It looks as if the Trump Administration’s goal of landing astronauts on the moon in 2024 is expiring at about the same time as the administration itself. The fatal blow is being struck by Congress, not the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden.
The Senate Appropriations Committee has released a fiscal year 2021 funding bill that includes $1 billion for NASA to Human Landing System (HLS) that will take astronauts to and from the lunar surface as part of the Artemis program. The amount is far short of the $3.2 billion that NASA has said is needed for HLS to keep the 2024 landing on schedule.
In a decision that has disappointed his supporters, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine plans to leave his position even if president-elect Joe Biden asked him to stay.
Irene Klotz broke the news in Aviation Week. The story is behind a paywall, but Klotz did tweet:
“You need somebody who has a close relationship with the president of the U.S. … somebody trusted by the administration…. including OMB, National Space Council, National Security Council. I think I would not be the right person for that in a new administration –Bridenstine
Agency administrators usually change when a new president comes in, particularly if he is from a different party. Bridenstine is a former Republican Congressman from Oklahoma appointed by President Donald Trump, who was defeated by his Democratic opponent Biden last week.
Former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly has won election to the U.S. Senate from the state of Arizona, joining a small group of space explorers subsequently elected to serve in Congress.
The Associated Press reports that with 83 percent of the votes in, Kelly has 1,444,645 votes (52.6 percent) while Republican Sen. Martha McSally trails with 1,300,119 votes (47.4 percent). Kelly has declared victory and McSally has conceded the race.
Kelly, a Democrat who flew aboard the space shuttle four times, and McSally competed in a special election to fill the last two years of the late Republican Sen. John McCain’s six year term.
With the West Coast ablaze with wildfires and rising seas threatening to flood coastlines, the man who called global warming a Chinese hoax is filling two top jobs at the U.S. government’s premiere weather and climate agency with people who don’t believe warming is a problem.
The Washington Postreported that President Donald Trump has tapped Ryan Maue to fill the post of chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The House Appropriations Committee has criticized the Trump Administration’s “ominous shift away” from legacy NASA programs in favor of a “politically motivated timeline” aimed at returning astronauts to the lunar surface in 2024 under the Artemis program.
“NASA’s fiscal year 2021 request, much like the 2020 amended budget request, reflected the Administration’s ominous shift away from legacy programs and programs with clear environmental and educational benefits,” the committee in a report on its funding bill.
NOAA might finally get a permanent — if that is the right word –administrator more than three years into President Donald Trump’s four-year term.
The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation approved the nomination of Neil Jacobs to become under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere, a position that includes serving as NOAA administrator.
WASHINGTON (Sens. Udall & Kaine PR) —Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.), both members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced a resolution to maintain U.S. leadership in protecting satellites and spacecraft in Earth’s orbit from space debris and ensuring that all nations cooperate to promote the peaceful use of space for research and commercial purposes. The resolution prioritizes the implementation of the United Nations Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space guidelines negotiated between the U.S. delegation to the United Nations and 92 countries.
“Peaceful and safe innovation in space is a foundation of today’s interconnected world—and necessary for our future security and prosperity,” Udall said. “From satellites that support our service members and send information to our smartphones at the speed of light, to scientific research that leads to breakthroughs back on earth, as well as a nascent tourist economy, outer space is both a strategic priority and an economic engine for communities around the world. Cooperative use of space is especially important in my home state of New Mexico – where our space economy is thriving. I introduced this resolution with Senator Kaine to maintain U.S. leadership in international space cooperation, prevent collisions which could make space too dangerous to use, and reinforce the United States’ position as a leader of a coalition of nations pushing the bounds of human discovery.”
Officials at Orbital ATK and ULA breathed sighs of relief on Thursday as the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly to exempt rocket engines from a sanctions bill targeting Iran and Russia.
The amendment to the sanctions measure exempted RD-180 engines used by ULA in the first stage of its Atlas V booster and the RD-181 engines Orbital ATK uses in the first stage of its Antares launch vehicle. Both engines are produced by NPO Energomash of Russia.
The U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and related agencies (CJS) has finished marking up the FY 2013 budget. Looks like much of the same, with money ladled on massively expensive programs and a $305 million reduction in the President’s request for commercial crew: [Update: The House has weighed in with its own budget, which does the same thing in a more extreme fashion — see below]
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is funded at $19.4 billion, an increase of $1.6 billion over the fiscal year 2012 enacted level. The large increase results from a reorganization of operational weather satellite procurement from NOAA into NASA. Without the funds for weather satellite procurement, this level represents a $41.5 million cut from the fiscal year 2012 enacted level.
Funding for the development of the Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle is $1.2 billion, the same as fiscal year 2012. Heavy lift Space Launch System (SLS) development is funded at $1.5 billion, $21 million less than fiscal year 2012. The bill also provides $244 million for construction needed to build, test, and operate Orion and SLS. Commercial crew development is provided $525 million, an increase of $119 million above fiscal year 2012.
U.S. Senators from both sides of the aisle publicly questioned NASA’s strategy of relying on Russian transport to the International Space Station between the end of the shuttle program and the beginning of Orion and Ares, CongressDaily reports.
During a hearing last week, senators complained that President George Bush’s proposed $17.6 billion NASA budget would slow a transition that could already result in a years-long flight gap when the shuttle is retired in 2010. The concerns come amid worsening U.S.-Russian relations.
NASA Administrator Mike Griffin acknowledged that a risk exists but that this is the most reasonable strategy available. The U.S. will spend about $2 billion for Russia to provide Soyuz and Progress transportation vehicles to the station through 2012. Griffin had no estimate on how much four additional years of services might cost.
Meanwhile, there seemed to be general agreement that NASA needs a waiver from a U.S. law that would prevent it from purchasing services from Russia if the Russia government continues its support of Iran’s nuclear program.