Senator Tom Coburn's Annual Waste Book 2012 - NASA Excerpts


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NASA Excerpts

6) Out-of-this-world Martian food tasting - (HI) $947,000

18) NASA Entertainment, Inc. - (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) $1.6 million

44) NASA keeps paying for unused, outdated database- (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) $771,000
53) NASA spends millions on visitor center to replace old one just miles away - (MS) $12.4 m


6) Out-of-this-world Martian food tasting - (HI) $947,000

Imagine pizza so out of this world, you would have to travel to Mars to have a slice. That is the goal of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Advanced Food Technology Project, which has already developed a recipe for pizza and about 100 other foods that could be served some day on Mars.109 Of course, NASA no longer has a manned spaced fleet and no current mission plans for human space flight to Mars, but some are hopeful a trip to the red planet could possibly be taken in the mid-2030s at the earliest.110 111 Even this goal is optimistic, however, due to budget constraints that have reduced the appetite for costly space missions.

Yet, NASA spends about $1 million annually "researching and building the Mars menu."112 This year, NASA also awarded $947,000 to researchers at Cornell University and the University of Hawaii to study the best food for astronauts to eat on Mars.113

Six volunteers will head into a barren landscape in Hawaii to simulate a 120-day Mars mission. In exchange, they receive an all-expenses-paid trip, plus $5,000 each, for completing the journey.114





NASA will spend almost $1 million to test what astronauts might eat on Mars.

Volunteers will perform the activities Mars explorers might do, including wearing space suits and taking "Navy showers," in order to see how different foods might affect their moods and health. In keeping with the purpose of the food study, one of the stated primary procedures for the participants is to "consume only 'instant' foods and foods prepared from shelf stable ingredients...and rate these foods."115 Preparation for this extreme food-tasting challenge starts before the 120-day "mission." Participants will attend a four-day workshop, and a two-week training exercise in the months leading up to the simulation, slated for early 2013.

Though anyone could submit an application, the research team was not looking for just anyone. They needed "people who are interested in food, who know how to cook."116

Ultimately, NASA wants to know what the best food options might be for long-term travel. The study organizers note "humans eating a restricted diet over a period of months ultimately experience 'menu fatigue,' also known as food monotony."117





The millions of dollars NASA is spending to develop recipes for pizza and other foods to be served on Mars may be lost in a black hole since it could be decades before man sets foot on the red planet.

Astronauts currently have over 100 different food options.118 Preparing meals on Mars, however, offers new culinary opportunities. In space, "the lack of gravity means smell -- and taste -- is impaired. So the food is bland." Because gravity does exist on Mars, astronauts would be able to "chop vegetables and do a little cooking of their own."119

All the recipes developed so far are "vegetarian because the astronauts will not have dairy or meat products available. It isn't possible to preserve those products long enough to take to Mars -- and bringing a cow on the mission is not an option," according to the senior research scientist at Lockheed Martin leading a team of three who are building the Martian menu. 120

You don't need to be a rocket scientist to realize the millions of dollars being spent to taste test Martian meals that may never be served is lost in a black hole.

- 109 Plushnick-Masti, Ramit. "The Big Story: NASA builds menu for planned Mars mission in 2030s," Associated Press, July 17, 2012. Available at http://bigstory.ap.org/article/nasa-builds-menu-planned-mars-mission- 2030s, accessed September 27, 2012.

- 110 Daneman, Matthew. "Mars mission to be simulated to find best menus for trip," USA Today, February 20, 2012, http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/space/story/2012-02-17/research-mar... hawaii/53160760/1 , accessed September 24, 2012.

- 112 Plushnick-Masti, Ramit. "The Big Story: NASA builds menu for planned Mars mission in 2030s," Associated Press, July 17, 2012. Available at http://bigstory.ap.org/article/nasa-builds-menu-planned-mars-mission- 2030s, accessed September 27, 2012.

- 113 Atkinson, Nancy. "Dream Job: Go to Hawaii and Eat Astronaut Food," Universe Today, February 27, 2012. Available at http://www.universetoday.com/93818/dream-job-go-to-hawaii-and-eat-astron..., accessed September 24, 2012.

