Policy: February 2015 Archives

Keith's note: Dava Newman was chosen as the nominee for NASA Deputy Administrator 4 months ago in October 2014. We have heard nothing since then. Dava Newman has yet to testify before the Senate (and get their approval) so it is unclear when she will be formally confirmed. With impending food fights in the Republican-led Congress, such routine things as nominations may be stalled - or (worse) may become opportunities to score partisan points agains the Administration - with the nominee taking the brunt of the negative energy. Stay Tuned.

Executive Session Scheduled for 2/26 - Markup of nine bills and nominations for six agencies, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

"The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will hold an executive session on Thursday, February 26, 2015, at 10:00 a.m. to consider legislation and nominations."

Keith's update: Six significant nominations are on the agenda. No mention of Dava Newman as Deputy Administrator of NASA.

White House Announces Dava Newman Nomination, earlier post

Keith's note: Wow, the space advocacy community has been rather fertile this past week spawning not one but two new organizations - all of this on the heels of a anonymous meeting of the usual space advocacy suspects. This newest anonymous group is called "Pioneering Space Declaration" (spacedeclaration.org). No press release has been issued. Instead this group just appeared out of nowhere. It seems to have been spawned by Rick Tumilinson's Pioneering Space Summit last week and has a nifty Illuminati-style logo. They want you to sign their two sentence "declaration" but they do not list a single human name to signify who is actually behind this latest organization. Nor do they tell you what they will do with your name and contact information.

But they do show lots of logos. Most are familiar - but some are mysteriously unfamiliar. But they then post this: "Disclaimer - These companies and organizations supported the Pioneering Space National Summit at which this statement was drafted and approved. Their appearance here does not infer official endorsement of the declaration. At this time they may or may not be involved in future activities or actions in regard to the declaration." So ... these groups do/do not endorse this declaration - and they "may or may not be involved" in what is happening now or in the future - but we won't tell you - or maybe we will - or maybe we just did. Now THAT is illuminati-speak!

They do state that they are "a diverse group of over 100 space leaders" albeit anonymous space leaders - in keeping with the whole illuminati meme. They also want you to give them money via PayPal to yet another mysterious group: the EarthLight Foundation (earthlightfoundation.org) which has no individual names affixed to it either although Tumlinson has mentioned an affiliation with it. As you will see in the comments section below this organization's 501(c)(3) status has been revoked by the IRS.

Keith's update: The donation link for the Earthlight Foundation has been removed - this is a screen grab of the page it used to send you to.

The week is still young. Will we see more space advocacy organizations popping up? Stay tuned. This is starting to sound like a Dan Brown novel.

Keith's update: The Space Frontier Foundation just issued a press release titled "Historic Consensus Achieved at Pioneering Space Summit 2015". "Historic"? Really? How so? Half of the space advocacy community was left out in the cold during this closed session - and no mention is made of planetary and space science in the final summary statement. Baffling.

Space Frontier Foundation and National Space Society Announce the Formation of the Alliance for Space Development

"At press time, the LifeBoat Foundation, The Mars Society, The Mars Foundation, The Space Development Steering Committee, The Space Tourism Society, Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, Students on Capitol Hill, Tea Party in Space, and the Texas Space Alliance have joined the ASD."

Keith's note: Truly an alliance of the giants. Yawn.

Oddly, I got the SFF release first which said "for immediate release". So I posted it and distributed it. Then, after I did that, the NSS version shows up saying to wait until 25 February to release. Clearly the whole coordination thing is a skill they have yet to master.

- Alliance for Space Development: Yawn - Yet Another Space Group, earlier post

Poll: Space Travel in the 21st Century: American Public Sees Benefits But Balks at Cost, Monmouth University

"This week marks the 53rd anniversary of John Glenn's first manned orbital space flight. The Monmouth University Poll finds that most Americans feel the nation's 1960s space program gave us long-lasting benefits and many say increased spending on the space program today would be a good investment. However, less than half the public supports spending billions of dollars specifically to send astronauts back to the moon or to other planets - a program that is currently in the works at NASA. Interestingly, this reluctance is similar to the public mood in the 1960s. A majority of Americans do support private space exploration, though. ... The future of space travel may now lie in private ventures, which most Americans do support."

Keith's note: Interesting how this poll of actual regular American citizens shows them to be far less bubbly in their support of NASA's human space flight programs than what the space advocacy crowd would have you think. I am not certain how well the overt "settlement" aspect of Rick Tumlinson's recent closed space summit is going to resonate with popular sentiments when even the precursor missions are not supported by a majority of those polled. However, the commercial space aspect of this poll is interesting as are the societal benefits. Yet no one from Blue Origin, SpaceX, or Virgin Galactic - or the non-space public seems to have had any role in this closed door meeting. Or did they? I guess we'll never know since nothing about this event's participants is being released.

