House Space Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Astronaut Health Care

Working outside the International Space Station on the second spacewalk of Expedition 45, Nov. 6, 2015. (Credits: NASA)
Working outside the International Space Station on the second spacewalk of Expedition 45, Nov. 6, 2015. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (House Space Subcommittee PRs) — On Wednesday, the House Subcommittee on Space  on held a hearing titled Human Spaceflight Ethics and Obligations: Options for Monitoring, Diagnosing, and Treating Former Astronauts. The hearing examined NASA’s existing health care program for current and former astronauts.

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Commercial Human Spaceflight Industry Lightly Regulated

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by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

U.S. regulations for commercial human spaceflight give the wide latitude to develop and fly their launch systems while providing substantial protections about being sued for injuries and deaths resulting from accidents. What follows is is a brief summary of the provisions, most of which have been in place since December 2004.
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Why the Space Leadership Preservation Act Solves Nothing

Michael Griffin, Eileen Collins and Cristina Chaplain testify (Credit: House Science Committee)
Michael Griffin, Eileen Collins and Cristina Chaplain testify (Credit: House Science Committee)

By House Science Committee Democrats

WASHINGTON, DC  – Today, the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing to receive testimony on H.R. 2093, the Space Leadership Preservation Act, and to consider the issue of maintaining a “constancy of purpose” for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The Committee also held a hearing on the Space Leadership Preservation Act last Congress.
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Senate Holds Up Commercial Space Bill

The spot where SpaceShipTwo's cockpit crashed. Mike Alsbury's body lay just off camera to the left. (Credit: Douglas Messier)
The spot where SpaceShipTwo’s cockpit crashed. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Although House and Senate negotiators have worked out differences between different versions of commercial space bills, final approval is being held up over liability provisions that one representative called “indefensible”:

Sources familiar with the status of the bill said that one or more senators placed a hold on the bill Oct. 29, preventing the bill from moving forward there. No senators have publicly announced that they have blocked consideration of the bill, and spokespersons from several Senate offices did not respond to requests for comment about the bill Nov. 3.

At issue, according to sources, are some provisions in the bill dealing with liability. That includes one section that gives federal, rather than state, courts jurisdiction over any cases that arise from a licensed commercial launch. Another section adds spaceflight participants to cross-waivers of liability already required for other customers of commercial launches.

Some Democratic members of the House Science Committee opposed those provisions when the committee marked up a version of the bill in May. “This really is quite an indefensible provision,” said Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) during discussion then regarding the federal jurisdiction clause of the House bill, arguing that the bill is “basically providing the launch industry with complete immunity from any civil action.”

The American Association for Justice, a legal organization formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, also spoke out against those sections of the bill in May. “Industries that lobby for immunity from accountability might as well hang up a sign saying they don’t trust themselves to be safe,” Linda Lipsen, chief executive of the association, said in a May 13 statement.

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House Democrats Slam SPACE Act as “Commercial Space Industry Wish List”

Capitol Building
Washington, DC (House Science Committee Democrats PR) –
Today the House passed H.R. 2262, the SPACE Act of 2015. The bill takes a fundamentally unbalanced approach to the issues facing the commercial space launch industry. Moving far beyond addressing the legitimate needs of the industry, the bill is heavily skewed towards industry’s desires.
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House Science Committee Gives Industry What It Wants

Capitol Building
The commercial space industry had a great day on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, with the Republican-controlled House Science Committee giving it most of what it wanted while swatting away proposed changes from the minority Democrats.

Among the goodies approved by the committee: a decade-long extension of the moratorium on regulating commercial human spaceflight;  a nine-year extension of industry-government cost sharing for damages caused by launch accidents; and an act that would give companies property rights to materials they mine from asteroids.

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Sparks Fly in House Science Committee Over Asteroid Property Rights Bill

Welcome WRANGLER, a NIAC-funded idea to capture and de-spin asteroids and space debris. (Credit: Robert Hoyt/Tethers Unlimited)
Welcome WRANGLER, a NIAC-funded idea to capture and de-spin asteroids and space debris. (Credit: Robert Hoyt/Tethers Unlimited)

In a contentious hearing on Wednesday, the Republican controlled House Science Committee approved a measure that would give companies rights to materials they mine from asteroids over complaints from Democrats that the measure was unconstitutional and drawn up to benefit a single company.

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House Space Science Subcommittee: Need More Money for Orion, SLS

Capitol Building
Relations between the United States and Russia are at a crisis point over the Crimean annexation, the nations are flinging insults at and imposing sanctions on each other, and America’s dangerous dependence on Russia for crew transportation to the International Space Station and engines for the Atlas V launch vehicle have been exposed as never before.

But, what is the House Subcommittee on Space most worried about in this time of international crisis? There’s apparently not enough money in the budget for the Space Launch System and Orion deep space exploration vehicle.

A bi-partisan coalition of 32 House members sent a letter to President Barack Obama supporting SLS and Orion “as part of prioritizing human space exploration within NASA’s budgets.”

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