Keith Cowing: December 2009 Archives

List of Speakers Announced for the Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference in February, Commercial Spaceflight Federation

"Astronauts, researchers, educators, senior government officials including the director of NASA's Ames Research Center, Dr. Pete Worden, and the head of the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation, Dr. George Nield, and representatives from commercial space companies and the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, will be among the speakers at the Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference on February 18-20, 2010."

New Year's Eve in Space, Slate

"Last week a Russian spacecraft ferried three astronauts to the International Space Station to join the two who had been manning it since October. The crew took Christmas Day off to share meals together. What about celebrating New Year's--how do you pick the right moment when you're hurtling through time zones at 17,500 miles per hour?"

Space head: Russia may send spacecraft to asteroid

"Without mentioning NASA findings, Perminov said that he heard from a scientist that Apophis is getting closer and may hit the planet. "I don't remember exactly, but it seems to me it could hit the Earth by 2032," Perminov said."

99942 Apophis, Wikipedia

"On Friday, April 13, 2029, Apophis will pass Earth within the orbits of geosynchronous communication satellites. It will return for another close Earth approach in 2036."

NASA Refines Asteroid Apophis' Path Toward Earth

"Updated computational techniques and newly available data indicate the probability of an Earth encounter on April 13, 2036, for Apophis has dropped from one-in-45,000 to about four-in-a million."

Keith's note: I certainly hope that Perminov gets some slightly better data before his people start to plan mission trajectories - a good place to start is to get the right year.

Good Things In Small Packages

CU Students to Build Tiny Spacecraft to Observe 'Space Weather' Environment

"The University of Colorado at Boulder has been awarded $840,000 from the National Science Foundation for students to build a tiny spacecraft to observe energetic particles in space that should give scientists a better understanding of solar flares and their interaction with Earth's atmosphere. Known as the Colorado Student Space Weather Experiment, or CSSWE, the instruments package is expected to weigh less than 5 pounds."

Keith's 23 Dec note: IV&V had an unexpected visit from NASA's Chief of Safety and Mission Assurance Officer Bryan O'Connor today. He relieved Butch Caffall immediately of his duties as Facility Director of NASA IV&V and re-assigned him to NASA HQ "to work some technical issues for NASA starting early in January" according to an internal memo. Greg Blaney is acting IV&V Program Manager and IV&V Facility Director. IV&V employees had been expecting something to happen but this action was more abrupt and sudden than had been expected.

According to a NASA IV&V engineer: "The immediate re-assignment of the NASA IV&V director represents the end of modeling of NASA projects as part of our IV&V analysis. We have endured four years of spending IV&V funds on, what has been from the onset, an R&D effort to create a new method of doing IV&V using an independently built system reference model (UML based) of a space vehicle design based on Project artifacts. Its been costly in dollars and in performance. This R&D has taken countless man-hours away from our directive to find issues/problems with S/C FSW development."

Cornyn's fight to cut debt carries political price, Houston Chronicle

"When Texas Sen. John Cornyn recently voted against legislation funding NASA, with its thousands of jobs at Houston's Johnson's Space Center, it caused a bit of a stir back home. After all, the Republican senator always prided himself on being a champion of home-state interests. Even Cornyn readily admits that his vote is an about-face. But there's a clear explanation for the change: Cornyn says he's trying to strike a balance between his dual roles as a senator seeking federal spending in Texas and as an emerging GOP congressional leader fighting to cut government expenditures."

White House science office reports United States rocket propulsion work lagging

"According to the report released this week: "Despite the importance of space to government and commercial activities the U.S. space launch industry has seen a decline in launch services over the past decade . . . From 2004-2008 the U.S. shared of commercial launches was about 17 percent, compared with 42 percent for Russia, 21 percent for Europe and 18 percent for the multi-national company SeaLaunch."

OSTP Releases Assessment of U.S. Space Launch Vehicle Engine Production Capacity

"At present, the U.S. space launch propulsion industrial base provides a diverse range of technological capabilities and more than adequate production capacity to meet most currently identified U.S. Government and commercial requirements for space launch vehicles.' Furthermore, there are no articulated, established space launch requirements that are beyond the current development expertise of the U.S. space launch propulsion industrial base. Nonetheless, this U.S. industrial sector is under significant stress, due largely to low demand."

Ground control to NASA TV: liven up, LA Times

"The man in charge of Washington, D.C.-based NASA Television, executive producer Fred Brown, acknowledges that the network is light-years from where it could be if it had the money and a mandate to properly entertain the masses. But that was never the point, he said. The network was launched in the early 1970s strictly to provide "real-time mission coverage" for NASA's own personnel, Brown said. "It wasn't designed as a television channel as most people would think of a television channel," he added. Over the years, its role has grown; it now offers educational programs and serves a public-relations function by keeping the media informed about space-related news."

