Keith Cowing: November 2005 Archives

FY 2007 Budget Preview

Editor's note: NASA is expecting to get the 'passback' of its FY 2007 budget submission back from OMB any day now. Traditionally, NASA sends the budget over to OMB sooner - usually in October/early November - such that the 'passback' happens just before Thanksgiving. Traditionally, someone at NASA is pouring over budget charts while their turkey gets cold. This year things were delayed by a few weeks. All of this stuff is hush hush, ultra-secret, embargoed, etc. What follows is a preview of what NASA might expect - given what it asked for in FY 2006 - and now, for FY 2007.

The New NASA Advisory Council Meets - At Last. But Something Is Missing

The newly reconfigured NASA Advisory Council met today at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, DC. This was the first time that the NAC had met in a year - and was also the first time it met with Mike Griffin as NASA Administrator. But there is one glaring - and unforgivable omission in the panel's composition. Of the 24 members of the NASA Advisory Council, only one is female.

Shana Dale Is On Board

Shana Dale Sworn in As NASA Deputy Administrator

Shana Dale was sworn in today as NASA's 12th deputy administrator at the agency's headquarters in Washington. Before coming to NASA, Dale was deputy director for Homeland and National Security for the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

NRC Report: Review of NASA Plans for the International Space Station

"The panel saw no evidence of an integrated resource utilization plan for use of the ISS in support of the Exploration Missions. Presentations that covered some elements of criteria and processes for determining priorities for utilization of ISS for different exploration missions demonstrated poor definition of those criteria and processes. In particular, the materials presented to the panel did not seem to take into account the effects that high priorities assigned to one mission would have on factors such as the ability to complete another, perhaps later mission, through depletion of necessary resources or limitation of necessary lead times."

ISS Crew On Letterman

NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 28 November 2005

"At ~8:00am EST, CDR McArthur supported a PAO/TV event, downlinking a "Top 10" list for the "David Letterman Show" on CBS."

NASA OIG: NASA's Most Serious Management and Performance Challenges

"The NASA Administrator testified on November 3, 2005, before the House Science Committee concerning a $3 billion to $5 billion shortfall in funding the Shuttle through 2010. Such a shortfall could also impact NASA's ability to meet its accelerated timeframe for the CEV and to meet ISS requirements. These budgetary pressures may not only impact the ability to execute programs within desired timeframes, but may also impact the Agency's ability to retain the technically competent workforce necessary for efficient transition to the new generation of vehicles."

NASA OIG: Audit of National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Fiscal Year 2005 Financial Statements

"In the enclosed Report of Independent Auditors, E&Y disclaimed an opinion on NASA's financial statements for the fiscal year ended September 30, 2005. The disclaimer resulted from NASA's inability to provide E&Y auditable financial statements and sufficient evidence to support the financial stements throughout the fiscal year and at year-end."

Marshall eager to update its 1960s look, Huntsville Times

"Cramer said he will continue to fight for more NASA construction money, "but there will be tougher budget battles" in the future. "There is poison in the air when it comes to the budget," Cramer said. "It's going to become harder and harder to fund projects in the near future, and I believe there may be a time soon when we have to deal directly with budget deficits."

Bad Days Ahead for Goddard

Large Budgetary and Personnel Cuts Lay Ahead for NASA Goddard, GSFC

"According to a briefing given just before the Thanksgiving holiday a large budget decrease - and large job cuts - lay ahead for NASA Goddard Space Flight Center located in Greenbelt, Maryland. "There will be 500-1,000 fewer jobs in Maryland" Weiler told the attendees."

Letter regarding Center Buyouts from NASA Adminstrator to Officials-in-Charge of Headquarters Offices and Directors, NASA Centers

"During the coming months, we will continue these efforts, including this final buyout opportunity, to reduce the need for a reduction in force (RIF) at our Centers. In June 2006, I will assess our progress and decide at that time whether or not the agency will conduct a RIF in early fiscal year 2007."

SpaceX Launch Scrubbed

Editor's update: According to Elon Musk at SpaceX: on November 26, 2005 at 5:11 p.m. PST: "The launch is scrubbed for today.As I warned, the likelihood of an all new rocket launching from an all new launch pad on its first attempt is low.

What happened was that an auxiliary liquid oxygen (LOX) fill tank had a manual vent valve incorrectly set to vent.The time it took to correct the problem resulted in significant LOX boiloff and loss of helium, and it was the latter that caused the launch abort.LOX is used to chill the helium bottles, so we lose helium if there is no LOX to cool the bottles.

Although we were eventually able to refill the vehicle LOX tanks, the rate at which we could add helium was slower than the rate at which LOX was boiling away.There was no way to close the gap, so the launch had to be called off.In addition, we experienced an anomaly with the main engine computer that requires further investigation and was arguably reason in and of itself to postpone launch.

We are anticipating rescheduling the launch within a week at the earliest but probably longer as we need to bring in LOX and helium from Hawaii.Our LOX plant on Omelekwill not replenish in time."

Bush's Space Plan in Danger - Shuttle Program's Deficit May Mean Far Fewer Flights, Washington Post

"A large deficit in NASA's troubled shuttle program threatens to seriously delay and possibly cripple President Bush's space exploration initiative unless the number of planned flights is cut virtually in half or the White House agrees to add billions of dollars to the human spaceflight budget."

Earlier NASA Watch postings:

- Griffin's Lunch With Andy Card
- Is OMB Considering Shuttle Termination?
- White House Memo Calls For Slashing Remaining Space Shuttle Flights
- NASA Internal Memo from Michael Griffin to William Gerstenmaier: In-Guide Option for FY 2007 Budget
- Kicking Costs Down The Road
- $5-6 Billion Shortfall? Old News

"... the end result is, we have to figure out the runout for the '07 budget, and we know we need about $6 B more than we have in the budget, for whatever set of historical reasons, which now do not matter. "

Marc Garneau - MP?

