Recently in Congress Category

Statement by NASA Administrator Bridenstine: Hearing: Moon to Mars: NASA's Plans for Deep Space Exploration

"This week, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo-11 mission to the Moon. At this point in 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins had been in flight for just over a day, with the historic lunar landing ahead of them. Now, NASA is working to build a sustainable, open architecture that returns humanity to our nearest neighbor. We are building for the long term, going to the Moon to stay, and moving beyond to Mars. We are designing an open, durable, reusable architecture that will support exploration for decades to come. Sustainability requires reusable systems and partnerships from across the commercial sector and around the world. Robotic scientific missions delivered by commercial landers will be the first Artemis elements to land on the Moon."

Live webcast starts at 10:30 am EDT

Hearing: A Review of NASA's Plans for the International Space Station and Future Activities in Low Earth Orbit

"Location: 10:00 AM 2318 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC, US, 20515"

Watch live.

- Statement of Chair Kendra Horn (D-OK) of the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics.

- Statement Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX).

Witnesses are:

- Mr. William H. Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, National Aeronautics and Space Administration. (Statement)

- The Honorable Paul K. Martin, Inspector General, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Statement)

- Professor Joanne Irene Gabrynowicz, Professor Emerita University of Mississippi, Editor-in-Chief Emerita, Journal of Space Law (Statement)

- Mr. Eric W. Stallmer, President, Commercial Spaceflight Federation (Statement)

Hearing: NASA Exploration Plans: Where We've Been and Where We're Going

"U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, chairman of the Subcommittee on Aviation and Space, will convene a hearing titled, "NASA Exploration Plans: Where We've Been and Where We're Going" at 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 9, 2019. The purpose of this hearing is to honor the upcoming 50th anniversary of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Apollo 11 mission and the United States landing the first man on the moon. The hearing will examine NASA's plans for future human spaceflight missions."

Live video.

Witnesses:

Dr. Christine Darden (Testimony)
Data Analyst and Aerospace Engineer Researcher
National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Dr. Mary Dittmar (Testimony)
President and Chief Executive Officer
Coalition for Deep Space Exploration

Mr. Homer Hickman
Author
Rocket Boys

Mr. Gene Kranz (Testimony)
Flight Director
Apollo 11

Mr. Eric Stallmer (Testimony)
President
Commercial Spaceflight Federation

CBO Report: H.R. 2500, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 (Space Force Excerpt)

"Most of the personnel and assets for the Space Corps would be transferred to the new service from existing forces. CBO estimates that DoD has 22,900 military and civilian personnel who perform space-related activities. Many of those could be transferred to the new service and thus would not affect net costs. In addition, CBO estimates that the Space Corps would require between 4,100 and 6,800 additional personnel for new management and support positions. Those additional positions would increase costs. In total, CBO estimates the annual recurring costs and onetime costs of the new Space Corps would increase by about $3.6 billion over the 2020-2024 period. Annual Costs. In a previous study, CBO estimated that the additional management and overhead positions required for this new military service would increase annual costs by between $0.8 billion and $1.3 billion (in 2020 dollars)."

Congress Shrinks Space Force, earlier post

HASC Chairman Smith Earmarks $500M Giveaway For SpaceX, Potentially Aborting Air Force Space Plans, Loren Thompson, Forbes

Keith's note: First Thompson goes on a rant against SpaceX:

"Smith's proposed language is Washington politics at its worst. According to the Air Force, if it becomes law U.S. access to critical national security orbits will be endangered, the military will need to rely longer on Russian rocket engines, and the cost of all national-security space missions will increase. As if that were not enough, the Air Force says Smith's proposal would reward an uncompetitive offeror while punishing successful competitors who have been sharing the cost of developing launch vehicles with the government."

Then after he's unloaded on SpaceX, Thompson tosses this little caveat out:

"I should note that the one "traditional" supplier that won an agreement is co-owned by two companies that contribute to my think tank, but that is really beside the point here".

