Recently in Congress Category

Culberson's ouster could spell big problems for NASA's Orion program, experts say, Houston Chronicle

"NASA programs -- especially Orion, which is focused on putting humans back on the moon -- could be in trouble after Republican U.S. Rep. John Culberson lost his House seat to Democrat Lizzie Pannill Fletcher. Culberson, a Republican from Texas, led the House Appropriations Committee that funds NASA for the last four years. And he's been a stanch advocate of science and human spaceflight over his nearly two decades in office, said Keith Cowing, editor of NASA Watch, a website devoted to space news. "Nothing is better than to have an advocate for space science and exploration sitting on the committee in the House where NASA funding starts," Cowing said Wednesday morning. ... "Culberson may be partisan, but he's a clear advocate for science," Cowing said. ... Still, it's a shame to lose Culberson, Cowing said, because "so few people are championing science and exploration missions and putting their partisan stances aside, but here's Culberson forcefully looking for life elsewhere."

"The question is how will that affect NASA's space science portfolio?""

Some takeaways for science from yesterday's U.S. elections, Science

"Representative John Culberson (R-TX), who chairs a spending panel that funds NASA and the National Science Foundation, lost to Democrat Lizzie Fletcher. Culberson has been a major advocate of NASA's Europa Clipper mission to a jovian moon; his defeat could mean the project will face obstacles."

What the 2018 midterms mean for NASA and planetary science, Planetary Society

"Europa Clipper, the mission currently in formulation that would fly by Europa dozens of times, is likely to continue without Culberson's support. NASA has formally endorsed the mission, and it is highly ranked by the planetary science decadal survey report. If pressed, I would say the odds of Europa Clipper launching on an SLS have now dropped considerably, and its launch date also now likely to be in the mid-2020s as opposed to 2022. I have a hard time seeing how the Europa lander project continues without Culberson, because NASA has not formally requested the mission, and it lacks consensus support from the scientific community. Culberson had been planning -- and still may be able to -- allocate hundreds of millions of dollars to this effort in fiscal year 2019, but no other member of Congress is likely to pick up that effort in 2020 or beyond."

Keith's note: Looks like Planetary Society wants you to think that its time to give up on the exploration of Europa.

Election Snapshot

Keith's note: Sen. Bill Nelson D-FL and Rep. John Culberson R-TX have been defeated. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson D-TX is seeking to become the chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

Keith's update: Dana Rohrabacher R-CA has lost as well. Bill Nelson apparently wants a recount.

For the 7th Congressional District: Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, opinion, Houston Chronicle

"It's not that Culberson doesn't care about water. He does. But most of the time, he seems to care a bit more about the water on Europa, an icy moon orbiting Jupiter, than he does the water in the Addicks and Barker dams. Or in our bayous. Or in our homes. Culberson has expended untold political capital trying to force NASA to send probes to Europa in search of alien life. That's an admirable scientific mission, even if some planetary researchers think the limited resources could be better spent. Here on Earth, Houstonians can rest assured that Fletcher will prioritize human life over the extraterrestrial. That includes life-saving flooding policies that emphasize prevention over costly recovery."

Keith's note: Rep. Culberson has been a tireless champion of the exploration of Europa, Astrobiology, SETI, and interstellar exploration. If the House flips Rep. Culberson will lose his House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies chairmanship. With that will go his overt advocacy and the ability to use that advocacy as chair to push things through the appropriations process. Rep. José Serrano, New York is the ranking member of the subcommittee and is poised to take over as chair. Serrano is not known for any overt support for these things - and he is certainly not the active advocate that Culberson has been. Elections have consequences.

Meanwhile, a PAC supporting Culberson's opponent is running a goofy ad that dumps on him for supporting space science at NASA - some of which studies climate change. Based on this ad Culberson's opponent is apparently against funding NASA. This is an odd stance to take in an area where NASA is a major economic force.

Keith's note: A hearing by the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology yesterday competed with another hearing being held simultaneously by the Senate Commerce Committee. Not much happened in the House hearing other than the usual routine posturing by both sides. The main topic of discussion was the future of the ISS. Bill Gertsenmaier repeated the same incomplete jingos used concocted by NASA to describe how NASA somehow expects the ISS to be paid for by the private sector in the 2024/2025 time frame. Gertsenmaier referred to the NASA ISS Transition Plan (not really a "Plan") required by law, but was delivered months late to Congress. The three NASA Center directors present to testify said nothing particularly interesting.

Rep. Babin announced that he's introducing H.R.6910 "To specify goals and objectives of the United States with respect to human spaceflight, and for other purposes." This bill includes language that would extend the life of the International Space Station to 2030. Similar language on ISS extension was included in S.3277 - Space Frontier Act of 2018 which was passed out of the Senate Commerce Committee in August. The topic of ISS extensions was a conversation between Jim Bridenstine and Ted Cruz in the other hearing held yesterday.

- Hearing charter
- Video recording of hearing
- [Statement] Full Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas)
- [Statement] Space Subcommittee Chairman Brian Babin (R-Texas)
- [Statement] Ranking Member Johnson
- [Statement] Ranking Member Bera
- [Statement] William Gerstenmaier, HEOMD Associate Administrator
- [No prepared statement] Mark Geyer, JSC; Jody Singer, MSFC; Robert Cabana, KSC

In the Senate NASA Administrator Bridenstine Testified before the Senate Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, In reality Bridenstine testified before Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA). Bill Nelson did a flyby appearance and no one else really stayed long enough to say much of anything. Cruz pushed on the issue of not being distracted by the Moon as we head for Mars, not abandoning the ISS, allowing NASA to derive financial benefit from better ISS commercialization and use of its logo, and making sure that the U.S. remains the global leader in space exploration. Bridenstine agreed with Cruz on everything - and was intrigued by Cruz' s comments on space commerce. Sen. Markey was all over NASA's Earth and Space Science plans and the fate of NASA's Education Office and Technology Directorate to which Bridenstine gave the stock NASA answers.

At one point Cruz referred to the NASA report "National Space Exploration Campaign Report - Pursuant to Section 432(b) of the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 (P.L. 115-10), September 2018," which was required by law and due for delivery in 2017 which NASA delivered late (just like the ISS Transition Report). Cruz asked Bridenstine about the report's stated intent of putting humans back ont he Moon by 2029 and asked why it only took 7 years to go from statement of intent to landing on the Moon in the 1960s and why does it take so much longer now? Bridenstine said that this was the first question he asked when he arrived at NASA. His answer: NASA is going back in a sustainable fashion - to stay - and is doing so with partners in a more constrained fiscal environment. OK. That works for the time being - he's new to the job. But additional digging on his part is going to show that there is more to this than the talking points that he's been given.

- Webcast
- Global Space Race: Ensuring the United States Remains the Leader in Space Bill Nelson Opening Statement
- Prepared statements by Jim Bridenstine, Sen. Cruz, and Sen. Markey were not posted

One thing sticks out of these two hearings: both focused on important topics that NASA was required, by law, to provde reports to Congress about. Both reports, authored by Bill Gerstenmaier's HEOMD, were delivered many months after their due date. The reports provide no meaningulful information as to what NASA plans to do, why it wants to do these things, how it plans to do them, what it will actually cost, and who will pay to make all of this happen. These questions were, of course, what Congress wanted NASA's reports to answer in the first place. This pattern from NASA HEOMD of foot dragging and vague responses to simple questions from Congress has typified the way that NASA has explaining its human exploration plans for the past ten years. These responses are filled with Powerpoint cartoons but are otherwise lacking in real substance. And when the real programs go awry its hard to see why or understand what the consequences are - other than the need for more money and time.

A new Administrator now has to look at his agency's lackluster performance and, as prompted by Sen. Cruz, answer the question as to why it takes NASA longer to do things it once did much faster - and whether this is the way that the agency is going to comply with the current Administration's intent that NASA regain and/or maintain its leadership in space. Quite honestly it seems to be exactly the opposite of what is required.

- Yet Another NASA Space Policy Report That Reveals No Policy, earlier post
- NASA Quietly Submits ISS Transition Plan To Congress (Update) , earlier post

Hearing: Global Space Race: Ensuring the United States Remains the Leader in Space

"U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, will convene a hearing titled "Global Space Race: Ensuring the United States Remains the Leader in Space," at 2:15 p.m. on Wednesday, September 26, 2018. Witnesses: The Honorable James Bridenstine, Administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Administration"

Hearing: 60 Years of NASA Leadership in Human Space Exploration: Past, Present, and Future

"2:00 p.m. William Gerstenmaier, HEOMD; Mark Geyer, JSC; Jody Singer, MSFC; Robert Cabana, KSC"

Keith's note: The Senate hearing with Cruz and Bridenstine should be much more interesting given their previous interactions and their recent joint visit to NASA JSC. The House hearing is going to be filled with boring non-answers from NASA HQ and field center representatives reading from talking points that serve to tow the line and make no news.

AIA Presents Wings of Liberty Award to Sen. Richard Shelby

"The Aerospace Industries Association is proud to present the annual "Wings of Liberty" award to Senator Richard C. Shelby of Alabama for his work to ensure funding for defense and non-defense programs vital to our national security and the health of our nation's aerospace industry. Senator Shelby is currently the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations and chairs the Defense Subcommittee. Previously, Senator Shelby chaired the Commerce-Justice-Science Subcommittee, which provides funding for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Transportation Subcommittee which handles the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)."

John McCain

Early Retirement for Space Shuttles Unlikely, Lawmakers Say, space.com (2005)

"A group of Republican lawmakers led by Mike Pence of Indiana last week said the $104 billion to replace the shuttles with a new spaceship and rockets to carry astronauts back to the moon ought to be canceled to help pay to rebuild the hurricane-wrecked Gulf Coast."

Remarks by Vice President Pence on the Administration's Space Policy Priorities Houston, TX

"The end of the Space Shuttle Program in 2011 left America without a viable human Space launch program. While I was a member of Congress, I actually had the opportunity to attend three different shuttle launches - some of the most inspiring experiences of my little family's lives."

Nomination Hearing: James Morhard for NASA Deputy Administrator

"U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing at 10: 15 a.m. on Thursday, August 23, 2018, to consider three presidential nominees."

Morhard's response to questions from the committee

Watch Live

Testimony: Mr. James "Jim" Morhard, of Virginia, to be Deputy Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

"I believe transformational leadership and the empowerment and strength of partnering, will ensure a new era for America's space programs, advance scientific knowledge for the Earth, and inspire a new generation to enter the STEM fields. If confirmed, it would be my highest honor to help NASA in these endeavors. This is the time."

Nomination Hearing: James Morhard for NASA Deputy Administrator

"U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing at 10: 15 a.m. on Thursday, August 23, 2018, to consider three presidential nominees."

- Nomination questionaire

https://s3.amazonaws.com/images.spaceref.com/news/2018/morhard.quote.jpg

Pentagon not waiting for Congress to create space force: report, The Hill

"The Department of Defense is reportedly planning to create a new Space Operations Force in upcoming months at the direction of President Trump, despite lacking congressional approval for the new military service branch. Defense One reports that the Pentagon has laid out its plan to create the new Space Force in a 14-page report that will be given to lawmakers later this week. Defense One reports that it has reviewed a draft copy of the report dated July 30. The plan as it is currently laid out in the draft includes creating a Space Force with four parts, three of which will be established over the next few months. A combatant command for space, a joint agency that will purchase military satellites and a new warfighting community are among the three parts to be established in the near future."

Earlier posts

Sens. Cruz, Nelson, Markey Introduce Space Frontier Act

"U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, on Wednesday introduced the Space Frontier Act (S. 3277). This commercial space bill builds upon the 2015 Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act by streamlining and reforming the regulatory framework for commercial space launch and Earth observation operations, which is crucial to maintaining American leadership in space. The bill also extends the operation and utilization of the International Space Station (ISS) through 2030 to ensure that the U.S. is getting the maximum return on American taxpayer investment to avoid creating a leadership vacuum in low Earth orbit."

S. 3277

Keith's note: Contain your enthusiasm, space fans. This grab bag of ideas does not actually fund itself. It may well make it easier for space commerce to proceed with various commercial ventures by cutting some red tape. But in terms of the things this bill wants NASA to pay for (like ISS through 2030) this legislation just says that its OK to spend money on these things. Actually spending money to do these things is another matter entirely and is up to appropriators to argue about annually for the next 12 years or so. How NASA will be assured of the funding needed to fund ISS through 2030 while doing the whole Moon/Mars thing has yet to be addressed. Oh yes - what about Space Force?

House Science Committee Demands Answers on James Webb Space Telescope Delays

"In questioning, Smith asked whether Northrop Grumman had taken responsibility for the problems listed in the IRB report. "In Mr. Young's report there were several instances of preventable human error that were pinpointed that led to millions of dollars in cost overruns. I'm wondering if those employees are still employed by Northrop Grumman," Smith asked. Bush could not confirm that anyone had been fired as a result of the human errors that have delayed JWST. Smith asked if Northrop Grumman was planning to pay the $800 million in above-cap expenses, and the answer was also no. "I wish that Northrop Grumman would take responsibility and show a little bit more good faith both for the taxpayer and for the cost overruns," Smith said."

Hearing: Destination Mars - Putting American Boots on the Surface of the Red Planet (with video archive)

"U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, will convene a hearing titled "Destination Mars - Putting American Boots on the Surface of the Red Planet" at 2:15 p.m. on Wednesday, July 25, 2018. The hearing will focus on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) exploration priorities and will be the first in a series of hearings in anticipation of a future NASA authorization legislation."

Prepared Statements: Sen. Bill Nelson; Tory Bruno, ULA; Chris Carberry, Explore Mars. Inc.; Dava Newman, MIT; Peggy A. Whitson, NASA (ret.)

NASA's next great space telescope is stuck on Earth after screwy errors, Washington Post

"Mission success is the cornerstone of everything we do. Getting it right is the most important thing," said Scott Willoughby, program manager for the Webb at Northrop Grumman. "No, we don't need a culture change. We need people to understand how hard it is. We need people to know that we're going to get it right."

Keith's note: Given the immense cost overruns and delays with Webb, this has to be the most clueless, tone deaf comment I have ever heard from an aerospace company. "No, we don't need a culture change." Seriously? This week there will be an unusual pair of hearings - same committee, same topic, but a different witness lineup. Have a look:

Panel 1 - Wednesday July 25, 2018 at 10:00 a.m.
Hon. Jim Bridenstine, administrator, NASA
Mr. Tom Young, chairman, JWST Independent Review Board

Prepared statements: Thomas Young; Jim Bridenstine; Rep. Babin; Rep. Smith;
Rep. Johnson; Rep. Bera

Panel 2 - Thursday, July 26, 2018 at 9:00 9:30 a.m.
Mr. Wesley Bush, chief executive officer, Northrop Grumman Corp.
Mr. Tom Young, chairman, JWST Independent Review Board

Watch live

Hearing charter

"Since the JWST program has now breached under 51 USC 30104 notification conditions, the hearing discussion on July 25 will explore NASA program management effectiveness, program continuation and reauthorization, and budgetary implications across NASA's entire science portfolio, to include the WFIRST program. The second part on July 26 will explore contractor issues and recommended improvements regarding contractor accountability."

House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Approves the American Space SAFE Management Act

"The U.S. House Science, Space, and Technology Committee today approved H.R.6226, the American Space Situational Awareness and Facilitation of Entity Management Act (American Space SAFE Management Act), introduced by Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas). This bill will establish the Department of Commerce as the civilian agency to provide civil space situational awareness and traffic coordination."

House Approves Space Technology and Commercial Space Bills

"Today, the U.S House of Representatives approved two bipartisan space bills that promote the Nation's leadership in rocket propulsion development and provide licenses for commercial space support vehicles and flights. These bills will ensure America remains a leader in space exploration and development. The American Leadership in Space Technology and Advanced Rocketry Act, or the ALSTAR Act, (H.R. 5345) was introduced by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), vice chairman of the Space Subcommittee. The Commercial Space Support Vehicle Act (H.R. 5346) was introduced by Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.), a member of the Space Subcommittee."

Hearing: NASA Cost and Schedule Overruns: Acquisition and Program Management Challenges

"June 14, at 10:00 a.m. EDT, the U.S. House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will hold a Subcommittee on Space hearing titled, NASA Cost and Schedule Overruns: Acquisition and Program Management Challenges. The purpose of the hearing is to discuss the Government Accountability Office's (GAO) 2018 Quick Look report, this report's assessments of major NASA projects, and a comparison of this 2018 assessment to cost control and program management trends that GAO and the NASA Inspector General (IG) assessed in previous years."

webcast

- Cristina Chaplain, GAO [prepared statement]
- Stephen Jurczyk, NASA [prepared statement]
- Paul Martin, inspector general, NASA [prepared statement]
- Daniel Dumbacher, AIAA [prepared statement]
- Chairman Babin [Opening Statement]
- Ranking Member Johnson's [Opening Statement]
- Ranking Member Bera's [Opening Statement]
- Chairman Smith [Opening Statement]

After rancorous confirmation fight, NASA's Bridenstine mends fences with the Democrats who opposed him, USA Today

"In a statement Wednesday to USA TODAY by the agency, Bridenstine made clear his desire to build the congressional relationships he'll need to propel the Trump administration's ambitious space agenda including returning astronauts to the moon. "NASA is one of America's most storied agencies and has long had bipartisan support," he said. "Just as all previous administrators, I intend to build and maintain great relationships on both sides of the aisle so NASA can continue it's history-making science, exploration, and discovery missions. Phone calls and meetings on the Hill and at NASA headquarters facilitate these relationships."

