Recently in Biden Space Category

People Unaware and Concerned When It Comes to Space, Finds Landmark Report by Inmarsat, Inmarsat

"The world is largely unaware of key activities in space, with Gen-Z twice as likely to associate space with aliens, Star Wars and billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos than older generations, according to the largest representative survey of global consumer attitudes towards space1, unveiled by Inmarsat, the world leader in global, mobile satellite communications.

The report, What on Earth is the value of space, found that those aged 65 and above, who were teenagers when humans first walked on the Moon, are more optimistic and hopeful than Gen-Z. They are more likely to associate space with research and exploration, rockets, and satellites - with their understanding of space more rooted in science than science-fiction.

Only a quarter of the public (23 per cent) said they feel space exploration is 'important'. Almost half (46 per cent) consider satellites when thinking of space, while 37 per cent think of expeditions to the Moon and Mars, 21 per cent think of aliens, and almost 1 in 10 think of Star Wars (9 per cent). Fewer than 1 in 10 people globally think of communications and connectivity.

This focus on Hollywood rather than Halley's Comet fuels how respondents feel about space. Only a third of people feel 'excited' about space (34 per cent), while 18 per cent feel nervous - just 38 per cent wish they knew more about 'up there'. A quarter (24 per cent) of people feel 'overwhelmed' by space, which comes as no real surprise with films like Don't Look Up recently capturing the public consciousness."

Keith's note: If NASA was actually in tune with what the public really thinks (as opposed to the slanted view that they imagine that the public has since everyone at NASA thinks space is great) then you'd see an ongoing adjustment in how NASA public Affairs, Education, and mission outreach efforts communicates. Instead, it is the same old stale approach that only transmits - but never listens. This is the basic take that this report has on the public's perception of the influence and importance of space in their daily lives - or lack thereof.

- A majority of people surveyed are unaware of ground-breaking things happening in space.
- 97% of people see space as a threat - with space junk and pollution the biggest perceived threats.
- 1 in 9 people are 'terrified' of what could happen in space - just 1 in 3 are excited or hopeful.
- Younger generations associate space more with science-fiction than science and they're considerably more concerned and nervous about the impact of space on our lives.
- However, older generations are much more hopeful and optimistic about what space brings to life on Earth.
- Gen-Z is twice as likely to associate space with aliens, Star Wars and billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos than members of older generations.

Keith's note: It is June 2022. The last time the National Space Council poked its head out through the curtains was December 2021. Six months. Does anyone know what they are doing?

If you go to the official National Space Council Users' Advisory Group (NSpC UAG) page at NASA you are greeted with banner image of the Trump Administration's UAG. If you go to the membership roster page it lists the same Trump UAG membership and was last updated on 8 June 2020. NASA put a notice out to get new UAG members last year and then had to extend that since no one was repsonding. But 6 months later and we've heard absolutely nothing about the UAG membership, what the UAG will do, when it will meet etc. The last meeting was 30 July 2020.

And of course if you go to the NASA Office of International and Interagency Relations (OIIR) who oversees all of those advisory committee things at NASA they make no mention of the National Space Council or the UAG - at all.

There is a National Space Council page at the White House with 3 paragraphs of generic text and a link to one document about a framework issued in December 2021 which is mostly buzz words and talking points - but little else. Chirag Parikh runs the National Space Council but there is no mention of him on the White House web page or how to contact him or his staff (he has staff right?). We only hear from him once every few months when he goes to some inside the beltway thing and gets quoted. But other than a few routine executive orders that any White House could have issued, there is no heart or soul residing within whatever it is that the White House wants to do in space.

Remember the early days of the Biden Administration when there was mention of the Moon once a week in a presidential speech and we all got jazzed about Moon rocks on a shelf in the Oval Office? Not any more. I would ask NASA PAO about this but they are among the most clueless when it comes to what is actually going on in terms of space policy.

It is June now. 6 months have passed since the Nationaal Space Council did one of the meeting things. The UAG is still in limbo. If anyone knows what is going on please feel free to post in the comments section or tweet a comment.

After 9 Months Biden's Space Policy Is Totally TBD, earlier post (3 Nov 2021)

"After the first deadline for the Space Council's Users Advisory Group (UAG) membership solicitation came and went (low response rate apparently) they extended it another month. The new date was 29 October so, given the glacial pace that space policy moves these days, it will be next year before we find out who is on the UAG. And of course we'll need to see when it meets and whether it will be yet another space policy Potemkin village with no real responsibilities. And when it comes to OSTP and NSC there's nothing but crickets there."

National Space Council Meeting Update, earlier post (1 Dec 2021)

"On Wednesday, December 1 at 1:30pm EST, Vice President Kamala Harris will convene the Biden-Harris Administration's inaugural National Space Council meeting at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C. The Vice President, who chairs the National Space Council, will deliver remarks laying out the Administration's whole-of-government approach to ensuring that space activities create opportunities that benefit the American people and the world. ... In conjunction with the meeting, President Joe Biden will sign a new Executive Order on Wednesday, December 1 that addresses the membership, duties, and responsibilities of the Council."

Space Team Biden Needs To Get The Space Council Thing Right The Very First Time, earlier post (14 Nov 2021)

"If the value of space, as put forth by this Administration, is not instantly obvious - and pre-briefed to cynical media/stake holders in advance - then the whole NSpC effort - and the Biden/Harris Administration's chances of doing something valuable in space - will evaporate before they even start. There are really no second chances to get things right in DC any more."

United States Space Priorities Framework

"We are in a historic moment: space activities are rapidly accelerating, resulting in new opportunities in multiple sectors of society, as well as new challenges to U.S. space leadership, global space governance, the sustainability of the space environment, and safe and secure space operations. Burgeoning U.S. space activities are a source of American strength at home and abroad - from providing tangible economic and societal benefits to Americans to expanding our network of alliances and partnerships."

- National Space Council's Chirag Parikh Says The Right Things
- Actors Were Hired To Promote The Whole VP Space Thing
- The National Space Council Meeting That No One Is Talking About
- Sleepwalking Through Space Policy At NASA

Keith's note: This 5 minute conversation was recorded on 6 April 2022. The White house called Vande Hei's cellphone. It then took The White House and NASA took 19 days to post it. FWIW the whole thing sounds mostly scripted.

From the White House: "On April 6th 2022, Vice President Kamala Harris called NASA Astronaut Mark Vande Hei, who returned to Earth on Wednesday, March 30, 2022, after 355 days living and working onboard the International Space Station (ISS), to congratulate Mark for setting the new American record for longest spaceflight.

The Vice President made the call from her office in the West Wing of the White House.

While clocking the single longest spaceflight by a NASA astronaut, Vande Hei contributed to dozens of studies, including six science investigations supported by NASA's Human Research Program on the effects of long-duration spaceflight on the human body. After landing back on Earth, Vande Hei will continue to provide NASA scientists and doctors more information to better understand whether long-term human spaceflight makes astronauts more susceptible to injuries on returning to Earth. Results will also help NASA design protective measures in future spacecraft."

Vice President Harris Advances National Security Norms in Space

"Today at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, Vice President Kamala Harris announced that the United States commits not to conduct destructive, direct-ascent anti-satellite (ASAT) missile testing, and that the United States seeks to establish this as a new international norm for responsible behavior in space. The Vice President also called on other nations to make similar commitments and to work together in establishing this as a norm, making the case that such efforts benefit all nations. At the Biden-Harris Administration's first National Space Council meeting in December, Vice President Harris tasked the National Security Council staff to work with the Department of Defense, the Department of State, and other national security agencies to develop proposals for national security space norms that advance U.S. interests and preserve the security and sustainability of space. The commitment announced today is the first initiative under this effort. The United States is the first nation to make such a declaration."

- CSF Applauds VP Harris' Commitment Not to Conduct Destructe, Direct-Ascent ASAT Missile Testing, Commercial Spaceflight Federation
- SWF Applauds US Policy to Commit not to Conduct Destructive ASAT tests, Urges Other States to Join, Secure World Foundation

Remarks by Vice President Harris on the Ongoing Work to Establish Norms in Space, White House

Budget summary for @NASA in FY 2023

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) inspires the Nation by sending astronauts and robotic missions to explore the solar system, advances the Nation's understanding of the Earth and space, and develops new technologies and approaches to improve aviation and space activities. The President's 2023 Budget for NASA invests in: human and robotic exploration of the Moon; new technologies to improve the Nation's space capabilities; and addressing the climate crisis through cutting-edge research satellites and green aviation research.

The Budget requests $26 billion in discretionary funding for NASA, a $2.7 billion or 11.6-percent increase from the 2021 enacted level."

FY 2023 NASA Budget Information, NASA

Biden's top science adviser, Eric Lander, resigns amid reports of bullying, Politico

"President Joe Biden's top science adviser, Eric Lander, resigned on Monday evening under an avalanche of backlash over reports of his bullying and mistreatment of subordinates. The resignation came despite initial insistence from the White House that Lander would remain in his post while corrective actions and remediations were applied to assure a better workplace environment at the Office of Science and Technology Policy."

Chairwoman Johnson and Ranking Member Lucas Request Details of White House Investigation of OSTP Director Lander's Misconduct

"Today, Politico published an article outlining allegations of inappropriate behavior by Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Director Eric Lander. The article references an internal investigation conducted by the White House and disciplinary measures taken in response to the finding that Dr. Lander violated the Executive Office of the President's Safe and Respectful Workplace Policy. In response, Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) sent a letter to President Biden today requesting a copy of the investigation report and a briefing on the steps being taken to ensure the workforce environment at OSTP is safe, respectful, and furthers the Office's critical missions."

NAC Vs PAO On Transparency

One Year into the Biden Administration, NASA Looks to Future

"Since President Biden and Vice President Harris were sworn in one year ago, their administration has made generational progress for Americans - and made NASA a priority. This spring, as Artemis I lifts off from Kennedy Space Center, the world will once again witness America's unrivaled ingenuity and inspiration as NASA prepares the next generation to return to the Moon and on to Mars," said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. "I am proud of the work the agency has done to support this administration's priorities on climate change, global leadership, diversity, equity, STEM education, and so much more. And we all should look forward to an even more robust future as NASA continues to explore the heavens and benefit life here on Earth."

Keith's note: At this morning's NASA Advisory Council Human Exploration and Operations Committee meeting,, the committee chair, Wayne Hale, offered these observations:

NASA's Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel Releases 2021 Annual Report, ASAP

"... Funding such endeavors will obviously take considerable resources. However, history suggests (as shown in Figure 1) it is unlikely NASA's budget will ever again exceed 1% of the federal budget, as it did during the lead-up to the Apollo Program. Consequently, it will not be possible for NASA to single-handedly carry out all of the missions now envisioned. Considering its ambitious goals and con- strained budget, for NASA--and hence the United States--to continue to play a strategic leadership role in space, the Agency must transform. While private industry efforts are an ever more important factor in the U.S. government's future endeavors, the commercial sector alone has not, and will not, be the vehicle that drives national goals. Consequently, the Agency will need to operate differently--from strategic planning and how it approaches program management, to workforce development, facility maintenance, acquisition strategies, contract types, and partnerships."

"... In adopting this disaggregated, decentralized program structure between SLS, EGS, and Orion, with the view that it is a manageable alternative to the familiar and effective program framework that served it well for the Apollo, STS, and ISS programs, NASA has seemed to overlook the negative impacts to cohesive integrated risk management. In essence, it appears that the cancellation of the Constellation program has led to a cautious stance among NASA leaders driven by the assumption that having an Apollo-like program now is a problematic political optic, and like Constellation, a possible target for cancellation by a future Administration. In effect, NASA has accepted the disaggregated program structure as normal, and is now propagating this structure as a preferred business and risk management model, even though it is essentially an untried approach for an integrated systems engineering effort of this magnitude and complexity. Thus, behavior that was instantiated as a coping mechanism for unstable political guidance has become institutionalized--as has the embedded uncertainty in risk management. Furthermore, the Agency is attempting to manage the risk in the structure it has adopted without deliberately assessing why the structure is at least equivalent to, if not an improvement to, a more familiar structure, and whether it should be advanced as a wholly new program approach."

International Space Station Operations Formally Extended Through 2030

"NASA Administrator Bill Nelson announced today the Biden-Harris Administration's commitment to extend International Space Station (ISS) operations through 2030, and to work with our international partners in Europe (ESA, European Space Agency), Japan (JAXA, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), Canada (CSA, Canadian Space Agency), and Russia (State Space Corporation Roscosmos) ... "

Amid tension with Russia, Biden administration wants to extend the life of the International Space Station, Washington Post

"Earlier this year, Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the Russian space agency, told CNN that it was committed to the station. "This is a family, where a divorce within a station is not possible," he said."

