FET 155 Hours – Furlough Report

Switching up the accounting method today in order to make it easier for me to track.  Furlough Elapsed Time (FET) is the time since the Government shutdown on Tuesday, October 1st at 12:01 am until the time when I start this post (usually 11 EST). Now, I don’t have to wonder if I should include weekend days or not.  This is just the total time our government has been shut down.

Furlough beard 10-7

My wife called the gray hairs on my chin ‘cute.’

Duration of Furlough: 6.5 days and counting

Work not done: We start off every Monday with our Weekly Tactical Meeting.  Here we review who is on–console in Mission Control this week and next, who is supporting simulations for crew or flight control team training, what deadlines do we have this week, and what issues need to be addressed this week.  The types of tactical issues we deal with range from the Russians wanting to load some last-minute trash on a US cargo vehicle or vice versa, processing flight rule changes in prep for the next mission, uplinking a software update to ISS, to meeting with the astronaut office to discuss updates to crew training.  The purpose of most of the discussion is to see where we have unresolved issues, what we’re doing to resolve them and is any management support needed to help prod things along.  Since most of our work is tied to the launch of a vehicle or another flight milestone, we need to make sure all of our prep work is done on-time.  Letting something slide until next week doesn’t cut out when millions of dollars are spent making sure rockets launch as scheduled.

Outlook for Continuing Resolution passage by Congress: Poorer?

Boehner is now demanding more cuts in order to agree to raise the debt limit.  Looks like we’re still going nowhere fast.

Have I showered today? Yes!  Furlough beard survived the weekend!

Chores done: Grocery shopping.

I normally do this with at least 1 kid in tow on a Saturday morning, so doing it today with no kids and an empty store was actually a treat.  I approach grocery shopping the same way we approach ISS cargo – what’s the most efficient way for me to group and pack things so that I can unload them and put them away as quickly as possible.  Unfortunately, I don’t have my own personal bar code reader or stowage software to track things.

Wife-Requested Tasks: Come to her school (she’s an elementary school librarian) and help with her Star Wars Reads day activities. With no school Friday, my wife decided to do her activities today, including having some local members of the 501st show up to take pictures with the kids. I get to be the photographer! Sorry, kids.  My wife teaches at a title 1 school with a number of disadvantaged kids, so she goes all out to try and have fun experiences for these kids.

Video games played: None.

Mood: Annoyed.  This is beyond ridiculous and just needs to be done already.

Also, even though back pay has been approved, no federal employees will get that back pay until the shutdown is over.  So, while it’s a relief we’ll get it, we’re not quite out of the woods yet.

Furlough Fun Fact: As being on-call, I can only read emails related to the topic that I am on-call for.

I can now legally check my email but only for items related to our Increment 38 Flight Readiness Review.

Song of the day: Duel of the Fates – John Williams

What happens if NASA funding stays the same or is reduced further?

So far, House Republican leadership has not targeted NASA for any further reductions in funding.  The House has already proposed NASA funding at $16.6 billion for next year.  From space.com:

The House panel’s proposed 2014 appropriation is about $300 million less than what NASA ended up with for 2013, roughly $1.2 billion below the agency’s 2012 budget and about $1.1 billion less than what the White House requested for the 2014 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

When President Obama first  took office, the Augustine Commission evaluated NASA missions and budget and concluded that NASA needed an additional $3 billion per year in order to achieve the goals they had been given.  What that commission found is that in recent decades, NASA has been underfunded to achieve the goals its been given by this country’s leadership.  President Bush proposed the Constellation program, but never fully funded it. Despite a push to rectify that situation, Obama scuttled the Aries I rocket, but kept the Orion capsule and the Space Launch System (SLS) heavy rocket and identified a new objective – a mission to capture and rendezvous with an asteroid. Of course with the current environment in Washington, Republicans in the house won’t agree to fund that mission.  So we’re right back to the same old problem – a program with inadequate funding.

