Policy: August 2019 Archives

Nasa said to be investigating first allegation of a crime in space, BBC

"So if a Canadian national were to commit a crime in space, they would be subject to Canadian law, and a Russian citizen to Russian law. Space law also sets out provisions for extradition back on Earth, should a nation decide it wishes to prosecute a citizen of another nation for misconduct in space. As space tourism becomes a reality, so might the need to prosecute space crime, but for now the legal framework remains untested. Nasa officials told the New York Times that they were not aware of any crimes committed on the space station."

A NASA Astronaut's Divorce Has Sparked Claims of a Crime in Space: Report, Space.com

"According to Worden, her bank account was accessed without her permission from a NASA-affiliated computer network, prompting her to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. A family member also filed a complaint with NASA's internal Office of Inspector General."

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Keith's note: Strangely if you search for "Astronaut Code of Professional Responsibility" Google shows you this link http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/AstronautCodeEarthFinal.pdf that redirects to the JSC home page and not to the document. Searching the NASA.gov website does not show any results. Oddly Google has a description of this link that says "It directs us in the performance of our professional duties and expresses the basic tenets of ethical and professional conduct. Adherence to this code calls for a constant commitment to honorable behavior and ensures the continued privilege of participation in our Nation's space program." But if you use the Internet archive you can find this file that contains a picture of the code. We've also had it online since 2008. Alas, all this powerpoint chart says are happy words you'd expect to see in some sort of recruiting brochure for clean cut wholesome aw shucks Astronauts. Nothing is mentioned about what the rules are about adhering to laws in space and what happens when someone breaks a law while in space.

But you can find 14 CFR ยง 1214.403 - Code of Conduct for the International Space Station Crew here. The NASA Office of General Counsel Ethics Rules page points you to a 21 December 2000 Federal Register notice. We posted it too. There does not seem to be any mention of which laws apply to an astronaut's behavior in space in this document. This NASA LEO Economy FAQs page mentions the CFR as well but nowhere is there any mention of what happens if a NASA or commercial astronaut is accused of doing something illegal. FYI this astronaut code of conduct was developed when NASA and the ISS partners discovered that they had no rules to govern Dennis Tito's behavior on the ISS. Spolier: he did not break anything - including any laws.

BTW the The NASA OGC link to Multilateral Intergovernmental Agreement -- United States, Canada, European Space Agency, Japan, Russia (January 1998) is broken (security issue or something) as are the links to all of the bilateral agreements. I found another page that lists the original 1998 bilateral agreements. I searched through them and can't seem to fin anything about which laws apply to astronauts while aboard the ISS.

I read through all of the United Nations treaties affecting activities in outer space. Unless I missed something or did not understand what I was reading (likely) I do not see anything in these treaties about astronaut behavior being governed by terrestrial law. I am not a lawyer. But you'd think that NASA would make the basic agreement available to the public to read - especially now that there is a story in the news about alleged illegal behavior in space. And if there are specific rules about legal aspects of living and working in space you'd think that NASA would want to find them and add them to whatever rules the place of public-facing websites. Just sayin'

- Shh! The Astronaut Code of Professional Responsibility is Online, (2008), earlier post
- Evolving Traditions Aboard the International Space Station (2003), earlier post

Recommendations Approved by the National Space Council to President Trump

"1. Within 60 days, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator will designate an office and submit a plan to the Chairman of the National Space Council for sustainable lunar surface exploration and development, including necessary technologies and capabilities, to enable initial human missions to Mars.

2. NASA and the Department of State will continue joint efforts to engage international partners in identifying prospective cooperation involving the 2024 Moon landing and subsequent activities around and on the Moon. Lunar surface operations will be NASA's top priority for international cooperation.

3. At the next Council meeting, the NASA Administrator will present a plan to stabilize the Space Launch System and Orion programs and prevent future cost and schedule overruns. The plan will include the current projected launch windows for the first two launches of these vehicles.

4. At the next Council meeting, Council members will report on support to NASA in implementing Space Policy Directive-1."

The White House Issues National Security Presidential Memorandum on Launch of Spacecraft Containing Space Nuclear Systems

"Today, President Donald J. Trump issued a National Security Presidential Memorandum (NSPM) on the safe and effective utilization of space nuclear systems as America explores and uses the Moon to develop sustainable technologies and operations necessary for human missions to Mars and elsewhere in the solar system."

Remarks by U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross at the Sixth National Space Council Meeting

"Within the Commerce Department, we have re-established the Office of Space Commerce after it was dormant for decades. It is the only place within the U.S. Government that is charged with pursuing the unique interests of the commercial space industry. The commercial industry has said repeatedly that it needs an advocate -- a one-stop shop -- in its dealings with both the U.S. government and foreign governments."

