordon. "It is always better to have more information rather than less when you are re-writing laws."

Editor's Note: Oh c'mon Bart. This is a workforce bill, not accident investigation legislation.



22 July 2003: Space Shuttle Mission Management Team Transcripts Released, NASA

"Audio and text transcripts from Mission Management Team (MMT) meetings held during the Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-107) mission were made available Tuesday on the NASA Internet homepage and on NASA Television."




21 July 2003: Study Suggests NASA Should Consider Navy's Safety Techniques, NY Times

"A NASA study of how the Navy operates nuclear submarines has found sharp differences between the Navy and the space agency, with some lessons for safety and reliability that NASA could adopt and some that may be out of its reach."




21 July 2003: Remaining fleet poses new hurdles for NASA, Orlando Sentinel

"Space experts say the three remaining orbiters are fully capable of supporting the station. After all, Columbia had not flown to the outpost because it was too heavy and lacked the necessary docking equipment, though it was scheduled for upgrades so it could make its first station voyage in November."



20 July 2003: Keith Cowing's Devon Island Journal 20 July 2003: Arctic Memorials and Starship Yearnings

"Our task was to erect a memorial to Columbia astronaut Michael Anderson - an inukshuk, a stone sculpture in rough human form used by the Inuit to mark territory and serve as reference points for those who traverse this desolate place."


20 July 2003: NASA staff counts down to blasting, USA Today

"NASA managers worry that the official report on the shuttle Columbia accident, to be published next month, will damage morale and distract staff from putting shuttles back into space. "The report will question us at all levels," warned William Readdy, a top NASA official and former astronaut, in a letter sent this month to staff helping to put the shuttle in space again. "Long forgotten will be the many, many scores of safely and successfully accomplished missions." Readdy's letter was posted recently on NASA Watch, a Web site run by NASA gadfly Keith Cowing. Readdy declined comment."

15 July 2003: Letter to Return To Flight Team From OSF AA Bill Readdy

"We cannot let fear of criticism stop us from doing what we need to do or allow the critics to cow us into inaction. We shall not spend a single minute being defensive. Time spent in that pursuit is time wasted not fixing the many complex problems we must deal with to return to flight."




17 July 2003: NASA: Shuttles in Space Again in 9 Months, AP

"NASA should be able to recover from the Columbia accident and safely return the shuttle fleet to space within "six to nine months," the space agency administrator says."



16 July 2003: NASA Human Rating Requirement and Guidelines for Space Flight Systems Now Online, NASA

"NASA has posted the "Human Rating Requirement and Guidelines for Space Flight Systems," on the agency's Web site. The document contains requirements and guidelines for certifying the design of future agency space vehicles carrying humans."



15 July 2003: Report Criticizes NASA and Predicts Further Fatal Accidents, NY Times

"Even if NASA corrects the problem that doomed the Columbia, the agency is likely to lose more shuttles before the fleet reaches its planned retirement date of 2020, according to the draft of a study done for the Columbia Accident Investigation Board."




15 July 2003: Letter to Return To Flight Team From OSF AA Bill Readdy

"We cannot let fear of criticism stop us from doing what we need to do or allow the critics to cow us into inaction. We shall not spend a single minute being defensive. Time spent in that pursuit is time wasted not fixing the many complex problems we must deal with to return to flight."



16 July 2003: Crew of Columbia Survived a Minute After Last Signal, NY Times

"Even in the hangar at the Kennedy Space Center, the debris from the crew cabin is laid out separately in a private area, and officials have promised to not disclose what they characterize as morbid details."

Editor's Note: Will details about the crew's last moments help spacecraft experts prevent future accidents? Perhaps. Will releasing this information to the public help? No. Yet I'll bet there are a few reporters out there who just won't be able to fight the urge and will post every lurid, morbid detail they can - all because "the public has a right to know". Stay Tuned.




14 July 2003: Scuttle the Shuttle! Foundation Urges, Space Frontier Foundation

"None of the Shuttle's capabilities are indispensable, argued Tumlinson, and the ISS should not be used as an excuse to keep flying it at the risk of more astronauts lives. If needed, the Russians can keep it going, or it can be mothballed until it can be taken over by a private Space Port Authority, and then operated, serviced and expanded by private spaceships and cargo vehicles. Now is exactly the right time for a change that can eventually open space to the people who have paid for it all."

