Keith Cowing: July 2007 Archives

Editor's 1 Aug update: Jane Cherry is now listed on the NASA HQ organization page. I wonder how long it will be before her official biography documenting her extensive experience (and its relevance to NASA) will be posted.

Editor's 28 July note: The vacant White House Liaisonposition at NASA HQ has been filled with - surprise - a Bush Administration political appointee - Jane Cherry. Cherry is listed on NASA's internal phonebook as being detailed to "Office ID: AA000 - Office of the Administrator". She recently worked in the White House for Karl Rove as an associate director in the Office of Political Affairs

According to Muckracker.com (scroll down a bit) "Cherry has worked for Karl Rove at the WH for almost two years. She has been in the USA8 email loop, according to DOJ docs, and probably knows a lot about what has been going on at the DOJ and why. ... Prior to joining Karl Rove's hit squad, Jane Cherry worked for the RNC in Little Rock from 8/03 and 9/04, according to FEC records. She then worked for the RNC in DC from 9/04 to 6/05."

Cherry is named as one of the more prolific email users of an RNC email account whose messages (27, 482) have been retained by the RNC as part of a House investigation of possible presidential records act violations.

Cherry only made $50K working for Rove (up from 30K the previous year). I doubt she will be that cash-strapped now that she's at NASA for the next 1.5 years.

Editor's 31 Jul update: There's more on Jane Cherry here at the Daily Kos. "According to the 2004 Plum Book, pay for the politically appointed NASA White House Liaision is a GS-15 position. So Jane, graduating with a BA in June 2004, will make between $110,363 and $143,471 annually according to the DC pay scales."

Yes, I know, this happens all the time - regardless of who is in the White House. But placing Jane Cherry at NASA this late in a lame duck Administration - so she can cash in - is just blatant political cronyism of the worst kind. First NASA gets George Deutsch, another young political appointee. We all remember what he did. Then FEMA's former Deputy Director Patrick Rhode (a pal of Michael Brown's) is given a hiding place at NASA. Now, an overtly political White House staffer (it was her job to be overtly political) who is under at least one cloud with regard to ethics - suddenly lands at NASA where she gets a $60,000-plus pay raise.

Is NASA turning to a dumping ground for young Bush loyalists of questionable capability? Based on her political shenanigans at the White House, what could she possibly bring of value to NASA? Right now NASA needs to be steering clear of politics and focusing on the tasks at hand. Bringing young political hacks to NASA will only create problems.

NASA Shuns iPhone

Apple iPhone Out, BlackBerry 8800 In At NASA, Information Week

"According to the minutes, the decision was made by officials within NASA's ODIN program office. ODIN, or Outsourcing Desktop Initiative For NASA, is a program under which NASA is outsourcing computer supply and support to private-sector companies. The meeting minutes indicate that Jeff Stephens, an ODIN acting project manager who also works for defense contractor Lockheed Martin, broke the news that the iPhone won't fly at NASA. Reached Monday at his office in Washington, D.C., Stephens said only that, "I can't comment on that one way or the other."

Phoenix Launch Delayed

NASA Postpones Phoenix Launch

"Friday's scheduled launch of NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket has been postponed 24 hours. The two available launch times on Saturday, Aug. 4, are 5:26:34 a.m. and 6:02:59 a.m. EDT."

Editor's note: For several weeks, the K 10 Rover team from NASA ARC was testing out their two rovers "Red" and "Black" at the Haughton Mars Project Research Station on Devon Island. The following two videos have been posted which were shot by a camera on each rover as they drove around.

NASA KSC ITAR Run Amok

Editor's update: Note from the originator of this USENET thread: "Just got off the phone with the Export Control compliance guy from GD/NASA-KSC. There is *not* an ITAR issue with the stuff I've listed on my website He also pointed out that GD is *not* trying to censor Saturn V stuff. Whoever did that previously, it is NOT General Dynamics."

Editor's update: Slashdot readers are having fun with this topic.

Saturn V pictures are now ITAR Controlled, Sci.Space.History

"But then I got this message from a contact who worked at KSC: "However, just before we left KSC, a guy from the NASA Export Control Office (which is run by some contractor, maybe Analex?) came by our office on an "inspection" and told us we had to take down all the Saturn V drawings we had around ... now, these were just old NAA public relation drawings, plus a few commercially-purchased posters showing the Saturn V internals in very rough detail. He said they were all covered by ITAR and therefore had to be locked up! We kept telling him some were purchased at the Visitor Center Gift Shop, but he did not care. He ended up coming around with an armed security cop until we took them down and shredded them."

Editor's note: Check out all of this ITAR-violating goodness at MSFC. And this report online at Astronautix.com probably means a life sentence in prison for someone if the KSC ITAR Cops have their way. Meanwhile, I guess they will have to throw big bags over the restored (and publicly accessible) Saturn V's on display at JSC, MSFC, and KSC.

The following International Traffic In Arms Regulations regulations lay out what is not covered under ITAR controlled information. Be thinking about 40 year old Apollo program infomration - and how widely it has been distributed - as you read this:

Message From the NASA Administrator - July 30, 2007: Astronaut Health Report

"At the same time, however, our policy has been to say very little publicly until we know more. If you saw the press conference, I am sure you realize that the report was assembled from anecdotal information, unverified by the committee and, indeed, not documented in a way that would allow us to pursue the cited incidents to closure. This does not mean that the claims made in the report are untrue, but it does necessitate a "go slow" approach on our part regarding any public statements we might make."

NASA confirms reports of intoxicated astronauts, Posted: Sat, Jul 28 9:49 AM ET (1349 GMT)

"NASA officials on Friday confirmed that on at least two occasions astronauts were intoxicated immediately prior to missions as the agency said it was taking steps to investigate and remedy the situation."

Editor's note: C'mon Jeff, this is really sloppy. No one from NASA "confirmed" the intoxication claims. Quite the contrary, NASA has refered to the claims in this external report as being "allegations" and "anecdotal" over and over again. Mike Griffin is rather clear on this in his message to NASA employees. Spaceflight Now as a much more accurate article - and title "NASA vows review of alleged astronaut alcohol abuse"

Editor's update: The title has been changed to read "NASA acknowledges reports of intoxicated astronauts".

