Recently in Congress Category

Planetary Science Hearing

Subcommittee Considers Asteroid Mining, Planetary Exploration Priorities

"The Space Subcommittee today held a hearing to review issues facing planetary exploration of our solar system, including NASA's proposed budget for planetary science, and potential commercial interests. Witnesses also testified on the American Space Technology for Exploring Resource Opportunities In Deep Space (ASTEROIDS) Act, H.R. 5063."

Prepared statements: Rep. Lamar Smith, Rep. Steven Palazzo, Jim Green, Jim Bell, Mark Sykes, Joanne Gabrynowicz, Philip Christensen

Letter to NASA Administrator Bolden from House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Republicans, 27 August 2014

"Will NASA be able to fly the SLS for Exploration Mission-1 in calendar year 2017? If it will not, please explain what has changed since your testimony on April 24, 2013 and whether, during your testimony on March 27, 2014, you were aware that this flight could be delayed beyond calendar year 2017.

Do you stand by your testimony that stated "We have asked for.. .and stated over and over that this is the amount of money that we need to deliver the SLS on the date and time that we said, 2017 for the inaugural mission?" If you do not stand by this testimony, please explain what has changed and how you would update this testimony to more accurately reflect the program's schedule."

SLS Resources Need to be Matched to Requirements to Decrease Risk and Support Long Term Affordability, GAO

"According to the program's risk analysis, however, the agency's current funding plan for SLS may be $400 million short of what the program needs to launch by 2017."

Actions Needed to Improve Transparency & Assess Long-Term Affordability of Human Exploration Programs, GAO

"Moreover, NASA's estimates do not capture the cost of the second flight of the 70-metric ton vehicle during EM-2, the costs of development work that will be necessary to fly the increased 105- and 130-metric ton SLS capabilities, and the costs associated with legacy hardware that will be used for the Orion program. In contrast, best practices for cost estimation call for "cradle to grave" life cycle cost estimates in order to help assess a program's long-term affordability."

Budget Stalled, Again

Republicans Prep Short-Term Funding to Keep Government Open Through Election Day, National Journal

"Abandoning all pretense of the House and Senate agreeing on appropriations bills on time, House GOP leaders are tentatively planning to vote next week on a resolution keeping the government temporarily funded at current levels beyond the Oct. 1 start of the new fiscal year--and probably past Election Day."

Marc's note: Here we go again. Thanks to Jeff Foust for the tip.

Senators vow to reassert America's rocket power, The Hill

"The United States must now respond decisively and provide our own domestic capacity to launch our crew and cargo into space," Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said. "We simply cannot rely on the vicissitudes of foreign suppliers in a foreign nation for our national security." The full costs of replacing the engine could be much higher than Congress is willing to commit to right now. It is, quite literally, rocket science to fit a new engine into existing rockets. Aside from building the engine itself, engineers will also need to make sure every other component works with the new machinery, kind of like switching out a car's hybrid engine with a V8. That could take five to eight years and cost up to $2 billion, predicted the Pentagon's acquisition and technology chief, Alan Estevez."

Assured Access to Space - Prepared testimony and video, Senate Armed Services Committee

U.S. Launch Enterprise: Acquisition Best Practices Can Benefit Future Efforts, GAO

Keith's note: We went from having only tiny rockets to the Saturn V (and its massive engines) in 8 years. Here we are in the 21st century and it is going to take us the same amount of time to reverse engineer a 50 year old Russian engine design? Am I missing something?

House members press NASA for information on "epidemic of anomalies" with SpaceX missions, Space Politics

"Three members of Congress from Alabama and Colorado have asked NASA to provide information on what they receive to be an "epidemic of anomalies" on missions performed by SpaceX."

Coffman Presses NASA for Transparency on SpaceX

"Today, U.S. Representative Mike Coffman (R-CO), along with Representative Cory Gardner (R-CO), sent a letter to the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) expressing strong concerns over anomalies that have occurred on taxpayer-funded space launch vehicles, and the lack of public disclosure or transparency of these anomalies. The letter expresses concern over an epidemic of anomalies that have occurred during SpaceX launches or launch attempts, and communicates frustrations with NASA's refusal to provide insight into those mishaps. "

Pathways to Exploration: A Review of the Future of Human Space Exploration

Witnesses will be:

- Governor Mitch Daniels, Report Co-Chair (testimony)
- Dr. Jonathan Lunine, Report Co-Chair (testimony)

Committee Reviews Report on Future of Human Spaceflight, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

"The report confirmed that NASA lacks a plan for human space exploration. The NASA Authorization Act of 2014, which recently passed the House with bipartisan support, requires a detailed plan for how NASA will land humans on Mars. The NRC's report offers suggestions on the best way to reach that goal. The report also calls into question the Obama administration's continued focus on the Asteroid Retrieval Mission (ARM), highlighting "an underlying concern that ARM would divert U.S. resources and attention" from other potential missions."

Committee Considers the Path Forward in Human Spaceflight, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democrats

"The witnesses emphasized the need for sustained investments in the U.S. human space exploration program over multiple Congresses and Administrations in order to commit to a pathway approach and successfully achieve a human mission to Mars. Specifically, both Governor Daniels and Dr. Lunine emphasized that if budgets continue to only increase at the rate of inflation, the goal of landing humans on Mars will never be attained. The co-chairs also made it clear that regardless of the pathway that is adopted, there needs to be consistency over a long period of time that survives the changing U.S. political landscape."

- Hearing Charter
- NRC Says NASA Is On The Wrong Path to Mars, earlier post
- Report From Slow Motion Advisory Committee on Human Space Flight, earlier post
- NASA Should Maintain Long-Term Focus on Mars as "Horizon Goal" for Human Space Exploration, earlier post

White House: NASA bill would raise costs, cause delays

"The Obama administration is concerned that a provision in a NASA funding bill being debated on the Senate floor this week would add costs and delays to the program that will replace the mothballed space shuttle with private rockets. As part of a $17.9 billion spending bill to fund NASA in fiscal year 2015, the Senate Appropriations Committee earlier this month approved the $805 million for the commercial crew program that will ferry astronauts to the International Space Station."

White House Statement of Policy H.R. 4660 - NASA Excerpt

"Commercial Crew Program. The Administration appreciates the Committee's support for the Commercial Crew program, but has concerns about language that would seek to apply accounting requirements unsuitable for a firm, fixed-price acquisition, likely increasing the program's cost and potentially delaying its schedule."

Nelson Wants To Revisit Senate Appropriations Committee's Stricter Commercial Crew Oversight, SpaceNews

"Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) took to the Senate floor June 18 and tapped the brakes on a powerful appropriator's plan to subject NASA's commercial crew program to strict federal accounting standards the agency waived when it solicited bids for crew transportation in November."

House Passes Bipartisan NASA Authorization Act

Space Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.): "Our bill represents a serious bipartisan commitment to space exploration at a serious time in our nation's history. American leadership in space depends on our ability to put people and sound policy ahead of politics. That is what we have tried to do with the House bill. I urge our friends in the Senate to move forward with us by adopting our commonsense compromise and passing the House bill. Our nation's space program needs this legislation."

House Passes NASA Reauthorization Act of 2014

"While this is not a perfect bill, especially in terms of its short duration and lack of meaningful funding guidance, the bill in its present form includes many important policy provisions that help guide the future of NASA at a critical time for our space program."

NASA budget bill could include a poison pill for SpaceX, other commercial companies, Houston Chronicle

"With NASA under the thumb of the Russian space program, Congress continues to play political games with the space agency. On Thursday the U.S. Senate's Appropriations Committee unanimously approved the fiscal year 2015 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill. This means they agreed upon a spending plan to fund NASA, among other agencies. But buried within the bill could be something of a poison pill for a company like SpaceX. Allow me to explain."

Senate's NASA budget bill may hamper commercial spacecraft makers, Ars Technica

"When asked about the requirement, Shelby argued that it was necessary for transparency. But the whole idea behind adopting a fee-for-service approach to orbit is that it doesn't matter so much what the contractors are paying for their parts--if they offer the cheapest safe ride to orbit, that should be all that matters. Requiring contract pricing-type accounting, as proposed here, could be viewed as an action that unfairly grants advantage to Boeing."

Senate Appropriators Increase NASA Budget, Save SOFIA, Transfer Two Programs from NOAA to NASA, SpacePolicyOnline

"The Senate Appropriations Committee approved its FY2015 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) appropriations bill today. The bill would increase NASA's FY2015 budget by $439 million to $17.9 billion. While that figure is very similar to what the House approved, it would be allocated within NASA quite differently in some cases. Among the differences, the Senate committee would transfer two programs - Jason-3 and DSCOVR - to NASA from NOAA and increase NASA's earth science budget accordingly."

NASA budget bill could include a poison pill for SpaceX, other commercial companies

"With NASA under the thumb of the Russian space program, Congress continues to play political games with the space agency. On Thursday the U.S. Senate's Appropriations Committee unanimously approved the fiscal year 2015 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill. This means they agreed upon a spending plan to fund NASA, among other agencies.

But buried within the bill could be something of a poison pill for a company like SpaceX. Allow me to explain."

NRC human spaceflight report says NASA strategy can't get humans to Mars

"John Logsdon, professor emeritus of George Washington University's Space Policy Institute, said the report has a familiar ring to it. "They go through all this negative analysis and still conclude we ought to go to Mars. No one ever says, 'Let's lower our ambitions.' It's always, 'Increase the budget,' not 'Lower ambitions,'" he said. As for going to Mars: "It's a dream. It's been a dream forever. And will remain a dream unless something changes."

Mars or bust, says new report on NASA human space exploration, LA Times

"But the report said that if the U.S. is to take its space program to the next level, it will require more funds for the step-by-step missions that will lead to the Martian surface. It will also require, the authors said, more international cooperation -- including with China. Current federal law blocks NASA from working on bilateral projects with the Chinese."

New report: NASA Mars goal is not viable, Houston Chronicle

"There is also concern because, critics say, NASA is building this rocket without a clear path to Mars. As the report notes it is difficult to sustain a rocket program, absent a concrete, widely accepted goal, over multiple presidential administrations, and Congresses. "I would say the SLS is very vulnerable," said Mark Albrecht, an aerospace executive and principal space adviser to President George H.W. Bush, this year. "The wrong way to think about spaceflight is to build a bunch of stuff and then find an objective for it to achieve."

Keith's note: 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.

Report From Slow Motion Advisory Committee on Human Space Flight, earlier post

Ralph Hall and NASA

Rep. Ralph Hall defeated by John Ratcliffe, Washinton Post

"Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Tex.), the oldest-serving member of Congress and one of the last World War II veterans serving on Capitol Hill, became the first incumbent House lawmaker to lose a primary challenge this year by losing Tuesday night to a tea party-backed challenger."

Keith's note: I really like Ralph Hall. He has every marble he started out with - plus a few others - and always manages to pull the perfect joke out of his head - exactly when needed - and tells it perfectly - with proper timing. At 91 that's just awesome. Even more importantly, he always seems to want to listen to the other side and work with them. That is increasingly rare (sadly). Although he's often aw shucks about it, no one in Congress has been a stronger supporter of a thriving space program than Ralph Hall - certainly no one exceeds his support in terms of sheer longevity and persistence. His wit and perseverance will be missed when this session of Congress concludes.

Feud between SpaceX and ULA over space contract grows more intense, Washington Post

"This week, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said he would prohibit the export of Russian-made engines used in many U.S. rocket launches. That could eventually cause a disruption in how the Pentagon sends military satellites into orbit. And it plays into the hands of Musk, who is arguing that the nation's security interests in space shouldn't be dependent on the Russians."

House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Questions Stability of U.S.-Russia Space Partnership

"As we move forward, it is important that we fully understand our nation's independent capabilities with regard to ISS operations," the letter states. "While this new development is not related to access to the ISS for our astronauts in the next few years, it certainly pertains to the strength of our partnership with Russia. If Mr. Rogozin's statement proves to be accurate, we will have to take a step back and evaluate the costs and benefits of maintaining ISS beyond 2020 without our Russian partners."

Letter

Air Force to award 'Space Fence' contract to track orbital debris, Washington Post

"Hundreds of thousands of pieces of man-made debris are floating around out there, the detritus of more than 50 years of spaceflight. There have been chunks of dead satellites and spent rocket boosters -- even a glove that an astronaut dropped in 1965 and a spatula that escaped from a space shuttle in 2006."

Do We Need a Space Traffic Cop?

"There are currently three agencies that play a primary role in tracking and mitigation of orbital debris that may be hazardous to operational satellites or life and property on Earth, if the debris is large enough upon reentering the Earth's atmosphere. The Subcommittee will explore the roles and responsibilities of the Department of Defense, FAA, and FCC in policing orbital debris, what authorities are currently granted by Congress to federal agencies, and how they coordinate these activities."

Subcommittee Discusses Space Traffic Management

"Members raised a number of questions such as whether space traffic management requires an international approach; what liability agencies in charge of space traffic management should assume if their actions or lack thereof result in a collision and creation of debris; and what information is needed before Congress would move forward with legislation on these issues."

- Hearing Charter

- Hearing: Space Traffic Management: How to Prevent a Real Life "Gravity"

House FY 2015 NASA Appropriations Bill, AIP

"Yesterday the House Appropriations Committee released an unnumbered Full Committee Print to accompany the FY 2015 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill. This is a draft version of the committee report that is to be issued providing all-important language on the departments and agencies funded by this bill. This FYI reviews the National Aeronautics and Space Administration portion of the report."

Top Senate Appropriators Fault FY 2015 NASA Budget Request

"Administrator Bolden, we really do strongly disagree on this" Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) said at last week's hearing on the FY 2015 NASA budget request for science programs. Committee Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-AL) was also critical as he questioned the "administration's level of commitment to a forward-thinking inspirational space program."

Wow, an Increase of $170 million for Planetary Exploration, Planetary Society

"The House would provide NASA with $1.45 billion for Planetary Science, which is $170 million above the White House request and an increase of $105 million over last year. This gets us to within spitting distance of The Planetary Society's recommended minimum of $1.5 billion per year for a healthy program, so we are quite pleased with this number!"

Rep. Adam Schiff - House Appropriations Bill Significantly Ups Planetary Science Funding

"I'm very pleased that the subcommittee has made such a strong investment in planetary science - one of the Crown Jewels of NASA's portfolio. With this funding increase, we will be able to keep Mars 2020 on track and begin an exciting new mission to Europa, two of the science community's highest priorities. We should also be able to continue the operation of craft that have exceeded their estimated lives but continue to produce valuable science."

Lawmakers seek end to U.S. reliance on Russian rocket engine, Reuters

"U.S. reliance on Russian engines has been a long-time concern for lawmakers, but those worries have been heightened by Russian actions Washington believes are destabilizing Ukraine. Senators also raised concerns about U.S. dependence on Russian rocket engines at a hearing Wednesday and said they would press for work on an alternate engine. Chief Pentagon arms buyer Frank Kendall told the Senate Armed Services Committee the United States has a license to build the Russian engines itself and could do that if necessary. But he said it would require some technical work first and that the license only goes through about 2022."

House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Marks Up NASA Reauthorization

"The Committee on Science, Space, and Technology today approved the NASA Authorization Act of 2014 (H.R. 4412) with unanimous bipartisan support. The bipartisan bill reaffirms Congress's commitment to space exploration, both human and robotic, and makes clear that human spaceflight to Mars is NASA's primary goal."

House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Approves Bipartisan NASA Authorization Act

"The NASA Authorization Act of 2014 continues the consistent guidance Congress has given to NASA for nearly a decade by reaffirming a stepping stone approach to exploration in a go-as-you-can-afford-to-pay manner by developing an exploration roadmap. It supports the development on the Space Launch System and the Orion Crew Vehicle to push the boundaries of human exploration, and focuses NASA's efforts to develop a capability to access low Earth orbit and the International Space Station so that America can once again launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil."

NASA Hearings This Week

Rep. Frank Wolf Comments at Space Policy Institute

"I want America to beat China back to the Moon and be the first to Mars.  I want the international community - countries that share our interests and values - working with the U.S., not the People's Liberation Army, on their exploration programs.  But this requires vision and leadership.  Congress can only do so much without the White House, and unfortunately I don't see that happening under this president."

Sen. McCain Seeks Information on AIr Force's EELV Program

"U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) today sent two letters regarding the Air Force's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program - a vital $70 billion national security space-launch program that, without competition, has been plagued by exponential cost growth and schedule delays. The first letter is to Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James requesting additional information about her recent testimony regarding the EELV program before the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 10, 2014, and conveying concern about the apparently incomplete and incorrect nature of some of that testimony. The second letter is to the Department of Defense Inspector General Jon T. Rymer requesting that his office investigate recent developments regarding the EELV program."

