Recently in Biden Space Category

Keith's note: Yesterday morning the President's schedule was released. At 5:00 pm EST was "The President participates in a virtual call to congratulate the NASA JPL Perseverance team on the successful Mars landing" with a note that this was restricted to "in-house Pool Spray". In other words the only people in the room would be the small group of cameras and personnel that taped the event so as to provide the footage to all media outlets. In keeping with a rule set by the White House Correspondents Association, no one else can broadcast that event. Yes, it sounds silly and restrictive to the free flow of information, but it is what it is. Eventually C-SPAN and other news outlets posted it - within a matter of minutes after the call ended.

NASA had the better part of a day to prepare for this. The intended audience was NASA JPL but over 6,000 employees and associated researchers were invited to listen and watch. The full text of the event was posted by the White House between 7:00 and 8:00 pm EST per standard procedure. (Here is a sentence by sentence analysis).

You would think that NASA and JPL would have had more than enough advance notice so as to arrange for a recording to be made for later posting as well as to have a transcript made. Failing that, you'd think that they could have posted links on their websites and massive Twitter accounts. @NASAJPL has 3.2 million followers, @NASA has 44.6 million. Their websites reach audiences in the hundreds of millions. The official White House transcript and the C-SPAN video were promptly posted after the event - by C-SPAN and the White House. NASA and JPL could have posted links to them immediately, right? Guess again. It has been 24 hours. There has been no mention whatsoever by NASA or JPL. Still nothing.

FWIW I posted the transcript when it came out and had video links up within minutes and I am just some guy sitting in his basement (see Biden Calls JPL But We Can't Listen In (Update)). Meanwhile NASA sits on its ass. Had they gotten all of this online as fast as I did they could have made much more of a showing in the evening and morning news cycles.

Weirdly, NASA was highly promoting the call from Vice President Harris to the ISS the other day - and they prominently feature it on NASA.gov and other locations. NASA folks love to complain when no one seems to be paying attention to them - especially when their programs cost too much and they need more money. Well, this White House is still settling in but they just can't stop giving NASA good press - several times a week from both the President and Vice President. At some point you'd expect that the White House would like a little return on that with some prominent mention by NASA.

The President seems to be really jazzed by NASA. Genuinely so. He also seems to clearly grasp its potential - its soft power - an emergent property form all of this space excellence that goes well beyond the scientific and technical accomplishment - especially when we are beset by a pandemic and an economic calamity. Indeed, he said "I tell you what: I just wanted to thank you and tell you, you know, you -- it just seems that, you know, we're on the side of the angels. Just at the moment when things look like they're really dark in America over our history, something has come along. Something has come along. And you guys came along and you did this." So what does NASA do? They snub the President by ignoring his message.

Oh - NASA will get something online eventually - but really NASA, and JPL: how hard would it have been to been just a little more proactive? So the next time NASA complains about not getting enough money just remember how lazy they were when it came for them to make the most of their time in the Presidential spotlight. These opportunities are not going to last forever.

Keith's note: More than 6,000 people were invited to listen to the President's remarks. NASA TV was not allowed to broadcast it live to the rest of the nation. But some media outlets were allowed to record it for their exclusive use. The success of Mars Perseverance is for all Americans to share - not just a chosen few. I thought that this team got that. Guess not. The first part of this video has no audio for some reason.

'Remarks by President Biden in a Call to Congratulate the NASA JPL Perseverance Team on the Successful Mars Landing

"DR. MOHAN: Absolutely. So my path actually started way back when I was a child, watching my first episode of Star Trek. In addition to those fantastical scenes of space, what really captured my attention was this really close-knit team who was working together, manipulating this technological marvel with the sole purpose of exploring space and understanding new things and seeking new life."

BIDEN: God only knows what is going to come from this. God only knows what is going to happen. But you all are incredible. All of the dreams that you have created in other people's minds - all the young kids. I tell you what... I just wanted to thank you and tell you, you know, it just seems that we are on the side of the angels. At the moment when things look like they are really dark in America, over our history, something has come along. Something has come along - and you guys came along and you did this. so I just wanted to thank you from the bottom of my heart. It is presumptuous of me to say how proud I am of you - but I am so proud of you. And Mike, the teamwork that still exists there - and the importance of it and the consequence of what you are doing - its only just a start. I had a group of folks in my office not too long ago - House and Senate members - Democrats and Republicans - talking about infrastructure. And I have, on a shelf in the Oval Office, a Moon rock. And they walked over and said 'is this actually a Moon rock - from the Moon?' And I jokingly said 'you ain't seen nothin' yet. Wait 'til you see what comes home from Mars.' "

There is a better video here on C-SPAN.

NASA's Space Launch System, George W.S. Abbey, Baker Institute for Public Policy

"In view of the current availability of a significant number of commercial launch vehicles with proven payload capabilities, as well as the industry's progress in providing a launch vehicle with significantly greater lift capabilities, the Biden administration should reconsider the need for the SLS during its annual budget review. Its launch costs are much greater than those being quoted for existing rockets, as well as those projected for larger commercial boosters with comparable payload capabilities to the SLS. Affordability must always be considered in view of demanding budgets and in view of the availability and the acceptability of lower-cost alternatives."

The Biden administration has set out to dismantle Trump's legacy, except in one area: Space, Washington Post

"Though many in the space community thought the Trump administration's goal to land astronauts on the moon by 2024 was impossible and politically motivated, it gave the program momentum. And many at NASA were worried that the Biden administration, which said virtually nothing about space during the campaign, would change course again, continuing a record often compared with the scene in the cartoon strip "Peanuts" when Lucy pulls the football away just as Charlie Brown is about to kick it. Since coming into office, however, Biden has shown an interest in space. He installed a moon rock in the Oval Office, and the White House published a video of him watching NASA's Perseverance rover landing on Mars last month. Afterward Biden called to congratulate Steve Jurczyk, NASA's acting administrator, who has spent more than 30 years at NASA."

Earlier posts

Opinion: The U.S. put a man on the moon. But it might be harder to do the same on Mars.Mitch Daniels, Washington Post

"If and when humankind reaches that next frontier, though, there are reasons to doubt that it will be a U.S. government space project that leads us there. Ironically, the society that put a man on the moon may be just the wrong one to succeed in this next great endeavor, at least through a grand national project like Apollo."

Keith's note: In his OpEd former OMB director Mitch Daniels spends 95% of his time explaining why NASA will probably never send humans to Mars - as if it were an indisputable future - one that is really not open to further discussion. His only bright light in terms of sending humans to Mars is a single paragraph punt to the private sector - with no real elaboration as to how it might happen. In other words government=bad, private sector=good. Details to to follow.