Visiting a Nearby Rock

Design for a Human Mission to a Near Earth Object, DigitalSpace

"DigitalSpace, a privately held company based in Santa Cruz, California, today released their design simulation of a notional crewed mission to an as-yet unidentified asteroid (also refered to as a Near Earth Object, or NEO) which might pass near the Earth sometime in the future. This visualization is DigitalSpace's design concept for the mission, produced by DigitalSpace as an independent effort for the benefit of an internal NASA feasibility study completed in 2007."

Top Apollo Manager Opposes NASA's Moon Goal, Aviation Week

"One of the most respected top managers of the Apollo program, Joseph P. Gavin, who led development of the NASA/Grumman Apollo lunar module, is airing sharp opposition to the Bush Administration/NASA goal of returning humans to the Moon as a stepping stone to Mars."

Houston Wine Company Offers Wine Discount to NASA Astronauts, PR Web

"Our company realizes the great tension the astronauts are under and it is in this context that we hope our discount on our wines may encourage our astronauts to only drink the highest quality wine available," he said. "We produce our wines in California from the best select vineyards, but our home remains in Houston and thus we feel as 'neighbors' to NASA astronauts, it is up to us to help in whatever fashion we can."

Scaled Composites Family Support Fund, NSS

"As many of you have heard, there was a serious accident last week at Scaled Composites, Burt Rutan's pioneering company. Three lives were lost, including Charles 'Glen' May, an NSS member who was a leader within NSS's Huntsville HAL5 Chapter. In addition, three employees suffered serious injuries. Scaled has announced information on a fund for those wishing to support the families of the deceased as well as the injured and their families. The National Space Society urges all of its members to give generously to support these heroes."

Statement by the Members of the Personal Spaceflight Federation Regarding the Recent Incident in Mojave

"After the work and sacrifice of many, the space frontier is now being opened by private enterprise. As leaders of companies and organizations who are engaged in this undertaking, we are committed to striving for the highest level of safety for the public, our customers and our employees. We can do no less."

No Drinking On Soyuz

Russian official denies report astronaut drunk on Soyuz space flight, AP

"We categorically deny the possibility that this could have happened at Baikonur," Igor Panarin, spokesman for the Russian Space Agency, Roskosmos, told the Associated Press. "In the days at Baikonur before the launch this is absolutely impossible. They are constantly watched by medics and psychiatrists."

Woes Enough to Drive NASA to Drink, NY Times Blog

"Shana Dale has an unenviable job to do this afternoon: Standing before the TV cameras and reporters and explaining that American astronauts may have flown while drunk. It's been an embarrassing couple of days for NASA, and the snockered rocket jockeys ain't the half of it. The agency also had to announce that somebody had deliberately sabotaged a computer meant for use on the international space station, and not even by some clever software hack: evidently the unnamed miscreant just cut a couple of wires."

NASA Also Lost $94 Million -- Possibly In Space, Probably Drunk, Wonkette

"NASA deputy administrator Shana Dale last made the news when she had to explain why NASA's astronuts were all crazy and why that one diaper-wearing lunatic Lisa Nowak was trying to kill the girlfriend of another astronut. Today, she gets to explain graft and drunken astronuts and sabotage and the latest loser news from the world's lamest space agency: How did NASA lose $94 million worth of computers and office crap?"

Editor's note:Let's see what NASA PAO - specifically - NASA JSC PAO - and the astronaut office does about this. Between the Nowak drama (which has yet to play out) and this latest scandal, NASA now has a double barrel public impression floating around that the astronaut office is a safe haven for "girls gone wild/frat boys on the prowl" sort of behavior.

If NASA does not seek to actively take control of this public discussion and focus it on reality - and do so by providing up-front, prompt, factual, and honest information, and making substantive changes in how things are managed at JSC, they will lose all control of this discussion. When that happens the media and late night TV will establish the public's perception of who and what astronauts really are. End result: NASA will have no one to blame but themselves and will have to live with the consequences. Heads up StratComm: it will take more than a bunch of inbred Powerpoint charts and talking points to deal with a situation like this.

This will not simply go away.

Editor's note: Jim Oberg appears about half-way through this clip from Channel 4 (below) which seeks to portray American astronauts as drunks. When Jim appears he sets an idiotic talking head straight - one located halfway around the world who seems to be using UK tabloids as "sources" as opposed to the actual NASA report. Alas, this dolt is so dense that he does not understand what Jim is saying. A gold star for Jim.

Lazy Fact Finding

Transcript: NASA Press Conference Regarding Findings of Astronaut Health Reviews

"COL BACHMANN: Yes. Again, the details of the specific incident in question, we really didn't get firm assessment at the moment that the astronaut was prepared to fly. He was in the preflight period when either the flight surgeons or a fellow astronaut was concerned enough about the astronaut's condition, that that was raised to the local leadership. As far as the specifics of how much more time elapsed before they actually flew, we cannot say with any certainty whether they, in fact, were at all under the influence or affected at the time that they actually flew. The issue of concern was that the medical advisors or the people who should be empowered to raise questions felt like they were not, and it is that sense of disregard that the committee commends back to NASA to evaluate. We didn't get the information, and I can't share it because I don't have it as far as how much time elapsed, how high the blood alcohol was likely to have been. We just don't have it."

Tragedy in the New Space Race, MSNBC

"In comments to The Associated Press, X Prize founder Peter Diamandis took a similar tack. "This was an industrial accident. This has nothing to do with spaceflight," he was quoted as saying. On a technical level, Diamandis is totally correct: The accident is outside the jurisdiction of the Federal Aviation Administration, and is being handled as an occupational safety matter by Scaled, the Mojave Airport and Spaceport, and the state of California. Butwhen you set aside the technicalities, the cause that brought Glenn May, Eric Blackwell and Todd Ivens to Mojave has everything to do with spaceflight."