Oh - so his salary at Lexington Institute is paid in part by companies that compete with SpaceX - but he's not biased since this is all "really beside the point". Got it. Funny how Thompson neglects to mention the de facto duopoly between Lockheed Martin and Boeing for EELVs that persisted for a very long time wherein the companies were paid to develop and then maintain their rockets so as to be ready to fly them for DoD. But, again, that is "really beside the point". Just sayin'

House Armed Services strikes agreement on Trump's Space Force, Roll Call

"Democrats and Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee have agreed to language that would create a streamlined Space Force -- a top priority of President Donald Trump's -- and plan to insert it as an amendment to the fiscal 2020 defense authorization bill on Wednesday.... The bipartisan agreement calls for a single four-star general in charge of Space Force, compared with the three four-star generals the administration envisioned. It would also have fewer personnel transferred from other services into the Space Force, Smith said."

White House blocked intelligence agency's written testimony calling climate change 'possibly catastrophic', Washington Post

"White House officials barred a State Department intelligence agency from submitting written testimony this week to the House Intelligence Committee warning that human-caused climate change is "possibly catastrophic." The move came after State officials refused to excise the document's references to federal scientific findings on climate change. ... White House officials took aim at the document's scientific citations, which refer to work conducted by federal agencies including NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. ... The prepared testimony also notes that 18 of the past 20 years have ranked as the warmest on record, according to NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, "and the last five years have been the warmest five."

Farewell To Long-term Climate Change Predictions, earlier post

Can Trump Put NASA Astronauts on the Moon by 2024? It's Unlikely, NY Times

"Although he has not spoken to Mr. Trump about the revised moon program, Mr. Bridenstine said the president was keen on this goal. "It was by his direction that we do this," he said. "Yet to be seen is whether this is a political priority the administration will make the effort to follow through on. Last year, the administration gave NASA a different, big task to accomplish by the end of 2024: ending direct federal financing of the International Space Station, one of NASA's largest yearly expenditures. That proposal ran into strong opposition from Ted Cruz, a Republican Senator from Texas. Since then, NASA has made no significant announcements about how it plans to shift to commercial space stations that do not yet exist."

Donald Trump is not getting his space money, Quartz

"Last week, the White House submitted a late funding request for an additional $1.6 billion in spending on a proposed Artemis moon program to return astronauts to the lunar surface by 2024. Today, the House Appropriations committee left that request out of its spending plan for NASA and ignored many of the administration's other space priorities. Without that funding, any hope of the accelerated mission to the moon touted by Vice President Mike Pence is likely to disappear. It was a similar story yesterday, when the committee rejected White House plans to consolidate military space activity into a new service called Space Force."

Appropriations Committee Releases Fiscal Year 2020 Commerce-Justice-Science Funding Bill

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) - NASA is funded at $22.32 billion, $815 million above the 2019 enacted level. This funding includes:

- $7.16 billion for NASA Science programs - $255.6 million above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level.
- $123 million for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Engagement, $13 million above fiscal year 2019 and rejecting the Administration's request to eliminate funding for these programs, which help inspire and train the country's future STEM workforce.
- $5.1 billion for Exploration - $79.1 million above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level. This includes funding to continue the development of the Orion crew vehicle, Space Launch System, and related ground systems.

Chairwomen Johnson and Horn Question Funding Plan for NASA's Accelerated Moon Landing Program

"While I am a supporter of challenging human space exploration endeavors that can take us to the Moon and eventually to Mars, based on the limited information provided to Congress it is impossible to judge the merits of the President's budget amendment," saidChairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson. "We don't know how much money will be required in total to meet the arbitrary 2024 Moon landing deadline or how that money will be spent. We don't know how much additional money will subsequently be required to turn the crash program to get astronauts to the Moon by 2024 into a sustainable exploration program that will lead to Mars. And we don't know what NASA's technical plan for its lunar program is. What we do know is that the President is proposing to further cut a beneficial needs-based grants program that provides a lifeline to low-income students, namely the Pell Grants program, in order to pay for the first year of this initiative--something that I cannot support."

