Keith Cowing: December 2009 Archives

Keith's note: This Week in Space With Miles O'Brien is now online. Leroy Chiao, Ken Bowersox, and Mike Griffin are guests.

Jumping The Gun

Report that Obama decided on space policy may be premature , Orlando Sentinel

"A report by a respected science publication that said President Barack Obama has decided on a new space policy for NASA may be premature, according to Write Stuff sources. The report, which was posted Thursday night on the "Science Insider" blog at the web site of the journal Science, quoted unnamed sources saying that in a meeting on Wednesday with NASA chief Charlie Bolden, the president decided to add an extra $1 billion to NASA's budget."

Keith's note: It would seem that Science Magazine jumped the gun a bit. As is the case with the Orlando Sentinel, NASA Watch sources report that the story published in Science is incomplete and, in some cases, is just plain wrong. Specifically it asserts that a final decision has been made as to what NASA will be told to do. That is not the case. But it is likely that NASA will be getting a budget bump of upwards of $1 billion.

After last week's Obama/Bolden meeting, NASA is on the hook from White House to provide additional information between now and January to be factored into the final decision making process. Among other things, these decisions include the fate of Ares 1 and the new path that may be chosen regarding launch vehicle utilization and development. Moreover, sources report that the impetus for this "leak" was someone in or around the White House - someone who is not necessarily all that thrilled with certain options that are on the table. So, in classic Washington style, they leaked someone else's potentially good news - but did so early - and the results were counterproductive.

You can be certain that neither the White House or the 9th Floor at NASA HQ are remotely thrilled that this stuff is leaking out this soon given that some final number and policy crunching needs to be done. Having to bat down stories - accurate and inaccurate - serves only to distract them from that process. Given that there is lingering concern in some quarters about NASA's capabilities, seeing this stuff dribble out - regardless of the source(s) works against the agency as it strives to make its case to President Obama.

That said, having a high profile meeting at the White House just before Christmas and then expecting everyone to stay silent until the FY 2011 budget comes out in February is unrealistic - and somewhat naive in this day and age since no one can keep their mouth shut any more.

As always, stay tuned.

Flying Air NASA

Conflict of interest? Congresswoman staunchly backs Constellation -- and is wed to astronaut, Orlando Sentinel

"On Memorial Day weekend in 2007, Kelly flew to Indiana to watch the Indy 500 with Giffords, his then-fiance. Kelly listed the purpose of the trip as "Space Flight Readiness Training." NASA later said the flight may have violated the agency rules requiring astronauts "to avoid any appearance of inappropriate use of NASA T-38's" when logging their required monthly flight hours. The trip cost taxpayers almost $9,000."

Closing memo/final report/transmittal memo for several National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigations , Government Attic

"2. 0-KE.07.0167-S, March 11, 2008, Possible Misuse of NASA Aircrafts/Lisa Nowa k"

On May 7, 2007, Raymond Sander, Johnson Space Center, presented the following scenario to Michael Griffin, NASA Administrator, at an ongoing "Ask the Administrator" meeting: "If 1, as a NASA employee in good standing get involved in some emotional, non lethal altercation and arrested by law enforcements agents in Florida, will NASA quickly dispatch my supervisor in a Government T-38 or equivalent, to represent NASA and assess the matter?" The Administrator responded to this question by answering "No."

Keith's note: I find it somewhat annoying that JSC often complains that there is not enough travel money for astronaut appearances and yet astronauts can fly T-38's almost any where they want to since the T-38 air time counts against their flight proficiency. That said, based on my experience, such questionable T-38 usage is the exception - not the rule. But it still happens.

New Course for Space Exploration Promotes Private Firms, WS Journal

"The Obama administration appears set to chart a new course for U.S. space exploration by promoting the use of private companies to ferry astronauts into orbit, according to people familiar with the matter. The controversial plan would mark a trailblazing departure for the nation's space program by allowing a group of closely held start-up companies, for the first time, to compete for a central role in an arena previously dominated by much larger, publicly traded contractors with long track records working for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration."

Conflict of interest? Congresswoman staunchly backs Constellation -- and is wed to astronaut , Orlando Sentinel

"We know it's personal to her," said Dean Acosta, a spokesman for the Boeing Co. and for the Coalition for Space Exploration, which represents all the big Constellation contractors. "She knows the importance of [Constellation] because of conversations with her husband. She has been one of the key drivers and one of the key voices ... [and] one of the biggest vocal supporters of Constellation and Ares." ...

"If she were out there asking tough questions about Constellation at the same time she was out there roasting alternatives, people would have a lot less problems with her," said one senior White House official not authorized to speak for the administration. But it was her treatment of Augustine, a highly respected aerospace leader, that most angered White House officials, and even upset the former Lockheed Martin CEO himself."

