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.

Lean Six Sigma NASA Style

This week I attended, along with managers representing offices from I&A, CFO, PA&E, and HCMO, a training session on how to realize better efficiencies within the internal NASA processes using the Lean Six Sigma process.  The exercise was lead by Patty Fundum from Marshall Space Flight Center and Mark Adrian with Adrian Technologies Incorporated.  Below is a brief explanation of Lean Six Sigma that I hope you find useful.  Many Centers and programs have already fully embraced Lean Six Sigma.  I look forward to the implementation of this management tool across NASA.

Lean and Six Sigma are widely used in industry as continuous improvement best practices.  They are also very complementary in nature and, if performed properly, can produce unprecedented results.  Lean focuses on eliminating non-value added activities in a process and Six Sigma focuses on reducing variation from the remaining value-added steps.  Lean provides speed ensuring products and services flow without interruption while Six Sigma ensures that critical product / service characteristics are completed correctly the very first time we do them.

Typical product service flow six sigma

NASA is using Lean Six Sigma (LSS) as an approach that combines Lean manufacturing and Six Sigma from a global perspective to take both suppliers and customers into account.  This approach tells us how to improve our processes in a way that considers both the costs of poor quality and issues critical to customer requirements. In addition to manufacturing processes, we have had great success in applying LSS to operational, transactional, and service processes.  Recognizing that the greatest value of LSS can be obtained during Pre-Proposal, Proposal Evaluation and Program Evaluation activities we are currently evaluating where best to begin this application of LSS.

Committed leadership, education, and institutionalization are essential to successful application of Lean Six Sigma.  Together, with Adrian Technologies Incorporated, we have developed our own training and deployment program to create “in house” Lean Six Sigma experts otherwise known as “Champions, Green Belts and Black Belts” who have successfully lead over 200 strategically aligned projects.

We are using LSS as a defined approach to synthesize the use of established tools and methods.  Its methods are divided into two approaches.  One approach is called Design For Six Sigma, and generally used when designing new systems or processes.  The other approach, used for process improvement, is called the Vision-Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control approach.

To date, nine Centers have personnel who have attended NASA’s Lean Six Sigma training program and three field Centers are actively engaging broad scale deployment.  Once again, I would like to thank Patty and Mark for their efforts.  If you would like additional information please contact Patty directly at the NASA Lean Six Sigma Management Office at 256.544.8436 or by e-mail at

LaunchFest at Goddard Space Flight Center

Also, this week I wanted to briefly mention LaunchFest which will be held Saturday, Sept. 13, at the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC).  LaunchFest will celebrate Goddard’s upcoming missions as well as highlight NASA’s 50th Anniversary.  The Center will be open to the public and they anticipate that more than 10,000 people will attend.  LaunchFest will be another great outreach effort to the Center’s community.

How NASA Helped Olympic Swimmers in Beijing

Many of us have been glued to the TV set, watching the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China.  Many may be unaware that NASA technology has been used to help the U.S. Olympic swim team.  As we watched U.S. swimmers shatter world record after world record, and win Olympic medal after Olympic medal, we take special pride in the fact that they were wearing swimsuits with NASA-tested fabrics.  

Researchers from Speedo’s Aqualab, its global research and development facility, and Warnaco, Inc., the U.S. licensee of the Speedo brand, approached NASA Langley Research Center to conduct research on drag reduction of swimsuits because of the center’s long history of wind tunnel testing on drag reduction for aircrafts and boats.  Aqualab worked with NASA aerospace engineer Steve Wilkinson, other U.S. and foreign research organizations, as well as U.S. Olympic swimmers, to develop the LZR Racer swimsuit.
Member of the US swiming team
As explained by Mr. Wilkinson, “Speedo’s Aqualab approached us after the 2004 Summer Olympics for help in evaluating the viscous drag and roughness characteristics of candidate fabrics for a new competition swimsuit for elite swimmers.  Working with Aqualab researchers, we developed a wind tunnel test protocol to assess fabric performance, based on extensive work done by NASA on drag reduction in the mid-1980s.  We entered into a Space Act Agreement whereby Speedo would deliver fabric samples and we would evaluate the viscous drag and surface roughness.  In all, more than 60 fabrics were tested in one of Langely’s small low speed wind tunnels to assess which fabrics and weaves had the lowest drag.  With computational studies indicating that drag or skin friction is about one third of the total restraining force on a swimmer, any reduction in drag should help swimmers go faster.”  