The study also notes "Just over 4-in-10 (42%) Americans are in favor of the U.S. government spending billions of dollars to send astronauts to places like the moon, Mars, and asteroids, while half (50%) oppose such an expenditure. There are no partisan differences in this opinion, although men (50%) are more supportive than women (36%) of funding this new program." I wonder what the demographics were for Tumlinson's space summit. If this conclave of the usual suspects followed old habits then the participants would have been overwhelmingly male and middle aged (and older).

If people get together with the aim of developing a broad-based policy (on any topic) for the entire country then they should, at a minimum, seek to pay some attention to the demographics of the group of people whom they purport to represent as well as what these people have to say on the topic. Moreover these would-be policy developers should seek to develop a policy that serves the real world interests of the population as a whole - not a policy that only serves the people who happen to be in the room arguing arcane philosophical and self-serving points.

If space advocates have all of the impact that they claim to have had over the past several decades then they need to share the blame for the dysfunctional way that this nation's space policy (such that there is one) has been formulated and implemented. If the space advocates shun responsibility for this train weck then they are admitting that they actually have little or no impact after all. Either way, given how screwed up America's space policy is, one would have to come to the conclusion that space advocates are part of the problem - not the solution.

Keith's note: Something has emerged from the Pioneering Space National Summit held last week in Washington DC on Facebook (larger view) The event barred press coverage and did not include a number of space advocacy organizations - including the Planetary Society. The organizers are now playing favorites with some media outlets but not others. At one point, the leader of this activity, Rick Tumlinson, posted the following on his Facebook page: "Keith...please get a life. Then perhaps you wont have to spend your time condemning those lived by others". He then deleted the comment and blocked me from seeing his Facebook page. Oh well. I probably do need to get a life - but this is how the leader of this new space advocacy effort responds to criticism. Not a good sign.

Tumlinson and Mary Lynne Dittmar made some additional Facebook postings (below). Note that Dittmar says that attendees are from the "human spaceflight community". The preliminary findings state: "The long term goal of the human spaceflight and exploration program of the United States ..." Apparently the space and planetary science community is not part of their proposed national space policy. Here we go again: yet another fractionated space policy - one derived behind closed doors by a subset of the larger space advocacy community - being touted as a national space policy.

Keith's note: I just got this from the "Alliance for Space Development - Seminary Road - Alexandria, Va 22311 - USA" today who proclaims: "You're invited! To an announcement of the formation of a new coalition of organizations focused on space development - with special guests Rep. Dana Rohrabacher and Rep. Chaka Fattah. The National Space Society and the Space Frontier Foundation, along with 9 other space organizations, are joining together to create a new strategic alliance for space development and commerce."

Yawn. Yet another space group - except there already are several space alliances/coalitions in place that seek to speak about space with one voice (Space Exploration Alliance, Coalition for Space Exploration, Commercial Spaceflight Federation, etc.). So ... is this new thing an alliance of alliances or just another rearrangement of the deck chairs occupied by the usual suspects? The organizations that are excluded from this group are of equal importance to those that are included. Since this latest creation is not totally inclusive will there need to be a higher level of space group alliances that includes everyone who has been omitted (or who belong to rival alliances/coalitions)? Does this have anything to do with Rick Tumlinson's self-indulgent Pioneering Space National Summit held this week in Washington? This is getting to be hopelessly bureaucratized‎. But who cares. Space people just love to announce alliances and initiatives and movements etc.

The Alliance for Space Development email goes on to say:

Testimony from the Hearing on China's Space and Counterspace Programs, SpaceRef

"The Senate U.S. - China Economic and Security Review Commission held a hearing on February 18, 2015 on China's Space and Counterspace Programs. All of the testimony is now available along with the webcast."

Johnson-Freese: Why Wolf is Wrong About U.S.-China Space Cooperation, Space Policy Online

"Joan Johnson-Freese explained to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission today why former Rep. Frank Wolf was wrong to effectively ban all U.S.-China bilateral space cooperation. Wolf retired at the end of the last Congress, but his successor as chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA holds similar views."

