TrumpSpace: September 2018 Archives

Keith's note: A hearing by the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology yesterday competed with another hearing being held simultaneously by the Senate Commerce Committee. Not much happened in the House hearing other than the usual routine posturing by both sides. The main topic of discussion was the future of the ISS. Bill Gertsenmaier repeated the same incomplete jingos used concocted by NASA to describe how NASA somehow expects the ISS to be paid for by the private sector in the 2024/2025 time frame. Gertsenmaier referred to the NASA ISS Transition Plan (not really a "Plan") required by law, but was delivered months late to Congress. The three NASA Center directors present to testify said nothing particularly interesting.

Rep. Babin announced that he's introducing H.R.6910 "To specify goals and objectives of the United States with respect to human spaceflight, and for other purposes." This bill includes language that would extend the life of the International Space Station to 2030. Similar language on ISS extension was included in S.3277 - Space Frontier Act of 2018 which was passed out of the Senate Commerce Committee in August. The topic of ISS extensions was a conversation between Jim Bridenstine and Ted Cruz in the other hearing held yesterday.

- Hearing charter
- Video recording of hearing
- [Statement] Full Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas)
- [Statement] Space Subcommittee Chairman Brian Babin (R-Texas)
- [Statement] Ranking Member Johnson
- [Statement] Ranking Member Bera
- [Statement] William Gerstenmaier, HEOMD Associate Administrator
- [No prepared statement] Mark Geyer, JSC; Jody Singer, MSFC; Robert Cabana, KSC

In the Senate NASA Administrator Bridenstine Testified before the Senate Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, In reality Bridenstine testified before Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA). Bill Nelson did a flyby appearance and no one else really stayed long enough to say much of anything. Cruz pushed on the issue of not being distracted by the Moon as we head for Mars, not abandoning the ISS, allowing NASA to derive financial benefit from better ISS commercialization and use of its logo, and making sure that the U.S. remains the global leader in space exploration. Bridenstine agreed with Cruz on everything - and was intrigued by Cruz' s comments on space commerce. Sen. Markey was all over NASA's Earth and Space Science plans and the fate of NASA's Education Office and Technology Directorate to which Bridenstine gave the stock NASA answers.

At one point Cruz referred to the NASA report "National Space Exploration Campaign Report - Pursuant to Section 432(b) of the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 (P.L. 115-10), September 2018," which was required by law and due for delivery in 2017 which NASA delivered late (just like the ISS Transition Report). Cruz asked Bridenstine about the report's stated intent of putting humans back ont he Moon by 2029 and asked why it only took 7 years to go from statement of intent to landing on the Moon in the 1960s and why does it take so much longer now? Bridenstine said that this was the first question he asked when he arrived at NASA. His answer: NASA is going back in a sustainable fashion - to stay - and is doing so with partners in a more constrained fiscal environment. OK. That works for the time being - he's new to the job. But additional digging on his part is going to show that there is more to this than the talking points that he's been given.

- Webcast
- Global Space Race: Ensuring the United States Remains the Leader in Space Bill Nelson Opening Statement
- Prepared statements by Jim Bridenstine, Sen. Cruz, and Sen. Markey were not posted

One thing sticks out of these two hearings: both focused on important topics that NASA was required, by law, to provde reports to Congress about. Both reports, authored by Bill Gerstenmaier's HEOMD, were delivered many months after their due date. The reports provide no meaningulful information as to what NASA plans to do, why it wants to do these things, how it plans to do them, what it will actually cost, and who will pay to make all of this happen. These questions were, of course, what Congress wanted NASA's reports to answer in the first place. This pattern from NASA HEOMD of foot dragging and vague responses to simple questions from Congress has typified the way that NASA has explaining its human exploration plans for the past ten years. These responses are filled with Powerpoint cartoons but are otherwise lacking in real substance. And when the real programs go awry its hard to see why or understand what the consequences are - other than the need for more money and time.

A new Administrator now has to look at his agency's lackluster performance and, as prompted by Sen. Cruz, answer the question as to why it takes NASA longer to do things it once did much faster - and whether this is the way that the agency is going to comply with the current Administration's intent that NASA regain and/or maintain its leadership in space. Quite honestly it seems to be exactly the opposite of what is required.

- Yet Another NASA Space Policy Report That Reveals No Policy, earlier post
- NASA Quietly Submits ISS Transition Plan To Congress (Update) , earlier post

Hearing: Global Space Race: Ensuring the United States Remains the Leader in Space

"U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, will convene a hearing titled "Global Space Race: Ensuring the United States Remains the Leader in Space," at 2:15 p.m. on Wednesday, September 26, 2018. Witnesses: The Honorable James Bridenstine, Administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Administration"

Hearing: 60 Years of NASA Leadership in Human Space Exploration: Past, Present, and Future

"2:00 p.m. William Gerstenmaier, HEOMD; Mark Geyer, JSC; Jody Singer, MSFC; Robert Cabana, KSC"

Keith's note: The Senate hearing with Cruz and Bridenstine should be much more interesting given their previous interactions and their recent joint visit to NASA JSC. The House hearing is going to be filled with boring non-answers from NASA HQ and field center representatives reading from talking points that serve to tow the line and make no news.

