Recently in Congress Category

President Obama Signs Bill Recognizing Asteroid Resource Property Rights into Law, Planetary Resources

"Planetary Resources, the asteroid mining company, applauds President Obama who signed the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (H.R. 2262) into law. This law recognizes the right of U.S. citizens to own asteroid resources they obtain and encourages the commercial exploration and utilization of resources from asteroids."

U.S. space-mining law seen leading to possible treaty violations, CBC

"My view is that natural resources [in space] should not be allowed to be appropriated by anyone states, private companies, or international organizations," said Ram Jakhu, a professor at McGill University's institute of air and space law. He said the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, signed by the U.S. and other countries, including Canada, makes it clear that the surfaces and contents of asteroids and other celestial bodies are protected from commercial harvesting."

The commercial space race, Ottawa Citizen

"If asteroids cannot be appropriated by any state, they can also never be owned by a company, and that includes parts of an asteroid that might be extracted. Any notion of property law which would allow a person to possess, use or sell an object, depend upon the existence of a sovereign jurisdiction. The U.S. cannot give away what it does not own."

Standoff over government climate study provokes national uproar by scientists, Washington Post

"Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, has subpoenaed scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and demanded that they turn over internal e-mails related to their research. Their findings contradicted earlier work showing that global warming had paused, and Smith, a climate change skeptic, has accused them of altering global temperature data and rushing to publish their research in the June issue of the journal Science."

AAAS Leads Coalition to Protest Climate Science Inquiry

"AAAS and a half-dozen other leading scientific organizations on Tuesday expressed "grave concern" about a Congressional inquiry that has unfoundedly called into question the integrity of federal scientists whose research, published in Science, seemed to debunk claims of a global-warming slowdown or "hiatus." In a letter to Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, the group acknowledged the importance of appropriate congressional oversight of federally funded research, but emphasized that "scientists should not be subjected to fraud investigations or harassment simply for providing scientific results that some may see as politically controversial."

- Ranking Member Johnson Questions Chairman Smith Again on NOAA Subpoena
- NASA Comes to NOAA's Defense Against House Climate Witch Hunt, earlier post

Letter from Rep. Sensenbrenner to NASA Administrator Bolden Regarding Acquisition Issues

"I am writing to request information about the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) policy with respect to full and open competition in the acquisition process. NASA is in the midst of an up-to ten-year $1.3 billion dollar technology purchase known as the NASA Integrated Communications Service (NICS) contract. Such a large and important technology purchase should follow both the letter and spirit of full and open competition laws, regulations, and Office of Management and Budget guidelines to ensure that NASA, and the taxpayer, get the best value for their investment, as well as the best and most cost-effective solutions to meet mission requirements. ... It has come to my attention that, pursuant to NICS, there is an Approved Products List (APL) developed by the contractor. The APL governs which products can be purchased for NASA systems and networks, and likely will impact NASA acquisitions for years to come. Interestingly, every approved product listed on the NICS LAN wired and wireless network APL belongs to a single manufacturer. At the same time, alternate vendors that have supplied network equipment to NASA, and successfully met mission requirements, have not been evaluated for inclusion on the APL for current and future purchases, despite requesting an opportunity to be evaluated."

- Rep. Sensenbrenner Seeks Answers on NASA Contracting Practices
- Letter from Rep. Sensenbrenner to NASA IG Martin Regarding Acquisition Issues

NASA chief: Government climate scientists won't be intimidated, Ars Technica

"As NOAA has endured a series of Congressional attacks this fall for its climate change research, the agency's administrator, Kathryn Sullivan, has largely remained silent. But the former astronaut's wingmate for two spaceflights, Charles Bolden, has not been so reticent. The NASA administrator this week continued to blister Congress for its tack on climate change science. After delivering a keynote speech on the commercialization of space at the SpaceCom conference in Houston Tuesday, Bolden talked to Ars about his own agency's Earth science research. He also addressed the efforts by Texas Congressman Lamar Smith, who chairs the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, to obtain the e-mails of NOAA climate scientists, in which Smith expects to find political influence and perhaps fraud."

Smith Reiterates Demand for NOAA Communications after Allegations Climate Study was Rushed

"Smith wrote that "Despite Dr. Karl's apparent awareness of these concerns, the study was moved to publication without the underlying data having been subjected to the appropriate reviews. More troubling, it appears that NOAA employees raised concerns about the timing and readiness of the study's release through e-mails, including several communications just before its publication in April, May, and June of 2015. These allegations raise serious questions about the Karl study and NOAA's public statements about its conclusions."

Committee Democrats Defend Clean Power Plan and NOAA

"Unfortunately, the Chairman also used the hearing as a platform to continue his attack on NOAA's climate science. He said, "Another example of how this administration attempts to promote its suspicious climate agenda can be seen at NOAA. Its employees altered historical climate data to get politically correct results in an attempt to disprove the hiatus in global temperature increases."

Keith's note: Many people are pleased that the SPACE Act made it through the House yesterday. This legislation does a lot to support NASA's plans for going to Mars as well as various commercial efforts and things such as mining asteroids. There is something good in it for just about every space advocate. While a lot of individuals and organizations were quick to express their approval, others have been curiously silent. No statement seems to be available from the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration despite all of the things in it that directly support the organization's avowed interests in sending humans to Mars. Nothing from the Planetary Society either - yet their co-founder stated yesterday that "Humans will become a multi-planet species by making it to Mars, but no farther. That is, they will never travel beyond Mars." so ... maybe they are not as enthusiastic about this legislation. Curiously, the two Mars-oriented groups Mars Society and Explore Mars are silent too. Meanwhile on the Asteroid utilization front, the usually bubbly Space Frontier Foundation is silent as well. Why bother communicating to the public you purport to enlighten about space when important news like this happens, eh?

Space utilization and exploration happens in spite of space advocates - not because of them.

- Satellite Industry Association Applauds Congress for Passing Long-term Extension of Commercial Space Launch Indemnification
- National Space Society Urges Presidential Signing of the Final Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act
- CSF Applauds House Passage of Visionary, Comprehensive, and Bipartisan Commercial Space Legislation

House Passes SPACE Act

House Sends Crucial Commercial Space Bill to President's Desk

"House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), and Space Subcommittee Chairman Brian Babin (R-Texas) today praised passage of crucial legislation that provides guidance and certainty for American commercial space partners. The bicameral, bipartisan agreement on H.R. 2262, the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, consolidates language from the House-passed SPACE Act with provisions from the Senate's commercial space legislation. It is now headed to the president's desk to be signed into law."

- Rep. McCarthy's Remarks for SPACE Act Debate (prepared)
- House Takes Up Commercial Space Legislation Today
- SPACE Act Action Expected Today
- Virgin Galactic Applauds the Passage of Legislation for Commercial Space Endeavours
- Moon Express Commends House for Historic Vote Supporting Private Sector Lunar Resource Exploration and Utilization
- Sen. Cruz: Congress Carries Reagan's Torch Forward with New U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act

Joint Commerce Committee Statement on Senate Passage of Bill to Boost Competitiveness of U.S. Space Industry

"U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.), Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), and Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee Chairman Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee Ranking Member Gary Peters (D-Mich.) issued the following statements on the passage of H.R. 2262, the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, a bicameral, bipartisan bill that encourages competitiveness, reflects the needs of a modern-day U.S. commercial space industry, and guarantees operation of the International Space Station until at least 2024. The bill builds on key elements in S. 1297 that the Commerce Committee approved earlier this year and passed the Senate on August 4, 2015."

- Planetary Resources Applauds U.S. Congress in Recognizing Asteroid Resource Property Rights, Planetary Resources
- McCarthy, Smith Praise Passage of Commercial Space Legislation
- CSF Applauds Senate Passage of Bipartisan Commercial Space Legislation, Commercial Spaceflight Federation
- New Law Enables Commercial Exploration and Use of Space Resources, Deep Space Industries

NASA Counting on Budget Increase for SLS and Orion, Space News

"NASA is currently spending money on its key exploration programs at a rate that assumes Congress will approve a budget increase in the next month, a move that could delay some efforts should the additional funds not materialize. Bill Hill, deputy associate administrator for exploration systems development, told a meeting of the NASA Advisory Council's human exploration and operations committee here Nov. 4 that NASA was funding programs like the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft at a higher rate than specified in the continuing resolution (CR) currently funding the agency. "Today we're running hot. We're running based on what we saw in the draft House and Senate levels," Hill said. "But if we don't ultimately achieve those levels in an appropriations bill, then we'll have to power back and replan."

Keith's note: Of course the flip side of this is the equal expectation within NASA that its commercial crew and/or cargo efforts will be shortchanged in the budget thus delaying progress, reducing capability, and driving up eventual long-term costs. Punting on the CRS-2 decision gives NASA time to do a lot of things - including waiting until they see how much money they have. If the commercial crew budget gets cut too far there will be renewed pressure to downselect to one provider.

- GAO Finds NASA SLS Costs Not Credible, earlier post
- NASA Delays First Crewed Orion Flight By Two Years, earlier post
- SLS/Orion Gets a Lobbying Organization in Washington (Update), earlier post
- NASA Can't Decide What SLS Engines It Does/Does Not Need, earlier post
- SLS CDR: Not As Smooth As Advertised, earlier post

Budget Deal To Ease Sequester, Boost Discretionary Spending For Two Years, AIP

"Congress approved a major bipartisan budget agreement, negotiated with the White House, that increases discretionary spending by $80 billion total in FY 2016 and FY 2017, creating room for boosts to spending at federal science agencies and offices starting this year. Early this morning, the Senate passed and sent the "Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015" to President Obama, concluding a major bipartisan effort between the White House and congressional leaders in both political parties that brings budget stability to the federal government for the next two years. The agreement, which the President has clearly indicated he will sign into law, lifts the federal debt ceiling through March 2017 and dials back for two years the federal budget sequester that has been in place since the passage of the Budget Control Act of 2011."