A Good Day at House Science: Subcommittee Approves Bipartisan NASA Authorization Bill, AIP

"In less than a half-hour this morning the Space Subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee approved a bipartisan bill that would establish important policy for NASA. In contrast to last year's markup of an authorization bill that stretched over five hours with many party line votes, the action this morning required just two voice votes, setting up this bill for action by the full committee."

House Space Subcommittee Approves Bipartisan NASA Authorization Act

"The Space Subcommittee today approved the NASA Authorization Act of 2014 (H.R. 4412) with unanimous bipartisan support. The bill updates the previously committee-approved bill to reflect the funding agreement reached in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014. The Subcommittee also approved a bipartisan Palazzo-Edwards amendment that ensures sustainability of purpose and budget for high-priority NASA programs."

House Science & Technology Subcommittee on Space Markup: NASA Authorization Act of 2014

9:00 am EDT Live webcast

H.R. 4412

Sec. 701 Asteroid Retrieval Mission: "Consistent with the policy stated in section 201(b), the Administrator may not fund the development of an asteroid retrieval mission to send a robotic spacecraft to a near-Eaerth asteroid for rendezvous, retrieval, and redicrection of that asteroid to lunar orbity for exploration by astronauts."

However a compromise amendment to HR 4412 by Amendment by Rep. Edwards and Palazzo does not include this provision.

Hearing: From Here to Mars, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Science and Space

10:00 am EDT live webcast

Statement by Charles Bolden Hearing on NASA FY 2015 Budget

Statement by Dick Thornburgh Hearing on NASA FY 2015 Budget

"Due to the fact that the NASA systems lack the necessary controls to protect information, allow foreign nationals access to the networks, and allow remote access, the Panel concludes that the NASA networks are compromised. Publicly available reports on systemic data breaches across the country, NASA's own internal reports, and briefings given to Academy staff leave little doubt that information contained on the NASA IT systems is compromised."

Opening Statement by Rep. Frank Wolf Hearing on NASA FY 2015 Budget

"Our first panel today will focus on issues in NASA's security controls that were brought to light through the work of the National Academy of Public Administration. Governor Thornburgh, a NAPA fellow, led a team of experts in a comprehensive review of NASA security practices, culminating in a report that was issued about two months ago ... To my great frustration, the full contents of those reports are restricted and the publicly available executive summaries are lacking in many of the details and examples that are needed to fully understand the scope of the problem."

Keith's note: What is baffling is how Rep. Wolf, Culberson et al embrace the report findings that NASA's IT systems are flawed and have been compromised - and yet they want to fully release the same report that exposes these faults in great detail (so the people who want to cause problems will have a user guide.)

- OIG: NASA Has No Idea How Many Portable Devices It Has, earlier post
- NASA Admits Antiquated Record Keeping Capabilities, earlier post
- Earlier IT posts

Keith's note: There was a hearing today titled NASA Request and Oversight of NASA Security, Rep, Frank Wolf (R-VA) and John Culberson (R-TX) spent most of their time dumping on NASA and impugning Charlie Bolden's honesty. Culberson also seems to think that North Korea has an ICBM/time machine with which they can send us all back to 1813 (not certain why North Korea picked that year). Lots of snark in the room.

To get an idea of the Twitter stream from the event look at @jeff_foust, @Leone_SN, ‏@b0yle, ‏@Berger_SN, ‏@SpcPlcyOnline, and @NASAWatch. Franck Marchis has created a Storify version of all the Tweets. Here are a few of my NASAWatch favorites.

Mikulski: President's NASA Budget Request Just "Advisory," Will Work to Get More, Space Policy Online

"Regarding Congress, she repeated that the key is to "change the tone to change the tide." She wants civility restored to the process, with negotiations taking place "between each other and not in the press." She cited the work she and her Republican ranking member, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), did with their House counterparts in December and January in reaching agreement on the FY2014 Consolidated Appropriations bill as an example of success."

Space Subcommittee Chairman Says US-Russia Relations Require Tough Decisions

"If we are serious about once more launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil, we must make tough decisions within NASA's budget. Only when the budget has been stripped of costly and complex distractions will it once again reflect the priorities of the sole government agency tasked with space exploration."

Keith's note: There has been a flurry of comments via Twitter and press releases over the past 24 hours about going to Mars - and what things we can do now to help us to get there. It all started with NASA Administrator Bolden telling an advisory group yesterday that "Inspiration Mars is not Inspirational". He was referring the the latest incarnation of the ever-changing mission idea first proposed by Dennis Tito. This is part of a larger discussion regarding the SLS (Space Launch System), destinations in space, the value of commercial space - all of which was turbocharged by NASA's stealthy direction to its staff to cut off all ties with Russia except those involving the International Space Station.

Bolden, the White House, and some Democrats want to do the ARM (Asteroid Retrieval Mission) as a first test of the Orion/SLS system. Republicans and members of Congress from states where SLS/Orion hardware is made want a more robust Mars flyby mission using additional SLS hardware. All of this is fueled behind the scenes by partisan politics and the puppetry by former NASA employees scorned by the cancellation of the Constellation program.

And no one in this food fight can point to a clear, cohesive space policy proposal - one with budgets, milestones, and overall goals. Indeed everyone's notional policy is deeply flawed and wholly out of synch with the realities of using the same old approaches to conduct a program of human exploration mandated by the government. But when has that stopped anyone from having a good argument about what the current Administration's policy is - or is not? Indeed that is what this is all about. No one wants to really explore space any more. They just want to argue about it.

The argument currently finds itself focused on asteroids Vs Mars. So lets start there.

ARM is not without its fiscal problems and fundamental flaws. If the whole idea of ARM is to give Orion/SLS system a test in deep space then they should actually send a crew *to* an asteroid IN DEEP SPACE. Grabbing an asteroid and then bringing it back to a location close to Earth via robot such that Orion can visit it totally undermines the purpose of a deep space test. Its like lowering a basketball hoop to make it easier for you to sink the ball. Your test now becomes a stunt. It would be vastly simpler and less expensive to send a robotic mission to characterize the target asteroid - if asteroid characterization was the main goal.

If a true test of Orion/SLS systems in a risky environment - for a first flight - was the goal, then NASA should do just that. But to suggest that a Mars Flyby is a good way to do this test is to run in the exact opposite direction - for a first mission. Operating much closer to Earth ARM has the virtue of providing a contingency return if any critical systems fail on their first flight. Mars Flyby commits to everything with no way to abort. The crew is along for a 500+ day ride no matter what.

So ARM is too wimpy and Mars Flyby is too risky. How do we test Orion/SLS? And oh yes, everyone is waving their arms as to whether either mission "helps us get to Mars". Well, if you have already decided that Orion/SLS is the only (preferred) way you want to send humans to Mars then ANY flight has to provide some value. Of course some missions provide more bang for the buck than others. So people saying that it doesn't help us get to Mars are simply playing politics with their preferred mission.

The issue as I see it is how you use this absurdly expensive system in a strategic, systematic way that reduces real risk without taking unreasonable risks and demonstrates systems and technologies specifically needed to land people on Mars. You need a firm goal, and a long term plan for what you do once you get to Mars and build backward from what it takes to meet those goals.

Here's the problem: NASA has no firm plan, goals, destinations, and it doesn't even have the slightest hint of any evidence that a budget significant enough to make Mars exploration possible is in the cards. "Some time in the 2030s" is not a policy to send humans to Mars. Its a punchline for policy wonks to use.

Indeed there is not enough money NOW in order to get started. Moreover, we have one singular government solution (Orion/SLS) irreparably mandated by a collision of meandering policies from successive White Houses with overt pork preservation tactics by Congress. No discussion of alternate approaches is possible. And when one private sector alternate approach appeared (the original Inspiration Mars) it was immediately abducted by big aerospace companies and morphed so as to now justify the Orion/SLS - the very thing it originally sought to eclipse.

Have I missed anything?

- Bolden: Inspiration Mars is Not Inspirational, earlier post
- Is Inspiration Mars a "NASA Mission"? It Depends Who You Ask, earlier post

American Astronomical Society Statement on Proposed FY 2015 Budget

"At a time when space science is one of nation's brightest lights, delivering outstanding scientific discoveries and substantial public support, the President's proposed 3.5-percent cut for NASA's SMD is extremely worrying. We are particularly concerned by the 9 percent cut to the Astrophysics Division and the unanticipated decision to mothball a major mission outside the well-established senior review process. The AAS is also concerned about the imbalance within SMD given the inadequate funding for ongoing mission operations (including damaging cuts to major missions), flat or declining research and analysis grant funding, and the outlook for the Planetary New Frontiers and Heliophysics Explorer competed mission lines."

Planetary Society Decries NASA Science Cuts - Calls on Congress to Support Planetary Exploration

"NASA's planetary exploration is one-of-a-kind," said Casey Dreier, The Planetary Society's Director of Advocacy. "Our members know this, the public knows this, and we want to make sure that The White House knows this, too. We've had very strong support from key members of Congress, and we will depend on them once again to help preserve NASA's leadership in solar system exploration." Within two days of the Society's call, more than 20,000 messages of support have been sent to Congress, once again demonstrating the intense public support for this key NASA capability."

Hearing Charter

" ... A year after the introduction of this [Asteroid Retrieval] mission, the Administration still has not provided a detailed mission profile or budget proposal. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014 required NASA to provide additional details about the mission concept before Congress would commit long-term resources to the effort."

Smith and Palazzo: NASA's Priority Should Be Space Exploration

"The President's budget again seeks to fund an Asteroid Retrieval Mission (ARM), a mission that experts and Congress have sharply criticized. Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) highlighted testimony before the Committee by NASA Advisory Council Chairman, Dr. Steve Squyres, who said "I see no obvious connection between [ARM] and any of the technologies or capabilities that are required for Martian exploration."

Prepared Statement by Charles Bolden

"The Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) will enable NASA to test powerful Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) and integrated human/robotic vehicle operations in deep-space trajectories. Like the invaluable ISS, this mission will provide NASA with critical knowledge, experience and technologies for future human exploration missions deeper into space."

Subcommittee Reviews the NASA Budget Proposal for Fiscal Year 2015

"During her questions to General Bolden later in the hearing, Ms. Edwards emphasized the need for the Subcommittee to obtain a roadmap for a human mission to the surface of Mars accompanied by the analysis of the options for potential interim destinations."

Marc's Update: You can watch the hearing again if you missed it as we now have an archived copy on SpaceRef.

Hearing Charter

Statement by OSTP Director John Holdren: Hearing on FY2015 Science Budget

"Within the context of the Budget Control Act's spending caps, NASA's 2015 budget is $17.5 billion, a slight decrease from the 2014 enacted level."

Chairman Smith Statement on President's Science Budget

"And The White House's proposed asteroid retrieval mission is a mission without a budget, without a destination, and without a launch date. Rather than diminish NASA's space exploration mission, President Obama should set forth a certain, near-term, realizable goal for NASA's space exploration. "Many experts believe that a Mars Flyby mission launched in 2021 is a potentially worthy near-term goal. A human Mars mission would electrify the American public, excite American scientists, and inspire American students."

Palazzo, Edwards Say Human Space Exploration Should Be Priority

"We are writing to express our strong support for a safe, focused and expeditious return of American astronauts to deep space exploration on an American rocket launched from American soil. Congress has done its part in helping to codify a future deep space exploration architecture in the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 (PL 111-267), and has followed with a robust funding commitment, as most recently expressed in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014. We are concerned, however, about the impact of shifting priorities for NASA and the resulting mixed signals this sends relative to the United States' dedication and commitment to its leadership role in human deep spaceflight exploration. We urge you to chart and clearly state a vision and timeline for the nation in deep space exploration."

NASA FY 2015 President's Budget Request Summary

"In the FY 2015 President's Budget Request, NASA addresses the challenge of advancing U.S. leadership in space exploration, space and Earth science, and aeronautics in the current fiscal climate. In formulating this budget, projects and programs have been reviewed and their costs and benefits assessed to ensure the highest scientific return on the dollar."

GAO: National Defense: Air Force's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Competitive Procurement

"If DOD requires all offers to contain both fixed-price and cost-reimbursement features for launch services and capability, respectively, similar to the way it currently contracts with ULA, there could be benefits to DOD and ULA, but potential burdens to new entrants. Alternatively, if DOD implements a fixed-price commercial approach to launch proposals, DOD could lose insight into contractor cost or pricing. DOD could also require a combination of elements from each of these approaches, or develop new contract requirements for this competition."

GAO: Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle: Introducing Competition into National Security Space Launch Acquisitions

"In December 2013, DOD signed a contract modification with ULA, committing the government to buy 35 launch vehicle booster cores over a 5-year period, and the associated capability to launch them. The new contract represents significant effort on the part of DOD to negotiate better launch prices through its improved knowledge of contractor costs, and DOD officials expect the new contract to realize significant savings, primarily through stable unit pricing for all launch vehicles. DOD is also leading a broader competition for up to 14 additional launches, expected to begin in fiscal year 2015."

Testimony of Elon Musk, Hearing on National Security Space Launch Programs

"Recently, some have claimed that the Air Force's block buy of 36 booster cores from the incumbent will save the taxpayer "$4.4 billion over the next several years." Any "savings" resulting from a block buy of 36 rocket cores from the incumbent provider are derived directly from a 50 percent year-over-year budget projection increase in FY2012, which was purposefully based on worst-case assumptions for a single- Launch buy, and acknowledged at the time by the incumbent as being inflated.5 If SpaceX had contracted for these missions, using the same baseline, we would have saved the taxpayer a total of $11.6 billion."

Testimony of Michael C. Gass, Hearing on National Security Space Launch Programs

"ULA was formed to enable assured access to space with two separate launch systems, with recognition the that market demand was insufficient to sustain two competitors. We went from two competing teams with redundant and underutilized infrastructure to one team that has delivered the expected savings of this consolidation."

Testimony of Scott Pace, Hearing on National Security Space Launch Programs

Webcast

Letter from Rep. Wolf and Smith To NASA About Mars Flyby 2021

"Last year the Administration championed an Asteroid Mission as a next step. However, the mission was not vetted by NASA's own advisory committees or the stakeholder community before it was presented formally to Congress. Upon review, a majority of experts said that such a mission did not demonstrate sufficient technical applicability to an eventual Mars landing."

Keith's note: This is beyond hilarious. It is pathetic. Lamar Smith (upon the advice of Mike Griffin's former staff on both sides of the dais) did not like Constellation's cancellation so they immediately dismiss whatever this White House and NASA puts forward. They claim "a majority of experts" (who are they?) agree with them. So what do they do? They take a multi-millionaire's ever-changing Powerpoint presentation (with no cost estimates) that NASA is expected to pay for with additional money no one has identified, and hold a hearing with NASA specifically banned - and no contrary opinions allowed.

But wait: this Mars flyby concept is also "not vetted by NASA's own advisory committees or the stakeholder community" (their main complaint about the asteroid mission). But that doesn't stop the contradictory hypocrisy on the part of Lamar Smith, Frank Wolf et al. They just direct NASA to study it. It should be obvious that whatever NASA says will be unacceptable by this committee. But who cares?

Then you see Republican NASA Administrator-in-waiting Scott Pace pontificating about what a space policy should be i.e. a bigger picture with missions selected to implement the grand plan. In fact Pace is saying that he wants to see this specific mission happen and that a space policy should then be crafted after the fact to justify it. He's got his own ideas about space policy backward. Again, who cares?

Isn't that the problem NASA/Congress/White House has had for the past 30+ years? They keep changing their mind about what they want NASA to do - and complain about what it is doing - but then go off and do something new anyway. Then they change the rules to justify what they have already done. And then just as they change the rules (or some big problem erupts) someone changes what NASA should be doing and the idiotic cycle starts all over again. And this process is fueled by partisan hearings that are actually pre-staged puppet shows with everything scripted toward a desired partisan outcome.

You can get neck damage trying to watch things swing back and forth. Imagine trying to distill a cogent, long-term policy from all of this. It is clearly impossible. Yet all of these half-baked, ever-changing ideas absolutely require a long-term bipartisan, multi-administration commitment in order to happen.

Whiplash is no way to explore space. Small wonder other countries are nipping at our heels. We make it so easy for them to do.

- Dennis Tito's Congressional Infomercial - in 5 Tweets, earlier post
- The Band of Brothers Wants a Mars Flyby, earlier post

Necessary Updates to the Commercial Space Launch Act: Hearing Charter

"The industry has grown over the years since the passage of the Commercial Space Launch Act of 1984 (P.L. 98-575) thirty years ago, and this law has been amended several times since then. The Commercial Space Launch Act (CSLA) provides authority to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to license launches and indemnify launch providers from third-party claims should an accident occur. The law also provides a framework for the FAA's regulatory authority. This hearing will examine the various changes in the industry and what, if any, accompanying changes to the Commercial Space Launch Act may be needed going forward."