NASA Fact Sheet on the Findings of the Astronaut Health Care System Review Committee

"The Next Steps: Some of the findings in the report, including those related to "heavy use of alcohol by astronauts in the immediate preflight period," will require additional review by NASA. The committee did not provide NASA with specific details of the alleged incidents. As a result, NASA must independently determine the facts of the reported incidents."

NASA JSC Internal Assessment of Medical Practices after Nowak Incident

"STS-121 crew flight surgeons were queried and did not note any indications of concern from pre-flight to in-flight to post-flight. Similar queries were made of the STS-116 (Commander Oefelein's flight) crew flight surgeons, and again no indications of concern were noted. Her medical and behavioral health records were reviewed and there were again no indications of medical or psychological problems."

NASA Astronaut Health Care System Review Committee February - June, 2007 Report to the Administrator

"Preparation for exploration class space flight requires NASA to focus much more attention on human behavior. Astronauts must be selected, trained, evaluated, monitored, and supported in order to be effective as individuals, and more importantly, so they can be effective members of a team that will be isolated and under great mental and physical stress for a period of several years before their return to Earth. NASA's Astronaut Office and medical system should be structured to optimally execute that mission."

Opening Remarks on Astronaut Health Reports by NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale

"Mike Griffin and I will closely monitor progress on these issues. After the review is completed, it is our intention to share the findings with the public, to the maximum extent possible."

NASA OIG Update

Editor's update: I ended up doing 2 Fox and 4 CNN interviews plus several for the BBC and a bunch of newspapers and radio stations. To see one of the CNN interviews (CNN Pipeleine) go here and look for "Astronauts flying Drunk". Play that.

Editor's update: You can watch the press conference online at NASA TV online here. NASA will likely post the reports here after 1 pm EDT. Meanwhile, I will be on (live) CNN International at 11:00 am EDT, Fox News at 12:20 pm EDT, and CNN Domestic from 1-2 pm EDT.

Editor's update: It would be premature, and as I am learning, incorrect to quickly jump to the conclusion that the incidents - allegations of incidents - being tossed around are necessarily Space Shuttle missions. Astronauts also fly on Soyuz spacecraft and "fly" T-38's regularly. Stay tuned.

Panel Finds Astronauts Flew While Intoxicated, Aviation Week

"A panel reviewing astronaut health issues in the wake of the Lisa Nowak arrest has found that on at least two occasions astronauts were allowed to fly after flight surgeons and other astronauts warned they were so intoxicated that they posed a flight-safety risk. The panel, also reported "heavy use of alcohol" by astronauts before launch, within the standard 12-hour "bottle to throttle" rule applied to NASA flight crew members."

NASA Releases Findings of Astronaut Health Reviews

"NASA will release the findings of two reviews regarding astronaut medical and behavioral health assessments during a news conference scheduled for 1 p.m. EDT, July 27. The news conference will take place in the James Webb Auditorium at NASA Headquarters in Washington, which is located at 300 E St., S.W."

Editor's note: I can't wait to see how Mike Griffin and NASA PAO try to spin this. If these allegations are true, it is simply outrageous (and somewhat improbable) that astronauts were allowed to fly in this condition - and that this information was withheld by ANYONE at NASA - for any reason whatsoever. What is even more incredible about these allegations is that despite these findings by flight surgeons these astronauts were still allowed to climb into the vehicle and fly. Stay tuned.

Of course, no one still working at NASA who may have been involved will ever be reprimanded for this if this turns out to be true - including the allegedly inebriated astronauts. Yet airline pilots and crew - and bus drivers who do this - get fired or reassigned instantly. Some go to jail.

3 killed, 3 injured in explosion at rocket test site in Mojave, LA Times

"Authorities said the blast occurred about 2:30 p.m. at a remote site on the northeastern fringe of Mojave airport, a small, county-run commercial facility about 95 miles north of downtown Los Angeles. Rutan, looking tired and disheveled, appeared at a 20-minute evening news conference at the desert airport. He told reporters that the blast occurred as the company was testing the propellent flow system for SpaceShip Two, the intended successor to the pioneering SpaceShip One and a project whose details had been closely guarded by Scaled Composites."

Report: NASA Employee Stole More Than $150,000, Local6.com

"A former NASA employee is accused of stealing more than $150,000 from government coffers, according to a report released Thursday. Elizabeth Ann Osborne, 52, who resigned in October after 31 years at the space agency, pleaded guilty to embezzling public money as part of an agreement made with the U.S. Attorney's Office on July 17."

Budget Update

Udall: House NASA Budget a Step in the Right Direction

"House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics Chairman Mark Udall (D-CO) issued the following statement today following passage by the House of H.R. 3093, the Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill for 2008, which contains appropriations for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)...

NASA AIP FYI #80: FY 2008 House NASA Appropriations Bill

"The House Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee recommends that NASA receive an 8.2 percent increase in its FY 2008 budget. Under this bill, now being considered on the House floor, NASA's science budget would increase 4.2 percent."

ISS Hardware Sabotage?

NASA Investigates Apparent Sabotage Of Space Station Hardware, SpaceRef

"According to NASA sources, three External Wireless Instrumentation System Network Control Units (EWIS NCU) have been damaged. Apparently, the damage was deliberate. The EWIS NCU is a computer designed to store various data on the International Space Station."

Fixing NASA's Budget

Udall Urges Conrad to Question Nussle on NASA Funding

"As part of an ongoing effort by the House Committee on Science and Technology to highlight and address the dire funding situation at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics Chairman Mark Udall (D-CO) has enlisted the help of Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND)."

2007 Space Elevator Games to be Held in Salt Lake City

"The Spaceward Foundation announced today the venue and timing for its annual Space Elevator games. The event will be held at the Davis County Event Center just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. The qualifying rounds will start on October 15, and the event will be open to the public between October 19 and October 21."

Editor's note: Word out of architecture efforts at JSC is that the combined human/cargo lunar missions described by Tony Laovie last year are out. This will most likely mean that dedicated cargo flights will be needed i.e. more flights - and more cost - in order to build up the infrastructure NASA wants to build on the moon.

