Keith Cowing: May 2007 Archives

Bush Calls for Global Emissions Goals, AP

"So my proposal is this: By the end of next year, America and other nations will set a long-term global goal for reducing greenhouse gases. To develop this goal, the United States will convene a series of meetings of nations that produce the most greenhouse gasses, including nations with rapidly growing economies like India and China. "Each country would establish midterm management targets and programs that reflect their own mix of energy sources and future energy needs," he said. "In the course of the next 18 months, our nations will bring together industry leaders from different sectors of our economies, such as power generation, and alternative fuels and transportation."

Full NPR Interview Transcript: NASA Administrator Michael Griffin Not Sure That Global Warming Is A Problem

"DR. GRIFFIN: I have no doubt that global - that a trend of global warming exists. I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with. To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of earth's climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had, and that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn't change."

Editor's Note: It would certainly seem that Mike Griffin thinks that what President Bush is proposing is "not worth westling with".

Editor's Note: I was supposed to be at a media briefing with Scott Horowitz at NASA HQ today - right now. But chores associated with the morning's news stories threw me off schedule. Also, for some reason, ESMD PAO refuses to allow telephone hookups for these events (as nearly all other PAO events ususally do) so I was unable to listen in. The topic was advertised as being "Management 101". Oh well, I guess that would have been interesting. I suppose I could have asked him about Marsha Ivins' role in his organization - and her management style.

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin Not Sure That Global Warming Is A Problem, National Public Radio

The comments on this topic, as well as those of our Administrator, are an embarrassment to me as a NASA Earth Scientist.

The issue is not whether or not the Earth's climate has changed in the geologic past due to "external" factors (including solar output, tectonic outgassing, etc).

The issue is that (a) current climate change is proceeding at an rate unprecidented in the geologic record; and (b) our civilization is adapted to an extremely narrow range of climate conditions. Mike Griffin is simply wrong when he states that some other climate could be more "optimal" - climate has been remarkably stable for the last 8000 years, and most societies around the globe are adapated to that static condition. Yes, a warming climate could enhance wheat production in northern Russia, but it would likely be detrimental to crops in Africa and (by the way) the Western Plains of the US.

The claim that "climate has always changed, therefore this is nothing new" ignores both the dramatic rate of climate change during the last century, as well as our collective dependence on the current climate regime.

I do agree that NASA's charter does include regulatory aspects that would dictate CO2 emissions. However, the Administrator's comments were a classic example of "passive agressive" leadership. In denial that global warming is a serious issue, Griffin grudgingly agrees to carry out research without any real enthusiasm. Imagine instead if he actually welcomed the challenge of grappling with climate change as a motivating force for his agency, and a national priority... what a difference that would be!



"MR. GRIFFIN: I have no doubt that global -- that a trend of global warming exists. I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with. To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of earth's climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had and that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn't change. First of all, I don't think it's within the power of human beings to assure that the climate does not change, as millions of years of history have shown, and second of all, I guess I would ask which human beings - where and when - are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that's a rather arrogant position for people to take."

NASA Statement in Response to Inquiries Related to NPR Press Release

Editor's 30 may 10:00 pm EDT Update: Yawn. This is typical for NASA. Griffin reiterates and expands upon the non-controversial part of his interview and yet utterly avoids comment on the words he uttered that are certain to raise eyebrows on Thursday morning. Meanwhile, reading comments such as those made (below) by the President's Science Advisor, with Griffin's recent comments in mind, I guess Griffin must think that Marburger - and the White House - are wasting their time on this topic.

Editor's 31 May 11:45 am EDT Update: Then, of course, NASA PAO itself seems to be at odds with Griffin's official statements - this press release "NASA Research Finds That Earth's Climate is Approaching "Dangerous" Point" just went out from NASA GSFC PAO.

The U.S. Climate Change Vision, OSTP Director John H. Marburger III

"Climate science initiatives are critically important for the kind of long-range planning that must be done region by region around the world to rise to the challenge of climate change. Even modest advances in our understanding of weather and climate can have a positive impact. The United States is spending nearly $2 billion per year on climate science within a well-defined strategic plan, developed and reviewed in consultation with the international scientific community and the National Academy of Sciences."

NASA's Top Official Questions Global Warming, ABC

"Griffin's comments immediately drew stunned reaction from James Hansen, NASA's top climate scientist at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York. "It's an incredibly arrogant and ignorant statement," Hansen told ABC News. "It indicates a complete ignorance of understanding the implications of climate change." Hansen believes Griffin's comments fly in the face of well-established scientific knowledge that hundreds of NASA scientists have contributed to. "It's unbelievable," said Hansen. "I thought he had been misquoted. It's so unbelievable."

House Science and Technology Committee Chairman Chairman Responds to NASA Administrator's Comments on NPR

"I remain concerned that NASA is not doing as much as needs to be done on climate change data collection and research. Based on NASA's own five-year budget plan, the agency will be unable to start any of the new Earth observations initiatives recommended by the National Academies for the foreseeable future. That's not going to get us where we need to be in our understanding of climate change. NASA needs to do more."

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2007 NASA Honor Awards Ceremony at JSC

"The JSC community is invited to attend the 2007 NASA Honor Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, June 5, 2007, at 1:00 p.m. in the Teague Auditorium. This annual ceremony recognizes distinguished individuals and groups from across JSC and the surrounding area for their outstanding contributions to the Nation's space program."

"NASA SPACE FLIGHT MEDAL ... Lisa M. Nowak [NASA Space Flight Medal (flight crew members) An award givenfor significant achievement or service during individual participation as a civilian or military astronaut, pilot, mission specialist, payload specialist, or other space flight participant in a space flight mission.]"

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2007 NASA Honor Awards Ceremony at JSC

"NASA DISTINGUISHED SERVICE MEDAL ... Marsha S. Ivins [NASA Distinguished Service Medal (Government employees only) The highest honor that NASA confers. It may be awarded to any person in the Federal service who, by distinguished service, ability, or courage, has personally made a contribution representing substantial progress to the NASA mission. The contribution must be so extraordinary that other forms of recognition would be inadequate.]"

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Editor's note: This letter (500 KB PDF) was written by a NASA subcontractor to JSC management in February 2007 regarding experiences on Constellation outreach and public relations.

Multiple NASA sources have authenticated this document - yet I have deleted information that would easily identify the author. This letter has been making the rounds, via faxed photocopies of photocopies, so I am certain it won't be that heard for someone to identify the author if they have a mind to do so. I just do not want to make it easier for that to happen than I need to. The reason: people who speak out at NASA often find future work prospects suddenly evaporating. Besides, it is the content of this letter that is important, not the identity of its author.

I find myself in near total agreement with the opinions expressed by the author with regard to the dysfunctional way NASA conducts public affairs and outreach. As to the problems the agency has in carrying such activities out, the author describes them perfectly. The author also offers some intelligent analysis and solutions that NASA would do well to consider.

Several years ago, something called "One NASA" appeared on everyone's to do list at NASA. It sounded great - for about 10 seconds - until you realized what it actually called for: the agency acting as one cohesive, integrated entity with all people and organizations helping one another so as to speak with a unified voice. In other words, everyone was supposed to put aside parochial issues and work for the common good.

We all know that NASA is utterly incapable of doing this - especially when it comes to PAO and outreach. Headquarters directorates, programs, and agency field centers all have their own outreach efforts (and budgets) over which PAO or Headquarters (the 9th floor) itself has little or no oversight. And none of these things are ever integrated properly with other projects and programs resulting in needless conflicts and duplications.

And of course, everyone has their little petty political games to play so as to posture themselves, their project, and their field center in a position so as to benefit the most and/or thwart others from doing so. This letter outlines a classic example of how NASA simply cannot get out of its own way. Marsha Ivin's behavior is utterly unprofessional and inexcusable.

I went back and forth as to whether I should post this. I eventually decided that the document already had a wide distribution. But much more importantly, I feel that the author has written some important things that need to be heard. Will posting this make the agency and some people who work there look bad? I guess so. But so long as these problems are allowed to fester unattended - things will only get worse.

The VSE will call upon every resource - and every person - at NASA to contribute together as a team. The activities described in this letter are anything but teamwork.

To be certain, there are people at PAO and Strategic Communications at NASA HQ who are trying to do the right thing and are addressing some of these lingering issues. But if, in the end, NASA is incapable of moving beyond the petty antics and confused messages that are outlined in this letter, the VSE will never result in one single piece of functional hardware.

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NSS Chief: Can NASA and Bush Get It Done?, WIred

WN: Does space exploration depend on an injection of energy from citizens and entrepreneurs? I'd guess more Americans have heard of Burt Rutan than have heard of Bush's New Visions for Space Exploration.

