Trump Nominates Senate Staffer for NASA Deputy Administrator

President Donald J. Trump today nominated a long-time Senate staffer who has neither a technical nor scientific background to be the space agency’s deputy administrator.

James Morhard, who is currently the U.S. Senate’s Deputy Sergeant at Arms, was nominated for the position. The decision represents a defeat for NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who had publicly advocated on behalf of Dr. Janet Kavandi, a former astronaut, engineer and analytical chemist who is director of the NASA Glenn Research Center.

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Battle Brews Over Filling NASA Deputy Administrator Spot

Jim Bridenstine (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Quartz reports there’s a battle brewing over who will be NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine’s deputy. The position of deputy administrator must be nominated by the president and approved by the Senate.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine is a former lawmaker, and he says he wants a former astronaut, Dr. Janet Kavandi, as his deputy. But Donald Trump, who makes the final decision, is leaning toward a man with no experience in space technology.

Five sources with knowledge of the deliberations tell Quartz that the White House is seriously considering James Morhard, a veteran senate aide…

Kavandi, 58, joined NASA’s astronaut corps in 1994. She had previously been an engineer at Boeing, and earned a P.h.D in analytical chemistry from the University of Washington in Seattle. She spent 33 days in space as an astronaut on three different space shuttle missions, then became the lead astronaut supervising work on the International Space Station and the deputy head of the astronaut office. In 2016, she became the director of NASA’s Glenn Research Center, which includes a huge vacuum chamber where SpaceX’s crew vehicle, the Dragon space capsule, is currently undergoing tests.

In his current job, Morhard, 61, is responsible for technology and administration in the offices of 100 senators and 88 committees and subcommittees. Starting off as an accountant at the Pentagon, he began his career as a legislative staffer in 1983, earning an MBA and a law degree along the way.

He rose to become the powerful chief of staff of the Appropriations Committee under the late senator Ted Stevens, and forged close ties with Republican senators. Morhard was a passenger, along with former NASA administrator Sean O’Keefe, in a 2010 plane crash that killed Stevens and four others.

New NASA Position to Focus on Exploration of Moon, Mars and Worlds Beyond

Steve Clarke (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) is taking a giant leap focusing the agency’s exploration of the Moon, Mars and our Solar System.

Effective immediately, Steve Clarke is SMD’s Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration. He will serve as the agency’s interface between the NASA mission directorates, the scientific community, and other external stakeholders in developing a strategy to enable an integrated approach for robotic and human exploration within NASA’s Exploration Campaign.

Clarke returns to NASA after serving as a senior policy analyst with the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Executive Office of the President, where he was responsible for a number of important initiatives.

“Steve returns to a position ideally suited for him and the agency as we return to the Moon,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “He’ll help integrate near-term and long-term lunar exploration with science missions and other destinations, including Mars.”
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NASA Administrator Statement on Space Policy Directive-2

Jim Bridenstine (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The following is a statement from NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on Thursday’s signing of Space Policy Directive-2 by President Donald Trump:

“NASA is pleased with the White House’s continued commitment to advancing America’s leadership in space. Space Policy Directive-2 (SPD-2) is another step towards bolstering our nation’s dedication to uncovering new knowledge, protecting our national security, developing breakthrough technologies, and creating new jobs.

“Our thriving space economy will continue to grow and support our missions to the Moon and Mars thanks to the Administration’s long-term investment in commercial partners who now successfully carry research and cargo to the International Space Station, and will soon transport U.S. astronauts from American soil for the first time since 2011.
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NASA Names New Director of Johnson Space Center

Mark Geyer

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced Monday the selection of Mark Geyer as the next director of the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. He’ll assume the director’s position on May 25, when current Center Director and former astronaut Ellen Ochoa retires after 30 years at the agency.

As Johnson’s center director, he’ll lead one of NASA’s largest installations, which has about 10,000 civil service and contractor employees – including those at White Sands Test Facility in Las Cruces, New Mexico – and oversee a broad range of human spaceflight activities.

“Mark brings with him almost three decades of distinguished NASA leadership experience at the program, center and headquarters levels – he’s managed and he’s worked his way through the ranks and knows what it’s going to take to get our astronauts back to the Moon and on to Mars. Johnson has been NASA’s home base for astronauts and mission control throughout our history, and Mark is eminently qualified to carry on this historic legacy,” said Bridenstine. “I also want to thank Ellen for her years of service to America and this agency. Her legacy and contributions to this center and to NASA are timeless. She will be missed.”

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House Measure Would Boost NASA Budget to $21.5 Billion

The House Appropriations Committee has released a draft bill that would increase NASA’s budget to $21.5 billion for fiscal year 2019. The total would be an increase of $810 million above the enacted amount for FY 2018 and $1.6 billion more than the Trump Administration requested.

NASA would spend $5.1 billion on deep space exploration, an increase of $294 million. The total includes $504 million for the Lunar Orbital Platform — Gateway.

Science would also be boosted by $459 million to $6.7 billion. The total includes $740 million for a Europa orbiter and lander.

