Congress: March 2012 Archives

Candidate challenged over 'astronaut' title, The Fresno Bee

"Hernandez's attempted use of 'astronaut' violates the Election Code's unambiguous requirement that a candidate's ballot designation reflect one's current profession, vocation, or one held during the previous calendar year," the lawsuit states. ... The suit notes that Hernandez reported to the clerk of the House of Representatives that he received $150,000 from work as the "executive director for strategic operations" with MEI Technologies. "In the same disclosure to Congress, [Hernandez] reported that he received no income from NASA in 2011," the lawsuit states, adding that "astronaut is not a title one carries for life."

Keith's note: These lawyers are loons. Of course you can call yourself an "astronaut" if you no longer work for NASA. People have been doing this for decades. Indeed, you can do so if you have never worked for NASA or never plan to. Charlie Walker worked for McDonnell Douglas when he flew in space as an "astronaut". Brian Binnie is an "astronaut" and worked for Scaled Composites. Are you an "astronaut" if you don't have another flight scheduled? Was John Glenn not an "astronaut" during the decades that he was in the Senate? My guess is that Hernandez is going to win the election - and his opponents know it. Otherwise you would not see goofy, desperate legal challenges like this.

Judge: Jose Hernandez can be 'astronaut' on ballot, SF Chronicle

"It took a Sacramento Superior Court judge Thursday to rule that the Democrat can be described an "astronaut" on California's June 5 primary election ballots in a nationally watched House battle."

NASA administrator warns agency may have to cut 'everything' but top 3 priorities if no budget deal

"NASA Administrator Charles Bolden warned Wednesday that, unless Congress reaches a deal with the White House to avoid mandated budget cuts next year, NASA would have to cancel all of its other missions to keep its three top priorities moving forward."

Washington Monument Syndrome

"Washington Monument Syndrome ... is the name of a political tactic allegedly used by government agencies when faced with reductions in the rate of projected increases in budget or actual budget cuts. The most visible and most appreciated service that is provided by that entity is the first to be put on the chopping block."

Keith's 23 Mar note There were two Congressional hearings this week, one with House Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies on NASA's FY 2013 budget - and the other by the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology's Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics on the FY13 FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation budget. Both hearings made frequent and repeated mention of many aspects of commercial space issues. Yet there hasn't been a peep out of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation about the issues raised.

While the CSF was ostensibly created to focus on commercial space, other organizations - and companies - were all rather quiet too. Given some of the borderline hostile things said this week (and previously in a Senate hearing) about funding for - and regulation of commercial space, one would think that the industry would be out there talking this up. Its not like there isn't anyone out there to do this - indeed, Rep. Wolf made specifc note of the large number of lobbyists etc. that have been hired to promote/protect commercial space.

Keith's update: Commercial space came up at yesterday's hearings. Commercial Spaceflight Federation continues to be silent - just as they were last week when the topic was raised at two other hearings.

NASA administrator warns agency may have to cut 'everything' but top 3 priorities if no budget deal

"Shelby also criticized Bolden's defense of the commercial space company SpaceX, which Shelby said, "was originally scheduled to complete three demonstration flights by September 2009 (but has) only completed one and many expect the date of their second launch to slip again soon, as it just did in February."

Keith's note: Commercial space is almost certainly going to come up at each of these hearings. I wonder if the Commercial Spaceflight Federation will continue to be silent as they were last week when the topic was raised at two other hearings.

Hearing Airs Concerns with Sustaining Space Station and Fulfilling Research Potential

"Although NASA has done a credible job of ensuring that the ISS can last for years to come, the question that remains is whether NASA will be able to service the station and productively use it for science," Ms. Chaplain said. "Routine launch support is essential to both, but the road ahead depends on successfully overcoming several complex challenges, such as technical success, funding, international agreements, and management and oversight of the national laboratory."