George Whitesides: (laughs) I think you are right. Absolutely the future of space is participatory. One of the things that NASA needs to break out of is rigid control over product. It really needs to throw opens its processes, its produces and the results of its exploration to the broad population, and not just the elite of science. Make it feel like it not just "the space program," which is over there, but an effort that we are all part of. I don't actually think New Visions will work if NASA pursues a rigid, top-down approach to development.

Probe of NASA case widens, Daily Press

"A probe of NASA's embattled inspector general widened Thursday when lawmakers said they plan to request a criminal investigation into the destruction of a video of a key NASA staff meeting."

Editor's note: The following was in the supplemental appropriations for NASA that the President signed yesterday:

H.R.2206

U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Care, Katrina Recovery, and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act, 2007 (Engrossed Amendment as Agreed to by House)

NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION - exploration capabilities

For an additional amount for `Exploration Capabilities' for necessary expenses related to the consequences of Hurricane Katrina, $20,000,000, to remain available until September 30, 2009.

GENERAL PROVISIONS--THIS CHAPTER

SEC. 4202. Up to $48,000,000 of amounts made available to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in Public Law 109-148 and Public Law 109-234 for emergency hurricane and other natural disaster-related expenses may be used to reimburse hurricane-related costs incurred by NASA in fiscal year 2005.

Editor's note: NASA Ames Research Director Pete Worden spoke this morning at ISDC (International Space Development Conference) in Dallas. He also spoke - simultaneously - in Second Life. The virtual meeting area was more or less filled to capacity. Among the items on the stage was no other than Flat Gorby making his Second Life debut. Screengrabs - 1 - 2 - 3

Billy-O Update

Editor's note: Reliable sources report that astronaut Bill Oefelein will be leaving NASA's Astronaut Corps and will be heading back to the Navy -- soon.

Statement of Michael Wholley at House Hearing on NASA IG Investigation

"Sometime either later that day or early the next day, I honestly cannot recall which, I reviewed relevant portions of the Federal Records Act (FRA) and, in particular, the definition of what constituted a record. I also briefly reviewed the Freedom of Information Act. I concluded that these were not "records" for purposes of the FRA, but also concluded that if they were retained and filed they could become "records" by virtue of that retention. From my perspective, and as I stated to the subcommittee staff, I did not believe it wise to have these in any way become "records" subject to release under the Freedom of Information Act. This was a closed meeting, specifically directed to not be recorded, and these DVDs were not Agency records at that time. I personally made the decision to destroy them, and I did so by breaking them into pieces and throwing them in the trash."

Editor's note: Earth to Mike: The moment the recording began of activities occuring at NASA the recording was a "record" of those events. The final recording was then copied i.e. formally stored and duplicated. Once completed the copies were retained and stored in a specific location. Whether or not these recordings should have been made is not the point. The fact that they existed is. These recordings became "records" before you even got hold of them. "Retention" of that record had already occurred. As such, you destroyed a record of government activity - one made by the government.

Reader note: "Maybe Wholley should have labelled the recordings "Apollo 11 Video - Original Live Feed from Lunar Surface". They would have been promptly mis-filed and lost forever."

Lunar robotics office staying put, NASA says, Huntsville Times

"Griffin sent Shelby's office a letter Wednesday saying that the office would remain at Marshall and that several other programs, including a NASA education program and a future space telescope mission, would be included in the budget. Reversing the decision could become a problem for Griffin and his successors, and "it opens up their decisions for further second-guessing," said Keith Cowing, who runs NASAWatch.com. "It makes a joke of any leadership on Mike Griffin's part if he makes a decision and then he reverses it because Senator Shelby or (Rep. Bud) Cramer tell him to back off," Cowing said. "How can NASA administrators actually manage if they constantly have Congress reversing decisions they don't like?"

Statement of Michael Wholley at House Hearing on NASA IG Investigation

"I have spent my professional life trying to resolve problems and trying to make things better. Despite my honest and considered efforts in the matter of the destruction of the DVDs, I regret that I have failed to do so in this regard."

Statement of Paul Morrell at House Hearing on NASA IG Investigation

"It was and remains my strong belief that the Office of Public Affairs had no legitimate reason or authority to request, copy, or possess a recording of what was a non-public affairs related meeting between the administrator and the OIG staff. Furthermore, it was and remains my very strong belief that participants in a closed meeting have the right to expect that the contents of that meeting will remain secure and private even when they know the meeting is being recorded internally. It was my very strong concern that possession of this recording by Public Affairs compromised the foregoing."

Sensenbrenner Concerned Over Handling of NASA IG Investigation, Tape Destruction

"Perhaps more unfortunately, we also need to understand why recordings of that meeting were destroyed. I believe in open government and I am very concerned to hear that a government employee was beating a videocassette with a plank and an Agency's General Counsel physically destroyed a stack of DVDs."

Opening Statement By Chairman Brad Miller

"NASA officials, Mr. Wholly and Paul Morrell, knew that there were questions about the propriety of the meeting, they knew that the Cobb matter was the subject of interest by the oversight committees of the House and Senate, and they knew that the DVD of the meeting would be subject to disclosure, and Mr. Wholly made a conscious decision to destroy the DVDs. It is impossible not to conclude the worst from that conduct."

Subcommittee Investigates Destruction of Video Records by Senior NASA Officials During IG Probe

"This is the only known instance of the general counsel for a federal agency admitting to personally destroying agency documents to avoid their disclosure."

Hearing Charter: NASA Administrator's Speech to Office of Inspector General Staff, the Subsequent Destruction of Video Records, and Associated Matters

"The actions by staff at the highest levels of NASA to physically destroy records of a questionable meeting between the Administrator and the OIG staff points to a serious lack of public accountability. It is unprecedented for a general counsel to personally and knowingly destroy agency records so that they cannot be obtained by Congress or the public. Apologies referring to the use of "stupid pills" are not acceptable for a person in such a position of public trust and responsibility."

Supplemental Hearing Documents (internal email, notes etc.)

NASA official grilled on destruction of meeting videos, Government Executive

"Wholley testified that he felt the meeting could hurt the administrator. In an e-mail from Wholley to Morrell sent prior to the videocast meeting and distributed at the hearing by committee staff, Wholley wrote that he was concerned that such a meeting could only make Griffin look bad. "I see no 'upside' for Mike [Griffin] in the proposed [course of action], and I do see a downside," Wholley wrote. He warned that if Griffin spoke critically of the IG, it would lend credibility to the complaints, while if he praised the IG, it would shift the controversy to himself."

NASA's chief lawyer under fire, Orlando Sentinel

"U.S. Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., R-Wisc., lashed into Wholley for destroying public records and said he's willing to sign a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales with Miller requesting a criminal investigation. "I think it's very clear the tape was a public record," Sensenbrenner said, brandishing a copy of federal law on preserving public documents. "It's also a crime to destroy public records."

Father of 'Origin of Life' Chemistry at UC San Diego Dies

"Stanley L. Miller, an emeritus professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of California, San Diego whose famous laboratory experiments in 1952 demonstrated how the simple organic compounds considered necessary for the origin of life could have been synthesized on the primitive Earth, died yesterday. He was 77."

NASA Funds Universities' New Experiments for Suborbital Flights

"NASA has selected four universities to conduct suborbital scientific research that is a new step in reinvigorating the agency's sounding rocket science program. Managed out of NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Va., the sounding rocket program offers a low-cost test bed for new scientific studies and techniques, scientific instrumentation and spacecraft technology. Launches take place world-wide, including from Wallops, the White Sands Missile Range, N.M., and Poker Flat Research Range, Alaska."

HP Wins NASA Contract Worth up to $5.6 Billion

"HP has been awarded a seven-year contract worth up to $5.6 billion by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to provide a wide range of technology as needed by U.S. federal government agencies. HP products to be provided under the indefinite delivery indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract, called the NASA Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement (SEWP) IV Class 5, include desktops, workstations and blade PCs with Linux and Unix capabilities, servers and printers, among other offerings."

Editor's note: The following selection is repeated - verbatim - from an ongoing "Ask the Administrator" dialog with Mike Griffin, located on InsideNASA, and can be viewed by anyone at NASA:

Question(s): OCFO has initiated (probably in response to agency financial audits) a series of internal controls designed to provide oversight on routine financial functions. I realize that OMB requires agencies to ensure that effective internal controls are in place and functional; it just seems to me that no one is concerned about the cost of some of the controls implemented.

Snubbed by U.S., China Finds New Space Partners, NY Times

"Michael D. Griffin, NASA's administrator, did signal a thaw in relations when he visited China last fall. But critics say the American strategy has backfired. A recent critique of the Bush administration's space policy blamed Washington for alienating space allies with a "go it alone" philosophy."

