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 https://www.nasa.gov/50th/future_forums/index.html.

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, https://www.nasa.gov/eoc, 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.

Office of Security and Program Protection

I asked Jack Forsythe, the Assistant Administrator for the Office of Security and Program Protection (OSPP), to be my guest blogger for the week. Jack came on board just a few months ago and is already moving out with a plan. Mike and I support his efforts and look forward to his leadership of this critically important NASA organization.

Jack’s Plan

As AA OSPP, my vision is to move OSPP forward in the best interest of the Agency. To do so, OSPP must balance its responsibility to provide effective protective services and enable the Mission Directorates to safely and securely accomplish their missions, with minimum impact to performance and cost. In this regard, I am committed to identifying, fostering, and nurturing partnerships to strengthen the foundation and facilitate the resolution of issues in collaboration with NASA senior management, respecting both Agency and Center perspectives.

I intend to lead an organization that is diverse, responsive, efficient, and accountable, with a distinct knowledge of responsibility, while fostering communication, collaboration, and teamwork to ensure the exchange of ideas and information that further enable us to accomplish our mission in support of the Agency. My long-term focus will be toward redefining the organizational structure of OSPP, maximizing resources, standardizing Center protective service organizations and enhancing the credibility, professionalism, and trust of OSPP.

In the near term, we will continue to work issues associated with the implementation of HSPD-12, particularly as it relates to Personal Identify Verification (PIV) cards and access control, and manage the Agency’s emergency and disaster preparedness program. As part of this initiative, the Emergency Operations Center at Headquarters was recently activated so adequate and timely support could be provided to Stennis Space Center and the Michoud Assembly Facility during Hurricane Gustav.

Lastly, a considerable amount of time and resources will be devoted to working with the Centers as we transition to the consolidated NASA Protective Services Contract, which was awarded May 2008. The single contract combines the requirements from 18 separate contracts into one single vehicle with the goal of consolidation, standardization, and efficiencies for all protective services. Over the next few months, I will work closely with the implementation team to address and resolve any issues identified that are either Center-specific or have Agency-wide implications. Full implementation has been delayed, but is currently scheduled for the first four locations (Independent Verification and Validation Facility in West Virginia, White Sands Test Facility, Johnson Space Center, and Kennedy Space Center) on January 1, 2009.

I look forward to working with NASA senior leadership, the Center Directors, Mission Directorates and Mission Support Offices to help meet the challenges faced by the Agency, address and mitigate all potential threats to our Agency, and develop and promote relationships that are in the best interest of the Agency.