Liberals expected to field Garneau, Globe and Mail

"Former astronaut Marc Garneau is expected to run for the Liberal Party in the coming election, party sources said."

President Signs INA Amendment

Statement by the Press Secretary, White House

"On Tuesday, November 22, 2005, the President signed into law: ... S. 1713, the "Iran Nonproliferation Amendments Act of 2005," which amends the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000 to apply its provisions to Syria; broadens the Act to cover acquisitions from as well as transfers to Iran and Syria; and authorizes payments to Russian entities for certain work performed or services rendered related to the International Space Station; and"

Senate Passes INA Amendments, 9 Nov 2005

Letter from the Coalition for Space Exploration to White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card

"The Coalition for Space Exploration, consisting of 42 aerospace companies and 11 industry associations, respectfully urges your support for an FY07 NASA budget of not less than $16.962B --- the funding proposed in the President's budget submittal last year for FY07."

Statement by the Press Secretary, White House

"On Tuesday, November 22, 2005, the President signed into law: ... H.R. 2862, the "Science, State, Justice, Commerce, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2006,"

AIP FYI #163: NASA Appropriations

"NASA will receive slightly more than a two-percent increase to its budget under the FY 2006 Science, State, Justice and Commerce Appropriations Act. This compares favorably with the Bush Administration's plans to reduce domestic discretionary funding by 1.0%."

NASA Excerpts from Conference Report on H.R. 2862, Science, State, Justice, Commerce and Related Agenices Approp Act 2006

"The conference agreement provides $16,456,800,000 for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), instead of $16,471,050,000 as proposed by the House and $16,396,400,000 as proposed by the Senate."

Commercial Orbital Transportation Services Briefing

"You are notified that the following changes are made:The draft announcement briefing has been rescheduled for December 8, 2005, from 10:00 am - 12:00 pm."

Editor's note: NASA initially announced a 29 November meeting date on in a Federal Register posting on 28 October. Now, just a week before the event, after everyone has bought airline tickets and made travel arrangements - NASA suddenly changes the meeting date. The reason is (apparently) the fact that NASA now "anticipates releasing a draft of our announcement on or about December 2, 2005." In October NASA originally stated that it "anticipates releasing a draft of our announcement on or about November 22, 2005."

Erasing Life Science at ARC

NASA ARC Solicitation: Operation of the Ames Research Center Animal Care Facility

"This is a special notice to all potential sources who are interested that the procurement is hereby cancelled."

Editor's note: This actually makes a lot of sense given that Mike Griffin has decided to erase all life science research at ARC.

Martian Energizer Bunny

Spirit Marks One Year on Mars (One Martian Year, that is)

"Spirit, the untiring robotic "wonder child" sent by NASA to explore the eerily earthlike fourth planet from the sun, has completed one martian year--that's almost two Earth years--on Mars. Designed to last only 90 martian days (sols), the six-wheeled marvel the size of a golf cart has pursued a steady course of solar-driven geologic fieldwork, bringing back some 70,000 images and a new understanding of Mars as a potential habitat."

Kostelnik Lands at DHS

Former NASA executive to head Homeland Security aviation unit, Goverment Executive

"Michael Kostelnik will become assistant commissioner for CBP Air, replacing acting assistant commissioner Charles Stallworth. Kostelnik will step in during what has been a difficult transition for the organization."

Mike "Mini" Mott Has Died

Boeing Statement on Death of NASA Systems Vice President Mike Mott

Editor's note: includes info on funeral and memorial arrangements.

Editor's note: From Kathy Mott: "Kathy Mott, son - Michael, and daughter - Ashley, have asked that we let you know that Mini died peacefully this morning at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Mini was a Marine, an aviator, a patriot, and loving son, husband and father. We'll all miss him! Information regarding services will be forthcoming."

Flying White External Tanks

Editor's note: At today's shuttle press conference NBC's Jay Barbaree read an email from a retired engineer which stated that the only shuttle mission flown with a white, painted external tank was STS-1. That is incorrect. If you look at this image "Space Shuttle Columbia OV (101) is in launch configuration on the pad in preparation for STS-2." you will see a white external tank. An astute reader also notes that this original NASA PAO caption gets Columbia's tail number wrong too.

GRC RIF Update

NASA GRC Internal Memo: Reduction in Force (RIF) Update

"As you know from several recent communications from the Center Director, while no decision has been made to conduct a Reduction in Force (RIF), the Center is currently preparing should one become necessary. This memorandum explains important next steps in the preparation process, and requests your assistance in assuring that your employee records are accurate and current."

Editor's note: The following is taken from a Powerpoint presentation circulating at NASA KSC. The quotes are from a shuttle summit held at NASA KSC last week.

NAC Loses Another Member

McDaniel set to leave NASA post, Huntsville Times

"Huntsville lawyer Mark McDaniel is leaving his post with the NASA Advisory Council to become a science policy adviser with the ranking Democrat on the U.S. House Science Committee."

Editor's note: According to NASA PAO, NASA will not be announcing the new NAC membership until just before the NAC's 29/30 November meeting since new members are still undergoing background screening and associated paperwork.

Who is Actually on the NASA Advisory Council?, 13 Nov 2005

Hayabusa Does Not Land on Asteroid in First Attempt, But Successfully Delivers Target Marker, Planetary Society

"Hayabusa - Japan's asteroid explorer - didn't quite land on Itokawa this weekend, failing in its first attempt to touch down and snatch a sample. But it did successfully deliver a target marker to the surface of the asteroid. Even though the team still doesnt know exactly why their "falcon" did not land on the surface, they are vowing to give it another go in coming days."

Shana Dale Adds to Her Staff

Editor's note: Robert "Bob" Hopkins is joining NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale's staff as Senior Advisor to the Deputy Administrator. Hopkins worked with Dale at OSTP as Special Assistant for Public Affairs when she was Chief of Staff and General Counsel.

