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House Fires Salvo to Cut FY2011 Non-Security Spending to FY2008 Levels

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 26-Jan-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:14 PM)

As some Republicans have been championing for months, the House passed a resolution today calling for the FY2011 budget to hold non-security spending to FY2008 levels. It is the first salvo in what likely will be a long 6-week fight over how to deal with the remainder of FY2011.

The non-binding resolution, H. Res. 38, is very brief and has no budget numbers in it. The full text is as follows:

"Resolved, That pursuant to section 3(b)(1) of House Resolution 5, the Chair of the Committee on the Budget shall include in the Congressional Record an allocation contemplated by section 302(a) for the Committee on Appropriations for the remainder of fiscal year 2011 that assumes non-security spending at fiscal year 2008 levels or less."

It passed by a vote of 256-165. It basically allows the chairman of the Budget Committee, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), to establish the amount of funds the 12 appropriations subcommittees have to spend for the rest of FY2011. No action by the Budget Committee or the House is required. Federal agencies are currently funded through March 4, 2011. Congress must pass another appropriations measure to fund agencies after that date or the government will close down.

The House appropriations subcommittees still would have the flexibility to determine which agencies get what amount of money, but within the threshold set by Rep. Ryan.

"Security" spending traditionally means defense and homeland security, so they would not be subject to this resolution (veterans services also are sometimes included). Nor would mandatory spending on programs such as social security, Medicare or Medicaid. The resolution would affect NASA, NOAA and other federal activities in the "domestic discretionary funding" category.

At the same time, some news reports state that President Obama will propose in his State of the Union Address tonight a freeze on domestic discretionary funding. Exceptions can always be made, so it is not certain that NASA would be included. Other news reports, for example, say that the President will emphasize that investments in high-speed rail, clean energy and scientific research will help create jobs and thus should not be cut.

The State of the Union address will be aired live at 9:00 pm EST, but that is only the beginning of what almost certainly will be a difficult set of negotiations over the FY2011 budget and those that follow.

Rep. Giffords in Everyone's Thoughts Tonight at State of the Union Address

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 25-Jan-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:16 PM)

As President Obama delivers his State of the Union (SOTU) address to a joint session of Congress at 9:00 pm EST tonight, the Arizona delegation plans to sit together, keeping an empty seat for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Rep. Giffords (D-AZ) was shot in the head on January 8 while holding a constituent event in Tucson, AZ; six people were killed and 12 others were wounded. She recently was moved to a Houston medical facility that specializes in brain trauma. Her recovery so far has been termed a "miracle" by her physicans, but none has speculated on her long term prospects.

The President, who spoke about the tragedy at an event in Tucson on January 12, is expected to discuss it again tonight. Among the 18 guests sitting with the First Lady tonight will be Daniel Hernandez, an intern with Rep. Giffords' office who is credited with saving her life by acting quickly at the scene to stop the bleeding from her head wound; the family of 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, who died; and Dr. Peter Rhee, chief of the trauma center at University Medical Center where Giffords and 10 other victims were taken. Rep. Giffords' husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, reportedly declined an invitation to attend so he could stay with his wife.

The attack on Rep. Giffords catalyzed a call for more civility in political debate. One outcome is that the traditional partisan seating arrangement for the SOTU -- with Republicans on one side of the chamber and Democrats on the other -- is being transformed into bipartisan seating for those who wish to participate in this largely symbolic move. Some Republicans and Democrats -- including the Arizona delegation -- will sit together. The idea of bipartisan seating for the SOTU is credited to the Third Way, a think tank that champions moderate policy and political ideas. Senator Mark Udall (D-CO), an honorary co-chair of Third Way, picked it up and ran with it. (Rep. Giffords is another honorary co-chair.) Not all members are enthusiastic about the idea, and congressional leadership offices point out simply that there never has been a formal seating plan for members of Congress at the SOTU and members may sit where they wish.

New York Times: NASA in a Muddle

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 25-Jan-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)

Kenneth Chang of the New York Times has a piece in the Science Times section today about the "muddle" NASA's human spaceflight programs finds itself in these days.