The Emerging Space Environment: Operational, Technical, and Policy Challenges (Watch live)

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, chairman of the Subcommittee on Aviation and Space, will convene a hearing titled, "The Emerging Space Environment: Operational, Technical, and Policy Challenges," at 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 14, 2019. The hearing will examine civil-military coordination, cooperation, and related issues within the space domain.

Witnesses:

The Honorable Jim Bridenstine, Administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Mr. Kevin O'Connell, Director, Office of Space Commerce, Department of Commerce
Mr. Robert Cardillo, Former Director, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
Lt. Gen. David D. Thompson, Vice Commander, Space Command, United States Air Force
Col. Pamela A. Melroy, United States Air Force (ret.)

"NASA leaders, including Administrator Jim Bridenstine, will host a media teleconference today, Monday, May 13 to discuss how a new budget amendment for the fiscal year 2020 proposal will help NASA's plan to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024.
The media teleconference at 7 p.m. EDT will discuss details of the budget amendment. Audio and visuals from the teleconference will stream live at: https://www.nasa.gov/live. The agency budget amendment and supporting information are available online at: https://www.nasa.gov/budget. Administrator Bridenstine also will host an employee town hall at 12:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 14 live from NASA Headquarters in Washington. The meeting will be carried on NASA Television and the agency's website."






Keith's note: If you subtract $321 million from Gateway the numbers balance. No word yet as to where the money actually comes from (outside of NASA) or what the final cost of the Moon2024 thing will be. Stay tuned.

NASA's plan to get to the Moon by 2024 isn't ready yet, The Verge

"Horn demanded to know why the amendment isn't ready yet during today's hearing. "We recognize that this is a really serious challenge we have to weigh in front of us, and we need a really solid plan," William Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for human exploration and an expert at today's hearing, responded. He added: "We need to make sure it's all integrated and all put together in a way that really makes sense." Gerstenmaier noted that the amendment also has to get approval from the White House, which may also be slowing things down. However, he claimed that details will be ready soon. "We're probably several weeks away, maybe a week to two weeks away from being able to give you a plan," he said."

Opening Statements

- Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson
- Chair Kendra Horn
- Ranking Member Brian Babin
- Ranking Member Frank Lucas
- William H. Gerstenmaier and Mark Sirangelo
- Patricia Sanders
- Jonathan Lunine
- Walt Faulconer

NASA FY 2020 Budget hearing: Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies

2:30 pm EDT Live video

NASA Advisory Council; Regulatory and Policy Committee Meeting

11:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Dial-in/webex info

Keith's update: This is NASA PAO's response - they declined to confirm Bridenstine's statements that NASA will deliver its revised budget to Congress by the end of April / early May as reported by multiple news publications. "Last week, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine formally announced the agency's plan to get the next man and first woman on the Moon by 2024. We are in the process of evaluating and discussing what additional resources will be needed to land NASA astronauts on the Moon in five years. We'll provide further information in the near future."

Keith's note: I sent a request to NASA PAO but have not received an answer. Meanwhile it looks like Jim Bridenstine talked to some media the other day. Of course this Moon 2024 thing requires not one but 4-5 sequential NASA budgets - all at optimum levels - to achieve. Otherwise there will be delays and/or cannibalization of other NASA programs. This is a Hail Mary pass. But why not try it since the standard approach doesn't work. The challenge for Bridenstine is to parse his people - the ones who want to try to fix the situation and those who do not. Those who prefer the status quo can be a formidable impediment to surmount since they have had decades of practicing schedule delays and cost overruns.

NASA's plan to put humans on the moon by 2024 is taking shape -- but will they get the money?, Houston Chronicle

"So, NASA is working up a budget that would allow for faster operations without sacrificing safety. Bridenstine said he will deliver that budget to Congress in late April or early May."

How much will the Moon plan cost? We should know in two weeks, Ars Technica

"Then, Bridenstine will have to work to finalize the budget amendment before the end of April and begin the process of selling that to Congress, including skeptical Democrats. The agency will have to start choosing lander designs this summer and procure funding from Congress by early fall. If NASA is to reach the Moon, Bridenstine will have to keep right on running."

Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Mark-up

"U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene an executive session on Wednesday, April 3, 2019 at 9:30 a.m. in Dirksen Senate Office Building G50 to consider the following legislative measures and nominations.