- Prepared Statement by George Nield
- Prepared Statement by Henry Hertzfeld
- Statement of Rep. Steven Palazzo
- Statement of Chairman Lamar Smith
- Commercial Space Launches: FAA's Risk Assessment Process Is Not Yet Updated, Alicia Puente Cackley, GAO

Dueling NASA Flagships?

The Final Frontier's Financial Limits, NY Times

"The Obama administration, which proposed deep cuts in the planetary sciences budget the past two years, could also ask for more money for 2015. "The administration remains committed to operating the pathbreaking Cassini and Curiosity missions as long as they keep passing these rigorous reviews," said Phillip Larson, a White House space policy adviser. "If we keep one going, that doesn't mean we have to cancel the other." The administration's budget request is likely to be disclosed in late February or early March."

- Bolden: No More Flagship Missions (Update: Bolden Flip Flops), earlier post

Continued Victories for Planetary Exploration, Planetary Society

"The book is not closed on 2014. Now that NASA has its money, it has to spend it. It does this through its operating plan, where the agency can make minor adjustments to project funding based on programmatic needs. Last year NASA abused this process and tried to shift all additional money allocated for Planetary Science by Congress to unrelated projects. I feel that this is unlikely to happen again, but it's something that we will be watching closely. I know it sounds crazy, but sometimes you have to ensure that NASA spends planetary money on planetary projects."

The big problem with the "big win" for NASA's exploration program budget, Houston Chronicle

"Sen. Bill Nelson, who chairs the Senate subcommittee that oversees NASA, and bills himself as "one of the leading architects of a plan to build a new monster rocket and crew capsule for deep space exploration," said of the plan, "This is a big win." NASA's administrator, Charles Bolden, also praised the budget deal. This is the same Nelson who along with other congressional leaders and the White House agreed on a budget plan to fund and build the SLS and Orion during the summer of 2010 (see authorizing legislation). In that bill Congress called, for example, in fiscal year 2013 to fund the SLS rocket at a level of $2.64 billion. It received significantly less than that in fiscal year 2013. And one would presume funding along those lines, or more, would be needed as the SLS rocket program was building up toward a 2017 test launch. So what did the government give NASA in the new budget for fiscal year 2014? $1.6 billion."

Keith's note: Let's see what the FY 2015 Budget looks like. Those projects that benefited from the FY 2014 budget may see different news in a few weeks. And some projects that did not benefit in FY 2014 may well do even worse in FY 2015. Alas, everyone seems to be parroting the buzz phrase "flat is the new up". When your budget is supposed to be ramping up, "flat" is a budget cut folks.

Once the dust settles is will become clear that there is still not enough money for everything. Congress is going to fund SLS/Orion no matter what the White House or NASA wants them to do and they will raid commercial crew and technology budgets to do so. And when Congress realizes that even more money for SLS is needed it will go back and take more. The asteroid mission is one step away from dead as far as Congress is concerned. Commercial crew is substantially underfunded and will not be able to continue at NASA's advertised pace of flying its first crew in 2017. And despite all of this, the space science crowd thinks that they are somehow immune from these pressures and should be given more money. They are in for a shock.

The Commercial Spaceflight Federation Applauds Passage of Bill Providing Funding for Commercial Programs and Renewal of Government Risk-Sharing

"The bill funds NASA's Commercial Crew Program at $696 million, a significant increase from FY13. "With this bill's strong Commercial Crew funding, Congress has acknowledged the importance of quickly developing a U.S. system to carry American astronauts and reduce our dependence on aging Russian infrastructure," said CSF President Michael Lopez-Alegria. "We applaud Congress for recognizing the importance of a robust U.S. space program and, in particular, an organic capability to provide human access to Low-Earth Orbit."

Keith's note: "strong Commercial Crew funding"? What CSF seems to not comprehend is the fact that the $696M in this budget is $125 million less than the $821M White House asked for in FY 2014. When you take into consideration that of this $696M, $171M is not being given to NASA anytime soon (unless they produce the ISS report that Congress requires), then NASA will only have $525M in FY 2014. $525M is $296M less than the White House asked for i.e. a one-third cut in what was requested.

In FY 2014 budget hearings last year Charlie Bolden was clear that if he did not get the $821M that the White House asked for in FY 2014 then having a commercial crew capability in 2017 was not going to happen. In addition, the NASA OIG noted in a report that previous cuts in commercial crew budgets have already forced a slip from 2015 to 2017. One would assume that future budget shortfalls would have a similar consequence.

No matter how you slice this, NASA is not getting the $821M that was the basis for the line in the sand drawn by Charlie Bolden last year with regard to the FY 2014 budget. Neither $696M or $525M is even close. If Bolden was accurate when he made these public statements, then as soon as the President signs this budget bill into law, NASA needs to be sending notification to Congress, per Bolden's statement, that 2017 is off the table. If not, then you have to question whether NASA can back up any of its statements with regard to what it needs for large projects - SLS, JWST, etc.

NASA Chief:Commercial Crew Safe from Sequester, for Now, Space News

"If we aren't able to get up to the $800 million level [FY 2014], then I will have to come back and officially notify the Congress that we cannot make 2017 for availability of commercial crew," Bolden said at that hearing."

NASA IG Warns on Commercial Crew as NASA Celebrates End of COTS, SpacePolicyOnline

"The OIG did not make any recommendations on the issue of unstable funding, but noted that for FY2011-2013, NASA received only 38 percent of its requested funding for the program, resulting in a delay from FY2015 to FY2017 of the first expected commercial crew flight. "The combination of a future flat-funded profile and lower-than-expected levels of funding over the past 3 years may delay the first crewed flight beyond 2017 and closer to 2020, the current expected end of the operational life of the ISS." The report includes the following table showing NASA's successive 5-year budget projections for the commercial crew program beginning in FY2009."

- Charlie Bolden Has His Head In The Sand Again, earlier post
- Confusion on "Pretty Darn Good" Statement from OSTP, earlier post
- Commercial Crew Transportation Capability RFP Released, earlier post
- NASA OIG Report on Commercial Crew Program, earlier post

Federal travel and conferences: Spending down, as lawmakers consider more restrictions, Washington Post

"But the $1.1 trillion funding bill congressional negotiators unveiled Monday does attempt to put some restrictions into law, at least for the rest of the fiscal year. Agencies would have to submit reports to their inspector general on any conference that costs more than $100,000 and include the number of participants, the purpose and a detailed breakdown of food and other costs. Inspectors general also would need to be informed of conferences that cost more than $20,000. Agencies could not send more than 50 employees to an international conference, unless it involves law enforcement personnel."

Examining Conference and Travel Spending Across the Federal Government, Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

NASA Receives Bi-Partisan Support for Budget, Exploration Plan
 
"This appropriations bill reaffirms support for the bi-partisan space exploration plan agreed to by the President and Congress. The bill keeps NASA's deep space exploration program (the Space Launch System and Orion) on track and provides funding to formulate the agency's Asteroid Redirect Mission, an important stepping stone on the path to Mars.  The bill also provides funding for our plan to return American space launches to the U.S., ground-breaking scientific discoveries, game-changing technologies and cutting-edge research into cleaner and quieter airplanes.  The $17.6 billion provided in this measure will continue to spur American innovation and keep the U.S. the world leader in space exploration."

Keith's note: Contrary to Charlie Bolden's happy thoughts (he and Rich DalBello have been talking, it would seem), commercial space is strongly hampered by this bill while SLS and Orion are clearly the agency's most important projects - even if they have no approved destination or funded payloads. Congress really does not like the Asteroid Redirect mission and has tried to kill it more than once. Congress has also has cut the new technologies needed to get humans to Mars and elsewhere, and has left the planetary program on a slow road to decline. But Charlie is happy.

- Confusion on "Pretty Darn Good" Statement from OSTP

Keith's note: Um, I wonder why DalBello (OSTP Assistant Director for Aeronautics and Space) would say this budget is "pretty darn good"? Among other things, the Administration's request for commercial crew is gutted ($821M requested, $696M offered). At this pace NASA most certainly won't make the 2017 date.

Moreover, NASA can't touch $171M of that $696M until it does a study that certifies that the commercial crew program "has undergone an independent benefit-cost analysis that takes into consideration the total Federal investment in the commercial crew program and the expected operational life of the International Space Station." Guess what: the expected life of the ISS was just extended to 2024 and may take years for all the partners to agree to this. How can NASA possibly make this certification to Congress until everyone is on board with this new extension (or has decided not to continue) - something that won't happen until several years from now? As such, that $171M is going to be in limbo for years - so NASA only has $525M to work with on commercial crew for FY14.

Also, this Omnibus bill only funds space technology at $576M. The White House asked for $742M. The bill has made certain that SLS/Orion funding cannot be touched for anything other than SLS/Orion. So ... where is all the new technology everyone is clamoring for going to come from? And where are the payloads that will fly on Orion and SLS going to come from (the asteroid mission is in limbo too)?

But Rich DalBello thinks it is "pretty darn good".

Appropriators Release FY2014 Omnibus Bill, NASA Does Well, Space Policy Online

"It may not be the full enchilada, but NASA did pretty well all things considered in the proposed FY2014 omnibus appropriations bill released tonight (January 13). Assuming approval by the House, Senate and President, NASA will get $17.6 billion for FY2014, not that much less than its $17.7 billion request.  Under some scenarios, NASA could have gotten as little as $16.1 billion, so this is a tremendous improvement."

NASA May Order More Soyuz Rides to Station Despite Commercial Crew Advancements, Space News

"Companies working on commercial crew transportation services to and from the international space station reported milestones in their efforts even as a NASA official warned that the agency likely will have to order more Russian Soyuz crew capsules to keep the orbital outpost fully occupied. Phil McAlister, director of commercial spaceflight at NASA headquarters, told an advisory panel Dec. 9 that the agency may have to order another batch of Soyuz crew capsules from Russia unless Congress funds NASA's Commercial Crew Program at the $800 million-plus level sought by the White House."

Space exploration in 2014: Waiting on the House to act, Daily Kos

"Suppose every time a civilian or pure research plane lifted off there was an obscure law, originally passed with good intentions, that had to be regularly reauthed by Congress or no more flights. And let's just say that Congress became hyper-polarized, a do nothing body, where even the simplest, once uncontroversial act morphed into a potential hot potato in a mid term election year. Air traffic would grind to a halt. Well, that's a fair analogy for a bureaucratic hurdle currently faced by NASA, along with contractors and customers, all waiting on a critical reauthorization before a score of rockets can be duly licensed and cleared for launch in 2014. Follow me below, deep into the cosmic weeds, and we'll review just how easy this should be to fix."

- Extending Commercial Launch Provider Indemnification, earlier post

Exit Wolf, Enter Culberson?

Love planetary science? Dying to explore Europa's oceans? Meet the man who can make it happen., Houston Chronicle

"This week U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, a Republican from Virginia, announced he would not run for reelection in 2014. This move makes Houston Republican John Culberson the odds-on favorite to replace Wolf and become chairman of an appropriations subcommittee that oversees NASA. I have a story in today's paper that outlines why this is a powerful position, and explains how it is likely to benefit Johnson Space Center. But Culberson's interest in space go far beyond Houston. He hates the asteroid-retrieval mission. Has strong views about China. And you couldn't ask for a more ardent proponent of planetary science. Particularly Europa."

Statement from the Coalition for Space Exploration: Frank Wolf's Letter to President Obama
 
"... policy decisions made in the next few years will determine whether the international space and science community supports a U.S.-led space exploration program for the next several decades or if they align with others. The Coalition for Space Exploration encourages the proposal to hold a conference early in the new year to develop a mission-oriented plan for a U.S.-led exploration program to send humans to Mars using the SLS and Orion systems, augmented by other systems and technologies contributed by our international partners."

Wolf Asks Obama to Hold White House Conference in 2014 on Return to Moon, Space Policy Online

"Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) may be retiring, but that's not till the end of next year.   Until then, he clearly plans to remain passionately involved in both civil and national security space policy as evidenced by two letters he sent today.  The one addressed to President Obama calls on the President to hold a White House conference early in 2014 to develop an international plan to return humans to the Moon within the next 10 years."

Letter from Frank Wolf To President Obama, Space Policy Online

Government Spends Money on Brothels, Pillownauts and Pizza Printers, US News & World Report

"NASA is spending $360,000 to pay 20 people to be in bed for 70 days. NASA's Countermeasure and Functional Testing study is meant to help NASA access the effects of long-term space travel on astronauts (think Mars). This isn't the first time NASA has conducted this research. The space agency has doled out money to participants since the 1960s to lay in bed with their "body slightly tilted downward." Coburn argues the program is a worthless investment considering NASA has no astronaut missions on the schedule in the near future. "Perhaps the agency might get [to Mars] sooner if it prioritized paying rocket scientists and engineers rather than people to just lie around." The agency also spent nearly $125,000 constructing a 3-D printer that could create pizzas in case astronauts in space feel the craving and cannot give Domino's a call."

Wastebook 2013, Sen. Coburn, Page 22

"No manned space missions to Mars--or anywhere else--are planned, scheduled or even possible in the foreseeable future, however, and NASA no longer has an active manned space program."

Keith's note: Its one thing when a member of Congress says something that is wrong and they don't know it. That's ignorance. Its quite another when they say something that is wrong and they don't care. That's being deceptive. Its really bad when they say something that shows that they are wrong, ignorant, deceptive - and stupid. If Sen. Coburn truly belives that "NASA no longer has an active manned space program" then perhaps he can explain who the Americans on the ISS are - you know, the ones who are going to be doing EVAs this weekend? How did they get there?

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) won't seek reelection, Washington Post

"Longtime Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) announced Tuesday that he won't seek reelection in 2014. Wolf's departure gives Democrats a great pickup opportunity in 2014. Wolf has easily held down the Northern Virginia suburbs and exurbs for decades, despite their increasing purple tone."

- Frank Wolf Dumps on NASA For Doing What He Told Them To Do, earlier post

House Committee Approves Bill To Shield Big NASA Programs from Cancellation, Space News

"The House Science Committee on Dec. 11 approved a bill that would require NASA to obtain legislative permission to cancel some of its most expensive human spaceflight and science programs, while at the same time allowing contractors for these programs to tap into hundreds of millions of dollars in reserve funding. The bill, H.R. 3625, was introduced Dec. 2 by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), whose district includes the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville."

House Committee Approves Bill Requiring Congressional Approval Before Terminating JWST, ISS, SLS or Orion, Space Policy Online

"The markup lasted less than 10 minutes and the amendment and bill were adopted by voice vote. ... Another change made by the amendment replaces language that would have voided existing contract provisions that provide for payment of termination liability costs in a manner inconsistent with the bill. The new language simply states that funds being held in reserve for termination liability "shall be promptly used" for executing the program. The bill also makes clear that it is the intent of Congress to authorize appropriations to cover termination liability if, in fact, Congress agrees that the Administration should terminate a contract and that it is the Administration's responsibility to spend such funds for that purpose."

Turning SLS and Orion into Entitlements (Update: Webb Too), earlier post

"If passed into law, H.R. 3625 would make it exceptionally difficult to ever halt SLS, Orion, or Webb or to adjust funds internally by treating them in a way that is utterly different than other NASA programs. Indeed it would make these programs into Zombies that can never be killed. I have to wonder what CBO will say when it scores this bill and what the Budget Committee might have to say. This bill sets a precedent that could spread across the government."

Keith's note: According to a release issued today: "The Science, Space, and Technology Committee today approved three bills with bipartisan support. ... Prior to debate on a fourth bill [H.R. 3625] offered by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), the Committee recessed subject to the call of the Chair. Chairman Smith indicated that he expects the Committee to reconvene to consider the bill next week."

Full Bill information (note the cosponsors).

Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) is going to join the party and will introduce an amendment to give the Webb Space Telescope the same protection against cancellation as SLS and Orion would get under this bill. Think of all the large contracts that will soon be voided and what this means for the way in which NASA engages in contracting for future programs - to say nothing of the contingencies that won't be in place in case a program runs into trouble - and the decreased flexibility the agency will have to manage its finances.

Rep. Brooks is submitting an amendment that says "Page 5, line 6, insert "If the Administration terminates a covered program for the convenience of the Government, then the Administration is responsible for payment of all termination liability costs." after "such prime contracts." In other words, the government accepts all the responsibility and lets the SLS and Orion prime contractors off the hook when it comes to termination costs. This bill only affects the prime contractors. None of the subcontractors get anything out of it i.e. ATK, Aerojet etc. Indeed, they are left holding the bag as far as their potential termination costs are concerned. I have to wonder what CBO will say when it scores this bill and what the Budget Committee might have to say. This bill sets a precedent that could spread across the government.

