Congress: August 2013 Archives

JWST, Commercial Crew Spared Cuts in NASA FY2013 Operating Plan, Space Policy Online

"With only six weeks left in FY2013, Congress and the Obama Administration finally reached agreement on NASA's FY2013 operating plan that details how the agency will spend the money appropriated by Congress. Although the agency was subject to across-the-board cuts of about 7 percent that were to be applied proportionately to all its activities, at least two projects were spared those cuts -- the commercial crew program and the James Webb Space Telescope."

Finally, an FY13 NASA Planetary Budget, Just 11 Months Late, Planetary Society

"The FY13 budget approval was especially messy this year because Congress failed to pass a final budget until last spring (around six months late). The budget was then automatically cut through a process known as the Sequester. The Administration then reportedly proposed larger cuts to the planetary program to spare other parts of the NASA budget the effects of the Sequester. Congress reportedly rejected that division of cuts, resulting in negotiations and the final budget supplied to Space Policy Online.

NASA Releases New Imagery of Asteroid Mission [Watch], NASA

"NASA released Thursday new photos and video animations depicting the agency's planned mission to find, capture, redirect, and study a near-Earth asteroid. The images depict crew operations including the Orion spacecraft's trip to and rendezvous with the relocated asteroid, as well as astronauts maneuvering through a spacewalk to collect samples from the asteroid."

Marc's note: So while Congress refuses to fund the Asteroid Redirect Mission in the current budget process, NASA is pressing forward as if this mission is going to happen. You have to love their tenacity. However since Congress can't agree on a budget NASA is proceeding as it should under its existing mandate.

Videoconference providers see uptick in federal demand, Washington Post

"NASA, for instance, estimates that it will reduce its travel costs by about $21 million for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30. Although not all the savings can be attributed to videoconferencing, "we do look to use that medium to allow our managers, scientists and engineers to be able to still participate in events when being there in person isn't possible," NASA spokesman Allan Beutel wrote in an e-mail. Last month, NASA held its first Google+ Hangout news briefing on its Interstellar Boundary Explorer satellite. It "let our scientists present the IBEX mission's latest findings and answer questions from journalists and the public at the same time without having to travel to a certain place just to participate in the news conference," Beutel wrote."

Keith's note: Just as NASA is starting to get innovative in the whole world of virtual meetings, NASA also thought it was OK to fly a bunch of JPL folks to DC to go to receptions and briefings on Capitol Hill and the White House to mark the first anniversary of Curiosity on Mars. The rules are clearly not being applied equally.

- AIP Bulletin: Update on OMB Travel Restrictions, earlier post
- Growing Impact of Travel Restrictions, earlier post
- NASA Limits Travel; No Layoff Plans - yet (update), earlier post
- Bolden Cuts Travel; Buys Toy Telescope Models, earlier post

NRC Warns Landsat-Type Data Not Sustainable Under Current Practices, Space Policy Online

"The National Research Council (NRC) today issued its much-anticipated report on how to ensure continuity of Landsat-type land imaging data. The bottom line is that a sustained program is not viable under current mission development and management practices. Instead, the NRC calls for a "systematic and deliberate program" instead of the "historical pattern of chaotic programmatic support and ad hoc design and implementation of spacecraft and sensors" that has characterized the Landsat program to date.

... In short, the report calls for a "systematic and deliberate program with the goal of continuing to collect vital data within lower, well-defined, manageable budgets" to "replace the historical pattern of chaotic programmatic support and ad hoc design and implementation of spacecraft and sensors in the Landsat series.""

At anniversary of Curiosity landing, recommit to planetary science: Adam Schiff (D-CA), Op-Ed Los Angeles Daily News

"One might think that the latest round of draconian cuts are driven by reductions to the federal budget -- and, in turn, to NASA's budget -- necessary to reduce our debt and deficit. But that isn't the case. To the president's credit, NASA's overall budget hasn't been targeted and remains largely flat, a signal achievement when domestic discretionary spending is at its lowest levels since the Eisenhower Administration. Instead, time and again, deficit hawks in the Office of Management and Budget have targeted specific parts of the NASA portfolio for disproportionate cuts, and none more so than arguably the most successful of all NASA's recent achievements -- planetary science.

And for whatever reason, the "crown jewel" of the planetary science program, Mars, is in the crosshairs and the men and women of JPL know it. Last year, as a way to highlight the budget cuts, some workers hosted a bake sale, and in an effort to cut back non-essential programs and activities in the wake of sequestration, popular outreach programs like the JPL's annual open house have been cancelled, as have visits to classrooms and other educational activities."

No Tax Dollars Went To Make This Space Viking Photo, NPR

"The inspector general won't discuss how much all this cost, but [Ved] Chirayath did a quick calculation, totaling up the number of interviews, multiplied by the work hours, multiplied by the salary of the investigator and others involved. "I came to a lower-end budget of around $40,000, and an upper end of around $600,000," he says. That's far more than the cost of a professional photo shoot, even if NASA had paid for it, he says. Grassley says that these sorts of inquiries are not part of a Viking witch hunt, but that asking questions like this are part of his job as a senator."

Letter from Sen. Grassley to Charlie Bolden

"For example, I recently received information that at least four NASA employees, including highly paid SES employees, participated in a so-called "Physics in Vogue" photo-shoot, dressed in Viking garb. The shoot appears to have been conducted on a Friday in December during normal working hours and depicts NASA employees growling, yelling and brandishing replica swords and daggers."

Keith's note: In other words, Sen. Grassley's staff can send goofy letters to NASA and force them to waste taxpayer's money proving that they did not waste any taxpayer's money - because he can.

Since Sen. Grassley's crack staff are clearly rather desperate for things to investigate, maybe they should dig into the cost of this 2012 JSC staff holiday video. There are no Vikings in it (sorry) but I do see Yoda, banana guy, antler girls, neon feathered boa girls, santa's helpers, guitar guy, cat in the hat, MIB guys, weightlifter guy, astronauts, cheerleaders, and Darth Vader. And while there was no "growling, yelling and brandishing replica swords and daggers" there was gratuitous bad lip synching, silly dance moves, and a lot of props - some of which could have caused grave injury if mishandled (a great OSHA angle). Plus, as an added bonus, the video even has an official NASA logo (twice!) and it was filmed while the sun was up in a NASA building.

Just think of all the research Sen. Grassley's staff can do on government time and the goofy questions they can ask Charlie Bolden to make his people research and respond to - on government time. How dare these government employees have a Christmas party. What were they thinking?

Congressman Kevin McCarthy Introduces Bill to Streamline Commercial Spaceflight Regulations, SpaceRef Business

"Congressman Kevin McCarthy (R) has introduced H.R. 3038, the Suborbital and Orbital Advancement and Regulatory Streamlining (SOARS) Act, intended to streamline the regulatory process associated with commercial spaceflight.

The bill was referred to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee where it may get full support from the Republicans on the committee but likely no support from the Democrats.

Co-sponsoring the bill is Congressman Bill Posey (R) of Florida, who is a member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee."


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