NASA MSFC Solicitation: Physical Models of Launch Vehicles for NASA

"Arcata Associates, Inc.(Arcata/UNITeS); in support of the United NASA Information Technology Services (UNITeS) Prime Contract, intends to acquire, on a full and open competitive basis, physical models of proposed launch vehicles, a total of five different formats/groupings."

Editor's note: Have a look at 114ARC39673 Attachment J-1 SOW (16 MB Word) contains images with detailed drawings of the LSAM. CEV, CLV etc.

ISS Festivities at JSC

CLV Procurement Begins

NASA MSFC Solicitation: Crew Launch Vehicle First Stage

"ATK is the only source for a large human-rated, reusable solid propellant motor."

Editor's note: Wayne Hale chaired the 17 November PRCB (Program Requirements Control Board). Some people were ready to make their presentations at this meeting. Others were not.

ARC Buyout Update

KARC Radio: The Hubbard Report 31 October 2005

"Now, if we have a RIF, this is the worst of all possible outcomes. Every time we've looked at where other agencies have done a reduction in force, we have found problems. It is a terrible outcome. It is, in many ways, a lose/lose situation." ... "Nevertheless, if we cannot move enough work in-house, if we can't acquire enough new business, and in particular if we can't get a large enough buyout, we do face the awful possibility of having a reduction in force. It is the court of last resort. It's not something that I want."

House Names Conferees to NASA Authorization Bill

"The House of Representatives today named conferees to the House-Senate Conference Committee that will negotiate a final authorization bill for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)."

Editor's note: Emily Lakdawalla at the Planetary Society is blogging on the progress of Japan's Hayabusa spacecraft as it tries to land on an asteroid today. The mission seems to have run into some problems.

NASA's E-GOV Score Drops

President's Management Agenda Scorecard, White House

Poor Showing by EPA, NASA In Latest E-Gov Scorecard, Information Week

E-gov grades drop for six agencies, FCW.com

"Agencies that dropped include the Environmental Protection Agency, the State Department and NASA, which all dropped from green to yellow."

NASA and the Business of Space

"I believe that with the advent of the ISS, there will exist for the first time a strong, identifiable market for "routine" transportation service to and from LEO, and that this will be only the first step in what will be a huge opportunity for truly commercial space enterprise, inherent to the Vision for Space Exploration. I believe that the ISS provides a tremendous opportunity to promote commercial space ventures that will help us meet our exploration objectives and at the same time create new jobs and new industry."

Falcon 1 Launch Announcement

SpaceX Announces Launch Date for the Falcon 1: The World's Lowest Cost Rocket to Orbit

"On Friday, November 25 at 1 p.m. (PDT), the Falcon 1 countdown to launch is expected to reach T-Zero. At that point, the hold-down clamps will release and the Falcon 1 rocket will begin its journey to orbit, accelerating to 17,000 mph (twenty-five times the speed of sound) in less than ten minutes."

Machinists Launch on Boeing Rocket Safety

"The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) is charging the Boeing Co. with circumventing critical safety regulations in an attempt to meet launch deadlines for NASA's plutonium powered New Horizons mission. The Machinists Union represents striking technicians at Boeing's launch facility at Cape Canaveral, FL."

Boeing Employee Info Stolen

Boeing says laptop with employee info stolen, Reuters

"A laptop computer containing names, social security numbers and other sensitive information of 161,000 current and former employees of Boeing Co. was stolen recently, the U.S. aerospace manufacturer said on Friday."

Editor's note: The obvious question that comes to mind is why on Earth such sensitive information was sitting on a stand-alone - and portable - computer system.

Editor's note: Check this link at USAJobs:

"Department: US National Aeronautics & Space Administration
Agency: John F. Kennedy Space Center
Sub Agency: ZO-O, Animal Directorate
Job Announcement Number: KS06N0041

JOB SUMMARY: The world's leader in space and aeronautics is always seeking outstanding scientists, engineers, and other talented professionals to carry forward the great discovery process that its mission demands. Creativity. Ambition. Safety awareness. A sense of daring. And a probing mind. That's what it takes to join the NASA team.

Directs all the animals in the zoo.

For questions about this job: Marlin Perkins Internet: marlin.perkins@mutualofomaha.com"

Editor's update: Having been cited on NASA Watch the following notice now appears: "We're sorry. This job has been removed from the site and is no longer available for viewing." Curious how they refer to what was originally posted here as being a "job". Here is a screen grab of what it looked like before the attempt to sanitize the situation. Of course, reading this zoo job position description, I was immediately reminded of this classic posting from NASA Watch (then known as "RIF Watch") from 1995:

Asteroid Seanokeefe

Asteroid Named for LSU Chancellor Sean O'Keefe

"During a visit to LSU earlier this month, Charles Elachi, director of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, announced that an asteroid had been named for O'Keefe, putting him on a list that includes the likes of Connery, Beethoven and the others. He also presented O'Keefe with a plaque signifying the official designation of Asteroid 78905 as Asteroid Seanokeefe."

Oh, Those Silly Brits

Space Cadets hoax out of this world, Evening Standard

"Unbeknown to them, their shuttle will be a Hollywood creation, made originally for the film Space Cowboys. A giant custom-built screen positioned just outside the shuttle will, it is hoped, provide the illusion of a view of Earth from space including a hurricane over Mexico and a glimpse of the UK on one day when cloud cover parts."

Editor's note: Gee, I wonder how they'll explain the fact that there is still gravity in their shuttle? Oh wait - they'll just put wires and special harnesses on the contestants, bring in a crew to work the pulleys, and make the contestants think they are floating in weightlessness - just like they did in all those space puppet shows like "Thunderbirds". That way they won't have a clue that a trick is being played on them. Of course, as soon as they start playing with their food ...

Editor's update: Wait - there's more: another UK paper has elaborated on the physics so as to explain the presence of gravity. What is "near space" and how do you "orbit" in it? I guess Dr. Who is the TV series' technical consultant.