Discovery Channel's Everest: Beyond The Limit Air Dates Announced

Schedule information, Discovery Channel

"Now in its third season, the Discovery Channel's Everest: Beyond The Limit is taking a new approach to filming this year and will feature both International Mountain Guides and Himalayan Experience in a five-part series. IMG climber Scott Parazynski returned to Everest this season after coming tantalizingly close last year. The former Nasa Astronaut was sidelined with a ruptured lumbar disc at 24,500' on his summit bid in 2008. This year Scott came back fit and ready to top out with Danuru Sherpa. Scott achieved his goal at dawn on May 20, 2009. A veteran of several space flights and spacewalks, Scott is the only person to both summit Mt. Everest and fly in space."

An Astronaut Atop Everest, OnOrbit

S. Neil Hosenball

Neil Hosenball NASA General Counsel, Washington Post

"S. Neil Hosenball, 84, the general counsel of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration from 1975 until his retirement in 1985, died Dec. 23 at his home in Arlington County. He had cancer. Mr. Hosenball was a 25-year veteran of the space agency, where he became the chief lawyer. He worked on treaties for the peaceful use of outer space, among other issues."

The Dance of Saturn's Moons

"Like sugar plum fairies in "The Nutcracker," the moons of Saturn performed a celestial ballet before the eyes of NASA's Cassini spacecraft. New movies frame the moons' silent dance against the majestic sweep of the planet's rings and show as many as four moons gliding around one another." More videos

Engage the x drive: Ten ways to traverse deep space, New Scientist

"Apart from the mundane problems of budgets and political will, the major roadblock is that our dominant space-flight technology - chemically fuelled rockets - just isn't up to the distances involved. We can send robot probes to the outer planets, but they take years to get there. And as for visiting other stars, forget it. As an example of why, the Apollo 10 moon probe is currently listed as the fastest manned vehicle in history, having reached a maximum speed of 39,895 kilometres per hour. At this speed, it would take 120,000 years to cover the 4 light years to Alpha Centauri, the nearest star system."

The Science Behind James Cameron's Avatar

"It's the year 2154 and humankind has reached out to the stars in director James Cameron's new science-fiction epic Avatar. The movie takes us to an exotic jungle moon called Pandora where humans are the aliens and a clash is brewing with the natives."

Parker Griffith Jumps Ship

House Democrat announces switch to GOP, MSNBC

"Rep. Parker Griffith of Alabama, who hails from a heavily conservative congressional district, announced Tuesday that he will join the GOP."

Solid future seen at NASA, Huntsville Times

"The future of America's space program is solid and safe, even as the White House ponders missions and rocket programs that could be led by Marshall Space Flight Center, U.S. Rep. Parker Griffith, D-Huntsville, said here Friday."

GAO Report On Using the ISS

GAO Report: International Space Station: Significant Challenges May Limit Onboard Research

"The ISS has been continuously staffed since 2000 and now has a six-member crew. The primary objective for the ISS through 2010 is construction, so research utilization has not been the priority. Some research has been and is being conducted as time and resources permit while the crew on board performs assembly tasks, but research will is expected to begin in earnest in 2010. NASA projects that it will utilize approximately 50 percent of the U.S. ISS research facilities for its own research, including the Human Research Program, opening the remaining facilities to U.S. ISS National Laboratory researchers."

GAO Warns NASA May Never Fully Utilize ISS, Aviation Week

"High transportation costs to space and inadequate funding on the ground may prevent NASA from using its expensive orbiting microgravity laboratory -- the International Space Station -- to the full extent, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO)."

The Apollo 11 Telemetry Data Recordings: A Final Report, NASA

"Perhaps there are no clear answers. All that can be said with any certainty is that NASA and the Goddard Space Flight Center followed all procedures in storing the Apollo telemetry tapes, the search team has concluded. After reviewing their content and determining that Apollo program managers no longer needed the data, Goddard personnel shipped the telemetry tapes to WNRC for storage. Over the ensuing years, Goddard recalled them and either reused the one-inch tapes to meet a network shortage in the early 1980s or disposed of them because of the high cost of storing them. At no time did anyone recognize the unique content on roughly 45 tapes containing the actual moonwalk video. At no time did anyone ever consider what could be possible nearly 40 years into the future with the advent of new technology."

Moon mission gets help in Congress, Houston Chronicle

"Fearful that the White House might scale back manned space exploration, a bipartisan group of lawmakers slipped a provision into a massive government spending package last week that would force President Barack Obama to seek congressional approval for any changes to the ambitious Bush-era, back-to-the-moon program. The little-noticed legislative maneuver could yield massive payoffs for the Houston area, which has tens of thousands of jobs tied to manned space exploration. The congressional action hands NASA supporters additional leverage in their behind-the-scenes campaign to persuade Obama to budget an extra $3 billion a year to finance the return of astronauts to the moon by 2020 rather than revamping -- and cutting -- the manned space effort."