If passed into law, H.R. 3625 would make it exceptionally difficult to ever halt SLS, Orion, or Webb or to adjust funds internally by treating them in a way that is utterly different than other NASA programs. Indeed it would make these programs into Zombies that can never be killed. Here's an excerpt:

Hearing on Astrobiology

Testimony of Dr. Sara Seager, Hearing on Astrobiology

"We stand on a great threshold in the human history of space exploration. On the one side of this threshold, we know with certainty that planets orbiting stars other than the Sun exist and are common. ... On the other side of this great threshold lies the robust identification of Earth-like exoplanets with habitable conditions, and with signs of life inferred by the detection of "biosignature gases" in exoplanetary atmospheres."

Testimony of Dr. Mary A. Voytek, Hearing on Astrobiology

"Even today, children wonder, where did I come from? Astrobiology seeks to answer this enduring question."

Testimony of Dr. Steven J. Dick, Hearing on Astrobiology

"During my time as NASA Chief Historian, everywhere I went people of all ages wanted to know about life on other worlds. Astrobiology raises fundamental questions and evokes a sense of awe and wonder as we realize perhaps there is something new under our Sun, and the Suns of other worlds."

NASA OIG Semiannual Report to Congress

"Perhaps the biggest challenge NASA faced during the past year was managing its diverse exploration, science, and aeronautics portfolios in a time of diminishing and uncertain budgets. Along with the rest of the Federal Government, NASA began fiscal year (FY) 2013 under a 6-month continuing resolution that funded the Agency at the previous year's level. This was followed by a budget for the second half of FY 2013 that - after the sequestration reduction - provided NASA with $16.865 billion or $935 million less than the previous year. These financial pressures look to continue in FY 2014 with NASA shuttered at the start of the fiscal year and its long-term funding outlook clouded."

House Approves Bipartisan Bill to Extend Liability Protection for Commercial Space Launches, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

"The U.S. House of Representatives today approved the Space Launch Liability Indemnification Extension Act (H.R. 3547)  by a vote of 376 to 5.  H.R. 3547 is a bipartisan bill that extends for one year a commercial space transportation risk-sharing and liability regime that was established by Congress in 1988 with passage of the Commercial Space Launch Act Amendments."

House Approves Bill to Extend Liability Protection for Commercial Space Launches, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democrats

"The bill extends provisions of the Commercial Space Launch Act Amendments, which cover third-party liability for licensed commercial space launches. The bipartisan bill was introduced by Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), Space Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.), and Space Subcommittee Ranking Member Donna Edwards (D-Md.)."

Congressman questions whether NASA has let go of enough unused property, Washington Post

"NASA is in the midst of a huge yard sale at Kennedy Space Center, peddling unused hangars, assembly buildings, launch complexes and even a landing strip to commercial space companies.
But at the request of Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.), Congress soon may be asking whether the space agency is cleaning out the closets thoroughly enough. Mica said he will call for a congressional hearing early next year to explore NASA's options for land or buildings that might no longer be needed among the 140,000 acres and scores of facilities at the space center."

- NASA OIG: NASA's Efforts to Reduce Unneeded Infrastructure and Facilities, earlier post
- NASA OIG: NASA's Real Property Master Planning Efforts, earlier post
- NASA's Infrastructure and Facilities: Assessment of Agency's Real Property Leasing Practices, earlier post

Bipartisan Bill Extends Liability Protection for Commercial Space Launches, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

"A bipartisan group of Science, Space, and Technology Committee leaders today introduced a bill to extend for one year a commercial space transportation risk-sharing and liability regime that was established by Congress in 1988 with passage of the Commercial Space Launch Act Amendments."

Keith's 20 Nov. note: According to a Capitol Hill source, this morning, during a House Science subcommittee on Space, Republicans agreed to the Democrats' restriction to only pass a clean one year extension of indemnification for commercial launch service providers. Over in the Senate, Bill Nelson would like to see Congress enact the three year extension that was included in the Senate NASA Authorization bill through the end of 2016. Nelson is introducing this bill this afternoon (Wed.) and hopes to move it through the Senate tomorrow (Thurs.) so they can send it to the House before the Senate goes on recess.

Text

- The Commercial Spaceflight Federation Supports S. 1753 to Extend Government-Industry Risk-Sharing Regime
- Bipartisan Bill Extends Liability Protection for Commercial Space Launches
- House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology's Subcommittee on Space Discusses Commercial Space

Statement by Rep. Kevin McCarthy on H.R. 3038, Suborbital and Orbital Advancement and Regulatory Streamlining (SOARS) Act

"The use of innovative public-private partnerships offers the government new ways of solving problems. A study shows these partnerships benefit the taxpayer, by providing space services at nearly one-tenth the cost of traditional contracting methods; getting results for less money; and catalyzing innovation, growth, and risk-sharing in the private sector. As NASA leads continued exploration missions and related technology development, entrepreneurs will follow, spending their own money and creating new industries. However, it is up to us as legislators to ensure our current regulatory environment is appropriate for the needs of the 21st Century and to make sure safety is paramount in the commercial spaceflight industry's endeavors. This is why I introduced H.R. 3038 to ensure that the U.S. commercial spaceflight industry has a clear path ahead as it continues to innovate and generate high-quality American manufacturing jobs."

Video

Keith's note: Rep. Kevin McCarthy, House Majority Whip testified today at the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology's Subcommittee on Space Hearing on "Commercial Space". Interestingly the committee did not let McCarthy sit on the dais (protocol?) nor did they allow any of the subcommittee members to ask him any questions. Odd. This is one of House Speaker Boehner's inner leadership circle. Multiple sources report that this appearance was a message from House leadership that many of the positions being pushed by the leadership of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology are out of synch with Majority's positions. Stay tuned.

Subcommittee on Space Hearing - Commercial Space

Nov 20, 2013 10:00am

Panel I
Rep Kevin McCarthy, House Majority Whip

Panel II
Patricia Cooper - President, Satellite Industry Association
Stu Witt - CEO and General Manager, Mojave Air and Space Port
Dennis Tito - Chairman, Inspiration Mars Foundation Prepared statement

- Hearing Charter
- Watch live
- Inspiration Mars: Some Thoughts About Their Plan, earlier post
- Inspiration Mars: Some Thoughts About Our Plan, earlier post

Lots of Meetings But No Unified Message on Future Space Exploration, SpacePolicyOnline (Marcia Smith)

"Four meetings in Washington, D.C. over this past week addressed the future of space exploration, but no unified message emerged. There was a focus on the role of the entrepreneurial NewSpace private sector and public-private partnerships, but also on the traditional model of government contracting with major aerospace companies. Integrating what all of the prominent individuals involved in these events wanted the public and policymakers to hear is challenging. That is not to imply that the organizers - a potpourri of government and non-government institutions -- intended there to be an integrated message from four separate events, but in an era when a cohesive rationale for and approach to space exploration is needed, such an outcome would have been helpful. Instead, it was more of a scattershot experience. Four events featuring a variety of new and established players arguing in favor of space exploration from various viewpoints. Here's a quick rundown."

Spending debate puts NASA's mission up in air, Hearst

"What is sad to me is that NASA has always been above politics," says Nelson, who flew aboard Shuttle Columbia for six days as a payload specialist in 1986. "Now it's gotten to be a partisan issue and that is a sad day for the country."

Keith's note: Politics? Senator Nelson laments the appearance of politics in space policy?! Stunning news. But wait:

A. How did Nelson get to ride on the Space Shuttle?
B. Who forced the White House to pick Charlie Bolden?
C. Who forced the Administration's hand on SLS aka "the big rocket"?

- and so on. What a hypocrite.

Another year of sequestration would delay NASA missions, USA Today

"NASA spokesman Allard Beutel said Thursday that the agency was still assessing the impact of another year of sequestration and its "stifling constraints." Even holding at fiscal 2013 levels would be problematic because it's about $850 million less than the president's request. That would mean deep cuts in space technology, "the seed corn that allows the nation to conduct ever more capable and affordable space missions," Beutel said. It also would impede NASA's Commercial Crew Program to use private companies to carry astronauts to the International Space Station by 2017."

Vitter to Block Energy Dept. Nominee, Wants Answers about Work at NASA

"Under the Obama administration, NASA has been stalling on a job creating project at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans for no apparent reason," Vitter said. "Ms. Robinson needs to answer questions about why they've delayed the project, and other questions about NASA's operations before she leaves her job overseeing their finances."

Keith's note: Reminder to NASA employees: Sen. Vitter voted against sending all of you back to work during the shutdown. Is he really concerned about jobs? It depends what day of the week it is, so it would seem. Clearly this is all naked politics on Sen. Vitter's part. C'mon - if he was really concerned about the horrible things he accuses Beth Robinson of doing at NASA, why would he seek to delay her departure from NASA - wouldn't he want her gone already?

The Government Shutdown Was Temporary, Its Damage to Science Permanent, Scientific American

"In many ways the federal government shutdown was a huge, unplanned experiment in what happens when we give up on science for two weeks. The experiment is now over and the results are still incomplete. But so far, they are ugly."

Shutdown's science fallout could last for years, Politico

"Even if the government opens tomorrow, a significant amount of damage has been done," said Mary Woolley, president of Research!America, a nonprofit advocating for science-minded agencies. "This isn't about a few people who can't go to the labs like they're on vacation or something. The whole research enterprise depends on operating 24/7."

Science Gets a Cameo in U.S. Shutdown Vote, Science

"The day before the decisive vote, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), threw a rhetorical double-punch, linking concerns about home-state and international impacts in a plea to end the shutdown. Some "97 percent of NASA employees in Cleveland and Sandusky in northern Ohio have been furloughed," he noted, while Ohio's academic scientists were worried about their grants. "If you are a research scientist ... [and] see these interruptions, if you are furloughed for 3 weeks in October 2013 and then again some time next year ... the most talented researchers are going to walk away, and we are going to lose so much of the edge we have in this country."

Stunning View From High Above Saturn

"This portrait looking down on Saturn and its rings was created from images obtained by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on Oct. 10, 2013. It was made by amateur image processor and Cassini fan Gordan Ugarkovic. This image has not been geometrically corrected for shifts in the spacecraft perspective and still has some camera artifacts."

Congressman Brooks Introduces Legislation to Restore NASA Funding and Workforce

"Today Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) introduced legislation to fund the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for Fiscal Year 2014. This legislation is consistent with Congressman Brooks' efforts to return furloughed personnel to work following the government shutdown."

Stockman introduces Keep NASA Open Act to shield Agency from shutdown

"Congressman Steve Stockman Wednesday joined Congressman Mo Brooks (R-AL) to introduce the Keep NASA Open Act. The bill would guarantee NASA functions would continue to be funded should an agreement to fund the government not be reached soon."

Keith's note: Both Brooks and Stockman voted to shut the government down - so they were both for shutting NASA down - before they were against it. But wait - according to this press release from Rep. Stockman last week "Stockman's office meets with JSC employees to support restoring NASA funding" he said "Our calls from JSC employees this week are about nine to one in favor of standing strong against Obama's budget." So, if he was accurate - last week - then he should still be for shutting NASA down - this week - right?

Former NASA Managers Call for More Spending Despite Crunch, Space News

"Among those who spoke at the von Braun symposium was one of Constellation's chief architects, former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin. Griffin, who ran NASA from 2005 to 2009, scoffed at the idea that NASA is operating in a budget-constrained environment. "We are in a willpower-constrained environment," said Griffin, who is now the Huntsville-based chairman and chief executive of science and engineering services contractor Schafer Corp. Griffin noted that 50 years of NASA spending, adjusted for inflation, was approximately equivalent to the roughly $800 billion stimulus bill signed into law in February 2009. Meanwhile, Cooke and another former NASA manager took shots at the "flat-is-the-new-up" mantra that has become prevalent among government-relations executives in Washington in the age of across-the-board sequestration budget cuts."

Testimony of Aerospace Industries Association President and CEO Marion Blakey

"For support contractors working at NASA locations, this means they are unable to do their jobs. To compensate, larger companies are forced to encourage workers to take unplanned vacation time off or try to find other work that they can do elsewhere. Smaller firms often do not have this flexibility; in many cases September 30th marked the end of a contract period of performance. With no funding and no contract in place, small firms are keeping their workforce together at their own risk with no assurance the workers will be paid for the work done during the shutdown. For companies of all sizes, if the shutdown persists, these workers will face furloughs and, unlike furloughed Federal employees, there is no guarantee that will be reimbursed for lost wages. There is a real potential for a negative ripple effect throughout local economies in these regions. Other work that contractors are doing at NASA facilities - including preparations for the first Orion space capsule test launch in 2014 are shut down since contactors are not allowed access to the NASA facility where the work must be performed."

Nelson Tells Blakey: "Put a Fire Under Your Executives", Space Policy Online

"[Sen. Bill] Nelson was not assuaged. "You do not have to convince the White House," he admonished [AIA President Marion Blakely], adding that he had met "with two of your CEOs last week" and "they were not ready to step up and go talk to the [House] leadership" about the shutdown, but would if a debt default appeared likely. "Well, default is in another half a week," Nelson declared. "It's been a week and a half that we've been in shutdown. So I would implore you all to activate your people. Now where -- where are the people that are so affected at the Johnson Space Center in Houston? Where are they going to the congressional delegation and talking to them? And I could go through the NASA centers. ... But you need to put a fire under your executives."

Impact of the Federal Shutdown on Private Industry and the Nation: The NASA-Johnson Space Center Experience, Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership

"Before the shutdown, JSC had approximately 3,200 federal employees and 11,000 private sector employees supporting its human spaceflight and exploration mission. As a result of the shutdown, JSC is closed, except for 100 federal and a very limited number of contractor employees who support the International Space Station's operations, which have been deemed critical, or in fed-speak 'excepted services.' For a company, the shutdown means that contract work stops. Employees who work in a federal facility are already home. Employees who work on a contract off JSC property will be furloughed as the respective contracts run out of money. That means about 20% of the 11,000 private sector company employees are furloughed now. About 60% will be furloughed by mid October. Over 90% will be furloughed by November 1. If the shutdown continues, an additional 10,000 people will not have a paycheck. Dozens of companies will have been severely weakened, and an entire support community of small service businesses will be damaged as their customer base erodes. These businesses include, but are not limited to, small disadvantaged businesses, women-owned and service disabled businesses. The short-term harm to workers and their families is incalculable. The longer-term harm to the companies is just beginning to be understood."

NASA researchers protest government shutdown, Palo Alto Online

"I'm supposed to be looking for planets, but I'm not," said Kepler mission scientist Natalie Batalha, whose words inspired the crowd to began chanting, "We love Kepler! We want Kepler!" She added that she would even volunteer her time to continue her work, but she can't. The crowd also cheered for Brian Day, EPO lead for LADDEE, the lunar atmosphere and dust environment explorer, when he said LADDEE had "just entered orbit around the moon." "It's a very interesting story and unfortunately we aren't telling it," he said. "Normally I'd be trying to prevent foreign countries from trying to hack into our data but I'm not doing that right now," said cyber-security expert Matt Linton. He said a "skeleton crew" was still doing that work, but that it would be "insufficient" in the longer term."

In limbo: Shutdown creates long-lasting impacts for NASA's JSC, Houston Business Journal

"At NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, only about 100 of the 3,150 civil servants regularly employed at the center are not furloughed. Hundreds more local contractors working with NASA have been furloughed and more contractor furloughs could come any day, said Tim Budzik, managing director of the Houston Technology Center's JSC campus."

Stockman's office meets with JSC employees to support restoring NASA funding

"Our calls from JSC employees this week are about nine to one in favor of standing strong against Obama's budget."

Keith's note: Rep. Stockman voted to shut the government down in the first place - and now he claims that 90% of JSC employees supported that vote?

NASA ban on Chinese scientists 'inaccurate': lawmaker (Update), PhysOrg

"However, Wolf's office issued a letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on Tuesday seeking to correct an article on the matter that first appeared Friday in The Guardian newspaper, as well as NASA's stance. "Unfortunately, the article is riddled with inaccuracies, as is, it appears, the guidance provided by NASA Ames staff to the attendees," said the letter. The law "primarily restricts bilateral, not multilateral, meetings and activities with the Communist Chinese government or Chinese-owned companies," it said. "It places no restrictions on activities involving individual Chinese nationals unless those nationals are acting as official representatives of the Chinese government." Wolf said NASA officials may have believed that the move was needed because of extra temporary restrictions on foreign nationals after a potential security breach by a Chinese citizen at a NASA facility in Virginia earlier this year."

Second Kepler Science Conference Statement from the Science Organizing Committee

"In late March, 2013, NASA, in response to Federal legislation, imposed a moratorium on visits to NASA facilities by citizens of several nations, including China. The legislation in question was initially crafted by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) to reflect national security concerns, with further modifications and restrictions added to the 2013 bill. The Scientific Organizing Committee (SOC) of the Second Kepler Science Conference (KSC2) learned about this moratorium in late September, as the final agenda was being constructed, when 6 of our Chinese colleagues who preregistered for the KSC2 had their registrations denied."

