Bridenstine Nomination to Head NASA Faces Opposition From Nelson, Rubio

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

President Donald Trump’s long expected nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to become the next administrator of NASA ran into immediate trouble on Capitol Hill after it was announced on Friday.

Florida’s two Senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, both expressed serious concerns about appointing the three-term Congressman and former U.S. Navy pilot to lead the nation’s space agency.

“The head of NASA ought to be a space professional, not a politician,” Nelson said in a brief written statement to POLITICO.
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And the New NASA Administrator is Probably….Wait for it….

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

This guy.

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK).

That’s what a couple of websites (here and here) are reporting this evening, with the caveat that — this being “Trump world” — anything could happen between now and the formal announcement planned for September or perhaps earlier.

Surprised?

You shouldn’t be.

During his three terms Congress, Bridenstine has made himself an expert in space policy, with a particular focus on promoting commercial space. He’s also been campaigning for the job since Trump was elected (and probably before). Bridenstine will also be in need of a new job soon. He promised voters he would serve a maximum of six years in the House, which means he won’t be standing for re-election next November.

The Trump Administration has also settled on a deputy administrator. That guy’s name is…

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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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Posey Introduces Legislation to Allow Passengers on Experimental Aircraft

WhiteKnightTwo back safely on the runway after a successful SpaceShipTwo glide flight. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) has introduced legislation that would authorize experimental aircraft such as WhiteKnightTwo to carry spaceflight participants and crew for training and research purposes.

The measure, which is co-sponsored by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), would enable Virgin Galactic and other operators to avoid the time consuming and expensive process of having their aircraft undergo FAA certification.

WhiteKnightTwo is the carrier aircraft for Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo suborbital space plane. The company wants to use the vehicle to train spaceflight participants and to conduct microgravity research.

In addition to WhiteKnightTwo, H.R.2571 could open the door for passengers to train aboard retired military jet fighters.

The legislation has been on the wish list of Virgin Galactic and the commercial spaceflight industry for a number of years.

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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Members of Congress Urge DARPA to Reconsider Satellite Servicing Program

Four members of Congress have sent letters to DARPA asking the defense agency to review a satellite servicing program they believe duplicates other efforts by a commercial company and NASA.

“We are concerned that DARPA’s Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellite (RSGS) program is duplicating commercial investment and capability in violation of National Space Policy and contrary to the best interests of taxpayers,” reads one letter signed by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA).

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The Year Ahead in Space

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)
Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

It’s going to be busy year in space in 2017. Here’s a look at what we can expect over the next 12 months.

A New Direction for NASA?

NASA’s focus under the Obama Administration has been to try to commercialize Earth orbit while creating a foundation that would allow the space agency to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030’s.

Whether Mars will remain a priority under the incoming Trump Administration remains to be seen. There is a possibility Trump will refocus the space agency on lunar missions instead.

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), who is currently viewed as a leading candidate for NASA administrator, has written two blog posts focused on the importance of exploring the moon and developing its resources. Of course, whether Bridenstine will get NASA’s top job is unclear at this time.

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Bridenstine Weighs in Favor of Lunar Development

Rep. Jim Bridenstine
Rep. Jim Bridenstine

In a Dec. 29 blog post titled, Why the Moon Matters, Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) calls for the United States to focus on the economic and strategic benefits of the moon.

Bridenstine is reported to be a leading candidate for the position of NASA administrator in the Trump Administration. The space agency is focused on sending astronauts to Mars in the 2030’s. However, the new administration might refocus NASA on returning astronauts to the moon.

Here’s an excerpt from the blog post.

Utilizing propellant and materials on the Moon is also the first step for manned missions deeper into our solar system.  A permanent human presence on other celestial bodies requires in situ resource utilization.  The Moon, with its three-day emergency journey back to Earth, represents the best place to learn, train, and develop the necessary technologies and techniques for in situ resource utilization and an eventual long term human presence on Mars.  Fortunately, the Space Launch System and Orion are close to being developed and will start testing in 2018.  This system, with a commercial lander, could quickly place machines and robots on the moon to begin the cis-lunar economy.  With the right presidential guidance, humans could return in short order as well…this time, to stay.
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Report: Bridenstine Leading Candidate for NASA Administrator

Rep. Jim Bridenstine
Rep. Jim Bridenstine

Andy Pasztor of The Wall Street Journal reports on the decision process for NASA Administrator:

Rep. Jim Bridenstine, an Oklahoma Republican with a record supporting both commercial space ventures and traditional manned exploration programs, appears to be the leading candidate to become the next NASA administrator, according to people familiar with the matter.

