Trump Proposes Broad Range of Environmental, Energy and Health Cuts

Credit: NASA

If anyone had the slightest hope that Donald Trump might spare global warming research in his proposed spending plan, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney stuck a knife through it during a contentious press conference on Thursday.

“As to climate change, I think the President was fairly straightforward saying we’re not spending money on that anymore,” he said. “We consider that to be a waste of your money to go out and do that.”

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NASA Acting Administrator Statement on Proposed Budget

Robert Lightfoot

The following is a statement from NASA acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot on the Fiscal Year 2018 agency budget proposal:

“The President mentioned in his speech to both houses of Congress that, ‘American footprints on distant worlds are not too big a dream.’ NASA is already working toward that goal, and we look forward to exciting achievements that this budget will help us reach.

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Proposed Budget Maintains Funding for Current Gen Weather Satellites

The Trump Administration’s proposed Commerce Department budget maintains funding for the development of NOAA’s current generation geostationary and polar orbiting weather satellites.  However, the follow-on polar orbiting program appears to be delayed.

“Achieves annual savings from NOAA’s Polar Follow On satellite program from the current program of record by better reflecting the actual risk of a gap in polar satellite coverage, and provides additional opportunities to improve robustness of the low earth orbit satellite architecture by expanding the utilization of commercially provided data to improve weather models,” the blueprint states.

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House Passes NASA Authorization Act


by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

For the first time in more than six years, Congress has passed an authorization act for NASA that calls for spending $19.5 billion on NASA for fiscal year 2017 and lays out a set of priorities of the agency.

The measure was approved by the House this week after getting Senate approval. The vote came five months into fiscal year 2017.

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Trump Proposes Deep Cuts at NOAA

This composite color full-disk visible image of the Western Hemisphere was captured from NOAA GOES-16 satellite at 1:07 pm EST on Jan. 15, 2017 and created using several of the 16 spectral channels available on the satellite’s sophisticated Advanced Baseline Imager. The image, taken from 22,300 miles above the surface, shows North and South America and the surrounding oceans. (Credits: NOAA)

The Trump Administration and key Republican members of Congress have argued for a “re-balance” of NASA’s portfolio toward exploration. Let other agencies like NOAA conduct research into Earth science and global change.

However, it doesn’t appear Trump is remotely interested in giving NOAA the tools to even do that. In fact, he is proposing deep cuts in the agency.

The Trump administration is seeking to slash the budget of one of the government’s premier climate science agencies by 17 percent, delivering steep cuts to research funding and satellite programs, according to a four-page budget memo obtained by The Washington Post.

The proposed cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would also eliminate funding for a variety of smaller programs, including external research, coastal management, estuary reserves and “coastal resilience,” which seeks to bolster the ability of coastal areas to withstand major storms and rising seas….

The OMB outline for the Commerce Department for fiscal 2018 proposed sharp reductions in specific areas within NOAA such as spending on education, grants and research. NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research would lose $126 million, or 26 percent, of the funds it has under the current budget. Its satellite data division would lose $513 million, or 22 percent, of its current funding under the proposal.

The National Marine Fisheries Service and National Weather Service would be fortunate by comparison, facing only 5 percent cuts.

The story explains that not only would NOAA be hobbled in conducting research, but that cutbacks would jeopardize public safety by limiting the agency’s ability to protect the country against severe weather.

Read the full story at The Washington Post.

Bezos Proposes Lunar Plan

Jeff Bezos

Amazon Lunar Prime?

Jeff Bezos has submitted a plan for developing a moon base to NASA and the Trump Administration.

The latest to offer a proposal is Jeffrey P. Bezos, whose space company Blue Origin has been circulating a seven-page white paper to NASA leadership and President Trump’s transition team about the company’s interest in developing a lunar spacecraft with a lander that would touch down near a crater at the south pole where there is water and nearly continuous sunlight for solar energy. The memo urges the space agency to back an Amazon-like shipment service for the moon that would deliver gear for experiments, cargo and habitats by mid-2020, helping to enable “future human settlement” of the moon. (Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, owns The Washington Post.)

“It is time for America to return to the Moon — this time to stay,” Bezos said in response to emailed questions from The Post. “A permanently inhabited lunar settlement is a difficult and worthy objective. I sense a lot of people are excited about this.”

[….]