An Alien Ocean

NASA Cassini Image: Coasts and Drowned Mountains on Titan

"On May 12, 2007, Cassini completed its 31st flyby of Saturn's moon Titan, which the team calls T30. The radar instrument obtained this image showing the coastline and numerous island groups of a portion of a large sea, consistent with the larger sea seen by the Cassini imaging instrument (See Seeing Farther North). Like other bodies of liquid seen on Titan, this feature reveals channels, islands, bays, and other features typical of terrestrial coastlines, and the liquid, most likely a combination of methane and ethane, appears very dark to the radar instrument."

NOAA SATOPS Morning Report: Wednesday, May 23, 2007

"NOTE: NOAA-14 is scheduled to be decommissioned today (5/23/2007) at 10:44 EDT."

McCain's temper back on campaign's front-burner, LA Times

"One bureaucrat who felt McCain's wrath was former NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin, who was summoned by McCain in 1999, not long after a $125-million probe crashed on Mars because of confusion over the use of English and metric units. McCain's Senate Commerce Committee had oversight over NASA.

"McCain went ballistic the moment Goldin walked into McCain's office," said a participant in the meeting who spoke on condition of anonymity because he still worked in the government arena. "He was shouting and using profanity, saying he was sick of NASA's screw-ups. It went on for a few minutes, and then he kicked Goldin out of the office."

Goldin started walking down the hallway but was called back to the senator's office by a McCain aide. "When he came back in, McCain started yelling at Goldin all over again. And then McCain kicked Goldin out a second time before he ever said a word," the source said."

Editor's note: The following selection is repeated - verbatim - from an ongoing "Ask the Administrator" dialog with Mike Griffin, located on InsideNASA, and can be viewed by anyone at NASA:

Question(s): Why does NASA allow such a sloppy dress code?? I have actually been asked that question by visitors as well as people in the community. To me it is downright embarrassing. Our contractors do a much better job! From:Anonymous,Johnson Space Center

Response (on 31-Jan-2007): It would be embarrassing to me to prescribe standards as to how others should dress.

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NEO Report Update

Editor's note: The entire NASA report is now available at the NASA FOIA website. Too bad it took FOIA requests to get it released. Too bad as well that you have to look for it on NASA's FOIA website (not a frequent hot spot on the web for the general public) or rely on websites like NASA Watch to point out its location. Congress directed NASA to do this study. Moreover, this is an important topic. As such, a link should be prominently placed on NASA's home page. Otherwise, the somewhat incorrect perception that NASA is trying to hide this report is going to become harder to refute.

Reader note: "Today we (JPL folks) learned that Rep. Rush Holt has taken up our cause and has asked the Secretary of Commerce to explain why so much personal information is needed for the new HSPD-12 badging process. Text is here.

In addition, I attended today's standing-room-only meeting to discuss the new badging process to JPL'ers and the presenters refused to discuss several key issues regarding how the data is to be handled, who has access to the data, and why the release form allows investigators access to *any* records including financial and medical. It was made very clear to the employees that if we didn't "voluntarily" give them the information they seek, that we wouldn't have a job come October 29th."

LSU to Host International Symposium on Risk and Exploration, LSU

"Louisiana State University announced today that it will serve as the host for a symposium devoted to examining how risk factors into the exploration of - and beyond - our home planet. Titled "Risk and Exploration: Earth As A Classroom," this event will be held on the LSU campus from Oct. 28-30 with the financial sponsorship of the Northrop Grumman Corp. This three-day event is modeled after a previous symposium, "Risk and Exploration: Earth, Sea, and the Stars," held in Monterey, Calif., in September 2004."

NASA: Small Plane Won't Disrupt Launch, AP

"A pilot in a single-engine plane entered restricted air space over the Kennedy Space Center and was escorted down Tuesday, officials said. The incident did not disrupt the planned launch of space shuttle Atlantis next month. The plane "was within sight of the launch pad," said NASA spokesman George Diller."

Editor's note: The House IG hearings have morphed again. Last week, the Senate Subcommittee on Space, Aeronautics, and Related Sciences was removed as a co-sponsor of what was to have been a joint event. At the same time the House added some additional things to throw at NASA just as the Senate dropped out. Now, the witness list has been published and curiously, everyone except the NASA IQ himself is set to testify. How odd that the House won't even give the NASA IG the chance to defend himself in an open hearing.

Witnesses:
Panel 1
Ms. Evelyn R. Klemstine, Assistant IG for Auditing, Office of Inspector General, NASA
Mr. Kevin Winters, Assistant IG for Investigations, Office of Inspector General, NASA

Panel 2
Mr. Paul Morrell, Chief of Staff, Office of the Administrator, NASA
Mr. Michael Wholley, General Counsel, NASA

Let's Throw Everything at NASA and See What Sticks, previous post

Editor's note: The following selection is repeated - verbatim - from an ongoing "Ask the Administrator" dialog with Mike Griffin, located on InsideNASA, and can be viewed by anyone at NASA:

Question(s): I am very proud of working for NASA and I thank you and your senior managers for setting a positive tone and improving morale since 2005. For us to succeed, I believe the Agency needs to put more emphasis on long term, basic research and maintain our history of conducting innovative research. Unfortunately, over the last several years funding for basic research has been drastically cut for one reason or another. As a result, a lot of good quality research and ideas generated at GRC are not being patented, which is a great disservice to the tax payers and the Nation.

How NASA Screwed Up (And Four Ways to Fix It), Wired

"For a sense of how out of whack NASA priorities have become, briefly ponder that plan. Because the Apollo missions suggested there was little of pressing importance to be learned on the moon, NASA has not landed so much as one automated probe there in three decades. In fact, the rockets used by the Apollo program were retired 30 years ago; even space enthusiasts saw no point in returning to the lunar surface. But now, with the space station a punch line and the shuttles too old to operate much longer, NASA suddenly decides it needs to restore its moon-landing capability in order to build a "permanent" crewed base."

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Earth Science Update

Earth Science Isn't Slipping at NASA, Mike Grififn, Washington Post

"The reality is far different. NASA's annual budget for Earth and space science is more than $5.3 billion, almost 32 percent of our expenditures, up from 24 percent in the early 1990s, and 17 percent during the Apollo era."

The Planet NASA Needs to Explore, Washington Post

"NASA's budget for science missions has declined 30 percent in the past six years, and that trend is expected to continue. As more dollars are reallocated to prepare for missions back to the moon and Mars, sophisticated new satellites to observe the Earth will be delayed, harming Earth sciences."

A conversation with Shana Dale, deputy administrator of NASA

"... Even cooler, when I got to Ames, in addition to the three (!) press people who joined Dale and me in a big conference room, I also got to speak with General S. Pete Worden, the relatively new head of Ames Research Center and a real force in the aerospace world. After the jump, the full transcript, lightly edited. I took out most of our hems and haws, but left in most of my halting questions. But if you want to hear every um and every recorder stutter, there are links to my digital recording below. It's, like, transparent, and stuff."

NASA Mars Rover Spirit Unearths Surprise Evidence of Wetter Past

"This is some of the best evidence Spirit has found for water at Gusev," said Albert Yen, a geochemist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. One possible origin for the silica could have been interaction of soil with acid vapors produced by volcanic activity in the presence of water. Another could have been from water in a hot spring environment. The latest discovery adds compelling new evidence for ancient conditions that might have been favorable for life, according to members of the rover science team. David Des Marais, an astrobiologist at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., said, "What's so exciting is that this could tell us about environments that have similarities to places on Earth that are clement for organisms."

Flat Gorby on Ice

Editor's note: Flat Gorby has also been sighted in the Canadian arctic. Luckily he is in a Mac laptop which should keep him nice and warm.

Alligator Captured Inside NASA KSC Building (photos)

Editor's note: From someone@nasa.gov: Hi Keith, I'd suggest that you call NASA public affairs to confirm this, but somewhere between KSC and JSC, the location of these photos apparently got promoted. I'm told that they were taken on May 14, at a receiving warehouse in the KSC industrial area, several miles south of the VAB. Gator encounters are a common occurrence here, given that we're situated in the middle of a wildlife refuge. Still, it's rare for them to venture inside.

Editor's note: We have another Flat Gorby sighting - this time he is helping www.triplerpets.org (they got the web address slightly wrong). This is "a grass roots effort of volunteers from across the country coming together to provide support for animals during crisis situations. The group was formed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, when there was a need for ongoing support in the communities of Coastal Mississippi."

Editor's note: Once again, it seems that NASA HQ and JSC PAO just cannot agree on whose version of a routine ISS status report gets released. Solution: they release both. Why the fuss? Well, JPL PAO complains that it cannot afford to give their employees cell phones with email capability (most kids walking home from Junior High have that) and other PAO organizations complain about looming budget cuts to other vital functions. Yet instead of trying to make their organization more efficient, PAO manages to find ways to make it less efficient. The following two versions of the 18 May 2007 ISS status report were issued within minutes of each other. The first one went out from JSC at 4:09:21 PM EDT. The NASA HQ version went out at 4:56:10 PM EDT.

