Space Policy

Final Shuttle Crew Welcome Ceremony Today! Open to the Public

by on Jul.22, 2011, under NASA, Space Exploration

Welcome STS-135 Crew in Houston

JSC Special: Celebrate the STS-135 Crew’s Homecoming Friday, July 22!

If you missed the launch, you don’t have to miss the crew!

You’re invited to Ellington Field Hangar 990 on Friday, July 22, at 4 p.m. to honor Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley and Mission Specialists Rex Walheim and Sandy Magnus at the STS-135 Crew Return Ceremony.

Along with JSC Director Mike Coats, family, friends, colleagues and public guests are invited to wish the Atlantis crew well as they return from a successful mission in space. Gates to Ellington Field will open at 3:30 p.m.

Please note: Crew return is open to the public; no JSC badge is needed.

Also note, the hangar is not air-conditioned. Water is provided, but dress accordingly.

Map is HERE



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Final Atlantis Rollout to VAB

by on May.25, 2011, under NASA

Mark Craig over at SAIC just forwarded this nifty satellite image of the Atlantis, rolling out from the OPF to the VAB, 5/17/2011.
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Transition to Commercial Services for LEO Transportation

by on May.22, 2011, under Commercial Space, Congress, NASA, Space Exploration, Space Policy

UPDATE: The Space Review has just published the paper with the new introduction.

Transition to commercial services for LEO transportation

“A major issue of contention for NASA’s near-term plans has been how much reliance it should place on commercial providers for crew transportation to low Earth orbit. Mary Lynne Dittmar presents a paper she prepared last year with the late Mike Lounge on one approach to handle that transition.”


Readers of this blog have seen references to a white paper written by Mike Lounge and I.  Before tonight it has not been publicly available.  Now it is.

The original Lounge~Dittmar paper, “Transition to Commercial Services for LEO Transportation”, was written in the Spring and early Summer of 2010.  Distribution was on a “not for release” basis, with the intent of supporting policy discussions without generating more controversy in an already-contentious time.  In December of that year, the paper surfaced at (NSF). NSF’s editor-in-chief & sitemaster, Chris Bergin, was the ultimate professional in his handling of the paper, suggesting at the time that it be released only in the non-public (subscription) portion of the site.  Chris was also kind enough to remove my personal contact information, which I had included when the paper was originally distributed.

Readers of this blog (and many others) are aware that Mike Lounge passed on during March of this year.  At that time, I began to explore the viability of publishing the entire paper in a public venue – in part to keep a promise to Mike, and in part with the hope that it might continue to inform discussion even though the thoughts that spurred it originated almost a year earlier.  (For background on the paper and on Mike, the 4-part series I wrote about our work together begins here.)

Several weeks ago I started on an update, including an introduction to the paper describing its genesis.  At the same time I reached out to Jeff Foust, publisher and editor of  The Space Review.  Jeff has reviewed the updated paper and has kindly agreed to publish it tomorrow, May 23, 2011.  That version contains new information that previously has not been published.

In keeping with his professionalism and support, tonight Chris Bergin has moved the original paper from behind the “L2″ firewall to the open (public) “Space Policy” thread at NSF in order to make it available to anyone wishing to read it.  It may be found here.

My thanks to Jeff and to Chris for their support and consideration.




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And Then They Broke The Mold: A Personal/Professional Remembrance of John Michael “Mike” Lounge – Conclusion

by on Apr.09, 2011, under Commercial Space, NASA, Space Exploration, Space Policy

Written 3/1/2011

4th of 4 Parts


Late in October, we met on a sunny afternoon. Mike looked terrible, sounded worse, and complained as he had been for several weeks that he did not feel well.  He had a cough he couldn’t seem to get rid of.  He seemed lethargic.  A bit exasperated with him, I bugged him about seeing a doc.  He blew it off with some dry comment or another and a look that said “drop it”.  I did.  A couple of weeks later, the same.   And again, a couple of weeks after that.  He seemed fine one day, and not the next.  I tagged up with his protege, who had been much closer to him over more years than I.  She thought he wasn’t well, either.

When the conversation came back around to him, I pushed, hard.  He sat back, looked at me, and surprised me by admitting that he didn’t want to go because he was afraid of what they might find.  He talked about the human body’s ability to heal, and that if it couldn’t, doctors probably couldn’t do much anyway.

I accused him of rationalizing.  He laughed and admitted it.  I let it go.  I brought the issue up a couple more times through December and into mid-January, but after playing the Brittany card I didn’t really think there was much more for me to say, other than I was concerned about him.  Mike wasn’t one to dwell on such things, and he didn’t want others to dwell on them either.  

I thought about all of that today, particularly upon hearing the diagnosis.  Looking back, I’m sure he knew.  It’s a good bet that the melanoma he had delayed in treating three years earlier, though apparently cured, had instead slept somewhere inside, eventually finding its way to his liver.  By the time it was detected, Mike was in the last two weeks of his life. Even if it been found earlier, the odds of survival would’ve been surpassingly small.

So as it turned out he was probably right about the docs.

As usual.


The last time I saw Mike was at my house on New Year’s Day.  On that particular day he

Mike in late 2010

looked and sounded well, and had sent a warm email in response to my invitation.  He’d been  up a couple times previously for dinner.  It didn’t take him long to command the room, telling stories.

In my imagination there are as many Mike Lounge stories as there are people who knew him, times the number of years they knew him, times 10.  Or 100.  I only knew him for a little while.  My heart aches for his granddaughter, and goes out to his children, his family, and to all who worked with him, knew him, and/or loved him.  The prevailing sentiment today on emails, in phone calls, across the country – other than shock – has been the profound sense of loss reflected across the entire community due to his passing  – and Mike’s entire community was HUGE.  He was a single-minded, dedicated warrior; a visionary convinced down to his very DNA that national interest at the “local” level – and human survival on the global level – was contingent upon human spaceflight.  He once called this work “building the Pyramids of our civilization.” He’d lived that conviction, as an astronaut, a businessman, an advocate, a mentor, an advisor at high levels of government, a member of I don’t know how many boards, working groups, advisory committees, etc.

I’ll miss Mike because he was unique, because I had come to love him, and because I have absolutely no idea how to fill up the space left by his abrupt departure.  Most of all I’ll miss Mike because his voice was needed – an upstream swimmer, a damn-the-conventional-wisdom-if-its-wrong kind of guy, a politically astute observer, a tough-love taskmaster, a supportive and generous friend, and a brilliant intellect. As another friend & colleague of mine put it today “ … manned spaceflight has lost such a mind”.  Yes.  And, I would add, a mensch.

Mike – wherever you are – you should know I have in hand a glass of Pinot Noir, raised to you. I have no doubt that if you saw this essay, you’d hate it – though you might be secretly pleased.  You’d first kick my ass, then you’d correct me.  Or the other way around.  Then we’d have a discussion.  You’d probably win.

And there it would be.  That glint in your eye.


Fly safe, my friend.



Your Partner In Crime


NOTE:  Before he died Mike set up a trust fund for Brittany.  After his death a message was posted on the St. Luke’s Hospital “Caring Bridge” Website set up for Mike by his son, asking people to make donations to the fund.  

Anyone wishing to pay tribute to Mike, please consider making a donation to the fund.  Kenneth’s note is reproduced here:

“A message to Friends and Family:

Dad cared very deeply for his grand-daughter Brittany Spenla. He asked that we make donations to a memorial fund benefitting her in lieu of flowers or gifts. An account has been set up at JSC Federal Credit Union under the name BRITTANY SPENLA TRUST account #1095852.”


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