F + 3 Days Furlough Report

I get another gray hair each day of the furlough.

I get another gray hair each day of the furlough.

Duration of Furlough: 3 days

Work not done: Yesterday we were supposed to discuss a proposal for supporting Robonaut next year.  Robonaut is a bit of a different beast from  an operations perspective as it’s not within our traditional area of expertise.  Spacecraft systems, while they’ve become more advanced and intricate, have stayed relatively consistent over the decades.  Every spacecraft regardless of purpose has to have a power system, motion or attitude control system, command and data system, communication system, etc.  If the spacecraft carries people it also has a life support system.  Robonaut doesn’t fit into any of those categories; it also isn’t that similar to the robotic arms used on ISS or Shuttle.  It’s analogous to a Mars Rover in many ways, but it must operate inside the living space of the ISS.  As such, we can’t allow it to inadvertently flip a switch, hit a button, or bonk a nearby crewmember.  Robonaut is not autonomous, so there is no fear of a robot uprising.  Given the constraints we place on it (Robonaut will automatically shut down if it detects it’s exerting a very small amount of force on something), we’re from rebellion for some time.

However, someone needs to send it commands, monitor and troubleshoot the command path if necessary, and make sure failsafes kick in at the right moment.  While our engineering guys design Robonaut’s experiments, the PLUTO flight controllers in my branch are currently responsible for conducting those experiments and commanding the little robot who could. As of a couple months ago, we thought Robonaut would not be funded next year, so we cancelled planned support.  A few weeks ago though, we got a call from the science folks saying they had secured funding.  Robonaut could theoretically add a backpack, with a battery and wireless comm system, and a set of legs which would allow it to be mobile.  So we were supposed to be discussing how we would support this experimental robot going forward.

Also, yesterday was also the day I approve timecards for all the civil servants in my branch so that they can get paid.  We get paid at 2 week intervals.  Our next paychecks are due on October 11th.  We’ll all get a check that covers work from September 23rd – 30th, but we’ll receive nothing for any time after the shutdown. Back pay for those on furlough is not guaranteed.

Outlook for Continuing Resolution passage by Congress: Still poor.

The best hope of seeing this end before the debt ceiling deadline of October 17th is that a small group of Republicans breaks off from the rest of the party and supports a clean resolution.  House leadership most likely won’t allow that.

Have I showered today? Not yet.  Soon, I promise.

Chores done: Cleaned playroom with kids. Can now walk without fear of stepping on a Lego or hair band.

Wife-requested tasks: Take care of all 3 girls for the day (it’s an in-service day for the school district).

Video games played: None, see above.

Mood: Calm, with brief moments of parental anger.

Furlough Fun Fact: It is illegal for a federal worker on furlough to use government issued smartphones or laptops (sorry, can’t find a good link).

My government-provided iPhone 4S, given so that I can be notified immediately in the event of an ISS emergency, an issue with flight controller or instructor support of ISS operations, or any other organizational issue, sits in its charging cradle on my kitchen counter, calling to me.  I try not to listen.  Instead, I am forced to use my personal iPhone 3G, which based on the date stamp in the twitter app, I hadn’t used in 958 days.  I’ve used my government phone for years, because beyond my wife calling me at work, I don’t talk to anyone on the phone (I am a bit of a misanthrope).

So I went to the AT&T store yesterday, asked about the iPhone 5S and settled for a 2-year old iPhone 4S…but it was $.99!

Song of the day: Thrift Shop by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Movie of the Day: Mr. Mom

I’m slightly more competent than Michael Keaton.

Answering Furlough Questions:

How did we decide who was essential vs. non-essential?

I admit I was irritated by a twitter troll who was happy that 800,000+ leeches had been removed from the payroll, referring to the federal workers had been furloughed.  I resisted the flame-bait but I thought I’d clarify how we determined who was considered ‘essential’.  For us, it wasn’t about differences in ability; it all came down to who was scheduled to work in mission control or who had an Expedition crew in training.  If a civil servant was already on the console schedule then they were essential; if they weren’t, they were non-essential.  We try to give our flight controllers at least 2 weeks working in the office after one week of console ops in mission control.  This keeps them sharp and operating at a high-level.  As this furlough draws on, some of the folks who were not originally deemed essential will be granted that status. For us in mission ops, essential vs. non-essential was just the luck of the draw.

All management was also deemed non-essential because I don’t work in mission control or train crews.  I used to, and I was fairly good at it, which is why I now run a department of almost 80 people. Am I a leech or just an incompetent do-nothing manager?  Obviously, I can’t answer that question objectively.  You’ll have to make your own conclusion on that one.

I have to go now, before my girls kill each other.

If you missed it:

F + 1 Day Furlough Report

F + 2 Days Furlough Report

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About Jason
Family man. NASA manager. Writer. Football fan. Hockey fan. Deist. Left of center. Left-handed. Born in New Jersey, raised in Philadelphia, college educated in Massachusetts, now living in Houston. Thoughts here are my own.

One Response to F + 3 Days Furlough Report

  1. Sue says:

    Love reading this! I’m forwarding them to Gammie. Printed out the first two for her, but figured I would run out of paper and ink before they got their act together.

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