House and Senate Reach Agreement on Commercial Space Legislation, SpacePolicyOnline

"House and Senate negotiators have reached agreement on a compromise version of commercial space legislation that passed the House and Senate earlier this year. Details of the compromise have not been made public, but the revised bill could be voted on soon. The Senate bill, the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (S. 1297) passed in August. The House bill, Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship (SPACE) Act (H.R. 2262), passed in May. The House and Senate versions have many differences, but Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX), the new chair of the Space Subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, recently characterized them as minor during an appearance before the FAA's Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC).."

Coalition for Space Exploration takes steps to ensure broad support for deep-space exploration

"The Coalition for Space Exploration, an ad-hoc organization of space industry businesses and advocacy groups, today announced it is taking formal steps to provide a single, unified voice for the deep-space exploration industry. The organization is seeking 501 (c) 6 status, appointing an executive director and changing the name of the organization to the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration."

Keith's note: The Coalition for Space Exploration was originally created by many aerospace companies to promote all aspects of space exploration and they managed to do a good job at being balanced and enthusiastic. That effort has now been taken over by the so-called "Four Amigos": Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Aerojet, and Orbital ATK and will now be a de facto lobbying effort in Washington DC for SLS and Orion. It will be interesting to see how its new executive director Mary Lynne Dittmar deals with conflict of interest issues given that she also works for CASIS (which gets 99.9% of its funding from NASA) and is a member of the National Academies of Sciences Space Studies Board Executive Committee. Given the broad and overlapping aspects of all these jobs/positions, it is a little hard to see where government, private sector, and advisory aspects of her employment would not overlap at least once a day.

The Four Amigos and The Future of Competition in Space Commerce, earlier post

Keith's update: Congress has been moving ahead with a budget today. Does this new organization speak out against the cuts to NASA commercial crew (which affects the 4 Amigos) or stay silent and only praise funding for SLS/Orion (which benefits the 4 Amigos)? Stay tuned.

Culberson Will "Vigorously Enforce" Restrictions on NASA-China Relationship, SpacePolicyOnline

"Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) said today that NASA did not fully inform Congress about the recent State Department-led meeting in Beijing on bilateral U.S.-China civil space cooperation as required by law. He stressed that he plans to "vigorously enforce" the law, which requires NASA to notify Congress in advance of such meetings that technology transfer, for example, will not occur."

Culberson Reaction to Indictment of NASA Supervisors

"Yesterday's indictment is further proof of widespread negligence at NASA and throughout the Obama Administration when it comes to protecting U.S. intellectual property and sensitive information. "I want to thank my predecessor Congressman Frank Wolf who understood the threat posed by the Chinese. His leadership on this issue exposed many of the problems that have led us to this point."

NASA Supervisors Charged in Chinese Spy Case, Daily Caller

"Two NASA supervisors were criminally indicted Tuesday under U.S. espionage laws for "willfully violating" national security regulations while allowing a visiting Chinese foreign national to gain "complete and unrestricted access" to the space agency's Langley Research Center, according to the U.S. Attorneys office for the Eastern District of Virginia. The indictments of NASA Langley supervisors Glenn A. Woodell and Daniel J. Jobson cap a federal investigation into the two supervisor's decision to permit Bo Jiang unrestricted access for two years at Langley. Bo Jiang was deported back to China in 2013."

Bolden Says Ban On China Space Interaction Is Temporary, Previous Post - October 2015

"The reason I think that where we are today is temporary is because of a practical statement that we will find ourselves on the outside looking in, because everybody ... who has any hope of a human spaceflight program ... will go to whoever will fly their people," Bolden said. His comments were echoed by China."

Previous China postings

NASA finally talks Mars budget, and it's not enough, Houston Chronicle

"At the Capitol Hill luncheon, Lightfoot said a Mars program would have to be accomplished with a budget that is one-tenth of the budget that sent Apollo astronauts to the moon. "From a NASA perspective it'll be done for about one-tenth of the budget that we were doing back then," Lightfoot said, according to Space News. A NASA spokeswoman said after Lightfoot's speech that he was comparing the Apollo budget and the agency's current budget based on percentages of the overall federal budget. NASA received 4 percent of the total federal budget during the height of the Apollo Program, and today NASA has 0.4 percent. "We intend to carry out our current ambitious exploration plans within current budget levels, with modest increases aligned to economic growth," NASA's Lauren Worley said. The release of the "Journey to Mars" report that contained no specific budget for a Mars mission frustrated some members of Congress."

Keith's note: NASA's answer just confuses things further. No one with even a shred of fiscal accumen will tell you that a multi-decade program to send humans to Mars - as is typically done by NASA (delays, overruns, and PR hype) - is going to be done "within current budget levels, with modest increases aligned to economic growth." This is just back peddling NASA PR mumbo jumbo designed to try and make it seem that Lightfoot said something other than what he actually said. Oddly, as they berate NASA for its delays that are often due to wacky budget actions by Congress, Congress neglects to mention that between FY10-15 the White House has given $1.8 billion more to NASA than Congress wanted to give the agency while Congress simultaneously and consistently cuts the President's request for Commercial Crew every year.

No one has a plan or a budget. This is no way to send people to Mars.

Hearing: Impact of President's Budget on Deep Space Exploration

"October 9, 2015 10:15 a.m. ET: The Subcommittee on Space will hold a hearing on the impact of the president's budget on programs being built for a trip to Mars and other deep space destinations. Witnesses will discuss NASA's plans for future major tests and milestones of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion crew vehicle, as well as how the administration's budget request affects these programs."

- Archived webcast
- Statement of Dan Dumbacher
- Statement by Doug Cooke
- Hearing Examines Impact of President's Budget on Deep Space Exploration
- Committee on Science, Space, and Technology's Subcommittee on Space Discusses Deep Space Exploration
- Hearing charter

"On August 27, 2014, NASA announced a one year slip of EM-1, the first launch of SLS, from 2017 to 2018. This announcement was made despite numerous statements from NASA officials to Congress that the program was on schedule and that no additional funding was needed. Last month, NASA made a similar announcement about the Orion, pushing the launch readiness date for Exploration Mission-2 (EM-2) back two years to no later than 20237 from an original date of 2021."

Astrobiology Hearing Today

Hearing charter

"This hearing will review the scientific methods employed to search for life, examine recent scientific discoveries in the field of astrobiology (the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe), and assess the prospects of finding life beyond Earth over the next decade."

- Archived webcast
- Hearing information
- Prepared Statements by: Ellen Stofan, Jonathan Lunine, Jacob Bean, Andrew Siemion
- Science, Space, and Technology Committee Hearing Examines NASA's Astrobiology Portfolio
- House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Assesses Progress in the Search for Life beyond Earth

NASA Initial Government Shutdown Planning

"The Administration continues to strongly believe that a lapse in funding should not occur. There is enough time for Congress to prevent a lapse in appropriations, and the Administration is willing to work with Congress to enact a short-term continuing resolution to fund critical Government operations and allow Congress more time to negotiate an agreement that invests in middle-class economic priorities and helps our entire economy grow. However, prudent management requires that we continue to prepare for all contingencies, including the possibility that a lapse could occur at the end of the month."

NASA Shutdown Plan in the Event of a Lapse in Funding (Sept. 25, 2015), PDF

Is Space Mining Legal?, Popular Science

"In May, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would give asteroid mining companies property rights to the minerals they extract from space. Called the Space Act of 2015, the bill now awaits the Senate's decision. ... In an article in the journal Space Policy, Fabio Tronchetti, a lawyer at the Harbin Institute of Technology in China, argues that the Space Act of 2015 would violate the Outer Space Treaty. He writes: States are forbidden from extending their territorial sovereignty over outer space or any parts of it. Despite arguments claiming otherwise this prohibition also extends to private entities. In essence, Tronchetti argues that if the U.S. passes this bill, it will confer rights to space companies that the U.S. doesn't have the power to give."

Keith's note: This is like the legislation declaring the Apollo landing sites and their artifacts as a "National Historic Park". How can the U.S. Congress make laws, impose regulations, and confer rights regarding activities - by anyone - on bodies in the solar system over which it has no jurisdiction?

Why would any company pour billions into a mining project if they cannot own anything that they dig up? A mining site is composed of stuff that a miner wants to take and eventually sell to someone else. You can't sell something that you do not own. And if no nation can claim territory in space (where those mining sites would be located) then how can any nation make laws that give someone the right to mine these places?

- H.R.2262 - SPACE Act of 2015

"Any asteroid resources obtained in outer space are the property of the entity that obtained them, which shall be entitled to all property rights to them, consistent with applicable federal law and existing international obligations."

- Outer Space Treaty

"Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means."

- Protecting the Apollo Sites, earlier post

Smith Condemns Administration's Space Exploration Delays

"NASA announced today that its schedule for the first crewed mission of SLS and Orion will slip to 2023; this represents a two year slip from previous plans for the first mission by 2021. The agency announced similar delays last fall. Smith has repeatedly criticized the Obama administration for failure to request adequate funding for Orion and the Space Launch System; the administration's FY16 budget request proposed cuts of more than $440 million for the programs."

OIG Report on SLS/Orion Ground Systems, earlier post

"NASA management noted a risk that the dates planned for SLS and Orion could slip and the GSDO review occur first. Accordingly, NASA should closely monitor the Programs to ensure any such risk is mitigated so as to avoid significant cost increases or schedule delays."

GAO Sees Through NASA's SLS/Orion Smoke and Mirrors, earlier post

"The Orion estimate does not include costs for production, operations, or sustainment of additional crew capsules, despite plans to use and possibly enhance this capsule after 2021. It also does not include $4.7 billion in prior costs incurred during the approximately 4 years when Orion was being developed as part of NASA's now-defunct Constellation program."

SLS Has Problems That Money Alone Will Not Fix, earlier post

"In addition, our ongoing work has found that the three human exploration programs are pursuing inconsistent and unrealistic schedule goals and that the Orion program is facing significant technical and funding issues that may affect NASA's overall schedule for its human exploration programs."

Congress and GAO Have Doubts About SLS Costs, earlier post

"According to the program's risk analysis, however, the agency's current funding plan for SLS may be $400 million short of what the program needs to launch by 2017. ... "Moreover, NASA's estimates do not capture the cost of the second flight of the 70-metric ton vehicle during EM-2, the costs of development work that will be necessary to fly the increased 105- and 130-metric ton SLS capabilities, and the costs associated with legacy hardware that will be used for the Orion program."

