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For Ved Chirayath, an aeronautics and astronautics graduate student and amateur fashion photographer, a photo project that involved NASA researchers dressed as Vikings was just a creative way to promote space science. “I started this project hoping maybe one day some kid will look at it and say, ‘I want to work for NASA,’ ” says Chirayath, a student at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, who also works nearby at NASA’s Ames Research Center…

He never suspected that his fanciful image would put him in the crosshairs of a government waste investigation triggered by a senior U.S. senator.

Earlier this month, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), the Senate Judiciary Committee’s top Republican, wrote to NASA chief Charles Bolden, asking him to investigate whether Chirayath’s photos involved the possible misuse of ARC funds and staff time. An “interested observer” had brought the photos to Grassley’s attention, Jill Gerber, the senator’s communications manager, tells ScienceInsider. In his 10 July letter, Grassley raised concerns about NASA spending on “non-mission critical activities” and asked Bolden to help him “better understand the participation of NASA employees and resources in this for-profit photography exhibit.”

Soon, agency investigators were asking questions—much to Chirayath’s surprise. “They made contact with just about every person who took part in the shoot,” he says. But there’s no smoking gun, he adds. His effort was strictly not-for-profit and didn’t involve ARC funds…

Last year, Chirayath began working at ARC, where he helps develop small, compact research satellites known as “CubeSats.” The technology, developed in part at Stanford, reminded him of Viking explorers who, from the eighth through 11th centuries, “travelled farther and saw more in much smaller ships than had been used before their time.” That connection inspired his Space Vikings photos, which led to a shoot this past December at a Palo Alto park on a weekday afternoon…

After he posted the pictures online, Chirayath heard rumblings from co-workers that a blogger took issue with the executive staff’s appearance. He thought little of it until investigators started asking questions.

NASA News Chief Allard Beutel says that although the agency has yet to send an official reply, it has concluded that “there were no taxpayer funds used” for Space Vikings. “The employees were on their time, not on work time.”

The flap has left Chirayath perplexed. “NASA can’t afford to promote their missions in this way and this is partly why I started this project,” he says. And that’s ironic, he adds, because “more was probably spent in taxpayer employee man-hours investigating me, my exhibition, and those involved than it might have cost” to produce the photos professionally.

For a clotted turd like Grassley to whine about an event promoting NASA is beyond absurd. He should stick to his promotion of Herbert Hoover economics and scratching his butt in the nearest corn cob silo.

  1. flatwombat says:

    If this was done on their own time, with costumes they paid for, then I have no problem with it. However, if this was paid for by my tax dollars in any way, I’d like to see some Vikings being sent off to Valhalla in their burning long boats.

  2. Tim says:

    Welcome to NASA. Please refrain from scratching your butt in the feul-cell silo.

    HA! It kind of looks like The Holy Grail meets Project Blue Beam..

    Cassada: Well, now, uh, Hague, Hammock, and I wait until sidereal zenith, and then leap out of the probe, taking the cosmonauts by surprise…

    Glover: Who leaps out?

    Cassada: Um, l-look, if we built this large aerogel rover…

  3. msbpodcast says:

    Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) is the source of waste and fraud, not its eradicator.

    He’s just another of the 1%er with a bug up their collective asses that anybody out there is spending any money that he might be able to grab as his own.

    In his 1%er eyes, that the NASA astronauts, engineers, administrators and staff are paid well enough to stage that kind of shoot is clear proof that they are paid too well.

    As far as these 1%ers are concerned, anybody that works for the government should be wearing woven sandals and clad in sack-cloth and ashes.

    • dusanmal says:

      Well, I am one of the scientists using NASA projects to work. And if NASA indeed dropped any penny on this photo and/or promotion in any way at the moment when they are cutting space science projects (particularly planetary science) and bemoaning how they can’t support enough science while wasting and abusing on bureaucrats (that part is a fact) – attack from the Congress oversight (even if it is Grassley for whom I too lack mincing words) is welcomed.
      During all recent NASA science cuts, head of it is the most famous for a statement that NASA PRIMARY goal is to promote Islamic contribution to the science in general… Sorry, keep on the real goals given when founded and stop funding bureaucrats, ideology and promotions. If NASA needs promotion let it be from people who pay for it voluntarily (and if picture above is such effort – they are welcome).

      • noname says:

        Yeah, it OK to build unnecessary Kiddie Go-Kart Track for distressed torture guards but how dare some NASA scientist spends pennies on their own initiative!

        Oh, the outrage, the horror, the crime. These scientists have it too good. Somebody, anybody should be sent to Guantanamo, made to undo go water boarding and their accounts garnished for fines, penalties, taxes, ….