- 114 "Compensation, and penalties for early withdrawal," Cornell/University of Hawaii Mars Analogue Mission and Food Study website, accessed October 11, 2012; http://manoa.hawaii.edu/hi- seas/RecruitmentClosed.html .

- 115 HI-SEAS program, University of Hawaii website, http://manoa.hawaii.edu/hi-seas/, accessed September 24, 2012.

- 116 Daneman, Matthew. "Mars mission to be simulated to find best menus for trip," USA Today, February 20, 2012. Available at http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/space/story/2012-02-17/research-mar... hawaii/53160760/1, accessed September 24, 2012.

- 117 Plushnick-Masti, Ramit. "The Big Story: NASA builds menu for planned Mars mission in 2030s," Associated Press, July 17, 2012; http://bigstory.ap.org/article/nasa-builds-menu-planned-mars-mission-203... .

- 118 Plushnick-Masti, Ramit. "The Big Story: NASA builds menu for planned Mars mission in 2030s," Associated Press, July 17, 2012; http://bigstory.ap.org/article/nasa-builds-menu-planned-mars-mission-203... .

- 119 Plushnick-Masti, Ramit. "The Big Story: NASA builds menu for planned Mars mission in 2030s," Associated Press, July 17, 2012. Available at http://bigstory.ap.org/article/nasa-builds-menu-planned-mars-mission- 2030s .

- 120 Plushnick-Masti, Ramit. "The Big Story: NASA builds menu for planned Mars mission in 2030s," Associated Press, July 17, 2012; http://bigstory.ap.org/article/nasa-builds-menu-planned-mars-mission-203...



18) NASA Entertainment, Inc. - (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) $1.6 million

Over the last year, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has been on a mission far different from the likes of Apollo, SkyLab, and Curiosity. The agency has been working on a number of out-of- this-world apps, games, and
other entertainment programs to beef up its marketing efforts. These efforts will cost taxpayers at least $1.6 million.

"World of Warcraft" NASA- style. NASA is investing $1.5 million into "Starlite," a massive multiplayer online game to simulate the journey to Mars and the life of astronauts on the planet.280 Players will be able to explore the planet together and face a number of challenging situations, including "threats to the Earth."281





Screenshot of MoonBase Alpha, NASA's 20-minute long multiplayer game simulating astronauts at a lunar outpost.

NASA originally planned to spend almost $7 million on the project, but "budget cuts took their toll," said NASA's lead official for games and educational technology.282 The agency partnered with a Winnipeg, Canada-based firm to develop "Starlite," which will be available on iPad, Playstation, and Xbox.283





"Starlite" will not be NASA's first foray into online games. In the last few years, the agency spent $300,000 to develop "MoonBase Alpha," a 20-minute-long multiplayer game set at a futuristic lunar outpost.284

The end of big gaming at NASA is nowhere in sight. "There are more higher-end gaming projects going on at NASA than ever before," said the agency's game director.285

Online rock radio station. Far from getting the next man to the moon, NASA signed a contract with a private company in Houston to develop an online rock radio station, Third Rock, targeted to 18-34-year-olds.286





"While NASA is synonymous with the exploration of space, technology and science education," says the station's webpage, "Third Rock, which is focused on NASA and the great things going on there every day, is all about the exploration of New Rock."287

The station is accessible through a number of mobile phone applications, NASA.gov, and iTunes.288 It is commercial-free, but NASA directed the developer to include a number of news breaks that feature information about NASA events, research, technology, and partners.289 The developer is also supposed to find "high-profile, institutional-type sponsors" to support the station.290

Mars rover video game. This year, NASA broke new ground when it successfully landed the Curiosity rover on Mars. NASA also assisted with the development of a video game for Microsoft's Xbox where players can command a virtual Mars Rover.291

"Mars Rover Landing" is available for free download on the Xbox Live Store. Using the Xbox

Kinect's motion-detecting system, players move their bodies to guide a virtual Curiosity rover to its landing site. One reviewer said the game is "essentially a modernized version of Atari's classic arcade game 'Lunar Lander,' but using body motions rather than a lever."292