Property Management: Lack of Accountability and Weak Internal Controls Leave NASA Equipment Vulnerable to Loss, Theft, and Misuse, GAO

Explanations Provided for Equipment Loss in Which No One Was Held Accountable

Equipment description - Equipment value (dollars) - Explanation provided

Desktop computer and laser printer - 4,855 - My wife needed a computer at home to perform her work as a real estate broker so I checked one out from the surplus stock available. I turned the computer back in when she was done using it but never received a receipt.

Laptop computer - 4,265 - This computer, although assigned to me, was being used on board the International Space Station. I was informed that it was tossed overboard to be burned up in the atmosphere when it failed.

Various missing property, 65 items - 850,321- A thorough and reasonable search was conducted but we were unable to locate the missing property. In general, the missing items consist of older equipment that has been replaced or is no longer necessary for standard operations.

Source: GAO analysis of NASA's fiscal year 2006 equipment loss reports.

Reader note: The GAO report says that out of "$35 billion of property, plant, and equipment (PP&E) and materials" that NASA reports on, $94 million was lost. That's a quarter of one percent. (In retail, 1.5% "shrinkage" is considered "industry average"). And they say "In general, the missing items consist of older equipment that has been replaced or is no longer necessary for standard operations."

I don't think that we need "ten actions aimed at strengthening users' accountability for old and unnecessary equipment," I think we need to stop having GAO waste our time on trivia. -signed, Anonymous@nasa.gov

NASA Supplier Base: Challenges Exist in Transitioning from the Space Shuttle Program to the Next Generation of Human Space Flight Systems, GAO

"GAO is recommending that the NASA Administrator direct the Exploration Systems Mission and Space Operations Mission directorates to jointly develop cost estimates for transition and retirement activities beyond fiscal year 2010 so that NASA can include the funding needs for the required out-years in its fiscal year 2009 budget submission to ensure that Congress and NASA can balance investments and negotiate between competing priorities, including supplier needs. NASA concurred with this recommendation."

COTS Falling Behind?

COTS Support Of ISS Doubted. Aviation Now

"Tommy Holloway, chair of the International Space Station (ISS) Safety Task Force and former ISS manager for NASA, told House lawmakers July 24 that he doubts the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program can make up for a "substantial part" of the projected ISS logistics shortfall in the crucial first few years after the space shuttle's 2010 retirement. "I think depending entirely on COTS would be a significant risk to the long-term viability of the station," Holloway said during a hearing of the House Science Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee."

"Because Congress has failed to demonstrate such a path, if H.R. 3093 were presented to the President, he would veto the bill. ...

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) - The Administration supports the House's full funding for NASA's Exploration Systems and Space Shuttle. However, the Administration does not endorse funding in excess of the request for Aeronautics, Education, and Science, where increases for near-term support would create unsustainable outyear funding requirements. The Administration also strongly objects to reductions to the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite Continuation Project that would reduce the future system availability of critical space communications capabilities for NASA and other partner agencies. The Administration further objects to the proposed establishment of several new appropriations accounts in FY 2008, that are not necessary and would adversely impact NASA's financial management system, processes, and controls."

IFPTE Letter Regarding Consideration of H.R. 3093

Editor's note: The White House is backing Griffin's push to burn every spare piece of firewood at NASA that he can find so as to keep one program going i.e. Ares 1 - and to do so at the expense of the remainder of NASA's chartered portfolio. And the sad hilarity of it all is that the White House now claims to be concerned about the future consequences of spending more on aeronautics, education, and science.They are apparently blind to the effects their decisions have already had on the agency's future i.e. they promised big bucks for VSE, then they did not deliver, then they drained money from elsewhere to pay VSE's mounting bills -- and now they balk when someone (Congress) tries to rectify the problem the White House has created.

New NASA Layer Incorporated into Google Earth, Nano2Sol

"Posted the other day on the Google Lat Long Blog is mention of a new NASA layer being added to Google Earth. It incorporates Astronaut Photography of Earth, Satellite Imagery, and Earth City Lights."

House ISS Hearing

Opening Statement By Mark Udall: Hearing on NASA's Space Shuttle and International Space Station Programs: Status and Issues

"Another area of great concern is how the ISS will be supported logistically once the Shuttle is retired. It's not yet clear that NASA's budget for logistical support of the Station is sufficient for the task, or that all of the planned capabilities will be available when needed. I hope that today's hearing will shed some light on the situation. Yet all of the work being done to assemble the ISS and support it logistically is not meant to be an end in itself. Rather, it's the degree to which it is utilized productively that will determine the ultimate success or failure of the ISS. That is why a number of us have been so concerned about the severe cutbacks in NASA's Space Station research program and budget over the past several years. Those cuts have largely decimated the research community that had planned to use the ISS, with potentially serious implications for the productivity of the ISS as a research facility once it is assembled."

Opening Statement By Cristina T. Chaplain
Opening Statement By G. Paul Neitzel
Opening Statement By Tommy Holloway
Opening Statement By William Gerstenmaier
House Science and Technology Committee's Subcommittee Examines Challenges Facing Space Shuttle and International Space Station Programs
Subcommittee Reviews Plans for Space Station and Shuttle

Editor's note: NASA's strategic communications folks have been worrying about NASA branding, identity, visibility, etc. lately. In so doing, they love to wave around studies that show that NASA has a high level of visibility among the public as they promote their various plans. However, what sometimes seems to escape these NASA pollsters is exactly what sort of image the public holds of NASA - even if a large number of people are aware of NASA.

Of course, NASA is only worried about what Americans think in this regard - not foreigners. Have a look at this video (below) made for their song "Amerika" by the German industrial metal band "Rammstein". My German is rusty, but the general theme of this music video - and song - seems to be to decry the Americanization of the world. Of course, they use moon walkers as the main American icon. Kinda funny to see that coming from Germany - a country whose products are often as popular as American products. Just think of all those VW Beetles roaming around Latin America.

There is one worthwhile aspect to this video: It is nice to see the movie studio where NASA faked all the moon landings. And the cameo appearance by the old NASA "worm" logo on the lead guitar is a nice touch as well.

