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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House Science Committee Gives Industry What It Wants

Capitol Building
The commercial space industry had a great day on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, with the Republican-controlled House Science Committee giving it most of what it wanted while swatting away proposed changes from the minority Democrats.

Among the goodies approved by the committee: a decade-long extension of the moratorium on regulating commercial human spaceflight;  a nine-year extension of industry-government cost sharing for damages caused by launch accidents; and an act that would give companies property rights to materials they mine from asteroids.

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Battle Brewing Over Extending Commercial Spaceflight Learning Period

Part of SpaceShipTwo's fuselage. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)
Part of SpaceShipTwo’s fuselage. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

A battle is brewing over whether to extend the learning period for the commercial spaceflight industry, with Congress needing to make a decision before October on when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will be allowed to regulate an industry still struggling to get off the ground.

On one side are FAA officials, who believe they can begin to craft basic safety regulations based on more than 50 years of human spaceflight experience. Industry figures dispute this, saying they still don’t have enough experience with their varied vehicles to begin the process.

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Smith Praises Commercial Crew Winners, Then Tries to Stab One in Back

Lamar Smith
Lamar Smith

Less than a month after praising Boeing and SpaceX for winning NASA Commercial Crew contracts, House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) is eager to stab one of them in the back.

“I congratulate Boeing and SpaceX on their achievements in the Commercial Crew Program. Both companies and the thousands of people they employ have a crucial task before them as they work to further U.S. space exploration,” Smith said in a Sept. 16 statement. “They also have a responsibility to the U.S. taxpayers who are making considerable contributions to the development of these commercial space capabilities.”

Three weeks later, Smith had apparently decided that two commercial crew providers was one too many.

“If Orion could provide a redundant capability as a fallback for the commercial crew partners, why is it necessary to carry two partners to ensure competition in the constrained budget environment?” Smith asked in an Oct. 7 letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. The letter was co-signed by House Science Space Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.).

My guess is that Bolden has explained why this wouldn’t work well to Congress many, many times. I’m also guessing that if NASA had to choose between commercial crew providers, it would probably select SpaceX because the company is further along toward crewed flights and costs far less than Boeing.

I’m not sure why Smith would take the risk of eliminating Boeing, which has  headquartered its commercial crew program in Houston.  Unless he believes the committee could force NASA to eliminate SpaceX and select Boeing despite the cost disparity.

Read Smith’s original statement of praise here. Space News has more details about the letter from Smith and Palazzo.

Smith, Palazzo Decry SLS Schedule Delay

Lamar Smith
Lamar Smith

Washington, D.C. (House Science Commitee PR) – Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Space Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.), sent a letter to NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden, Jr. about reported delays to NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion crew vehicle. The news comes despite congressional support above the Administration’s full budget requests and repeated Administration assurances that the exploration priorities are on schedule.

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Palazzo Vision is Back: Rep. Threatens to Cut “Costly and Complex Distractions” From NASA’s Budget

Rep. Steven Palazzo
Rep. Steven Palazzo

Rep. Steven Palazzo, (R-MS), chairman of the House Space Subcommittee, has released a rather ominous statement in which he uses frayed relations between the United States and Russia to take a hatchet to NASA’s budget. I’ve put the key phrase in bold.

“When the Obama Administration ended the Constellation program, our nation was forced to depend upon Russian rockets to carry American astronauts into space and maintain a U.S. presence on the International Space Station (ISS). Thankfully, NASA currently maintains access to ISS. But as relations with Russia have been strained over the past few weeks, we can no longer afford to ignore the issues NASA faces. If we are serious about once more launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil, we must make tough decisions within NASA’s budget. Only when the budget has been stripped of costly and complex distractions will it once again reflect the priorities of the sole government agency tasked with space exploration. In a world that is not getting safer, I believe these are not only matters of national pride, but also of national security.”

Oh, now….what could those distractions be? What indeed? Let me take a wild guess as to what Palazzo has in mind:

  • Commercial crew. Nothing seems to bother the pro-private sector, anti-government Republicans in the House more than this effort to turn over this function to commercial companies.  My guess is Palazzo either tries to force NASA to down select to one provider immediately, or he tries to cancel the program outright.
  • Space Launch System/Orion. The very type of mega-government program that conservatives hate (unless its in their district and state) will be fully funded. The subcommittee might actually request that plans to put crews aboard the Orion vehicle be moved up from 2021.
  • Earth sciences. The Republicans have stocked the House Science Committee with global warming deniers. Not one believes that climate change really exists, or that it poses any serious threat to the planet. So, look for that budget to be raided.
  • National security. Palazzo will somehow re-define the Space Launch System and Orion as having some type of vital national security role. What that role is will never really be clear. But, it won’t stop them from trying.

Hopefully, this doesn’t get any further than the Space Subcommittee. Palazzo and his merry band tried to radically rewrite NASA’s budget last year. None of their ideas really went anywhere.

Palazzo Vision: House Eviscerates NASA Space Act Agreements

Rep. Steven Palazzo
Rep. Steven Palazzo

On Wednesday, the House Subcommittee on Space met under Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) to mark up NASA’s budget for FY 2014 and 2015.

The $16.6 billion measure not only cuts the Obama Administration’s request by $1.1 billion, it includes a number of provisions designed to tie the hands of the NASA Administrator, protect key projects favored by Congress, and shift power away from the Administration.

In this edition of “Palazzo Vision: The Road to Pork,” we take a closer look at what the chairman and his merry band of government hating, pork loving comrades want to do to NASA’s Space Act Agreements.

What lies after the break is not for anyone with a weak stomach, heart condition, chronic ulcers or who is under the age of 18. You have been warned.

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Palazzo, Brooks to Lead House Subcommittee on Space

Capitol Building
Washington, D.C.
—House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) has appointed Mississippi Congressman Steve Palazzo to head up the Subcommittee on Space, which oversees NASA. Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama will serve as vice chairman.

Palazzo represents Mississippi’s Fourth Congressional District, which includes NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center. Brooks represents Alabama’s Fifth Congressional District, home to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. Both facilities have leading roles in the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft.

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