Keith's note: Given the relentless investigations, letters, and outright nasty badgering that Rep. Wolf has given NASA over this issue, it is small wonder that the agency made this decision. After all, Rep. Wolf had already ordered investigations into previous Chinese participation in NASA meetings and ordered NASA to do overhauls of various online servers and facility access procedures after a Chinese national was found with porn on his laptop. Now Wolf sends NASA a letter criticizing the agency for taking his rants and demands seriously. Its hard to figure out just what this guy does or does not want NASA to do.

In his letter to Bolden - supposedly sent about this meeting and Chinese nationals - Wolf veers from one topic to another - and does a copy/paste of text from earlier rants - clearly demonstrating that he has a vendetta against NASA - and Ames staff in particular. He will use whatever happens to be on his desk or in his waste basket to throw at them with the hope that something will stick.

Wolf Letter to NASA's Bolden Correcting Record on Restrictions Involving Chinese Nationals

"In one troubling example, last month, The Wall Street Journal reported on a Space Act Agreement between Ames and Google's executives to use taxpayer-subsidized airplane fuel intended for military aircraft for personal travel by Google's leadership. A dubious scientific data collection scheme appears to have been developed as an excuse for this preferential treatment for these executives."

- Astronomers Dump on NASA About China When Congress Is To Blame, earlier post
- Attn Frank Wolf: Bo Jiang Had Porn - Not Secrets - on His Laptop, earlier post
- Wolf Addresses Arrest at Dulles Airport of Chinese National Potentially Involved in NASA Langely Security Violations, earlier post
- Congress Vs NASA on China (Home Alone with Wolf and Bolden), earlier post
- Bad Research By Rep. Wolf's Staff
- Wolf to Bolden: Disinvite Those Chinese Visitors, earlier post
- Rep. Wolf's China Witch Hunt Resumes (Update), earlier post

NASA Will Face Solomon's Choice in 2014, Dennis Wingo

"If a budget in the range of $16.6 billion is what happens NASA will have a major problem maintaining both the International Space Station (ISS) and the SLS/Orion Exploration program. Given that the funds are simply not going to be available to keep the ISS alive and functioning and to fully construct and operate the SLS/Orion system, something has to give. Are we going to have to kill one to insure the other's survival? That is the choice that that is presenting itself - a clear recipe for disaster as far as NASA's human space flight plans are concerned."

NASA on Pause

Science and the shutdown and a lonely birthday for NASA, PBS News Hour

"If a satellite mission has not yet been launched, work will generally cease on that project," NASA's shutdown plan reads. "The extent of support necessary and the time needed to safely cease project activities will depend on whether any of the activities are of a hazardous nature (e.g., parts of the satellite may need to be cooled)." Work preparing for the Mars MAVEN mission, which was slated for a Nov. 18 launch, for example, has stopped, and could delay the craft's planned mission to Mars."

NASA Hit by Government Shutdown, National Geographic

"Elsewhere at the space agency, the effects of the shutdown will become worse over time, says Keith Cowing of NASA Watch: "If they only lose a few days, then we lose a week of work, but over time there will be a satellite that has a problem or a design change that doesn't get fixed in time and we will see real impacts."

Government shutdown: NASA turns 55 - and turns out the lights, Christian Science Monitor

"Due to government shutdown, we will not be posting or responding from this account. Farewell, humans. Sort it out yourselves," tweeted the operators of NASA's Voyager 2's Twitter account, last night. Meanwhile, the agency's planning for future missions - where to land the next mission on Mars; which asteroid to lasso; and what to do with a future lander on Europe - has gone quiet. The shutdown will put some 97 percent of NASA's staffers on un-paid leave: just 549 of the agency's employees are expected to work, out of its some 18,250 staffers."

NASA Shutdown Is Underway

Statement by the President

"NASA will shut down almost entirely, but Mission Control will remain open to support the astronauts serving on the Space Station."

NASA Planning for a Lapse in Appropriations Update, NASA Memo

"If a FY 2014 continuing resolution is not passed before 12:01 AM on October 1, NASA can only engage in activities related to the orderly shutdown of operations and performance of excepted activities. As a required part of a shutdown, employees who will not be performing activities excepted by law will be furloughed and unable to work for the duration of the shutdown, unless recalled for an excepted activity."

Subcommittees Review Looming Gap in Weather Satellite Coverage Call for Better Prioritization to Ensure Consistent Weather Data, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

"The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has identified a high probability in degraded weather satellite coverage starting as early as next year, and has designated this data gap as a new high-risk area in a report earlier this year. Given this potential gap in weather satellite coverage, today's hearing addressed questions about the administration's priorities in funding weather satellites and research as compared to climate change-monitoring satellites and research."

- Subcommittees Discuss Remediation and Avoidance of Crucial Weather Forecasting Gaps, Status Report, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democrats
- Environmental Satellites: Focused Attention Needed to Improve Mitigation Strategies for Satellite Coverage Gaps, GAO
- Geostationary Weather Satellites: Progress Made, but Weaknesses in Scheduling, Contingency Planning, and Communicating with Users Need to Be Addressed, GAO
- Polar Wather Satellites: NOAA Identified Ways to Mitigate Data Gaps, but Contingency Plans and Schedules Require Further Attention, GAO

NASA Internal Memo: Planning for Potential Lapse in Appropriations

"However, prudent management requires that we be prepared for all contingencies, including the possibility that a lapse could occur at the end of the month. A lapse would mean that a number of government activities would cease due to a lack of appropriated funding. It would also mean that a number of employees would be temporarily furloughed. To prepare for this possibility, we are working with our General Counsel and our Chief Financial Officer to update our contingency plans for executing an orderly shutdown of activities that would be affected by a lapse in appropriations."

OMB Memo: Planning for Agency Operations during a Potential Lapse in Appropriations

NASA Ames Federal Employees Union Memo: Potential Shutdown Looming Yet Again

"With the turmoil of the DOI snafu and its 4-day delay in paychecks fresh on our minds, you need to be acutely aware that a shutdown could have a much bigger financial impact on you and your family, especially given that we would not likely receive retroactive pay as we did after the shutdowns of the 1990's.  Please act accordingly and keep some funds in reserve, if you possibly can."

Letter from Members of Congress to NASA Regarding LC 39A Leasing (pdf)

"In particular, we commend NASA for undertaking an open, competitive process regarding Launch Complex 39, Pad A, (LC-39A) at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). As you are aware, the NASA Inspector General and the Agency have identified LC-39A as excess infrastructure and have no "future rnission-related uses for these facilities" (Report No. IG- 13-008). Consistent with the OIG's recommendation, as well as the need to reduce overhead in the current constrained fiscal environment, we understand that NASA is currently undertaking an open competitive process to transfer LC-39A to a private entity, with formal decisions relating to lease terms and duration to be determined through proper negotiation subsequent to award. Given KSC's expertise, it should be within their purview and judgment to determine what factors to consider and outcomes to render. We urge you to proceed with these plans."

Letter from Sen. Nelson and Sen. Rubio to NASA Regarding LC 39A Leasing (pdf)

- Letter from Rep. Wolf and Rep. Aderholt Regarding NASA's Leasing of Pad 39A, earlier post
- New Uses For Launch Pad 39A: Threatening The Status Quo, earlier post
- NASA Announcement for Proposals: Commerical Operation of Launch Complex 39A, earlier post

JWST, Commercial Crew Spared Cuts in NASA FY2013 Operating Plan, Space Policy Online

"With only six weeks left in FY2013, Congress and the Obama Administration finally reached agreement on NASA's FY2013 operating plan that details how the agency will spend the money appropriated by Congress. Although the agency was subject to across-the-board cuts of about 7 percent that were to be applied proportionately to all its activities, at least two projects were spared those cuts -- the commercial crew program and the James Webb Space Telescope."

Finally, an FY13 NASA Planetary Budget, Just 11 Months Late, Planetary Society

"The FY13 budget approval was especially messy this year because Congress failed to pass a final budget until last spring (around six months late). The budget was then automatically cut through a process known as the Sequester. The Administration then reportedly proposed larger cuts to the planetary program to spare other parts of the NASA budget the effects of the Sequester. Congress reportedly rejected that division of cuts, resulting in negotiations and the final budget supplied to Space Policy Online.

NASA Releases New Imagery of Asteroid Mission [Watch], NASA

"NASA released Thursday new photos and video animations depicting the agency's planned mission to find, capture, redirect, and study a near-Earth asteroid. The images depict crew operations including the Orion spacecraft's trip to and rendezvous with the relocated asteroid, as well as astronauts maneuvering through a spacewalk to collect samples from the asteroid."

Marc's note: So while Congress refuses to fund the Asteroid Redirect Mission in the current budget process, NASA is pressing forward as if this mission is going to happen. You have to love their tenacity. However since Congress can't agree on a budget NASA is proceeding as it should under its existing mandate.

Videoconference providers see uptick in federal demand, Washington Post

"NASA, for instance, estimates that it will reduce its travel costs by about $21 million for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30. Although not all the savings can be attributed to videoconferencing, "we do look to use that medium to allow our managers, scientists and engineers to be able to still participate in events when being there in person isn't possible," NASA spokesman Allan Beutel wrote in an e-mail. Last month, NASA held its first Google+ Hangout news briefing on its Interstellar Boundary Explorer satellite. It "let our scientists present the IBEX mission's latest findings and answer questions from journalists and the public at the same time without having to travel to a certain place just to participate in the news conference," Beutel wrote."

Keith's note: Just as NASA is starting to get innovative in the whole world of virtual meetings, NASA also thought it was OK to fly a bunch of JPL folks to DC to go to receptions and briefings on Capitol Hill and the White House to mark the first anniversary of Curiosity on Mars. The rules are clearly not being applied equally.

- AIP Bulletin: Update on OMB Travel Restrictions, earlier post
- Growing Impact of Travel Restrictions, earlier post
- NASA Limits Travel; No Layoff Plans - yet (update), earlier post
- Bolden Cuts Travel; Buys Toy Telescope Models, earlier post

NRC Warns Landsat-Type Data Not Sustainable Under Current Practices, Space Policy Online

"The National Research Council (NRC) today issued its much-anticipated report on how to ensure continuity of Landsat-type land imaging data. The bottom line is that a sustained program is not viable under current mission development and management practices. Instead, the NRC calls for a "systematic and deliberate program" instead of the "historical pattern of chaotic programmatic support and ad hoc design and implementation of spacecraft and sensors" that has characterized the Landsat program to date.

... In short, the report calls for a "systematic and deliberate program with the goal of continuing to collect vital data within lower, well-defined, manageable budgets" to "replace the historical pattern of chaotic programmatic support and ad hoc design and implementation of spacecraft and sensors in the Landsat series.""

At anniversary of Curiosity landing, recommit to planetary science: Adam Schiff (D-CA), Op-Ed Los Angeles Daily News

"One might think that the latest round of draconian cuts are driven by reductions to the federal budget -- and, in turn, to NASA's budget -- necessary to reduce our debt and deficit. But that isn't the case. To the president's credit, NASA's overall budget hasn't been targeted and remains largely flat, a signal achievement when domestic discretionary spending is at its lowest levels since the Eisenhower Administration. Instead, time and again, deficit hawks in the Office of Management and Budget have targeted specific parts of the NASA portfolio for disproportionate cuts, and none more so than arguably the most successful of all NASA's recent achievements -- planetary science.

And for whatever reason, the "crown jewel" of the planetary science program, Mars, is in the crosshairs and the men and women of JPL know it. Last year, as a way to highlight the budget cuts, some workers hosted a bake sale, and in an effort to cut back non-essential programs and activities in the wake of sequestration, popular outreach programs like the JPL's annual open house have been cancelled, as have visits to classrooms and other educational activities."

No Tax Dollars Went To Make This Space Viking Photo, NPR

"The inspector general won't discuss how much all this cost, but [Ved] Chirayath did a quick calculation, totaling up the number of interviews, multiplied by the work hours, multiplied by the salary of the investigator and others involved. "I came to a lower-end budget of around $40,000, and an upper end of around $600,000," he says. That's far more than the cost of a professional photo shoot, even if NASA had paid for it, he says. Grassley says that these sorts of inquiries are not part of a Viking witch hunt, but that asking questions like this are part of his job as a senator."

Letter from Sen. Grassley to Charlie Bolden

"For example, I recently received information that at least four NASA employees, including highly paid SES employees, participated in a so-called "Physics in Vogue" photo-shoot, dressed in Viking garb. The shoot appears to have been conducted on a Friday in December during normal working hours and depicts NASA employees growling, yelling and brandishing replica swords and daggers."

Keith's note: In other words, Sen. Grassley's staff can send goofy letters to NASA and force them to waste taxpayer's money proving that they did not waste any taxpayer's money - because he can.

Since Sen. Grassley's crack staff are clearly rather desperate for things to investigate, maybe they should dig into the cost of this 2012 JSC staff holiday video. There are no Vikings in it (sorry) but I do see Yoda, banana guy, antler girls, neon feathered boa girls, santa's helpers, guitar guy, cat in the hat, MIB guys, weightlifter guy, astronauts, cheerleaders, and Darth Vader. And while there was no "growling, yelling and brandishing replica swords and daggers" there was gratuitous bad lip synching, silly dance moves, and a lot of props - some of which could have caused grave injury if mishandled (a great OSHA angle). Plus, as an added bonus, the video even has an official NASA logo (twice!) and it was filmed while the sun was up in a NASA building.

Just think of all the research Sen. Grassley's staff can do on government time and the goofy questions they can ask Charlie Bolden to make his people research and respond to - on government time. How dare these government employees have a Christmas party. What were they thinking?

Congressman Kevin McCarthy Introduces Bill to Streamline Commercial Spaceflight Regulations, SpaceRef Business

"Congressman Kevin McCarthy (R) has introduced H.R. 3038, the Suborbital and Orbital Advancement and Regulatory Streamlining (SOARS) Act, intended to streamline the regulatory process associated with commercial spaceflight.

The bill was referred to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee where it may get full support from the Republicans on the committee but likely no support from the Democrats.

Co-sponsoring the bill is Congressman Bill Posey (R) of Florida, who is a member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee."

Senate panel approves NASA bill that conflicts with House version, Florida Today

"A key Senate panel narrowly approved a bill reauthorizing NASA on Tuesday, setting up a showdown with the House over how much money the nation's space program should get to carry out its missions and which ones it should be allowed to execute.

The three-year bill, which now heads to the full Senate, would give the space agency $18.1 billion in fiscal 2014, $18.4 billion in fiscal 2015 and, $18.8 billion in fiscal 2016. NASA received $17.7 billion in fiscal 2013, which ends Sept. 30.

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee passed the bill 13-12 along party lines, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed."

The Onion Predicts Real Life: Republicans Block NASA's Asteroid Plan, Mother Jones

"President Obama's plan to have NASA lasso an asteroid, tow it toward Earth, place it into the moon's orbit, and claim the space rock for the United States of America has hit a congressional snag. The New York Times reports:...

...In a way, the Times got scooped on this story. By the Onion. More than two years ago:..."

Marc's note: What to say ...

NASA Sees Enthusiastic Response to Asteroid Call for Ideas, NASA

"NASA has received more than 400 responses to its request for information (RFI) on the agency's asteroid initiative, Deputy Administrator Lori Garver announced Friday.

"Under our plan, we're increasing the identification, tracking and exploration of asteroids, and the response to this initiative has been gratifying," said Garver, speaking at the Space Frontier Foundation's NewSpace 2013 conference in San Jose, Calif. "The aerospace industry, innovative small businesses and citizen scientists have many creative ideas and strategies for carrying out our asteroid exploration mission and helping us to protect our home planet from dangerous near-Earth objects."

Marc's updated note: Members of Congress have been very vocal about their desire that NASA should NOT proceed with the Asteroid Initiative, specifically the Asteroid Redirect Mission. Until Congress is reassured about the merits of the mission, it will be difficult for NASA to proceed.

House and Senate NASA FY14 appropriations comparison, Space Politics

"With the passage on Thursday of the Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) appropriations bill by the full Senate Appropriations Committee, it's possible now to compare that bill's funding levels for various NASA accounts with the House version of the same bill and the administration's original fiscal year 2014 budget request (amounts below in millions of dollars)."

NASA Budget Reaction

House, Senate fund different paths for NASA, Florida Today

"Congressional votes on Thursday provided more evidence the Republican-led House and the Democratic-led Senate have fundamentally opposing views of the space program. Key committees in both chambers approved divergent paths for NASA that will have to reconciled later this year.

The difference is not just about money, though most lawmakers agree there's a significant gap between the $18 billion the Senate Appropriation Committee wants to give NASA in fiscal 2014 and the $16.8 billion authorized by the House Science, Space and Technology Committee."

