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).
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Planetary Society Encouraged by Proposed NASA Budget

Planetary_Society_LogoPASADENA, Calif., February 11, 2016 (Planetary Society PR) — In response to U.S. President Obama’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Budget Request, The Planetary Society issued the following statements from Bill Nye, CEO, and Casey Dreier, director of space policy:

“The President’s recent budget request is catching up with recent congressional actions in support of NASA. It’s especially good to see the increases for space science. But we can do more. The nation asks so much of NASA, and NASA delivers. NASA is maintaining operations aboard the space station, while it’s actively exploring the Solar System and distant reaches of the cosmos—all while planning missions to send humans to Mars. The Planetary Society urges Congress to continue their support of NASA in 2017 by allowing its budget to increase above inflation. The world is in love with space exploration, and NASA is the best brand the United States has. With the right resources, NASA can lead the way deeper into space.”

– Bill Nye, CEO, The Planetary Society

“While it is satisfying to see the White House increase its request for NASA’s Planetary Science Division to $1.52 billion, it still represents a cut to the program’s current funding level. The Planetary Society believes that all of NASA’s space science divisions deserve support, even Planetary Science, which has now experienced five proposed budget cuts in five years. After the stunning successes of last year’s Pluto flyby, the exploration of Ceres, and the confirmation of flowing water on Mars, the nation should not back away from planetary exploration now.

“We urge Congress to continue their trend of enacting NASA budgets above the President’s request. Using the FY 2016 congressional budget as a baseline going forward would help sustain NASA as the world leader in human spaceflight, robotic exploration, space science, aeronautics, and fundamental scientific research.”

– Casey Dreier, director of space policy, The Planetary Society

NASA FY 2017 Budget Request Fact Sheet

NASA LOGOThe President’s Fiscal Year 2017 Budget
Carries out an ambitious deep space exploration program
and continues the Nation’s Journey to Mars.

Actuals FY 2015: $18 billion
Enacted FY 2016:  $19.3 billion
Requested FY 2017:  $19 billion

NASA’s budget advances the Nation’s space exploration plan and ensures our nation remains the world’s leader in space exploration and technology, aeronautics research and discovery in space and Earth science. The budget supports developing the technologies that will make future space missions more capable and affordable, partnering with the private sector to transport crew and cargo to the International Space Station, continuing the development of the Orion crew vehicle, Space Launch System and Exploration Ground Systems that will one day send astronauts beyond low Earth orbit. The budget also keeps the Webb Telescope on track for a 2018; builds on our scientific discoveries and achievements in space; and supports the Administration’s commitment to serve as a catalyst for the growth of a vibrant American commercial space industry.

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Lamar Smith on Obama’s Budget: I HATE It!

Lamar Smith
Lamar Smith

“This administration cannot continue to tout plans to send astronauts to Mars while strangling the programs that will take us there. President Obama’s FY17 budget proposal shrinks our deep space exploration programs by more than $800 million. And the administration once more proposes cuts of more than $100 million to the Planetary Science accounts, which have previously funded missions like this past year’s Pluto flyby. At the same time this proposal shrinks space exploration priorities within NASA’s budget, it disproportionately increases Earth Science accounts to more than $2 billion – a seventy percent increase since 2007. This imbalanced proposal continues to tie our astronauts’ feet to the ground and makes a Mars mission all but impossible. This is not the proposal of an administration that is serious about maintaining America’s leadership in space.”

— Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX)
Chairman, House Committee on Science, Space & Technology

Smith’s statement is reproduced in full after the link.
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House Members Want NASA to Develop Human Space Exploration Roadmap

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, D.C. (House Science Committee PR) – On Wednesday, the House Subcommittee on Space held a hearing titled,Charting a Course: Expert Perspectives on NASA’s Human Exploration Proposals.” Witnesses shared their viewpoints on NASA’s human space exploration plans – including a human mission to Mars – and the challenge of keeping programs on track through changing presidential administrations.

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White House Opposes Provisions of SPACE Act

WhiteHouse
STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY
H.R. 2262 — Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship (SPACE) Act of 2015 (Rep. McCarthy, R-CA, and 12 cosponsors)

The Administration strongly supports the development of a commercial space sector that pushes the boundaries of space exploration while creating jobs and strengthening the American economy. The American commercial launch industry is the most competitive in the world. Over the past several years, the industry has rapidly increased its share of the global market for sending satellites and other payloads into space. The Administration agrees with the goal of H.R. 2262 to bring more stability and certainty to this growing market. While the Administration does not oppose House passage of the bill, it has serious concerns with certain provisions of the bill.

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