Obama Administration Highlights Space Achievements in Exit Memo

Astronaut Cady Coleman speaks to a group of fifty fourth-grade Girl Scouts about her time in space, at the first-ever White House Campout, hosted by the First Lady as part of the Let's Move! Outside initiative on Tuesday, June 30, 2015 in Washington, DC. NASA also provided telescopes and led a stargazing activity. {Credits: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)
Astronaut Cady Coleman speaks to a group of fifty fourth-grade Girl Scouts about her time in space, at the first-ever White House Campout, hosted by the First Lady as part of the Let’s Move! Outside initiative on Tuesday, June 30, 2015 in Washington, DC. NASA also provided telescopes and led a stargazing activity. {Credits: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has released an exit memo highlighting the Obama Administration’s achievements in science and technology.  Excerpts covering achievements in space follows.
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White House Announces $110 Million in New Smallsat Investments

Spacecraft specialists prepare spacecraft to perform the Edison Demonstration of Smallsat Networks (EDSN) mission. (Credit: NASA Ames Research Center)
Spacecraft specialists prepare spacecraft to perform the Edison Demonstration of Smallsat Networks (EDSN) mission. (Credit: NASA Ames Research Center)

Federal Agencies announce more than $100 million in new investments to develop small satellite systems and technology.

by Thomas Kalil
Deputy Director for Policy
White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

This past October, the White House announced the “Harnessing the Small Satellite Revolution” initiative. As part of the initiative, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and other Federal agencies identified multiple opportunities to encourage both government and private sector use of small spacecraft for a variety of applications, some of which were showcased at The White House Frontiers Conference in Pittsburgh.

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Smith, Babin Examine Policy Governing Indian Launch Vehicles

Lamar Smith
Lamar Smith

WASHINGTON (House Science Committee PR) – Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Space Subcommittee Chairman Brian Babin (R-Texas) yesterday sent letters to four senior officials following up on requests for information about the current U.S. policy governing the export of U.S. commercial satellites for launch on Indian launch vehicles.

On July 6 Chairmen Smith and Babin wrote Director of Office of Science and Technology Policy John Holdren, Secretary of State John Kerry, United States Trade Representative Michael Froman, and U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, seeking this information.

Yesterday’s letters reiterate requests for a briefing and documentation on the current U.S. policy. The letters can be found here.

Harnessing the Small Satellite Revolution

Members of the NASA Ames Nodes Integration & Test team ready to integrate the Nodes 1 and 2 spacecraft (forefront) into the Nanoracks dispenser.(Credit: NASA)
Members of the NASA Ames Nodes Integration & Test team ready to integrate the Nodes 1 and 2 spacecraft (forefront) into the Nanoracks dispenser.(Credit: NASA)

by Steve Fetter and Tom Kalil
White House OSTP

Today, astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly are visiting the White House to talk to the President about developing innovative new space technologies. One critical area for technology development is making satellites more affordable, adaptable, and adept at providing the sorts of real-time information that will help advance knowledge out in space and on Earth.

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Developing Technology to Push Out Into the Solar System to Stay

Credit: Matt Wade
Credit: Matt Wade

New Space Technology Research Institutes will help NASA develop game changing new materials and bio-manufacturing methods needed for the Journey to Mars

by Thomas Kalil & Lloyd Whitman
White House OSTP

In his 2015 State of the Union Address, President Obama said, “I want Americans to win the race for the kinds of discoveries that unleash new jobs—converting sunlight into liquid fuel; creating revolutionary prosthetics, so that a veteran who gave his arms for his country can play catch with his kids again. Pushing out into the solar system not just to visit, but to stay.”

And NASA is leading the way for this push with plans to send humans to Mars in the 2030s. Recently, NASA announced that they plan to dedicate up to $30 million over the next five years to support university-led research institutes to more rapidly develop two game changing capabilities needed to make this happen: ultra-high strength, lightweight materials and bio-manufacturing for deep space exploration.

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Senate Passes Commercial Space Launch Act

Capitol Building
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Senate Commerce Committee PR) –
The U.S. Senate, today, unanimously approved S. 1297, the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, introduced by Commerce Committee Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee chairman Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), full committee ranking member Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee ranking member Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), and subcommittee members Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.). The legislation, which the full Commerce Committee approved by voice vote with an amendment on May 20, 2015, extends the operational use of the International Space Station (ISS) until 2024, a regulatory moratorium on commercial space activity through FY 2020, and ensures stability for the continued development and growth of the U.S. commercial space sector and other space initiatives.
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Congress Demands U.S. Compete With China, Then Slashes OSTP Budget


For some reason, the lyrics to “The Flintstones” instantly flashed through my head when I read this:

Frustrated that White House officials have ignored congressional language curtailing scientific collaborations with China, legislators have decided to get their attention through a 32% cut in the tiny budget of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

I’m not sure why I immediately thought of Fred, Barney, Betty and whatshername? Maybe it’s my sense that the Republicans in Congress form some sort of “modern Stone Age family” with rocks in their heads instead of brains. And that they have some sort of innate aversion to the type of serious science that tells us that people and dinosaurs didn’t really walk the Earth at the same time. Not all Republicans, mind you. Just enough of them to have influence over vital national policies. And that even a single member with that type of power is one too many.

Allow me to explain. First, the back story.

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GAO Finds OSTP Violated Law By Meeting With Chinese


The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) violated a Congressional ban on meeting with Chinese officials. OSTP doesn’t deny violating the provision, which was included in a spending bill, but claims the ban is unconstitutional.

The GAO stated its conclusion in a letter sent this week to Rep. Frank Wolf, who had requested an inquiry. The GAO found that OSTP, which is an arm of the White House, had spent about $3,500 to lead and participate in a series of high-level meetings and events with Chinese officials in May concerning technology, intellectual property protection, climate change, joint cooperation and other matters.

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Hickam: Garver and Holdren Are Inept “Gadflys” Who Should Resign

President Obama’s plan to refocus NASA has a lot of people seeing red, not least of whom is retired NASA engineer Homer Hickam, author of the memoir “Rocket Boys” that was the subject of the film October Sky.

Last week, he wrote directly to NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver and OSTP Director John Holdren demanding that they resign. He repeated the demand in a letter to Bart Gordon, Chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology.

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White House Looking for Prize Ideas

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Thomas Kalil, the deputy director for policy with the Office of Science and Technology Policy, has posted a blog entry (reproduced below) in which he asks for ideas on prizes that the government could sponsor.

In recent years, there has been a renaissance in “incentive prizes” – which reward contestants for achieving a specific future goal.

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