Daniels has had a chance to really get into the issues surrounding human spaceflight a decade ago. But his efforts were widely panned as being a flop. He mentions a report issued by a committee he chaired. Specifically it was the "Committee Reviews Report on Future of Human Spaceflight", issued by the NRC in response to a requirement in the NASA Authorization Act of 2014. NASA paid millions of dollars for this multi-year report generating effort.

As I wrote at the time: "NRC says NASA Is on the wrong path to Mars. That's about the only thing they took a clear position on in their report. In writing their report the committee dodged all of the big questions with the excuse that it was beyond their scope/charter. Trivial mention was made of commercial alternatives or whether the SLS-based model is the right way to get to Mars. In the briefing yesterday Mitch Daniels said that funding for all of this is "the secondary question". So there you go - yet another space policy report - one that cost $3.6 million and is being delivered more than 3 years after it was requested. The White House and NASA will ignore it. Congress will wave it around and then ignore it too. In the end we'll all be where we are now - with incomplete plans, no strategy, a big rocket with no payload, and nothing close to a budget to make any of it happen."

So ... here we are 7 years later and we are still trying to figure out where NASA is going to go - and why. Daniels et al had a chance to try and reset NASA's course but they shied away from a chance to do so - and they overtly told everyone that that they were not going to answer the big, obvious questions this report raised. Now its time for him to pop up and criticize what has/has not happend in the intervening 7 years. Like cicadas I guess we'll have to wait another 7 years for the next Daniels update.

As mentioned above, Daniels has found religion in commercial space. He found it but does not know what to do with it. Daniels is somewhat correct in stating that: "To do so, our commission concluded, would require making the goal a central, single-minded priority of the U.S. space program; a relentless, unswerving multi-decade commitment to a pre-agreed path to reach the goal; and constant investments in amounts well above the rate of inflation. American democracy is not very good at any of those things." Again, as I noted, Daniels et al listed the problems but had no idea what the solutions were. So why have a report if the report does not offer a solution to a problem? Oh wait: I almost forgot; this is Washington. Reports are solutions in and of themselves. Whether they offer anything useful is beside the point.

Daniels concludes his op ed by saying "The new Biden administration's overall agenda is bigger and more expensive than any before it, yet it appears to leave little or no space for space. With a micromanaging Congress resetting budgets on an annual basis, picking out a priority for NASA and sticking to it for 20 years or more is likely not in the cards; we've proved very poor at "perseverance." Plus, our legislators regularly carve out NASA dollars for favored non-exploratory causes such as environmental monitoring, and fiercely protect multiple space centers and resulting costly redundancies."

Again, Daniels does a nice job citing all of the problems and challenges and predicting a post mortem on things yet to come - things that he thinks are immutable and unable to be changed. In many instances he is right. But enough with the problems already.

So Mitch - is there ever going to be a solution forthcoming? The Biden/Harris team - at age 1 month - has already been prompted to respond to the space issue multiple times. Each and every response - many unprompted - has been one of support. Yes, words and empty promises are the prime commodity here in Washington. But at least the Biden/Harris team proceeds from a point of optimism and hope when it comes to space. No doubt the reality of governing post-pandemic America will dampen some of this - but at least they start from a good place. You? Not so much. People tend to accomplish more if they start out thinking that they can. There's a little hope. Let's run with it - while we can. Ad Astra Mitch.

- Why Does Space Policy Always Suck? (2013), earlier post
- Report From Slow Motion Advisory Committee on Human Space Flight (2013), earlier post
- Space Studies Board is (Not Really) Interested In What You Think, (2013), earlier post
- NRC Says NASA Is On The Wrong Path to Mars , (2014), earlier post
- Hearing on NRC Human Spaceflight Report, (2014), earlier post

Vice President Kamala Harris Calls NASA Astronaut Victor Glover

"In celebration of Black History Month, NASA astronaut Victor Glover welcomed Vice President Kamala Harris to the International Space Station for avirtual chat. In the video recorded Feb. 24 and shared Saturday, the conversation ranged from the legacy of human spaceflight to observing Earth from the vantage of the space station, Glovers history-making stay aboard the orbiting laboratory, and preparing for missions from the Moon to Mars."

Excerpt from full text of comments made by President Biden

"But then, last week -- (applause) -- guess what? -- we also landed a rover on Mars. (Applause.) We -- led by a NASA team in Pasadena, California. A rover carries instruments developed by a team here in Houston that will be used in the mission of our time and our dreams. Imagine. We tell -- everybody has been so down the last number of years about what America -- what can we do? Who are -- we can do anything! America can do anything. (Applause.) And now we see the images that are truly stunning: battling COVID, beating cancer, going to Mars."

Nearly Half the Public Wants the U.S. to Maintain Its Space Dominance. Appetite for Space Exploration Is a Different Story, Morning Consult

"Making space exploration a priority though, even during a pandemic, could bode well for Americans' morale, Logsdon said, such as what happened with the first moon landing in 1969 that came on the heels of a decade of domestic and international civil unrest. "It was a counter balance to the negativity of the time," Logsdon said. "If we do inspirational things in space -- go back to the moon or travel beyond land rovers on Mars -- that gives us a sense of future, a sense of positive achievement to counter the pervasive negativity." ."

Keith's note: Rumors are starting to bubble up. Bill Nelson wants you to know that he really, really wants to be the next NASA Administrator. There is one small problem however: according to his own previously established criteria for who should - or should not - be NASA administrator, he is not qualified. Oh yes: former NASA Adminstrator Charlie Bolden agreed with Nelson's qualification criteria. Just sayin'

Keith's update: there was mention of this topic at the daily White House Press briefing:

Reporter: There are reports that Presiden Biden is considering former Florida Senator Bill Nelson to be the NASA Administrator. Are those reports accurate? Is he under consideration? And when do you expect an announcement?
Psaki: I do not have any personnel announcements for you or any expectation as to when we will have an announcement on a NASA administrator - or a list of potential people. But that is an interesting one.

Will Bill Nelson be the next NASA administrator? Twitter raises that possibility, Florida Today

"If Joe Biden is elected. I will give a recommendation of a handful of people that I would recommend to be the head of NASA, and my recommendation would not include myself," Nelson explained in August."

A politician who said politicians shouldn't run NASA wants to run NASA, Ars Technica

"In 2017, Nelson also led the opposition to Jim Bridenstine becoming administrator of NASA. Then serving as the ranking member on the Senate's Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation, which oversees NASA, Nelson said Bridenstine was too partisan and political to lead NASA. He also accused Bridenstine of not having the expertise to do so."

What Qualified Bill Nelson To Be An Astronaut? Politics, earlier post (2017)

"Nelson overtly used his political position to force NASA to fly him on a space shuttle mission. His only professional qualification? He was a lawyer."

Bill Nelson: Do As I Say Not As I Do, earlier post (2017)

"The head of NASA ought to be a space professional, not a politician," Mr. Nelson, a Democrat, said in a statement on Friday."

