Last Entry – November 26,2008

This will be my last entry on this blog as I prepare to transition out of NASA in January 2009. When people, regardless of where they live around the world, find out that I work at NASA, their eyes light up. It is a tribute to this great Agency! People around the world hold NASA in the highest regard. And they should. This is a special place with exciting missions that push the frontiers of human knowledge, and it’s filled with people that love the work they do and are completely committed to America’s space program.

So, it’s been a great ride and I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the people of NASA and the broader aerospace community. It’s a tight-knit group and although it sometimes feels like a soap opera, it’s still family. 

I am moving on to this new phase of my life with a new look. On November 20, I had my long hair cut off and donated my long ponytail to Locks of Love. This public non-profit charity provides hairpieces and wigs to financially disadvantaged children in the United States and Canada suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis. As I move to this next stage of my life, hopefully, I can also help out a child in need in the process.

Most of us are in belt-tightening mode given the current financial situation, but please give consideration to those who are in even greater need. Food banks around the country are struggling as are many charities. Part of my family’s gift-giving, over the past couple of years, has been to include donations of clothes and toys to kids in need. That effort will be increased this year as I plan to give my three nieces a set amount for each one to spend on a charity of her choice. And remember to thank and support the men and women of our armed services – those who have been injured and those who will be spending the holidays away from their loved ones. This is my chance to say: Thank you for your absolute commitment and unrelenting resolve which are required to protect our great country and which allow all of us, as Americans, to live free.

Happy Holidays and best wishes for 2009!

STS-126 Crew is Busy at Work at the International Space Station

STS-126 marks the fourth and final shuttle mission of 2008 and is a very important one to the future of human spaceflight. Space shuttle Endeavour and its crew have delivered equipment to the International Space Station that will enable it to house six – instead of three – crew members for long-duration missions. Expanding the crew size is a key step to utilizing the space station to its full capability.

On the night of November 14, when the shuttle lifted off and lit up the sky in Florida, it carried 32,000 pounds of cargo, including two additional sleeping quarters, a second toilet system, and equipment to recycle urine into potable water. This water regeneration system will help to ensure the space station’s self-sufficiency, which is necessary before the space shuttle retires.

The STS-126 mission has been described as an “extreme home makeover,” but it’s really a home improvement that requires incredible coordination between the space station and space shuttle crews and ground teams. The servicing of the space station’s two Solar Alpha Rotary Joints (SARJ) is the focus of the flight’s four spacewalks. These wagon-wheel-shaped joints allow the space station’s solar arrays to rotate so that they’re always getting as much sun as possible. The SARJ on the space station’s starboard – or right – side has had very limited use for the past year. By lubricating both SARJs, we hope to extend the lives of the joints to ensure that the space station can generate the power for the larger station crews.

Due to their demanding work, the shuttle and station crews may not have time to celebrate an incredible milestone on November 20. But we here on the ground should do so. Ten years ago, the first element of the station, the Zarya module, was launched into space, kicking off the most complex engineering project ever.

The space station is now the size of a five-bedroom home and is a testament to the unique partnership among NASA, the Russian Federal Space Agency, the Canadian Space Agency, the European Space Agency, and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

There are thousands of people across this country and around the world who have worked to make this current mission not only possible, but also to make it the success it is turning out to be.

Progress in Financial Management

With the FY 2008 fiscal year behind us, and the independent financial audit process nearing conclusion, I wanted to share with you the significant progress the Agency has made in the last year on our financial management. While recognizing the advances NASA has made recently in financial reporting, we know there is still much work to be done before the Agency can again achieve a “clean” audit opinion and resolve its long-standing material weaknesses in financial reporting. Ron Spoehel, our Chief Financial Officer, joined the Agency in September 2007. Through his leadership, and that of his Deputy Terry Bowie, there has been material progress in the financial reporting processes by which the Agency maintains and closes its books, as well as in the effective use of financial reports to drive improved operational execution performance.