Ed Lu on Launch Vehicles

Faster, NASA, Faster, Op Ed, Ed Lu, NY Times

"To maintain a vibrant, innovative program, NASA needs to step up the rate of rocket launchings. It should set a requirement that any new launching system fly once a week, then put out contracts for private companies to design and build rockets that can operate this frequently. By launching early and launching often, NASA could get back in the business of exploring space."


Keith's note: I just saw "Avatar" in IMAX 3D. It is simply stunning, utterly convincing, and profoundly immersive. You must see it. This is not a "movie". It is something much more - a paradigm shifter to be certain.

Pandora Could Exist, earlier post
Video: Avatar, Augmented Reality, and NASA, earlier post
Avatar: A Stunning New World That NASA Is Ignoring, earlier post

Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation Public Meeting, FAA

"New COE for Commercial Space Transportation Public Meeting - February 9, 2010 The FAA Administrator has concurred with the request to establish a new Center of Excellence (COE) for Commercial Space Transportation (CST) in 2010. On February 9 a public meeting will be held in Washington DC to discuss the FAA COE Program and CST technical requirements. A COE Draft Solicitation will be available for public review prior to the meeting."

NASA Names New Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration

"Laurie Leshin has been named the new deputy associate administrator of the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, effective in January. Leshin previously served as the deputy center director for science and technology at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. She has led the formulation of strategy and the start of new missions since 2008 as Goddard's senior scientist, while providing extensive scientific guidance to lunar architecture and other human spaceflight planning activities."

Pandora Could Exist

Avatar's Moon Pandora Could Be Real, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

"In the new blockbuster Avatar, humans visit the habitable - and inhabited - alien moon called Pandora. Life-bearing moons like Pandora or the Star Wars forest moon of Endor are a staple of science fiction. With NASA's Kepler mission showing the potential to detect Earth-sized objects, habitable moons may soon become science fact."

Characterizing Habitable Exo-Moons, astro-ph

"We discuss the possibility of screening the atmosphere of exomoons for habitability. We concentrate on Earth-like satellites of extrasolar giant planets (EGP) which orbit in the Habitable Zone of their host stars."

Waterworld Found

Waterworld Discovered Transiting a Nearby Star, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

"Astronomers have announced that they have discovered a "super-Earth" orbiting a red dwarf star only 40 light-years from Earth. They found this nearby planet with a small fleet of ground-based telescopes no larger than those many amateur astronomers have in their backyards. Although the super-Earth is too hot to sustain life, the discovery shows that current, ground-based technologies are capable of finding almost-Earth-sized planets in warm, life-friendly orbits."

Lakes and Fog on Titan

Sun's Glint Reveals Lakes on Titan, JPL

"NASA's Cassini spacecraft has captured the first flash of sunlight reflected off a lake on Saturn's moon Titan, confirming the presence of liquid on the part of the moon dotted with many large, lake-shaped basins."

Fog on Titan, Caltech

"Saturn's largest moon, Titan, looks to be the only place in the solar system--aside from our home planet, Earth--with copious quantities of liquid (largely, liquid methane and ethane) sitting on its surface. According to planetary astronomer Mike Brown of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Earth and Titan share yet another feature, which is inextricably linked with that surface liquid: common fog."

NASA Internal Email: Agency Planned IT Outage Starts December 18

"Benefits: Enhanced network management, accessibility, and system performance

Services Affected: This notification covers the NASA Data Center Network Upgrade and
activities performed by the NEACC."

Rep. Parker Griffith to speak with Marshall Space Flight Center employees Friday, Huntsville Times

"Rep. Parker Griffith, D-Huntsville, is slated to discuss NASA's future Friday in an "all-hands" meeting to be held at Marshall Space Flight Center's auditorium in the headquarters building 4200."

Lawmakers try to prevent Obama from cutting NASA, Orlando Sentinel

"Congress and the White House have signaled that they envision sharply different futures for NASA and its manned space mission. At an aerospace luncheon, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden said President Barack Obama wants the agency to embrace "more international cooperation" after the space-shuttle era ends in 2010 and hinted that its Constellation moon-rocket program could see major changes. "We are going to be fighting and fussing over the coming year," Bolden told an audience of aerospace executives and lobbyists Wednesday. "Some of you are not going to like me, because we are not going to do the same kind of things we've always done." But hours earlier, congressional appropriators reached a different conclusion, approving legislative language declaring that any change to Constellation, which aims to return astronauts to the moon by 2020 but is running well behind schedule, must first get the approval of Congress."