Rubio, Nelson blast Trump's NASA pick, Politico (2017)

"The head of NASA ought to be a space professional, not a politician," Nelson said in a brief written statement to POLITICO."

Trump's nominee for NASA administrator comes under fire at Senate hearing, Washington Post (2017)

"The NASA administrator should be a consummate space professional who is technically and scientifically competent and a skilled executive," said Nelson, who wields great influence over the space agency, in his written opening statement. "More importantly, the administrator must be a leader who has the ability to unite scientists, engineers, commercial space interests, policymakers and the public on a shared vision for future space exploration."

Bolden Throws Bridenstine Some Shade, earlier post (2017)

"He would not have been my first choice because he's a politician. And he is the first person, to my knowledge, ever selected from political office to become the NASA administrator. I don't think it's healthy for the agency to have someone who's a partisan in that position. The position calls for somebody who can carry out the president's agenda to the best of his ability but do it in a nonpartisan way and be able to work across the aisle. And I think his history is such that he may find some difficulty in working across the aisle."

NASA Mars Perseverance Excerpt: Remarks by President Biden at the 2021 Virtual Munich Security Conference

"I know we can do this. We've done it before. Just yesterday -- after a seven-month, 300-million mile journey -- NASA successfully landed the Perseverance Rover on Mars. It's on a mission of exploration, with elements contributed by our European partners to seek evidence of the possibility of life beyond our planet and the mysteries of the universe.

Over the next few years -- "Percy" is (inaudible) call -- but Perseverance will range and collect samples from the Red Planet and pile them up so another mission and rover, envisioned as a joint effort between NASA and the European Space Agency, will retrieve this trove of scientific wonders and bring it home to all of us.

That's what we can do together. If our unbound capacity to carry us to Mars and back don't tell us anything else, they tell us we can meet any challenge we can face on Earth. We have everything we need. And I want you to know the United States will do -- we'll do our part. We'll stand with you. We'll fight for our shared values. We'll meet the challenges of this new moment in history.

America is back. So let's get together and demonstrate to our great, great grandchildren, when they read about us, that democracy -- democracy -- democracy functions and works, and together, there is nothing we can't do. So let's get working."


Space exploration more about collaboration than competition, says Nasa's Dr Bhavya Lal, Times of India

"Congratulations on your new appointment. What do you see as the major challenges for Nasa and its leadership over the next 10 years?

Climate change poses an existential threat not just to our environment but also to our health and well-being. Nasa will be expanding its climate change research. Another challenge we would be focussing on is to re-establish America's standing through global engagement and diplomacy. We want to engage not just with our traditional partners but also emerging spacefaring countries and adversaries, too. Not just collaborating on the science and technology but also to develop norms of behaviour to ensure that space remains safe and sustainable for future generations. Another issue we need to be working very hard on is to build a diverse STEM workforce and inspire future generations. Last but not least, there's a lot to be done to support the International Space Station (ISS) and then to return astronauts to the Moon and then prepare to go to Mars."

Building Artemis Back Better

Acting NASA chief says 2024 Moon landing no longer a "realistic" target, Ars Technica

"NASA's acting administrator said Wednesday evening that the goal of landing humans on the Moon by 2024 no longer appears to be feasible. "The 2024 lunar landing goal may no longer be a realistic target due to the last two years of appropriations, which did not provide enough funding to make 2024 achievable," the acting administrator, Steve Jurczyk, told Ars. "In light of this, we are reviewing the program for the most efficient path forward."

Keith's note: This is, of course true - but it is not the whole story. It was widely assumed within NASA that when Vice President Pence suddenly advanced the Artemis lunar landing date to 2024 that it would be rather hard to make that happen. But NASA had to accept that challenge - and they did and worked hard to make it happen. But it did not happen. The prime reason for the problems lay at the feet of the chronic delays and cost overruns for SLS and its associated ground support systems. Even when NASA got the money it needed it still fell behind year after year as both the GAO and OIG noted with consistent regularity.

Then, of course, there was the ever-changing Gateway which added and then discarded features faster than the NASA graphic artists could update the pretty website imagery. And the lunar lander grew larger and more complex every time NASA mentioned it. So ... Jurczyk is right - he is just not fessing up to the whole story. It is mea culpa time for NASA.

NASA is as much to blame for the Artemis quagmire as past Congresses and White House Administrations are. Now, a new Administration has thrown a hopeful lifeline to the Artemis program albeit a vague one. The pandemic, a crashing economy, exploding government debt, and dysfunctional politics is going to force every program - in every agency - to redouble its explanation as to why it needs to be done.

The Biden Administration's slogan "Build Back Better" should be something that everyone at NASA pays attention to. Artemis is going to change - and be fixed - for the "better". A reformatted Artemis may well accomplish much of its original intent - but NASA may also be directed to focus human spaceflight efforts elsewhere as well. But refocusing of human spaceflight at NASA - regardless of what that ends up being - is only going to work out well if NASA stops the whole smoke and mirrors, shift the blame, give-us-what-we-want-because-we-say-so, tactics and openly admits that it did things wrong with Artemis.

Moreover, instead of being an outlier when it comes to overall national priorities, NASA needs to start becoming more of a "whole of government" player. Otherwise it may just find itself standing there with an empty, outstretched hand. NASA is also going to have to learn to let go of some things and adopt other novel approaches in the process of building back Artemis better. As soon as the new TBD NASA Administrator arrives the agency needs to hit the ground running.

- Big Aerospace Still Wants Everything That Trump Promised, earlier post
- Uh Oh: The Space Community Is Writing A White Paper - Again, earlier post
- Artemis Human Lander Contract Decision Delayed, earlier post
- GAO On Artemis: Behind Schedule, Over Cost, Lacking Clear Direction, earlier post
- Surprise: SLS Will Cost 30% More Than The Last Big Cost Increase, earlier post
- NASA OIG: Surprise, Surprise: Orion Is Behind Schedule, Over Cost, And Lacks Transparency, earlier post
- Denial At Boeing Regarding Poor Performance On SLS, earlier post
- You Can't Exert National Prestige With A Rocket That Does Not Fly, earlier post
- previous SLS/Orion posts

Keith's note: Just in case you missed it, this report by IDA Science and Technology Policy Institute came out in March 2020: "Measuring the Space Economy: Estimating the Value of Economic Activities in and for Space". Among the authors is Acting NASA Chief of Staff Bhavya Lal.

"The purpose of this report is to provide more targeted estimates of the size of the space economy than are currently employed. It does so by adopting a more restrictive definition of the space economy that only includes the value of goods and services provided to governments, households, and businesses from space or used to support activities in space; it excludes activities that are enabled by space, but are primarily generated terrestrially. We adopt this definition because we believe that an estimate of the size of the space economy focused on activities from or in space would help U.S. Government policy makers develop better policies to foster the growth of commercial activities for or in space, and help clarify for investors and entrepreneurs interested in the space economy the current extent and size of markets focused exclusively on space."

