TrumpSpace: November 2017 Archives

NASA CFO Nominee Announced

NASA Statement on Nomination for Agency Chief Financial Officer

"It is encouraging to see more members of the agency's leadership team being named. Jeff's solid financial background will be a tremendous addition as we continue to advance our nation's aeronautic and exploration initiatives."

Arizona Treasurer Jeff DeWit nominated by Trump for NASA finance post

"Many expected DeWit would immediately join the administration after Trump's surprise victory. When that didn't happen, speculation shifted to his running against Sen. Jeff Flake, who had been among the president's most high-profile GOP critics. Flake has since announced he will not seek re-election. A Republic review of the notifications DeWit is required to file with the secretary of state when he leaves Arizona show he spent about 50 days, including weekends, outside the state since early October 2016, about a month before the general election. Those dozen or so trips included Washington, D.C., New York and Trump properties."

Keith's note: Now is the time to read through the new NASA CFO nominee Jeffrey DeWit's Twitter account before it becomes sanitized - check @JeffDeWitAZ

Keeping the Focus on Mars, Scott Hubbard, editorial

"The Moon is scientifically much less diverse and interesting than Mars. For example, no one claims that life could have originated on the Moon - unlike Mars. The technologies needed for landing and living on an airless body like the Moon are quite different from Mars. Lunar technologies will have limited benefit to future Mars exploration. Finally, some claim that the Moon's resources, especially water ice, can be exploited for future exploration. In general, the Moon is extremely dry. There are data from previous missions to suggest that there may be more abundant water ice trapped at the poles of the Moon, but getting there and mining in temperatures nearing absolute zero will prove very challenging and expensive. By comparison, Mars has water in much greater concentrations distributed more broadly across the planet."

Keith's note: Former NASA "Mars Czar" and Planetary Society Mars advocate Scott Hubbard clearly thinks that there is no value in going back to the Moon. And he's not afraid to cherry pick facts and skew recent history to make his point. Of course he just thinks that he can proclaim that Mars is the nation's priority (he still thinks that he's the Mars Czar, apparently). Add in the Planetary Society's barely concealed aversion to putting humans on the surface of Mars. It should be quite obvious that the Planetary Society is soon going to be in an adversarial position once a new NASA Administrator is in place and this Administration's pivot toward the Moon becomes more evident. If Hubbard et al have their way everyone but America will be going to the Moon and only robots will ever land on Mars.

Oh yes, Mars Czar Scott - you did see this latest research about Mars, water, etc.? Resources to support human activity are abundant - but they are hard to access - everywhere.

Recurring Martian Streaks: Flowing Sand, Not Water?

"The findings published today in Nature Geoscience argue against the presence of enough liquid water for microbial life to thrive at these sites."

- Planetary Society Is For And Against Mars Colonization Or Something, earlier post
- The Planetary Society is For And Against Human Spaceflight, earlier post

Waiting For Bridenstine

Is Trump's NASA Nominee Ready to Tackle Climate Change?, Wired

"[Tony] Busalacchi, who has twice testified before Bridenstine's House Subcommittee on Space, says he's had two phone calls with Bridenstine since his nomination became public September 1. "He told me he regrets his [2013 House floor] statement in the past, and that he believes CO2 is a greenhouse gas and is contributing to climate change and man is contributing to climate change," Busalacchi says. Is Bridenstine just saying that to get in office? Busalacchi says he's taking Bridenstine at his word. "I see him as pragmatic and not an ideologue," Busalacchi says. "As a congressman he has been standing up for his constituents. It's one thing to be a congressman from Tulsa, it's another to be working for the American people as NASA administrator."

Keith's note: FWIW I think people will be pleasantly surprised by Bridenstine, should he be confirmed as the next Administrator of NASA.

Bridenstine Nomination APproved by Committee on Party-Line Vote, SpacePolicyOnline

"The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee approved the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to be NASA Administrator this morning on a party-line vote. The committee also approved Neil Jacobs to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Environmental Observation and Prediction on a voice vote. The nominations next will go to the full Senate for a vote. Dates have not been announced."

Answers From Rep Bridenstine To Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Questions for the Record

Question: Mr. Bridenstine, in the documents you presented to the Committee, you stated that you believe that one of NASA's top challenges is "Bringing together traditional space companies and new space entrepreneurs into a comprehensive NASA vision to maximize resources and efficiencies." What role do you envision the private sector playing in helping NASA fulfill its mission? How will continued private sector involvement make NASA more efficient and allow it to fully maximize resources?