Blue Origin’s proposal, dated Jan. 4, doesn’t involve flying humans, but rather is focused on a series of cargo missions. Those could deliver the equipment necessary to help establish a human colony on the moon — unlike the Apollo missions, in which the astronauts left “flags and footprints” and then came home.

The prospect of a lunar mission has several companies lining up to provide not just transportation, but also habitats, science experiments and even the ability to mine the moon for resources.

Read the full story.

PBS News Hour Video on Returning to the Moon

Video Caption: Is there renewed focus inside the Trump administration, NASA and the private sector to revive travel to the moon? There are signs, like a single reference in President Trump’s address to Congress, that seem to suggest that a space journey may be sooner than we might think. Science correspondent Miles O’Brien joins Judy Woodruff to discuss what we could learn and why it’s back on the table.

Elon Musk’s Bold Lunar Gambit: Dueling Moon Missions & a Shrinking Pie

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

I’ve been puzzling for the last few days over the timing of Musk’s moon mission announcement, which was curious for several reasons.

First, it came soon after NASA announced its own study about whether to put astronauts on the first SLS/Orion test in 2019. Why would Musk risk undercuting his biggest customer, a space agency that has provided so much of SpaceX’s development and contract funding?

Second, Musk’s unveiling of the plan seemed to be a rushed, improvised affair. He tweeted about it the day before — a Sunday — and then held a press briefing for a small group of media that lasted all of about five minutes. The contrast with the carefully choreographed unveiling of his Mars transportation architecture last year in Mexico couldn’t be greater.

Third, Musk has never really shown much interest in the moon. Yes, SpaceX might have been doing some planning for a human mission there in private. But, that still doesn’t explain the timing.

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Trump Briefly Mentions Space in Address to Congress

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

Donald Trump briefly mentioned space during an address to Congress on Tuesday night.

“American footprints on distant worlds are not too big a dream,” he said.

What this means is anyone’s guess. It’s the sort of platitude that sounds visionary but is actually vague, one that appears to promise bold action without a commitment to actually doing anything of the sort.

Trump was equally vague about space in his Inaugural Address in January.

“We stand at the birth of a new millennium ready to unlock the mysteries of space, to free the Earth from the miseries of disease and to harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow,” he said.

Trump’s budget outline thus far calls for boosting military spending while cutting back on discretionary civilian spending. And NASA is about as discretionary as civilian spending gets.

It’s likely the space agency’s Earth science will get whacked. Trump once said global warming was a Chinese plot to destroy American industry. One of his advisors said the research should be moved elsewhere in the government so as to refocus NASA on deep space exploration.

Trump Proposes to Boost Military Funding, Cut Domestic Spending

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

Trump Administration officials say the president’s budget will propose spending an additional $54 billion on defense while cutting almost every other domestic discretionary program.

The defense buildup that Trump repeatedly promised on the campaign trail would mark about a 10 percent spending hike. Under Trump’s proposal, most federal agencies would face budget reductions, an Office of Management and Budget official said. Foreign aid spending would also drop.

The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity at the White House’s insistence, did not say which federal departments would see the biggest cuts.

Speaking at a meeting with governors Monday, Trump said his administration will “do more with less and make the government lean and accountable.”

The budget “will include a historic increase in defense spending to rebuild the depleted military of the United States of America at a time we most need it,” Trump said at the White House.

Trump is expected to further outline his spending priorities in an address to Congress on Tuesday. A detailed budget plan is expected in mid-March.

We’ll have to wait how all this pans out when the administration releases its full plan. But, on the face of things, this doesn’t look real good for NASA, NOAA or the nation’s civilian science and technology programs.

Part III: All Aboard Elon Musk’s Mars Express

A view from martian orbit. (Credit: SpaceX)

“The goal of SpaceX is really to build the transport system. It’s like building the Union Pacific Railroad. And once that transport system is built then there’s a tremendous opportunity for anyone who wants to go to Mars and create something new or build the foundations of a new planet.

“When they were building the Union Pacific, a lot of people said that’s a super dumb idea because hardly anybody lives in California. But, now today we’ve got the U.S. epicenter of technology development and entertainment, and it’s the biggest state in the nation.

Elon Musk
SpaceX Founder & CEO

By Douglas Messier
Managing Edtior

The idea of a transcontinental railroad to the West Coast came into the world in 1830 as many dreams do: as a visionary, if seemingly outrageous, plan that few people took seriously. Why build a rail line through a howling wilderness where almost nobody lived? It would be a hideously expensive boondoggle, a road to nowhere.