This past year, Ron led the Agency to take a new approach toward resolving financial reporting, internal control, and audit weaknesses. To begin, the Agency developed and introduced a Comprehensive Compliance Strategy (CCS) establishing requirements for all of NASA to be in compliance with the federal standards for generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) and other applicable financial standards, to demonstrate such compliance through auditable evidence, and to operate with robust and comprehensive internal controls over financial reporting. To measure and monitor the effectiveness of the CCS operation, a Continuous Monitoring Program (CMP) was introduced across the Agency. In brief, the CMP requires each of our Centers, as financial reporting organizations, to perform and certify to a full suite of 84 control activities each month and 119 each quarter and to report the results of those reviews and any corrective actions to Headquarters. Headquarters then reviews the data, oversees any remedial actions required and looks for any systemic issues that may need to be addressed at the Agency level. The result is that we are already identifying, raising and resolving financial data issues faster and more consistently than ever before. This means that the financial information we now use is more accurate and reliable. Overall, these initiatives have allowed the Agency to maintain its “green” rating on progress for the Financial Management Improvement component of the President’s Management Agenda (PMA) Scorecard and, in particular, the CMP also has helped the Agency achieve “green” on eight of nine key federally monitored financial metrics.

Coupled with the improvements in the Agency’s financial reporting processes as noted above, NASA also has made enhancements this past year in the presentation and use of financial analytics and reporting, which are giving us better information to make decisions, and the results can be seen in our improved obligation rates and financial performance measures. As one example, the Agency was able to more effectively put its available appropriations budget to work this year through the concerted efforts of many operations around the Agency. This focus on budget execution drove a $2.4 billion increase in obligations performance for FY 2008, to $18.7 billion total, producing year-end results not achieved since before FY 2000. We also are putting all this enhanced financial analytical capability to good use providing Agency leadership with more focused and actionable reports as another component of program reviews.

While building on the stronger foundation we have now put in place, we intend to continually improve the Agency’s financial management processes and financial reporting capabilities. Look for even more enhancements in the near future.

Presidential Transition

Since mid-summer NASA has been preparing for the Presidential transition that is now upon us. The Office of Management and Budget has led the efforts across the government and has been very forward leaning with both campaign teams to be ready to initiate a smooth transition, particularly with the challenges that we face as a nation today.

While NASA usually does not factor as a near-term decision for incoming Administrations, this year the General Accounting Office (GAO) highlighted Shuttle retirement as one of its top 13 urgent issues across the government.

Based on experience from past transition teams, NASA has been developing a large set of reference material for the new team to review. Phil McAlister from the Office of Program Analysis and Evaluation is NASA’s lead point of contact for the transition activities. As such, he has been representing NASA for several weeks of transition planning meetings across the government. The NASA transition book and a companion issues book have been reviewed by all of the Strategic Management Council members and are now in final preparation for the President-Elect Barack Obama’s Transition Team.

In addition, the General Services Administration (GSA) has asked each agency to provide floor space and basic services for the transition teams to operate within the agencies. All that has been done; the books are being printed and we are ready to begin the discussions.  Remember though that the President-Elect Obama’s Transition Team is an advisory body to the new President. In some cases we may be limited in the data that can be provided since they are unlikely to be government employees. We have also been cautioned by the White House to only deal with those people who have been officially designated as Transition Team members. During this time many folks working unique agendas may present themselves as “working transition.” We must be sure that any agency information that is given to transition personnel is given only to those on the official team.  If you receive any requests, please refer these requests to Phil or his backup, Mike Hawes.

Information Technology Update October 2008

Improving Integration, Security, and Efficiency of NASA’s Information Technology

When I gave you an Information Technology (IT) update last May, I described several strategic IT initiatives. Today, I’m focusing on one of them: improving integration, security, and efficiency of IT by consolidating infrastructure and management control.

As background, we now have a decentralized approach to managing much of our IT infrastructure, particularly for local area networks, data centers, IT security services, and Web services. Industry best practices, OMB analysis, NASA’s Program Analysis and Evaluation studies, and business cases from NASA’s Office of the Chief Information Officer have all indicated that there are significant efficiencies and advantages to consolidation and central management of NASA’s IT infrastructure. Achieving such strategic change, NASA expects to (1) better integrate the Agency’s people, processes, and information; (2) improve IT security; and (3) realize cost savings.

