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Looks Like NASA Watch is in the Dog House (Once Again)

By Keith Cowing
NASA Watch
April 22, 2005

Editor’s note: NASA JSC PAO is holding a telecon between the news media and John Muratore and Wayne Hale today to address issue raised in this morning’s edition of the NY Times. The telecon was to start at 5:00 pm EDT. As has been the habit the past few years, an email alert – or, if it is really last minute, a phone call is made to alert the media to such events and how to participate and ask questions. Up until today PAO has been very, very good at keeping me on the list for such events. Not any more. I’ve heard that some feathers really got ruffled on the 9th floor this morning when they read NASA Watch.

Editor’s note: I called down to JSC to see if I could participate (since the event had not yet started) and they told me “No”.

They have apparently hand selected those reporters who would be allowed to participate. You can listen to the event live at Update: As the event has progressed it has become clear that every reporter who covers NASA was allowed to participate and ask questions – except me. Oh well.

Excerpt from Wayne Hale: “With regard to the professor’s comments in that article, I find it offensive that anyone would say that we are adjusting our tests to get a certain outcome. I will go even further. It is to my everlasting shame that my name is in Chapter 6 of the CAIB report. I fully intend that the next shuttle flight will be as safe as it can be – because I never want to go to another astronaut memorial service. Talking about fear of retribution: If people do cut corners that WILL get them fired.”

Editor’s note: With regard to the issues raised in this story: Risk – especially the risk inherent in space flight – is something you never get to be perfect at assessing. As such, you always need to be adapting your tools to better gauge risk so as to make decisions based on those assessments. There is more to this than just rocket science, however. There is a public component to risk as well. These are public assets after all – very expensive ones that can kill people. Mike Griffin understands how all of this works. If he feels that the media is portraying the risks and the way that NASA handles them in an inaccurate light, then it is incumbent upon him to do a better job at explaining how NASA is doing things. Now would be a good time to start. For PAO to be hand picking those media who can participate (or blocking others from doing so) ain’t the best way to start.

NASA Watch founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.