During the National Space Council meeting in March. Vice President Mike Pence declared that the United States was in a space race with China. That declaration was not particularly newsworthy; China’s military-run space program has been surging in recent years as the emerging Asian superpower seeks superiority on the high frontier.
Pence did raise some eyebrows when he used China’s rise to justify move up America’s return to the moon by four years from 2028 to 2024. Was China’s human spaceflight program really planning to move that quickly? Does the moon have that much strategic value? Were the two nations really in a race to the lunar surface?
When President Donald Trump charged NASA with returning to the Moon, he specified that we partner with industry and other nations to make it possible. Today, on the first day of the 35thSpace Symposium in Colorado we continue our commitment to work with innovative partners as we chart our path forward to the moon in 2024.
The Space Symposium provided me and the NASA team a unique opportunity for dialogue, as it is the first major international public forum to discuss President Trump’s and Vice President Pence’s 2024 moon challenge. Earlier today I met with several members of the international community to discuss our lunar exploration plans and reiterated NASA’s commitment to move forward to the Moon with strong international collaboration.
The following is a statement from NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on Tuesday’s announcement by Vice President Mike Pence, at the fifth meeting of the National Space Council, about putting American astronauts back on the Moon in the next five years:
“Today, I joined leaders from across the country as Vice President Mike Pence chaired the fifth meeting of the National Space Council. Vice President Pence lauded President Donald J. Trump’s bold vision for space exploration and spoke to NASA’s progress on key elements to accomplish the President’s Space Policy Directives.
If you’ve been puzzling over exactly why NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine suddenly floated the idea of flying the first Orion space capsule to the moon next year without the Space Launch System (SLS), The Washington Post has a couple of answers today:
SLS is much further behind schedule than anyone knew; and,
Last week, we took a look at the significant increase in NASA’s budget for FY 2019. In this story, we will examine the budget increases for the Commerce Department — which manages the nation’s weather satellites — and the Department of Transportation, which oversees commercial launches. We will also take a look how the White House’s National Space Council fared.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
NOAA’s satellite programs received $1,45 billion, which is an increase of $55 million over FY 2018. The bulk of the funding is designated for the GOES-R, Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) and Polar Follow-on (PFO) programs. The amounts include:
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA and the Departments of State and Commerce have submitted a report to the National Space Council outlining future opportunities and challenges for human spaceflight in low-Earth orbit (LEO), and its potential economic contributions to the broader field of exploration.
The National Space Council requested NASA lead an interagency effort to produce the report, entitled ‘A Strategy for Human Spaceflight in Low Earth Orbit and Economic Growth in Space,’ during its February meeting.
The National Space Council today approved six recommendations to the president concerning the establishment of a Space Force as the sixth branch of the Armed Services.
The six recommendations presented include:
Forming a United States Space Command to control our space forces and develop the tactics, techniques, and procedures for military space operations.
Establishing the Space Force as a separate and distinct branch of the military whose mission will be to organize, train, and equip combat space forces.
Calling on Congress to authorize the establishment of a Space Force and provide funding for the United States Space Command.
Launching a joint review by the National Space Council and National Security Council of existing space operational authorities for meeting national security objectives, informed by DOD’s assessment of the authorities required.
Creating a Space Development Agency to ensure Americans in the Space Force have cutting-edge warfighting capabilities.
Creating collaborative mechanisms with the Intelligence Community to improve unity of efforts for the development of space capabilities and operations.
The approvals came after the council, which is chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, heard from three experts who said that establishing an independent Space Force was essential to meeting the growing threats posed to the United States by foreign adversaries.
The White House also published a press release today outlining plans for the Space Force.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine gave an update on the investigation into the aborted launch of a crew flight to the International Space Station. He said he was confident that Russia will have resolved the problem in time to launch a new crew to the International Space Station in December as planned.
Earlier today, Donald Trump bragged about the booming economy, defended his policy of separating refugee parents from their children, declared that one of his favorite places to visit is Alabama, and threatened to fire a new agency head if he screwed up.
In other words, a pretty standard rally speech he probably gave in Birmingham, Montgomery or someplace else in the Yellowhammer State (it’s a bird).
Only, in this case, he was in the White House at the third meeting of the National Space Council, whose agenda focused on space traffic management and how to leverage commercial activities in exploring the moon.
Trump didn’t disappoint here, either. Overshadowing the progress in these areas and the efforts of his vice president, Mike Pence, who chairs the council, Trump ordered the Pentagon to create an independent, separate but equal branch of the military: the Space Force. This new military service, which would be carved primarily out of the U.S. Air Force, would enable the America to dominate space, the president said.
Of course, Trump can’t simply order the Pentagon to do something so momentous; it will require the ascent of Congress, as Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) helpfully pointed out.
The president told a US general to create a new Space Force as 6th branch of military today, which generals tell me they don’t want. Thankfully the president can’t do it without Congress because now is NOT the time to rip the Air Force apart. Too many important missions at stake. https://t.co/uYzqg1W8nE
A similar message came from the office of Defense Secretary James Mattis.
“Our Policy Board will begin working on this issue, which has implications for intelligence operations for the Air Force, Army, Marines and Navy,” spokeswoman Dana White said in a statement. “Working with Congress, this will be a deliberate process with a great deal of input from multiple stakeholders.”
So, stay tuned. The political fight has just begun.
Although there is no published agenda, one likely topic of discussion is Space Policy Directive 3, which is focused on how the government will handle space traffic management.
The Space Council’s Users Advisory Group is scheduled to meet on Monday at NASA headquarters from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. EDT. The meeting will be webcast via Webex and be available via phone dial up.
Andy Pasztor of The Wall Street Journal reports that former House speaker Newt Gingrich and former NASA Ames Director Pete Worden have been dumped from the advisory group due to issues involving their business and financial ties.
SpaceX has scrubbed the launch of NASA’s TESS exo-planet hunting satellite, which had been planned for Monday evening.
“Standing down today to conduct additional GNC analysis, and teams are now working towards a targeted launch of @NASA_TESS on Wednesday, April 18,” the company tweeted.
Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence addressed the 34th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs earlier today. He made the following announcements:
Ret. Adm. Jim Ellis has been named to lead the National Space Council’s Users Advisory Group; and,
The space council has come up with a set of guidelines on space traffic management that will be signed by President Donald Trump and implemented by the Commerce Department. A key goal of the new guidelines is to deal with the threat of orbital debris.