Keith's note: Charlie Bolden cancelled a speech that he was supposed to deliver in San Diego today at the last minuute to stay in Washington. All NASA field center directors meet early next week with Bolden. Something is up.

According to a Twitter post by Erika Wagner who attended an appearance by Norm Augustine at MIT last night "Augustine: "I'm told that some of the decision documents are on [Obama's] desk right now"

The Boulders of Copernicus

"This image represents a portion of the central uplift within the crater Copernicus. The image, LOV-152-H1, was taken by Lunar Orbiter V on 16 August 1967 at an altitude of 103 km. The spacecraft was looking straight down at the crater as it snapped this picture series. The resolution of this image is 2.2 meters/pixel. You can see the increase in contrast and resolution that LOIRP has attained when you compare the high resolution USGS image and the one obtained by LOIRP on 10 December 2009." High res images

AIAA President Warns Congress That Cuts to Human Spaceflight Programs Will Harm Aerospace Workforce, U.S. Economy, and National Security. AIAA

"AIAA President Dave Thompson today testified before the House Committee on Science and Technology on "Decisions on the Future Direction and Funding for NASA: What Will They Mean for the U.S. Aerospace Workforce and Industrial Base?" Thompson and his fellow panelists were asked to address the effects of NASA's future direction and funding on the country's aerospace industry and the nation as a whole."

Aerospace Workforce Imperiled by Funding Cuts, AIA

"U.S. preeminence in aerospace is threatened by aging demographics and uncertainty over the future of the U.S. space program and adequate funding to support it, AIA President and CEO Marion Blakey said Thursday in testimony before the House Committee on Science and Technology."

How to Contact Your Elected Officials, Boeing via Capitol Connect

"Contact your elected officials and let them know that NASA and its space exploration programs are on the right trajectory. As the President and Congress weigh the options for our nation's future space exploration policy, it's important our elected officials know that you support the Constellation and Ares rocket programs."

Keith's note: On Thursday, 10 December 2009, we'll be doing a live webcast from the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) at "McMoon's" i.e. Building 596 at the NASA Ames Research Park.

Keith's update: The webcast has been archived below.

Charlie Bolden at WIA/AIAA

Bolden's Talk to WIA and AIAA, Chuck Divine

"Today, December 9, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden addressed a joint luncheon organized by Women in Aerospace and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Lori Garver gave a friendly introduction to Bolden noting that he was two star Marine General and a four time astronaut. A friend of Bolden's named Rocky told Lori "You have won the lottery." Charlie then stepped to the podium. He began by stating that it was an honor to be here. He added that Lori was a key member of his team. The numbers of women in aerospace today is a tribute to the work of WIA in the past two decades. He also acknowledged the presence of AIAA President Dave Thompson."

Boulder Trails On The Moon

Keith's note: This image was taken on 21 November 1966 by Lunar Orbiter II at an altitude of 44 miles. The image is taken from frame 92, Framelet 445, and has resolution is 0.98 meters/pixel. As such the large boulder that has left a trail is around 6-7 meters in diameter. The image on the left shows the highest resolution image available online at LPI. On the right is the raw unproceesed image we retrieved this afternoon. While the large boulder's trail is seen in both images, the details of that trail and the rest of the boulder field are much sharper in our newly retrieved image. More information and hi res images

Keith's note: These images are taken from Lunar Orbiter II image LOII_092H1 Framelet 522. On the left is the highest resolution scanned version available online at LPI (or USGS). On the right is our partially processed version that we retrieved this morning. In addition to providing a much sharper image, note that our new image also allows contrast to be controlled such that features can seen in the areas that are darkened in the older image. More information and high res images.

Aerojet's Glenn Mahone and Jacobs Technology's Jeannie Kranz to guide the Coalition for Space Exploration Public Affairs Team in 2010

"Two veteran aerospace communicators will lead the Coalition for Space Exploration's Public Affairs Team in 2010. Aerojet's Glenn Mahone and Jacobs Technology's Jeannie Kranz were recently named the organization's new chair and deputy chair, respectively. Each will serve a one-year term, effective January through December 2010."

LaRC internal Poll Update

NASA LaRC Poll: Helping People Feel Attractive and Lovable (#21), earlier post

Reader's note: I believe your posting in regard to this topic and the comments it has generated have missed the mark given that the original reason for this survey as conveyed in the e-mails announcing it has not been included. The real question that should be asked is what in the world does any of this have to do with the "Langley Message?"

