Keith Cowing: April 2009 Archives

Scott at Everest - with the Sun Shining, Miles O'Brien

"Eventually, we are going to get these vidchats from Everest Base Camp down to a science. At 11pm EDT on Wednesday - 8:45am Thursday at EBC, I spoke with Scott Parazynski and Keith Cowing. The weather is much better at this time of day there - and so we finally saw the amazing peaks behind them."

Scott Parazynski checks in from Everest, Miles O'Brien

"Astronaut Scott Parazynski checks in from Everest Base Camp. He is resting and eating - a lot (5,000 calories a day) in preparation for his summit bid. What's his favorite food at EBC? Not the Yak!"

Skype vidchat with Astronaut Scott Parazynski at Everest Base Camp, Miles O'Brien

"Mallory, come quickly! - great chat with Scott Parazynski and Keith Cowing this morning (EDT) - their afternoon (Everest time). Scott is in good spirits and "feeling strong like bull". He was joined by Keith Cowing (who is his multimedia sherpa for this season). Eric Simonson, the lead dog at IMG made a cameo as well."

More info at onorbit.com/everest

Editor's note: I arrived at Everest Base Camp at around 9:30 am Nepal time this morning (27 April). I have more or less settled in and have started to work. Scott is looking just fine - but tired after several days up on the mountain. He arrived back at the IMG base camp this morning the precise second I came around the last turn in the path toward the IMG tents. What timing! The NASA Trek Team is due here tomorrow morning and we are planning a satellite telephone call to the ISS crew around 7:22 GMT tomorrow. Stay tuned. Follow us at onorbit.com/everest and at SPOTscott on Twitter

Editor's note: According to sources Mike Griffin made reference to NASA Watch last night at the Goddard Memorial Dinner: "Tonight is the first night giving a speech in public where I won't wake up tomorrow and read about it in NASAWatch."

I hate burst your bubble Mike. I guess it is "tomorrow" - I may be sitting in a tea lodge in Namche, Nepal, but NASA Watch has eyes and ears everywhere.

Don't let the door ...

Editor's Update: We have conflicting reports about what was said. Our sources who were there provided the quote while others say Mike did not make this statement. Without a transcript to reference and since it seems we've heard a wide variety of comments on this issue I've decided to close comments. Marc Boucher

NASA to Announce New Space Station Module Name April 14

"NASA's newest module for the International Space Station will get a new name on April 14. The agency plans to make the announcement with the help of Expedition 14 and 15 astronaut Sunita "Suni" Williams on Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report." The program will air at 11:30 p.m. EDT. The name, which will not be publicly released until the program airs, was selected from thousands of unique suggestions submitted on NASA's Internet site, www.nasa.gov. The "Help Name Node 3" poll asked people to vote for the module's name either by choosing one of four NASA options or by offering their own suggestion. The poll closed on March 20."

Editor's Update: I bet everyone can't wait to watch Colbert today.

Give Node 3 an inspirational name, Houston Chronicle

"You dont know me, and I dont know you, so I cannot ask for a favor, and I cannot argue that the votes from the public favor naming Node 3 the Colbert. However, I would like to ask only that you consider this from the perspective of legacy. While I appreciate the influence your position affords you, I cannot help but feel that if a name must be attached to Node 3, it deserves to be in the honor of those who have risked and sacrificed so much for the greater good of all. Seventeen people have lost their lives in accidents aboard U.S. spacecraft over the history of the U.S. space program, and none has his or her name attached to a spacecraft. Node 3 cannot be named after those 17, or the countless thousands who work day in and day out across the country in the many facets of the space program, but doesnt Node 3 deserve a name that at least encompasses the work, dedication and sacrifice that so many have made to make it and the rest of the International Space Station a reality?"

Naming Spacecraft

Naming Spacecraft: Confusion Reigns, Collectspace

"Sometimes the spacecraft-naming process became controversial and resulted in battles of will between the flight crews and self-appointed screening experts at NASA headquarters. Gus Grissom almost ran afoul of the approval loop but won out in the end. See sidebar, What's In A Name?, (below). His choice, "Molly Brown," was eventually approved. However, the NASA Headquarters bureaucrats were so "ticked off" after the Grissom incident no names were allowed for the remaining Gemini flights (4 through 12) and Apollo flights 7 and 8, merely the official numerical designations were used. i.e. Gemini 4, 5 etc., and Apollo 7 and 8."

