Keith Cowing: April 2006 Archives

Astrobiology Update

MSFC claim: ET unacceptable for flight,

"A series of documents acquired by explain the split of opinion that Shuttle manager Wayne Hale referred to during Friday's Shuttle update press conference."

Artwork from Saturn

Epimetheus, Saturn's Rings, and Titan

"This image was taken on April 28, 2006 and received on Earth April 28, 2006. The camera was pointing toward Epimetheus at approximately 667,385 kilometers away, and the image was taken using the CL1 and CL2 filters. This image has not been validated or calibrated. A validated/calibrated image will be archived with the NASA Planetary Data System in 2007."

NASA: No more changes to shuttle tank until after launch, Orlando Sentinel

"NASA managers announced today there will be no more major safety changes to the space shuttle's external fuel tank until after the next planned launch in July. The decision follows a debate among engineers on whether to modify so-called ice-frost ramps on the tank's exterior before Discovery's upcoming flight. The small ramps are crafted from foam insulation that is sprayed by hand on the tank's exterior to prevent the buildup of ice."

Space Tourist Math

Five Years and $120 Million Later, Space Adventures Continues to Drive the Industry

"Space Adventures' efforts in offering commercial seats to the public have resulted in $120 million (USD) worth of orbital spaceflight sales."

Editor's note: Let's see: Dennis Tito, Mark Shuttleworth, and Greg Olsen have already flown. Daisuke Enomoto and Charles Simonyi are planning to fly. That's a total of 5 Soyuz rides. If Space Adventures has only signed up these 5 space tourists then that puts each ride at $24 million - a lot more than the $13-20 million range quoted for Tito, and the figures closer to $20 million quoted for Shuttleworth and Olsen. Or has Space Adventures sold another seat that we don't know about? If so, at a total of 6 flights sold, this would make the average cost $20 million per flight.

NASA LaRC Internal Memo: Early Out Authority

"Voluntary early retirement ("early out") authority was approved for Langley in connection with the FY 06 buyout. When our buyout window closed on January 3, 2006, our authority to offer early out retirements expired as well. Recently, however, NASA HQ informed Centers that early out authority would be available though the end of this FY. Langley requested early out authority from May 1, 2006 through September 30, 2006 and our request was approved."

NASA'S Exploration Workshop Kicks Off Strategy Development

"Why are we going to the moon? What will we do when we get there? Approximately 200 participants from 13 countries grappled with these questions during NASA's Exploration Strategy Workshop, which concluded Friday. The four-day workshop was the first in a series of activities planned for 2006 focusing on defining a strategy for lunar exploration, including the role of the moon as a stepping stone to Mars and other destinations."

Remarks by NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale at the Space Exploration Strategy Workshop

"Decades from now, when humans routinely live and work on the lunar surface and we're getting ready to journey to Mars, all of us in this room can look back to this unique moment in time when we started to plan the strategy. It is an exciting time to be in at the ground floor of what promises to be an exciting and historic process."

NASA Announces Results from Exploration Strategy Workshop

"Findings and recommendations from NASA's Exploration Strategy Workshop will be presented to media during a teleconference at 2 p.m. EDT on Friday, April 28."

NASA Administrator Presents Space Shuttle Program Update

"NASA Administrator Michael Griffin and Associate Administrator for Space Operations William Gerstenmaier will brief the media about the space shuttle program and processing for the next mission (STS-121) Friday, April 28, at 11 a.m. EDT. The briefing will be in the NASA headquarters auditorium, 300 E. St. S.W., Washington."

Editor's note: This update has had several curious changes. First, it was announced last week as a routine media telecon with Wayne Hale from MSFC on 27 April. Then that date was changed to 28 April. Then Mike Griffin visited MSFC today (27 April) where wind tunnel results were presented. Then NASA HQ PAO issues this press release at 5:00 pm anouncing that the event will now originate from NASA HQ with the addition of Mike Griffin and Bill Gerstenmaier.

Interesting PRCB Today

Reader note: "Hell of a PRCB today. After a nearly 6 hour debate, the decision was made to fly the ice frost ramps as is. Griffin and Gerst were even there for this topic. When the final poll was made it was a nearly perfect 50/50 split on fly as is or stand-down and redesign. The FCOD rep (Bowersox) said fly as is, by the way. Most of the offices with the word "Engineering" in their title voted to stand down. It was good to see the program management have the balls to make a tough decision. One of the more amusing aspects of the meeting was watching Muratore (sitting in the cheap-seat) bite his tongue for so long! Apparently, Muratore contacted Griffin either before the meeting or during the lunch break or perhaps via Blackberry to express his opinion though, because Griffin mentioned talking to John earlier in the day. John wanted to stand-down. Mike said fly as is. A truly fascinating meeting that gave me hope for the SSP management. Hope that was lost soon after Parsons was installed and I watched him in action."

Editor's note: John Muratore has been reassigned to EA4.

KEY PERSONNEL ASSIGNMENT - Effective immediately, John F. Muratore, is named the Senior Systems Engineer supporting the Shuttle/Station Engineering Office in the Engineering Directorate. The Shuttle/Station Engineering Office executes the Engineering technical authority and provides the Engineering integration to the programs/projects.

United 93 - The filmmakers got it right, By David Beamer - Todd Beamer's Father, Wall Street Journal

"Paul Greengrass and Universal set out to tell the story of United Flight 93 on that terrible day in our nation's history. They set about the task of telling this story with a genuine intent to get it right--the actions of those on board and honor their memory. Their extensive research included reaching out to all the families who had lost loved ones on United Flight 93 as the first casualties of this war. And Paul and his team got it right."

Editor's note: So much for the notion that ordinary people cannot become spontaneous heroes - and fight for things they believe to be more important than their own lives.

IFPTE Urges Congress to Save NASA Science and Aeronautics

"In particular, the union took issue with NASA's proposed shortfalls in the Aeronautics and the Science funding, as well as NASA's failure to provide a Workforce Strategy with sufficient content to justify the continued planning for a Reduction-in-Force (RIF) next year."

KSC Daily News - 4/19/06 - NASA & Contractor: Roadkill Roundup

"During the lunch of STS-114, the vehicle struck a vulture shortly after liftoff. Fortunately, there was no severe damage to the External Tank.However, that risk is unacceptable for launch. In an effort to reduce the risk associated with vultures, both for commuters and Space Shuttle launches, SGS Roads and Grounds has organized a "road kill posse" with support from the NASA Shuttle and Environmental Programs."

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science Hearing: NASA FY 2007 Budget Request

Prepared statement by Michael Griffin (PDF)

Editor's note: I'm sorry that I can't post the text of this statement for you to read but Code L has decided only to post an image of the text - not the actual text. They also did a sloppy job at scanning it in too - most of page 7 is hidden under page 6. Yet, if you read yesterday's statement from the Senate Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Science and Space hearing you will see that there is little difference between the two statements.

Reader note: "I thought the most interesting and discouraging exchange between Mikulski and Griffin was when she asked him toward the end about using the ISS. She said you will have the ISS in orbit but won't be able to use it, and he agreed. Then he provided a list of "ifs" that might make the ISS a useful facility and she caught him on his list of "ifs." And as we know, placing all the remaining pieces in orbit, minus the centrifuge, is highly speculative as it depends on 16, 17, 18 more shuttle launches."

Mikulski Calls for Balanced Space Program, Increased Support for NASA

"NASA's role in promoting science has been ignored by this administration. NASA is absolutely crucial to the innovation economy and the innovation society. It is time for the administration to recognize both the cost and the benefits of a balanced space program," said Senator Mikulski. "A balanced space program is what made our nation the leader in space it pushed the envelope of science and discovery, while spurring innovation."

NASA budgets concern Shelby, Huntsville Times

"While this [proposed NASA budget] is a significant increase, there are a number of programs slated for decreases that are troubling," Shelby said. "Specifically, funding for aeronautics and education have been cut, and science is being shortchanged with little hope of funding in future years."

Report from MEPAG, Planetary Society

"Both Bruce Betts and Lou Friedman from the Society have been attending MEPAG over the last couple of days, and Bruce just sent me an email with some notes about what's been going on."

Editor's Update: It would seem that the Planetary Society's Blog editor, Emily Stewart Lakdawalla is a little confused about how MEPAG meetings have been run in the past. In a post to another website she says "As for that inexplicable NASAwatch comment about "finally allowing taxpayer insight," Lou and Bruce have been going to MEPAG for years. I'll be going to both OPAG and VEXAG."