Complete details on the proposed budget are still lacking. Below is what the committee has released thus far.
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Video: Jim Bridenstine Addresses Humans to Mars Conference

Video Caption: NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine delivered the keynote address at the Humans to Mars Summit 2018, on Wednesday, May 9 at The George Washington University, in Washington. The annual event addresses the technical, scientific and policy challenges of making human exploration of Mars a reality.

Video: Bridenstine Addresses Lunar Industry Day

Video Caption: NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine asked commercial companies to help get the agency back to the Moon as quickly as possible during an ‘industry day’, Tuesday, May 8, 2018, held at NASA Headquarters in Washington. NASA is calling for commercial proposals for delivering instruments, experiments, and other small payloads to the surface of the Moon as early as next year. This solicitation is part of a broader Exploration Campaign that will pave the way for a human return to the Moon.

Atlas V Launches InSight Spacecraft to Mars

NASA’s Mars Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission is the first interplanetary launch from the West Coast of the U.S. After its six-month journey, InSight will descend to Mars to study the heart of the Red Planet. (Credit: NASA)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Mars Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission is on a 300-million-mile trip to Mars to study for the first time what lies deep beneath the surface of the Red Planet. InSight launched at 7:05 a.m. EDT (4:05 am PDT) Saturday from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

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NASA Lays Out Plans for Lunar Exploration, Explains Resource Prospector Cancellation

The moon rising over Half Moon Bay. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA is returning to the Moon with commercial and international partners as part of an overall agency Exploration Campaign in support of Space Policy Directive 1. It all starts with robotic missions on the lunar surface, as well as a Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway for astronauts in space beyond the Moon. Right now, NASA is preparing to purchase new small lunar payload delivery services, develop lunar landers, and conduct more research on the Moon’s surface ahead of a human return. And that long-term exploration and development of the Moon will give us the experience for the next giant leap – human missions to Mars and destinations beyond.

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LEAG Letter Protesting Cancellation of Resource Prospector Mission

Resource Prospector prototype. (Credit: NASA)

The Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG) sent the following letter to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on Thursday protesting the cancellation of the Resource Prospector mission.

Mr. James Bridenstine
NASA Administrator

26 April 2018

Dear Mr. Bridenstine:

We are writing on behalf of the community that the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG) represents regarding the Resource Prospector (RP) mission, which has been under development for much of the last decade, to explore a polar region of the Moon for potential volatile deposits. These deposits have extremely important exploration implications, as they could be viable resources to support not only human exploration into the Solar System but also a thriving lunar economy. Additionally, the deposits have unique scientific significance since they record the delivery of volatiles to the inner Solar System, including the Earth.

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NASA Cancels Lunar Resource Prospector, Promises Aggressive Commercial Strategy

The Resource Prospector prototype searches for a buried sample tube at the Johnson Space Center rock yard in August 2015. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In a move that left the lunar science community stunned, NASA has canceled the Resource Prospector mission, which would have sent a rover to the moon to drill holes in search of ice and other volatiles that could be used to support human settlers and miners and turned into fuel to power spacecraft.

In place of the mission, which was set to launch in 2022, the space agency issued a draft request for proposal (RFP) on Friday for the new Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. Under CLPS, NASA would pay companies to carry instruments and experiments to the lunar surface aboard privately-built landers and rovers.

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Pence to Swear in Bridenstine as NASA Administrator on Monday

Jim Bridenstine (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Media are invited to see Vice President Mike Pence swear in Jim Bridenstine as NASA’s new administrator at 2:30 p.m. EDT Monday, April 23, at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. The ceremony will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

Following the swearing-in, Vice President Pence and newly sworn-in NASA Administrator Bridenstine will speak live with three NASA astronauts currently living and working aboard the International Space Station. Expedition 55 crew members Scott Tingle, Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold will offer congratulations and take questions from the Vice President and Administrator Bridenstine. The astronauts will also briefly share stories of their experiences on the orbiting outpost from 250 miles above Earth, traveling at 17,500 miles per hour.

Bridenstine was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Thursday, April 19, to serve as the agency’s 13th administrator. Prior to this position, he served in the U.S. House of Representatives for the state of Oklahoma, where he held positions on the House Armed Services Committee and the Science, Space and Technology Committee. Bridenstine also is a pilot in the U.S. Navy Reserve and the former executive director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum and Planetarium.

Bridenstine: “Honor” to be Confirmed as NASA Administrator

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

Statement From Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.)

“It is an honor to be confirmed by the United States Senate to serve as NASA Administrator. I am humbled by this opportunity, and I once again thank President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence for their confidence. I look forward to working with the outstanding team at NASA to achieve the President’s vision for American leadership in space.”

Jim Bridenstine served as a U.S. Navy pilot on active duty for nine years, followed by four years in the Navy Reserve where he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Commander.  In 2015 he transitioned to the Oklahoma Air National Guard.  He was elected to Congress in 2012 and serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the Science, Space, and Technology Committee.  In 2016 he introduced the American Space Renaissance Act.  Bridenstine lives in Tulsa, OK with his wife Michelle and their three children. For a full bio, please click here.