Unwinding a Sean O’Keefe Assassination Plot

August 10, 2010

This morning I was saddened to wake up and learn of the crash of a floatplane in Alaska carrying former NASA head Sean O’Keefe (and former Senator Ted Stevens). It was initially feared that O’Keefe was among those killed, but I am glad to learn he and his son were among the survivors.

In thinking about Sean O’Keefe, I am reminded of what a controversial figure he was at NASA, felt by most I worked with to be far too willing to leave vital and exciting science back on the ground in order to meet or slash budgets and impress the political machine that put him in power, andthat he hoped had plans for him beyond his NASA post.  The worst offense came when he  decided to let Hubble die unserviced back in ’04, using as a scapegoat the foam strike issue which suddenly came onto everyone’s radar with Columbia’s destruction.  I was part of many discussions which looked unkindly at the sudden cost and risk aversion, at a time when the same administration sitting on top was willing to risk vastly greater sums and vastly greater numbers of lives prosecuting wars of dubious value.  O’Keefe’s ultimate legacy and the fondness I’ve heard expressed in more recent years has come somewhat undeservedly from the inarguable success of the twin Mars Explorer Rover (MER) programs, and O’Keefe’s pursuit of FBC (Faster Better Cheaper), ISS not withstanding.  MER succeeded not because of O’Keefe but in spite of the cost cuts associated with him.  I think O’Keefe is remembered favorably as Reagan has been, their policies may have been flawed, their methods may have been meritless, but no one can argue with the outcomes, and neither do people have a stomach for deeply questioning them.  I remember a quote from my high school Latin I class that went something like, “Victories are never questioned by the victors.”

What many do not know is that O’Keefe was a member of the elitist, secretive Bohemian Club, and participant in their Bohemian Grove rituals; his participation has been an open secret within space circles.  Much has been suggested about the roles these players have in remaking the world, our America, and the space which surrounds us all.

While it is too soon to meaningfully speculate on whether the plane crash qualifies as a tragic accident or a devious plot, it’s not too soon to remember O’Keefe’s impact on NASA, not too soon to look at his still early role in leading the American branch of the increasingly important European Aeronautic, Defence, and Space Company (EADS), not too soon to wonder what conspiratorial filaments might manifest in these upcoming days, and whether they will join together to support the weight of larger truths.  I hope, as I always do, that the world is simpler than that, that what we see is what there is, but more intelligent people than me think differently and who am I to say they are wrong.

On a personal note, I am truly glad Sean O’Keefe has survived, and sad to learn that Mr. Stevens and five others did not. But we must live with what the facts are, and the tragedy that exists because of them.

John


Cover-Up on the ISS?

August 9, 2010

I got an email yesterday from someone I used to know slightly at NASA Lewis. He ended up retiring a decade after I moved on. He did some contract work on shuttle and ISS systems. We were never close but a thermodynamics buddy of mine who was also briefly at Lewis would mention this guy now and again as they crossed paths, and more so when they consulted on the same project about five years ago. My friend was no fan of this guy, not because of his work, which was solid as far as I ever heard, but because this guy had an extremely abrasive personality and was given to some pretty off-color humor.

I’m not sure how I ended up being on the receiving end of this guy’s email, the email itself was sent with the recipients hidden in the BCC field. I have no idea to how many people this was sent, but presumably quite a few if I ended up on the list.

I’ve been following the reported PVTCS issues on the ISS and they’re peddling a load of crap. They knew this wasn’t a simple PFCS failure before they did the first EVA. The timetable and procedures are all wrong for a normal PFCS replacement. My best guess is a micrometeorite strike of the PVR, causing coolant pressure loss and contamination, overworking the PFCS until it failed, or a direct PFCS strike with coolant contamination. It’d hardly be the first time they covered up a strike of the ISS. You heard from Jack? I haven’t spoken to him since the fall conference, wonder if he knows something.

Some Googling identified the PVTCS as the entire cooling system, the PFCS appears to be the pump module, and the PVR is the radiator.

I’m not sure I buy the validity of what this guy is saying, I am not at all familiar with the ISS systems. I forwarded it to my friend to see what he thought and got a one line response, “That asshole is just pissed off he lost his fat shuttle contract.” There’s no love lost between the two of them, and my friend’s a pretty toe-the-line sort of guy, so he isn’t likely to go against what NASA reports.

I am not aware of NASA covering up any significant micrometeorite strikes. I remember reports of a few serious ones to the shuttle, found as part of the stepped up imaging after the tragedy following the foam strikes, and those were hardly kept from the public. Something as large as the ISS is bound to be routinely hit, given its many years in orbit, and thus such strikes would hardly be news worthy, unless perhaps the risks to astronaut safety are greater than is widely known. I can imagine NASA might be motivated to keep such a danger quiet at a time when it’s being forced to mothball the shuttle fleet and terminate its plans to return to the moon. The ISS is NASA’s last stand in space, and they would not be expected to give it up without a fight. But are they covering up the nature of the PVTCS failure on the ISS? I’m not yet convinced.