NASA's part in the development process included compiling "publicly available information, imagery, and content describing the Mars exploration missions."293 The agency also reviewed early versions of the game and recommended changes to the game.294

Explaining the estimated $94,000 cost to taxpayers, one NASA official said, "Because Mars exploration is fundamentally a shared human endeavor, we want everyone around the globe to have the most immersive experience possible."295 296 Officials also hoped that the game will put "the nation's space program back into the nation's living rooms."297

- 281 Bhattarai, Abha. "From 'Angry Birds' to multi-player video games, NASA ramps up investment in educational technology," Washington Post, September 2, 2012. Available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/capitalbusiness/from-angry-birds-... nasa-ramps-up-investment-in-educational-technology/2012/08/31/c3d9d35c-c46c-11e1-916d- a4bc61efcad8_story.html, accessed September 6, 2012.

- 282 Bhattarai, Abha. "From 'Angry Birds' to multi-player video games, NASA ramps up investment in educational technology," Washington Post, September 2, 2012. Available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/capitalbusiness/from-angry-birds-... nasa-ramps-up-investment-in-educational-technology/2012/08/31/c3d9d35c-c46c-11e1-916d- a4bc61efcad8_story.html, accessed September 6, 2012.

- 283 Bhattarai, Abha. "From 'Angry Birds' to multi-player video games, NASA ramps up investment in educational technology," Washington Post, September 2, 2012. Available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/capitalbusiness/from-angry-birds-... nasa-ramps-up-investment-in-educational-technology/2012/08/31/c3d9d35c-c46c-11e1-916d- a4bc61efcad8_story.html, accessed September 6, 2012.

- 284 Bhattarai, Abha. "From 'Angry Birds' to multi-player video games, NASA ramps up investment in educational technology," Washington Post, September 2, 2012. Available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/capitalbusiness/from-angry-birds-... a4bc61efcad8_story.html, accessed September 6, 2012.

- 285 Bhattarai, Abha. "From 'Angry Birds' to multi-player video games, NASA ramps up investment in educational technology," Washington Post, September 2, 2012. Available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/capitalbusiness/from-angry-birds-... nasa-ramps-up-investment-in-educational-technology/2012/08/31/c3d9d35c-c46c-11e1-916d- a4bc61efcad8_story.html, accessed September 6, 2012.

- 286 Though NASA does not support the project financially, one of its employees contributes administratively, costing taxpayers an estimated $7,700. "Nonreimbursable Space Act Agreement Between RFC Media, LLC. and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, for 3rd Rock Radio," signed by NASA on October 21, 2011. A copy of the contract was provided by NASA to the Congressional Research Service. The Office of Senator Coburn received the contract by email December 20, 2011.

- 287 Third Rock Radio Blog, Website of Third Rock Radio, posted December 12, 2011, http://www.rfcmedia.com/thirdrockradio/, accessed September 24, 2012.

- 288 Third Rock Radio Blog, Website of Third Rock Radio, posted December 12, 2011, http://www.rfcmedia.com/thirdrockradio/, accessed September 24, 2012.

- 289 "Nonreimbursable Space Act Agreement Between RFC Media, LLC. and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, for 3rd Rock Radio," signed by NASA on October 21, 2011. A copy of the contract was provided by NASA to the Congressional Research Service. The Office of Senator Coburn received the contract by email December 20, 2011.

- 290 "Nonreimbursable Space Act Agreement Between RFC Media, LLC. and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, for 3rd Rock Radio," signed by NASA on October 21, 2011. A copy of the contract was provided by NASA to the Congressional Research Service. The Office of Senator Coburn received the contract by email December 20, 2011.

- 291 Information provided by NASA to the Congressional Research Service, July 30, 2012.

- 292 Workman, Robert. "Microsoft and NASA team up for Curiosity Mars rover Xbox Game," Christian Science Monitor, August 1, 2012. Available at http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2012/0801/Microsoft-and-NASA- team-up-for-Curiosity-Mars-rover-Xbox-game-video, accessed August 8, 2012.

- 293 Information provided by NASA to the Congressional Research Service, July 30, 2012.

- 294 Information provided by NASA to the Congressional Research Service, July 30, 2012.