Space Station Nears an Extension, Wall Street Journal

"The U.S. and major foreign partners on the International Space Station have agreed in principle to keep it operating through 2020, at least five years beyond the current deadline, according to government and industry officials. There had been looming questions about the future of the space station -- which took nearly two decades and more than $100 billion to design and build -- because until now, the major partners hadn't committed to keeping it going past 2015. An extension could give new momentum to the scientific research conducted there, which initially was delayed by false starts and problems finishing assembly of the station."

According to @NASA "NASA will announce the name of the newest space station module on Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report" April 14 at 11:30 p.m. EDT."

Heading Off To Everest

Editor's note: I leave on Sunday for Nepal and will be there until 31 May. I will have Internet access while I am trekking in to Everest Base Camp via a variety of means albeit limited. At Everest Base Camp, I should have good comms, but they are expensive and I need to conserve them for the tasks at hand. As such, I really won't be responding to email, phone calls, etc. the way that I normally do. My email will be monitored by Marc Boucher and important messages will get to me. I hope to keep an eye (and a hand) on NASA Watch from time to time while Marc and guest bloggers hold down the fort.

You can follow what Scott Parazynski and I are up to at onorbit.com/everest. I will also be blogging for the Discovery Channel. Once I begin trekking you can follow me at SPOT. And of course, I will be twittering as well at KeithCowing.

Back in the States, Miles O'Brien will be our main anchor or "news sherpa" at our main expedition webpage. Scott, Miles, and I - plus the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, NASA PAO, Discovery Channel, Explorers Club, Boy Scouts, and SPOT - plan to try some things that have not been done before from this remote location.

We plan to do all of this in the spirit of what has now come to be called "participatory exploration" at NASA. If all the technology, weather, climbers, and logistics work out, we will have some interesting - and unprecedented - things to share with everyone. We will also be soliciting your imput at our main website.

Ad Astra - and Namaste
Keith

Sending The Wrong Message

First World Released to DVD Sales to Benefit the SETI Institute and the National Space Society

"Screened at over 20 science fiction conventions in the United States, Australia, India, Japan, Ireland and the United Kingdom, First World is set in the year 2018 and is a fictional account of what NASA discovered and covered up during the Apollo space program. The secret is now unraveling on the eve of the next space race to the Moon between China and the United States with the world bracing itself for the dramatic outcome."

Editor's note: Oh great, what a wonderful message for the SETI Institute and National Space Society to be associated with.

Ed Wardle: Everest Base Camp, Discovery

"For those trekking up from below, it spells hardship, extreme cold, nausea, headaches that won't go away and the risk of potentially lethal altitude sickness. For those climbing down from the dangers above, it's a haven with hot water, comfortable beds, warm climate, good food and safety. Right now, everyone is coming up to Everest base camp from below."

Scott parazynski: Icefall Revisited, then well-needed rest, OnOrbit

"It took 2 and a half hours to get to our high point, and a full 2 hours to return to Crampon Point ("Crampoff Point?"). I was totally exhausted coming back into camp, and after lunch I completely cratered in my tent for the rest of the afternoon! In retrospect, I didn't stop to drink and rest often enough, and as a result ended up with a mild altitude-related headache in the evening. This morning I feel much better owing to lots of warm tea and orange drink (I think a knock-off of Tang, which I used to love as a kid, but can hardly stand now!)."

Nick Lampson "still in the running for NASA top job", Orlando Sentinel

"It seems the reports about former Democratic congressman Nick Lampson's demise as a contender for the NASA administrator's job have been greatly exaggerated. A person extremely close to Lampson has told the Orlando Sentinel that the Houston Chronicle misinterpreted remarks by the former Houston representative about being ready to "move on" with his life as meaning he was not interested in the NASA job. "Nick Lampson is still in the running despite earlier reports from the Houston Chronicle," the person, who is very familiar with the situation, said."

Chairman Gordon Disappointed in NASA's Decision to Award Contract Despite Ongoing Investigation

"Today, NASA awarded a $1.2 billion award for the Space Communications Networks Services (SCNS), despite an ongoing investigation into organizational and personal conflicts of interest."

