NASA Administrator Announces Next NAC Meeting, New Members

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA Administrator Bill Nelson announced Wednesday the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) will convene its next meeting on August 9-10. Nelson also appointed new members to the NAC, who will provide leadership counsel and advice on agency programs and priorities.

“NASA remains a global leader in exploration as a result of having a world-class workforce and the NASA Advisory Council is no different,” said Nelson. “I am incredibly proud of the accomplishments and progress we’ve made to date, and these new additions to the NAC will bring new ideas and solutions to complex problems we face. We are in the midst of another banner year at the agency, and I look forward to hearing from and working with an exceptional NAC.”


Nelson, Hutchison Want Plan for Permanent Human Settlement Beyond LEO

Florida Senator Bill Nelson
Florida Senator Bill Nelson

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) have introduced legislation that would give NASA the long-term goal of creating a permanent human presence beyond low-Earth orbit space and the responsibility of submitting a plan to do so next year.

The bill is being opposed by NASA’s largest federal employee union, the International Federation of Professional Engineers (IFPTE). In a letter to Senators, the union says the measure is “a flawed and unbalanced effort to improperly prioritize a few outsourced and offshored activities, while neglecting NASA’s internal core capabilities and other critical needs.”


WIA Honors Shotwell, Hutchison for Achievements

Washington, D.C. (WIA PR) — Women in Aerospace is proud to recognize nine outstanding women for their contributions to the aerospace industry and to the advancement of women in the field. These women, who included SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell and retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, were honored at the 27th annual Women in Aerospace Awards with a reception and dinner held on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Arlington, Va.

The Women in Aerospace awards celebrate women’s professional excellence in aerospace, annually recognizing female leaders who have made outstanding contributions to the aerospace community.


Rohrabacher, Hutchison and Hall Praise NASA Commercial Crew Deal

Key Congressional leaders are praising the deal reached between NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) that will allow the space agency to select multiple commercial crew providers using Space Act Agreements later this year.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)

Washington, Jun 5 – Today, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) issued the following statement on the agreement reached between Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), chairman of the House Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations subcommittee and NASA on the future of the commercial crew program:

“I am pleased that CJS Appropriations Chairman Frank Wolf and NASA Administrator Bolden were able to come to an agreement ensuring that the Commercial Crew Program will move forward quickly while preserving competition in the program. This leadership will help bring about safe, reliable, domestic access to space for our astronauts on commercial vehicles, saving money, creating jobs in America, and leveraging our greatest strengths to maintain our international leadership in space.”

Rep. Rohrabacher is a senior member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.


Congress Praises SpaceX Dragon Launch

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket lifts off with a Dragon spacecraft bound for the International Space Station. (Credit: SpaceX)

Following Alan Shepard’s flight aboard Freedom 7, there was a triumphant parade through Washington, D.C., to honor the first American in space. In one of the limousines sat NASA Administrator Jim Webb with Bob Gilruth, the man in charge of the Space Task Group that launched Shepard into space.

Gazing out at the adoring, cheering crowds that lined the parade route, Webb turned to Gilruth and said, “If it hadn’t worked, they’d be asking for your head.”

With that in mind, let’s look at some of the reaction to the SpaceX Dragon launch from Capitol Hill….


More Nonsense From Congress

“This show ain’t no good.” Elvis cancels The Scratchy Show. (Credit: The Simpsons/20th Century Fox)

Jeff Foust has a long and rather depressing accounting of the Senate hearing on NASA’s budget yesterday.  Some of the nonsensical things that were said:

Sen. Richard Shelby: “Mr. Administrator, I believe that the core mission of NASA is to build cutting-edge systems that allow us to expand our knowledge of the universe.”

Shelby’s “cutting edge systems” involve a monster Space Launch System (SLS) based on shuttle booster technologies designed in the 1970’s that will cost a fortune to build, maintain and operate.  In fact, it’s so expensive that we won’t be able to fly it very often, limiting our ability to explore the universe.  (more…)

Sen. Hutchison Given Space Pioneering Award

HOUSTON – (NSBRI PR) – In recognition of her ongoing support of the nation’s human spaceflight program, U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison is the 2012 recipient of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute’s (NSBRI) Pioneer Award.

The senior senator from Texas was honored today during the official opening of a new 16,400-square-foot Consolidated Research Facility that NSBRI shares with the Baylor College of Medicine’s Center for Space Medicine (CSM). The Facility includes office space, four laboratories, meeting rooms, and science and education collaboration areas.

