May 2008 Archives

Editor's note: Space Shuttle Discovery has left the pad and is headed for orbit on the STS-124 Mission.

According to NASA: "Space shuttle Discovery is on its way into space on the power of its two solid rocket boosters and three main engines! The launch traced a fiery arc across the sky of Florida's East Coast as the shuttle races to catch up to the International Space Station."

More information

Space Politics at ISDC

The so-so space debate: initial impressions, Space politics

"Half of the four people on the panel were able to talk about space policy quite well: Lori Garver, representing Clinton, was well-versed in the issues, not surprising; OBrien has also done his homework, based on the questions he asked on topics beyond NASAs budget and the future of the vision, ranging from commercialization to military space policy to export control."

Shout Out! - Broken Space Toilet, Colbert Report

"Episode: #04070 Views: 23365: The astronauts are not pooping in a bag -- they're pooping in a bag-like collection system."

NASA Selects Small Explorer Investigations for Concept Studies

"Following detailed mission concept studies, NASA intends to select two of the mission proposals in the spring of 2009 for full development as SMEX missions. The first mission could launch by 2012. Both will launch by 2015. Mission costs will be capped at $105 million each, excluding the launch vehicle."

Editor's update: Originally there were going to be three selections made. Now only two are being selected. One more mission sacrificed ($105 million saved) to feed MSL overruns, it would seem.

NASA'S Phoenix Lander Robotic Arm Camera Sees Possible Ice

"Scientists have discovered what may be ice that was exposed when soil was blown away as NASA's Phoenix spacecraft landed on Mars last Sunday, May 25. The possible ice appears in an image the robotic arm camera took underneath the lander, near a footpad. "We could very well be seeing rock, or we could be seeing exposed ice in the retrorocket blast zone," said Ray Arvidson of Washington University, St. Louis, Mo., co-investigator for the robotic arm. "We'll test the two ideas by getting more data, including color data, from the robotic arm camera. We think that if the hard features are ice, they will become brighter because atmospheric water vapor will collect as new frost on the ice."

ISDC 2008 - Friday Morning - Constellation panel, Hobbyspace

"Discusses the studies that justify the Constellation architecture that Griffin had decided on long before he came to NASA as director and long before the studies were done."

Editor's note: Whoa ... wait a minute. Mike Griffin loves to go on and on about all of the analysis that went into the decision to go with the Ares 1/V architecture and how those studies (ESAS etc.) arrived at the conclusion that it was the best path to take. Now ESMD's Doug Cooke is admitting in public what many people have long known: that Mike Griffin had already decided on this concept before he even came to NASA. That said, what was the purpose of ESAS and all of the trade studies Griffin refers to if the answer was already known - smoke and mirrors?

Editor's update: Now the editor of this site has changed it to state that this was his comment - (apparently) not what Doug Cooke actually said (sorry Doug). Oh well. So much for relying on that site for accurate liveblogging quotes. FWIW the editor also mangled what I and others said in an event at ISDC yesterday.

ISDC on CSPAN Today

"What will happen to the International Space Station while NASA transitions from the Space Shuttle, retiring in 2010, to the Orion spacecraft, launching in 2014? The National Space Society considers this question and others during its 27th annual conference today in Washington, D.C."

WATCH

Editor's note: Live C-SPAN coverage resumes at 2:00 pm EDT today with a discussion on space and the 2008 Election.

Excerpt of Sen. Obama's representative's (Steve Robinson) comments on space policy:

Sen. Obama views space policy within a larger framework of science in general. Sen. Obama is a friend of science and engineering. We need more input from scientists and engineers in decisions that affect research in these areas. General principles:

1. We need to build/support a strong pool of talented people to ensure the future of space research and to ensure a supply engineers of tomorrow. Inspiration takes many forms. My boss has not talked about space - and when he does he will talk about it in an inspirational way.

2. We need to create a supportive environment for research and development in both the public and private sector - including support for a a new generation of entrepreneurs.

3. Need to apply science, technology, and engineering to solve the world's greatest challenges.

4. Need to be linking human and robotic exploration of space more clearly to challenges that face our planet such as climate change and to provide unadulterated scientific advice to the government.

Steve Robinson suggested that there are other things that are done by robots in space that can be inspiring and that humans do not necessarily need to be there (although e personally find that inspiring). Moderator Miles O'Brien suggested that there are "no high schools named after robots". Robinson replied "some of those high schools are building robots". He elaborated that it might be more inspiring for his students (he's a teacher) to create ways to interact with rovers on Mars. "We should not limit our inspiration to what inspires us. I am not inspired by Second Life but others are."

Daniel Schumacher named director of key NASA Marshall Center office

"Prior to accepting his new position, Schumacher was deputy project manager of Marshall's Lunar Lander Project Office from 2007 to 2008. He led a team of more than 60 civil service and contractor employees and directed an annual technology budget of more than $60 million to develop hardware and integrated systems for crewed moon landings in coming decades."

Editor's note: Please tell me why a guy who runs an overtly engineering/mission oriented activity is suddenly put in charge of a policy office like this? Where is the press release about the person who is replacing him in his previous position?

ILS Goes Russian

Khrunichev Purchases Majority Interest in International Launch Services

"ILS International Launch Services Inc., a world leader in launch services for commercial satellites, announced today that Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center acquired the shares of ILS owned by majority shareholder, Space Transport Inc. Financial details were not disclosed. The transaction was completed today. Vladimir Nesterov, General Director of Khrunichev, said: "Building on our strong working relationship with the ILS team, this transaction will cement ILS's leadership role in the commercial launch services industry."

National Space Society Kicks Off Space Ambassadors Program with Virgin Galactic
National Space Society Kicks Off Space Ambassadors Program with Virgin Galactic, National Space Society

"The National Space Society (NSS) and Virgin Galactic announced today the NSS Space Ambassadors Program, which for one person will lead to a trip to space on Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo."

"Space Ambassadors will be trained to deliver an eye-opening new presentation designed to educate and inspire the public about the practical and humanitarian benefits of exploration and research in space. "

NASA To Launch Disney's Buzz Lightyear On Space Shuttle, Local6.com

"NASA will launch the Disney character Buzz Lightyear aboard space shuttle Discovery on May 31 in a mission to excite students about science, math and space travel. During the STS-124 mission, the 12-inch-tall action figure will partner with astronauts to deliver daily blog journals from space and launch a series of educational games and online sessions related to the mission. ... While in space, the character will fly in zero gravity as part of an experiment tied to the NASA's "Toys in Space" educational program. "Toys in Space" is scheduled to run through 2008 and feature unique materials for teachers to use in their classrooms."

NASA Space Missions Fuel Massive Storage Projects, Byte and Switch

"Earlier this month, NASA revealed that it will deploy a 20,480-core Altix ICE supercomputer from SGI at its Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley this summer. Capable of 245 trillion operations per second (Teraflops), the supercomputer will support future NASA projects, chiefly manned missions to the moon and potentially to Mars."

NASA taking open source into space, CNet

"Open source is such a natural for government agencies, it should come as no surprise that NASA is now developing an open-source project called CosmosCode. The goal? "To provide a common access point for individuals, academics, companies, and space agencies around the world using, contributing to, or supporting re-usable, modular, extensible, or standards driven space exploration software."

Phone home: Purported UFO video to be shown Friday, Rocky Mountain News

"A video that purportedly shows a living, breathing space alien will be shown to the news media Friday in Denver. Jeff Peckman, who is pushing a ballot initiative to create an Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission in Denver to prepare the city for close encounters of the alien kind, said the video is authentic and convinced him that aliens exist. ... "It shows an extraterrestrial's head popping up outside of a window at night, looking in the window, that's visible through an infrared camera," he said. The alien is about 4 feet tall and can be seen blinking, Peckman said earlier this month."

Manning Jules Verne

Berlin unveils 'crewed spaceship', BBC

"A model of a proposed European manned spaceship has gone on show at the Berlin Air Show. The design, which has been produced by EADS Astrium, is based on the unmanned "Jules Verne" freighter recently sent to the International Space Station.

Astrium says a crewed version of the truck is a logical evolution, and could fly in the next decade if it received support from European governments. Key states - Germany, France, and Italy - are said to be very interested."

Friends on Everest

Editor's note: Dr. Christian Otto, whom Leroy Chiao, Matt Reyes and I worked at HMP on Devon Island in 2007 (see photo), and his brother Eric, made it to the summit of Mount Everest last week.

They are part of the Canadian Mt. Everest Medical Operations Expedition. You can follow their expedition on the following web sites:

http://cdneverest2008.com/

http://summitclimb.com/new/default.asp?linktype=r&nid=88#23may

Editorial: A mission of hope, Ventura County Star

"The triumphant arrival of the Phoenix Mars Lander on Sunday was just such an event. It showed what can be accomplished when humans put aside their differences and work toward a common goal. It proved the spirit of exploration and the quest for knowledge remain strongly embedded traits in the human psyche."

Martians Must Have Noticed Why Didn't We?, opinion, Human Events

"Though the press essentially ignored it, this was a huge accomplishment. One would think that an American technological achievement of this magnitude would be seized upon by both the sitting administration in Washington and by all those now running to replace it."

Our Opinion: Lander's legacy: Young people looking skyward, Tucson Citizen

"The Phoenix program has spent $4 million on educational outreach. Thousands of Tucson-area students have visited the mission's operations center north of downtown. More hourlong tours are scheduled to begin Wednesdays starting June 11. Mars-related activities are planned for the Tucson Children's Museum and the UA Museum of Art. "I hope," says Phoenix's outreach manager, Carla Bitter, "we plant the seed and grow the enthusiasm of looking up and out."

