NASA (Moon) Rocks the White House

Apollo 17 moon walk (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In symbolic recognition of earlier generations’ ambitions and accomplishments, and support for America’s current Moon to Mars exploration approach, a Moon rock now sits in the Oval Office of the White House. At the request of the incoming Biden Administration, NASA loaned the Moon rock that was put on display in the Oval Office Jan. 20. It is from the Lunar Sample Laboratory Facility at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, and its display case is inscribed with the following:

Lunar Sample 76015,143

Apollo 17 astronaut Ronald Evans and moonwalkers Harrison Schmitt and Eugene Cernan, the last humans to set foot on the Moon, chipped this sample from a large boulder at the base of the North Massif in the Taurus-Littrow Valley, 3 km (almost 2 miles) from the Lunar Module. This 332 gram piece of the Moon (less than a pound), which was collected in 1972, is a 3.9-billion-year-old sample formed during the last large impact event on the nearside of the Moon, the Imbrium Impact Basin, which is 1,145 km or 711.5 miles in diameter.

The irregular sample surfaces contain tiny craters created as micrometeorite impacts have sand-blasted the rock over millions of years. The flat, sawn sides were created in NASA’s Lunar Curation Laboratory when slices were cut for scientific research. This ongoing research is imperative as we continue to learn about our planet and the Moon, and prepare for future missions to the cislunar orbit and beyond.  

Artemis Update From the Department of Well Duh

An astronaut descends the ladder to explore the lunar surface. (Credit: NASA)

NASA’s Office of Inspector General terminates audit of Artemis program with words of obviousness

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s Office of Inspector General (IG) has determined that the biggest problem the space agency faces in its Artemis lunar program is….wait for it….money.

“Based upon our audit work completed to date, we found that the most significant challenge NASA currently faces in returning humans to the Moon by 2024 is budget uncertainty, a challenge that could ultimately affect the Agency’s ability to safely accomplish the mission,” the IG said in a memorandum published on its website.

Well, yeah….

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Biden Appoints Ellen Stofan to Lead NASA Agency Review Team

Ellen Stofan (Credit: Smithsonian Institution)
  • Former astronaut Pam Melroy and Kathryn Sullivan also named to review teams
  • Former XPRIZE vice president leads OSTP team

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

President-elect Joe Biden has appointed former NASA chief scientist Ellen Stofan to lead the review team assigned to the space agency.

Stofan, a planetary scientist who became the first female director of the National Air and Space Museum in 2018, leads an eight-member team that includes former NASA astronaut Pam Melroy and former NASA chief scientist Waleed Abdalati.

Biden has also appointed Kathryn Sullivan, who was part of the first group of women recruited as NASA astronauts, to serve on the agency review team for the Department of Commerce.

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Senate Appropriations Committee Sticks a Fork in NASA’s 2024 Moon Landing Plan

Artemis Gateway (Credit: Thales Alenia Space/Briot)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

It looks as if the Trump Administration’s goal of landing astronauts on the moon in 2024 is expiring at about the same time as the administration itself. The fatal blow is being struck by Congress, not the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has released a fiscal year 2021 funding bill that includes $1 billion for NASA to Human Landing System (HLS) that will take astronauts to and from the lunar surface as part of the Artemis program. The amount is far short of the $3.2 billion that NASA has said is needed for HLS to keep the 2024 landing on schedule.

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Bridenstine to Leave NASA Administrator Post

Jim Bridenstine (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In a decision that has disappointed his supporters, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine plans to leave his position even if president-elect Joe Biden asked him to stay.

Irene Klotz broke the news in Aviation Week. The story is behind a paywall, but Klotz did tweet:

“You need somebody who has a close relationship with the president of the U.S. … somebody trusted by the administration…. including OMB, National Space Council, National Security Council. I think I would not be the right person for that in a new administration –Bridenstine

Agency administrators usually change when a new president comes in, particularly if he is from a different party. Bridenstine is a former Republican Congressman from Oklahoma appointed by President Donald Trump, who was defeated by his Democratic opponent Biden last week.

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Bolden Says SLS “Will Go Away,” Expects Few Other Changes at NASA if Biden Elected

Charles Bolden

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Former NASA Administrator Charles Bolden says he expects the agency’s expensive Space Launch System (SLS) will go away under during the next presidential term.

“SLS will go away. It could go away during a Biden administration or a next Trump administration … because at some point commercial entities are going to catch up,” he told Politico. “They are really going to build a heavy lift launch vehicle sort of like SLS that they will be able to fly for a much cheaper price than NASA can do SLS. That’s just the way it works.”

Congress will have something to say about the giant rocket designed to return astronauts to the moon under NASA’s Artemis program. Legislators have protected SLS and its two related programs, the Orion spacecraft and Exploration Ground Systems, despite large cost overruns and years of delays.

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