Well, Emily, if, for example, you look at the circular for the February 2005 MEPAG meeting it was rather explicit about media attendace: "Who should attend? 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." When I asked NASA PAO if I could attend this February 2005 meeting (and a previous MEPAG meeting) and report on what was discussed I was told that I would not be allowed to attend.

As such, my comments below are hardly "inexplicable", Emily.

Lockheed to Revisit Boeing Partnership - Delay Has Cast Doubt on Rocket Venture, Washington Post

"Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin Corp. plans to review whether a proposed plan to consolidate its rocket engineering and launch division with Boeing Co.'s still makes sense after being delayed months by a government review. Lockheed said the delay has left some of its top scientists in limbo and has raised questions about the original business rationale for the plan."

US nears OK of Boeing,Lockheed rocket deal-sources, Reuters

"The U.S. government is nearing antitrust approval of a proposed merger of the rocket launch units of the two top U.S. defense contractors, analysts and sources familiar with the review said on Monday.

The Federal Trade Commission is reviewing a plan announced nearly a year ago by Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co., the Pentagon's No. 1 and 2 suppliers, respectively, to merge their money-losing government satellite launch units and create United Launch Alliance."

At NASA Hearing, Silence on Earmarks, Washington Post

"I feel about these earmarks the same way I always feel about earmarks," Griffin told reporters after the hearing. "Our budget is very limited. We have a strategy approved by Congress, and we can carry out that strategy . . . but every earmark, if it isn't coaligned with that strategy, is a fiscal distraction."

Statement by NASA Administrator Michael Griffin before the Senate Subcommittee on Science and Space

"Earmarks have increased by a factor of more than 30 in number and almost 8 in dollar value since FY 1997, when NASA was earmarked $74 million, for 6 discrete items. The growth of these Congressional directions is eroding NASA's ability to carry out its mission of space exploration and peer-reviewed scientific discovery."

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

"- 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."

Enter The Dragon

China to build a space station after Shenzhou VII, People's Daily

"China will launch ShenzhouVII with three astronauts in September 2008 .. After the launch of Shenzhou VII, a space station with 20 tons will be built, Song said..."

NASA chief to visit China, China View

"The United States needs good competitors and it needs good partners and sometimes they can be the same," said Griffin, who cited the example of current cooperation between the United States and Russia on the international space station."

China's unmanned spaceship to near the moon next year, People's Daily

"Luo Ge said to NASA Administrator Michael Griffin that China is now cooperating with Europe, Russia, Brazil, Nigeria and Venezuela in the field of space. He said it was a pity that the US doesn't have space cooperation with China now, calling it a sign of decreased openness of the US compared with it was twenty years ago."

Statement by NASA Administrator Michael Griffin before the Senate Subcommittee on Science and Space

"The FY 2007 budget request is sufficient to bring the CEV online no later than 2014, and potentially much sooner. Given the analysis I have today and the need to balance budgets with proposed development work for the CEV and launch vehicles along with the cost estimates for that work, I cannot be more specific for our stakeholders in the White House and Congress at this time about the specific point between 2010 and 2014 when NASA will be able to bring the CEV online. NASA requested industry proposals for the CEV, and we have considerable incentives for an industry bidder to propose a planned development for the CEV as close to 2010 as possible."

NASA Chief Eyes 2011 for New Spacecraft, AP

"A new spaceship could be ready to replace the nation's aging shuttle fleet by 2011 - three years ahead of schedule - if lawmakers added money to NASA's proposed budget, the head of the space agency told a congressional panel on Tuesday."

Statement by NASA Administrator Michael Griffin before the Senate Subcommittee on Science and Space

"As part of his FY 2007 budget request to Congress, the President proposed the American Competitiveness Initiative, or ACI, to encourage American innovation and strengthen our Nation's ability to compete in the global economy. Many have asked why NASA is not a part of the ACI. My response is that it is the mission of NASA to pioneer the future of space exploration, scientific discovery, and aeronautics research, while the ACI is focused on bolstering the Nation's economic competitiveness in areas such as information technology and nanotechnology."

Editor's note: Huh? Are we reading the same official White House documents, Mike? They even cite the Apollo program as an example! "Information technology and nanotechnology" are listed along with multiple other areas - many of which directly relate to what NASA does. Given the proposed increase in government funding for other scientific research endeavors, and the money lavished upon ACI, one can only draw the conclusion, by its overt omission, that NASA is not ranked as highly as are other research and technology programs. Trying to divert notice of that fact by trying to suggest that ACI is not really focused on things relevant to NASA is disingenuous, to say the least.

American Competitiveness Initiative

An important element of the American Competitiveness Initiative is Federal investment in research and development (R&D). Under President Bush, this investment has increased by more than 50 percent to $137 billionthe largest sustained increase since the Apollo space program in the early 1960's. Similarly, President Bush and Congress have provided historic funding increases for K-12 education over the last five years and have successfully instituted critical policy reforms as a part of the President's No Child Left Behind Act.

Editor's note: In examining the Excel spreadsheet that NASA PAO sent me today containing Space Exploration Strategy Workshop attendee information, I came across another list of attendees - one that does not quite mesh with another list contained elsewhere in the spreadsheet - one containing breakout team assignments. This is the first list I posted earlier today. That list follows.

Editor's note: The following membership of breakout teams at Space Exploration Strategy Workshop, currently under way in Washington, DC, has been released by NASA Public Affairs:

Editor's note: The following list of attendees at the invitation-only NASA Space Exploration Strategy Workshop, currently under way in Washington, DC, has been released by NASA Public Affairs:

Editor's note: Apparently the NASA Vision for Space Exploration exhibition truck is on site at MSFC. One employee notes "It's 20 feet away from the main buildings and instead of plugging it into MSFC, they've got a huge generator making a hell of a lot of noise and buring a gallons of expensive gas. No one is going into it and the guides are doing nothing but wandering around showing no interest. What a ****ing waste of money." [Courtesy of]

Reader note: "I may be wrong but I think the exhibition truck is at MSFC to help support "Take Your Kids to Work" day (4/27/2006). It may be a waste of gas but I would not assume that MSFC is bored by the Vision for Space Exploration."

Reader note: "Mr. Cowing, You've been had, I think, by an inaccurate statement. I walked by that truck about 2 pm and they were still setting it up. The display is in a semi trailer with multiple slide-outs and is definitely set up to go all over the country. The "power cord" is 3 inches in diameter and I would venture to guess the generator puts out nearly 25 kW."

Sen. Hutchison to Chair Senate Subcommittee on Science and Space Hearing with NASA Administrator

"On Tuesday, April 25 at 2:30 p.m. (EST), Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) will chair a Senate Subcommittee on Science and Space hearing. The subcommittee will hear testimony from NASA Administrator Michael Griffin and will focus on the NASA budget, the transition from the Space Shuttle to the Crew Exploration Vehicle, the International Space Station and NASA contributions to U.S. technological competitiveness."

-Senate webcast

Editor's note: As some of you may know, the venerated board game of "Monopoly" is changing its look and feel to be more hip. The public is being asked to pick new places and things to be featured in the revamped version - including "favorite landmarks". If you go to this link, and click on "Houston" you can vote for JSC as the location of choice for Houston!

You can vote once a day. JSC is currently leading with 84% - more than 55,000 votes have been cast.

Elegant Aerospace Design

Canopy on one of Langley's Raptors sticks shut on pilot, Daily Press

"Air Force pilots can't wait to get into the F-22A Raptor, the newest, fastest thing in fighter planes. But on a recent morning, Capt. Brad Spears had to wait about five hours to get out of one that was parked at Langley Air Force Base."

In The Loop, Washington Post (scroll past first story)

"What do you do when the canopy on a new F-22A fighter jet doesn't open and the pilot is trapped inside for five hours? Get out the chainsaws. That's what maintenance technicians at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia did a couple weeks ago after calling Lockheed Martin Corp., the plane's manufacturer, to find out how to free the pilot."

F-22 03-041 Stuck Canopy TSgt Robinson 1st MXG/MXQ - briefing charts

On 10 April 06 at approximately 0815 aircraft 03-041 had a Red Ball for a canopy unlock indication. Attempts to clear the problems by cycling the canopy failed. The final cycling of the canopy resulted in it being in the down and locked position. The canopy would not cycle up form this position trapping the pilot in the cockpit. The aircraft subsequently ground aborted.