Michael Phelps with LZR Racer swimsuit
Obviously, wearing this swimsuit will not make everyone an Olympic champion – such a reward comes from the complete dedication and exceptional efforts of these men and women.  Nevertheless, NASA’s participation is an interesting story about how our testing can help reduce water resistance and may help swimmers go faster.  

All U.S. swimmers wore the LZR Racer. The U.S. won medals in 31 events, winning gold in 12 of them.  For 23 out of 25 of the world records broken at the Beijing games, the swimmers were wearing the Speedo LZR Racer.  Americans broke 11 of those records or 44 percent of the world records broken.  94 % of all gold medals and 89 % of all the medals were won by swimmers wearing the suit. Additionally, every men’s swimming event was won by an athlete wearing the LZR Racer.

Pretty Amazing.


On a previous blog regarding the proposed Agency commercial space policy, I received a number of excellent comments.  Any comments on that blog should be directed to Ken Davidian, and I have forwarded your reactions and suggestions to him for review as we develop the agency-level version of this policy.  I especially appreciate the clarification on point (5) regarding long-term “financial” government support.  Another comment concerned the potential for the federal government to take someone’s idea and pass it on without compensation.  I am in complete agreement with you.  It would not be fair for someone in the federal government to take someone’s unique idea and bid it with the sole intention of giving it to a favored contractor.  That’s why we have the unsolicited proposal process and procedures to protect company’s proprietary data.  Thank you again for your comments.  
Michael Phelps with LZR Racer swimsuit
When that blog was posted, comments were posted automatically without any prior check on content.  On a Federal website, we are obligated to screen for inappropriate language etc., before something gets posted.  We simply don’t have the manpower to screen incoming comments (real-time) for inappropriate language etc.  We are resource-constrained at HQ and that situation will not be alleviated any time in the near future.

NASA Legislative Update

On June 25, 2008, the House Appropriations Committee marked up the FY 2009 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) and Related Appropriations Bill, which provides annual funding for NASA. As reported, the bill includes a total of $17.769B, an increase of $155.0M above the President’s request. Within this total, the Committee has included full funding for Exploration Systems ($3.5B) and Space Operations ($5.8B). The bill increases Science by $76.5M ($4.5B), Aeronautics by $68.5M ($515.0M), and Education by $71.6M ($187.2M). The bill also reduces Cross-Agency Support (CAS) by $55.1M ($3.2B), and includes within CAS a reduction of $58.2M in Agency Management and Operations and a total of $30.0M for congressionally-directed projects (earmarks).

On June 19, 2008, the Senate Appropriations Committee marked up its version of the FY 2009 CJS bill. As reported, the Senate bill includes a total of $17.912B for NASA, an increase of $200.0M above the President’s request. Within the Senate total, the Committee included full funding for Space Operations ($5.8B). The bill increases Science by $81.4M ($4.5B), Aeronautics by $53.5M ($500.0M), Exploration Systems by $30.0M ($3.5B), Education by $14.4M ($130.0M), and CAS by $20.0M ($3.3B). Within the Senate mark for CAS is a reduction of $40.3M in Agency Management and Operations and a total of $80.0M for congressionally-directed projects (earmarks).

In July, the Congress cleared for the President’s signature a FY 2009 Defense Supplemental Appropriations bill, which included supplemental appropriations for NASA totaling $62.5M. NASA has submitted a plan to the Appropriation Committees to allocate this funding equally between Science and Exploration Systems.

Neither the House nor the Senate FY 2009 CJS bill will likely go to the floor for consideration. In fact, to date, the FY 2009 Military Construction/VA bill is the only appropriations bill that has been considered by the full House. It is expected that the FY 2009 Defense Appropriations and the Military Construction/VA bills will be the only appropriations bills to see floor action, and that they will likely be wrapped into a FY 2009 Continuing Resolution (CR) to be taken up by the House and Senate in September. At this time, it is anticipated that this CR will last six months, until March 2009.

