Congress: November 2015 Archives

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

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

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

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

The commercial space race, Ottawa Citizen

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

Obama boosts asteroid mining, signs law granting rights to own space riches, Mining.com

"It remains unknown whether the unilateral move by the U.S. to claim space ownership is valid. According to the Outer Space Treaty, signed by the U.S., Russia, and a number of other countries, nations can't own territory in space. "Outer space shall be free for exploration and use by all States," the treaty says, adding that "outer space is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means." The new law, however, does include a very important clause, as it clarifies that it does not grant "sovereignty or sovereign or exclusive rights or jurisdiction over, or the ownership of, any celestial body."

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

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

AAAS Leads Coalition to Protest Climate Science Inquiry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Committee Democrats Defend Clean Power Plan and NOAA

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

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

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

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

House Passes SPACE Act

House Sends Crucial Commercial Space Bill to President's Desk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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