NASA Names New Chief Scientist

Jim Green (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot has named the Science Mission Directorate’s Planetary Science Division Director Jim Green as the agency’s new chief scientist, effective May 1. He succeeds Gale Allen, who has served in an acting capacity since 2016 and will retire after more than 30 years of government service.

“I want to thank Gale for all she has done for the agency and, for the past few years, in the Office of the Chief Scientist. Gale had an amazing career and is a role model to so many. I wish her the best in retirement,” Lightfoot said. “I’m excited to have Jim take on this new role. He brings a variety of scientific research experience and planetary exploration expertise to the chief scientist position that will allow him to hit the ground running with great enthusiasm and engagement.”

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Bridenstine’s Nomination Remains in Limbo in Senate

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

Nearly 15 months into Donald Trump’s term as president, NASA still lacks an administrator as the acting one prepares to retire in just 20 days. Meanwhile, the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) has been bogged down in the Senate for more than seven months.

USA Today reports the president is not giving up despite what appear to be long odds.

President Trump remains firmly behind his choice of Oklahoma GOP Rep. Jim Bridenstine to be the next administrator of the space agency, even though he does not appear to have the votes for Senate confirmation.

“Senate Democrats should stop their pointless obstruction, and confirm our eminently qualified nominee immediately,” said Lindsay Walters, deputy White House press secretary, said in a statement to USA TODAY. “The President looks forward to Rep. Bridenstine’s swift confirmation by the Senate, and is confident he will ensure America is a leader in space exploration once again.”

Bridenstine’s critics say NASA should be led by a “space professional” rather than a politician, and it’s not just the Senate’s 49 Democrats who are blocking the president’s pick

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida also has voiced deep misgivings.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is out of the Senate undergoing cancer treatments. If he were to return and support the nomination, Vice President Mike Pence could break a 50-50 tie.

NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot is set to retire on April 30.

Senate Approves NASA CFO

Jeffrey DeWit (Credit: Gage Skidmore)

The nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to run NASA might still be in limbo, but the Senate did accomplish something involving the space agency: confirming Jeffrey DeWit to serve as the chief financial officer (CFO).

“It is encouraging to see more members of the agency’s leadership team being named,” said acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot in a statement. “Jeff’s solid financial background will be a tremendous addition as we continue to advance our nation’s aeronautic and exploration initiatives.”

DeWit formerly serves as state treasurer of Arizona and chairman of the Arizona State Board of Investments. He was elected to a four-year term as state treasurer in 2014, and he said he did not plan to run for reelection this year.

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Smith Praises Lightfoot on Retirement from NASA

Lamar Smith

WASHINGTON  – U.S. House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today released the following statement after NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot announced his upcoming retirement.

Chairman Smith: “Robert Lightfoot has served NASA exceptionally well for nearly 30 years. He has worked in many capacities starting as a test engineer and rising to NASA’s highest ranking civil servant as associate administrator before heading the agency as acting administrator. His commitment to America’s spaceflight program and space exploration has been an immense asset for NASA, and we will miss his leadership at NASA’s helm. As Acting Administrator Lightfoot said himself, ‘NASA make[s] the impossible possible.’ I thank Robert for all he has done to achieve the impossible, and I look forward to a smooth transition to the next administrator and to what’s to come as NASA soars toward its next achievements.”

House Space Subcommittee Members Criticize Inaction on Bridenstine Nomination

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Members of the House Space Subcommittee were none-too-pleased on Wednesday when Robert Lightfoot showed up to testify about NASA’s proposed fiscal year 2019 budget.

It had nothing to do with Lightfoot, whom members praised effusively for the job he’s done as acting administrator over the past 13 months. Lightfoot, a career civil servant, took over after Charles Bolden resigned as the President Barack Obama ended his term.

Instead, their anger was focused on the Senate, which has yet to take action on the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to serve as NASA’s administrator six months after President Donald Trump nominated him.

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Bridenstine Nomination to Run NASA Remains Blocked in Senate

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

Bloomberg has an update on the impasse in the Senate over the Trump Administration’s nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to become the next NASA administrator.

Bridenstine has been blocked by all 49 Senate Democrats. Florida’s Congressional delegation enjoys an outsized influence on NASA because of Cape Canaveral, and Senator Bill Nelson, who flew on the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1986, isn’t a Bridenstine fan. His colleague Marco Rubio, the junior senator for the Sunshine State and a Republican, doesn’t want Bridenstine, either. With fellow Republican John McCain of Arizona absent for cancer treatment, that leaves confirmation 50-49 against….

Beyond [Acting Administrator Robert] Lightfoot, the lack of movement on Capitol Hill effectively leaves NASA leadership to Scott Pace, executive director of the National Space Council, which [Donald] Trump revived last summer. The council has taken a direct role in overseeing NASA’s priorities, including the administration’s 2017 directive to return astronauts to the moon, but doesn’t have the same hands-on role an administrator would. Bridenstine has attended both National Space Council meetings, in October and last month, but only as an observer.