Editor's note: Last week Risk Management Corporation sent out an email to all of the participants of the recent NASA Risk Management Conference VI regarding a DVD of the proceedings which has been mailed to each registered participant. This morning John Tinsley at NASA HQ sent out an email - to all 407 participants saying "Please disregard this email. It was not approved for distribution and was sent out in error. Official instructions regarding the DVD will be forthcoming from NASA." I am not certain what Tinsley is referring to, but when I popped the DVD into my Mac I had to fish around for the right file to open (manually) in my browser. None of the videos worked despite some fiddling with settings on my part. Clearly no one thought to test this out on a Mac before publishing and distributing it. Oh yes - you can't eject the DVD from your Mac unless you quit your browser first.

This is unfortunate since this was a really good conference. I hope they fix these glitches.

Scientists Polled on Solar System Exploration Program Priorities, University of Arizona

"The Planetary Science Institute (PSI), in collaboration with the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory of The University of Arizona, the SETI Institute and the Space Science Institute, has conducted a survey of U.S.-based planetary scientists to prioritize NASA solar system exploration programs across spending categories in the face of an uncertain future for NASA space science in general."

NASCAR Driver to Join NASA Director on April 21 Mining Symposium Panel

NASCAR and NASA Team Up, Wheeling News Register

"Phil Bounds, director of NASA's security management division at the agency's Washington, D.C. headquarters, then relayed his experiences in coordinating recovery efforts following the 2003 loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia and in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Following Katrina, Bounds was charged with recovery at two NASA sites in Texas and Louisiana."

Editor's note: I was not present for the presentation, so I don't know what was said. That caveat aside, it is curious that NASA sent someone to talk about the risks associated with Earthbound recovery efforts, but did not send someone to address the risks that go with strapping one's self into a vehicle that undergoes a dangerous journey - and the reasons why they take that risk - and the public's reaction to that risk taking.

Bush Lands at ARC

Bush, Schwartzenegger Arrive at Cisco Systems,

"Schwarzenegger was the first to greet Bush, along with the mayor of Sunnyvale and the acting director of NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Chris Christensen."

NASA Names Pete Worden To Be New Ames Research Center Director

"NASA Administrator Michael Griffin announced Friday that Simon P. "Pete" Worden will be the next director of NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffet Field, Calif. Worden, a retired U.S. Air Force brigadier general, is a research professor of astronomy at the University of Arizona, Tucson."

Editor's earlier note: The paperwork is complete - Pete Worden (USAF Bio) will be the next Center Director at ARC. A formal announcement is expected very soon.

Scott Hubbard to Depart ARC - Pete Worden to Take Over, 15 December 2005 post

Griffin on C-SPAN

The Future of Space Flight C-SPAN Newsmakers Airs on CSPAN-2 at 8:00 pm EDT 21 April 2006

"Michael Griffin was interviewed about the future of space flight and the shuttle program, as well as other NASA projects. After he left, the reporters discussed his responses with the host."

NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 21 April 2006

"Update on SM thruster test: Yesterday's test firing of the SM manifold #2 yaw thruster (-RZ) was executed as planned, and preliminary reports indicated that there were no issues. [This was a repeat of Part 1 of the thruster test attempted on 4/14 which was unsuccessful due to a procedural error.]"

NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 20 April 2006

"ISS Reboost: The test of the SM main engines scheduled yesterday at 3:49pm EDT was aborted without engine ignition when the onboard software received no signal that the sun cover on engine #2 had opened. Attitude control was handed back to US without problems. TsUP/Moscow will not plan a retry until the data is fully analyzed and understood."

NASA Administrator's Statement Regarding the Tragic Loss of Aviation Pioneer A. Scott Crossfield

"Today, those of us in the aeronautics and space communities extend our condolences and deepest sympathies to Scott's family."

Search for plane of legendary pilot Crossfield finds wreck, AP

"Crews searching for a missing airplane registered to legendary test pilot Scott Crossfield found the wreckage of a small plane with a body inside Thursday, but they didn't immediately identify the victim."

Editor's note: Reliable sources tell NASA Watch that the body is indeed Crossfield's.

China's Moon Quest Has U.S. Lawmakers Seeking New Space Race, Bloomberg

"Almost 37 years after Americans set foot on the moon, China's ambition to make the same trip is evoking rhetoric from U.S. lawmakers echoing the space race of the Cold War 1960s."

NASA Glenn sets its sights on space travel, Cleveland Plain Dealer

"The director of NASA Glenn Research Center, Woodrow Whitlow, is reorganizing the Northeast Ohio icon to try to grab a fatter chunk of the agency's lucrative budget for space exploration. "It shouldn't take any more than a month from now," Whitlow said of launching an office focused on fighting for, and running, NASA space projects. "I'd like to do it sooner," he said at a news conference Wednesday."

NASA NEEMO-9 Crew Sends Greeting To NASA Bedrest Study Participant

Editor's note: The following note and photo were sent by the NASA NEEMO-9 crew, currently located within the Aquarius habitat off the coast of Key Largo, to Erin Peterson, currently flat on her back as part of a 3 month NASA bedrest study at the Cleveland Clinic.

NASA's Bedrest Volunteer Is Hanging - and Lying - In There, earlier post

Ignoring Exploration at NASA, earlier post

Editor's update: The authors have revised their abstract so as to remove their "embargo" claim.

Editor's note: I was scanning through today's publicly available abstracts at If you go to this abstract "The Carbon-Rich Gas in the Beta Pictoris Circumstellar Disk" published online on 19 April 2006 at, you see the notice "Accepted for publication in Nature. The paper is under press embargo until publication." Click on the PDF link and you will see the paper online with the note "Scientists may reference this paper, but the contents may not be reported in the media before the embargo ends." Fine. I won't report the contents - but you can all read the paper.

Space trailblazer Rechtin dies, Pasadena Star News

"Eberhardt Rechtin, a pioneer in deep space research and former assistant director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, died Friday after a long illness. He was 80."

What does Russia plan to do in outer space?, Opinion, RIA-Novosti

"In mid-April, the Energia management, which has completely different plans, unveiled a concept of the national manned space-flight program for the next 25 years. This document states expressly that the initial stage of the manned lunar program will involve Soyuz spacecraft, Soyuz-FG and Proton launch vehicles and DM-type boosters. Energia officials said that the ISS' Russian segment should be used to assemble an inter-orbital space complex bound for the Moon, and that this approach would make it possible to launch the first lunar expeditions in the near future."

Mission to nowhere, Opinion, The Australian

"This is the pub where NASA's astronauts come to play after a hard day of mission training. It is therefore one of the few places where they can talk frankly and freely about what has gone right - and wrong - with America's space program. But lately NASA might be relieved that it cannot hear the Budweiser-fueled rantings of its astronauts."

Reader note re: "Mission to Nowhere" "Keith: Yet another opinion piece that attempts to consign the shuttle program to the purgatory of banality by deliberately omitting any mention of the awesome (I use the adjective very deliberately) advances in astronomical knowledge brought about by the missions that deployed or serviced orbiting observatories. Every time I read one of these slanted, vacuous rants, I just want to scream."

Reader note re: "Mission to Nowhere" "I was wondering if you noticed on the sidebar of the opinion piece from the Australian newspaper "Mission to Nowhere" that they reversed the Challenger and Columbia accidents. How can you have an informed opinion on the space program if you cannot get your facts straight?"

Wedding dress for use in space, Seihin-World

"Space Couture Design Contest supported by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is now being held. Prior to the contest, Eri Matsui, chairperson of the contest committee, designed a wedding dress which looks beautiful both under gravity and zero-gravity (picture on the left: under gravity, right: under zero-gravity). Her design stimulates our dream that we may get married in space soon."

Editor's note: Meanwhile, the U.S. could certainly use a little fashion sense on-orbit. Have a look at this recent image (right) of Expedition 13 Science Officer Jeff Williams. Check out his space booties - complete with fake fur trim. Is it just me - or do these look like the things your grandmother wears in the winter when she goes out to get the newspaper in the morning? Get this guy a fashion makeover - quick. Maybe JAXA can help.

Reader comment: "Keith: The "outer space fashion emergency" just looks like a pair of fine, old fashioned, Russian felt boots (valenki)"

Reader comment: "Keith: While out of fashion, the space booties are not quite so far back as your grandmother. They resemble the NASA version of Uggs, which were still in style merely a year ago..."


New Service Offers Payloads to Space for $99, Masten Space Systems

"For $99 anyone can now send a payload into space through a new suborbital space launch service. Masten Space Systems' new "CanSats To Space" payload program will carry 350 gram, "soda can" sized payloads into space and back."