        Americans have to deal harshly for these crimes against humanity! Does NASA know no shame!

  4. bobbo, are we Men of Science, or Devo says:

    I know absolutely nothing about this issue, or NASA, so I feel qualified to remark on this subject.

    I can easily believe that no tax dollars/program funds were spent on this photo task===but no “work time” spent on it? I can’t imagine how that was even possible.

    Sad that stupidity must be countered with lies.

    but, thats Stoopid Hoomans for you.

    • Tim says:

      Yes. Why should scientists and engineers have a moment of brevity off and spend any time on artistic expression of one’s own when they could just spend 3 minutes perusing something off

      • msbpodcast says:

        moment of brevity

        Did you mean levity?

        Brevity means quickness.

        Levity means humor.

        • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

          Hey Mpod–Timmy and I have been exchanging word-play back and forth as our lexicon, imagination, and serendipitous typing skills present.

          I saw the same ambiguity, spoonerism (sic!) and word play and assumed as with most of mine it was a typo or some kind of word choice change mid stream. The error is noticed on quick review before posting and is kept for the pleasure it gives.

          You have the word power. Give it a try.

        • Tim says:

          Yea, it was the wrong word, mostly. However, since bobbo brought it up, I probabably could, in the spirit of astronauts, twist the phrase to the mechanical sense of the word ‘moment’ to ‘broment’…

          Hmm. “Broment of MEHvity”? I think I loment that already, though.

          • noname says:

            Tim, if you haven’t noticed, this is a public blog. Also, if you haven’t noticed, this is not a technical writing class and you’re not its self-elected teacher; lighten up and enjoy someone’s word play. After-all, if you read much non-technical English literature, you will find all kinds of word play!

            Correcting these minor (if indeed they are mistakes) are not value added; accepting of course, it gives you some obviously disparately needed sense of superiority!

            I doubt others share your high self-opinion.

          • Tim says:


          • Tim says:

            But, then again, “broment of Mehvity” does work. I mean, they are a tight-knit team with the gals just being one of the guys. And the picture is not really very good, is it? It leaves me with a sinking feeling of ‘meh’ or indifference — That is obviously no ground lander so that it’s just another face-palming momentous incident of spending billions of dollars traveling trillions of miles only to bork the orbital insertion.

  5. Dallas says:

    Figures it was a fucking Republican.

    While no taxpayer funds were used in this amazing and wonderful all American project, Grassley, the king of pork (voted by Citizens Against Government Waste) wastes no time throwing taxpayer money away on having sex with Iowa pigs.

    • MikeN says:

      Like you support Citizens Against Government Waste.
      Their list is almost entirely Democrats. Indeed searching their website for Grassley, brings up mostly positive things where he is on the taxpayers’ side. They do call him the king of corn, implying he is supporting ethanol subsidies, though they don’t call him out on that specifically.

      • Dallas says:

        I support any organization that identifies waste. If their list is primarily democrat, that has nothing to do with me.

        Your point that Grassley is on the “taxpayers side” is a nice term for pork spending politicians that build bridges to nowhere because it employs their sheeple constituents and places tax dollars in the profiting corporations that fund his reelection.

        Shame on you and your ilk.

        • Mextli says:


          There you go again.

        • MikeN says:

          Grassley is presumably a big spender, but right now the CAGW website isn’t showing any evidence of it. So he has tightened up a bit recently at least. So far you have identified Sen Stephens and Sen Byrd with your comments but not Grassley.

          • Dallas says:

            I’m glad that CAGW has called Grassley to the carpet and he’s elected to go under for a while. Republicans are slimy little fawkers.

            Please stay on on topic. This topic involves hypcocrit Grassley. I wish Dvorak would install a red herring filter.

        • MikeN says:

          If you support org that identifies government waste, then you shouldn’t be attacking Senators that try to investigate if spending is wasteful.

          • Dallas says:

            Agreed but Grassley could have asked one of his office prostitutes to simply call and ask is this was a legitimate waste of $120.50.

            Instead, he ended up wasting thousands of dollars chasing nothing.

          • Tim says:

            Yea. Senators don’t use bookmarks as they like their pages bent over.

    • Tim says:

      The trick is to get them up against a cliff so that they push back better. That is why you see so many of them with pigs in the back seats of cars heading towards more mountainous terrain like Nevada, the Dakotas, and Tx.

  6. MikeN says:

    What no headline of Is there anyone who wastes money more than NASA?

    It is thinking like this that leads to trillion dollar budget deficits.

  7. super77 says:

    Thank God we can finally check this off our “Government Investigation To-Do List.” Someone working at the Library of Congress ordered extra paper clips and will need to answer for his misuse of taxpayer funds.