Rubio has argued that the NASA post shouldn’t be occupied by a politician, particularly one with stridently partisan positions. “It’s the one federal mission which has largely been free of politics, and it’s at a critical juncture in its history,” he told Politico in September.

Bridenstine, a member of the highly conservative House Freedom Caucus, has drawn Democratic opposition for his views on gay marriage and abortion rights, as well as past statements dismissing climate change. And he may have rubbed Republican Rubio, and possibly McCain, the wrong way on account of his past support for their primary opponents.

In the 2016 presidential primaries, Bridenstine, a former Navy fighter pilot with an interest in space issues, produced several advertisements supporting Texas Senator Ted Cruz in his failed quest for the Republican nomination. Those ads criticized Rubio, also a candidate, for his position on immigration and attacks on Cruz. Rubio has reportedly denied a connection between Bridenstine’s past barbs and his opposition to the NASA nomination. Bridenstine also supported McCain’s Republican rival, Kelli Ward, in a fierce 2016 primary campaign that McCain eventually won.

Read the full story.

Sens. Cruz & Nelson Criticize Plan to End ISS Financial Support

International Space Station (Credit: NASA)

Senators express concerns over proposed cuts to the International Space Station
in letters to Director Mulvaney, Acting NASA Administrator Lightfoot

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Sens. Ted Cruz & Bill Nelson PR) – Last week, U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competiveness, and the ranking member of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, sent the following oversight letters to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot Jr. In the letters, the Senators expressed their concerns with the President’s FY 2019 Budget Request for NASA, which proposes ending direct U.S. Government funding for the International Space Station (ISS) by 2025.

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Falcon Heavy: A Multi-User Spaceport Success Story

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy begins its first flight. (Credit: NASA)

By Bob Granath
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

The launch of a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket on its demonstration flight is another sign that NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is continuing to grow as the nation’s premier, multi-user spaceport. The new vehicle lifted off from NASA’s historic Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy at 3:45 p.m. EST on Feb. 6.

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NASA to Outline Plans Next Week

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA centers across the country are opening their doors Monday, Feb. 12, to media and social media for “State of NASA” events, including a speech from acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot, and unique opportunities for a behind-the-scenes look at the agency’s work. These events follow President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget proposal delivery to the U.S. Congress.

Events at NASA centers will include media tours and presentations on the agency’s exploration goals for the Moon, Mars and worlds beyond, the innovative technologies developed and under development, as well as the scientific discoveries made as NASA explores and studies Earth and our universe, and continues to make advancements in next-generation air travel.

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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.

Bridenstine & Myers Nominations Sent on to Senate


by Douglas Messier

Managing Editor

As expected, the Senate Commerce Committee narrowly approved the Trump Administration’s nominations of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) and AccuWeather CEO Barry Myers to serve as the administrators of NASA and NOAA, respectively.

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NASA’s EM-1 Mission Could Slip 4-6 Months From December 2019 Date


By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s plan for the maiden flight of the Space Launch System (SLS) faces a potential delay of up to six months, the space agency announced today.

“While the review of the possible manufacturing and production schedule risks indicate a launch date of June 2020, the agency is managing to December 2019,” said acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot in a press release. “Since several of the key risks identified have not been actually realized, we are able to put in place mitigation strategies for those risks to protect the December 2019 date.”

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Apollo 12 Astronaut Dick Gordon Passes Away at 88

Astronaut Richard “Dick” Gordon in his Apollo spacesuit. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — Former NASA astronaut Richard Gordon, command module pilot on Apollo 12, the second lunar landing mission, passed away on Nov. 6, 2017.

Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot said in a statement on Gordon’s passing: “NASA and the nation have lost one of our early space pioneers. We send our condolences to the family and loved ones of Gemini and Apollo astronaut Richard Gordon, a hero from NASA’s third class of astronauts.”
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NASA Statement on Bridenstine Nomination to Become Administrator

Robert Lightfoot

The following is a statement from acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot on Friday’s announcement of the intended nomination by President Donald Trump of U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine to serve as the 13th NASA administrator:

“I am pleased to have Rep. Bridenstine nominated to lead our team. Of course, the nomination must go through the Senate confirmation process, but I look forward to ensuring a smooth transition and sharing the great work the NASA team is doing.

“I look forward to working with a new leadership team, and the administration, on NASA’s ongoing mission of exploration and discovery. Our history is amazing, and our future is even brighter, as we continue to build on this nation’s incredible global leadership in human exploration, science, aeronautics and technology.”

Bridenstine, a pilot in the U.S. Navy Reserve and former executive director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum and Planetarium, was elected to the U.S. Congress in 2012 to represent Oklahoma’s First Congressional District. He currently serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the Science, Space and Technology Committee.