New Course for Space Exploration Promotes Private Firms, WS Journal

"While no firm decisions have been made and budget numbers remain in flux, there appears to be broad agreement inside the administration over using private rockets and capsules to access the orbiting space station. "There is clearly a recognition that if you want to do that, it should be done seriously and with enough funding" to succeed, according to one senior administration official involved in the deliberations."

ARC PAO: Asleep At The Wheel

Keith's note: Earlier this month the LOIRP - Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project did a live webcast from Building 596 at NASA Ames Research Park. The project's co-lead Dennis Wingo and myself were the prime participants. NASA ARC PAO put a terse web page online about the webcast at the last minute. In so doing they used a Lunar Orbiter image. The LOIRP is all about the retrieval and reprocessing of these images in higher resolution than was possible in the 1960s. So, what image (low res and hi res) did ARC PAO use on their webpage? They used a 40 year old blurry, muddy original image - not one of our new crisp ones. It has been two weeks. Either ARC APO is clueless as to what the LOIRP is doing just outside their gates or they are just lazy and do not care to get it right. Go figure.

Keith's update: ARC PAO has now added one of the restored images to this webpage.

Bolden Meets With Obama

Keith's 15 Dec note: Charles Bolden is scheduled to meet with President Obama at the White House in the oval office on Wednesday at 3:05 pm EST. The topic for discussion is the Augustine Commission's findings and their "non-recommendation recommendations".

Keith's 16 Dec update: Don't look for a flurry of press releases, etc. coming from this meeting today. Alas, while many at NASA HQ (and the White House) would prefer that all the details of NASA's new White House direction stay under wraps until the FY 2011 budget comes out in Feb. 2010, it is almost a certainty that things will start dribbling out soon. Stay tuned.

Keith's 16 Dec update: The following brief exchange happened during a routine White House press briefing with White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs:

"Question: The President met with the NASA Administrator today to talk about the Constellation program. Are the two in agreement now on about what to do with that program going forward? Has a decision --

Robert Gibbs: I have not gotten a read out from the meeting. But we're trying to see what has come of their discussions. I don't know that we'll have a ton on this today. Obviously, the budget is being put together for next year. I know the most previous budget that was passed represented an increase in spending for NASA - and the President believes that NASA plays a vital role going forward.

Question: Has that decision been reached yet? Were the two [of them] were talking about it? Prior to the meeting, has the decision about Constellation --

Robert Gibbs: Let me get a readout from the meeting before I --"

Obama, NASA chief talk about goals, panel's options, Huntsville Times

"Administrator Bolden met this afternoon with President Obama in the Oval Office," [NASA Associate Administrator Morrie] Goodman said in an e-mail. "The two discussed the Augustine Commission's study and analysis of the existing space program, which highlighted challenges. They also discussed options for how the country might improve its future human spaceflight activities. "The president re-confirmed his commitment to human spaceflight and space exploration as well as his goal of ensuring that the nation is on a sustainable path to achieving our aspirations in space."

Keith's 15 Dec note: All of NASA's field center directors met today in a closed door session in one of the Administrator's Conference Rooms on the 9th floor of NASA HQ. In addition to all of the center directors who were seated around the table, a dozen or so staffers stood around the periphery of the room. Their collective task was to work out and then agree upon a new governance structure for the agency - one that would best implement the new (revised) direction that the White House is providing to NASA. There are apparently 5 or so specific areas that the agency will be re-organizing itself to implement. As such, there may be a recasting of the "directorate" model in favor of "divisions". All of the participants were sworn to secrecy and were not going to be leaving the room until a new governance model was agreed to. What did they decide upon? Stay tuned.

Keith's 16 Dec update: Well, despite best intentions, nothing final was worked out in terms of a revised governance structure - but progress was made. This activity will pick up again in earnest after the holidays.

Freeing The Data

OSTP to Launch Public Forum to Discuss Options for Improving Public Access to Results of Federally Funded Research, OSTP

The Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Executive Office of the President and the White House Open Government Initiative is launching a "Public Access Policy Forum" to invite public participation in thinking through what the Federal government's policy should be with regard to public access to published federally-funded research results. To that end, OSTP will conduct an interactive, online discussion beginning Thursday, December 10. We will focus on three major areas of interest...