NASA is bargaining with a US space startup for a Soyuz seat, The Verge

"NASA is planning to buy an astronaut seat on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft through Texas-based aerospace firm Axiom Space, according to two people familiar with the plans. It was unclear how much NASA is considering paying Axiom for the single Soyuz seat or what cut Axiom would get from the deal."

Keith's update: Nice scoop by Joey Roulette. So ... why is it that NASA is buying a seat from Roscosmos via a third party? Axiom Space has to be making some money off of this, right? So why go through Axiom Space and pay them a fee when NASA can just go directly to Roscosmos - minus the Axiom Space reselling path - as NASA has done for decades? Wouldn't that be cheaper? Does this involve the $140 million deal that Axiom Space has with NASA to study their commercial space station module? Or ... does the use of Axiom Space (an American company) as a middle man provide a way to technically "buy American"?

NASA Weighs Options for Additional Crew Transportation for Spring Soyuz Mission to Space Station

"NASA now is considering obtaining a supplemental seat on the upcoming spring Soyuz crew rotation mission for a NASA astronaut to add additional capability to the agency's planning. The agency issued a public synopsis to identify all sources that potentially could provide the crew transportation service in the needed timeframe beyond the capability NASA already has in operation with the agency's Commercial Crew Program. ... Securing an additional Soyuz seat assures the back-up capability of at least one U.S. crew member aboard the International Space Station in the event of a problem with either spacecraft. NASA is considering providing in-kind services for this supplemental crew transportation service, rather than an exchange of funds."

Executive Order on Ensuring the Future Is Made in All of America by All of America's Workers, 25 January 2021

"Section 1. Policy. It is the policy of my Administration that the United States Government should, consistent with applicable law, use terms and conditions of Federal financial assistance awards and Federal procurements to maximize the use of goods, products, and materials produced in, and services offered in, the United States. The United States Government should, whenever possible, procure goods, products, materials, and services from sources that will help American businesses compete in strategic industries and help America's workers thrive. Additionally, to promote an accountable and transparent procurement policy, each agency should vest waiver issuance authority in senior agency leadership, where appropriate and consistent with applicable law."

Keith's 9 Feb note: NASA has been crowing about its commercial crew capabilities with SpaceX and soon, with Boeing. The whole idea behind the commercial crew thing was to provide the U.S. with its own redundant ability to launch astronauts and to end the reliance on foreign providers. The idea behind having more than one domestic provider was that one could back up the other using dissimilar redundancy i.e. two different systems. Now, NASA apparently wants to back-up the back-up citing dissimilar redundancy as the rational. So it now wants doubly-dissimilar redundancy, it would seem. Or do they have doubts about Boeing and/or SpaceX?

With regard to NASA saying "NASA is considering providing in-kind services for this supplemental crew transportation service, rather than an exchange of funds.", the "in-kind services" that NASA is offering cost NASA something to provide. They are not provided to NASA for free. NASA is offering something that cost them money in exchange for these Soyuz seats - seats provided by an offshore source.

Meanwhile the White House issued an executive order mere days after taking office that mandates a government focus on procuring goods and service domestically. Is NASA somehow special in thinking that it can overtly ask for a foreign provider when we make nice sexy spaceships domestically? SpaceX just announced that it is launching an overtly commercial flight, and launching another for Axiom, and yet another for Tom Cruise. Is there really a lack of domestic capability? Or is NASA just falling back into old habits. Just wondering.

NASA's Climate Communications Might Not Recover From the Damage of Trump's Systemic Suppression, Time

"Soon after, I was told by higher-ups including JPL's director of the Office of Communication, also a career employee rather than a political appointee, to stop reporting on and sharing climate-related content from other government agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Weather Service and the Department of Energy--groups I'd been collaborating with for years. I was also banned from working with non-NASA academic climate scientists and educators."

Keith's note: From what I saw during the Trump Administration NASA managed to fare somewhat better than NOAA and other agencies when it came to science communication in general and climate science in particular. But that is just a relative comparison. This account about events several years ago does reflect how pervasively anti-science the Trump Administration was. That is now behind us as the Biden Administration has already made emphatic moves to address climate change and make up for lost time. One would hope that the behavior of JPL PAO as described in this article comes to an end.

NSC Memo May Spell End Of National Space Council, Breaking Defense

"It is not quite clear what this portends for the National Space Council," said Brian Weeden, head of program planning at the Secure World Foundation, echoing the sentiments of a number of space insiders. "It does seem like they are going with the NSC, as they mention NSMs will be used for national security and space policy documents, but it's not entirely clear. ... Weeden explained that "both the George W. Bush and Obama admins used the NSC process and documents for their space policy decisions, but had either NSC or OSTP as the lead agency." During the Obama administration, when Biden was VP, the NSC had the lead for natsec space and OSTP had the lead for civil and commercial space."

Memorandum on Renewing the National Security Council System

"This document is one in a series of National Security Memoranda that, along with National Security Study Memoranda, shall replace National Security Presidential Memoranda and Space Policy Directives as instruments for communicating Presidential decisions about national security policies of the United States."

Dealing With NASA's New Science Challenges, earlier post

"It will be interesting to see what happens to the National Space Council since OSTP has been elevated to cabinet-level ranking and the PCAST is being established as the nation's focal point for generating scientific advice, policy etc. The National Space Council and its Users Advisory Group would seem to be duplicative and a needless layer of government."

Letter From U.S. Senators To President Biden Regarding NASA's Human Landing System (HLS) Program

"NASA's Artemis Program will return America to deep space, support economic recovery, strengthen national security, promote scientific research, and inspire the next generation. The HLS Program will develop 21st century crewed lunar landers - a critical piece of the Artemis architecture. We urge you to proceed with the planned selection and to include all necessary funding for HLS in your FY 2022 budget request."

- Artemis Human Lander Contract Decision Delayed, earlier post
- Jurczyk Is Sticking With A 2024 Artemis Lunar Landing Date - For Now, earlier post

NASA Announces New Role of Senior Climate Advisor, NASA

"In an effort to ensure effective fulfillment of the Biden Administration's climate science objectives for NASA, the agency has established a new position of senior climate advisor and selected Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Science in New York, to serve in the role in an acting capacity until a permanent appointment is made. "This position will provide NASA leadership critical insights and recommendations for the agency's full spectrum of science, technology, and infrastructure programs related to climate," said acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk. "This will enable the agency to more effectively align our efforts to help meet the administration's goals for addressing climate change."