Empty Promises On NASA's Road to Mars, earlier post

"Now Charlie Bolden seems to derive a certain amount of happiness by saying "we are no longer 20 years away from Mars". What he is really saying is "Hooray - we now suck less at NASA".

Negative Progress Towards Putting Humans on Mars, earlier post

Mars, national infrastructure, and dispelling myths, OP Ed, Chris Carberry and Blake Ortner, The Hill

"In addition to inflated perceptions of cost, some believe that when budgets for space missions are proposed, this constitutes entirely new spending (on top of the current NASA budget projections). In reality, the majority of mission budgets come from funds already projected within the NASA budget - it's mostly a decision of how we decide to use these NASA funds. This fall presents an ideal opportunity to engage the candidates. Mars exploration will be a hot topic as a result of the upcoming film adaption of Andrew Weir's novel, The Martian, that will arrive in theaters and generate a lot of discussion on the real prospects of human missions to Mars. Later in October, NASA will be presenting a workshop to select ten potential landing sites for human missions to Mars. The workshop is an important milestone for advocates of human exploration of Mars and will help connect the science fiction film, The Martian, with a very real potential future."

Keith's note: Yawn, these space advocates still hope that a Hollywood movie will shift the political calculus when it comes to sending humans to Mars. I most fervently wish them good luck in this regard. I'd love to see it happen. Alas, over the course of the past half century of space exploration and space movies this has yet to happen.

They also repeat the perennial space advocate complaint that "the general public and many policymakers have a vastly inflated perspective of the cost of human space exploration." OK Chris Carberry and Blake Ortner, can you tell us what your Humans to Mars Mission would cost - total amount and yearly run out? Can you also summarize the processes whereby the taxpaying public can be assured that cost overruns ala SLS, ISS, Shuttle, Mars Curiosity, will not occur? Oh yes - please show me where I can find details of the NASA budget increases that resulted from the blockbusters "Gravity" and "Interstellar". You can post your details in the comments section. Sometimes the problem with the cost of sending humans to Mars is not a large scary number rather its that no one comes up with the same large scary number - nor the source of the money required for *any* humans to Mars scenario.

Space advocates never explain why the remaining 99.99999% of the people who will pay for the humans to Mars thing should want to do so - especially when there are things that people see as being more relevant/important to themselves and their families. As Alan Ladwig recently noted NSF NIH gets budget increases - more than NASA - but no one makes movies about them.

- Space Movies Do Not Drive Space Policy, earlier post
- Space Advocacy By Space Advocates Is A Failure, earlier post
- Why Worry About Public Support For NASA If It Really Doesn't Matter?, earlier post
- Pioneering Space National Summit: So Far, Nothing But Crickets, earlier post
- Hollow Promises From Stealthy Inept Space Advocacy Organizations, earlier post
- Humans to Mars Summit: Wayne Hale Tells it Like it is, earlier post

Tight Timing: Congress Returns with Only a Few Days to Pass Funding for New Fiscal Year, American Institute of Physics

"There is both good and bad news about the twelve FY 2016 appropriations bills. Appropriators in the House and Senate have completed work, for the first time in six years, on their bills. Of note to the physics community, the House has passed measures providing funding for the Department of Defense's S&T programs, the DOE Office of Science, NASA, National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Nuclear Security Administration, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, National Science Foundation, and U.S. Geological Survey. Despite this progress, work on the appropriations bills has largely stalled because of continued disagreements between congressional Republicans, and congressional Democrats and the White House, about overall spending limits."

NASA Deploys Congressional Rover To Search For Funding, The Onion

"Calling the program "the most crucial in the agency's history," researchers at NASA announced Wednesday they have successfully deployed a Special Exploratory Rover to Congress as part of an open-ended mission to seek out any possible trace of funding on Capitol Hill. The rover, named Hope, is a remotely operated, semi-autonomous vehicle outfitted with ultra-sensitive equipment that can detect even the smallest amounts of program-sustaining revenue, NASA scientists confirmed."

Congress, Don't Make Us Hitch Rides With Russia. Love, NASA, Charlie Bolden via Wired

"Saturday will mark 1,500 days since the Space Shuttle touched down for the final time. Grounding human spaceflights was always supposed to be temporary as we made the necessary transition to a new generation of spacecraft, operated by American commercial carriers. Likewise, paying for seats on Russian spacecraft to send our astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) was always intended to be a stopgap. Had Congress adequately funded President Obama's Commercial Crew proposal, we could have been making final preparations this year to once again launch American astronauts to space from American soil aboard American spacecraft. Instead we are faced with uncertaintyand we will continue to be so long as Congress resists fully investing in Commercial Crew."

- Why Is Congress Stalling NASA's Commercial Crew Program?, earlier post
- NASA Buys More Soyuz Flights Since Congress Constantly Cuts Commercial Crew, earlier post
- Mikulski Tries Unsuccessfully To Prevent Commercial Crew Funding Decrease, earlier post

Letter From NASA to Congress Regarding SpaceX and Orbital ATK Launch Failure Reviews

"Dear Chairman Smith: Thank you very much for your letter of August 4, 2015 regarding the recent space launch failures of June 28,2015 and October 28, 2014. I appreciate your sincere commitment to our Nation's leadership in space and NASA has always shared that commitment. I am pleased for the opportunity to address your concerns. I would also mention that on August 3, 2015, Vice Admiral Joe Dyer, Chairman of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) provided a written response related to concerns that we were treating SpaceX differently than Orbital ATK with respect to our oversight of the respective accident investigations to Mr. Chris Shank, Policy Director of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. I think you will find Vice Admiral Dyer's response is in basic agreement with the contents of my letter following."

Three reasons to be truly outraged by Congressional stonewalling of commercial crew, Houston Chronicle

"This week NASA Administrator Charles Bolden stepped up his war of words on Congress, saying the space agency had to extend a pricey contract with Russia through 2019 for crew transport due to under-funding of the commercial crew program. You may like Bolden, or dislike him. You may like his boss, President Obama, or you may hate him. You may like NASA's human exploration plan, or you may have questions about its viability. But you should know this for a fact: Commercial crew, a program allowing SpaceX and Boeing to develop spacecraft and rockets to put U.S. astronauts into orbit, deserves full funding. Here are three reasons why Congressional under-funding of commercial crew is especially duplicitous."

NASA Notifies Congress about Space Station Contract Modification with Russia

"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden sent a letter to Congress Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015 informing members that, due to continued reductions in the president's funding requests for the agency's Commercial Crew Program over the past several years, NASA was forced to extend its existing contract with the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) to transport American astronauts to the International Space Station. This contract modification is valued at about $490 million dollars. The letter was delivered to the leadership of the congressional committees that oversee NASA. The full text of the letter follows:"

NASA signing $490M contract with Russia, The Hill

"The new contract extension is required because Congress has not fully funded the administration's budget requests since 2010. For fiscal year 2011, for example, Obama asked Congress for $500 million for NASA's Commercial Crew Program. Congress only gave it $321 million. The next year, Obama asked for $850 million and Congress only allocated $400 million. Due to those low funding levels for five consecutive years, NASA had to ask Congress for more than $1 billion for next year. A spokeswoman for NASA said if Obama's request is fully funded, and if NASA can fully pay its contracts, the U.S. commercial vehicles could still be ready by the 2017 date."

Senate Approves U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

"The U.S. Senate, today, unanimously approved S. 1297, the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, introduced by Commerce Committee Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee chairman Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), full committee ranking member Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee ranking member Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), and subcommittee members Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.). The legislation, which the full Commerce Committee approved by voice vote with an amendment on May 20, 2015, extends the operational use of the International Space Station (ISS) until 2024, a regulatory moratorium on commercial space activity through FY 2020, and ensures stability for the continued development and growth of the U.S. commercial space sector and other space initiatives."

For the first time Chinese research to fly on NASA's space station, Houston Chronicle

"A Houston company has negotiated a historic agreement to fly a Chinese experiment on the International Space Station, a small but symbolic maneuver around a law that bans any scientific cooperation between NASA and the communist country. Over a conference table adorned with an American and a Chinese flag, Jeff Manber last week agreed to take a DNA experiment into space next year. Manber's Houston-based company, NanoRacks, helps scientists do research on board the station. Because of decades of suspicion about Chinese motives and the country's regime, Congress prohibits NASA from working with the country in any capacity. But the new deal, which is apparently legal, could begin to change that. "It's symbolic, and it's meaningful," Manber said Monday, after returning from Beijing. "But let's not get ahead of ourselves."

Keith's note: According to a NanoRacks source, in crafting this agreement with Beijing Institute of Technology, NanoRacks worked to assure compliance with the 2011 spending bill Amendment offered by former Rep. Frank Wolf which places restrictions on formal NASA cooperation with China's space program. After consultation with NASA and the Obama Administration, NanoRacks approached Professor Feng of Beijing Institute of Technology (BIT) and invited him to continue his immune system research using NanoRacks' commercial hardware on the ISS.

NanoRacks notes that money flows from China to the U.S.; that no hardware or technology flows to China (just a return of data and experiment samples); that this experiment has intrinsic scientific value; and that the payload uses NanoRacks hardware and is a NanoRacks customer payload as part of their normal ISS payload allocation. This is NOT a NASA/Chinese research project. In addition, this project ("DNA Mismatching During PCR Reaction Exposed to Space Environment") reflies payload hardware that was flown on Shenzou 8. As such, the payload developer already has their own independent pathway to long-duration exposure in space. Lastly, The Beijing Institute of Technology Life Sciences Department publishes their scientific results in leading Western research publications thereby assuring a full dissemination of results in compliance with the spirit of ISS basic research.

NanoRacks was informed by the Obama Administration that it believes that this project is in compliance with the Wolf Amendment. Also, in accordance with ISS International Partners agreements, member nations of the ISS were informed of this project.