Ukraine tensions: Putin tells Biden new sanctions could rupture ties, BBC

"Russia's Vladimir Putin has warned his US counterpart Joe Biden that imposing new sanctions over Ukraine could lead to a complete breakdown in relations. In a phone call late on Thursday, the Russian president said such sanctions would be a "colossal mistake". Mr Biden, meanwhile, told Mr Putin that the US and its allies would respond decisively to any invasion of Ukraine."

Keith's note: Am I the only one who thinks it was just a little strange that the White House waited until late in the day on New Year's Eve - probably the slowest news day in the entire year where no one is really paying attention - to announce this? Why bury it like this? They couldn't have announced it before Christmas when maybe a few more people were paying attention? Just a few weeks ago NASA announced three large contracts to explore commercial follow-ons to the ISS - in addition to another already in place. Continuity anyone?

You'd think that someone was thinking about how to knit this all together into a cohesive policy. Guess again. Space Team Biden seems to have no idea how to roll out its own good news these days via NASA or anywhere else. After all, they rented child actors when no actual human children could be found for a photo op with the VP. The National Space Council still exists. Hooray. What does it do? No one seems to know. Or care.

But on to the bigger picture. This whole 2030 thing sounds a little hollow given current events. Happy talk squirted out on a news graveyard day while people elsewhere are building tinderboxes that could make it all moot - during an unrelenting global pandemic. Up until now the ISS has managed to escape nearly all collateral damage from terrestrial politics - to its credit. Maybe the way that we seem to be able to work together in space with our almost-enemies can teach us something about how to get along better on Earth. Small wonder that many people think that the ISS program is worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize. Oddly, despite Earthly brinksmanship politics, we can work with Russia up there. But due to the same ground-based politics we can't work with China with whom things are equally dysfunction and out of whack. Am I missing something?

With everything in perpetual and instantly-accelerated crazy mode these days, these throwaway buzz words by Nelson, Rogozin et al could be eclipsed in a moment by events spiraling out of control in Ukraine. Or Taiwan. Or both. Its almost as if the staffers who wrote this stuff do not read the actual news about the actual world. But there's no reason to not try and be optimistic at a time when optimism is in such short supply. Maybe space can do that. If NASA and this Administration truly do see the value in an expanded, inclusive, and global human presence in space - and that perhaps this operates on a higher plane than the politics of the day - then perhaps they could say so more prominently and more often - in context with reality.

My point? Not a new one. NASA has an astonishing brand presence with a global reach. Yet they barely understand the true nature of this untapped soft power resource at their disposal or how to use it - domestically or internationally. Moreover, NASA PAO recycles the same tired talking points about the value of the space station that I put on Powerpoint charts at NASA 30 years ago. NASA is perpetually out of touch with what the real world sees as important and think that pretty space pictures are the answer to public disinterest. Newsflash: the only people paying attention to Webb right now are a dozen or so space reporters. No pretty pictures.

Anyway, this latest rant of mine is all pointless since, when it comes to interacting with the external world, NASA only has transmitters and no receivers. That said, in my regular refrain, if NASA does not take its own programs seriously enough to pay attention then why should anyone else?

I can't wait to see how NASA responds to an orbital Starship flight while their SLS sits in the VAB waiting for broken parts to be replaced.

International Space Station Operations Formally Extended Through 2030

"NASA Administrator Bill Nelson announced today the Biden-Harris Administration's commitment to extend International Space Station (ISS) operations through 2030, and to work with our international partners in Europe (ESA, European Space Agency), Japan (JAXA, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), Canada (CSA, Canadian Space Agency), and Russia (State Space Corporation Roscosmos) to enable continuation of the groundbreaking research being conducted in this unique orbiting laboratory through the rest of this decade."

Vice President Highlights STEM in First National Space Council Meeting, NASA

"Vice President Kamala Harris chaired the first National Space Council meeting of the Biden-Harris Administration Wednesday, Dec. 1 at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington. Prior to the meeting, President Biden expanded the number of participants of the council by executive order, reflecting the Biden-Harris administration's broad priorities and creating the largest, most diverse space council in the nation's history."

Executive Order on the National Space Council

"By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows: Section 1. Purpose. The National Space Council (Council), as authorized under Title V of Public Law 100-685, advises and assists the President regarding national space policy and strategy. This order sets forth the Council's membership, duties, and responsibilities."

The following information was provided on background from a White House Official:

On Wednesday, December 1 at 1:30pm EST, Vice President Kamala Harris will convene the Biden-Harris Administration's inaugural National Space Council meeting at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C. The Vice President, who chairs the National Space Council, will deliver remarks laying out the Administration's whole-of-government approach to ensuring that space activities create opportunities that benefit the American people and the world.

Original Document (PDF)

Space activities are essential to our way of life. They advance our understanding of the Earth, the universe, and humanity; enable U.S. national security; create good jobs and economic opportunity; enhance our health and well-being; and inspire us to pursue our dreams. Space capabilities provide critical data, products, and services that drive innovation in the United States and around the world. Access to and use of space is a vital national interest.

We are in a historic moment: space activities are rapidly accelerating, resulting in new opportunities in multiple sectors of society, as well as new challenges to U.S. space leadership, global space governance, the sustainability of the space environment, and safe and secure space operations. Burgeoning U.S. space activities are a source of American strength at home and abroad - from providing tangible economic and societal benefits to Americans to expanding our network of alliances and partnerships. The United States will bolster the health and vitality of our space sectors - civil, commercial, and national security - for the benefit of the American people and leverage that strength to lead the international community in preserving the benefits of space for future generations.

Keith's 30 November update: I will have an update for everyone at 11:00 am ET Wednesday morning.

Keith's 30 November update: I just got an email invitation to a post-National Space Council reception by the usual big aerospace suspects. "Following the National Space Council meeting on December 1, AIA, AIAA, CDSE, and CSF will be hosting a reception at the Willard Continental Hotel. Proof of vaccination will be required. This is a widely attended gathering." Funny how the White House and the NSpC can't bother to tell the media or the public when/where/what/why about the actual NSpC meeting. But the standard after-party planning thing still goes on - even as a new pandemic surge looms.

The event starts at 1:30 pm ET. There will be a live webcast at https://www.whitehouse.gov/live/. Apparently NASA is not going to show it since there is no mention on their TV schedule. Or maybe they will.

Keith's 29 November update: Looks like the National Space Council Meeting is being held at the United States Institute of Peace. But there is still no agenda, media advisory, links to webcasts etc. No mention is made at the Institute's website. Apparently NASA Senator Administrator Bill Nelson will be there. They picked a fancy backdrop - just like the sort of venue that the Trump folks liked to pick. Let's hope that there is actually some important content to match the photo ops at this impressive location.

The NSpC staff really need to pay a little more attention to the real world. Given the bad vibes that VP Harris has been getting about staff issues etc. - warranted or not - this whole space issue is going to rise or fall based on what media writes and how the public perceives what the VP's office does with the NSpC. They should have started on 5 Nov to circulate memes, links to relevant events, Biden Administration policy synergies etc. They should have posted an agenda in Federal Register with 5 place holder bullet points. Moreover, the NSpC needs to demonstrate that it is worth the time of people within and outside of the space bubble that space is worth thinking about during a relentless global pandemic and increasing civil strife. We'll see what they do. Or not do.

Keith's 25 November note: On 5 November 2021 Vice President Harris visited NASA GSFC. During that event it was announced that the first meeting of the National Space Council under the Biden-Harris Administration would be on 1 December 2021. No location or agenda was provided. In checking the Federal Register since then there seems to have been nothing posted by The Executive Office of the President or NASA regarding any event having to do with the National Space Council. Usually such advisory events are required to give at least 2 weeks prior public notice.

The NASA Office of International and Interagency Relations (OIIR) makes no mention and if you go to their helpful links page, after months of pointing this out, they still have no idea where the text is regarding the establishment/operations of the National Space Council. If you visit the National Space Council Users' Advisory Group (UAG) web page it is still in fossilized form dating back to the last time that the Trump Administration did anything. The UAG sought new member nominations several months ago but no one has said anything about when the new committee will be announced or when it will meet - if it will meet.

No mention is made at NASA.gov, on NASA TV's schedule here or here, nor has any press release or media advisory been issued. Given that the meeting is supposed to be happening in a few days it would seem that no one at the White House or NASA is especially interested in telling people that it is even happening or what (if anything) will be discussed. Is this any way to develop a space policy?

Space Team Biden Needs To Get The Space Council Thing Right The Very First Time, earlier post

"IMHO ... the National Space Council (NSpC) needs to make an attempt to put space - logically - into a larger societal context - and do so right out of the gate in the very first presentation on 1 December. This societal context needs to be one wherein we make big decisions - with big budgets - so as to do things (like space) - in a time of limited resources and societal upheaval. And it must be made crystal clear why we do these things in space i.e. to provide real, measurable value to actual people - not focus groups that PR firms create. The gee whiz, "exploration is in our DNA", "isn't space inspirational" thing works for a short time - but only on a subset of the populace. If the value of space, as put forth by this Administration, is not instantly obvious - and pre-briefed to cynical media/stake holders in advance - then the whole NSpC effort - and the Biden/Harris Administration's chances of doing something valuable in space - will evaporate before they even start. There are really no second chances to get things right in DC any more."

- After 9 Months Biden's Space Policy Is Totally TBD, earlier post
- Sleepwalking Through Space Policy At NASA Headquarters, earlier post
- No One Really Knows/Cares What The NASA Advisory Council Does, earlier post
- Joe Biden's NASA Needs A Wake Up Call, earlier post
- Chirag Parikh Selected As National Space Council Executive Secretary, earlier post
- National Space Council's Chirag Parikh Says The Right Things, earlier post
- Biden No Longer Gives All Those NASA Shout Outs, earlier post
- Join Space Team Biden: Apply For The National Space Council Users' Advisory Group, earlier post
- Actors Were Hired To Promote The Whole VP Space Thing, earlier post
- VP Harris Kicks Off World Space Week And NASA Ignores Her (Update), earlier post
- NASA History Office Loved Those Space Council Photo Ops, earlier post

Keith's note: I have been watching some back and forth on Twitter where journalists are questioning the value of space and biased space people are responding with talking points. IMHO ... the National Space Council (NSpC) needs to make an attempt to put space - logically - into a larger societal context - and do so right out of the gate in the very first presentation on 1 December. This societal context needs to be one wherein we make big decisions - with big budgets - so as to do things (like space) - in a time of limited resources and societal upheaval. And it must be made crystal clear why we do these things in space i.e. to provide real, measurable value to actual people - not focus groups that PR firms create.

The gee whiz, "exploration is in our DNA", "isn't space inspirational" thing works for a short time - but only on a subset of the populace. If the value of space, as put forth by this Administration, is not instantly obvious - and pre-briefed to cynical media/stake holders in advance - then the whole NSpC effort - and the Biden/Harris Administration's chances of doing something valuable in space - will evaporate before they even start. There are really no second chances to get things right in DC any more.

NASA CFO statement on FY22 budget negotiations

"Please see the attached fact sheet from OMB underscoring the importance of Congress reaching an agreement on FY 2022 appropriations, and avoiding the continuation of 2021 funding levels under a full-year continuing resolution (CR). Outlined are some of the consequences that a CR would have on NASA, including impacts on the Artemis program and climate change initiatives.

Below is a statement from NASA CFO Margaret Vo Schaus regarding an agreement on full-year 2022 appropriations:

NASA's priorities are ambitious: addressing the global climate crisis, landing the first woman and person of color on the Moon, exploring the farthest reaches of our universe, and advancing sustainable U.S. aviation - just to name a few. It's critical that Congress come to a bipartisan, bicameral agreement on FY22 funding. A full-year continuing resolution would impair NASA's ability to accomplish our goals, leaving the agency without the funding needed to achieve our important goals on behalf of the nation.

And a selection from the attached document:

Support the space program. The President's Budget and the House and Senate appropriations bills provide the funds needed to keep NASA's program of lunar exploration on track. Extending current funding levels would disrupt these plans, reduce NASA's ability to support competition in the human lander program and delay our astronauts' return to the Moon. A full-year CR would also leave NASA's science programs $630 million short of the funding they need to continue development of important missions to explore Mars and understand our home planet's changing climate. Finally, reductions to NASA's aeronautics research would impact plans to work with U.S. industry to develop quieter and more efficient aircraft."

