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Personnel News


By Keith Cowing
December 31, 2000

29 December 2000: Nicogossian on IPA assignment

Editor’s note: word has it that former OLMSA Associate Administrator Arnauld Nicogossian will begin an IPA assignment on 2 January 2001 with both the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS). Effective immediately, Dr. Richard Williams will serve as Acting Chief
Health and Medical Officer. Williams is the former Director
of NASA’s Office of Health Affairs and is currently serving as
the Deputy Chief Health and Medical Officer.

27 November 2000: NASA Loses Veterans in Science, Public Affairs, NASA PAO

“NASA employees are mourning two colleagues who passed away last week. Brian D. Welch, a veteran public affairs officer for the space agency and NASA’s Director of Media Services, died Friday, Nov. 24. The previous Wednesday, Dr. Gerald Soffen, a guiding force in NASA’s effort to search for life elsewhere in the Universe, had died at 74. NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin praised both men for the commitment and enthusiasm they brought to NASA.”

27 November 2000: Brian Welch, NASA Director of Media Services, Dies, NASA PAO

27 November 2000: Brian Welch has died.

Brian died at 6:19 p.m. Friday night after suffering a heart attack. A NASA memorial will be held in Washington – date is TBD. A service with Brian’s family to spread his ashes over a lake near his home will be held in Kentucky on Dec. 9. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to Brian’s local library (details below).

Information regarding memorial service, donations, flowers, etc.

Editor’s personal note: Those of you who have been reading NASA Watch for several years are probably aware of the struggle I had getting press accreditation from NASA. If you are aware of this then you also know that it was Brian Welch who first denied me accreditation. At the time (1997) the use of the Internet as a source of news distribution was still rather new – and I was still somewhat of an undisciplined cyberpest flying by the seat of my pants. NASA didn’t quite know how to handle this – ergo neither did Brian. Hell, neither did I.

At that time, Brian referred to what I was doing as being akin to “vanity press”. While I often took issue with his characterization, he was, in truth, not far off the mark. Indeed, he more or less hit it right on the nose. I continued to publish NASA Watch and eventually applied for – and received accreditation from NASA. Over the years after my first request was denied, I regularly took Brian’s characterization to heart when I saw my ego getting too much in the path of relaying the news. If NASA Watch has improved at all since then, that improvement must owe some credit to Brian Welch.

In the past year or so I got to know Brian much better – once the thorny issue of accreditation had evaporated. Indeed, I think we were both rather surprised to see how many things we both agreed upon, that we shared many of the same frustrations that go with informing the public about what NASA does, and how easily we communicated these things with each other.

webcamOver the course of this summer Brian and I had a number of rather long chats about the Internet and how NASA was trying to stay on top of everything. In particular, Brian was keen on enhancing NASA’s use of webcams – something we talked about repeatedly as a result of the live webcam SpaceRef had placed at the Mars Arctic Research Station on Devon Island this past summer. Brian thought our webcam was “cool”. Next summer we at SpaceRef hope to have at least one live webcam in operation again on Devon Island. I think it only fitting that one of the cameras will be dedicated to Brian.

Brian left this life far too early. He should have been on the job at NASA years from now watching the first humans walk on Mars. At least a camera bearing his name will watch some of the people trying to figure out how to live, work, and learn there.

A final thought – and a suggestion for Dan Goldin: Brian was deeply involved with the negotiations between NASA and Dreamtime. As such, I would hope that the first HDTV camera to fly in space as part of this partnership would also have his name on it.

Ad Astra, Brian.

26 November 2000: Notes from Jerry Soffen’s Memorial Service


“Sunday, Nov 26, 2000

Hampton, VA.

Gerald Soffen, Project Viking Scientist was buried this afternoon at 1 PM at
Parklawn Cemetery on North Armistead Avenue, about a mile from Langley.
About 40 attended — family, friends, colleagues from Project Viking, and
current colleagues from Goddard. The weather was clear, but cold.
At 2 PM, a reception was held in the library of the Virginia Air & Space
Center. About 60 people attended. Many had not seen each other in years. I expect the attendence would have been higher, but many people were out of town and will not see the papers until Sunday night.”