Fred Wilshusen, Rocket Pioneer, dies at age 84, Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics

"Fred Wilshusen, rocket pioneer, died May 15, 2007, at the age of 84. Born in 1925 in Boulder, Colorado, Fred served in the Navy as a radar technician, patrolling the pacific coast for Japanese submarines in torpedo bombers, during WWII. After the war, he earned his Bachelor's degree in electrical engineering at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He joined the fledging Upper Air Laboratory at CU as a graduate student in 1956. ... Tell us your story about Fred in the LASP blog."

Subcommittee Focuses on Ensuring the Health and Vitality of NASA's Current and Future Workforce, House Science and Technology Committee

"The House Committee on Science and Technology's Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics today examined a range of National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) workforce issues identified by the recently released reports of two independent review panels. The Subcommittee's work is aimed at ensuring the health and vitality of the NASA workforce in the 21st century."

- Opening Statement By Chairman Mark Udall
- Statement by Lee Stone
- Statement by David C. Black
- Statement by John G. Stewart
- Statement by Toni Dawsey

Editor's note: Several weeks ago NASA posted a number of new artist's depictions of Orion and Ares hardware online. I have been getting emails from readers with these images complete with other website's credit/watermark attached as if the images were exclusive or unreleased. They're not. I suppose I should have posted these links back at the beginning of May. You can find them here: 1 2 3 4

Reader's note: "So just out of curiosity, how does the abort motor plume curve like this without any aero: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/vision/technology/hires/jsc2007e20991.jpg (Apparently copy-paste is not just for word processors any more ...)"

Editor's note: "Flat Gorby is also onboard station, or at least a dog who looks like him. I've attached an image [enlarge] that was a screen capture at the end of test operations for the Capillary Flow Experiments Vane Gap 2 experiment. The test vessels are mounted to the MWA and one of the ISS PD100 camcorders is positioned to record the data. The camera is typically left on after testing is complete, including the "fly around" when it is re-positioned back to the end of the US lab module as one of the end node cameras."

Editor's note: The following selection is repeated - verbatim - from an ongoing "Ask the Administrator" dialog with Mike Griffin, located on InsideNASA, and can be viewed by anyone at NASA:

Question(s): Why don't I know my counterparts in other centers, or at least have a link to a brief summary of their areas of expertise and their contact info? Why don't I know who else has bought, say latch valves or thrusters? Why don't I know what software they use at Glenn or JPL to do their dynamic interaction analysis? Why can't I read the design documents for other propulsion systems designed by or for NASA if I wanted to? I think we need a internal NASA wide website for trading analyses, contact points, analyses tools, vendor experiences, test results etc... I envision a "myspace" of NASA.

Gorby Update

Editor's note: The following excerpt regarding Sunita Williams' increasingly famous dog "Gorby" is from a live "ship to ship" conversation between the NEEMO 12 crew aboard the Aquarius habitat and Suni Williams aboard the International Space Station held on 17 May 2007:

Suni Williams/ISS: "I also want to say thank you so much for bringing Gorby with you. Its really cool to see him. You guys know I really miss him, I miss home - but up here its such a wonderful experience. But to see him there with you is pretty cool - so thank you so much."

Heidemarie M. Stefanyshyn-Piper/NEEMO: "Well, Suni, you should be getting an email - I passed it on to Shannon to send you. Yesterday we had our PAO event - and when we had it with Keith Cowing from NASA Watch [transcript]. He asked us 'who the dog was' [on the Aquarius refrigerator]. So we told him all about it - that it was your dog, at that it was "Flat Gorby". So, in the article he wrote, well, I think NEEMO got mentioned, but the rest of the article was all about Gorby. [Laughter] So now Gorby is a celebrity."

Witnesses Say That NASA Workforce Must Be Ready for Future Challenges, House Science and Technology Committee

"Dr. David Black, co-chair of the Committee on Meeting the Workforce Needs for the National Vision for Space Exploration at the National Research Council, summed up the current workforce challenge, saying, "NASA has too few program and project managers and systems engineers with the requisite experience in human spaceflight systems development to successfully oversee Vision for Space Exploration projects."

Lee Stone testifies before Congress, Ames Federal Employees Union

"As many of you have heard, our own VP of Legislative Affairs, Dr. Leland Stone, testified before the Subcommittee for Space & Aeronautics, a House subcommittee of the Space & Technology Committee. The hearing subject was, "Building and Maintaining a Healthy and Strong NASA Workforce". Lee represented IFPTE employees at NASA before the subcommittee and provided written testimony to the subcommittee. This is the second time he has testified before this subcommittee."

Audio of the hearing.
Lee's written testimony.

An Interview With the NASA NEEMO 12 Crew and Their Mascot "Flat Gorby", Transcript, SpaceRef

Editor's note: On Wednesday I did a short (5 minute) live interview with the NEEMO 12 crew from their Aquarius underwater habitat. As the interview before mine was being conducted, I noticed something rather curious on one of the Aquarius webcams: someone inside Aquarius was fiddling with a giant refrigerator magnet - one that features a nearly life-sized dog. When I asked what this was I was told that it is called "Flat Gorby". "Gorby" is ISS Expedition 15 astronaut Suni William's dog. According to Williams official bio: she has "a crazy Jack Russell Terrier named Gorby". My wife and I have two cats. I understand. Apparently the NEEMO folks have been taking Flat Gorby wherever they go.

Make your own Flat Gorby magnet ( new 1.2 MB hi res image) - and send us a picture of where Gorby ends up around the world.

Reader note: "I just watched the ship to ship call between ISS and Aquarius on NASA TV, and they were talking about your Gorby article on NASA watch. Heide mentioned that they took a closeup photo of Gorby on the NEEMO fridge and sent it to JSC to answer your request."

Editor's note: I never reveal my sources .... woof

Editor's note: I just learned that JPL PAO media reps do not have the ability to get email 24/7. According to a JPL PAO source, JPL simply "does not have the money to provide Blackberry's to their staff". First of all, please tell me just how much that would cost for the PR employees of an arm of NASA (albeit a contractor), all of whom use nasa.gov email addresses, whose parent organization manages a substantial portion of NASA's space missions. What happens if news breaks (and it does) after business hours? Secondly: Earth to JPL: it is now possible to get email on Treos and handheld devices other than Blackberry's - even really cheap phones. Call Rent-A-Geek and they will set it up for you. Thirdly: for an entity whose amazing people can reach across billions of miles to reprogram 30 year old spacecraft now travelling outside our solar system, this has just got to be plain embarassing. You guys want to help build the Interplanetary Internet - and your PAO staff shuts off email after hours?

Reader note: "Please do not post my name or email address, as JPL still shoots messengers. The JPL PAO excuse does not ring true. Virtually all JPL managers have, or have access to either Blackberries or Treos. The Treos seem to be more prevalent. Probably due to pricing. FWIW, almost everyone on my team has a Treo, and we are just worker bees. Also FWIW, it's inconvenient as hell to have a cell phone with a built in camera when you frequent places where cameras aren't allowed."

Reader note (a veteran space journalist): "Some PAO at several NASA centers have the addictive blackberries. I'd say JPL PAO doesn't want them. They are, by far, rank lowest in returning phone calls and setting up interviews of any PAO shop I've dealt with across NASA or DOD or even private industry. NASA HQ comes in second, but I believe JPL PAO people think if they just ignore it, then it will go away. So, if they are "reachable" 24/7 (or more than they are now) then it will probably just go away."

Editor's note: The following selection is repeated - verbatim - from an ongoing "Ask the Administrator" dialog with Mike Griffin, located on InsideNASA, and can be viewed by anyone at NASA:

Question(s): I would like to know why there are three GS-15's in my area with no supervisory status that have offices with doors. One is a Team Lead who went from a normal window size cube into an closed in office. The other two were removed from supervisory positions an made into "quasi" team leads but maintained their office style (moved and rebuilt) to allow room for the AA. Even though these individuals are staff personnel now and not management, they are still treated by some as management and I think this is because of the office surroundings. Is there a reason that they are not in individual cubes? From:Anonymous,Headquarters

Response (on 06-Apr-2007): I have no idea, and suggest you check within the framework of your Center line management structure. I would further suggest that, if you have time to worry about other peoples seating arrangements and office accoutrements, you need to seek out some additional work.