Impasse: House Science Committee Approves NASA Reauthorization Bill on Party Line Vote, AIP

"We are just never going to agree on this," said Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) midway through an hours-long committee markup yesterday of the NASA Authorization Act of 2013. Grayson's comment reflected the deep-seated division between the Republican and Democratic members of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee about the approach that should be taken to funding NASA, and in a larger sense, all federal agencies in coming years.

Yesterday's markup session of this bill to set policy and funding direction for the space agency for FY 2014 and FY 2015 started shortly before noon, and lasted until 5:30 PM, with the committee considering 35 amendments to the bill. In general, the deliberations were cordial, but decisions involving roll call votes were almost always along party lines."

Marc's note: At some point we'll have a compromise but it could be awhile.

Full Committee Markup - H.R. 2687, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2013, House Science Space & Technology

- Commercial Spaceflight Federation Statements on House Appropriations Committee NASA Budget
- Committee Approves Bill to Prioritize NASA's Missions
- Committee Republicans Set NASA up to Fail with Flawed Bill - Positive Democratic Alternative Defeated
- Statement by Rep. Edwards
- Statement by Rep. Johnson
- Statement of Rep. Palazzo: Full Committee Markup Of 2013 NASA Authorization
- Statement of Rep. Lamar Smith: Full Committee Markup Of 2013 NASA Authorization

Marc's note: Yesterday's long NASA Authorization Act of 2013 markup meeting, which was passed, included 35 amendments, available on the full page of this article, of which 10 amendments were approved, 3 withdrawn and 22 defeated. Of the 35 amendments put forward only 1 was by a Republican and was passed.

All of the substantial amendments put forward by the Democrats were defeated and only small changes were approved.

Of note for the historians out there, Representative Kennedy (D-Mass.), related to that other Kennedy, had his Amendment 004 passed which added the following paragraph to the Bill:

"The President should invite the United States partners in the International Space Station program and other nations, as appropriate, to participate in an international initiative under the leadership of the United States to achieve the goal of successfully conducting a crewed mission to the surface of Mars."

- Download or play audio of the Committee meeting. (173MB mp3 - Edited to 5 hours 2 minutes)

Closing Marshall?

NASA Amendement Would Weigh Marshall Closure, Space News

"U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the House Science space subcommittee, is expected to introduce an amendment to the NASA authorization bill July 18 calling for a commission to consider closing NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala."

Marc's note: If true, this would be seem to be a political shot across the Republicans bow as part of the budget battle with Alabama's Representative Mo Brooks, and fellow committee member in mind. It's unlikely to get traction to happen.

NASA's Appropriations Committee Markup, NASA Blog

"Today, the House Appropriations Committee is marking up legislation to provide 2014 appropriations for NASA. While we appreciate the support of the Committee, we are deeply concerned that the bill under consideration would set our funding level significantly below the President's request. This proposal would challenge America's preeminence in space exploration, technology, innovation, and scientific discovery. We are especially concerned the bill cuts funding for space technology - the "seed corn" that allows the nation to conduct ever more capable and affordable space missions - and the innovative and cost-effective commercial crew program, which will break our sole dependence on foreign partners to get to the Space Station. The bill will jeopardize the success of the commercial crew program and ensure that we continue to outsource jobs to Russia.

In the coming months, NASA will continue to work with the Congress to move towards legislation that funds a balanced portfolio for NASA to spur economic growth here on Earth and maintain American preeminence in space exploration."

Marc's note: The next salvo has been launched in the budget battle.

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Approves $18 Billion for NASA in FY2014, Space Policy Online

"The Senate appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over NASA approved $18 billion for the agency for FY2014 this morning, a significant increase over the level recommended by its House counterpart last week and more than the Obama Administration requested.

The Senate Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee, chaired by Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who also chairs the full committee, approved the bill with little discussion in a short markup session. Full committee markup is scheduled for Thursday at 10:00 am ET."

Marc's note: Before you get too excited remember that the House will want to lower the budget. So this is yet just another House-Senate ongoing battle leading nowhere at the moment.

UPDATE: Here's the House Bill with more details.

"The Committee recommends $16,598,300,000 for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which is $928,430,000 below fiscal year 2013 and $1,117,095,000 below the request."

Loony or logical? Bill favors national park on moon, Florida Today

"Imagine a U.S. National Park like Yellowstone or the Great Smoky Mountains on the moon, one that would protect artifacts left behind by the Apollo astronauts. Sound crazy? It's not as far-fetched as it seems.

A bill introduced in Congress recently would "endow the artifacts as a National Historic Park, thereby asserting unquestioned ownership rights over the Apollo lunar landing artifacts."

U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., and Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, are co-sponsoring "The Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act" -- also known as H.R. 2617."

- Text of H.R.2617 (PDF)

Marc's note: Protecting the Apollo sites within the legal framework of the U.S. is one thing, and might makes sense. Using UNESCO to make the sites "World Heritage Sites" is an international legal conundrum. While the U.S. is a signatory of the 1969 Outer Space Treaty it has not signed the 1979 Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies. The Bill might protect the sites from U.S. citizens disturbing them but has no international legal standing. However, merely passing the Bill might deter other nations citizens from disturbing the sites.

House Committee Approves Smallest NASA Budget Since 1986, Planetary Society Blog

"The House Appropriations committee, apparently feeling nostalgic for the Karate Kid and warm leggings, just approved the smallest NASA budget (in terms of purchasing power) since 1986.

The subcommittee responsible for NASA's budget approved $16.6 billion for the space agency in 2014. While SpaceNews reported this as the smallest budget since 2007, it's actually much worse if you correct for inflation."

Marc's note: The caveat here is if the NASA Authorization Act of 2013, that the House Subcommittee on Space marked-up earlier this week, doesn't change substantially. What the final Bill will look like is yet to be determined. But even when the Senate weighs in, it appears with the current Congress, and for at least the next few years, you can expect a lower NASA budget. I don't see the White House expending political energy, to truly fight for NASA.

Asteroid retrieval is costly and uninspiring, Lamar Smith Op-ed, The Hill

"The proposed asteroid retrieval mission would contribute very little to planetary defense efforts. The size of the target asteroid for this mission is only 7-10 meters in diameter, too small to cause any damage to Earth. Any insight gained by such a mission would have little relevance to protecting against larger "city-killer" asteroids. Congress directed NASA in 2005 to identify and track 90 percent of asteroids larger than 140 meters by 2020. Asteroids of this size are ones that could cause significant damage, and NASA still has work to do to accomplish this goal. Asteroids that are 7-10 meters simply disintegrate in our atmosphere."

Russian Meteor's Origin and Size Pinned Down, Space.com

"The asteroid was about 17 meters in diameter and weighed approximately 10,000 metric tons," Peter Brown, a physics professor at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, said in a statement. "It struck Earth's atmosphere at 40,000 mph and broke apart about 12 to 15 miles above Earth's surface. The energy of the resulting explosion exceeded 470 kilotons of TNT." That's 30 to 40 times more powerful than the atomic bomb the United States dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima during World War II. The Russian fireball likely produced the most powerful such space rock blast since a 130-foot (40 m) object exploded over Siberia in 1908, flattening 825 square miles (2,137 square km) of forest.

This morning's hearing of the Subcommittee on Space Markup of the NASA Authorization Act of 2013 was a partisan affair with an outcome that surprised no one.

Chairman Palazzo and other Republicans, including a very vocal Mo Brooks (R-Alabama), railed upon the Democrats for the current fiscal mess and said until such a time as the budget is dealt with NASA's budget would be curtailed.

Representative Donna Edwards (D-Maryland) presented her amendment to the Authorization bill that would have increased NASA's funding and while other Democrats used their time to support the amendment, the Republican majority on the committee voted it down 12-9 with all votes being on party line.

One note of interest from the hearing is that Representative Rohrabacher stated he voted for the Bill with the understanding changes would be made that address his concerns before the final Bill goes to the full committee for markup. Chairman Palazzo agreed. We'll have to wait and see what changes are made for the final markup but it doesn't appear that any of Rep. Edwards changes from the amendment will make it into the final Bill.

- Listen to the hearing (MP3).
- The Subcommittee on Space will meet to markup the NASA Authorization Act of 2013 (PDF)
- Statement of Space Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) Space Subcommittee Markup of
Committee Print, NASA Authorization Act of 2013

- Space Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) on Edwards Amendment - With Charts (PDF)
- Opening Statement Rep. Donna Edwards Subcommittee on Space Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
- Subcommittee Approves NASA Reauthorization Bill - Maintains Priority Programs and Provides Consistent Direction to NASA
- Republicans Approve Bill That Harms NASA

The other hearing this morning was the Subcommittee Markup - FY 2014 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill

- FY 2014 Commerce, Justice, and Science Bill - Subcommittee Draft (PDF)

House Democrats Preparing Their Own NASA Authorization Bill, Space News

"Democrats in the House are set to unveil their own NASA authorization bill, which unlike a much leaner Republican proposal due to be marked up June 10 would authorize $18 billion in spending for 2014 -- more than NASA has gotten since 2011.

... The Republican bill would ban an asteroid retrieval mission the Obama administration proposed in April and instead direct NASA to send more astronauts and hardware to lunar space. The Republican bill, which assumes NASA will be subject to across-the-board sequestration cuts for the foreseeable future, also called for shrinking NASA's Earth science program and restructuring NASA management.

The official summary of the Democratic bill mentions none of these things, and directs NASA to only one destination: Mars. The agency would be on the hook to draw up a 15-year Mars road map for Congress, under the Democrats' bill, but it would be entirely up to NASA to decide whether the road to the red planet included detours to the Moon, asteroids or Mars' natural satellites. "

UPDATE: Ranking Member Edwards Introduces Legislation to Authorize NASA, Cites Need to Return Agency to Path of Greatness, Rep. Donna F. Edwards (D-MD)

UPDATE July 10: The amendment Rep. Edwards proposed was defeated 11-9 at today's hearing.

Marc's note: There will be two subcommittee meetings on Wednesday related to NASA's budget.

- Subcommittee on Space Markup of Committee Print, NASA Authorization Act of 2013 (10:00 am)

- Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee FY2014 Appropriations Bill Markup (11:00 am)

FAA Commercial Space Office Fares Much Better in Senate, House Cut Would be "Crippling", Space Policy Online

"The House and Senate Appropriations Committees completed action on the FY2014 funding bill that includes the FAA this week. The two took opposite approaches to funding the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST). Mike Gold of Bigelow Aerospace calls a substantial cut approved by the House committee "crippling." Conversely, the Senate committee recommended more than the request.

On Thursday, the full House Appropriations Committee approved its version of the FY2014 Transportation-HUD (T-HUD) bill, making no change to the almost 12 percent cut to AST recommended by its T-HUD subcommittee: $14.16 million instead of the $16.01 million requested. That is roughly 8 percent less than its current funding level."

Related:

- Senator Nelson Weighs in NASA Authorization Bill
- Space Development: Going Everywhere and Nowhere
- Hearing Today: NASA Authorization Act of 2013
- FAA Commercial Space Launch Office Deep Budget Cut Possible
- Draft Only: Highlights of the NASA Authorization Act of 2013

Marc's note: After the 4th of July break the budget battle will be back on and it's shaping up to be quite a battle as the House and Senate clash.

UPDATE: Just before the holiday Space News reported that an "undated 35-page legislative proposal -- which also contains many noncommercialization suggestions for Congress to consider -- was crafted by NASA in response to the draft NASA authorization bill unveiled June 19 by the Republican leadership of House Science, Space and Technology space subcommittee.

... An industry source agreed that a NASA authorization bill is far from a certainty this year, and added that a regular appropriation bill is even more unlikely.

Congressional staffers "are telling us to expect an omnibus appropriations [bill] for 2014," the source said June 28."

Marc's note: It's looking more like a stalemate with Congress having forgotten what the word bipartisan means.

Letter to Congress From Space Companies Regarding NASA Space Technology,

"On behalf of our nation's universities, small and large businesses in the aerospace industry, and those of us in the space-science research community, we write in support of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Space Technology account for FY 2014. Space Technology creates critical capabilities required for NASA's future science and exploration missions, enables a vibrant and competitive U.S. space industry, and forges technology-based partnerships across government agencies. To remain the leader in space exploration, space science and space commerce, we are convinced that NASA must invest in new technologies and capabilities. As such, we urge the Congress to provide $740 million for the Space Technology account."

Nelson warns of partisan "chaos" regarding NASA authorization, Space Politics

"Immediately after the House Science Committee's space subcommittee wrapped up its hearing on a draft NASA authorization bill Wednesday morning, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) offered his views on the subject at a Space Transportation Association luncheon on the other side of Capitol Hill. Nelson, chairman of the space subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee, said his committee was working on its own version of a NASA authorization bill that would be ready by mid-July or perhaps sooner, in order to support appropriators."

What we're going to try to mark up is a balanced program," he said, citing progress in both commercial crew development and the Space Launch System and Orion programs, as well as science programs, including the James Webb Space Telescope."

Moon, Mars, or Asteroids, Which is the Best Destination for Solar System Development?, Dennis Wingo

"The Moon!, no Mars!, no Asteroids! Here we are in the second decade of the 21st century and in the NASA, space advocacy, and commercial space worlds one of these three destinations are being touted (largely to the exclusion of others) for their value to science, human exploration, and economic development, but which one of them is the most valuable, the most deserving, of our attention?

This argument is taking place today in the vacuum of space policy that we currently live in without any unifying principles or policy to inform our decisions. Without a guiding policy and sense of purpose that encompasses more than narrow interests and singular destinations it is exceedingly likely that the human exploration and development of the solar system will continue to be an expensive and futile exercise. We must develop a firm moral, technological, and fiscal foundation for this outward move that will attract capital investment, spur technology development, and encourage innovation in a manner that people can understand, believe in, and thus financially support."

Subcommittee on Space Hearing - NASA Authorization Act of 2013

Hearing: NASA Authorization Act of 2013
Location: 2318 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515, US
Time: 10:00 a.m. ET

Witnesses and Statements

- Dr. Steven W. Squyres, Goldwin Smith Professor of Astronomy, Cornell University

"Three themes run through my testimony today:

- NASA needs a clear and compelling long-term goal. That goal should be to send human explorers to Mars.
- NASA is being asked to do too much with too little. Unless program content can be matched to budget, the result will be wasted effort and delay.
- Our nation's civil space program will be best served by having high-level policy set by the Administration and Congress, and implementation details recommended by NASA engineers, scientists, and managers."

- Mr. A. Thomas Young, Former Executive Vice President, Lockheed Martin Corporation

"The dominant strategic issue facing the civil space program is human spaceflight. Today, there is a human spaceflight program but no credible human space exploration strategy. There is much discussion about going to the moon, an asteroid, Phobos, Deimos and Mars; however, there is no credible plan or budget. There are human exploration elements such as SLS and Orion."

Space Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.)

- Prepared Statement by Rep. Palazzo: The NASA Authorization Act of 2013

"The draft bill includes a topline budget of over $16.8 billion dollars and authorizes the agency for two years."

"The Space Launch System is authorized at over $1.77 billion and the Orion crew capsule at $1.2 billion. The SLS and Orion will take our astronauts deeper into space than ever before. I am committed to the success of these assets and ensuring their continued on-time development and appropriate prioritization moving forward. The Commercial Crew program is authorized at $700 million, but let me be clear; this is not a blank check for the Administration. The bill includes several accountability measures and a flight readiness deadline of December 31, 2017. This deadline is not negotiable. NASA must do whatever is necessary in its acquisition model to meet this deadline, even if that means radically altering their current plans."

House Appropriators Want Deep Cut to FAA Commercial Space Launch Office, Space Policy Online

"The House Appropriations subcommittee that funds the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) will meet tomorrow to markup the draft FY2014 Transportation-HUD (T-HUD) appropriations bill. As drafted, the bill would reduce AST from its requested level of $16.01 million to $14.16 million."

"Mike Gold, Director of D.C. Operations & Business Growth for Bigelow Aerospace, said "These cuts are ill-advised to say the least. At a time when we're depending so heavily on commercial space transportation to do this to the FAA-AST will have serious consequences, causing delays throughout the industry and even potentially putting lives in danger. It's certainly my hope that all of the AST's funding can be restored."

Mars base added to moon plan Politico

"Republicans in Congress are pushing for major cuts across the federal budget, but so far, they're not willing to sacrifice a plan to build a moon colony."

In fact, Republicans on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee are eyeing an even more ambitious goal: building a base on Mars, too.

"... The [NASA] Administrator shall establish a program to develop a sustained human presence on the Moon and the surface of Mars," states a recent discussion draft obtained by POLITICO."

Marc's note: Wow, what can I say, go for it! Oh hold on, there's no budget for this "go-as-we-can-afford-to-pay" plan. The rhetoric out of Congress is at an all time high and who can take anything they say seriously anymore. I suppose the only way to make them accountable, is to vote them out.