Congress calls SpaceX Falcon 9 launch certification into question, Denver Post

"The June 28 explosion of a Falcon 9 rocket carrying supplies to the International Space Station has members of Congress asking NASA and the U.S. Air Force for assurance that SpaceX is qualified to carry military payloads to space. A bipartisan group of 14 U.S. representatives sent a letter saying they have "serious reservations" about SpaceX's internal investigation process and question whether the "engineering rigor applied will be sufficient to prevent future military launch mishaps." "We are committed to our nation's leadership in space, but equally believe we must be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars when it comes to achieving our priorities and goals for spaceflight," reads the letter to NASA administrator Charles Bolden and Air Force secretary Deborah James. The panel asked Bolden and James to outline the oversight responsibilities of NASA and the Air Force, however, some questions raised in the letter have already been addressed in other arenas. On May 28, SpaceX was certified by the Air Force to carry military payloads to space, offering competition to Centennial-based United Launch Alliance for the first time in more than a decade."

Keith's note: Clearly none of these politicians understand the process they are questioning. Why aren't they questioning Orbital ATK's internal review process? FAA already has oversight over both mishap investigations. So ... are they wanting to create new regulations - or are they just ignorant of what regulations are already in place? In addition, SpaceX does its review in a much more rigorous fashion than might otherwise be the case because it is certified by the USAF - as would ULA if/when it loses a rocket. Let's see if @ToryBruno calls B.S. on this - unless (of course) ULA is behind the letter, that is ...

Hearing on Pluto Flyby

"Tuesday, July 28, 2015: The Science Committee's NASA Authorization Act for FY16 and FY17 restored funds the Obama administration proposed cutting from planetary science budgets. This would bring parity between NASA's science accounts and allow for development of missions like New Horizons to continue at the current pace."

Keith's note: The New Horizons team is now openly talking about a New Horizons-2 mission back to Pluto. It will be interesting to see if this topic is raised given that this committee is on the record about their interest in Europa - not Pluto. Also, given the NASA's budgetary issues, it will be interesting to see how the extra $1 billion-plus needed for New Horizons-2 would be squeezed out of an already constrained budgetary future - one that will inevitably stressed by SLS costs.

- Video
- Hearing charter
- Scientists Advocate for Planetary Funding in Wake of #PlutoFlyby, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
- Committee Discusses New Accomplishments in the Exploration of the Solar System, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democrats

- Statement of Brian Babin
- Statement of Lamar Smith
- Statement of Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson
- Statement of Rep. Donna Edwards
- Statement of Robert Pappalardo
- Statement of John Grunsfeld
- Statement of Robert Braun
- Statement of Chris Russell
- Alan Stern did not provide a prepared statement - just pictures and the New Horizons Press Kit

Ted Cruz Is Really Excited About Pluto. So Why Does He Want to Cripple NASA?, Mother Jones

"But NASA is also one of the main purveyors of the satellite observations of Earth that are a basic necessity for many fields of Earth science. That's the part Cruz doesn't like: He wants to slash the agency's budget for Earth sciencesin particular, for climate change, a subject on which Cruz's theories are, in the words of one scientist, "a load of claptrap." It's not just Cruz. In the House, Republicans are forging ahead with a bill that would gut $90 million from NASA's Earth science budget. There are a couple major problems with that approach, and they make Cruz's lauding of the Pluto mission distinctly ironic and hypocritical. First, NASA is uniquely equipped among federal agencies to send satellites into space, so it would be hard to transfer its Earth research to some other outfit. (These are the very satellites, by the way, that produce the data Cruz likes to erroneously cite as evidence against global warming.)"

Keith's note: Comments are closed. People have gone totally off topic and are ranting and making personal attacks. Please do not try and post comments elsewhere since they will be deleted.

Hearing: International Space Station: Addressing Operational Challenges

"The Subcommittee on Space will hold a hearing to examine the current status of the International Space Station (ISS). The Subcommittee will evaluate the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) plans for dealing with operational and maintenance challenges, the status of the ISS partnership, how NASA is utilizing the ISS to enable future deep space exploration, and the Administration's request to extend ISS operations to 2024."

- Hearing charter
- 9 am EDT Live webcast
- Brian Babin (R-Texas), House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
- Subcommittee Reviews Challenges to International Space Station

Witness Statements:

- Bill Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, NASA
- John Elbon, Vice President and General Manager, Space Exploration, The Boeing Company
- Paul K. Martin, Inspector General, NASA
- Shelby Oakley, Acting Director, Acquisition and Sourcing Management, Government Accountability Office
- James A. Pawelczyk, Associate Professor of Physiology and Kinesiology, The Pennsylvania State University

Shelton Versus McCain on Import of SpaceX Failure, SpacePolicyOnline

"Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), and Gen. William Shelton (Ret.) view the June 28 SpaceX launch failure very differently. In a McCain statement and a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Shelton, the two take opposite positions on what should be learned from the failure in terms of national security space launches and how long Russian RD-180 engines are needed by the U.S. military to have assured access to space. The congressional push to end reliance on RD-180s began while Shelton was still on active duty and Commander of Air Force Space Command and he and McCain differed on these issues all along. At the last congressional hearing on the topic during Shelton's tenure, in July 2014, they were fully were on display. Apparently nothing has changed."

Tory Bruno, ULA
Rob Meyerson, Blue Origin
Julie Van Kleeck, Aerojet Rocketdyne
Frank Culbertson, Orbital ATK
Katrina McFarland, DoD
John Hyten, USAF Space Command
Jeffrey Thornburg, SpaceX
Samuel Greaves, USAF Space and Missiles Systems Center
Michael Griffin, himself

Hearing: Assuring National Security Space: Investing in American industry to end reliance on Russian rocket engines

Keith's note: The House Armed Services Committee is holding a hearing Friday with quite a cast of characters - Tory Bruno, Rob Meyerson, Julie Van Kleeck, Frank Culbertson, Jeff Thornburg, Katrina McFarland, John Hyten, Samuel Greaves, and, to round out the fun, Mike Griffin. This hearing ought to be a classic example of the old Washington adage "where you stand depends on where you sit".

You can catch the live tweeting stream from this morning's hearing that was posted on Twitter by @NASAWatch by following tweets with the #RD180 hashtag

SpaceX Prepared Testimony by Jeffrey Thornburg

"Continued reliance by U.S. launch providers on risky foreign supply chains for major subsystemsincluding propulsionhas materially weakened the U.S. industrial base. Now, however, private industry is investing internal funds to restore America's leading edge in rocket technology. As a matter of industrial policy, it makes little sense to extend reliance on foreign sources of key subsystems when American technology can step in today."

United Launch Alliance Discusses Future Innovations While Maintaining Industry Leading Reliability and Capability

"To end use of the RD-180 engine and make commercial investments in a new engine and system that will meet our national launch requirements, ULA needs the ability to compete into the next decade," said Bruno. "The House has correctly addressed concern over the RD-180 engine by allowing ULA to use engines already on contract while prohibiting additional purchases, which reflects the original intent of the FY15 National Defense Authorization Act."

Mikulski Amendment Rejected - No Relief for NASA in Senate Appropriations Markup

"The amendment was defeated by a 14-16 party line vote. CJS subcommittee chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) opposed the amendment, but said that if a new budget deal is indeed negotiated, he will work with Mikulski on how to allocate any additional funding."

CSF Applauds Mikulski Amendment to Avoid Extending U.S. Reliance on the Russians

"Today the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the FY 2016 Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) Appropriations Bill. The bill increases NASA's budget by $279 million above its FY 2015 budget, but underfunds NASA's Commercial Crew program by more than $300 million. Failing to fully fund the Commercial Crew program in FY 2016 would result in the United States human spaceflight gap being extended, again, and ensuring further payments to the Russians for launches of American astronauts to the ISS beyond 2017. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Vice-Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, offered an amendment that would have restored the $300 million to the Commercial Crew program, avoiding a further gap and reliance on the Russians. The Committee failed to adopt the amendment."

Coalition for Space Exploration Statement on CJS Appropriations Bill

"The Coalition for Space Exploration is grateful for the strong bipartisan leadership demonstrated by Chairman Shelby and Vice-Chairwoman Mikulski in support of our nation's space exploration program in the FY 2016 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations bill advanced by the committee today."

Get Putin Out of Our Rockets, Roll Call

"But ULA isn't happy with these restrictions and has been using its influence in Congress to push back. Indeed, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., whose district houses a major ULA factory has introduced a bill rolling back the limits on Russian engines. At the same time, ULA has decided to limit production of its American-made Delta IV launcher in an effort to strong arm the U.S. military into purchasing the RD-180 until at least 2020. This underhanded tactic might benefit ULA, but it'll endanger U.S. security while enriching Russia. ULA is able to execute such a ploy because of its long monopoly on rockets for national-security launches. America's interests would be far better served if we leveraged our existing, homegrown alternatives and encouraged U.S. technology and engineering companies to re-join the global space race."

Keith's note: Sen. John McCain raised the issue of continued purchase of Russian RD-180 engines on the Senate floor yesterday.

Transcript below (edited for typos)

NASA Administrator Statement on Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Vote on Commercial Crew Budget

"I am deeply disappointed that the Senate Appropriations subcommittee does not fully support NASA's plan to once again launch American astronauts from U.S. soil as soon as possible, and instead favors continuing to write checks to Russia. Remarkably, the Senate reduces funding for our Commercial Crew Program further than the House already does compared to the President's Budget. By gutting this program and turning our backs on U.S. industry, NASA will be forced to continue to rely on Russia to get its astronauts to space and continue to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into the Russian economy rather than our own."

Senate Bill Offers $18.3 Billion For NASA, Space News

"A spending bill approved by a Senate appropriations subcommittee June 10 would provide $18.3 billion for NASA in fiscal year 2016, a cut of more than $200 million from both the administration's original request and a companion House bill. ... Commercial crew, however, would receive $900 million in the bill, $344 million less than requested. Space technology is funded at $600 million, $125 million less than requested."

Senate Appropriations CJS Subcommittee Approves Less than Requested for NASA, Space Policy Online

"Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) voiced his objections to the $344 million cut to commercial crew on the Senate floor following the markup. He said if the cut is sustained, it will delay the ability to launch American astronauts on American rockets two more years, which means paying Russia for two more years, costing at least as much. "We need to wake up to what's happening," he implored, adding that Mikulski will offer an amendment tomorrow to restore the commercial crew funding and urging his fellow Senators to support it."

