NASA Joins White House National Climate Task Force

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — As a leading agency observing and understanding environmental changes to Earth, NASA has joined the National Climate Task Force. President Joe Biden issued an executive order Jan. 27, which initially outlined details of the task force.

The administration’s climate agenda outlines putting climate at the center of the country’s foreign policy and national security and encourages a governmentwide approach to climate change.

(more…)

Biden Nominates Bill Nelson to be NASA Administrator

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, center, and former astronaut Chris Ferguson survey a mockup of the CST-100 spacecraft under development by The Boeing Company during a ceremony detailing Boeing’s plans to use Orbiter Processing Facility-3 as a manufacturing hub for the capsule-shaped spacecraft. (Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

WASHINGTON (White House PR) – Today, President Joe Biden announced his intent to nominate Bill Nelson to serve as National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator.

Bill Nelson, Nominee for National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator

Senator Bill Nelson, former U. S. Senator, is a fifth generation Floridian whose family came to Florida in 1829.  He has served in public office over four decades, first in the state legislature and U. S. Congress, then as State Treasurer.  He was elected three times to the United States Senate, representing the third largest state for 18 years.  His committees included the breadth of government policy from defense, intelligence and foreign policy to finance, commerce and health care.

Nelson chaired the Space Subcommittee in the U.S. House of Representatives for 6 years and in the Senate was the Chairman or Ranking Member of the Senate Space and Science Subcommittee and Ranking Member of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.  Most every piece of space and science law has had his imprint, including passing the landmark NASA bill of 2010 along with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson.  That law set NASA on its present dual course of both government and commercial missions. In 1986 he flew on the 24th flight of the Space Shuttle. The mission on Columbia, orbited the earth 98 times during six days.  Nelson conducted 12 medical experiments including the first American stress test in space and a cancer research experiment sponsored by university researchers.  In the Senate he was known as the go-to senator for our nation’s space program.  He now serves on the NASA Advisory Council.

DoD Inspector General to Investigate Decision to Locate US Space Command Headquarters n Huntsville

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Pentagon’s Office of Inspector General has announced an investigation into the U.S. Air Force’s controversial decision to locate U.S. Space Command’s headquarters at the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala.

In a letter to the U.S. Air Force secretary, the office said it would investigate whether the decision process:

  • “complied with DoD and Air Force policies during the location selection process;
  • used objective and relevant scoring factors to rank the six candidate locations; and
  • calculated the cost and other scoring factors accurately and consistently among the six candidate locations.”
(more…)

Colorado Congressional Delegation Wants Biden to Suspend U.S. Space Command Move to Huntsville

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Colorado’s nine-member Congressional delegation has asked President Joe Biden to suspend the move of the U.S. Space Command from Colorado Springs to Huntsville, Ala., until the administration conducts a full review of a decision made during the waning days of the Trump Administration.

“This move undermines our ability to respond to the threats in space and is disruptive to the current mission. Additionally, significant evidence exists that the process was neither fair nor impartial and that President [Donald] Trump’s political considerations influenced the final decision,” the delegation said in a Jan. 26 letter to the president.

The U.S. Air Force announced the move of the U.S. Space Command from Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs to the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville on Jan. 13, one week before Trump left office and a week after Congress certified the election of Democrat Joe Biden.

(more…)

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….

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)