Hearing: Review of the FY2019 Budget Request for NASA

Cruz, Nelson: Congress, And Only Congress, WIll Decide When To End Funding For ISS, Space Policy Online

"Cruz grilled Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, on why NASA missed the statutory deadline to submit the ISS Transition Report. He also demanded to know why NASA had not provided all drafts that were sent from NASA to the White House and rejected as he and Nelson requested in a February letter. The implication is that OMB, not NASA, picked the 2025 date. Cruz's effort to get Gerstenmaier on the record as to who chose the date were unsuccessful. Gerstenmaier carefully navigated the intense questioning without implicating any particular part of the Administration."

Statement by William Gerstenmaier - Hearing Examining the Future of the International Space Station: Administration Perspectives

"NASA is preparing to secure the Nation's long-term presence in LEO by partnering with industry to develop commercial orbital platforms, and capabilities that the private sector and NASA can utilize after the cessation of direct U.S. Federal funding for ISS by 2025."

- NASA Quietly Submits ISS Transition Plan To Congress (Update), earlier post
- What About That Space Station Transition Plan NASA?, earlier post
- Did NASA Deliver The ISS Transition Plan To Congress Required By Law? Update: No, earlier post
- Is NASA Going To Break The Law By Not Delivering An ISS Transition Plan To Congress?, earlier post

GOP lawmaker says rocks falling into ocean to blame for rising sea levels, The Hill

"A Republican lawmaker on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee said Thursday that rocks from the White Cliffs of Dover and the California coastline, as well as silt from rivers tumbling into the ocean, are contributing to high sea levels globally. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) made the comment during a hearing on technology and the changing climate, which largely turned into a Q&A on the basics of climate research."

Republican lawmaker: Rocks tumbling into ocean causing sea level rise, Science

"The Earth is not warming. The White Cliffs of Dover are tumbling into the sea and causing sea levels to rise. Global warming is helping grow the Antarctic ice sheet. Those are some of the skeptical assertions echoed by Republicans on the U.S. House of Representatives Science, Space and Technology Committee yesterday."

Here's how big a rock you'd have to drop into the ocean to see the rise in sea level happening now, Washington Post

"Certainly 3.3 millimeters doesn't sound like a lot of water to displace, and it does seem, to Brooks's point, that it's an amount -- about 0.1 inch -- that would be easy to displace with a cliff collapse near San Diego. The equivalent rise relative to surface area in an Olympic-sized swimming pool would be 0.0000000000114 millimeters. That's not possible, though, since a water molecule isn't that small. But when you apply 3.3 millimeters of rise to the entire ocean? We're talking about a lot of water that's displaced -- 3.3 millimeters across about 362 million square kilometers of surface area. The total volume displaced, then, would be 1.19 trillion cubic meters of water."

Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks loses to science in a landslide, Huntsville Times

"It would have been comical if it had come from a middle school science fair, but it didn't. It came from a guy on a committee making decisions for the most powerful country on earth about the future of the planet. Brooks made his comments while questioning climate scientist Philip Duffy, who had pointed out that seas across the world are rising four times faster than they did a century ago. Instead of dealing with the ways to protect the future, to consider the possibility climate scientists know what they are talking about, he just threw rocks. "Every time you have that soil or rock or whatever it is that is deposited into the seas, that forces the sea levels to rise, because now you have less space in those oceans, because the bottom is moving up," he said. Mo's laws. Perplexing for a scientist. "I'm pretty sure that on human time scales, those are miniscule effects," Duffy responded."

Rep. Mo Brooks responds to John Archibald's 'vilifying' column, Huntsville Times

"Over the history of planet Earth, far and away the #1 cause of sea level rise has been erosion and its resulting deposits of sediment and rocks into the world's seas and oceans. There is no close second cause of sea level rise. At a minimum, over many millions of years, thousands of cubic miles of eroded material have been deposited into the Earth's seas, forcing rising sea levels."

Keith's note: Its going to be a busy morning for NASA here in Washington DC. I'll try to post as much as I can. H/t Marcia Smith

- Hearing: America's Human Presence in Low-Earth Orbit 10:00 am EDT (webcast)
- Full Committee Markup - FY 2019 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill, 10:00 a EDT (webcast)
- Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel Meeting 10:30 - 11:45 am EDT (audio)
- NASA Town Hall With Jim Bridenstine 11:00 am EDT (NASA TV)

Report to Accompany House Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, 2019 (PDF)

"The Committee on Appropriations submits the following report in explanation of the accompanying bill making appropriations for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2019, and for other purposes."

(NASA starts on Page 57).

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2018/watchusfly.jpg

Keith's note: We've all heard about those misleading campaign ads on Facebook. Well, while the campaign ads are under scrutiny big aerospace companies are quietly luring people to websites that are not what they seem to be at first glance.

This ad is currently running on Facebook. According to the coding embedded in the link it is "campaign=acquisition_newsletter_tier-two-space-race-b" and I am an "enthusiast". When you go to the link it sends you to this page at watchusfly.com (registered by Boeing in 2016) which says "America is in a modern-day space race, and Boeing is leading the charge by building the spacecraft that will keep us in the lead. Boeing's Space Launch System is the world's largest and most powerful rocket. It is the foundation for America's plan to send humans to Mars. Boeing's Starliner is a re-usable capsule that will soon be the method NASA uses to send astronauts into space." But when you go to this page for more information it says "NASA's Space Launch System provides a critical heavy-lift capability, powering people and cargo beyond our moon and into deep space."

For starters NASA is building the SLS. Boeing - along with Lockheed Martin, Aerojet, Orbital ATK, and Airbus are building the pieces. One page says it is Boeing's SLS. The other says it is NASA's. Which is it? And yes, Starliner will be sending human crews into space but it is not "the method NASA uses to send astronauts into space." It is one of the methods - SpaceX is another method.

House Approves American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act

"The U.S. House of Representatives today unanimously passed the American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act (H.R. 2809), which simplifies and strengthens the space-based remote sensing regulatory system, enhances U.S. compliance with international obligations, improves national security and removes regulatory barriers facing new and innovative space operators. The bill is sponsored by House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas)."

Keith's 19 April update: The vote tally today is 50 to 49. Jim Bridenstine is the next administrator of NASA. Vice President Pence was present in case there was a 50/50 tie. Sen. Flake waited until the last minute to vote yes and then Sen. Duckworth cast the final vote (No) for the day. Sen. McCain was not present for voting today. When/where Bridenstine will be sworn in is not known. But there is extreme interest in having Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot to hand over the Keys to NASA to Bridenstine before Lightfoot leaves NASA on Friday.

House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Approves Bipartisan NASA Authorization Act of 2018

"The U.S. House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, chaired by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), today approved the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 5503) by a vote of 26-7. The bill was introduced by Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas), chairman of the Space Subcommittee, and cosponsored by Chairman Smith along with 17 committee members.

- Authorizes $20.74 billion for NASA for fiscal year 2018, the level enacted in the recent Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018, and $21.21 billion for NASA for fiscal year 2019
- Supports President Trump's vision of American space leadership by funding Space Launch System and the Orion spacecraft
- Supports NASA using American private sector innovation and investments to unlock the economic potential of outer space"

Keith's earlier note: Sources report that the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine to be NASA Administrator is now moving forward in the Senate along with other nominees. A vote could happen soon.

Keith's update: The floor debate and vote on Bridenstine's nomination could come as early as this Thursday thus allowing Robert Lightfoot to handover the reigns of NASA to Jim Bridenstine before Lightfoot departs on Friday.

Keith's update: NASA quietly posted the International Space Station Transition Report pursuant to Section 303(c)(2) of the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 (P.L. 115-10) a few days ago.

"This report responds to direction in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017 (P.L. 115-10, hereafter "the Act"), Section 303(c)(1), to submit to Congress a report evaluating the International Space Station (ISS) as a platform for research, deep space exploration, and low-Earth orbit (LEO) spaceflight in partnership with its four foreign space agency partners, and the commercial space sector (see Appendix for text of the reporting requirement, excerpted from the Act)."

House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Markup NASA Authorization Act of 2018

"TUESDAY, April 17, at 10 a.m. EDT, the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology will meet to consider the following legislation: H.R. 5503, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2018, introduced today by Rep. Brian Babin (R- Texas). The legislation authorizes the programs of NASA for fiscal years 2018 and 2019."

Keith's 13 April note: According to this text of HR 5503 the ISS Transition Report has been submitted to Congress. So when will NASA release it to the public?

Sec. 202. ISS Transition (a) Findings

"(4) The ISS transition report, submitted pursuant to section 50111(c)(2) of title 51, United States Code, provides an explanation of NASA's plans to foster the development of private industry capabilities and private demand with a goal of ending direct NASA support for ISS operations by the end of fiscal year 2024.

(5) The plans laid out in the ISS transition report are conditionally flexible and require feedback to inform next steps. In addition, the feasibility of ending direct NASA support for ISS operations by the end of fiscal year 2024 is dependent on many factors, some of which are indeterminate until the Administration carries out the initial phases of the ISS transition plan."

- What About That Space Station Transition Plan NASA?, earlier post
- Did NASA Deliver The ISS Transition Plan To Congress Required By Law? Update: No, earlier post
- Is NASA Going To Break The Law By Not Delivering An ISS Transition Plan To Congress?, earlier post
- Senators Blast NASA and OMB Over Future Of ISS, earlier post
- Is Privatizing ISS A Smart Thing To Do?, earlier post
- White House Plan To Defund ISS By 2025 Moves Ahead, earlier post
- Reaction To Proposed OMB Space Station Funding Cuts, earlier post

House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Approves Space Exploration and Entrepreneurship Bills

"The American Leadership in Space Technology and Advanced Rocketry Act, or the ALSTAR Act, (H.R. 5345) was introduced Tuesday by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), vice chairman of the Space Subcommittee. The Commercial Space Support Vehicle Act (H.R. 5346) was introduced Tuesday by Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.), a member of the Space Subcommittee. The Innovators to Entrepreneurs Act (H.R. 5086) was introduced on February 26, 2018, by Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), ranking member on the Research and Technology Subcommittee, and cosponsored by Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.), a member of the Research and Technology Subcommittee."

DIVISION B-COMMERCE, JUSTICE, SCIENCE, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2018

NATIONAL SPACE COUNCIL This Act includes $1,965,000 for the activities of the National Space Council.

NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION This Act includes $20,736,140,000 for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Page 31-34

"Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST).-In lieu of House and Senate language regarding WFIRST, the agreement includes $150,000,000 for WFIRST, which is the highest priority of the 2010 Astrophysics Decadal Survey. In October 2017, NASA received the findings from the WFIRST Independent External Technical/Management/Cost Review (WIETR), which found in part that the current science management strategy is appropriate and that the Class B risk classification for the WFIRST mission is not consistent with NASA policy for strategically important missions with comparable levels of investment and risk, most if not all of which are class A missions. Accordingly, NASA shall provide to the Committees within 60 days of enactment of this Act a preliminary life cycle cost estimate, including any additions needed to achieve Class A classification, along with a year by year breakout of development costs."

"SPACE TECHNOLOGY This Act includes $760,000,000 for Space Technology. Within this amount, $130,000,000 is for RESTORE; $75,000,000 is for nuclear thermal propulsion activities; up to $20,000,000 is for the Flight Opportunities Program; and no less than $25,000,000 is for additive manufacturing research."

EXPLORATION The bill provides an additional $350,000,000 for launch capabilities and infrastructure associated with constructing a second mobile launch platform, as recommended by the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, which will enable an acceleration in the launch schedule for Exploration Mission-2. The funds also will allow flexibility for future NASA and other Federal agency missions that will require heavy-lift capabilities beyond those of current launch vehicles as well as enable a sustainable Space Launch System (SLS) launch cadence.

"EDUCATION This Act includes $100,000,000 for Education, including $18,000,000 for the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research; $40,000,000 for Space Grant; $32,000,000 for the Minority University Research and Education Project; and $10,000,000 for STEM Education and Accountability Projects. The agreement adopts Senate language regarding future placement of this program and direction regarding administrative costs."

Letter From House Members to Senate Leadership Regarding NASA Administrator Nominee Bridenstine

Keith's note: This letter was circulated by Rep. Babin and was signed by 61 members of the House - 12 of whom are Democrats. This would certainly seem to undermine Sen. Nelson's contention that Jim Bridenstine would be too political.

"We are keenly aware of how valuable NASA is, not only to our nation, but also the entire world. It would be a travesty to America's space program for it to remain leaderless at this critical time when America's space industry is making rapid advances that will set the course of space leadership for decades to come. This is why it is vitally important that the Senate take up and approve Jim Bridenstine's nomination. Jim Bridenstine has spent the bulk of his adult life in service to his country. His background is in naval aviation, flying the E2- C Hawkeye in Afghanistan and Iraq, and later the F-18 while also serving as an instructor at the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center. He has been responsible for coordinating command and control of the battlefield from an airborne platform, with thousands of lives and billions of dollars affected by his decisions. In this service to his nation he has demonstrated both the technical capacity and leadership experience necessary to lead NASA."

Keith's note: NASA CFO nominee Jeff Dewitt has been confirmed by the Senate.

NASA Statement on Nomination for Agency Chief Financial Officer, earlier post

"The following is a statement from acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot on Wednesday's announcement of the intended nomination by President Donald Trump of Jeffrey DeWit to serve as the agency's Chief Financial Officer: "It is encouraging to see more members of the agency's leadership team being named. Jeff's solid financial background will be a tremendous addition as we continue to advance our nation's aeronautic and exploration initiatives."

Letter From Bobby Braun to House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Regarding NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate

"Specifically, the proposed re-organization of the "Space Technology Mission Directorate" into "Human Exploration" within NASA is among the most devastating long-term aspects proposed. Past history has shown that large development programs and technology development activities cannot and should not exist together, as a small hiccup in the development programs eats the budget of the basic research and technology advancement needed to accomplish more in space. In fact, when integrated in this manner approximately a decade ago, NASA's space technology activities were eviscerated. Most striking, the Administration is proposing this re-organization without any discussion with Congress, industry or the university community, and without a NASA Administrator in place. This can only be described as an egregious over-reach by political appointees without an appreciation for the long-standing scope of the Agency. This proposal contradicts Title 7 of the space policy put forward by Congress and signed by President Trump in March 2017. Burying this proposed organizational change in the FY19 budget request, while simultaneously proposing other major cancelations and changes to the NASA portfolio, is an attempt to curtail community discussion of the importance of the Space Technology Mission Directorate to the nation's future in space."

Senators Blast NASA and OMB Over Future Of ISS, earlier post

"In fact, Congress specifically required that the transition plan include cost estimates for extending operations of the ISS to 2024, 2028, and 2030, and an evaluation of the feasible and preferred service life of the ISS through at least 2028 as a unique scientific, commercial, and space exploration related facility. P.L. 115-10 specifically required the NASA Administrator to deliver a report to Congress no later than December 1, 2017. As of today, that report has not been delivered to Congress as required by federal statute."

Did NASA Deliver The ISS Transition Plan To Congress Required By Law? Update: No, earlier post

"I did not hear back from NASA so I sent a second request. Stephanie Schierholz at NASA HQ PAO just sent this reply to my second request: "NASA is keeping Congress apprised as to the progress of the ISS Transition Report and plans to provide this report to the Committee as soon as possible. Please reach out to the Committee about obtaining a copy of the report once it is submitted." In other words the report is late, has not been delivered, NASA does not know when it will be delivered. NASA is not going to tell anyone when it has been delivered and people will have to go ask Congress where the report is - whenever NASA gets around to delivering it."

Hearing On NASA Budget

Hearing charter

"The purpose of the hearing is to review the Administration's fiscal year 2019 (FY19) budget request for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)."

Statements by Rep. Bera, Rep.Johnson, Rep. Babin

Peters, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan Bill Supporting U.S.-Israel Space Cooperation

"U.S. Senators Gary Peters (MI), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Cory Gardner (R-CO) today introduced bipartisan legislation to support the longstanding partnership between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Israel Space Agency (ISA). Cooperation between the two agencies has resulted in a host of beneficial achievements, including work on global positioning systems (GPS) and the Mars Curiosity Rover. ... The U.S.-Israel Space Cooperation Act directs the NASA Administrator to continue working in cooperation with the ISA to further peaceful space exploration and scientific discovery while taking appropriate measures to protect U.S. intellectual property and other sensitive information. The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved companion legislation in December 2017."

Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Encourage U.S. and Israeli Collaborations on Space Exploration Breakthroughs (9 Sep 2016)

"Representatives Derek Kilmer (D-WA-06) and Jim Bridenstine (R-OK-01) introduced bipartisan legislation to encourage U.S. and Israeli scientists to continue collaborating on breakthroughs in space exploration. The United States and Israel Space Cooperation Act would direct the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to work with the Israel Space Agency to identify and together pursue new potential scientific discoveries in space."

Keith's note: The "United States and Israel Space Cooperation Act" was originally introduced in the House as H.R. 5989 by Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) with co-author Rep. James Bridenstine (R-OK) as the first cosponsor in 2016. It was reintroduced in 2017 by Kilmer (with Bridenstine as the first co-sponsor) as H.R.1159 - United States and Israel Space Cooperation Act. HR 1159 was passed by the house on 21 December 2017 and sent to the Senate. The Senate bill is not yet online but given the bipartisan support it is likely to be identical to the House version.

Sen. Bill Nelson has been quick to criticize Rep. Bridenstine's choice to be NASA Administrator because Bridenstine would somehow inject politics into the way that NASA operates and that would be truly awful or something. Yet Sen. Nelson is now openly crowing about space legislation that he is co-sponsoring - legislation originally co-authored by Rep. Bridenstine. So one would conclude that Nelson likes Bridenstine's space politics (at least in some instances). Who knows. Maybe they agree on other things too.

NASA Heads Back to Space Leaderless, Bloomberg

"NASA observers, including some Democrats with ties to the agency, contend that Bridenstine's political background would be beneficial to a NASA administrator, who must navigate the shoals between the White House and Congress, which appropriates the agency's budget. "I'm still fairly bullish on what Jim Bridenstine would do for the agency," said Phil Larson, a former senior adviser in President Barack Obama's Office of Science and Technology Policy. "The main point now is NASA needs a leader as soon as possible, and leaving a nominee in question--I don't care what side of the aisle you're on--leaving a nomination open as these types of policies and questions and meetings are being hashed out helps no one."

Cruz, Nelson: Future of ISS Should be Determined by Emergence of a Viable and Proven Commercial Alternative and Needs of Our National Space Program

"While we have been strong proponents of the U.S. commercial space sector, prematurely ending direct U.S. Government funding of ISS could have disastrous consequences. The future of ISS should be determined by the emergence of a viable and proven commercial alternative and the needs of our national space program." The Senators continued, "In fact, Congress specifically required that the transition plan include cost estimates for extending operations of the ISS to 2024, 2028, and 2030, and an evaluation of the feasible and preferred service life of the ISS through at least 2028 as a unique scientific, commercial, and space exploration related facility. P.L. 115-10 specifically required the NASA Administrator to deliver a report to Congress no later than December 1, 2017. As of today, that report has not been delivered to Congress as required by federal statute."

Did NASA Deliver The ISS Transition Plan To Congress Required By Law? Update: No, earlier post

Lockheed Martin got $35.2 billion from taxpayers last year. That's more than many federal agencies., Washington Post

"Of Lockheed Martin's $51 billion in sales last year, nearly 70 percent, or $35.2 billion, came from sales to the U.S. government. It's a colossal figure, hard to comprehend. So think of it this way: Lockheed's government sales are nearly what the Trump administration proposed for the State Department next year in its recently released spending plan. Or $15 billion more than all of NASA. Or about the gross domestic product of Bolivia. With a White House proposal to spend a massive amount on defense next year in what one consultant called an "eye-watering" budget for the defense industry, Lockheed, the world's largest defense contractor, could get even more. ... Boeing is in second place with annual sales of $26.5 billion in 2016, a year in which the top five defense contractors -- including General Dynamics, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman -- had total sales of nearly $110 billion to the U.S. government, according to federal procurement data. The five biggest defense contractors took in more money from the U.S. government than the next 30 companies combined."

Live tweeted on @NASAWatch via a Facebook live feed from the FAA Commercial Space Conference underway in Washington DC

More comments below

NASA has gone a year without a formal leader--with no end in sight, Ars Technica

"Five months ago, the Trump administration finally put forward a nominee for the post of administrator, Oklahoma Congressman and pilot James Bridenstine. Although he was confirmed along a party-line vote twice during Senate confirmation hearings, he has yet to receive a vote before the full Senate. Increasingly, it is obvious that the White House does not have the votes to confirm Bridenstine in a Senate where Republicans hold only a narrow margin. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, has led opposition to Bridenstine, saying he is too politically polarizing a figure to lead NASA. Nelson has convinced his fellow Floridian Senator, Republican Marco Rubio, to oppose Bridenstine as well."

Bridenstine, Myers Nominations Again Clear Committee on Party-Line Votes, SpacePolicyOnline.com

"Four Republican Senators spoke in support of Bridenstine: Mike Lee (Utah), Jim Inhofe (Oklahoma), Ted Cruz (Texas), and Cory Gardner (Colorado). All pointed to Bridenstine's background and service as a military pilot as evidence of his qualifications. Inhofe also cited Bridenstine's ability to "speak the language of Congress" as a benefit. Cruz said Bridenstine, a former Top Gun instructor, has many characteristics similar to an astronaut and urged that if Democrats want to pick a partisan fight that it not be on space, which traditionally is a bipartisan issue. The lack of a Senate-confirmed NASA administrator for almost a year is "bad for the United States of America, bad for space, it is bad for NASA" and bad for states like Texas, Florida, and Alabama. He accused Democrats of a partisan "wall of opposition" to a "well qualified veteran, and indeed a war hero" that is not in the best interest of ensuring American leadership in space. Gardner said that industry and military space leaders in Colorado support Bridenstine along with Colorado Democratic Congressman Ed Perlmutter."

With Democrats opposed, Trump's NASA pick gets political, Washington Post

"Sen. Bill Nelson, the influential Democrat from Florida, led the charge against Bridenstine, saying he lacked the credentials to lead the space agency. "The NASA administrator should be a consummate professional who is technically and scientifically competent and a skilled executive," he said during the confirmation hearing last year. "More importantly, the administrator must be a leader who has the ability to unite scientists, engineers, commercial space interests, policymakers and the public on a shared vision for future space exploration." added: "Frankly, Congressman Bridenstine, I cannot see how you meet these criteria."

Congressman Jim Bridenstine to Host Bill Nye "The Science Guy" and CEO of the Planetary Society at the State of the Union Address

"The Congressman is the nominee to be the next Administrator of NASA, and as I often say, NASA is the best brand the United States has. This means that the NASA Administrator not only works to advance space exploration, but serves as an informal ambassador of U.S. capability and optimism to the world."

- Bridenstine Survives His Confirmation Hearing
- Bridenstine's Written Answers To Questions From Congress

Commercial Crew Hearing

Hearing: Update on NASA Commercial Crew Systems Development

"10 a.m. EST, the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology will hold a Subcommittee on Space hearing titled An Update on NASA Commercial Crew Systems Development. The purpose of the hearing is to examine the development of NASA's two commercial crew systems, being built by Boeing and SpaceX, to service the International Space Station."

- Watch live
- Hearing charter

Prepared statements:

- Cristina Chaplain (GAO)

"Both Boeing and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) are making progress toward their goal of being able to transport American astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS). However, both continue to experience schedule delays. Such delays could jeopardize the ability of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Commercial Crew Program to certify either company's option--that is, to ensure that either option meets NASA standards for human spaceflight--before the seats the agency has contracted for on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft run out in 2019."

- Patricia Sanders (ASAP)
- Hans Koenigsmann (SpaceX)
- John Mulholland (Boeing)
- William Gerstenmaier (NASA)
- Rep. Smith
- Rep. Babin
- Rep. Bera
- Rep. Johnson

Rep. Bridenstine's Bid to Become NASA Head Stumbles Amid Partisan Brawl, Wall Street Journal (behind paywall)

"Now, industry officials and some congressional supporters of Mr. Bridenstine see the math becoming more challenging, partly due to factors outside their control. Last month's election of Democratic Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama narrowed the Republican majority, while continuing health issues could keep Republican Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi from voting in favor or the nomination. With Republican Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and John McCain of Arizona widely seen as firmly opposed for policy and personal reasons, Senate GOP leaders envision a difficult - and potentially monthslong - confirmation battle, according to industry officials and others familiar with their thinking. ... White House officials, however, are standing behind the choice and, according to outsiders tracking the process, aren't considering alternative candidates. ... "The president looks forward to Rep. Bridenstine's swift confirmation by the Senate, and is confident he will lead NASA to ensure America is a leader in space exploration once again," said Lindsay Walters, a White House spokeswoman."

Bridenstine Nomination Update, earlier post

"Right now the expected support for Rep. Bridenstine remains exactly where it has been for him (and many other Trump nominees) for many months: split along party lines. With Sen. Rubio still in the "no" column. If the vote were taken in December (and Sen. McCain and Sen. Cochran were well enough to be in town to vote) it is expected that Bridenstine would have been confirmed 51 to 49. Senator-Elect Jones (D-AL) has now been seated so the expected vote would now be 50/50 with Vice President Pence casting a tie-breaking vote - if nothing else change interms of the party line split with everyone voting and Rubio's stance."

Keith's note: Contrary to reporting by Wall Street Journal NASA Watch sources report that Sen. McCain is not against Bridenstine's nomination.

Nominations Sent to the Senate Today, White House

The White House submitted a list of nominations today including Rep. Bridenstine.

- James Bridenstine, of Oklahoma, to be Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, vice Charles F. Bolden, Jr., resigned.

- Jeffrey DeWit, of Arizona, to be Chief Financial Officer, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, vice David Radzanowski.

PN896 - James Bridenstine - National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Congress.gov

"Latest Action 01/03/2018 - Returned to the President under the provisions of Senate Rule XXXI, paragraph 6 of the Standing Rules of the Senate."

Keith's note: Rep. Bridenstine's nomination has now been returned to thee White House by the Senate. The White House will have to be resubmitted for the second session of this Congress. All sources report that the Administration is still quite firmly behind Bridenstine and that this "re-nomination" is simply a matter of routine paperwork that will happen after the holidays. Whether there will need to be another confirmation hearing is unclear at this point.

Bridenstine's nomination to be NASA Administrator did not come up for a vote in 2017. Right now the expected support for Rep. Bridenstine remains exactly where it has been for him (and many other Trump nominees) for many months: split along party lines. With Sen. Rubio still in the "no" column. If the vote were taken in December (and Sen. McCain and Sen. Cochran were well enough to be in town to vote) it is expected that Bridenstine would have been confirmed 51 to 49. Senator-Elect Jones (D-AL) has now been seated so the expected vote would now be 50/50 with Vice President Pence casting a tie-breaking vote - if nothing else change interms of the party line split with everyone voting and Rubio's stance.

In the Senate 30 hours is formally set aside for confirmation of nominees. But usually the 30 hours is waived by unanimous consent or significantly shortened by agreement between Democrats and Republicans to a much more manageable period. Alas, Sen. Nelson has refused to accept any deals. As such there was simply no way to really schedule this confirmation in the remaining time that the Senate was going to be in session in 2017. This issue will reassert itself when the White House takes a second run at nominating Bridenstine in 2018. More details on this issue can be found here.

The knife edge aspect of the expected vote is due to the hyper-partisan state of affairs here in Washington. Many confirmations are stalled. Contrary to some reports Bridenstine's nomination was not delayed by Senate Republicans due to a lack of votes. Bridenstine had a narrow, but very consistent block of votes that would have led to his confirmation had the vote occurred. Under more traditional circumstances Bridenstine would have had a number of Democratic votes to confirm. If he is confirmed that bipartisan support should become evident.

In the mean time Robert Lightfoot will continue to be the acting Administrator of NASA. (see The Vacancies Act - And NASA Management)

Keith's note: With government shut down issues and an evaporating calendar, it is unlikely that Rep. Bridenstine nomination to be NASA Administrator will come up in 2017. Right now the expected support for Rep. Bridenstine remains exactly where it has been for him (and many other Trump nominees) for many months: split along party lines. With Sen. Rubio still in the "no" column if the vote were taken today (and Sen. McCain and Sen. Cochran were well enough to be in town to vote) it is expected that Bridenstine would be confirmed 51 to 49. With a vote that is now most likely to happen in January (or later) in 2018, and the seating of Sen.-Elect Jones (D-AL), the expected vote would be 50/50 with Vice President Pence casting a tie breaking vote.

There is also an issue of the time needed for a floor debate. In the Senate 30 hours is formally set aside for confirmation of nominees. But usually the 30 hours is waived by unanimous consent or significantly shortened by agreement between Democrats and Republicans to a much more manageable period. Alas, Sen. Nelson has refused to accept any deals. As such there was simply no way to really schedule this confirmation in the remaining time that the Senate was going to be in session. More details on this issue can be found here.

Bridenstine's nomination from the White House will have to be resubmitted for the second session of this Congress. All sources report that the Administration is still quite firmly behind Bridenstine and that this "re-nomination" is simply a matter of routine paperwork that will happen after the holidays. Whether there will need to be another confirmation hearing is unclear at this point.

The knife edge aspect of the expected vote is due to the hyper-partisan state of affairs here in Washington. Many confirmations are stalled. Contrary to some reports Bridenstine's nomination was not delayed by Senate Republicans due to a lack of votes. Bridenstine had a narrow, but very consistent block of votes that would have led to his confirmation had the vote occurred. Under more traditional circumstances Bridenstine would have had a number of Democratic votes to confirm. If he is confirmed that bipartisan support should become evident.

Keith's 11 Dec update: I did not hear back from NASA so I sent a second request. Stephanie Schierholz at NASA HQ PAO just sent this reply to my second request: "NASA is keeping Congress apprised as to the progress of the ISS Transition Report and plans to provide this report to the Committee as soon as possible. Please reach out to the Committee about obtaining a copy of the report once it is submitted."

In other words the report is late, has not been delivered, NASA does not know when it will be delivered. NASA is not going to tell anyone when it has been delivered and people will have to go ask Congress where the report is - whenever NASA gets around to delivering it.

Keith's 8 Dec update: Several sources report that the congressionally-mandated "ISS Transition Plan" (or whatever NASA decides to call it) may be part of the Administration's FY2019 budget proposal package that is sent to Congress in the January/February 2018 time frame. This does not mean, however, that NASA will publicly release the report at that time - if they ever release it at all.

Keith's note: This White House event could serve to put some wind into Rep. Bridenstine's sails as he awaits a vote to confirm him as NASA administrator. If the White House is going to continue to throw its strong support toward NASA one can argue that this would only serve to suggest that Bridenstine will have the strong backing of the Administration in the implementation of its new space policies. In the past 11 months there have been a number of high-visibility NASA-related events with overt White House participation - more than what happened in the previous Administration's two terms. So, at this point, no one can accuse this White House of not being willing to expend political capital on NASA.

Senate Democrats and Independents (46+2=48) are expected to solidly oppose Bridenstine's confirmation due to direction from party leadership - even if they wanted to vote for Bridenstine (and there are a number of Democratic Senators who would otherwise vote for Bridenstine). The expected vote tally for Bridenstine's assumes that Sen. Rubio and Sen. McCain are "no" votes. So that makes 48+2=50. That leaves a probable 50/50 vote for confirmation with Vice President Pence on hand in case a tie breaker vote is required. If the vote happens before the holiday recess then Pence could tip the balance in a tie vote. But if the vote does not happen in December and a Democrat is elected in Alabama and is seated before a confirmation vote in January - and Rubio and McCain are still "no" votes - then there could be a 49/51 vote and Bridenstine would not be confirmed.

Then again everything could change. Stay tuned.

NASA: Preliminary Observations on the Management of Space Telescopes, Cristina Chaplain GAO

"GAO's ongoing work indicates that these projects are each making progress in line with their phase of the acquisition cycle but also face some challenges. For example, the current launch date for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) project reflects a 57-60-month delay from the project's original schedule. GAO's preliminary observations indicate this project still has significant integration and testing to complete, with very little schedule reserve remaining to account for delays. Therefore, additional delays beyond the delay of up to 8 months recently announced are likely, and funding available under the $8 billion Congressional cost cap for formulation and development may be inadequate."

Chairman Babin's Opening Statement: NASA's Next Four Large Telescopes

"It has been mentioned to me that with Hubble you could take a single picture into a meeting to show what was discovered but with W-FIRST you'll have to wallpaper their entire office. The capability has increased 100 times from Hubble. W-FIRST is a critical new flagship mission and we need to make sure it stays on course. The assets provided to NASA from the National Reconnaissance Office, or NRO, seem like a good fit for the mission but the program needs reasonable timelines and a realistic budget."