- Science, Space, and Tech Committee Hearing: Securing the Promise of the International Space Station
- Hearing Charter
- Statement: Ralph Hall
- Statement: William H. Gerstenmaier
- Statement: Cristina Chaplain
- Statement: Thomas P. Stafford

- Senate Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Hearing on NASA Budget

- Statement: Sen. Mikulski
- Statement: Charles Bolden
- NASA Budget Estimates

- Odd Silence on the Commercial Space Front, earlier post

Rumors of NASA's demise greatly exaggerated, opinion, Nick Lampson

"Right now, NASA is building the next-generation deep-space crew capsule and heavy-lift rocket to explore farther than ever before. NASA is also expanding use of the International Space Station by partnering with American companies to create transportation capabilities for reaching the station in low Earth orbit. This will stimulate the economy and decrease our reliance on foreign launch providers. Congress has directed all of these activities in a bipartisan manner."

Hearing Notes: Charles Bolden Testifies on NASA's FY 2013 Budget

"Bolden made frequent attempts to defend the Administration's cuts to planetary science - at one point saying that part of the justification included an assessment that the Mars program was doing well. In essence Bolden said that not doing missions better positioned NASA to do these missions. He also said that NASA had never signed on to do ExoMars and that no sample return mission was ever on the books. Rep. Schiff was totally angered by this and accused Bolden of using "Orwellian language" saying "canceling flagships does not mean you are pushing ahead with the Mars program. It is exactly the opposite". Schiff also admitted to being perplexed by Bolden's statement that "the Mars Program was in the best shape" as part of the rationale for cutting that same program."

Rep. Schiff and Appropriations Members Take Issue with NASA Administrator Over Mars Budget Cuts

"Culberson called the proposed cuts to planetary sciences ""unacceptable," and stated that NASA's vision for future robotic exploration is "not consistent with reality." He continued: "I grieve for my country - I grieve for NASA. There's no way you can say the planetary program can survive a cut of 21 percent."

Eastern Shore land battle comes to Capitol Hill, Washington Post

"In the northernmost county of Virginia's Eastern Shore sits a quiet, 32-acre parcel of land, thick with grass and little else -- except controversy. Though mostly empty, the land, which was handed over to Accomack County by the federal government in 1976, holds future economic promise, as it sits near NASA's Wallops Flight Facility. So this week, the House will take up legislation to remove restrictions on the property, allowing it to be developed. Such land transfer bills are usually routine business on Capitol Hill, passing with broad bipartisan support under rules allowing for expedited consideration. Not this time."

Wallops Research Park

Keith's note: NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson both testified before the Senate on NASA's FY 2013 budget the other day. Simple word clouds reveal starkly different messages. Click on word cloud image to enlarge.

Wordle: NASA Testimony on FY 2013 BudgetTestimony by NASA Administrator Bolden Before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

"Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, today it is my privilege to discuss the President's FY 2013 budget request for NASA. Our requested budget of $17.7 billion will enable NASA to execute the balanced program of science, space exploration, technology, and aeronautics agreed to by the President and a bipartisan majority of Congress."

Wordle: Neil Tyson on NASA BudgetTestimony by Neil deGrasse Tyson Before the Committee on Commerce Science & Transportation

"Currently, NASA's Mars science exploration budget is being decimated, we are not going back to the Moon, and plans for astronauts to visit Mars are delayed until the 2030s --on funding not yet allocated, overseen by a congress and president to be named later."

Velcro and NASA

Images: Moving Around in Weightlessness in "2001" and 2012

"With little experience in weightlessness inside a large spacecraft, the experts consulted by Stanley Kubrick in the 1960s felt that space travelers would need to be anchored to something in order to move around. While this is often true for some chores (including the use of Velcro), astronauts will often just fly or float from one point to another."

Keith's note: Speaking of Velcro, yesterday, in a hearing with NASA Administrator Bolden, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) said about NASA research in space "who knew that we would get Velcro". Not true: it was invented by a Swiss guy in 1948. Someone at NASA Legislative Affairs needs to do a remedial NASA spinoff briefing to Sen. Hutchison and her staff. This is the same staff (some are ex-NASA) who have been pushing for the ISS National Lab. It is unfortunate that the staff so badly inform this senator (and others) as to what has actually been discovered by NASA - and that NASA (or CASIS) never seems to want to correct these mistakes when they occur.