NASA Honors Crews of Apollo 204, Challenger and Columbia

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 25-Jan-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)

NASA will hold a Day of Remembrance on Thursday, January 27, to honor three spaceflight crews who lost their lives:

  • Apollo 204-- Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee, all NASA astronauts, who died on the pad during a pre-launch test when fire engulfed their Apollo capsule on January 27, 1967. The Apollo 204 Review Board concluded the fire was caused by electrical arcing in the 100% oxygen atmosphere in the capsule; the exact location of the arcing was not determined. It also found flaws in the design of the Apollo capsule (e.g., the hatch swung inward so that when pressure inside increased because of the fire, the crew could not open it) and operational procedures. If the mission had flown successfully, it would have been Apollo 1. It was 21 months before the next U.S. human spaceflight mission (Apollo 7) took place.
  • Challenger (STS-51L) -- Dick Scobee(NASA), Mike Smith (NASA), Judith Resnik (NASA), Ellison Onizuka (NASA), Ron McNair (NASA), Greg Jarvis (Hughes Aircraft), and Christa McAuliffe (New Hampshire schoolteacher) who died on January 28, 1986 when the space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after launch. The Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident found that cold weather at the launch site caused the failure of a rubber O-ring in one of the two solid rocket boosters (SRB), allowing gases to escape and causing a catastrophic explosion. As with the Apollo 204 report, organizational and other issues were also identified. It was 32 months before the next U.S. human spaceflight mission (STS-26).
  • Columbia (STS-107)-- Rick Husband (NASA), William McCool (NASA), Michael Anderson (NASA), David Brown (NASA), Kalpana Chawla (NASA), Laurel Clark (NASA), and Ilan Ramon (Israeli Air Force) who died on February 1, 2003 when the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated during reentry. The physical cause was superheated gas (which surrounds the shuttle during reentry) entering the left wing because of a hole that had been formed during launch by debris from the External Tank. The fire deformed the shuttle's wing creating aerodynamic forces that pulled the orbiter apart over Texas, minutes before it would have landed in Florida. As with the previous reports, the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) found that there were other causes, cultural and organizational, that were just as important. (A synopsis of the CAIB report is available here.) It was 29 months before the next U.S. human spaceflight mission (STS-114).

NASA will commemorate the Day of Remembrance with a series of wreath-layings at Arlington National Cemetery, Kennedy Space Center, and Johnson Space Center. A schedule of events is available in the NASA press release.

This year is the 25th anniversary of the Challenger tragedy and a separate event will be held on January 28 at Kennedy Space Center (KSC). Speakers will include NASA Associate Administrator for Space Operations Bill Gerstenmaier; June Scobee Rodgers, widow of Challenger commander Dick Scobee; Robert Cabana, former astronaut and KSC Director; and Michael McCulley, former astronaut and chairman of the Astronauts Memorial Foundation, which is sponsoring the event. Mrs. Rodgers and members of the other Challenger families created the Challenger Center for Space Science Education whose vision is "to create a scientifically literate population that can thrive in a world increasingly driven by information and technology."

More Than a Historic Decision: John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon, by John M. Logsdon

Laura M. Delgado
Posted: 25-Jan-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)

It seemed only fitting that at last Friday's presentation of a book dedicated to all of his students - past and present - it would be a former student, NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver, who would set the stage for Dr. John Logsdon's latest publication: John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon. Garver, who was Logsdon's student at the George Washington University before he founded the Space Policy Institute in 1987, said it was that experience that really started her career in space and without it "I would not be in the position I am now."

She recalled the discussion back in 1998 that led the NASA History Office, with her backing as the Associate Administrator for Policy and Plans and that of NASA Administrator Dan Goldin, to provide the initial support for what became the book presented Friday night. "NASA rewrites textbooks," she said, and the continuation of Logsdon's research - which began in 1970 with publication of his seminal book on the birth of the Apollo Program, The Decision to go to the Moon - was an opportunity to do just that.