- Hearing charter

- Statements by Ranking Member Johnson and Ranking Member Bera

- Prepared statements: Thomas Zurbuchen, Thomas Young, Matt Mountain, Chris McKee

Keith's note: NASA HEOMD AA Bill Gerstenmaier was speaking at the NASA Advicory Council Human Exploration and Operations Committee meeting today. It certainly seems that he has decided that NASA is not going to comply with S.442 - National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017 - which is now law. In that law Congress told NASA that they are to deliver a ISS Transition plan no later than 1 December 2017 - this Friday. All indications I get from NASA - and Gerstenmaier's statement - make it clear that there is no plan to be delivered.

According to S.442 - National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017 (Public Law No: 115-10 (03/21/2017))

"(1) ((NOTE: Coordination.)) In general.--The Administrator, in coordination with the ISS management entity (as defined in section 2 of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017), ISS partners, the scientific user community, and the commercial space sector, shall develop a plan to transition in a step-wise approach from the current regime that relies heavily on NASA sponsorship to a regime where NASA could be one of many customers of a low-Earth orbit non-governmental human space flight enterprise.

(2) Reports.--Not later than December 1, 2017, and biennially thereafter until 2023, the Administrator shall submit to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate and the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology of the House of Representatives a report that includes--"

Full section below

Bridenstine Nomination APproved by Committee on Party-Line Vote, SpacePolicyOnline

"The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee approved the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to be NASA Administrator this morning on a party-line vote. The committee also approved Neil Jacobs to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Environmental Observation and Prediction on a voice vote. The nominations next will go to the full Senate for a vote. Dates have not been announced."

Answers From Rep Bridenstine To Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Questions for the Record

Question: Mr. Bridenstine, in the documents you presented to the Committee, you stated that you believe that one of NASA's top challenges is "Bringing together traditional space companies and new space entrepreneurs into a comprehensive NASA vision to maximize resources and efficiencies." What role do you envision the private sector playing in helping NASA fulfill its mission? How will continued private sector involvement make NASA more efficient and allow it to fully maximize resources?

Answer: We must recognize that NASA currently has more mission than it has budget. The days when NASA's budget represented 3 to 4 percent of the federal budget are not likely to return. Nor would we want to necessarily replicate that model, as it proved to ultimately be unsustainable. Fortunately, times have changed and great advancements have been made. The American space industry is more capable than ever before. A lot of this is due to advancements in research and technology development made by NASA decades ago that entrepreneurial Americans have taken and advanced further. Should I be confirmed, NASA will develop exploration and science architectures that leverage everything the United States has to offer. This includes the private sector. This way, we will maximize resources and ensure NASA can carry out its mission.

Question: What are your thoughts on the establishment of a Deep Space Gateway as part of the exploration architecture?

Answer: The idea of a platform beyond LEO and in cislunar space provides a lot of opportunities for the United States. These opportunities include: partnerships with both the international community and commercial industry, staging area for lunar surface and Martian missions, testing life support systems outside of the Van Allen Belt, and more. Should I be confirmed, I look forward to working with Congress to determine if the Deep Space Gateway or other Deep Space architectures enable sustainable deep space exploration.

Question: Earlier this year, the President signed into law the NASA Transition Authorization Act. This law seeks continuity in NASA's core programs, such as the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft. Do you intend to continue NASA's work on SLS and Orion?

Answer: Yes, I am absolutely committed to continuing NASA's valuable work developing SLS and Orion, which will serve as the backbone of our architecture to return humans to the Moon, on to Mars, and further into Deep Space.

Question: Representative Bridenstine, though it doesn't receive as much public attention as NASA's exploration missions, the agency's Earth Science mission provides data critical for both scientific research and practical application. In fact, Indiana companies contribute to these missions by building sophisticated instruments to measure certain properties and conditions in the atmosphere. In turn, this data in part feeds into weather forecasting models to help create longer term and seasonal forecasts utilized by a variety of industries, such as agriculture and energy. I'm focused on making sure we retain the capability to perform these science missions that have a significant real-world application. Would you explain your view of NASA's Earth Science mission and whether you intend to prioritize it in future NASA budget submissions?

Answer: I support NASA's Earth Science mission. As a Representative from and resident of the state of Oklahoma, I have a keen appreciation for the role space plays in helping us save lives, protect property, and produce energy and food. NASA's Earth Science mission is critical to facilitating these activities, both through the programs that NASA operates itself as well as acting as the procurement agent for NOAA's weather satellites. If confirmed, NASA will continue to follow the guidance of the Earth Science decadal surveys and I will advocate within the Administration and with Congress to see that the agency is able to carry out the recommendations of those decadal surveys.

Controversial chairman of US House science committee to retire, Nature

"I think [Smith's] position on peer review, on the NSF and climate science put him at odds with the science community," says physicist Neal Lane, a former NSF director who served as science adviser to former president Bill Clinton. "But it was consistent with that of the leadership in the House, which can hardly be described as pro-science."

"Smith, a Texas Republican, has repeatedly questioned the science behind climate change, sought to pare back the US National Science Foundation's (NSF) research portfolio and has launched dozens of probes into alleged wrongdoing by individual scientists and US government science agencies. Since taking the helm in 2013, the politician has transformed the science panel from a relatively deliberative group into an investigative weapon."

Trump's NASA pick faces blistering criticism on Capitol Hill, Politco

"Nelson is the committee's ranking Democrat. He's also the only sitting congressman to have flown on the space shuttle and hails from the part of Florida that includes Cape Canaveral. During the hearing, Nelson said that Bridenstine's "time as a pilot and your service to our country in the military is certainly commendable," but he said it doesn't qualify him to "make the complex and nuanced engineering, safety and budgetary decisions for which the head of NASA must be accountable."

Keith's note: Odd. Nelson overtly used his political position to force NASA to fly him on a space shuttle mission. His only professional qualification? He was a lawyer. That's it. His (not so) secret astronaut nickname was "ballast". If NASA can teach a lawyer how to be an astronaut then I am certain that a fighter pilot with extensive combat experience (just like 3 previous NASA Administrators and many, many astronauts), 3 terms in Congress, with a MBA can be taught to run NASA. Just sayin'.

Trump's Nominee For NASA Chief Could Remake The Agency, Five Thirty Eight

"[Phil] Larson, a veteran of both the Obama administration's Office of Science and Technology Policy and SpaceX, said the confirmation hearing this week will be the true test of where Bridenstine stands. "For an Obama administration official, I am fairly bullish on his appointment, mainly because (a) I think it could be a lot worse, and (b) he does seem to have a passion for these issues," Larson said. "But his confirmation hearing will be important for getting him on the record on climate change."

Statement By Rep. James Bridenstine Before The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

"NASA is at a crucial time in its history, preparing to explore Deep Space again for the first time in forty-five years. To do this sustainably, we must develop a consensus-driven agenda, based on national interests. Should I be confirmed, it will be my intention to build off the work done by the great people at NASA during the last administration, and to move forward by following the guidance of the NASA Transition Authorization Act, appropriations legislation, and science decadal surveys. We must all do this together."

Contentious Bridenstine Nomination Hearing Splits Along Party Lines, Space Policy Online

"In the past, Bridenstine had indicated that he did not accept the scientific consensus that the climate is changing because of human activity. Today he said that he accepts that humans are a cause of climate change, but would not go as far as to say that it is the primary cause. He went on to say that NASA is the only agency in the world that can do the kind of science needed to answer questions like that."

Facts Contradict House Science Committee Majority's Attack on NOAA's Climate Scientists

"On Sunday, the British tabloid The Mail on Sunday, was forced to publish an "adverse adjudication" against it by the Independent Press Standards Organization (IPSO), the independent regulator of the British newspaper and magazine industry, regarding a climate change story it published on February 5, 2017, by controversial reporter David Rose. The article, with the original online headline: Exposed: How world leaders were duped into investing billions over manipulated global warming data, was largely based on an interview with Dr. John Bates, a former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientist about his criticism of a NOAA climate study. In its published findings, the IPSO concluded that the article was both inaccurate and misleading. ... Science Committee Republicans had seized on the misleading The Mail on Sunday article and published their own press release the same day the article appeared on February 5, 2017 with a headline that also twisted the comments by Dr. Bates, incorrectly asserting that Dr. Bates had said NOAA colleagues "manipulated climate records.""

Former NOAA Scientist Confirms Colleagues Manipulated Climate Records, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology (Feb 2017)

"U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology members today responded to reports about the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) 2015 climate change study ("the Karl study"). According to Dr. John Bates, the recently retired principal scientist at NOAA's National Climatic Data Center, the Karl study was used "to discredit the notion of a global warming hiatus and rush to time the publication of the paper to influence national and international deliberations on climate policy."

For some reason, Ron Paul has taken to Fox News to skewer SpaceX, Ars Technica

"Three-time presidential candidate Ron Paul has written an opinion piece for Fox News that comes out swinging against SpaceX, accusing the company of benefiting from potentially having a monopoly on national security launches. The article also attacks US Sen. John McCain as a "lead sponsor" of provisions to give SpaceX a monopoly on launch services."

Ron Paul: Crony defense budget hands SpaceX a monopoly - why?, Ron Paul, Fox News

"Allowing SpaceX to obtain a monopoly over launch services harms taxpayers much more than forbidding the Pentagon from purchasing Russian products harms Vladimir Putin. If this provision becomes law, SpaceX will be able to charge the government more than they could in even a quasi-competitive market. This monopoly will also stifle innovation in rocket launching technology."

Keith's note: This is just too funny. Only a few years back SpaceX was shut out of national security launches for dubious reasons. So they kept launching rockets and doing the dance moves DoD asked them to do. When they had a chance to compete against a government created - and sanctioned duopoly (ULA) they won on cost and performance. And now former members of Congress who got big donations from ULA's parent companies Lockheed Martin and Boeing (also Coalition for Deep Space Exploration charter members) are complaining about an imaginary SpaceX monopoly?. Coincidence?

Jim Bridenstine to Be Nominated by Trump to Lead NASA, NY Times

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

Keith's update: I think it is the height of hypocrisy for Sen. Nelson to say that a politician cannot be an effective NASA Administrator especially when Nelson, a professional politician, overtly used his position - as a politician - to force NASA to give him a ride into outer space.

Russian official on new US sanctions and NASA: "Nothing lasts forever"

"However, Russia's chief space official, Dmitry Rogozin, warned Saturday that such a situation may not be tolerable forever. "They (the United States) have an interesting approach, they try not to harm areas in which they are interested," he said in a television interview. "They say that 'space is outside politics.' We take the 'space is outside politics' slogan into account, but nothing lasts forever."

Putin orders cut of 755 personnel at U.S. missions, Washington Post

"It is not yet clear how the State Department will reduce its staff in Russia. Some of the local staff were hired to help with a significant expansion of the U.S. embassy compound in Moscow. ... The Library of Congress had two U.S. staff and two foreign staff, and NASA had eight U.S. staff and four foreign staff members."

The Kremlin is done betting on Trump and planning how to strike back against U.S. sanctions, Washington Post

"Of course it's very difficult for Russia to do anything to harm the U.S. interests unless Russia is ready to take steps which will harm ourselves," said Fyodor Lukyanov, chairman of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policies, an influential group of Russian foreign policy experts. Hawks poring over the U.S. sanctions say Moscow needs to break the rules. "It says that by no means shall sanctions apply to NASA projects," said Nikolay Platoshkin, a former Russian diplomat and professor at the Moscow University of the Humanities, referring to the bill passed by the Senate. "Here we go, a perfect tip, let them apply [to NASA], let American astronauts ride horses to the International Space Station."

H.R.3364 - Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act

"SEC. 237. EXCEPTION RELATING TO ACTIVITIES OF THE NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION.

(a) In General.--This Act and the amendments made by this Act shall not apply with respect to activities of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

(b) Rule Of Construction.--Nothing in this Act or the amendments made by this Act shall be construed to authorize the imposition of any sanction or other condition, limitation, restriction, or prohibition, that directly or indirectly impedes the supply by any entity of the Russian Federation of any product or service, or the procurement of such product or service by any contractor or subcontractor of the United States or any other entity, relating to or in connection with any space launch conducted for--

(1) the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; or

(2) any other non-Department of Defense customer.

SEC. 238. RULE OF CONSTRUCTION.

Nothing in this part or the amendments made by this part shall be construed--

(1) to supersede the limitations or exceptions on the use of rocket engines for national security purposes under section 1608 of the Carl Levin and Howard P. "Buck" McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 (Public Law 113-291; 128 Stat. 3626; 10 U.S.C. 2271 note), as amended by section 1607 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (Public Law 114-92; 129 Stat. 1100) and section 1602 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (Public Law 114-328; 130 Stat. 2582); or

(2) to prohibit a contractor or subcontractor of the Department of Defense from acquiring components referred to in such section 1608."

Keith's note: H.R.3364 was passed by the House, then the Senate, and has now been sent to the President who has said that he will sign it into law. According to the bill NASA and space activities are specifically exempted from being part of any sanctions that the U.S. might impose upon Russia. Yet the people quoted by the Washington Post suggest that by saying that these things are exempt from our sanctions, we're actually saying that these things are vital and that upsetting them would damage our interests. Russia is now talking about the actions that they will take in response to the impending implementation of this legislation. Has the United States given Russia a roadmap of things they can focus their responses at - even if it results in damage to Russia itself?

How long is the ISS going to be able to remain an orbital, Antarctic-like, politics-free zone? The longer it manages to remain apart from terrestrial turmoils, the more space exploration speaks to a way to transcend such things. But there has to be a breaking point sooner or later.

- How Long Will ISS Remain Isolated From Terrestrial Politics?, earlier post
- Will U.S. Sanctions On Russia Impact ISS Operations?, earlier post
- Cold War Echoes On Earth And In Space, earlier post
- Watching Turmoil On Earth From Serene Vantage of Space, earlier post
- Russia, earlier posts

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Approves $19.5 Billion for NASA, SpacePolicyOnline

"The Senate Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee approved $19.5 billion for NASA in FY2018 according to a committee press release. The figure was rounded, but the press release also said it is $437 million more than President Trump requested and $124 million less than FY2017. That would make $19.529 billion a more precise figure. The request was $19.092 billion. NASA's FY2017 funding level is $19.653 billion. The House Appropriations Committee was more generous, approving $19.872 billion. The bill has not gone to the House floor for debate yet. Only a few details were released by the Senate committee following the markup today. More information will be available after the full committee marks up the bill on Thursday."

Congressman asks scientists if they've found ancient civilizations on Mars, Ars Technica

"The hearing was respectable, with on-point witnesses and mostly incisive questions. That is, until California Republican Dana Rohrabacher had his turn at the microphone. After asking a reasonable, if rambling, question about NASA's plans for a Mars sample return mission and the kind of fuel used by spacecraft, Rohrabacher got down to business. He asked, "You have indicated that Mars was totally different thousands of years ago. Is it possible that there was a civilization on Mars thousands of years ago?"

- Goofy Mars Conspiracies Part 2 (child slave colonies on Mars), earlier post

White House Opposes Space Corps, Space Policy Online

"The Trump Administration informed the House that it does not agree on the need for the Space Corps proposed in the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The White House Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) called the proposal premature because DOD is still in the process of studying potential organizational changes. The White House used stronger language to object to two other space provisions in the bill. The House began debate on the bill (H.R. 2810) this afternoon."

Government debates need for military Space Corps, The Hill

"The House moved forward with its plans to create a Space Corps this week when it passed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). But the proposal faces a long road before becoming reality. The administration, including Defense Secretary James Mattis, has come out strongly against the idea. And there's no equivalent proposal in the Senate, meaning the provision could be stripped out before the bill's final passage."

Congress Pushes To Create U.S. Space Corps, earlier post

Keith's note: Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) submitted an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 that sets aside $50,000 stating "The Secretary of the Army shall, in consultation with the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, construct at an appropriate place in Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, a memorial marker honoring the three members of the crew of the Apollo I crew who died during a launch rehearsal test on January 27, 1967, in Cape Canaveral, Florida."

Ranking Member Johnson's Statement on House Vote to Establish Apollo 1 Memorial

"Today, the House of Representatives voted to establish a memorial at Arlington National Cemetery to honor the crew of the Apollo 1 mission, who perished in a spacecraft fire 50 years ago. It was included as an amendment by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) in H.R. 2810, the "National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2018" (NDAA). The House approved NDAA this morning by a vote of 344-81."

Reopening the American Frontier: Promoting Partnerships Between Commercial Space and the U.S. Government to Advance Exploration and Settlement (with video)

"U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, will convene the rescheduled hearing titled "Reopening the American Frontier: Promoting Partnerships Between Commercial Space and the U.S. Government to Advance Exploration and Settlement" at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, July 13, 2017. The subcommittee will examine partnerships between the U.S. government and commercial space industry to advance space exploration."