Draft House NASA Authorization Bill Would Create 6-Year Term for NASA Administrator, No Funds for ARM, Space Policy Online

"The draft NASA Authorization Act of 2013 penned by the House Science, Space and Technology Committee would make the NASA Administrator a 6-year term appointment and authorize no funds for the proposed Asteroid Return Mission (ARM). A hearing on the draft bill is scheduled for Wednesday.

- Authorizes $16,825,200,000, which is "consistent with the Budget Control Act and FY2013 appropriations." If Congress replaces or repeals the Budget Control Act (which created the sequester) then funding would be added for the International Space Station (ISS), Space Launch System (SLS), and Commercial Crew.

Human Spaceflight - Makes clear that missions to lunar orbit, the surface of the Moon, and Mars are NASA's human spaceflight goals.

- No funding for the Asteroid Rendezvous Mission [alternately called the Asteroid Return Mission or Asteroid Retrieval Mission]
- NASA to study feasibility of extending ISS beyond 2020
- OSTP to lead a strategic plan for ISS utilization by "all science agencies"
- Continued commitment to SLS/Orion; reiterates that Orion is a backup to commercial crew for ISS
"

Marc's note: This is a draft only. NASA is moving forward with the Asteroid Initiative at the direction of the White House. The final bill will assuredly look different.

Subcommittee on Space Hearing - NASA Authorization Act of 2013, House Science Committee

The House Science Committee's space subcommittee has scheduled a hearing for 10:00 a.m. ET next Wednesday, June 19 on the "NASA Authorization Act of 2013." The House version of the bill has not been released yet but should be soon and possibly before the hearing.

The scheduled witnesses are:
- Dr. Steven W. Squyres, Goldwin Smith Professor of Astronomy, Cornell University
- Mr. A. Thomas Young, Former Executive Vice President, Lockheed Martin Corporation

UPDATE: Draft NASA Authorization Bill Nixes Asteroid Retrieval Mission, Space News

"The House Science, Space and Technology Committee has begun drafting a NASA authorization bill that would hold the agency to a top line of about $16.87 billion, bar funding for a planned asteroid rendezvous mission, and divert money for Earth observation into robotic missions to other parts of the solar system, according to an official summary of the bill obtained by SpaceNews.

The bill also would authorize NASA to spend $700 million annually on the Commercial Crew Program -- up from the $500 million Congress authorized in 2010 -- and require the agency to report every 90 days on the effort."

FUTHER UPDATE: NASA Invites Media to Asteroid Initiative Industry and Partner Day (June 18) , NASA

AIP FYI #101: Senate and House Subcommittees Examine NASA Spaceflight Opportunities and Challenges, American Institute of Physics

"The May 21 House hearing focused on whether the proposed Asteroid Retrieval Mission (ARM), lunar landing, or another type of mission would be appropriate preparation for a human mission to Mars. Members were also interested in what capabilities could be developed from a Moon landing that could not be learned from the proposed ARM. Another question discussed was how different destinations affect a strategic approach to designing technical equipment and working with international partners."

"The President's National Space Policy, announced in June of 2010, outlines objectives for the extension of human spaceflight to destinations beyond the moon. Members of Congress have since had many discussions about whether lunar missions still provide relevant information to NASA programs. This hearing demonstrated that there remains some concerns associated with cancelling lunar missions."

"Where, Why and How?" - Concerns of the House Subcommittee on Space, Paul Spudis

"I found that there is confusion and even some anger on the Hill over President Obama's decision to abandon the Moon as the near-term goal of human spaceflight. Additionally, there is widespread puzzlement about the newly minted, asteroid retrieval concept - whether it will accomplish any scientific benefits, if it will prepare us for human missions beyond LEO, and what societal value it may or may not have. The question before the committee was how we might best move forward in space. As the discussion proceeded, it was patently clear that we desperately need a guiding vision with a strategic direction, one that constantly, incrementally and cost effectively creates and extends our space capabilities. It requires a plan with abundant milestones, intermediate in time and money, which will move humans beyond low Earth orbit."

Where Do We Go Next In Space?, Earlier post

Subcommittee Examines Next Steps for U.S. Human Space Exploration

"A human mission to Mars is not attainable without significant scientific, technological, and operational progress and preparation. One or more interim destinations have often been suggested as the logical path for developing and demonstrating those capabilities needed in advance of the more distant and risky venture of sending humans to Mars. An interim destination could also serve as an important focal point and organizing mechanism for the human exploration program, as well as providing a vision and inspiring goal for the nation's future in space. Over past Administrations and the current Administration, the goal for an interim destination has changed."

Witnesses Debate Strategic Stepping Stones to Mars
 
"There are several compelling reasons for using the Moon as a training ground to prepare for more complex missions. Landing on the Moon would develop technical capabilities for landing on and launching from a large celestial body, something NASA has not done for more than four decades. Establishing a semi-permanent or permanent presence on the Moon would give astronauts an opportunity to work and live in an environment radically different from Earth."

Prepared statements: Witnesses: Douglas Cooke, Steven Squyres, Paul Spudis, Louis Friedman

Prepared statements: members: Rep. Steven Palazzo,
Rep. Lamar Smith, Rep. Donna Edwards, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnsons

Prepared Statement by Wayne Hale

"Poised on the cusp of these new systems, we run the risk of being penny wise and pound foolish as we make the same mistake that doomed the space shuttle to much higher cost operations: starving a spacecraft development program in the name of saving a few pennies for today's budget bottom line resulting in the compromised systems that, if they fly at all, will not be cheap enough to enable business in space."

- Prepared Statement by Steven Collicott
- Prepared Statement by Patti Grace Smith
- Prepared Statement by Michael Lopez-Alegria

Job Security at NASA

Is NASA about jobs, or actually accomplishing something?, Houston Chronicle

"The diversity of these centers, including sites in populous states like Texas, California, Florida and Ohio, ensures political clout for the agency in both houses of Congress. At the same time, NASA has to continually spread work around all of these centers and keep senators and representatives from the homes of each of the 10 happy. Which is to say, first and foremost, saving jobs."

Federal budget cuts threaten NASA's space travel plans, KTRK

"... All that costs money, and Bolden says NASA's $16.8 billion budget request gets chopped to just $16.1 billion if the seqester is not rectified. "At the $16.1 billion level, there is no way in the world they can continue to operate a center like JSC at the level of employment that we have right now," Bolden said. Bolden laments this would mean cutbacks at all NASA centers, primarily contractors. But furloughs for civil servants, he confides, could also become necessary."

NASA Operating Plan for FY 2013 to Target Planetary Overall, Cuts Research and Completed Missions, Planetary Exploration Newsletter

"In his FY13 budget request, President Obama proposed the NASA Planetary budget be cut by more than 20% from its FY12 level (From $1.5B to less than $1.2B). Under the initial Continuing Resolutions covering the first half of the fiscal year, the Administration chose to operate NASA Planetary at this reduced level. Congress restored more than $222M of the President's cut in its FY13 appropriation passed on March 21 and signed into law by the President. Congress's action is now being reversed by NASA and others in the Administration through the preferential application of rescission and sequestration cuts of more than 15% to the NASA Planetary Science budget."

AIP FYI: Eighteen Former NSF Assistant Directors Criticize House Science Committee Bill and Inquiry

"The draft bill mandates a certification process for NSF awards that frankly requires the Director to accurately predict the future. The history of scientific discovery suggests this is just not feasible and we, as former federal science and technology executives, would suggest many basic research projects in every field supported by the NSF would likely not qualify for certification under this bill. This would be shortsighted, in our opinion since some of our greatest discoveries and innovations were unexpectedly born from basic research."

Injecting Partisan Politics into Scientific Peer Review, earlier post

Lawmakers urge NASA to be mindful of budget constraints, The Hill

"Lawmakers on Thursday urged NASA to be more realistic about developing space technology in light of budget constraints. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) chided NASA for not making the cost of projects clear to Congress and warned the agency that it risked having them axed entirely. Noting the recent exoplanet discoveries by NASA's $591 million Kepler telescope, Rohrabacher noted that Congress nearly shut down a similar telescope due to a lack of funding. "The [National Science Foundation's] Arecibo telescope was actually the first observatory to find evidence of this exoplanet, and we almost closed that down due to lack of funds. And that telescope remains a very important part of the projects that we are talking about," Rohrabacher said."

Continued Sequestration Will Short-Circuit SLS, Aviation Week

"Mikulski and Shelby consider that budget request inadequate, particularly in the funding for the heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) that is intended to take humans beyond low Earth orbit. NASA wants $820 million to keep at least two competitors in the running for a commercial route to the International Space Station, but many lawmakers would like to see $300 million of that transferred into the $1.385 billion SLS request for fiscal 2014."

Hearing charter

"The purpose of the hearing is to review the recent discovery of three super-Earth sized planets by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Kepler space telescope. The hearing will also assess the state of exoplanet surveying, characterization, and research; NASA's Exoplanet Exploration Program; National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Astronomical Science; as well as coordination within the government and with external partners. NASA and NSF both contribute to the search for exoplanets."

Prepared Statements

- James Ulvestad, NSF
- John Grunsfeld, NASA
- Laurance Doyle, SETI Institute
- Rep. Steven Palazzo
- Rep. Larry Bucshon
- Rep. Lamar Smith

Keith's note: You might want to listen to this audio file from today's STA luncheon where Charlie Bolden answers a question about huge cuts to NASA education. Bolden doesn't seem to have any problems with the huge cuts that are being made in NASA's education and public outrach budgets in the proposed FY2014 budget. Indeed, he seems to think this is just wonderful. So, all of you NASA educators, you might as well give up and find other areas to channel your energies. Charlie Bolden thinks that you need less money.

Details on The Gutting of NASA Education, earlier post

Keith's note: After a month and a half NTRS is apparently no closer to being online. But the paranoia is spreading. Now, when you go to the NASA Image Exchange, you get the same notice that greets frustrated NTRS users:

"The NASA technical reports server will be unavailable for public access while the agency conducts a review of the site's content to ensure that it does not contain technical information that is subject to U.S. export control laws and regulations and that the appropriate reviews were performed. The site will return to service when the review is complete. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause."

Given the unclassified porn that was on Bo Jiang's laptop I guess NASA is now looking to see if there is porn - especially the classified and ITAR-sensitive variety - on their servers. Yes, I am being silly. But this makes no sense. Why is NASA taking servers with old NASA PAO photos offline in response to Jiang's laptop contents? NASA has known what was (and was not) on Bo Jiang's laptop for quite some time - well before this image server was taken offline. To be certain, using government computers to download porn is wrong and violators need to be dealt with. Were large NASA servers taken offline when previous cases arose concerning NASA personnel? No. Why now?

- NASA Technical Reports Server Mysteriously Taken Offline, earlier post
- NASA Blocks Everyone From Access To Everything on NTRS, earlier post

American Astronomical Society Statement on President Obama's Proposed FY 2014 Budget

"The AAS is deeply concerned about the Administration's renewed proposal to cut NASA's Planetary Science Division, this time by $200 million compared to the 2013 level enacted by Congress and signed by the President last month. At this level, the budget precludes a major mission to any planet other than Mars after 2017, and precludes exploration of Europa, a high priority for the planetary science community. The request also threatens the cadence of Discovery and New Frontiers missions, which are a cornerstone of the Planetary Sciences Decadal Survey to ensure balance among mission classes. The U.S. planetary exploration program has a storied history and a compelling plan for the future. The AAS urges the Administration and the Congress to find a path forward that maintains U.S. leadership in planetary science, rather than ceding future exploration of our solar system to other nations."

Letter from Rep. Lamar Smith, Chairmain, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology to NSF Director Cora Marrett

"During the course of the hearing, I asked Dr. Holdren about taxpayer funding for social, behavioral and political science studies at the National Science Foundation (NSF), and how we can better prioritize research spending. During that discussion, Dr. Holdren said that there is "room for improvement" in how NSF prioritizes research initiatives based on the potential value to the national interest. Based on my review of NSF-funded studies, I have concerns regarding some grants approved by the Foundation and how closely they adhere to NSF's "intellectual merit" guideline. To better understand how NSF makes decisions to approve and fund grants, it would be helpful to obtain detailed information on specific research projects awarded NSF grants."

Letter from Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, Ranking Member, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology to. Rep. Lamar Smith

"Your letter of April 25 to the Acting Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), Dr. Cora Marrett, has provoked me to write to you. At our hearing on April 17, both Dr. Marrett and the Chairman of the National Science Board (NSB), Dr. Dan Arvizu, offered to engage with the Committee in a meaningful discussion of the mission of NSF and how the agency's merit review process can best be constructed to support that mission. Rather than entering into that dialogue, your letter marks the beginning of an investigative effort, the implications of which are profound. This is the first step on a path that would destroy the merit-based review process at NSF and intrudes political pressure into what is widely viewed as the most effective and creative process for awarding research funds in the world. ... I cannot stand by silently as you continue this political intrusion into one of our Nation's and indeed, one of the world's most important scientific organizations. I ask that you withdraw your letter to Dr. Marrett. I stand ready to work with you to identify a less destructive, but more effective, effort to hold NSF accountable to the requirements laid out in law."

Congress tries to reset science grants, wants every one to be "groundbreaking", Ars Technica

"The other two requirements, however, completely misunderstand both basic research and the role of the National Science Foundation. Basic research is largely about exploring the unknown; by definition, it's almost impossible to tell which areas of research will end up being groundbreaking or have commercial applications. And the NSF is specifically tasked with funding basic research and science education."

U.S. Lawmaker Proposes New Criteria for Choosing NSF Grants, Science Insider

"The new chair of the House of Representatives science committee has drafted a bill that, in effect, would replace peer review at the National Science Foundation (NSF) with a set of funding criteria chosen by Congress. For good measure, it would also set in motion a process to determine whether the same criteria should be adopted by every other federal science agency."

Discussion Draft (via ScienceInsider)

Keith's note: Rest assured, Rep. Smith and his staff will soon start to poke around NASA funding decisions as well looking for things that they have ideological objections to.

Charles Bolden: Launching American Astronauts from U.S. Soil

"Three years ago, the Administration put forward a public-private partnership plan, the Commercial Crew Program (CCP), to ensure that American companies would be launching our astronauts from U.S. soil by 2015. It's a plan that supports the U.S. human spaceflight program, boosts our economy, and helps create good-paying American jobs. If NASA had received the President's requested funding for this plan, we would not have been forced to recently sign a new contract with Roscosmos for Soyuz transportation flights. Because the funding for the President's plan has been significantly reduced, we now won't be able to support American launches until 2017."

NASA Extends Crew Flight Contract With Russian Space Agency


Message From The NASA Administrator: New Policies in Response to Sequestration

"In addition, as I have previously stated, at this time, we do not plan to resort to furloughs for NASA employees to meet our spending reductions under sequestration, and there is currently no change to the Agency's existing hiring policy. Centers may continue to transact hires in all categories as planned in their submitted phased hiring plans up to their FY 2013 FTE ceilings. However, the Congress is currently considering NASA's full-year appropriations levels; and, as the legislative process concludes, we will assess the impact of the new funding levels and whether revisions to our current posture are warranted."

Keith's 22 April note: Furloughs loom across the Federal government. While other agencies openly talk about their furlough plans, NASA is not saying anything. Why is that? It has been a month since Charlie Bolden issued this memo and its mention of how NASA viewed furloughs. Nothing has been issued since then.

Keith's 25 April update: Bolden in a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee today: "If we do not come out of sequester for the 2014 budget then we will start to furlough people."

Keith's note: When he was asked by Lamar Smith at House Science Committee hearing on NASA's FY 2014 budget why two James Webb Space Telescope instruments were late, Charlie Bolden then tried to push that off as bad news reports. Bolden went on to say that he has been adamant that he takes full responsibility for the progress of Webb. Smith then read from the recent GAO report "NASA: Assessments of Selected Large-Scale Projects" citing this passage:

"... In addition, only two instruments have been delivered for integration with ISIM and the other two instruments will be delivered at least 11 months late."

When Smith asked Bolden again about the two late Webb instrments, Bolden's reponse was: "That's news to me"

GAO Report on Large-Scale NASA Projects, earlier post

House Space Subcommittee Reviews NASA's FY 2014 Budget Request

"Rep. Edwards: We need to take a careful look at how the resources requested match the program content included in the FY 2014 budget request. At the Full Committee hearing last week on the Fiscal Year 2014 budget request for Science Agencies, the President's Science Adviser, Dr. Holdren, testified that 'NASA has long had the problem of 20 lbs. of missions in a 10 Ib. budget, and they continue to.' I share that concern."