Answer: We must recognize that NASA currently has more mission than it has budget. The days when NASA's budget represented 3 to 4 percent of the federal budget are not likely to return. Nor would we want to necessarily replicate that model, as it proved to ultimately be unsustainable. Fortunately, times have changed and great advancements have been made. The American space industry is more capable than ever before. A lot of this is due to advancements in research and technology development made by NASA decades ago that entrepreneurial Americans have taken and advanced further. Should I be confirmed, NASA will develop exploration and science architectures that leverage everything the United States has to offer. This includes the private sector. This way, we will maximize resources and ensure NASA can carry out its mission.

Question: What are your thoughts on the establishment of a Deep Space Gateway as part of the exploration architecture?

Answer: The idea of a platform beyond LEO and in cislunar space provides a lot of opportunities for the United States. These opportunities include: partnerships with both the international community and commercial industry, staging area for lunar surface and Martian missions, testing life support systems outside of the Van Allen Belt, and more. Should I be confirmed, I look forward to working with Congress to determine if the Deep Space Gateway or other Deep Space architectures enable sustainable deep space exploration.

Question: Earlier this year, the President signed into law the NASA Transition Authorization Act. This law seeks continuity in NASA's core programs, such as the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft. Do you intend to continue NASA's work on SLS and Orion?

Answer: Yes, I am absolutely committed to continuing NASA's valuable work developing SLS and Orion, which will serve as the backbone of our architecture to return humans to the Moon, on to Mars, and further into Deep Space.

Question: Representative Bridenstine, though it doesn't receive as much public attention as NASA's exploration missions, the agency's Earth Science mission provides data critical for both scientific research and practical application. In fact, Indiana companies contribute to these missions by building sophisticated instruments to measure certain properties and conditions in the atmosphere. In turn, this data in part feeds into weather forecasting models to help create longer term and seasonal forecasts utilized by a variety of industries, such as agriculture and energy. I'm focused on making sure we retain the capability to perform these science missions that have a significant real-world application. Would you explain your view of NASA's Earth Science mission and whether you intend to prioritize it in future NASA budget submissions?

Answer: I support NASA's Earth Science mission. As a Representative from and resident of the state of Oklahoma, I have a keen appreciation for the role space plays in helping us save lives, protect property, and produce energy and food. NASA's Earth Science mission is critical to facilitating these activities, both through the programs that NASA operates itself as well as acting as the procurement agent for NOAA's weather satellites. If confirmed, NASA will continue to follow the guidance of the Earth Science decadal surveys and I will advocate within the Administration and with Congress to see that the agency is able to carry out the recommendations of those decadal surveys.

Q&A: Plotting U.S. Space Policy with White House Adviser Scott Pace, Scientific American

"Heavy-lift rockets are strategic national assets, like aircraft carriers. There are some people who have talked about buying heavy-lift as a service as opposed to owning and operating, in which case the government would, of course, have to continue to own the intellectual properties so it wasn't hostage to any one contractor. One could imagine this but, in general, building a heavy-lift rocket is no more "commercial" than building an aircraft carrier with private contractors would be."

Trump space adviser: Blue Origin and SpaceX rockets aren't really commercial, Ars Technica

"With these comments, Pace seems to be equating NASA's SLS rocket with Blue Origin's New Glenn and SpaceX's Falcon Heavy, saying one rocket is no more commercial than any other. However, under closer scrutiny, there is no comparison between the amount of funding that NASA has spent on its own rocket and the other boosters. The space agency has been working on the SLS rocket since 2011, and it annually spends in excess of $2 billion on development of the vehicle. Additionally, NASA spends $400 million or more per year on ground systems at Kennedy Space Center to support future SLS launches. These costs are likely to continue for nearly a decade until the SLS rocket reaches an operational cadence of approximately one mission per year."

NASA's 2017 Top Management and Performance Challenges, NASA OIG

"... In the long term, NASA's plans beyond EM-2 for achieving a crewed Mars surface mission in the late 2030s or early 2040s remain high level, serving as more of a strategic framework than a detailed operational plan. For example, the Agency's current Journey to Mars framework lacks objectives; does not identify key system requirements other than SLS, Orion, GSDO, and a Deep Space Gateway; and does not suggest target mission dates for crewed orbits of Mars or planet surface landings. If the Agency is to reach its goal of sending humans to Mars in the late 2030s or early 2040s, significant development work on key systems - such as a deep space habitat, in-space transportation, and Mars landing and ascent vehicles - must be accomplished in the 2020s. In addition, NASA will need to begin developing more detailed cost estimates for its Mars exploration program after EM-2 to ensure the commitment from Congress and other stakeholders exists to fund an exploration effort of this magnitude over the next several decades. Finally, NASA's decision whether to continue spending $3-$4 billion annually to maintain the ISS after 2024 - roughly a third of its exploration budget - will affect its funding profile for human exploration efforts in the 2020s, and therefore has significant implications for the Agency's Mars plans.