NASA pullout could cut 'hope' short, USA Today

"The space shuttle Discovery, scheduled for liftoff Saturday, will take to orbit a project nearly 25 years and $1 billion in the making: one of the biggest laboratories ever built for the International Space Station. Excitement over the launch is tempered by concern that the lab's mission may be cut short if NASA follows through on its plan to withdraw from the station after 2015."

NASA Sets Briefing On New Space Station National Lab Partners

"NASA will hold a briefing at 11 a.m. EDT, Friday, May 30, to discuss new opportunities to use the International Space Station's unique research environment. The briefing will originate from NASA's Kennedy Space Center and be broadcast live on NASA Television."

Virtual Shana

NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale's Blog: California Outreach Effort

"I am excited about the future and I enjoy talking about what we are doing and where we are going with the Nation's space program. What resonates with the general public the most is the combination of the inspiration from our space exploration missions with the examples of how NASA-derived technologies are critical for life here on Earth.

After my keynote in San Jose, several individuals said my speech was "powerful" and that is such a compliment because now they "get" it and are re-energized in their interest in America's space program. As my staff says, the speeches I give are getting better. I am an introvert by nature and I have stepped way out of my comfort zone, but I feel it is extremely important to discuss the importance of NASA to the general public."

NASA employee suspended for blogging, FCW

"A NASA employee has been suspended for soliciting donations and writing politically partisan blog posts and sending e-mail messages while at work, violations of the Hatch Act."

NASA Mars Phoenix Lander Descending To Mars with Crater in the Background

"Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera acquired this image of Phoenix hanging from its parachute as it descended to the Martian surface. Shown here is a 10 kilometer (6 mile) diameter crater informally called "Heimdall," and an improved full-resolution image of the parachute and lander. Although it appears that Phoenix is descending into the crater, it is actually about 20 kilometers (about 12 miles) in front of the crater."

Finding Phoenix

HiRISE Images Phoenix Lander Hardware on Mars

"The HiRISE camera has acquired this image of the Phoenix landing site 22 hours after landing. The image shows 3 unusual features, which were not present in the earlier HiRISE image PSP_007853_2485. We expect to find 3 main pieces of hardware: the parachute attached to the backshell, the heat shield, and the lander itself. This image was acquired on the ascending node of the orbit making it about 3:00PM local time on the surface. The rest of the HiRISE observation shows a cloud free day for Phoenix Lander operations."

Overview Institute

Astronauts, scientists, cultural thought leaders to announce formation of the Overview Institute

"More than 20 renowned experts in the fields of space, science, media, and humanitarian services have joined forces to raise public awareness of the Overview Effect, a term used to describe the experience astronauts have when seeing Earth firsthand from outer space, and the resulting sense of unification that is brought on by this unique perspective."

Space station struggles with balky toilet, MSNBC

Service Module Life Support Systems, Book 1, Mission Operations Directorate, 1 October 2000 (PDF)

Schematic of toilet system

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 27 May 2008

"ASU Update: Troubleshooting continues on the Russian ASU toilet facility. Almost all system components have been changed out at this time, including the separator with no improvement in function. Specialists feel the problem is with the separator pump, though they have never before seen this failure signature. New procedures for temporary manual operation of the pump are in work, and the crew is using a backup system of wring collectors which are functioning nominally. Since they are a consumable, 1J is being last-minute manifested with additional wring collectors and a new ASU separator pump (KSC ground unit)."

Continental pilot startled by encounter with 'rocket'

"A Continental Airlines pilot reported being startled by what he described as a rocket that shot past his cockpit window Monday when the plane was about eight miles north of George Bush Intercontinental Airport."

Japan plans to brew 'space beer'

"Japanese brewery Tuesday said it was planning the first "space beer," using offspring of barley once stored at the International Space Station. Researchers said the project was part of efforts to prepare for a future in which humans spend extended periods of time in space -- and might like a cold beer after a space walk."

20-Year Journey for 15-Minute Fall, NY Times

"He has spent two decades and nearly $20 million in a quest to fly to the upper reaches of the atmosphere with a helium balloon, just so he can jump back to earth again. Now, Michel Fournier says, he is ready at last. Joe Kittinger has the longest recorded jump from a balloon, from 102,800 feet in 1960. Depending on the weather, Fournier, a 64-year-old retired French army officer, will attempt what he is calling Le Grand Saut (The Great Leap) on Sunday from the plains of northern Saskatchewan."

Le Grand Saut (The Great Leap), Official website

Balloon blows away free fall record bid, CNN

"French skydiver Michel Fournier's bid for a record-breaking parachute jump from Earth's stratosphere was aborted Tuesday when the balloon that was to carry him into the far reaches of the sky slipped away from his flight crew."

Today's Video: Space Diving, earlier post

"First Man in Space - Skydiving From The Edge Of The World (Extended Version) // On August 16, 1960, Joseph Kittinger jumped his last ... all " Excelsior jump, doing so from an air-thin height of 102,800 feet (31,334 meters). From that nearly 20 miles altitude, his tumble toward terra firma took some 4 minutes and 36 seconds."

Camera On NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Snaps Phoenix During Landing

"A telescopic camera in orbit around Mars caught a view of NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander suspended from its parachute during the lander's successful arrival at Mars Sunday evening, May 25. The image from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter marks the first time ever one spacecraft has photographed another one in the act of landing on Mars."

Main NASA website

Deja Vu on Mars

Editor's 26 May update: CNN just called. I will be on air sometime around 5:15 pm EDT to talk about Mars Phoenix. I am also doing an interview for CNN.com.

Editor's 25 May note: I had a rather strange case of deja vu tonight as the first images from Phoenix flashed on my computer screen. The image on the left was taken on 25 May 2008 on Mars at 68 deg North. I took the picture on the right on Devon Island, 75 deg North in July 2007. I'm just saying ... those polygonal patterns on Mars are VERY familiar.

Have a look at this photo from Dale Andersen: "Here is another patterned ground shot from ~80deg N on Axel Heiberg Island. Looks to be the same order of magnitude scale from Phoenix."

[More photos below].

Homeward Bound

Astronaut Scott Parazynski Everest Update: 25 May 2008: Homeward Bound

"My last 24 hours at Everest Base Camp were a blur. After guardedly muscling my way down the Khumbu icefall for the last time, I immediately began thinking about what it would take to get back home. I knew that once I began the trek out, each step I took would finally be one step closer to home. ... A friend and fellow climber had developed a medical condition necessitating evacuation, however. As he was unable to make the long trek out, physicians at the Himalayan Rescue Association (HRA) clinic at base camp ("Everest ER") requested a helicopter evacuation for him."

The NASA Phoenix Spacecraft Has Landed on Mars

Raw images HERE

"NASA's Phoenix spacecraft landed in the northern polar region of Mars today to begin three months of examining a site chosen for its likelihood of having frozen water within reach of the lander's robotic arm. Radio signals received at 4:53:44 p.m. Pacific Time (7:53:44 p.m. Eastern Time) confirmed the Phoenix Mars Lander had survived its difficult final descent and touchdown 15 minutes earlier.

"We've passed the hardest part and we're breathing again, but we still need to see that Phoenix has opened its solar arrays and begun generating power," said JPL's Barry Goldstein, the Phoenix project manager. If all goes well, engineers will learn the status of the solar arrays between 7 and 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time (10 and 10:30 p.m. Eastern Time) from a Phoenix transmission relayed via NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter."

Ernst Stuhlinger

Ernst Stuhlinger, One of the Last Von Braun Rocket Team Members, Dies

"Dr. Ernst Stuhlinger, one of the last surviving members of the 126 German rocket scientists brought over to the United States after world war II has passed away quietly in Huntsville Alabama. Dr. Stuhlinger was 94 years old. Dr. Stuhlinger designed the first manned ion propulsion system for sending humans to Mars as far back as 1958 and by the 1970's he and Von Braun were convinced that ion propulsion would open up the solar system for exploration. This dream is very slowly being realized."

Editor's note: This letter [full text below] by Ernst Stuhlinger was written in the 1970-71 time frame when he was Associate Director for Science at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. It is referenced in this thesis NASA TM X-58055 "Space Program Benefits" by Frederick A. Zito online at NASA - see pages 9 - 12.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Conmen make good use of explosive growth of media, Khaleej Times

Kolhapur boy in the dock for faking NASA letter, DNAINdia.com

"A 17-year-old student from Kolhapur, desirous of studying at NASA, is hogging limelight but for wrong reasons. Sridhar Kamble, who has just appeared for 12th standard exam, has found himself in the dock for faking a letter from the NASA establishment as well as forging the 10th standard result mark-sheet to inflate the total percentage."

Editor's note: To be certain, forging academic credentials is wrong and is certainly not to be encouraged. However, that said, what is it about NASA's image - and the prestige associated with it abroad - that draws so many to it? With all this talk about brand identity at NASA, you'd think that someone would be looking at this. What do these young people see in "NASA" that we in the U.S. have forgotten - or are all too jaded to see?

Consider these other stories (below) as well. While NASA, as an agency of the American govenrment, exists to serve the needs of its taxpayers, its global reach - and prestige - cannot be ignored. Someone should be capitalizing on it.

Space station crew may face another bumpy re-entry, Reuters

"The space industry source, who did not want to be identified, told Reuters faulty bolts were suspected of causing the last two "ballistic landings" and they are also fitted on the re-entry capsule now docked at the ISS. "There are explosive bolts which keep two modules attached to Soyuz capsules," the source said. "They are supposed to go off right before the entry into the Earth's atmosphere." "For some reason this didn't work (on the previous two re-entries), although the unseparated modules fell off eventually. What is bad is that another Soyuz-TMA is believed to have this faulty device and is docked at the ISS for the return trip," he said."

