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Bill Anders
Bill Anders

Keith’s Note: according to William Anders, Apollo 8 astronaut, killed in San Juan Islands plane crash: “Retired American astronaut William Anders, who was a member of the Apollo 8 crew, was killed in a plane crash just off the San Juan Islands on Friday afternoon. Anders’ son, retired Air Force Lt. Col. Greg Anders, confirmed the death to The Associated Press. The plane that crashed was a vintage Air Force T-34 Mentor, which is owned by Anders, who is also a San Juan County resident.” I met Mr. Anders at an event that Leroy Chiao and I put on at LSU with Sean O’Keefe. He was totally approachable and funny and went into incredible detail about his mission including the famous ‘Earthrise” pictures. Ad Astra. Update: NASA Administrator Remembers Apollo Astronaut William Anders

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  • NASA Watch
  • June 7, 2024
Richard Stolarski
Richard Stolarski

According to NASA: “Renowned ozone scientist Dr. Richard “Rich” Stolarski died on February 22, 2024, at age 82 from the complications of prostate cancer. Rich was born at Fort Lewis, WA on November 22, 1941. Rich joined NASA in 1974 at the Manned Space Center (now the Johnson Space Center) as a research physicist in the Environmental Effects Projects Office. He moved to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in 1976 to join the fledgling Stratospheric Physics and Chemistry Branch. Rich was branch head (1979 – 1985) and a research scientist (1985 – 2010). He was the Program Scientist for the Atmospheric Effects of the Stratospheric Aircraft program at NASA headquarters from 1992 to 1995. From 2010 until his passing, Rich was a NASA Goddard Emeritus scientist and a Research Professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Johns Hopkins University.” Ad Astra.

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  • NASA Watch
  • May 29, 2024
NASA Public Affairs Is Firing People
NASA Public Affairs Is Firing People

Keith’s note: The following was sent out the other day after news of firings at NASA Public Affairs started to appear on social media (see screen grab from one fired employee below): “As many of you are aware, the spending caps enacted by Congress for fiscal year 2024 and 2025 are requiring many organizations like ours to make hard choices. We are not unique, and, unfortunately, we have had to make difficult decisions that affect some of our team. After thorough analysis and review of all available options, we are reducing some requirements at Goddard, Marshall and HQ on the eMITS and SRACES contracts. These decisions were not made lightly and do not reflect on the outstanding and tireless work of the communications team. While they will no doubt have impact, our core mission remains unchanged– we will continue to tell the incredible NASA story and inspire all to reach for the stars. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me, Michelle Jones or Wes Brown with any questions or concerns you may have. Together, we will navigate these challenges. Marc Etkind Associate Administrator for Communications”

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  • NASA Watch
  • May 25, 2024
Jeff Bingham
Jeff Bingham

Keith’s note: My friend Jeff Bingham has died. There would probably be no space station and certainly no ISS National Lab without his valiant efforts over the decades – mostly behind the scenes at NASA and in Congress. I spoke with him by Facetime on Monday. We were laughing. AdAstra Jeff.

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  • NASA Watch
  • May 17, 2024
Darrell Glenn Bailey
Darrell Glenn Bailey

Keith’s note: according to his Full obituary: “Darrell Glenn Bailey, 65, passed away on April 24, 2024, while enjoying his favorite pastime of cycling with friends from around north Alabama. Born in Wurzburg, Germany, Darrell grew up in Liberty, NC. where he graduated from Southeast Guilford High School. He earned his dual degree in math and physics from The University of North Carolina-Greensboro where he met his future wife, Phyllis Crumbley Bailey. After graduating from college, he moved to Huntsville, Alabama to pursue his career at NASA where he faithfully worked for 41 years. Most recently, Darrell served as the lead of the Integrated Avionics Test Facilities for the Space Launch System Program.” Ad Astra.

