White House Taps Chirag Parikh to Serve as National Space Council Executive Secretary

Chirag Parikh

The White House has tapped space policy expert Chirag Parikh to become executive secretary of the National Space Council. He will oversee day-to-day operations of the council, which helps to formulate, coordinate and implement space policies across the federal government. Vice President Kamala Harris chairs the council.

Parikh was director of space policy at the National Security Council from 2010-16, where he oversaw creation of the Obama Administration’s 2010 National Space Policy. The Obama Administration did not have a National Space Council; the Trump Administration revived it in 2017 after a 24-year hiatus.

Parikh left the White House in 2016 to serve as director of the Office of Source Strategies at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. He was responsible for worldwide imagery collection operations and adjudicated requirements for all U.S. space-based imagery intelligence systems.

Parikh became senior director of Microsoft’s Azure Space in 2020, where he focused on integrating space applications with Microsoft’s cloud computing platform.

Prior to joining the Obama White House in 2010, Parikh served as deputy national intelligence officer for science and technology at the National Intelligence Council and principle intelligence analyst for space systems at the National Air and Space Intelligence Center.

Parikh graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a bachelor of science degree in aerospace engineering.

Bye Bye, Neutrality Pai: FCC Chairman to Call it Quits on Jan. 20

Ajit Pai
  • Chairman who led the effort to kill net neutrality will depart with the Trump Administration and his massive coffee cup
  • FCC approved constellations of thousands of satellites by SpaceX and Amazon under his leadership
  • Official announcement from the FCC is below

WASHINGTON, November 30, 2020 (FCC PR) —Today, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced that he intends to leave the Federal Communications Commission on January 20, 2021. Chairman Pai issued the following statement:

“It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve at the Federal Communications Commission, including as Chairman of the FCC over the past four years. I am grateful to President Trump for giving me the opportunity to lead the agency in 2017, to President Obama for appointing me as a Commissioner in 2012, and to Senate Majority Leader McConnell and the Senate for twice confirming me. To be the first Asian-American to chair the FCC has been a particular privilege. As I often say: only in America.

“I also deeply appreciate the chance to have worked alongside the FCC’s talented staff. They are the agency’s best assets, and they have performed heroically, especially during the pandemic. It’s also been an honor to work with my fellow Commissioners to execute a strong and broad agenda. Together, we’ve delivered for the American people over the past four years: closing the digital divide; promoting innovation and competition, from 5G on the ground to broadband from space; protecting consumers; and advancing public safety. And this FCC has not shied away from making tough choices. As a result, our nation’s communications networks are now faster, stronger, and more widely deployed than ever before.

“I am proud of how productive this Commission has been, from commencing five spectrum auctions and two rural broadband reverse auctions in four years, to opening 1,245 megahertz of mid-band spectrum for unlicensed use, to adopting more than 25 orders through our Modernization of Media Regulation Initiative, to aggressively protecting our communications networks from national security threats at home and abroad, to designating 988 as the three digit number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and much, much more. I’m also proud of the reforms we have instituted to make the agency more accountable to the American people. In particular, for the first time ever, we’ve made public drafts of the proposals and orders slated for a vote three weeks before the agency’s monthly meetings, making this the most transparent FCC in history.

“Last but not least, I want to thank my family for all they have done to enable me to serve at the agency. The public service of one generally results from the private sacrifice of many, and I’m grateful for their love and support.”

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…)

IG Report: NASA’s SOFIA Not Meeting Expectations

SOFIA flying observatory (Credit: NASA-Jim Ross)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s flying Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) has struggled to meet its scientific expectations due to a lengthy development delay and a series of technical, operational and managerial challenges, according to a new audit from the agency’s Office of Inspector General (IG).

(more…)

Failure of Aging Satellites Could Leave U.S. Partially Blind to Space Weather

Diagram of DSCOVR spacecraft. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Tne failures of three aging satellites the United States relies upon to forecast space weather could leave the nation partially blind to electromagnetic storms that could severely disrupt electrical grids, communications systems, aviation and Global Positioning System (GPS) dependent navigation.

“The observations that we rely on to provide alerts and warnings are critical. Should we lose some of the key spacecraft that we talk about, I won’t say we’re blind but we’re darn close. It will impact our ability to support this nation’s need for space weather services. And I don’t want to see that happen,” said William Murtagh, director of NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center.

(more…)

A Closer Look at NASA’s Proposed Human Exploration Plan

Credit: NASA

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA would launch the first element of a human-tended Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway in 2022 under a proposed exploration plan that would make use of commercial and international partnerships.

A power and propulsion module would be followed soon afterward by habitation, airlock, and logistics modules. The gateway would serve as a base for astronauts to explore the moon for the first time since Apollo 17 lifted off from the surface in 1972.

(more…)











Nelson Says Not Enough Votes to Confirm Bridenstine as NASA Chief

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

Politico reports the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to become the next NASA administrator might be doomed when the full Senate votes on it.

“I know that at this point they do not have the votes,” he said. “This is the last thing in the world that NASA needs. NASA has never had a partisan politician. It needs a space professional as its leader.” Marco Rubio hasn’t taken an official on the nomination, but has criticized Bridenstine’s selection.

Bridenstine had a rough confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee where Nelson is the ranking member. Democrats criticized his positions on climate change and social issues. They also expressed concerns over his lack of an engineering or science background and inexperience in running large organizations.