Miles O'Brien Interviews Scott Parazynski About His Return to Everest

"Preparing for a space shuttle flight or an EVA is a very intense process. It's the physical training, of course, since going on a space walk is very physically demanding. There is also mental preparation and knowing your tasks. There is knowing your equipment and how it works and how the gear might fail. Then there is the process of going through everything in your head, training runs - the things that you will be doing outside on a space walk. Going to Mount Everest is quite similar. You need to be getting your body ready, your gear, mentally preparing for the rigors of summit day and what leads up to it. It takes a lot of work. There are a number of differences as well. Out on a spacewalk we are wearing what is essentially our own personal spacecraft. We a have a visor, an oxygen backpack, cooling systems, battery power, and protection from the elements. Similarly, on our summit day on Everest, for example, we will have a down suit, an oxygen system, goggles to protect us from the ultraviolet radiation that could basically fry our eyeballs in very short order. The physical workload of that summit day, in particular, is very, very intense. But when you are out on a spacewalk you are typically very comfortable. There are brief bursts of very hard physical work that. But on the mountain you have to give it everything you have got every step of the way."

NASA Air Safety Update

NASA's National Aviation Operations Monitoring Service Project Was Designed Appropriately, but Sampling and Other Issues Complicate Data Analysis

"In reviewing a draft of this report, NASA reiterated that NAOMS was a research and development project and provided technical comments, which GAO incorporated as appropriate. NASA also expressed concern about protecting NAOMS respondents' confidentiality, a concern GAO shares. However, GAO noted that other agencies have developed mechanisms for releasing sensitive data to appropriate researchers. The Department of Transportation had no comments."

Chairman Gordon, Science and Technology Committee Members Release GAO Report on NAOMS

"This was a well-designed project that failed because it was executed without proper agency oversight and didn't have the support it needed from its primary customer--the FAA," said Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN)."

NASA safety survey a mystery, AP

"Years after thousands of pilots told NASA about their in-flight safety experiences and NASA shut down the survey without divulging any findings, the pilots' views remain a mystery. A congressional investigation to be released Thursday offers little new insight into what the pilots said during the telephone survey or what it might reveal about safe skies. NASA cut off the interviews in 2004 and chose not to analyze the results."

NASA Air Safety Survey: Redacted Air Carrier Survey Responses with Unknowns in Flight Activity Fields, earlier post
Committee Asks GAO to Analyze NASA's Air Safety Survey Data, earlier post
Air Safety Survey: NASA's Sluggishness Made Things Worse Than They Needed To Be, earlier post

In Full Interview, John Holdren Eschews New Nukes, Hints at Space Flight Delays, Science Insider

"Speaking this morning with ScienceInsider, Holdren discussed why he thinks the United States doesn't need new nuclear weapons. He warned of likely delays beyond 2015 in replacing the space shuttle and the possibility that China would launch U.S. astronauts during the interim."

Obama looking at cooling air to fight warming, AP

"[Holdren] said the Bush administration's plan to return astronauts to the moon was underfunded so money was taken from science and aeronautics. Those areas, including climate change research, were "decimated," he said. The administration will "rebalance NASA's programs so that we have in space exploration, a suitable mix of manned activities and robotic activities," Holdren said. Doing that "will only get under way in earnest when a new administrator is in place." Holdren, who advises the president on such decisions, said he hopes Obama will pick a new NASA boss soon."

President Obama's science adviser talks about his new job, Nature

"Do we know when that is going to happen? I certainly hope we have a new [NASA] administrator in place in the next month that is a hope, and not a prediction."

Boeing wins royalty in patent case against NASA

"Boeing Co. may get hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation after winning a patent-infringement claim against NASA over an aluminum alloy used to build the space shuttle. Boeing developed a lighter structure for frames in the 1970s and 1980s to save on jet fuel costs. It claimed the technology was used in the external fuel tank that provides the backbone of the shuttle during launch and sued the government in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington in 2000."

Scott Parazynski is heading up the Khumbu Icefall on Mt. Everest. Track him here - pick the "satellite" view.

Space Frontier Foundation Urges NASA to Respect Popular Vote on New Name for Space Station Waste Recycling Module

"The Space Frontier Foundation urged NASA to respect the results of a nationwide contest to name a new waste re-cycling module for the International Space Station (ISS). The Foundation proposed using either the first or second place winners of the contest: "The Colbert" (for the popular comedian) or "Serenity" (for the popular sci-fi television and film) as the official name for the module, whose purpose is to re-cycle human waste products and is the first of its kind to be flown in space."

Editor's note: Someone at SFF needs to do a little research before they put these things out. The module's "purpose" is NOT to recycle human waste - only one rack inside Node 3 does that. There are all other sorts of things there as well - life support, robotics, etc. The description of the node is obvious on the NASA page for the naming activity. Its like saying that your home exists to house a toilet because it has one.

