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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Administration Resubmits Bridenstine Nomination to Run NASA

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

The Trump Administration has resubmitted the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to serve as administrator of NASA. The administration also submitted the name of Jeffrey DeWit to serve as the space agency’s chief financial officer.

Bridenstine had a contentious confirmation hearing last year before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, which narrowly confirmed the nomination along party lines. The re-submission of his nomination was a routine matter because the full Senate failed to vote on the nomination before the year ended.

Democrats criticized Bridenstine over his positions on Earth science research, global warming and various social issues. Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has expressed opposition to Bridenstine, saying they have concerns about placing a politician in charge of an agency that has enjoyed bi-partisan support.

Republicans enjoy a 51-49 majority in the Senate. Vice President Mike Pence has the power to break 50-50 ties.

Senate Banking Committee Rejects Trump’s Nominee to Head Ex-Im Bank


Donald Trump’s practice of nominating people to run agencies they oppose (Rick Perry), have no discernible expertise in (Perry again), or have no understanding of what they actually do (ditto) finally seems to have hit a brick wall.

The Senate Banking Committee rejected the White House’s nomination of former New Jersey Congressman Scott Garrett to chair the Export-Import Bank, which helps U.S. companies finance sales of products to foreign buyers. The bank has been used by aviation, space and satellite companies such as Boeing and SpaceX.

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Future Looks (Mostly) Bright for Space Industry in DC


The Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference is being held in Colorado through today. I wasn’t able to attend this year, but the following folks are there tweeting away:

  • Jeff Foust‏ @jeff_foust
  • Rand Simberg‏ @Rand_Simberg
  • Colorado Space News‏ @CO_Space_News
  • Laura Seward Forczyk @LauraForczyk

Below are updates based upon their tweets on what is happening in Washington, DC, from talks by officials from the FAA, NASA, and the Commercial Spaceflight Federation.
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Praise for Space Policy Directive 1

Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

Praise is pouring in for Space Policy Directive 1, the Trump Administration’s document that focuses the nation’s civilian space program on returning astronauts to the moon.

Coalition for Deep Space Exploration

The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration (Coalition) welcomes Space Policy Directive-1 (SPD-1) signed today by President Trump, formalizing the commitment made by the Administration during the first meeting of the National Space Council to reinvigorate America’s deep space exploration program. The signing ceremony in the White House West Wing was attended by Coalition President and CEO Dr. Mary Lynne Dittmar together with the President, Vice President, members of Congress, NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot and NASA astronauts – including Dr. Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, who together with the late Captain Eugene Cernan were the last Americans to visit the Moon during Apollo 17 exactly 45 years ago.

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Presidential Memorandum on Reinvigorating America’s Human Space Exploration Program

Credit: Matt Wade

Presidential Memorandum on
Reinvigorating America’s Human Space Exploration Program

SUBJECT:  Reinvigorating America’s Human Space Exploration Program

Section 1.  Amendment to Presidential Policy Directive-4.

Presidential Policy Directive-4 of June 28, 2010 (National Space Policy), is amended as follows:

The paragraph beginning “Set far-reaching exploration milestones” is deleted and replaced with the following:

“Lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities.  Beginning with missions beyond low-Earth orbit, the United States will lead the return of humans to the Moon for long-term exploration and utilization, followed by human missions to Mars and other destinations;”.

Sec. 2.  General Provisions.  (a)  Nothing in this memorandum shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i)   the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii)  the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b)  This memorandum shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c)  This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

(d) This memorandum shall be published in the Federal Register.

Donald J. Trump

Senate Committee Approves Bridenstine Nomination by Party Line Vote

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation approved the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to serve as NASA administrator by a party-line vote of 14-13 this morning.

Republicans voted for Bridenstine while Democrats opposed him. The nomination now goes to the full Senate where Republicans hold a 52-48 advantage at a date to be determined.

During a contentious hearing last Wednesday, Democrats had criticized the former fighter pilot turned politician as lacking the scientific and technical expertise to lead the space agency. They also questioned whether the deeply conservative Republican was too partisan to lead NASA. Democrats were critical of his positions on climate change and LGBT rights.

Republicans praised Bridenstine’s service in the House, where he had become one of Congress’s leading policy wonks. The Congressman has the support of a number of space organizations as well as Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

The position of administrator is one of two positions at NASA that require Senate approval. The Trump Administration has yet to nominate a deputy administrator.

Walking on Coals: Bridenstine Dances Around Hot Climate Change Issues

The new NASA global data set combines historical measurements with data from climate simulations using the best available computer models to provide forecasts of how global temperature (shown here) and precipitation might change up to 2100 under different greenhouse gas emissions scenarios. (Credit: NASA)

NASA Nominee Kinda Sorta Doesn’t Really
Walk Back Position on Global Warming

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

On Friday, the U.S. government released a long-in-the-making report on climate change that contained a stark assessment of what humans are doing to planet Earth.

“This assessment concludes, based on extensive evidence, that it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century,” the report states. “For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation supported by the extent of the observational evidence.”

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Trump Nominates Mike Griffin for Defense Post

Former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin

President Donald Trump has nominated former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin to serve as principal deputy under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics.

Griffin, who led the space agency from 2005 to 2009, was most recently chairman and CEO of the Schafer Corporation, a provider of scientific, engineering, and technical services and products in the national security sector.

In his new position, Griffin will serve as the principal staff assistant and advisor to the secretary of Defense and deputy secretary of Defense for all matters concerning acquisition, technology, and logistics.

During his stint at NASA, Griffin established the architecture for space shuttle replacement and human return to the Moon and initiated the first development of commercial cargo delivery service to Earth orbit in the agency’s history.