NASA and the next administration, SpaceReview

"It has long been a complaint of space advocates that presidential candidates spend little or no time discussing their space policy positionsif, in fact, they have bothered to develop any positions on the subject. Space is near the bottom of the list of topics of interest to the electorate in general, and one that is not a swing issue for all but a small handful of voters. It is also rarely a partisan issue, making it difficult for space policy to become more ammunition in the continuous battles between Republicans and Democrats. Thus, even in the current campaignwhich is shaping up to be the longest and perhaps the most contentious in US historytheres scant attention paid to space."

Editor's note: Orbital Express was turned off yesterday. I guess that means that its mission has been completed.

Northrop Grumman to Buy Builder of SpaceShipOne, First Manned Commercial Space Rocket, AP

"Northrop Grumman Corp. has agreed to buy the company that built the first private manned rocket to reach space, it was announced Friday. Northrop earlier this month agreed to increase its stake in Mojave, Calif.-based Scaled Composites LLC from 40 percent to 100 percent, said company spokesman Dan McClain."

NASA Robots Practice Moon Survey in the Arctic Circle

"Two NASA robots are surveying a rocky, isolated polar desert within a crater in the Arctic Circle. The study will help scientists learn how robots could evaluate potential outposts on the moon or Mars. The robots, K10 Black and K10 Red, carry 3-D laser scanners and ground-penetrating radar. The team arrived at Haughton Crater at Devon Island, Canada, on July 12 and will operate the machines until July 31. Scientists chose the polar region because of the extreme environmental conditions, lack of infrastructure and resources, and geologic features. Additionally, Haughton Crater is geographically similar to Shackleton Crater at the South Pole of the moon. Both are impact craters that measure roughly 12.4 miles in diameter."

Constructing the Space Shuttle Challenger Memorial Inukshuk on Devon Island

On Wednesday, 18 July 2007, Leroy Chiao, Matt Reyes, myself and a group of Inuit students constructed a memorial inukshuk on Devon Island to honor the crew of Space Shuttle Challenger. Here is a movie of the dedication and the materials placed at the base of the inukshuk. Keith Cowing is shown placing materials in the container and astronaut Leroy Chiao says a few words about the memorial. Some photos from that activity are online here.

Here Comes NOMAD

NASA ARC internal memo: NOMAD (NASA Operational Messaging and Directory) Project Town Hall

"The NASA Administrator has advocated the development and implementation of a single agency messaging system. NOMAD encompasses integrated e-mail, calendaring, instant messaging, and common file sharing. Ames is scheduled to migrate to NOMAD by November 2007. In addition, vendor support for the Eudora e-mail client will expire November 2007."

Editor's note: Of course it would not occur to NASA to go buy a commercial, secure, off-the-shelf solution - just like the private sector uses. Nah. Let's recreate what is already available for sale - no doubt at 10 times the cost - something that will be out of date the moment it goes online.

Reader note: NOMAD is far worse than what you could imagine. 200MB Inbox quotas, to start with (or, for an additional fee, 1GB). Servers centralized at JSC and MSFC. Other centers have reported repeated downtimes, bouncing messages. All e-mail must be POP'd to the local desktop. Etc. Software-wise, it's MS Exchange servers. Why the field Centers can't have their own Exchange servers (perhaps with more relaxed quotas and other policies?) is beyond me, but much of what comes from HQ is beyond me. Back to 1970's systems architectures for NASA. NOMAD is a sweetheart ODIN contract deal (ODIN - the IT services run by LockMart) that is a nightmare for us users. Gotta love naming an e-mail system after a homicidal robot [from Star Trek] . Where's Roykirk?

NASA Administrator Names Ryschkewitsch as New Chief Engineer

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin has named Michael Ryschkewitsch as the agency's chief engineer. He succeeds Christopher Scolese, who Griffin selected as NASA's associate administrator on July 11.

Skintight Space Suit is "more Spiderman, less John Glenn", MIT

"The suits could also help astronauts stay fit during the six-month journey to Mars. Studies have shown that astronauts lose up to 40 percent of their muscle strength in space, but the new outfits could be designed to offer varying resistance levels, allowing the astronauts to exercise against the suits during a long flight to Mars. The project was initially funded by the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts."

Editor's note: I am currently on Devon Island, in Nunavut, Canada less than a thousand miles from the North Pole as part of the Haughton-Mars Project's activities. It would seem that I also have in my possession Earth's northernmost iPhone. Check out the video. Click on Image to play.

Leading your leaders

Memo From NASA's Wayne Hale: Leading your leaders

"When I was a new NASA employee, my branch chief put together a training class that has been in my mind recently. Among the other things he taught us new employees was that we had to lead our leaders. That has always been good advice. I'd like to share some of those thoughts and expand on them.

First of all, remember that your leaders are not very smart.

OK, maybe Mike Griffin is smart, but the rest of us need a lot of help."

Shuttle's Name Misspelled On NASA Launch Pad Sign, Local 6

"The first NASA sign at launch pad 39A encouraging the next launch of space shuttle Endeavour at Kennedy Space Center was misspelled and noticed by someone looking at the craft."

Editor's note:Given some of the Powerpoint presentations I have seen, having only one typo is rather good for NASA...

Horowitz Leaving NASA

Editor's note: ESMD AA Scott Horowitz will be leaving NASA effective 1 October 2007.

"Everyone,

It is true. I will be departing on or about October 1st of this year which will mark the end of my "2 year tour of duty." I need to devote more attention to my family responsibilities. I will discuss in more detail at our All Hands meeting next week. It is an honor and a privelage to serve our country, NASA, our administrator, and to work with such an outstanding group of people on such an incredible adventure. We have come a long way and have a lot more to do during the next 3 months until my successor takes the helm.

Thank you, "Doc"

image
Scolese to Succeed Geveden as NASA Associate Administrator, NASA

"NASA Associate Administrator Rex Geveden announced Wednesday that he will leave the agency at the end of July to join Teledyne Technologies as the president of Teledyne Brown Engineering, Huntsville, Ala. NASA Administrator Michael Griffin has selected Christopher Scolese to succeed Geveden as associate administrator, the No. 3 position in the agency."

