Charlie Brown or Snoopy: America’s Future in Space Hangs in the Balance

As the Apollo 10 crew walks along a corridor on the way to Launch Complex 39B, mission commander Thomas P. Stafford pats the nose of Snoopy, the mission’s mascot, held by Jamye Flowers, astronaut Gordon Coopers’ secretary. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

This week, we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the flight of Apollo 10, the final mission before the first manned landing on the moon by Apollo 11 on July 20, 1969.

During the 8-day voyage, Tom Stafford and Eugene Cernan took the lunar module (LM) to within 47,400 feet (14.4 km) of the lunar surface before rendezvousing with the command service module (CSM) piloted by John Young.

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NASA Broadens Pre-solitication Notice to Include Full Lunar Landing Systems

NASA has broadened the scope of a pre-soliticitation notice seeking industry input on ascent stages for returning astronauts to the moon to include complete integrated landing systems.

“This amendment to pre-solicitation notice NNH19ZCQ001K_APP-H replaces the original version that was posted April 8, 2019, and broadens the scope from the Human Landing System’s (HLS) Ascent Element to a complete integrated lander that incorporates multiple elements such as a Descent Element, Ascent Element, and Transfer Vehicle. The HLS Refueling and Surface Suit Elements are not included in this solicitation,” the revised noticed stated.

NASA made the move to accelerate development of a full lunar lander in response to Vice President Mike Pence’s recent announcement that it was now the Trump Administration’s policy the space agency would land astronauts on the moon’s surface by 2024.

“NASA intends to release a solicitation under the second Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP-2) Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) in late May, 2019, to seek proposals from industry for the development of integrated human lunar landers and execution of crewed flight demonstrations to the lunar surface by 2024,” according to the revised notice, which was published on April 26.

China Sees Lunar South Pole Base by Around 2029

Moon (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

During the National Space Council meeting in March. Vice President Mike Pence declared that the United States was in a space race with China. That declaration was not particularly newsworthy; China’s military-run space program has been surging in recent years as the emerging Asian superpower seeks superiority on the high frontier.

Pence did raise some eyebrows when he used China’s rise to justify move up America’s return to the moon by four years from 2028 to 2024. Was China’s human spaceflight program really planning to move that quickly? Does the moon have that much strategic value? Were the two nations really in a race to the lunar surface?

If they weren’t then, they are now. Maybe.

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We Return to the Moon, But We Won’t Do It Alone

Jim Bridenstine (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Jim Bridenstine Blog
NASA Administrator

When President Donald Trump charged NASA with returning to the Moon, he specified that we partner with industry and other nations to make it possible. Today, on the first day of the 35thSpace Symposium in Colorado we continue our commitment to work with innovative partners as we chart our path forward to the moon in 2024.

The Space Symposium provided me and the NASA team a unique opportunity for dialogue, as it is the first major international public forum to discuss President Trump’s and Vice President Pence’s 2024 moon challenge.  Earlier today I met with several members of the international community to discuss our lunar exploration plans and reiterated NASA’s commitment to move forward to the Moon with strong international collaboration.

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NASA Galactica: The Plan

No. 6 with two old model Cylons.

“The Cylons were created by man. They evolved. They rebelled. There are many copies. And they have a plan.”

— Battlestar Galactic

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Watching the re-imagined “Battlestar Galactic,” I was never quite sure exactly what the Cylons’ plan was beyond the whole exterminate all humans with nukes thing. In an apparent nod to this lack of clarity, the producers created a two-hour TV movie called, “Battlestar Galactic: The Plan,” to explain it all.

NASA has suffered from a similar lack of clarity over the past week. At a National Space Council meeting last Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence announced it was the Trump Administration’s policy to land astronauts on the south pole of the moon by the presidential election year of 2024 — four years ahead of the current schedule.

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Bridenstine Statement on Returning Astronauts to the Moon by 2024

Jim Bridenstine (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The following is a statement from NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on Tuesday’s announcement by Vice President Mike Pence, at the fifth meeting of the National Space Council, about putting American astronauts back on the Moon in the next five years:

“Today, I joined leaders from across the country as Vice President Mike Pence chaired the fifth meeting of the National Space Council. Vice President Pence lauded President Donald J. Trump’s bold vision for space exploration and spoke to NASA’s progress on key elements to accomplish the President’s Space Policy Directives.

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Trump, Pence Demand Space Spectacular During Election Year as SLS Schedule Slides Further

SLS liquid hydrogen tank (Credit: NASA/Tyler Martin)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

If you’ve been puzzling over exactly why NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine suddenly floated the idea of flying the first Orion space capsule to the moon next year without the Space Launch System (SLS), The Washington Post has a couple of answers today:

  • SLS is much further behind schedule than anyone knew; and,
  • 2020 is a presidential election year.

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National Space Council to Meet Next Tuesday

Vice President Mike Pence addresses NASA employees, Thursday, July 6, 2017, at the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Cape Canaveral, Florida. (Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

Fifth Meeting of the National Space Council

Date: Tuesday, March 26, 2019, at 12:00 p.m. CDT
Location: Saturn V Hall, Davidson Center for Space Exploration, U.S. Space and Rocket Center, Huntsville, Ala.