Nelson floor remarks, YouTube

NASA Budget Update

House Debates and Passes FY2016 Funding Bill for NASA, NOAA, spacepolicyonline

"The House of Representatives passed the FY2016 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) appropriations bill (H.R. 2578) on June 3, 2015 after a marathon debate. The bill funds NASA and NOAA among other departments and agencies. No amendments were adopted affecting the House Appropriations Committee's recommendations for NASA or for NOAA's satellite programs, though several were considered."

Statement of Administration Policy: H.R. 2578 (NASA Excerpts), OMB

"... It also cuts support for NASA's Commercial Crew Program that will help end our reliance on Russia for transporting astronauts, critical space technology investments that will help pave the path to reaching Mars, and earth science research that is helping us understand how our climate is changing and how to respond to earthquakes, droughts, and severe weather events."

CSF Applauds Passage of Bridenstine-Rohrabacher-Posey Amendment, CSF

"Yesterday the House of Representatives passed an amendment to H.R. 2577, the FY 2016 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, which would partially restore a requested increase in funding for the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST)."

House Offers Partial Budget Increase To FAA Commercial Space Office, Space news

"The House of Representatives approved an amendment to an appropriations bill June 3 that gives the Federal Aviation Administration's commercial space office part of a budget increase it requested to keep up with its growing workload. The House approved by voice vote an amendment to appropriations bill for the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development that transfers $250,000 from an FAA account for financial and management activities to its Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST). Rep. James Bridenstine (R-Okla.) introduced the amendment with Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and Bill Posey (R-Fla.)"

McCarthy-Smith SPACE Act Passes with Broad Bipartisan Support, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

"House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today joined House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in praising passage of H.R. 2262, the Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Act of 2015 or SPACE Act. Almost 50 Democrats joined Republicans to pass the bill with broad bipartisan support, 284-133."

"House Passes Commercial Space Industry Wish List - Misses Opportunity to Pass Bill that Could Become Law, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democrats

"Today the House passed H.R. 2262, the SPACE Act of 2015. The bill takes a fundamentally unbalanced approach to the issues facing the commercial space launch industry. Moving far beyond addressing the legitimate needs of the industry, the bill is heavily skewed towards industry's desires. .. Congresswoman Edwards said, "Pursuing House passage of a bill that is going nowhere in the Senate seems to me to be the ultimate exercise in futility, and one that does a real disservice to the commercial space launch industry that we all are trying to help succeed. But we don't have to go down that path."

- Pro-Commercial Space Bills Approved in Committee, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
- Congress Can Help the Commercial Launch Industry This Week if We're All Willing to Work Together, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democrats
- Hultgren: SPACE Act Facilitates Pro-Growth Environment for Commercial Space Sector (with video)
- The Facts Behind SPACE Act, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
- Chairman Smith Speaks in Support of SPACE Act (Remarks), House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
- Recent posts on Congress and NASA

OMB Statement of Administration Policy: H.R. 2262 - Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship (SPACE) Act of 2015

"The Administration strongly supports the development of a commercial space sector that pushes the boundaries of space exploration while creating jobs and strengthening the American economy. The American commercial launch industry is the most competitive in the world. Over the past several years, the industry has rapidly increased its share of the global market for sending satellites and other payloads into space. The Administration agrees with the goal of H.R. 2262 to bring more stability and certainty to this growing market. While the Administration does not oppose House passage of the bill, it has serious concerns with certain provisions of the bill."

OMB Letters to House Appropriations Committee Regarding FY 2016 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill

"The bill cuts support for NASA's Commercial Crew Program by $243 million, or 20 percent, relative to the President's Budget. The Commercial Crew Program will build a safe and costeffective U.S. capability to launch astronauts to the space station. The Subcommittee bill cuts will delay the program and force continued reliance on and payment for Russian capabilities for transporting U.S. astronauts. While directing an impractical level of funding toward the Jupiter Europa mission, the bill cuts important NASA Science programs by more than $200 million compared to the President's Budget, jeopardizing Earth Science missions that are helping us understand how our climate is changing and respond to earthquakes, droughts, and severe weather events. The bill also reduces investments in Space Technology by $100 million, or 14 percent, delaying development of a cutting-edge laser communication system and other space technology demonstrations, slowing progress on the journey to Mars, and impacting the international competitiveness of the U.S. commercial space industry."

- Report No. 114-____] Making appropriations for the Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science, and Related Agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2016, and for other purposes. (NASA starts on Page 58).

- REPORT [To accompany _____] 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, 2016, and for other purposes.

Markup FY 2016 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropropriations Bill (NASA)

"National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) - NASA is funded at $18.5 billion in the bill, $519 million above the 2015 enacted level."

Keith's note: The bill passed out of the House Appropriations subcommittee to the full committee yesterday with ease. No date yet announced for further action. But, as you can see below, there was a lot of silliness at this mark-up. Many of the members wasted everyone's time spinning yarns about all those good times being a member of Congress. One member went off about "sea lions eating all of the salmon and getting fat" back home. NASA used to have to go up against the Veterans Administration in this subcommittee for funds. Now it has to compete with salmon.

Sen. Cruz and Ranking Member Nelson Introduce U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act

"Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee Chairman Ted Cruz (R-Texas) released the following statement regarding S. 1297, the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, that he filed with U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) that extends the International Space Station (ISS) until 2024, extends the regulatory moratorium through FY 2020, and ensures stability for the continued development and growth of the U.S. commercial space sector, among other initiatives."

House Appropriators Propose Big Increase for Europa, SLS, Cut to Commercial Crew

"The House Appropriations Committee today released the draft FY2016 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) bill that will be marked up at subcommittee level on Thursday. It recommends the same total budget level for NASA as the President requested, but allocates the funding differently. Among the changes is a big increase for a robotic mission to Jupiter's moon Europa, a favorite of subcommittee chairman Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) who has led successful efforts to add money for it in the past. The Space Launch System (SLS) also gets a boost, including funds for an "enhanced" upper stage, while the commercial crew program is funded below the request. ... The commercial crew program, by contrast, would get $1.00 billion compared to the $1.24 billion request. That is still a significant increase over the $805 million provided for FY2015, but NASA insists that anything less than the request could mean renegotiating the fixed price contracts with SpaceX and Boeing."

McCain rejects Pentagon push for more Russian rocket engines, Reuters

"U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain on Wednesday rejected a request by U.S. officials for changes in federal law to let the two largest U.S. arms makers use more Russian rocket engines to compete for military satellite launches against privately held SpaceX. McCain's comments reflect frustration among some lawmakers about the Pentagon's failure to halt purchases of the RD-180 Russian engines after Russia's annexation of Crimea. As SpaceX becomes a potential competitor to current monopoly launch provider, United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co, billions of dollars of orders are at stake and both sides are lobbying lawmakers hard."

Climate Denialists In Congress Acting As NASA's Kryptonite, NPR

"But even with the broader effort, the emphasis on NASA seems particularly pointed. How many people even know what the NSF stands for or what the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) does all day? But NASA is different. Every kid knows NASA. Every parent knows NASA. NASA is cool. NASA is Superman. So, when NASA tells us that Earth's climate is changing because of human activity, it carries a lot of weight. It's a weight climate denialists have a hard time bearing up under. Honestly, when it comes to getting the science of climate change right, who are you going to believe? A radio talk show host or NASA? The angry denialists in the comments section of this blog or NASA? The politician who says, "Well, I am not a scientist" or the scientists at NASA? The answer is pretty clear."

Republicans Vs NASA Earth Science, earlier post

Keith's note: There's more than NASA Authorization Acts being introduced in Congress. As always, it is Spring time, and all of the new space legislation is starting to bloom. Here's a selection. There will be more. Some will pass, others will merge, most will disappear - only to pop up again next year. Regardless, they will be mostly ignored - by NASA, future administrations - and Congress. And that is most unfortunate given what these bill might otherwise spark.

Keith's update: House Science Committee Markup

H.R. ____, the "Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Act of 2015;"
H.R. 1508, the "Space Resource Exploration and Utilization Act of 2015;"
H.R. ____, the "Commercial Remote Sensing Act of 2015;"
H.R. ____, the "Office of Space Commerce Act."

House Science Committee Markup of NASA Authorization Act for 2016 and 2017

- H.R. 2039, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act for 2016 and 2017
- H.R. 2039 Highlights

NASA Administrator Statement on House Authorization Bill

"The NASA authorization bill making its way through the House of Representatives guts our Earth science program and threatens to set back generations worth of progress in better understanding our changing climate, and our ability to prepare for and respond to earthquakes, droughts, and storm events. In addition, the bill underfunds the critical space technologies that the nation will need to lead in space, including on our journey to Mars."

House Science Committee Passes NASA Reauthorization by Party-line Vote

"Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) said in her opening statement, "These cuts have absolutely nothing to do with making America safer or stronger. Nothing. They are simply the expression of the Majority's stick-your-head-in-the-sand ideology. This is especially disappointing because we had worked so hard just three months ago to make our NASA authorization a bipartisan bill which could be broadly supported by the aerospace and science community. It's a shame to be throwing all that work away in pursuit of a narrow ideological agenda."

- Letter from the American Association for the Advancement of Science
- Letter from the American Astronomical Society
- Letter from the Association of American Universities
- Letter from the American Geophysical Union
- Letter from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
- Letter from the Geological Society of America
- Letter from the Universities Space Research Association

OSTP Director Holdren: House-Proposed Funding Cuts to NASA Earth Science and Space Technology Programs

"If enacted, the NASA authorization bill headed to the House floor later this month would do serious damage to the Nation's space program, as well as to Earth-observation and Earth-science programs essential for predicting, preparing for, and minimizing the damage from disasters both natural and human-induced. The bill's cuts to space-technology development would not only risk continued U.S leadership in the space industry, but would also impede progress on precisely those technologies - on-orbit refueling, advanced space propulsion, radiation protection in deep space, and more - needed to make crewed missions to deep space a reality."

