TrumpSpace: January 2018 Archives

Keith's note: Yesterday @BillNye tweeted this statement: "Tomorrow night I will attend the State of the Union as a guest of Congressman Jim Bridenstine - nominee for NASA Administrator - who extended me an invitation in my role as CEO of The Planetary Society. The Society is the world's largest and most influential non-governmental nonpartisan space organization, co-founded by Carl Sagan. While the Congressman and I disagree on a great many issues - we share a deep respect for NASA and its achievements and a strong interest in the future of space exploration. My attendance tomorrow should not be interpreted as an endorsement of this administration, or of Congressman Bridenstine's nomination, or seen as an acceptance of the recent attacks on science and the scientific community. The U.S. Space Program has long been a source of American technical achievement, a symbol of our innovative spirit, and a source of national pride. There are extraordinary opportunities for our country, and for all humanity, in the continued exploration of space. Historically, the Space Program has brought Americans together, and during his address, I hope to hear the President's plans to continue exploring the space frontier."

Bill Nye and the State of a Polarized Union, Planetary Society

"Space exploration is one of the few areas of politics that still offers significant opportunities for bipartisan rapprochement. A shared passion for space can lay the groundwork for a relationship between individuals of very different political beliefs. This can help build trust and mutual respect between them, and potentially allow them to engage on more contentious issues that would otherwise be immediately dismissed or ignored. The current lack of mutual trust between the parties has been identified as one of the threats to a functioning democracy, and space provides a rare opportunity to try and reverse that trend."

Keith's update: This online article has this tweet embedded in it.

Bill Nye was a Trump nominee's guest at the State of the Union. Scientists were not amused, Washington Post

"When a congressman and current nominee for NASA Administrator asks you to be his guest at the State of the Union address in Washington, D.C., how do you respond?" the society said in making the announcement. "For us, the answer was easy. Yes, Bill would be there."

NASA has gone a year without a formal leader--with no end in sight, Ars Technica

"Five months ago, the Trump administration finally put forward a nominee for the post of administrator, Oklahoma Congressman and pilot James Bridenstine. Although he was confirmed along a party-line vote twice during Senate confirmation hearings, he has yet to receive a vote before the full Senate. Increasingly, it is obvious that the White House does not have the votes to confirm Bridenstine in a Senate where Republicans hold only a narrow margin. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, has led opposition to Bridenstine, saying he is too politically polarizing a figure to lead NASA. Nelson has convinced his fellow Floridian Senator, Republican Marco Rubio, to oppose Bridenstine as well."

What Trump Gets Right About NASA, Space Exploration, Eric Stallmer, CSF

"Today, a new generation of commercial space companies is taking the lead on space exploration and aerospace innovation. ... Other firms are developing commercial spacecraft systems to reach the moon and asteroids, land on the surface of other planets and preparing to deploy commercial habitats in space. Despite this progress, some inside the space community remain nostalgic about the government owning and controlling space assets. Late last year at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics' Space annual conference, for instance, then-NASA administrator Charlie Bolden told audience members that he "is not a big fan of commercial investment in large launch vehicles. ... The alternative, which lawmakers need to begin insisting on? Firm, fixed price contracts. Under this model, which works best with privately owned space hardware, taxpayers shoulder far less risk - and companies are incentivized to complete projects on time and under budget."

Keith's note: Meanwhile former Trump Transition Team member Charles Miller can barely contain his enthusiasm for this "leadership" which involves abandoning ISS - all with another Transtion Team member's (Greg Autry) approval. Meanwhile other Trump advisors tell say that such a plan to prematurely abandon support for ISS is exactly the opposite advice that they have been giving the Administration at the highest levels with regard to encouraging the commercialization of Low Earth Orbit.

NASA FY 2019 Budget Hints: ISS Lifespan To Be Limited (Update), earlier post

Keith's update: I engaged in a Twitter exchange via @NASAWatch with @GregWAutry. Try as I did, I could not get this Trump Transition Team member to answer a simple question about the defunding of ISS after 2025.