On the authorization front, the House of Representatives passed the NASA Authorization Act of 2008 (H.R. 6063) by a vote of 409-15 on June 19. This measure reaffirms the existing U.S. Space Exploration Policy, including completion of the ISS, retirement of the Shuttle, and human exploration of the Moon and Mars. This bill also authorizes a total of $19.2B for NASA for FY 2009, an increase of $1.8B above the President’s request, with increases of $500M for Science, $407M for Aeronautics, $386M for Exploration, $13M for Education, $300M for Space Operations, and $1B to reduce the human space flight gap. The bill also directs the addition of another Shuttle mission to deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) to the ISS, before retirement of the Shuttle.

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved its version of the NASA Authorization Act of 2008 on June 24. Although it differs somewhat from the House measure, it, too, continues congressional support for the U.S. Space Exploration Policy, authorizes the same funding levels as the House bill, and requires the addition of one more Shuttle mission to include the AMS. House and Senate Committee staff are now negotiating a compromise bill with the goal of bringing that compromise to the Senate floor in September.

In the meantime, there has been some progress on moving legislation to extend the exception to the Iran, North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Act (INKSNA) to allow NASA to negotiate a contract with Russia for continued Soyuz services beyond 2011 (the current expiration of that exception). On July 24, the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved H.R. 6574, the United States-Russian Federation Nuclear Cooperation Agreement Act of 2008. This bill includes an extension of the current exception to INKSNA from December 31, 2011, to July 1, 2016. House floor action is uncertain.

In the Senate, on June 9, Senators Biden and Lugar, chairman and ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, respectively, introduced S. 3103, the legislation that NASA had submitted to Congress, for consideration by their Committee. The Committee is expected to consider the legislation when it meets in September. Final passage in the Senate and House remains uncertain, but NASA is working to find a way to get this crucial extension enacted.

I would like to thank the Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs for preparing this week’s blog.

Exploration Update

As you know, NASA is preparing for a return to the moon by 2020.  To accomplish this goal, NASA’s Constellation Program ( is designing and building the spacecraft and systems to once again propel us beyond low Earth orbit.  At NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in California, a mock-up of the next full-size capsule to send humans to the Moon can be seen and also will be used in early testing. Click here, to see the photo of the Orion space capsule as it heads to its temporary home in a hangar at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.

In 2006 and 2007, NASA awarded the major contracts to build the crew capsule, called Orion, and its launch vehicle, Ares I. Engineers from the NASA centers and aerospace companies around the country are designing the spacecraft, launch vehicle and systems. For example, earlier this month on July 17, Aerojet completed the second of two firings of full scale jettison motors for Orion’s launch abort system at their facility in California And, engineers from NASA Marshall Space Flight Center and Stennis Space Center worked with Pratt Whitney Rocketdyne to complete engine power pack testing in Mississippi at Stennis Space Center in May. This work is essential for development of the J-2X engine that will power the upper stage of the Ares I rocket.

On the return trip from missions to the International Space Station and the Moon, the crew and crew capsule will be protected during re-entry to Earth by the heat shield. Engineers at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California are testing competing materials for the Orion heat shield, while assisting the NASA Science Mission Directorate and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the application of the heat shield for the Mars Science Lab. Click here to see a photo of the Orion crew capsule heat shield.

NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia is leading the way for the first test flight in development of the Ares I rocket.  The Ares I-X project engineers are working toward a launch next spring.  Inert upper stage sections for Ares I-X are being manufactured onsite at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Ohio and ATK is manufacturing segments and other components of the first stage.  Parachutes for recovery of the rocket’s first stage — the largest parachutes of this type — are being tested.  The most recent test was a test of the drogue chute on July 24th.  Click here, to read the NASA press release.

In addition to development of the flight hardware, significant construction work is underway.  Several construction events are taking place at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida.  The Operations and Checkout Building is being refurbished to prepare it for the final assembly of the Orion spacecraft.  Firing Room 1 at KSC Launch Control has been transferred to the Constellation Program.  And construction of a new lightning protection system for the launch pad is about 25 percent complete.  Later this fall, more significant modifications to the structure will begin in support of the Ares 1-X launch. In Louisiana, work has been initiated on the Michoud Assembly Facility for preparation of the manufacturing hardware for the Ares I upper stage and Orion capsule.  While in Ohio, major renovation of test facilities is progressing at the Glenn Research Center’s Plumbrook facility where vibration, acoustic and thermal vacuum testing of the Orion capsule will take place. 