Progressive Space

Announcing the Space Policy Panel at Netroots Nation / Yearly Kos, Andrew Hoppin

"I'm very pleased to announce that for the first time, The Netroots Nation (Yearly Kos) Convention will feature a panel on space policy, July 18th or 19th in Austin, Texas. The panel, entitled, "Progressive NASA & Space Policy Under a New Administration," is an opportunity to bring critical space policy issues to light within a potent progressive political constituency- the Netroots- that hasn't historically paid much attention to space. It is also an opportunity for the Netroots to weigh in on what a new progressive space policy agenda could be under a progressive Administration in 2009."

Spaced Out: Obama says NASA needs a mission, Orlando Sentinel

"Now I know we're transitioning from the shuttle to the Orion program and I am fully committed to making sure that is funded. But I want to review with NASA what are we doing in terms of manned flights to the moon or to Mars vs. are we better off using things like Hubble that yields us more information and better bang for the buck.

The bottom line is I am absolute committed to making sure we have a space program that is second to none in the world. That's my absolute commitment. But I want to sit down with NASA and figure out what's our focus and make sure that that focus is clear and yielding the kind of benefits over time. I want us to understand what it is we're trying to accomplish."

Education Position paper, Obama for President (NASA excerpt toward the bottom)

Editor's note: Once again the Coalition for Space Exploration - the organization set up back in 2004 to promote the VSE (the one that all the big aerospace companies pour huge amounts of money into) - is asleep at the throttle. This organization is supposed to be enhancing awareness about space policy and space advocacy. Instead it is inert and behind the times.

Earlier this week the House Committee on Science and Technology's Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics unanimously passed HR 6063, the NASA Authorization Act of 2008. This is the reauthorization of a similar bill enacted into law in 2005 which made NASA's implementation of the VSE a matter of public law and national policy. You would think that the coalition - with its $20,000 a month website - would be on top of such things. Think again.

If you look at their press release page - there is nothing about the this new legislation - its introduction, subcommittee hearings, votes - Nothing. Nor was this markup included in their calendar. What are they doing with all of this aerospace money?

VSE Hearing (Coalition drops the ball again), earlier post
Coalition for Space Exploration Drops The Ball, earlier post
Yawn - Its The Coalition for Space Exploration, earlier post
What Does the Coalition for Space Exploration Actually Do?, earlier post

Astronaut Scott Parazynski Everest Update: 22 May 2008: Resting at Base Camp

"I just got a satphone call from Scott Parazynski at Everest Base Camp. The word I'd use to describe his mood is "contemplative". Otherwise, Scott is Scott, and he just always seems to be able to find a positive way to look at things. He was cheering me up!"

Astronaut Scott Parazynski Update 22 May 2008: Summit so close, yet so far...

There I was, literally just 24 hours from standing atop the world's tallest mountain, 6:30 am, May 21, 2008.

The radio call from Casey had just come in, indicating that he, Ari, Danuru and Dawa had actually done it, and with extra determination I gave my pack a hoist, wincing in sharp pain in the process.

Berrimilla Down Under Mars Status Report 20 May 2008

Editor's note: this is the other expedition (earlier reports) I am following and supporting: a 10 meter sailboat Berrimilla ("Berri") heading from Australia, via the Northwest passage to Devon Island in time to see a total solar eclipse in early August. They are making similar mission risk calculations as did Scott Parazynski the other day when he turned back from a summit attempt on Mt. Everest. Alex lost my contact info (again). He's on a little sailboat - he's forgiven. Looks like a satphone call from the middle of the Pacific (as if Scott hasn't already woke me up more than once from Nepal). Oh well, these guys called the ISS a few years back. This thought process - real time risk evaluation in a hazardous environment - is what will be needed on the Moon and Mars ...

Mir: The Movie

Mathieu Kassovitz heads into space, after war, Hollyood Reporter

"MNP," the name of both the first space station and Kassovitz's indie shingle with co-producer Benoit Jaubert, will feature two U.S. stars and eight actors from around the world. The technologically heavy "end of the world" project will utilize special planes that are able to simulate a zero gravity environment for 25 seconds. MNP will work closely with space stations and aeronautical organizations to prepare for the complex project that is set to start shooting in 2011. "This is my ultimate movie. Everything we've done until now has been preparing us to be able make this movie," Kassovitz said."

Editor's note: Question for Jim Oberg: what is the mean time between puff news stories about filming a "major motion picture" in weightlessness (space), with some Russian space station as the location of the story, with "major American stars", etc? This strikes me as the 4th attempt that I can recall. They seem to pop up every 3-5 years - and then vanish.

Oh yes - if it is titled "MNP" (I assume they mean "Mir") which definition of the word are they after? "world"? "peace"? or that crashed space station which is now a coral reef? Personally I think the portrayal of Mir was done perfectly in "Armageddon" - leaky hoses and all. Wouldn't this all be a lot easier to do inside of Mir II i.e. the Service Module?

'Drink Up Fly Dry!' $5 million in-flight bladder relief for combat pilots, DVICE

"Pop quiz: During a mission several hours long, how do fighter pilots find relief? The unfortunate answer: "piddle packs." That's why the Advanced Mission Extender Device, or AMXD, is arriving to sighs of relief for more than just the comfort it provides."

Wednesday May 21, 2008 - 3:01 PM Central: NOMAD services are operational. However, there appears to be an issue with a non-NOMAD Internet Service Provider (ISP) Backbone which may be impacting the ability of customers who are external to NASA networks to connect to email clients, Outlook Web Access (OWA) and any number of other NASA and non-NASA Web sites.

House Committee on Science and Technology's Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics Passes NASA Authorization Act

"Today, the House Committee on Science and Technology's Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics unanimously passed HR 6063, the NASA Authorization Act of 2008 without amendment. Subcommittee Chairman Mark Udall (D-CO) introduced the bill to reauthorize the programs of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for Fiscal Year 2009. Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN), Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX), and Subcommittee Ranking Member Tom Feeney (R-FL) were original cosponsors of the legislation."

NASA Reauthorization Approved by House Panel, CQ Politics

Subcommittee Chairman Udall's Statement on the NASA Authorization Act of 2008

Full Bill Text

Editor's note: The current thinking is that Scott Parazynski's summit window is centered on 22 May. Weather and human traffic are the main factors affecting Scott's progress to the summit.

Our original plan did not work out in terms of comms and updates we planned to do from from Base Camp. So ... here is the back up plan: post your comments below. If you simply want to wish Scott "good luck, best wishes, etc." post that and I will do a head count. If, however, you have something a bit more expansive to say - please post it. Please try and make it simple so that I can condense it down to something I can efficiently convey to Scott and that he can keep in his oxygen-starved brain. Longer comments will be left online for Scott to read when he gets back home.

Scott will be the first human to both fly in space and summit the highest peak on our planet. What does this mean in terms of personal determination and endurance? In terms of exploration and pushing frontiers? As a preview of things to come - and of risks to be taken - on other worlds?

We won't see a similar combination and alignment of first accomplishments again until someone summits the highest lunar peak - or Olympus Mons on Mars.

Send your thoughts to the summit of Mt. Everest. Give Scott something to think about. Be a part of this unique climb.

Further updates and fresh images from Mt. Everest at Everest On Orbit

Nasa sponsors course on how to talk to alien, Telegraph

"The course, currently being taken by 11 students, is partly financed by Nasa's Wyoming Space Grant Consortium, which sponsors educational and research projects in the state that support the agency's missions. Among questions tackled in Prof Lockwood's class is how aliens might communicate, whether they would be able to translate human language, and whether they would be able to see or hear. One student, Dixie Thoman, created a poem about menstruation with syllables arranged in a mathematically harmonious order, known as the Fibonacci sequence."

Gravity Probe B scores 'F' in NASA review, New Scientist

"A NASA review appears to spell the end for Gravity Probe B, the project conceived in the 1960s to measure how the Earth warps the fabric of nearby space-time. A panel of about 15 experts commissioned by NASA analysed the performance of 10 NASA astrophysics missions that are currently operating in Earth orbit. A copy of the "senior review" obtained by New Scientist concludes that extending the lifetimes of the top nine missions "would be certain to deliver unique data of high scientific value". But Gravity Probe B didn't make the cut because the panel doubted further analysis of its results would yield significant new information."

Getting Unstuck: 30 Years in Low-Earth Orbit, When We Left Earth, Discovery

"When you hit the moon at age 11, the rest of your life isn't going to be easy. Like a child prodigy, you've got that record to uphold, an achievement removed from the ordinary flow of time and displayed like a photograph at your mom's house. It'd be perfectly understandable if you were in full crisis mode at mid-life: getting divorced, pining new cars, contemplating the meaning of life. "At 50, you're probably more than halfway done," says NASA's Wayne Hale, an even-keeled senior manager who recently left his job as shuttle program manager to help plot the agency's course out of low-Earth orbit."

Reader note: "Jesco von Puttkamer is by far the most popular NASA official here in Germany, perhaps less so in the U.S. Now he's visiting a German state which has put out an exuberant press release: - here we learn that he is going to give a talk about "das Vorhaben der amerikanischen Weltraumbehoerde NASA, den Planeten Mars zu besiedeln", which translates roughly as "the intention of the American space agency NASA to colonize the planet Mars". Wondering where "the vision" is heading these days? Here you have it, from a NASA guy's own mouth ..."

Editor's note: I ran this through Babelfish and got "the project of the American space authority NASA to settle the planet Mars". Either way it sounds like a rather fanciful leap beyond the scope of the VSE - especially given how hard it is for NASA just to do "Apollo on Steroids" - and to get back to the Moon 50 years after we last went there.

