Keith's note: Last week I posted an item "NASA Goddard Is Confused About Its Own COVID-19 Polices" about NASA GSFC wherein an employee whose creativity during the COVID-19 pandemic was officially praised in an official NASA GSFC publication and then repudiated days later. The issue arose when the Center Director Dennis Andrucyk was away on leave and his Associate Center Director Raymond Rubilotta who was acting in his absence. Rubilotta issued a memo and decided to get tough on people who took hardware home (with formal approval) so as to continue their work while avoiding unsafe health conditions at work due to COVID-19. GSFC Chief Technologist Peter Hughes ran with that and issued another memo. Sources now tell me that the local GSFC union is involved and that employees are lawyering up. Inquiries from employees across the agency ask if this is applicable to their work at home at their center.
So I sent an inquiry on 31 July and got a meandering non-answer from GSFC PAO. It was clear that they were trying to deflect the issue since they had no real answers. So I sent another request on 31 July asking for more specifics. No response. At a time when all NASA employees - from top to bottom - are making significant sacrifices to continue do their jobs it border on managerial malpractice to give employees whiplash by praising and then pivoting and criticizing them for the same exact same innovative way they employed to help keep NASA's work underway.
I sent a third request today. Let's see how - or if - NASA GSFC responds. Here's what I said:
"I sent a second request (below) to you 4 days ago and have not heard back. Here is a third request. With regard to the recent memo (below) regarding GSFC employees taking things how to work on:
- Can you send me the text of the actual policy that governs work at home regulations at NASA GSFC as they apply to taking material and instruments offsite?
- Do these policies apply to Wallops Flight Facility or any other GSFC-managed locations?
- Is this a GSFC-specific policy or a NASA-wide policy?
- Is this policy formalized within NASA policy documents (formalized text, approval date, expiration date?) If so can you provide me with the formal citation and a copy of the pertinent policy texts?
- When was the policy distributed to GSFC employees? If it has not then why has it not distributed and when will it be distributed?
- If the GSFC policy prohibits the movement of materials and equipment by employees to offsite locations why did GSFC formally approve the actions during the onset of pandemic work conditions? Was a waiver issued? If so - then who issued the waivers? Who approved the original requests?
- Will any of the employees who adhered to management approval to move things off-site be penalized for having done so? If so then what is the nature of their punishment?
- Does GSFC have policies regarding the offsite use of other hazardous hardware such as laptops (rechargeable batteries can catch fire) and liability provisions in case these laptops cause damage?
FYI I am told that your local union is now involved and that employees are lawyering up. I have also gotten messages from people across the agency who are wondering whether this is an agency-wide policy and if their currently-approved work at home efforts using NASA equipment are in jeopardy. You do know that there are people working at home in California who are using government systems in their houses to drive rovers on Mars.
I will assume by default that no response by COB today will be a de facto statement that no response will be forthcoming from NASA.
"Congratulations to NASA, SpaceX, astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, and all the hardworking women and men who made possible a successful conclusion to this historic mission. The first American splashdown in 45 years was executed with precision and professionalism, just like the entirety of this awe-inspiring trip to the International Space Station. This is a victory for American innovation and persistence, and I am proud of the role President Obama and I had in fighting to ensure that commercial crew flights from American soil would become a reality. As president, I look forward to leading a bold space program that will continue to send astronaut heroes to expand our exploration and scientific frontiers through investments in research and technology to help millions of people here on Earth."
"After a momentous launch to space from American soil for the first time in nearly a decade, NASA astronauts have successfully returned home after a productive mission on the International Space Station," said Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX). "The safe return of these two NASA astronauts is a significant milestone for America's space program. I want to welcome Astronauts Hurley and Behnken home and congratulate all those who made their mission possible."
Great to have NASA Astronauts return to Earth after very successful two month mission. Thank you to all!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 2, 2020
Welcome home, @AstroBehnken and @Astro_Doug! We launched the Commercial Crew program to strengthen our U.S. space program and it's been great to see its success. This historic NASA-SpaceX mission is a symbol of what American ingenuity and inventiveness can achieve. pic.twitter.com/vvOSopBUdP— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 2, 2020
Better screengrab: Trump supporters in power boats & a sailboard with a big campaign banner within mere feet of the #DM2 spacecraft with an active propulsion system leaking highly poisonous fuel. Can't wait to see their cellphone videos and selfies. #idiots #MakeSpaceGreatAgain pic.twitter.com/gdN7awomBK— NASA Watch (@NASAWatch) August 2, 2020
.@KeithCowing follows up, asking if they won't splashdown so close to shore.— Michael Sheetz (@thesheetztweetz) August 2, 2020
Bridenstine: "We have a number of different options but you're absolutely right, we can do better ... that capsule was in the water for a good period of time and the boats just made a bee line for it."