House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Members Critical of President's NASA Budget Proposal

"Today in a hearing of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee to review the fiscal year 2013 (FY13) budget proposal for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Members expressed several concerns to Administrator Charles Bolden over funding priorities."

House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Committee Reviews Budget Request for NASA

"Today the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing to review President Obama's fiscal year 2013 (FY13) budget request the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Testifying before the Committee was the Administrator of NASA, the Honorable Charles F. Bolden."

Hutchison spars with NASA Administrator Bolden over funding for rocket system, Dallas Morning News

"Reviewing that budget and the call that you made to me gives me great concern, and I have to question the degree of the commitment that we made," said Hutchison, the top Republican on the Senate Commerce and Science Committee. "I was frankly floored." Bolden said he remains "incredibly passionate" and "confident" about the program but needed to direct more funding to other programs that were less developed."

NASA chief says computers are secure despite thefts, Orlando Sentinel

"Why is NASA is so far behind the rest of the government in securing data on personal devices?" asked U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida. Bolden had no immediate answer but said the agency was taking steps to address the encryption problem - and telling employees to be more careful. "One of the things that I'm doing is emphasizing to our employees is that they have to be vigilant. They can't leave a laptop ... on the front seat of the car. Locking the car with a NASA laptop [inside] is not sufficient security," he said."

Testimony by Neil deGrasse Tyson Before the Committee on Commerce Science & Transportation

"Epic space adventures plant seeds of economic growth, because doing what's never been done before is intellectually seductive (whether deemed practical or not), and innovation follows, just as day follows night. When you innovate, you lead the world, you keep your jobs, and concerns over tariffs and trade imbalances evaporate. The call for this adventure would echo loudly across society and down the educational pipeline."

Testimony by NASA Administrator Bolden Before the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology

Testimony by NASA Administrator Bolden Before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

Testimony by NASA IG Paul Martin: NASA Cybersecurity: An Examination of the Agency's Information Security

"Between April 2009 and April 2011, NASA reported the loss or theft of 48 Agency mobile computing devices, some of which resulted in the unauthorized release of sensitive data including export-controlled, Personally Identifiable Information (PII), and third-party intellectual property. For example, the March 2011 theft of an unencrypted NASA notebook computer resulted in the loss of the algorithms used to command and control the International Space Station...."

"...In one of the successful attacks, intruders stole user credentials for more than 150 NASA employees - credentials that could have been used to gain unauthorized access to NASA systems. Our ongoing investigation of another such attack at JPL involving Chinese-based Internet protocol (IP) addresses has confirmed that the intruders gained full access to key JPL systems and sensitive user accounts."

Testimony by NASA CIO Linda Cureton: NASA Cybersecurity: An Examination of the Agency's Information Security

"The NASA IT Security program is transforming and maturing. The real-world requirement is to protect NASA's information and information systems at a level commensurate with mission needs and information value. Therefore, NASA is increasing visibility and responsiveness through enhanced information security monitoring of NASA's systems across the Agency."

Space station control codes on stolen NASA laptop, CNet

"A laptop stolen from NASA last year contained command codes used to control the International Space Station, an internal investigation has found. The laptop, which was not encrypted, was among dozens of mobile devices lost or stolen in recent years that contained sensitive information, the space agency's inspector general told Congress today in testimony highlighting NASA's security challenges."

Olson, Colleagues Urge White House to Correct Safety Glitch (NASA Commercial Crew)

"Rep. Pete Olson (R-Sugar Land) and several colleagues today urged White House Office of Science and Technology Director John Holdren to follow through on his understanding that NASA should retain all encompassing responsibility over the safety requirements for development of commercial crew vehicles. Under proposed agreements between NASA and commercial crew entities, NASA would not have the necessary authority to oversee and approve the safety measures needed to keep our astronauts safe."

Keith's note: This is really starting to get wacky. Republican (supposedly pro-business) members of Congress are trying to undermine the core principles that comprise "commercial" crew. For all intents and purposes they are slowly re-erecting all of the tradtional government/contractor interactions NASA has used for decades. Every time they do this, they diminish the ability of the private sector to do this "commercially". Do commercial aircraft get built this way?


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