TrumpSpace: January 2017 Archives

President Trump and science: 10 things to look for (and fear?), Science

"Whither space exploration? Space was never a front-burner issue for the Obama administration, and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden was generally viewed as at best a cheerleader for policies on human and robotic exploration that were poorly articulated and never adequately funded. Does Trump have a more muscular vision? Is "unlocking the mysteries of space" a tacit endorsement of what some influential Republicans hope will be a costly robotic mission to find life on a watery moon of Jupiter? Does it presage astronauts returning to the moon? And what will be his administration's stance on commercial space ventures?"

Obama's NASA made strides on commercial space, but stumbled on exploration, The Verge

"During the presidential campaign, advisors to President-elect Trump expressed praise for the focus on public-private partnerships in space. However, those same advisors hinted that all of Obama's efforts in strengthening NASA's Earth Science division may be undone, and that all of the space agency's climate missions may be transferred to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration."

Revenge of the bureaucrats, Politico

"The Trump personnel team led by Kay Coles James and Linda Springer, both also Bush alumni, has broad goals to reduce the size of domestic agencies while slightly bolstering the defense workforce, say sources close to the transition. Aides are also mulling a process, known as "reduction in force," that would allow the new administration to skirt the civil service's complicated rules for hiring and firing. The easiest way to make such reductions might be through budget cuts to each agency, which would be outlined in Trump's first budget proposal this spring."

Trump freezes hiring of many federal workers, Washington Post

"President Trump instituted a governmentwide hiring freeze Monday, signing an executive order that he said would affect all employees "except for the military."

How Trump Could Unravel Obama's Science Legacy, Scientific American

"The much-larger ranks of non-political 'career' employees, meanwhile, could shrink under Trump, who has pledged to freeze federal hiring within his first 100 days in office. Staffing levels at science agencies - which stayed relatively flat under Obama, despite his enthusiasm for research - could eventually dwindle by attrition."

Elon Musk's surprising secret weapon: Trump?, CNN

"In recent weeks, the Tesla (TSLA) and SpaceX CEO has been named to Trump's team of business advisers and visited Trump Tower twice. The first time he was part of a big meeting with tech CEOs; the second came earlier this month for a private meeting with Trump's top aides. The blossoming relationship between Musk and Trump's camp has caught the attention of Tesla investors. "Elon Musk has an important line of communication to Donald Trump through his role as a strategic advisor to the President-elect," Adam Jonas, an analyst with Morgan Stanley, wrote in an investor note Thursday. "We believe this level of coordination with the new administration could actually evolve into greater strategic value than with the prior administration," Jonas added. While the investor note was specifically about Tesla, it could also apply to SpaceX, which has lucrative government contracts for space shipments."

Trump team prepares dramatic cuts, The Hill

"The changes they propose are dramatic. The departments of Commerce and Energy would see major reductions in funding, with programs under their jurisdiction either being eliminated or transferred to other agencies. The departments of Transportation, Justice and State would see significant cuts and program eliminations. Overall, the blueprint being used by Trump's team would reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over 10 years."

Trump reportedly wants to cut cultural programs that make up 0.02 percent of federal spending, Washington Post

"For example, about half of the government's discretionary spending is on the military. Cutting all discretionary spending each year means cutting all funding for the military, which is both politically and rationally a nonstarter. The formulas for how much is spent on the non-discretionary spending can be adjusted, but Trump has pledged not to cut spending on the so-called "entitlement" programs."

Keith's note: There are only 5 working days left before the Inauguration at which time the Transition Team ceases to exist. Of the 4 people that were supposed to be added to the NASA Landing Team to augment commercial space expertise, only one (Charles Miller) actually made it onto the NASA Landing Team. Brandon Eden never made it onto the team due to the fact that so many people outside of NASA thought he'd be a good addition - and that apparently bothered someone within Team Trump. This is something Eden should take as a compliment.