S. 919, Space Frontier Act, Sponsor: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)
S. 881, Space Weather Research and Forecasting Act, Sponsors: Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.)"

Today's Budget Hearing

NASA's Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2020
2:30pm
Witness: Jim Bridenstine
Subcommittees: Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (116th Congress)
Live-stream can be found here: https://youtu.be/Bpkpd8gk1hc






Hearing: America in Space: Future Visions, Current Issues, House Science Committee

10:00 am EDT - Witnesses: Ellen Stofan, Peggy Whitson, and Frank Rose

The New Space Race: Ensuring U.S. Global Leadership on the Final Frontier, Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation

10:00 am EDT - Witnesses: Jim Bridenstine and Kevin O'Connell

Keith's note: Hint: Watch the Bridenstine hearing.

Prepared Testimony by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine before the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation United States Senate

"Under the auspices of the ISS National Laboratory, managed by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), NASA and CASIS continue to expand research on the ISS sponsored by pharmaceutical, technology, consumer product, and other industries, as well as by other Government agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. Through CASIS' efforts, the ISS National Lab has reached full capacity for allocated crew time and upmass and downmass. NASA also works with commercial companies, such as NanoRacks, to support commercial activity on the ISS."

Keith's note: Someone did not check their facts. CASIS is still unable to use all of the crew time and resources NASA offers them.

March 11 Events Highlight NASA's Moon to Mars Plans, FY 2020 Budget

"NASA invites media and social media to agency centers across the country Monday, March 11, to get an up-close look at America's work to return astronauts to the Moon and on to Mars, following the delivery of President Trump's fiscal year 2020 budget proposal to the U.S. Congress."

NASA could see a 5 percent budget cut next year, official says, Houston Chronicle

"President Donald Trump is expected to propose a 5 percent cut to NASA's budget next year, a decision that stands in stark contrast to the president's pushed to return humans to the moon for the first time since 1972. The proposed cuts -- part of sweeping cuts to non-defense discretionary spending in every agency -- was disclosed in an article published online Monday by Russ Vought, acting head of the Office of Management and Budget. "It's unfortunate that once again when everyone is getting excited about going back to the moon ... that the announcement is on the heels of cuts for NASA," said Keith Cowing, editor of NASA Watch, a website devoted to space news. "This is not the signal you would hope to see at an agency that is about to embark on a multi-decade program of returning to and exploring the moon. ... "Again, NASA is caught making all these plans with faith-based projections where budgets will be," Cowing said. "There's nothing wrong with being optimistic, but at the end of the day, you can't just click your heels three times and hope money falls out of the sky."

Keith's note: It is going to be interesting to see how NASA is affected by the 5% across the board cuts that the White House is planning to make. For NASA that could mean as much as half a billion dollars or so. While the Vice President has all but set up a second home at NASA, his enthusiasm for space exploration needs to be followed with the funding to make all of the promises actually happen. Add in the chronic problems with SLS (which always require more money to fix), the inability for NASA to get its ISS privatization/commercialization plans implemented (while CASIS fumbles everything); and the challenge of keeping enthusiasm going for a first (return) human landing still a decade away. And then there's the impending pivot in the House on Earth and climate science, and the funding equation NASA is confronted with is as challenging as it has ever been.

It Was a Big Week in Politics for Star Trek: Voyager Fans, Slate

"The show's lasting influence can be felt in two stories from this week about prominent Democratic politicians, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Stacey Abrams, both of whom are fans of Voyager and, in particular, its lead character. The first surprise nod to Trek in the political sphere came from the Daily Mail's unexpectedly wholesome interview with Blanca Ocasio-Cortez, who described how Voyager became a portent of her daughter's future success."

Stacey Abrams, Star Trek Nerd, Is Traveling at Warp Speed, NY Times

"She has seen every iteration of "Star Trek" and can recite with picayune detail the obscure plot points from incidents buried deep in the canon. She likes space-time anomalies. She admires Captain Picard but reveres Admiral Janeway. One of her favorite things is "Shattered," the 157th episode of "Voyager," in which the ship goes through a temporal rift that tantalizingly splits it into different timelines. Yes, this is Stacey Abrams, the politician who drew a great deal of national attention when she narrowly lost the race for governor of Georgia last November."

