Video: NASA Accomplishments at Mid-Year

Video Caption: 2017 is shaping up to be another year of unprecedented exploration, amazing discoveries, technological advances and progress in development of future missions – and we’re just six months into the year. Here are some of our top stories of 2017, so far – Mid-Year at NASA!

Is Trump the New JFK of Space?

Yeah, I don’t think so….

OK, let me clarify that. I’ve seen no real signs so far that Trump wants to do anything really bold in space. That could change; never say never. But, it’s been five months, and he hasn’t even gotten around to nominating a NASA administrator yet. His FY 2018 budget proposal doesn’t include anything novel.

“Mr. Trump’s charisma, vision, and style are reminiscent of JFK…”

Mmmmm…..no. Definitely not.

Here’s a challenge for you guys for the comments sections: JFK’s greatest and most inspiring quotes side-by-side with Trump’s worst quotes and Tweets. Don’t limit yourself to space.

Read the full op-ed piece.

Jay Gibson Out at XCOR, In With Trump Administration

John (Jay) Gibson

Jay Gibson’s two-year tenure as president and CEO of XCOR appears to be at an end.

On Friday, President Donald Trump announced his intent to nominate Gibson to be deputy chief management officer of the Department of Defense.

The announcement describes Gibson as “most recently” having been XCOR’s president and CEO. However, a source says he is still at the company.

The nomination is subject to Senate confirmation.

XCOR hired Gibson in March 2015 to replace founder Jeff Greason. The objective was for Gibson to focus on the business side while Greason focused on completing construction on the Lynx suborbital space plane.

That arrangement did not work out. By November, Greason and two other founders, Dan DeLong and Aleta Jackson, had left the company to found Agile Aerospace.

In May 2016, XCOR laid off about 25 employees — roughly half of its workforce — and suspended work on the Lynx. The company has since refocused its energies on its rocket engine work.

UPDATE: XCOR board member Michael Blum issued the following written statement:

“Jay Gibson is still at XCOR but will be leaving shortly for a tremendous opportunity to serve his country in a very senior role at DoD. He has been a great CEO whose leadership and experience has guided XCOR through ups and downs.”

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Palazzo Celebrates Proposed NASA Earth Science Cuts

Rep. Steven Palazzo

You might think that that being from a Gulf state susceptible to the effects of rising sea levels, higher storm surges and stronger hurricanes from a warming planet, Rep. Steve Palazzo (R-MS) would be a big fan of NASA’s research into global change.

Well, think again.

Rep. Steven Palazzo praised NASA’s move away from studying the Earth and instead focusing resources on the rest of the universe.

During a House Appropriations Committee hearing Thursday, the Mississippi Republican applauded the agency for proposing to eliminate five Earth science missions designed to measure a number of global warming factors such as ocean ecosystems and carbon levels. President Trump’s proposed budget also would cut funding for Earth research grants and would terminate the Carbon Monitoring System, a project that NASA developed in 2010 in response to congressional direction.
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Musk Quits Trump Advisory Boards Over Paris Climate Accord Withdrawal

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX and Tesla Motors Founder Elon Musk has quit three White House advisory bodies over President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord.

“Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world,” Musk wrote in a tweet on Thursday.

Musk said he had done all he could to convince the president not to withdraw from the global agreement to reduce carbon emissions to flight global warming.

Musk served on the White House Manufacturing Jobs Council, the Strategic and Policy Forum, and the Infrastructure Council.

Disney CEO Bob Iger also resigned from the Strategic and Policy Forum over Trump’s decision on the Paris Climate Accord.

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NASA FY 2018 Budget Fact Sheet

The President’s Fiscal Year 2018 Budget
Maintains NASA’s world leadership in space and increases cooperation with industry.

NASA Fact Sheet

NASA’s budget 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, including partnerships with the private sector for a variety of activities, such as transportation of crew and cargo to the International Space Station. The budget also continues the development of the Orion crew vehicle, Space Launch System and Exploration Ground Systems that will send astronauts beyond low Earth orbit in the early 2020’s. The budget also keeps the Webb Telescope on track for a 2018 launch; 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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Trump Eyes Half Billion Dollar Cut in NASA’s Budget

President Donald Trump would cut $561 million from NASA’s budget for fiscal year 2018 under a spending plan set for release next week, according to a leaked budget document.

NASA would see its budget reduced from $19.6 billion this year to just below $19.1 billion. The space agency received just under $19.3 billion in fiscal year 2016.

The total budget is close to the $19.1 billion contained in a budget blueprint the Trump Administration released in March. The blue print provided guidance for the formal budget proposal to be released next week.

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NASA Will Not Fly Crew on First SLS/Orion Mission

An expanded view of the next configuration of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket, including the four RL10 engines. (Credit: NASA)

NASA officials announced on Friday the first combined flight of the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft, known as Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1), will be conducted without a crew as originally planned. They also said the flight test will slip from 2018 to 2019.