While the near-term development work is progressing, Constellation also is taking steps to prepare for lunar missions.  The Constellation Program recently held the very first program milestone for lunar capabilities.  A very thorough analysis calculated the performance required to define the transportation systems needed for lunar missions.  This information was used to define the initial designs for the Altair lunar lander and the Ares V heavy-lift vehicle to launch it.

Separately, the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate is preparing the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite for missions to the Moon early next year. These spacecraft will provide information about the Moon that will be vital to preparing for human missions to establish a lunar outpost in the coming years. Additionally, NASA is testing several concepts for lunar rovers and technology; check out the photos (flash) from Moses Lake to find out more about the concepts and technology that we may use

These are just a few examples of the real progress we’re making in the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate and Constellation Program. NASA is building on our solid 50-year foundation to develop the future robotic and human spaceflight. I would like to thank Doug Cooke for his contributions to this blog. For additional information on NASA’s exploration efforts please go to

Competitiveness in the Space Economy

In my blog entry for April 11, 2008, I wrote about the “Space Economy” and the two keys to its success.  My focus was on the first of those keys, innovation, and the way it is enabled by NASA.  Internally, we often refer to NASA-enabled innovation as technology commercialization.

With this entry, I would like to discuss the second key ingredient to economic growth — competitiveness.  U.S. National Space Policy directs NASA to encourage the development of a highly competitive U.S. commercial space industry.  Ideally, this industry would meet NASA’s mission needs in addition to those of non-government customers.  Encouraging the creation of this type of industry is known as commercial development.

NASA is embracing commercial development because a broad and robust commercial space sector will be essential for the U.S. to meet its exploration goals in the long-term.  With the private sector providing goods and services in the near-Earth region, NASA will be able to concentrate on exploration further into space.

To encourage a new commercial space sector, the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD) developed a Commercial Development Policy in November 2007.  This policy is consistent with guidelines already written into law (P.L. 102-588), by including the following principles:

•    NASA should only encourage commercial space sectors that can fulfill specific mission needs.
•    Procurement of commercially procured good or service must be cost effective.
•    The goods or services must be bought through an open and fair competition.
•    Non-government customers for the good or service must exist.
•    The long-term success of the commercial space sector cannot rely upon long-term Government support.
•    The Government cannot fund the entire venture.

To date, ESMD has adopted this policy and it is being distributed to the rest of NASA offices for review.  The goal is to develop an Agency-wide, NASA Commercial Development Policy before the end of the year.

The ESMD team has made a major effort to solicit input on this policy from as many external sources as possible.  I encourage you to request the ESMD documents from Ken Davidian (  Comments provided to Ken by the end of August will be considered for the final version of the NASA Commercial Development Policy.

Ikhana and the California Wildfires

In response to the ongoing fires in California, NASA continues to support the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service and the State of California.  

California Governor Schwarzenegger’s Office of Emergency Services contacted NASA Ames Research Center requesting to use Ikhana, the NASA Predator-B unmanned aircraft, to obtain visible light, infrared and thermal imagery of the California wildfires.  Last year, the imagery provided by Ikhana was able to complement the other tools used by emergency response personnel to effectively allow them to see through the smoke of the 2007 wild fires to monitor and predict the fire’s behavior.  

NASA Predator-B unmanned aircraft Ikhana carries the NASA-developed Autonomous Modular ScannerThe remotely piloted aircraft is carrying the NASA-developed Autonomous Modular Scanner on several planned flights. Originating at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center, the flights are covering an area from Santa Barbara to the Oregon border. The sensor, its telemetry and real-time data processing were developed by NASA Ames. The sensor, carried in an external pod under the aircraft’s wing, detects temperature differences from less than one-half degree to approximately 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, revealing fire hotspots.

In Ikhana’s first flight on July 8, the aircraft flew over 10 individual or complex fires along a route over the Sierra Nevadas, west to the Cub Complex fire in Northern California and south to the Gap Fire in Santa Barbara County.  Currently there are more than 300 wildfires burning in the state. 

California wildfires imaged by scanner onboard the Ikhana unmanned aircraft, then superimposed over ground mapsOnce the images are collected onboard Ikhana, they are then transmitted through a communications satellite to NASA Ames where the imagery is superimposed over ground maps to better visualize the location and scope of the fires.