NSBRI President and CEO Dr. Jeffrey P. Sutton said that Hutchison is deserving of the Pioneer Award because of her contributions to the advancement of human spaceflight, including space biomedical research.

“During her time on Capitol Hill, Senator Hutchison’s leadership and commitment to strengthen the nation’s human space exploration program has been exemplary,” Sutton said. “Both NSBRI and CSM are grateful for her efforts on the Hill and for her support to make the Consolidated Research Facility a reality.”


Congress Flunks Math 101 — Update No. 2,703,843

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden was up on the Hill today for back to back meetings of House and Senate committees that oversee his budget. Based on the (predictable and utterly depressing) feedback he received, its clear that key members of Congress failed Math 101 (and a few other courses) in college. It’s the only real explanation for many of their inane utterances.


Reactions to President’s FY 2013 NASA Budget Request

Commercial Spaceflight Federation

On Commercial Crew Program: Today, the Commercial Spaceflight Federation welcomed the strong continued support for commercial spaceflight in the new NASA FY2013 budget. Congress and the Administration have consistently identified commercial providers as the most cost-effective and reliable source for routine flights to low-Earth orbit, including transportation of cargo and NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station. As recognized by a wide range of industry executives, scientists, and former NASA astronauts, among others, the Commercial Crew program is the quickest path to return Americans to orbit on American rockets.

Read full statement….

On the Space Technology Program: Today, the Commercial Spaceflight Federation welcomed the strong support for NASA’s Space Technology program in the Fiscal Year 2013 proposed budget. The Space Technology program is NASA’s investment in the future; by developing technologies to improve all aspects of NASA’s operations, it ensures that NASA stays at the forefront of space exploration and scientific research. The technologies it develops will also improve quality of life on Earth, sustain America’s global economic competitiveness, enable the NASA missions of the future and create high-tech jobs across the country.

Read full statement

The Planetary Society

The U.S. Administration is proposing a budget for Fiscal Year 2013 that would force NASA to walk away from planned missions to Mars, delay for decades any flagship missions to the outer planets, and radically slow the pace of scientific discovery, including the search for life on other worlds.

NASA’s planetary science program is being singled out for drastic cuts, with its budget dropping by 20 percent, from $1.5 billion this year to $1.2 billion next year. The steep reductions will continue for at least the next five years — if the Administration’s proposal is not changed. This would strike at the heart of one of NASA’s most productive and successful programs over the past decade.

Read full statement

National Space Society

While falling short of the recommended levels needed for a “space program worthy of a great nation” as proposed by the Augustine Committee in 2009, the Obama administration’s fiscal year 2013 budget plan for NASA does spare the agency from significant overall cuts. The National Space Society (NSS), with its goals of creating a spacefaring civilization and of using the resources of space for the betterment of life on Earth, is guardedly optimistic about portions of the budget while calling for increased support for others.

“This budget for NASA reflects the realities we’re unfortunately now facing: ‘flat is the new up,’ and, while continuing to advocate for increased funding, we’ll have to work hard with what we have to achieve our goals,” said NSS Executive Director Paul E. Damphousse. “That being said, we will push the Administration, Congress, and NASA to meet these goals. The programs of record must come in on schedule and on budget; support for commercial spaceflight must be unwavering; and our Mars program, while undergoing restructuring, must still strive to make upcoming launch windows with relevant missions.”

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX)

“Despite repeated assurances from NASA and White House officials that the SLS and Orion are ‘key elements of our future strategy for human space exploration’, vehicle development for the heavy lift SLS rocket and the Orion capsule is cut by hundreds of millions of dollars. These reductions will slow the development of the SLS and the Orion crew vehicle, making it impossible for them to provide backup capability for supporting the space station. The Administration remains insistent on cutting SLS and Orion to pay for commercial crew rather than accommodating both.

“I will once again work with my colleagues in the Congress to ensure NASA receives the funding, consistent with law passed by Congress and signed by the President, needed to preserve our leadership in space and open the doors to future exploration and missions of discovery.”

U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA)
(Released Feb. 9, 2012)

“Today I met with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden to express my dismay over widespread reports that NASA’s latest budget proposes to dramatically reduce the planetary science program, and with it, ground breaking missions to Mars and outer planetary bodies like Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, and to inform him of my vehement opposition to such a move.

“America’s unique expertise in designing and flying deep-space missions is a priceless national asset and the Mars program, one of our nation’s scientific crown jewels, has been a spectacular success that has pushed the boundaries of human understanding and technological innovation, while also boosting American prestige worldwide and driving our children to pursue science and engineering degrees in college.