Congress, we have a problem, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, The Hill

"Just a few months ago we marked up and passed out of the House a bipartisan NASA authorization. That bill was negotiated on a bipartisan basis, voice voted out of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology, and then passed by the full House in a similar fashion. Today, my committee, the Science, Space and Technology Committee, is marking up H.R. 2039 -- a NASA reauthorization act that the Democrats on the committee did not even know existed until late last Friday. Needless to say, there was no bipartisan negotiating. After we saw the bill, we understood why. In addition to other problems in the bill, it cuts earth science funding by more than $320 million. Earth science, of course, includes climate science."

Committee's NASA Bill Draws Space Community Support, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

"In a letter to Chairman Smith and Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), Planetary Society Director of Advocacy Casey Dreier praised the Committee's "scientifically ambitious, affordable plan of solar system exploration" as well as the bill's "clear directives and support for [NASA's] future exploration." The Planetary Society, led by CEO Bill Nye, is considered one of the largest and most influential public space organizations in the world."

Keith's note: Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye (The Science Guy®) got to fly on Air Force One and hang out with President Obama on Earth Day. According to the Planetary Society website "Last week, our CEO Bill Nye joined The President of the United States for an Earth Day visit to The Everglades, one of the country's renowned National Parks and a vital global ecosystem. The Washington Post covered the news, and we at The Planetary Society shared in the excitement."

Yet at the same time Bill Nye (The Science Guy®) was talking about the importance of Earth science and climate change with the President his organization was sending a letter of overt support to the Republican-led House Science Committee which is seeking to cut funding for the very same things that Bill Nye (The Science Guy®) and President Obama were openly supporting. No where in that letter (now trumpeted by the Committee) does the Planetary Society mention the value of NASA Earth and climate studies on this planet or express concern that this committee desires to cut that research by $320 million. These cuts are proposed against the budget submitted by the same President that Bill Nye (The Science Guy®) was hanging out with.

Yet curiously in this 29 April 2015 Planetary Society post Good Planetary Support in A Flawed NASA Bill the author says "Obviously, the cuts to Earth Science make this a hard bill to support, therefore The Planetary Society cannot support the full bill as written at this early stage. We want an Authorization bill for NASA that can pass Congress and be signed by the White House, we hope that the committee markup will find ways to preserve and grow all science as this moves forward." Yet the Planetary Society makes no mention of these concerns in their letter of support for the proposed National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act for 2016 and 2017.

Which is it, Bill Nye (The Science Guy®)? Do you and/or the Planetary Society support the proposed cuts to Earth and climate science or do you oppose these cuts? Earth is a "planet" too.

- Showdown Over NASA Earth Science Budget Looms, earlier post
- Hollow Promises From Stealthy Inept Space Advocacy Organizations, earlier post

Keith's note: Dava Newman has been confirmed by the Senate as Deputy Administrator of NASA.

Statements on Senate Confirmation of Dava Newman as NASA Deputy Administrator, NASA

"I am delighted with the Senate confirmation of Dr. Dava Newman to be the Deputy Administrator of NASA. I am personally ecstatic to welcome her aboard at such a busy and exciting time as we continue to make extraordinary strides on our Journey to Mars."

House budget authorization mark-up slashes $500 million from NASA's Earth science programs, Houston Chronicle

"The battle lines are being drawn between Congress and the White House in regard to NASA's budget, and this year they're moving closer to home the planet Earth. In the newly released House of Representatives budget authorization mark-up for fiscal year 2016 one step before Congress actually appropriates the money lawmakers have cut funding for NASA's Earth science programs to $1.45 billion. In his budget request to Congress, shown below, the President sought $1.947 billion."

House Science Committee Markup of NASA Authorization Act for 2016 and 2017

"THURSDAY, April 30 11:00 a.m. Full Committee Markup of: H.R. ____, the "National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act for 2016 and 2017"

Highlights of H.R. ____, the NASA Authorization for 2016 and 2017

"Aspirational levels create a balanced portfolio between Exploration and Science ($4.95 billion each), and within the Science Mission Directorate ($1.45B for Earth Science, $1.5 billion for Planetary Science, and $2 billion for Astrophysics, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), and Heliophysics combined). The bill fully funds the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion crew vehicle (Orion) under both the aspirational and constrained authorization levels, and accelerates the development of SLS and Orion in FY17 under the aspirational level. Similarly, the bill fully funds the Commercial Crew program under the aspirational level and increases funding under even the constrained level by $331 million."

Committee Plans to Restore Balance to NASA's Budget,
House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

"The Obama administration has consistently cut funding for these human space exploration programs, while increasing funding for the Earth Science Division by more than 63 percent. The bill provides authorization levels consistent with NASA's budget request, providing that current restraints within the Budget Control Act are satisfied."

There is a markup session tomorrow at 12:00 pm EDT with the House Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee on Strategic Forces Markup. It certainly looks like Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) is trying to slip in language that would allow more Russian-built RD-180 engines to be purchased using tax dollars at the same time when Rogers is (otherwise) actively promoting policies that would punish the exact same sector of Russia's economy for actions in Ukraine and Iran, treaty violations, and other bad behavior.

Executive Session - Markup of five bills and three nominations, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

"7. Nomination of Dr. Dava J. Newman, of Massachusetts, to be Deputy Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration"

Keith's update: The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee has reported favorably on the nomination of Dava Newman to be NASA Deputy Administrator.

Statement by John Grunsfeld, NASA

"The project has done an excellent job of managing its budget reserves, and this ability to efficiently address problems as they come up has enabled Webb to remain on schedule for its 2018 launch."

Statement by Cristina Chaplain, GAO

"The proximity of all the elements and major subsystem schedules to the critical path means that a delay on any of the elements or major subsystems may reduce the overall project schedule reserve further, which could put the overall project schedule at risk. As a result, the project has less flexibility to choose which issues to mitigate. While the project has been able to reorganize work when necessary to mitigate schedule slips thus far, with further progression into subsequent integration and testing periods, flexibility will be diminished because work during integration and testing tends to be more serial, as the initiation of work is often dependent on the successful and timely completion of the prior work. This is particularly the case with JWST given its complexity."

- Hearing Charter

- Statements: Rep. Lamar Smith, Rep. Steven Palazzo, John Mather, Jeffrey Grant, John Grunsfeld, and Cristina Chaplain

SpaceX mocks rival in tetchy congressional hearing

"The two made a number of pointed comments about each other before Ms Shotwell responded sarcastically when asked why SpaceX thought it could provide launches to the US government for an average $100m. SpaceX claims ULA's launches cost US taxpayers an average of $400m each. Ms Shotwell was asked why the company claimed to be able to offer its services for 25 per cent of the ULA price. "It's hard for me to say," Ms Shotwell replied. "I don't know how to build a $400m rocket. The more difficult question would be to say that I don't understand how ULA are as expensive as they are."

How SpaceX and Elon Musk could conquer the market for military satellite launches, Washington Post

"If [ULA] stops the Delta IV rocket launches," said Rogers, "is there anybody else that can compete with you for those missions?" Shotwell struggled to answer, referring vaguely to there being international launch providers. She then went back and conceded that the Pentagon probably wouldn't trust those international services with sensitive military payloads. That was precisely the point, said Rogers. "You would have a monopoly, is where I'm going on this," he said."

- Watch the hearing (archive)
- Witness statements: Tory Bruno, Gwynne Shotwell, John Hyten, William LaPlante, Katrina McFarland, and Mitch Mitchell

Cruz presses NASA to ignore climate crisis, MSNBC

"During a subcommittee hearing on NASA's budget, Cruz asked Bolden to explain the agency's core mission. Our core mission from the very beginning has been to investigate, explore space and the Earth environment, and to help us make this place a better place," Bolden replied. Cruz, true to form, balked at the "Earth environment" part."

NASA chief has perfect comeback to Ted Cruz's attack on Earth science, Mashable

"Bolden defended spending more money on Earth science activities, saying he is "proud" of it since it's led to a greater understanding of the planet. "We can't go anywhere if the Kennedy Space Center goes underwater and we don't know it "We can't go anywhere if the Kennedy Space Center goes underwater and we don't know it -- and that's understanding our environment," Bolden said, in a clear reference to global warming-related sea level rise. "It is absolutely critical that we understand Earth's environment because this is the only place that we have to live."

Keith's note: Perhaps if Sen. Cruz were to take the time to read the public law that originated in Congress - the one that established NASA and provides its charter - he'd understand why NASA does what it does.

The National Aeronautics and Space Act Pub. L. No. 111-314 124 Stat. 3328 (Dec. 18, 2010)

Chapter 201: National Aeronautics and Space Program: Congressional Declaration of Policy and Purpose: "(d) Objectives of Aeronautical and Space Activities.--The aeronautical and space activities of the United States shall be conducted so as to contribute materially to one or more of the following objectives: (1) The expansion of human knowledge of the Earth and of phenomena in the atmosphere and space. ..."

Keith's update: And for all of you who seem to feel the need to comment using the word "socialist agenda" or "Obama leftists" with regard to the 2010 Amended version, have a look at the original 1958 text

"(c) The aeronautical and space activities of the United States shall be conducted so as to contribute materially to one or more of the following objectives: (1) The expansion of human knowledge of phenomena in the atmosphere and space;"

As for adding "Earth" to the NASA authorization act, contrary to what all the Obama haters have been trying to post, it was not added in 2010 but rather was added by the "National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act, 1985," Public Law 98-361, July 16, 1984, section 110(b) (98 Stat. 426). when Ronald Reagan was president with a Republican-controlled Senate.

"(d) The aeronautical and space activities of the United States shall be conducted so as to contribute materially to one or more of the following objectives: (1) The expansion of human knowledge of the Earth and of phenomena in the atmosphere and space;"

Culberson Statement on NASA Budget Hearing

"Administrator Bolden made it clear in his answers that the Obama Administration has no contingency plan in place to send U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station if Russia chooses to end the current agreement that allows our astronauts to travel to the space station on board its Soyuz capsules."

NASA's chief confirms it: Without Russia, space station lost, Houston Chronicle

'If Russia stops flying U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station, the U.S., lacking a backup plan, would have no choice but to abandon the multibillion dollar outpost to its own fate, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said Wednesday. "We would make an orderly evacuation," Bolden said during a U.S. House Appropriations subcommittee hearing."