Statement by Sen. Bill Nelson Regarding Administration Space Station Plans

"If the Administration plans to abruptly pull us out of the International Space Station in 2025, they're going to have a fight on their hands. Such a move would likely decimate Florida's blossoming commercial space industry, which is one of the reasons why Congress directed NASA to look at extending the ISS to 2028 and to provide a plan to help scientists and researchers continue experimenting in low-Earth orbit beyond that."

Statement from Robert Bigelow on reports of the International Space Station being defunded by 2025, Bigelow Aerospace

"It doesn't have to be a zero-sum game. ISS operations should continue provided there are aggressive initiatives to use commercial platforms for human space operations in parallel with the continued use of the ISS until such time that NASA can safely relieve itself of the enormous financial burden."

White House starts debate on when NASA should leave the space station, Ars Technica

"Without somewhere to operate and a predictable way of getting there, operations are not possible and expansion of American free enterprise in space is stifled," the chief executive officer of Made in Space, Andrew Rush, testified in 2017. Companies like Made in Space, as well as Orbital ATK, Sierra Nevada, Boeing, SpaceX, and other commercial service providers oppose an end to station support before 2028. However, the counter argument being advanced by Scott Pace, executive secretary of the National Space Council, is that at some point these "commercial" companies need to begin standing up on their own and making profits beyond just government contracts. "He doesn't want them lining up for government programs like everyone else," one aerospace industry source told Ars."

Trump administration wants to end NASA funding for the International Space Station by 2025, The Verge

"... a NASA spokesperson said in a statement to The Verge. "We will not comment on any leaked or pre-decisional documents prior to the release of the President's FY19 budget, which is scheduled for February 12."

Keith's uodate: Excerpt from OMB FY 2019 Budget Plan for NASA

"Passback provides $10,013.1 million for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. Within this funding level, and consistent with the outyear guidance provided in the passback's front matter section, the HEOMD guidance is intended to support the following strategic human space exploration objectives:

- Pursuing a cislunar campaign that will establish U.S. preeminence to, and around, and on the Moon;
- Engaging non-traditional U.S. industrial partners and sectors in the space program;
- Using innovative approaches to combine lunar robotics, a cislunar presence, and human sorties possibilities, involving commercial and international participation to enhance U.S. leadership;
- Ending direct federal government support of the ISS by 2025 and transitioning to commercial provision of low Earth orbit (LEO) capabilities;
- Achieving an early milestone in human space exploration by launching the Power Propulsion Element in 2022 using a commercial launch vehicle;
- Supporting public-private partnerships that enable transportation services and landers to the moon by the early 2020s (See Science Passback for more details and ..."

Did NASA Deliver The ISS Transition Plan To Congress Required By Law? Update: No, earlier post

"Keith's 11 Dec update: I did not hear back from NASA so I sent a second request. Stephanie Schierholz at NASA HQ PAO just sent this reply to my second request: "NASA is keeping Congress apprised as to the progress of the ISS Transition Report and plans to provide this report to the Committee as soon as possible. Please reach out to the Committee about obtaining a copy of the report once it is submitted."

Keith's note: It will be interesting to see what happens when Congress gets wind of OMB's ISS plans since NASA never delivered the ISS Transition plan required by law - the plan that explains how NASA intends to end its use of ISS.

Trump has picked a politician to lead NASA. Is that a good thing?, Science

"Although the Trump administration has proposed stiff cuts to earth science at NASA, the Senate has so far warded them off. [Kelvin Droegemeier, vice president for research at the University of Oklahoma in Norman] does not expect Bridenstine to support slashing the agency's budget, especially given that much of NASA's mission can be framed in terms of collecting data that are as applicable to understanding weather patterns as to understanding climate change. "He won't come in and say we're going to discontinue climate financing and take earth science and trash it," Droegemeier predicts. "He absolutely believes the planet is warming, that [carbon dioxide] is a greenhouse gas, and that it contributes to warming." ...

... "But Bridenstine's political chops could serve the agency well, says Laurie Leshin, the president of Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, and a former high-ranking NASA official who was set to help lead Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's potential transition. "NASA tends to value people who are geeks like them, in a good way," she says. But NASA often has plenty of technical expertise while lacking political savvy. "Somebody with that background, I think we should give him a chance to be successful."

