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President Obama signed the NASA authorization bill into law today.
In a NASA media teleconference earlier in the day, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver, Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D-FL), and former astronaut Sally Ride commended the bipartisan achievement of passing the bill. Senator Nelson cautioned, however, that the funding still must make it through the appropriations process and repeatedly referenced the difficult financial circumstances facing the country as a substanial hurdle for the agency's FY2011 funding level.
Based on a transcript provided by NASA, in response to a question about whether the bill sufficiently funds a new heavy lift launch vehicle, he replied:
"What is in this bill is $11.5 [b]illion over the next six years anticipated, even though it's a three-year authorization, for the development and the testing of a heavy-lift rocket.
Now, if we can't develop a new rocket for $11.5 [b]illion, building on a lot of the technologies that were already developed in spending $9 [b]illion, if we can't do it for that, then we ought to question whether or not we can build a rocket.
So we are in fiscally austere times, and we have to be realistic about the spending of monies."
(Editor's note: the transcript said "millions" in each case instead of "billions.")
Later, he reminded everyone that when the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the bill that includes NASA (the Commerce-Justice-Science bill), all Republicans voted against it and other bills approved by the committee that day, not because of NASA, but because of the overall amount of spending represented by the bills. Some Senate Republicans are trying to cut government spending back to FY2008 levels, which Senator Nelson said today would be "devastating to NASA." (NASA's FY2008 funding level was $17.3 billion, compared to $19 billion requested for FY2011.) None of the 12 FY2011 regular appropriations bills has made it to the Senate floor for debate yet.
Getting an authorization bill enacted is a step forward in determining NASA's exploration future, but the next step -- getting Congress to approve the funding to implement the policy -- will be at least as difficult.
Soyuz TMA-01M successfully docked with the International Space Station at 8:01 pm EDT tonight.
NASA and Lockheed Martin are sponsoring a day-long symposium next Thursday, October 15, to celebrate 50 years of exobiology and astrobiology -- the search for life elsewhere.
As outlined in a NASA press release, in 1960, NASA established an exobiology program that over the past five decades has expanded into the field of astrobiology that is trying to answer three questions: How does life begin and evolve? Is there life beyond Earth and, if so, how can we detect it? What is the future of life on Earth and in the universe?
NASA's Viking missions to Mars, launched in 1975, were the first devoted to attempting to find life on the Red Planet. At the time, scientists concluded there was no evidence of life there, but recent discoveries by the Mars rovers and other spacecraft are reopening that line of inquiry. Lockheed Martin built the Viking spacecraft and most of the other spacecraft that have visited the planet. The United States, Russia, Europe, and Japan have sent probes to Mars, some successful, some not.
Mars is hardly the only location in our solar system with conditions that might support life: several moons of Jupiter and Saturn are high on the list. Beyond the solar system, astrophysicists are searching for other planets -- exoplanets -- that might support life. Just last week NASA and NSF announced that they found a "potentially habitable" planet orbiting the red dwarf star Gliese 581.
The October 14 symposium features astrobiology luminaries and space historians including Lynn Margulis, Baruch Blumberg, Noel Hinners, Roger Launius, Linda Billings, and Steve Benner. The full agenda and RSVP instructions are available on NASA's website.
President Obama announced today that National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones will leave his post by the end of the month. Some news reports say that while the resignation had been anticipated for some time, it was accelerated because of White House unhappiness at comments Jones made to Bob Woodward for his recent book Obama's Wars. Jones' deputy, Tom Donilon, will be the new National Security Adviser.
Soyuz TMA-01M is set for launch tonight at 7:10 pm EDT. This new version of the Soyuz spacecraft will bring three new crewmembers to the International Space Station (ISS): NASA's Scott Kelly and Russia's Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka. Two days later, they will join the three crew who are already aboard ISS: Doug Wheelock, Shannon Walker, and Fyodor Yurchikhin.
The new Soyuz features a digital upgrade, with new guidance, navigation and control devices, a new data processing device, and an improved avionics cooling system according to a graphic on NASA's website.
Soyuz TMA-01M successfully launched at 7:10 pm EDT.