Administrator Update

Lost in Space: Months After Obama's Inauguration, NASA Is Still Without a Chief, Fox News

"Not all experts are troubled about the agency's fate in the interim. Former NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe, who preceded Griffin, told FOXNews.com that Scolese is an "extraordinarily competent guy" who has a deep knowledge of engineering and of the "pulse and the rhythm of the agency." "He's got it -- he's going to be in fine shape," said O'Keefe. "It's not like the wheels are going to come off the cart."

We think: NASA needs a leader, opinion, Orlando Sentinel

"With the federal government now borrowing trillions of dollars to prop up the economy, it's understandable that Mr. Obama would weigh carefully the value for taxpayers in every federal program. But if big changes are coming in the space program, the price of delaying them, in money and time, could be steep. If the Obama administration intends to switch rocket designs for Constellation, for example, it should cut off work on Ares as soon as possible."

Whither NASA?, Achenblog, Washington Post

"Here's a name to add to the NASA Administrator-to-be Rumor Mill: Rep. Bart Gordon, head of a House science committee that oversees NASA. I asked him the other day if he was going to be administrator, and he said he already has the best job in the world and isn't going to trade it in for another. But I'd still keep his name on the list. He didn't outright deny that he might be the next boss on the ninth floor at NASA headquarters."

"Going through some old papers, I found a school publication which contained an essay I wrote in 1971. If memory serves, I had just read Gerard K. O'Neill's "The Case for Space", and of course, the Apollo lunar expeditions were in full swing.

I would like to hear your thoughts on how these arguments have held up for the last four decades. Are they true, has time shown them to be specious, or have they been overcome by events?

Your comments please on this tidbit of history."

Wow, What a Photo

Picture Perfect Soyuz Landing in Kazakhstan

"Two members of the 18th crew to live and work aboard the International Space Station and a spaceflight participant returned to Earth at 2:16 a.m. CDT Wednesday. NASA astronaut Mike Fincke, Russian cosmonaut Yury Lonchakov and spaceflight participant Charles Simonyi safely landed their Soyuz spacecraft in the steppes of southern Kazakhstan."

Editor's note: This is today's Image of the day at NASA.gov. Bill Ingalls has out done himself this time.

Scratch Lampson

Ex-Rep. Lampson not headed to top NASA job, Houston Chronicle

"Former Rep. Nick Lampson said Tuesday he is no longer a contender for the $177,000-a-year NASA administrator post. The Stafford Democrat, who lost his seat in a predominantly Republican district in southeastern Texas last fall, told the Houston Chronicle that White House officials had "not made any kind of offer" after approaching him about the post. "I understand this (selection) is not easy. It is a slow, deliberate process," Lampson said in a telephone interview. "But at the same time, I feel comfortable in moving on with my life. That is what I've done."

Gordon on NASA Budget

AIP FYI #42 Chairman Gordon on FY 2010 Budget

NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION: "I am pleased that the Administration has requested $18.7 billion for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in Fiscal Year 2010, which I consider to be welcome recognition that NASA needs additional resources to carry out the important tasks that the nation has given it. I strongly urge the Subcommittee to provide at least this level of funding, and hope that you will give serious consideration to providing appropriations for NASA consistent with the funding level authorized in the NASA Authorization Act of 2008.

"Last year, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of NASA. As we look ahead to the opportunities and challenges facing NASA over its next 50 years, I believe that we must do what we can to enable NASA to continue to engage in the most cutting-edge research and serve as inspiration for the next generation of scientists and engineers. To do this, NASA will need resources that are sufficient to allow it to fulfill each of its diverse missions, including space and Earth science, microgravity research, human space flight and exploration, aeronautics research and development, and education, as productively as possible."

Making a NASA Themselves, The Harvard Crimson

"Why has NASA had such a dismal track record since the Apollo program? Reduced funding tells part of the story. The space program received around $40 billion a year (adjusted for inflation) in the mid-1960s, which was at least four percent of the federal budget. But, back then, Americans also had a much greater tolerance for risk: The first successful Apollo mission was launched just eight months after the three astronauts in Apollo 1 died during testing. NASAs tighter leash today means that riskier programs like nuclear-powered spacecraft dont make it off the drawing board. Ultimately, NASAs 1960s miracles were enabled by widespread public and congressional support fueled by the Cold War race to the moon."

Astro Twitter

NASA Astronaut Tweets Provide Inside Look at Mission Training

"NASA astronaut Mike Massimino is using Twitter to provide a unique, behind the scenes peek at the last weeks of his training for the fifth and final shuttle servicing mission to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope."