'Reality' show stars will be taken for one galactic ride, TimesOnline

"They will not experience weightlessness because they are only orbiting "near space".

Alas, the venerable (but gullible) BBC has fallen for this tabloid pseudoscience as well - and apparently has no one with any scientific background on its staff to proof read its online article, Spoof show to trick 'astronauts'

"But producers will not have to recreate weightlessness because the contestants are to be told their orbit will take them to Near Space, not Deep Space, where they could experience the sensation."

NASA HQ Internal Memo: Headquarters Buyout/Early Out Update

"The Headquarters Buyout/Early Out opportunity for employees is currently scheduled to open the week of Dec. 5, 2005, with employees accepting the buyout to be off the rolls by Jan. 3, 2005. We are finalizing several steps, as outlined below, to effect a successful buyout and to ensure that employees are fully informed of the opportunities to participate."

Editor's note: Hmmm - this is an interesting way to save additional money. They want people off the rolls by "Jan. 3, 2005" - that's nearly a year ago. I guess they just bought a time machine - this way they can save an additional year's salary from last year's budget to use next year! I'd love to see how Gwen Sykes implements this new way of accounting ...

New ARC Role = 12 Jobs

NASA Ames will head up robotic moon missions, SJ Mercury News

"Ames will take charge of an orbiter and lander that are under construction at other centers, as well as two to three future missions whose details have not been determined, said Christopher McKay, the program scientist at Ames. Although the budget for these programs totals about $400 million a year, he said, much of that money will be handed out to other centers that are building the hardware, and Ames will initially gain only about a dozen jobs."

NASA Adminstrator's Statement on Passage of FY 2006 Budget

"I offer my sincere thanks to the House and Senate for endorsing and funding, for the second straight year, our activities to implement America's Vision for Space Exploration. NASA's FY 2006 funding bill of $16.5 billion - 0.7 percent of the federal budget..."

NASA Glenn gets boost from Senate-revised budget, Cleveland Plain Dealer

"While that's good news in the short term for the Glenn center, it's too soon to say that means an upward trend. NASA and Congress have not agreed on all the components as the space agency turns in a new direction. The long-term role of aeronautics -- Glenn's traditional strength -- has been at risk as the White House pushes to focus on space travel."

Senate passes NASA budget, Orlando Sentinel

"The budget is $260.3 million above what NASA got for the last fiscal year, and it is $1 million more than President Bush's request. Bush wants astronauts back on the moon by 2018 and possible exploration of Mars after the return to the moon got $3.1 billion of the budget."

NASA Needs A Gas Station In Space, Channel 13

"NASA says it needs a gas station in space. That's the challenge NASA chief Mike Griffin issued to private companies during a visit to Brevard County. Griffin says half the weight of the next Moon missions is taken by fuel. He'd like to see private companies find a way to put a fuel depot in space, so the spacecraft could carry more cargo."

Call For Space Commercialization, AP

NASA wants private sector help for space, Reuters

Willis Shapley Dies; NASA Official Boosted Manned Moon Landing, Washington Post

"Willis Harlow Shapley, 88, the third-ranking administrator at NASA during the Apollo era and an authority on federal funding for research and development, died Oct. 24 at Sibley Memorial Hospital"

ISS Science Cuts Update

Dear Colleagues:

NASA is proposing to "realign" research and technology in the physical and life sciences in order to accelerate the development of crew vehicles and to complete the ISS. What this means is that most all that work will be eliminated so that not only won't the objectives of the Exploration Initiative be fulfilled but also, all of NASA's human spaceflight capabilities will be lost. Furthermore, all the research and engineering workforces with experience in reduced-gravity phenomena that have been nurtured over 30 years are being decimated.

NPOESS Team Faces The Music

NPOESS is as much as $3 Billion over budget, as many as 3 years away, witnesses say.

- Rep. Sherwood Boehlert
- David Powner, GAO
- Under Secretary of the Air Force Ronald M. Sega
- Vice Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher, NOAA Administrator
- Alexis C. Livanos, Northrop Grumman Corporation
- Opening Statement by Rep. Bart Gordon

Science Dems: NPOESS Program Deep in the Red; Congress, American People Owed Answers

"The difference between more money next year and no new money until FY2008 is, according to the Independent Team, a billion dollars. The taxpayer is ill served by limiting options to those that are convenient for this Administration," added Rep. Gordon at today's hearing."

GOES Glitch

NOAA SATOPS Morning Report: Tuesday, November 15, 2005

"GOES: J317 - At approximately 1918Z, telemetry reception and command ability were lost at all sites for all GOES satellites. COMM controller reboots were performed to recover operations. Event logs indicate that the COMM controllers lost communication with all other ground system components. The outage lasted approximately 1.5 hours. The software staff is continuing the investigation. GOES-12 lost 6 images and 3 soundings; GOES-10 lost 7 images and 3 soundings; GOES-9 lost 2 images and 1 sounding. All other GOES operations were nominal over the past 96 hours."

AEA officer wants A&M investigation

"The president of the Alabama A-and-M University chapter of the Alabama Education Association is asking the university's trustees to investigate why Julian Earls turned down the job of A-and-M president. Regina Colston says the trustees need to look into whether Earls received intimidating communications about becoming president."

Rumors flying on A&M rejection, Huntsville Times

"Earls, executive director of NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, said in a prepared statement Monday afternoon that any such allegations are false. "There is no truth to the rumor that any family member or I received intimidating communication from anyone concerning the offer to be president of Alabama A&M," he said."

ISS Science Cuts Update

Space station research faces axe as Nasa cuts $344m to save Moon and Mars quest, The Guardian

"They're cutting hundreds of millions of dollars of life sciences research that has been planned, in some cases, for decades," said Keith Cowing, a former Nasa scientist and now editor of the Nasa Watch web site. "Hundreds of contractors have been laid off at several research centres run by Nasa."