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  • NASA Watch
  • April 29, 2024
Apurva Varia
Apurva Varia

Keith’s note: Apurva Varia, Mission Operations Director for Parker Solar Probe and Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX), and Deputy Mission Operations Director Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) at NASA GSFC has died suddenly. I never met him but I often heard glowing, kind words about him – and I was supposed to look him up the next time I was at GSFC and have a chat in ASL with him. The following is from a friend of mine, Eric Shear, who posted this on Facebook: “It is with a heavy heart that I share the news that Apurva Varia passed away on April 24th after a massive stroke. He was visiting his children at Duke University. Besides his work as a director of three interplanetary missions at NASA Goddard, Apurva and I flew together as the only two deaf flyers on AstroAccess Flight 1 in 2021. Until then, I had not met any other deaf people who shared my dream of becoming an astronaut. He not only was serious about it, he had already attained much of the necessary background. During our brief time together, he taught me some of the things he learned working in an all-hearing environment at NASA, while I used my 2011 experience to prepare him for the thrill of weightlessness. I was struck by his calm nature, his patience and kindness with the hearing AstroAccess crew who did not sign as well as him, his facility with the media, and his deep knowledge of space systems. To remember him, here are several photos of him before and during Flight 1.” Ad Astra Apurva – Some videos below.

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  • NASA Watch
  • April 25, 2024
RIF Watch For FY 2025
RIF Watch For FY 2025

Keith’s note: Sources report that the internal NASA Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution (PPBE) process has included discussion of a possible RIF in FY 2025. The budget is that bad folks. Stay tuned. Maybe Senator Administrator Bill Nelson can enlighten everyone as to how bad the NASA budget situation really is. NASA is not going to be doing a robust Artemis program or MSR or many of other big new things it wants to do in a budget environment with RIFs. RIFs can be brutal, pit one employee against another, decimate morale, and prompt people to find a more secure job.

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  • NASA Watch
  • April 19, 2024
James Dean
James Dean

Keith’s note: the archetype for NASA outreach – beyond space enthusiasts – was the original NASA Art Program during Apollo. It expressed in images what math and physics could not. I recall seeing these images as a young boy and they served to heighten the excitement of what lay ahead. I am willing to state that everything NASA has done with and for the arts since that time has its roots in this program – including such things as the Golden Record on the twin Voyagers and the Pale Blue Dot image. According to “James Dean, Founding Director of NASA Art Program, Dies at 92 (NY Times): “James Dean, a landscape painter who ran a NASA program that invited artists like Robert Rauschenberg, Norman Rockwell and Jamie Wyeth to document aspects of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo projects, died on March 22 in Washington. He was 92. … Mr. Dean believed that artists offered a perspective that could not be found in photographs. “Their imaginations enable them to venture beyond a scientific explanation of the stars, the moon and the outer planets,” Mr. Dean and Bert Ulrich wrote in their book, “NASA/ART: 50 Years of Exploration” (2008).” Ad astra James Dean.

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  • NASA Watch
  • April 17, 2024
George Abbey
George Abbey

Keith’s note: George Abbey has died. It is not an understatement to note that he has left an indelible and enduring mark on NASA and human spaceflight. They only make one of these models once in a generation. Ad Astra George. From the Abbey Family: “Our devoted father, mentor, guidepost, and hero, George W. S. Abbey, passed away last night after an illness. He was 91.”

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  • NASA Watch
  • March 25, 2024
Tom Stafford
Tom Stafford

Keith’s Note: Former NASA astronaut Gen. Thomas Stafford has died. Details to follow. Ad Astra. Update from Bill Nelson: “Today General Tom Stafford went to the eternal heavens which he so courageously explored as a Gemini and Apollo astronaut as well as a peacemaker in Apollo Soyuz. Those of us privileged to know him are very sad but grateful we knew a giant.”

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  • NASA Watch
  • March 18, 2024
Dick Truly
Dick Truly

Keith’s note: Shortly after I moved to Washington DC, Dick Truly became NASA Administrator. I did not really know him but I regularly bumped into him – as in constantly. More than once it was at a barbershop next to the “Reporter’s” building next to the railroad tracks across from old NASA HQ. If I came into work on weekends I often saw him arrive/depart at NASA HQ in what I seem to recall to have been a sporty white BMW. Then one time I arrived at Houston Hobby airport and there was no rental car for me. One of his staff heard me and offered me a ride – with Truly – down to JSC. He was busy but we chatted and I mentioned that I had worked at Rockwell Downey and was the Sign Language interpreter for the STS-2 crew visit – which he missed due to a family matter. I always thought that he was a very approachable and totally normal guy. Here’s the NASA PAO statement. Ad Astra Dick Truly

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  • NASA Watch
  • February 28, 2024
Brad Downs
Brad Downs

“James Bradley Downs, Jr., 99, of Titusville FL went to be with the Lord on February 10th, 2024. … Brad joined Brown Engineering as a contract employee in Huntsville, Alabama in 1959 and was soon picked up by NASA. In 1965 Brad moved his family to Titusville, FL to continue work on Apollo. During 24 years at NASA, he contributed to the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Apollo-Soyuz, Skylab and Space Shuttle programs.” Ad Astra Brad. More info