President Bush Visits Cleveland, Ohio - NASA Excerpts

"I think that NASA needed to become relevant in order to be -- to justify the spending of your money, and therefore, I helped changed the mission from one of orbiting in a space shuttle -- in a space station to one of becoming a different kind of group of explorers. And therefore, we set a new mission, which is to go to the moon and set up a launching there from which to further explore space."

NASA is putting together a promising string of successes, editorial, Caller-Times.com

"Another positive sign from the NASA front came last weekend with the launching of an unmanned spacecraft that will make its way to the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter."

Editor's note: Huh? Dawn's launch has been delayed to September.

Editor's note: The NASA History Division is looking for capable undergraduate or graduate students to work as interns this coming fall. More information is available at http://history.nasa.gov/interncall.htm online. The deadline for fall 2007 applications is August 15, 2007.

Nowak Upate

Transcript shows former astronaut Nowak wanted to question rival (with PDF), Orlando Sentinel

"Former NASA astronaut Lisa Nowak wanted to know whether her love rival knew about her relationship with former astronaut Bill Oefelein and her "potential" for more. That's what she told Orlando police Detective William Becton after her arrest at Orlando International Airport on Feb. 5. The State Attorney's Office released the 72-page transcript of the interview Monday in response to a public-records request from the Orlando Sentinel."

Editor's update: According to Doug McCuistion, Mars Exploration Program director, speaking at a press conference today regarding the potential problems with the MARDI instrument and testing of the Phoenix lander "It is important to remember that we bought a used car".

One Image Planned During Descent of Phoenix , NASA JPL

"The issue is not the camera itself, which is capable of taking multiple downward-looking images of the landing area during the final three minutes of flight. Tests of the assembled lander found that an interface card has a small possibility of triggering loss of some vital engineering data if it receives imaging data during a critical phase of final descent. That possibility is considered an unacceptable risk, and the potential problem with the interface card was identified too late for changing hardware. The card has circuitry that routes data from various parts of the payload."

Editor's note: Although NASA and all of the mission participants are very shy about saying this, Phoenix was originally called the Mars Surveyor 2001 lander - a spacecraft with significant hardware commonality with the Mars Polar Lander. As you may recall, MPL crashed into Mars when the jolt of its engines firing made some sensors think the spacecraft had landed - so it shut the engines off - and ... splat. The main culprit was found to be incomplete integrated testing prior to launch.

It's great that they did more integrated testing this time, but I have to wonder why they waited to test such things in an integrated fashion where results from that testing could not result in a hardware fix, but rather not using part of the spacecraft's hardware - thus diminishing its capability.

And although the "science" won't be affected once Phoenix is on the surface, this is a case where the spacecraft's overall objectives will not be met - despite the spin NASA is trying to put on it. Otherwise, why was a descent imager capable of multiple images included on the spacecraft in the first place?

But wait - NASA/JPL is saying that "the mission will still be capable of accomplishing all of its science goals."

I am confused. This mission fact sheet at the University of Arizona says: "Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) - Built by Malin Space Science Systems MARDI plays a key science role during Phoenix's descent to the Martian arctic. Beginning just after the aeroshell is jettisoned at an altitude of about 5 miles, MARDI will acquire a series of wide-angle, color images of the landing site all the way down to the surface."

And further, this page at Malin Space Science Systems says "The Phoenix Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) will provide a context in which all other Phoenix observations can be fully understood. Among the most important questions to be asked about a spacecraft sitting on a planet is "Where is it?" and "Descent imaging provides a bridge between orbiter pictures, that tell us about regional and global scales, and lander images of very small, "micro-scale" attributes of the planet."

So what is it, NASA? Does this instrument play a key "science role" in this mission or doesn't it? You really need to be consistent with what you've said previously before you try and spin bad news into something a little more palatable.

Editor's update: Malin Space Science Systems was issued a stop work order on MARDI effective 1 June 2007.

NASA Dawn Mission Rescheduled for September Launch, NASA

"Primary reasons for the move were a combination of highly limited launch opportunities for Dawn in July and the potential impact to launch preparations for the upcoming Phoenix Mars Lander mission, set for early August. A September launch for Dawn maintains all of the science mission goals a July launch would have provided."

Texas Monthly readers shun 'astronaut sex' issue, AP

"It seems that many Texas Monthly magazine readers were less than thrilled by a tale of astronaut romance. Texas Monthly editor Evan Smith, in a recent posting on the magazine's Web site, wrote of criticism from readers about the May issue featuring a cover story with the headline "Astronaut Sex!" The article was about a love triangle involving former astronaut Lisa Nowak."

NASA Lab Workers Decry New Security Checks, Science (subscription)

"If you do not want to surrender the information to allow your background to be checked ... then you cannot work within the federal system," Griffin told JPL employees during a 4 June visit. That message hasn't gone down well among some JPL employees. "Signing this form amounts to inviting the government to go on an open fishing expedition," says planetary scientist Robert Nelson."

Another NASA Vehicle Having Trouble Landing, Wonkette

This was posted an hour ago in the Washington DC travel forum on Trip Advisor:

"From: NewNasa
Posted on: 12:12 pm, June 28, 2007
Which garages in Georgetown, part of the Washington, DC, area will allow parking of a large bus, approximately 55 passenger bus, for about two hours? The parking space will be needed on a weekend morning.
my e-mail address is ----- @hq.nasa.gov

What sort of lunatics need to garage-park a giant bus for two hours? Oh, right, its NASA. They probably built the bus themselves, so it probably falls apart in the rain or sunshine or humidity."

Editor's note: This story title appeared today at Fox News: Martian Dust Storm Could Destroy NASA Rovers. It's actually a republished story originally written and posted at Space.com with the slightly less apocalyptic title "'Scary Storm' on Mars Could Doom Rovers". "Scary storm" is derived from what someone working on the project actually said. No one really thinks that this storm will physically destroy the rovers - just cause them to run out of power and shut down.

There's a difference between what people say and what they don't say, Fox. I guess someone in your web production department just saw Transformers and liked the scene on Mars where an uber robot crushes a puny little rover from Earth.