"NASA, don't make Stephen launch an intern into space with a can of spray paint."

Video below

Posey Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Close the Space Gap

"Specifically the American Space Access Act extends the life of the space shuttle until either NASA's next generation space system, Constellation, comes online or a domestic supplier is certified by NASA as capable of taking humans into space and docking with the space station. The bill also calls for bringing the Constellation program online earlier and authorizes the funds that are necessary for both of these activities. Rep. Posey said his legislation limits the upgrades performed on the shuttle to safety upgrades to reduce costs."

Editor's note: Small wonder Space Florida is having problems. At a time when people question its value, you'd think that their media people would be making things available to the press in the easiest possible format for them to utilize. You would think. Instead, they picked the goofiest way imaginable to send out a press release: the sent a picture of it. No online database or search engine is going to find it like this - nor are any news services going to send it out to their readers - unless someone takes the time to retype it. That is not too likely. They did send me a text version (posted here) - but their media rep told me that she was told to send it out as pictures for "security reasons".

Administrator Update

NASA Awaits Word on Where It Is Going Next, Washington Post

"The Obama White House has twice been on the verge of making a formal nomination for a new head of the space agency but has pulled back both times because of grumbling from members of Congress with influence over space policy. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) has lobbied openly for the nomination of Marine Gen. Charles Bolden, a former astronaut, but the White House has not seemed eager to oblige the senator. "I am frustrated, because I don't know what the delay is," Nelson said recently."

NASA still has room at top, Huntsville Times

"It's become almost a running joke within" the space community, said Keith Cowing, who runs the NASA watchdog Web site NASAWatch.com and monitors aerospace issues daily on Capitol Hill. "There's been all sorts of names floated and re-floated. It's really anybody's guess almost at this point. "But there have been some front-runner names out there recently that may have gained some traction."

Editor's 12:00 am note: Scott Parazynski checked in a few minutes ago at Everest Base Camp using his SPOT Satellite Personal Tracker. After settling in we should start to get a lot more from Scott via a BGAN (INMARSAT satellite) phone. You can track Scott's progress here and on Twitter. You can see the path he took (and the one I will take in a week or so) here.

Editor's update: More updates just in from Scott at Everest Base Camp:

Trip Up Memory Lane: Pheriche to Lobuche
Rest Day in Lobuche: The Clinic is Open
Everest Base Camp with an extended stay at Gorak Shep

Replacing Soyuz

Russia to unveil spaceship plans, BBC

"Roscosmos should name the ship's prime developer, which has competed to win government funds for the project. The proposed new spacecraft should enter into service sometime towards the end of the next decade. It will replace the venerable three-seat Soyuz capsule, which has carried Russian cosmonauts into orbit for more than four decades. Although Roscosmos has remained tight-lipped about the upcoming presentation, the agency has quietly released its requirements for a future manned transport system to the Russian space industry. In doing so, the agency has shed some light on the ship's likely design and its possible missions. The spacecraft, currently known only by the Russian abbreviation PPTS, for Prospective Piloted Transport System, would be able to reach low-Earth orbit or to enter orbit around the Moon."

Pelosi Likes Lampson

Pelosi mum on 2010 retirement date for shuttle; gushes for Lampson as NASA chief

"However, Pelosi did have good things to say about former U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson, the Texas Democrat who once represented the Johnson Space Center area and has been mentioned as a candidate to become the next NASA chief under Obama. "I think he is a great person for it. I really know Nick Lampson. I think he would be fantastic," she said. "He was a champion for NASA."

Space Tourism Program Still Ticking, FreeSpace, Discovery News

"Space Adventures, the Virginia-based firm that so far has cornered the market on commercial spaceflight, isn't letting a little thing like no more flight opportunities spoil its business plans. In a conference call with reporters, company president Eric Anderson said the ongoing flight of space tourist Charles Simonyi (they prefer the term "spaceflight participant") shouldn't be its last."

Editor's note: There is an interesting post titled "Same Choices, Same Story Here" on NASA's blog site. No name is affixed to the posting.

Editor's update: NASA PAO tells me that ESMD PAO representative Gray Hautaluomawrote this post with input from ESMD staff.

"There've been a lot of stories in the press lately about Constellation and its progress or supposed lack thereof. The alleged danger that the program is in. Could it be that when there's nothing real to report that people try to stir up old news?