“As I told the Administrator during our meeting, I oppose these ill-considered cuts and I will do everything in my power to restore the Mars budget and to ensure American leadership in space exploration.”

TXA to Hutchison: End the SLS Pork, Fund Commercial Space

TXA PR — Austin, TX, AUG 30, 2011 – The Texas Space Alliance (TXA) urged Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and the rest of the Texas Congressional delegation to give their full support to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s call for transferring funding to American spacecraft companies and end plans for a giant “pork” rocket being promoted by the Senator and others.  On Wednesday, 24 Aug 2011, Rep. Rohrabacher (R-CA) boldly called for an emergency funding transfer of NASA’s unobligated funds into their commercial crew program in response to the failure of a Russian Soyuz rocket to deliver a Progress supply freighter to the International Space Station (ISS).

“This funding transfer will rapidly accelerate the progress of American companies currently developing innovative crew and cargo transport vehicles here in the United States – all of which are based in or have significant and expanding operations in Texas,” said TXA’s Rick Tumlinson. “These companies; SpaceX, Boeing, Sierra Nevada, and Blue Origin are leading a revolution, and they need to see our legislators fighting for them – not against them.”


Congressional Praise for SpaceX’s Successful Dragon Flight

Florida Senator Bill Nelson

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-FL

The leading congressional authority on the U.S. space program said Wednesday that America is on track to remain a global leader in space, science and technology, after a privately owned rocket carrying a capsule powered off a launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and into outer space before returning safely to Earth.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson made his comments today following the successful launch into low-earth orbit and return to Earth of the 157-foot tall Falcon 9 rocket and the Apollo-like unmanned Dragon capsule built by Space X. With the splash down of its capsule in the Pacific, Space X became the first private company to successfully recover a spacecraft sent into outer space.

“We’ve arrived at the dawn of new era of U.S. space exploration that should ensure America remains a leader in space exploration,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who was a crew member aboard a 1986 space shuttle mission, and now heads a Senate subcommittee that oversees NASA.

In September, Congress approved a Nelson-engineered NASA budget blueprint that would help boost the commercial rocket industry – such as the development of the Falcon 9 – and have NASA become the chief player for building a new deep-space rocket and carry out missions to Mars.


Conservative Senator Gets Award for Keeping Federal Funds Flowing Into Houston

As newly emboldened Republicans make plans for major rollbacks of federal spending, one of their own is being honored for maintain the flow of federal dollars into conservative Texas.

Kay Bailey Hutchison is the recipient of the 2011 Quasar Award for helping to pass the NASA authorization bill — which saved thousands of federally funded jobs in Houston — and for ensuring other federal largess.


Constellation’s Congressional Supporters Not Amused By Obama’s Latest Attempt to Kill the Program

Ares 1-X

As you might have expected, the Obama Administration’s decision to invoke the Anti-Deficiency Act in order to shut down the Constellation program has not gone over real well with Congressional supporters of NASA’s human spaceflight effort. I’ll let the senior Senator from the Lone Star State explain it all:

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, today said NASA leadership was skirting the law to shut down the Constellation program after NASA leadership publicly announced a decision to reprioritize work on the program. NASA’s stated justification for these actions is the Anti-Deficiency Act (ADA), which prohibits spending funds beyond levels that are appropriated in a given year, or obligating the government to pay money before funds have been appropriated. There are a number of unanswered questions on whether the ADA would apply in this situation, and if it did, the recently passed Defense Supplemental legislation clarifies that regardless of any provision of law, work must continue on the Constellation program.


Congressional Reaction to Falcon 9 Flight Ranges From Enthusiasm to “Meh”

Florida Senator Bill Nelson

A roundup of what key members of Congress are saying about SpaceX’s successful Falcon 9 launch on Friday:

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D)

The Democratic Senator make a congratulatory call to SpaceX Founder Elon Musk. quotes him as saying that the successful flight gives him hope that Falcon 9 will be in “full operation delivering cargo to the International Space Station a year from now” with Dragon capsules.

Editor’s Note: Alan Boyle over at Cosmic Log seems rather surprised by the senator’s reaction, noting, “It’s unusual for Nelson, who has seemed a bit doubtful about NASA’s moves toward commercialization, to be so positive about SpaceX’s prospects.”

I think not…


Congressional Leaders Call for Investigation of Constellation Manager’s Removal

NASA's Jeff Hanley (Photo Credit: NASA)


Leaders of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Ranking Member Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), today called for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Inspector General to launch an investigation into the sudden removal of the Constellation program manager.

The full text of the May 27 letter to NASA Inspector General Paul Martin from Senators Hutchison and Rockefeller is below.