From a ground control center, NASA pilots command the Ikhana aircraft in close coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration, which is allowing the aircraft to fly within the national airspace while maintaining safe separation from other aircraft. The imagery is then transmitted to the Multi-Agency Coordination Center in Redding, California, and the State Operations Center in Sacramento, within minutes of acquisition, which distributes it to incident commanders in the field.

The Science Mission Directorate funded development of the fire sensor with the intention of having the capabilities transition to operational agencies in the near future. By transitioning this technology to operational agencies the benefits of this research and development effort can support the entire national wildfire fighting efforts.

More images are at:

Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Image of NASA booth and DC Mall at Folklife Festival

Last week marked the opening of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C. held at the National Mall. (see image at left)  This year, NASA, the State of Texas and the Kingdom of Bhutan are the honorees. The Folklife Festival is held for ten days June 25 – 29, and July 2-6, is free to the public and typically attracts more than one million visitors.







Image of the Prince of Bhutan, Jigme Khesar Namgyel on the Moonbuggy

Image at left is  the Prince of Bhutan, Jigme Khesar Namgyel on a NASA Moonbuggy

NASA: Fifty Years and Beyond will showcase the role that the men and women of NASA have played in broadening the horizons of American science and culture, as well as the role that they will continue to play in helping to shape the future by stirring the public imagination.

The NASA program includes presentations, hands-on educational activities, demonstrations of skills, techniques, and knowledge, narrative “oral history” sessions, and exhibits that will explore the spirit of innovation, discovery, and service embodied by the Agency. We have over 500 volunteer representatives that include astronomers, astronauts, astrophysicists, scientists, engineers, and other subject matter experts to answer questions from the public. 

The Festival kicked off with several exciting events, including a special advance screening of the Disney Pixar film Wall-E in Washington, D.C., and a special concert of Gustav Holst’s The Planets by the Space Philharmonic, a part of the National Symphony Orchestra, led by Maestro Emil De Cou. The concert, held in the Museum of the American Indian, included imagery from NASA and featured the playing of the new Wall-E theme song.  These special events set the stage for a great week of sharing NASA’s culture, mission and inspiration with tens of thousands of visitors on the Mall.

This week we have more exciting events in store for the more than 100,000 expected visitors per day over the Fourth of July weekend.  Please check out the NASA Folklife Festival activities and schedule at or NASA employees can visit our communications portal at   

Another Exciting Week for NASA Mission Success

 Last week was a great week for missions at NASA.  We successfully launched the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST); Space Shuttle Discovery safely returned with the STS-124 crew; and Phoenix scooped and scraped at the surface of Mars uncovering what may be either ice or salt immediately below the Martian surface.Panorama of Phoenix’s Solar Panel and Robotic Arm


GLAST, a powerful new observatory, was launched to explore the most extreme environments in the Universe.  Gamma rays are the highest-energy form of light, and the gamma-ray sky is spectacularly different from the one we perceive with our own eyes. GLAST data will enable scientists to answer persistent questions across a broad range of topics, including supermassive black hole systems, pulsars, the origin of cosmic rays, and searches for signs of new physics.  GLAST is a partnership between NASA and the Department of Energy with international contributions from France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Sweden.  This mission is expected to last five years with a goal of ten years of operation.  GLAST will be working with NASA’s Great Observatory missions (Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the Spitzer Space Telescope) to provide full-spectrum coverage of the heavens for astrophysicists around the world.  Thanks to the GLAST team for their contribution to the blog.  For more information visit:  


After 14 days in space, Space Shuttle Discovery safely landed after another successful mission to the International Space Station (ISS).  Discovery completed a 5.7 million mile journey that included delivery of the Japanese Science Laboratory known as “Kibo” and picking up Astronaut Garrett Reisman who returned home after 95 days in space – 90 of which were aboard the Station.  There were three spacewalks totaling 20 hours, 32 minutes.  The crews transferred 1,787 pounds of resupply cargo and returned 1,807 pounds of cargo to Earth.  Discovery hauled up and delivered to the ISS 783 pounds of water, 135 pounds of nitrogen, 121 pounds of oxygen and as some would say the most important of all — toilet parts.  

Left behind on the station is the Expedition 17 crew, Commander Sergei Volkov, Flight Engineer Oleg Kononenko and Reisman’s replacement, Flight Engineer Greg Chamitoff, who will spend the next five months on the Station until his return home on STS-126.   Welcome home STS-124.


