Congress: October 2010 Archives

Budget cuts may doom extra shuttle launch, Orlando Sentinel

"Just weeks after President Barack Obama signed into law a new blueprint for NASA -- one that was supposed to add another space shuttle launch next year -- the compromise is in danger of coming undone by a lack of money. But with gains likely on Election Day, congressional Republicans are expected to have the muscle to block increases in the federal budget -- including a $300 million uptick for NASA -- during this year's lame duck session."

RTGs and Congress

AAS email: Plutonium 238 Production: An Ongoing Issue for Washington

"It is not often that a $30M issue in an appropriations bill gets a lot of attention. In fact, it is not uncommon to hear Senate staff state that they have $100M round off errors, but recent language in Congressional legislation appropriating funds of this magnitude can have a direct, negative impact on the long-term success of US planetary science and, potentially, creative approaches to power generation for future astrophysics missions, earth observation missions and other research activities in space."

Congressional Concerns Remain as NASA Chief Prepares for China Trip

"U.S. Reps. Frank Wolf of Virginia and John Culberson of Texas -- both Republicans serving on the House Appropriations commerce, justice, science subcommittee that approves NASA's annual budgets -- are opposed to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden leading any collaborative talks with Chinese officials about manned spaceflight programs when he visits China Oct. 16-21. Both lawmakers have requested a briefing on the trip before Bolden and his NASA colleagues leave town. A NASA official said Oct. 12 that Bolden would be tied up in a senior management retreat before he departs Oct. 15 for China. "No formal briefs are scheduled but we will be prepared to answer any questions," the official said."

Keith's update: The 2 day senior NASA management retreat is being held in the Hampton/Norfolk area. Center directors, AAs, etc. will be there.

"WASHINGTON -- Media representatives are invited to participate in a teleconference at 11 a.m. EDT, Oct. 11, for reaction to Monday's anticipated signing of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2010 by President Barack Obama. The President is expected to sign the bill later this afternoon after it was passed overwhelmingly by Congress last week. It provides bipartisan support for NASA's new direction in space exploration. Participants in the media teleconference include:

* NASA Administrator Charles Bolden
* NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver
* U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, Florida
* U.S. Rep. Suzanne Kosmas, Florida's 24th District
* Former Augustine Committee member, physicist, and former astronaut Sally Ride

Media representatives who want to participate in the teleconference should contact Katherine Trinidad either by telephone at 202-281-8171 or email at The teleconference also will be made available on the Internet at: For more information about NASA and agency programs, visit:"

Keith's note: Some news media only got a 90 minute advance warning about this. Some only got a 4 minute heads up. Today is a Federal holiday. Why not wait until tomorrow when everyone is around - and so that people can actually participate?

Keith's update: I was unable to participate in this telecon due to its last minute scheduling. However I have spoken/exchanged email with multiple media participants who did. Mr. Bolden made a brief statement and then left. He was therefore not available to answer questions from the media. How anyone can characterize this as "participation" in a media teleconference baffles me.

Mr. Bolden seems to be uninterested in playing a personal role in the agency's engagement with the media, the public, or his workforce. First he schedules foreign travel of dubious value to the agency at a time when thousands of his employees are being laid off and critical congressional battles are being fought. Then he goes out of his way not to make himself available to the media after the President signs this critical legislation into law. How much longer is this going to continue? Phoning in and doing flyby appearances is not what the agency needs right now.

Oh yes, this bill passed the House and Senate with bipartisan support - often times with Republicans being more supportive of the legislation than members of the President's own party. Yet were there any Republicans participating in this media telecon? No.

Obama signing NASA law today, but funding still isn't assured, Huntsville Times

"Bolden read a statement praising the legislation as an "exciting new course of exploration and discovery," but left the teleconference without taking questions. A photo released by the White House shows the president signing the legislation at his desk in the Oval Office with no NASA supporters around him."

President Obama Signs NASA Authorization Bill, Space News

"Later, during a question-and-answer session for which Bolden was not present, Nelson said he would seek bipartisan support for funding the authorization bill, which he said anticipates $11.5 billion over six years to fund a new heavy-lift launch vehicle and authorizes an additional space shuttle mission next year."

President Obama signs NASA budget authorization, CBS

"Nelson made the comments during a NASA teleconference with reporters before the president signed the legislation. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden made an opening statement but as has become standard practice, he took no questions and left the briefing in the hands of his deputy, Lori Garver."

NASA has the plan, but can it get the money from lameduck Congress?, Huntsville Times

"Reporters were given only 90 minutes notice of the teleconference, and embattled NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Jr. left immediately after reading an opening statement and without taking questions."

Obama Signs NASA Reauthorization Bill, Aviation Week

"Garver took over at a hastily assembled press teleconference Oct. 11 after Administrator Charles Bolden read a prepared statement on the bill and dropped off the call for what a spokesman said was another engagement."

NASA Administrator Thanks President Obama and Congress for Agency's New Direction Support

"We will foster a growing commercial space transportation industry that will allow NASA to focus our efforts on executing direction in the act to start work on a heavy-lift architecture to take astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit and to develop a multipurpose crew vehicle for use with our new space launch systems."

Coalition applauds President Obama for signing into enactment, the NASA Authorization Bill

"The passage of this legislation is a testament to our Congressional system," said Glenn Mahone, chairman of the Coalition. "Those who championed this bill obtained unprecedented, unanimous support in the Senate and advanced it through the House. With the President's signature, we enter a new chapter in 21st-century space exploration."