National Space Exploration Campaign Report - Pursuant to Section 432(b) of the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 (P.L. 115-10), September 2018, NASA

Keith's note: Once again NASA is trying to tell us that all is well in space and that it is moving ahead with a plan - "The National Space Exploration Campaign aims to revitalize and add direction to NASA's enduring purpose to carry out human and robotic exploration missions, expanding the frontiers of human experience and scientific discovery of the natural phenomena of Earth, other worlds, and the cosmos as a whole."

Despite the lofty words including the addition of the "cosmos" among NASA's ambitions, this plan is actually a withdrawal from earlier, more lofty exploration goals.

Of course, this report from NASA was due quite some time ago (last year) but NASA never bothers to do what Congress directs them to do - even if it is in the form of public law i.e. P.L. 115-10 which was enacted on 21 March 2017.

According to this report: "2024 - Based on results of human-class lunar lander capability demonstration missions, status of other human systems, other possible mission enhancements (e.g., retro-braking stage, launch vehicle availability) make decision on date and method of human lunar surface return and the mission objectives." In other words we still have to wait until 2024 to decide how to land Americans on the Moon a gain. But then it will take how may years before we actually do this?

All the report says is "Post-2024 Decisions - Based on the cost of lunar surface access, viability of higher-power systems and ISRU, as revealed by exploration and science missions and technology investments, and on private-sector and international demand for lunar surface access, determine the nature of a sustainable American human presence on the lunar surface and associated infrastructure development projects."

In other words it will be close to the 2030s before an American lunar lander reaches the Moon. During the Obama Administration we were going to be sending human crews to Mars (if you believed their Powerpoint slides) by the early 2030s. So now NASA is going to take almost as long only to land humans a quarter million miles away. Those are certainly lowered expectations. That sounds like negative progress - again, if you believe NASA's notional Powerpoint slides and white papers.

Meanwhile, in another potential magic act. NASA will wave more Powerpoint charts and make ISS totally commercial:

"2022 - Based on status of commercial module and/or free-flyer space station development and emerging commercial activities on ISS, fine-tune plans to end direct Federal funding of ISS by 2025 to ensure continuous access to a LEO space platform. Post-2024 Decisions - Based on the status of commercial module and/or free-flyer space station development and emerging commercial human spaceflight activities in LEO, decide on appropriate NASA and overall governmental support to ensure ongoing NASA requirements and permanent U.S. presence in LEO."

In other words NASA says that this ISS conversion to private sector operations will happen - unless it doesn't happen.

As For Mars, well, the whole "by the mid-2030s" thing that Obama people made NASA say does not look very plausible now. Not only will NASA just be landing its first people back on the Moon again, but according to this report it won't even have an architecture for going back to Mars for another 6 years (Apollo had one before people even flew on Apollo but who cares). One would assume, at this snail's pace, that vehicle design and construction would drag on like Orion/SLS has for the past decade.

"2024- Based on results of investment in Mars-forward technology R&D investment portfolio, Gateway development and operations, launch vehicle and crew vehicle development and operations, decide on architecture of human Mars orbital mission and begin associated systems development. Post-2024 Decisions - Based on results of robotic roundtrip mission, cislunar operations, and progress of Mars-forward technology R&D investment portfolio, determine set of technology investments and timeline required to achieve human landing on the surface of Mars."

In a nutshell, NASA's words may indicate that it has lofty goals but the murky timeline it presents suggests that its ability to do the things needed to meet these goals decreases in terms of speed with every passing year. Meanwhile, American commercial companies with billions in their own funding are planning to send people back to the Moon.

What's wrong with this picture?

Russia throws doubt on joint lunar space station with U.S.: RIA, Reuters

"Moscow may abandon a project to build a space station in lunar orbit in partnership with U.S. space agency NASA because it does not want a "second fiddle role," a Russian official said on Saturday. Russia agreed last year to work with the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on plans for the moon-orbiting Deep Space Gateway, which will serve as a staging post for future missions. But the head of Russian space agency Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, said Russia might exit the joint programme and instead propose its own lunar orbit space station project. "The Russian Federation cannot afford to play the second fiddle role in it," he was quoted as saying by the RIA news agency, without much further elaboration."

Keith's note: Russia's space program is broke, so its not surprising that they are admitting the obvious - in a way that makes it look like someone else is at fault. As for playing "second fiddle" Roscosmos simply does not have the funds to play first fiddle, so good luck with that Dmitry.

Ivanka Trump sent over the moon by Russian cosmonaut's message from ISS, ABC 13

"Before ending the call, NASA commander Dr. Andrew Feustel said he would be remiss if he didn't give Cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev a chance to say hello. "Ivanka, I think you very kind and nice person," Artemyev said, as the crew looked on. "When I see you on TV and the news, my mood improves and rises." Trump blushed and let out a laugh. "That's very kind of you to say! Thank you!" she responded."