Keith's note: According to the 27 January 2021 Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad Sec. 103 (c) NASA and other agencies will "shall develop and submit to the President, within 120 days of the date of this order, an analysis of the security implications of climate change (Climate Risk Analysis) that can be incorporated into modeling, simulation, war-gaming, and other analyses." That is the only thing that NASA is chartered to do at this point.

It is commendable that NASA has selected its best, Gavin Schmidt, a world-renowned expert, for this position representing the entire agency. That said, it is not clear if he - and NASA - are actually expected to play a prominent role in the Administration's Climate Change Task Force and related efforts - one that is commensurate with NASA's substantial capabilities. NASA studies not just Earth's climate and surface with a fleet of satellites it builds these systems for other agencies. Moreover, NASA studies climate on other worlds in our solar system - even beyond. Yet NASA is not on the Climate Task Force and is only tasked with writing a report that is due in 120 days. Maybe Gavin Schmidt can change the Administration's mind on this decision to leave NASA on the sidelines.

- NASA Is A Minor Part Of The Biden Climate Change Action Plan (Update), earlier post

Keith's footnote: Dealing with Climate Change is one of the top urgent items that the Biden Administration has claimed to be focusing on since the moment that they won the 2020 election. You'd think that NASA would try and make its expansive Earth and Climate science portfolio front and center. As of the time I am posting this (11:20 am EST) NASA has yet to make mention of this senior climate change appointment on the agency's main page or its Earth Science page. No mention at the main Science Mission Directorate web page or its Earth Science page. But they did tweet a link to its press release via @NASA to 45,000,000 people.

Its not as if NASA itself did not have advanced notice of its own news - NASA Public Affairs issued a press release at 9:38 am EST yet this article appeared on the Washington Post at 8:56 am filled with a long interview and quotes done well in advance of the official release. Yet NASA PAO's websites still make no mention.

One part of NASA does not know what other parts are doing.

We Interviewed the New Head of NASA About SpaceX, China, and Aliens, Futurism

"Question: Your predecessor laid out a lot of highly-ambitious plans, like landing the first woman on the Moon by 2024 and establishing a long-term lunar base. I assume Artemis isn't being abandoned, but are you still pursuing those same timelines?

Jurczyk: Every indication we have so far, in week two of the new administration, is that Artemis will not be abandoned. ... I think that the Moon-to-Mars strategy of Artemis is still our strategic vector. And then we have to look at the funding in our fiscal year 2021 appropriation. We've proposed roughly $3.2 billion in 2021 for the human landing system. And I think we received roughly about a quarter of that, about $850 million. So given that change in budget, particularly for that landing system, we'll have to look at the timeline for what we now call the Artemis III mission, which is the mission that would land the first woman and the next man on the Moon in 2024. Mostly driven by budget and not necessarily by policy, we're looking at the timeline for the Artemis III mission and that might affect the Artemis IV mission. We are holding the Artemis I mission for later this year. The baseline is to launch in early November. That's the only uncrewed test flight of the Space Launch System and the Orion spacecraft. And then we're planning on the crewed test flight, a mission to go around the Moon and return, Artemis II, in the 2023 timeframe."

Keith's 1 February note: The Biden White House issued an Executive order on 27 January 2021 "Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad" which outlines its immediate steps to deal with the threat of climate change on society and our economy in a "whole of government" fashion.

As you all know, The National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, lists a variety of things that NASA Is chartered to "to contribute materially to one or more of the following objectives". The first one on the list is: "The expansion of human knowledge of phenomena in the atmosphere and space." NASA builds and launches all of NOAA's satellites and pioneered the Earth resources capabilities used by all sectors of the U.S. government - expertise that it has applied across the solar system. The Earth Science budget at NASA for FY 2021 is $2 billion. As such, you'd think that NASA, as the provider of Earth observation and research capabilities, would be a prime participant in the Biden Administration's Climate Action plans. Guess again.

The only place that NASA is mentioned by name (or even inferred) in the Executive Order is Sec. 103 (s): "The Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Secretary of Commerce, through the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Director of National Intelligence, the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the heads of other agencies as appropriate, shall develop and submit to the President, within 120 days of the date of this order, an analysis of the security implications of climate change (Climate Risk Analysis) that can be incorporated into modeling, simulation, war-gaming, and other analyses."

The Executive Order goes on to say "National Climate Task Force. There is hereby established a National Climate Task Force (Task Force). The Task Force shall be chaired by the National Climate Advisor" followed by a list of more than 20 Cabinet agencies and high level government offices. NASA is not mentioned.

NASA is only mentioned once in this entire Executive Order. The word "space" is mentioned once - but only as part of NASA's name. The word "satellite" is never mentioned. So ... the big task force chartered to handle America's "whole of government" climate change response makes no mention of NASA as a member - other than to suggest that the NASA Administrator has an action item due in 120 days.

So - all NASA does is write a memo. Am I missing something?

Keith's 2 February update: Later in the day the NASA HQ main page and its Earth science page added mention of Schmidt's appointment. But if you go to the Science Mission Directorate page and its Earth Science page you'd never know that this happened. Yet the NASA GISS Page and NASA Goddard pages have prominent mention. Again, one part of NASA has no idea what other parts are doing - even when they focus on the same topics. And in this case, the organization (SMD) at NASA HQ who spends NASA's billions on Earth and climate science research is the one that remains out of the loop.

Keith's 2 February update: As noted yesterday the recent Executive Order dealing with Climate change clearly suggests that NASA is apparently going to have a minimal role in that effort. In this interview with FUturism Jurczyk was only able to reflect in NASA's current activities in this interview in a broader sense but did not state with any specificity what NASA's role would be going fourth with regard to this executive order. But this Administration is only 2 weeks old - so who knows.

We Interviewed the New Head of NASA About SpaceX, China, and Aliens, Futurism

"Question: It's been reported that the White House wants NASA to reemphasize climate change. I'm curious what you think about NASA's capacity to focus on climate change research in addition to space exploration, and how you plan to balance those priorities.

Jurczyk: ... Yeah, it would be pretty premature to comment on what the impacts might be on the overall budget of NASA and other areas of NASA. But we're going to do that work and see how we can potentially accelerate some of those observations or earth science missions, to accelerate the research, to contribute to the administration's whole of government approach to dealing with climate change."

NASA Names Leaders to Key Agency Roles

"NASA has named appointees for senior agency positions. Bhavya Lal joins the agency as acting chief of staff, Phillip Thompson will serve as White House liaison, Alicia Brown will serve as associate administrator for the Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs, and Marc Etkind will serve as associate administrator for the agency's Office of Communications. In addition, Jackie McGuinness will join the agency as press secretary and Reagan Hunter will serve as special assistant for the agency's Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs."