Keith's note: Culberson is not exaggerating. When asked, Bolden could not give a 'yes' or 'no' answer to rather specific and repeated questions as to whether or not NASA has a post-Russia ISS contingency plan in place. Bolden stumbled for a bit before he started to talk about an orderly evacuation of the ISS. Culberson interrupted at one point and said "please tell me that you do". Bolden also seemed to suggest that the U.S. can operate the ISS without Russian permission/cooperation.

Statement by NASA Administrator at House Appropriations Committee Budget Hearing (with video)

"Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, I am pleased to have this opportunity to discuss NASA's FY 2016 budget request. The President is proposing an FY 2016 budget of $18.5 billion for NASA, building on the significant investments the Administration has made in America's space program over the past six years, enabled through the strong and consistent support by this Committee and the Congress."

Keith's note: I was watching this hearing on NASA TV. About halfway through the video froze while the audio continued. As such it was often hard to tell who was speaking. After correcting my earlier tweet, I posted some additional comments on Twitter that ended up with a member of Congress responding. See below for that conversation.

NASA Administrator Lauds Senator Mikulski for Championing America's Space Program

"Senator Mikulski has been a tireless champion for NASA, and has helped pave the way for future exploration and our journey to Mars."

Mikulski Announces 5th Term Will Be Her Last, Will Focus on Working for Her Constituents

"Today at Henderson's Wharf Inn in Fells Point, U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) announced she has decided not to run for re-election. Senator Mikulski, who will complete her 5th term in office in January, 2017, says she wants to focus for the next two years on working for her constituents and for the nation."

Keith's note: Dava Newman was chosen as the nominee for NASA Deputy Administrator 4 months ago in October 2014. We have heard nothing since then. Dava Newman has yet to testify before the Senate (and get their approval) so it is unclear when she will be formally confirmed. With impending food fights in the Republican-led Congress, such routine things as nominations may be stalled - or (worse) may become opportunities to score partisan points agains the Administration - with the nominee taking the brunt of the negative energy. Stay Tuned.

Executive Session Scheduled for 2/26 - Markup of nine bills and nominations for six agencies, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

"The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will hold an executive session on Thursday, February 26, 2015, at 10:00 a.m. to consider legislation and nominations."

Keith's update: Six significant nominations are on the agenda. No mention of Dava Newman as Deputy Administrator of NASA.

White House Announces Dava Newman Nomination, earlier post

Congressional Hearings this Week to Focus on Commercial Space, SpaceRef

"There will be two important congressional hearings this week on Commercial Space.

First up on Tuesday, February 24th is the U.S. Human Exploration Goals and Commercial Space Competitiveness Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness hearing chaired by U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Next up on Friday, February 27th is the House Subcommittee on Space Hearing; The Commercial Crew Program: Challenges and Opportunities chaired by Lamar Smith (R-Texas). The hearing will take place at 2318 Rayburn House Office Building at 9:00 a.m. EST."

Hearing: Weather Satellite Delays, Data Gap to Harm U.S. Forecasting (with testimony links)

"Today, the Subcommittees on Oversight and Environment held a joint hearing to examine schedule delays to our nation's next generation weather forecasting satellites and the implications of the impending gap in weather data. Witnesses provided an update on operations and development of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) polar-orbiting (JPSS) and geostationary (GOES) weather satellite programs and discussed recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports on the two programs."

House Passes Bipartisan NASA Bill, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

"The NASA Authorization Act of 2015 authorizes funding consistent with the Consolidated and Further Appropriations Act of 2015. The bill continues the consistent guidance Congress has given to NASA for nearly a decade by reaffirming a stepping stone approach to exploration."

House Passes Bipartisan NASA Reauthorization Act, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democrats

"The House of Representatives today passed H.R. 810, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2015 under suspension of the rules. H.R. 810 authorizes programs and projects at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for one year and updates NASA funding to be consistent with FY 2015 enacted funding numbers. The bill is essentially identical to H.R. 4412 that passed the House overwhelmingly last year by a vote of 401-2 under suspension of the rules but no action was taken on the bill by the Senate."

House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Leaders Announce Bipartisan NASA Bill

"Members of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee today announced details of the NASA Authorization Act of 2015, legislation intended to reaffirm Congress's commitment to NASA as a multi mission agency with programs in science, aeronautics, exploration, and human spaceflight, and make clear that Mars should be NASA's primary goal. The bill will be introduced in the House the week of February 9th. Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) was joined by Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), Space Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.), Space Subcommittee Ranking Member Donna Edwards (D-Md.), and Space Subcommittee Vice-Chair Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) in praising the bipartisan bill."

Ted Cruz's control of Senate science panel triggers some anxiety, McClatchy via Fresno Bee

"Keith Cowing, editor of NASA Watch, a blog that monitors agency activities and offers commentary, said there had been a very strong reaction in the space community to Cruz's new position. "It's half-grounded in truth and half in hysteria," said Cowing, an astrobiologist and former NASA employee. Cruz, meanwhile, is bullish about NASA concentrating on its core mission."

Cruz says NASA should refocus on 'core' mission, end dependence on Russians, Houston Chronicle

"I am encouraged by the progress of both commercial cargo and commercial crew. But we need a continued focus on the stated exploration objectives with maximum efficiency and expedition. One of the great benefits of space exploration, but also commercial crew and commercial cargo, has been the jobs and economic development that have flowed from allowing innovation and the private sector to play a critical role in space. Texas, and the Houston area in particular, has been a tremendous beneficiary of that private sector activity."

Ted Cruz Supports NASA's "Core Mission", earlier post

Sen. Cruz: Focus NASA on Its Core Mission: Exploring Space, and More of It

"Texas has a major stake in space exploration. Our space program marks the frontier of future technologies for defense, communications, transportation and more, and our mindset should be focused on NASA's primary mission: exploring space and developing the wealth of new technologies that stem from its exploration. And commercial space exploration presents important new opportunities for us all. We must refocus our investment on the hard sciences, on getting men and women into space, on exploring low-Earth orbit and beyond, and not on political distractions that are extraneous to NASA's mandate. I am excited to raise these issues in our subcommittee and look forward to producing legislation that confirms our shared commitment to this vital mission."

- NASA Defunder Now Sets NASA's Agenda in The Senate, earlier post
- Political Climate Change Ahead for NASA and NOAA, earlier post

Some Advice For Congress

Boehner defectors booted from panel, The Hill

"Boehner was elected to a third term as Speaker with 216 votes on Tuesday, with 25 Republicans defecting in a failed attempt to force a second ballot. One of the defectors was Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas), who says he's already suffering retribution. Weber, who voted for Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) for Speaker, was originally slated to be the sponsor of a noncontroversial Science, Space and Technology Committee bill that reached the House floor this week. The measure establishes a Department of Energy research program on low-dose radiation."

Keith's note: Meanwhile Rep. Randy Weber(R) TX-14 who represents areas around JSC and sits on the House Science Committee, has gone out of his way to anger both House leadership and the White House. Weber's Tweet last night doesn't help things. This is not a recipe for being in a position to positively affect budgets for an agency in your neighborhood. Weber even managed to offend Hitler by spelling his first name wrong.

NASA Defunder Now Sets NASA's Agenda in The Senate, earlier post

8 Dumb Quotes About Science From New NASA Overseer Ted Cruz, Gizmodo

"The new Republican-led Congress is currently busy picking people to chair its many committees and subcommittees. Guess what! Tea Party hero Senator Ted Cruz is the new chair of the Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness. That means he will oversee NASA. Yep - the climate-denying Tea Party hero who tried to defund NASA is now in charge of NASA."

Remove Ted Cruz from position for NASA oversight of the Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness (White House Petition)

"We the people demand a person worthy of the position and who will work towards optimizing NASA for scientific discoveries be placed in this position in Ted Cruz's stead."

Keith's note: Cruz is not a lightweight. You may not agree with him, but he is sharp. Last year there was a hearing on the threat of asteroids to Earth. Unlike all of the other senators who asked questions, Cruz looked straight at the witnesses without referring to notes (i.e. questions written by staffers) and asked a series of questions - some prompted by witness responses - without the usual fumbling you often see from Senators who have no idea what anyone is talking about (ala Bill Nelson). Yes, he got his partisan jabs in - but everyone does that. As such NASA is going to be up against someone who can run non-stop semantic circles around Charlie Bolden - if he is inclined to do so. Dava Newman's confirmation hearing will be interesting should he decide to use the hearing as an opportunity to go after the Administration.

Political Climate Change Ahead for NASA and NOAA, earlier post

Senate Commerce Names Subcommittee Chairs: Ted Cruz for NASA, Marco Rubio for NOAA, Space Policy Online

"The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee today announced who will chair its subcommittees in the 114th Congress. Ted Cruz (R-TX) will chair the subcommittee that oversees NASA, while Marco Rubio (R-FL) will chair the one with jurisdiction over NOAA."

2014 U.S. temperature exceeds 20th-century average for the 18th consecutive year

"Second warmest December boosted 2014 to 34th warmest year for contiguous U.S; eight weather and climate disasters exceeded $1 billion in damages."

Climate Denier Ted Cruz Is Poised to Become a Lead Senator on Science, New Republic

"Texas Senator Ted Cruz, another climate denier, may be next-in-line to become chair of the Subcommittee on Science and Space, which oversees agencies like the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy."

Marco Rubio says human activity isn't causing climate change, LA Times

"I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it," Rubio said on ABC's "This Week."

A Science and Technology Challenge for Congress, Roll Call

"When the 114th Congress convenes, it will find it has lost something of significance: much of its institutional memory about science and technology. And with the rest of the world making a strong play to topple America from its perch atop the innovation pyramid, that's very troubling. ... Together, the six former House members logged a total of 140 years of legislative service. That's a lot of experience to lose in any field, but it is especially true in the arcane arena of science and technology policy."

Senate may confirm up to 88 federal judges in '14, AP

"No longer impeded by Republican blocking tactics, Democrats are on track to win confirmation of up to 88 of President Barack Obama's top judicial nominations this year, a total that would be the highest for any president in two decades."