Bridenstine, Myers Nominations Again Clear Committee on Party-Line Votes,

"Four Republican Senators spoke in support of Bridenstine: Mike Lee (Utah), Jim Inhofe (Oklahoma), Ted Cruz (Texas), and Cory Gardner (Colorado). All pointed to Bridenstine's background and service as a military pilot as evidence of his qualifications. Inhofe also cited Bridenstine's ability to "speak the language of Congress" as a benefit. Cruz said Bridenstine, a former Top Gun instructor, has many characteristics similar to an astronaut and urged that if Democrats want to pick a partisan fight that it not be on space, which traditionally is a bipartisan issue. The lack of a Senate-confirmed NASA administrator for almost a year is "bad for the United States of America, bad for space, it is bad for NASA" and bad for states like Texas, Florida, and Alabama. He accused Democrats of a partisan "wall of opposition" to a "well qualified veteran, and indeed a war hero" that is not in the best interest of ensuring American leadership in space. Gardner said that industry and military space leaders in Colorado support Bridenstine along with Colorado Democratic Congressman Ed Perlmutter."

With Democrats opposed, Trump's NASA pick gets political, Washington Post

"Sen. Bill Nelson, the influential Democrat from Florida, led the charge against Bridenstine, saying he lacked the credentials to lead the space agency. "The NASA administrator should be a consummate professional who is technically and scientifically competent and a skilled executive," he said during the confirmation hearing last year. "More importantly, the administrator must be a leader who has the ability to unite scientists, engineers, commercial space interests, policymakers and the public on a shared vision for future space exploration." added: "Frankly, Congressman Bridenstine, I cannot see how you meet these criteria."

Congressman Jim Bridenstine to Host Bill Nye "The Science Guy" and CEO of the Planetary Society at the State of the Union Address

"The Congressman is the nominee to be the next Administrator of NASA, and as I often say, NASA is the best brand the United States has. This means that the NASA Administrator not only works to advance space exploration, but serves as an informal ambassador of U.S. capability and optimism to the world."

- Bridenstine Survives His Confirmation Hearing
- Bridenstine's Written Answers To Questions From Congress

Rep. Bridenstine's Bid to Become NASA Head Stumbles Amid Partisan Brawl, Wall Street Journal (behind paywall)

"Now, industry officials and some congressional supporters of Mr. Bridenstine see the math becoming more challenging, partly due to factors outside their control. Last month's election of Democratic Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama narrowed the Republican majority, while continuing health issues could keep Republican Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi from voting in favor or the nomination. With Republican Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and John McCain of Arizona widely seen as firmly opposed for policy and personal reasons, Senate GOP leaders envision a difficult - and potentially monthslong - confirmation battle, according to industry officials and others familiar with their thinking. ... White House officials, however, are standing behind the choice and, according to outsiders tracking the process, aren't considering alternative candidates. ... "The president looks forward to Rep. Bridenstine's swift confirmation by the Senate, and is confident he will lead NASA to ensure America is a leader in space exploration once again," said Lindsay Walters, a White House spokeswoman."

Bridenstine Nomination Update, earlier post

"Right now the expected support for Rep. Bridenstine remains exactly where it has been for him (and many other Trump nominees) for many months: split along party lines. With Sen. Rubio still in the "no" column. If the vote were taken in December (and Sen. McCain and Sen. Cochran were well enough to be in town to vote) it is expected that Bridenstine would have been confirmed 51 to 49. Senator-Elect Jones (D-AL) has now been seated so the expected vote would now be 50/50 with Vice President Pence casting a tie-breaking vote - if nothing else change interms of the party line split with everyone voting and Rubio's stance."

Keith's note: Contrary to reporting by Wall Street Journal NASA Watch sources report that Sen. McCain is not against Bridenstine's nomination.

Make America Great Again in Space Report Released by Potomac Institute

"In order to facilitate American leadership in the commercialization and industrialization of space, the federal government must undertake an investment effort in technology R&D and marketization infrastructure similar in scope to past revolutionary government efforts, with NASA leading the effort by partnering with the commercial industry over and above what it has done in the past. The U.S. needs to seize this opportunity for domestic economic growth, for if it does not, other countries will surely step in to fill the void. Our investment in space will continue the heritage of the United States' ceaseless growth of its economy and prosperity in new frontier, forging a path where others fear to tread."