House Space Subcommittee Reviews NASA's FY 2014 Budget Request

Chairman Palazzo: "I am committed to ensuring that our nation has a robust space program that will continue to lead the world for generations. I am concerned however that NASA has neglected Congressional funding priorities and been distracted by new and questionable missions that detract from our ultimate deep space exploration goals. These distractions also take up precious lines in the budget at a time when NASA can least afford it."

Prepared Statements:

Rep. Lamar Smith

"The committee has seen little evidence that a current stated goal for NASA's human spaceflight program--namely, to visit an asteroid by 2025--has been widely accepted as a compelling destination by NASA's own workforce, by the nation as a whole, or by the international community. On the international front there appears to be continued enthusiasm for a mission to the Moon but not for an asteroid mission."

Rep. Steven Palazzo
Rep. Donna Edwards
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson
Charles Bolden

House Subcommittee on Space Hearing: Overview of the NASA Budget forFY 2014

- 2:00 PM Webcast
- Hearing charter

NASA Advisory Council Meeting (Webex/Dial-in)

1:00 pm EDT: NASA FY 2014 budget (Robinson)
2:00 pm EDT: NASA Plans for Future Human Spaceflight (Gerstenmeier)
3:00 pm EDT: Human Exploration and Operations Committee Report (Kohrs)
4:00 pm EDT: Science Committee Report (Huntress)

JPL Open House Suspended

"Due to budget restrictions, plans for a JPL Open House in spring 2013 have been suspended. If budget considerations improve, JPL hopes to host an Open House at a future date, perhaps as early as fall 2013. Please check back here for updates."

2013 Sagan Exoplanet Summer Workshop Imaging Planets and Disks Cancelled

"It is with regret that the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute (NExScI) announces the cancellation of this year's Sagan Summer Workshop (July 29-Aug 2, 2013) on the topic of "Imaging Planets and Disks". Like numerous other scientific conferences this year, the Sagan Workshop is a victim of the Federal budget sequestration."

Rep. Schiff and Senator Feinstein Call on NASA to Not Gut Planetary Science

"Today, Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) sent a letter to National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator Charles Bolden calling on him to keep any operating plan for the fiscal year consistent with the funding levels and allocations directed to it by Congress earlier this year. There have been reports that the FY 2013 NASA Operating Plan will slash funding from the Planetary Science programs. Schiff and Feinstein were joined by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Representative John Culberson (R-TX) in sending the letter today."

2013 STScI Spring Symposium and Habitable Worlds across Time and Space Cancelled, Space Telescope Science Institute

"We regret to announce that the 2013 STScI Spring Symposium, Habitable Worlds across Time and Space, has been cancelled. Space Telescope Science Institute operates as a NASA contractor. Our contractual obligations include support of workshops and seminars. In response to fiscal impacts resulting from the United States Government sequestration, NASA has temporarily suspended the contract authority and all funding that enables us to host conferences and seminars."

Editorial: Who Is Minding Planetary Research?, Planetary Exploration Newsletter

"The Administration and both houses of Congress openly support the planetary research programs, as demonstrated by proposed and appropriated budgets. It is PSD management that undermines their intent. Stop treating planetary research as a slush fund."

Tell Congress To Support Planetary Exploration at NASA, Planetary Society

"The White House has doubled down on its efforts to cut Planetary Science at NASA. It's proposing a cut of over $200 million, despite the fact that Congress rejected a similar cut for last year. This will prevent any mission to Europa. It delays for years efforts to send small spacecraft throughout the solar system, and will have long-lasting repercussions on the scientific and engineering community. We know Congress supports planetary exploration, but they need to hear from you."

Bipartisan Legislation Sets NASA's Focus on the Moon

"U.S. Representatives Bill Posey (R-FL), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Chairman Frank Wolf (R-VA), Robert Aderholt (R-AL), John Culberson (R-TX), Steve Stockman (R-TX), Pete Olson (R-TX), Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Ted Poe (R-TX) have once again reintroduced bipartisan legislation directing NASA to develop a plan for returning to the Moon and establishing a human presence there. The RE-asserting American Leadership in Space Act, or REAL Space Act, sets a clear course for NASA toward human space flight while keeping within current budgetary constraints."

Back to the Moon? Not any time soon, says Bolden, Space Politics

"However, [Bolden] made it clear NASA has no plans to lead its own human return to the Moon under his watch. "NASA will not take the lead on a human lunar mission," he said. "NASA is not going to the Moon with a human as a primary project probably in my lifetime. And the reason is, we can only do so many things." Instead, he said the focus would remain on human missions to asteroids and to Mars. "We intend to do that, and we think it can be done."

Private Companies can Play Key Role in Tracking Asteroids

"Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas): "Most troubling to me is the fact that of the up to 20,000 asteroids that could be labeled as 'city destroyers,' we have identified only 10 percent. And we are unlikely to have the means to detect 90 percent until 2030."

Committee Democrats Discuss Need to Detect and Prepare for Near-Earth Objects Smaller Than Currently Mandated

"Witnesses and Democratic Members discussed international dialogue, emergency preparedness, communication with the public, and the need for examining potential mitigation approaches. They also expressed concern about the role private entities play in the detection and mitigation of asteroids."

- Prepared Statement by Michael A'Hearn
- Prepared Statement by Donald Yeomans
- Prepared Statement by Ed Lu

2014 Federal Research & Development Budget Briefing (webcast)

"Officials from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and other Federal departments and agencies with core science missions will discuss President Obama's FY 2014 R&D Budget."

NASA Administrator Discusses 2014 Fiscal Year Budget Proposal (webcast)

"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden will brief reporters about the agency's fiscal year 2014 budget proposal at 3 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, April 10, during a media teleconference. NASA Chief Financial Officer Elizabeth Robinson will join the administrator."

NASA Administrator Bolden's Statement on the NASA FY 2014 Budget Request

"Today, we unveil President Obama's Fiscal Year 2014 budget request for NASA -- a $17.7 billion investment in our nation's future. Our budget ensures the United States will remain the world's leader in space exploration and scientific discovery for years to come, while making critical advances in aerospace and aeronautics to benefit the American people."

Keith's note: The White House loves to talk about education. So ... what do they do at NASA? They cut NASA education from $136.9 million in FY 2013 to $94.2 million in FY 2014. This is how they explain it: "In support of the Administration's FY 2014 Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education plan, the Agency's education efforts will be fundamentally restructured into a consolidated education program funded through the Office of Education." This is not at all surprising given that OMB actually wants to move all of NASA's education activities to the Department of Education (they did not get their way on that this year). No explanation is offered as to what "restructured" means other than providing less money.

NASA FY 2014 Budget information

Aerospace Industries Association Crowdfunding Campaign to Advertise for Space Program

"The Aerospace Industries Association is leading a first-of-its-kind crowdfund campaign to showcase to students and young people the exciting new era of U.S. space exploration."

Please Support We Are The Explorers - A Movie Trailer for Our Space Program (With Video)

"NASA recently made an inspiring new online video narrated by Mr. Peter Cullen, the voice of Optimus Prime (see above), to show the progress being made on these new systems, but the agency is barred by law from buying advertising time for such a spot. Today we're running a crowdfunding campaign to edit this video into a 30 second spot, and place it in over 50 movie theaters around the country, starting with the premier of 'Star Trek Into Darkness.'"

Keith's update: The $33,000 goal was met a few minutes ago. According to the site "Now for the next "giant leap." With still weeks to go, we can expand our reach to the whole country. Our current funding pace puts us on target to place ads in at least one theater in every state in America. If we raise our funding total to $94,000, students, young people, and the general public will see this video from coast to coast. This new goal will expand our reach from 59 movie theater screens to 750 screens! "

American Astronomical Society Decries Impact of Federal Travel Restrictions on Science

"The American Astronomical Society (AAS) today expressed deep concern about the U.S. government's new restrictions on travel and conference attendance for federally funded scientists. Enacted in response to the budget sequestration that went into effect on March 1st, the policies severely limit the ability of many researchers to meet with collaborators and to present their latest results at professional meetings. The leadership of the AAS is especially worried about the restrictions' deleterious effects on scientific productivity and on scientists' and students' careers."

Keith's tnote: If you ask NASA how much they spend on travel in a given year they can't tell you. If you ask them how much these new travel restrictions to save they can't tell you that either. They are just making this up as they go.

The Eighth International Conference on Mars Postponed Until 2014

"The impacts of sequestration on the Federal budget have led to new travel policies that severely constrain the participation of NASA center employees, including JPL, and other government employees (e.g., the U.S. Geological Survey) in scientific conferences, including the planned 8th International Mars Conference set for July 15-19 on the Caltech campus. The current fiscal environment is sufficiently restrictive that we, the organizers of the conference, have decided to delay the meeting for one year, holding it instead in June/July of 2014."

Keith's note: Last week NASA Education AA Leland Melvin sent a memo out to the Education Coordinating Committee regarding funding issues. In that memo he more or less exempted all of the activities that his directorate funds from cuts associated with sequester-related budget activities. I have asked NASA PAO for a copy of that letter and will post it if/when NASA provides me with a copy.

Keith's 11:00 am update: NASA PAO has decline to provde a copy of this letter and has said that I need to file a FOIA request in order to get it. I have filed the FOIA request. This usually takes weeks although they could expedite this. With all of these memos circulating around - with contradictory and confusing statements in them - you would think that NASA Headquarters would want to clarify things for people and just issue the memo along with an overall statement of policy regarding the topics raised in these other memos.

Keith's 11:45 am update: Here's the memo - from sources other than NASA. Letter from NASA AA for Education Leland Melvin to the Education Coordinating Council on Waivers for Education and Public Outreach Activities

Why Has NASA Banned Access to its Partner Saudi Arabia?, SpaceRef

"Last week NASA Administrator Bolden announced that access to NASA computer networks and facilities would be curtailed for citizens of various countries. Among the countries listed was Saudi Arabia. It is more than a little unusual to see Saudi Arabia targeted like this given the strong relations between the Saudis and the U.S. in a wide range of scientific and technological fields. It is even more odd that NASA would publicly snub a major U.S. ally in the Middle East in the midst of a presidential trip to the region. ... Right now there is a contingent of NASA JPL employees in Saudi Arabia discussing space-related issues. .... It will be rather awkward for the former Caltech president, now in the same position at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, to have to explain to his Saudi staff and students why JPL (located at Caltech) won't let them have access any more."

But the issue at hand was security regarding technical information - not human rights or religion. To be certain, China, Iran, and North Korea are bad actors when it comes to transfer of sensitive information, human rights, etc. But it is rather hard to find instances where citizens of Burma, Eritrea, Sudan, Uzbekistan or Saudi Arabia have been accused of hacking into NASA computers or stealing sensitive information. So why does the list of nationalities banned from NASA by Bolden look more like a list of counties associated with human rights and religious discrimination than a list of countries known to seek out U.S. technology? Who gave who gave Bolden this list of countries to ban? Did he think it up himself or did Rep. Wolf give it to him?

Who are the top hacker countries in the world?, geopolitech.tumblr.com

"Despite all the bad press China is getting for its recent hacking activity, the US remains firmly on top in terms of sheer volume. This remains true for rankings tabulated by different think-tanks like Symantec and NCCGroup. Usual suspects China and Russia are consistently within the top five, while Germany and the UK show up consistently within the top ten."

Repeal the sequester's cuts on NASA's spending in public outreach and its STEM programs

"Repeal the sequester's cuts on NASA's spending in public outreach and its STEM programs The Sequester's recent cuts on NASA's spending in public outreach and its STEM programs must not be allowed. These cuts would end the many programs NASA has for educating the children of our society, as well as many other forms of public outreach held by NASA. In an internal memo issued on the evening of Friday, March 22, the Administration notes that "effective immediately, all education and public outreach activities should be suspended, pending further review. In terms of scope, this includes all public engagement and outreach events, programs, activities, and products developed and implemented by Headquarters, Mission Directorates, and Centers across the Agency, including all education and public outreach efforts conducted by programs and projects."

NASA Suspends All Education and Public Outreach (Update), Earlier post

NASA Internal Memo: Guidance for Education and Public Outreach Activities Under Sequestration

"Effective immediately, all education and public outreach activities should be suspended, pending further review. In terms of scope, this includes all public engagement and outreach events, programs, activities, and products developed and implemented by Headquarters, Mission Directorates, and Centers across the Agency, including all education and public outreach efforts conducted by programs and projects.

The scope comprises activities intended to communicate, connect with, and engage a wide and diverse set of audiences to raise awareness and involvement in NASA, its goals, missions and programs, and to develop an appreciation for, exposure to, and involvement in STEM. Audiences include employees, partners, educators, students, and members of the general public. The scope encompasses, but is not limited to:

- Programs, events, and workshops.
- Permanent and traveling exhibits, signage, and other materials.
- Speeches, presentations, and appearances, with the exception of technical presentations by researchers at scientific and technical symposia.
- Video and multimedia products in development (and renewal of existing products).
- Web and social media sites in development (excludes operational sites).
- External and internal publications, with the exception of Scientific and Technical Information as defined by NPD 2200.1B.
- Any other activity whose goal is to reach out to external and internal stakeholders and the public concerning NASA, its programs, and activities."


Keith's note: This is just insane. How much money will this actually save? NASA's response to the sequestration is to go out of its way to not communicate with the outside world? Is any other agency doing this?

Then again this might have a silver lining by forcing everything to a serious life and death review - there are some pointless money holes - all done as EPO - that NASA loves to just pour cash into. I have talked to knowledgeable folks at NASA HQ - and they say that this is not an indication that NASA does not think that EPO is important. Rather, that its time for everyone to justify the actual need for projects on a case-by-case basis.

While NASA is looking at all EPO activities they need to look at other things as well. For example, JPL runs two MSL websites that overlap/duplicate one another [1, 2] but don't cross link - and JPL has an extra copy [3] of one of these sites for good measure. Yet none of these JPL sites interact with the site at NASA HQ [4] - and yet they all cater to the same audience. What does it cost NASA to support 3(4) official websites for one mission?

Keith's update: This memo was issued inside NASA this afternoon - after the memo above.

Memo: NASA AA for Communications David Weaver to Communications Coordinating Council: EPO Activities Under Sequestration

"I am providing additional information and instructions regarding the review of public outreach activities under sequestration as outlined in the memorandum from the NASA Chief Financial Officer and Chief of Staff dated March 22, 2013."

Sequestration forces NASA to hold up educational and outreach efforts, CosmicLog/NBC

"It's important to point out that it's a suspension, not a cancellation," [NASA spokesman Bob] Jacobs wrote. "The agency's budget for the fiscal year is more that $1 billion below the original request. We are taking prudent steps to ensure the resources expended on outreach activities are done so wisely."

Letter from NASA AA for Education Leland Melvin to the Education Coordinating Council on Waivers for Education and Public Outreach Activities

Former Huntsville NASA center boss Robert Lightfoot will lead foreign security probe, Huntsville Times

"NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot will lead a new in-house probe of foreign access to NASA field centers in the wake of the arrest of a Chinese national allegedly attempting to smuggle data out of the U.S. to China. Lightfoot was director of the Marshall Space Flight Center before being promoted in 2012 to the top civil service position in the agency."

Wolf Threatens To Call NASA Security Whistleblowers To Testify, Aviation Week

"Career civil servants" have been coming out of the woodwork with reports of lax security practices at NASA since Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) raised the issue publicly, and the powerful committee chairman may call some of the whistleblowers to testify publicly about their charges."

Attorney: Former Chinese contractor at NASA's Langley Research Center to plead not guilty, Washington Post

"Jiang's attorney Fernando Groene said Jiang was unfairly targeted and is looking forward to being vindicated. He said he plans to ask for a jury trial and wants Jiang's side of the story coming out. Groene said Jiang was leaving the country because his work visa was about to expire and he had been unable to find other employment since losing his job in January."

Attorney: Former NASA contractor subject of 'witch hunt', Daily Press

"... But Jiang's lawyer, Fernando Groene -- a former federal prosecutor who now practices out of Williamsburg -- said he's not going to let Wolf misportray Jiang. ... Groene challenged Wolf to come to the trial in Newport News federal court to present his evidence against Jiang. If Congressman Wolf testifies as a government witness, Groene said, "We'll be glad to cross-examine him." Asked why Jiang was going to China, Groene said, "He was going home."

- Congress Vs NASA on China (Home Alone with Wolf and Bolden), earlier post
- NASA Technical Reports Server Mysteriously Taken Offline, earlier post
- Former NASA/NIA Employee Arrested by FBI Trying to Leave U.S., earlier post

American Astronomers Call on Congress to Support Investments in Research and Development, AAS

"The AAS delegation was part of a group of more than 200 scientists, engineers, and business leaders who converged on Capitol Hill for the 18th annual Congressional Visits Day (CVD), held March 12-13 and sponsored by the Science-Engineering-Technology Work Group. CVD is coordinated by coalitions of companies, professional societies, and educational institutions whose members feel strongly that science and technology comprise the cornerstone of our nation's future."


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