Dynetics Announces Purchase of Orion Propulsion

"David King, executive vice president of Dynetics, added, "Tim Pickens is one of the most creative, energetic and 'lean thinking' propulsion experts in the United States. He is well known in the local and national space communities. We are excited to bring Tim on board - along with Mark Fisher, who has 20 years of experience in NASA, DoD (Department of Defense) and commercial propulsion and management - as well as the rest of the OPI team."

How Quickly We Forget

Stage now set for grand human space flight plan, Opinion, Lou Friedman, Houston Chronicle

"We don't know yet what the Obama administration has in mind for NASA or how it is going to handle the issue of human space flight. We are sure it will not be canceled, but how will it be advanced? We see two distinct possibilities: a great one that would have us engage the world and several generations to take the next great leap, or a mundane one that would have us locked in Earth orbit with little purpose and a level of risk that exceeds its gain. The 1970s shuttle decision produced a great vehicle and a magnificent technological accomplishment, but ultimately a poor program with no destination and little purpose. We hope this type of decision will not be repeated, and believe that the stage has been set for something much grander."

Keith's 14 Dec note: Lou, in your haste to wrap your arms around the as-yet unreleased Obama space plan, you apparently haven't bothered to read up on the decades of human physiology expertise gained from these Space Shuttle (and shuttle-supported ISS) missions of "little purpose" or the immense experience gained in the assembly and operation of large complex spacecraft (the ISS was mostly carried into orbit by the Space Shuttle). Both of these things are needed in order for humans to go to Mars. So, do not be so quick to dismiss the value of the Space Shuttle program. Indeed, it may not be going away entirely (sidemount HLV).

"Flexible Path" means that we try many things Lou - not just the one particular destination that you are interested in (Mars).

Keith's 15 Dec update: I got a short email today from Lou Friedman: "Did you have a typo in this sentence "the decades of human physiology expertise gained from these Space Shuttle" Did you mean "the decades of human physiology expertise gained from these Soyuz and Mir?"

It would seem that Lou is utterly ignorant of the long list of research projects done aboard the Space Shuttle including multiple Spacelab flights, some of which were totally dedicated to human physiology and space life science. As for the quality of Soyuz and Mir research (before the U.S. got involved during shuttle flights, that is), Lou, go talk to a few space life science experts about that and then get back to me. You will find that the quality of that Soviet/Russian research to be somewhat "lacking" to put it kindly.

Also, I find it rather bizarre that Lou would characterize the value of the Space Shuttle as he has given that NASA's current Administrator put his life on the line 4 times to fly on it. I (guess) that Lou thinks that the risk that Bolden and his crewmates took was really done for "little purpose" as well.

Again, how quickly we forget. Indeed, as is the case in this instance, some people forget on purpose.

NASA Unveils Latest Results From Lunar Mission, Helps Prepare for Next Stage of Scientific Discovery

"NASA's current mission in orbit around the moon, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, has been providing crucial insights about our nearest celestial neighbor since its launch in June. At a scientific meeting today, researchers unveiled the latest findings from three instruments of the powerful suite of seven aboard the satellite. LRO is expected to return more data about the moon than all previous orbital missions combined."

NASA Partners with Saudi Arabia on Moon and Asteroid Research

"NASA and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) have signed a joint statement that allows for collaboration in lunar and asteroid science research. The partnership recognizes the Saudi Lunar and Near-Earth Object Science Center as an affiliate partner with the NASA Lunar Science Institute at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif."

Shelby Goes It Alone

Shelby throws a sharp elbow in NASA fight, Orlando Sentinel

"If the debate over NASA's future was a mob war, then U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby took the fight to the mattresses on Monday when the Alabama Republican called for an investigation into how federal lobbyists influenced a presidential space panel. In a letter dated Monday, Shelby contends that federal lobbyists "tainted" the findings of a presidential space panel that suggested scrapping NASA's Constellation moon rocket program in favor of approach that favored commercial rockets and stronger international partnerships."

Sen. Richard Shelby announces increased NASA money in government spending bill, Huntsville Times

"Shelby managed to restore over $600 million to the program that was cut in the House-passed FY 2010 CJS Appropriations bill, his office said in a prepared statement. Shelby included language that limits NASA's ability to terminate or alter the current Constellation program. This will require the Obama aministration to work with Congress and wait for approval prior to changing any current human exploration plans, Shelby said."

Spending bill causes Senate split, Huntsville

"A $1.1 trillion federal spending bill put Alabama's Republican senators at odds this week, with U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby voting for the act in defense of NASA funding and U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions casting a nay vote because of bloated spending."

Keith's note: Looks like NASA made it - twice - into Sen. McCain and Sen. Coburn's "Stimulus Checkup" Press conference and full report.

"4. Research to Develop Supersonic Corporate Jets ($4.7 Million) (Page 7)

The benefits of NASA's current research, experts say, will likely go first to business executives, who can afford one of the handful of personal supersonic jets that companies hope to roll out in several years, with a price tags in the tens of millions of dollars...