No space for space artifacts, Huntsville Times

"There has been criticism about the way some of the space center's artifacts have been handled, chiefly a one-of-a-kind Skylab trainer - basically a full-size mock-up of NASA's first space station. The trainer was left exposed to weather for years."

Skylab not forgotten, say center officials, Huntsville Times

"Hancock and the volunteer group started to restore the Skylab trainer a year ago and, after working many weekends, "we felt it was about 80 percent back in good condition. There was still some work needed, painting and such, but we had made a lot of progress." Then the project was shut down in December. "We were never given an official reason," Hancock said. "We came out and the locks had been changed." Capps said there were liability concerns when volunteers work on a restoration project as complex as the Saturn V or Skylab restoration."

Editor's note: So let me get this straight: the Skylab trainer hardware has been allowed to sit outside for years and rot by the U.S. Space & Rocket Center (USSRC). The USSRC did nothing to preserve the hardware except throw a tarp over it. A group of concerned citizens organized and donated their own time and money to try and halt the destruction and preserve the hardware. After their efforts show some results (and made the USSRC look bad) the USSRC thinks that the volunteers were doing something wrong and locks them out. And now the hardware continues to rot and yet the USSRC does nothing but try to look concerned. This is pathetic. It is also a rotten way to say "thank you" to volunteers who sought to do the job that USSRC has clearly failed to do i.e. to preserve the articfacts that have been entrusted to it.

According to earmarks (pork) inserted ito NASA FY 2008 Appropriations, Sen. Shelby the USSRC is due to get $500,000 for "completion of a long overdue update for the museum and exhibits". Perhaps the USSRC could publicly state that this project will be at the top of the list of things to beneft from this influx of funds - and that the first priority will be to cover the hardware (properly) such that "birds and rodents" no longer live inside it.

The photo below (taken 48 hours ago) shows the extent of deterioration that the USSRC allows to persist . If the USSRC thinks that it is OK to let things get this bad ... Oh yes, according to a local resident, "those pieces are sitting outside the fence. Anybody can just pop up and get at them."

NASA Mars Program Threatened by Senate Funding Bill, Planetary Society

"It appears that the entire sum will be taken out of the Mars exploration budget, including $20 million from funds supporting the Mars Exploration Rovers. This could force NASA to shut down the Mars rovers at the end of the current fiscal year!"

Editor's note: "It appears" and "could force"? Sorry Lou, that's not quite what I am hearing from NASA and elsewhere here in Washington. While the Senate did take $30 million out of Mars reserves, the House did not do this in their version of the bill and between subsequent conference action on this bill and inherent flexibility within NASA's Mars program, this is not expected to be present in the final Appropriations bill.

Besides, what kind of message would Congress be sending out by singling out a single, small item such as the rovers - just as Opportunity is poised to enter Victoria Crater - at the same time as they are going out of their way to tell people how they have substantially increased the money they feel NASA deserves?

The Planetary Society has been (rightfully and to their credit) complaining about space science cuts. So, guess what: Congress strongly reverses this trend - and yet the Planetary Society still seems to be missing the bigger picture.

Editor's note: Looks like Dave King's office has been busy. If you can't get funding for things at your center from your boss, you can always get your local Senator to toss some pork back your way. In this case its $9,350,000 worth of pork. Of course, it also helps Sen. Shelby's popularity back home to shovel tax dollars at the locals - even if the money goes to places that has nothing whatsoever to do with NASA's charter. Just come up with round numbers too. You don't need to bother and check and see what the actual financial needs are - they'll figure out how to spend the money. Total FY 2008 pork bill for Sen. Shelby: $16,350,000. Here's the list:

Budget Update

Senate Report 110-124: NASA Excerpts - Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, 2008

"The Committee recommendation provides $17,459,600,000 for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration [NASA]. The recommendation is $1,175,300,000 above the fiscal year 2007 enacted level, including emergency supplemental appropriations, and $150,200,000 above the budget request."

Senate Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Committee Clears Fiscal 2008 Funding Legislation

"National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA): The bill provides $17.46 billion for NASA, $1.2 billion above FY 2007 and $150 million above the Presidents budget request. The bill fully funds the Presidents budget request for Space Shuttle operations ($4 billion) and Space Station operations ($2.2 billion). The bill also provides: the full Presidents budget request of $3.9 billion for development of the next generation Crew Launch Vehicle (CLV, called Ares) and Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV, called Orion), $5.66 billion for science; and $554 million for aeronautics research."

Editor's note: The committee staff don't seem to know their agency names all that well - they refer to the "National Atmospheric and Space Administration (NASA)" in this release.

NASA Does Hip Hop?

Byrn, Waits, M.I.A., RZA, ODB, YYYs on NASA LP, Pitchfork

"Squeak E. Clean, aka director Spike Jonze's brother Sam Spiegel, has teamed up with DJ Zegon, aka Ze Gonzales, to release a debut album together under the name NASA (North America South America)."

Video report of Atlantis visit to Ft. Campbell, Kentucky

Reader note: "The narrator did not seem to realize for whom "Rick Husband Airport" in Amarillo is named."

Space Shuttle Atlantis Lands At Fort Campbell, News Channel 5

Reader note: "The shuttle ferry landed at Ft. Campbell Army base today, since the weather is bad at KSC. I live in Nashville, Tennessee, and Ft Campbell TN/KY is about an hour and a half drive. As soon as I heard that the shuttle ferry landed at Ft. Campbell this morning, I took off early from work and drove to the base. You would not believe the crowds. It took me three hours to get on the base to have a chance to see Atlantis. There were tons of kids with there parents. The kids, and the grownups too, were in awe at the sight of Atlantis. What better PR for NASA! A lot more exciting than some of PAO's attempts to woo the public for sure."

NASA Strategic Management Council 25 April 2007: Strategic Communications Framework Implementation Plan

"Members questioned some of the technologies cited in the testing as growing out of NASA research and development, stating that NASA does more fundamental than applied research. Porter specifically questioned including smoke detectors in the list and stated that there are aeronautics inventions that NASA can take full credit for having done the research. Members stressed the need to be accurate.