Let's Not Forget About Mars

Lunar Exploration Vision Obscures Successes on Mars, Editorial, Aviation Week & Space Technology

"To deemphasize the robotic Mars program now, in a tradeoff with the manned lunar vision, would be a terrible mistake. Washington needs to be reawakened to the quantifiable payoff the robotic Mars program brings now, in terms of NASA political capital in Congress and scientific, educational and technological benefits to the U.S. as a whole. Accompanying these factors is exploration as a positive symbol of America's contributions to all mankind."

Grim RIFer Visits ARC

Reader note: On Halloween the Grim RIFer was seen lurking around at least one building at NASA Ames. Some photos were taken of it near some simulator buildings, hawking pink slips/stickies. It also took a coffee/cigarette break at one point. See attached photos. It also gave out pink slips and some "buyout checks" to civil servants. It would sniff contractors, growl, and turn away from them, however. Those photos are not attached so as to protect the innocent. Yes, this was a Halloween practical joke at Ames. No, please don't use my email/name/address.

Asteroid-hopping robot misses its mark, MSNBC

"Preliminary indications pointed to a problem with the delicate maneuvers behind MINERVA's deployment."

Craig Covault Honored

Aviation Week Group's Craig Covault Receives Lifetime Achievement Award From The National Space Club Florida Committee

"Aviation Week & Space Technology senior editor Craig Covault has received the 2005 Harry Kolcum Memorial News and Communications Award for lifetime achievement from the National Space Club Florida Committee. The award recognizes journalists and public relations professionals for excellence in their ability to "communicate the space story" to the nation and the world. In addition, the NASA space shuttle return-to-flight Kennedy news center team was also honored with the group's public affairs award."

Editor's note: The PRCB (Program Requirements Control Board) met last Thursday. As a result of this meeting, all future shuttle launch dates contained in the directive issued by the PRCB to update the FDRD (Flight Definition and Requirements Directive) are "TBD".

DART Mission: Partial Success/Partial Failure

NASA Announces DART Mishap Investigation Board Members

"NASA selected the mishap investigation board to determine why the Demonstration of Autonomous Rendezvous Technology (DART) spacecraft did not complete its mission on April 15."

Editor's note: It has been more than 6 months. Why hasn't there been any word as to when the DART Mishap Investigation Board will issue its findings? Word has it that the results of the investigation have actually been known for some time.

NASA Advisory Council Meeting, 29-30 November

Editor's note: The last meeting, scheduled for April was cancelled. As such, the last NAC meeting in nearly a year ago - 7 December 2004. This newly scheduled meeting is two weeks away, yet NASA has not even announced who is actually on the NAC. If you look at this NAC membership page, dated November 2005, you see a list of NAC members - except it is wrong. At least two members, Homer Hickam and Ken Baldwin, have been disinvited from serving, and Fred Gregory resigned from NASA several months ago. (It should be noted that Hickam never actually "served" on the NAC. He was invited to serve on the NAC by Sean O'Keefe but O'Keefe resigned shortly afterwards and Hickam never attended any meetings.)

Griffin Removes NASA Advisory Council Members, NASA Watch

NASA Internal Memo: Enterprise Council (EC) ViTS 19 April 2005

"Previously NASA had one NASA Advisory Committee, and Mr. O'Keefe split the committee in two. Dr. Griffin is recombining the committee back into one committee, and he will select people that he respects as members. Also the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, which is mandated, will be staffed by people he admires and respects. He will be elevating their role and status."

Government Enters Fray Over BlackBerry Patents, Washington Post

"The Justice Department has filed a legal brief in a patent dispute, asking a federal court to delay any immediate shutdown of the popular wireless e-mail system to ensure that state and federal workers can continue to use their devices."

Editor's note: NASA certainly counts itself as having a large number of crackberry addicts. While these little things are very useful - its not as if they are the only handheld devices on the market which can be used to send/receive email. Its great to see normally innovation averse government employees using state of the art consumer products - but it is troubling when they become collectively addicted to one particular product - one which may disappear.

Gravity Tractor

Gravitational tractor for towing asteroids, Edward T. Lu andStanley G. Love, Nature (subscription required)

"A spacecraft could deflect an Earth-bound asteroid without having to dock to its surface first. We present a design concept for a spacecraft that can controllably alter the trajectory of an Earth-threatening asteroid by using gravity as a towline. The spacecraft hovers near the asteroid, with its thrusters angled outwards so that the exhaust does not impinge on the surface. This proposed deflection method is insensitive to the structure, surface properties and rotation state of the asteroid."

Hawking Weighs in on VSE

Hawking's cosmological riff, CNet

"When asked about his thoughts on President Bush's proposal to put a man on Mars within 10 years, [Stephen] Hawking simply replied: "Stupid."

NASA to buy 4 spacecraft in Russia, RIA Novosti

"NASA is planning to order two Soyuz manned spacecraft and two Progress cargo ships from the Russian Federal Space Agency on a commercial basis for missions to the International Space Station, the head of a Russian aerospace corporation said Friday."

NASA to send astronauts to ISS on Russian Soyuz spacecraft, RIA Novosti

"Earlier NASA had planned to use shuttles [to carry astronauts] but the number of their flights were reduced from 28 to 17," Nikolai Sevastyanov said. "Today NASA can buy Russian spacecraft... including Soyuz craft that dock with the ISS once every six months, and are used as rescue spacecraft."

NASA downsizes, slows Dawn mission to near halt, Pasadena Star News

"Chris Russell, the mission's principal investigator and a professor of geophysics at UCLA, said he was shocked by NASA's recent request that Dawn "stand down." "They basically said that we should slow down or almost stop the development while they decide to take a look at it and make an investigation," Russell said. "They got concerned by the number of problems that they saw that we were having."

