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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NASA Shutting Down Asteroid Retrieval 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)

NASA is shutting down its Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), an Obama-era program that Congress gave little love and even less month.

In a presentation at a June 13 meeting of the Small Bodies Assessment Group (SBAG) here, Michele Gates, program director for ARM at NASA Headquarters, said the mission received its “notice of defunding” from agency leadership in April, weeks after a budget blueprint document for fiscal year 2018 released by the White House called for cancelling the mission.

“We are in an orderly closeout phase, capturing all the good work that has been done across the team, and transitioning activities as appropriate to other potential missions or archived for future use,” she said.

ARM called for sending a robotic spacecraft to a near Earth asteroid, where it would grab a boulder a few meters across from the asteroid’s surface and return it to cislunar space. Astronauts flying on an Orion spacecraft would then visit the boulder, performing studies and collecting samples for return to Earth.

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Bolden’s Statement Before Senate Appropriations Committee on NASA’s FY 2017 Budget

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden

Statement of
The Honorable Charles F. Bolden, Jr.
Administrator
National Aeronautics and Space Administration

before the

Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice,
Science, and Related Agencies
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, I am pleased to have this opportunity to discuss NASA’s FY 2017 budget request. The President is proposing an FY 2017 budget of more than $19 billion for NASA, building on the strong and consistent support NASA has received from this Committee and the Congress. This request, which includes both discretionary and mandatory funding, will allow NASA to continue to lead the world in space through a balanced program of exploration, science, technology, and aeronautics research.

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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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NASA Calls for American Industry Ideas on Asteroid Retrieval Spacecraft Development

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)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA, through its Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, has issued a call to American industry for innovative ideas on how the agency could obtain a core advanced solar electric propulsion-based spacecraft to support the Asteroid Redirect Robotic Mission (ARRM).

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NASA Asteroid Retrieval Mission Begins to Identify Targets

Asteroid Retrieval Mission (Credit: NASA)
Asteroid Retrieval Mission (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA is on the hunt to add potential candidate target asteroids for the agency’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM). The robotic mission will identify, capture and redirect a near-Earth asteroid to a stable orbit around the moon. In the 2020s, astronauts will explore the asteroid and return to Earth with samples. This will test and advance new technologies and spaceflight experience needed to take humans to Mars in the 2030s.

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Results of the NASA is Not Nominal Poll

NASA_Not_Nominal_Reasons_PollIn a recent poll, Parabolic Arc’s readers had very strong opinions about why the U.S. space program is not nominal.

Congress: ‘enuf said topped the list with 121 votes. Although readers were not give the opportunity to explain why they thought the venerable was doing a bad job, it’s most likely that it has repeated refused to fully fund requests for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Voters were not quite as critical of the Lack of White House leadership in space, which nonetheless came in third with 83 votes.

Just above that was Space Launch System: Deep Space Money Hole, with 89 votes.

Orion: a vehicle to nowhere garnered 56 votes or 31 percent of the total, indicating less criticism of that program than the rocket that will carry it into deep space.

NASA’s Lame ass Asteroid Retrieval Mission and No focus on return to the moon were tied for fifth place with 47 votes each, which represented 26 percent of the total vote.

Too many projects, too little money came in just below those two reasons with 46 votes.

Only eight voters believed that commercial crew is a dead end.

A big thank you to all those who voted. If you haven’t already done so, please vote in our current poll about Elon Musk’s fear of the upcoming Robocalypse.

Remember: Vote early! Vote often! Just vote, dammit! Vote!

Engineers Identify 12 Easily Retrievable Asteroids

asteroid_retrieval_nasa
The authors of a newly published scientific paper have identified a dozen asteroids that can be easily moved to stable locations near Earth for scientific investigation and mining using current technologies.

“This paper has shown that the retrieval of a full asteroid is well within today’s technological capabilities, and that there exists a series of objects with potential to be temporarily captured into libration point orbits,” the three authors write. “We define these objects as Easily Retrievable Objects (EROs)….Indeed, the paper presents a list of 12 EROs, with a total of 25 trajectories to periodic orbits near L2 and 6 near L1 below a cost of 500 m/s, and the number of these objects is expected to grow considerably in the coming years.”

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Garver’s Departure Leaves NewSpace Without its Highest Ranking Advocate

NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver talks during a press conference with Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser spacecraft in the background on Saturday, Feb. 5, 2011, at the University of Colorado at Boulder.  Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser spacecraft is under development with support from NASA's Commercial Crew Development Program to provide crew transportation to and from low Earth orbit. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver talks during a press conference with Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser spacecraft in the background on Saturday, Feb. 5, 2011, at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser spacecraft is under development with support from NASA’s Commercial Crew Development Program to provide crew transportation to and from low Earth orbit. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Aviation Week takes a closer look at Deputy Administrator Lori Garver’s impending Sept. 6 departure from NASA. Frank Morring, Jr. notes that Garver has been the major driver behind the agency’s controversial push for commercial space activities as well as the plan to capture an asteroid and have astronauts visit it. He also notes the following:

Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot, the agency’s No. 3 manager and top-ranking civil servant, is a likely possibility to fill Garver’s post on an acting basis until the White House can nominate another political appointee….