Keith's note:Of course the FY 2022 budget that the Administration is seeking to maintain - with regard to NASA - makes no mention of those billions that Senator Administrator Bill Nelson said was going to be sitting in a bucket waiting for NASA to scoop up and spend.

- Has Anyone Seen Bill Nelson's NASA Budget Windfall?

- Bill Nelson Says He's Discovered A New Pile Of Money For NASA

"Nelson decided that the way for NASA to get out of the fiscal mess it is in is to do a Hail Mary pass and dive into the new TBD Jobs Bill that the Administration is formulating and grab some dollars. He said "You can put $5.4 Billion into the jobs bill for the HLS that would be at the end of the day producing jobs. Another $200 million could go into that bill for spacesuits." He went on to say "We can also put $585 million on nuclear thermal propulsion."

Nelson then turned to another pot of forthcoming money - the multi-trillion dollar Infrastructure bill and said "Part of the jobs bill is infrastructure - there's another $5.4 Billion. Look at NASA facilities in your state (congressman) - there is aging infrastructure." Do the math. All told, it looks like he wants to raid the cookie jar for something like $10 - 11 billion. One would assume that OMB is on board with this plan."

Keith's note: On Friday 5 November Vice President Harris will visit NASA GSFC to talk about climate change and protecting vulnerable communities. VP Harris will be joined by Bill Nelson and representatives from USGS and NOAA. After her tour at 4:45 to 5:00 pm ET she will deliver remarks which will be live streamed at http://whitehouse.gov/live. VP Harris will also announce that the first National Space Council meeting will be held on 1 December. She will also present the first imagery received from Landsat 9.

Vice President Harris to Visit NASA Goddard Today, Deliver Live Remarks

Remarks by Science Advisor to the President and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Dr. Eric Lander to The World Academy of Sciences, OSTP

"The United States can and must do more ourselves. We're proud to directly support local scientific researchers: from physician-scientists in Ghana studying if a certain gene increases risk of preeclampsia in mothers-to-be, to tropical forest ecologists in Colombia working to institute science-based forest management policies after devastating wildfires. And those are just two of hundreds of examples, across more than 50 countries in South America, sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia. The United States is blessed with unique financial and scientific resources. We must make sure that these programs endure, expand, and receive more funding. And we must continue to welcome and exchange global scientific talent, with renewed commitment. Our shared scientific values are crucial to maximizing the benefit of science for humanity. These values will guide the United States' science, technology, and innovation policies in the years ahead. I am so grateful for the work of the World Academy of Sciences and look forward working together in the coming years. Thank you very much."

Keith's note: This is a nice speech and says many things I totally agree with. Alas, at NASA, other than a very small handful of people at NASA HQ, I do not think that anyone in NASA management actually cares - or is even aware that this is subtle - yet clear guidance (soft power projection) from President Biden's top science guy, You see, NASA has been conditioned to not pay attention to what the White House wants NASA to do. The only time NASA really pays quality attention to the White House is when something really bad happens to NASA. Meanwhile, as I have ranted about for years, NASA has an immense, potent, global soft power capacity- one that no one at NASA remotely understands.

Keith's note: In case you have not noticed, Joe Biden has stopped talking about Moon rocks and Mars Helicopters or NASA. But he does allude to "winning the space race" on occasion (whatever that means half a century later). Alas, the vice president's office was incapable of finding actual human children with an interest in space here in the DC metro area so her staff hired a bunch of child actors from around the country to pretend to be interested and flew them to a set for a show-and-tell thing.

There is a National Space Council which the VP's office decided to keep - but it needed a make over first to get rid of the Pence/Trump vibes. Although its membership is mostly set by charter we have heard nothing about that or when it will meet. After the first deadline for the Space Council's Users Advisory Group (UAG) membership solicitation came and went (low response rate apparently) they extended it another month. The new date was 29 October so, given the glacial pace that space policy moves these days, it will be next year before we find out who is on the UAG. And of course we'll need to see when it meets and whether it will be yet another space policy Potemkin village with no real responsibilities. And when it comes to OSTP and NSC there's nothing but crickets there.

As for what NASA is doing policy wise, well, the NASA Office of International and Interagency Relations (OIIR) the folks who run that show still cannot figure out where the website links are for some crucial space policy documents - including the enabling charter for the National Space Council and the documents that codify international participation in the ISS program. If you go to the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) home page you can see a nice picture of the NAC - as it appeared exactly two years ago. Except Mike Gold and Jim Morhard have left NASA and Senator Bill Nelson is now Senator Administrator Bill Nelson. If you go to this page (last updated 31 August 2021) for the membership you'll see 12 people. Some faces are the same. Some are not. NASA has not announced any change in membership of the NAC. Nor has it announced a meeting date.

The last time that the NASA Advisory Committee had a public meeting was 31 October - 1 November 2019 - two years ago - one year before the 2020 election. Yes, the pandemic upset things but NASA now has a thousand webinars, telecons, etc, every single day. NASA and its external communities have the whole telework thing down - just like the rest of us.

Some of the NAC committees still manage to meet but there is only so much they can do if there is no NAC to report back to. But since NASA has one singular thing to worry about (after the Webb launch that is) i.e. launching SLS with an totally TBD budget, small matters such as having a functional agencywide advisory Council seem to have fallen by the wayside.

So, to sumarize, the White House effort to coordinate space policy matters is still a work in progress; The National Space Council exists only in Powerpoint; NASA cannot figure out how to get NAC members or have NAC meetings; the agency's own website has no idea where some basic information on space policy stuff resides, and no one quite knows if the whole Moon thing is going to happen as NASA says it will and if so when, how many moon landers it must build, and how much the whole party will cost.

Got that?

- Sleepwalking Through Space Policy At NASA Headquarters, earlier post
- No One Really Knows/Cares What The NASA Advisory Council Does, earlier post
- Joe Biden's NASA Needs A Wake Up Call, earlier post
- Chirag Parikh Selected As National Space Council Executive Secretary, earlier post
- Biden No Longer Gives All Those NASA Outs, earlier post
- Join Space Team Biden: Apply For The National Space Council Users' Advisory Group, earlier post
- Actors Were Hired To Promote The Whole VP Space Thing, earlier post
- VP Harris Kicks Off World Space Week And NASA Ignores Her (Update), earlier post
- NASA History Office Loved Those Space Council Photo Ops, earlier post

Kamala Harris slammed for using child actors in bizarre space video, NY Post

"All five of them are actors," Carlo Bernardino, whose 13-year-old son Trevor was one of the youngsters taking part, told the Washington Examiner. "He's a child actor -- he's been trying to do this type of thing for a while. And so he has a manager and an agent in LA and they send him castings."

Children in Kamala Harris's NASA video were paid actors, Yahoo

"The Vice President's office did not select the kids who participated in the YouTube Originals special," a White House official told the Washington Examiner. A YouTube spokesperson told the Hill that "compensation was handled the same way as it is for all of our other YouTube Originals shows."

VP Harris Kicks Off World Space Week And NASA Ignores Her (Update), earlier post

Keith's 7 October update: It took TWO DAYS for NASA PAO and the NASA STEM Engagement Office to make mention of the event with VP Harris, one powered by global video giant YouTube. It is rather baffling that NASA would take so long to acknowledge an event which, in the end, turns a national spotlight on NASA and space exploration - during World Space Week (which is almost over now) If PAO AA Marc Etkind and STEM Office AA Mike Kincaid have a consistent policy for highlighting education and public outreach at NASA it is certainly not in evidence here. As for the White House liaison at NASA - no one seems to be listening to them. Just sayin'

Keith's 6 October update: A day later and there is still zero mention by NASA regarding this high profile space-related event with VP Harris. Supposedly there will be something online at NASA tomorrow - except nothing is mentioned by NASA. Oh yes, a NASA astronaut in space is involved. But why mention that. Meanwhile the national news media noticed - even if NASA is AWOL.

- Kamala Harris Will Host YouTube Special About Space Exploration: 'We're Going to Learn So Much', People
- 'Get Curious With Vice President Harris' Space-Themed Kids Special Set For Launch, Deadline/Yahoo
- YouTube announces new kids' special starring Harris, The Hill

Keith's 5 October note: This is clearly a space education effort - and it comes from the Vice President herself, you know, the person in the White House to whom the National Space Council and its Users Advisory Group answers. You'd think that the political appointees at NASA Headquarters on the 9th floor would be going out of their way to promote this. Guess again. There is no mention of this event at the NASA STEM Engagement Office website - or at NASA.gov. No press release or media advisory from NASA PAO either. No mention at @NASA or @NASASTEM. No mention at @VP or @WHOSTP either. This feature is supposed to launch "October 7 at 6am PT / 9am ET, on the NASA YouTube Channel" but there is no mention on the NASA TV schedule. Will it air on NASA TV or just on a website?

Vice President Kamala Harris Kicks Off World Space Week With New YouTube Original Special "Get Curious With Vice President Harris", YouTube

"Kicking off World Space Week, YouTube Originals today announced "Get Curious with Vice President Harris," a new special encouraging children to "get curious" about space. This once-in-a-lifetime event follows a group of lucky kids as they meet Vice President Kamala Harris, go on a scavenger hunt with clues delivered by NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough from the International Space Station, and get unprecedented exclusive access to the United States Naval Observatory."

Keith's note: It is rather strange that the NASA History Office decided to remind people of these lavish National Space Council photo ops - events that often bordered on campaign rallies (like the one at KSC) - that NASA was forced to put on by the Trump Administration. Money to pay for these things was squeezed out of everyone's program pockets at NASA HQ and elsewhere. Let's hope that the Biden White House does not prompt their version of the National Space Council to go for optics instead of substance.

Extension to the invitation for public nominations for potential service on the National Space Council Users' Advisory Group

"The deadline for NASA to receive all public nominations has been extended to October 29, 2021."

Keith's update: The original deadline announced on 14 September to submit nominations for the UAG was 27 September 2021. They extended the due date - by an entire month. Is this an issue with the quantity of names submitted or their actual qualifications? Or both? Stay tuned. And of course the official National Space Council Users' Advisory Group webpage still says that 27 September 2021 was the last day to submit nominations for UAG membership - not 29 October as was announced in the Federal Register last week.

Call for Nominations: National Space Council Users' Advisory Group

"The Users' Advisory Group (UAG) is a federal advisory committee comprised of experts from outside the United States Government (USG) created as part of the National Space Council (NSpC). The NSpC is an Executive Branch interagency coordinating committee chaired by the Vice President, which is tasked with advising and assisting the President on national space policy and strategy. UAG members provide counsel on any and all space policy issues. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has sponsored the UAG on behalf of the NSpC since 2018."

Keith's note: There is also a new Space Council Users' Advisory Group website but you need username/password to enter. That said, it remains to be seen if the Biden Administration intends to use the NSpC or the UAG to make real accomplishments or if these bodies are just mouth pieces for policy already generated internally. For the most part, the previous Administration filled the UAG with political allies, big aerospace reps, and people with minimal knowledge or interest in space. NSpC also bled the NASA PAO budget dry to put on NSpC and UAG circuses at showy venues to read scripted statements and do little else. Let's hope that this incarnation of NSpC and UAG shuns the glitz and focuses on the policy. Otherwise, we can punt on serious space policy for another 4 years.

National Space Council UAG Goes Through The Motions Of Being Interested, earlier post

"There are no real "users" of space on this panel. Nor are there any members from the next generation who will inherit and conduct America's space activities. All we see are sellers. Yet another choir practice session amongst the usual suspects in an echo chamber."

NASA Internal Memo: National Space Council UAG Update from Chair, ADM Jim Ellis (2021), earlier post

"Our composition has also evolved to appropriately include scientific and regional economic insights, as well. Our diverse representation has been our key strength since it has enabled discussion across many disciplines."

- National Space Council Users' Advisory Group News (Yawn), earlier post
- Space Council Users' Advisory Group Meets Without Any Users, earlier post
- National Space Council User Advisory Group Is Purging Innovation From Its Ranks, earlier post
- National Space Council UAG Wants You To Think They Did Something Important, earlier post

Revealed: Biden's ethics exceptions, Axios

"The details: NASA Administrator Bill Nelson was excused from rules that would have barred him from working with Lockheed Martin, for which he was a paid advisory board member. Nelson assured ethics officials prior to his confirmation that he would only be participating in policy matters potentially affecting Lockheed, not any procurement or contracting decisions involving the company."