95. Despite Delays and Overruns, Space Telescope Gets Boost ($65 million) (Page 51)

The James Webb Space Telescope, named for a former NASA administrator, will eventually replace the Hubble telescope, and it is getting a major boost from $65 million in stimulus funding for its prime contractor, Northrop Grumman."

Keith's note: Since Sen. Shelby is suddenly interested in finances, lobbyists, and the sliming the Augustine Commission, I thought that a closer look at who Sen. Shelby's money people are is in order. With some help from NASA Watch readers in Alabama, it looks like lots of folks in Huntsville wrote big checks to Sen. Shelby's campaign - all on exactly the same day - 11 March 2009. Many of these folks wrote more than one check, according to This listing is a subset of all of the contributions registered on this date. Seems like everyone who gave money on this date is either a lobbyist or a NASA MSFC contractor, married to one, or related to one:

NASA Solicitation: Open Source Software to Support Projects at MSFC

"Arcata Associates Inc. plans to issue a Sole Source Request for Quote (RFQ) for Open Source Software to be used at Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC)."

The solicitation focuses on A-RTP protocol Stack XP. You can get it for free here and here. What the solicitation is really after is support and training - not the software.

NASA Launches Web Site for Teenagers That Want More Class

"NASA has launched a new Web site created specifically for teenagers that provides teens access to current NASA spacecraft data for use in school science projects, allows them to conduct real experiments with NASA scientists, and helps them locate space-related summer internships."

Keith's note: Nice website. One big problem: no mention of human spaceflight or aeronautics. If NASA is going to launch a site like this it really should be run by the NASA Education Office and it should cover all that NASA does, not some subset thereof. I guess its too much to ask for SMD, ESMD, and SOMD to pool their separate EPO budgets to help the NASA Education Office do something like this - in a coordinated fashion such that all of the things that NASA does are included. (Sigh) more stove pipes.

P.S. With regard to the press release title: what sort of clunky grammar is NASA now using?

Keith's note: The USAF claims "its not science fiction". So, of course I believe them. Wow, who knew! The USAF has mega comsat battlestars in orbit, their ops personnel wear sleek imperial empire costumes, and they even use the metric system too! Yet when NASA tries to do some harmless education and public outreach, Congress cuts their PAO budget and prohibits them from "lobbying". Sheesh.

But wait - there's more (below)

Space battle for the White House under way, Orlando Sentinel

"Ares I supporters have opposed the panel's findings, saying that Constellation and Ares I are better and safer than any commercial rocket. Until now, however, companies like Boeing have done most of their lobbying behind closed doors despite being urged by some lawmakers to take their cause public. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D- Arizona, the head of the House subcommittee with NASA oversight and the wife of NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, says she urged aerospace leaders to get their employees to write the President over the summer, but said only six letters were written. Boeing has the contract to build the upper stage of the Ares I rocket which it is developing with NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama."

Desperate in Alabama

Sen. Shelby Asks NASA Inspector General To Investigate Augustine Commission Staff and Members

"I am writing with serious concerns regarding the Augustine Commission staff, their vocation, and their conduct while serving as Commission staff. It has come to my attention that several members are, in fact, federally registered lobbyists and that some of these individuals have taken direct advantage of their temporary roles on the Commission to further their personal business. Further, there are lobbyists that worked as Commission staff that are not even acknowledged in the report. This is both disturbing and unconscionable."

Keith's note: How curious. Between the sneaky tricks that Shelby's staff are playing behind the scenes with regard to companies and NASA field centers seens as threats to MSFC/Alabama/Ares to the non-stop outstretched hand of Shelby's contribution gravy train.

Have a look at this list of companies, PACs, etc. who have donated to Shelby's campaigns. See any familiar names? A potential for bias? Influence by lobbyists? Nah. Perish the thought. Sen. Shelby's campaign certainly does not have a problem taking financial contributions from companies - large and small - many of whom have a direct, substantial financial stake in the Ares 1 program and other programs that Shelby exerts influence over.

According to "Top 20 Contributors Senator Richard C Shelby 2005 - 2010" at, 5 out of the top 20 of Sen. Shelby's top contributors are Huntsville contractors. Radiance technologies is particuarly dependent on Shelby for handouts and responded with $45,750 in contributions. Dynetics is only #19 with just $19,900 in donations.

As for the other local pols, according to "Top 20 Contributors Congressman Robert B Aderholt 2009 - 2010", Dynetics is his #1 contributor having written checks for $10,600 (where Dave King, Steve Cook etc. and other former senior MSFC management now work). And in the 5th Congressional District, incumbent Parker Griffith's (D) 2008 challenger Wayne Parker (R) got $22,300 from Dynetics making them his #1 contributor as well.