The fact is that Constellation is targeting March 2015 for the first crewed flight to the International Space Station, with Orion aboard the Ares I rocket. That date hasn't changed for some time. We did originally give our teams a very tough challenge in the early days of the program of making this milestone in September 2013. And they worked hard toward it. But the fact is, we needed more money early on. Given the way budget cycles work, we were given a budget to initial operational capability, but the critical mass we would have needed to make that earlier date just wasn't there right away.

Rebalancing NASA's Workforce, posting by Nick Skytland, opennasa.com

"I'd like to share with you some very important workforce policy news. Two weeks ago on March 19, the Agency's Strategic Management Council (SMC) decided to take action to rebalance our aging workforce. It is now agency policy that we have a goal of 50% of all new civil servant hires will be fresh-out hires. I list the main action here, then the remaining actions below."

Editor's note: "Agency policy? Oh really? Is this in the form of a NASA Policy Directive (NPD)? I can't seem to find it at NODIS. If, however, this is formal agency policy then it would be a new record given the time it usually takes for things to get through the legal gauntlet at NASA. Also, I would think that the agency would also use formal Human Resources means to inform the workforce of this major decision - and not let a unofficial website announce it. As such, I think a few folks have jumped the gun and/or are confused as to what the distinction is between an "action" coming out of an internal management meeting and a formal, governmental policy decree.

Now, don't get me wrong, NASA certainly has a skill mix and age imbalance that it desperately needs to fix in order to accomplish the tasks that lie ahead, but this starts to sound like slow-motion age discrimination to me. And to be quite honest, I am not certain that the job market for fresh-out hires can support NASA's needs or that an arbitrary 50% of the open positions within the agency can be (or should be) filled with people with little or no experience.

The process is a little more complex than a few people reacting to some Powerpoint charts. You can't just Twitter a policy into existence - at least not yet. Stay tuned.

The Budget Road Ahead

House Approves Budget, Including Commitment to Science and Technology Funding

"Today, the House of Representatives approved H.Con.Res.85, which sets budget levels for fiscal year 2010 through 2014. .. Budget levels for National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and Department of Energy Office of Science are included in function 250."

"(3) General Science, Space, and Technology (250):

Fiscal year 2009: (A) New budget authority, $35,389,000,000. (B) Outlays, $30,973,000,000.
Fiscal year 2010: (A) New budget authority, $31,139,000,000. (B) Outlays, $32,467,000,000.
Fiscal year 2011: (A) New budget authority, $31,493,000,000. (B) Outlays, $32,407,000,000.
Fiscal year 2012: (A) New budget authority, $33,373,000,000. (B) Outlays, $32,465,000,000.
Fiscal year 2013: (A) New budget authority, $34,419,000,000. (B) Outlays, $33,614,000,000.
Fiscal year 2014: (A) New budget authority, $35,686,000,000. (B) Outlays, $34,835,000,000."

Farewell, Moose

NASA Inspector General Robert Cobb Resigns

"NASA Inspector General Robert Cobb submitted a letter of resignation to the White House on Thursday, April 2, 2009. President Barack Obama accepted Cobb's resignation, which is effective April 11."

Editor's note: That's right, Steve Cook wants to be Deputy Center Director at Marshall. He has been telling people he is now aiming for the job. Given that Cook already has a posse that goes around portraying him as a leader - including making certain that he is introduced at meetings as "the next von Braun" - such grand ambitions are not at all out of character. It will be interesting to see what Steve's official bio looks like when that is announced - with his previous accomplishments i.e. his role in the failures of X-33, X-34, ISS Propulsion Module, and (soon) Ares 1. At least he is consistent in his job performance.

Ares PDR Was Not As Smooth As NASA Says It Was, earlier post

"42. Not allowing RIDs to be written against the SRD and declaring it a finished document prior to the PDR was just arrogant and wrong. This was further evidenced and confused by the introduction of two version of the SRD, showing that it was in fact being changed behind the scenes."

NASA ARC Memo: Message from the Deputy Center Director Status Report on FY09 Conference Attendance

"We would like to take this opportunity to share our latest understanding on where the agency is on the Conference Limitations requirement addressed in the March 11, 2009, Omnibus Appropriations Act (P.L. 111-8). In that Act, Congress modified what is affected by the $5 million conference cap at NASA to exclude education, scientific and technical conferences. Some conference attendance will still be subject to the $5 million conference cap. The Agency is in the process of revising the NASA Interim Directive (NID) 9312.1, "Requirements Relating to Conference Attendance, Obligation and Expenditures" to clarify the changes. However, we are still under the requirement to track and report all conference expenditures to Congress."