He is a recipient of the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal, the AIAA Space Systems Medal, and the Department of Defense Distinguished Public Service Medal.

Dr. Griffin is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, the Catholic University of America, the University of Maryland, the University of Southern California, Loyola College; and George Washington University.

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Trump Nominates AccuWeather CEO to Head Up NOAA

President Donald Trump has nominated AccuWeather CEO Barry Myers to head up the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Myers, an attorney by training, has led AccuWeather — based in State College, Pennsylvania — since 2007. This experience could prove useful if the US Senate confirms Myers as NOAA’s chief, given that the agency includes the US National Weather Service. But some scientists worry that Myers’ ties to AccuWeather could present conflicts of interest, and note that Myers has no direct experience with the agency’s broader research portfolio, which includes the climate, oceans and fisheries.

“I think the science community has real cause for concern,” says Andrew Rosenberg, head of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Cambridge, Massachusetts….

Myers will probably advance efforts to bring commercial weather data into the national weather-forecasting system, says Bill Gail, chief technology officer for the Global Weather Corporation in Boulder, Colorado. Still, Gail says, Myers respects the importance of the public sector in such activities. “I’ve got a lot of respect for him, and I think he could do a pretty good job,” adds Gail, the co-chair of a decadal survey of US Earth-science satellites being conducted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

Read the full story.

Union of Concerned Scientists Issues Action Alert Opposing Bridenstine

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

The Union of Concerned Scientists has issued an action alert urging citizens to write their senators to oppose the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to become the next NASA Administrator.

Representative Bridestine has recommended significantly altering NASA’s mission by stripping out all Earth science related work from Congress’s declared policy and purpose for NASA. NASA’s Earth science research advances understanding of how disasters like Hurricane Irma, Harvey, and Maria and droughts in the Upper Midwest form and allows us to better prepare and respond to extreme weather events across the country. The research is critical to the health and safety of the US public.

He also has a history of publicly questioning the cause of climate change. His public remarks suggest that his current understanding of Earth Science is largely informed by politically charged skeptics of climate change research. We need a NASA administrator who can differentiate science from politics.

The organization has an online form here: https://secure.ucsusa.org/onlineactions/CEVS143t_E-D-ScehUj4QA2

NASA Statement on National Space Council Policy on American Space Leadership

The following is a statement from acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot about the results from the first meeting of the National Space Council on Thursday:

“It was my pleasure today to attend the first meeting of the new National Space Council. The council includes government leaders from civil and military space, and the group also heard from space industry leaders. The council has historic roots in the earliest days of the Space Age, and it has been established by the president to streamline and coordinate national space policy.

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Previous Administration’s Promises to Return to the Moon

For anyone who forgot or is too young to remember, both Bush administrations launched programs to return American astronauts to the moon and send them off to Mars. The first plan was announced on July 20, 1989 to mark the 20th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. The second was unveiled 15 years later on Jan. 14, 2004, just under a year after the loss of the space shuttle Columbia.

Past isn’t necessarily prologue. NASA is in better shape to do something at the moon than is at the time when these two initiatives were unveiled. I would put forth the following reasons for optimism.

NASA is making progress on SLS and Orion, which are the two legacy systems from the second Bush Administration’s plan. No, they’re not the cheapest or most optimal vehicles to base the plan on, but there seems to be no appetite in the Trump Administration for a bruising battle with Congress over canceling them. Deal with it.

The commercial sector has grown substantially. NASA learning how to work with private companies on a partnership basis. And launch costs have been reduced due to SpaceX’s innovation on reusable vehicles.

Enormous amount of expertise has been accumulated on the International Space Station. The station’s international partners are eying the moon as the next step beyond ISS.

So, the conditions are there for venturing out to the moon. The question is whether the money will be there as well. Even with the participation of commercial space companies, NASA will need an executable plan and the funding to support it.

Jim Bridenstine Explains Why He is Qualified to be NASA Administrator

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) says that his leadership efforts in Congress on space issues qualifies him to serve as NASA administrator.

“For three terms in Congress, have led comprehensive, bipartisan, space reforms with the objective of preserving America’s preeminence and global leadership in space,” Bridenstine stated in a notarized document submitted to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

“These efforts have led me to a deep understanding of the complex challenges NASA will face bringing together traditional space companies and new space entrepreneurs into a comprehensive NASA vision for both exploration and science,” he added. “Traditional and new space companies are both critical to accelerating America’s space renaissance.”

In the document, which queried Bridenstine on his views and qualifications for NASA’s top job, the congressman listed NASA’s top three challenges as:
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What Might Happen to NASA’s Earth Science Programs Under Bridenstine?

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Imagine the following scenario: NASA’s Earth Science division gets its budget cut with key missions focused on climate change canceled.

The new NASA administrator then announces the division will be dismantled, with various programs divided among other federal departments, in order to better focus the space agency on exploration. The bulk of the programs end up at NOAA, which the NASA administrator says is a much more appropriate home for them.

NOAA, however, is already reeling from spending cuts. Struggling to perform its own forecasting duties on a reduced budget, the agency has little bandwidth to take on any additional responsibilities. And the funding allocated for the NASA programs that were just transferred over is woefully inadequate for the tasks at hand.

The result is a bureaucratic train wreck in which America’s Earth science and climate research programs gradually wither away due to mismanagement, neglect and lack of funding. The ability of the nation — and the world — to understand and address the changes the planet experiencing is greatly reduced. At some future date, another administration will have to rebuild a program in shambles that was once the envy of the world.

Sound far fetched? Think again. It could very well happen if the Trump Administration and the man it has nominated to lead NASA get what they want out of Congress.

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