Keith's note: This may be lost on Trump space people but just watch what happens if the Democrats take back the White House in 2020. In the mean time, keep an eye open for this to bubble up during Congressional hearings on NASA's role in education, earth science, and inspiring people to look upward. But also watch for this to pop up in non-space discussions as well. Space exploration - and its role models - both real and fictitious - has lessons to teach outside the space realm.

Ralph Hall

Oldest-ever U.S. representative Ralph Hall dies at age 95, PBS

"Hall, who flew Hellcat fighters during World War II, was known in Congress for promoting NASA and energy production. Hailing from Rockwall, east of Dallas, he was fond of saying that he voted with his party often but always voted with his district."

Chairwoman Johnson's Statement on the Passing of Chairman Ralph Hall

"It was an honor and a privilege to serve alongside him on the House Science Committee, where he served as both the Chair of the Committee and the Ranking Member. He always listened to my suggestions and concerns, and never failed to make time spent in the Committee a thoroughly enjoyable experience. No matter what party he belonged to, Congressman Hall believed in reaching out to find common ground in order to serve his constituents. That spirit of service is something I will dearly miss."

New Cornyn, Peters Bill Will Usher in New Era of Space Exploration,

"U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Gary Peters (D-MI) today introduced the Advancing Human Spaceflight Act, which would extend the International Space Station (ISS) through 2030, direct NASA to develop a next-generation spacesuit to enable human exploration beyond low earth orbit, and establish the goal of permanent human presence beyond Earth as national policy. "The only way to continue learning about the universe around us is to aim high and dream big," said Sen. Cornyn. "I'm grateful for the continued work of and input from Houston's space community as we drafted this bill, which sets the stage for a new era of space exploration and to reassert American leadership in space discovery." "Investing in space exploration helps solidify our leadership in the global economy, uncover new discoveries and inspire the next generation of scientists and astronauts," said Senator Peters. "This bipartisan legislation would ensure that the servicemen and women of NASA can continue their cutting-edge research and exploration missions, and I look forward to seeing the pioneering solutions that drive the next era of innovation."

Let's Go Back To The Moon With Less Money, earlier post

Suzanne Gillen Named NASA Associate Administrator for Legislative Affairs

"Gillen spent 14 years in the U.S. Senate, where she served as professional staff for NASA, civil space, and aviation policy for Chairman John Thune on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation from September 2013 to March 2018. In this position, she managed the development and legislative advancement of both the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015 and the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017. She also worked as part of the team drafting the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act. Gillen also served in various staff roles for several U.S. Senators and the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works."

Keith's update: S. 3277 failed passage on the House on a 239 -137 vote under a suspension of the rules wherein debate is limited, no amendments allowed, and a 2/3 majority is required for passage.

Bill Nelson's last big space bill approved by U.S. Senate, Florida Politics

"Senate Bill 3277, which was introduced in July with Texas Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz as primary sponsor and Nelson and Democratic U.S. Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts as the co-sponsors, was approved unanimously Thursday. It's closest companion, House Resolution 2809, was approved in the House of Representatives in April, though there are some significant differences. SB 3277 includes a number of provisions, many of them offered by Nelson, which would streamline and clarify the roles played by NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration and other agencies in promoting the commercial space business, and extend and expand NASA's program to work with such private space companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin at centers such as Kennedy Space Center."

AIA Comment on Senate Passage of the Space Frontier Act

"This bipartisan bill is a strong statement in support of America's growing commercial space industry. It would update space transportation regulations and commit to the full use of the International Space Station through 2030 for critical commercial and scientific purposes. We look forward to working with members of Congress next year to get commercial space legislation passed and signed into law, ensuring American space presence and dominance into the future."