National Space Council Remarks As Prepared for Deputy Secretary Brouillette

"Today, we are working with NASA on a number of major initiatives to enable nuclear power space exploration over the next decade including powering the Mars 2020 Rover, demonstrating nuclear thermal propulsion and fission surface power, and developing the Dragonfly Rotorcraft, which in the 2030s will explore Saturn's moon Titan."

Newt Gingrich: We're in a space race with China - We must win to protect our economic and national security, Fox

"As our legacy space companies and NASA continue to fumble around and protect their prized projects, China is aggressively seeking to overcome the United States as the dominant space- faring nation."

Newt Gingrich trying to sell Trump on a cheap moon plan, politico

"Newt Gingrich and an eclectic band of NASA skeptics are trying sell President Donald Trump on a reality show-style plan to jump-start the return of humans to the moon -- at a fraction of the space agency's estimated price tag. The proposal, whose other proponents range from a three-star Air Force general to the former publicist for pop stars Michael Jackson and Prince, envisions creating a $2 billion sweepstakes pitting billionaires Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and other space pioneers to see who can establish and run the first lunar base, according to a summary of the plan shared with POLITICO."

Keith's note: I have not seen the plan (neither has NASA apparently) - and I am not aware that it has been published online (link please) so I can't comment on it other than what other people write about it. If this is such a great plan then where is it? As best I can tell it was concocted - ad hoc - by a group of people (Space Development Steering Committee) who like to argue with each other - endlessly - on an email list. They can't even tell us who their current members are. I have stayed away from this list since I got tired of some of its members sending me countless emails demanding that I publish whatever it is that their latest collective rant was about.

Oh yes, depending on who you talk to about this plan it is/is not about China and there is/is not a new space race. You'd think that this sort of basic notion would be necessary in order to build a new space plan for America - right?

Let's be blunt about this. The current Administration has thrown in their total support plus some additional fire power to make the so-called "program of record" (SLS/Orion) work. They have accelerated the 2028 date for putting humans on the Moon by 4 years. And they have added a lot of new commercial aspects so as to engage the flexibility and ingenuity of the private sector. Alas, the budget to support this - or the previous - program of record is yet to be found. That said Jim Bridenstine has done his best to meld old and new, slow and fast, dull and inspirational together and make a big push to try and pull it off. Maybe we should at least try and make this one work?

Its not easy to pivot NASA and billions of dollars in space when the goals and goal posts are constantly changing. We have had many presidential marching orders in space. Since 2004 gone from Finish Shuttle and ISS, then Moon, then Mars; to Asteroid then Mars (skip the Moon); to Moon without ISS; to ISS then Moon; to ISS, then Moon, then Mars; to why the Moon - lets go to Mars before the end of my second term; then back to Moon (but quickly) to Mars." We are in the whiplash era of space policy formulation.

If the 2020 election gives this Administration another 4 years then perhaps there is a chance to accomplish the singular goal of putting Americans back on the lunar surface - once - using a mixture of SLS/Orion and private sector assets as is currently envisioned. However the whole "sustainable" aspect of this program lies beyond any notional second term for this Administration.

For the current administration to simply drop their current plans and pivot to whatever it is this new space policy cabal wants to do would give them at a minimum 1.5 years and a maximum of 5.5 years (with a second term) to pull it off. Given the current polls and mood in the country a change in Administrations is highly probable. If so then whatever is being done by NASA now under the current administration will face tumult and rearrangement - as was the case when the Obama Administration departed. While no one knows who the Democratic nominee i.e. potential 46th President will be, it is a safe bet that there will be substantial pivots, edits, deletions, and other changes in the current American space policy that would make current and proposed space policies moot - including this one that people are emailing one another about.

In other words more whiplash.

To be certain Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are going to do whatever they are going to do on their own timeline and will be more than happy to accept NASA business. But they are going to go ahead with what they are doing undeterred even if the government does not buy a ride. America needs an actual plan for its space activities - one that is actually a "plan" i.e. one built outward from simple basic precepts (or directives), utilizing a consistent but adaptable strategy, with goals and objectives that everyone understands and works toward that transcend partisan politics. Absent that plan then all we are going to get are homemade space plans that bounce around email lists and evaporate every time the body politic shifts in its collective seat.

But - if the current "plan" actually gains traction and shows evidence of being able to work albeit not in the way everyone would like - maybe its worth supporting for a while longer. Besides, what would we all rather have: a bunch of proposed space programs that never got implemented; programs that were implemented and were cut short before they could succeed or fail; or one that was given a chance to succeed and has made some progress? We won't know unless we try. Let's try.

Either way this latest space plan from the space fans too shall pass.


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This page is an archive of entries in the Policy category from August 2019.

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