Irony-Free Legislators Target Space Settlement, NASA Reorg

Rep. Dan Rohrabacher
Rep. Dan Rohrabacher

The hard working but chronically underachieving members of Congress have been back at it. And that means all sorts of legislation ranging from good to bad to what the frak? Some of it relates to space.

Settlement Act

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) is preparing to introduce the Space Exploration, Development and Settlement Act that would enshrine permanent human settlement as part of the National Aeronautics and Space Act, the legislation that created NASA and includes its goals and objectives.

The measure is being spearheaded by the Alliance for Space Development (ASD), a coalition of 11 space organizations that launched earlier this year. ASD has been trying to line up Congressional support for the legislation.

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Dava Newman Approved as NASA Deputy Administrator

Dava J. Newman
Dava J. Newman

The Senate has approved Dava J. Newman as NASA’s new deputy administrator by an 87-0 vote. The approval comes 20 months after Lori Garver left the position for the top staff job at the Air Line Pilots Association.

Newman is a professor of aeronautics and astronautics and of engineering systems at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). [Biography] The White House nominated her for the position in October.

“It’s an enormous honor to serve at NASA in times when our country is extending humanity’s reach into space while strengthening American leadership here on Earth,” Newman said in a statement. “I’m profoundly grateful to President Obama, the United States Senate, and Administrator Bolden – along with everyone at MIT. I can’t wait to come aboard.”

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House Space Subcommitee’s Surreal NASA Budget Hearing

Lamar Smith
Lamar Smith

I woke up early this morning with a low-grade headache. Checking Twitter, I discovered I’d slept through the beginning of a House Subcommittee on Space’s hearing on NASA’s budget with Administrator Charlie Bolden.

My headache immediately worsened as I found the hearing webcast on my cell phone. A whole range of largely unprintable words and phrases came immediately to mind, but there was one that kept coming back: clown car. The House Science Committee really needs a bigger clown car.

It’s not the committee members’ criticism of the Boulder (sorry, Asterorid) Redirect Mission that I had a problem with. Or their demands that NASA actually present a road map to help guide the nation on the road to Mars. I even understood why they felt the Obama Administration’s request for Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion was low. And the Europa mission probably needs more money. All those things are the subject of legitimate debate.

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Bolden Names New Space Technology Mission Director

NASA's Steve Jurczyck addresses an audience during a manufacturing event in Hampton, Virginia, last month. (Credit: NASA/Gary Banziger)
NASA’s Steve Jurczyck addresses an audience during a manufacturing event in Hampton, Virginia, last month. (Credit: NASA/Gary Banziger)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has named Steve Jurczyk as the agency’s Associate Administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate, effective Monday, March 2. The directorate is responsible for innovating, developing, testing and flying hardware for use on future NASA missions.

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NASA Formally Dedicates Armstrong Flight Research Center

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, CALIF. (NASA PR) — Two aerospace legends and their families were honored at a formal dedication ceremony May 13, marking the rededication of NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, formerly the Dryden Flight Research Center, at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

Legislation passed Congress in January to rename the center after the late Neil A. Armstrong, a former research test pilot at the center and the first man to step on the moon during the historic Apollo 11 mission in 1969. Armstrong flew research aircraft, including the rocket-powered X-15s, during his seven-year tenure at the center from 1955 through 1962.

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Praise for Garver as She Heads Out the Door

Lori Garver with New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson at Spaceport America.
Lori Garver with New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson at Spaceport America.

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — The following are statements from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren about NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver’s announced departure from the agency, effective Sept. 6.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden: “I have had the pleasure and honor of working side by side with Lori for the past four years, as we sought to position the agency for 21st century spaceflight, scientific discovery and deep space exploration.  She has been an indispensable partner in our efforts to keep NASA on a trajectory of progress and innovation.  In a time of great change and challenge, she has been a remarkable leader who has consistently shown great vision and commitment to NASA and the aerospace industry.