Senator Hutchison Amendment Encouraging More Cooperation between DOD and NASA Approved by Senate

"Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Science and Space, today cosponsored an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2006 Defense Authorization bill which encourages cooperation between the Department of Defense (DOD) and NASA on research, development, test and evaluation activities. The Senate approved the amendment tonight and it is expected to pass the full Senate Thursday."

House Passes NASA Budget

Editor's update: HR 2862 passed the House on Wednesday by a vote of 397 - 19 (Roll no. 581).

Editor's 9 Nov Note: The House is scheduled to take up the conference report for the Science, State, Justice and Commerce FY06 Appropriations bill, H.R. 2862, today. NASA Excerpt from H.R. 2862 at the House Republican leadership office:

"National Aeronautics and Space Administration is funded at requested level of $16.5 billion, $260 million above FY05. Funds the Presidents vision for space exploration at $3.1 billion; restores the aeronautics research program to $912 million. Provides full request for the Space Shuttle program and bill language is included directing the President to develop a national aeronautics policy."

NASA Excerpts from Conference Report on H.R. 2862, Science, State, Justice, Commerce and Related Agenices Appropriations Act 2006

NASA Administrator Griffin's Statement on Cooperation With Russia

S.1713 : An Act to make amendments to the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000 related to International Space Station payments, and for other purposes.

"Latest Major Action: 11/8/2005 Resolving differences / Conference -- Senate actions. Status: Senate agreed to House amendment and title amendment by Unanimous Consent."

NASA Excerpts from Conference Report on H.R. 2862, Science, State, Justice, Commerce and Related Agenices Approp Act 2006

"The conferees are extremely disappointed in the lack of detail provided in the fiscal year 2006 congressional budget justification. NASA is reminded that the primary purpose of budget justifications is to provide needed information to the Committees on Appropriations, and therefore must be submitted in a format with the necessary level of detail required by the Committees so that funding requests may be analyzed."

Space Pork

NASA Internal Memo: Enterprise Council (EC) ViTS 19 April 2005

"If earmarks from the Hill are legislated, we will release the money as soon as possible. He hates earmarks. We need to avoid earmarks in the first place or influence the earmark to benefit NASA work, but when we get them we need to fund them promptly. The bottom line is to honor earmarks when they are directed."

NASA Excerpts from Conference Report on H.R. 2862, Science, State, Justice, Commerce and Related Agenices Approp Act 2006

Editor's note: A partial list of all the earmarks. Read it and squeak. What any of this has to do with NASA or space exploration escapes me.

NASA Excerpts from Conference Report on H.R. 2862, Science, State, Justice, Commerce and Related Agenices Approp Act 2006

"The conferees note that NASA has, in the past few months, used its buyout authority to promote voluntary separations as a first attempt at reshaping its workforce. The conferees believe that at this early stage, NASA has been able to reshape its workforce without losing critical workforce skills. The conferees direct that NASA shall not go beyond using voluntary buyout authority until it has developed a comprehensive coordinated restructuring plan and implementation roadmap, and has provided a report to the Congress detailing the steps that will be taken in reshaping the agency's human and physical capital assets."

MSFC Buyout Update

NASA MSFC Internal Memo: Opportunity for Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay (Buyout)

"Marshall Space Flight Center is pleased to be able to offer to its civil service employees a buyout opportunity worth up to $25,000 for eligible employees. This memorandum serves as official notice that the buyout application period opens on November 8, 2005, and closes on December 9, 2005."

ARC Buyout Update

NASA ARC Internal Memo: Buyout/Earlyout Opportunity

"Ames is offering voluntary separation incentives (buyouts) and voluntary early out retirement to employees in selected competencies. An employee does not have to be eligible for early or full retirement to take advantage of the buyout authority; eligible employees who resign can also receive a buyout."

On The Lighter Side ....

Court Rejects Russian Astrologer's Lawsuit Against NASA, Mosnews

"[Russian astrologer Marina] Bai stressed that NASA had altered her horoscope by crashing the spacecraft into the comet. "It is obvious that elements of the comet's orbit, and correspondingly the ephemeris, will change after the explosion, which interferes with my astrology work and distorts my horoscope," she said earlier."

Customers 'bought into' moon property idea, Independent Online

"The Beijing Lunar Village Aeronautics Science and Technology Company managed to sell large swathes of "pristine" lunar property before being shut down, the Xinhua news agency said."

Editor's Note: Damn. Just as I was about to finish buying up all the lots at the lunar south pole so I could charge Mike Griffin rent...

GRC Buyout Update

NASA GRC Memo: Application for Voluntary Separation Incentive (Buyout) and Early Out Authority

"The Voluntary Separation Incentive (Buyout)/Voluntary Early Retirement (VERA) Plan submitted to Headquarters on October 21, 2005, has been approved. As a result, the Glenn Research Center is now authorized to conduct a buyout with the primary objective being to facilitate the rightsizing and rebalancing of skills in order to better position the Center to be more competitive and play a significant role in support of the President's Exploration Vision."

NASA Establishes Commercial Crew/Cargo Office

"There are many in the private sector that are eager to develop commercially viable space transportation systems," said Scott Horowitz, associate administrator, NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate. "In the future, the commercial sector will provide cost effective access to space for both crew and cargo. While NASA must develop its own capabilities for space exploration, the commercial sector will eventually provide these services when it becomes cost effective."

Returning to 'a new normal', Federal Times

"At the space center, NASA is working on a similar deal with FEMA and city officials from Bay St. Louis, Miss., to build a trailer park to house displaced space center employees. The two agencies are hammering out an interagency agreement in which FEMA would pay for the trailers and NASA would lease a 10-acre parcel from the city."

Venus Express Nears Launch

Venus Express team in launch countdown

"At 07:00 CET Monday, the Venus Express mission clock began ticking down to Wednesday's launch. The excitement at ESOC and particularly in the Main Control Room is palpable as launch preparations get under way."