Panel 1: “Ready to Fly”

  • Gen. Les Lyles, USAF (ret.), former Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force
  • Col. Eileen Collins, USAF (ret.), former Shuttle commander
  • Dr. Sandy Magnus, former Shuttle astronaut

Panel 2: “Ready to Explore”

  • Dan Dumbacher, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
  • Dr. Jack Burns, University of Colorado at Boulder
  • Wanda Sigur, independent consultant

NOAA, FAA AST Space Programs Get Funding Boosts

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Last week, we took a look at the significant increase in NASA’s budget for FY 2019. In this story, we will examine the budget increases for the Commerce Department — which manages the nation’s weather satellites — and the Department of Transportation, which oversees commercial launches. We will also take a look how the White House’s National Space Council fared.

Commerce Department

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

NOAA’s satellite programs received $1,45 billion, which is an increase of $55 million over FY 2018. The bulk of the funding is designated for the GOES-R,  Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) and Polar Follow-on (PFO) programs. The amounts include:

  • JPSS: $548 million
  • GOES-R: $408.4 million
  • PFO: $330 million

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Comments of President Trump and Vice President Pence at Space Force Directive Signing

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

THE PRESIDENT:  Today, I’m thrilled to sign a new order taking the next step to create the United States Space Force. So important, when you look at defense, when you look at all of the other aspects of where the world will be someday. I mean, this is the beginning. This is a very important process.

First, I want to recognize our wonderful Vice President, Mike Pence, who serves as the Chairman of the National Space Council. Thank you, Mike. Great job. I know you feel the same way I do.

I also want to thank Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, who is with us; Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson; Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Paul Selva; and the Executive Secretary of the Space Council, Dr. Scott Pace for being here today.

They’ve all worked very hard on the Space Force. They all believe in it very strongly, as I do. It’s the future. It’s where we’re going. I suspect, whether we like it or not, that’s where we’re going. It’s space. That’s the next step, and we have to be prepared.

Our adversaries and — whether we get along with them or not, they’re up in space. And they’re doing it, and we’re doing it. And that’s going to be a very big part of where the defense of our nation — and you could say “offense” — but let’s just be nice about it and let’s say the defense of our nation is going to be.

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Remarks by Vice President Pence at Kennedy Space Center

Mike Pence

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Madam Secretary. Yeah, great words. Great words. Well, thank you, Secretary Wilson. Thank you for that introduction and thank you for your great leadership of the United States Air Force.

And I want to thank our host today, the Kennedy Space Center, Bob Cabana, and the entire team. To General Selva, who joins us here today; to all of our distinguished guests; to General Shess; but especially to the airmen of the 45th Space Wing and your families, it is great to be here at the Kennedy Space Center, the “World’s Premier Gateway to Space.” Thank you all.

And I want to bring greetings this morning, first and foremost, to a great champion of American leadership in space and a great champion of America’s military personnel and your families. I want to bring greetings from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.

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Vice President Pence Talks Future Human Space Exploration at NASA’s Johnson Space Center

Mike Pence

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Vice President Mike Pence, with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, will visit NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston Thursday, Aug. 23, to discuss the future of human space exploration and the agency’s plans to return to the Moon as a forerunner to future human missions to Mars.

The event will be held at 12:45 p.m. CDT in the Teague Auditorium at Johnson and will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

Media Schedule (all times CDT):

  • 6:30-7:30 a.m. – Media call time and pre-set for video cameras and tripods
  • 7:30-9:30 a.m. – Venue access closed to press for security sweep
  • 9:30 a.m. – Media re-entrance
  • 12:45 p.m. – Event begins

Check out the latest on NASA’s plans for human space exploration at:

https://www.nasa.gov/topics/humans-in-space

Remarks by Vice President Pence on the Future of the U.S. Military in Space

Mike Pence

The Pentagon
Arlington, Virginia

11:17 A.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Secretary Mattis, Deputy Secretary Shanahan, General Selva, General Goldfein, members of the Armed Forces of the United States of America, and all the men and women of the United States Department of Defense who each and every day oversee the greatest military in the history of the world: Thank you for all you do every day for the American people.  (Applause.)

It is my great honor, Mr. Secretary, to join you here today at the Pentagon.  And let me begin by bringing greetings from your Commander-in-Chief, who has from the very earliest days of this administration proved himself to be a great champion of the Armed Forces of the United States, committed to strengthening American security here on Earth and in space.  I bring greetings from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.  (Applause.)

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Boeing Suffers Setback During CST-100 Starliner Abort Test

CST-100 Starliner with Atlas V booster. (Credit: Boeing)

Media are reporting that Boeing suffered a setback recently when testing CST-100 Starliner’s emergency abort system at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Here’s an account from The Washington Post:

The spacecraft Boeing plans to use to fly NASA astronauts to the International Space Station suffered a significant setback when, during a test of its emergency abort system in June, officials discovered a propellant leak, the company confirmed.

In a statement to The Washington Post, Boeing said it has “been conducting a thorough investigation with assistance from our NASA and industry partners. We are confident we found the cause and are moving forward with corrective action.”

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