I have just returned from Brussels and an excellent conference sponsored by the Institut Fran ais des Relations Internationales (IFRI) and the Secure World Foundation (SWF) on "The Continuing Story of Europe and Space Security." I was delighted to be invited to be the keynote speaker on the topic of "U.S. Space Policy: What Has Changed." For anyone who's interested, a copy of my remarks can be found on our left menu under "Marcia S. Smith's Biography and Recent Publications" or simply by clicking here. Hopefully other speakers will provide their remarks for posting on the IFRI or SWF websites and a conference summary -- under Chatham House rules -- will be available on IFRI's website soon.
Today the George C. Marshall Institute and the Space Enterprise Council convened a roundtable titled "National Security Space: Policy and Program Development." Jeff Kueter, President of the Institute, explained the event was meant to ensure that the military and intelligence side of space would not be "shoved under the radar" in discussions following the release of the National Space Policy (NSP). During a lively discussion, experts focused on the array of challenges officials will face in implementing the national security directions in the NSP, at the heart of which is a broad paradigm shift needed in the government's approach to space.
The interdependence between sectors and the increasingly contested, congested, and competitive space environment have produced a number of shared challenges, as one panelist put it. Increased space situational awareness data sharing, the development of rules for responsible behavior in space, and the reinvigoration of the industrial space sector to support these goals, are just some of the challenges that will require changes in how the United States structures its space activities: internally - between government agencies and with industry - and externally, with international partners.
In an era of continuing fiscal constraints, the diversification and flexibility of space capabilities will become even more important, calling for a variety of measures to integrate commercial and foreign capabilities into the mix. Several panelists described changes in acquisition strategies - including hosted payloads on foreign and commercial satellites and the transition toward larger numbers of smaller commercially-developed systems - to achieve these goals in the long run.
Panelists agreed that the NSP includes language advancing this paradigm shift in the right direction, but that leadership commitment and strategic thinking will determine its success. The task of Chirag Parikh, newly appointed director of Space Policy at the National Security Council, who was frequently mentioned in the discussion and was in the audience, will be in implementation. "Sounds like an easy job," joked Kueter as the event drew to a close. As the saying goes, the devil will be in the details - implementation details, that is.
Victoria Samson, Director of the Washington Office of the Secure World Foundation (SWF), has published an analysis of the Obama National Space Policy from SWF's viewpoint. As the analysis says,
"Secure World Foundation (SWF) has long supported building an increased understanding of how to best protect the space environment and improve space security for the United States and other space actors. Moreover, SWF focuses on three key areas: sustainability, internationalengagement, and stability in outer space. The new NSP places a heavy emphasis on these objectives, recognizing the extent that space activities have penetrated the economic, political and military framework of today's world."
The following events may of interest in the coming week. For more information, see our calendar on the right menu or click the links below. With Congress in recess for the next six weeks, we expect things to be a little slow on the meetings front, but we will publish an events list as long as there are enough other activities to make it worthwhile.
Monday-Tuesday, October 4-5
Wednesday, October 6
Wednesday-Thursday, October 6-7
Thursday, October 7
- FAA Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC), National Housing Center, 1201 15th Street NW, Washington, DC, 8:00 am
Thursday-Friday, October 7-8
- Interagency Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee (AAAC), National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Blvd., Arlington VA, Stafford II Building, Room 595
Events of Interest
- American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting, December 15-19, 2014, San Francisco, CA.
- HAPPY NEW YEAR!, January 1, 2015
- American Meteorological Society (AMS) Annual Meeting, January 4-8, 2015, Phoenix, AZ
- American Astronomical Society Winter Meeting, January 4-8, 2015, Seattle, WA
- AIAA SciTech 2015, January 5-9, 2015, Kissimmee, FL
- NEW DATE SpaceX CRS-5 Pre-Launch Briefings, January 5, 2015, Kennedy Space Center, FL, times TBD
- NEW DATE SpaceX CRS-5 Launch, January 6, 2015, Cape Canaveral, FL, 6:12 am EST
- 114th Congress Convenes, January 6, 2015, 12:00 pm EST
- SBAG, January 6-7, 2015, Phoenix, AZ
- NEW DATE SpaceX CRS-5 Arrival at ISS, January 8, 2015 (if launch goes on January 6)
- 2nd annual International Space Conference, January 8-9, 2015, Noida, India
- ASTRORECON 2015, January 8-10, 2015, Phoenix, AZ
- NASA Advisory Council (NAC) Heliophysics Sbcmte, January 9, 2015, NASA HQ, Washington, DC, 2:00-4:00 pm EST
Full calendar of future events (with filters)-click here »
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