People accuse NASA of just being a government jobs program, but the reality is NASA returns a lot to the nation’s economy in addition to furthering scientific research and increasing our understanding of the universe in which we live.  But continuously under-funding programs means stretching out development schedules, mission timelines, and/or cancelling missions outright.  That leaves us with programs with 10 years or longer horizons that won’t survive the change in presidential administrations, which means we’ll do a lot of work towards a mission that will never fly, which means the agency is a jobs program.  If you want NASA to make meaningful achievements that continue to inspire not only the nation but the entire world, then you have to fund the programs appropriately.

You get what you pay for and if you under-fund the agency without de-scoping the mission, we’ll never achieve anything meaningful.  So someone will accuse NASA of being a jobs program, then cut our budget and then act surprised when we don’t get something done on time. Continuing to fund the agency at sequester levels ($16.6 billion) ensures a continuation of this cycle. You can add this to the reasons I currently support the Democrats.

If you missed it:

F + 1 Day Furlough Report

F + 2 Days Furlough Report

F + 3 Days Furlough Report

F + 4 Days Furlough Report


The Story of the 2012 Eagles Told in Terms of Rocket Failures

I haven’t posted anything in a while as I’ve been hard at work on  the next book and find that between work, 3 kids, writing, and occasionally trying to do something else, I am not able to write here all that often.  The 2012 Eagles, though, have inspired me to write something as I watch their soul-crushing march to another underwhelming season.  In watching the Eagles implode in spectacular fashion on Thursday Night Football against the Bengals, I was reminded of something – big fiery explosions and moments of embarrassment that cost millions of dollars.

As I watched, I was inspired to create this meme:

Eagles Meme

But, that doesn’t quite do this season justice.  So without further preamble, I present you with this: The 2012 Philadelphia Eagles in terms of rocket launch failures.

Failure to Clear the Launch Pad

The team has worked hard, putting lots of effort into the latest project.  Everyone is excited, full of anticipation for the journey that’s about to begin.  And then, the entire project goes up in a cloud of smoke and never leaves the launch pad.

We’ll call this…

the Bryce Brown.

Failure of the Guidance System

In other cases, your team is working on a development project.  It’s going to take time and effort to get things working, but there’s lots of potential and the long term payoff could be great.  Then, you finally cut the cord and unleash your project on the real world – only to watch it come crashing back to Earth in spectacular fashion.

We’ll call this…

A Nick Foles.

Rocket Explodes in Mid-Air

Sometimes, the rocket gets off the pad, clears the tower, and is rocketing toward space!  Everyone gets excited because something great is about to happen!  And then, BOOM! Your hopes and dreams are so much debris in a field.

We’ll call this…

A JeremyMaclin.

Missing the Target

Some rockets are intended to actually hit targets and defend us from the enemy.  A missile missing its target and hitting the wrong target can have disastrous consequences.

[If anyone has a better video of a missile missing its target, please pass it on.]

We’ll call this…

A Kurt Coleman.

Failure of a Reliable Rocket System

Some rockets are around for decades and function reliably.  You trust them; they do their job well.  Then, inexplicably they suffer a complete and total failure.  Maybe it had something to do with an upgrade or maybe the engineers behind it became complacent.

We’ll call this…

An Andy Reid.




I had one major omission in the original post –

Failure Due to Orbital Collision

Sometimes your team’s hard work and dedication pays off, and and your rocket’s liftoff is glorious.  Your rocket reaches orbit as intended and everyone is happy.  Then, your blind-sided by a piece of orbital debris and the energy from the resultant collision is enough to tear both spacecraft to bits.  All your left with is a burning desire to throttle the team responsible for leaving their space junk in your orbital path.

We’ll call this…

A Mike Vick.  Although Brent Celek and LeSean McCoy are also candidates.

Congratulations to the NFL owners for finding a way to screw up a good thing.

Today it was announced that mediation between the players and the NFL owners would be halted until June after the next courtroom milestone. I’m not intending to recap the gory details of this craptacular labor fight. Frankly, I’m sick of reading about the details of this. I just want what every other fan wants, which is a chance to follow actual football news without the backdrop of greedy owners trying their damnedest to wring every last penny of profit out of the game.