"What is not nominal is to have people approach a spacecraft with Nitrogen Tetroxide and we need to better inform people about that in the future "@JimBridenstine— NASA Watch (@NASAWatch) August 2, 2020
H.R. 7617 Division-by-Division Summary, House Appropriations Committee
"National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) - $22.63 billion, equal to the FY 2020 enacted level. This funding includes continued investments in human space exploration efforts, as well as other investments, including the following:
• $819 million for Aeronautics research, an increase of $35 million above the FY 2020 enacted level and equal to the President's budget request, to continue efforts to improve passenger safety, fuel efficiency, and noise reduction, and to make air travel more environmentally sustainable.
• $126 million for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Engagement, an increase of $6 million above the FY 2020 enacted level, to inspire young people to pursue future careers in science and engineering, and rejecting the Administration's request to eliminate funding for these programs."
"In particular, we need funding now to move forward on the Human Landing System, but this legislation provides only a fraction of what's needed to do that. As a nation, we need to prioritize human space exploration. This bill is shortsighted, and I hope we can do more to support NASA's critical missions."Categories: Artemis, Congress, TrumpSpace
Keith's 5:12 pm update: This is the response that NASA GSFC News Chief Dewayne Washington sent me: "We truly appreciate the innovative spirit displayed and sought to highlight the employee and her accomplishments. Upon further review, however, we don't have the ability to distribute lab equipment to all those who may request it or to validate the safety of uniquely-configured home lab workspaces. Moving forward, lab/technical equipment will remain on center. If access to the center is required for work, there's a process for approving proposed on-site work in Stage 3 and part of that process involves ensuring the proper workspace COVID-19 safety protocols are established for employees."
I sent a second inquiry to NASA PAO and GSFC management: "I have added a link on my original NASAWatch posting to the full text of the internal GSFC memo issued by Raymond Rubilotta which mentions the working at home issue stating "we will take appropriate action against those who violate this policy". I am trying to understand how GSFC can publicly praise someone and then publicly criticize the exact same activity that GSFC just publicly praised them for. Can you send me the text of the actual policy that governs doing this sort of work at home? Is this a GSFC-specific policy or a NASA-wide policy? I am certain a lot of my readers across the agency are going to view this inconsistency with some concern - as if they do not have enough to worry about already."
One hand at GSFC clearly does not know what the other is doing. And when the center director takes a week off his "pinch hitter" deputy jumps the shark and blasts an employee who showed initiative - initiative that GSFC officially promoted. And then another employee takes that direction and issues another memo. And yet the GSFC magazine lauding that employee is still online. And all that GSFC PAO can do is punt with a non-answer. Lets see if there actually is a "policy" for this sort of thing and if GSFC will send it to me - or (much more importantly) that they will share with their employees. And if there actually is a poloicy, it will be interesting to see if GSFC explains why they never told anyone about it.
Raymond Rubilotta said in his memo "we will take appropriate action against those who violate this policy". So is the employee that GSFC lauded for working at home going to be punished? That's what Rubilotta said he'd do. I'm sure the dumbest lawyer on Earth could point out that this employee had been officially complimented so a reprimand is probably the most idiotic thing GSFC thing could do. If he is not going to take action then why did he threaten to in the first place?
No one at NASA can ever admit to making a mistake.
Keith's original 11:00 am note: NASA has asked its employees to work from home during the pandemic. Indeed, an official NASA GSFC publication featured someone from GSFC being creative and working at home - and features them on the cover of the publication. Then Goddard management turns around and says that their own policy prohibits the practice that they just lauded. Really? This is not the way to encourage people to be creative during the pandemic. Safety and liability are one thing. Lauding and then condemning someone for being creative is another. NASA Goddard really needs to get their act together.
Innovating at Home, Cutting Edge, NASA GSFC
"Even though the funding hadn't been approved at the time, there was another concept I could work on at home," Novo-Gradac said. It involved designing and validating a wedge-shaped, 3D optical target for measuring precise drift of the other spacecraft flying in formation. "I don't need 100 meters of range to validate that technology. I can do it on a small bench at home." While she continues to make purchases and design parts on a computer for the original project, the IRAD program agreed to shift most of her funding and labor to the second, mid-year IRAD request for now. "I had to bring home about 10 different instruments," Novo-Gradac said. "My family room had a perfect countertop with an upper deck. Other than having to haul home all that equipment, the experiment was a very manageable thing to bring home."
