I was invited to attend a NASA Budget Briefing as part of a recent NASATweetup held at NASA Headquarters on 13 February 2012. I’ve been to other NASA Tweetups, but this was a new type of event for both attendees and NASA. First, the topic was more administrative than any others. No fire or sound waves. No Florida hair. Heck, one of the people I hadn’t seen for a while said "You look different". My response: "You’ve never seen me in work clothes".
The first two NASATweetups I attended were launches (STS-134 and Juno). Both of these had 150 attendees with a two-day program of speakers and presentations, then a launch. This meeting was part of an existing event, a media briefing about the 2013 Fiscal Year Budget. Yes, this was PowerPoint and spreadsheets, for the most part. However, the content of those presentation materials was going to show us which programs were moving forward and which ones were going to have to change or be dropped completely. Being a data professional, this was my type of event. I wanted the data and the budget wasn’t going to be released until one hour before the event. That’s a fast read of a set of slides and some large documents. I went for the slides.
The second thing that was different: this tweetup was much smaller. The original registration limited attendees to 20 and I think we had just under that. The most important difference was that we were going to be part of the media, able to ask questions along with the traditional media. This is a first for NASATweetups and I’m not sure how many other US Federal media briefings have involved a mix of traditional and social media. I was excited that I could be part of this new approach to media, especially because it brought together two of my passions: space and social media. More on that mixing later.
The first thing that was different from other NASATweeups: We received no badges or swag bags…because traditional media don’t get those, either. If I do one of these again, I’ll bring my own badge or credentials.
In the opening statements, Bob Jacobs announced this new era and took our photo, which was posted to Twitter.
You can see him pause to take the photo in the video below. I think that was our second sign that this press briefing was going to be different.
This year, we are trying something a little different. As well as traditional media representatives, for the first time we have invited members of the social media community to be a part of today’s presentation, and we will be taking questions via Twitter using the #AskNASA. So we thank everyone for joining us for today’s presentation.
We will go over some of the ground rules first, but well, wait a second. I want to make sure I capture this. If we are going to be social media, I need to do it from here too.
MR. JACOBS: Okay. Got a Photo.
I’ve listed some links in the related section below of the analyses of the impact of the new budget, but the ones that were of note to me:
- STEM education and outreach was cut from $138 million dollars in 2012 to $100 million. That’s a significant cutback to this program, but only a tiny portion of a tiny portion of the overall US Federal budget. This is going to make it more difficult to find and retain qualified people in the future. I’m also guessing that other organizations are having their STEM budgets cut as well.
- ExoMars program will need to be re-programmed, meaning that we will not be collaborating with the European agencies for these Mars exploration programs . This has left ESA scrambling to find other countries to help with these programs, most likely Roscosmos.
DataChick’s Question on Open Government and Open Data
I was fortunate to be called upon to ask a question:
Let’s take one more question over here, and then we will take a couple from Twitter, and then we will go to the field centers.
QUESTIONER (Karen Lopez): Hi. I am Karen Lopez. I am Datachick on Twitter.
One of the ways that the public, the rest of us, can benefit from all these NASA missions is via access to open government transparency and open data initiatives, like at data.NASA.gov. Have budget pressures made any changes to those programs? Will they continue to expand?
ADMINISTRATOR BOLDEN: Do you want to take that?
DR. ROBINSON: Okay. So NASA couple things. One is you know the administration has a very vigorous Open Government Initiative, and NASA is a participant in that. And it recently went international, and we have an international event coming up in April April, thank you April, where we will be gathering together folks from around the world, virtually, of course, to work on things. So we have very vigorous programs.
And a large part of what we do in Open Government is, as you said, we leverage off of things that the programs do already, make their data available, make it accessible, Open Government a little bit more just to point them in the right direction. So it’s really Open Government is really a philosophy at NASA that we try to put as much as we can out into the public in the most understandable way possible, and so we are doing that.
The Open Government Initiative has taken us in a few different directions, and we will continue that. We plan to keep going forward, but it is always when you talk about Open Government, it is really it is hard to predict, because we are going to do so much, right? We are going to have so much data coming in and all of that. NASA is a very exciting place to work, because now we have apps on our iPhones from NASA and a whole bunch of things, so we are already out there in terms of Open Government
QUESTIONER (Karen Lopez): [Speaking off mic.]