- Statement by Robert Cabana
- Statement by Tim Ellis
- Statement by Tim Hughes
- Statement by Jeffrey Manber
- Statement by Moriba Jah
- Statement by Sen. Bill Nelson

What You Need To Know About The Space Law Congress Is Considering, The Federalist

"Want to make money in space? It appears that Congress wants to help. It also appears from what Congress has so far proposed that their help will have only a limited value. The heart of the problem is twofold. First, the regulatory framework that American companies must navigate to get projects off the ground is difficult and complex. They must deal with multiple government agencies whose conflicting needs cause delays and increased costs. Sometimes this bureaucracy kills projects entirely. Second, there is significant worry in the investment community about the uncertainty of property rights in space. Article II of the Outer Space Treaty forbids countries from claiming territory in space, which means it is difficult for capitalist countries like the United States to establish secure property rights for its citizens on any territory in space."

President Trump's enemies list, Politico

"White House officials have taken notice of [Rep. Martha] Roby's efforts to make amends and view her efforts with some skepticism. While in the Oval Office for a NASA bill signing in March, Roby sidled up next to Trump - putting her front-and-center for the photo-op. Behind her push for the president's approval is a stark political reality: She is facing a fierce primary challenge from a Trump stalwart who has turned her past opposition to the president into the focal point of his campaign."

Keith's note: Guess which person is Rep. Roby. Could that neon yellow shirt be any brighter?

House panel votes to split Air Force, create new U.S. Space Corps, Federal News Radio

"As part of its version of the 2018 Defense authorization bill, the House Armed Services Committee voted late Wednesday night to create a sixth branch of the U.S. armed forces: the U.S. Space Corps, which would absorb the Air Force's current space missions."

Alabama Congressman proposes creating new branch of US military: The Space Corps, Al.com

"The proposal would put the branch under the command of the Air Force, though the commander would be a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, much like the Marine Corps' role in the Navy. Rogers and Cooper said the Department of Defense is not able to address the challenges created by protecting U.S. assets in space, "thus Congress has to step in."

Pentagon 'Space Corps' Plan Leaves Earth Science in the Dust, Wired

"The idea of creating a new military space command even as the White House takes an axe to peaceful Earth-observing systems devoted to science. The Trump administration wants to cancel five NASA earth science missions and slash NOAA's budget for studying the Earth, weather, and oceans--including ground and space-bound sensors. Samson and other policy watchers say cuts to NASA's and NOAA's satellite monitoring programs are driven by the Trump administration's hostility toward (and denial of) climate change. In fact, NOAA's climate and weather programs observing satellites are also vital to keeping the United States safe."

House Appropriators Propose $19.9 Billion for NASA, Full Funding for JPSS and GOES, SpacePolicyOnline

"Trump proposed a substantial cut for NASA in his FY2018 budget request -- from the $19.653 billion provided by Congress in FY2017 to $19.092 billion for FY2018 and the same total for each of the subsequent four years. The House CJS subcommittee recommendation is an increase not only above the Trump request, but also above the FY2017 level: $19.872 billion."

Senate Commerce Committee Hearing on Commercial Space

"U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, will convene a hearing titled Reopening the American Frontier: Promoting Partnerships Between Commercial Space and the U.S. Government to Advance Exploration and Settlement." Note: Postponed until after the July 4 recess.

The Implications of the Growing Small Satellite Market for Launch and Key Applications (webcast)

"The Center for Strategic and International Studies will be hosting a two-session event to highlight and amplify awareness of the implications of emerging space technologies, particularly those provided by smaller space systems. These discussions will examine implications from the perspective of both changes in the way space missions are executed and in the way that transportation to space is provided."

The Tiny Edit That Changed NASA's Future, The Atlantic

"But in this year's bill, Congress added a momentous phrase to the agency's mission: "the search for life's origins, evolution, distribution, and future in the universe." It's a short phrase, but a visionary one, setting the stage for a far-reaching effort, that could have as profound an impact on the 21st century as the Apollo program had on the 20th. NASA's new directive acknowledges that we are tantalizingly close to answering perhaps the most fundamental question of all: Are we alone in the universe?"

National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017

"The Administrator shall enter into an arrangement with the National Academies to develop a science strategy for astrobiology that would outline key scientific questions, identify the most promising research in the field, and indicate the extent to which the mission priorities in existing decadal surveys address the search for life's origin, evolution, distribution, and future in the universe."

Keith's note: As much as I support the wording in this authorization act, authorization acts contain all kinds of interesting language that is usually ignored or slow-boated by NASA - especially if money is required to comply with the language - money that has not been appropriated. If reports (especially National Academy reports) are called for by the authorization bill, the reports are conducted by the usual suspects, take several years to create, and when they are delivered everyone has forgotten why they were asked for and/or the results have been overtaken by events. This 2017 NASA authorization act references an earlier NASA authorization act from 2010 which called for a National Academy report that was not started until 2012 and reported back to Congress in 2014. No one really pays much attention to the report since it punted on virtually every important task it was given to do.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017

"In accordance with section 204 of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2010 (124 Stat. 2813), the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, through its Committee on Human Spaceflight, conducted a review of the goals, core capabilities, and direction of human space flight, and published the findings and recommendations in a 2014 report entitled, ``Pathways to Exploration: Rationales and Approaches for a U.S. Program of Human Space Exploration''."

Yet Another Slow Motion Advisory Committee on Human Space Flight, earlier post (2012)

"Net result: the committee's advice will be out of synch with reality and somewhat overtaken by events having taken a total of 3 years, 7 months to complete. Oh yes: the cost of this study? $3.6 million.. The soonest that a NASA budget could be crafted that took this committee's advice into account would be the FY 2016 budget request. NASA and OMB will interact on the FY 2016 budget during Fall 2014 and it won't be announced until early 2015 - 4 1/2 years after this committee and its advice was requested in the NASA Authorization Act 2010."

National Aeronautics and Space Administration - Budget Hearing

House Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies
2:00 PM
Watch

Hearing: An Overview of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Budget for Fiscal Year 2018

"The Committee on Science, Space, and Technology's Subcommittee on Space will hold a hearing titled An Overview of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Budget for Fiscal Year 2018. The purpose of the hearing is to review the administration's fiscal year 2018 (FY18) budget request for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Witness List: Mr. Robert M. Lightfoot."

watch

Prepared statements: Chairman Smith, Ranking Member Johnson, Ranking Member Bera,
Subcommittee Chair Babin, Acting NASA Administrator Lightfoot

SST Committee Approves the American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act of 2017

"The American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act of 2017 simplifies and strengthens the outdated space-based remote sensing regulatory system. At the same time, this bill enhances U.S. compliance with international obligations, improves national security and removes regulatory barriers facing new and innovative space companies."

Support Grows for the American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act of 2017

"The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space,and Technology announced growing support for H.R. 2809, the "American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act of 2017." The legislation was favorably reported out of committee today by voice vote. Keep reading to see what they're saying."

Keith's note: This press release has quotes from 19 people representing New Space companies or organizations. Only 2 females are quoted. New Space is still a boy's club. Just sayin'.

Smith Introduces American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act of 2017

"Rep. Bridenstine: "Providing maximum certainty with minimal regulatory burden for the commercial space industry has been one of my top priorities in Congress. The American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act moves us in the right direction. Years of uncertainty over which government agency has the responsibility to authorize and supervise commercial space activity has created a chilling effect in the industry, hindering capital formation and innovation. Chairman Smith, Chairman Babin, and I authored this bill to provide a clear, transparent process to meet Outer Space Treaty obligations while ensuring America is open for business in space."

Markup of the American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act of 2017

Opening statements: Committee Chairman Smith, Subcommittee Chairman Babin, Rep. Bridenstine, Ranking Member Johnson

Reopening the American Frontier: Exploring How the Outer Space Treaty Will Impact American Commerce and Settlement in Space, Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness

LIVE

"This hearing will examine U.S. government obligations under the Outer Space Treaty on its 50th anniversary, specifically compliance with Article VI of the Treaty that requires governments to authorize and continually supervise the activities of non-government entities. This hearing will also explore the Treaty's potential impacts on expansion of our nation's commerce and settlement in space."

- James Dunstan, Mobius Legal Group, PLLC [statement]
- Laura Montgomery, Ground Based Space Matters, LLC [statement]
- Matthew Schaefer, University of Nebraska College of Law [statement]
- Mike Gold, Space Systems Loral [statement]
- Peter Marquez, Planetary Resources [statement]
- Colonel Pamela Melroy, Retired and Former Astronaut [statement]
- Bob Richards, Moon Express [statement]

Third Way Statement on the Leaked May 8 Trump Budget, Third Way

2018 budget proposal to spread cuts across NASA programs, Space News

"The spreadsheet suggests that most major NASA accounts will see cuts compared to what Congress provided in the fiscal year 2017 omnibus spending bill enacted earlier this month, which gave NASA $19.653 billion overall. Science would receive a little more than $5.71 billion, $53 million less than what it received in 2017."

Senators to Trump Administration; Do Not Hurt Workforce By Cutting NASA Education Funding, US Senate

"Today, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), co-chairs of the Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, are leading a group of 32 Senators in a letter urging the Senate Appropriations Committee to support NASA's Office of Education in the coming fiscal year. President Trump's budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) would eliminate NASA's Office of Education, which works to inspire and educate students across the country to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). In Virginia, funding from NASA's Office of Education enables students to explore careers in STEM-related fields at NASA Langley, NASA Wallops, and in Virginia's robust technology sector."

GAO Requested to Study Restoring FAA Commercial Space Office to Secretary's Level, SpacePolicyOnline

"Three members of the House have sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting a study on the feasibility of elevating the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA's) Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA/AST) to the Secretary of Transportation's office. Advocates believe that would facilitate getting needed financial and personnel resources to allow the office to fulfill its duties as the commercial space launch business expands."

Science wins reprieve in US budget deal, Nature

" ... $1.9 billion for NASA's Earth-science research programme, roughly equal to the 2016 level. The bill includes support for the Pre-Aerosol, Clouds, and Ocean Ecosystem satellite mission that Trump wants to eliminate. $1.9 billion for planetary science at NASA, an increase of roughly $300 million from the 2016 level. That includes $275 million for a mission to Jupiter's moon Europa, including a lander. The bill would set aside $408 million for the Mars 2020 mission - and give NASA the green-light to investigate the possibility of sending a helicopter to the red planet."

Comprehensive Government Funding Bill Released, House Appropriations Committee

"The bill includes full Appropriations legislation and funding for the remaining 11 annual Appropriations bills through the end of the fiscal year, September 30, 2017. This level meets the base discretionary spending caps provided by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, and provides additional funding for national defense, border security, and other emergency needs."

FY 2017 Omnibus Summary - Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations

"NASA is funded at $19.7 billion in the bill, $368 million above the fiscal year 2016 enacted level."

Keith's note: This is the FY 2017 omnibus spending bill that covers current fiscal year spending and replaces the Continuing Resolution that governed spending at FY 2016 levels - until now. But FY 2018 starts in 5 months. What form NASA's budget will take in Trump's proposed FY 2018 budget is not clear at this point since this bill reverses (in a major way) nearly everything cut in Trump's budget proposal ("skinny budget") issued earlier this year. When you consider that Rep. Culberson has reiterated his support for two Europa missions each (presumably) launched on a SLS, that SLS continues to slip to the right and has inadequate reserves, and that Gingrich/Walker comments today about SLS speak to doubts within the Trump Administration about its survival, there is certain to be a SLS food fight at some point in the not too distant future. No doubt the future of SLS will be linked to what direction the White House wants to go in space - and how NASA will be directed to participate - or told to let others do some of the heavy lifting.

Hearing: Advances in the Search for Life

Hearing charter

"The NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 established "The search for life's origin, evolution, distribution, and future in the universe," as one of the national space program's objectives. The hearing will survey recent breakthroughs in a variety of fields that contribute to astrobiology, such as the continued discovery of exoplanets and research efforts to understand life's origin on Earth and in the lab."

Comittee member statements: Rep. Babin, Rep. Johnson, Rep. Bera, Rep. Smith

Hearing witness statements: Thomas Zurbuchen, Adam Burgasser, James Kasting, Seth Shostak

Archived Webcast

Flat NASA budgets pose risk to researchers, SpaceNews

"The prospect of extended flat budgets for NASA has some scientists concerned that research funds could be raided to support other programs. In a presentation April 19 to a microgravity research colloquium at the National Academies here, Gale Allen, acting chief scientist, said she had been warned at a recent agency meeting not to expect even increases to keep pace with inflation for the next five years. "Right now it looks like our budget for the next five years will be flat. There isn't even an inflationary aspect to it," she said. At a meeting the previous day, she said, NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot said that proposed budget profile amounted to a cut of $3.4 billion over those five years because of decreased purchasing power."

Trump Budget Cuts "Critical" NASA Climate Missions, Scientific American

"The proposed cancellations mesh with statements made by Trump, administration officials and some members of Congress who have argued that NASA should be focused on outer space and leave the job of observing Earth to other agencies. But NASA's unparalleled experience and expertise in developing new observational technologies and launching satellites makes it a crucial part of the Earth science enterprise, many experts say. "I don't see anybody else who could fill that gap," Adam Sobel, a Columbia University climate scientist, said."

OIG Report on NASA's Journey To Nowhere, earlier post

"... although the Agency's combined investment for development of the SLS, Orion, and GSDO programs will reach approximately $23 billion by the end of fiscal year 2018, the programs' average monetary reserves for the years leading up to EM-1 are much lower than the 10 to 30 percent recommended by Marshall Space Flight Center guidance."

Trump's OMB Does Not Know Who Operates DSCOVR, earlier post

What do the stars hold for the Trump administration? Here's how NASA's mission could change, PBS NewsHour

"REP. JOHN CULBERSON: I have always wanted to restore NASA to the glory days of Apollo, as you and I remember as kids. I want to see NASA go above and beyond the glory days of Apollo.

REP. JOHN CULBERSON: When Mike Griffin canceled the Europa mission last decade, it scarred me so badly, I swore I wouldn't let the bureaucrats cancel this mission again. So, today, the Europa orbiter and lander is the only mission it is still illegal for NASA not to fly."

Space Subcommittee Hearing- The ISS after 2024: Options and Impacts

"It is the policy of the United States to support full and complete utilization of the International Space Station through at least 2024. What happens to the ISS after that date remains an open question. The hearing will examine the range of choices facing our nation and the impacts of those various options."

Witnesses
- [Statement] William Gerstenmaier, NASA
- [Statement] Mary Lynne Dittmar, Coalition for Deep Space Exploration
- [Opening Statement] Eric Stallmer Commercial Spaceflight Federation
- [Statement] Robert Ferl University of Florida
- Rep. Babin Opening Statement
- Rep. Bera Opening Statement
- Rep. Johnson Opening Statement
- Hearing Charter

Watch live

President Signs NASA Transition Authorization Act

"Today President Donald Trump signed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017 into law. This bipartisan, bicameral legislation reaffirms Congress' commitment to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and space science and exploration."

Potholes Trump Space In Trump Space Policy, earlier post

"[Trump's] answers to Aerospace America's questions align with comments he made during a campaign stop in Manchester, NH in November. There he offered what has become perhaps his most memorable remark about space exploration, that it is important, "but we have to fix our potholes."

Washington Space Business Roundtable Luncheon With Rep. James Bridenstine

Keith's note: Likely NASA Administrator nominee Rep. James Bridenstine (R-OK) will be the luncheon speaker at a Washington Space Business Roundtable event in downtown Washington DC at noon EDT today. I plan to be live tweeting his comments and responses to questions from the event on Twitter at @NASAWatch


House Science Committee Hearing: The ISS after 2024: Options and Impacts

"Witnesses:
Mr. William Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, NASA
Dr. Mary Lynne Dittmar, Executive Director, Coalition for Deep Space Exploration"

Keith's 16 March note: Notice that there are only two witnesses. The first witness is NASA's AA for government human space activities. The second witness is the mouthpiece for large aerospace companies who build the big things that the first witness wants to build. No representation whatsoever has been offered to the commercial sector (SpaceX, Blue Origin etc.) that is supposed to be a partner with NASA in the utilization of space.

Maybe Congress is afraid to hear what the private sector is going to do without NASA's help.

Keith's 20 March update: The witness list has been revised to include:

"Mr. Eric Stallmer, President, Commercial Spaceflight Federation
Dr. Robert Ferl, Distinguished Professor and Director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Biotechnology Research, University of Florida"

Blue Origin's new engine isn't good enough for some congressmen, Ars Technica

"At the end of February, two US representatives, Mike Rogers of Alabama and Mac Thornberry of Texas, decided to push a little harder. On February 28, they sent a letter to Lisa Disbrow, the acting secretary of the US Air Force, and James MacStravic, who is performing the duties of the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics. In addition to reiterating a desire that ULA continue to fly a second rocket, the Delta IV Heavy, the letter urges the Pentagon officials to be skeptical about the BE-4 engine. ... Although both Rogers and Thornberry are members of the House Armed Services Committee, it is difficult to avoid ascribing at least some political motives to the letter. In January, Aerojet Rocketdyne said it would produce the AR1 rocket engine in Huntsville, Alabama, creating 100 new jobs near NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. Already, another Huntsville company, Dynetics, has become a subcontractor for the engine's main propulsion system. (A spokesman for Rogers didn't not reply to a request for comment)."