    • Tim says:

      Well, when the GAO un-redacts that those paper clips were $5000 each, then you may bet my ass that the deficate went to fund something they wanted to hide from Congress to start with.

  8. Kay-Plux Muta (from space) says:

    Perhaps the bigger question might be, why do we even have a NASA?

    What is NASA’s purpose other than to promote aironautics and space? It’s a function/mission that they don’t really do much of these days other than to waste BILLIONS on unmanned space probes!

    Sure. We still get some benefit from NASA with their Space Shuttle-like missions (“shuttle-LIKE” since there’s no more space shuttle). And the discoveries those outragrously expensive probes like the Mars rover make is also quite invalueable. But there’s the rub – the MONEY!

    With TRILLIONS of dollars spent on NASA’s since it’s creatioin, what real benefits have we seen from it all? Perhaps even more curious might be why AMERICANS are still nearly exclusively funding NASA when the WORLD is really who benefits from it!

    Talk about a “clotted turd” — particularly in times of “economic realignment”! If anyhing, I say stop paying those high-tech migrant workers their kings randsom 6-digit PLUS paychecks for doing little more than blog on a computer while waiting for something to happen or for gluing a few ceramic tiles to a multi-billion dollar AIRPLANE!

    I do appreciate all that NASA has done, but enough is enough! The way I see it, the space race is long over and NASA only now adds to a national debt that if paid off today would cost every man woman and child on PLANET EARTH more than a thousand dollars per person. But since only poor dumb American’s pay for NASA the cost per person is WAY MORE!

    Senator Charles Grassley may indeed be a political fool who needs to be given a brain transplant. He is, after all, a politician and probably even a lawyer! But given the wasteful money problem Washington clearly has, you can’t exactly blame him for looking at potential waste even if it’s with one or several egg head know-it-all’s. You know who I’m talking about — just like the same egg heads in Silicon Valley (a.k.a. “Silly Ville”) who elect even bigger wasteful fools like Nancy Pelosi to Congress.

    • Dallas says:

      Do your research, it’s not “trillions”. In fact it’s not even one trillion.

      Either way, it’s research with a purpose and best money ever spent. In addition to computers, solar panels, microwave ovens and Tang, we needed to see if the moon was made out of cheese.

    • msbpodcast says:

      The way I see it,

      Nobody gives a flying fuck about how you see it because you see shit.

      Nobody but an utter moron like yourself believes the utterly nonsensical figure of the trillions of dollars wasted by NASA.

      Ever look up from your own ass? Like up at the sky?

      Like how did all those GPS satellites get up there? Because of research done by NASA.

      Like how did all those weather satellites get up there? Because of research done by NASA.

      Like how did all those spy satellites get up there?
      Because of research done by NASA.

      Like how did all those remote sensing satellites get up there?
      Because of research done by NASA.

      You are a fuckin’ troglodite.

      Go cower in a cave somewhere in western Pakistan and you and Mullah Omar can talk to god or yaweh or allah or some other fairy tale being.

  9. Cap'n Kangaroo says:

    The real scandal is that some of their costumes are more Anglo-Saxon than Viking. I am almost surprised there isn’t a twitter storm over this glaring error.

    • sargasso_c says:

      Saxons were a nordic people. Seasonally the peaceful pastoral farmers would go “apache” on their neighbours, stealing, kidnapping and other severe naughtiness. The behaviour was termed “viking”, or something similar. They preyed of the weak and the vulnerable, attacked trade routes, sold themselves as mercenary armies and ran protection rackets across most of Europe.

      • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

        …. and then established and ran Russia along the same lines even unto today.

    • Captain Obvious says:

      Continue to plunder to scandal if you want, but I would Leif it alone.

  10. JudgeHooker says:

    Once again, leave it to me to sum up the real issue here. The waste investigation cost more than the waste being investigated. Only a lawyer or an MBA would even dare cough up a convoluted explanation to justify this. The rest of us know better.

    The rest of us know NASA money is far better spent than, say, DHS money, or whatever is spent on the Legislative Branch. Lets spend a little money on educating Mr Grassley on what the Judiciary Committee normally does; it probably does nothing with NASA.

    When Jeb decides to run in 2016 his first job should be to remove the likes of Grassley from the party.

  11. Wrigsted the Dane says:

    Race stereotypes! And what about the big black lady! Have they no respect for our culture ie. can I sue them?

  12. deowll says:

    Grassley got fed some bad info most likely by a Democrat. He usually hits real waste but then again finding real waste in the Fed government is about as easy as closing your eyes being spun in a circle and pointing.


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