Keith's note: What a difference 4 years, an election, and a pandemic can make. When the Trump "beachead team" descended upon NASA, they began to act more like a boarding party from a pirate ship. They squabbled amongst themselves almost immediately. Some of them had no expertise in space. All too soon job titles shifted like "Musical Chairs" as they jockeyed for power. I can recall going to a NAC meeting where a seat was reserved for the "Chief of Staff" and no one knew who that person's name was since it had shifted several times. Soon it was like "Hunger Games" with one after another of the Trump folks were ejected from NASA - by the other Trump folks. Several of them liked to go around Washington to meetings, barking orders at the space community along the lines of "there's a new team in town". Indeed.

Eventually, at least two of them were escorted out of NASA HQ by security after being told to clean out their desks. The ejected ones went to other agencies and roles where they caused new sorts of problems. They were mostly gone when Jim Bridenstine arrived. But their impact was long lasting and left a bad taste in people's mouths.

Contrast this with the people that are showing up from the Biden White House. They do so virtually with most (if not all) not even badged into the building yet. They have all either had their jobs before somewhere else or have skillsets that are matched to their new roles at NASA - and they hit the ground running - as a team. I for one welcome the ... calmer, more professional Biden management team to NASA.

Memorandum on Restoring Trust in Government Through Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking

"Because science, facts, and evidence are vital to addressing policy and programmatic issues across the Federal Government, the heads of all agencies (not only those that fund, conduct, or oversee scientific research) shall designate expeditiously a senior career employee as the agency's lead scientific-integrity official ("Scientific Integrity Official") to oversee implementation and iterative improvement of scientific-integrity policies and processes consistent with the provisions of this memorandum, including implementation of the administrative and dispute resolution processes described in section (3)(c)(iii) of this memorandum. For agencies with a Chief Science Officer, the Scientific Integrity Official shall report to the Chief Science Officer on all matters involving scientific-integrity policies."

Executive Order on the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology

"The PCAST shall advise the President on matters involving policy affecting science, technology, and innovation, as well as on matters involving scientific and technological information that is needed to inform public policy relating to the economy, worker empowerment, education, energy, the environment, public health, national and homeland security, racial equity, and other topics."

Keith's note: It will be interesting to see what happens to the National Space Council since OSTP has been elevated to cabinet-level ranking and the PCAST is being established as the nation's focal point for generating scientific advice, policy etc. The National Space Council and its Users Advisory Group would seem to be duplicative and a needless layer of government. These directives will require NASA's Chief Scientist and Chief Information Officer to dramatically dial up their activities. Given that the NASA Chief Scientist's office has traditionally been mostly outreach oriented and out of the loop on many things - and that the NASA CIO's office has dropped the ball in almost every imaginable way for more than a decade - this is going to be a challenge for the agency. And the NASA Advisory Council often exists only as a forum for civil servant powerpoint presentations. Add in a "whole of government" approach to climate change and NASA is going to be drinking from a bunch of new firehoses very soon. Science is back, y'all.

Keith's note: Surprise surprise: the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration (whose executive director departs tomorrow) - an organization made up of all of the Big Aerospace companies who absolutely depend on the continuation of the SLS/Orion program - has put this postion paper out. One of the first absurd statements - about SLS - a rocket that is years behind schedule and billions over budget - and can't even do a engine test right - is to claim that no one else can send humans into deep space. This not only ignores Falcon Heavy but also SpaceX's Starship and Blue Origin's New Glenn:

"As the world's only human exploration systems destined for deep space, SLS and Orion provide the U.S. with an important tool for diplomacy and a means to engage international partners in these historic missions."

And they want to keep the entire Trump space infrastructure in place:

"The new administration should continue the National Space Council, while coordinating its efforts as closely as possible with Congress to ensure continued and timely investments in space and informed deliberations on appropriate regulatory regimes and reform, and legislation."

And they want every possible big ticket item from the Trump Administration - and then some - funded at 100% no matteer what:

"... By making full use of the SLS, including the Exploration Upper Stage, the Orion spacecraft, and the Exploration Ground Systems that support them; as well as the lunar Gateway and Human Landing System currently under development with international and commercial partners ..."

The Advanced Space Architectures Program (ASAP): Championing American Innovation through
Next Generation In-Space Operations
, Day One Project

"The Biden-Harris administration should launch a new Advanced Space Architectures Program (ASAP) to enable a new generation of in-space operations that will renew American leadership in space operations of all kinds. ASAP would improve the cost-effectiveness, productivity, and resiliency of our space systems through a series of inter-related missions. The program would operate through a public-private consortium in order to effectively leverage direct government investment while facilitating the space economy through a healthy space industrial base and a variety of partnerships. On the federal side, ASAP should be jointly led by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Department of Defense (DOD, including the Space Force, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU)). Additional federal support would come from agencies such as the Department of Commerce (DOC, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)) and the Department of Transportation (DOT, including the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA))."

Day One Council Members

"Co-chaired by John Holdren and Susan Eisenhower, the Science & Technology Leadership Council is comprised of leaders from across the science, technology, and innovation community who share deep experience in S&T policymaking. The Council guides and advises the Day One Project in its work to identify and advance key S&T priorities and engage the S&T community ahead of the next presidential term."

Keith's 27 January update: Mike French at AIA sent this note out to the ususal suspects on 26 January:

"Hello all - I wanted to provide an update and proposed way forward. I have heard from a diverse set of nearly all the groups here as supportive or initially supportive but need to run an internal check. If you know others in the space community that are supportive of the space council framework, I want to make sure we include all of those voices if they are interested in joining. Please feel free to reach out to other groups you think would be interested or let me know and I can do so. I will set up a call for later today or tomorrow morning (depending on response timing) to discuss the way forward with interested groups. Please feel free to reach out to me directly in the meantime."

There was a group call scheduled for today (27 January) at noon to discuss this memo.

Keith's 25 January note: Yet another effort is being undertaken by Big Aerospace to preserve the status quo. This time its an effort to keep the National Space Council and its utterly useless Users Advisory Group in place. As you may recall the UAG was not comprised of actual "users" of space but rather was stocked full of political appointees and representatives from Big Aerospace companies who sell things to the Federal Government. This group never did anything other than to have meetings with powerpoint presentations when in fact the big decisions had already been made by National Space Council staff. After a while many members never bothered to attend - even before COVID. But it was fun for the members to brag about being on it.

This draft statement supporting the UAG was sent out today to all the usual suspects by Mike French at the Aerospace Industries Association. Many of the recipients were in on a Big Aerospace White Paper that was circulating as a drafted right after the election which was a shopping list of things that the community wanted from Congress and the incoming Biden Administration. That white paper seems to have evaporated since it was featured on NASAWatch. As for the National Space Council itself, while it did do some interesting work, from what I have been hearing its future is in doubt since last week's announcement of a revitalized and elevated Office of Science and Technology Policy and PCAST leadership. With the elevation of science as a national priority many think that space should be discussed at the highest level in an "all of government" perspective - and not as a disconnected side discussion. Given the challenges facing our nation right now, space policy needs to have the best possible seat at the big table where these things are discussed - lest it be ignored.