NASA Announces Five Centennial Challenges Competitions Open for Registration

"NASA announced Tuesday the opening of team registration for five Centennial Challenges prize competitions with cash prizes totaling more than $1 million."

Mars Scout AO Released

NASA Solicitation: Announcement of Opportunity: Mars Scout 2006 and Missions of Opportunity

"NASA SMD is releasing an Announcement of Opportunity (AO) for Mars Scout 2006 and Missions of Opportunity. NASA intends to select a Scout mission to launch by January 31, 2012. Missions of Opportunity may also be selected."

EVA Dropped From STS-121

Spacewalk strategy revised for next shuttle flight, CBS/

"Because of an over-loaded crew timeline and new heat-shield inspection requirements, shuttle flight planners have decided to eliminate one of three previously planned spacewalks from Discovery's upcoming mission - a spacewalk devoted to testing heat-shield repair techniques - in order to give the crew more time off in orbit, officials say."

Bush should embrace China's space program, Opinion, Orlando Sentinel

"If the United States is serious about leadership in space exploration, inviting the Chinese Shenzhou to dock at the international space station is an excellent first step on this journey."

Constellation Update

NASA Internal Memo: Constellation Program Weekly Update 16 April 2006, NASA JSC

"A little perspective - and I apologize for repeating myself for those who have heard my little analogy before - on what we're attempting to do here. Imagine the Cx program is a 'house' we've set about building together, with the various rooms of the house representative of the separate elements of the architecture. Unfortunately, we don't have the funds to build the ENTIRE house all at once, instead we can only afford to build it a room or two at a time. Ok. But to be capable of building those first couple of rooms of the house, we must understand the entire 'blueprint', and how those rooms fit into the larger scheme. We must describe it sufficiently to pour the foundation, and to "frame" the house to the greatest extent possible. Doesn't mean we can't add a room in the future, but it will be more expensive."

Editor's note: Have a look at this image. To the left of Jeff Williams is another package of space-certified Huggies. As was the case with the previous on-orbit Huggies sighting, Jeff's Huggies feature the comforting image of Winnie the Pooh. I hope these wipes have Aloe too. It's so dry in outer space.

NASA Flies Huggies in Space, SpaceRef (earlier post)

"Of course, NASA has to have documentation for everything that flies in space - and the Huggies are no different. These NASA drawings specify the container that holds the Huggies in space. Curiously, I don't see any specification for the Winnie the Pooh images that appear on the container in this photo."

NASA Announces Black Holes Found to be "Green"

"Astronomers using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory will hold a media teleconference at 1 p.m. EDT Monday, April 24, to announce a fundamental discovery about black holes."

The relation between accretion rate and jet power in X-ray luminous elliptical galaxies, e-Print archive

"Our results show that the black hole engines at the hearts of large elliptical galaxies and groups feed back sufficient energy to stem cooling and star formation, leading naturally to the observed exponential cut off at the bright end of the galaxy luminosity function."

ESMD Personnel Change

Editor's note: Word has it that Michael Hecker, Constellation Systems Division's Program Executive at NASA ESMD, is leaving.

LOX/Methane Advances

NASA, Industry and Air Force Team Achieves Critical Milestone in Liquid Oxygen-Liquid Methane Engine Development Program, NAS AMSFC

"This type of engine is a strong candidate for use in a launch vehicle propulsion system that is low cost, but offers the high operational responsiveness needed to pursue our aggressive space exploration goals," said Robert L. Sackheim, assistant center director and chief engineer for space propulsion at the Marshall Center. "As we move forward, the technology offers the opportunity to fly more and learn more."

CEV LOX/Methane Update: Is It In - Or Is It Out?, earlier post

Horowitz: "It's just in the short term we looked at all of our propulsion needs and the ability to do a cost-effective run-out of our launch vehicles to support the lunar and then eventually the Mars programs and so in that cost and benefit trade, and technical trades, we came upon some trades that said we were gonna delay LOX/methane on the CEV until a later time."

Beam Me Up Mike

New and Improved Antimatter Spaceship for Mars Missions

"Most self-respecting starships in science fiction stories use antimatter as fuel for a good reason - it's the most potent fuel known. The NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) is funding a team of researchers working on a new design for an antimatter-powered spaceship that avoids this nasty side effect by producing gamma rays with much lower energy. Antimatter is sometimes called the mirror image of normal matter because while it looks just like ordinary matter, some properties are reversed."

Confusing RFI from JPL

NASA Solicitation: JPL Request for Information (RFI) for a Basic Ordering Agreement (BOA) in Support of Spacecraft Mechanical Engineering (Sec. 352)

"REQUIREMENTS: The subcontractor shall provide the below-described materials, equipment facilities, and/or services in the quantities and at the times determined by JPL during the period from the date of this subcontract through TBD years thereafter. This is not a total requirements order; however, a minimum amount of $TBD shall be ordered during the above term."

Editor's note: Let me get this straight: JPL is asking companies to submit some very specific information about very specific services - yet JPL cannot provide a time span or cost range under which such services would be rendered.

Hubble Enters Safe Mode

NASA Hubble Space Telescope Daily Report #4093

"HST SAFEMODE: HST entered inertial hold on day 107:03:10:00.5 after failing a bright earth/moon avoidance test. All SIs are up in operate mode with no out-of-limit conditions."

Editor's note: The NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) project is currently underway. According to its webpage "Three NASA astronauts and a Cincinnati doctor are living and working under the ocean this month to test space medicine concepts and moon-walking techniques. Canadian astronaut Dave Williams is leading the 18-day undersea mission April 3 to 20 aboard the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Aquarius Underwater Laboratory off the Florida coast. NASA astronauts Nicole Stott and Ron Garan and Dr. Tim Broderick of the University of Cincinnati round out the crew. Jim Buckley and Ross Hein of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington will provide engineering support."

Since NASA is now supposed to be refocused on supporting the VSE, you'd think that such exploration activities would gather prominent mention on NASA's various web pages. Think again. Is there any mention whatsoever on NASA's Exploration web page? No. How about NASA's Human Spaceflight page? No. How about NASA's Science Mission Directorate (where the Earth Science folks live)? No. How about NASA's News and Events page? No.

It is really annoying to see that one part of the agency is either too lazy or disinterested to reference valuable activites being done by another. These days its hard to tell what the motivation (or lack thereof) is for this malaise. Oh well - you can read all of NEEMO's 2006 reports here on SpaceRef - or Google up some news.

Editor's update: I have just learned that there is a link here. But this still does not explain why ESMD, SOMD, and SMD ignore this project.

- Live underwater webcams
- NASA goes underseas to moon walk (picture), c|NET
- 'Aquanauts' Train for Space (Video), ABC

Is NASA Glenn in this fight?, Cleveland plain Dealer

"Year in and year out, whenever the NASA budget comes up for review, Ohio's congressional delegation puts up a heroic struggle to keep the NASA Glenn Research Center from getting shoved farther into the background. But it gets harder every year to believe that NASA's top brass see Glenn as anything more than an expensive little sideshow. An e-mail written by NASA Administrator Michael Griffin and obtained recently by The Plain Dealer comes right out and says that research centers, like Glenn, just don't fit the overall mission anymore: "We are not, any longer, a technology agency to any significant extent. Wishing otherwise is nice, but irrelevant."

Editor's note: Gee Mike, Maybe you could do something about reversing that situation? Instead, you are making things worse by cutting basic research and technology programs at NASA. I find it rather odd that you think that NASA has the capability to implement the VSE - yet seem to feel that NASA no longer has the technological smarts to do so.

Of course, the Cleveland Plain Dealer did not publish your email. Perhaps if PAO released the full email message we'd know exactly what you said - and the context within which you said it.

NASA Langley courting Airbus, Daily Press

"At a time when the country is concerned about losing its edge in aeronautical technology, the National Institute of Aerospace and NASA Langley Research Center are courting business with Airbus, the chief foreign competitor of the U.S. aerospace industry. If the three agree to work together, it would create the odd situation of research institutions funded by U.S. taxpayers helping a foreign business gain a competitive edge."

Airbus is visiting NASA LaRC, earlier post

State of the Union: American Competitiveness Initiative

"In His State Of The Union Address, President Bush Announced The American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI) To Encourage American Innovation And Strengthen Our Nation's Ability To Compete In The Global Economy."

