Opposition to Nye’s State of the Union Attendance Grows

Bill Nye (Credit: Montclair Film Festival)

The criticism of the decision by The Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye (the Science Guy) to attend Donald Trump’s State of the Union Address tonight at the invitation of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) has grown to include a petition and an opinion piece in a prominent scientific publication.

An online petition urging Nye to cancel his plans started by ClimateHawkVote had garnered 35,790 signatures, more the 35,000 it was seeking. The petition reads:

President Donald Trump is a bigoted climate denier. So is Congressman Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), Trump’s embattled nominee for NASA Administrator. So why is Bill Nye “very pleased” to be Bridenstine’s guest at Trump’s first State of the Union address?

Bill, please be the Science Guy, not the Bigoted Climate Denial Guy. Cancel your plans to attend Trump’s State of the Union as Rep. Bridenstine’s guest.

An opinion piece in Scientific American by the organization 500 Women Scientists disagrees with Nye’s claim that he is not endorsing Bridenstine, the Trump Administration or their science policies by attending the annual address.

But by attending the SOTU as Rep. Bridenstine’s guest, Nye has tacitly endorsed those very policies, and put his own personal brand over the interests of the scientific community at large. Rep. Bridenstine is a controversial nominee who refuses to state that climate change is driven by human activity, and even introduced legislation to remove Earth sciences from NASA’s scientific mission. Further, he’s worked to undermine civil rights, including pushing for crackdowns on immigrants, a ban on gay marriage, and abolishing the Department of Education….

The true shame is that Bill Nye remains the popular face of science because he keeps himself in the public eye. To be sure, increasing the visibility of scientists in the popular media is important to strengthening public support for science, but Nye’s TV persona has perpetuated the harmful stereotype that scientists are nerdy, combative white men in lab coats—a stereotype that does not comport with our lived experience as women in STEM. And he continues to wield his power recklessly, even after his recent endeavors in debate and politics have backfired spectacularly.

In 2014, he attempted to debate creationist Ken Ham—against the judgment of evolution experts—which only served to allow Ham to raise the funds needed to build an evangelical theme park that spreads misinformation about human evolution. Similarly, Nye repeatedly agreed to televised debates with non-scientist climate deniers, contributing to the false perception that researchers still disagree about basic climate science. And when Bill Nye went on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show to “debate” climate change in 2017, his appearance was used to spread misinformation to Fox viewers and fundraise for anti-climate initiatives.

A Look Back at the Space Year That Was

Total solar eclipse photographed from NASA Armstrong’s Gulfstream III. (Credit: (NASA/Carla Thomas)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

I realize it’s a bit late, but here’s a look back at the major developments in space in 2017.

I know that I’m probably forgetting something, or several somethings or someones. Fortunately, I have eagle-eyed readers who really seem to enjoy telling me just how much I’ve screwed up. Some of them a little too much….

So, have at it!  Do your worst, eagle-eyed readers!

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Bridenstine & Myers Nominations Sent on to Senate


by Douglas Messier

Managing Editor

As expected, the Senate Commerce Committee narrowly approved the Trump Administration’s nominations of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) and AccuWeather CEO Barry Myers to serve as the administrators of NASA and NOAA, respectively.

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Rubio Still Concerned Over Bridenstine’s Nomination to Run NASA

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

Rep. Jim Bridenstine’s (R-OK) confirmation hearing apparently did nothing to assuage the doubts of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) over his suitability to serve as NASA’s next administrator.

“I remain very concerned about the politicization of NASA, not even because he would do it on purpose but just given some of the resistance he’s already engendered,” Rubio said in an interview Friday. “I don’t think NASA at this critical stage of its history can afford that … As of this moment, I can’t assure anyone that I would support his nomination if it came to a vote.”

Rubio’s comments are his strongest yet and suggest that his initial misgivings when President Donald Trump announced Bridenstine’s nomination in early September have only grown.

A broad swath of Democrats from Washington Sen. Patty Murray to Florida Sen. Bill Nelson have already announced their opposition to Bridenstine over a range of his past statements, including ones skeptical of climate science and opposing same-sex marriage.

Bridenstine’s nomination requires approval of the full Senate. Republicans hold a 52-48 advantage in the upper chamber, which means the Congressman cannot afford to lose many GOP votes.

Senate Committee Approves Bridenstine Nomination by Party Line Vote

Rep. Jim Bridenstine

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation approved the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to serve as NASA administrator by a party-line vote of 14-13 this morning.