Alan Lindenmoyer and Alan Stern (both of whom also have actual expertise) have yet to be formally named to the NASA Landing Party and, given the short time remaining, are probably not going to be joining the efforts at NASA HQ. As such the additional visibility for commercial space issues in Landing Team activities was not as prominent as was hoped. But given the fact that Elon Musk has met with Team Trump twice (the second time with Gwynne Shotwell in attendance) should indicate that the interest in commercial space has not faded.

Sources at NASA HQ report that the Landing Team, under Chris Shank's leadership, has conducted itself in a pleasant, professional manner and that things are now starting to wrap up. Charlie Bolden and Dava Newman are keeping their farewell activities low key but they will be departing in a few days. The question remains: who will be running NASA? Even if NASA Administrator and Deputy Administrator nominees were to be announced tomorrow it would likely be some time before they were confirmed. Speculation has been that Robert Lightfoot would be named acting Administrator but no one seems to have heard that this is indeed going to happen. Update: Lightfoot will be acting NASA Administrator effective 20 January 2017 at noon ET.

As mentioned last week, an interim 120 day "Beachhead" team is being assembled that would likely include Chris Shank as Chief of staff. It would not be surprising to see current Landing Team members Rodney Liesveld or Jeff Waksman as part of this interim team. Note: people who show up on the 9th floor at NASA Headquarters for short term tasks often tend to stay a while.

Update from Today's internal NASA Town Hall: the NASA Landing Team has asked NASA CFO David Radzanowski to stay on to "help get them over the hump" According to Charlie Bolden.

- Earlier TrumpSpace and Transition Team postings

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2017/admin.wheel.2.jpg

Keith's note: Attention news media: Mike Griffin is scheduled to chair this AIAA session tomorrow in Texas. Also, former SMD AA Alan Stern has expressed interest to people in being considered for Trump's NASA Administrator as well.

What would NASA in the age of Trump look like?, Houston Chronicle

"I don't expect anything grand and dramatic about space for the next two or three years," said Keith Cowing, a longtime NASA observer - and sometimes critic - who oversees a pair of websites related to NASA and other space matters. "They have to figure out how to run the government first. I don't think there is a grand picture for NASA yet. It is the last thing they are thinking about." One thing very much on Trump's mind, apparently, is the promised gargantuan tax cut. Though it is hard to imagine even a Republican Congress agreeing to a $7 trillion-plus loss in revenue over the following decade, even a more modest plan could gut discretionary spending and the government agencies that rely on it - like NASA."

NASA science chief seeks to allay concerns about transition, Space News

"The discussion was very thoughtful, very focused on good objectives and focused on science value," he said in an interview after the town hall meeting. "We were ready for that. Every division director was ready to talk about their programs that way." The landing team, he added, has received all the information they requested. [NASA's Science Mission Directorate AA Thomas] Zurbuchen said he had not been able to glean any information from the landing team about the incoming administration's plans. That included, he said, who it might nominate to be the next administrator of NASA, or when that might take place."

Could Donald Trump be better for NASA in Alabama than Obama?, Huntsville Times

"Huntsville attorney Mark McDaniel was on the NASA Advisory Council when George W. Bush was president. He says Bush's old plan might make a good new plan. "I personally think deep space is something the government should do," McDaniel said, noting that the moon is deep space. "We talked about that when I was on the Advisory Council. The key word (in Bush's plan) was 'beyond.' We were going to the moon, Mars and beyond. "If you go back and it's in preparation for going to Mars, an asteroid or beyond Mars, that's great," McDaniel said. "We as a nation have to do things that have never been done before."If you say we're just going back to the moon," McDaniel said, "been there, done that."

More False Memories About the Origin (and Cost) of SLS, earlier posts

"Then there's this other whopper from Mike: "And, contrary to some suggestions, SLS launches will cost no more than existing commercial U.S. systems - which are currently advertised at about $4.5 million per ton of payload." How can you possibly make such a statement when the number of launches is unknown - and a lot of SLS development was paid for by Ares V and not included in Mike's secret math. But who cares, right? No one inside or outside of NASA has ever grasped what it really costs for the agency to develop and launch things."