Space Foundation Gets New VP

Editor's Note: After spending 6 years with Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL) Brendan Curry will start work at the Space Foundation's Washington DC office as Vice President for Government Affairs. Curry begins his new job on 1 December.

NASA Names Former Astronaut Michael Coats New Johnson Space Center Director

"Michael L. Coats has been named director of NASA's Johnson Space Center. Coats is a former astronaut, and he currently is vice president of Lockheed Martin Astronautics in Denver. He will become the ninth person to serve as director in the center's 44-year history."

New JSC Center Director, NASA Watch. 5 October 2005

"The name circulating around the agency as the new center director for JSC is former astronaut Michael Coats currently vice president and deputy for space exploration at Lockheed Martin."

- NASA Photo ISS012-E-05002 (12 October 2005)

"Astronaut William S. McArthur Jr. (left), Expedition 12 commander and NASA science officer, and cosmonaut Valery I. Tokarev, flight engineer representing Russia's Federal Space Agency, participate in congratulatory greetings to the guests of the Gala Night Celebration dedicated to the 75th Anniversary of the renowned Moscow Aviation Institute (MAI) from the Zvezda Service Module of the international space station."

Editor's Update: It would seem that Joe Davis made a "strategic communication" decision and deleted this image from the ISS website - as if a simple website deletion will make the problem - and the ill-advised decision making that led up to it - just go away. The original link to the image no longer works. Nor is there any mention of the photo in the official image archive for Expedition 12. For the sake of accuracy, this is what the original page looked like and this is the original hi res image. Yet another example of an agency unable to admit its errors.

Editor's Update: I just got the following response from NASA HQ PAO: "Keith, the Moscow event was a private downlink and should not have been part of public images available online. We apologize for the confusion and don't believe removing the image represents any inconsistency in agency policy." Oh well. I guess I still don't understand why any event was conducted involving NASA personnel and an organization under U.S. government trade actions for selling rocket technology to Iran. Indeed, it was formally scheduled - the ISS Crew Timeline for 12 October 2005 shows: "19:10-19:35 TV ISS-MCC Greetings dedicated 75th Anniversary of MAI (=19:10, 1,2, 3 from )". Clearly the HQ Office of External Relations wasn't in the approval loop for this. Or has this sort of diplomatic decision making been delegated to JSC?

Editor's Note: A number of current and former NASA employees in the Washington metro area received a letter dated 1 November 2005 from the NASA Federal Credit Union which announced "your credit application has been approved. Your new cards will arrive in the next 10 days". Well someone goofed - big time. The NASA FCU sent this letter out by mistake to anyone with a NASA FCU VISA card that was being automatically upgraded - giving the false impression to a lot of people that someone had applied for a credit card under their name.

LaRC Buyout Update

NASA LaRC Internal Memo: Buyout Approved

"The buyout application window will open on Monday, November 7 and close on Monday, November 28. Buyout separations must occur on or before January 3, 2006. Extensions beyond this date will be rare, must be mission-related, and require HQ approval."

GRC Layoff Update

Reader note: "Thebloodshed and brain drain continues at the NASA Glenn Research Center. Today NASA Glenn's largest engineering contractor Zin Technologies issued walking papers to 105 of their talented engineering staff totaling a full 70% of the company at this location."

Griffin Applauds Confirmation of Dale as NASA Deputy Administrator

"I appreciate the swift action of the United States Senate, especially Senators Ted Stevens, Daniel Inouye, Kay Bailey Hutchison, and Bill Nelson in confirming Shana Dale as NASA's 14th deputy administrator," Griffin said. "With Shana coming on board, I'm confident we now have the right leadership team to guide the agency as we move forward in the next great era of space exploration."

China's Next Space Goal

China eyes 2017 moon landing, CNN

"China, which launched its first manned space mission just two years ago, plans to put a man on the moon around 2017 and investigate what may be the perfect source of fuel, a newspaper reported on Friday."

Editor's note: And I am sure that if Mike Griffin suddenly said that he was moving the first U.S. return to the moon mission to 2016, China would revise its announcement to say 2015. But is this all that preposterous? The U.S. went from its first human spaceflight to a human lunar landing in 8 years - and the Chinese have had a lot of other people's expertise to build upon...

Shuttle Scheduling Update

Editor's note: Last week a CR (Change Request) wasapproved outside the PRCB (Program Requirements Control Board) which directs an orbiter swap for STS-121and STS-115 - a swap which had beenknown for a long time. This CR alsomoves STS-116 to Endeavour. While the CR directs products to be generated and released, itdoesnotupdatethe FDRD (Flight Definition and Requirements Directive) - even though the CR had launch dates contained within it.A formal FDRD update is scheduledfor either the 10 Nov or 17 Nov PRCB.

PRCB Tackles STS-121 Launch Date

End of an Era for SAMS

"On November 1, 2005, the SAMS-II and MAMS were intentionally powered off due to lack of current microgravity science on-board the ISS. The SAMS-II and MAMS are being put into a dormant state in anticipation of future microgravity-based research to be conducted on ISS."

Editor's note: NASA has known that it would need an additional $5-6 billion dollars for several months now. This is evident from the following internal email sent by Mike Griffin to senior HQ management on 31 August 2005:

Editor's note: Yesterday's webcast of the hearing was interrupted several times due to server problems. The Committee has archived the entire webcast

Prepared Statement by Michael Griffin

"We have adopted a "go-as-you-can-pay" approach toward space exploration, and have set clear priorities and made difficult choices to remain within the budget for exploration."

House Science Democrats: No Consensus on Best Path Forward for NASA

"A number of Science Democrats also voiced their concern at today's hearing over NASA's planned cuts to important agency science and research programs, including the continuing decline in the aeronautics budget. NASA is instituting the cuts to make room for implementation of the Administration's exploration plan. Among the NASA programs facing budgetary cuts are the life sciences program and fundamental Space Station research."

