Video: NASA Accomplishments at Mid-Year

Video Caption: 2017 is shaping up to be another year of unprecedented exploration, amazing discoveries, technological advances and progress in development of future missions – and we’re just six months into the year. Here are some of our top stories of 2017, so far – Mid-Year at NASA!

Is Trump the New JFK of Space?

Yeah, I don’t think so….

OK, let me clarify that. I’ve seen no real signs so far that Trump wants to do anything really bold in space. That could change; never say never. But, it’s been five months, and he hasn’t even gotten around to nominating a NASA administrator yet. His FY 2018 budget proposal doesn’t include anything novel.

“Mr. Trump’s charisma, vision, and style are reminiscent of JFK…”

Mmmmm…..no. Definitely not.

Here’s a challenge for you guys for the comments sections: JFK’s greatest and most inspiring quotes side-by-side with Trump’s worst quotes and Tweets. Don’t limit yourself to space.

Read the full op-ed piece.

Jay Gibson Out at XCOR, In With Trump Administration

John (Jay) Gibson

Jay Gibson’s two-year tenure as president and CEO of XCOR appears to be at an end.

On Friday, President Donald Trump announced his intent to nominate Gibson to be deputy chief management officer of the Department of Defense.

The announcement describes Gibson as “most recently” having been XCOR’s president and CEO. However, a source says he is still at the company.

The nomination is subject to Senate confirmation.

XCOR hired Gibson in March 2015 to replace founder Jeff Greason. The objective was for Gibson to focus on the business side while Greason focused on completing construction on the Lynx suborbital space plane.

That arrangement did not work out. By November, Greason and two other founders, Dan DeLong and Aleta Jackson, had left the company to found Agile Aerospace.

In May 2016, XCOR laid off about 25 employees — roughly half of its workforce — and suspended work on the Lynx. The company has since refocused its energies on its rocket engine work.

UPDATE: XCOR board member Michael Blum issued the following written statement:

“Jay Gibson is still at XCOR but will be leaving shortly for a tremendous opportunity to serve his country in a very senior role at DoD. He has been a great CEO whose leadership and experience has guided XCOR through ups and downs.”

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Palazzo Celebrates Proposed NASA Earth Science Cuts

Rep. Steven Palazzo

You might think that that being from a Gulf state susceptible to the effects of rising sea levels, higher storm surges and stronger hurricanes from a warming planet, Rep. Steve Palazzo (R-MS) would be a big fan of NASA’s research into global change.

Well, think again.

Rep. Steven Palazzo praised NASA’s move away from studying the Earth and instead focusing resources on the rest of the universe.

During a House Appropriations Committee hearing Thursday, the Mississippi Republican applauded the agency for proposing to eliminate five Earth science missions designed to measure a number of global warming factors such as ocean ecosystems and carbon levels. President Trump’s proposed budget also would cut funding for Earth research grants and would terminate the Carbon Monitoring System, a project that NASA developed in 2010 in response to congressional direction.
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Pence Promises Strong NASA, Provides Few Specifics

Mike Pence

Expectations were middling for Vice President Mike Pence’s appearance at an event in Houston during which NASA introduced its new class of astronaut candidates. He did not disappoint.

There were some hopes he might announce the nomination of a new NASA administrator. Or some new program. Or something newsworthy.

None of that happened. Pence did give a well-delivered speech long on platitudes, promises and soaring rhetoric about exploring the reaches of space but short on specifics.

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Musk Quits Trump Advisory Boards Over Paris Climate Accord Withdrawal

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX and Tesla Motors Founder Elon Musk has quit three White House advisory bodies over President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord.

“Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world,” Musk wrote in a tweet on Thursday.

Musk said he had done all he could to convince the president not to withdraw from the global agreement to reduce carbon emissions to flight global warming.

Musk served on the White House Manufacturing Jobs Council, the Strategic and Policy Forum, and the Infrastructure Council.

Disney CEO Bob Iger also resigned from the Strategic and Policy Forum over Trump’s decision on the Paris Climate Accord.

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Trump Eyes Half Billion Dollar Cut in NASA’s Budget

President Donald Trump would cut $561 million from NASA’s budget for fiscal year 2018 under a spending plan set for release next week, according to a leaked budget document.

NASA would see its budget reduced from $19.6 billion this year to just below $19.1 billion. The space agency received just under $19.3 billion in fiscal year 2016.

The total budget is close to the $19.1 billion contained in a budget blueprint the Trump Administration released in March. The blue print provided guidance for the formal budget proposal to be released next week.

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Science Committee Members to Trump: Stop Spreading Fake News

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

Seven Democratic members of the House Science Committee have sent a letter to President Donald Trump telling him he should not rely on fake news, debunked research and misinformation when setting science policy.

“We are concerned about the process by which you receive information,” the one-page letter begins. “According to a story reported by Politico on May 15, 2017, your Deputy National Security Advisor passed along printouts of two Time magazine cover stories — one, a previously identified and debunked Internet hoax purported to be from the 1970s warning of a coming ice age, and the other, from 2008, a special report on global warming, with the intention of undermining concern about climate change.”

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NASA Will Not Fly Crew on First SLS/Orion Mission

An expanded view of the next configuration of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket, including the four RL10 engines. (Credit: NASA)

NASA officials announced on Friday the first combined flight of the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft, known as Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1), will be conducted without a crew as originally planned. They also said the flight test will slip from 2018 to 2019.