Date: Fri, July 31, 2020 10:04 AM -0400
Subject: Center Policy Prohibits Lab and Technical Space Work at Home
A MESSAGE FROM THE CHIEF TECHNOLOGIST
It has come to our attention that our recent CuttingEdge cover story about Goddard technologists working from home was in violation of a center policy prohibiting lab and technical space work at home.
Performing lab/technical space work at home is strictly against our center's policy. If there are reasons for which you cannot perform your work at Goddard, please speak to your supervisor. Performing such work at home is potentially dangerous, and we will not risk your health and safety.
Peter M. Hughes
*For internal purposes only.
Keith's 2:09 pm update: Apparently the (acting) GSFC Center Director "Pinch Hitter for Dennis" was the impetus for this 180 degree turn with regard to employees working at home. Note that he says that he says "we will take appropriate action against those who violate this policy" while the center's own publication praises the same behavior.
"Hello, everyone, Dennis is on leave this week and has asked me, like an understudy in the theater industry, to step in for him providing the weekly update. ... Raymond J. Rubilotta Associate Center Director, a.k.a. "pinch hitter for Dennis"
"Policy on Performing Lab Work at Home
It has come to our attention that because of the teleworking posture many of us still find ourselves in, several employees have taken it upon themselves to perform laboratory/technical space work at home or in their personal facilities. We do not need to go into detail on the associated risks, but it is both against our center's policy and potentially dangerous. Performing lab/technical space work at home is strictly prohibited and we will take appropriate action against those who violate this policy. If you must perform lab work and are not classified as Stage 3 or 4 personnel, have reservations about coming to center, are up against a deadline, or for any other reason are unable to perform your work at Goddard, please speak to your supervisor to find the best remedy. You, our employees, are our greatest resource, and under no circumstances will we risk your health and safety."Categories: Coronavirus
Keith's note: "Give everyone something to look up to." Ford? GM? Chrysler? ... Tesla?
Keith's note: NASA Launched the Mars 2020 rover Perseverance today. As Perseverance departs it leaves a troubled world behind to explore a new one in search of life. At the Perseverance post-launch media event I asked NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Science Mission Directorate Associate Administrator Thomas Zurbuchen about exploring a new world during such difficult times.
I asked: "Right now the nation is in the midst of a pandemic nightmare that is not going to end any time soon, It is going to be a dark, scary winter. 328 million Americans are going to be staring at their computers and TVs as will billions around the world. NASA is sending an Astrobiology droid to Mars to look for evidence of life. It may discover that we are not alone. How cool is that. It has been nearly half a century since the Viking landers attempted much the same task. The world could use some good news now. How is NASA going to involve the world in a way that speaks to the way we are all isolated - yet still connected? How will NASA make the Perseverance mission a bright light amidst an otherwise gloomy winter?"Continue reading: Exploring Mars With An Astrobiology Droid During Difficult Times On Earth.
The Mars 2020 Perseverance rover, powered by the United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket, has blasted off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station! The liftoff went right on time, at 7:50 a.m. EDT.Categories: Space & Planetary Science
America's Space Strategy Comes of Age, Peter Garretson, opinion, Newsweek
"As such, the report is something of a net assessment of our competitive strategic position vis-à-vis all sectors of space, from civilian to military to commercial. It focuses, in particular, on the six areas thought most likely to decide the great power competition: namely, space policy and finance, space information services, space transport and logistics, human presence, power for space systems, and space manufacturing and resource extraction. In these areas, it offers an action plan of more than 40 recommendations cumulatively designed to give America an undeniable qualitative edge in future space development."
Keith's note: This is what happens when you put a Space Force fan into a discussion about space policy. To them its all about projecting military power in space - and they want to project that military power in an antagonistic fashion that is simply going to prompt others to do the same. When they talk about "America's global leadership in space" they do not really care about the scientific or exploration stuff. They just want "to get to the "Star Trek Future" where they have troops and other things up there guarding things.
If 20 years of peaceful cooperation amongst the nations participating in the ISS has taught us anything it is that space offers an unusually compelling adventure that is more important than petty terrestrial politics. Think of all of the bad vibes between the U.S. and Russia. Go ahead - make a list. Yes, its long. Now look at the conflicts on the ISS. Make a list. I'm waiting. Where are they? That's right - there are none. How is that possible? To be certain we need to be vigilant in protecting our national assets in space - as we have been for more than half a century. But the Space Force squad seems to be hell bent on creating problems to solve in space instead of trying to avoid having problems in the first place.
