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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Bridenstine Proposed Radical Restructuring of NASA Oversight Last Year

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Donald Trump’s nominee to become administrator of NASA proposed a fundamental overhaul of how the space agency would be run last year.

Rep. Jim Bridenstine’s (R-OK) American Space Renaissance Act (ASRA) proposes the establishment of a 21-member board to oversee the space agency, giving the NASA administrator a five-year term, and the creation of 10- and 20-year strategic plans.

The overarching goal of these proposals is to insulate the space agency from changes in direction each time a new presidential administration takes over.

ASRA was a catch-all bill that contained proposals for broad changes to the nation’s civil, military and commercial space efforts. Bridenstine did not intend the ASRA to be passed as a single bill but as a series of individual measures. Congress has not taken up any of the NASA management reforms included in bill.

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Coalition for Deep Space Exploration Backs Bridenstine Nomination

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

WASHINGTON, D.C.The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration (Coalition) welcomes the Trump Administration’s continuing commitment to human space exploration, space science, and the economic development of space with the nomination of U.S. Representative Jim Bridenstine for NASA Administrator.

“Together with the establishment of the National Space Council chaired by Vice President Pence, this step advances the framework for U.S. leadership in space,” said Dr. Mary Lynne Dittmar, President and CEO of the Coalition. “Rep. Bridenstine has been an active and vocal advocate for space on Capitol Hill. We look forward to working with NASA’s new leadership team to support NASA’s development of a deep space infrastructure for human spaceflight, beginning with the Space Launch System, Orion crew vehicle and Exploration Ground Systems. Other exciting developments include the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope and Mars Insight in 2018, progress on future deep space exploration and science platforms such as Mars 2020, Europa Clipper and the Wide Field Infrared Space Telescope, and ongoing science, exploration, international cooperation and economic development enabled by the International Space Station, leading to the eventual extension of new ventures and technology into deep space.”

“The Coalition— representing thousands of Americans working in the space industry, including many small business suppliers and manufacturers across the country— stands ready to support the new NASA leadership team and looks forward to working together as we embark on this exciting new era of deep space science and human exploration.”

About the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration

The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration is a national organization of more than 70 space industry businesses and advocacy groups focused on ensuring the United States remains a leader in space, science and technology. Based in Washington D.C., the Coalition engages in outreach and education reinforcing the value and benefits of human space exploration and space science with the public and our nation’s leaders, building lasting support for a long-term, sustainable, strategic direction for our nation’s space program.

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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Pence Promises Return to the Moon & Boots on Mars

Mike Pence

Vice President and newly minted Chairman of the revived National Space Council Mike Pence visited NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Thursday where he gave a speech promising a return to the moon and boots on Mars.

When? How? What will it cost? And how are we going to pay for it?

Pence didn’t get into that level of granularity. In fact, he didn’t get into very many details at all during his address to KSC employees.

Pence’s speech consisted of a lot of platitudes delivered with attitude and lots of latitude as to what it all meant in practice.

If you watched it and were baffled, welcome to the club. That seems to be the consensus of the media coverage I’ve seen so far among reporters who cover space.

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Vice President Pence to Visit NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

Mike Pence

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — Vice President Mike Pence will visit NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday, July 6.

NASA Television and the agency’s website will provide live coverage for parts of the visit starting at noon EDT with Air Force Two’s arrival at Kennedy’s Shuttle Landing Facility runway, as well as a special address to the center’s workforce at 12:50 p.m.

The Vice President will tour Kennedy and learn more about the center’s work as a multi-user spaceport for commercial and government clients, as well as see the agency’s progress toward launching from U.S. soil on spacecraft built by American companies, and traveling past the moon, and eventually on to Mars and beyond with the help of NASA’s new Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket.

For more information about NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/kennedy

NASA Statement on Revival of National Space Council

Robert Lightfoot

The following is a statement from acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot about Friday’s Executive Order creating the National Space Council:

“I am pleased that President Trump has signed an executive order reestablishing the National Space Council. The council existed previously from 1989-1993, and a version of it also existed as the National Aeronautics and Space Council from 1958-1973. As such, the council has guided NASA from our earliest days and can help us achieve the many ambitious milestones we are striving for today.

“This high-level group advises the president and comprises the leaders of government agencies with a stake in space, including the NASA administrator, the Secretaries of State, Commerce, Defense, and others, and will be chaired by Vice President Mike Pence. It will help ensure that all aspects of the nation’s space power — national security, commerce, international relations, exploration, and science, are coordinated and aligned to best serve the American people. A Users’ Advisory Group also will be convened so that the interests of industries and other non-federal entities are represented.

“The establishment of the council is another demonstration of the Trump Administration’s deep interest in our work, and a testament to the importance of space exploration to our economy, our nation, and the planet as a whole.”

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Executive Order Reviving the National Space Council

President Donald Trump signs an executive order reviving the National Space Council. (Credit: The White House)

EXECUTIVE ORDER

REVIVING THE NATIONAL SPACE COUNCIL

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to provide a coordinated process for developing and monitoring the implementation of national space policy and strategy, it is hereby ordered as follows:
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Will NASA Suffer as Trump Administration Tightens Control?

Mike Pence

President Donald Trump has signed an executive order reconstituting the National Space Council under Vice President Mike Pence to better coordinate space policy and activities across the government.

Experts are split on whether the council will succeed in its goal or simply add another level of frustrating bureaucracy on top of the existing system.

There is another concern, however, that has received minimal attention thus far.

This is the first step of the White House imposing more control over NASA. Step 2 will come when Trump gets around to nominating a new administrator and deputy administrator to lead the space agency.

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Pence Promises Strong NASA, Provides Few Specifics

Mike Pence

Expectations were middling for Vice President Mike Pence’s appearance at an event in Houston during which NASA introduced its new class of astronaut candidates. He did not disappoint.

There were some hopes he might announce the nomination of a new NASA administrator. Or some new program. Or something newsworthy.

None of that happened. Pence did give a well-delivered speech long on platitudes, promises and soaring rhetoric about exploring the reaches of space but short on specifics.

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Pence to Welcome New Astronaut Candidates at NASA Johnson

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Vice President Mike Pence will visit NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston on Wednesday, June 7, to welcome America’s newest astronaut candidates, chosen from more than 18,000 applicants to carry the torch for future human space exploration.

The event will air live at 2 p.m. EDT on NASA Television and the agency’s website. Additionally, the Vice President will tour the Christopher C. Kraft Jr. Mission Control Center and hear briefings on current human spaceflight operations.

The new astronaut candidates could one day be performing research on the International Space Station, launching from American soil aboard spacecraft built by American companies, and traveling to the moon or even Mars with the help of NASA’s new Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket.

Get more information on astronaut selection and information on the candidates after their introduction at:

https://www.nasa.gov/2017astronauts

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Trump Threatens Boeing Air Force One Contract After CEO Criticizes Trade Policies

In what could be a preview of things to come, Donald Trump today threatened The Boeing Company with the cancellation of a $3 billion U.S. Air Force contract to replace the fleet of Air Force One aircraft.

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Space & Politics Collide in GOP Convention

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

The Republican Convention starts on Monday, and the event is already stirring up some controversy. (Donald Trump? Controversy? Nooo….how could that be?)

Former NASA astronaut Eileen Collins, who became the first woman to command a space shuttle before the space agency retired the ones it had left to museums, is scheduled to speak during the convention at which delegates are schedule to nominate Trump for President.

There’s a move a foot to free the delegates to vote for another candidate, an effort that doesn’t seem likely to succeed, but is almost sure to cause violence if it did.

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