Huntsville's Revolving Door Spins Up (Dynaetics), earlier post

NASA Awards Alabama Information Technology Services Contract

"The total value of the contract, if all options are exercised, is approximately $335 million."

U.S. Richard Shelby calls for NASA investigation of the Augustine review panel, Huntsville Times

"To NASA critic Keith Cowing the move is duplicitous. "Does Sen. Shelby shun lobbyists?" asked Cowing, who runs the Web site "This is like the pot calling the kettle black. If he has a problem with lobbyists then he should renounce them, give their money back and run on his own merits."

Congress, Obama face off on NASA, Orlando Sentinel

"That language, inserted by U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., should pass this month as part of a nearly $450 billion omnibus appropriations bill. It would require NASA to spend nearly $4 billion on the program this fiscal year, effectively tying Obama's hands as he attempts to forge a new NASA policy that is likely to cancel Constellation's Ares I rocket. According to industry sources, U.S. Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va., also signed off on the language, at the urging of U.S. Reps. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., and Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz. Mollohan heads the appropriations subcommittee that handles NASA, while Gordon and Giffords have oversight responsibility for the agency. "They are at an impasse," said space historian Roger Launius of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. "And unless the White House levels enough pressure, Congress could prevail." A checkmate is exactly what Shelby wants, as the veteran lawmaker has been a ceaseless protector of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama and its thousands of Constellation-related jobs."

WISE Launch A Success

NASA's WISE Eye on the Universe Begins All-Sky Survey Mission

"NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, lifted off over the Pacific Ocean this morning on its way to map the entire sky in infrared light. A Delta II rocket carrying the spacecraft launched at 9:09 a.m. EST from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The rocket deposited WISE into a polar orbit 326 miles above Earth."

Mom, the Eagle Has Landed!, Slate

"... And yet my boys are in love. They ask for library books about outer space. They had a DVD of the moon landing. They go to the local planetarium. They recite facts about planetary gasses and burned-up stars and black holes and something else called a white hole. "Mom, did you know?" they ask before launching into a minilecture. I never do. Nor, if I'm honest, do I care to find out. The other day, Eli interrupted himself in the middle of a shooting star explanation and said, sagely, "Mom, sometimes you don't really listen to me." This leaves me with a guilty question: What do you do when your children's interests don't match your own? Do you do your utmost to cultivate genuine enthusiasm and expertise? Do you fake it? Or do you keep the faith with your own passions, figuring you're teaching a lesson about assertion of selfhood and independence?"

Bringing Home The Bacon

Shelby and Aderholt secure money for Redstone Arsenal projects, Huntsville Times

"A key spending bill that goes before the full Congress this week includes almost $90 million directly for Redstone Arsenal and Marshall Space Flight Center projects - including work on lunar landers and FBI explosive disposal research."

House votes to protect Ares, Huntsville Times

"After months of fighting for the North Alabama space community, it is a tremendous victory to see critical funding restored to Marshall Space Flight Center, Ares, and Constellation," Griffith said. "This bill not only saves but guarantees the survival of the safest, most advanced and most efficient vehicle we have at NASA."

Crowdsourcing NASA

NASA Nebula: Enabling Participatory Exploration Through Open Data APIs

"One of the projects Nebula has been very excited to support enables the public to view and explore the surfaces of the Moon and Mars in unprecedented resolution in both Google Earth and Microsoft World Wide Telescope. The NASA team responsible for these projects leveraged Nebula to perform sophisticated large-scale image processing and hosting of hundreds of thousands of high-resolution images and over 100 terabytes of data."

Astronaut John Grunsfeld, National Geographic Adventure

"Around NASA, he's known as "the Hubble Repairman." And last May, on his third visit to the orbiting space telescope, John Grunsfeld pulled off the repair to end all repairs. Working at zero gravity some 350 miles above the surface of the Earth, the astronaut restored sight to a half-blind Hubble--called the greatest scientific instrument ever invented--and ensured that it will continue to send back the stunning images and mind-boggling data that have transformed our understanding of the universe."

Subcommittees Hold Oversight Hearing to Examine Audit of NASA's Financial Operations

"It only took about half as long to get to the moon as it has taken to clean up NASA's financial performance, but three tries, hundreds of millions of dollars and the hard work of many NASA employees later they have shown definite improvement," said Subcommittee Chairman Brad Miller (D-NC). "I feel the responsibility of ensuring that NASA is a good steward of the resources they are given--resources which ultimately come from the American taxpayers," said Subcommittee Chairwoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ)."