- Now Space Force Wants Its Own Starfleet Admirals, earlier post
- Space Force Really Wants To Take Over All Of NASA's Stuff, earlier post
- TV's Space Force Looks Like More Fun Than The Real One (Or Artemis), earlier post
- Space Force Official Flag Presented To The President On Friday Because Of Course It Was, earlier post
- Space Force Has The Air Force Academy. Why Doesn't NASA Have A Space Academy?, earlier post
- Space Force Really Wants To Be Star Fleet, earlier post
- More Space Force postings
Viking Mission Overview, NASA
"NASA's Viking 1 and 2 missions to Mars, each consisting of an orbiter and a lander, became the first space probes to obtain high resolution images of the Martian surface; characterize the structure and composition of the atmosphere and surface; and conduct on-the-spot biological tests for life on another planet. Viking 1 was launched Aug. 20, 1975, and arrived at Mars on June 19, 1976. On July 20, 1976, the Viking 1 lander separated from the orbiter and touched down at Chryse Planitia. Viking 2 was launched Sept. 9, 1975, and entered Mars orbit Aug. 7, 1976. The Viking 2 lander touched down at Utopia Planitia on Sept. 3, 1976."
Viking Landing Sites, NASA press release 7 May 1973
"Project Viking seeks to advance significantly scientific knowledge of the planet Mars, with emphasis on determining if life once existed or is now present."
- Viking, NASA
Joe Biden is the best choice for space progress, Opinion, Sean O'Keefe and John Grunsfeld, Florida Today
"Biden knows that NASA has accomplished a great deal by evolving and adapting to rapid change. Through his public service, Biden has had an important influence to forge bipartisan support for NASA. Seeing the vast potential of the burgeoning commercial space industry, the Obama-Biden Administration helped NASA seize opportunities to extend our exploration reach and conduct its other important activities. The recent NASA/SpaceX launch of American astronauts to the International Space Station was set in motion by a strategy devised in the George W. Bush Administration and enabled by policies established by the Obama-Biden Administration and is yielding results now. After the Falcon 9 launch in May, Biden noted, "We planted the seeds of today's success during the 2009 Recovery Act. According to NASA, it has now saved taxpayers up to $30 billion and invigorated an aerospace industry in Florida that accounts for more than 130,000 jobs in the state."
For advocates concerned space never gets enuf attention during presidential campaigns, O'Keefe's endorsement of Biden is significant. Don't forget, he was a two-time GOP appointee. Also remember the @BarackObama @JoeBiden administration was very supportive of commercial space.— Alan Ladwig (@SpaceArtAl) July 29, 2020
Companies Start to Think Remote Work Isn't So Great After All, Wall Street Journal
"Four months ago, employees at many U.S. companies went home and did something incredible: They got their work done, seemingly without missing a beat. Executives were amazed at how well their workers performed remotely, even while juggling child care and the distractions of home. Twitter Inc. and Facebook Inc., among others, quickly said they would embrace remote work long term. Some companies even vowed to give up their physical office spaces entirely. Now, as the work-from-home experiment stretches on, some cracks are starting to emerge. Projects take longer. Training is tougher. Hiring and integrating new employees, more complicated. Some employers say their workers appear less connected and bosses fear that younger professionals aren't developing at the same rate as they would in offices, sitting next to colleagues and absorbing how they do their jobs."
Keith's note: I have teleworked from home for more than 24 years. I have teleworked for a month at a time from Everest Base Camp at 17,600 feet and Devon Island 800 miles from the north pole. If I have comms and my fingers are not frozen, then I can work. Astronauts telework from the ISS. Its not impossible - but management and personnel have to adjust - and workflow needs to be capable of being performed remotely.
The one positive thing I expect (hope) to see NASA embrace as it endures and then emerges from this pandemic is the ability to conduct meaningful work regardless of one's physical location. Not everything is amenable to teleworking - but a lot of it is - much more than previously anticipated. Part of making teleworking happen is to redouble one's focus on collaboration. But there is an equal need to function independently and self-motivate. Some people will adapt and thrive. Others will not. Either way, we'll never become a spacefaring species if we can't expand our collective workspace beyond our cubicles.Categories: Coronavirus, IT/Web
NASA's Space to Ground is your weekly update on what's happening aboard the International Space Station.