Editor’s personal note: Ad astra Jerry.

24 November 2000: NASA Astrobiology Architect, Dr. Gerald Soffen, Dies, NASA PAO

“Soffen will be buried in Hampton, VA. A grave-side ceremony will be held Sunday, Nov. 26 at 1:00 p.m. at the Park Lawn Memorial Park in Hampton. Immediately after the service, a reception will be held at the Virginia Air and Space Center located at Settler’s Landing Road in Hampton.”

23 November 2000: Astrobiologist and Educator Jerry Soffen has died

Editor’s note: I was saddened to learn that Jerry died suddenly last night. I had frequent contact with Jerry over the past years as NASA’s Astrobiology program got off the ground. Jerry’s passion for the exploration of space was matched only by his passion for educating tomrrow’s space explorers. He was a true believer – and will be greatly missed.

4 August 2000: Conduct of Employees, Notice of Waiver Pursuant to Section 207(j)(5), Title 18, United States Code, Federal Register: August 4, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 151)

“SUMMARY: The Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has determined, after consultation with the Director of the Office of Government Ethics,
that it is in the national interest to waive the post-employment restrictions of Section 207, Title 18, United States Code, with respect to the former Deputy Director for Launch and
Payload Processing, at Kennedy Space Center, Loren Shriver.”

Editor’s note: Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone at NASA could get such a waiver, not just former astronaut/senior NASA managers…

4 August 2000: NASA life sciences: An Improvement in Vital Signs, Science, [summary – can be viewed for free once registered. A subscription fee is required for full access.]

“NASA bureaucrats [are putting] the finishing touches on a realignment of the agency’s struggling biology effort that should bolster fundamental research and allow scientists to make better use of the [ISS], scheduled to be completed in 2005.”

Editor’s note: NASA Watch has learned that next Wednesday (9 August) will be the last day on the job for Dr. Joan Vernikos, head of OLMSA’s Life Sciences Division at NASA Headquarters.

26 July 2000: Office of Life and Microgravity Sciences Reorganization Approved.

Editor’s note: Dan Goldin has approved the OLMSA (Office of Life and Microgravity Sciences) reorganization plan. Under this plan, OLMSA will become an independent enterprise to be called the Office of Fundamental Space Research. As part of the reorganization OLMSA’s current Life Sciences Division will split into two divisions. The OLMSA Microgravity Sciences Division will stay as a single unit and will now be known as the Physical Science Research Division.

The current HEDS (Human Exploration and Development of Space) enterprise will continue to exist, but it will now be comprised only of the Office of Space Flight (Code M) with no associated science component. Dr. Kathie Olsen, NASA’s Chief Scientist, currently the acting Associate Administrator for OLMSA will serve as acting AA for the new organization. Dr. Julie Swain, currently OLMSA’s Acting Deputy Director, will retain her current acting position as well. According to NASA PAO the search is still underway for an individual to head this new organization.

1 August 2000: NASA Watch People Sightings

Editor’s note: Several NASA Watch readers have noted that someone looking exactly like American University’s Richard Berendzen (frequent NASA advisor and talking head on TV) was sitting directly in front of former President and Mrs. Bush last night at the Republican National Convention. I just saw some tape from last night’s activites. It sure does look like him.

Meanwhile, other NASA Watch readers have sighted former JSC Center Director Carolyn Huntoon (and one time White House staffer) walking around NASA HQ. Huntoon is currently serving as Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management at the Department of Energy. When asked what she was doing there (at NASA HQ) she said “signing my time card”. It would seem she’s still on a NASA billet.

19 July 2000: NASA’s Chief Scientist Doing Double Duty as OLMSA AA

According to a spokesperson from NASA Public Affairs, NASA’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Kathie Olsen (bio), has been named Acting Associate Administrator for OLMSA and will remain in this position until a permanent replacement has been named. NASA’s spokesperson said that “an aggressive search for a permanent candidate is currently underway”. NASA’s spokesperson was not able to provide a specific date when an announcement of the new AA would be made.