"National Space Council Support Letter
DRAFT FOR ASSOCIATION REVIEW 1/25/21

For over 60 years, U.S. government and private sector investments in space programs have showcased American innovation, ambition, and accomplishment on the worldwide stage. Space is inextricably linked to our economic prosperity, U.S. national security, understanding of our planet, and everyday American life. As our nation becomes increasingly reliant on space for these endeavors and future technological challenges, the interconnectivity of our three space sectors - civil, commercial, and national security - requires public policies and investment rooted in a whole of government approach.

The National Space Council and its Users' Advisory Group provide that approach, coordinating across the entire government to shape our national space program with critical stakeholder input. Maintaining a White House-level focus on space will provide stability and continuity to the United States' space endeavors, enabling historic exploration and scientific achievement, continued U.S. space industry global leadership, and enhanced national security. Harnessing the space sector's capabilities will help fuel our economic recovery, help solve the climate crisis, and build the diverse 21st century education system and workforce that America needs and deserves. We strongly encourage the Biden Administration to continue the National Space Council and Users' Advisory Group."

Stay tuned. The usual suspects in the DC space policy echo chamber are relentless.

- Uh Oh: The Space Community Is Writing A White Paper - Again, earlier post
- Biden Elevates OSTP And Announces Science Team, earlier post
- Biden NASA Transition Team, earlier post
- Space Council Users' Advisory Group Meets Without Any Users, earlier post
- National Space Council UAG Goes Through The Motions Of Being Interested, earlier post

Message from NASA Acting Administrator Steve Jurczyk and Senior White House Appointee Bhavya Lal

"We have some initial appointments from the new administration: Alicia Brown has been named NASA's Associate Administrator for Legislative Affairs and Intergovernmental Affairs (OLIA), and Marc Etkind will be the Associate Administrator for Communications. Please join us in giving them a warm welcome to the NASA family. There will be other new faces arriving at Headquarters, and we will communicate these developments with you."

- Bhavya Lal, LinkedIn Twitter
- Alicia Brown, LinkedIn Twitter
- Marc Etkind, IMDb - Twitter

President-elect Biden Announces Key Members of his White House Science Team

"Today, President-elect Joe Biden announced his White House science team -- a deeply respected group of diverse and eminently qualified scientists who will marshal the force of science to drive meaningful progress in the lives of people. They will help the Biden-Harris administration confront some of the biggest crises and challenges of our time, from climate change and the impact of technology on society to pandemics, racial inequity and the current historic economic downturn."

Keith's note: Science is back!

Keith's note: Here we go again. Its presidential transition team season and all the space fans are lining up trying to get their ideas in front of the new Administration. As is usually the case someone starts a white paper and looks for supporters who invariably start to edit and nick pick and add wish lists. Space organizations such as the Space Foundation, the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, the Satellite Industry Association, and the Aerospace Industries Association are supporting this particular white paper/position paper effort. There may be other organizations lurking in the shadows. Meanwhile, organizations such as the Commercial Spaceflight Federation and the AIAA are shunning the effort. For now. Other organizations have not been approached. Then there's swarm of space advocacy groups, pundits, and thought influencers, whose views will be all over the map. Welcome to the space community.

Eventually, since these efforts inevitably turn into a circular firing squad with everyone wanting everything they want - but not what anyone else wants, some early participants will walk out in a huff and badmouth the effort. In the end this will be yet another example of choir practice by the usual suspects in an echo chamber. Invariably, since only a subset of the usual suspects are involved, other efforts will pop up and the net result will be a inconsistent bunch of noise from the space community. Surprise surprise.

At one point the white paper says "It is imperative to fully fund the nation's space exploration enterprise in the face of competing policy priorities." Why is that at all imperative? Isn't defeating COVID-19 and bringing our economy back more of an imperative? Space fans seem to not be listening to President-elect Biden or reading the newspapers. It may well be that NASA's budget and the budgets of other agencies will need to take a hit to get us through this. Or maybe NASA can tweak what it does to be more of partner in a whole-of-government effort to solve pressing national challenges.

Oh and then there's the whole climate change issue that the Biden team has listed as one of its top 4 priorities. That is not even mentioned. Nor does this paper even reflect a cognizance of what the Biden team has been saying that it wants to do in other areas - and why it thinks that these things are important. Is NASA Independent of the national priorities that affect the rest of the government? Indeed the word "Biden" appears nowhere in this paper. Nor is there any mention of the pending issues affecting the new Congress. Cluelessness abounds within this paper that purports to represent the consensus of the space community. But space fans know more than the Biden folks do, I guess.

Meanwhile, the Biden Transition Team is having to work with zero cooperation from the Trump Administration while facing a raging pandemic and an economy that is spiraling downward. Yet space people seem to think that there is going to be a lot of interest by the Biden Transition Team in the self-serving wish list of all the space fans who think that all of their things are important because they think that these things are important. Read on and you will see every tired and worn justification for spending piles of money on space stuff in a shopping list meant to make everyone's Christmas stocking full.

And when the Biden Transition Team gives the space fans a look of bewilderment in reaction to a totally self-serving laundry list of "gimmies" the space community will turn and tell everyone that Biden is anti-space. Truth be known, the space community has lived in a little alternate reality bubble for far too long - a bubble inflated to near bursting with fairy dust and unicorns by the Trump Administration and its Make Space Great Again memes. Oh and then there's the Space Force waiting to beam everyone up.

The exploration and utilization of space offers to enable an incredible future full of promise, benefits, and adventure for both our nation and the rest of the world. Yet if we just leave it to the space community to call the shots then all we will get is a disjointed collection of more of the same - and less of the immense potential of what could otherwise come to be.

As such, here is the latest iteration of the space community wish list I have seen. Stay tuned. There will be more ...

"Leading the next generation in space - A vision for the 117th Congress"

"Space impacts every facet of 21st-century life. Business, governance, security, education, manufacturing, healthcare, communication, and many other sectors rely on space-based infrastructure and technologies. The nation's space exploration enterprise is facing unprecedented challenges and demands attention and action from policy makers.

To ensure that the United States continues to prosper and lead in outer space, the incoming 117th Congress will have to:"

Biden NASA Transition Team

Keith's note: You would think that after Joe Biden's win that hearings on Trump Administration appointees would be moot. I guess not. Senators could be off focusing on pandemic-related legislation that has stalled - you know, something far more pressing. Instead, they prefer to waste their time rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. This hearing for three Trump nominees includes former Trump Landing Party member Greg Autry who has been nominated to become NASA CFO is still going ahead today at 2:30 pm EST. You can watch the pointlessness here.