Editor's note: I just got this hearing update in an email from the House Science & Technology Committee. This is more than just a date and location change for this NASA OIG hearing - note the change in the name of the hearing. Note also that the Senate Subcommittee on Space, Aeronautics, and Related Sciences is no longer a co-sponsor of what was to have been a joint event. Curiously, the House has added some additional things to throw at NASA just as the Senate dropped out:

Editor's note: Have a look at the Winds website at NASA JPL. In the lower center of the page there is a link to "Lampson Concerned About Survival Of Vital Hurricane Tracking Satellite". Apparently (and I am giving them the benefit of the doubt here) the webmaster was unaware that his not an original "article", but rather, it is a press release from Rep. Lampson's office - someone who has been critical of the Bush Administration's space policies. If you go to this link there is nothing to note that it is indeed a press release, rather, it says what it was written by "staff writers". The full press release - labeled as such - can be found here at SpaceRef.com. Lampson's office has not put the press release online yet. I have asked JPL PAO and the responsible officials for this website what their policy is with regard to linking to external news sources and political press releases, but they have not responded. Indeed, they have updated this page since I initially sent my request. One would think that NASA's Office of Legislative Affairs would have some say in matters such as this.

Editor's update: The website has been modified and JPL PAO says that indeed they were not aware that they were linking to a press release. Yet, the phrase "Lampson Concerned About Survival Of Vital Hurricane Tracking Satellite" now points to this LA Times article - one that makes no mention whatsoever of Rep. Lampson (D- TX) but mentions the comments of Ron Klein (D-FL) instead.

Editor's further update: The link is now gone altogether.

NASA JSC Solicitation: Constellation Program Lunar Lander Project Office

"The Project Office, which is located at JSC, is currently being staffed-up with personnel from across the Agency. The Project Office plans to develop a preliminary government design and, following an independent, agency-wide review, create draft vehicle design requirements. At that point, the Project Office will actively seek comments and input from industry."

Editor's note: The following selection is repeated - verbatim - from an ongoing "Ask the Administrator" dialog with Mike Griffin, located on InsideNASA, and can be viewed by anyone at NASA:

Question(s): I like your "Ask the Administrator" forum. We used to have "Ask the Director" at Glenn until 2006. Unfortunately, it has been shut down. The employees were assured that their identities were protected and there would be no repercussions for asking tough questions. Can you please give us the same assurances? From:Anonymous,Glenn Research Center

Response (on 26-Feb-2007): There will be no repercussions associated with asking "tough questions" at NASA, nor for expressing any opinion you wish to express, so long as it is done in a polite and respectful manner.

An Interview With the Expedition 15 Crew Aboard The International Space Station, SpaceRef

"... But I think your point is absolutely great - we are practicing and we are doing research to go elsewhere. Hopefully, we are going to be going back to the moon, going on to Mars. We need a laboratory like this, which is in close contact with the folks on Earth to help us when we are doing experiments to try and figure out how to leave Low Earth Orbit. So, I think your question is great because it has two answers: we are on an expedition because we are learning and secondly we are preparing for a much bigger expedition which I hope that the next generation of kids will be on - and are excited about."

Editor's note: Yesterday I sent a link about my ISS interview to a newsletter (Space Generation TALK) that has a global circulation. This morning I got this email:

"How do you contact them? Is it possible for them to talk to African kids? We are conducting a major workshop and conference in space science in Ethiopia. It would interested to call ISS during our outreach. Can you arrange that? Abebe"

Proof positive that space exploration transcends just about every artificial border we can think of. These Ethiopians (apparently) would find it exciting - if only they had some access to it. Based on my experience, NASA's outreach people seem bored these days. What's wrong with this picture? What do the Ethiopians know that we do not?

Hall Appoints Feeney To Top GOP Position on Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee

"Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX) today announced the appointment of Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL) to Ranking Member of the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee. Feeney replaces Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA), who recently accepted a position on the House Appropriations Committee."

Look At This Image

NASA New Horizons Image: Io's Tvashtar Volcano Eruption - in Motion

"This five-frame sequence of New Horizons images captures the giant plume from Io's Tvashtar volcano. Snapped by the probe's Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) as the spacecraft flew past Jupiter earlier this year, this first-ever "movie" of an Io plume clearly shows motion in the cloud of volcanic debris, which extends 330 kilometers (200 miles) above the moon's surface. Only the upper part of the plume is visible from this vantage point - the plume's source is 130 kilometers (80 miles) below the edge of Io's disk, on the far side of the moon."

15 May 2007 Update from Jan Walker, DARPA PAO:

"During Scenario 3-1 execution on the evening of May 11, Orbital Express encountered a serious sensor flight computer anomaly on the ASTRO while stationkeeping at 10 meters separation distance from the NextSat. Onboard fault protection reacted immediately, placing the ASTRO into an abort trajectory which carried it to a hold-point 120 meters from the NextSat. The Orbital Express team has spent the past several days recovering from this fault and from problems associated with loss of relative navigation at the longer-than-anticipated separation distances for this scenario. The ASTRO has since coasted at distances of up to several kilometers from the NextSat. Both vehicles are safe. The ASTRO powered up its redundant sensor flight computer and is processing sensor data nominally. The team is in the process of developing a recovery scenario for ingress and remate, and hopes to execute this ingress in the next several days."

Trip Report: Miss Bushman's Class Has A NASA Rocket Adventure in New Mexico, SpaceRef

"Miss Bushman, to help raise money, went around to various businesses telling them what we were all about and asking them if they would like to donate any money for the cause. Within a weeks time she raised about 5000+ dollars due to MESA, Utah Air Force Association, and readers of nasawatch.com. This was enough money to pay for all of the students' airfare, rooms, and even meals! The only money any of us needed was money for souvenirs."

"I just want to thank you for giving us money. Without you this trip wouldn't be possible. I think we will do a fine job telling people about our experiences at the NASA Family night in our school. We just hope we inspire students to stay in school and become something in life. I am going to personally tell people to join the NASA Club so they can one day go on a trip like I did and see how fun it is to go on this adventures that you may only see one for the rest of your life. Thank you so much for what you have done. I hope you enjoy reading my story that I just typed. I hope that students will become more interested in these kinds of trips."

NASA Watch and SpaceRef Readers Come Through Again, earlier post
Letter: IFPTE makes Donation To Utah School For Student Trip to White Sands
Help These Students See Their Experiment Launched, SpaceRef

Editor's note: The following selection is repeated - verbatim - from an ongoing "Ask the Administrator" dialog with Mike Griffin, located on InsideNASA, and can be viewed by anyone at NASA:

Question(s): If we are suppose to be oneNASA, including our contractors, why do contractors have to go through a special badging process every time they go to another NASA Center other than their home Center? They folks are key to our survival, yet we issue them visitor badges?! After all, they are wearing badges clearly marked with NASA and their home Center. That should be good enough. From:Robin Land,Langley Research Center

Editor's note: I went down to the Mall in downtown Washington, DC on Friday to see the exhibits NASA had set up. Northrop Grumman's full scale Webb Space Telescope mock up was very impressive (Click on image to enlarge). In addition to the exhibit itself, there were half a dozen people eager and ready to answer any questions a visitor might have. With tourist season in full swing there was no shortage of people stopping by to see these exhibits - and the more extensive military technology exhibits nearby. There were also scale models of the Shuttle, the Ares 1, and a full scale inflatable walkthrough mock up (of sorts) of the CEV.

The most complex exhibit NASA had was the long, double trailer exhibit focused on exploration that carries its mobile theater. I stood outside the exhibit for 10 minutes or so to watch the behavior of the NASA folks and the visitors. While there were just as many people staffing the NASA exhibit as were at the Webb exhibit, they really did not do anything except talk to each other. They were not proactive in asking people if they had any questions. No one from NASA was standing next to the large spacecraft models to explain what they were. Also, there was nothing significant to hand out to people outside the trailer.

All the NASA staff seemed to say to people was that the show inside the trailer was underway and that a new one would start in a few minutes. As I watched, more people turned and walked away and left the exhibit area than can be accommodated inside the trailer. That seemed to be a wasted opportunity to me since the people walking up to these exhibits were a representative slice through the American populace - not politicians.

Suggestion: NASA should have more material outside to either keep people's attention while the show plays inside the trailer, or give them something to take away if they do not want to stand around in the hot sun and wait for the next show. Also, if NASA wants people to know what they are doing they need to go out and engage them one on one - not just stand there like movie ushers. The Webb people got it right.

Comments? Send them to nasawatch@reston.com. Your Comments thus far:

Draft Formation Document for the NASA Communications Coordinating Committee (CCC)

"The Chief of Strategic Communications, with support from the Office of Communications Planning (OCP), shall establish and support a Communications Coordinating Committee (CCC). The CCC will provide a coordination and implementation mechanism for NASA's communications and outreach efforts. It is envisioned that this group will help increase cooperation, coordination and resourcesharing to better leverage the agency's overall outreach mission."

NASA Communications Coordinating Committee (CCC) Minutes January 25, 2007

"Following these topics, Bob [Hopkins] provided a preview of a web toolkit that OCP is creating, that will enable NASA employees to gain quick and easy access to "what's hot" links, program updates and presentations, tips for speaking to various audiences, NASA governing documents, and a wealth of other information that is geared toward helping NASA employees better communicate NASA's messages.