Keith's note: Sometimes other presidential nominations are dealt with in a similar, last minute, batch fashion. Alas, Dava Newman has yet to testify before the Senate (and get their approval) so it is unclear when she will be confirmed. With the impending food fights in the Republican-led Congress next term, such routine things as nominations may be stalled - or (worse) may become opportunities to score partisan points agains the Administration - with the nominee used as window dressing. Stay Tuned.

White House Announces Dava Newman Nomination, earlier post

This is How Broken NASA Is

NASA's $349 million monument to its drift, Washington Post

"In June, NASA finished work on a huge construction project here in Mississippi: a $349 million laboratory tower, designed to test a new rocket engine in a chamber that mimicked the vacuum of space. Then, NASA did something odd. As soon as the work was done, it shut the tower down. The project was officially "mothballed" -- closed up and left empty -- without ever being used."

GAO Testimony by Cristina Chaplain - Hearing on SLS and Orion

"In August 2014, NASA completed the review of the SLS program that sets formal cost and schedule baselines and, in doing so, delayed the first test flight to relieve schedule pressure and allow additional time to address design challenges. However, some of the concerns we raised about the cost estimates, mission requirements, and long-term affordability remain. In addition, our ongoing work has found that the three human exploration programs are pursuing inconsistent and unrealistic schedule goals and that the Orion program is facing significant technical and funding issues that may affect NASA's overall schedule for its human exploration programs."

After historic Orion flight, NASA still faces challenges, GAO says, Washington Post

"It took us less than a decade not only to go around the moon but to land on the moon under Apollo," said Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.). Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) said it could cost at least $10 billion to develop "this monstrous rocket project." Even then, he said, it "won't have a real mission until we go to Mars, which could be two decades or three decades from now, depending on if we can ever get over the technological hurdles we haven't gotten over yet."

NASA Says SLS and Orion Will Slip to 2018 Despite Extra Funding, SpaceNews

At the hearing, Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) asked how much funding would be required to bring the first SLS/Orion mission, called Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1), back to December 2017. "In terms of the technical work, I think we've really probably moved off of December 2017," Gerstenmaier responded, "so I don't think funding will pull us back to that date."

House SLS/Orion Hearing

Summary (NASA Sections) FY 2015 Omnibus Appropriations Bill

"The bill's $18 billion investment in NASA balances the portfolio of science, aeronautics, technology and human space flight investments. Moreover, it will keep NASA in the forefront of innovation, inspiring private companies to build new crew transportation and fueling a new satellite servicing industry that can revive, refuel and rejuvenate defunct communications satellites. The amount provided for NASA is $364 million more than the fiscal year 2014 enacted level."

AIP FYI: FY 2015 Appropriations: NASA

"Congress is nearing completion of the FY 2015 appropriations cycle. The House and Senate are scheduled to complete action on a $1.1trillion bill providing funding through September 30, 2015 for all departments and agencies with the exception of the Department of Homeland Security that will be funded through early 2015. The bill has not been printed in final form. The section on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is found on PDF pages 42-48, with a funding table on PDF page 68. Note that language in the previous House and Senate appropriations reports stands unless modified by language in the conference report."

Letter from House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology to NASA

"On August 27, 2014, we wrote you to request an update on the Space Launch System (SLS) and the Orion crew vehicle shortly after NASA conducted its Key Decision Point C (KDP-C) review 1. We asked for a response by September 10, 2014. To date, we have only received an acknowledgement of the letter's receipt. ... Finally, on September 16, 2014, Subcommittee staff reached out to NASA in order to gain support for facilitating a briefing on the Commercial Crew Transportation Capabilities (CCtCap) contract source selection, as well as the source selection statement. After NASA issued the request for proposals (RFP) for the contract it declined to comment on the procurement so as to not influence the selection. Understanding the sensitive nature of the source selection process, the Committee decided to reserve questions regarding the procurement until after the selection. ... Please provide responses to all of the previous requests by October 28, 2014."

Coburn's 'Wastebook' Targets Include Mountain Lions, Sheep, Beer, Roll Call

"NASA draws criticism in a few areas, with Coburn skeptical of the costs associated with the International Space Station itself, including the presence of experiments designed by students. "Some of the other studies being conducted on the space station are designed by elementary and high school students rather than scientists. Fifteen student projects were launched to the space station in July as part of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP)," the report said. "While encouraging young people to take an interest in science is an important goal, the billions of dollars being borrowed to support space station science fair experiments could make a bigger impact in the lives of these and other children in many other more cost efficient ways."

Keith's note: Contrary to Sen. Coburn's annual loony report, billions are not being spent on educational projects aboard the space station. Gee, imagine what would happen if NASA actually was spending billions to encourage student experimentation in space ...

The National Aeronautics and Space Act, Pub. L. No. 111-314, 124 Stat. 3328 (Dec. 18, 2010)

"Sec. 20163. Program authorized

(b) Activities.--In carrying out the provisions of this subchapter, the Administration shall--.

(1) arrange for participation by the scientific and engineering community, of both the Nation's industrial organizations and institutions of higher education, in planning and carrying out appropriate research, in developing necessary technology, and in making necessary observations and measurements;"

NCESSE Official Response to Sen. Tom Coburn: "billions of dollars being borrowed to support

"Next let me address Sen. Coburn's math regarding SSEP use of federal funds. The cost to deliver the national programming, including all launch and return to Earth services, across these 15 communities was $322,500. The communities brought another roughly $300,000 to the table in fully burdened labor hours by their teaching staff to deliver the program at the local level. Through a significant effort, in the best spirit of partnership, $572,500 of the total $622,500 cost was raised in the private sector, from over 85: local companies, school districts, foundations, universities, PTAs, and individual donors (see the Local Partners list). The remaining $50,000 was federal funding provided by CASIS to close budget shortfalls across the 15 communities. That funding truly enabled many communities to participate."

Key Senate NASA Staffer Moving on to Lockheed Martin, SpacePolicyOnline

"Ann Zulkosky, the top Senate Democratic staffer dealing with NASA issues on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, is leaving to join Lockheed Martin. Zulkosky is a member of the Democratic professional staff of the committee, which is chaired by Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV). Rockefeller is retiring at the end of this Congress and committee staff changes are common when the chairperson retires. Zulkosky has been handling a variety of science issues, but is best known in space policy circles for her work on NASA issues with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), who chairs the committee's Science and Space Subcommittee."

Idiocracy At Work

Battle between NSF and House science committee escalates: How did it get this bad?, Science Insider

"The Republican aides were looking for anything that Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), their boss as chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, could use to support his ongoing campaign to demonstrate how the $7 billion research agency is "wasting" taxpayer dollars on frivolous or low-priority projects, particularly in the social sciences. The Democratic staffers wanted to make sure that their boss, Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), the panel's senior Democrat, knew enough about each grant to rebut any criticism that Smith might levy against the research."

David Vitter Unhappy With Ebola Aid Strategy Because It 'Focuses On Africa', Huffington Post

"Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) is urging his colleagues to oppose President Barack Obama's request for $1 billion to fight the spread of Ebola, in part because the plan "focuses on Africa" instead of "our own borders."

Congress Passes CR but Postpones Work on Space Bills, Space News

"The U.S. Senate passed a short-term funding bill for the federal government Sept. 18, one day after the House of Representatives passed the same bill, but both houses delayed consideration of several space-related bills, in some cases until the next Congress."

Planetary Science Hearing

Subcommittee Considers Asteroid Mining, Planetary Exploration Priorities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Budget Stalled, Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coffman Presses NASA for Transparency on SpaceX

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

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

Witnesses will be:

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

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

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

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

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

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

White House: NASA bill would raise costs, cause delays

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

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

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

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

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

House Passes Bipartisan NASA Authorization Act

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

House Passes NASA Reauthorization Act of 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ralph Hall and NASA

Rep. Ralph Hall defeated by John Ratcliffe, Washinton Post

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Do We Need a Space Traffic Cop?

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

Subcommittee Discusses Space Traffic Management

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

- Hearing Charter

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

House FY 2015 NASA Appropriations Bill, AIP

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

Top Senate Appropriators Fault FY 2015 NASA Budget Request

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NASA Hearings This Week

Rep. Frank Wolf Comments at Space Policy Institute

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

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

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

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

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

House Space Subcommittee Approves Bipartisan NASA Authorization Act

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

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

9:00 am EDT Live webcast

H.R. 4412

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

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

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

10:00 am EDT live webcast

Statement by Charles Bolden Hearing on NASA FY 2015 Budget

Statement by Dick Thornburgh Hearing on NASA FY 2015 Budget

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Space Subcommittee Chairman Says US-Russia Relations Require Tough Decisions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have I missed anything?

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

American Astronomical Society Statement on Proposed FY 2015 Budget

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

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

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

Hearing Charter

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

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

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

Prepared Statement by Charles Bolden

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

Subcommittee Reviews the NASA Budget Proposal for Fiscal Year 2015

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

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

Hearing Charter

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

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

Chairman Smith Statement on President's Science Budget

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

Palazzo, Edwards Say Human Space Exploration Should Be Priority

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

NASA FY 2015 President's Budget Request Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Necessary Updates to the Commercial Space Launch Act: Hearing Charter

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

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

Dueling NASA Flagships?

The Final Frontier's Financial Limits, NY Times

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

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

Continued Victories for Planetary Exploration, Planetary Society

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Confusion on "Pretty Darn Good" Statement from OSTP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Extending Commercial Launch Provider Indemnification, earlier post

Exit Wolf, Enter Culberson?

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

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

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

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

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

Letter from Frank Wolf To President Obama, Space Policy Online

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

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

Wastebook 2013, Sen. Coburn, Page 22

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Full Bill information (note the cosponsors).

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

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

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

Hearing on Astrobiology

Testimony of Dr. Sara Seager, Hearing on Astrobiology

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

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

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

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

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

NASA OIG Semiannual Report to Congress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

Subcommittee on Space Hearing - Commercial Space

Nov 20, 2013 10:00am

Panel I
Rep Kevin McCarthy, House Majority Whip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- and so on. What a hypocrite.



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