Latest News

NRC Starting New Study Reviewing NASA's Technology Roadmaps

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 20-Jan-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:16 PM)

NASA's Chief Technologist, Bobby Braun, has asked the National Research Council's (NRC's) Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board (ASEB) to review his office's 14 draft technology roadmaps that were developed to support NASA's mission directorates and national and commercial needs in space technology. The first meeting of the NRC study committee taking on that task will be held next week at the Georgetown Hotel and Conference Center in Washington, DC.

The study will involve a steering committee and up to seven panels. This first meeting will span four days and is open to the public on the mornings of January 26 and January 28. Visit the study committee's website for more details. The statement of task and a list of the members of the steering committee are available on the NRC's Current Projects System.

News Reports: Rep. Giffords May Leave Hospital on Friday

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 19-Jan-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)

News organizations are reporting that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) may leave the University Medical Center (UMC) in Tucson on Friday and be transferred to a rehabilitation facility in Houston.

KOLD-TV in Tuscon publishes on its website the text of an email that Giffords' parents reportedly sent to CNN providing details about their daughter's improving health and plans for rehabilitation. CNN says on its website that it confirmed the move with Giffords' office, but they added that while it is hoped to occur on Friday the exact date will depend on the Congresswoman's health. CNN also identifies the Houston facility as TIRR Memorial Hermann rehabilitation hospital, part of the Texas Medical Center.

The CNN report also provides details of the attack on the Congresswoman a week ago Saturday while she held a "Congress on Your Corner" event with constituents at a local Safeway grocery store. Video of the attack clearly shows that Rep. Giffords was the intended victim and was shot in the face from 2-3 feet away, according to CNN. The attack killed six and wounded 13. CNN also has a video of an interview with Giffords' husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, where he says that he is trying to focus on the positives and not the negatives.

NASA Telecon at 4:30 EST Today Re Crew Change for STS-133 (Discovery)

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 19-Jan-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)

NASA is replacing astronaut Tim Kopra with Steve Bowen for the STS-133 (Discovery) mission scheduled for launch next month. As reported earlier, Kopra was injured in a bicycle accident last weekend. NASA will hold a media teleconference today (Wednesday) at 4:30 pm EST to discuss the crew change.

NASA's Associate Administrator for Space Operations, Bill Gerstenmaier, and Peggy Whitson, Chief of the Astronaut Office, will participate in the teleconference. Audio will be streamed at

Kopra was going to be the lead spacewalker for the STS-133 mission. A NASA press release quoted Whitson as saying that Kopra is doing fine and expects a full recovery, but not in time for a February launch.

Rep. Giffords Upgraded from Critical to Serious Condition

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 17-Jan-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:16 PM)

The University Medical Center (UMC) in Tuscon reported today (Sunday) that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) has been upgraded from critical condition to serious condition because she has been taken off her ventilator and is breathing on her own. A UMC media briefing to update the press on her condition and that of the two other patients who remain at UMC will take place at 11:00 am Tucson time (1:00 pm EST) tomorrow.

Events of Interest: Week of January 17-21, 2011

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 17-Jan-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:13 PM)

The following events may be of interest in the coming week. For more information, see our calendar on the right menu or click the links below. The House will be in session this week; the Senate returns on January 25.

Monday-Tuesday, January 17-18

Tuesday-Thursday, January 18-20

Wednesday, January 19

Thursday, January 20

Thursday-Friday, January 20-21

Friday, January 21

Doctors Looking Toward Third Phase of Rep. Giffords' Recovery -- Rehabilitation

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 17-Jan-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:13 PM)

University Medical Center (UMC) doctors continued to sound optimistic about the recovery of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) today, though none has speculated on how complete that recovery ultimately will be.

Dr. Rainer Gruessner, chairman of UMC's surgery department, began by reviewing the three phases of treatment: resuscitating, restoring, and rehabilitating. Following Saturday's surgery where her ventilator was replaced with a tracheotomy tube and surgeons repaired "orbital roof fractures" of her right eye, the doctors said that the next milestone would be her release from the hospital into a rehabilitation facility. That could be days or weeks away, they said.