To ISRU or Not to ISRU, This is the Dumbest Question, Dennis Wingo, SpaceRef

"In Situ Resource Utilization or ISRU is the use of materials derived at the location in space that you have traveled to. This is mostly associated with the Moon, Mars, or the Asteroids. Without ISRU there simply is no long term human space program. Why? We simply cannot afford to take everything with us at prices exceeding two hundred thousand dollars per kilogram for the Moon and even more for Mars. Therefore, for any rational human space exploration program, the question is not why but how, when, and where we implement ISRU."

An Icy Dig in Search of Signs of Life on Mars, Washington Post

"The $457 million Phoenix spacecraft has traveled a long and circuitous path, and not just on its journey of 422 million miles through space. Phoenix uses equipment built for a spacecraft that was supposed to be launched in 2001, which was scratched because of the Polar Lander's crash."

The Actual Cost of Mars Phoenix is $520 Million, NASA Watch

"As such, the total cost for Mars Phoenix is $100 million spent on the original 2001 lander, plus $250K to store it, and then $420 million for the Mars Phoenix project or a total of $520 million."

Why Does The Official Cost of Mars Phoenix Keep Changing?, NASA Watch

"What follows [below] is a chronology of sorts as I thave tried to find out just what this mission costs: so far I have found official NASA statements that it is $325 million, $386 million, and $420 million."

National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2008 (Introduced in House) H.R.6063

"SEC. 407. PARTICIPATORY EXPLORATION. (a) In General- The Administrator shall develop a technology plan to enable dissemination of information to the public to allow the public to experience missions to the Moon, Mars, or other bodies within our solar system by leveraging advanced exploration technologies.

Innovation Transfusion

NASA Solicitation: Request for Information for NASA Innovation Transfusion Developmental Assignments

"The NASA Innovative Partnerships Program (IPP) is hereby requesting information from organizations interested in hosting NASA employees participating in the NASA Innovation Transfusion project. The goal of the Innovation Transfusion project is to increase the flow of new ideas into NASA by increasing connections between NASA employees and outside organizations that are creative leaders in areas that could benefit NASA missions.

The Innovation Transfusion project has two elements: Innovation Ambassadors and Innovation Scouts. The Innovation Ambassadors program will provide a temporary developmental assignment for select members of NASA's technical workforce. The Innovation Scouts program will provide for small teams of NASA employees to participate in focused workshops with a host external organization to exchange information on specific technical innovations."

Participatory Exploration: Climb Everest, Bring 10K People With You, Wired

"Last fall he performed an unplanned EVA to help repair a critical solar panel on the International Space Station, this month he is attempting to summit Mount Everest. For emergency room surgeon turned NASA Astronaut Scott Parazynski the only way to do summiting Everest right would be to make sure you include as many people in the experience as possible."

Everest Update

IMG Everest Expedition Dispatch #24 May 17, 2008

"The plan is to get the rope fixed on the 20th, with the first summit bids on the 21st. This morning (18th Nepal time) Scott, Adam & Bob Lowry with their personal sherpas and Casey and his team (Bob and Ari) headed up for their summit bids. They all went to C1 with the exception of Scott and Kami who went on to C2. They are scheduled to go for the summit on 21st or 22nd."

Astronaut Scott Parazynski Everest Podcasts 16 May 2008

"Hi again, this is Scott. Just wanted to make a few comments about the tools that are required to scale a mountain as it compared with going outside on a spacewalk. It's actually quite similar, in many regards... We're at great heights, of course gravity affects us in space a little bit differently as we're in a free fall around the earth but here on Mt. Everest if you're to slip and fall, it could mean a long ride, of several thousand feet...with a pretty bad outcome."

Mountaineering and Climbing on Mars

"Initial human missions to Mars will be a precious commodity wherein a maximum amount of information is gathered by each crew. As was the case during innumerable terrestrial missions of exploration, the Martian terrain that visiting crews must traverse in order to gain an understanding will often be difficult."

NASA moves to save computers from swarming ants, ComputerWorld

"A flood of voracious ants is heading straight for Houston, taking out computers, radios and even vehicles in their path. Even the Johnson Space Center has called in extermination experts to keep the pests out of their sensitive and critical systems. The ants have been causing all kinds of trouble in five Texas counties in the Gulf Coast area.

Because of their sheer numbers, the ants are short-circuiting computers in homes and offices, and knocking systems offline in major businesses. When IT personnel pry the affected computers open, they find the machines loaded with thousands of ant bodies."

Editor's note: I got a Twitter note an hour or so ago from someone@arc.nasa.gov: "reference to nasawatch at the all-hands - how folks use that more than insidenasa." Interesting. I am curious to see how the new inside-the-firewall NASAsphere system works. Does anyone have a screen grab they can send me of NASAsphere that they can share? This is what InsideNASA looks like today.

Editor's update: this is a screen grab from NASAsphere. I have learned that this is not a permanent NASA feature - at least not yet. It is undergoing an evaluation period for the next month or so. At that point a decision will be made whether to go ahead - and what software platform to use.

First Ares test launch likely delayed by pad conflict, SpaceflightNow

"Delays in the space shuttle program could force a one-month slip of an early test flight of NASA's next-generation rocket next year due to busy Kennedy Space Center launch facilities, agency officials said Thursday."

Shuttle's Hubble mission incurs 5-week delay, Orlando Sentinel

"The launch scheduled later this summer to service the Hubble Space Telescope will be pushed back four to five weeks because of delays in manufacturing the space shuttle's redesigned external fuel tank, a NASA official said Thursday. The delay in the tank-production schedule also is likely to affect the first test flight of a new rocket that is similar to one intended to take astronauts back to the moon."

Astronaut Scott Parazynski: Many Small Steps to the Summit of Mt. Everest

"For Scott, the plan is to get to the summit, take some photos, and then head back down. Too much dawdling can be life threatening. Low on oxygen, sapped of strength, he will have only moments to savor the experience.

I first met Scott darn near 20 years ago when I was working at NASA Life Sciences and he was about to graduate from medical school. I have to tell you, NASA could have no better representative in this place - at this time - than Scott.

Although, in the important moments, this climb is a test of one's personal physical skill and endurance, knowing Scott as I do, when he stands atop Everest he will be standing there for all of the comrades lost in the exploration of space. You can see it by the patches he has on his summit jacket and the banners he will leave behind.

He'll be thinking of his family and all of the events that somehow led to his presence in this most improbable place.

And he will also be standing there thinking about every person at NASA - and elsewhere - who pursues this passion for exploration of space - no matter how or why they do so.

We'll all stand atop Everest with Scott. Dig it."

Subcommittee Chairman Udall's Statement on the NASA Authorization Act of 2008

"Finally, the NASA Authorization Act of 2008 recognizes that America's human space flight activities are not, and should not, be an end in themselves. We need a results-oriented human space flight program that serves the nation's geopolitical goals in addition to advancing America's exploration of outer space. I believe that we provide the foundation for such a results-oriented approach in the bill I am introducing today. Thus, the bill includes provisions to ensure that the International Space Station--a unique orbiting R&D facility that represents a significant investment of resources by both American citizens and those of a host of other nations--will be utilized in as productive manner as possible."

Full Bill Text

Constellation Update

NASA Media Update About Constellation Program Progress

"NASA will host a media teleconference on Thursday, May 15, at 2 p.m. EDT, to provide an overview of progress made in the last few months and work ahead for NASA's Constellation Program. Constellation will build the spacecraft to carry astronauts to the International Space Station and return humans to the moon by 2020. Following the update, NASA managers will answer media questions."

The teleconference also will be audiocast live on NASA's Web site at:
http://www.nasa.gov/newsaudio

Editor's note: When I asked Steve Cook if any of his employees were working on the "Direct" or "Jupiter" project he said that he was not aware of that anyone was. When asked if this would be allowed during or after hours, he said that it would not and that this would be "unapproved" work.

Alas, despite my pointed questions, and Steve Cook's very straightforward and unambiguous answers, the Direct Fan Boy community is now off posting their interpretations and parsing words they did not even hear and distilling alternate messages - messages that Cook clearly was not making.

Live Blog below

Letter From Aerospace and Technology Company Leaders to Congressional Leaders Regarding NASA's FY 2009 Budget

"As leaders of our nation's largest aerospace and technology companies, we employ hundreds of thousands of Americans and know first hand the formidable challenges in today's global marketplace. We write to thank you for your past support of NASA and to urge you to enact a top-line increase for NASA's FY 2009 budget. Without this increase, our nation faces the very real risk of losing our uniquely critical industrial base and human space access capability."

Editor's 14 May note: Ellen now has an email account at Code AD and is listed in the X.500 directory. Soon all of that Lame Duck goodness will start working its magic at JSC!

Editor's 11 May note: Great news: consumate Bush loyalist and overt politico Ellen Engleman Conners has accepted the position of Director of External Relations at JSC replacing Eileen Hawley.

Ellen Engelman Conners has been at JSC for the past week getting to know her way around and starts full time just after Memorial Day.

Eileen Hawley's last day was last Friday. She will be missed.

Just What JSC PAO Needs - An Overt Bush Politico, previous post

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 14 May 2008

"Afterwards, Kononenko collected air samples in the SM & FGB using the AK-1M sampler kit, recording date, time & location and restowing the kits and pouches. Special AK-1M samples for Freon-218 were also taken in the SM. ... ANITA is now back up again and running in support of the on-going Freon-218 scrubbing from the cabin air, collecting data every six seconds and downlinking the data daily to the ground team."