- 295 Information provided by NASA to the Congressional Research Service, July 30, 2012.

- 296 Strange, Adario. "NASA Releases Mars Rover Game for Xbox 360," PCMag.com, July 17, 2012. Available at http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2407219,00.asp, accessed August 8, 2012.

- 297 Information provided by NASA to the Congressional Research Service, July 30, 2012.



44) NASA keeps paying for unused, outdated database- (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) $771,000

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is fond of touting technological advancements the agency has helped develop over the years, such as Velcro, reflective coatings for lenses, and new methods in computing. Despite this progress, NASA continues to operate an outdated and poorly utilized "Lessons Learned" database costing taxpayers over $771,000 every year.551

The Lessons Learned Information System (LLIS) is a database that allows NASA managers to document best practices and other information gained from completed projects. NASA managers rarely contribute to or access the database, according to a review by the agency's Inspector General (IG).552

Employees found the database to be "outdated, not user friendly, and generally unhelpful."553Instead, they opt to use other forms of knowledge-sharing that NASA 74 maintains, including an engineering network, a training academy, seminars, and a magazine.554 The NASA official in charge of the database has acknowledged the agency has no plan for how LLIS will be utilized in the future.555

A number of NASA guidelines state the agency's 10 centers should have lessons-learned committees to contribute to LLIS.556 Yet, at the time of the audit, eight of the 10 centers were not fully complying with agency guidelines.557 Four of the centers did not even have lessons-learned committees to oversee the process.558

The IG questioned "whether the three quarters of a million dollars NASA spends annually on LLIS activities constitutes a prudent investment."559

- 551 Information provided by NASA to the Congressional Research Service, June 25, 2012.

- 552 NASA Office of Inspector General, "Review of NASA's Learned Lesson Information System," Report No. IG- 12-012, March 6, 2012, p. iii. Available online at: http://oig.nasa.gov/audits/reports/FY12/IG-12-012.pdf, accessed September 24, 2012.

- 553 NASA Office of Inspector General, "Review of NASA's Learned Lesson Information System," Report No. IG- 12-012, March 6, 2012, p. V. Available online at: http://oig.nasa.gov/audits/reports/FY12/IG-12-012.pdf, accessed September 24, 2012.

- 554 NASA Office of Inspector General, "Review of NASA's Learned Lesson Information System," Report No. IG- 12-012, March 6, 2012, p. 2. Available online at: http://oig.nasa.gov/audits/reports/FY12/IG-12-012.pdf, accessed September 24, 2012.

- 555 NASA Office of Inspector General, "Review of NASA's Learned Lesson Information System," Report No. IG- 12-012, March 6, 2012, p. 15. Available online at: http://oig.nasa.gov/audits/reports/FY12/IG-12-012.pdf, accessed September 24, 2012.

- 556 NASA Office of Inspector General, "Review of NASA's Learned Lesson Information System," Report No. IG- 12-012, March 6, 2012, p. iv. Available online at: http://oig.nasa.gov/audits/reports/FY12/IG-12-012.pdf, accessed September 24, 2012.

- 557 NASA Office of Inspector General, "Review of NASA's Learned Lesson Information System," Report No. IG- 12-012, March 6, 2012, p. iv. Available online at: http://oig.nasa.gov/audits/reports/FY12/IG-12-012.pdf, accessed September 24, 2012.

- 558 NASA Office of Inspector General, "Review of NASA's Learned Lesson Information System," Report No. IG- 12-012, March 6, 2012, p. iv. Available online at: http://oig.nasa.gov/audits/reports/FY12/IG-12-012.pdf, accessed September 24, 2012.

