WTF is going on at NASA? (Sad compilation of news)

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WTF is going on at NASA? (Sad compilation of news)

Here are three news stories that have been all over the last couple of days. These are from the Bad Astonomy site.



Drunk astronauts? What?


Posted at 1:56 pm in NASA


This is astonishing.

According to an article in Aviation Week, on at least two occasions astronauts who were intoxicated — drunk — were allowed to fly on the Space Shuttle [As pointed out in the comments below, the AW article never specifically says they flew on the Shuttle, just that they flew. Many astronauts train in planes, for example, so I jumped to a conclusion myself! I feel it’s somewhat mitigated by knowing that lots of other folks did too. However the article does go on to say that some astronauts were intoxicated within 12 hours of launch, which is against the rules.]

A panel reviewing astronaut health issues in the wake of the Lisa Nowak arrest has found that on at least two occasions astronauts were allowed to fly after flight surgeons and other astronauts warned they were so intoxicated that they posed a flight-safety risk.

The panel, also reported “heavy use of alcohol” by astronauts before launch, within the standard 12-hour “bottle to throttle” rule applied to NASA flight crew members.

I am at a loss for words. I mean, seriously. I know a few astronauts, and I would swear up and down that the last thing they would ever do is drink before a flight. It’s hard to believe anything like this could happen, but the panel — composed of "military and civilian government physicians, psychologists, lawyers, safety experts and astronauts under the chairmanship of U.S. Air Force Col. Richard Bachmann, dean of the Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine" — found otherwise.

All I have to go on here is this article in Aviation Week. To be fair, AW generally gets good inside info, though they have been known to stumble here and again. Given the nature of this story, and only having one source, I wasn’t sure whether to publicize it or not. So I want to be clear that it is way too early to speculate here about fault, veracity, or anything else. But this is really, really important news, and needs to be aired out. It may be a few weeks before we hear more, however.

And please folks: try to keep the conclusion-jumping to a minimum in the comments.

Update: FWIW, USA Today is also reporting on this, but they only have the AW article as a source as well. They do say that the report from the panel will be released Friday at noon. Interestingly, NASA is holding a press conference at noon (Eastern) Friday about astronaut health issues.

Update 2: The Huffington Post has some more info.

Criminy, more from NASA: Now what?



Posted at 3:02 pm in NASA

When it rains, it pours:

On the main webpage is a banner saying "[Breaking News] NASA says it has found wires which may have been deliberately cut on computers bound for the international space station."

And that’s it. No listing of source, no info, just that.

More when I find out more. Sigh.

Hat tip to Doodler at the BAUT Forum.


NASA finds apparent sabotage of computers for ISS


Posted at 3:45 pm in Science

This is the most bizarre news day for NASA ever.

CNN is reporting that NASA has found cut wires on computers slated to go onboard the International Space Station, and it may be sabotage.

The U.S. space agency NASA on Thursday confirmed it had discovered the apparent sabotage of a noncritical component of the international space station due to be carried up by the space shuttle Endeavour. It launched an investigation after finding cut wires in a piece of computer equipment intended to transfer data from station sensors to the ground, the agency said.

Yikes. Bizarrely, the rest of the CNN article says nothing more about this, and instead just gives mundane facts about the next Endeavour mission.


However, at the top of the CNN article is this:

Story Highlights

  • NASA reports apparent sabotage after computer found with wires cut
  • Computer supposed to be sent to the international space station in two weeks
  • NASA hopes to repair computer in time for August 7 launch

And I think I am stunned by NASA once again. They plan on launching those computer parts anyway? In just two weeks?

Does anyone else think this is nuts? Sure, the parts are "non-critical", but if this is sabotage, then maybe, just maybe, there might be other things that were sabotaged as well. I’m sure is investigating this, though it’s not apparent in that perversely short and uninformative article. But it’s hard to understand how this could be "apparent sabotage" on any scale and have NASA still want to go ahead with the mission. At the very least, isn’t this a Federal issue, and wouldn’t the FBI in there? I would expect the government might want to ground the Shuttle fleet pending an investigation.