Keith's note: National Space Council Executive Director Chirag Parikh just made a short 10 minute presentation at the Space Symposium. He has only been on the job for 3 weeks but he did touch on some important topics - at least topics that I think are important i.e making space relevant beyond the space community's little bubble. Whether NASA pays attention to what Parikh and the National Space Council says is another matter altogether. NASA does not like to have other people tell the agency what to do. NASA just wants them to provide money to do what NASA wants to do - at a pace that NASA wants. Stay tuned.

Keith's note: There are a variety of advisory bodies set up for the purpose of soliciting expert advice for how America should run its space activities. One entity, the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) is supposed to be the prime focus on such advice collection. Given the whole pandemic thing, it should be expected that things have fallen behind. But while NASA does everything else, it seems to be unable to keep the NAC current or have it meet. You'd think that with a new Administration in the White House and all of the mounting challenges to NASA's large programs such as Artemis, that this advice is needed now more than ever. Guess again. The NAC is inert.

For starters, if you look at the group portrait of the NAC on its homepage you will see that "The Honorable Bill Nelson (former U.S. Senator)" and "Mr. Robert Cabana (Director, Kennedy Space Center)" are members and "Mr. James Morhard (NASA Deputy Administrator)" is still on the job at NASA. The last NAC meetings shown are from "March-May 2020" - more than a year ago. The last NAC meeting minutes that were posted are from November 2019.

If you go to the NASA OIIR Advisory Committee Management Division page you will see links to NAC and other committees that are either stale and/or link to sites where the committees have meeting information that is totally out of synch with what the OIIR has on its NAC page. And the "annual call for nominations" that they link to is from 2018.

As I noted a month ago in Sleepwalking Through Space Policy At NASA Headquarters the official NAC web page is out of date when it comes to meetings. While no one can tell you who is and is not on the NAC or when it will meet next, some of its subcommittees have managed to meet - even if the NAC home page is not aware of these meetings. Indeed, many of these NAC committees actually expired since the ANC staff at NASA apparently forgot to renew them.

As I noted in my earlier post: "The whole NAC thing is run by the Advisory Committee Management Division of the NASA Office of International and Interagency Relations (OIIR). The OIIR is not known for being up to date on things. As I noted a month ago NASA's International and Interagency Relations Team Doesn't Bother To Update. ... *all* of the policy links they have listed go to broken links that evaporated when the Trump Administration left office." Two months later and OIIR still can't do simple website updates so that all of the stakeholders, policy makers, media, and taxpayers can see what is going on.

Meanwhile, as the NAC remains stale and non-functional, the Vice President's office finally got around to naming an Executive Secretary for the National Space Council. But that's it. The enabling policies on the books stipulate who the pro forma members of the Space Council are. There is an interest in retaining the Users Advisory Group (UAG) but no one knows who the National Space Council staff are or who will serve on the UAG. And of course, the OIIR is the last place to look since they cannot even, manage to find a link to the Executive Order that brought the National Space Council back to life under the previous Administration.

As I noted recently in NASA Tries To Fix A Webpage By Breaking It NASA OIIR is really asleep at the wheel right now. The OIIR can't manage to maintain an accurate public-facing web page that explains the NASA Advisory Council; and the OIIR has no idea what the National Space Council is doing.

On a larger note, NASA has no real policy to guide what it is doing other than to not break anything that they were already doing under the Trump Administration. Even though inadequate budgets, SLS and spacesuit delays, and HLS protests now make the 2024 lunar landing target utterly improbable, NASA won't even state the obvious. Its hard to take NASA leadership seriously when they can't even admit what everyone already knows.

Early in his tenure, President Biden used to mention space and NASA accomplishments almost weekly - often as examples of American creativity and drive. Not any more. To be certain the pandemic, Afghanistan, a bad economy, and a failed insurrection have justifiably distracted his Administration. That said, the Biden Administration has a rather rich set of policy positions that resonate in many ways with what NASA does. Only climate change has gotten any attention with regard to NASA. Alas, despite promoting a "Build Back Better" meme, all that the Biden Administration seems to have allowed NASA to do thus far is to "Leave Things Broken".

NASA can be vastly better than this - but only if the White House starts to take NASA seriously - and expect that NASA will get off its butt and respond. Otherwise NASA will just rest on its laurels and say "space is hard" any time something doesn't go the way it is supposed to. That is the easy path - which is what NASA is sadly defaulting to right now.

Earlier Biden Space postings

OSTP: Clear Rules for Research Security and Researcher Responsibility

"The Biden-Harris Administration holds a strong commitment to protecting research security and maintaining the core values behind America's scientific leadership, including openness, transparency, honesty, equity, fair competition, objectivity, and democratic values. During its final week in office, the previous administration issued a National Security Presidential Memorandum (NSPM-33) to "strengthen protections of United States Government-supported R&D against foreign government interference and exploitation" while "maintaining an open environment to foster research discoveries and innovation that benefit our nation and the world." Given the timing of the release of NSPM-33, the previous administration did not have time to develop implementation guidance for federal agencies. The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is working on how to implement NSPM-33 effectively, rigorously, and uniformly across the federal government in a way that protects the nation's interests in both security and openness."

Keith's note: This memo from the President's science advisor regarding the current OSTP's actions with regard to NSPM-33 certainly has implications for NASA inasmuch as NASA has numerous international projects including many that involve Russia and has binding legal restrictions in place with regard to China. NASA is part of the Federal government like all the other agencies are.

You'd think that the NASA office that deals with Intergovernmental and International relations would be on top of things like this. Maybe they are. Hard to tell. If you subscribe to the notion that one's official agency website reflects an agency's current understanding of the world (as NASA seems to) then you'd expect that the NASA Office International and Interagency Relations to have references to the current state of policies that are accurate - and that the links to them work. Guess again.

As I noted a month ago in ""NASA's International and Interagency Relations Team Doesn't Bother To Update":

"If you go to the page where OIIR links to things, the top link i.e. Standing Trump Administration space policy documents - Executive Order for the National Space Council, White House Fact Sheet on the National Space Strategy, SPD-1, SPD-2, SPD-3 - all of the links are dead since that is what happens to one Admininstration's links when a new one takes over. Then there is International Space Station Multilateral Intergovernmental Agreement -- United States, Canada, European Space Agency, Japan, Russia (January 1998) which goes to an FTP site that no longer exists/won't let you in; International Space Station Crew Code of Conduct which goes to a dead link somewhere inside NASA; NASA CSA, ESA, Russia, and Japan agreements from 1998 which all go to dead links; and Space Shuttle mission info which, by definition, has not been updated since 2011. But nothing about Artemis, Orion, SLS, etc all of which have international cooperation embedded in them. And so on. If NASA can't be bothered to update their international relations web page at least once in a decade why should anyone take the time to visit it."

Keith's note: Today Vice President Harris is announcing the selection of Chirag Parikh as Executive Secretary of the National Space Council. Mr. Parikh is from Ohio and a veteran of the U.S government with over 20 years of experience. During the Obama-Biden Administration from 2010-2016, Mr. Parikh served as the White House Director of Space Policy on the National Security Council. In this position, he led the formulation and execution of national space policies and strategies; advised the President and National Security Advisor on civil, commercial, and national security space matters; and led efforts to reform how the Nation deals with threats to space systems.

White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Request for Information To Improve Federal Scientific Integrity Policies

"The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) seeks information to help improve the effectiveness of Federal scientific integrity policies to enhance public trust in science. The January 27, 2021 Presidential Memorandum on Restoring Trust in Government Through Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking (Memorandum) directs OSTP to convene an interagency task force under the National Science and Technology Council to review the effectiveness of policies developed since the issuance of the Presidential Memorandum on scientific integrity issued on March 9, 2009 in preventing improper political interference in the conduct of scientific research and the collection of data; preventing the suppression or distortion of findings, data, information, conclusions, or technical results; supporting scientists and researchers of all genders, races, ethnicities, and backgrounds; and advancing the equitable delivery of the Federal Government's programs."

Statements on Pam Melroy's Senate Confirmation as NASA Deputy Administrator

"It's an honor to be confirmed by the Senate to serve as NASA Deputy Administrator, and I am humbled by President Biden and Vice President Harris' confidence in me," Melroy said. "I look forward to returning to the NASA family and working with Administrator Nelson to ensure the United States continues to lead in space and beyond - exploring the wonders of the universe, expanding the Earth science research critical to combatting climate change, unlocking scientific discoveries that will change the world as we know it, and inspiring the next generation of discoverers and dreamers."

The State Of NASA

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson Delivers State of NASA Address (Video)

"Nelson remarked on his long history with NASA, and among other topics, discussed the agency's plans for future Earth-focused missions to address climate change and a robotic and human return to the Moon through the Artemis program, as well as announcing two new planetary science missions to Venus - VERITAS and DAVINCI+."

Media Invited to Administrator's State of NASA Remarks on Climate, Artemis

"In his first address to the workforce, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson will discuss the agency's plans for future climate science missions, the agency's plans for a robotic and human return to the Moon through the Artemis program, and more during a State of NASA event at 3 p.m. EDT Wednesday, June 2. The event will air live on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency's website."

Watch

Keith's note: After four years of attempts to kill NASA's Education Office a new Administration wants to increase NASA's education funding. A person with a PhD in Education lives in the White House. Overall, the Biden/Harris Administration talks about enhancing education in all quarters of the government. Instead of having a political donor running the Department of Education into the ground, an actual teacher and professional educational manager is now the Secretary of Education. If you are interested in the future of our nation's education system, now would be a good time for you to start being enthusiastic - again.

You'd think that NASA would be overjoyed. Alas, even in the best of times, NASA's education efforts have been under funded, filled with congressional pork, and at odds with NASA Public Affairs and the outreach efforts run by various NASA directorates, missions, and field centers. And they lack even the most basic of metrics to allow its efforts to be evaluated for effectiveness. Rarely has NASA's education office been run by an actual professional educator with prior education management experience.

As Bill Nelson assumed the position of NASA Administrator, he has been saying all the right things about education, inspiring the next generation, the value of NASA as a global ambassador, etc. Jim Bridenstine said the same things. So did Charlie Bolden and Sean O'Keefe. Unlike his predecessors, NASA has a $147 million request - a 15.7% increase over FY 2021 appropriations in its education budget in the President's FY 2022 budget request. The budget request shows an out year runout reaching $160 million in FY 2026. If you look at the STEM summary in the NASA budget justification (page 725) - the 3 pages of 'lets get rid of education' verbiage from the Trump era is replaced with 6 pages of 'what can we do to expand education' at NASA.

What The Biden/Harris White House Says About NASA Education

As for NASA's plans according to this budget justification, the document states:

"NASA will execute a new integrated action plan toward broadening student participation in STEM Engagement programs and activities. This plan has outlined discrete initiatives and identified best practices already underway under four overarching goals:
• Enhance communications and stakeholder engagement, and build networks and relationships dedicated to broadening student participation;
• Strengthen practices and systems toward broadening student participation;
• Build a solid foundation for a focus on metrics and evaluation to effectively measure progress in broadening student participation; and
• Drive a collective focus across NASA's STEM Engagement community on broadening student participation and foster a commitment to achieving more diversity, equity, and inclusion in student opportunities and programs."

Keep these things in mind as you go through my commentary.

Two weeks ago I sent an email to NASA Public Affairs - and the Associate Administrators for Communications and STEM Engagement - about the excellent ISS event with visually and hearing impaired students. I got a partial response a week later. The following excerpt from the PAO response summarizes the current lazy, disinterested attitude within NASA Headquarters with regard to education:

NASAWatch: "How does this event link to the Biden/Harris Administration's education strategic plans"?
NASA PAO: "Please reach out to the White House."

Oddly the budget justification issued by the White House - presumably written with the collaboration of NASA - states that such a plan exists. So why did NASA Public Affairs tell me to consult with the White House? Did they not know that they had a plan what was in synch with the White House? As you will see below, NASA's education plans are ad hoc, in serious need of updating, are out of synch with other agency activities, and almost totally devoid of "metrics and evaluation to effectively measure progress in broadening student participation" as stated by the White House.