Editor's note: It would seem that the White House has a structural inconsistency in its policies for dealing with global competitiveness. It would appear that NASA is off trying to seek financial assistance from a foreign government-supported monopoly to replace budgetary support that the U.S. government is no longer willing to provide for its own (aero)space agency. If this is the best that Lisa Porter can do - I am not impressed.

Click on image to enlarge [Other images]

"I'm currently participating in the NASA-sponsored bedrest study at the Cleveland Clinic. These are the chronicles of three full months of bedrest, in addition to the craziness leading up to it, and the who knows what afterwards."

Editor's note: Erin is certainly doing her part for the VSE! I certainly hope that all NASA Watch readers visit Erin's Blog to say hello - and also to say "thank you".

NASA Blunder Leads To VoIP Shutdown, WOIP News

"According to an internal NASA memo circulated the following day, the system shutdown occurred when a contracted technician inadvertently deleted the entire NASA Headquarters VoIP user database while adding 19 new VoIP user accounts to the system. Although a safety net is built into the system, and a warning question appeared advising against the action, "the technician answered the question incorrectly," the memo said."

NASA Won't Release DART Mission Report, AP

"Saying the information is too sensitive, NASA announced Friday that it will not release its report on the failed docking of two spacecraft in what would have been the first such rendezvous without human intervention."

Editor's note:Uh Alica, NASA did not "announce" anything about DART today. However NASA Watch posted something - yesterday.

Editor's 13 April 5:30 pm EDT note: The following NASA internal email reveals why we haven't heard anything about the DART Mishap Investigation Board's report.

According to the email below: "NASA HQ has determined that the report is "Sensitive, but Unclassified," due to certain ITAR considerations that HQ identified. As I understand it, this effectively means that NASA will only be releasing the report to those US organizations with a "need to know."

ARC News

NASA/Ames takes pride in its role, Knight Ridder

"Throughout the decades, the NASA/Ames Research Center has been intertwined with the space shuttle program -- which Wednesday celebrated the 25th anniversary of the day two astronauts blasted off in the Columbia, the first reusable spacecraft."

NASA Ames' New Supercomputer, PC World

"Presently NASAs Columbia supercomputer at Ames is fourth on the Top500 list of supercomputers around the world. The fastest Intel-based machine in the world, Columbia has delivered about 61 teraFLOPS, with its 10,240 processors, according to officials at NASAs Advanced Supercomputing facility (NAS). The new NASA machine is expected to deliver about 250 teraFLOPS. Althoug impressive, it's not record breaking. Already up and working, IBMs Blue Gene/L at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory holds the world record, delivering almost 281 teraFLOPS with its 131,072 processors."

Toxic cleanup complete at NASA/Ames site in Mountain View, SJ mercury News

"Three formerly toxic sites at the NASA/Ames Research Center in Mountain View have been certified as clean, the state Department of Toxic Substances Control said today."

Tank foam lost during shuttle wind tunnel test, CBS/SpaceFlightNow

"Engineers now believe the expansion and contraction of the tank during multiple fueling cycles contributes to the formation of tiny cracks and other defects that can lead to foam loss during flight. Opponents of the fueling test believe the health of the ECO sensors can be confirmed through electrical testing without the need for a fueling cycle."

Letter from IFPTE to NASA Office of Legislative Affairs Regarding Workforce Strategy Document

"The head of the NASA Council of IFPTE Locals (NCIL), Dr. Wesley Darbro, has informed me that he has not yet received a copy of the final Workforce Strategy or of NASA management's response to the International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers (IFPTE) comments submitted on March 9, 2006. He was informed that this delay was due to the fact that the Workforce Strategy document is held up in NASA's Legislative Affairs office. As you know, both of these documents were due on Monday, April 10th as per the requirements of the NASA Authorization Act of 2005."

Alleged NASA hacker to hear fate next month, C|NET

"A British former systems administrator who faces extradition to the U.S. if convicted of hacking American military computers will learn his fate next month. Gary McKinnon appeared in court in London on Wednesday, in the latest stage in a protracted legal process. His defense has argued that he should not be extradited, as he could be tried under the tough antiterrorism laws in the U.S., sent to Guantanamo Bay and imprisoned for up to 60 years."

NASA Advisory Council Science Subcommittees Planning Conference

"The Planning Conference will feature plenary session information briefings by NASA officials on science program status and plans and the NASA FY 2007 budget proposal. The plenary session will subsequently breakout into meetings of the Astrophysics Subcommittee, Earth Science Subcommittee, Heliophysics Subcommittee, and Planetary Sciences Subcommittee. The breakout sessions will focus on: (1) Research and Analysis plans and program mix options, and (2) science community involvement in preparing the NASA Science Plan."

"Thirty minutes will be set aside for verbal comment by members of the general public, not to exceed three minutes per speaker, at 8 a.m. on May 4, 2006."

Editor's note: Wow. Three minutes per person.

Trip to Mars Will Challenge Bones, Muscles: Former Astronaut calls for More NASA Research on Exercise in Space, American College of Sports Medicine

"During a trip to Marslasting between 13 and 30 monthsunchecked bone loss could make an astronaut's skeleton "the equivalent of a 100-year-old person," [Neurolab astronaut James A. Pawelczyk, Ph.D.] warned. Bones weakened to such an extent would be highly susceptible to fractures, putting space travelers' health and the mission itself at risk."

Editor's note: So what kind of research are they cutting on ISS? You guessed it: life science.

Shuttle Tanking Test

Tanking test slated for shuttle, Orlando Sentinel

"NASA sources tell The Write Stuff that shuttle managers have decided to perform a tanking test before Discovery's planned July launch. The test fueling will be held on or about June 1. NASA officials say the test date still would allow a launch in the July window, which extends from the 1st -19th."

Editor's note: If your're watching CNN International at 10:30 am EDT (1430 GMT) or 7:35 pm EDT (2335 GMT) today you'll see my smiling face.

Personnel Layoff Update

NASA Glenn budget leaves workers vulnerable, Cleveland Plain Dealer

"NASA Glenn Research Center's budget can't cover the work of almost 270 workers, about one-sixth of the full-time employees at the center. "We've been sitting around for six months with nothing to do - nothing that's funded," says Sheila Bailey, a 20-year veteran at the center who has a doctorate and works with solar cells for space power applications."

NASA weighs publicity stunt, AP

"NASA officials met on Tuesday to review the safety of the stunt, which already has been approved by the Russian space agency. NASA is expected to make a decision at a later date."

Golf or Science: What is NASA's Plan for the Space Station?

BEUTEL: The space station program's extravehicular activity office, operations office and mission management team all are evaluating this event. Each of these groups also includes a representative from Safety & Mission Assurance. As always, both the Russian and U.S. safety experts will make sure this is safe before moving forward. We will be able to provide more direct answers to your questions when the safety review is complete. We don't have a time on that yet.

Party Your Asteroid Off

Yuri's Night now on all 7 Continents!

"We are very pleased to announce that the 7th CONTINENT will be joining us for this years Yuri's Night for the 3rd time! Yuki Takashi, who has been a part of Yuri's Night since the first LA party in 2001 (we have pictures to prove it), spent two months in Antarctica this (southern) summer working on a special telescope project that he helped build! One of his teammates is still there wintering over through the long dark Antarctic winter and will be hosting the Yuri's Night event at the South Pole Station!"

NASA Solicitation: Exploration of the Moon and Beyond

"NASA is initiating a long-term activity to develop a global space exploration strategy. A series of activities are planned in 2006 to gain a better understanding of the role that human and robotic exploration and development of a sustained human presence on the moon plays in supporting a broad exploration strategy that includes Mars and other destinations. As part of this process, NASAs Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD) is seeking through this Request For Information (RFI), ideas on activities that could be pursued on the moon as part of an integrated global exploration strategy."

Comments by NASA's Andrew Dantzler Regarding Recent Dawn Mission Reviews, SpaceRef

Editor's note: The following comments regarding the Dawn mission were made by Andrew Dantzler, Division Director of Planetary Sciences at the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, this morning at a NASA workshop titled "Lesson Learned Workshop for PI-Led Planetary Science Missions".

Editor's note: NASA HQ sources report that Assistant Administrator Diversity and Equal Opportunity Dorothy Hayden-Watkins was escorted out of the building by NASA security personnel late last week. No reason has been given. I have submitted a formal request to NASA PAO for comment.

Editor's update: According to Dean Acosta at PAO "As per NASA policy, we do not comment on personnel matters."