Republicans voted for Bridenstine while Democrats opposed him. The nomination now goes to the full Senate where Republicans hold a 52-48 advantage at a date to be determined.

During a contentious hearing last Wednesday, Democrats had criticized the former fighter pilot turned politician as lacking the scientific and technical expertise to lead the space agency. They also questioned whether the deeply conservative Republican was too partisan to lead NASA. Democrats were critical of his positions on climate change and LGBT rights.

Republicans praised Bridenstine’s service in the House, where he had become one of Congress’s leading policy wonks. The Congressman has the support of a number of space organizations as well as Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

The position of administrator is one of two positions at NASA that require Senate approval. The Trump Administration has yet to nominate a deputy administrator.

Cruz’s Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Outer Space Treaty

Sen. Ted Cruz

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Ted Cruz PR) – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) today chaired the second of a series of planned hearings to explore the reopening of the American frontier in space. Today’s hearing titled ‘Reopening the American Frontier: Exploring How the Outer Space Treaty Will Impact American Commerce and Settlement in Space,’ examined the U.S. government obligations under the Outer Space Treaty on its 50th anniversary, specifically compliance with Article VI of the Treaty that requires governments to authorize and continually supervise the activities of non-government entities. This hearing also explored the Treaty’s potential impacts on expansion of our nation’s commerce and settlement in space.

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Senators To Trump Administration: Do Not Hurt Workforce By Cutting NASA Education Funding


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), co-chairs of the Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, are leading a group of 32 Senators in a letter urging the Senate Appropriations Committee to support NASA’s Office of Education in the coming fiscal year. President Trump’s budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) would eliminate NASA’s Office of Education, which works to inspire and educate students across the country to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).  In Virginia, funding from NASA’s Office of Education enables students to explore careers in STEM-related fields at NASA Langley, NASA Wallops, and in Virginia’s robust technology sector.

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NASA Authorization Act Calls for Study of Sending Orion to Space Station

NASA astronaut Suni Williams exits a test version of the Orion spacecraft in the agency’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab in Houston. The testing is helping NASA identify the best ways to efficiently get astronauts out of the spacecraft after deep space missions. (Credit: NASA)

The Senate-approved NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 would require the space agency to conduct a study of whether the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle would be capable of carrying crews and supplies to the International Space Station.

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Original 7 Astronaut John Glenn Passes Away at 95

john-glenn-with-friendship-7-capsule
Sad to report that former NASA astronaut John Glenn, who became the first American to fly into orbit in 1962, has passed away in an Ohio hospital. He was 95 years old.

In addition to flying Friendship 7 in the Project Mercury, Glenn became the oldest person to travel into space when he joined the STS-95 space shuttle crew on a nearly 9-day orbital mission in 1998.

At the time of his second and final spaceflight, Glenn was a United States Senator from Ohio. He served in the Senate from December 1974 to January 1999.

Glenn was the last of NASA’s Original 7 astronauts to pass away. Scott Carpenter died in 2013 at the age of 88.

My deepest sympathies to his wife, Annie, and his family and friends.

President Barack Obama issued a statement today on Glenn’s passing.

Statement by the President on the Passing of John Glenn

When John Glenn blasted off from Cape Canaveral atop an Atlas rocket in 1962, he lifted the hopes of a nation. And when his Friendship 7 spacecraft splashed down a few hours later, the first American to orbit the Earth reminded us that with courage and a spirit of discovery there’s no limit to the heights we can reach together.

With John’s passing, our nation has lost an icon and Michelle and I have lost a friend. John spent his life breaking barriers, from defending our freedom as a decorated Marine Corps fighter pilot in World War II and Korea, to setting a transcontinental speed record, to becoming, at age 77, the oldest human to touch the stars. John always had the right stuff, inspiring generations of scientists, engineers and astronauts who will take us to Mars and beyond–not just to visit, but to stay.

Today, the people of Ohio remember a devoted public servant who represented his fellow Buckeyes in the U.S. Senate for a quarter century and who fought to keep America a leader in science and technology. Our thoughts are with his beloved wife Annie, their children John and Carolyn and the entire Glenn family. The last of America’s first astronauts has left us, but propelled by their example we know that our future here on Earth compels us to keep reaching for the heavens. On behalf of a grateful nation, Godspeed, John Glenn.