- 559 NASA Office of Inspector General, "Review of NASA's Learned Lesson Information System," Report No. IG- 12-012, March 6, 2012. Available online at: http://oig.nasa.gov/audits/reports/FY12/IG-12-012.pdf, accessed September 24, 2012

53) NASA spends millions on visitor center to replace old one just miles away - (MS) $12.4 million





NASA spent millions to move its visitor center at the Stennis Space Center just miles down the road. The previous visitor center averaged under 40,000 patrons per year.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has a knack for completing projects with delays and out-of-this-world budgets. Adding to a list of questionable decisions, the agency funded a state-of-the-art visitor center to replace an existing one five miles down the road. The old structure is located on the grounds of the Stennis Space Center facility in Mississippi, NASA's main engine testing facility. The need for a new facility was certainly not driven by an overwhelming number of visitors. The previous visitor center, which closed this year, received fewer than 40,000 visitors a year on average since 2007 - or roughly 100 people a day.652

NASA opened the original visitor center in conjunction with the 1984 World's Fair in New Orleans.653 Visitors could learn about NASA's space program and the Stennis Space Center itself. The center is also home to an office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In 2000, a remodeling doubled the visitor center's size, and it was officially dubbed the StenniSphere.654 655 With the renovation, "NASA entered the tourism market with a full-fledged visitor center with hopes of becoming a major regional attraction," according to one observer at the time.656 NASA again made improvements to the original visitor center in 2003 at the cost of $453,000.657

Only, the vision to attract tourists never paid off and over time, NASA's desire to maintain the center appeared to wane. Yet, as early as 1999, NASA examined the possibility of moving the visitor center offsite.658 Additionally, the agency raised security concerns about the onsite facility after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.659

Instead of addressing these issues in a cost-effective manner, NASA decided in 2001 to contribute a significant amount of money to a new visitor center off-site. The agency

NASA spent millions to move its visitor center at the Stennis Space Center just miles down the road. The previous visitor center averaged under 40,000 patrons per year.

worked with state officials to build a $31 million, 72,000-square-foot science center that opened this year just over five miles away from the original facility.660 661

NASA contributed $10 million to the project, while NOAA added $1.9 million and the federal Department of Interior kicked in $500,000 in environmental conservation funds.662 Private organizations and the Mississippi state government contributed $18.8 million in funding for the new science center, which charges $8 per adult for admission.663 664

Over five times the size of the old facility, the new Infinity Science Center houses displays from the old visitor center and many other exhibits as well.665 According to the center's website, "studies estimate that the INFINITY Science Center will attract over 300,000 visitors each year," or more than seven times the annual attendance of the old center.666

- 652 Information provided by NASA to the Congressional Research Service, May 29, 2012.

- 653 Information provided by NASA to the Congressional Research Service, May 29, 2012.

- 654 Bartlett, Tony. "Stennis Space Center targets tourists," Travel Weekly, November 15, 2000. Available online at http://www.travelweekly.com/print.aspx?id=155152, accessed September 24, 2012.

- 655 According to information provided by NASA to the Congressional Research Service on April 5, 2012, NASA spent $500,000 of its non-appropriated funds on the remodel.

-656 Bartlett, Tony. "Stennis Space Center targets tourists," Travel Weekly, November 15, 2000. Available online at http://www.travelweekly.com/print.aspx?id=155152, accessed September 24, 2012. 657 Information provided by NASA to the Congressional Research Service, May 29, 2012.

- 658 Website of the Infinity Space Center, "History." Available online at http://www.visitinfinity.com/about- us/history/, accessed May 1, 2012.

- 659 Information provided by NASA to the Congressional Research Service, May 29, 2012.

- 660 Information provided by NASA to the Congressional Research Service, May 29, 2012.

- 661 "Hancock County Tapped to Manage and Market INFINITY," Infinity Science Center website, March 30, 2012, http://www.visitinfinity.com/news-events/hancock-chamber-tapped-to-manag..., accessed October 13, 2012.

- 662 Information provided by NASA to the Congressional Research Service, May 29, 2012.

- 663 "Visitor Info," Website of the Infinity Space Center, http://www.visitinfinity.com/visitor-info/, accessed May 1, 2012.

- 664 Information provided by NASA to the Congressional Research Service, May 29, 2012.

- 665 Vargas, Ramon Antonio. "Stennis Space Center in Mississippi launches new visitor center," The Times- Picayune, April 10, 2012. Available at http://www.nola.com/business/index.ssf/2012/04/stennis_space_center_in_m..., accessed October 15, 2012.

- 666 "Visitor Info," Website of the Infinity Space Center, http://www.visitinfinity.com/about-us/, accessed May 1, 2012.

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