[Here I followed up with "So no immediate changes?" ]
DR. ROBINSON: Well, not in the near future. We’re going to assess I am looking at my partner here. I am the senior accountable official for Open Government, and then our CIO over there
ADMINISTRATOR BOLDEN: We are both looking at the CIO.
DR. ROBINSON: Yeah, we are both looking at the CIO, and it is her folks mainly who do it. And so I think we are really going to assess up to this international event, how to keep those kind of things going or not.
And with that question I was able to add my third passion: Data. As in, Love Your Data. The terms data or information was mentioned 21 times during the briefing, twice in NASA Administrator Charles Bolden’s opening remarks.
This budget supports more than 80 science missions, 56 currently in operation and 28 now under development, that cover the vital data we need to understand our own planet, diverse missions reaching farther into our solar system, and the next generation of observatories peering beyond the reaches of our neighborhood to other galaxies and their solar systems and undiscovered phenomena
The missions currently at Mars the Mars Science Laboratory, on its way, and MAVEN, well into development will provide many years of data to help us understand the Red Planet and our needs in future years to meet the President’s challenge to send humans to Mars in the mid 2030s.
No, we weren’t. In some of the descriptions of the event, including the announcement of the Tweetup, we were described as "Twitter Fans" of NASA. One of the issues I can see with trying to mix fans and journalism is that…they shouldn’t mix. Sure, it’s not unheard of for a journalist to be excited about interviewing someone, but in theory they aren’t supposed to be fans. I don’t think my role there was as a citizen journalist. However, I think we Tweetup attendees did a good job not gushing all over Bolden and Robinson in our questions. In fact, I was impressed by the lack of fanboi attitude in any of our questions.
You can really tell the difference when you see this still taken from This Week at NASA coverage:
Three laptops, all running Tweetdeck in that photo. That’s me tweeting in the upper center of the frame. Most of the traditional media attendees brought digital recorders and paper. So while they were taking notes, we were sharing live. That’s not necessarily better. It’s different. Mixing social media and traditional media can work. They don’t have to compete.
Some of the traditional media people from major media organizations even retweeted my question and told me afterwards that our questions were good. I think that means the new era of mixing traditional and social media may continue. I look forward to future NASATweetups for these types of events.
In talking to people after the event I think this experiment was a success. The Tweetup crowd came up with some great questions, as did the Twitterverse via the #AskNASA hashtag. I am happy that I was selected to be part of this new era of social media, NASA…and Data.
NASATweetup Video from C-SPAN
The entire event was just over an hour. You can watch the whole thing via this C-SPAN feed.
Or if you prefer the shorter briefing of the briefing, you can watch the one minute version on TW@N at the very beginning of this video.
Image via Wikipedia
The American experience stirred mankind from discovery to exploration. From the cautious quest for what they knew (or thought they knew) was out there, into an enthusiastic reaching to the unknown. These are two substantially different kinds of human enterprise.
-Daniel J. Boorstin
Which kind should we be?
On Monday, 13 February I’ll be part of another NASATweetup, this one at NASA Headquarters. Administrator Charlie Bolden will hold a briefing on the 2013 NASA Budget. There have been many reports that the 2013 budget will remain about the same as it was in prior budgets. However, this means that NASA will most likely have to pull out of agreements with other space agencies such as the European Space Agency (ESA) on collaborative efforts for future MARS missions.
I believe this is the first time that NASATweetup attendees will be attending a formal briefing and the first time we will be able to ask questions. In addition, NASA will be taking questions via Twitter from tweets using the #askNASA hashtag. My interest will most likely focus on the impact on NASA’s successful open government (http://open.nasa.gov ) and open data ( http://data.nasa.gov ) programs. I’ll also be interested in hearing what these budget restrictions mean to ongoing collaboration with other space agencies such as the Canadian Space Agency, Roscosmos, JAXA and ESA.
You can watch the budget briefing live at NASA TV on Monday, 13 February at 2 PM EST. This is available in many formats; make sure you take advantage of the formats offered for your device.
NASA prepared a video last year about their quest to win the future. It looks like NASA will be scaling back on those plans for 2013.