Transcript: Hearing on Status of NASA's Programs, House Science Committee

Opening Statement by Rep. Sherwood Boehlert

"I want to see NASA succeed. I want to see Dr. Griffin succeed. But we can't premise that success on money that doesn't exist and isn't all that likely to exist. And the time to discuss those hard facts is now."

Griffin: NASA Faces $3-5 Billion Gap in Shuttle Budget

Opening Statement by Rep. Bart Gordon

Opening Statement by Rep. Mark Udall

Editor's note: Have a look at these two items relating to research on Hall thrusters. One project at GRC has been cancelled, yet another is apparently still underway at MSFC. If the GRC research was deemed to not support CEV development, why then is the MSFC research still underway?

Griffin to Testify on Status of NASA programs

House Science Committee: Status of NASA's Programs - Hearing Charter

"If NASA does not receive a significant increase in its projected budgets over the next five years, it will either have to drop its plans to accelerate the development of a Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) or it will have to significantly cut science and/or aeronautics. NASA has already proposed significant cuts in some areas of its exploration budget and in Space Station research to accelerate development of the CEV."

Editor's note: At the start of his opening statement, Rep. Bart Gordon complained that NASA did not provide Griffin's prepared testimony until 4 pm yesterday - for a 10 AM hearing today. Gordon warned that if this happens again that he will have to recommend that the practice be followed as it was under Rep. Sensenbrenner - and cancel the hearing.

Editor's note: Rep. Boehlert opened his questions with the movie line "show me the money".

Griffin told Rep. Gordon that the Hubble Servicing Mission is "my highest priority for the shuttle". When asked what his projected budget shortfall was between now and FY 2010, Griffin said "we are several billion dollars short in the shuttle operations line". When pushed by Gordon for a specific number - perhaps "in the 3-6" billion dollar range Griffin said that it was in the "3-5" billion dollar range. Later Griffin said that NASA will be "subsidizing" to the tune of "a half a billion dollars" a commercial resupply effort for the ISS. Last week in hearings, NASA's CFO said that she would not sign off on NASA's annual fiscal report if held to the same standard as the private sector is. When asked to comment on this, Griffin really had no answer - other than to say "I hope that by '08 we will be in good shape".

Griffin said that when he speaks of 'science" he refers to things done in the Science Mission Directorate. Life science was not included in that grouping of "science" - and Griffin said that he felt that doing life science research now "was putting the cart before the horse."

Boeing employees on picket line; strike threatens space launches, Decatur Daily

"The union timed the strike to coincide with IAM strikes in Huntsville and at all of Boeing's Delta launch sites in Florida and California. Collectively, the strikes have stalled two scheduled satellite launches, with more delays expected."

Boeing warehouse workers strike, Daily Breeze

"Boeing has proposed denying retirement benefits, including medical and life insurance, to employees hired after July 2006, Quick said. In addition, Boeing proposed increasing employees' out-of-pocket expenses for medical premiums and co-payments, the union said."

Space Adventures Announces Japanese Entrepreneur as Next Private Space Explorer

"First commercial spaceflight participant from Asia/Japan"

Editor's note: What about T Akiyami, who, according to Encyclopedia Astronautica, was a commerical spaceflight customer back in the 1990s? "The launch was funded jointly with the private Japanese company TBS. The Japanese television network ended up paying $28 million for the first commercial flight to Mir to put Akiyama, the first journalist in space aboard Soyuz TM-11."

Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG) Meeting

"Participation is open to all scientists/engineers involved in Mars exploration, including international colleagues. Since this is a 'working' meeting, it is not open to members of the press, however, if there is interest we can make people available for interviews afterwards."

Editor's note: Once again, NASA's Mars community is (apparently) afraid to hold its meeting in full view of the public.

Max Ary Found Guilty

Ary guilty on 12 counts, Wichita Eagle

"Max Ary, who built a tiny Hutchinson planetarium into one of the most respected space museums in the country, was convicted on Tuesday of stealing artifacts from what he has called "my baby" and selling them for his own benefit."

CEV Managers Appointed

NASA Appoints Constellation Program Managers

"Jeffrey Hanley has been appointed manager of NASA's Constellation Program. He will lead development of the nation's new spacecraft and launch system, which as part of the Vision for Space Exploration will take astronauts to the moon, Mars and beyond. Mark Geyer was appointed as deputy program manager."

Headquarters All Hands: Institutional Requirements Review (IRR): "Please join NASA Associate Administrator Rex Geveden as he rolls out the results of the Headquarters Institutional Requirements Review (IRR). Following his presentation there will be a Q & A session with Chief of Staff Paul Morrell, Mr. Geveden and other experts. This will take place on Thursday, Nov. 3 at 1:30 p.m. in the auditorium. You can also watch the program on NASA Television, NASA HQ Channel 36."

Statement by Shana Dale before the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation United States Senate November 1, 2005, NASA

"Mr. Chairman, Co-Chairman Inouye, and Members of the Committee, I am honored to appear before you today as President Bush's nominee to be the Deputy Administrator of NASA. I would like to thank Mike Griffin for recommending me to be his Deputy and I would like to thank President Bush for nominating me for this position."

Hubble Finds Possible New Moons Around Pluto, STSCI

"Using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to view the ninth planet in our solar system, astronomers discovered Pluto may have not one, but three moons."

Earls Turns Down Job Offer

A&M's pick to run school rejects offer, Huntsville Times

"Now that Dr. Julian Earls has turned down the offer to become president of Alabama A&M University, school trustees must decide whether to offer the post to one of the other two finalists or begin anew, said Clinton Johnson, trustees president pro tem."

Dale Confirmation Hearing

Senate Commerce Committee to Hold Nominations Hearing

"Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Co-Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) have announced that the Senate Commerce Committee will hold a Full Committee hearing on Tuesday, November 1, 2005 ... "Shana Dale to be Deputy Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration"

Live webcast starts at 10:00 AM EST


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This page is an archive of recent entries written by Keith Cowing in November 2005.

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