NASA Watch is now on Kindle

Keith's note: NASA Watch is now available on Kindle. According to "Kindle Blogs are auto-delivered wirelessly to your Kindle and updated throughout the day so you can stay current. It's risk free--all Kindle Blog subscriptions start with a 14-day free trial. You can cancel at any time during the free trial period. If you enjoy your subscription, do nothing and it will automatically continue at the regular monthly price. Don't have a Kindle? Get yours here."

You can subscribe to NASA Watch on Kindle here.

"SAPPORO Space Barley" Beer Is Launched Onto The Market For The First Time In The World In Limited Quantities For Charity

"The "space barley" used to make this beer is the fourth generation descendant of the Haruna Nijo malting barley that was developed by Sapporo Breweries and kept in space for five months during 2006 as part of our collaborative research with the Russian Academy of Sciences and Okayama University with the purpose of achieving self-sufficiency in food in the space environment. Since Sapporo Breweries was founded, we have continued to create excellent varieties for raw materials, and we are the only company in the world that operates breeding/research organizations for both barley and hops. This, the world's first sale of this "space beer," is the result of our extended nurturing/development of the required technologies."

Moon Work Design Contest Offers NASA Internships to Winners

"The 2010 NASA Moon Work engineering design challenge seeks to motivate college students by giving them first-hand experience with the process of developing new technologies. To participate in the contest, students will submit their original design for tools or instruments that can help astronauts live and work on the moon. Top-ranked students will be offered a chance to intern with a team from NASA's Exploration Technology Development Program."

ARC Buyout Update

NASA ARC Memo: FY2010 Buyout/Early Out Opportunity Now Open

"The buyout application period begins November 9, 2009, and will continue through 4:30 p.m., Friday, December 11, 2009. Acceptances/Rejections will be issued each Monday for applications received by the close of business on the preceding Friday. Although we expect that all interested persons can be accommodated, the number of opportunities is limited and varies by occupation and organization."

SpaceX Hosts Preliminary Training for NASA ISS Astronauts in Preparation for Dragon Spacecraft Rendezvous and Station Berthing

"Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) recently conducted its first Dragon spacecraft operations training for a group of NASA astronauts and personnel at its corporate headquarters in Hawthorne, CA. The October training focused on how the crew will interface with the Dragon spacecraft while it is approaching and berthed to the International Space Station (ISS). Three of the participating astronauts--Tracy Caldwell Dyson, Shannon Walker and Douglas Wheelock--will be on board the ISS when Dragon makes its first visit under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program."

SpaceX trains its first batch of NASA astronauts, Orlando Sentinel

"Interesting to note that one of the other astronauts in attendance, Marsha Ivins, helped designed NASA's Ares I rocket and was a key architect of the agency's Constellation Program to return astronauts to the moon in 2020. She is well-known opponent to the idea of scrapping Ares I and relying on companies like SpaceX to take crew back and forth to the space station."

NASA Awards Alabama Information Technology Services Contract

"NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., has awarded a contract to Dynetics Inc. of Huntsville to provide information technology services at the center. The cost-plus-fixed-fee contract begins Feb. 1, 2010, with a two-year base period. The contract may be followed by a two-year option and a one-year option, exercised at NASA's discretion. The total value of the contract, if all options are exercised, is approximately $335 million."

Dynetics Hires Steve Cook as Director of Space Technologies

"Steve Cook, who has served as manager of Ares projects for NASA Marshall SpaceFlight Center since 2005, has been hired as our new Director of Space Technologies. He will begin his duties at Dynetics on 14 September 2009."

King Retires as Director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center

"David King, director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., is retiring from the agency to accept a position as executive vice president of Dynetics in Huntsville, effective immediately."

Researcher: NASA hiding climate data, Washington Times

"Mark Hess, public affairs director for the Goddard Space Flight Center which runs the GISS laboratory, said they are working on Mr. Horner's request, though he couldn't say why they have taken so long. "We're collecting the information and will respond with all the responsive relevant information to all of his requests," Mr. Hess said. "It's just a process you have to go through where you have to collect data that's responsive." He said he was unfamiliar with the British controversy and couldn't say whether NASA was susceptible to the same challenges to its data. The White House has dismissed the British e-mails as irrelevant."

Researcher Reportedly Threatens to Sue NASA Over Climate Data, Fox

"The Washington Times reported Thursday that Christopher Horner, a fellow with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, has given NASA until the end of the year to grant his two-year-old Freedom of Information Act request for research detailing NASA's climate data and explaining why the agency has altered its own figures."

Global warming e-mails prompt Republican letter to EPA

"The e-mails do nothing to undermine the very strong scientific consensus . . . that tells us the Earth is warming, that warming is largely a result of human activity," Jane Lubchenco, who heads the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told a House committee. She said that the e-mails don't cover data from NOAA and NASA, whose independent climate records show dramatic warming.