Sigh. We have almost no info, so I won’t speculate any more. But obviously there is a a lot more going on here than we’re hearing.

Criminy. What day.

Update: BABlogge JR Keller commented that Yahoo has much more info. This was a lone act, and the contractor that employed the saboteur notified NASA over a week ago. Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s space operations chief, said "”The damage is very obvious. It’s easy to detect. It’s not a mystery to us… I don’t want to speculate on motivation… There’s an active investigation going on and I’d rather let that get handled that way… There’s no concern about anything that’s on orbit." So there was quite a bit more to know, and it wasn’t in the CNN article. NASA obviously feels comfortable that this was a contained event, and feels safe to launch the Shuttle.


NASA trifecta now complete


Posted at 5:51 pm in NASA

I can’t comment on this. I just can’t.

A NASA employee embezzled more than $150,000





(edit - fixed formatting)

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....and some more not so

....and some more not so good space news.


More bad space news: Explosion at Scaled Composites site



Posted at 8:42 pm in NASA

If bad news comes in threes, someone is bad at math: there was a huge blast at the Mojave Air and Space Port home of Scaled Composites, the company that built SpaceShipOne, the first civilian rocket into space. Two people were killed. Evidently they were testing the engine for SpaceShipTwo when it blew. It wasn’t an explosion: they were doing a "cold test" with nitrous oxide, which isn’t flammable. I’m guessing a weak spot somewhere resulted in a rupture, and the huge pressure from the gas blew up the works. A bad valve, a weak point in a fuel line or a tank… hard to say. I’m sure we’ll find out more eventually.

Not much detail on this one yet. Cripes, when I went to dinner I was thinking this day was done. Let’s hope any more news will be better.


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Do you think this could be

Do you think this could be due to the funding cuts?

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jce wrote: Do you think

jce wrote:

Do you think this could be due to the funding cuts?

I do not necessarily think that funding cuts are to blame for these matters, I just think this is a series of unfortunate events for the agency. 

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Maybe if things get

Maybe if things get unfortunate enough all the bureaucrats in charge will commit suicide and NASA will be able to dump the shuttles in the ocean and get back to science.

Lazy is a word we use when someone isn't doing what we want them to do.
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I really wish I could

I really wish I could remember where I heard this, but I've heard of people cutting wires or beding CPU pins in computer to avoid costs(?). Parties on each end of the transport are aware of what was done, but any intervening officials simply see a computer that won't work. So while the idea of sabotage is certainly concerning to the extreme, it could also be that someone was cutting corners.


Science Friday is talking about this stuff right now.


Edit: The wire cutting thing could have also been about avoiding inspection by officials during travels. At any rate, the point being to back up BGH's comment to not jump to conclusions. There could have been more benign reasons that they wouldn't want to own up to publicly.

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I saw an article on Yahoo!

I saw an article on Yahoo! news about the allegedly drunk astronauts and I'm not sure of the truthfulness of the article.

I used to work with a gentleman that worked with the space program at McDonald-Douglas in St. Louis when it was getting off the ground (pun intended).  He used to talk about how the original "right stuff" group partied hearty and literally tore up the bars in north St. Louis county - except John Glenn who was a tea totaler -  during their free time.

BUT when it came to going to work and doing their astronaut thing, they were all business: intelligent, sober, hard-working, intense, etc.  These folks would do nothing to endanger the program, their jobs or each other.


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NASA doesn't need this,

NASA doesn't need this, either.
Public opinion seems to hate them these days.
I'm not sure if it's because they have something to do with government or because they have something to do with science.

Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.
George Orwell.

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8am wakeup 6pm takeoff

CNN did a piece on this. The general idea is the astronauts get up around 8:30 and don't actually take off until 6ish. so there's 10 hours right there and they aren't drinking brewskies for breakfast. I don't know why someone would want to put out a false report about something like this, but I don't give it much creedence.

Really i wouldn't be all that upset if they did have a few beverages before the flight. It's a crazy notion, taking off into space with a good chance you're gonna die. I doubt they do much more than sit like a vegetable until they are well into the flight anyway.  So let em have a bit of fun before blast off. =)