USAF Could End ULA Launch Capability Contract Early

ULA_logoSome more potentially bad news for United Launch Alliance (ULA): the U.S. Air Force is considering ending its $800-million-a-year launch capability contract prior to its expiration in 2019 after the company’s decision not to bid on an launch contract.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, testifying Wednesday at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on military space launch, said she has directed staff to study the implications of ending the EELV Launch Capability contract early.

The Air Force buys ULA rocket hardware through a fixed-price EELV Launch Services contract but funds ULA’s launch infrastructure and engineering support through the cost-plus EELV Launch Capability contract that competitor SpaceX considers an unfair subsidy….

During Wednesday’s hearing, [Sen. John] McCain called ULA’s EELV Launch Capabilitity contract “$800 million to do nothing.” ULA disputes that characterization. On its website, ULA says the contract is not a subsidy since it “pays for very well-defined national security space requirements that allow the Air Force to launch exactly when and where it needs to launch.”

In her testimony, James said the contract currently is scheduled to end in 2019 after ULA carries out the final launch covered under an $11 billion sole-source block buy agreement with the Air Force. That deal, which predates the 2006 creation of ULA, covers the production of 36 Atlas 5 and Delta 4 rocket cores plus launch costs for a total of 78 missions.

Read the full story.

House Praise for Space Measure Passage

Capitol Building
WASHINGTON, D.C. (House Leadership PR) –
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today praised Senate passage of a bicameral, bipartisan agreement on H.R. 2262, the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act. The bill consolidates language from the House-passed Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship Act of 2015 or SPACE Act with provisions from S.1297, the Senate’s commercial space legislation. It provides much-needed guidance and regulatory certainty for America’s private space industry partners.
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Commercial Spaceflight Federation Praises Passage of Space Bill

CSF_logo2WASHINGTON, D.C. (CSF PR) – Last night the Senate passed the bi-partisan U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (CSLCA, or H.R. 2262 as amended), which represents one of the most significant modernizations of commercial space policy and regulatory legislation since the original Commercial Space Launch Act (CSLA) was enacted in 1984. CSF applauds Senators John Thune (R-SD), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Gary Peters (D-MI), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Patty Murray (D-WA) and Tom Udall (D-NM) for their leadership and vision in authoring and co-sponsoring this much-needed and comprehensive legislation.

CSLA was last updated in 2004, creating a regulatory framework for commercial human spaceflight that resulted in a wave of investment, innovation, jobs and economic growth for the U.S. This new legislation sets the stage for the continued growth and expansion of the space transportation industry, while enabling rapid advances in safety for spaceflight participants. It also promotes investments in new commercial space applications, promising future spaceflight capabilities that will benefit all Americans.

“The members of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation commend Senators Thune, Nelson, Cruz, Peters, as well as all their cosponsors, for their leadership and perseverance in passing this critical piece of bipartisan legislation to ensure that America remains the leader in space,” CSF President Eric Stallmer said. “CSF looks forward to quick action on this bill in the House of Representatives when it returns next week.”

Commercial Spaceflight Federation on Senate Budget: We Like It!

csf_logo_newestWashington D.C. – The Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF) applauds the Senate Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill approved yesterday by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The bill sends $18.1 billion to NASA for Fiscal Year 2014, including $775 million for the Commercial Crew Program and $670 million for Space Technology, of which $17 million is allocated for the Flight Opportunities Program.

“With this legislation, the Senate Appropriations Committee has recognized the key role NASA plays in American innovation, exploration, and inspiration,” stated CSF Chairman Stuart Witt. “We thank Chairwoman Mikulski and the rest of the Committee for their commitment to preserving America’s leadership in space and supporting the many American engineers and scientists working to bring the benefits of spaceflight to everyone.”

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Dana Rohrabacher, Lamar Smith Jockeying for House Science Committee Chairmanship

Rep. Dan Rohrabacher

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) have begun to quietly campaign to replace Rep. Ralph Hall as chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology next year, according to Stu Witt, General Manager and CEO of the Mojave Air and Space Port.

Witt and his staff hosted a visit by Smith last week to familiarize the Republican Congressman with commercial space activities being undertaken at the California spaceport. Rohrabacher will be visiting the desert facility next Wednesday, Witt added during a meeting of the East Kern Airport District board.

Witt said the visits are part of an effort by both Congressman to build up support for their bids to replace Hall, will step down after six years as head of the powerful committee. Under House rules imposed by the Republican leadership, chairmen are limited to three, two-year terms.

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