Currently, we have five Agency-wide procurements under way which, collectively, are a significant step toward NASA’s IT consolidation efforts. I’m pleased to report that in the first quarter of 2009, we will issue the draft requests for proposals (RFP) for these procurements, which are identified and assigned to Centers as follows:

Agency Consolidated End User Services (ACES)
NASA Shared Services Center at the Stennis Space Center

NASA Integrated Communications Services (NICS)
Marshall Space Flight Center

NASA Enterprise Data Center (NEDC) Services
Kennedy Space Center

Enterprise Applications Service Technologies (EAST)
Marshall Space Flight Center

Web Services Technologies (WEST)
NASA Headquarters

These five acquisitions will address NASA’s top-level initiatives for infrastructure integration. These initiatives are:

1. Define network perimeter and consolidate network management.

2. Establish Agency network visibility of IT assets and consolidate Agency security monitoring and management.

3. Enable cross-Center collaboration and strengthen user authorization.

4. Migrate systems to physically secure and properly managed data centers.

5. Make NASA’s information easier to find, access and share.

6. Standardize and consolidate the management of end-user devices.

    NASA’s IT infrastructure consolidation will mean some culture change at NASA, especially where we have operated independently in the past and need to work more collaboratively in the future. While it is generally easy to use IT services at a single Center, we intend to enable seamless collaboration across Centers by providing people with a common user experience regardless of location or organizational alignment. By providing tools such as a common help desk, an online catalog for ordering IT services, and an integrated Agency-wide network, NASA will transition to systems and data with modular, interoperable services that support the efficient execution of NASA’s missions. At the same time, we will secure NASA data and resources while we’re making them more readily available.

    In the future, we will be able to easily share data, using sophisticated collaboration tools without the awkward “workarounds” we experience today. It will also be even easier to work at a Center other than your own because we’ll have a common way to “plug into” NASA’s network.

    We will move systems to physically secure and properly managed data centers. Currently, NASA has approximately 75 data centers that are serviced by multiple vendors with inconsistent availability of information and disaster recovery services. Data center consolidation will significantly improve access to information and will reduce cost.

    NASA plans to approach the data center consolidation in phases. Consolidation will start with applications that need immediate improvement in disaster recovery and continuity of operations support, such as NOMAD, which is our e-mail and calendar tool. Follow-on activities will include Agency-wide applications [e.g., Integrated Enterprise Management Program (IEMP)], multi-Center applications, Center back office support, and program and project applications for which it makes technical, financial, and logical sense to consolidate.

    When these procurements are completed, we will have the following advantages.

    • Systems can be seamlessly deployed, used and secured across Center boundaries.
    • Smarter investments in the right IT solutions provide the greatest benefit to the NASA mission.
    • We’ll have a reliable, efficient, secure, and well-managed IT infrastructure that enables NASA’s mission.

    In closing, I want to thank the NASA employees who are working on the acquisition teams. Thanks to their efforts, we should have new contracts in place by early 2010 and be on our way to consolidating NASA’s IT infrastructure.

    Chicago Future Forum

    Future Forums

    October 10th marked the seventh and final Future Forum celebrating NASA’s 50th anniversary at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, Illinois. Before I provide a brief rundown on the Chicago Future Forum, I would like to take a moment to thank the NASA team for their efforts.

    Special thanks go to NASA’s Office of Communications Planning, who coordinated and managed all the Forums, along with the great support of the Office of Public Affairs, the Office of Education, the NASA Mission Directorates, and the NASA Centers.

    We achieved the goal of reaching out to communities that do not have direct connections to NASA to engage them on the importance of space exploration to their daily lives. We touched over 1,500 business leaders, museum attendees, students, and civic leaders around the country this year alone. The tremendous amount of hard work and effort put into these events cannot be overstated and I commend the entire NASA team for taking the Future Forum concept into reality. Without you, these events would not have been such a success.