Assuming that the FY 2022 budget request for NASA education survives, what will Bill Nelson do with the extra $27 million? Will he just pour it into the status quo? If so then the added funds will make little real difference due to systemic problems within the NASA STEM Engagement Office. Or, will Nelson take the lead offered him by the White House and set aside some serious money to revamp i.e. to "Build Back Better" this aging and inefficient education program so as to make it 21st century compliant?

Let's take a closer look at NASA's Education efforts. I have expanded some of the things I have been writing about recently.

Media Invited to Administrator's State of NASA Remarks on Climate, Artemis

"In his first address to the workforce, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson will discuss the agency's plans for future climate science missions, the agency's plans for a robotic and human return to the Moon through the Artemis program, and more during a State of NASA event at 3 p.m. EDT Wednesday, June 2. The event will air live on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency's website."

Keith's note: Last week I sent an email to NASA PAO - and the AAs for Communications and STEM Education - about last week's excellent ISS event with visually and hearing impaired students. I got a partial response to my questions today. The following excerpt from the PAO response summarizes the current attitude within NASA Headquarters with regard to education.

NASAWatch: "How does this event link to the Biden/Harris Administration's education strategic plans"?
NASA PAO: "Please reach out to the White House."

In his prepared statement to the House Appropriations Committee last week Bill Nelson said "strengthening of a diverse Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) workforce that inspires future generations."

In his State of the Union Address President Biden said "To win that competition for the future, in my view, we also need to make a once-in-a-generation investment in our families and our children. That's why I've introduced the American Families Plan tonight, which addresses four of the biggest challenges facing American families and, in turn, America. First is access to a good education. When this nation made 12 years of public education universal in the last century, it made us the best-educated, best-prepared nation in the world. It's, I believe, the overwhelming reason that propelled us to where we got in the 21st -- in the 20th century."

So ... despite the strong, clear, relentless push for education from the Biden/Harris Administration - with a education PhD on call 24/7/365 no less - and continuous statements by the NASA Administrator and other officials about the importance of education, NASA's answer is "Please reach out to the White House"? Seriously? Is no one at NASA paying attention to what the White House has been saying such that they can't even answer such a simple, basic question?

Keith's 4:12 pm EDT update: I just got the press release by email. It was sent out at 3:47 pm EDT. The Washington Post had an article posted at 12:21 pm EDT and then followed that with a tweet about this news while NASA said nothing whatsoever in advance. One would assume that this press release was in the can before the event happened. So why sit on it for 4 hours? Clearly these's a little favoritism going on here. NASA picks the preferred outlets while ignoring everyone else.

Alas, someone from PAO will try and tell me that this was a White House thing etc. etc. which is just silly DC inside the Beltway nonsense. The event aired on C-SPAN. NASA could have used that stream. But they did not. Will NASA TV show it? Doubtful. NASA reacts to news. They do not know how to strategically prepare, manage, and present it.

Biden Administration Invests $1 Billion To Protect Communities, Families, and Businesses Before Disaster Strikes, White House

"In advance of the President's visit, the Administration is announcing it will direct $1 billion for communities, states, and Tribal governments into pre-disaster mitigation resources to prepare for extreme weather events and other disasters, and the Administration is announcing the development of next generation climate data systems at NASA to help understand and track how climate change is impacting communities. ... Develop and launch a new NASA mission concept for an Earth System Observatory. As the number of extreme weather events increases due to climate change, the ability to forecast and monitor natural disasters is integral for the nation's preparation, mitigation, and resilience. NASA's Earth System Observatory will be a new architecture of advanced spaceborne Earth observation systems, providing the world with an unprecedented understanding of the critical interactions between Earth's atmosphere, land, ocean, and ice processes. These processes determine how the changing climate will play out at regional and local levels, on near and long-term time scales."

Keith's 2:52 pm EDT note: Not a peep from NASA about any of this White House announcement. Baffling.

Keith's note: The nomination hearing for Pam Melroy to become Deputy Administrator of NASA is supposed to begin at 10:15 am EDT.

You can watch live here at Congress and here at NASA.

Testimony of Colonel Pamela Melroy Before The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation May 20, 2021

"NASA is unique because its programs are awe-inspiring and have the potential to fundamentally change humanity's understanding of the universe. NASA's role is collecting data about the Earth system and understanding the effects of climate change will be essential to those tasked with determining policy. If confirmed as Deputy Administrator, I will work closely with NOAA and ensure a robust program of Earth data collection and dissemination."

House Appropriations CJS subcommittee Hearing: FY 2022 Budget Request for NASA

Keith's note: This is the first time that NASA Administrator Senator Astronaut Bill Nelson faces Congress. There is no mention made of the hearing on the NASA TV calendar. But wait - the NASA TV site says it will air the hearing at 2:00 pm. So much for the accuracy of the NASA TV calendar I suppose.

Keith's note: The House Science Committee held a hearing today "NASA's Earth Science and Climate Change Activities: Current Roles and Future Opportunities". Given the importance placed by the Biden Administration on Climate Change - with NASA being a member of the Cabinet-level Climate Task Force - you'd think that NASA would be giving a hearing on climate change - with the head of its Earth Science Division and its Task Force representative - some serious visibility. Guess again. No mention on the NASA TV schedule. no media advisory or press release, nothing on the sparse NASA calendar. But they did tweet about the hearing but only an hour before it began. Gavin Schmidt made a point of tweeting as well. As for the NASA Office of Legislative Affairs - don't bother - all they have is the AA's biography and a picture.

So unless you saw these tweets this morning, you probably missed mention of this hearing. Now that the hearing is over, you'd think that NASA might post a link to the archived video and the testimony of its employees. Guess again. NASA PAO is a sleep at the wheel. So here's what you missed.

Statements:
- Chairwoman Johnson Opening Statement for Hearing on Earth Science and Climate Change Activities at NASA
- Chairman Beyer Opening Statement for Hearing on Earth Science and Climate Change Activities at NASA
- Babin Opening Statement at Subcommittee Hearing on NASA Earth Science and Climate Data
- Karen M. St. Germain, Division Director, Earth Sciences Division, Science Mission Directorate, NASA
- Gavin Schmidt, Senior Climate Advisor (Acting) and Director of Goddard Institute for Space Studies, NASA
- Riley Duren, Research Scientist, Office of Research, Innovation, and Impact, University of Arizona; Chief Executive Officer, Carbon Mapper, Inc.
- Robbie Schingler, Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer, Planet

Keith's note: If you have been watching the space-themed photo ops fro the Oval office you have no doubt seen the Moon rock that President Biden likes to point at on the shelf. NASA can't get enough of that Moon rock love either. Bill Nelson was sworn in next to it.

Imagine what your average citizen might do to find out more about that Moon rock after seeing something on TV or on social media or reading about it in a news paper. They'd go to NASA.gov. There is no picture of the Moon rock and Biden - but look, there is a search box, let's use that. Guess what happens when you search for "Biden moon rock" and "Biden moonrock". Nothing. When you search for "Biden Moon" you get a bunch of search results from the time when Biden was vice president. Of course if you go to Google and search zillions of pictures show up instantly.

You'd think that someone in NASA PAO would have the smarts to adjust the search engine for obvious searches such that things that real people are interested in might show up in a search engine - especially when no obvious mention is made on the NASA home page. I know that they can do this since they have made adjustments to search results to feature items after some of my earlier posts. This might be a good one to feature.

Keith's note: These are some of the articles - with links to research publications - in this past week's NASA Spaceline Current Awareness List #949 14 May 2021 (Space Life Science Research Results)

As you can see, this is a rather broad array of topics with direct relevance to this whole exploration of space thing that NASA talks about. And the folks who edit this resource put a quality list like this out every week. But unless you know precisely where to look for it - or read our SpaceRef website (which has the only complete archive going back to the 1990s)- you'd never learn about this NASA-related and sponsored research.

- Planetary extravehicular activity (EVA) risk mitigation strategies for long-duration space missions.
- Rad-Bio-App: A discovery environment for biologists to explore spaceflight-related radiation exposures.
- DNA microarray analysis of gene expression of etiolated maize seedlings grown under microgravity conditions in space: Relevance to the International Space Station experiment "Auxin Transport."
- Persistent deterioration of visuospatial performance in spaceflight.
- On the challenges of anesthesia and surgery during interplanetary spaceflight.
- Biomaterials for human space exploration: A review of their untapped potential.
- Revival of anhydrobiotic cyanobacterium biofilms exposed to space vacuum and prolonged dryness: Implications for future missions beyond low Earth orbit.
- Sharp changes in muscle tone in humans under simulated microgravity.
- Gravity threshold and dose response relationships: Health benefits using a short arm human centrifuge.

As I noted a week ago in "Biden Says #ScienceIsBack - But Its Hard To Find It At NASA" NASA makes no mention of this NASA-funded resource anywhere within its Human Space Flight or ISS Space Station webpages. CASIS ignores it too on the ISS National Lab website. In addition, various NASA pages that list research resources ignore it too. And when you tell NASA about this serious omission (which I have done multiple times over the years) they just do-not-care.

I used to just chalk this off to laziness on the part of the responsible offices at NASA. Its now starting to look like willful neglect. There was a Scientific Integrity Task Force meeting today. NASA is a member. The Biden Administration talks incessantly about #ScienceIsBack. Meanwhile, at NASA, #ScienceIsLost.

The White House Announces Scientific Integrity Task Force Formal Launch and Co-Chairs

"Convening for the first time on Friday, May 14, the 46-member Task Force - including 44 from across the federal government and two leaders from OSTP - will begin its work in responding to President Biden's call to action to strengthen federal science in his Memorandum on Restoring Trust in Government Through Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking."

House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Members Statement on Scientific Integrity Task Force, House Science Committee

"We are encouraged by the Biden Administration's quick action to restore scientific integrity in our federal research enterprise and we look forward to the results of today's initial meeting of this critical taskforce. Science does not have a political agenda. When science is done well, it is because trained professionals can follow the data and subject their findings to rigorous peer review."

Keith's note: NASA is a member of the Task Force. I wonder who they sent to the meeting. NASA has made no mention of this committee since its formation. The Biden Administration talks about "whole of government" approaches however NASA does not seem to be interested in talking about that sort of stuff even though everyone else seems to be.

Keith's note: The news that the White House wants to name former Rep. Kendra Horn to be executive Secretary of the National Space Council was not exactly thrilled a lot of people. In case you weren't paying attention, with Horn at the helm of the National Space Council, Big Aerospace and its allies would now be in control of NASA and the National Space Council. Her support for H.R. 5666 would have resulted in a government-only lunar program which would have favored the likes of Boeing, Lockheed Martin, etc. Now that the whole Artemis thing is up for some re-thinking who knows where the National Space Council and its Users Advisory Group might decide to steer it.

It is still unclear as to the exact pecking order that will be in place with regard to space policy and PCAST (President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology) and OSTP (White House Office of Science and Technology), the National Space Council/Users Advisory Group; the National Security Council, and the Vice President's office. Right now it seems that PCAST/OSTP is on one side and interacts with the President, while National Space Council is on the other answering to the Vice President, while the National Security Council off in their own bubble interacting directly with the President. There are no straight lines in this management chart.

It seems from sources that main White House force behind the idea of appointing Kendra Horn to be Executive Secretary of the National Space Council is Cedric Richmond, Senior Advisor and Director of the Office of Public Engagement. Richmond and Horn are personal friends, sources report. But why, you may ask, is he (or anyone else in the White House) making a previously apolitical position into a political one when much more qualified professionals could have been considered? I am now starting to hear doubts and disturbance in The Force emerge up within the White House/Space bubble that the Kendra Horn thing may not necessarily be a done deal after all. Not everyone inside the space bubble is happy about this. No formal press statement from the Vice President's office has been issued - yet. So stay tuned.

Keith's update: I tweeted "chair" when I meant type "executive secretary. Sorry. My phone woke me at 5:30 am and my fat fingers and sleepy brain made me type the wrong title. Horn was defeated after only one term in Congress. Horn is a big fan of coal and gas (She represented Oklahoma) and not so much of a supporter of dealing with climate change (Biden is), she used to work for the Space Foundation, and is known to be a big fan of Boeing.

Freshman Democrat runs as defender of oil and gas industry to hold Oklahoma district, Washington Examiner

"Horn said she does not support plans proposed by former Vice President Joe Biden and House Democratic leaders to eliminate carbon emissions from the power sector within 15 or 20 years through a clean electricity standard or mandate."

NASA Announces New Associate Administrator, NASA

"NASA Administrator Sen. Bill Nelson announced Monday Robert D. Cabana, who has served as director of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida since 2008, will serve as associate administrator effective Monday, May 17. Steve Jurczyk, who held the position since 2018, announced his retirement Monday."