SpaceX Claims Crew Transfer Ability By 2011, Aviation Week

"If NASA decides by this summer to proceed with the development of crew transfer capability under the agency's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk says his company could be ready to conduct crew flights to the space station by early 2011. NASA is funding SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corp. to develop cargo capability for the International Space Station (ISS) under COTS, but so far has held off on greenlighting the crew transfer portion of the program, known as "COTS D." Only SpaceX has been actively working on a COTS D concept, with Orbital focused exclusively on cargo at this point."

NASA Gen Y Presentation Inspires Canadian Space Exploration Presentation

Reader Note: "The Gen Y presentation that you posted on your website has influenced three young Canadian engineers in a presentation to the government Industry, Science, and Technology Committee."

Hutchison may be key to extra NASA funds, Houston Chronicle

"Members of Houston's congressional delegation, having failed to galvanize House support for additional NASA funding, said Tuesday that Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison was their last best hope for adding $2 billion in emergency aid. Houston-area lawmakers -- including Reps. John Culberson, R-Houston, Gene Green, D-Houston, and Nick Lampson, D-Stafford -- told the Chronicle that they were counting on the Senate Appropriations Committee, on which Hutchison serves, after the House leadership spurned their request."

Russia and Europe may team up for moon flights, Reuters

"Russia and Europe are teaming up to build a spaceship which will fly astronauts to the moon, Russia said on Wednesday, although the European Space Agency struck a more cautious note. The first test flight is set for 2015 and the first manned flight is planned for 2018, Russian space agency Roskosmos said."

Reader note: "In conjunction with the NASA 50th anniversary showWhen We Left Earth: The NASA Missions, which airs on Discovery Channel beginning next month, we'd love to hear any short stories you may wish to share about missions from the agency's early days or from the shuttle program. Here's a link:
http://dsc.discovery.com/tv/nasa/audio-messages/audio-messages.html

as you will see there are three numbers:

1) for the early missions- Mercury, Gemini, Apollo866-947-6272
2) for crews and anyone involved with the space program 866-948-6272
3) for Shuttle stories 866-949-6272"

The Sky Is Falling, The Atlantic

"After the presentation, NASA's administrator, Michael Griffin, came into the room. I asked him why there had been no discussion of space rocks. He said, "We don't make up our goals. Congress has not instructed us to provide Earth defense. I administer the policy set by Congress and the White House, and that policy calls for a focus on return to the moon. Congress and the White House do not ask me what I think."

I asked what NASA's priorities would be if he did set the goals. "The same. Our priorities are correct now," he answered. "We are on the right path. We need to go back to the moon. We don't need a near-Earth-objects program." In a public address about a month later, Griffin said that the moon-base plan was "the finest policy framework for United States civil space activities that I have seen in 40 years."

Actually, Congress has asked NASA to pay more attention to space rocks."

- Blinding Asteroid Scientists From Seeing Threats To Earth, earlier post
- Planetary Defense - Just Send Money, earlier post
- NASA Strategic Management Council Meeting: 2006 Near-Earth Object Survey and Deflection Study, earlier post
- NASA NEO Report Update, earlier post

Join the NASA Future Forum in San Jose in Second Life!

"You're invited to join NASA leadership, astronauts, scientists, and engineers along with local business, technology and academic leaders and local, state and federal officials discuss the role of space exploration in advancing science, engineering, technology, education and the economy that benefits your community and the nation. The program features an exciting preview of NASA's Constellation Program - America's return to the Moon and beyond."

14 May 2008 8:30 am PDT

Googling The Moon

Reaching for the moon: Interview with Robert Richards, CNN

"Robert Richards is CEO of Odyssey Moon Ltd, the first contenders for the Google Lunar X Prize, a $30 million prize fund for the first commercial team to land a craft on the moon and send back video footage. CNN spoke to him about his inspiration, his career and the potential of the moon as a resource for Earth."

Everest Update

Scott Parazynski Everest Update: 13 May 2008 - Back at Base Camp - Again

"Keith Cowing 13 May 2008 5:00 pm EDT: I arrived home today to find a voice mail from Scott Parazynski who called by satellite phone from Everest Base Camp (5,380 meters - 17,700 feet) - it was morning here when he called, nighttime there."

Scott Parazynski Everest Update: 14 May 2008 - Back at Base Camp - Again

"Keith Cowing 14 May 2008 12:20 am EDT: Just got another call from Scott. Coordinating media issues. The summit window now looks a bit firmer for 22 May. That would put him back at Everest Base Camp on 24 May."

Editor's note: According to NASA PAO: "Phoenix leveraged the 2001 lander investment to produce a polar lander for a mission cost of $420M. The Mars 2001 Lander was approximately 71% complete at cancellation and the sunk costs were estimated to be $100M. It is difficult to determine the exact costs since the lander was being developed along side the orbiter, Mars Odyssey, and both spacecraft were treated as one project. However, here's what we have:

2001 Lander = $100M
Storage = $250K
Phoenix = $420M (Full cost LCC $419.6M, Launch vehicle $90.3M, Spacecraft $295.7M, Phase E $33.6M)"

As such, the total cost for Mars Phoenix is $100 million spent on the original 2001 lander, plus $250K to store it, and then $420 million for the Mars Phoenix project or a total of $520 million.

Editor's note: The following posting was made by someone who posts as "Kraisee" at nasaspaceflight.com. His real name is Ross Tierney. Tierney is a foreign national (U.K. citizen) and is one of the chief propagandists behind the "Direct" proposal - an alternate launch system some feel would be better than the Ares 1/V rockets NASA is developing. Their "Jupiter" concept was mentioned in a Senate hearing last week.

Have a look at this posting. Not only does Tierney publicly claim that he and his "team" have access to ITAR sensitive information, he proclaims that he has people on his team who actually work at MSFC and MAF who are doing detailed structural analysis for him. If this is true, then NASA civil servants and/or contractors are using their access to NASA resources that they are given by virtue of their jobs to work on a project that directly undermines NASA's official Ares program. Questions for Steve Cook: Who is paying for this? Who approved this freelancing at NASA? Is anyone in charge?

"You ever heard about this funny thing called ITAR? Discussing the size and dimensions of the Stiffening Blades and Membranes on the 3rd barrel section of the LH2 tank would most definitely be covered under that, which is why we won't ever talk about such details on any public forum.

While I have steered myself personally away from such information, there are people in the team - specifically a group at at MSFC & MAF - who do have that specific data already. When we have talked previously about changing setting on the milling machines, I'm not kidding - that team have analyzed the current tanking and manufacturing equipment, and have all the STS load data references, and they have calculated loads for Jupiter using NASA's tools, NLS data references, LV-24/25 references and Ares-I and Ares-V references as well. Then they have taken that data and added appropriate margins as defined by regular NASA standards for GR&A and such things as FS 1.4 and a host of other things I'm admittedly not very familiar with myself. This has determined the loadings which the structure will actually require in the worst-possible-case scenario. We then requested a 20% additional arbitrary load on top for the first (SWT) structure variant. With this, they re-calculated the structural requirements of both the expected (LWT) and the early-flight version (SWT). "

Perilous Landings by Soyuz Worry NASA, Washington Post

"None of the astronauts was injured, including American Peggy A. Whitson, who was returning after six months of weightlessness on the space station. But the spacecraft lost communication during reentry and remained out of radio contact with Russian mission control for an hour, raising the specter of a crash landing."

South Korea's first astronaut hospitalized with back pain, AP

"Yi So-yeon was taken to a hospital Tuesday due to the pain after she canceled a meeting with President Lee Myung-bak, according to the state-run Korea Aerospace Research Institute, where she works as a bioengineer.
The Science Ministry said in a statement Wednesday that preliminary tests showed Yi suffered a minor injury to her neck muscles and bruised her spinal column."

Internal NASA Documents Give Clues to Scary Soyuz Return Flight, IEEE Spectrum

"Although the technical investigation will take weeks to resolve, NASA and Russian engineers have come to several credible preliminary conclusions. And internal NASA documents, such as "15S Ballistic Entry Outbrief" by George Kafka, chief of the Safety & Mission Assurance Directorate for the ISS program, reveal a plausible idea of what probably happened."

Editor's note: If "none of the astronauts was injured" why did Yi So-Yeon spend a week in the hospital

Astronaut and Mountaineer Scott Parazynski Brings Explorers Club Flag to Mount Everest

"When astronaut Scott Parazynski stands atop Mt. Everest in a few days, he will be making note of a number of non-profit and educational organizations - among them the Explorers Club. With him will be a small Explorers Club flag. A full sized flag (#114) will remain at Everest Base Camp.

According to the Explorers Club website: "Every year Explorers Club members launch new research expeditions around the world, thus continuing the early goals laid down by the Club's founders in 1904. The Explorers Club flag represents a history of courage and accomplishment and has been carried on hundreds of expeditions since 1918. Flag expeditions fulfill a fundamental part of the Club's mission: To engage in scientific exploration and share the results."

Ron Parise

Ronald A. Parise; Astronomer Studied From Space Shuttles, Washington Post

Astronaut-astronomer Ron Parise, 56, dies, Collectspace.com

"An astronomer-turned-astronaut, who flew as a payload specialist onboard NASA's two shuttle missions dedicated to astronomy, Ron Parise, 56, died Friday of a brain tumor after fighting the cancer for three years.

Parise's path to space came as a result of his work at the Computer Science Corporation (CSC), where he helped develop the flight software, electronic system design and mission plan for the Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope, one of the instruments for NASA's ASTRO payload. In 1984, he was selected by NASA as a payload specialist to fly with the UIT on the STS-61E mission, scheduled for launch in March 1986."