A Snapshot of NASA Today

Layoffs Continue as NASA Slows Moon Program Spending,

"Spending on Constellation, which includes development of the Ares I rocket and Orion crew capsule, is expected to decline as much as 25 percent for the two months ahead, according to NASA spokesman Michael Braukus. In an Oct. 1 e-mail Braukus said NASA plans to immediately reduce its Constellation spending from an average rate of $282 million per month down to $212 million per month. If Congress fails to enact a 2011 budget when it returns in November and instead extends the continuing resolution beyond Dec. 3, "that amount will go lower," Braukus said."

NASA Glenn upbeat on replacement bill, Crain's Cleveland Business

"About half of Ohio's congressional delegation opposed the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, a bill expected to replace the Bush-era Constellation program with a space exploration plan that pays private companies to develop rockets for NASA and puts more emphasis on long-term technology development. A few members of the delegation even circulated letters saying the bill would be bad for NASA Glenn; so did the Greater Cleveland Partnership."

Shuttle Launch Pad Towers Coming Down, Aviation Week

"Pad 39B was modified for the test flight of Constellation's Ares 1-X booster last year, but many shuttle-unique systems were left intact, including its rotating and fixed service structures. Over the next nine months, the steel towers will be cut apart, removed in pieces and hauled away to be recycled, leaving the pad with a concrete surface, the water sound-suppression system and three 594-ft. lightning masts that were installed as part of the Constellation program."

Jobs after space shuttle take top priority at public forum at Brevard Community College, Channel 13

"While leaders were discussing the wind-down of the shuttle program and how to preserve jobs, President Barack Obama prepared to sign the NASA Authorization Act of 2010. A large chunk of the budget funds commercial spaceflight - a new concept at Kennedy Space Center. The fourth annual space forum took place Monday morning at the Florida Solar Energy Center on the Brevard Community College Campus in Cocoa."

ChasingAugustine, Wayne Hale

"A couple of months later I was notified that I would receive a Group Achievement Award for helping with the [Augustine] committee. I told them I did not want the award and would not accept it. They didn't know how to handle that request. I boycotted the awards presentation but they still sent me the certificate in the mail. My first impulse was to burn it. I still may. A fair question to ask is what about the committee's work so thoroughly upset me? There were a number of factors, far more than I can explore in one short post. So I will deal with the #1 reason: the committee was snookered by OMB."

Hutchison: NASA Bill Provides Clear Direction and a New Path Forward for America's Space Agency

"Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Ranking Member on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, today said the NASA reauthorization bill, which the president is expected to sign into law, provides clear direction and a new path forward for America's space agency. The bill was approved by the Senate in August and by the House in September."

Hutchison lauds NASA reauthorization bill, The Hill

"The bill, which passed the Senate in August and the House in September, significantly alters the landscape of America's space program by moving resources away from the space shuttle program and toward the commercial space industry. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law this week. "

Keith's note: Jeff Bingham, a staffer on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation, posting as "51D Mascot" on notes that Congress will be watching how NASA does or does not comply with the new authorization bill when it is signed into law.

"Well, many of the same people who wrote the 2005 and 2008 Authorization Acts were involved in drafting S.3729, so they are VERY aware of the potential for "non-compliance." They are also very much aware of continuing efforts on the part of certain parties to "slow-roll" or otherwise undermine the letter and intent of what will soon be signed into law. With regard to the bill itself, the very detailed report required in Section 309 is the first "early warning system" built into the bill to ensure steps are taken towards compliance, well before the two-year scenario you described. If it appears that the completion of that report is being delayed arbitrarily and without justification, there are a number of fairly aggressive "oversight" steps that can--and likely would--be taken that would ensure "transparency" of those activities--and accountability for those undertaking them--which appeared intended to dilute or subvert the law."

Keith's note: There are certainly reasons why Congress needs to be certain that NASA does not drift away from compliance with the law. But there is also a point at which legislators and their staff are not qualified to make decisions. That usually has to do with actual rocket science. As such, one would hope that this "early warning system" has a feedback mechanism that warns and prevents over-enthusiastic congressional staff from playing rocket scientist.

As for Jeff's posting as "51D Mascot" .... more below.

NASA technology chief: We'll decide what rocket we want to build, Orlando Sentinel

"NASA engineers -- not Congress -- must determine the design of America's next big spaceship to take humans beyond the moon, according to the agency's top technology official. Robert Braun, NASA's chief technologist, told the Orlando Sentinel that even though Congress last week passed legislation demanding that NASA use parts of the space shuttle and its now-defunct Constellation moon-rocket program to make a new heavy-lift rocket, sound engineering and not politics should ultimately determine the way to go. "I think it remains to be seen what heavy lift will be," Braun said. "I would like to believe now that we are making progress in Washington towards the 2011 plan that the engineers...will weigh in and that we will move towards the technically correct choice."

ATK's Senator Gloats

Hatch: Passage of NASA Reauthorization Takes Utah's Solid Rocket Industry off Life Support

"Hatch was successful in getting language inserted in the bill which details specific payload requirements for a heavy-lift space launch system that, Utah industry experts agree, can only be realistically met through the use of solid rocket motors like the ones manufactured by ATK in northern Utah. The legislation further requires NASA to use, to the extent practicable, existing contracts, workforces and industries from the Space Shuttle and Ares rockets, including solid rocket motors. The bill also requires an operational capability for the space launch system by the end of 2016. This deadline makes it very difficult for the development of an alternative system which does not use solid rocket motors."



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