Nominations Sent to the Senate Today, White House

The White House submitted a list of nominations today including Rep. Bridenstine.

- James Bridenstine, of Oklahoma, to be Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, vice Charles F. Bolden, Jr., resigned.

- Jeffrey DeWit, of Arizona, to be Chief Financial Officer, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, vice David Radzanowski.

Elon Musk pitched Trump on SpaceX's mission to colonize other planets, Business Insider

"SpaceX founder Elon Musk tried to get a newly elected Donald Trump on board with his company's mission to reach Mars, according to an excerpt from a new book on the Trump administration that has dominated headlines this week. Among the many claims made in Michael Wolff's "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House," one passage described a scene at Trump Tower where then-president-elect Trump was taking meetings with tech titans like the Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk. "Elon Musk, in Trump Tower, pitched Trump on the new administration's joining him in his race to Mars, which Trump jumped at," Wolff wrote in his tell-all book. Musk's effort was ostensibly an attempt to keep his company front-of-mind in the broad scope of national space exploration."

National Academies To Release Earth Science Decadal Survey, AIAA Aerospace America

"U.S. scientists plan to release their once-a-decade list of recommended Earth observation spending priorities Friday in a press conference in Washington, D.C. The scientific community survey, "Thriving on Our Changing Planet: A Decadal Strategy for Earth Observation from Space," was written by a committee assembled by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Known informally as the Earth sciences decadal survey, the document could affect spending decisions by Congress and the Trump administration, especially in the politically sensitive area of climate science. Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., President Donald Trump's nominee for NASA administrator, spoke glowingly of the decadal survey process during his Nov. 1 confirmation, and he said "yes" when Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., asked if he would follow the recommendations.Bridenstine said the surveys lead policymakers to "make good decisions," and he added: "We need to follow the decadals."

Bridenstine's Climate Record Is Different Than You Thought, Earlier post

PN896 - James Bridenstine - National Aeronautics and Space Administration,

"Latest Action 01/03/2018 - Returned to the President under the provisions of Senate Rule XXXI, paragraph 6 of the Standing Rules of the Senate."

Keith's note: Rep. Bridenstine's nomination has now been returned to thee White House by the Senate. The White House will have to be resubmitted for the second session of this Congress. All sources report that the Administration is still quite firmly behind Bridenstine and that this "re-nomination" is simply a matter of routine paperwork that will happen after the holidays. Whether there will need to be another confirmation hearing is unclear at this point.

Bridenstine's nomination to be NASA Administrator did not come up for a vote in 2017. Right now the expected support for Rep. Bridenstine remains exactly where it has been for him (and many other Trump nominees) for many months: split along party lines. With Sen. Rubio still in the "no" column. If the vote were taken in December (and Sen. McCain and Sen. Cochran were well enough to be in town to vote) it is expected that Bridenstine would have been confirmed 51 to 49. Senator-Elect Jones (D-AL) has now been seated so the expected vote would now be 50/50 with Vice President Pence casting a tie-breaking vote - if nothing else change interms of the party line split with everyone voting and Rubio's stance.

In the Senate 30 hours is formally set aside for confirmation of nominees. But usually the 30 hours is waived by unanimous consent or significantly shortened by agreement between Democrats and Republicans to a much more manageable period. Alas, Sen. Nelson has refused to accept any deals. As such there was simply no way to really schedule this confirmation in the remaining time that the Senate was going to be in session in 2017. This issue will reassert itself when the White House takes a second run at nominating Bridenstine in 2018. More details on this issue can be found here.

The knife edge aspect of the expected vote is due to the hyper-partisan state of affairs here in Washington. Many confirmations are stalled. Contrary to some reports Bridenstine's nomination was not delayed by Senate Republicans due to a lack of votes. Bridenstine had a narrow, but very consistent block of votes that would have led to his confirmation had the vote occurred. Under more traditional circumstances Bridenstine would have had a number of Democratic votes to confirm. If he is confirmed that bipartisan support should become evident.

In the mean time Robert Lightfoot will continue to be the acting Administrator of NASA. (see The Vacancies Act - And NASA Management)



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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries in the TrumpSpace category from January 2018.

TrumpSpace: December 2017 is the previous archive.

TrumpSpace: February 2018 is the next archive.

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