Everest Update

IMG Everest Expedition Dispatch #20 May 11, 2008

"Camp 3 is now established at 24,000 feet on the Lhotse Face and Chip/Jamling & Vance/Pemba Dorje are sleeping there tonight. Scott, Adam and Joe climbed to C3 today and came down to C2."

NASA Everest Trek Blog Update 10 May 2008

"Scott Parazynski found us there and it was very good to see him. He was very excited to see us too and explained his ascents up through the Ice Fall as well as climbs to Camp I and Camp II.

As we were about to head back to Base Camp (merely 3 minutes away) a large portion of a glacier caved on a mountain ledge adjacent and to the left of the Ice Fall creating an avalanche that lasted about 2 minutes. Within seconds the snow plume created by the ground impact drifted over us giving the appearance of a light snowfall. This was a very unique experience to see, being so close to a large avalanche, but Scott mentioned it is a common occurrence here at Base Camp."

More updates at Everest OnOrbit

Moving The Goal Posts

Remarks by NASA Administrator Griffin to the NASA Advisory Council Science Subcommittees (19 July 2006)

"Our stakeholders in Congress are concerned that NASA not under-estimate the costs or complexity of our programs. To that point, the NASA Authorization Act of 2005 requires even more stringent management actions than those in the Nunn-McCurdy legislation for NASA missions costing more than $250 million and which exceed their baselined costs. I would ask everyone in the science community who proposes missions to NASA to become familiar with that legislative provision, which is now the law of the land and which I and my managers must follow."

Editor's note: Of course, one way that NASA often seems to get around a lot of this is to move the goal posts around and redefine what the official "baseline cost" is of a mission. Fiddle with the mission enough and you get a chance to come up with a new baseline that makes a lot of cost overruns go away - right?

See Public Law 109-155 -- DEC. 30, 2005, Section 103

NASA to Discuss Phoenix Mission Upcoming Mars Landing

"NASA has scheduled a media briefing Tuesday, May 13, at 11 a.m. EDT, to discuss the challenges, risks and science opportunities of the scheduled May 25 landing of the Phoenix Mars Lander."

Editor's note: Phoenix once had another name: "2001 Mars Surveyor Lander". After NASA crashed two spacecraft into Mars in 1999 (Mars Climate Orbiter and Mars Polar Lander) it was mothballed. Then some imaginative people found a way to use NASA's investment and create a new mission using existing hardware - with lessons learned from the Mars crashes applied.

Alas, when NASA talks about Phoenix they really don't want to remind people of those sad days in 1999. In so doing they go out of their way not to remind people that a lot of money went into this spacecraft before the name change. How much? They can never really provide a straight answer. Instead, they try and pass it off as an inexpensive mission.

What follows [below] is a chronology of sorts as I thave tried to find out just what this mission costs: so far I have found official NASA statements that it is $325 million, $386 million, and $420 million. I am sure NASA can come up with several more if they try. I wonder (if asked the question) what their answer will be at this press event?

Small wonder no one can figure out exactly what MSL is going to cost, eh?

Cost chronology below:

Looking For Mars Polar Lander, HiRISE, University of Arizona

"In our last PDS release, HiRISE made available our images (to date) of an area where the Mars Polar Lander is suspected to have crashed in 1999. MPL was the first mission to the high latitudes of Mars, but failed mysteriously, the first of two high-profile failures in Americas Mars program at the time. An assessment team found a number of potential causes of the crash; the condition of MPL, if found, may help to resolve what actually happened."

NASA's next boondoggle always best, Opinion, Orlando Sentinel

"Six years after finishing the space station, NASA plans to retire it. Having gotten a whiff of the moon, NASA can't abandon its orbiting boondoggle fast enough. ...

... You know we are headed for a boondoggle when the agency's marketing division starts up a Web page called, "Why the Moon?"

And the first sentence is, "If you asked 100 people why we should return to the moon, you'd probably get 100 answers -- or more!"

Translation: We can't come up with one good one."

Berrimilla Down Under "Mars Status Report 8 May 2008

noon 1237.47 16450.27 28 days at sea

Dtd 2867 so dmg 101 and dmg overall 2952 out of 5819nm. All approximate...

At about this time in any long journey - for me, in a marathon, it kicks in around 25 k - one becomes conscious of distance travelled, which focuses the mind on distance yet to go and, for me anyway, there's always a tendency to anxiety and depression. I've never started a marathon, let alone anything like this, knowing absolutely that I would finish it and there's always that corrosive doubt travelling in company - what if...Then, in a marathon, perhaps around 37-38 km, certainty takes over and while the body slowly eats itself, there's an end and an achievement in sight and the pain is diminished. We're not anywhere near there yet on this gig."

Current location N 16 16.29 E 165 50.34 - South of Wake Island

Earlier status reports

Amazing Recovery

Data from Columbia disk drives survived the shuttle accident, AP

"Jon Edwards often manages what appears impossible. He has recovered precious data from computers wrecked in floods and fires and dumped in lakes. Now Edwards may have set a new standard: He found information on a melted disk drive that fell from the sky when space shuttle Columbia disintegrated in 2003."

Statement by Robert Dickman - Senate Hearing on Reauthorizing the Vision for Space Exploration

"Use of the CEV to provide crew rotation for the International Space Station (ISS) is not projected after 2017, jeopardizing the opportunity to reach the full benefit of this unique research facility. There are alternatives to the Ares-Orion for access to the ISS, including commercial and government approaches. However, none will be available without additional funding."

Editor's note: It would seem that some of the occupants of the 9th floor at NASA HQ are not at all happy with what the Executive Director of the AIAA said on Capitol Hill this week. Calling for consideration of non-Ares launch solutions and alternative approaches other than those ordained by ESAS is tantamount to heresy in Mike Griffin's world view. Stay tuned.

Editor's note: NASA Associate Administrator for Program Analysis and Evaluation Scott Pace will be heading to the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University as its new director. The Institute is currently run by John Logsdon. Pace should be in place after Labor Day for the Fall semester.

At PA&E Pace was responsible for providing objective studies and analyses in support of policy, program, and budget decisions by the NASA Administrator. Prior to working at NASA, Pace was the Assistant Director for Space and Aeronautics in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

NASA JPL Server Consolidation and Virtualization Assessment Request for Information

"JPL has an inventory of about 19,000 computers, ranging from Windows and Macintosh desktops, to 1,000 node compute clusters. Of these 19,000 computers, about 5,600 are computer servers performing a wide variety of computing tasks. The space requirements of this diverse server population are exceeding JPL's capacity, and plans to add many new computing capabilities over the next few years means that the Lab needs to consolidate its computing footprint both through hardware consolidation, as well as the use of virtualization tools."

[Video below]

Fixing NASA IT

NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale's Blog: Information Technology Update

"This week at the Operations Management Council (OMC) meeting, a significant portion was dedicated to the work we are doing to improve information technology (IT). In 2007, the Strategic Management Council, approved strategic initiatives to:

1) clarify the role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) as stated in NPD 1000.3 and define core IT services that shall be provided by the CIO;

2) realign the NASA IT organization to reflect the role of the CIO and better connect with customers;

Astronaut trades jokes with Colbert in space interview, Houston Chronicle

"We have gone galactic," crowed Colbert. "I should say something really profound. Eat it, Jon Stewart! I'm talking to space."

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 8 May 2008

"At ~10:50am EDT, Garrett Reisman participated in a live interactive PAO TV interview with Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report". [Stephen Colbert is the host and executive producer of the Emmy-nominated series "The Colbert Report" on Comedy Central. The "Colbert Report" has garnered huge ratings and critical success as one of the top shows on television. This interview was live-to-tape to be aired on Comedy Central tonight at 11:30pm EDT.]"

Chairwoman Mikulski Announces Funding for Critical Domestic Priorities in Emergency Supplemental

"National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA): $200 million: In the aftermath of the Columbia tragedy, however, NASA was not given any additional funding to repair the remaining shuttles. To date, NASA has already spent $2.7 billion to make safety modifications to the remaining shuttle fleet. The emergency supplemental includes $200 million for NASA to help pay back the costs and restore cuts to science, aeronautics and exploration programs that were cut in order to pay for the return to flight."

Everest Update

On the way down, NASA Everest Trek Blog

"When we finally made it to base camp we were greeted by a very happy and active Scott Parazynski. He was bounding across the rocks as we were barely catching our breath. To see him so positive gave us all a lot of energy. We took a lot of pictures around base camp, and the Khumbu ice fall."

Challenger Center Launches New Audio Blog Forum

"In April Richard Garriott, the next civilian to visit the International Space Station in October, 2008, joined Founding Chairman of Challenger Center for Space Science Education, Dr. June Scobee Rogers, for the first in a series of monthly audio blog podcasts. Dr. Rodgers and Richard discussed various topics from his childhood to the motivation that brought him to where he is today."

Students to Create YouTube Videos for Live Webcast by Private Space Explorer Richard Garriott

Blending Art and Science: Challenger Center Invites Students to Create Art for Space Flight

At NASA and Nightclubs, Stars Align for DJ Scientific, Washington Post

"By day, NASA aerospace engineer Mark Branch supervises electromagnetic compatibility and susceptibility tests on instruments for the Hubble Space Telescope. At night and on weekends, he becomes DJ Scientific, trading in his spectrum analyzers and oscilloscopes for a microphone, turntables and a mixer as he cranks hip-hop tunes at some of the Washington area's hottest clubs as well as at NFL and NBA events."

More from Mark's website, ScientificBeats (below):

Four NASA Glenn contractors charged with fraudulent billing, Ohio.com

"Four contractors working to shut down a nuclear reactor at a NASA facility in northern Ohio have been charged with fraudulently billing the government, a federal prosecutor said Thursday. Acting U.S. Attorney Bill Edwards said the four men were accused in an indictment of overbilling a total of $347,664 by falsely claiming they were entitled to per-diem mileage reimbursements."