Garver’s departure will come on the heels of Elizabeth Robinson, the agency’s chief financial officer, who has been named under secretary of energy. Robinson and Garver were staunch allies in the often-heated management policy debates that pitted them against more traditional NASA managers, including Administrator Charles Bolden.

The announcement of Garver’s departure has already caused consternation among her supporters in the NewSpace community, who are losing their highest ranked advocate at the space agency at a critical time when Congress and the White House are at loggerheads over the space agency’s funding and direction.

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Garver: Overwhelming Response to Asteroid Mission

Deputy NASA Administrator Lori Garver
Deputy NASA Administrator Lori Garver

Last week, Deputy Administrator Lori Garver met with reporters after giving a keynote address at the NewSpace 2013 Conference in San Jose, Calif.

In this excerpt from the discussion, Garver makes some opening remarks about NASA’s proposed Asteroid Retrieval Mission and its Grand Challenge to protect the Earth from asteroid impacts before taking questions.

Lori Garver: As we’ve announced today, we are really excited about the overwhelming response to the RFI because we have ourselves, we believe, not only a mission but the grand challenge that does offer opportunities for space development and for our space program that are so aligned with the nation’s goals and with our existing programs.

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NASA Technical Workshop on Asteroids Tentatively Set for Late September

asteroid_eros
A note from NASA:

As follow-up to the Asteroid Initiative Request for Information, please hold September 30-October 2
for a technical workshop at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas, to discuss both the Asteroid Redirect Mission and the Grand Challenge. Virtual participation options will be available during the workshop, so please mark your calendar even if you aren’t able to travel to Houston during that time.

Further details will be posted on the RFI page by August 12, and we will send an e-mail follow-up with more specific information as it becomes available.

For more information about the Asteroid Initiative, visit www.nasa.gov/asteroidinitiative.

NASA Crowd Sources its Future

asteroid_retrieval_nasa
Crowd sourcing.

It has become ubiquitous in today’s wired world.

Kickstarter campaigns are run for everything from funding trips to building asteroid hunting telescopes. Need a design for something? Describe your project, have designers put forth their best efforts, and purchase the one you like the best.

Now crowd sourcing has come to NASA. And the space agency is doing it for the boldest human spaceflight initiative since Apollo program sent men to the moon more than 40 years ago.

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Palazzopalooza ’13: A Giant Leap Backward

edith-archie-bunker-piano
Like House Republicans, Archie and Edith Bunker yearned for an earlier, simpler era that never really existed. Well, Archie more than Edith. And, at least he was very funny. Congress…not so much. (Credit: CBS Television)

“Boy the way Beatles played
Songs from Sgt. Pepper’s parade.
Guys like us we had it made,
Those were the days….”

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

In this edition of “Palazzopalooza: We’ll Bamboozle Ya!,” we look at how the House’s nostalgia for the past is preventing it from dealing with the realities of the present.

Today’s conservative Republicans are by far the most nostalgic of Americans. They yearn for a earlier, simpler time when America was a far more perfect union. Unfortunately, their visions are often rather selective, ignoring unpleasant realities of the past and the limitations of the present day.

This is, sadly, what we see in the NASA budget the House passed last week. Just how far in the past are Congressmen living? Decades.

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European Mull Participation in NASA’s Asteroid Retrieval Mission

asteroid_retrieval_nasa
Aviation Week
reports that European space officials will spend the summer reviewing the prospects of NASA’s asteroid retrieval mission even as the proposal struggles to gain support in Congress:

Jean Jacques Dordain, director general of the European Space Agency (ESA), told Bolden he has set up a multi-agency working group headed by ESA human-spaceflight chief Thomas Reiter “tasked to elaborate a coherent approach with regard to your new initiative.”

Representatives of the national space agencies of France, Germany, Italy and the U.K. will participate in the working group, with a report due from ESA to NASA in September, Dordain told Bolden in a June 20 letter.

“[W]e welcome this new initiative and are ready to support discussions on potential cooperation that would strengthen ongoing and future space exploration activities to be performed in an international framework,” Dordain wrote.

However, he noted that ESA’s human spaceflight strategy includes the International Space Station in low Earth orbit, the Moon and Mars. NASA’s idea is to capture a small near-Earth asteroid, nudge it into high retrograde lunar orbit with solar electric propulsion, and send astronauts in an Orion crew vehicle to study it.

Read the full story.

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NASA Asteroid Retrieval Industry Day to be Webcast on Tuesday

asteroid_retrieval_nasa
WASHINGTON  (NASA PR) —
Deputy Administrator Lori Garver and other senior NASA officials will discuss the progress being made on NASA’s mission to capture, redirect, and explore an asteroid June 18.

The event will be webcast live at: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nasa-hq

Officials will also outline engagement opportunities for industry, international partners and the general public at the event, which will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. EDT in the James Webb Auditorium of NASA Headquarters at 300 E St. SW in Washington.

In addition to Garver and Lightfoot, mission directorate associate administrators William Gerstenmaier, John Grunsfeld, and Michael Gazarik will give an overview of the work being done on NASA’s asteroid mission. Jason Kessler, representing the agency’s chief technologist, will talk about how NASA plans to increase partnerships and citizen science participation in NASA’s effort to find and plan for all asteroid threats.

For more information about NASA’s asteroid initiative, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/asteroidinitiative