The NFL has worked hard over the last decade to turn the distraction and entertainment the league provides into a year round affair. The days of only being able to follow your favorite team during the months they are actually playing games have longed passed. Now, football is essentially a year round affair, with brief lulls in February and June. When the season ends, you follow your team into free agency, evaluating every move right along with them. After that, you turn to the gala spectacle of the NFL draft where every team gets the guy they want and everyone is a future superstar or diamond in the rough. After that, you get your first glimpses of the team they could field as minicamps are run in May and June. Finally, the actual playing of football can be glimpsed on the horizon as training camp opens in late July or early August.

Over the years, I’ve developed a fairly unhealthy obsession with all of it. I’ll watch every hour of the draft either on TV or now streaming to the iPad. I’ll check profootballtalk.com incessantly during the free agent period to find out not only who my favorite team is rumored to be interested in but also who their rivals are picking up. When minicamps roll around, I’ll watch the coach’s interviews, check out the still photos from practice, and even watch film of the drills. In late July, I’ll pick up Football Outsiders Almanac and read through the statistical breakdown of every team in the league.

In short, the NFL has become my primary diversion outside of work and the struggles of the real world. I don’t have to worry about budget or deadlines, I can just bask in the ever-increasing details of this modern-day gladiator tournament.

Coming out of college, my first purchase for myself was a DirecTV satellite dish just so I could get the NFL Sunday Ticket package and watch every game the Philadelphia Eagles play. The Eagles went 3-13 that season, but I’ve had the Sunday ticket package ever since. Over the years, I’ve been to Eagles games in Houston, Dallas, Oakland, and of course Philadelphia. I’ve done game charting for Football Outsiders and recorded detailed play-by-play data of games throughout the season. I’ve written guest blog posts for FO and the now defunct Igglesblog. Naturally, I run or participate in at least 3 fantasy football leagues a year.

Except I can’t do any of that this year. This year, I read through details of how the owners cancelled the existing collective bargaining agreement because they wanted an additional billion dollars of revenue taken out of what’s currently going to players salaries. I read daily updates on the latest in lawsuits, appeals, and media pandering. It all feels too much like work.

I also read heart-breaking stories about the heroes of my youth, like Andre Waters, and players who I saw give their all to the team, like Kevin Turner, and I can’t help but feel they deserve every penny they earn in this sport. I shudder to think what will happen to Brian Dawkins, possibly my favorite player of all time, in another 10-20 years. Will he turn into another Waters or Dave Duerson?

Yes, the players know full well they’re going to be beat up and physically abused in their career, but that doesn’t mean they should expect to be crippled, mentally or physically, for the rest of their lives. A coal miner knows the risks of the job too, but that doesn’t mean he’s at fault if he dies because the mine collapses or he doesn’t get compensated if he develops black lung. In the same way, it shouldn’t be acceptable for players to expect to wind up permanently debilitated because they chose to play this game.

So I want most of every dollar I pay to go to the players who are giving their all to win, not to the greedy bastards who strongarm taxpayers into paying for stadiums, who sell ridiculous personal seat licenses that allow you the right to buy season tickets, or who charge full price for shoddy exhibition games. I have no love lost for owners like Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder who seem hell-bent on sucking every last dollar out of the fans’ pockets. (For some reason, I have a slightly higher opinion of the Rooneys, Bob Kraft, Maras, and Jeff Lurie, though maybe it’s just because they aren’t as overtly money-grubbing or they just have better PR people.)

Now, I’m not going to make a ridiculous claim about not watching or going to games once it resumes, but I am going to have to seriously think about dropping the hefty chunk of change now required for Sunday Ticket if they’re only going to have 8 crappy games this fall. However, I’m an admittedly hardcore fan and if I already feel this disenchanted with the whole mess, how do the casual fans feel?

The owners would do well to remember that nothing lasts forever. Rome fell, the Titanic sank, and even the almighty NFL can fall from grace. The only question is, can anyone save them from themselves?