The Communications Toolkit was very well received by CCC members, and training on the tool was recommended. It was noted that something like this would be useful to provide externally as well, but there may be a bandwidth problem. A suggestion was made that perhaps a strategic partnership may be a low-cost avenue to providing this service externally."

Editor's note: The following selection is repeated - verbatim - from an ongoing "Ask the Administrator" dialog with Mike Griffin, located on InsideNASA, and can be viewed by anyone at NASA:

Question(s): I don't understand why congress want give NASA the full budget, so NASA can continue progessing towards the next generation of Space Exploration ... my question is let commcials and sponsors to get involved with our support to meet our budget cost. They pay millions on NFL GAMES T.V. commercials ... and NASCAR RACES...ETC. What's wrong with NASA RACING To Other Plantes. We have contractor doing the work, let's contract some sponsors to pay us to help advertise. Just a thought... Thanks From:Don Hanselman,Johnson Space Center

Editor's note: Try opening this link to Communications Planning: on the NASA HQ Organizational Structure page. I can't seem to get it to work. I tried going to communications.nasa.gov/ but that won't work either. Not a good sign for a "communications planning" page ... unless those to whom the communicating is to be done are not supposed to see the plans ...

Editor's update: Someone@hq.nasa.gov sent me an email telling me that this is an internal website only. Duh. Silly me, I just clicked on a publicly available link on the publicly available NASA Headquarters home page. Here is an idea of what is actually on this page. They call this the "Communications Toolkit". It is obviously not ready for prime time (lots of "tools" are missing). I'd hide it too. I have stripped a lot images off - and many of the links do not work outside the NASA web portal (I guess). I'll bet that anything titled "Elements of a Compelling Story" on a NASA website must be a truly mesmerizing document ...

Editor's update: The link is now gone (at least as the public is concerned).

Industry Leaders Call on Congress to Boost NASA Budget, AIAA

"An unprecedented coalition of nearly two dozen U.S. aerospace corporations told the Congress on Friday, May 11, that NASA is in urgent need of a boost to its fiscal year 2008 budget or America's space leadership could be lost for a generation. The group, which includes the chairmen, presidents and chief executives of such industry giants as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon, asked the Congress to support an increase to NASA's FY08 budget of $1.4 billion. The budget is currently under review on Capitol Hill."

Mexican Sinkhole May Lead NASA to Jupiter, Washington Ppst

"For the next two weeks, the fully autonomous robot, which bears an uncanny resemblance to a Volkswagen Beetle, will plumb the previously inaccessible microbial mysteries of the sinkhole -- or "cenote" -- El Zacatn.
Relying on an eclectic team of scuba divers, engineers, biologists and geochemists, NASA is hoping the mission will be the first leg on its journey to Europa."

NASA's robotic sub readies for dive into Earth's deepest sinkhole, Carnegie Mellon University
Prototype Space Probe Prepares To Explore Earths Deepest Sinkhole, University of Texas-Austin

NASA pilots' case to get federal investigation, Daily Press

"Two former pilots from NASA Langley Research Center who say they were punished for raising safety concerns can take heart in this: Their case has been referred to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel for investigation. But the head of that office, Special Counsel Scott J. Bloch, is himself under investigation. Among the allegations: He retaliated against whistle-blowers."

Here's Looking at You, Universe, Washington Post

"What if [Webb Space Telescope] doesn't unfold? Isn't that too far away to fix? Ed Weiler, head of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, revealed the surprising answer at a news conference next to the mock-up: Astronauts might actually make the million-mile hike to service the telescope. Perhaps that's the future of the space program: Astronauts going into outer space not to plant flags and leave footprints and hit golf balls in low gravity and whatnot, but to service the expensive hardware that a space-faring and curious civilization requires."

Nowak waited for rival an hour, videotape shows, AP

"Former astronaut Lisa Nowak waited nearly an hour at the airport for the romantic rival she is accused of attacking, donning a trench coat as the woman looked for her bags, a video released Friday shows. The security footage from Orlando International Airport depicts Nowak arriving at 12:33 a.m. Feb. 5, then following 10 to 15 yards behind Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman as Shipman went to the baggage-claim area."

view video, Orlando Sentinel

Editor's note: In their on-going attempt to utterly trivialize this whole sad affair, Fox News had three talking heads on today to discuss this tape. One of them, Mercedes Colwin, went on and on about how special the astronauts are, repeatedly noted that Lisa Nowak was a "hero", and emphasized several times that "there have only been six female astronauts throughout NASA's history". I did a quick count from this page and got 37 American female astronauts - 39 if you count payload specialists and teacher astronauts. If Fox is going to get "experts" on to discuss things like this, the least they can do is to find someone who can count.

Nowak Story: Idiotic Banter From Fox's Talking Heads, Previous post

NEEMO 12

NASA Space Simulation and Training Project: NEEMO 12

"May 7-18, 2007, the 12th mission of NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) will take place in the Aquarius habitat off the coast of Key Largo, Florida."

Live webcams
Additional NEEMO Updates
NASA NEEMO 12 Mission Journal Thursday, May 10, 2007
NASA NEEMO 12 Mission Journal Wednesday, May 9, 2007
NASA NEEMO 12 Mission Journal Tuesday, May 8, 2007
NASA NEEMO 12 Mission Journal Monday, May 7, 2007
NASA NEEMO 12 Topside Journal May 6, 2007

Editor's note: While NEEMO is given prominent mention on NASA's home page, (once again) no mention is made on the SOMD or ESMD home pages - the two organizations supporting this project - one with significant public outreach potential.

NASA MSFC internal Memo: Key Personnel Announcement: Daniel L. Dumbacher

"I am pleased to announce the selection of Mr. Daniel L. Dumbacher to the position of Director, Engineering Directorate, George C. Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), Alabama. Mr. Dumbacher replaces Mr. Michael U. Rudolphi who retired in March 2007."

Robert Lightfoot Named Deputy Director of NASA Marshall Space Flight Center

"David King, director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., today named Robert Lightfoot as the new deputy director of the center. Lightfoot replaces Charles Chitwood who has accepted a position in private industry. Since October 2005, Lightfoot has served as director of the Shuttle Propulsion Office, where he is responsible for the manufacture, assembly and operation of the primary Shuttle propulsion elements."

NASA HQ Solicitation: FY2007 IPP Seed Fund Call Announcement

"The IPP Partnership Seed Fund has been established as a new initiative to enhance NASA's ability to meet mission technology goals by providing seed funding to address barriers and initiate cost-shared, joint-development partnerships. The IPP Seed Fund is used to provide "seed" funding to enable larger partnerships and development efforts to occur and will encourage, to the maximum extent possible, the leveraging of funding, resources and expertise from non-NASA partners, NASA Programs and Projects and NASA Centers."

Editor's note: Mike Cabbage is an outstanding reporter and a sterling individual whose credibility is beyond reproach. Dave Mould is to be commended for making this appointment.

To: NASA Public Affairs staff
From: David Mould, assistant administrator
Re: Staff / organizational announcement.
Date: May 10, 2007

I am pleased to announce that veteran correspondent Michael Cabbage is joining the Public Affairs senior management team at NASA Headquarters. Mike comes to NASA after many years as space editor for the Orlando Sentinel. He also has served as a TV commentator on the space program and is an author of the book Comm Check, which has been called one of the best accounts of the Columbia accident.

Giuliani to visit Space Center, raise cash, Huntsville Times

"Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani will visit Huntsville today for a luncheon fundraiser and a stop at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. The Republican candidate for president is also making campaign stops in Tuscaloosa and Birmingham. Giuliani is to attend a $1,000-a-plate luncheon and photo op fundraiser at The Ledges in south Huntsville. It is a closed event, said Elliott Bundy, regional communications director for Giuliani's campaign."

Giuliani stresses strong military, women's right of choice, Huntsville Times

"Arriving afterward at the Space Center, Giuliani said military research in robotics and bomb detection not only would help in Iraq, but would improve law enforcement here and homeland security."

B612 Foundation Posts Entire NASA NEO Report, earlier post

Editor's note: According to NASA sources, the reason why the longer report was not formally released (in electronic form) as to do with the mundane realities of government rules and dealing with Congress - not anything having to do with the actual content of the report.

When work on this report began, NASA's intent was focused on a large, several hundred page treatise on the topic. When inital versions of this report began to be circulated, NASA Legislative Affairs got hold of a copy and raised a flag saying that the report was too voluminous and that Congress would not know what to do with it. After some internal discussion, direction was given from the 9th floor that work on this large document be halted, and that preparation of a smaller, more condensed version (which was eventually released) be pursued.