Keith's note: A lot of people want Jim Bridenstine to stay at NASA. There's even a petition online. It should be no surprise to people that I am a fan of Jim Bridenstine - starting with my posts prior to his nomination and confirmation. And I'd like to see him stay in the job. But as Jim notes in these quotes from Irene Klotz, it is preferable for an incoming Administration to have their agency heads and cabinet secretaries totally aligned politically with the Administration's policies.

Moreover, the Administration needs to know that they can count on their political appointees to work toward these goals. Not that Jim Bridenstine is incapable of doing so under a Biden Administration. Rather, he feels that they should have the best person they can find who they have the strongest confidence in. And before you cite Dan Goldin's ability to span 3 Administrations, let's just say: that was then - this is now. Let me add that space exploration is not done with Jim Bridenstine.

A little-known Trump appointee is in charge of handing transition resources to Biden -- and she isn't budging, Washington Post

"No agency head is going to get out in front of the president on transition issues right now," said one senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. The official predicted that agency heads will be told not to talk to the Biden team."

Keith's note: The following is based on what I have heard, and what I can surmise as being representative of what you can expect from the incoming Biden-Harris Administration. As for who the next NASA Adminstrator will be: pick a name. Your guess is as good as anyone else's.

One of the top priorities listed by the Biden-Harris Transition Team is Climate Change . While climate science/ Earth science is not explicitly mentioned, understanding how our planet's climate is changing is at the top of the list of science priorities for agencies such as NASA and NOAA. And the Biden folks like to use that word "science". How the Transition Team conducts itself will be guided by a Code of Ethical Conduct and Ethics Plan. We'll just have to wait and see if the Trump Administration allows a professional level of cooperation during the transition - or not. FWIW I do not sense that the Biden folks have any plans to blow anything up or make dramatic changes. So everyone reading this should chill out a bit. (See "Draft 2020 Democratic Party Platform Statement On Space")

We'll all get an idea as to how the transition is going to go tomorrow when the Biden Team names their COVID-19 task force. The obvious question be asked by the media is whether this august group of experts has - or will - even be allowed to talk to people at NIH, CDC, FDA, etc. so as to best understand the state of play for the pandemic and to line up their plan with what is or is not being done. Whether or not transition activities can proceed depends on whether the GSA says that they can. So far they are not giving the go ahead (as noted above). And the White House has not even admitted that the Biden-Harris team won the election. So ... if the Administration wants to allow roadblocks to prevent efforts to address the pandemic to proceed, trivial matters such as NASA are certainly not going to get any attention.

With regard to Transition Teams, every new Administration has their own way of doing things. Some are more organized than others. The Obama Transition Team was organized and had people in place on inauguration Day. Had Hillary Clinton won in 2016 they had a team with tickets to place them at National Airport on the day after election day and had planned to wrap up their activities by Thanksgiving 2016.

The Trump Transition Team was a mess. They had not expected to win so they stumbled around when they did. Eventually a bunch of people - many of them from the campaign - were part of a "landing Party" that parachuted into NASA. None of them had a plan. In short order they started to compete internally and stab each other in the back. Then, one after another, they were ejected from NASA. To his credit Robert Lightfoot held things together until Jim Bridenstine arrived.

Eventually the National Space Council was re-created along with the User's Advisory Group. Both entities were stacked with political members and pro forma agency and industry members - many of whom did zero work and provided no real value other than attending staged public events and rubber stamping decisions already made elsewhere. What was actually accomplished by the National Space Council (and there was a lot) was due almost exclusively to the determined and dedicated efforts of Scott Pace and his staff - with the full support of Vice President Pence.

As to what lies ahead - stay tuned. Whether or not there will continue to be a National Space Council is not clear. The National Space Council is enabled by law - but not required by law. Indeed, the nation functioned for decades without a National Space Council.

As for NASA's existing programs, the usual reflex with a new Administration is to set up a Blue Ribbon panel and study things for 8 months and kick the can down the road. Given that NASA is poised to embark on a lot of hardware it is likely that a more expedient review will be done. It is highly probable that there will be an enhanced focus on science at NASA - especially with regard to Earth science as it relates to expressed intentions by the Biden Team to deal with climate change. You may see some delayed or cancelled missions due to actions by the Trump Administration brought back to live - plus some new ones.

Nothing has yet appeared to suggest that the Biden Administration is hostile toward the Artemis Program to land humans on the Moon - or send humans to Mars. However, given delays with SLS and budgetary issues it is probable that the 2024 lunar landing date imposed by Vice President Pence will be pushed back a few years. One should expect that a hard look will be made as to whether the "program of record" for Artemis using SLS, Orion, Gateway etc. is the desired path or whether an alternate plan - perhaps one using much more in the way of commercial options, would work better.

As for Space Force, there will likely be a review of progress made thus far and an assessment made as to whether the rapidly expanding infrastructure of the Space Force enables or hinders the ability of the U.S. to coordinate its defense efforts in space. There is also the issue seen by many that Space Force seems to feel that it is competing with NASA to do things that NASA is supposed to do. This is not only beyond the scope of their charter, it is also duplicative and redundant.

As for NASA's biggest project, there are a lot of people who want to drive a stake through the heart of SLS. Well, NASA is about to fire its engines for the first time, so the thing is real. Get over it. Building more of them is vastly cheaper than the process of designing the rocket in the first place. To walk away from billions in sunk costs and more than a decade of development would certainly cause critics of NASA to wonder if the agency can or should do things like this ever again.

But more importantly, with the U.S. in the midst of a worsening pandemic and an associated economic downturn, you should assume that the Biden Administration is not going to be especially interested in putting more people out of work. As such you might see a compromise: perhaps a block buy of 5 or 6 SLS block 1 rockets (no EUS) to do space science missions or one-off heavy lift missions thus keeping the assembly lines open. Meanwhile NASA might pivot to more commercial options which will keep other production lines open while holding down costs. The upcoming SLS Green Run and SpaceX Starship tests will certainly have an impact on these considerations.

With regard to NASA's broader role as one agency among many within the Federal Government, you will no doubt see an impact of the new Administration's broader themes. With a teacher as First Lady it is highly likely that the Trump Administration's attempts to eliminate funding for education at NASA will be halted, reversed, and funding increased beyond prior levels. And sources report that Vice President-elect Harris is a total Star Trek fan.

With the implementation of the Biden Administration's theme of "Build Back Better" you will likely see all government agencies called upon to look for ways to deal with the pandemic, the economic downturn, infrastructural issues, and, to put it bluntly - the callous - sometimes hostile - indifference that the Trump Administration showed toward various sectors of our society.

In other words, NASA will likely be called upon to be more relevant to the nation than it has been in a long time. And when I say relevant, I do not mean what NASA thinks is relevant or what space fans think is relevant. Rather, it is what the 300 million or so people who pay for the party deem to be relevant. This may well be NASA's greatest challenge in the years ahead.


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