NASA's estimates for new rocket soar again, Orlando Sentinel

"The cost of getting NASA's next-generation rocket to the international space station has ballooned from an initial $28 billion to about $44 billion today -- and that number is likely to keep rising, according to NASA studies and government officials. The soaring costs are driven by a host of technical troubles and made worse by the way NASA budgeted the Constellation program, which is supposed to return astronauts to the moon by 2020. The cost overruns and other problems are likely to delay the rocket's launch from March 2015 to late 2016, widening the gap between the planned retirement of the space shuttle in 2010 and the first Constellation flight, while extending thousands of job losses in Brevard County."

Nick Lampson talks with KFDM about top NASA job, KFDM

"KFDM News spoke with Lampson by telephone Thursday morning. He told us he hasn't been contacted by the Obama administration nor spoken with anyone in the administration about the NASA post. "They are keeping it real close to the vest," said Lampson. I don't know anything about it. I'd be flattered if I were asked. I'd certainly give it consideration. I'd be honored to serve if I'm asked."

April Fool! Look What's in Kevin Petersens Parking Space! (photo)

"Retiring NASA Dryden Flight Research Center director Kevin Petersen got an April Fool's Day surprise when he drove in to work on April 1st -- the HiMAT remotely piloted research aircraft sitting in his parking space in front of Dryden's main building. The sub-scale aircraft had been in storage at NASA Ames Research Center since the Highly Maneuverable Aircraft Technology project, on which Petersen had been a research engineer, ended in 1983. With the assistance of Dryden's maintenance chief Tom Grindle, the HiMAT aircraft was brought back to Dryden recently without Petersen's knowledge, cleaned up and positioned in his parking space overnight. The HiMAT aircraft will eventually be placed on permanent display at Dryden."

Tired of April Fools Gags? Wait, There's More, Wall Street Journal

"Then there is an entirely different category of things that leave you scratching your head-like the news that Rackable Systems is paying just $25 million for once-mighty Silicon Graphics, which is filing for Chapter 11 protection for a second time. When a reporter sent the news release to the public affairs office of NASA Ames Research Center-which operates a massive supercomputer built by Silicon Graphics-the agency phoned backed quickly to ask an important question: "Is this an April Fool's Joke?"

NASA, Intel, SGI Plan to 'Soup Up' Supercomputer, NASA ARC

"Under the terms of a Space Act Agreement, NASA will work closely with Intel and SGI to increase computational capabilities for modeling and simulation at the NASA Advanced Supercomputing (NAS) facility at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif."

Fallen star SGI to sell most assets for $25M, San Jose Mercury News

"In 2000, it sold its interest in supercomputer maker Cray Research. In 2003, it vacated its Mountain View headquarters and leased the buildings to Google. Two years later, it hired a turnaround company to help it stop hemorrhaging money. But in May 2006, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and emerged from that status in October."

Former Highflier's Final Landing, Wall Street Journal

"Silicon Graphics Inc., once one of the computer industry's highest fliers, filed for bankruptcy protection for a second time and will sell its assets to Rackable Systems Inc. for $25 million."

Editor's note: So much for the notion that ARC PAO benefits by their physical proximity to Silicon Valley. Perhaps adding a public "awareness" functionality to NASA ARC public "affairs" responsibilities is in order. This applies to all NASA facilities, by the way - especially when the Wall Street Journal starts to take notice. If I had a massive asset such as ARC's supercomputer, I'd sure want to pay attention to the health of the company that sold it to me - and keeps it running especially since NASA has a Space Act Agreement with SGI and Intel and SGI already had entered into bankruptcy twice in the past three years.

No to shuttle extension if move would delay Ares, Huntsville Times

"Flying the shuttle while continuing the Ares development is likely to create budget conflicts with the space agency's future rounds of funding, said Keith Cowing, who runs the space agency watchdog Web site NASAWatch.com. "There's two schools of thought on extending the space shuttle," he said. "One is that is would be a way to close the looming gap, but there are people who fly the shuttle and who work on the program that feel that it is time to retire the shuttle because it is not safe to fly. "If there's money across the budget years to fly shuttle and develop Ares, then it is possible," said Cowing. "If the money goes away, then it's impossible."