Briefing photo by Bob Jacobs
- http://www.nasa.gov/news/budget/index.html NASA Budget Page
- http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/516674main_NASAFY12_Budget_Estimates-Overview-508.pdf The FY 2012 Budget Estimate
Today marks the anniversary of the first and only orbital mission of the Buran, the Soviet Union’s only shuttle program. This flight was unmanned. Haven’t heard of the Buran? Neither had I until I visited the Speyer Technik Museum just outside of Frankfurt, Germany as part of the social activities of the European Space Agency’s first SpaceTweetup a few months ago. In 1988 I was working at Space Division at a US Air Force base and I still had not heard of this program. I guess I was focused on data and process models to much.
During the visit we were able to climb up to view the payload area and some of the crew areas. I’m betting that the general public won’t get this sort of access to the US Space Shuttle orbiters once they are delivered to their museum homes next year.
The only orbital launch of Buran occurred at 3:00 UTC on 15 November 1988 from Baikonur Cosmodrome Site 110/37. It was lifted into orbit unmanned by the specially designed Energia rocket, which to this day remains the heaviest rocket running on liquid fuel. Unlike the Space Shuttle, which is propelled by a combination of solid boosters and the Shuttle’s own liquid-fuel engines sourcing fuel from a large fuel tank, the Energia-Buran system used only thrust from the rocket’s four RD liquid-fuel engines developed by Valentin Glushko. From the very beginning Buran was intended to be used in both fully automatic and manual mode. Although the program accumulated a several-years delay, Buran remained the only space shuttle to ever perform an unmanned flight in fully automatic mode until 22 April 2010 when the US Air Force launched its Boeing X-37 spaceplane. The automated launch sequence performed as specified, and the Energia rocket lifted the vehicle into a temporary orbit before the orbiter separated as programmed. After boosting itself to a higher orbit and completing two revolutions around the Earth, ODU (engine control system) engines fired automatically to begin the descent into the atmosphere. Exactly 206 minutes into the mission, the Buran orbiter landed, having lost only five of its 38,000 thermal tiles over the course of the flight. The automated landing took place on a runway at Baikonur Cosmodrome where, despite a lateral wind speed of 61.2 kilometres per hour (38.0 mph), it landed only 3 metres (9.8 ft) laterally and 10 metres (33 ft) longitudinally from the target mark. The unmanned flight was the first time that a spacecraft of this size and complexity had been launched, completed maneuvers in orbit, re-entered the atmosphere, and landed under automatic guidance.
Wikipedia contributors, "Buran (spacecraft)," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Buran_(spacecraft)&oldid=459715789 (accessed November 15, 2011).
The Buran program was the Soviet Union’s response to the NASA Space Shuttle program. Once the cold war came to an end, the Buran program was ended in 1993. No manned space flights of the Buran happened. Now both programs are over and we are back to non-reusable vehicles to launch astronauts to the International Space Station.
Watch the video of the Buran being delivered to the Speyer Technik (German)
As we left the exhibit, I wondered what a joint shuttle program with more space agencies co-operating might have been.
Several weeks ago NASA announced a new Tweetup for the launch of NASA Juno, a mission to collect data about the origins of Jupiter. Rob and I were not selected in the first round, but waitlisted (lovingly referred to as being on the #WaitUp List). Just a couple of weeks ago we both got news that we were moved up to the invite list. That made me happy, as Rob has not yet had the opportunity to attend a NASATweetup before. This time we can share the experience…and I hope the blogging and picture taking duties.
This rocket launch is scheduled to take place Friday 5 August around 11:34 AM ET. Right now it’s looking like the weather is still at 70% go, even with Emily forming in the Atlantic.
Like the NASATweetup I attended in May, NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) will be providing briefings and demonstrations the day before the launch. Notice that you can watch some of the NASATweetup activities on NASA TV starting at 10:30 AM ET on 4 August. Since NASA provides this stream for free to most TV providers, you may get this channel for free. If not, you can also live stream via the links provided.
The Juno spacecraft will take five years to reach Jupiter. In 2016 it will spend about a year orbiting the red-eyed planet then "deorbit" into Jupiter to end its mission. The spacecraft is solar powered. You might notice how large those panels are in the NASA artwork. That’s because Jupiter is 25 times further away from the sun as the Earth is, so it has less sunlight to power the craft.