Keith's note: Typical anti-commercial space bashing from one of the usual Huntsville mouthpieces who can't think of anything new to say.

- OIG Reality Check on Orion Cost and Planning
- NASA Still Has No Idea What a SLS Launch Will Cost
- Double GAO Reports: SLS and Orion Cost and Risk Estimates Are Still Unreliable
- earlier SLS/Oriopn osts

GOP Rep. Jim Bridenstine Seen as Top Choice for NASA Chief, Wall Street Journal

"Boeing and other legacy contractors have rallied behind Doug Cooke, a former senior NASA official under President George W. Bush, people with knowledge of the situation say. Mr. Cooke is known as a critic of some commercial initiatives. Many of those serving on the formal NASA transition team share those views, while favoring greater emphasis on manned exploration missions to the moon and deeper into the solar system. The plans are largely built around NASA's proposed heavy lift rocket, dubbed the Space Launch System, and companion Orion capsule. By contrast, champions of commercial space interests, including supporters of billionaire Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp. and Blue Origin LLC, a closely held rocket-making company run by Amazon.com Inc.'s founder and chairman Jeff Bezos, favor less federal direction and more public-private partnerships, people with knowledge of the situation say. They have pushed hard for Mr. Bridenstine as a likely change agent, and at this point seem to have the upper hand, the people added."

Why the Moon Matters, Rep. Bridenstine

"While most satellites are not currently powered by liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen, next generation satellite architectures could utilize the lunar propellant if low-cost in-orbit servicing were available. Commercial operators will follow if the United States leads with its own constellations. Such leadership would require a whole-of-government approach with the interagency support of the newly reconstituted National Space Council. The objective is a self-sustaining, cis-lunar economy, whereby government and commercial operators save money and maximize the utilization of space through lunar resources."

Keith's note: The NASA Landing Team resumes work tomorrow. Charles Millier should be joining the festivities. No word yet as to whether Alan Lindenmoyer and Alan Stern's conflict of interest background checks have been completed. These three were added at the direction of Trump Tower in response to concerns that commercial space was not getting an equal seat at the table. As such there is a lot of nuancing going on with this Landing Team. Indeed, the commercial space faction sees this this as an "away team" opportunity while the status quo factions sees it as a "boarding party".

Meanwhile, anyone who claims to have an idea what is going on in the confusing world behind the scenes of the still-embryonic TrumpSpace policy effort has an equal chance of being wrong - or right - or both. Andy Pasztor has had a tendency to get things confused on this story, so ... that said, were I to venture a guess as to where the selection might be headed I would agree that the commercial faction within Team TrumpSpace has the edge, and, unless he decides to go for USAF, the job is probably Bridenstine's to decline. There is no obvious second choice from the commercial faction should Bridenstine not be named NASA Administrator - so do not count out the Status Quo/SLS/Alabama crowd just yet.

A personal opinion, if I may: Doug Cooke and the other members of the Griffin Clan on the Trump Landing Team and NASA represent the past - old fashioned ways of thinking that requires decades, eschews innovation, is addicted to political favoritism, and needs ever-larger buckets of money to keep going. That is the last thing that NASA needs right now - more of the same - especially when discretionary spending has a big bullseye painted on it. Bridenstine himself may be short on management skills, but he has managed to attract an impressively large amount of support from across the commercial space sector - where innovation and cost effectiveness are pre-requisites - and good management is the key to profitability. Going with the old way of doing things will inevitably doom NASA to increasing irrelevance. Alas, there is no guarantee that moving U.S. space efforts in more of a commercial direction will solve all of NASA's problems - but it does at least offer a chance to try things that have worked elsewhere.

Earlier TrumpSpace and Transition Team postings


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This page is an archive of entries in the TrumpSpace category from January 2017.

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