Watch Imagine '09 Live

Keith's note: I just got this from the organizers of the AAS event Imagine '09 behing held 2-3 December. Portions of the event will be webcast live here. Agenda and other event details can be found here.

Prepared Statements

Gabrielle Giffords
Bretton Alexander
Joseph Fragola
Jeff Hanley
John Marshall
Bryan O'Connor
Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Thomas Stafford

House Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Hearing Ensuring the Safety of Human Space Flight

Keith's note: The hearing was held today, 2 December 2009 from 10:00a.m. -12:00p.m. EST. NASA TV will rebroadcast the House Science & Technology hearing on spaceflight safety at 2 p.m.and 7 p.m. EST at

Astronaut-safety hearing becomes pro-Constellation rally, Orlando Sentinel

"A congressional hearing on astronaut safety turned into a pep rally for NASA's troubled Constellation moon-rocket program, with lawmakers and witnesses endorsing it as the best replacement for the space shuttle even as critics complained the hearing was one-sided. ... The one-sided panel of witnesses didn't escape the notice of U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif. "I think that we did need a little more diversity on the panel," he said. "When people like myself are probing ... we [need] to have someone there who would keep everybody honest."

Prepared Statements

George C. Nield
Gerald Dillingham
J.P. Stevens
Jeff Greason
James A. Testwuide

Hearing Subject matter Summary

Commercial Space Transportation: Development of the Commercial Space Launch Industry Presents Safety Oversight Challenges for FAA and Raises Issues Affecting Federal Roles, GAO

"In overseeing the commercial space launch industry, including the safety of space tourism, FAA faces several challenges. These include maintaining a sufficient number of staff with the necessary expertise to oversee the safety of launches and spaceport operations; determining whether FAA's current safety regulations are appropriate for all types of commercial space vehicles, operations, and launch sites; developing information to help FAA decide when to regulate crew and passenger safety after 2012; and continuing to avoid conflicts between FAA's regulatory and promotional roles."

First flights of NASA's Ares rocket: less safe than space shuttle?, Orlando Sentinel

"In an e-mail to the Orlando Sentinel, Jeff Hanley, manager of the Constellation Program that includes Ares I and Orion, said that in the four years since the ESAS was first conducted, there have been advances in engineering risk assessments and that supercomputer analyses say that the ultimate risk of losing a crew aboard Ares I would be just 1-in-2,800. But he acknowledged that even with better risk-assessment techniques and designs, a new rocket poses considerable risk. "What at least some of our work suggests is that, yes, on the second launch the LOC [loss of crew] risk may be roughly on par with today's mature shuttle risk. Other assessments are less rosy (a little riskier than a shuttle launch), so we are working right now to sort out a 'best estimate,'' he wrote."

NASAWatch: NASA withheld safety data from Augustine panel, Orlando Sentinel

",a respected watchdog website,reported on Tuesday night that NASA allegedly withheldinformation from a White House panel that showedthe Ares I rocket did not meet the agency's own safety goals."

Congressional testimony about early Ares flight risks incorrect, Orlando Sentinel

"Fragola said that the passage quoted by the Sentinel storyfrom the Exploration Systems Architecture Study concluding that it would take at least seven flights (two test flights and five mission flights) before the Ares I and Orion crew capsule could to be deemed to be as safe as the shuttle referred to a more powerful configuration of Ares-Orion that used a liquid oxygen-methane engine and not the simpler lower performance configuration being designed today. He said he knew this because he wrote the section of the ESAS that the Sentinel was referring to. Indeed, the report does say a few pages before the passage quoted by the Sentinel that a LOX-methane engine is riskier than the original simpler design for Ares-Orion, however, Fragola either misremembered the report or was not entirelyhonest with Congress when he dismissed our reporting."

Keith's note: With regard to Jeff Hanley's current comments, this is not the first time that Hanley's organization has had problems presenting (or admitting) a consistent view of what Ares 1's safety was relative to Shuttle and other launch systems. Indeed, you only have to look at Joseph Fragola's presentation to the Augustine Committee to see what Constellation knew Vs what it said. Specifically, there was a briefing chart that was withheld from the Augustine Committee - see below for that chart.

"Together, Gene Ross, my mother, Sharon, and myself, have kept the Outpost Tavern going for the last thirty years, it has stayed open. My Mom and Gene being the bulk of it, I was meant to be the "Closer" of this deal! J Good or bad, whatever anyone thinks of how we did it, we kept it open for you!

However, like many good things in life, sometimes "we" are not in charge. In this case, the property that the OP sits on has been going through many changes ownership-wise, since Pete Wright died, and there has always been a certain air of uncertainty about what may happen in the future. Well, the future is here. I have been informed that the property has been sold to another party."



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

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