Jurczyk Retires as NASA Associate Administrator, NASA

"Steve Jurczyk, who served as acting NASA administrator from Jan. 20 to May 3, 2021, announced Monday he will retire on Friday, May 14, after more than three decades of service at NASA."

Keith's note: Meanwhile talk in the hallways is that Bill Nelson wants everyone to call him "NASA Administrator Senator Bill Nelson". Why not include "congressman", "astronaut", and "Ballast" - his other three honorifics i.e. "NASA Administrator Senator Congressman Astronaut Bill "Ballast" Nelson."? Funny, no one ever referred to NASA Administrator Lt Commander Congressman Jim Bridenstine, NASA Administrator Major General Charlie Bolden, or NASA Administrator Hon. Secretary Sean O'Keefe. etc. Then of course we can expect to be hearing about NASA Associate Administrator Colonel Director Bob Cabana too. Meanwhile I suspect that Pam Melroy will be more interested in getting actual work done than titles.

Keith's note: As a one-time actual space biologist at NASA I find posting of research data online to be one of the most important things NASA can do to show the value - and availability - of research done on the ISS. NASA has been generating research papers for more than half a century. One very useful resource is NASA Spaceline, a regular (now weekly) NASA-funded summary of research sponsored by and relevant to NASA life science research. Here is the latest issue issued today - we post it within minutes of its arrival by email on Fridays.

Look at the good stuff in this issue: "Changes in the optic nerve head and choroid over 1 year of spaceflight"; "Draft genome sequences of various bacterial phyla isolated from the International Space Station"; "The individual and combined effects of spaceflight radiation and microgravity on biologic systems and functional outcomes."; "Everything you wanted to know about space radiation but were afraid to ask"; and "Fusarium oxysporum as an opportunistic fungal pathogen on Zinnia hybrida plants grown on board the International Space Station". That's just this issue alone - space biology, space medicine, radiation physiology, plant physiology, genomics. Each issue is like a weekly textbook on space life science. There's even astrobiology and microgravity science included as well.

NASA has paid someone to produce this research summary for years. There have been gaps due to funding lapses and our SpaceRef website has the only complete archive online here going back to the 1990s. We have been posting it religiously over the decades. Currently you can find and subscribe to this summary at NASA: SPACELINE Current Awareness - NASA Task Book. You'd think that NASA would go out if its way to be certain that all of its space station and space life science research websites would feature it prominently.

Guess again. They ignore it - systematically. There is no mention of - or links to - Spaceline at:

- NASA PubSpace (a linkage to NIH PubMed which has now been dissolved)
- NASA Scientific and Technical Information Program
- NASA SMD Biological & Physical Sciences
- CASIS/ISS National Lab
- NASA Space Station Homepage
- NASA GeneLab
- Life Sciences Data Archive, NASA JSC
- Space Station Research Explorer
- International Space Station National Laboratory

Oh yes - most of the inter-related and duplicative resources listed above don't even link to each other either - but there is another story coming on that.

If you Google "NASA science" (a thing taxpayers might just do) you get sent to this Science Mission Directorate page. If you look at the "topics" menu you see no mention of "biology", "life science", "astrobiology" or "microgravity" - even though all of this research is now housed at SMD. If you click on "missions" you get nothing related to these topics. If you click on "for researchers" and then "Science Data" there is no mention of Spaceline or any of these topics either. And so on.

If you search NASA.gov you can't find any mention of Spaceline.

NASA apparently doesn't have any interest in making this voluminous reference to science accomplished on ISS and in related fields available - if for no other reason than to refute those who would say that nothing of value is conducted on the ISS.

Oddly as NASA ignores things like Spaceline, they do like to jump up and down and tell you about all of the amazing research they want to do on the ISS to solve all of humanity's problems. In recent budget briefings to Congress NASA mentions how they want to ramp up ISS utilization in the coming years. Of course this is a good idea since the potential of this amazing facility has yet to be tapped. And now they want to sell you a bunch of ISS replacements where more of this science goodness will be carried out - and wait there's more: they want to do some on the Moon and in a mini Lunar space Station called Gateway too. Alas, given the way that NASA handles the dissemination of research results such as Spaceline this will simply mean that more important and interesting research will continue to be ignored. But NASA still wants you to fall for all the science justifications they claim to have.

And then there is the dysfunctional relationship regarding space station utilization between CASIS/ISSNL, NASA's ISS Program Office, HEOMD and SMD - but I'll address that in a future posting.

Newsflash NASA: according to Team Biden #ScienceIsBack - even if you can't find it at NASA.


Larger image

In Biden's infrastructure moonshot, a big question: Can the nation still achieve its highest ambitions?, Washington Post

"NASA just landed on Mars and we had a big vaccine," said Costa Samaras, who worked as a transportation engineer in New York City and now studies infrastructure resilience at Carnegie Mellon University. "We can do big things -- but we should be doing big things in infrastructure, right?"

Keith's note: There it is. Washington Post - the main newspaper read in the nation's capital. Big color picture - front page, above the fold, third paragraph. If no one reads the rest of the story they see NASA mentioned by a regular citizen in terms of great things that America does. This echoes the frequent mention of NASA by President Biden and Vice President Harris as well as his choice of the phrase "Cancer Moonshot" to represent an effort he led as vice president to fight cancer. Joe Biden thinks about NASA a lot it would seem.

Biden thinks about reinvigorating the nation after the pandemic and not an hour goes by without official use of the word "infrastructure". His administration talks about a  "whole of government" approach to solving the issues facing America. NASA is just another Federal agency - one that is supposedly going to be part of this whole #BuildBackBetter thing that we hear Team Biden talk about.

NASA trips over itself with giggling enthusiasm every time NASA and space get mentioned by this White House - especially when the Oval Office Moon rock gets a photo op. That's natural and it feels good to see NASA get some face time at the White House - especially when the previous Administration used NASA as a cheap prop in a never-ending political campaign circus. 

However, what NASA does not do after it gets some love from Team Biden is show that it is part of a whole of government approach - not just to post-pandemic issues and #BuildBackBetter. NASA has a bad history of shunning external, shoulder-to-shoulder, cross-government efforts. It just wants the money to do the space thing - and see ya'. 

NASA could follow up these social and broadcast moments by having a developing effort in place that show just how NASA is or will be involved in #BuildBackBetter and its cousin #ScienceIsBack. There should be talking points that point out what NASA does alone or with other entities to get things rolling again:

Aeronautics - NASA is a go-to agency for aircraft design, safety, fuel efficiency, and overall air system health. It is the only top level agency with the word "aeronautics" in its name. With the airline industry suffering now more than ever it needs to work smarter. And the infrastructure that tracks aircraft will be called on more than ever to perform flawlessly. Add in drones for delivery and remote sensing and the skies will need as much smart thinking as they can get. NASA does those things. It even flies helicopters on another planet.

Earth Science - NASA is now a member of the Climate Task Force and is one of the world's leading developers and operators of satellites that monitor weather (which can damage infrastructure); Climate change (which needs to be characterized so as to modify infrastructure); and land use and agriculture (the underpinnings of our economy).

Information Science - NASA operates some of the largest supercomputers on Earth. They are often used to tackle problems related to climate and aeronautics but also issues beyond NASA's usual portfolio. Satellite communications and embedded computing can make existing and rebuilt infrastructure more efficient than it has ever been.

Space Technology - NASA not only covers every aspect of how we use space to conduct our daily lives. Indeed,  NASA invented much of that technology. You should know all of the talking points by now - from weather forecasting to communications.

Commercial Space - by embracing the use of the private sector to do things that were once only the responsibility of government, NASA has helped to spawn whole new industries to build, launch, operate, and benefit from space technology. Seed money used by NASA has now been amplified well beyond the specific services that were sought. ANd this has only shown signs of accelerating. This growing sector pushes the need for infrastructure and a  skilled workforce. 

Science - this Administration has an unabashed love affair with all things science. NASA is probably one of the few government agencies that has a hand in every conceivable aspect of science - both basic and applied. Its investments and results have led and will continue to lead to innumerable advances - and nothing works better than an infrastructure that is better than the one it is replacing.

And so on and so on. You know the drill. But NASA is not promoting any of this now. It is sitting on its hands hoping that they get a little love note from the white House once a week and some nice presents under the tree in the FY 23 budget pass back.

But there is one thing that is often neglected since NASA people seem to assume that everyone already gets it and that they can just sit back now and wait for a nice fat budget from Congress: Inspiration.

Inspiration - this is an intangible. It is not written down anywhere, It is not in a charter, not in a strategic plan, not on an action item list. But it is as real as anything else and often vastly more pervasive and influential than the specifics of what NASA does. Often times, as was quoted in the Washington Post today, when someone wants to express a place - a mindset - a team - an idea - a meme - wherein everything our nation does comes together in a spectacular way - a way that no one else can do - even if they lack all of the specifics - they always seem to cite NASA. NASA has a grasp on our collective imagination and a global branding reach that is beyond what NASA itself seems to understand. 

And yet NASA wastes that "reach" every single day. Its public affairs, education, and outreach infrastructure are badly managed, duplicative, incapable of adequately sharing NASA's good news, and often grossly out of step with the real world. Moreover, NASA does not have a strategic plan - one written so that actual humans can understand it. As such when you ask NASA what it does and why it does it, well, NASA really drops the ball here - at the precise place where the agency's value could be sold in a "value proposition" to someone.

NASA's ability to explain itself is ill-equipped to meet the challenge that the White House is issuing to the whole of government. It is time for NASA to get off its ass, fix what is broken, and use this utterly unique gift of innovation, exploration and inspiration to its fullest potential. Not just to fund space things - but to help show everyone in America - and also around the world - that there is a way out of this collective funk and that nothing is impossible, as our President keeps saying, and that NASA is part of the best that our nation has to offer.

If NASA does not take full advantage of this golden opportunity to reinvent itself so as to become relevant again I fear that it may never get another chance.

Keith's note: In case you have not noticed the big thing on President Biden's agenda for Congress these days is INFRASTRUCTURE. A lot of NASA is falling apart. Various NASA technologies could be very useful in assessing the state of America's infrastructure. So ... I went to NASA.gov to see what NASA is doing. Nothing about infrastructure on the home page. So I used the NASA.gov search engine to see what infrastructure goodness NASA has in store when the Biden folks ask how NASA is going to help.

The top search result I got is for a NASA YouTube video titled. "Genomicic Sequencing of Outbreaks. Infrastructure, Confinement, Immune Suppression, Space Has It All". For starters the proper spelling of the key word in this title is "genomic" not "genomicic". Second of all this video has nothing to do with 'infrastructure' in the sense that the White House is interested. Third: you'd think that someone at NASA would read the newspapers and get the idea that maybe the Biden folks might be interested in infrastructure across the Federal government. Alas, NASA has never done that "whole of government" thing very well. Why start now?

NASA Names New Chief of Staff - Susie Perez Quinn

"As chief of staff, Quinn will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of NASA Headquarters. She will work with Nelson and senior NASA staff to shape the strategic direction of the agency, while overseeing and articulating various policies and programs."

Keith's 1 May note: Sources report that Susie Perez Quinn is coming to NASA to work on the 9th floor for NASA Adminstrator Bill Nelson. There will be more Nelson alumni showing up for work - a few already work at NASA - Press Secretary Jackie McGuinness and NASA Legislative Affairs AA Alicia Brown.

- @susie_quinn (Tweets are protected)
- 2017 Wall of Fame Inductee: Susie Perez Quinn, USF
- Susie Perez Quinn, LinkedIn

Keith's note: There's now an official howdy video from Bill Nelson to everyone at NASA. Note the soothing infomercial background music that is apparently designed to reassure you.

Vice President Harris Swears in NASA Administrator Sen. Bill Nelson, NASA

"As part of the swearing-in ceremony, Vice President Harris and Nelson were joined via video conference by Jim Bridenstine, who preceded Nelson as administrator, and in-person by Charles F. Bolden, who served as administrator from 2009 to 2017. Nelson's family and Pam Melroy, nominee for NASA deputy administrator, were guests at the ceremony."

Keith's note: NASA Program Executive Ezinne Uzo-Okoro is moving to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) where she will be Assistant Director of Space Policy.