S.3277 - Space Frontier Act of 2018

Space Infrastructure Leasing Bill Sent to President's Desk, House Science Committee

"Today, the House of Representatives unanimously approved S. 7, the NASA Enhanced Use Lease Extension Act of 2018, sponsored by Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss). The bipartisan bill is now on its way to the President's desk. S.7 enables commercial access to valuable NASA infrastructure and facilities. NASA's enhanced use lease authority gives NASA a crucial tool to partner with the private sector."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Election Snapshot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AIA Presents Wings of Liberty Award to Sen. Richard Shelby

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

John McCain

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

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

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

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

Nomination Hearing: James Morhard for NASA Deputy Administrator

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

Morhard's response to questions from the committee

Watch Live

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

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

Nomination Hearing: James Morhard for NASA Deputy Administrator

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

- Nomination questionaire

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

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

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

Earlier posts

Sens. Cruz, Nelson, Markey Introduce Space Frontier Act

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

S. 3277

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

House Science Committee Demands Answers on James Webb Space Telescope Delays

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch live

Hearing charter

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

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

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

House Approves Space Technology and Commercial Space Bills

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

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

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

webcast

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

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

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

Hearing: Review of the FY2019 Budget Request for NASA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(NASA starts on Page 57).

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

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

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

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

House Approves American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sec. 202. ISS Transition (a) Findings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hearing On NASA Budget

Hearing charter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NASA Heads Back to Space Leaderless, Bloomberg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More comments below

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Commercial Crew Hearing

Hearing: Update on NASA Commercial Crew Systems Development

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

- Watch live
- Hearing charter

Prepared statements:

- Cristina Chaplain (GAO)

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

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

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

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

Bridenstine Nomination Update, earlier post

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

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

Nominations Sent to the Senate Today, White House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then again everything could change. Stay tuned.

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

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

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

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

- Hearing charter

- Statements by Ranking Member Johnson and Ranking Member Bera

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

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

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

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

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

Full section below

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Controversial chairman of US House science committee to retire, Nature

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(1) the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; or

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

SEC. 238. RULE OF CONSTRUCTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Approves $19.5 Billion for NASA, SpacePolicyOnline

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

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

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

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

White House Opposes Space Corps, Space Policy Online

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

Government debates need for military Space Corps, The Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Trump's enemies list, Politico

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senate Commerce Committee Hearing on Commercial Space

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

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

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

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

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

National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017

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

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

National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017

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

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

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

National Aeronautics and Space Administration - Budget Hearing

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

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

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

watch

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smith Introduces American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act of 2017

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

Markup of the American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act of 2017

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

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

LIVE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Science wins reprieve in US budget deal, Nature

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

Comprehensive Government Funding Bill Released, House Appropriations Committee

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

FY 2017 Omnibus Summary - Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations

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

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

Hearing: Advances in the Search for Life

Hearing charter

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

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

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

Archived Webcast

Flat NASA budgets pose risk to researchers, SpaceNews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch live

President Signs NASA Transition Authorization Act

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

Potholes Trump Space In Trump Space Policy, earlier post

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

Washington Space Business Roundtable Luncheon With Rep. James Bridenstine

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chairman Smith

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

Ranking Member Johnson

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

Prepared statements

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

House Approves NASA Transition Authorization Act

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

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

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

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

The NASA Rocket Scientist Leaving Mars for Politics, The Atlantic

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

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

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

Watch live

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Republicans defend Trump on media coverage, The Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Key legislator disses White House science office, Science

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

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

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

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

Smith, Babin Request Info on ARM Press Release, Report

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

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

- NASA's Boulder Retrieval Mission, earlier post

Smith, Babin Examine Policy Governing Indian Launch Vehicles

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

Eric Stallmer, Commercial Spaceflight Federation Testimony , April 2016

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

Elliot Pulham, Space Foundation Testimony, April 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Flores Backs Robust, Domestic Commercial Space Launch

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

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

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

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

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

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

United Launch Alliance Provides Update to OA-6 Cygnus Launch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Earlier China postings

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

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

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

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

Related:

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

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

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

Full text of legislation

Congress and NASA's Budget

US science agencies face budget limbo, Nature.com

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

A Tough Act To Follow

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

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


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