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Bolden, Musk to Hangout on Google+ on Friday

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden at SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk will discuss the first contracted cargo resupply flight to the International Space Station during a Google+ Hangout from 1-1:30 p.m. EDT Friday, Oct. 5. The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and its Dragon cargo spacecraft are scheduled to lift off at 8:35 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 7 from at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

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NASA 30th Anniversary Shuttle Event and Orbiter Disposition Announcement

KSC Director Bob Cabana welcomes everyone and introduces a cool video narrated by….wait for it….William Shatner, aka Capt. James Tiberius Kirk of the Starship Enterprise. Documentary on shuttle Discovery’s final mission from start to finish.

Cabana rhapsodizes about the shuttle program and thanks everyone involved in the effort

Cabana interrupted by the astronauts of the International Space Station who do the same.

A video about the space shuttle Discovery, the oldest surviving orbiter, that is not narrated by Shatner.

Charlie Bolden is up now…

  • “Stay focused”
  • Mentions Bob Crippen, pilot for the first space shuttle missions and member of three other flights
  • “Stay focused”
  • Charlie rhapsodizes about the shuttle program and thanks everyone involved in the effort
  • Traveling on the shuttle is awesome way to go to space
  • Charlie tears up when mentioning Challenger and Columbia crews, whom he knew personally — true American heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country
  • America will continue to lead the world in space exploration, and don’t let anybody — don’t let anybody — tell you differently
  • Charlie chocks up again while talking about his old friend Atlantis
  • Other institutions that wanted to host shuttle will get significant pieces of shuttle hardware and artifacts
  • “Stay focused” on safely flying out the rest of the shuttle missions
  • Charlie tears up again as he ends speech

And the shuttles go to:

  • Discovery: National Air and Space Center, Virginia
  • Atlantis: Kennedy Space Center, Florida
  • Endeavour: California Science Center, Los Angeles, Calif.
  • Enterprise: Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, New York

Charlie on the Hill: Still Not Good

Trent Waddington posts this video of NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden whiffing as Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) serves up some slow-pitch softballs to him during a Congressional hearing earlier this week.

With apologies to Ernest Thayer:

“Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in NASAville — mighty Charlie has struck out.”

Editor’s Update: I have since watched part of Bolden’s testimony on the NASA Channel. He’s vast better in other areas and made excellent points on many aspects of the budget. But, when he gets questions about specific budget figures, he gets hopelessly lost in a giant corn maze of his own making, requiring legislators to gently lead him out.

In the video I saw, Bolden managed to similarly whiff on his answer to a lawmaker’s question on how taking $300 million out of NASA’s budget to fund police officers would affect operations. Bolden blundered into a cul-de-sac in which postulated about whether the Senate might restore the House cut and the uncertainty concerning the overall budget picture and how he can’t give a specific answer and yada yada yada…..

ARGHH!

Eventually the lawmaker got Bolden to focus on the main point, maybe the only point Congress cares about: how many jobs would be cut. That answer was simple and might have gone like this:

“A $300 million cut is roughly the equivalent of operating costs for two field centers. It would force me to cut as many as 4,000 contractors and cancel programs in your districts. Where I would cut depends upon Congress finishing the budget which is now five months late. Passing the budget is like your main job. Please do it so I can concentrate on building my rocketships and not putting people on the street.

OK, that last part could be cut. But, you get the idea. Bolden and his staff should spend a bit more time preparing for Congressional testimony so he can stay out of the maze.

Charlie Bolden Headed for Saudi Arabia

Sultan Salman Abdulaziz Al-Saud

The Orlando Sentinel is reporting on a trip that NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden is taking to the Middle East, something that is bound to once again raise the ire of conservative pundits:

Bolden — against the advice of several top NASA officials — intends to lead a high-level agency delegation to Saudi Arabia this weekend to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the first Arab astronaut’s shuttle flight.
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OIG Investigating Bolden Over Role in NASA Biofuel Program

NASA boss investigated for possible conflict of interest on biofuel project
Charlie Bolden asked Marathon Oil for its opinion on Project OMEGA — but he has financial interest in Marathon, which has a competing project
Orlando Sentinel

While millions of barrels of spilled oil choke the Gulf of Mexico, NASA is working on an ocean-based biofuels venture that could revolutionize clean-energy production at sea and treat wastewater at the same time.

The scientist running the $10 million experiment, called Project OMEGA, uses words such as groundbreaking and exciting to describe his baby. But there’s a hitch.

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