SMC Decision: The Administrator directed that the Office of Communications Planning thoroughly vet NASA claims that the Agency was responsible for the research that enabled technologies ultimately used by the general public (e.g., smoke detectors) with in-house experts before it can be included in Agency messages.

SMC Action: The Office of Communications Planning is to vet the current list of NASA "spinoff" technologies being used in the Office's message testing with in house experts, specifically the Innovative Partnership Program Director Doug Comstock, Howard Ross of PA&E, and, with specific regard to smoke detector technology, Aeronautics Research Associate Administrator Lisa Porter, due by the next meeting."

Editor's note: A gold star for Lisa Porter! Wouldn't you think that a NASA office that does "strategic communication" would want to adopt a "strategy" of checking their facts regarding NASA's purported spinoffs BEFORE they put a plan together around them?

If you search through NASA's Spinoff Database for smoke detectors (I assume NASA StratComm has access to this) you will see that the smoke detector mentioned as a spinoff (from 1979) "is no longer being manufactured." Wow. Is NASA bragging about something that has not been manufactured for 28 years? Why would anyone be impressed by that?

NASA Spinoff website

Spinoffs That Are Hip

HangTimer Product Website: "Whether you huck off a cliff, bomb down a bike trail, or just toss it (and yourself) in the air, the HangTimer's built in tri-axis accelerometer measures your actual hangtime. The carabiner style design fits comfortably in the palm of the hand and can be easily read when clipped to a belt loop. ... The HangTimer uses a Tri-Axis Accelerometer to detect accelerations that a person experiences when airborne. This is the same technology used by NASA in their spacecraft - so we're not kidding about the Rocket Science."

Editor's note: Gee if NASA's Strategic Communications folks were a little more hip, they'd be tracking the spinoffs that young people might actually use - instead of going on and on (year after year) about how NASA somehow invented pacemakers, modern computers, and smoke detectors.

1000 Days at Sea: The Mars Ocean Odyssey: "Captain Stowe has collaborated with and maintains a close relationship with behavioral scientists associated with NASA and the Smithsonian. This is due to their interest in common aspects of isolation during the 1000 day ocean voyage that are very similar to the time frame and challenges expected for the coming manned Mars expedition."

Some Space Analogous Thoughts

  • How do astronauts wash their clothes?
  • Now that it's hot, I never wear shoes. Can they go barefooted?
  • During spaceflight, the only thing an astronaut can touch is what they bring with them. It's the same for us, though we can touch water and the few fish that we catch. It's very much sensory deprivation.
  • How much will power does it take for an astronaut to go on?
  • Are they constantly called on to do their best?
  • We are totally responsible for the outcome of our voyage. How is the astronaut affected by the unseen "big brother" who monitors them and drives their ship?
  • How do similar voyages into the unknown inspire the spiritual consciousness of mankind?

Follow the crew's progress on their Mission Blog

[Jay] Buckey '08: "I love this country, and I believe in our future - but right now we are on the wrong track. The country I was born in could send people to the Moon. Today, like so many Americans, I'm deeply concerned that we can't respond adequately to a disaster in one of our own cities, and that we started a war without a clear understanding of what it would take to finish it."

NASA Has Killed NIAC

The NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) is Closing

Editor's note: If you visit NIAC's home page you will see that "NIAC is Closing - A Legacy of Revolutionary Concepts". As mentioned previously on NASA Watch this is a stupid decision on the part of Mike Griffin. Inevitably, once he is gone, his successor will see the need for NIAC - or something like it - and be forced to recreate it. And when they do, they will be scratching their head wondering why Griffin did such a dumb thing in the first place.

Killing NIAC, earlier post

"Where are you going to get all of the things you need to put on those Ares rockets so as to allow their crews to carry out their missions, Mike? Or do you "just need a good map"? Explorers without the right tools die - or turn around - and head back home. Wrong answer, Mike."

NASA Program Management Council 23 May 2007: Lunar Lander Project

"Cost estimates for a traditional phase A/B approach could not be justified considering the available budget. Two alternatives were considered, defer any significant work until 2011/2012 when budget would be available or pursue a different approach. The Constellation program recommended an alternate approach be pursued and that a senior level steering committee be established to shape and guide the approach."

NASA Program Management Council 26 April 2007: Agency Human Rating Certification Plans

"Geveden questioned the assertion that the human rating requirements are unnecessarily cumbersome and what kind of change might be expected. Scott Horowitz, ESMD AA, noted that the technical requirements had been significantly streamlined. Harkins indicated that while the wording of individual requirements may have been streamlined and clarified in most cases the new requirements could be directly traced to the old."

NASA Strategic Management Council 22 May 2007: Grffin Comments on Agency Strategy

"Griffin stated that if the Agency is to achieve its goals, it is critical to be able to eliminate content in the face of budget cuts. He asked members to work with him to identify the least important program content that could be cut without compromising Agency goals. Getting permission from Congress to cut content will be difficult and will require the Administrator and members to work together as a team."

Genesis II Successfully Launched

Genesis II Calls Home, Says It's Doing Fine

"Initial data suggests sufficient voltage powering up Genesis II's batteries as well as expected air pressure. While the actual confirmation of solar panel deployment and spacecraft expansion are expected later, the data suggests that deployment and expansion have been successful. Before contact, successful communication was considered a long shot on Genesis II's first pass over the ground station in Fairfax, Va. Elevation for the pass was considered low for a successful contact. "We don't even talk to Genesis I that low," Program Manager Eric Haakonstad said. To the surprise of those gathered in Mission Control and shouts of "We got it" echoing through the room, contact was established and Genesis II immediately began sending data back to Earth on its condition."

The Amateur Future of Space Travel, NY Times

"One of the reasons Congress was telling us they weren't giving us any more money," Ken Davidian, the NASA administrator of the challenges, told me, "was because we had not awarded any money." Davidian is a small compact man with a bit of a Dudley Do-Right chin and a swift, busy manner. At any of the contests, he can be found setting up his traveling triptych (actually five panels, a pentatych) of promotional material. "I wasn't disappointed we weren't giving money away," he said, "because we had good company, and it shows that the prizes were hard to win."


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

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