Editor's Note: This editorial is so full of contradictions and nutty conclusions as to make me wonder if anyone even bothered to read it before it was released. This paragraph alone causes me to wonder. Here is the logic as best I can figure it out: it is not OK to risk astronaut's lives flying on a Space Shuttle but it is OK to risk Russian cosmonaut's lives flying in a Soyuz or those of other people flying in some "private spaceship". Until a cogent, logical argument with logical premises and solutions - can be made by this - or any other organization - as to what to do with the Shuttle other than "stop flying it" and then wait for some magic to happen in the private sector, they should all just shut up and sit down. The last thing this situation needs right now is noise and random arm waving.


14 July 2003: Rex Geveden Named NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Deputy Director

"William F. Readdy, Associate Administrator for Space Flight at NASA Headquarters in Washington, today named Rex D. Geveden as the new Deputy Director of the agency's Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Huntsville, Ala. Geveden will succeed David King, who became Center Director on June 15."

14 July 2003: Woodrow Whitlow Named NASA Kennedy Space Center Deputy Director

"William F. Readdy, Associate Administrator for Space Flight at NASA Headquarters in Washington, today named Woodrow Whitlow, Jr., Ph.D., as the new Deputy Director of the agency's Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Fla., effective August 31. Whitlow will succeed James W. Kennedy, who becomes Center Director on August 10."




11 July 2003: Mistakes Of NASA Toted Up, Washington Post

"In fact, Logsdon said, "human spaceflight had become a place where dissent was not welcome." He attributed this "organizational pathology" to NASA's long-standing cultural defensiveness, sense of isolation from the public and know-it-all culture -- a sense that they are "special and more knowledgeable than anyone else."

Editor's Note: Gee John - Correct me if I am wrong, however, but I really do not recall you talking like this when you were on the NASA Advisory Council under Dan Goldin.

9 July 2003: Colleague says Goldin is intense, charismatic, Boston Globe

'[Goldin] saved the agency from drifting into irrelevance and made it more targeted to return value to the American taxpayer,'' said John Logsdon, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University."


10 July 2003: Panelist Faults NASA Cutbacks - Shuttle Report Will Note Funds Shifted From Safety Efforts, Washington Post

"Under then-NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin, the agency shifted much of the responsibility for running the shuttle program to outside contractors and ordered deep cuts in government personnel, including the elimination of more than half the maintenance personnel and safety officers, according to published reports and some experts. As a result, the board was told, the shuttle program began to show signs of deterioration. Facilities and equipment at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the space shuttles are assembled and launched, were increasingly in need of replacement."




11 July 2003: NASA Management Failings Are Linked to Shuttle Demise, NY Times

"Management failure at NASA was as important in the destruction of the shuttle Columbia and the loss of its crew as the chunk of foam that knocked a hole in its wing, the chairman of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board said today."

12 July 2003: Photo might have shown hole, Orlando Sentinel

"The size of the hole in the space shuttle Columbia's left wing was large enough that a spacewalking astronaut or satellite cameras might have seen it, investigators said Friday"



10 July 2003: CAIB Report Release Delayed

Editor's Note: The CAIB will not be releasing its final report until at least 26 August 2003.




8 July 2003: NASA: Gases Breached Shuttle Wing in 2000, AP

"Superheated gases breached the left wing of shuttle Atlantis during its fiery return to earth in hauntingly similar fashion to the demise of Columbia nearly three years later, according to internal NASA documents."

7 July 2003: Foam blasts 16-inch hole in final shuttle test, CNN

"A chunk of foam insulation fired at shuttle wing parts Monday blew open a gaping 16-inch hole, yielding what one member of the Columbia investigation team said was the "smoking gun" that proves what brought down the spaceship."




2 July 2003: Shuttle Program Manager Announces Personnel Changes, NASA JSC

"Space Shuttle Program Manager Bill Parsons today announced several key leadership changes within the office as it reorganizes and evolves following the Columbia accident."



1 July 2003: Columbia Accident Investigation Board Issues Preliminary Recommendation Four: Launch and Ascent Imaging

"The Columbia Accident Investigation Board today issued its fourth preliminary finding and recommendation to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, in advance of its appearance in the final report."


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This page is an archive of recent entries written by Keith Cowing in July 2003.

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