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AIA Policy Recommendations for Improving U.S. Space Competitiveness


Engine for Growth:
Analysis and Recommendations for U.S. Space Industry Competitiveness

Aerospace Industries Association
May 2017
[Full Report]

Policy Recommendations
for Strengthening U.S. Space Competitiveness

1. Level the Playing Field

Provide a responsive regulatory environment for commercial space activities. The list of commercial space activities is varied and growing, ranging from traditional applications such as satellite telecommunications to emerging ones like space resource utilization. At the same time, the U.S. space industry is governed by multiple federal agencies with disparate regulatory interests, including the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Aviation Administration and Departments of State and Commerce. These agencies often suffer from funding and staffi ng shortages, a situation that creates bottlenecks in licensing processes and slows responsiveness to technological and market changes. The new Administration should work closely with Congress to ensure that the appropriate space regulatory agencies are fully resourced and staffed.
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Congressional Budget Gives NASA $19.6 Billion

NASA would receive $19.653 billion for fiscal year 2017 under an Omnibus spending bill released on Monday by Congressional appropriators, an increase of more than $600 million requested by the Obama Administration. NASA received just under $19.3 billion in FY 2016.

The bill was released seven months into the 2017 fiscal year. The government has been operating on continuing resolutions since the year began last Oct. 1.

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This Week in Trump’s War on Reality

Screen shot of Scientific American website

This week the world was treated to starkly different headlines about the future of the planet and the Trump Administration’s actions about it. Above is a story about a report on the rapid warming of the Arctic region, with dire consequences for the planet.

Meanwhile, the Trump Administration’s response is to pretend the problem doesn’t exist and hope it simply goes away.

Screen shot of The Washington Post website.

The EPA says the climate science website has been taken down for retooling. There’s little doubt that when it returns, it will rewritten to conform with the Trump Administration’s political judgment that climate change is nothing to be concerned about rather than the scientific consensus that the threat is real, worsening and potentially catastrophic to the planet.

The position becomes increasing untenable as the data pile up. Critics point to uncertainties in the climate models, but those are not enough to negate the clear evidence that we’ve got a serious problem on our hands that we can’t avoid addressing indefinitely.

For those who may claim this story has nothing to do with space, you are wrong. NASA and NOAA are in the thick of the gathering meteorological and climate data the EPA and other agencies use to determine policy. The Trump Administration has proposed cancelling three NASA climate missions and deep cuts at NOAA.

It also highly likely that it is only a matter of time before NASA’s website is scrubbed of climate change information in the same way the EPA’s website is being rewritten.

Trump Nominates Fierce Critic of Ex-Im Bank to Lead Agency

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

Continuing a tradition of nominating people who hate the organizations they have been selected to run (Rick Perry at Energy, Scott Pruitt at EPA), President Donald Trump has nominated a vocal critic of the Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank to head the lending agency.

Former Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), who voted twice against reauthorizing the bank while in Congress, will be nominated as president of the bank. Separately, former Rep. Spencer T. Bachus III (R-Ala.) will be nominated to join the bank’s board. Both nominees require congressional confirmation.

Garrett, a deeply conservative Congressman who helped found the House Freedom Caucus, has in the past heavily criticized the agency he may now be tasked with leading. In a speech on the floor of the House in 2015, Garrett called the Ex-Im Bank a “fund for corporate welfare” and “a bank that embodies the corruption of the free enterprise system.”

The bank, which offers financial support to U.S. exporters, is despised by some conservative Republicans, who have forced it to remain effectively dormant for nearly two years. Yet the appointments themselves could allow the bank to resume lending in earnest, after being effectively barred from acting by a lack of leadership.

Trump opposed the bank during the campaign, but indicated he planned to reopen the bank for business in an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday — one of several recent decisions by the president that suggest a shift in his views on economic policy.

Read the full story.

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Mr. Witt Goes to Washington?

Stu Witt (Credit: MASP)

There’s a report out today about former Mojave Air and Space Port CEO and General Manager Stu Witt being considered for a high-level position at NASA headquarters in Washington.

A veteran Mojave observer tells Parabolic Arc that Witt has been “swimming in those waters.”

The possible positions for Witt include deputy administrator, the second-ranked job at the agency. This is a politically appointed position that requires Senate approval.

President Donald Trump has not yet nominated candidates for NASA administrator and deputy administrator. Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) is widely viewed as a leading contender for the top position.

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Trump Wants Cuts in Current NASA, NOAA Budgets

This image shows the far side of the moon, illuminated by the sun, as it crosses between the DSCOVR spacecraft’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) camera and telescope, and the Earth – one million miles away. (Credits: NASA/NOAA)

The budgets of NASA and NOAA would see cuts for the FY 2017 fiscal year as part of $18 billion in reductions proposed by the Trump Administration.

NASA would see a reduction of $50 million in its science budget. The cuts would be
“distributed….across the science program, including cuts to unused reserves and missions that are cancelled in the 2018 Budget. It is possible missions would be delayed and/or grants reduced,” according to a budget document sent to Congress.

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