Last week, I had a unique opportunity to travel briefly to Vienna, Austria, to address the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS).  An important objective of my visit was to provide the Committee with an overview of NASA’s first 50 years in space, as well as communicate our future plans for space exploration that will encompass a need for global cooperation and partnership.

UNCOPUOS was set up as an ad hoc committee by the General Assembly in 1958, and as a standing committee in 1959, to review the scope of international cooperation in peaceful uses of outer space, to devise programs in this field to be undertaken under United Nations auspices, to encourage continued research and the dissemination of information on outer space matters, and to study legal problems arising from the exploration of outer space.  UNCOPUOS is comprised of sixty-nine member countries; observer organizations, such as the European Space Agency; and other UN organizations.    
With the Chairman of UNCOPUOS, Dr. Ciro Arevalo-Yepeswith the Director of the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs, Dr. Mazlan Othman  
I also had meetings with the Chairman of UNCOPUOS, Dr. Ciro Arevalo-Yepes (see image above on the left),  the Director of the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs, Dr. Mazlan Othman (see image above on the right) and the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in Vienna, Mr. Greg Schulte. 
On a personal note, while I did not participate in any soccer-related events during my trip, it was fun to be in Austria during the ongoing Euro 2008 soccer tournament, which Austria and Switzerland are hosting this year.  During my brief stay, the national team from Austria played the national team from Poland in Vienna and the entire town was alive with excitement surrounding the game.  Fans from both Austria and Poland were walking around town dressed in team colors.  I would like to thank the Office of External Relations for doing a great job with this trip. 

Phoenix and STS-124 — What a Week!

The last two weeks have been pretty spectacular for NASA. We awaited the landing of Phoenix and launch of STS-124, and both were successful.  

Phoenix Mars Landing

On May 25, Phoenix landed on the Arctic plains of northern Mars. It was a moment of multiple emotions, first anticipation and then absolute exhilaration, when Phoenix landed.

The first images revealed a landscape familiar to that of some of the colder climates on Earth. The Martian surface where Phoenix landed is strikingly similar to the permafrost landscape of northeastern Spitsbergen, Svalbard (picture attached of both).  On Earth, permafrost can preserve organic molecules, bacteria, and fungi for hundreds of thousands of years. Phoenix will bore down into the frozen ground, scoop up the frozen soil with its robotic arm and deliver it to scientific instruments on its deck. One instrument, called TEGA, will vaporize the soil sample and analyze the chemistry of the vapors. Ultimately, we hope to learn whether water-ice just below the surface ever thaws and whether some of the chemical ingredients for life — as we know it — are preserved in the icy soil.  Perhaps our planets are even more similar than we thought. Some of the most intriguing images so far are those of the surface underneath the lander. These images show a white-hard surface that was apparently exposed by Phoenix’s thrusters during landing. It’s very possible that this surface is the water-ice for which Phoenix is searching.  

The day Phoenix landed was the busiest day of the year on the NASA website. One hundred and eighteen thousand people watched the landing on the NASA TV website and over a 24-hour period, there were 2 million unique visits to our Phoenix website and view Phoenix Mission multimedia.

STS-124 Launch

On May 31, the STS-124 mission was successfully launched on a 14-day mission. This crew will deliver the second of the three components that make up Kibo, the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM), a laboratory, to the International Space Station (ISS) along with its remote manipulator system. The crew will use a combination of robotics and three spacewalks to accomplish its mission objectives.  After installing the laboratory on the Station, the crew will also move the Japanese Logistics Module, which has been residing on Node 2 since its delivery on the last Shuttle mission, and attach it to Kibo. The logistics module contains computers and other components that will be used to outfit the Kibo laboratory. The final component of Kibo, known as the Exposed Facility (we refer to it as the Kibo “porch”), should arrive at the ISS next Spring. Once complete, Kibo will be the largest international component on the ISS.  

As of Thursday, June 5, the crew has outfitted Kibo with systems racks and experiment racks and the second power and avionics string in Kibo has been successfully activated. Also, external cameras for use with the robotic arm as well as the “porch” were fitted to the exterior.  The ISS and Shuttle crews are doing great and ahead of schedule. Visit the STS-124 mission site.