The lawmaker’s name emerged early during the Trump administration transition process, and he has been interviewed by Vice President-elect Mike Pence, these people said. But they emphasized that Mr. Bridenstine, a former Navy pilot who has actively sought the position, still is waiting for a final signoff by President-elect Donald Trump and top aides….

Picking Rep. Bridenstine to run NASA could help bridge some of the deep policy and philosophical disagreements that have split the Trump transition effort involving the agency. Most members of the team assigned to NASA are associated with big-ticket programs favored by longstanding agency contractors, while a separate faction wants to emphasize commercial initiatives and novel funding strategies….

Mr. Bridenstine has a history of backing commercial space tugs and taxis to ferry cargo and eventually U.S. astronauts to the international space station. But he also is considered a proponent of existing exploration programs backed by Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin Corp. and other legacy contractors.

The story says that Bridenstine’s prospects of becoming the next U.S. Air Force secretary appear to have faded.

Meanwhile, Bridenstine has authored a blog post on the importance of the moon as our next destination in space.

Harper, Trump & Science a la Carte: A Warning From Canada

Stephen Harper and cat.
Stephen Harper and cats.

Canadian science writer Graham Templeton says the election of Donald Trump and a Republican controlled Congress threatens a repeat of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s nine-year war on science.

Though Americans might be surprised to hear it, Canada offers a good example of why there is a very real need to worry, and of how the coming anti-science administration could realistically affect all of national research. My home and native land has been a fair ways down the road America is just now preparing to travel and, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the endpoint is absolutely disastrous….

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New NASA Administrator Names: Bridenstine, Griffin, Collins & Albrecht

Rep. Jim Bridenstine
Rep. Jim Bridenstine

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) is a leading candidate  to replace Charlie Bolden as the new NASA Administrator when President Barack Obama’s term ends in January.

“He’s made it clear to the campaign that if asked to serve as NASA Administrator or Air Force secretary, he would be willing,” the official said. The person added that there would likely be “a clearer path to NASA” than the Air Force.

Other names that have been circulated include: former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin, who served under President George W. Bush; former astronaut Collins, who spoke during the Republican National Convention in support of Trump; and space veteran Mark Albrecht, who served as executive secretary of the National Space Council under President George H.W. Bush.

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Smith, Bridenstine Congratulate Spire on NOAA Contract

spire_logo2WASHINGTON (House Science Committee PR) — U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX21), chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, along with U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK1), chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment for the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, today released the following statements congratulating Spire, Inc., a private sector weather company, on earning the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration first contract to acquire data from a commercial weather satellite constellation. Spire has been hired to provide GPS Radio Occultation data to increase weather forecasting.

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Study Finds FAA Could Take Over Space Situational Awareness from Air Force

In addition to active satellites, a large number of items of debris that originated from collisions, decommissioned satellites or the spent upper stages of launch vehicles are currently in Earth orbit. Credit: ESA.
In addition to active satellites, a large number of items of debris that originated from collisions, decommissioned satellites or the spent upper stages of launch vehicles are currently in Earth orbit. Credit: ESA.

A Department of Transportation (DOT) review has found that it would be possible for it to take over responsibility for space situational awareness from the U.S. Air Force.

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Bridenstine’s Bill Would Radically Restructure NASA

NASA LOGOBy Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA would be given a mandate to pioneer the development and settlement of space and a commission dominated by Congressional appointees to oversee those efforts under a bill proposed by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK).

The measure’s basic premise is that NASA’s problems stem from unstable presidential commitments to space exploration as opposed to Congress’ tendency to support expensive programs that bring funding into particular states and districts.

“Over the past twenty years, 27 NASA programs have been cancelled at a cost of over $20 billion to the taxpayer,” according to a statement on a website devoted to the measure. “Many of these have come as a result of changes in presidential administrations.

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Congressman Backs Space Renaissance Act, Death Ray Weapons

Doug Lamborn
Doug Lamborn

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Doug Lamborn PR) — Congressman Doug Lamborn has partnered with Congressman Jim Bridenstine (OK-01) as an original cosponsor on the American Space Renaissance Act. This legislation will permanently secure the United States as the world’s preeminent space-faring nation. The comprehensive and bold reform bill covers national security, civil, and commercial space policies and programs.

Lamborn and Jim Langevin (RI-02) have partnered to introduce a House companion bill to legislation introduced in the Senate by Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and James Inhofe (R-OK) designed to allow the military an accelerated process to acquire Directed Energy weapons.

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