Boeing Remembers History

Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Receives Record $15 Million Donation from Boeing

"The National Air and Space Museum will receive a donation of $15 million from The Boeing Company in continued support of its education and preservation efforts. It is the single largest corporate gift ever presented to the Smithsonian Institution."

Boeing also has a website dedicated to the 25th anniversary of STS-1.

NASA OIG: Antideficiency Act Violations at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

"NASA, as a result of action by officials in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO), violated the ADA by authorizing and obligating funds without apportionment from OMB. Specifically, during fiscal year (FY) 2005, NASA authorized and obligated about $1.6 billion in unobligated balances carried over from FY 2004 before requesting apportionment from OMB. During FY 2004, NASA authorized and obligated about $30.4 million more than the amount of funds that OMB had apportioned for one account."

New NASA Ames Spacecraft to Look for Ice at Lunar South Pole

"NASA today announced that a small, 'secondary payload' spacecraft, to be developed by a team at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., has been selected to travel to the moon to look for precious water ice at the lunar south pole in October 2008."

NASA Exploration Briefing on New Lunar Mission

"Exploration Systems managers will brief news media at 2 p.m. EDT Monday, April 10, about plans to conduct high risk and high return research of the lunar surface using a new spacecraft. The press conference will be held in the NASA Headquarters auditorium, 300 E Street S.W., Washington."

Editor's 7 April update: Reliable sources all seem to be pointing in the direction of ARC's impactor as the lucky choice. Stay tuned.

Descoping ESAS

VSE: Less steroids or less Apollo, NASA

"Once characterized as "Apollo on steroids" by NASA administrator Mike Griffin, the architecture surrounding the ESAS (Exploration Systems Architecture Study) has grown too heavy for its launch vehicles."

Behind the beautiful Soyuz launch: overcoming a communications emergency (Jim Oberg), SpaceReview

"So at the latest launch, its merely a minor embarrassment on the part of NASA official Geveden's incorrect "happy talk" commentary, since the Americans who really needed the information had gotten it-and he wasnt on that list. Nor was it really worth bothering anyone else at the launch viewing stand, including the wife of one of the crewmen, who was at the launch."

More Griffin Misquotes?

U.S. will fail to create new spaceship by 2010 to replace shuttle - NASA, Interfax

"NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said Sunday the U.S. will likely fail to create a new spaceship by 2010 when the space shuttle program is closed. Griffin told a news conference at Mission Control at Korloyov, following the return of Expedition 12 from the International Space Station that, NASA, of course, will not be able to meet the 2010 deadline, and more time will pass from 2010 to the end of the work to develop a new spaceship."

Editor's note: I doubt Mike Griffin said these words - as he is quoted here. As such, this is one of those times when an official NASA transcript of this event would be helpful. Or will PAO just let these inaccurate quotes float around the world for a week as they did with the Delay pseudo-endorsement remarks? Word has it that Strategic Communications AA for Public Affairs Dave Mould was in Russia for the Soyuz launch, then flew back for the National Space Symposium, and then flew back to Russia for the Soyuz landing. One would think he (or someone on his staff) would have the presence of mind to pull out a digital recorder and record an event like this. Stay tuned.

Citizen Explorers

Editor's note: Despite all of the counterproductive and self-serving rhetoric ("Moon bad, Mars good") that Bob Zubrin loves to enterain us with (his last editorial in Space News is a classic in this genre), many of the members of the Mars Society manage to take personal participation in Mars analog work seriously and prefer hard work to Zurbin's arm waving. In particular, I never fail to be impressed with the extent to which foreign participants - and their respective space agencies - view these activities. The current team at the MDRS in Utah is supported by an astonishing team of 130 people on site in Utah and back in Austria. Check out the Austromars website for an overview and updates (English version on the right). And in the mean time, just ignore that man waving his arms in the distance. But do pay attention to the actions of the members he claims to represent.


Like father, like son,

"Assaf Ramon, son of Israel's first astronaut Ilan Ramon, has applied to the Israel Air Force pilot training course, says he wants to follow in illustrious father's footsteps to outer space."

Lunar Crater Names for the Columbia Astronauts Provisionally Approved, U.S. Geological Survey

"Names for seven craters in the Apollo basin on the Moon have been provisionally approved by the IAU to honor the seven Space Shuttle Columbia astronauts."

Earlier posts

7 hills in Negev, Mitzpe Ramon, named after fallen Columbia astronauts, Israel Insider

Apollo, Challenger, Columbia: Thinking Back - Looking Ahead

"Our mission in space is not over," Rona Ramon told the hushed audience. "He was the first Israeli in space - that means there will be more."

Sea Change at NASA

NASA Marks 25 Years, Preps for Sea Change, AP

Almost 2,000 NASA civil servants and more than 15,000 contractor employees work on the shuttles, mainly for United Space Alliance. Many contractor workers who either have retired or resigned recently aren't being replaced and those sticking around are worried about significant job cuts, said Lynn Beattie, a crane operator at the Kennedy Space Center.."

Extreme spots on Earth may reveal life on Mars, Knight Ridder Newspapers

"Although it will be at least 30 years before the first human sets foot on Mars, NASA already is testing some of the conditions that astronauts might face there. For example, [Astrobiologist Nathalie] Cabrol took astronaut Scott Parazynski, a space-walk specialist on the shuttle Atlantis in 1997, with her on a climb up Licancabur, a 19,522-foot Bolivian volcano. Dangerous ultraviolet radiation is intense in the scanty atmosphere up there, as it is on Mars."

Expedition 12 Is Home

Expedition 12 Arrives Back on Earth Aboard Soyuz TMA-7

"Expedition 12 has left the International Space Station after six-months and has returned to Earth. Their Soyuz TMA-7 spacecraft landed in Kazakhstan tonight at 7:48 p.m. EDT."

Editor's note: Mark Borkowski, director of NASA's Robotic Lunar Exploration Program (RLEP), apparently left NASA HQ last week. More personnel changes in RLEP lie ahead including the possible departure of Borkowski's Deputy John Baker. Meanwhile, reliable sources report that RLEP2 costs have continued to rise from the target range of $400 to $750 million to well over a $1 billion ($1.2 billion or more). Some talk of outright cancellation has been heard.

Earlier post: Letter from NASA ESMD Deputy Doug Cooke Regarding Robotic Lunar Exploration Program 2 (RLEP2) Roles


Brazil's Man in Space: A Mere 'Hitchhiker,' or a Hero?, NY Times

"But many Brazilian scientists, along with newspaper columnists and editorial writers, have criticized the voyage, which ends early Sunday, as a boondoggle. They argue that the roughly $10.5 million that Brazil paid Russia to launch Colonel Pontes aboard a Soyuz rocket would have been better spent on research here on Earth or invested in rebuilding a space port destroyed in 2003 in a launching pad explosion that killed 21 scientists and technicians."

Editor's note: This strikes me as the sort of article you get when a reporter (who does not specialize in space) decides what personal point he wants to make - and then works backward to find the quotes that help him do so. I have to wonder if what he portrays as being Brazil's feelings about this flight truly reflect the collective aspirations of a nation which has just joined an exclusive club by virtue of having a fellow citizen fly in space - a nation whose flag is filled with more stars than any flag on Earth - except America's.

Ad astra, Brazil

X-37 Flies, MSNBC

"The bad news is that the vehicle experienced an "anomaly" and went off the runway, DARPA spokeswoman Jan Walker told me. The X-37 team is investigating what went wrong, and no further information was available immediately, Walker said."


NASA's chief information officer and chief of Strategic Communications have outlined new policy governing all NASA public Web sites. This policy directs all NASA officials who are planning to publish new Web sites or create public content to host these sites and create and maintain their content within the NASA Portal infrastructure.

Remarks by NASA Administrator Michael Griffin at the National Space Symposium

"So, imagine what kinds of Europa or Titan or Enceladus missions we could plan in 2016, if we know that we will have the 100 metric ton Cargo Launch Vehicle available to put them out there. Maybe the 25 metric ton Crew Launch Vehicle would suffice for such missions. That's more capability than anyone was planning on having to low earth orbit until exploration came around. So, let's think creatively about what we could do with these launch vehicles, which would never be built to support robotic science missions alone."

In Testimony Before Appropriators, Rep. Boehlert Urges Funding for American Competitiveness Initiative

"Finally, let me make clear that I do not think it is a priority to add funding above the request to the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) program at NASA. I support the President's Vision for Space Exploration, but I do not see any great advantage to be gained from launching the CEV in 2012 rather than 2014. Too many other items are of greater concern."