- Ezinne Uzo-Okoro, LinkedIn
- ezinneinspace, Twitter

Keith's note: According to a media briefing with senior Administration officials at the White House today Bill Nelson will be sworn in on Monday by Vice President Harris - with some "special touches". The White House is in the process of searching for an executive secretary for the National Space Council. No word on when that will be announced. The White House will also be keeping the National Space Council's Users Advisory Group. VP Harris will be chairing the NSpC and will be meeting with the UAG and stakeholders as well.

Otherwise the guide word is "continuity" with regard to the overall space policy left in place by the Trump Administration -- with a focus on Biden/Harris priorities: peaceful norms of behavior in space; peaceful exploration with allies and partners; STEM education;
climate change; diversity in the workforce; regional economic development: and
ensuring cyberspace security in space activities.

According to one White House official in the briefing the Vice President's approach is going to be "to be to get the job done and not focus on big displays" which would seem to be a reference to the campaign style stunts that the Trump Administration liked to morph various space-themed meetings and events into - often with a reduced focus on actual substance.

- Sen. Bill Nelson Statement on National Space Council, NASA

Biden-Harris Administration Shows Strong Support for NASA in First 100 Days, NASA

"In the first 100 days of the Biden-Harris Administration, NASA has taken bold steps to expand America's exploration and scientific frontiers, advancing the nation's commitment to build back better through innovation, combat climate change, re-establish America's standing abroad, and inspire the next generation."

Keith's note: Lots of stuff is mentioned in this self-issued report card. Apparently Space Team Biden gives itself an 'A' grade on everything. But some caveats need to be brought up to adjust the rosy glow. For starters, the Mars Perseverance/Ingenuity mission left Earth for Mars before the election or the Inauguration. The SLS stuff was more or less a done deal as well. So ... the new Biden folks mostly kept the lights on and did not break anything. As for the attention paid to NASA by the Biden Administration, there has been quite a lot - right from the onset. Not the rah rah type of semi-campaign rally stuff that the Trump folks seemed to revel in. Rather, the Biden folks have been placing NASA in a larger context of what the nation aspires to be - and do - as we emerge from the economic downturn and the pandemic.

Those big ticket items aside, there are some other accomplishments noted in this update that require a little more transparency - and some actual information - from Space Team Biden. Of course, the logical place to look would be NASA's website which, as I have noted previously, is broken, stale, confusing, and totally inadequate for the tasks it should be accomplishing. Some examples:

"Appointed a diversity and inclusion advisor to advance the administration's commitment to advance racial equity. The advisor will work with NASA leadership to further advance diversity and inclusion in the strategic decision-making of the agency to enhance organizational effectiveness, help achieve mission goals, and meet future challenges."

Who is this person? What is their background? What are their responsibilities? Is this a civil service hiring or a political appointee? The NASA ODEO (Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity) website makes no mention of this person or their responsibilities.

"Established an internal working group on orbital debris to improve the safety and sustainability of the orbital environment, which is a critical component of the space-based activities that our modern society depends on."

Who is on this working group? What is their charter and when will they issue a report? If you use the NASA.gov website to search for this effort all you get are old results. If you go to the Orbital Debris Program Office page there is no mention made of this activity,

"Initiated an internal review of the Artemis program to evaluate the current program budget and timeline, and develop high level plans that include content, schedule, and budgets for the program."

When will this review be made public? Who is on the review team? Is it already complete given that the HLS contract was awarded? There is no mention made on the NASA Artemis or NASA HEOMD websites.

"Established a new position of senior climate advisor to provide NASA leadership critical insights and recommendations for the agency's full spectrum of science, technology, and infrastructure programs related to climate."

When is this person (Gavin Schmidt) going to tell us what he is doing? There is nothing on the GISS or SMD Earth Science pages that mentions what he will be doing. His Twitter account (is this personal or official?) does not seem to mention anything about the job either.

Hopefully NASA PAO and OCOMMS will fix this dilapidated web presence once and for all so that everyone can find out what the agency is actually doing. Right now the NASA website presence is often more of hindrance than an asset.

Keith's note: Congress has consistently appropriated a small fraction of what is needed to continue with Human Lander work. The proposed FY 2022 budget from the Biden Administration still falls far short of what NASA has said that it needs to implement the Artemis program of record. NASA cannot award contracts with money it does not have - or will not get. According to the GAO, who will handle the Blue Origin and Dynetics HLS complaints, the Antideficiency Act provides a rather blunt roadblock to these protests since this law "prohibits federal agencies from obligations or expending federal funds in advance or in excess of an appropriation, and from accepting voluntary services."

Faced with a substantial shortfall in funds, NASA had to take that fact into account as it evaluated HLS proposals. Significant technical merits and issues aside, the numbers from Dynetics and Blue Origin were simply beyond the possible. SpaceX was much cheaper at $2.89 billion and an adjustment in its stated cost was possible. So, NASA went to the lowest bidder and asked if they could adjust their price. They did.

Blue Origin has stated that its bid was $5.99 billion. NASA stated that the Dynetics bid was "significantly higher" than the Blue Origin bid. It seriously stretches the imagination to think that they could match the SpaceX bid. Now they are protesting the decision.

NASA has not said whether they will pause work with SpaceX or on-going work with Blue Origin and Dynetics while GAO examines the two protests. Protests like these rarely succeed. The only real impact these protests will likely have is to delay work on meeting Artemis programmatic goals.

There are other threats too. Many in Congress would rather have NASA own the human lander outright which would cost more. Others think that the budgetary underpinnings of the Artemis program are too uncertain to make such a contract award. As such, even if GAO dismisses these two HLS contract award protests, NASA still faces a lot of resistance as it strives to put Americans back on the lunar surface.

Of course Big Aerospace could dial up their lobbying game and push Congress for billions more to build their systems. NASA Administrator-in-waiting Bill Nelson has been a big SLS fan since Day One, so you know that he'd certainly be listening to that option with some lingering interest.

The real question is where the Biden Administration decides to come down on all of this. Either they can adapt to national fiscal realities, think outside the box as they did with the SpaceX decision, and try to minimize the lingering impact of NASA's perennial delays and overruns -- or they can give in to Big Aerospace and pump more money into a clearly broken process that has yet to show a chance of ever meeting a program deadline.

- Blue Origin Formally Protests NASA HLS Contract Award, earlier post
- NASA Submits A Budget - And Adjusts Its Artemis Aspirations, earlier post
- House FY 2021 Budget Makes 2024 Moon Landing Doubtful, earlier post
- Senators Urge Biden To Fully Fund Artemis Human Landing System, earlier post
- Artemis Human Lander Contract Decision Delayed, earlier post
- NASA OIG: Planned Artemis Launch Dates Are "Highly Unlikely", earlier post
- GAO On Artemis: Behind Schedule, Over Cost, Lacking Clear Direction, earlier post
- OIG On NASA's Challenges: A Moon Landing By 2024 Is Unlikely, earlier post
- Congress Still Wants An Artemis Plan From NASA, earlier post

And so on. More here.

New NASA CFO Nominated

NASA Statement on Nomination of Margaret Vo Schaus for Agency CFO, NASA

"[Margaret Vo] Schaus is a career member of the Senior Executive Service. Over the past decade, she has held numerous leadership roles with responsibility for the financial management and business operations of science and engineering organizations at the Departments of Energy and Defense. She currently serves as the director for business operations in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, where she is responsible for oversight of a multibillion-dollar budget. Schaus has been recognized with awards, including the Office of the Secretary of Defense's Exceptional Civilian Service Award, the Department of Energy's Distinguished Career Service Award, and the Secretary of Energy's Honor Award."

Keith's note: I certainly hope Schaus is ready to shake up the CFO's office. The NASA CFO org chart still shows Nestor Tezna as head of the CFO's Policy and Grants Division. Tezna worked on NASA grants and continued to work for the agency for nearly a year after he fraudulently applied for a PPP grant.

Testimony By Bill Nelson Nominee for Administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Administration

"I also believe NASA plays an important role in inspiring the next generation of inventors and scientists. After the Apollo program, thousands of young people dedicated themselves to studying engineering, science, and computing. Not all of these people joined the space program. Some went into biology or the nascent computer industry. They made this country a technology and economic powerhouse. 60 percent of people alive today weren't alive to see a human walk on the Moon. Imagine who NASA and America inspires when we return to the Moon, and this time include women and people of color.

Finally, the President has highlighted that space investments spur economic growth, improve life on Earth, and keep America competitive. Through all NASA activities, the agency generated more than $64.3 billion in total economic output during fiscal year 2019, supported more than 312,000 jobs nationwide. Every state in the country benefits economically from NASA. Investments in research and technology are our seed corn for future economic growth, and are a key part of the Build Back Better plan."

Keith's note: The hearing got started with a seemingly endless stream of compliments that included the phrase "my good friend Bill Nelson". By the time that ended it was obvious that Nelson was going to be confirmed no matter what he said. Nelson was light on specifics - saying that he was nto allowed to talk to NASA - which is a little strange given how NASA helped him prepare Nelson for this hearing and escorted him around the Hill for office visits.

Sen. Wicker asked a question wherein he stated that NASA was planning a Moon landing on 2024 and a Mars landing in 2029, Nelson did not seek to correct Wicker about the 2029 Mars date. Later in the hearing Sen. Blackburn said that the Mars landing was planned for 2030. Nelson did not correct that. Later he said that the 2024 Lunar landing timetable set by the Trump Administration is still in place and that "space is hard". Nelson later said going to Mars was set to happen in the decade of the 2030s. So it is apparent that Sen. Nelson is somewhat uncertain about exactly what all of NASA's major human spaceflight goals are.

Nelson also tried to pass off some revisionist history wherein he was a staunch supporter of a "dual course" wherein NASA pursued both a government and commercial path do doing things in space. In reality he was a staunch supporter of the government approach (SLS aka "the big rocket") and sought to limit or move funds for commercial space to support SLS. Now he's found religion and claims to be a strong supporter of commercial space. So, stay tuned.

Sen. Cantwell made several comments suggesting that she was not exactly thrilled with the recent decision by NASA to sole source the Human Landing System (HLS) contract to SpaceX. Nelson made several comments saying that he supported competition in such activities but did not go so far as to suggest that he might change the HLS award to SpaceX. Given that the NASA HLS decision was overtly driven by NASA budget shortfalls efforts by Nelson to increase NASA's budget might hint at a revisit to this decision.

As for NASA and China - well, Nelson said that NASA will adhere to the law- specifically that enacted by Rep. Wolf. Regarding the Artemis Accords Nelson said that he hopes to expand the number of signatories to include countries that have yet to sign - with a focus on peaceful uses of space.

When asked what the specific value of the Biden budget for NASA Earth Science and climate change Nelson had no real specific answer other than to support the budget increase and note that NASA observes climate change and that this is (obviously) important.

Nelson was asked about education benefits that can be derived from the space program. He replied that "This is one of the areas I really want to pour the juice to at NASA as requested by the White House." He repeated the 'juice' phrase several more times. One would hope that Nelson is looking to truly overhaul NASA's education office and fix what is broken - and not simply pour money into it.

Again, as far as Nelson's confirmation is concerned, based on the hearing, this is a done deal.

Keith's note: Apparently neither NASA or the White House are inclined to issue a formal press release about the nomination of Pam Melroy to be NASA's new Deputy Administrator. Nothing on NASA.gov. I guess its not a big deal to NASA or the Administration. They just let things dribble out. Oh well, welcome back to NASA, Pam. Nothing has changed.

Keith's 3:20 pm EDT udpate: Today, President Joe Biden announced his intent to nominate eight leaders to key Administration posts (Pam Melroy)
Keith's 4:09 pm EDT udpate: NASA Statement on Nomination of Pam Melroy for Agency Deputy Administrator

-----

Melroy:
It's a great honor to be nominated by President Biden to support Senator Nelson and help lead NASA. The agency is critical in America's fight to combat climate change and maintain leadership in space.

This year, NASA will embark on the first human deep space exploration program since Apollo, launch the James Webb Telescope, test the first all-electric X-Plane, and further technologies to take humans to Mars. And the way to do it is as a team that honors diversity in every dimension!

Nelson:
As a retired USAF Colonel and test pilot, former NASA astronaut and Space Shuttle commander, and a dynamic leader with a wide breadth of experience, I believe that Pam Melroy will be a great partner to help lead NASA.

Pam has the longstanding technical and leadership experience that will help NASA on its mission to explore the cosmos, expand climate change research, and ensure NASA-developed technologies benefit life here on Earth. It's important that NASA has a team leading the agency towards the future - one of partnership and collaboration with commercial providers and committed to advancing equity for all Americans. Together, we will work to help NASA reach its full potential and accomplish the agency's critical missions in the years and decades to come.