Editor’s note: word has it that Julie Swain, M.D. (bio) is the odds on favorite to be the new AA for OLMSA. Kathie Olsen’s name is also mentioned as a potential choice. Since Dan Goldin regularly takes an extended vacation in August, this selection should be announced rather soon.

19 May 2000: NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab Head to Retire, Reuters, Yahoo

“Lab spokesman Frank O’Donnell said stone will turn 65 next January. “There is a strong tradition of JPL directors retiring by their 65th year. It is almost unknown for a director to stay beyond that time,” he said.”

12 May 2000: Goldin Shakes Up NASA’s Life Sciences Program, Science (Registration fee required for full access)

“Many scientists say that NASA’s course in the life sciences has been set over many years by Nicogossian, a physician by training, and his allies George Abbey and Carolyn Huntoon, the current and former heads, respectively, of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “The Abbey-Huntoon-Nicogossian Mafia,” says [Dr. Andrew] Gaffney, “ran the program not on the basis of what was the best science. … Maybe those days are over.” Other researchers privately concur with that analysis. Adds one: “Arnauld used a physician’s approach–and that approach is not one that has helped the life sciences flourish.”

1 May 2000: NASA Creates New Office to Foster Health and Safety, NASA PAO

“Dr. Nicogossian will establish the NASA Health Council to address the Agency’s needs and investments in health, including strengthening external interfaces with other health agencies. Similar infrastructure will be established as appropriate at NASA field centers. Dr. Nicogossian will continue to serve in the capacity of Associate Administrator for Life and Microgravity Sciences and Applications pending the selection of his replacement. NASA will begin an immediate search to fill the position.”

8 May 2000: Kennedy Space Center Rolls Out New Organizational Structure, NASA KSC PAO

“Our main objective is to continue safe and effective support of our operational programs: Space Shuttle, International Space Station (ISS) and
payload processing, and Expendable Launch Vehicle (ELV) Services. At the same time we will strive to improve our ability to focus on spaceport
technology development,” said Bridges.”

29 February 2000: NASA ranked best place to work in government, Government Executive Magazine

“Donald Teague, president of the NASA Headquarters Professional Association, said reinvention – in the form of downsizing and budget cuts – has hurt morale at the agency. The NASA workforce has declined from 23,696 at the end of 1993 to 17,939 at the end of 1999.”

14 February 2000: Shuttle Crew Pays Tribute to Cartoonist Schulz, Reuters, Yahoo

“On the Apollo 10 mission in 1969, the first lunar lander to orbit the moon was named “Snoopy” and the command module was named “Charlie Brown.'”

Silver Snoopy Award, NASA Headquarters

“Of all the SFA Awards, perhaps the Silver Snoopy best symbolizes the intent and spirit of Space Flight Awareness.This award is presented personally by the astronauts to employees for outstanding performance. Since the Snoopy represents the astronauts’ own recognition of excellence, receiving it is a special honor.”

10 January 2000: Mal Peterson Admits that NASA has cut too many jobs.

Editor’s note: According to a one paragraph story “Staff Shortage Takes Its Toll at NASA Centers” on page 2 of the 10 January 2000 issue of Space News, NASA Comptroller Mal Peterson is quoted as saying “It is apparent that we went too far.” Space News goes on to note that NASA will be asking OMB for funds to hire additional workers in 2000.

Contrast this with Mal’s comments back in 1996 – I posted the following to the newsgroup on 28 March 1996 just before NASA Watch’s predecessor RIF Watch went online in early April 1996.

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.”

5 January 2000 JSC CIO Jack Garman is after Macs again.

From “Jack Garman at JSC has just recently removed all the Macs from the “refresh list” of computers due to be replaced under ODIN. Garman has decreed any Macs brought in have to be individually approved by him. The ODIN contract concept of seat management charges NASA no difference whether they support/replace Macs or PCs – So Jack’s argument of saving money doesn’t fly. Add to that the fact the other NASA centers are purchasing new Macs without such hassles.”

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