More Climate Muzzling

Climate Researchers Feeling Heat From White House, Washington Post

"Scientists doing climate research for the federal government say the Bush administration has made it hard for them to speak forthrightly to the public about global warming. The result, the researchers say, is a danger that Americans are not getting the full story on how the climate is changing."

CLV Cost Escalation

Editor's note: According to reliable sources NASA's initial internal estimate of what it would cost to modify the current SRB used for Shuttle missions to serve as the first stage of the new Crew Launch Vehicle had been around $1 billion. That estimate has been revised up to around $3 billion.

SpaceX Looks Ahead

Rocket entrepreneur to forge ahead, Rocky Mountain News

"We're not going to cut and run if we have a few issues. We're not going to cut and run if we have a lot of issues," Internet billionaire Elon Musk told the National Space Symposium on Wednesday. "We're going to see this through."

Sugar Coating Reality

The Amazing Space Shuttle, NASA Kids Club

"There have been six Space Shuttles. The names are: Enterprise, Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour. Three of them -- Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour -- are still working."

Editor's note: Its great that NASA has this kids website online - and more should be created. But NASA needs to be a little more honest with ts audience. I am not advocating scare tactics with regard to kids, but two of the Space Shuttles are not "working" because they were destroyed during their missions - killing all aboard. Perhaps a note to the kids about how risky space travel can be - and how this inspires NASA to try and make it safer - and that important things such as exploration can sometimes lead to loss of life. There's news about Iraq on TV every night - and most kids cartoons feature a lot of violence - so its not as if they are isolated from the realities of life. But to ignore two fatal accidents is not how you honor sacrifice - or inform the next generation.

China's unmanned spaceship to near the moon next year, People's Daily

"Luo Ge said to NASA Administrator Michael Griffin that China is now cooperating with Europe, Russia, Brazil, Nigeria and Venezuela in the field of space. He said it was a pity that the US doesn't have space cooperation with China now, calling it a sign of decreased openness of the US compared with it was twenty years ago."

Chinese space official lays out exploration plans, Reuters

"Describing his meeting, Luo said he talked about how open the United States was on his first visit in 1980. "At that time I found the U.S. was very open, and in the 1990s and now, it's the other way around," he said. "I think one country, if it's open, is going to have progress, and if it's closed, then it's going to be left behind." Luo said that in the 1950s and 1970s, China was closed and had slow development, "but after the 1980s, we have achieved substantial progress and development, so countries should be open."

Space Symposium Update

Remarks by Deputy NASA Administrator Shana Dale at the National Space Symposium

NASA says manned, robotic space flights should co-exist, EE Times

"Shana Dale, deputy administrator for NASA, said that Congresss NASA Authorization Act of 2005 showed that legislators bought into the main points of the Bush Mars vision, "but I must caution against taking this vision for granted." Being able to finance a follow-on the space shuttle and a new heavy-lift launch vehicle requires that NASA finish the International Space Station and retire the shuttle by 2010, she said. "These are doable goals, but the hard work in the transition cannot be underestimated for NASA," Dale said."

Space agency's 2020 vision shortsighted, say campus astronomers, UC Berkeley News

"No shuttles have been launched since the Columbia disintegrated while returning to Earth in February 2003, killing all seven astronauts aboard."

Editor's note: Barry Bergman (the author) at UC Berkeley Public Affairs is not exactly up to date on everything...

"[Geoffrey Marcy] adds that the cuts will have "a devastating impact" on astronomy research, and particularly on what he calls the "two remarkable quests" to have emerged in the past decade: "the cause of the accelerating expansion of the universe, and the existence of habitable worlds." NASA, he believes, "has backed away from the two most philosophically compelling questions to face modern physical science: 'What is the history and destiny of the universe?' and 'Are we alone?'"

President Bush Announces New Vision for Space Exploration Program, White House

"Mankind is drawn to the heavens for the same reason we were once drawn into unknown lands and across the open sea. We choose to explore space because doing so improves our lives, and lifts our national spirit. So let us continue the journey."

NASA Launches Third KSC Accident Investigation Of The Year,

"Workers plugged cables in backwards into a spare power unit used aboard the shuttle. That damaged the equipment valued at nearly a half- million dollars."

July shuttle launch starting to look iffy (with chart), Orlando Sentinel

"NASA's plans to launch space shuttle Discovery from July 1-19 are no sure thing. The shuttle processing chart below from Tuesday's "noon board" meeting shows some of the reasons why. There is little to no margin in the time required to close out work on the external fuel tank before flight and mate it to the shuttle's solid rocket boosters. But perhaps a bigger potential obstacle is the new "tin whiskers" issue."

Editor's note: In the meantime, hallway talk has been heard at NASA of a slip to September. Also, given that a success-driven launch schedule (with no additional long pauses between missions) is required if NASA has any chance of meeting the 16 launch goal i.e. 2 launches in 2006, 4 in 2007, 4 in 2008, 4 in 2009, 3 in 2010 (plus Hubble somewhere), options are being increasingly evaluated for what the most stable (early) end configuration for the ISS is if additional shuttle flights are cut back - or simply don't happen in time before the 2010 cut off. Announces Launch - $3 Internet Skill-Game Wins Trip to Space

" announced today the launch of their much anticipated internet skill-game, offering winners a trip to space aboard a Rocketplane. The game costs three dollars for an entry, and is conducted in a tournament style. SpaceShot's new game represents a new era both in private space travel and online gaming."

Editor's note:Airbus is visiting NASA LaRC today. What follows is the day's itinerary:

Editor's note: What follows below is the strange sequence of steps NASA Headquarters has decided to take with regard to funding for NASA's Astrobiology Program. In a nutshell, NASA officials publicy stated last week that they were going to add money back to the previously-cut Astrobiology program. Then, at an internal meeting 3 days later, they changed their mind - but did not tell anyone. Only a week after the erroneous public remarks were made did they say anything - and then they only did so via an obscure update on a NASA website that one needs to be guided to in order to find. Once again, NASA has demonstrated its lack of concern for the interests of its research community and has made a mockery of its new communications policy by ignoring its core intent and purpose.

False alarms scrub airlock camp out, Reuters

"Astronauts Bill McArthur and Jeffrey Williams retired to the U.S. airlock module Monday night for what was expected to be an undisturbed night. But loud alarms rang out twice during the night due to a software glitch that falsely detected low levels of carbon dioxide. NASA cancelled the camp out at 12:43 a.m. EDT (5:43 a.m. British time), said spokesman Kyle Herring."

JP Aerospace: $100 Space Ad

"These "ads at the edge of the world" are on a platform carried aloft by high altitude weather balloons. During the flight on board, cameras take pictures of the ads with the blackness of space and the curvature of the Earth in the background. In the past, weather balloons have conjured up images of UFOs; now, images of commerce are being created. After the balloons reach 100,000 feet, they are released, and the platform descends to Earth by parachute."

Mars challenge is protecting humans from long space travel and heavy metal ion bombardment, American Physiological Society

"Speaking as a veteran space traveler, [Jim] Pawelczyk noted that as currently envisioned, the Mars probe would take as little 13 months to a maximum of 30 months. "We run the possibility of losing nearly half the bone mineral in some regions of the body, which would make the astronauts' skeletons the equivalent of a 100-year-old person," he said. Such fragile bones could fractures, which would be a most unwelcome challenge."

Here Comes China

Chinese space official lays out exploration plans, Reuters

"Describing his meeting with Griffin, Luo said he talked about how open the United States was on his first visit in 1980. "At that time I found the U.S. was very open, and in the 1990s and now, it's the other way around," he said. "I think one country, if it's open, is going to have progress, and if it's closed, then it's going to be left behind."

DeLay to Announce Resignation From House, AP

"Leader Tom Delay intends to resign from Congress within weeks, closing out a career that blended unflinching conservatism with a bare-knuckled political style."

Editor's note: So much for the effect of Mike Griffin's tacit endorsement...

Date: Mon, 03 Apr 2006 16:47:03 -0400
Subject: The Administrator's Remarks on March 24
Point of Contact: Dean Acosta, Office of Public Affairs, (202) 358-1400

The Administrator's Remarks on March 24

On March 30, 2006, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin and Deputy Administrator Shana Dale held a NASA Update. In response to a question, the administrator offered to provide to NASA employees an excerpt from the speech he gave at the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement Foundation Banquet on March 24.