Keith's note: We're only a few days away from the "Pioneering Space National Summit" here in Washington DC - an event only a hundred or so space people will attend. Yet the semi-revealed organizers of this event seem to think that they can come up with a plan for America to lead the way in "Free Space" (whatever that is). As I noted in my rant "Yet Another Plan For Outer Space" last week, this effort is almost certainly doomed to be irrelevant before a single word is even uttered. You see, space people just can't fight the periodic urge to stage these self-indulgent exercises in futility - exercises that matter only to other space people. The real world outside the meeting venue (such that there is a 'real world' here in Washington) will move on as if nothing ever happened.

Space people enter any discussion with the default notion that space is important because space is important. There is no alternate answer to them. Space is a niche issue. Pick whatever poll you want. When the 300+ million people who actually pay for all the space stuff are asked what things matter to their daily lives space is at the bottom of a very, very long list. Administrations weigh niche issues like space against these larger popular issues when they exercise their political calculus. Would it not make sense for this space crowd to do the same and factor in a reality quotient by involving voices that have not been drinking the space Koolaid for decades? Of course not. Why be relevant to the real world? Space is important because space people say it is important.

You can see this by virtue of who has been invited to this event and who has not (no I am not referring to myself). Its like choir practice in an echo chamber. If you down select the opinions involved in your policy discussion by virtue of including some - but excluding others - you get a more focused end result. But you also get an answer that is lacking far too much in breadth and scope to be taken seriously. Many of the people attending this event are probably showing up for the drinks and snacks. When you see an event like this emerge out of nowhere - with stealthy patrons and funding - you just have to know that agendas are at work behind the scenes.

One theme that is circulating among the people who have been invited are window dressing for an apparent push to get everyone to throw their support behind SLS. I wonder how many in attendance know that there are efforts afoot to sculpt this get together into something other than advertised.

Oddly, one of the most effective organizations in terms of generating popular support - some of it actually from outside the space wonk world - the Planetary Society - is not listed as participating. Other groups such as AIAA and AAS and the Coalition for Space Exploration were added at the last minute - much to the bewilderment of many who work at these organizations.

And who is the intended audience for the eventual output of this event?

Keith's note: There is a strange conference "Pioneering Space National Summit" scheduled for 19-20 February at the Reagan Trade Center here in Washington DC. Lots of organizations are listed as sponsors. Oddly the agenda lists no speakers and simply talks about working groups that will "discuss" issues. Later, things will (apparently) be prioritized.

The website says that this event has "the explicit goal of creating a basic SpaceMap for the United States, and identifying strategic knowledge gaps to be overcome for this nation to successfully open the frontier beyond low Earth orbit to human development and settlement ... For this to happen those involved in all areas of space must move beyond current debates and battles over priorities, goals and participation and come to a basic set of agreements, addressing the reasons we choose to go into space, where in space we want to go and in what order ... etc."

Uh huh. Every time there is an Administration change looming space folks get the urge to try things like this. It never works. In the decades I have been around the space community I have never seen a strategy of any strategic value developed in the course of a 2 day free-for-all event open to everyone and anyone. No one agrees on enough things for such a consensus to be developed. And whatever the space folks do manage to produce just gets ignored - if for no other reason than someone was not involved or some group's favorite planet or project is not prominently mentioned. Besides, each new Administration starts more or less from scratch anyway and they want to change NASA's course from what the previous folks did (good or bad). Their policy priorities (or lack thereof) for space are rooted in plans that are focused on themes far more broad than what bounces around inside the heads of space advocates.

Oddly, when you go to the registration page it says "This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:" Nowhere on this website are you told how to get that password. So ... without the password how can you register? Emails sent to the address listed on the site are ignored. The site has been like this for weeks without this basic detail being fixed. If they cannot allow people to register for this conference I am certain that they are ill-equipped to do all of the more difficult tasks such as herding space people around in working groups and cracking the whip on consensus development.

Keith's update: One of our readers discovered that if you go to http://newworldsinstitute.org/ (there is no actual link to this organization from the meeting website to click on) that this is an invitation-only affair. As such you now have a deliberate effort to limit input - and that almost certainly guarantees that there will be space advocates who will be left out in the cold who will promptly denounce/ignore whatever this group puts out. Where is AIAA? AIA? AAS? AAAS? Planetary Society? Mars Society? Space Foundation?, IEEE?, Challenger Center?, ASGSR?, AsMA?, ASE?, American Astronomical Society?

After ignoring my previous emails over the past few weeks I just got this response back "Thank you for your interest in the Pioneering Space National Summit. Registration is by invitation only, and is closed at this time." Oh well, I would not invite me either.

Ad Astra or Whatever.



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This page is an archive of entries in the Policy category from February 2015.

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