Keith's note: Of course Dynetics is where Steve Cook (who was on the Trump landing team at NASA HQ) and other Ares V/SLS veterans from MSFC went after they left NASA. And Cook is one of the usual suspects often seen in league with Doug Cooke, Dan Dumbacher, and Mike Griffin pushing their own Alabama-centric Apollo-on-Steroids notions in op eds and behind the scenes in Congress.

- Former NASA Leaders Who Still Ignore Reality, earlier post
- More False Memories About the Origin (and Cost) of SLS, earlier post

Chairman Smith

"Unfortunately, the Obama administration issued a report last year that called for expansive regulations over all types of private space activities. The Obama administration also requested authority to conduct space traffic management. While the request was a non-starter, it does present an opportunity for Congress to streamline processes and enhance the strength of private sector space activities. For instance, stakeholders continue to raise concerns that they need certainty to attract investments and that they face pressing short-term launch dates and regulatory risks."

Ranking Member Johnson

"The legislative proposal put forth by the previous Administration included direction such that "the Secretary of Transportation, in coordination with the Secretary of Defense, is authorized to examine the planned and actual operational trajectories of space objects and to advise operators as appropriate to facilitate prevention of collisions." While this proposal is one of a number of potential approaches, it or another measure will be needed to ensure that space remains a productive environment for scientific investigation, commerce, and governmental activities."

Prepared statements

- Chairman Babin
- Ranking Member Bera
- Ms. Laura Montgomery
- Dr. Eli Dourado
- Mr. Douglas L. Loverro
- Mr. Dennis J. Burnett
- Dr. Henry B. Hogue
- More information and archived video

House Approves NASA Transition Authorization Act

"The House of Representatives today approved the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017 (S.442), which cleared the Senate last month. This bipartisan, bicameral legislation reaffirms Congress' commitment to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and directs NASA to pursue a balanced portfolio of activities."

Why Did the House Science Committee Overlook NASA's Former Chief Scientist?, The Atlantic

"If you'd read that feed for coverage of the two-and-a-half-hour hearing, you'd be forgiven for thinking Stofan didn't show up at all. ... Where was she? Missing from more than the photo, it turned out. The House committee's Twitter account--the same one that has shared false climate-change information from Breitbart News--didn't mention her at all in its tweets covering the hearing."

Today's NASA Hearing Dwells On The Past - Not The Future, earlier post

The NASA Rocket Scientist Leaving Mars for Politics, The Atlantic

"A few Fridays ago, Tracy Van Houten drove to a registrar's office to pick up the paperwork she would need to run for Congress. Doing so would mean giving up her role as an aerospace engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory - a dream job that she had held for 13 years. ... Van Houten is now officially running to represent the 34th Congressional District of California in the U.S. House. The seat's former occupant, Xavier Becerra, was appointed as attorney general of California last December, and 23 candidates are now vying to replace him in a special election, to be held in April. The roster includes experienced politicians, activists, and lawyers. Van Houten, who is something of a wildcard, is the only rocket scientist."

Full House Science Committee Hearing - NASA: Past, Present, and Future

Scheduled witnsses:
- [opening statement] Hon. Harrison Schmitt Apollo 17 Astronaut; Former United States Senator
- [opening statement] Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Stafford Gemini VI, Gemini IX, Apollo 10, Apollo-Soyuz Test Project Astronaut; Chairman, NASA International Space Station Advisory Committee
- [opening statement] Dr. Ellen Stofan Former Chief Scientist, NASA
- [opening statement] Mr. Tom Young Past Director, Goddard Spaceflight Center; Past President/COO, Martin Marietta; Past Chairman, SAIC
- [opening statement] Chairman Smith
- [opening statement] Chairman Babin
- [opening statement] Ranking Member Johnson
- [opening statement] Ranking Member Bera

Watch live

Keith's note: Consider the ages of the witnesses for this hearing: Jack Schmitt, 81; Tom Stafford, 86; Tom Young, 80; and Ellen Stofan, 55. That's three male octogenarian NASA employees who have been retired for decades and one female who actually still worked for NASA until a few weeks ago. I have the utmost respect for Schmitt, Stafford and Young and their legendary accomplishments. But why does this particular congressional committee constantly look back at what was done half a century ago and yet spend so little time listening to people who still work at NASA? And what about the generation that will actually accomplish the things that NASA will be doing in the decades ahead? Is no one interested in what they think?

This hearing is titled "NASA: Past, Present, and Future". Based on the witnesses it should have been titled "NASA: Past, Past, Past, and Present. No Future".

U.S. Senate bill aims to make sure federal scientists aren't 'muzzled', Science

"Congressional Democrats are rallying behind a bill to protect federal scientists from attempts to interfere with scientific discourse and dissemination of research results. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) yesterday introduced a bill (S.338) that would codify existing policies at some two dozen federal agencies. Those policies stem from a 2009 executive order from former President Barack Obama that required them to spell out how they would safeguard scientific integrity. The policies have dribbled out over the last 7 years."

- S.338 A bill to protect scientific integrity in Federal research and policymaking, and for other purposes
- Confusion Over Federal Agency Public Information Guidelines, earlier post
- Just A Reminder: NASA Is Required To Tell Everyone What It Does, earlier post

Smith, Babin Urge Passage of NASA Transition Authorization Act, SpacePolicyOnline

"Two top Republicans on the House Science, Space, and Technology (SS&T) Committee are urging quick passage of the 2017 NASA Transition Authorization Act. ... House SS&T Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX), who chaired the Space Subcommittee in the last Congress and is expected to do so again, both spoke at a Space Transportation Association (STA) event this evening. Smith said he hoped for action in the Senate in the next few days."

S.3346 - National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2016

Science, Space, and Technology Committee Announces Priorities for the 115th Congress

"Rebalancing NASA's portfolio and setting course for its future successes will also be a key priority this Congress. ... Constancy of Purpose within NASA: The Committee will continue to ensure that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration pursues a balanced portfolio of programs reinvigorated with bold exploration objectives. Building upon the progress made towards development of the Space Launch System, Orion, and the commercial crew and cargo programs, the committee will ensure NASA stays the course and leads the world in not only space exploration, but also space science."

Republicans defend Trump on media coverage, The Hill

"But that didn't stop House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) from taking the House floor Monday night to claim the media would cover Trump differently if he weren't a Republican. ... Smith said. "No, the national liberal media won't print that or air it or post it. Better to get your news directly from the president. In fact, it might be the only way to get the unvarnished truth," he concluded. Smith delivers House floor speeches at least once a week criticizing the mainstream media. Earlier this month, he denounced a New York Times column describing the impact of droughts in Africa believed to be exacerbated by climate change as "fake news."

Texas Remains Powerful Space Influence as House Appropriations, Senate Commerce Announce Subcommittee Chairs, Space Policy Online

"The House Appropriations Committee announced the members who will chair its 12 subcommittees today. At the same time, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee announced the Republican members and chairs of its six subcommittees. There is no change for NASA and NOAA, but the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee will get a new chairwoman -- Kay Granger of Texas. She joins fellow Texans in chairing key space-related committees and subcommittees."

Q&A: Key legislator disses White House science office, Science

"[Rep. John] Culberson whose House of Representatives subcommittee oversees the budgets for NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, has never been a fan of John Holdren, Obama's science adviser. And his latest comments are likely to further heighten anxiety among scientific leaders about how the U.S. research enterprise will fare under President-elect Donald Trump."

"Q: Some have suggested reviving the National Space Council. Would that be useful?

A: I'd have to see what the new administration proposes. But I think there are too many layers of government and advisory committees. A simplified and unified chain of command at NASA that is less political would help the agency immensely. And I will continue to try to make the NASA administrator more like the FBI director [in serving a 10-year term], so it can focus on its mission and worry less about changes in administration. The agency needs stability and certainty and adequate funding to accomplish everything on its plate.

Q: There's been talk of moving earth sciences out of NASA.

A: At this point that is very speculative. There's strong support in Congress for keeping a close eye on planet Earth and understanding our complex planet. And the future level of funding and who's responsible for earth science will be an ongoing debate with the new administration and the incoming Congress. I'm quite confident there will continue to be strong support for the earth sciences as well as planetary sciences and the human space flight program throughout Congress and in the new administration."

"Please join NASA's Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs in celebrating Seth's departure on a new journey. Thursday, January 12, 2017 4 - 7 p.m., Room 2E39, NASA Headquarters $15 suggested contribution RSVP: congressionalevents@nasa.gov"

Keith's note: Best wishes, Seth, as you return to the real world ;-)

Short-Term Continuing Resolution to Maintain Government Operations Released House Appropriations Committee

"House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers today introduced a short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) (H.R. 2028) to prevent a government shutdown and continue funding for federal programs and services until April 28, 2017. The legislation also contains funding for emergency disaster relief. ... The CR also includes provisions needed to prevent catastrophic, irreversible, or detrimental changes to government programs, to support our national security, and to ensure good government. Some of these provisions include: ... A provision allowing funds for NASA's Deep Space Exploration program to avoid delays that would increase long-term costs. ... A provision allowing funds for the Joint Polar Satellite System programs, ensuring the continuation of data for weather warnings, including forecasts of severe weather events."

Key legislator disses White House science office, Science

"The White House science office hasn't been very productive under President Barack Obama, says the chairman of a key congressional research spending panel. And Representative John Culberson (R-TX) says he'd like to see it downsized. ... Since becoming CJS chairman in January 2015, Culberson has used his position as a "cardinal" to advocate for his scientific priorities, starting with a multi-billion-dollar NASA mission to a jovian moon that some scientists believe may harbor life."

Keith's note: Funny how a member of Congress with zero science training shoves Europa missions down NASA's throat and then complains about a congressionally-mandated position in the Executive Branch that overtly seeks to have actual scientific input - from actual scientists - so as to make informed decisions - about science.

Senate Floor Action on New NASA Authorization Act Could be Imminent, Space Policy Online

"Senate and House negotiators reportedly are close to agreement on a final version of a FY2017 NASA authorization act. Senate floor action on a draft compromise bill could come as early as tomorrow. A draft of a revised version of the bill reportedly reflecting compromise with the House is now circulating and rumors are that the Senate may take it up as early as tomorrow. SpacePolicyOnline.com obtained a copy of the new draft. A quick glance suggests that it is similar to what cleared the Senate committee, while incorporating elements of H.R, 810 and H.R. 2039 plus new provisions. These are a few highlights of the 114-page draft."

Smith, Babin Request Info on ARM Press Release, Report

"As the incoming Administration evaluates ARM, it would benefit from clear guidance from both NASA and its advisory bodies. Similarly, it should be unencumbered by decisions made in the twilight of this Administration's term. Contrary to the assertions made in the press release, numerous advisory bodies have questioned the merits of the President's ARM mission. The NASA Advisory Council, the Small Bodies Assessment Group (SBAG), and the National Research Council have all raised concerns with the mission since its proposal by the Administration," the letter states."

- NASA Boulder Retrieval Briefings: Look But Don't Touch, earlier post (this congressional letter cites this NASAWatch post as one of its references).

- NASA's Boulder Retrieval Mission, earlier post

Smith, Babin Examine Policy Governing Indian Launch Vehicles

"Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Space Subcommittee Chairman Brian Babin (R-Texas) yesterday sent letters to four senior officials following up on requests for information about the current U.S. policy governing the export of U.S. commercial satellites for launch on Indian launch vehicles. On July 6 Chairmen Smith and Babin wrote Director of Office of Science and Technology Policy John Holdren, Secretary of State John Kerry, United States Trade Representative Michael Froman, and U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, seeking this information. Yesterday's letters reiterate requests for a briefing and documentation on the current U.S. policy."

Eric Stallmer, Commercial Spaceflight Federation Testimony , April 2016

"Here, CSF opposes any change to the current U.S. policy with respect to launch on Indian launch vehicle systems. For commercial as well as government launches, Indian launch vehicles are operated by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), a government entity that also funds the development and manufacture of these launch vehicles. Here, CSF has seen that pricing for commercial launch services on Indian rockets historically has not reflected the true costs associated with their initial development and on-going launch operations, putting U.S. commercial launchers at a disadvantage in competitions for these class of payloads. In effect, India is dumping these vehicles on the commercial market to the detriment of U.S. firms. We would encourage the U.S. Congress to support American firms offering legitimate pricing for launch services in this market."

Elliot Pulham, Space Foundation Testimony, April 2016

"The concern about using Indian boosters is not so much the transfer of sensitive technology to a nation that is a fellow democracy, but rather whether Indian launches are subsidized by the Indian government to the degree that other market actors, for example American launch companies or those of allies, would be priced out the market."

Keith's note: Why is India being singled out for special treatment? Who own's most, if not all, of China's launch infrastructure? Russia's? Europe's? Japan's? Who sets their launch prices? Why is it that every time the U.S. buys Soyuz seats the price goes up far more than it should?

- Will U.S. Companies Be Allowed To Launch on Indian Rockets?, earlier post
- America's Hypocritical Fear of Indian Rockets, earlier post
- Congress Asks Questions About U.S. Policy Regarding Indian Launch Vehicles, earlier post
- Hearing Discusses Using Old ICBMs As Satellite Launchers, earlier post

Senate Committee Advances Bill to Ensure Stability at NASA During Change of Administration, AIP

"The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee has advanced a NASA authorization bill that focuses on space exploration and seeks to ensure stability at the space agency through the upcoming presidential transition. Unlike the House-passed NASA authorization bill, the Senate bill has only a few provisions specific to NASA's science divisions. Whereas the House backed a sweeping authorization bill that addresses all of NASA's major programs, including providing extensive guidance to NASA's Science Mission Directorate, the Senate bill focuses on big picture strategy and ensuring stability at the agency through the upcoming presidential transition. The Senate legislation emphasizes NASA's role in space exploration, and it would formalize in statute the horizon goal of sending humans to Mars as well as support steps for getting there."

Flores Backs Robust, Domestic Commercial Space Launch

"U.S. Representative Bill Flores (R-Texas) led a bipartisan letter, signed by 23 additional members of Congress, to the administrators at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the Secretary of the United States Air Force supporting a robust, domestic commercial space launch industry. The bipartisan group of lawmakers expressed their support of the ongoing investigation into the recent mishap involving a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The letter states: "Accidents are unfortunate events, and accident investigations should not be politicized. We encourage you to reject calls for your organizations to abandon established, well considered, and long standing procedures."

- Possibility of Sabotage Considered During SpaceX Investigation, earlier post
- ULA Congressional Delegation Criticizes SpaceX For A Totally Legal Mishap Investigation, earlier post

Congress members question whether SpaceX should conduct its own investigation, LA Times

"The letter, dated Thursday, also cited SpaceX's prior explosion in June 2015 while carrying cargo for NASA to the International Space Station. The Hawthorne space company led its own investigation for that launch failure. Under federal law, SpaceX is allowed to conduct its own investigation. SpaceX ... and other companies lobbied successfully to extend the law last year. The FAA oversees such investigations. The Congress members said the investigation responses raised "serious concerns about the authority provided to commercial providers and the protection of national space assets."

"Ten Republican Congress members led by Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) have sent a letter to the heads of the Air Force, NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration questioning whether SpaceX should be allowed to lead its own investigation ... Coffman's congressional district includes United Launch Alliance's headquarters. Many of the congressmen represent states where ULA has operations."

Keith's note: But wait. ULA did their own internal review when the first stage of the Atlas V delivering OA-6 Cygnus shut down early. Oops. H/t to Tim B.

United Launch Alliance Provides Update to OA-6 Cygnus Launch

"Per standard processes when a flight data item such as this has been identified, the ULA engineering team, along with our engine supplier and several government customers, forms a robust review team. The review team assessed all flight and operational data to determine direct and root causes and implemented the appropriate corrective actions for future flights. .. "We would like to thank our customers and supplier partners for their outstanding collaboration in the detailed review of this anomaly."

Updated: Congress Hearing: Are We Losing the Space Race to China [Hearing video]

Subcommittee Examines China's Space Exploration Capabilities and Achievements, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democrats

"Now, almost 50 years since that historic event, some are asking if we are again in a space race, but this time with China. Two weeks ago, China successfully placed in orbit its Tiangong-2 experimental orbiting space lab. And that accomplishment comes on the heels of China's landing a robotic rover on the Moon, with plans announced to do the same on Mars. So, should we be concerned that China is may be closing the gap in spaceflight capabilities?"

Chairman Smith Opening Statement: Are We Losing the Space Race to China?

"China continues to make progress. We cannot resign ourselves to the remembrance of past achievements. It is time for the United States to reassert its leadership. For over fifty years, the United States has been committed to the peaceful use and exploration of outer space. Our philosophical principles of freedom, the rule of law, and transparency are evident in the actions we take. The United States shares scientific data and findings, promotes international cooperation, and maintains international peace and security in outer space. The world has benefited from U.S. space leadership."