Official NASA memo and instructions below:

Feasibility of Using Constellation Architecture or Robotic Missions for Servicing Existing and Future Spacecraft

"In conjunction with this RFI, NASA will conduct an open workshop tentatively scheduled for February 16-18, 2010 to bring potential users and providers of on-orbit servicing capabilities together with the NASA study team. The study team will present the notional mission definition process and the first draft of the notional mission suite. RFI responders will have an opportunity to present ideas, technologies and capabilities as well as forecast existing and planned spacecraft/observatories that would benefit from on-orbit serviceability. The study team will then finalize the notional missions based on the RFI responses and the presentations and discussions at this workshop."

Spacebook (NASA), Open Government Initiative, White house

"Additional Details: Spacebook was launched in June 2009 and now has over 850 users across NASA."

Keith's note: For an agency that has tens of thousands of employees inside the firewall, you (at least) need a zero on this number in order to call it a success - especially when you consider what these employees (and their kids) use out in the real world. Then again, it is a good start. I can clearly recall what it took back in the 80's for my supervisors at NASA to start using email - personally (instead of having their secretaries check it once a week).

Keith's note: Tonight we are testing out our newest Mac computer at the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project located at NASA ARC. We'll be using this machine (8 processors and 10 TB of storage) to do near-real time processing of imagery once we have pulled it off of original Lunar Orbiter analog data tapes using our restored FR-900 tape drives. We hope to do a live webcast this coming Thursday so that you can look over our shoulders as we bring another image to light for the first time in more than 40 years.

As we were flying through a portion of one of the images we came across a boulder field. The image was taken by Lunar Orbiter II on 20 Nov 1966 at an altitude of 52.2 miles with a ground resolution of 1.14 meters/pixel. The framelet image shown here is approximately 220 meters across. You can clearly make out a number of boulders around 1 meter in size sitting on the surface.

Hi res images here.

Virgin Galactic unveils SpaceShipTwo, the world's first manned commercial spaceship

"SpaceShipTwo will be unveiled after darkness has fallen over the Mojave Desert to the sound of a space-themed anthem from Britain's biggest DJs, Above & Beyond. Fittingly titled "Buzz" the track will sample Buzz Aldrin's original moon landing dialogue. Following the naming by Governors Richardson and Schwarzenegger, the DJs will also perform an exclusive set at the celebration cocktail party which will follow and feature the first ever IceBar in the desert hosted by Absolut and the world famous Swedish IceHotel. All the guests will be protected from the desert cold by designer space jackets supplied by PUMA. Finally, to close off the celebrations, all the guests will have the opportunity to view the stunning night skies using specialist telescopes supplied by Ron Dantowitz of the Clay Observatory whose unique tracking cameras followed SS1 into space during the epic flights of 2004."

Keith's note: Apparently the festivities were cut short and moved indoors when high winds threatened to rip down the party tents and cold temperatures made the IceBar less than enticing...

... Video after the break

NASA Diver Insists Tale Of Porn-Watching Muslim Hijackers Is True, Despite Discrepancies

"There's one other wrinkle to the story: Petruna sent the e-mail out from an account marked "Petruna, Tedd J. (JSC-DX12)[RAYTHEON TECHNICAL SERVICES COMPANY]." Raytheon partners with NASA on the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, where Petruna is a diver. And Petruna told us he works for Raytheon as well as NASA. But Raytheon spokesman Jon Kasle tells TPMmuckraker, "This individual is not a Raytheon employee." Kasle says he's not sure why Raytheon's name is on Petruna's e-mail account, and declined to comment on whether the company is looking into the matter."

AirTran 297- Anatomy of an Urban Legend, AirTran

Keith's note: I really am not sure what to make of this story - but if you go to there is a "Petruna, Theodore John" with an email address of tedd.j.petruna -at - and the organizational code JSC-DX12 is what is used for the Neutral Buoyancy Lab at JSC i.e.

NASA Solicitation: Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research Program - CRUSR - Request for Information

"In this Request for Information (RFI), the NASA Ames CRuSR Office is requesting technical and programmatic input to improve the government's understanding of flight opportunities to aid potential science investigators in scoping and designing possible future suborbital investigations. Responses to this RFI are welcome from all interested parties, especially potential providers of suborbital spaceflight services. Suborbital spaceflight service providers should consider accommodation of flight experiments that address any of the following research disciplines: ..."

Keith's note: Here is the recent survey put out by NASA Langley Management to LaRC employees in th past couple of weeks. People I have talked with at LaRC find this poll anything from humorous to silly to wondering how it is related to LaRC and the technical work that is supposedly at its core mission. Apparently message boards at LaRC are also abuzz with comments. The layout has been altered to protect the source and due to format limitations to send by e-mail. Draw your own conclusions and post whatever portion you wish. By the end I hope you feel attractive and lovable. (question 21)

Here is the poll:



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About this Archive

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

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