Our agenda for the 2-day NASATweetup will be:
Thursday, Aug.4/L-1: Tweetup Day 1
(8:00 a.m. – Tower rollback)
11:00 a.m. – Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator
11:10 a.m. – Steve Levin, Juno project scientist
11:55 a.m. – Steve Matousek (@SteveMatousek), Juno proposal manager, and Jan Chodas, Juno project manager
12:15 p.m. – Chris Brosious, chief systems engineer for Juno, Lockheed Martin
2:00 p.m. – Tour of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, including stops at Launch Complex 17 (GRAIL), the Atlas V Spaceflight Operations Center (Juno/Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity), Launch Complex 41 (Juno), and the Vehicle Assembly Building
Friday, Aug. 5/ Launch: Tweetup Day 2
8:30 a.m. – Group picture beside the countdown clock
8:35 a.m. – Mike Ravine, JunoCam instrument manager, and Mike Caplinger, JunoCam Systems Engineer, Malin Space Science Systems
9:00 a.m. – Group 1: "Eyes on the Solar System" demo with Doug Ellison, JPL Visualization Producer (@NASA_Eyes) in press briefing room
Group 2: Gravity table demo with Dan Goods, JPL Visual Strategist, and What’s Up? astronomy demo with Jane Houston Jones, JPL Outreach Specialist, Cassini mission (@CassiniSaturn) in the tent
9:30 a.m. – Group 1: Gravity table and What’s Up?
Group 2: Eyes on the Solar System
10:00 a.m. – Rex Engelhardt, (@NASA_LSP), mission manager, Launch Services Program
(window closes at 12:43 p.m.)
~1 p.m. – Post-launch news conference on NASA TV
What an agenda. Bill Nye the Science guy. Investigators, Scientists, Project managers, Mission managers. What I found so great about the previous Tweetup I attended was having the opportunity to chat with people who are making a difference in the lives of millions of people, even for generations to come.
The tour is one of the most amazing parts of being a NASATweetup attendee. Special access to launch pads, the Vehicle Assembly Building, operations centers: these are really once in a lifetime experiences. We’ll be tweeting most of the event and posting pictures using the #NASATweetup and #NASAJuno hashtags, along with 150 other lucky space geeks.
A couple of weeks ago, Karen posted Professional Development: What Would You Tell Your 16-Year-Old Self? There was a lot of discussion about it on Twitter and I’ve been meaning to write up a post about my 16-Year-Old self ever since then. It would appear though that they’ve finally come out and said that time-travel is impossible so I’ll never get to go back and say these things to myself. I also had trouble finding a pic of me at 16, but I did find the one above of me at 18.
While Karen focused on the purely professional advice she’d give to herself, I’m going to wander a bit more than that and hit the highlights on a few more topics than she did.
- The end of high school or university is not the end. Remember that you always need to be learning new things. You don’t necessarily have to take formal classes, but there will always be new things to learn.
- You can’t rely on others to look after your career and your training. You are the one that is in control of your life. Don’t ever forget it.
- Working for a living is not the same as living for work. And you don’t have to work 40 hours a week for someone else to make a living.
- Learn how to say No. As you work through the early years in your career you need to make sure that you only take on what you can handle and that it’s okay to say ‘No’. Somewhere you grew up with this idea that you can’t say ‘No’, but think about it. You are the one that can judge whether you can handle something or not. You may not know this now, but even your own Father learned to say no to certain jobs he didn’t want to do. And that’s okay.
- Speaking of our Father…watch how he does those mechanical and household repairs. Sooner or later you’re going to own a house and you’ll need to know those things. But just remember, you’ll never be able to drywall, tape, mud and sand as well as he can.
- You’ll never, ever regret those two years of typing class you just had.
- You know that Space Shuttle that just launched? Keep watching those because in 30 years it will have it’s last flight.
- Take time to enjoy life as it comes and don’t let work get in the way. And when Karen (oh yeah, you’re going to marry a wonderful woman named Karen) goes to Germany, Amsterdam, New Zealand and … (heck, I can’t even list them all), don’t say you can’t go with her because you have to work.
- Never forget to have fun. When it stops being fun, stop doing it.
- Oh, and one last thing…that company called “Apple” that just started publicly selling shares last year…buy some.
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