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  • NASA Watch
  • February 13, 2024
Heads Up JPL: Some Possible Job Openings
Heads Up JPL: Some Possible Job Openings

Keith’s note: just got this email: Mr. Cowing: I am very sorry to hear about the situation that is going on at JPL. I did want to share with you that the Naval Facilities Engineering Command has more than 100 current engineering vacancies, literally around the world. We manage the day to day construction, operation, and maintenance of the Navy’s shore establishment. The plant value of the facilities is slightly more than 1/2 trillion dollars. We have openings for most engineering disciplines. More senior positions do require registration. We have personnel in San Diego that are more than willing to speak with anyone that is potentially interested. I will be more than happy to pass along any information.
Sincerely,
Michael R. Keller, PE
Assistant Commander for Public Works (Acting)
NAVFAC HQ
202-374-0467
michael.r.keller3.civ – at – us.navy.mil

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  • NASA Watch
  • February 12, 2024
A Former JPLer’s Take On The Layoffs
A Former JPLer’s Take On The Layoffs

Keith’s note: I am turning off commenting on this post. I cannot believe the comments I am seeing – people saying “so what”, “No big deal” – and some outright happy that 500+ JPLers are being laid off for [particular odd politics] reasons. You people have screws loose. Jeff Nosanov: The other day the Jet Propulsion Laboratory – the facility in Pasadena that built and operates the Mars Rovers – just laid off approximately 8% of its workforce, about 530 people. Occasionally in human history a superpower will choose to abandon a position of leadership, or yield dominance of a frontier, in favor of, or because of, internal or domestic conflict.

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  • NASA Watch
  • February 8, 2024
Pathetic Lack Of Response From Human/Commercial Space Over Layoffs
Pathetic Lack Of Response From Human/Commercial Space Over Layoffs

Keith’s note: It has been 2 days – still no comment from American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Aerospace Industries Association, Commercial Spaceflight Federation, National Space Society, Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, Space Foundation etc. – the big supporters of human and commercial space – about the welfare of NASA JPL and other NASA employees that have been laid off? WTF? Human/commercial space people can’t be bothered to support NASA workforce? The people who build exploration missions are not worth sticking up for? FYI Artemis and ISS and LEO funding aren’t immune by any means either. United we stand, Divided we fall. Update: NSS responded – see tweet below. If you ever needed evidence that they are clueless/irrelevant, this is it.

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  • NASA Watch
  • February 8, 2024
Job Cuts May Be Ahead At NASA (update)
Job Cuts May Be Ahead At NASA (update)

Keith’s 24 January note: I am hearing that the impact on NASA of the Continuing Resolution ~$500 million shortfall is likely going to have some significant impacts on employees at JPL and Goddard – and elsewhere. Some things will be unaffected, others will be delayed. If implemented this will happen rather soon. Stay tuned.

  • 6 Feb Update: JPL Workforce Update After exhausting all other measures to adjust to a lower budget from NASA, and in the absence of an FY24 appropriation from Congress, we have had to make the difficult decision to reduce the JPL workforce through layoffs. JPL staff has been advised that the workforce reduction will affect approximately 530 of our colleagues, an impact of about 8%, plus approximately 40 additional members of our contractor workforce. The impacts will occur across both technical and support areas of the Lab. These are painful but necessary adjustments that will enable us to adhere to our budget allocation while continuing our important work for NASA and our nation.
  • NASA PAO from NASA Administrator Bill Nelson: “Earlier today, JPL announced a reduction in its workforce. These painful decisions are hard, and we will feel this loss across the NASA family. A recent Independent Review Board examined the Mars Sample Return mission and NASA is currently assessing the path forward based on their input. In addition to this need for a pause, this decision is necessary because the FY 2024 appropriation, which already started on Oct. 1, 2023, has not been passed by Congress and the lowest level of funding approved has been reported by the Senate appropriations committee. To spend more than that amount, with no final legislation in place, would be unwise and spending money NASA does not have. JPL has long been – and will continue to be – a shining example of America’s leadership in space. Even in the wake of current challenges, JPL will continue to help drive key upcoming NASA missions as we explore the cosmos with Europa Clipper, study our changing climate with the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR), and defend the planet with the Near-Earth Object Surveyor space telescope (NEO Surveyor).”

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  • NASA Watch
  • February 6, 2024