Witness Statements: Dennis Shea, Mark Stokes, Dean Cheng, James Lewis

Earlier China postings

Senate Commerce and House SS&T Committees Approve Space Bills, Space Policy Online

"The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee and the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee each held markups today of space-related legislation. The Senate committee approved the 2016 NASA Transition Authorization Act and the INSPIRE Women Act. The House committee approved the TREAT Astronauts Act. Congress is only scheduled to be in session for a few more weeks in 2016, but if all parties are sufficiently motivated to reach compromise, there is more than enough time to get the bills to the President's desk before the end of the 114th Congress."

"The bill authorizes $19.508 billion for NASA for FY2017. It does not address funding beyond that one year, which begins October 1. The total is the same as approved by the House Appropriations Committee in its version of the FY2017 Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill, which has not been considered by the House yet. It is $202 million more than the Senate Appropriations Committee approved. The money is allocated to NASA's budget accounts in line with the Senate Appropriations CJS bill except that the extra $202 million is added to the Exploration account, which pays for SLS and Orion."

Marc's note: While Marcia almost sounds optimistic, there isn't much time left to get these bills passed. As usual, leaving bills to the last minute is par for the course. We'll see what jockeying occurs in the next few weeks.

Related:

- Commerce Approves NASA Transition Act, BOTS Act, and 3 Other Bills
- Chairman John Thune - Majority Statement - NASA Transition Act, 4 Other Bills
- Senator Bill Nelson - Minority Statement - NASA Transition Act, 4 Other Bills
- Bipartisan Astronaut Health Bill Passes Out of Committee
- The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration Congratulates Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee on Approval of NASA Transition Authorization Act
- CompTIA Supports NASA Authorization Bill

Cruz, Nelson, Others Introduce the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2016

"U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) today announced the introduction of S. 3346, The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Transition Authorization Act of 2016. The legislation provides stability for NASA to sustain and build upon existing national space investments designed to advance space exploration and science with an overall authorization level of $19.508 billion for fiscal year 2017."

Full text of legislation

Congress and NASA's Budget

US science agencies face budget limbo, Nature.com

"Another year, another round of budget roulette for US science agencies. When Congress returns from its summer break on 6 September, it will have just three weeks to pass a new government funding bill before the 2017 budget year begins on 1 October. ... Policy analysts predict that lawmakers will pass a stopgap funding measure that will keep agencies' budgets flat until the presidential election in November - and perhaps into next year. The House spending bill for NASA includes an extra $200 million for the agency's planetary-science programme compared with the current level, whereas the Senate has proposed cutting the programme's budget by about $300 million."

A Tough Act To Follow

Van Hollen Vows To Continue Mikulski's Passion for Space, SpacePolicyOnline

"Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) vowed to continue the strong support for NASA and NOAA evidenced by Sen. Barbara Mikulski if he is elected as her successor in November. Mikulski is retiring and Van Hollen is widely considered to be the front runner to replace her. Overall, Van Hollen's message today at a luncheon sponsored by the Maryland Space Business Roundtable (MSBR) was one of reassurance. Mikulski's advocacy for NASA and NOAA, especially, but not only, earth science missions, is legendary. Many in the space community are apprehensive about what her departure will mean for NASA and NOAA space programs and budgets. Van Hollen is a relative unknown in space circles and today he clearly wanted to convey his enthusiasm and dedication to continue the fight."

NASA Asteroid Redirect Mission Umbrella for Partnerships to be Released in September Seeking Hosted Payloads and Investigation Team, NASA

"The Asteroid Redirect Mission Umbrella for Partnerships(ARM-UP) Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) will solicit concept studies for basic and applied research and technology demonstrations, and mission investigations through partnerships with the ARM. The full BAA Solicitation, with two appendices, is expected to be issued in early September."

NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission Completes Robotic Design Milestone, NASA

"Earlier this year, NASA updated the target launch date for the robotic mission to December 2021 in order to incorporate acquisition of the industry robotic spacecraft development into the project schedule. To reflect this new target date, the project's cost cap was increased at KDP-B from $1.25 billion to $1.4 billion. This figure does not include the launch vehicle or the post-launch operations phase. The crewed segment, targeted for launch in 2026, remains in an early mission concept phase, or pre-formulation."

NASA's Boulder Retrieval Mission, earlier post (2015)

"And NASA can't even admit that the $1.25 billion cost (without launcher) would balloon to $3 billion or so when it uses the two SLS flights it wants to use. And oh yes: the OSIRIS-REx mission will already do nearly all of the sciencey stuff ARM is doing (as an afterthought) - at a fraction of the cost of ARM."

- House Appropriators Seek To Defund Asteroid Mission - Push NASA To The Moon & Mars, earlier post
- ARM Defenders Forecast Nasty Things If It Is Cancelled, earlier post
- Asteroid Boulder Retrieval Mission Needs a Precursor Mission, earlier post

Keith's note: It is somewhat strange that Gerstenmaier thinks that future budgets in the next administration and Congress are going to be any more predictable - or clear - than they have been for the past several decades. Had he been more specific about the whole #JourneyToMars thing years ago he might have found more support for what NASA is doing. Oddly when Congress is clear on things i.e. prohibiting ARM, Gerstenmaier still thinks he has options.

As for the influencing the transition teams, past experience should show NASA that transition teams easily see through the smoke and mirrors that NASA tries to distract them with - assuming that they even have any interest in NASA or influence upon what will actually become policy. One way to make a positive impression on these transition teams is for NASA explain why it does things, do things on time/on budget, and stop announcing delays and pushing the blame off on others.

Results speak for themselves.

Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle: DOD Is Assessing Data on Worldwide Launch Market to Inform New Acquisition Strategy, GAO

"In February 2016, Congress asked GAO to examine what is known about other countries with launch capabilities and whether or not countries had fostered competition among launch providers, similar to what the United States is attempting to do in the EELV program. GAO responded to this request with a written briefing on the worldwide space launch capabilities and the status of the United States and global launch market."

Commercial Launch: All Government Subsidies Are Not Created Equal, earlier post

"This is all rather odd and self-serving. Both Space Foundation and Commercial Spaceflight Federation depend on commercial space company membership dues. On one hand it is wrong to allow U.S. commercial payloads to be launched by India because their rockets have large government subsidies. Yet Space Foundation and CSF think that it is just fine to launch these same U.S. commercial payloads on Chinese, Russian, and European launch vehicles - all of which get substantial government subsidies. Meanwhile ULA has been getting billions a year for decades in U.S. government subsidies to keep both EELV fleets afloat (with no competition until recently) - and they will now get more money to wean themselves from RD-180 engines whose use was mandated by the U.S. government. Again, where you stand depends on where you sit."

- America's Hypocritical Fear of Indian Rockets, earlier post
- Will U.S. Companies Be Allowed To Launch on Indian Rockets?

Hearing: NASA at a Crossroads: Reasserting American Leadership in Space Exploration

"The hearing will focus on the importance of ensuring consistency in policy to best leverage investments made in human space exploration. The hearing will also explore questions facing the agency related to the upcoming presidential transition."

Statements by Mary Lynne Dittmar, William Gerstenmaier, Daniel Dumbacher, Mike Gold, Mark Sirangelo, Sen. Nelson:

Hearing- Examining the Nation's Current and Next Generation Weather Satellite Programs

Defense Weather Satellites: DOD Faces Acquisition Challenges for Addressing Capability Needs, GAO

"GAO found in March 2016 that the Department of Defense (DOD), in conducting a requirements review and Analysis of Alternatives (AOA) from 2012 to 2014, generally performed a thorough review for identifying capability gaps in meteorological and oceanographic data also referred to as weather data that needed to be met and determining the operational benefit of satisfying these gaps."

Polar Satellites: NOAA Faces Challenges and Uncertainties that Could Affect the Availability of Critical Weather Data, GAO

"As highlighted in a May 2016 report, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) program has continued to make progress in developing the JPSS-1 satellite for a March 2017 launch. However, the program has experienced technical challenges which have resulted in delays in interim milestones. In addition, NOAA faces the potential for a near-term gap in satellite coverage of 8 months before the JPSS-1 satellite is launched and completes post-launch testing."

- Statement by Stephen Volz, NOAA, Hearing on Weather Satellite Programs
- Statement by Ralph Stoffler USAF Hearing on Weather Satellite Programs
- Statement by Rep. Lamar Smith Hearing on Weather Satellite Programs
-Statement by Rep. Jim Bridenstine Hearing on Weather Satellite Programs

Congress Asks Questions About U.S. Policy Regarding Indian Launch Vehicles, House Science, Space, and Technology Committee

"Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Space Subcommittee Chairman Brian Babin (R-Texas) today sent letters to four senior officials requesting information about the current U.S. policy governing the export of U.S. commercial satellites for launch on Indian launch vehicles. ... The letters request a written copy of the administration's policy governing access to Indian launch services, an explanation of when and how this policy was promulgated, and a copy of licenses authorizing the launch of U.S. origin space technology on Indian launch vehicles and records associated with them."

Testimony of Eric Stallmer President, Commercial Spaceflight Federation, April 2016

"Prohibiting access to foreign launch services, like India's, who do not allow their payloads to fly on U.S. vehicles, has opened another set of opportunities for U.S. commercial companies to develop their own systems to serve the global satellite launch market. Here, CSF opposes any change to the current U.S. policy with respect to launch on Indian launch vehicle systems. For commercial as well as government launches, Indian launch vehicles are operated by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), a government entity that also funds the development and manufacture of these launch vehicles. Here, CSF has seen that pricing for commercial launch services on Indian rockets historically has not reflected the true costs associated with their initial development and on-going launch operations, putting U.S. commercial launchers at a disadvantage in competitions for these class of payloads. In effect, India is dumping these vehicles on the commercial market to the detriment of U.S. firms. We would encourage the U.S. Congress to support American firms offering legitimate pricing for launch services in this market."

Commercial Launch: All Government Subsidies Are Not Created Equal, earlier post

"This is all rather odd and self-serving. Both Space Foundation and Commercial Spaceflight Federation depend on commercial space company membership dues. On one hand it is wrong to allow U.S. commercial payloads to be launched by India because their rockets have large government subsidies. Yet Space Foundation and CSF think that it is just fine to launch these same U.S. commercial payloads on Chinese, Russian, and European launch vehicles - all of which get substantial government subsidies. Meanwhile ULA has been getting billions a year for decades in U.S. government subsidies to keep both EELV fleets afloat (with no competition until recently) - and they will now get more money to wean themselves from RD-180 engines whose use was mandated by the U.S. government. Again, where you stand depends on where you sit."

America's Hypocritical Fear of Indian Rockets, earlier post

Commercial Space: Industry Developments and FAA Challenges, GAO

"GAO reported in 2015 that FAA's budget requests for its commercial space launch activities generally were based on the number of projected launches, but that in recent years the actual number of launches was much lower than FAA's projections. GAO also reported that, according to FAA officials, more detailed information was not provided in FAA's budget submissions because the agency lacked information on its workload overseeing commercial space launch activities. In addition, GAO reported that the Office of Commercial Space Transportation did not track the amount of time spent on various activities."

Statements by: Taber MacCallum, George Nield, Michael Lopez-Alegria, Michael Gold, Rep. LoBiondo

Senate Reaches Agreement on Russian RD-180 Engines, SpacePolicyOnline

"Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) brokered an agreement among Senators who have been at sharp odds over how to transition U.S. rocket launches away from reliance on Russian RD-180 engines to a new American-made engine. The Nelson amendment passed the Senate this morning by voice vote as part of the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The NDAA itself then passed the Senate by a vote of 85-13. In brief, the compromise sets December 31, 2022 as the end date for use of the RD-180 by the United Launch Alliance (ULA) for Atlas V launches of national security satellites. It also limits to 18 the number of RD-180s that can be used between the date that the FY2017 NDAA is signed into law (enacted) and that end date."

NDAA is DOA at OMB

Statement of Administration Policy: S. 2943 National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017, OMB

"If the President were presented with S. 2943, his senior advisors would recommend he veto the bill. ...

... Multiple Provisions Imposing Restrictions on the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Program: The Administration strongly objects to sections 1036, 1037, 1038, and 1611. Section 1036 would restrict DOD's authority to use RD-180 engines, eliminate the Secretary's authority to waive restrictions to protect national security interests, and -- with section 1037 -- disqualify a domestic launch service provider from offering a competitive, certified launch service capability. Section 1038 would repeal the statutory requirement to allow all certified providers to compete for launch service procurements. Section 1611 would redirect funds away from the development of modern, cost-effective, domestic launch capabilities that will replace non-allied engines. The combined effect of these provisions would be to eliminate price-based competition of EELV launch service contracts starting in FY 2017, force the Department to allocate missions, inhibit DOD's ability to maintain assured access to space, delay the launch of national security satellites, delay the on-ramp of new domestic launch capabilities and services, and increase the cost of space launch to DOD, the Intelligence Community, and civil agencies. The authorization to use up to 18 RD-180 engines is necessary and prudent to expeditiously and affordably transition to the new domestic launch capabilities currently under development."

Use of Surplus Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) Motors for Commercial Space Launches: Section 1607 would direct the Comptroller General to conduct an analysis of the costs and benefits of providing surplus ICBMs to the private sector for commercial space launch purposes. Both Federal law and the Administration's National Space Transportation Policy currently prohibit such transfers for commercial use. The Administration continues to support this long-standing policy, which seeks to avoid undermining investment, entrepreneurship, and innovation in the launch market."

There are other military space-related issues of concerns listed as well.

Dick Malow

Keith's note: Dick Malow, a long-time staff member on the House VA-HUD Appropriations subcommittee, has died after a lengthy illness. Malow was known for his support of NASA which often required some tough love on his part. Over the years Malow managed to have a lot of influence upon the way that the International Space Station was designed, re-designed, and then redesigned again so as to make it easier to assemble and more useful to the people who would eventually do research on it. His influence on what eventually became the ISS was rather substantial and was not totally appreciated at the time. I can remember more than once sitting in a meeting with the engineering side of the Space Station Freedom program when a design or science utilization issue came up. Usually someone was trying to cut a corner or reduce some capability that the science users needed. More than once I said something to the effect of "well, if the science types tell Malow about this you know that there will be a directive from Congress telling you to stop doing it." Indeed, that actually happened more than once. Dick Malow helped keep the space station alive when others wanted to kill it and helped make it useful when others just wanted to launch hardware - any hardware - that simply kept the lights on.. Ad Astra Dick.

Obituary, Washington Post

Louie Gohmert: No Gay Space Colonies!, RightWing Watch (with video)

"[Rep. Louie Gohmert R-TX] said that if lawmakers had to decide "whether humanity would go forward or not" in case of an imminent asteroid collision by putting people in a "space ship that can go, as Matt Damon did in the movie, plant a colony somewhere, we can have humans survive this terrible disaster about to befall, if you could decide what 40 people you put on the spacecraft that would save humanity, how many of those would be same-sex couples? You're wanting to save humankind for posterity, basically a modern-day Noah, you have that ability to be a modern day Noah, you can preserve life. How many same-sex couples would you take from the animal kingdom and from humans to put on a spacecraft to perpetuate humanity and the wildlife kingdom?"

Keith's note: Yes, Congress is where smart people work in the 18th 21st Century to make life better for all some Americans.

Senate Schism on Russian Rocket Engines Continues, Space Policy Online

"The Senate Appropriations Committee's Defense Subcommittee approved its version of the FY2017 defense appropriations bill today. Few details have been released, but in at least one area -- Russian RD-180 rocket engines -- the schism between Senate appropriators and authorizers seems destined to continue. The full appropriations committee will mark up the bill on Thursday."

As rocket wars wage in DC, a cautious move towards competition makes sense

"To ULA's credit, the company has successfully launched over 100 rockets without incident. But they've also been given vast resources to do so. For example, McCain refers to ULA's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) launch capability contract as "$800 million to do nothing." That's not exactly fair since the contract gives the Air Force tremendous launch flexibility, but $800 million a year to effectively be ready to launch seems tremendously generous."

SpaceX is about to attempt another extremely difficult landing, Business Insider

"SpaceX will once again attempt to land the first stage of the rocket on a drone ship in the Atlantic. SpaceX's track record for launches has been nearly flawless this year, with four successful launches and three successful landings (and retrievals!) of the first stage of the rockets. One of those successes took place on land in December; two more happened in April and May at sea. SpaceX will once again attempt to land the first stage of the rocket on a drone ship in the Atlantic."

NASA Chief: Congress Should Revise US-China Space Cooperation Law, VOA

"Responding to questions Monday at an event hosted by the Mitchell Institute on Capitol Hill, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said the U.S. should pursue such a relationship with China in human space exploration. "We were in an incredible Cold War with the Soviets at the time we flew Apollo-Soyuz; it was because leaders in both nations felt it was time," he said. "That represented a great use of soft power, if you will. Look where we are today. I think we will get there [with China]. And I think it is necessary." Current law prohibits NASA from engaging with its Chinese counterparts on such projects. But Bolden, who will travel to Beijing later this year, says Congress should consider revising the law."