    Chicago Future Forum

    I would like to thank Dr. Paul Knappenberger, Director of the Adler Planetarium, for being such a wonderful host and master of ceremony. I also would like to thank our sponsors and key partners for helping to make the Chicago Future Forum possible.

    NASA has an interesting connection to the Adler. NASA Astronaut John Grunsfeld’s grandfather, Ernest Grunsfeld, was the lead architect in its design in the 1920s. I have said in previous blogs that Future Forums are a series of one-day events that highlight the benefits of space exploration through the themes of inspiration, innovation and discovery and connect those themes to a local, regional and state perspective. They also provide a venue to educate the public about the future of space exploration.

    An impressive group of individuals from academia and industry volunteered their time to participate on the panels. I would like to thank the NASA speakers for their contributions at the Chicago Future Forum: Woodrow Whitlow, Director, NASA Glenn Research Center; Bernice Alston, Deputy Associate Administrator for Education; Astronauts Bobby Satcher and Ken Ham; and Astronaut Carl Walz, Director of the Advanced Capabilities Division in ESMD. I would also like to thank Kristen Erickson, Mike Green, Jim Hull, and Roselee Roberts from NASA Headquarters for their efforts in all of the Future Forums held across the country celebrating NASA’s 50 years of exploration. Finally, thanks to Bob Hopkins for coming up with the Future Forum idea and all the work he did before departing the Agency to be the Senior Vice President and Marketing Director of Washington Operations at Phillips & Co., a business consulting firm.

    Legislative Wrap-Up for the 110th Congress

    From a legislative perspective, the last nine weeks have been a whirlwind. Since my last legislative status report in August, NASA funding by way of a Continuing Resolution (through March 2009), including extension of NASA’s exemption under INKSNA, has been signed by the President, and the Authorization Act has been cleared by the Congress and transmitted to the President for signature.

    On September 30, the President signed the Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act, 2009, (H.R. 2638), otherwise known as the Continuing Resolution (CR). This legislation funds NASA at FY 2008 levels through March 6, 2009, or until a full-year appropriations bill is passed. Also for NASA, the bill includes $30 million in disaster funding (for damage caused by Hurricane Ike) and an important anomaly related to the Agency’s account and budget structure, which allows NASA to execute appropriations under the Continuing Resolution in the proposed FY 2009 account structure. To further explain, the FY2008 appropriations bill required a new accounting structure for NASA (moving from four to seven appropriations accounts). NASA needed the special authority to proceed with this new structure in FY2009 because a CR requires the same funding and structure as in FY2008. To reverse back to the four-account structure would be very costly so the appropriations gave us special “anomaly” authority in the CR.

    Of particular note, the Act includes an extension of our waiver of the Iran North Korea Syria Non-Proliferation Act (INKSNA) provision. This extension allows NASA to continue purchasing Soyuz flights beyond 2011, through July 1, 2016. This will enable NASA to continue to send American astronauts, as well as our international partner crew members, to and from the International Space Station during the “gap” between the time the Shuttle is retired and Orion/Ares I comes on-line. The Agency does not intend to purchase Progress cargo services after 2011, and will look to the U.S. commercial sector to provide our needs. Mike and I worked closely with the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs Committees (both of which approved extensions to our exception), House and Senate leadership, and our House and Senate Appropriations and Authorization Committees to secure this extension.

    On the authorization front, on September 27, the House cleared, by voice vote, the one-year, $20.2 billion NASA Authorization Act of 2008 (H.R. 6063). The Senate passed the measure by unanimous consent on September 25. Most critical for NASA, this bill reaffirms Congress’ strong bipartisan support for the “Vision for Space Exploration,” including human exploration of the Moon and eventually Mars. The bill signals Congressional intent to the next Administration by supporting accelerated development of the Orion and Ares programs, as well as directing that there be no activity between now and April 30, 2009 that would preclude the continued flight of the Space Shuttle after FY 2010. The measure also directs NASA to fly one additional Space Shuttle flight to deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to the International Space Station, but only if it can be done before the end of calendar year 2010 and would not result in significant increased costs or unacceptable safety risks. There are other provisions of the bill but these can wait until the President actually signs it into law.