The NASA General Counsel has determined that it would not be appropriate to distribute this excerpt through NASA INC. However, the speech has been the subject of several media reports, and public interest in the administrator's remarks has made it appropriate to release this excerpt to the press. Employees who are interested in this matter may refer to those accounts for details.

Editor's note: What could possibly be wrong with distributing the comments made by the Administrator of NASA - coments made in an official capacity as an invited quest at this event? Did Griffin do something that was not "appropriate"? Moreover, this memo tells employees that they have to go to some external media source to find out what their boss said while on the job. Yet NASA routinely publishes transcripts of Griffin's appearances at many other speaking events.

In other words, NASA can tell its employees in an official memo that it can't distribute the text - yet simultaneously, in the very same memo, NASA is allowed to mention the event and the existence of a transcript (which it can't release to them); that NASA is going to give that transcript (in an official capacity) to reporters so that news outlets can publish it; and then tell employees that they can find that transcript in locations external to the agency.

Please tell me how such a convoluted chain of informing employees is, in any way, keeping with the spirit of a new, efficient, and more open communications policy? What is Griffin afraid of? This is just goofy.

Participants at AIAA Capitol Hill Forum Call for Congress to Appropriately Fund NASA Space Life Science Research

"The event closed with a call to action during which the panel participants and attendees called for Congress to provide level funding for NASA life science research, with a top level increase to the NASA budget of $38 million over the President's budget submission."

AIAA Information Paper: Restore and Sustain Our National Space Life Sciences Research Capability

"The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) is deeply concerned about the potential destruction of the U.S. space life sciences research community. The human exploration element within the administration's Vision for Space Exploration is dependent on this community to extend a human presence, as proposed, beyond Earth orbit."

Editor's note: In the webcast last Thursday Mike Griffin made it very clear that he wanted to release this transcript and Dean Acosta said it would be done. Well, it has been more than 4 days and this short excerpt has not been posted on NASA's website - you can only find it here (below) on NASA Watch. As such, you really have to wonder if anyone at PAO is actually committed to better communications when such a simple task - one which would serve to better communicate what was said on a controversial topic - can't even be accomplished.

In addition, contrary to what a questioner from JPL suggested, NASA Watch did not quote Mike Griffin. Rather, I repeated a portion of what a newspaper had printed - clearly labeled as such. I was not at the event - and NASA had told me there was no recording of the event - so how could I quote Mike Griffin?

Finally, as to Mike Griffin's claim that no one sought to get a clarification from him about his remarks: totally false. On 29 March I sent an email request to Dean Acosta and Dave Mould making a very specific request for a transcript. Dean Acosta called me back a few hours later (4:37 pm EST to be exact) to say that there was no recording or transcript but that he had specifically spoken about this topic with Mike Griffin. I posted all of this on NASA Watch the day before this webcast (see this posting).

Editor's 30 March note: Dean Acosta just sent me this excerpt at 5:28 pm EST. Contrary to the impression Mike Griffin gave at the NASA employee update, there is not an transcript of the entire event in NASA's possession, just this small portion. Why NASA sat on this for more than 24 hours utterly escapes me - unless they were afraid of what people might think once they read it. Well, based on the words below, this strikes me as someone saying that they hope that Rep. Delay stays in Congress. Seems like a tacit endorsement to me.

J-2X Procurement Begins

NASA MSFC Solicitation: J-2X Design, Development, Test and Evaluation

"NASA/MSFC has a requirement for the design, development, test, and evaluation (DDT&E) of an engine to support the Crew Launch Vehicle (CLV) Upper Stage and the Cargo Launch Vehicle (CaLV) Earth Departure Stage (EDS). The engine, a J-2 (Saturn Heritage engine) derivative, will be a 250,000 pound thrust class human-rated engine and is planned to support a human launch of the CLV in 2012. The baseline DDT&E effort will require the delivery of seven development and qualification engines with two spares, two development test flight engines, and one human flight engine."

Click on image to enlarge [Other images]

NASA's Guinea Pig,

"I'm currently participating in the NASA-sponsored bed-rest study, and so far I haven't been out of bed in five and a half weeks. (The entire study runs 12 weeks.) I am on complete bed rest, and my feet haven't touched the ground in over a month."

Editor's note: Erin is certainly doing her part for the VSE! I certainly hope that all NASA Watch readers visit Erin's Blog to say hello - and also to say "thank you".

Click on image to enlarge. This graphic showing Asteroid Itokawa and the ISS - to scale - illustrates two things: how big a small asteroid is in comparision to the ISS, and how large the ISS is in comparison to a small asteroid. Given the size of NEOs that may threaten Earth, this graphic also serves to show how much hardware one might have to put into space to deter such an object were it deemed to be an imminent threat to Earth. Asteroid 99942 (Apophis), the object of great interest to the B612 Foundation as a potential impactor, has an estimated diameter of 320 meters - somewhat smaller than Itokawa.

Historic Japanese Asteroid Data Amaze Researchers, Aviation Week

"As an Earth-crossing asteroid, Itokawa has a reasonably high statistical chance of striking Earth in a million or more years from now, JAXA says."

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: In 2 weeks it will have been a year since DART's mission. Why hasn't there been any word as to when the DART Mishap Investigation Board will issue its findings? The results of the investigation have actually been known by NASA for quite some time. Yet another thing they'd rather just sit on.

Making Up for Lost Time in Space, NY Times

"While the on-again, off-again nature of the project hasn't affected the [Dawn] spacecraft itself it sits half-built at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., it has put many of the lab's workers on a roller coaster ride. Two-thirds of the people working on Dawn had been assigned to other projects; they will now be moved back to the mission, said D. C. Agle, a spokesman at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory."

Is NASA in Outer Space? Not After a Surprise Round of Budget Cuts, Washington Post

"Something's broken at NASA if such important and forward-looking goals as studying Europa's ocean and searching for planets with signs of liquid water elsewhere in our galaxy are canceled in favor of programs that are clearly on their way out. Congress should direct the agency to restore its science programs, and it should establish a firewall protecting them from the fiscal demands of crewed spaceflight."

JSC Today: Program Logos and Other Emblems

"Therefore, no other identifiers, such as NASA center identifiers or logos or any other type of graphic representation for any project, program, office, experiment, unmanned missions, payloads and others, will be authorized for use on NASA communications materials. The only exception is astronaut crew emblems. These emblems may be designed by the crew members to be used on items specific to that particular mission, such as crew clothing/uniforms, lapel pins, press kits and crew lithographs."

Editor's note: Every several years some bored civil servant at NASA PAO tries to play logo cop. The inevitable result is that all such "directives" are promptly ignored. And of course, the Astronaut office gets special treatment.

If you need proof of flagrant ignoring of such PAO guidelines, just take a look at the New Horizons and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter being integrated with their launch vehicles - logos for missions and contractors appear in clear violation of earlier NASA PAO logo rules supposedly in force way back in 2000.

Then again, I guess PAO has gotten used to logo policing given that a certain previous Administrator did have a certain meatball fascination, of sorts.

What's next? Retroactive logo upgrades for existing spacecraft? If this silliness goes on I guess I may have to bring Worm Watch back - but expand its scope to cover all unacceptable logos. For starters, the STEREO and Kepler mission websites need to purge some unnacceptable logos.

VOYAGER 1 received by AMSAT-DL group - Space probe VOYAGER 1 successfully received

"On March 31st, 2006 an AMSAT-DL / IUZ team received the American space probe VOYAGER 1 with the 20m antenna in Bochum. The distance was 14.7 billion km. This is a new record for AMSAT-DL and IUZ Bochum."

Former general defends 2002 launch - Donald Pettit disputes NASA investigators' claims, Orlando Sentinel

"Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Donald Pettit this week defended his decision to proceed with a June 2002 space-shuttle launch despite "no go" votes from two top safety officers. While acknowledging the move was unprecedented, Pettit denied the public was exposed to added risk as a result. He said he carefully weighed a number of factors, including unspecified potential security threats nine months after the 9-11 terrorist attacks, before giving the go-ahead for liftoff."

Porn Raid at NASA HQ

Senior NASA Manager's Office Searched for Child Porn, AP

NASA HQ Raided In Kiddie Porn Probe, The Smokking Gun

"The Washington headquarters of NASA was raided this week as part of a kiddie porn probe targeting an executive with the space agency, The Smoking Gun has learned."



Monthly Archives

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries written by Keith Cowing in April 2006.

Keith Cowing: March 2006 is the previous archive.

Keith Cowing: May 2006 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.