But wait, there's more. In order to publish an electronic verison of this report, it (like all other government documents online) must be Section 508 compliant - i.e. accessible to the visually impaired. There are some charts and graphics inside this report that would be very difficult - if not - impossible to convert into 508 compliant versions (according to NASA). As such, the longer (earlier) report continued to circulate in print form only well after the shorter version was publicly released in electronic form. A scanned version of this printed version is what B612 has published on their ebsite.

This situation will soon change since there is one notable loophole to the 508 requirements: they do not apply to FOIA requests. The FAS (and others) have requested copies of this report and all annexes, etc. When mulitple FOIA requests are made, electronic versions are eventually posted on NASA's FOIA site. I am told to expect seeing an electronic copy of the final version of all materals produced in the near future posted on NASA.gov.

I must add that although this 'excuse' may seem trivial, 508 compliance (a good thing in my personal opinion) can be a rather difficult thing to achieve on occassion when it comes to putting things online.

Comments? Send them to nasawatch@reston.com. Your Comments thus far:

Moore blames women for 'banal' TV, BBC

"British TV standards are deteriorating because the BBC is "run by women", astronomer Sir Patrick Moore has said. The Sky at Night host also described female newsreaders as "jokey" and called for separate channels to cater for the needs of the different sexes. "I think it may eventually happen," the 84-year-old told the Radio Times."

Editor's note: I got this bizzare set of emails from "David J Cook" - someone who lists himself as a FRAS (Fellow Royal Astronomical Society) and AMInstP (Associate Member of the Institute of Physics - UK). I have developed a rather thick skin over these years and don't really take too much offense from things like this (calling me "uneducated, ignorant" - quite possibly true - but calling me a "racist" is totally uncalled for). As far as I am concerned, anyone who does not dispute or disagree with Moore's despicable comments about women, is making a tacit endorsement of what he said.

The Planet NASA Needs to Explore, Washington Post

"NASA's budget for science missions has declined 30 percent in the past six years, and that trend is expected to continue. As more dollars are reallocated to prepare for missions back to the moon and Mars, sophisticated new satellites to observe the Earth will be delayed, harming Earth sciences."

Letter From Rep. Waxman to NASA Administrator Griffin Regarding Political Briefings By White House Officials

"To assist with the Committee's continuing investigation of this issue, I request that you provide information about any briefing mentioning elections or candidates provided to agency employees by officials in the White House between January 20, 2001, and April 26, 2007. Please provide the dates, times, attendees, and locations of these briefings, as well as any communications and documents relating to the briefings. Please provide these materials to the Committee by May 18, 2007."

First Map of an Extrasolar Planet , Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

"For the first time, astronomers have created a rough map of a planet orbiting a distant sun-like star, employing a technique that may one day enable mapping of Earth-like worlds. Since the planet just charted is a gas giant and lacks a solid surface, the map shows cloud-top features. Using the Spitzer infrared space telescope, astronomers detected a bright hot spot that is offset from "high noon," where heating is greatest."

NASA employees object to data-gathering actions, Government Executive

"Lawmakers are investigating accusations that federal agencies are violating civil liberties in enforcing a presidential security directive that requires workers and contractors to undergo background checks in order to enter government buildings and computer systems. On April 26, a bipartisan group of scientists from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Jet Propulsion Laboratory wrote a letter to Reps. Rush Holt, D-N.J., and Vernon Ehlers, R-Mich. The scientists urged an end to the policy of gathering extensive personal information, including racial, ethnic, financial and medical details as part of the new security protocol."

Internal NASA JPL Memo Regarding Privacy Issues Associated with the Implementation of HSPD#12

"We are being asked to sign blanket waivers that permit investigators to intrude into our personal financial and medical records. The information that we are being asked to supply is very similar to the information requested for a full security clearance. The support documents provided to us by NASA associated with the HSPD #12 implementation contain numerous errors or falsehoods. We are all aware that falsification of federal documents is a crime so one might charitably assume that these mistakes are due to incompetence rather than outright deceit. Nevertheless, it raises serious concern regarding the confidence that should be placed in the security of our personal information once it is placed in the hands of such incompetent individuals as those within NASA who are forcing these documents upon us."

NASA Implementation of Homeland Security Presidential Directive #12 (HSPD-12)

"I am an employee of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and reside in Sierra Madre so I am doubly a constituent of yours. I am quite concerned with the implementation of HSPD-12 by JPL/Caltech under direction of NASA. To wit: I believe it to be an unwarranted intrusion into my personal life and an unconstitutional violation of my civil rights."

Comments? Send them to nasawatch@reston.com Your comments thus far:

Damage from space center fire not as severe as first thought, Huntsville Times

"On Monday, Whitaker speculated that the museum may have lost an irreplaceable instruments unit built for the Saturn V program. Today, he said heat appears to have bubbled the paint, but the unit is otherwise OK."

Building a Better NASA Workforce: Meeting the Workforce Needs for the National Vision for Space Exploration, National Academy of Sciences

"A problem faced by the committee was a lack of data, as well as differing interpretations of future requirements for certain skills and an absence of information correlating levels of expertise required with the numbers of employees anticipated to be needed. Based on available demographic data, however, the committee concluded that, in the broadest sense, there is no looming national shortage of skilled scientists and engineers to implement the VSE over the long term."

Hearing: Building and Maintaining a Healthy and Strong NASA Workforce (17 May 2007)

Who's paying $200,000 for a few minutes in space?, USA Today

"Customers have put down $21 million in deposits, Whitehorn says. Those who want to be among the first 100 to fly had to pay the full $200,000 fare up front; the rest put down a minimum deposit of $20,000."

NASA to Compete with Small Businesses, JP Aerospace

"A bill to be introduced by California Congressman Ken Calvert will have NASA enter the advertising business. Congressman Calvert recently announced that he wants to make "NASA space assets available for commercial advertising and marketing opportunities." Currently, NASA is not allowed to provide advertising space. This announcement has triggered alarm bells with several small space companies. By offering such taxpayer-supported services, they will be unfairly undercutting the competition."

Editor's note: What never ceases to amaze me is how Republican lawmakers like Calvert - i.e. people from the party that says they want to reduce government interference in the private sector - always seem to be the ones who want to use government operated space assets to compete with the private sector.

Plan B for Outer Space, Russell Saunders, Jr.

"As events unfold, it appears that the Vision for Space Exploration (VSE), the President's plan to return humans to the Moon and then onto Mars, is on the classic pride-before-the-fall trajectory. In the spirit of collegial exchanges, I offer the following observations and thoughts for our recovery. To my fellow rocket scientists and space enthusiasts, the time has come let go of last century's space dreams and start working toward a more contemporary future."

Comments? Send them to nasawatch@reston.com Your comments thus far:

Complete NASA Report "2006 Near Earth Object Survey and Deflection Study" Online at B612 Foundation Website

"The technical report ("2006 Near Earth Object Survey and Deflection Study") backing up NASA's recent summary report to Congress on NEOs is now available on the B612 Foundation website. ... B612 Foundation believes that openness and transparency on the NEO issue is critical to maintaining public confidence in those with responsibility for their safety. While NEO impacts occur very infrequently when they do the devastation can exceed that of any other natural hazard. Furthermore, with adequate warning NEO impacts can actually be prevented, unlike most other natural hazards."

Editor's note: As the B612 Foundation notes on their website: "The analytic work supporting the summary report to Congress is being withheld from public review by NASA despite it having been published as a 3-color glossy "Final Report" and distributed internally." I have yet to hear a single, rational reason why this information is being withheld from public scrutiny.

Statement of Alan Stern

"Within each science area, the challenge is to find the proper balance among large, medium and small missions, research and analysis in all its forms, data analysis, and technology development. At the Directorate level, as I previously highlighted, I have charted an Office of the Chief Scientist and appointed Dr. John Mather to lead that office in making recommendations for the best way to balance priorities with in and among each of our four portfolio areas."

Statement of Lennard Fisk

"We need to consider NASA as an agency with many important tasks to perform. It is not just the agency that is to return us to the Moon, and all else is a secondary priority. Space is integral to the fabric of our society. We depend on it in our daily lives; we protect our nation through our space assets; we use space to learn about our future; we enrich our society with knowledge of our place in the cosmos; we are moving our civilization into space; we expect the next generation of scientists and engineers to be versatile in the utilization and exploration of space. NASA has an essential role to play in each and every one of these national pursuits, and its role in each pursuit needs to be properly funded."

Statement of Joseph Burns
Statement of Daniel Baker
Statement of Garth Illingworth

European Union Outlines Vision for Unifying Space Policy, Science (subscription)

"The European Union (E.U.) doesn't have its own astronauts, operate any satellites, or launch any rockets. The E.U. doesn't even have a space research center, but last week, after 2 years of deliberation, it revealed its much-heralded space policy. The aim is to bring more coordination and coherence to Europe's space programs, which are currently spread among national agencies and the European Space Agency (ESA)."