"... The rising cost of the SLS Program also presents challenges for NASA given the program may exceed its $9.7 billion budget commitment. The Agency plans to spend roughly $2 billion a year on SLS development but has minimal monetary reserves to address any technical challenges that may arise for EM-1 or EM-2. According to guidance developed at Marshall Space Flight Center (Marshall), the standard monetary reserve for a program such as the SLS should be between 10 and 30 percent during development. The SLS Program did not carry any program reserves in fiscal year (FY) 2015 and only $25 million in FY 2016 - approximately 1 percent of its development budget. Moving forward, the SLS Program plans to carry only minimal reserves through 2030, which in our view is unlikely to be sufficient to enable NASA to address issues that may arise during development and testing."

"... Despite the extension, in October 2015, we reported NASA will not have enough time to mitigate several known human space flight risks for future deep space missions. Accordingly, the Agency needs to prioritize its research to address the most important risks in the time available while also ensuring a spacecraft originally designed and tested for a 15-year life span will continue to operate safely and as economically as possible. While the amount of research being conducted on the ISS has increased over the past 8 years, several factors continue to limit full utilization."

"... The selection and balance of NASA's science missions is heavily influenced by stakeholders external to the Agency, including the President, Congress, the science community, and, to a lesser extent, other Federal and international agencies. The President and Congress provide direction through the budgeting and appropriation processes, which has a strong influence on the composition and overall balance of the Agency's science portfolio. The science community - as represented by the National Research Council (NRC) - establishes mission priorities based on a broad consensus within various science research disciplines. These priorities are set forth in the NRC's decadal surveys on the subject matter areas encompassed by the Science Mission Directorate's four divisions ... Managing differing priorities from numerous stakeholders and funding changes on a year-to-year basis (which we described as "funding instability" in a September 2012 report) can lead to inefficiencies, resulting in cost increases and schedule delays that can have a cascading effect on NASA's entire science portfolio."

Trump's NASA pick faces blistering criticism on Capitol Hill, Politco

"Nelson is the committee's ranking Democrat. He's also the only sitting congressman to have flown on the space shuttle and hails from the part of Florida that includes Cape Canaveral. During the hearing, Nelson said that Bridenstine's "time as a pilot and your service to our country in the military is certainly commendable," but he said it doesn't qualify him to "make the complex and nuanced engineering, safety and budgetary decisions for which the head of NASA must be accountable."

Keith's note: Odd. Nelson overtly used his political position to force NASA to fly him on a space shuttle mission. His only professional qualification? He was a lawyer. That's it. His (not so) secret astronaut nickname was "ballast". If NASA can teach a lawyer how to be an astronaut then I am certain that a fighter pilot with extensive combat experience (just like 3 previous NASA Administrators and many, many astronauts), 3 terms in Congress, with a MBA can be taught to run NASA. Just sayin'.

Trump's Nominee For NASA Chief Could Remake The Agency, Five Thirty Eight

"[Phil] Larson, a veteran of both the Obama administration's Office of Science and Technology Policy and SpaceX, said the confirmation hearing this week will be the true test of where Bridenstine stands. "For an Obama administration official, I am fairly bullish on his appointment, mainly because (a) I think it could be a lot worse, and (b) he does seem to have a passion for these issues," Larson said. "But his confirmation hearing will be important for getting him on the record on climate change."

Statement By Rep. James Bridenstine Before The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

"NASA is at a crucial time in its history, preparing to explore Deep Space again for the first time in forty-five years. To do this sustainably, we must develop a consensus-driven agenda, based on national interests. Should I be confirmed, it will be my intention to build off the work done by the great people at NASA during the last administration, and to move forward by following the guidance of the NASA Transition Authorization Act, appropriations legislation, and science decadal surveys. We must all do this together."

Contentious Bridenstine Nomination Hearing Splits Along Party Lines, Space Policy Online

"In the past, Bridenstine had indicated that he did not accept the scientific consensus that the climate is changing because of human activity. Today he said that he accepts that humans are a cause of climate change, but would not go as far as to say that it is the primary cause. He went on to say that NASA is the only agency in the world that can do the kind of science needed to answer questions like that."


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