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Video of President Trump’s Call to Space Station Astronauts

Video Caption: From the Oval Office at the White House, President Trump called Expedition 51 Commander Peggy Whitson and Flight Engineer Jack Fischer of NASA April 24 to offer congratulations to Whitson on the day she broke the record for most cumulative days on orbit by a U.S. astronaut. Whitson’s 534-day total surpassed the record held by NASA’s Jeff Williams. Trump’s daughter Ivanka and NASA astronaut Kate Rubins joined the president to discuss Whitson’s presence as a role model for young women and students as she continues her more than nine-month mission on station.

President, Ivanka to Call ISS on Monday to Congratulate Whitson

Peggy Whitson aboard the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

First Daughter Joins International Space Station Call Promoting Women in STEM

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — President Donald Trump, First Daughter Ivanka Trump, and NASA astronaut Kate Rubins will make a special Earth-to-space call Monday, April 24, from the Oval Office to personally congratulate NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson for her record-breaking stay aboard the International Space Station.

The 20-minute call will air live on NASA Television and stream on the agency’s website and Facebook page at 10 a.m. EDT, and will be made available to schools, museums, and other organizations across the nation and globally.

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Trump Nominates Fierce Critic of Ex-Im Bank to Lead Agency

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

Continuing a tradition of nominating people who hate the organizations they have been selected to run (Rick Perry at Energy, Scott Pruitt at EPA), President Donald Trump has nominated a vocal critic of the Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank to head the lending agency.

Former Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), who voted twice against reauthorizing the bank while in Congress, will be nominated as president of the bank. Separately, former Rep. Spencer T. Bachus III (R-Ala.) will be nominated to join the bank’s board. Both nominees require congressional confirmation.

Garrett, a deeply conservative Congressman who helped found the House Freedom Caucus, has in the past heavily criticized the agency he may now be tasked with leading. In a speech on the floor of the House in 2015, Garrett called the Ex-Im Bank a “fund for corporate welfare” and “a bank that embodies the corruption of the free enterprise system.”

The bank, which offers financial support to U.S. exporters, is despised by some conservative Republicans, who have forced it to remain effectively dormant for nearly two years. Yet the appointments themselves could allow the bank to resume lending in earnest, after being effectively barred from acting by a lack of leadership.

Trump opposed the bank during the campaign, but indicated he planned to reopen the bank for business in an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday — one of several recent decisions by the president that suggest a shift in his views on economic policy.

Read the full story.

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Mr. Witt Goes to Washington?

Stu Witt (Credit: MASP)

There’s a report out today about former Mojave Air and Space Port CEO and General Manager Stu Witt being considered for a high-level position at NASA headquarters in Washington.

A veteran Mojave observer tells Parabolic Arc that Witt has been “swimming in those waters.”

The possible positions for Witt include deputy administrator, the second-ranked job at the agency. This is a politically appointed position that requires Senate approval.

President Donald Trump has not yet nominated candidates for NASA administrator and deputy administrator. Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) is widely viewed as a leading contender for the top position.

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NASA as a Prop & Governance by Photo Op

Ivanka Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

On Tuesday, first daughter Ivanka Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos paid a visit to that shrine to American flight, the National Air & Space Museum, to urge girls to pursue careers in STEM.

The White House was probably hoping the event would distract attention away from the funding cuts that Ivanka’s father, Donald, has proposed in federal science and education funding. And, perhaps it did for some who are uniformed about the budget.

For others, the sight of Ivanka introducing a screening of Hidden Figures, a film about African American women who helped launch the first Americans into space, as her father is trying to zero out NASA’s education office was a bit too much to take.

In her introduction to the film, Ivanka Trump said that her father’s administration “has expanded NASA’s space exploration mission” though did not, unsurprisingly, mention that he actually proposed decreasing NASA funding and eliminating the education office.

The Trump-DeVos event drew some sharp criticism from Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, who said in a statement:

“Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Ivanka Trump are feigning an interest in STEM careers with a photo op at the National Air and Space Museum while eliminating all funding for NASA’s education programs. This takes chutzpah to a new level. If this administration was genuinely interested in promoting STEM programs, it would walk the walk, not just talk the talk. The next generation of astronauts, scientists, engineers and mathematicians need support, not budget cuts eliminating the very programs being promoted.”

There was also no mention of the 13.5 percent in cuts Trump has proposed to the Education Department, which include the reduction or elimination of grants for teacher training, after-school programs and aid to ­low-income and first-generation college students.

Science and education are integral to our future as a nation. Trump can’t make America great by slashing his way to prosperity. A great and prosperous nation need to invest heavily in these areas if it wants to remain so.

Governing by photo op eventually catches up to you. Especially when you’re projecting images at odds with reality.

Trump Memorandum on Office of American Innovation

Credit: Matt Wade

Presidential Memorandum on The White House Office of American Innovation

SUBJECT:   The White House Office of American Innovation

America has long led the world in innovation and technological advancement.  American ingenuity has launched industries, created jobs, and improved quality of life at home and abroad.  To ensure that America remains the global innovation leader, I hereby direct the Senior Advisor to the President to head an office in the White House dedicated to American innovation.  This office will bring together the best ideas from Government, the private sector, and other thought leaders to ensure that America is ready to solve today’s most intractable problems, and is positioned to meet tomorrow’s challenges and opportunities.  The office will focus on implementing policies and scaling proven private-sector models to spur job creation and innovation.

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