    Future Forum Boston

    On September 18, I participated in NASA’s sixth Future Forum in Boston, Massachusetts,Shana Dale speaking at the Boston Future Forum at the Museum of Science. In this month’s Parents magazine, the Museum of Science is ranked the third best science center in the entire country. It is also the most visited cultural institution in New England. You may remember from my previous blogs that Future Forums are a series of one-day events that highlight the benefits of space exploration through the themes of inspiration, innovation and discovery and connect those themes to a local, regional and state perspective. They also provide a venue to educate the public about the future of space exploration.

    Similar to the other Future Forums, the Boston event relied heavily on our partners in the local area. An impressive group of individuals from academia and industry graciously volunteered their time to participate in  our inspiration, innovation, and discovery panels. Dr. Ioannis Miaoulis, President of the Museum of Science, was our gracious host for the day and participated on the Inspiration panel, “Building Idea Factories for the Future.” We had Drs. Jeff Hoffman, Dava Newman and Larry Young from MIT; Drs. Charles Czeisler and Harvey Tananbaum from Harvard; and Dr. Isa Zimmerman from the University of Massachusetts. From industry, we had Ms. Helen Greiner, CEO, iRobot, and Ms. Lee Silvestre from Raytheon. We also were pleased to haveShana Dale presenting an award at Boston Future Forum Mr. Joe Sciulli from the National Science Teachers Association. Of course, I must also acknowledge the great contributions from my NASA colleagues: Steve Cook, Jim Garvin, Lesa Roe, Chris Shank, and Joyce Winterton. These partners played a critical role in making the event a success. I am truly grateful for their contributions.
    I delivered the keynote and received proclamations from Cambridge Mayor E. Denise Simmons and Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino congratulating NASA on its 50 years of success. The audience especially enjoyed a presentation by Steve Cook, Ares Program Manager, on the Constellation Program.

    Shana Dale presenting an awardThe Boston event also included a luncheon keynote address from Dr. James Garvin, currently the chief scientist for planetary exploration at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. He gave an inspiring talk that focused on the future of science and exploration at NASA and how inextricably they are tied. Dr. Garvin also did a television interview with Boston’s Channel 5, WCVB. This was filmed amid a variety of NASA exhibits that were on display at the Museum for a week. On Sunday preceding the Future Forum, the NASA exhibit staff team interacted with more than 5,000 visitors. 

    The final Future Forum in celebration of NASA’s 50th anniversary will be held on October 10 at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. You can read more at

    Hurricane Ike

    As you know, NASA Johnson Space Center took a direct hit by Hurricane Ike last Friday and Saturday. I would like to recognize NASA JSC Center Director Mike Coats and his team for coming together during this devastating time. He and others are keeping Headquarters well-informed of what’s going on real-time as well as letting the other Centers know what their needs are and will be as the realities of this situation become clearer.

    NASA JSC is scheduled to resume operations on Monday, September 22, and the Mission Control Center is scheduled to resume normal operations today, Friday, 19 September. The Center is returning to normal so soon, partly because of extensive preparations by the workforce before Johnson closed as well as the diligent work of the hurricane rideout and recovery teams.  

    Initial reports include downed trees, debris everywhere, building and water damage throughout the Center and Ellington Field. Below are several photos provided by the NASA JSC photographer.  

    I would like to commend NASA Stennis Space Center in assisting NASA JSC. They have already provided much needed gasoline and will also be providing more gasoline, chainsaws, water, and manpower. I know it is all truly appreciated by those in Houston.  

    There are several individuals still unaccounted for, so if you are a NASA JSC civil servant or contractor and have not checked in with your management, please do so. JSC has established a Recharge and Refresh Station at the Gilruth Center, providing relief for JSC Team members and their families who do not have power and/or potable water.

    I urge all NASA employees to review the Emergency Operations Center Web page,, to stay informed about the recovery operations at NASA Johnson Space Center. 

