Congressmen Urge Senators to Confirm Bridenstine as NASA Administrator

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

A group of 61 House members has sent a letter to the Senate urging the body to approve the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to serve as the next administrator of NASA.

“As the Congressman from the 1st District of Oklahoma, Jim has been an active member of the House Space Subcommittee, distinguishing himself as one of the most engaged, passionate, and knowledgeable members of the Subcommittee,” the letter states. “In 2015, SpaceNews named him one of “five space leaders in the world making a difference in space.” He authored several provisions in the 2017 NASA Transition Authorization Act and co-authored the bipartisan American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act.”

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House Space Subcommittee Members Criticize Inaction on Bridenstine Nomination

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Members of the House Space Subcommittee were none-too-pleased on Wednesday when Robert Lightfoot showed up to testify about NASA’s proposed fiscal year 2019 budget.

It had nothing to do with Lightfoot, whom members praised effusively for the job he’s done as acting administrator over the past 13 months. Lightfoot, a career civil servant, took over after Charles Bolden resigned as the President Barack Obama ended his term.

Instead, their anger was focused on the Senate, which has yet to take action on the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to serve as NASA’s administrator six months after President Donald Trump nominated him.

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First Commercial Flights to ISS Slide Toward 2020


by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Early in the classic police comedy, The Naked Gun, Lt. Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) is at the hospital with partner Ed Hocken (George Kennedy) visiting the critically wounded Officer Nordberg (O.J. Simpson), who had been shot and left for dead by a group of heroin smuggling thugs.

“Doctors say that Nordberg has a 50/50 chance of living, though there’s only a 10 percent chance of that,” Ed tells Frank.

A similar scene played out Wednesday morning during the House Space Subcommittee’s hearing on the progress of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Only it wasn’t nearly as funny.

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House Space Subcommittee Hearing On Commercial Crew Status Scheduled


House Subcommittee on Space Hearing

An Update on NASA Commercial Crew Systems Development

Date: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 – 10:00am
Location: 2318 Rayburn House Office Building
Subcommittees: Subcommittee on Space (115th Congress)

Hearing Purpose

The purpose of the hearing is to examine the development of the NASA’s two  commercial crew systems, being built by Boeing and SpaceX, to service the International Space Station

Witnesses:

  • Mr. William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator, Human Exploration and Operations Directorate, NASA
  • Mr. John Mulholland, vice president and program manager, Commercial Programs, Boeing Space Exploration
  • Dr. Hans Koenigsmann, vice president, Build and Flight Reliability, SpaceX
  • Ms. Cristina Chaplain, director, Acquisition and Sourcing Management, U.S. Government Accountability Office
  • Dr. Patricia Sanders, chair, NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel

Jim Bridenstine Explains Why He is Qualified to be NASA Administrator

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) says that his leadership efforts in Congress on space issues qualifies him to serve as NASA administrator.

“For three terms in Congress, have led comprehensive, bipartisan, space reforms with the objective of preserving America’s preeminence and global leadership in space,” Bridenstine stated in a notarized document submitted to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

“These efforts have led me to a deep understanding of the complex challenges NASA will face bringing together traditional space companies and new space entrepreneurs into a comprehensive NASA vision for both exploration and science,” he added. “Traditional and new space companies are both critical to accelerating America’s space renaissance.”

In the document, which queried Bridenstine on his views and qualifications for NASA’s top job, the congressman listed NASA’s top three challenges as:
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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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House Members Want NASA to Develop Human Space Exploration Roadmap

Artists concept of NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Robotic Mission capturing an asteroid boulder before redirecting it to an astronaut-accessible orbit around Earth's moon. (Credit: NASA)
Artists concept of NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Robotic Mission capturing an asteroid boulder before redirecting it to an astronaut-accessible orbit around Earth’s moon. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (House Science Committee PR) – On Wednesday, the House Subcommittee on Space held a hearing titled,Charting a Course: Expert Perspectives on NASA’s Human Exploration Proposals.” Witnesses shared their viewpoints on NASA’s human space exploration plans – including a human mission to Mars – and the challenge of keeping programs on track through changing presidential administrations.

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Smith Praises Commercial Crew Winners, Then Tries to Stab One in Back

Lamar Smith
Lamar Smith

Less than a month after praising Boeing and SpaceX for winning NASA Commercial Crew contracts, House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) is eager to stab one of them in the back.

“I congratulate Boeing and SpaceX on their achievements in the Commercial Crew Program. Both companies and the thousands of people they employ have a crucial task before them as they work to further U.S. space exploration,” Smith said in a Sept. 16 statement. “They also have a responsibility to the U.S. taxpayers who are making considerable contributions to the development of these commercial space capabilities.”

Three weeks later, Smith had apparently decided that two commercial crew providers was one too many.

“If Orion could provide a redundant capability as a fallback for the commercial crew partners, why is it necessary to carry two partners to ensure competition in the constrained budget environment?” Smith asked in an Oct. 7 letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. The letter was co-signed by House Science Space Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.).

My guess is that Bolden has explained why this wouldn’t work well to Congress many, many times. I’m also guessing that if NASA had to choose between commercial crew providers, it would probably select SpaceX because the company is further along toward crewed flights and costs far less than Boeing.

I’m not sure why Smith would take the risk of eliminating Boeing, which has  headquartered its commercial crew program in Houston.  Unless he believes the committee could force NASA to eliminate SpaceX and select Boeing despite the cost disparity.

Read Smith’s original statement of praise here. Space News has more details about the letter from Smith and Palazzo.