This same problem has dogged the space movement since Sputnik was launched 60 years ago. While Hartwell Carver and other backers of the transcontinental railroad were able to overcome all the obstacles in their way, human progress in the silent vacuum of space has been slow and halting. It has never lived up the expectations people had at the start of the Space Age.

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NASA Examines Placing Crew on First SLS-Orion Flight

An expanded view of the next configuration of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket, including the four RL10 engines. (Credit: NASA)

Reports out of the leaking like a sieve Trump Administration say the president is looking for some space spectacular that can be conducted in time for his re-election campaign in 2020 to serve as evidences he’s made America great again.

So, NASA is examining whether it can give him one by putting a crew on the first Space Launch System-Orion flight, which is currently planned as a circum-lunar flight without astronauts aboard.

NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot, in a speech at the Space Launch System/Orion Suppliers Conference here Feb. 15, and a memo emailed at the same time to the agency’s workforce, said he had directed Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, to begin a study on the feasibility of putting a crew on the first SLS mission, known as Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1)….

Current plans call for the EM-1 mission to launch in late 2018 without a crew. The first crewed flight would be EM-2, which NASA is planning to launch in 2021. However, an assessment in 2015 performed as Orion reached a development milestone known as Key Decision Point C indicated that there was a 70 percent chance the EM-2 mission would launch no later than April 2023.

Lightfoot, in the memo, said the study will examine the technical and schedule issues of flying a crew on EM-1. “I know the challenges associated with such a proposition, like reviewing the technical feasibility, additional resources needed,” he wrote, “and clearly the extra work would require a different launch date.”

That work, as Lightfoot suggested in his memo, would likely delay the EM-1 launch from its current estimated launch window of September to November 2018. Industry sources said they believe addressing the various issues would delay the mission to 2019 or 2020. That would still be sooner than current NASA schedules for EM-2.

Could Dream Chaser Service Hubble Space Telescope?

Sierra Nevada Corporation’s space vehicle suspends in a hangar at NASA’s Armstrong to undergo testing. (Credit: NASA/Ken Ulbrich)

The Wall Street Journal reports that Sierra Nevada Corporation has put forth a proposal to send a crewed Dream Chaser to service the aging Hubble Space Telescope.

The discussions are still preliminary, no specific plans have been drafted and senior White House aides or administration advisers currently overseeing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration could veto the concept. Decisions about any potentially major NASA initiative await the appointment of a new agency head, according to industry and government officials.

But deliberations about sending a spacecraft to link up with NASA’s pioneering orbiting telescope—comparable to five earlier missions by the now-retired space shuttle fleet stretching back to 1993—illustrate the Trump team’s guiding principles when it comes to space investments. Industry and transition officials agree the focus is on seeking dramatic but relatively inexpensive space projects that can be readily understood by average Americans.

The Hubble repair proposal also has garnered administration officials’ attention because it appears to meet still other important White House criteria, according to these people. The goal is to put a lid on federal expenditures for space by fostering public-private partnerships, while devising projects that can be completed within the president’s current four-year term….

Sierra Nevada is betting that the Trump administration’s enhanced interest in commercial space projects—including transition memos extolling the potential benefits of manned missions orbiting the moon—could revive Hubble’s rejuvenation bid. The company twice presented its proposal to transition officials, according to one person familiar with the details.

Sierra Nevada is currently developing a cargo variant of Dream Chaser to resupply the International Space Station. That vehicle is not scheduled to begin deliveries to the space station until 2019.

It’s not clear how much work, funding or additional testing would be required to upgrade the cargo ship for crew use. Nor is it clear whether a mission to Hubble could be completed in time for Trump’s re-election campaign in 2020.

The company did make substantial progress toward a crew vehicle during NASA’s Commercial Crew Program before Dream Chaser was dropped from the program in 2014.

The two selected commercial crew companies, Boeing and SpaceX, have run into significant technical problems during the final phase of commercial crew development and testing. Both companies are running significantly behind schedule.

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The Resistance Will Be Tweeted


Alarmed by efforts of the Trump Administration to control communications out of federal agencies, users have created a number of new alternative Twitter accounts has sprung up to give what they say is the true story about climate change, the environment and other topics.


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