ABC: No Big Names on D.C. Madam List, AP

"ABC reported that some of the phone records could be tracked to prominent business executives, NASA officials and at least five military officers. But there were no members of Congress or White House officials traced through Palfrey's records."

Nowak Saga Update

Ex-astronaut's lawyer gets more time to plan defense, Orlando Sentinel

"A judge Friday granted former NASA astronaut Lisa Nowak's defense attorney more time to decide whether he will base her defense on mental-health issues. Donald Lykkebak wants better copies of videotapes of Nowak in her jail cell, her police interview and transcripts of that interview to help his decision-making. "It is the lynchpin of our preparation," he told Orange Circuit Judge Marc Lubet."

The Time 100

Alan Stern: "The combination of hands-on and bureaucratic experience gives him a unique feel for the physics responsible for getting machines off the ground and the politics responsible for keeping them flying."

John Mather: "It was his analysis of COBE data that earned him the 2006 Nobel, which he shared with University of California cosmologist George Smoot."

Neil deGrasse Tyson: "You can think of Neil deGrasse Tyson as the Carl Sagan of the 21st centuryas long as you envision a Sagan who's muscular, African American and as cool as his predecessor was geeky."

Richard Branson: "Virgin Galactic, Richard's foray into commercial spaceflight, may seem like the ultimate quest. A final stamp on an amazing career. It won't be. He will hear about something that everyone else thinks is outrageous and make it a reality."

Tullis Onstott: "Wondering whether extraterrestrial life exists? Tullis Onstott, 53, has found itsort of. The fact that the living things he's discovered make their homes nearly two miles below the earth's surface may disqualify them from the extra part of extraterrestrial."

Devon Island Update

Haughton-Mars Project Research Station Pre-Field Season Visit Report , Mars Institute

"A pre-field season visit to the Mars Institute's Haughton-Mars Project Research Station on Devon Island was conducted on April 24, 2007."

External webcam (shows greenhouse)
Internal webcam (inside of greenhouse)

Editor's note: Images are updated daily. Ignore the date on the images - they are out of date.

Message From the NASA Administrator - The Passing of Wally Schirra

"Today is a sad day for NASA and our country, as we mourn the passing yesterday in California of astronaut Walter "Wally" Schirra. With Wally's passing, we at NASA note with sorrow the loss of yet another of the pioneers of human spaceflight. As a Mercury astronaut, Wally was a member of the first group of astronauts to be selected, often referred to as the "Original Seven." Wally is remembered in the close circle of the space community as the pilot who flew a "textbook flight" on his Mercury mission in October 1962."

Editor's note: After I finished my live interview with the ISS crew orbiting above the Earth (done on site at NASA ARC) I headed up to SF International Airport extra early to catch my flight home. The taxi driver could not find JetBlue. Eventually we were directed to the International Terminal. Before I knew it I was in a crowd of a hundred people - apparently, I was the only passenger! I knew by now that this was the very first Jet Blue flight from San Francisco to New York. Soon enough I was shaking hands with the CEO of Jet Blue urging him to get flights out of Dulles. Now I am sitting amidst a loud party at gate A-10 while people on stilts walking around advertising "more leg room". Meanwhile, the live orchestra keeps trying to do a passable imitation of Tony Bennett singing "I left My Heart in San Francisco". As the passengers from the New York flight entered a loud cheer went up. Gee, I wonder what's next on the agenda today?

Update: as it happens, the first person to check in got two free round trip tickets. Bummer. I was the second person to check in (almost won!). The mayor of SF was there as were a lot of local dignitaries. This got old fast. I just wanted to get on the plane and go home. When I arrived home I got this official thank you email. All in all, a curious day.

Editor's note: On Thursday, 3 May, between 11:15 and 11:25 am EDT I will be conducting a live interview with the crew of the International Space Station.

The interview will air live on NASA TV - but video will drop out at around 11:18 am EDT. The remainder of the interview will be broadcast as audio (only) on NASA TV.

Watch NASA TV

"11:05 a.m. - ISS Expedition 15 Interviews with WCVB-TV, Boston and Reston Communications - JSC (Public and Media Channels)"

Editor's update: Here is a raw audio file of the interview.

Naughty Astronauts

Lust in Space, Texas Monthly

"The lovesick antics of diapered astronaut Lisa Nowak are some combination of funny and sad but seemingly not revealing of anything larger, until you realize that her tragic, tabloidy breakdown says everything you need to know about NASAs many troubles."

Documents Show Former NASA Astronaut Nowak Exhibited Attitude Problems, AHN

"Former NASA astronaut Lisa Nowak, who became infamous after being charged with assault and attempted kidnapping of a female Navy Cmdr., she believed to be a romantic rival for a fellow astronaut, had behavioral problems, according to documents released Tuesday by the Florida state attorney's office."

Editor's note: Shipman is in the Air Force.

Train Derails Carrying NASA Rocket Motors, AP

Bridge Collapse Causes Train Crash, Fox 6

"A train carrying a load for NASA crashed Wednesday when the bridge it was crossing collapsed, injuring six people."

"From: Cook, Stephen A. (MSFC-JP01)
Sent: Wednesday, May 02, 2007 11:11 AM
To: [Long List]
Subject: ATK train derailment

Team, Just found out there was a derailment of a train car shipment early this morning. Several cars containing new segments coming from Utah are off the track and on their sides by early accounts. The crew in the car that rides along sustained critical injuries. The derailment occured in Pennington, AL. This is a 1st to the best of our knowledge. More to come as the day progresess. Steve"

Big Bang Diplomacy, Aviation Week

"Hawking used the opportunity to experience the absence of gravity, a key element in all his cosmological equations. He also used it as an experience to illustrate how disabled individuals can do extraordinary things, helping Zero-G Corp. in the process raise nearly $200,000 for medical charities. Zero-G also hopes to fly 2,000 teachers this year on educational flights." (Scroll down a bit)

Opening Statement by Rep. Udall: NASA's Space Science Programs: Review of Fiscal Year 2008 Budget Request and ISS

"As can be seen by the title of today's hearing, we are going to focus on a subset of NASA's science activities, namely its astrophysics, planetary science, and heliophysics programs. Obviously, NASA's Earth Science program is an important element of NASA's overall science program, but it will be the focus of a separate hearing that will expand on the full committee hearing we held earlier this year. In addition, while not currently part of the Science Mission Directorate, NASA's life and microgravity research programs are also important research endeavors that will be scrutinized by this Subcommittee in the coming months, particularly in light of the deep-and many would say unwise-cuts that NASA has made to those programs."

Letter from Sen. Nelson Regarding NASA General Counsel Wholley

"Accordingly, I am renewing my call for Mr. Cobb's resignation and recommend that you require Counsel Wholley's resignation as well. I recommend that you use the expertise available on the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency, to reconstitute the NASA OIG, and revisit the policies and procedures governing the relationship between OIG and NASA management."

Editor's note: Making - and then destroying - this recording - was certainly a dumb mistake by someone@nasa. All it serves to do is heighten suspicions about NASA and give Bill Nelson more ammunition to use against the agency.

Bill Nelson's Inquisition Continues, earlier post

Two Letters That Nelson, Gordon, and Miller Do Not Want You To See, earlier post
Can You Hear Me Now? Sen. Nelson's Shouting Press Officer Responds, earlier post
Good Grief, Now Its a "Battle", earlier post
Let's Hang The IG From The Nearest Tree, earlier post

Russia sees moon plot in Nasa plans, Telegraph

"Mankind's second race for the moon took on a distinctly Cold War feel yesterday when the Russian space agency accused its old rival Nasa of rejecting a proposal for joint lunar exploration. The claim comes amid suspicion in Moscow that the United States is seeking to deny Russia access to an isotope in abundance under the moon's surface that many believe could replace fossil fuels and even end the threat of global warming."

Editor's note: To be certain, there has to be a certain amount of UK tabloid armwaving, Russian paranoia, and bad translations involved here. But the core premise of this article is just goofy i.e. that the U.S. is trying to block Russia from mining Helium-3 on the moon.

NASA denies snubbing Russia's moon offer, New Scientist

"NASA denies that it has received any proposal from Russia to conduct joint moon activities, despite media reports to the contrary. Still, some experts say the US agency is pursuing an increasingly isolationist stance and could be left behind as other nations forge new partnerships to explore space."

Osborn, veteran audio engineer at NASA, Houston Chronicle

"Glenn Richard Osborn, a longtime NASA audio engineer whose contributions enabled presidents, foreign dignitaries and news reporters to speak with and question astronauts while they were in space, has died. He was 78."


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This page is an archive of recent entries written by Keith Cowing in May 2007.

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