Republicans defended Bridenstine, saying he had the knowledge and experience to run the space agency. Republicans control the Senate 51-49. Mike Pence can break 50-50 ties.

NASA has been without an appointed administrator since the Obama Administration ended on Jan. 20, 2017. Robert Lightfoot has been serving as acting administrator until the Senate approves a replacement.

The Trump Administration had yet to nominate anyone for the position of NASA deputy administrator, a position that also requires Senate approval.











Trump Administration’s NASA Policy Slowly Emerges

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)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Vice President Mike Pence’s speech at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center last week was long on rhetoric and short on details, but a few themes and priorities have already emerged in the Trump Administration’s slowly evolving approach to the nation’s civilian space program.

NASA Will Lead Again

In a speech in which he repeatedly praised President Donald Trump, Pence used some variation of the word “lead” a total of 33 times (“leadership” 18 times, “leader(s)” eight times,  “lead”  six times and “leading” once).
(more…)











White House Releases National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy

Asteroid Eros
Asteroid Eros

National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy

Product of the Interagency Working Group for Detecting and Mitigating the Impact of Earth-bound Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) (Damien) of the National Science and Technology Council

December 2016

Executive Summary

The National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy (Strategy) and the forthcoming National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Action Plan (Action Plan) together seek to improve our Nation’s preparedness to address the hazard of near-Earth object (NEO) impacts by enhancing the integration of existing national
and international assets and adding important capabilities that are currently lacking. The Strategy and Action Plan build on efforts at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to better detect and characterize the NEO population as well as recent efforts at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to prepare for and respond to a NEO impact. Together, they aim to foster a collaborative effort in which the Nation can better understand, prevent, and prepare for the effects of a NEO impact. The Nation must continue to leverage existing networks of expertise and capabilities, both public and private, and pursue targeted enhancements to improve the ability to manage the risks associated with NEOs.

(more…)











Will Trump Scrap NASA’s Climate Research Mission?

Credit: NASA
Credit: NASA

NASA does more than explore other planets; it studies our own.
Agency scientists worry Donald Trump will abort the work.

by Andrew Revkin
ProPublica, Dec. 12, 2016, 8 a.m.

The wonders of NASA 2014 Mars rovers, astronaut Instagram feeds, audacious missions probing distant galactic mysteries 2014 have long enthralled the American public. And, it turns out, the accomplishments have won the agency the public’s trust: Polls have consistently shown NASA to be the second-most trusted government institution, behind only the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The public, however, probably has less appreciation for the work NASA has done on its home planet. NASA’s $2-billion-a-year earth-science program has long tracked global-scale environmental conditions on Earth, including climate change.

(more…)











Report Confirms Scientific Benefits of NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission

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 (NASA PR) — A new report provides expert findings from a special action team on how elements of the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) can address decadal science objectives and help close Strategic Knowledge Gaps (SKGs) for future human missions in deep space.

Read the report online: ARM Connections to the Priority Small Body Science and Exploration Goals.

(more…)











New NASA Administrator Names: Bridenstine, Griffin, Collins & Albrecht

Rep. Jim Bridenstine
Rep. Jim Bridenstine

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) is a leading candidate  to replace Charlie Bolden as the new NASA Administrator when President Barack Obama’s term ends in January.

“He’s made it clear to the campaign that if asked to serve as NASA Administrator or Air Force secretary, he would be willing,” the official said. The person added that there would likely be “a clearer path to NASA” than the Air Force.

Other names that have been circulated include: former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin, who served under President George W. Bush; former astronaut Collins, who spoke during the Republican National Convention in support of Trump; and space veteran Mark Albrecht, who served as executive secretary of the National Space Council under President George H.W. Bush.

(more…)











Developing Technology to Push Out Into the Solar System to Stay

Credit: Matt Wade
Credit: Matt Wade

New Space Technology Research Institutes will help NASA develop game changing new materials and bio-manufacturing methods needed for the Journey to Mars

by Thomas Kalil & Lloyd Whitman
White House OSTP

In his 2015 State of the Union Address, President Obama said, “I want Americans to win the race for the kinds of discoveries that unleash new jobs—converting sunlight into liquid fuel; creating revolutionary prosthetics, so that a veteran who gave his arms for his country can play catch with his kids again. Pushing out into the solar system not just to visit, but to stay.”

And NASA is leading the way for this push with plans to send humans to Mars in the 2030s. Recently, NASA announced that they plan to dedicate up to $30 million over the next five years to support university-led research institutes to more rapidly develop two game changing capabilities needed to make this happen: ultra-high strength, lightweight materials and bio-manufacturing for deep space exploration.

(more…)











House Appropriations Committee Sets NASA Spending at $19.5 Billion

 NASA astronaut Suni Williams exits a test version of the Orion spacecraft in the agency’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab in Houston. The testing is helping NASA identify the best ways to efficiently get astronauts out of the spacecraft after deep space missions. (Credit: NASA)
NASA astronaut Suni Williams exits a test version of the Orion spacecraft in the agency’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab in Houston. The testing is helping NASA identify the best ways to efficiently get astronauts out of the spacecraft after deep space missions. (Credit: NASA)

The House Appropriations Committee is marking up a FY 2017 spending bill today that would boost NASA’s spending by $215 million to $19.5 billion dollars. The amount is roughly $500 million more than the $19 billion requested by the Obama Administration.

Appropriators have zeroed out money for NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), instead instructing the space agency to focus on lumar missions applicable to sending astronauts to Mars.

(more…)