Responding to questions, Dr. Randy Friese, associate medical director, and Dr. Michael Lemole, chief of neurosurgery, gave the following update: they think she may be able to see, but a detailed opthalmologic examination has not been performed; she cannot speak yet because the tracheotomy tube they emplaced does not allow air to pass her vocal cords and she has not tried to speak; and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, told them that he thinks he saw her smile. Dr. Friese also cautioned that there always is a risk of infection after surgery and she just had surgery on Saturday, but overall he painted an optimistic outlook for her release into a rehabilitation facility, the third phase of her treatment.

Dr. Grussener ended the press conference by stressing that they cannot speculate about the future.

Bill Harwood: Discovery Crew Member Injured in Bicycle Accident

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 16-Jan-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:12 PM)

Veteran space journalist Bill Harwood reports on his CBS News "Space Place" website that astronaut Tim Kopra was injured in a bicycle accident on Saturday. Kopra is a member of the STS-133 (Discovery) crew currently scheduled for launch on February 24. Among his other duties on the mission, he is scheduled to be the "lead spacewalker for a pair of excursions outside the station," Harwood reports.

Senators Lay Down the Law to NASA about HLV, Literally

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 15-Jan-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:17 PM)

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) sent a letter to NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden on Thursday in response to the report NASA submitted to Congress this week on its reference designs for a new Space Launch System -- or "heavy lift vehicle" (HLV) -- and multipurpose crew capsule. NASA is required to develop the launch system and crew vehicle as part of the 2010 NASA Authorization Act; the two Senators played a critical role in writing that law. The NASA report includes a cautionary statement that none of the designs it has looked at to date can be executed within the budget and schedule goals enunciated in that Act.

Congress has not reacted positively to NASA's report. In the January 13 letter, Senators Nelson and Hutchison spell out the legal requirements that NASA must follow. For example, it says that one of the criteria NASA is using is whether the system would be affordable. The letter says "If the law directed NASA to start with an entirely new development without the use of existing contracts, technologies, and infrastructure, we can see where affordability may come into question, but this conclusion suggests a misunderstanding of the Congressional intent."

The letter also clarifies Congress' intent when it used the phrase "to the extent practicable" when directing NASA to use space shuttle and Constellation capabilities in that manner. The Senators quote a federal legal precedent that the phrase "does not permit an agency unbridled discretion," and a Government Accountability Office (GAO) determination that an agency must "either provide the preference or articulate a reasoned explanation of why it is impractible to do so."

Jeff Foust at has an interesting analysis of what the argument is all about. Keith Cowing at NASAWatch and Paul Spudis also are weighing in.

Gabrielle Giffords Earth and Space Leadership Fund Established

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 15-Jan-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:13 PM)

Friends and supporters of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) have established a Gabrielle Giffords Earth and Space Leadership Fund in her honor as she recovers from the attack last Saturday. Tax deductible contributions are being sought through a website and Facebook page. Organizers say the fund will be administered by Rep. Giffords ("Gabby") to help develop leadership in earth and space sciences, and technology innovations and public policy that benefit the nation.

Editor's Note: Everyone hopes that Rep. Giffords will recover sufficiently to return to a normal life and do so many things, such as administering this fund as the organizers pledge. The medical news has been so encouraging that it is easy to forget the gravity of her situation. The doctors at UMC have always been cautious to not make any promises about how she will fare in the long run.

Another Step Forward for Rep. Giffords

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 15-Jan-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:12 PM)

The University Medical Center in Tucson announced today that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) was taken off her ventilator, another step forward in her recovery from the attack last Saturday that left six dead.

Of the 10 victims brought to UMC last Saturday, three remain. The rest have been discharged. Rep. Giffords remains in critical condition; the other two patients are in good condition. Doctors performed a tracheotomy on Rep. Giffords this morning and inserted a tube in her windpipe to protect her airway, freeing her from the ventilator, and also inserted a feeding tube, according to the hospital's report.

Events of Interest

Full calendar of future events (with filters)-click here »


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