Acting NASA Administrator Statement on Agency FY 2022 Discretionary Request

"Keeps NASA on the path to landing the first woman and the first person of color on the Moon under the Artemis program. This goal aligns with President Biden's commitment to pursue a comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all. With NASA's Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, as well as U.S. commercial partnerships with the human landing system and Gateway lunar outpost, we will send astronauts to the Moon and provide learning opportunities for future missions."

NASA's Fiscal Year 2022 Discretionary Request

"The President's 2022 discretionary request includes $24.7 billion for NASA, a $1.5 billion or 6.3-percent increase from the 2021 enacted level."

Keith's note: Note that the Trump era stock phrase "first woman and the next man" has been replaced with "first woman and the first person of color".

Keith's update: I just got this statement from former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine:

"I am extremely pleased to see that the Biden administration has increased funding for NASA in the FY2022 budget request. This budget continues the bipartisan Moon to Mars effort under the Artemis program. I urge the Senate to quickly confirm Senator Nelson so that he can assess and advocate for NASA requirements."

Keith's note: OK so ... NASA Legislative Affairs is paying attention ;-)

Biden: "They ask what do we get out of it? Well, they said the same thing when we first went into space. They said the same thing. Pushing the frontiers lead to big benefits back home. When NASA created Apollo's digital flight system, unheard of at the time, and lead to technology that helps us today to drive our cars and fly airplanes. When NASA invented ways to keep food safer after hours - and used for decades to keep food safe in supermarkets. At leas 2,000 products and services and development as a regard - as a result of American exploration. GPS, computer chiips allowing us to see and talk to one another."

FACT SHEET: The American Jobs Plan

"The American Jobs Plan will invest in America in a way we have not invested since we built the interstate highways and won the Space Race."

Keith's note: During the daily White House press briefing today space made the news again:

Kristin Fisher (Fox): "You know the Biden administration - they just announced its intention to retain the National Space Council - and this is on top of the White House voicing its support for the Space Force and NASA's Artemis program. I mean - these are three programs or policies that President Trump and the Trump administration put in place. So - would it be fair to say that space - and space policy - is one of the few areas where President Biden actually agrees with his predecessor?""

Jen Psaki: "I think that sounds accurate to me. Look - I think the President believes that the National Space Council provides an opportunity to generate national space policy strategies, synchronize on America's space activities at a time of unprecedented activity. It's also an opportunity to generate by America's own activities in space. So - it's certainly a program -- or a council - I should say -- he is excited to keep in place and one - I think it's fair to say - he agrees with the past administration's maintaining the program."

- Team Biden Decides To Keep The National Space Council, earlier post
- National Space Council UAG Wants You To Think They Did Something Important, earlier post

Keith's note: According to James Miller at NASA who emailed "NASA Internal Memo: National Space Council UAG Update from Chair, ADM Jim Ellis" to lots of the usual suspects within the DC space wonk choir, the National Space Council (NSpC) and its Users Advisory Group (UAG) are still alive and active (surprise) with all of their Trump-nominated members:

"... our UAG executive Committee (ExCom) has continued to meet on a regular basis and several Subcommittees, most notably the Education and Outreach Subcommittee, have also continued meeting or are planning to do so. Your participation in those sessions will, of course, be key to their continuing success. In summary, as both the UAG and the NSpC we advise are still active organizations, it seems appropriate that we continue to work to identify areas where we can contribute, even as we await any potential organizational changes."

If you go to pages 8-10 on the UAG's Transition Summary which is appended to this memo you will see that among the organizations the UAG's Education and Outreach subcommittee met with in January 2021 - as the Trump Administration was leaving and the Biden Administration was arriving - were:

EdChoice which is an Indiana-based nonprofit devoted to the privatization of schools through the promotion of an educational voucher system. The right-wing 501(c)(3) nonprofit is an associate member of the State Policy Network, a right wing/libertarian think tank. and The Reagan Institute which says "Here at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute, our education programs are dedicated to cultivating the next generation of citizen-leaders. Each year we work with thousands of teachers, and tens of thousands of students from across the country to help foster engaged and informed citizens. We invite you to explore these pages for information on programs, scholarships, and opportunities for students and educators."

Keith's note: The usual suspects are telling me that the Biden Administration has decided to keep the National Space Council (NSpC). As to what its real role will be is still TBD. These same usual suspects also wanted to keep the Trump space advisory status quo in place - specifically the NSpC. They even sent the Biden White House a letter saying so (see "Big Aerospace Wants Biden To Keep Trump Space Policy Apparatus In Place"). .

The Biden Administration has brought back PCAST (President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology) and is filling the emptiness that the Trump Administration caused when they cleared out the offices at OSTP (Office of Science and Technology Policy). As such the nation's top science and technology policy discussions - including space - will be held at an executive level. as things more or less functioned during the Obama Administration. The NSpC will be answering to the Vice President unless they decide to change that. But regardless of what NSpC did or will do it will almost certainly be a tier below the PCAST and what OSTP uses to make decisions.

The membership of the NSpC was re-established by executive order in 2017. Its membership (since amended to include the Department of Energy) consists of the heads of a variety of cabinet level agencies plus other high level agencies. The heads of these agencies only attended to public meetings where pomp and circumstance often seemed to be the prime purpose of the meeting. Truth be known 99% of what the NSpC did was due to Scott Pace and his tiny staff. All of the smoke and mirrors could have been dispensed with and nearly everything that the NSpC did would still have been done - again, due to Scott Pace. Fact.

There is also the issue of what to do with the National Space Council's Users Advisory Group. As I noted in 2018:

"... the Users Advisory Group is almost entirely composed of either political favorites or representatives of large aerospace companies looking for more contracts from NASA and DOD. There are no real "users" of space on this panel. Nor are there any members from the next generation who will inherit and conduct America's space activities. All we see are sellers. Yet another choir practice session amongst the usual suspects in an echo chamber."

Keith's note: In a nutshell NASA's education and outreach activities are overlooked, underemphasized, and underfunded; scattered and unfocused; and are simultaneously duplicative and non-complimentary. This is nothing new. It has been this way for decades.

The NASA STEM Engagement Office used to be called the NASA Education Office but NASA changed it to satisfy the demands of the Trump Administration who tried to defund it year after year - but Congress always put the money back. The Trump folks are gone but the name remains. "STEM" is almost always used with the word "education". To say "STEM Engagement" is like referring to ice cream as a "frozen dairy product with flavoring" when everyone else just says "ice cream" but we all know that NASAese is a hard habit to break.

No one managing the NASA STEM Engagement Office is a formally trained education professional - starting with the Associate Administrator. This is no big deal if the office functions in backwater mode - where no one really cares what they do. But we are talking about the preeminent space agency on our planet. This Administration seems to be inclined to bring science and knowledge back into the way we run our society. Think of how often the equivalent if college education gets wasted every time a NASA contract has a daily cost hiccup. You would think that the agency is thinking of a total overhaul of its education and outreach - with a budget that can make that happen.

That said, if President Biden can put an actual teacher in charge of the Department of EDUCATION then NASA can change the name to reflect what the office does. With a person holding PhD in EDUCATION who is also First Lady one would think that this topic gets discussed at the dinner table in the White House. You'd think that NASA would sense an inherent green light to go a head and fix this situation and staff the organization with education professionals and give it a budget commensurate with its important role.

That said, NASA does do a lot of good education stuff. The hard part is figuring out what they do and why they do it - and how they tell if they are doing the right thing.

President Biden Announces his Intent to Nominate Bill Nelson for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, White House

"Most every piece of space and science law has had his imprint, including passing the landmark NASA bill of 2010 along with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson. That law set NASA on its present dual course of both government and commercial missions. In 1986 he flew on the 24th flight of the Space Shuttle. The mission on Columbia, orbited the earth 98 times during six days. Nelson conducted 12 medical experiments including the first American stress test in space and a cancer research experiment sponsored by university researchers. In the Senate he was known as the go-to senator for our nation's space program. He now serves on the NASA Advisory Council."

Keith's note: Former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine today released the following statement after the Biden administration nominated Senator Bill Nelson to lead NASA.

"Bill Nelson is an excellent pick for NASA Administrator. He has the political clout to work with President Biden's Office of Management and Budget, National Security Council, Office of Science and Technology Policy, and bipartisan Members of the House and Senate. He has the diplomatic skills to lead an international coalition sustainably to the Moon and on to Mars. Bill Nelson will have the influence to deliver strong budgets for NASA and, when necessary, he will be able to enlist the help of his friend, President Joe Biden. The Senate should confirm Bill Nelson without delay."

How ironic. Nelson used every nasty tool he had to try to thwart Bridenstine's nomination. When Jim finally got in what did he do? He put Bill Nelson - who had been defeated in a re-election bid - on the NASA Advisory Council. There are so few class acts in politics and government today. Jim Bridenstine is one of them. Bill Nelson is not. Let's hope that Nelson is able to rise above his past and become non-partisan and non-parochial and that he runs NASA for the American people and not just for Florida or one big rocket.

- Former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine Comments on Bill Nelson's Nomination
- Chairwoman Johnson and Subcommittee Chairman Beyer Applaud Nomination of Senator Bill Nelson for NASA Administrator
- CSF statement on the nomination of Senator Bill Nelson (Ret.) for NASA Administrator
- The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration Congratulates the NASA Space Launch System Team as U.S. Prepares to Return to the Moon

- 2021 Bill Nelson Wants To Be NASA Administrator - 2017 Bill Nelson Says He's Not Qualified, earlier post
- Sen. Nelson's Effort To Undermine NASA by blocking Bridenstine, earlier post (2018)
- Bill Nelson Continues To Block NASA Administrator Nominees, earlier post (2009)

NASA Joins White House National Climate Task Force, NASA

"As a leading agency observing and understanding environmental changes to Earth, NASA has joined the National Climate Task Force. President Joe Biden issued an executive order Jan. 27, which initially outlined details of the task force."

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

"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."

- World Class Advisor Named For NASA's Minor Role In Climate Change Efforts, earlier post
- Climate Science At NASA: Building Back Better After The Trump Era, earlier post

Keith's note: Interesting historical note: Steve Isakowitz was the original Obama/Biden (planned) NASA administrator nominee back in 2009 - but Sen. Nelson refused to meet with him - blocking him and insisting on Charlie Bolden instead. Nelson then did his best to block Jim Bridenstine from becoming Administrator because he was a "career politician". These things don't always run smoothly.

Biden expected to nominate former senator Bill Nelson to be NASA administrator, Washington Post

"Lori Garver, who served as NASA deputy administrator under President Obama, said the choice of Nelson was "an ironic turn of events considering he blocked President Obama's top-nominees for the job in 2009 and then led the congressional effort that dismantled the Obama-Biden strategy and proposed budget, created the Space Launch System, reinstated Orion and cut funding for technology and commercial crew." She added that Nelson will need to understand why the SLS rocket "has cost so much more than projected." But she said he "has already had more influence on NASA than anyone in recent memory, so he has plenty of experience and should be able to hit the ground running."

Keith's note: Meanwhile the usual suspects inside the Beltway in Big Aerospace are lining up for jobs ...

Biden to tap Bill Nelson to lead NASA, Politico

"If you have someone like Sen. Nelson, who has decades of experience and a personal relationship with the president, they'll have a different ability to voice their reaction or response to the budget process. ... That will have a very real impact," said Mike French, the vice president of space systems at the Aerospace Industries Association. "To me, the most important thing is your ability to manage and look out for the agency's interests ... independent of your background."

2021 Bill Nelson Wants To Be NASA Administrator - 2017 Bill Nelson Says He's Not Qualified, earlier post

Keith's 7 March update: Update: it took @NASAJPL and @NASA two days to tweet something about the event. There is still no mention about the event at the JPL website or on NASA.gov.

Keith's 5 March 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.

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 28 January update: this is the letter (pdf) that the usual suspects sent to the White House. The wording is mostly the same. These organizations signed the letter:

Aerospace Industries Association, Aerospace States Association, American Astronautical Society, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Commercial Spaceflight Federation, CompTIA, Explore Mars, Inc., GPS Innovation Alliance, Intelligence and National Security Alliance, National Security Space Association, Satellite Industry Association, SmallSat Alliance, Space Florida, Space & Satellite Professionals International, The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, Universities Space Research Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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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