Ed at 4000 Meters in His Kitchen: An Email From Ed Wardle to Trisha Creekmore, Discovery.com Interactive Producer, Discovery Channel

"Dick mentioned you might want me to write somoething for the web this year and I thought this cd be an inetersting starter. Im doing an experiment with a new piece of equip,ent that simulates breathing at altitiude. Despite spelling like a drunk man, right nowIm totally sober an dhavent had a drink in weeks. Its 730 am and I'm siting in my kitchen at home in Londonbreathing air at 4000m in preparation for Everest. I have to concenrate really hard to type this. I have to look at the keys and punch in each letter."

Editor's note: I will be blogging for the Discovery Channel from Everest Base Camp during the Spring climbing season.

Editor's note: Two names to watch in the coming days: Charles Bolden and Nick Lampson. Lampson reportedly had a meeting with Rahm Emanuel in the past few days, and I saw Bolden in Washington on the Hill last week at a NSBRI event. Stay tuned.

Editor's update: Nick Lampson is Twittering. Quick, everyone follow him and DM him about NASA ... meanwhile. Administration sources suggest that it is unlikely that any movement will occur on the NASA front until well after the President and his staff get back from their trip. So cool your thrusters, folks.

From: "Tooley, Craig R. (GSFC-4510)
Date: Tue, 31 Mar 2009 23:11:08 -0500
To: [DELETED]
Cc: [DELETED]
Conversation: LRO Launch Date - Clarification
Subject: RE: LRO Launch Date - Clarification

The official NASA Flight Planning Board position is the LRO/LCROSS launch date is NET 6/2/2009. We will plan for this and this is consistent with the launch vehicle schedule we integrate our schedule to. But there is still an open trade concerning LCROSS science that could push it to the second June window which opens June 17th. The LRO team should work to 6/2/2009.

My apologies for any confusion I have promulgated.

Craig

Editor's note: According to the Planetary Socety's blog: "I got an email late yesterday from David Kass, one of the members of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mars Climate Sounder team, forwarding a report he had just issued to the rest of the orbiter's science and operations teams. In brief: over the last few days Mars Climate Sounder has detected sharply rising temperatures in some regions of the atmosphere, strong indications that normal regional dust activity in the south is escalating into what may now be a planet-encircling dust event. (If you're wondering why David contacted me with this update, it's because The Planetary Society is the official education outreach partner on the Mars Climate Sounder investigation ..."

Cool stuff, yes? Well then why is this important scientific research information from a taxpayer-funded spacecraft not being provided to the news media by JPL PAO? I see no mention of it at the official NASA website here or here or at JPL's main website. If Planetary Society has the responsibility for getting news out to the media they sure stumbled on this.

NASA Watch Turns 13

Editor's note: NASA Watch (then called NASA RIF Watch) went online on 1 April 1996 with this posting as one of its top news items. Mal Peterson continues to try and wiggle out of this to this day (feel free to comment, Mal). A special thanks to the "mother" of NASA Watch, be she ever anonymous!

28 March 1996 Mal Peterson: the value of fear in managing corporate-downsizing

"Mal Peterson (NASA HQ Comptroller's Office) personally briefed NASA program managers (Centers and HQ) yesterday (27 March) and gave instructions for planning and implementing a RIF by Summer 1997, the reduction to be completed by October 1998, to a total complement level of 17,500, as called for by the President for the year 2000, to be completed by 1998. Vugraphs were shown concerning "the value of fear in managing corporate-downsizing." (That is a direct quote) They have statistics on the number of personnel supposed to be within retirement range and everyone will be encouraged to retire asap, though these numbers will not prevent a RIF. He strongly indicated that congressional backing would be soon forthcoming."

29 Nov 1996: Changes in Thinking at NASA, PBS Newshour

"TOM BEARDEN: Goldin and his associate administrators want their people to make quick decisions and fix mistakes later, instead of doing what he says NASA used to do, study a problem to death for fear of failing. Keith Cowing follows all of this in cyberspace. He's a former NASA engineer who set up an Internet site that functions as a kind of super water cooler for all of NASA's far-flung employees. He calls it "RIF Watch." It features rumors, editorial comment, jokes, cartoons. It also frequently publishes high-level internal memos that NASA employees send to Cowing. He says there are a lot of unhappy people out there in NASA Land.

KEITH COWING, RIF Watch: Dan Goldin's approach is he'll walk into--metaphorically--into a stockyard with a machine gun and shoot up all the cows. And somebody will come back later and say, now, where's that prize bull, and he'll hand em hamburger and say, here, put it back together; it's all there. Dan constantly changes things, but he never leaves them in place long enough to accomplish anything."


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This page is an archive of recent entries written by Keith Cowing in April 2009.

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