Previous China posts

Kilmer, Bridenstine Get Full Funding for FAA Space Office, Space Policy Online

"During markup of the FY2017 Transportation-HUD (T-HUD) appropriations bill today, the House Appropriations Committee adopted an amendment to fully fund the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) at the requested level of $19.8 million. That is $1 million more than the T-HUD subcommittee recommended."

Full Committee Markup - FY 2017 Commerce, Justice, and Science Bill, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Bill, and Report on the Revised Interim Suballocation of Budget Allocations

- Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Approriations Bill 2007 (draft bill)
- Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Approriations Bill 2007 (draft report)

The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration Applauds House NASA Funding Bill, Coalition for Deep Space Exploration

"The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration (Coalition) applauds House Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee (CJS) Chairman John Culberson, Ranking Member Mike Honda and the entire Appropriations Committee for its exceptional support for NASA's human and science exploration programs in its FY 2017 Appropriations bill, which boosts NASA funding to $19.5 billion. Like their counterparts in the Senate, the CJS Subcommittee has worked across the aisle to produce a bipartisan bill that ensures our space program receives the necessary funding to continue America's leadership in space."

Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Approriations Bill 2007 (draft report)

NASA begins on Page 54. On page 61 the report says:

"Mission to Mars. While the Committee recognizes the benefits of some of the technology that is under development as part of the asteroid redirect and retrieval missions, namely advanced propulsion technology research, asteroid deflection, and grappling technologies, the Committee believes that neither a robotic nor a crewed mission to an asteroid appreciably contribute to the over-arching mission to Mars. Further, the long-term costs of launching a robotic craft to the asteroid, followed by a crewed mission, are unknown and will divert scarce resources away from developing technology and equipment necessary for missions to Mars, namely deep space habitats, accessing and utilizing space resources, and developing entry, descent, landing, and ascent technologies.

Toward that end, no funds are included in this bill for NASA to continue planning efforts to conduct either robotic or crewed missions to an asteroid. Instead, NASA is encouraged to develop plans to return to the Moon to test capabilities that will be needed for Mars, including habitation modules, lunar prospecting, and landing and ascent vehicles.

Further, the Committee is supportive of NASA's efforts to use the International Space Station (ISS) to conduct research necessary to enable long-term human spaceflight, or ''Earth-reliant'' technology development; cis-lunar space activities, or ''proving ground'' efforts such as Orion flights on SLS in the vicinity of the Moon, and deployment and testing of deep space habitation modules; and finally, NASA's ''Earth independent'' activities which include using cis-lunar space as a staging area, mapping potential human exploration zones and caching samples on Mars as part of the Mars Rover 2020 mission."

U.S. lawmaker orders NASA to plan for trip to Alpha Centauri by 100th anniversary of moon landing, Science

"Representative John Culberson (R-TX), a self-professed space fan who chairs the House appropriations subpanel that oversees NASA, included the call for the ambitious voyage in a committee report released today. The report accompanies a bill setting NASA's budget for the 2017 fiscal year, which begins 1 October; the full House appropriations panel is set to consider the bill on Tuesday. In the report, Culberson's panel "encourages NASA to study and develop propulsion concepts that could enable an interstellar scientific probe with the capability of achieving a cruise velocity of 0.1c [10% of the speed of light]." The report language doesn't mandate any additional funding, but calls on NASA to draw up a technology assessment report and conceptual road map within 1 year."

- Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Approriations Bill 2007 (draft report)
- Announcing "Breakthrough Starshot": Building Earth's First Starships, earlier post

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2016/europa.landing.jpg

House tells NASA to stop messing around, start planning two Europa missions

"As part of the mission to Europa, Culberson would also like to send a lander to the surface of the heaving, ice-encrusted world. This would allow scientists to better characterize the oceans below and, if the lander touches down near a fissure, possibly even sample the ocean. However, there has been some concern that having both an orbital spacecraft and a lander in a single mission would prove too challenging for a single rocket to deliver. So as part of the new House bill, the Europa mission is broken into two parts: an orbiter and, two years later, a lander."

Keith's note: This looks like it would be something like a dual "flagship" mission. Each spacecraft will be on the order of, oh $500 million each, and then, knowing Culberson's preferences, each would require its own SLS launch at $500 million to $1 billion each. Unless NASA's budget is going to get a big plus up on top of what it already needs to do other things that is going to eat into the whole #JourneyToMars thing - an effort that is already utterly underfunded.

Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act, Wikipedia

"One of the requirements would be that the government develop a streamlined plan for its acquisitions. The bill would increase the power of existing Chief Information Officers (CIO) within federal agencies so that they could be more effective. Each agency would also be reduced to having only one CIO in the agency, who is then responsible for the success and failure of all IT projects in that agency. The bill would also require the federal government to make use of private sector best practices. The bill is intended to reduce IT procurement related waste."

http://images.spaceref.com/news/scorecard.2015.jpg

Oversight Committee FITARA Scorecard (2015) Larger image

http://images.spaceref.com/news/scorecard.2016.jpg

Oversight Committee FITARA Scorecard (2016) [Note: NASA is the only agency to get an overall 'F' grade]

Hearing, Federal Information Technology Reform Act Scorecard 2.0, House Oversight Committee

NASA CIO Wynn Testimony

"Admittedly, NASA's scores on the FITARA scorecard are unacceptable. We have work to do, and challenges to overcome. But at the same time, I believe it is also important to reflect on the major strides NASA has already taken in improving the management of and protection of the Agency's IT infrastructure. Thus, the remainder of my testimony today will provide a brief summary of our achievements to date, and other work in progress directed at becoming the best stewards of the Agency's IT resources."

Keith's note: I have to be completely honest: neither this hearing or the FITARA report/scorecard that was released were on my news radar. I need to thank NASA's AA for Legislative Affairs, Seth Statler, for pointing out the hearing - and NASA's 'F' grade. NASA has the distinction in 2016 for being the only agency to get an overall 'F', so congratulations are in order. Of course, in telling everyone about FITARA, it is quite obvious that Statler was doing a little blame shifting as he spoke for NASA CIO Renee Wynn - while throwing her under the bus. You'd expect the @NASACIO Twitter to say something too but they have not tweeted anything since 15 March 2015.

Nor is there any mention of the hearing, the CIO's testimony, the 2016 score card (or last year's), NASA's performance (or lack thereof) and what corrective actions NASA plans to make on the NASA CIO website. Searching for "FITARA" only yields 6 results across all of NASA's websites. This chatty 2016 newsletter from the CIO makes no mention of NASA's abysmal score in 2015 but does say "OCIO has made significant progress in the development of a solid implementation plan." So, as long as they are working on a plan, then everything must be OK.

There is a slightly goofy post at Open.NASA.gov (not findable on the NASA search engine) "NASA's Approach to Implementing FITARA" from 10 March 2016 that opens with "My husband and I are planning a vacation to Disneyworld, an awesome destination for our five year old dreamer. How do we budget for such an grandiose trip?" , and then goes on to spout happy talk - with added IT word salad - about how seriously NASA takes FITARA. If only.

Space Subcommittee Hearing - Next Steps to Mars: Deep Space Habitats

"On Wednesday, May 18, 2016 at 2:00 p.m. in Room 2318 of the Rayburn House Office Building, the Subcommittee on Space will hold a hearing titled, "Next Steps to Mars: Deep Space Habitats." The hearing will examine Mars exploration, specifically efforts to develop deep space habitation capabilities."

- Statement, Jason Crusan, NASA
- Statement, John Elbon, Boeing
- Statement, Wanda Sigur, Lockheed Martin
-Statement, Frank Culbertson, Orbital ATK
-Statement, Andy Weir, Author, The Martian

How Elon Musk exposed billions in questionable Pentagon spending, Politico

"Yet despite the potentially more cost-effective alternative, taxpayers will be paying the price for ULA's contracts for years to come, POLITICO has found. Estimates show that, through 2030, the cost of the Pentagon's launch program will hit $70 billion - one of the most expensive programs within the Defense Department. And even if ULA is never awarded another government contract, it will continue to collect billions of dollars - including an $800 million annual retainer - as it completes launches that were awarded before Musk's company was allowed to compete. That includes a block buy of 36 launches awarded in 2013. Meanwhile, ULA is under investigation by the Pentagon for possible corrupt bidding practices and is preparing to lay off 25 percent of its workforce. Its long-term viability is in doubt. Even the Pentagon's acquisition chief grants that the creation of ULA - a monopoly criticized by the Federal Trade Commission when it was formed at the government's behest a decade ago - may have been a mistake. "With the benefit of hindsight, you could say that," Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, told POLITICO."

A bridge too far: Why Delta rockets aren't the answer, op ed, Tory Bruno, The Hill

"If you believe that competition is good, and if you believe that affordability is paramount, an Atlas bridge is the only answer. The hardworking, innovative men and women of ULA are proud of their support to America's space launch capability. From GPS and missile warning to secure communications and weather prediction, we've launched the satellites the military intelligence community depends on for every mission -- and we've done so with reliability no one can match. We're ready to continue that mission. Please ask Congress to create the smooth transition from Atlas to Vulcan Centaur that will keep America's launch industry healthy for decades to come."

ULA Gets A Russian Christmas Gift From Sen. Shelby, earlier post

"ULA has ordered additional Atlas engines to serve our existing and potential civil and commercial launch customers until a new American-made engine can be developed and certified."

Senator Shelby protects Alabama's role in rocket production, op ed, Huntsville Times

"In Decatur, the United Launch Alliance (ULA) builds the Atlas V and Delta IV rockets which launch our nation's military, NASA, and commercial satellites into space. The ULA plant employs or directly contracts with close to 1,000 Alabamians across north Alabama."

Keith's note: First ULA gets Shelby to side with them over the whole RD-180 thing to save jobs (among other things). Now you have to wonder whether Shelby is going to feel betrayed by ULA now that they want to close down Delta production in Alabama - i.e. JOBS. Then again with the unwieldy legacy arrangements that ULA has in place with DoD that will eventually go away it is probably time for them to do a drastic overhaul of how they do business. ultimately they need to able to compete in an open market on cost and performance - without DoD's finger on the scale.

Senate Armed Services Committee Sticks to Its Guns on RD-180 Rocket Engines, Space Policy Online

"U.S. national space transportation policy requires that at least two independent launch systems be available for national security launches. If one suffers a failure, access to space is assured by the other. For more than a decade, those two have been Atlas V and Delta IV, both ULA rockets. SpaceX argues that now the two can be its Falcon plus ULA's Delta IV. ULA and its supporters insist, however, that the Delta IV is prohibitively expensive compared to Atlas V and the best choice for the taxpayers is to keep Atlas V available until the early 2020s when ULA's new Vulcan rocket -- with a U.S. engine -- will be able to compete with SpaceX on price. SASC insists that a new U.S. engine can be ready by 2019 and only nine more RD-180s are needed until that time. That is the number set by the FY2015 and FY2016 NDAAs. However, the Senate Appropriations Committee undermined that authorization language in the FY2016 appropriations bill, essentially removing all limits."

- ULA Begs Congress To Let Them Kill Delta Rockets, earlier post
- Earlier RD-180 posts

Keith's note: I have lived and worked in the Washington, DC metro area for 30 years. One thing I quickly noticed when I moved here was that big companies and organizations use a large canvas - literally - when they are pushing an issue at Congress. It is not uncommon to see Metro stations near the Pentagon or Capitol Hill transformed by a "take over" ad campaign with every possible surface covered with pictures and words. Then there's op eds like the one ULA's Tory Bruno managed to get placed in The Hill begging Congress to let him kill the Delta rocket. Funny thing: I can remember back in the day when Lockheed Martin and Boeing launched big ad campaigns begging Congress to allow them to form the ULA duopoly because it would save taxpayers money by combining EELV marketing. The appearance of the Internet has done little to dampen the use of traditional media such as newspaper ads.

When I opened up my Washington Post this morning page A5 glared back at me with a full page advertisement from Norwegian Air. Flipping the page, A7 glared at me with a full page counter advertisement from ALPA (larger image). The issue has to do with a certification battle over this airline. OK, it got my attention. I do have to wonder who did the advertisement strategy for Norwegian Air. Their ad trumpets "American crew. American jobs. American planes. That's Norwegian." Right: say "American" three times and it somehow equals "Norwegian". OK, if you say so. Now ULA wants Congress to let them kill one of the two rockets it was so desperate for Congress to let them sell - without competition - because there now is competition. Oh yes and they want to kill the one with American engines and keep the one with Russian engines. Rest assured some equally large advertisements with strange tag lines from Tory Bruno will soon start to stare back from the Washington Post stating that the best "American" rocket is one with "Russian" engines.

NASA working towards September 2018 SLS/Orion launch, Space News

"Honeycutt said the SLS program is making progress on the Exploration Upper Stage (EUS), a more powerful upper stage planned for future SLS missions after EM-1. The EUS has also become a political issue, as Congress provided additional funding and direction for EUS work not requested by the agency in its recent budget requests. Congress directed NASA to spend at least $85 million on EUS in the fiscal year 2016 omnibus spending bill, and have it ready in time for the second SLS mission, EM-2. NASA, however, did not request enough funding in its fiscal year 2017 budget request to support development of the EUS in time for EM-2, even as it directed agency engineers to stop work on human rating the interim upper stage that will be flown on EM-1."

Keith's note: NASA did not ask for the money to build EUS and they have stopped working on ICPS. Right now SLS has no upper stage. And yet they claim that they are going to meet their launch dates. Yea, this sort of stuff really happens in Washington.

Keith's note: I sent the following email request to Glenn Delgado, AA for NASA's Office of Small Business Programs (OSBP): "I found this tweet to be very interesting. Can you provide me with a list of the specific 800+ small business companies that are contributing to SLS, where they are located, and what their products/services are in relation to SLS? People often do not appreciate just how pervasive NASA programs are in terms of procurement. Moreover it is often not appreciated how deeply these programs can reach into small communities a great distance from the cities/states where space activities are usually associated."

Keith's update: No response from Glenn Delgado or NASA PAO but this tweet from @NASA_OSBP just appeared. Impressive report (download). Too bad NASA PAO hasn't issued a press release about it. Oddly the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, a pro-SLS/Orion lobbying group, has made no mention at all about it.

Letter from OSTP Director Holdren to Rep. Thune and Rep. Smith Re: U.S Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, OSTP (PDF)

"The economic vitality of the American space industry is best served with a clear and predictable oversight process that ensures access to space and imposes minimal burdens on the industry. The Administration supports a narrowly tailored authorization process for newly contemplated commercial space activities, with only such conditions as are necessary for compliance with the United States' international obligations, foreign policy and national security interests, and protection of United States Government uses of outer space. Through months of consultations among Federal departments and agencies and with the commercial space industry, this Office developed a legislative proposal for a "Mission Authorization" framework, which is appended to this report."

Why NASA Is Building An $18 Billion Rocket To Nowhere, Buzzfeed

"It is more the politics of pork than the politics of progress," former NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver told BuzzFeed News. "There's a long-time pattern at NASA where money aimed at science and research ends up with builders and contractors instead." ... "The point is to spend money and create jobs the way the Soviet Union did on its rocket design bureaus," Keith Cowing of NASA Watch told BuzzFeed News. The SLS "a rocket to nowhere," as Cowing put it fits this pattern neatly because it provides thousands of jobs in space states. No one knows where it will go. Maybe to an asteroid (the Obama administration's unloved notion), or to circle the moon, or boost astronauts on their way to Mars."

NASA, We Have A (Funding) Problem, op ed, Mary Davis (staffer in Rep. Babib's Office), Houston Chronicle

"The SLS and Orion are strategic national assets and have to be sufficiently funded to lead the race back to the Moon and to Mars. As Chairman of the Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee, Congressman Babin is leading this fight for adequate funding of these programs. This will have a direct effect on his district in terms of lowering unemployment rates, inspiring young children, and increases economic competitiveness. It would also affect the entire nation by expanding international relations and advances national security interests."

Public Law 111-267 - NASA Authorization Act of 2010

"SEC. 304. UTILIZATION OF EXISTING WORKFORCE AND ASSETS IN DEVELOPMENT OF SPACE LAUNCH SYSTEM AND MULTI- PURPOSE CREW VEHICLE. (a) IN GENERAL.In developing the Space Launch System pursuant to section 302 and the multi-purpose crew vehicle pursu- ant to section 303, the Administrator shall, to the extent practicable utilize (1) existing contracts, investments, workforce, industrial base, and capabilities from the Space Shuttle and Orion and Ares 1 projects, including ... (B) Space Shuttle-derived components and Ares 1 components that use existing United States propulsion systems, including liquid fuel engines, external tank or tank-related capability, and solid rocket motor engines; and (2) associated testing facilities, either in being or under construction as of the date of enactment of this Act."


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