Orion PDR Slip

Editor's note: According to ESMD PAO: "NASA is internally assessing moving Orion's preliminary design review to November. The Orion Project has been doing systems review and key architecture trades based on November's point of departure architecture. NASA believes it may be of value to give the team additional time to mature the products and complete the systems integration in advance of Orion's preliminary design review."

NASA to Update Media About Constellation Program Progress

"NASA will host a media teleconference on Thursday, May 15, at 2 p.m. EDT, to provide an overview of progress made in the last few months and work ahead for NASA's Constellation Program."

Reader note: I came across this write-up at KSC and thought a lot of your readers would get a chuckle out of it. Just another way to state the obvious ...

Integrated Problem Reporting and Corrective Action (iPRACA)

"Issue Title: Tile inadvertently damaged by inelastic collision with terra firma following uncontrolled descent"

Space race over, but some don't want to ask Russians for a ride, The Hill

"With the breakup of the Soviet Union, the concern is less about national security and proving which country's worldview is correct than it is with more terrestrial worries like money and jobs. With some irony, lobbyists note in meetings on Capitol Hill that America's former communist foe would have monopolistic powers to charge what it likes to take astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), a program led by the United States and Russia that is scheduled to be completed in 2010. ... Meanwhile, the United Space Alliance added the Breaux-Lott Leadership Group to its roster of outside lobbyists, which already included Van Scoyoc Associates."

Editor's note: NASA Ames Research Center has been developing the Modular Common Spacecraft Bus (MCSB). The MCSB is a spacecraft designed to go to a variety of destinations such as lunar surface/orbit, Mars orbit, asteroid missions, and Earth orbit. The MCSB uses a cold gas propulsion system (and some SCUBA tanks) rather than a hot gas rocket. This only allows a few seconds of flight time - but it also reduces the time needed to prepare for repeat flights from intervals of many days - even months - down to around 40 minutes. This allows rapid prototype development to be conducted. The video below shows a series of tests conducted in 2007 and 2008. More to follow.

Bootstrapping the Moon, Dennis Wingo, SpaceRef

"In thinking about the how and the why of the economic development of space, mental frameworks are of crucial importance. A mental framework governs everything in terms of how any particular engineering project evolves from concept to implementation. Over time in the space arena our mental framework has evolved, in ways not all together positive from the perspective of those of us who believe that the economic development of space is practical and indeed crucial to the continuing development of our planetary civilization. This missive will explore the mental framework of economic development (the level zero requirement in government speak) and then explore how that would unfold."

Boeing Seeks Mission Support Systems Talent for NASA Work

"The Boeing Company is seeking talented mission operations specialists with current NASA experience in the Houston area in support of its bid for NASA's Facilities Development and Operations Contract (FDOC). Current Mission Support Operations Contract employees are encouraged to submit a contact form at http://active.boeing.com/defense-space/space/fdoc/ to receive information on an open house scheduled for May 17."

Barbara Gregory

BARBARA ANN GREGORY On May 4, 2008 of Annapolis, MD. Beloved wife of Fred Gregory. Also survived by one son, one daughter, four grandchildren, one brother and a host of other relatives and friends.

Internal NASA Documents Give Clues to Scary Soyuz Return Flight, IEEE Spectrum

"Although the technical investigation will take weeks to resolve, NASA and Russian engineers have come to several credible preliminary conclusions. And internal NASA documents, such as "15S Ballistic Entry Outbrief" by George Kafka, chief of the Safety & Mission Assurance Directorate for the ISS program, reveal a plausible idea of what probably happened."

VSE Hearing

Hearing: Reauthorizing the Vision for Space Exploration

Wednesday, May 7, 2008 09:30 AM Archived Webcast

Statement by Frederick Tarantino
Statement by Joan Johnson-Freese
Statement by Robert Dickman
Statement by Gene Kranz
Statement by George Whitesides

Editor's note: Gene Kranz is listed as representing the Coalition for Space Exploration as a witness at this hearing. Yet if you go to their website there is no mention of this hearing nor any mention of Kranz's participation in it. No press release or media advisory was issued in advance of the event. I am told that the Coalition spends $20,000 or more per month to run this website. I do not think they are getting their money's worth. The people in charge of this website are clearly asleep at the wheel.

Editor's update: The Coalition eventually updated their website so as to reflect Kranz's presence - but only after the hearing was over. They back dated it to make it look like it was posted at 9:30 am. So much for drawing attention to an event in advance, eh?

NASA Internal Memo: Weiler Assumes Official Role As NASA Science Chief

"Administrator Michael Griffin announced Wednesday that Ed Weiler will remain as NASA's associate administrator for the agency's Science Mission Directorate. Weiler was named interim chief of the directorate March 26."

NASA ROSES-08 Amendment 8: Cancellation of Space Policy Research program

"This amendment cancels the program element in Appendix E.5 entitled "Space Policy Research." At this time, the SMD program cannot support new investigations in this area. No Space Policy Research investigations will be solicited at this time."

Editor's note: I am confused. This says "Appendix E.5 entitled Space Policy Research" yet this is what Section E.5 is titled: "E.5 OPPORTUNITIES IN SCIENCE MISSION DIRECTORATE EDUCATION AND PUBLIC OUTREACH". Does NASA mean to cancel "E.6 SPACE POLICY RESEARCH" or are they canceling education and public outreach?

NASA ROSES-08 Amendment 8: Cancellation of Space Policy Research program

"This amendment cancels the program element in Appendix E.5 entitled "Space Policy Research." At this time, the SMD program cannot support new investigations in this area. No Space Policy Research investigations will be solicited at this time."

Editor's update: According to NASA "E6 (Space Policy) has been canceled, not E5 (E/PO)".

You can't eat in it while waiting to launch.

Spore: The Game

Astrobiology Meets the Video Game:Spore

"The soon-to-be-released Astrobiology-based game Spore by Electronic Arts (EA) is described as "an epic journey that takes you from the origin and evolution of life through the development of civilization and technology, and eventually all the way into the deepest reaches of outer space." Spore explorers can wage epic battles for survival in the primordial soup, meet, greet, and co-evolve with other creatures, be part of a tribe and build a civilization, build a space ship, and explore the final frontier."

Update Setback

Editor's note: We had some serious issues (i.e. yesterday's black out offline NASA Watch) with our new upgrade so we've reverted back to the old format for a bit before trying again. Your feedback on old Vs new versions is being listened to as well. Stay tuned for NASA Watch 3.1. We are looking at a format that is much closer to the current (old) one. We'll also be adding some of the new features as well. Meanwhile, comments are enabled, so comment away!

"Tuesday May 6, 2008 - 9:10 AM Central

NOMAD Status: WELLCOME TO THE NEW NASA WEBMAIL WARNING!!!!!

If you get an e-mail with "WELLCOME TO THE NEW NASA WEBMAIL" in the subject line, DO NOT provide the information this e-mail is asking for. This is a bogus e-mail that needs to be deleted and ignored. We are working to block this e-mail from NOMAD customers."

Editor's note: Hmmm - this is from NOMAD after all. How do we know that this alert is not fake and that the original message is actually legit? Isn't NOMAD supposed to prevent this from happening in the first place - or did NOMAD cause it to happen? Yes I am being silly. I just can't shake the 40 year old mental image of the "NOMAD" robot from Star Trek and the voice that it used every time I read a NOMAD Update. Perhaps someone could forward the offending email text to me?

NASA Artifact Loan Opportunities

"NASA is pleased to offer a new program of Artifact Loan Opportunities created to help museums and other organizations traditionally not associated with NASA gain access to NASA artifacts. These artifacts represent the often revolutionary accomplishments that have resulted from NASA's decades of exploring the unknown."

Advice from NASA's Wayne Hale: Leading Your Leaders

"When I was a new NASA employee, my branch chief put together a training class that has been on my mind recently. Among the other things he taught us new employees was that we had to lead our leaders. That has always been good advice. I'd like to share some of those thoughts and expand on them."

Candidates' space ideas lack launch pad, NPR Marketplace

"One thing the presidential candidates haven't been talking about is a space policy. Jeremy Hobson takes a look at whether the candidates have any plans for the final frontier."

Plan B For Outer Space, Dennis Wingo, SpaceRef

Those of us who were disappointed with the demise of SEI shared the frustrations that I am sure that Dr. Griffin shared and is trying to fix today with the ESAS architecture. NASA is furiously working to make the Ares 1 overcome its problems while also looking to the future in the development of the Ares 5 and the retirement of the Shuttle. However, there are many of us out here who were around then, I have written before, think the same forces that killed SEI are going to kill the ESAS architecture and Constellation systems.

Northrop Grumman Foundation Accepting Teacher Applications For 2008 Weightless Flights of Discovery

"The Northrop Grumman Foundation is accepting teacher applications for the 2008 Weightless Flights of Discovery program, an initiative that places teachers on micro- and zero-gravity flights to test Newton's Laws of Motion and energize students in the formative middle-school years."

Editor's note: This short video includes shots taken at the China Astronaut Research and Training Center where EVA suits are tested in a large swimming pool much in the same way that Russia and America train their crews. The EVA suits seem to bear some resemblence to Russian ORLAN suits.

Hacking NASA

Hacking NASA: One small step for man, one giant leap for hackers?, ZD Net

"The CORE Security Team released an advisory to the Full-Disclosure mailing list today that documented a stack overflow in NASA's Common Data Format libs. Looking at this bug, the tech details aren't overwhelming, I think I'm mostly excited about it due to the high profile of hacking NASA libs. One can hardly fault NASA though, I mean, our government can't even get them enough money to do some real space exploration, it's hard to fault them for missing some security issues."