    JSC building damaged by Hurricane Ike JSC building damaged by Hurricane Ike
    Damaged siding on JSC building after Hurricane Ike Tree damage at JSC from Hurricane Ike
    Fallen tree at JSC from Hurricane Ike Flooding damage at JSC from Hurricane Ike
    Downed sign at JSC from Hurricane Ike

    Education and NASA

    NASA plays an important role in motivating young people to pursue STEM fields. I have spent a lot of my time, while at NASA, speaking across the nation on NASA and our mission. Without exception, the one topic for which everyone has an opinion is education and lively discussions typically ensue.  Below is a sampling of what the NASA Office of Education is doing to inspire our next generation of explorers.  

    STS-125, the Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission, is scheduled for launch on October 10, 2008, and the NASA Office of Education will use the opportunity to engage the education community across the nation in several ways. In addition to a pre-launch education forum in Cocoa Beach, FL, for the informal education community, we have developed a poster, mission decal, lithograph, and a CD-ROM. These resources will be available online through a new Hubble education Web site that will go live September 16, 2008.  

    Along with the expanded resources for the Hubble Space Telescope, teachers now have access to an enhanced NASA education Web site that allows the user to search our vast library of curriculum support materials. Over 1,500 classroom activities, video learning clips, posters, and lesson plans are available to download and use for all NASA content in school or at home.

    Students help NASA explore lunar plant growth Picture at left: Students are helping NASA explore lunar plant growth through NASA’s Engineering Design Challenge: Lunar Plant Growth Chamber.

    One such activity, the Engineering Design Challenge (EDC), has allowed over one million students in all fifty states to design Lunar Plant Growth Chambers.  This challenge was designed for K-12 students to provide ways to grow plants during long-duration space missions.  Last year, on STS-118, basil seeds and lettuce seeds were flown and are now growing in Lunar Plant Growth Chambers on Earth; nearly eight thousand schools nationwide are now filled with the smell of cinnamon basil. There is activity outside the classroom too, as participants in over 200 museums and science centers and 300 after school programs are busy building and testing the chambers. It will be interesting to follow the results.  

    NASA also will bring college students from across the nation to all of its ten field centers this fall through the Undergraduate Student Research Project.  Ninety-six talented students will make their presence known as they participate in 10- to 15-week research internships with NASA researchers. This highly competitive project has selected some of the best and brightest young minds to contribute to the work of our engineering, physical sciences, Earth, space, atmospheric and computer science labs.

    Picture at Left: University faculty and students participate in RockOn! — a workshop June 22-27 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island in Virginia

    While the Undergraduate Student Research Project students are gaining work experience at NASA, thousands of other undergraduates will be involved in NASA’s science and engineering efforts through the National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program. Over 500 colleges and universities from the fifty states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico participate in this program which was established by the National Space Grant Act in 1988. Space Grant consortia provide scholarships to students, collaborate with our mission directorates on research, and work closely with us to educate and employ U.S. citizens, especially women, underrepresented minorities, and persons with disabilities.

    LaRC Electrical Engineer and mentor Picture at Left: LaRC Electrical Engineer and mentor Tom Jones and USRP student, David Gerhardt, are in front of their programmetric experiment for the Ares I rocket. Credit: Rachel C. Samples

    In spring 2009, Kepler will launch from the Kennedy Space Center. Kepler is a space-based telescope specifically designed to measure light intensity of stars and also is NASA’s first mission capable of detecting planets the size of Earth or smaller near stars like our sun.  To engage students in the Kepler mission, it will carry the names of students who register online. For more information about how to Send Your Name into Space with the Kepler Mission. Over three million names traveled to Mars with rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, and we hope to break that record with Kepler.

    As part of the International Year of Astronomy (IYA) in 2009, NASA is establishing a Student Ambassadors Program, to encourage undergraduate and graduate students to participate in NASA’s IYA activities and to help generate excitement about NASA scientific discoveries in astrophysics, planetary science and solar physics.

    As I travel the country and talk to people about NASA, they continually describe the importance of NASA’s role in engaging students and educators. NASA’s unique ability to inspire and educate draws from the extraordinary endeavors we undertake and the amazing feats that the people of NASA achieve every day.