Keith's note: Everyone at NASA and Roscomos breathed a deep sigh of relief today when Oleg Artemyev made an overture to Ivanka Trump. The meeting between Dmitry Rogozin and Jim Bridenstine over possible Soyuz sabotage by U.S. astronauts will go much smoother now. Thanks Ivanka!

Ivanka Trump touring NASA's Johnson Space Center on Thursday, Houston Chronicle

"Ivanka Trump will be in Houston on Thursday for a tour of NASA's Johnson Space Center. President Donald Trump's daughter will be accompanied by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine."

Ivanka Trump to visit Mesquite on Friday to see how Walmart trains workers for today's economy, Dallas Morning News

"Ivanka Trump isn't the only member of the Trump family who'll be in Texas in the coming weeks. Texas State Rep. James Frank announced on his Facebook page that Sen. Ted Cruz and Donald Trump Jr. would be in Wichita Falls for a rally on Oct. 3. And the president announced on Aug. 31 he would be coming to Texas in October to hold a "major rally" for Cruz."

Keith's note: That's three visits to JSC in Texas in a matter of a few months for Jim Bridenstine. All other NASA centers have had only one visit. Just sayin'. Also, FWIW Ted Cruz has a political rally shortly after his JSC campaign appearance with Ivanka tour just down the street at Franca's Real Italian Restaurant at 1101 East NASA Parkway on Thursday night (that's nice and close to JSC). Let's see who else shows up.

Keith's update: A hearing scheduled for next Wednesday titled "Global Space Race: Ensuring the United States Remains the Leader in Space" chaired by Ted Cruz suddenly appeared on the webpage of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness. Its certainly convenient to have these JSC visits, rallys, and hearings all scheduled so close together. If Cruz is re-elected - and the Senate does not flip - then this is probably a good thing for human space flight at NASA. If either of those things do not happen well, who knows.

- VP Pence Visits Texas For A Fund Raiser And A JSC Visit, earlier post (23 August 2018)

Shanahan downplays disagreements over Space Force structure, Defense News

"Days after the Air Force released a Space Force memo that seemed to contradict a plan laid out by Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, the number two at the Pentagon downplayed any differences of opinion."

Wilson: $13 billion Space Force cost estimate is 'conservative'", Space News

"Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said her initial $13 billion cost estimate to stand up a Space Force and sustain it for five years is likely to be revised upward as more data is crunched. In a detailed memo submitted on Friday to Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, Wilson provided the first glimpse into the potential cost, size and makeup of a military branch for space. The $13 billion projected cost over five years is based on a force of 13,000 people, including a headquarters of about 2,400."

New Space Force price tag fuels Capitol Hill skeptics, Military Times

"Colorado Republican Rep. Mike Coffman had already decided to lead opposition in the U.S. House to President Donald Trump's "Space Force" proposal. But a widely leaked Air Force estimate that creating a space force as a new military service would cost $13 billion over the first five years only stiffened Coffman's resolve. Coffman, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee's Military Personnel Subcommittee and sits on its Strategic Forces Subcommittee, was sure other lawmakers agree with him. "A really bad idea is a 'Department of Space,'" Coffman said in an interview Tuesday, adding, "I feel confident we can block this. The president will not have the votes."

Keith's note: Once again we see an exercise in checking the boxes with regard to the making of space policy. A White House-created committee of experts, hand-selected to focus on a desired ad somewhat pre-determiined outcome, goes through the motions of being interested in what people have to say. They only go to friendly locations where dissent or differences in opinion are unlikely - and consensus can be proclaimed by default. They never talk to anyone from the remaining 99.9999% of American electorate who ultimately pays for all of the shiny space toys.

Then, at their next meeting, they can show a Powerpoint chart with a group that they have reached out to with a check next to it. In this case the Users Advisory Group is almost entirely composed of either political favorites or representatives of large aerospace companies looking for more contracts from NASA and DOD. There are no real "users" of space on this panel. Nor are there any members from the next generation who will inherit and conduct America's space activities. All we see are sellers. Yet another choir practice session amongst the usual suspects in an echo chamber.

In this case (see the AIAA photos below) the room is nearly empty and there is no webcast. The echo must be particularly evident this time - but there is no one there to (other than Jeff Foust) to notice.

U.S. - Canada Space Cooperation Remains Strong

Canada and U.S. Space Cooperation Remains Strong but Funding Drives Programs, SpaceQ

"On September 7 the Wilson Center's Canada Institute in Washington organized a one day event titled "Over the Horizon: A New Era for Canada-U.S. Space Cooperation?" As with many events like this, discussions behind the scenes is where a lot of the action was. Though, there was one clear fact that no one could surmount."

Keith's note: Repeating Apollo would be a mistake, But evoking the excitement of that era would not be incorrect.


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

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