Common Data Format (CDF) Version 3.2 and earlier Buffer Overflow Vulnerability

"The libraries for the scientific data file format, Common Data Format (CDF) version 3.2 and earlier, have the potential for a buffer overflow vulnerability when reading specially-crafted (invalid) CDF files. If successful, this could trigger execution of arbitrary code within the context of the CDF-reading program that could be exploited to compromise a system, or otherwise crash the program. While it's unlikely that you would open CDFs from untrusted sources, we recommend everyone upgrade to the latest CDF libraries on their systems, including the IDL and Matlab plugins. Most worrisome is any service that enables the general public to submit CDF files for processing."

House Panel Second Guessing NASA's Zero-G Contract Award, Space.com

"Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.), chairman of the investigations and oversight subcommittee, sent two letters to NASA Administrator Mike Griffin April 15 requesting materials related to the Zero-G deal. Miller's first letter, according to sources familiar with the document, included multiple allegations disputed by Zero-G, among them that the company conducted a weightless flight for the makers of the "Girls Gone Wild" video series."

Editor's note: Miller's staff quickly sent a second letter without the false allegations in it. This "Girls Gone Wild" urban myth is really old news and was openly disavowed years ago. Indeed a simple phone call to ZeroG would have been all that that Miller's staff needed to do. The fact that Rep. Miller would allow such a sloppily unresearched letter to be sent as an offical request to NASA calls the credibilty of his own staff into question. I wonder of the staff bothered to get a copy of the actual weightless bimbo video and look at the credits .... What's next - requesting photos of the alien bodies stored in freezers at JSC?

Here's the internal memo ARC circulated to employees several weeks ago asking for information:TO: Resident Staff

FROM: Thomas W. Berndt, Chief Counsel/ Deborah Feng, Director (Acting), Strategic Communications

SUBJECT: Urgent Request for Zero-G related Documents

NASA Headquarters has requested that Ames personnel provide the following documents in response to an official House Science & Technology Committee inquiry:

(1) All records relating to research collaborations between NASA and Zero-G to be implemented at Ames Research Center;

(2) All records related to the use of Ames and Moffett Field by Zero-G for the company's non-governmental activities.

Because of the urgent nature of this request by Congress, we ask that all Ames employees with documents, as described above, to please forward hard paper copies no later than COB Monday, April 21 to Terence Pagaduan, Mail Stop 943-4.

Please contact Mr. Pagaduan at ext. 4-1181 if you have any questions.

Thank you for your assistance on this important matter.

NRC Report: United States Civil Space Policy: Summary of a Workshop

"What are the principal purposes, goals, and priorities of the U.S. civil space program? This question was the focus of the workshop on civil space policy held November 29-30, 2007, by the Space Studies Board (SSB) and the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board (ASEB) of the National Research Council (NRC). In addressing this question, invited speakers and panelists and the general discussion from this public workshop explored a series of topics."

Review shows NASA employees bought seemingly personal items, AP

"Among the transactions questioned by NASA investigators last year were 393 charges to a graphics support vendor totaling more than $235,000 - so much money that not bidding the purchases competitively may have been illegal, documents show. "That should send up a red flag," said Scott Amey, general counsel of the Project on Government Oversight, a government watchdog organization. "You have to ask: Is somebody trying to get around competitive requirements?"

NASA employees big spenders on government credit, Houston Chronicle

"NASA employees have made numerous charges for seemingly personal items, including custom-engraved iPods and a Christmas tree. About $270 worth of T-shirts and hats purchased from a NASA gift shop were justified by one cardholder as "safety attire," and one former civil servant pleaded guilty to embezzlement charges last year after spending more than $157,000 on things including jewelry, electronics and an air conditioner for her home."

Report on NASA ignites call for credit card crackdown, Houston Chronicle

"Congressional supporters of a bill meant to curb government credit card abuse called Monday for stricter sanctions -- including termination and jail time -- against employees who misuse the cards at NASA, as well as other agencies."

Top Dems tout Lampson as voice of NASA, Houston Chronicle

"The Democrats' designation of Lampson as the prospective chairman of the space and technology subcommittee of the Science Committee in a House that's widely expected to remain in Democratic hands next year could help broaden his support and campaign contributors, some analysts said. An estimated 20,000 families in the 22nd Congressional District draw their livelihoods from jobs at the Johnson Space Center or NASA contractors. "Signaling his chairmanship early puts down a marker to NASA, contractors and their families that, 'If you want to keep your business flowing, you better take care of me,' " said Bob Stein, a Rice University political scientist. "Ironically, that's a page right out of Tom DeLay's playbook."

Astronaut calls landing 'one big hit and a roll', CNN

"From inside the capsule I had no perspective that we actually had bounced, it was just one big hit and a roll," Whitson said Friday in a telephone interview from the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

Soyuz astronaut recalls terrifying descent, Houston Chronicle

"I have no doubt we will get the best investigation possible," said Mike Suffredini, NASA's space station program manager."I think the best minds in Russia are working on this."

Michael Griffin By Marsha Ivins, The Time 100

"Mike Griffin, 58, had wanted to be administrator of NASA since the inception of the agency. To him, the appeal of the job was never about position or title but about the fact that space fired his imagination. It still does, and now, thanks to him, manned exploration of the moon and Mars is becoming a real possibility."

Editor's note: Of all the people they could have chosen, Time just happened to pick Number One Griffin pal and self-professed communications expert Marsha Ivins. What a coincidence. Did she bother to tell Time's millions of readers that she and Griffin are close friends? Nah, why tell people about possible biases, eh?

Cardinals' Barton is a space case,Yahoo Sports

"One day, he wants to go into space. Brian Barton turned 26 earlier this week, and though the astronaut dream tends to die about the time hormones bloom and adolescence rages, Barton never could abandon it. "The sky's the limit," he likes to say, and in this instance, he does so standing in front of his locker in the St. Louis Cardinals' clubhouse. He takes the cliche literally and figuratively, the former in his desire to float in the atmosphere and the latter in the career he has carved out in the meantime."

"Dear Nasawatch: The Robert F. Kennedy Memorial is proud to be auctioning off a tour of the National Air and Space Museum with Senator John Glenn for four people. Senator Glenn will be your personal escort to the amazingly small Friendship 7, which he rode to glory as the first American to have orbited the earth. Check out https://auction01.charitybuzz.com/secure/viewItemDetail.do?auction_item_id=13511

He will guide you around the incredible Air and Space Museum on the National Mall in Washington DC. You'll be right next to many of the other legends of flight, too, the mechanical ones; from Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis, to the X-1, which finally broke the speed of sound, and on to spacecraft that have gone to the moon and back.

You can talk shop about his experiences, the current space program, his views on today's NASA and more.

We're also offering a walk on role with Johnny Depp in the thriller about J. Edgar Hoover's hunt for John Dillenger, PUBLIC ENEMIES ($32,000), the tennis lesson with Andre Agassi ($57,500), meeting Owen Wilson at the premiere of MARLEY AND ME ($1,800), tea with former Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan ($11,000), and all the lunches, set visits, and more with the likes of Chris Matthews ($2,550), Tim Russert ($1,550), Joe Scarborough ($3,050), Larry King ($1,300), Tom Brokaw ($4,500), Tom Friedman ($1,252), and other DC political news heavyweights.

Virgin Galactic seeks space agents, Arabian Business

"Travel agents will have the opportunity to apply to sell space travel in partnership with the Virgin Galactic Accredited Space Office in Dubai, with selected applicants joining a shortlist from which the chosen sales agents will be announced."

Mission Virgin Galactic

"Virgin Galactic has teamed up with the Royal Aeronautical Society and the Royal AIr Force to create Mission Virgin Galactic, the educational experience of a lifetime."

Deborah Jeane Palfrey To Be Remembered On Moon, Wonkette

Editor's note: When NASA sets these well-intentioned things up you just know someone is eventually going to pull a stunt (in rather bad taste) like this sooner or later.

Send Your Name to the Moon With New Lunar Mission, NASA

Thank you to NASA Watch for inviting guest bloggers like myself to post on this nicely remodeled site.

My focus is on "space solutions of benefit to humanity," which I discuss on my blog, http://www.missiontohumanity.com. I suspect that if we, in the U.S., attempted to generate measurable returns on the public space investment as a matter of space policy, we might well see more national support for an increase in our public sector space budget. In an era of many crushing demands on the U.S. taxpayer, tangible returns from every public investment are critical.

National and global challenges, including global warming, health advances, natural disaster mitigation, aging populations, societal parity for women and children, universal education, poverty, clean economic development, and international space economic development partnerships are all areas in which space can provide constructive solutions.

I welcome your views on this topic, as well as suggestions about how to grow a robust space portfolio focused on returns for the U.S. taxpayer and for all humankind.

So with this brief introduction to a complex topic, I want to ask the NASA Watch community a question: Over the next decade, should the United States commit to both space exploration and intentional space solutions to American and global challenges? Thanks in advance for your views.

NASA: Hubble mission delayed until fall for fuel tank work, AP

"NASA's final visit to the Hubble Space Telescope has been delayed at least a month, until the fall, because of extra time needed to build the shuttle fuel tanks needed for the flight and a potential rescue mission. Atlantis and a crew of seven were supposed to fly to Hubble at the end of August, but now won't make the journey until the end of September or early October. Shuttle program manager John Shannon said it's taken more time to incorporate all the post-Columbia design changes to the external fuel tanks than had been expected."


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