Dr. Logsdon's new book addresses three questions: why did the United States decide to go to the Moon, what did President John F. Kennedy do to make it happen, and what was the relevance of the event to today's situation. The first of these was the focus of the 1970 book, but as the preface to the new book recounts, Logsdon later realized that there was something missing. His desire to complete a more comprehensive study of President Kennedy and the space program was born out of the realization that he had not included the importance of Kennedy's leadership through his assassination in 1963 "that generated the political will needed to mobilize the financial and human resources which made the lunar landing program possible." Logsdon wanted the opportunity to showcase how the decision to go to the Moon was much more than just a decision.

"Presidents have to make decisions and stick with them," Logsdon said, and exposed the audience to several occasions when Kennedy worded the importance of keeping that commitment to a program that was much more difficult and expensive than is often remembered. When compared to the 1961 NASA budget, the 1962 budget saw an 89% increase, and the 1963 budget increased 101% over that. To put that in context, the Apollo program would cost $151 billion in 2010 dollars, compared to the $8.1 billion that took to build the Panama Canal or the $128 billion involved in building the Interstate Highway System. It was "the largest peacetime mobilization of resources" in the history of the country, Logsdon said, and it is a mistaken assumption to think that back then maintaining that level of support was any easier than today. Even during the 1961 speech, in the sections that are often overlooked, Kennedy spoke with conviction about the magnitude of the effort required. "Presidents don't talk that way very much anymore," commented Logsdon.

As Garver said, Logsdon's account will, in a sense, rewrite textbooks. In it he illuminates another interesting fact that is often overlooked (or forgotten) by those involved in space activities when remembering the events -- that for President Kennedy competition with the Soviet Union was the second option. During his January 1961 inaugural address, as Kennedy spoke about nations "who would make themselves our adversary," he said "together, let us explore the stars," one of the tell-tale signs of Kennedy's interest in space cooperation. Logsdon recounted how Kennedy raised the possibility of space cooperation with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in their one and only meeting in June 1961. Khrushchev declined, but Kennedy made the offer again during a speech at the United Nations just two months before his assassination.

What would have happened if Kennedy had lived and Khrushchev agreed to cooperate, Logsdon wonders. "But [you] can't rerun history or run it differently," he said. At the very least Logsdon's new book will enable readers to put the Apollo program and Kennedy's role in its beginnings in context, and perhaps understand that history better.

John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon is published by Palgrave Macmillan and is part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Science and Technology.

Democrats Name HSS&T Subcommittee Members

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 25-Jan-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:13 PM)

The Democratic Caucus of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee named its members and subcommittee ranking members today. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) will be the ranking Democrat on the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee when she returns; she chaired the subcommittee in the last Congress. Rep. Jerry Costello will serve as Acting Ranking Member while she is recuperating.

Full committee ranking member Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) announced the members of the subcommittees as follows:

Subcommittee on Energy and Environment

  • Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC), ranking member
  • Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA)
  • Rep. Ben Luj n (D-NM)
  • Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY)
  • Rep. Zoe Lofren (D-CA)
  • Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA)

Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics

  • Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), ranking member
  • Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH)
  • Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL), acting ranking member
  • Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL)
  • Rep. David Wu (D-OR)
  • Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD)
  • Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL)

Subcommittee on Research and Science Education

  • Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), ranking member
  • Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-MI)
  • Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY)
  • Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD)
  • Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL)

Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation

  • Rep. David Wu (D-OR), ranking member
  • Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD)
  • Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL)
  • Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL)
  • Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ)
  • Rep. Ben Luj n (D-NM)

Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight

  • Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD), ranking member
  • Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)
  • Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC)
  • Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA)

Charlie Bolden's Life Story

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 25-Jan-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:12 PM)

The State, a South Carolina newspaper, has an interesting article that tells Charlie Bolden's life story. The headline is about the impact space shuttle Challenger astronaut Ron McNair had on Bolden's career, but the article covers the NASA Administrator's entire life and his family. Bolden was in South Carolina to talk about his friend McNair as the 25th anniversary of the Challenger tragedy nears. NASA is planning a commemoration of that and two other spaceflight tragedies on January 27 in a National Day of Remembrance, as well as on January 28 in a ceremony at Kennedy Space Center.

UPDATE: Events of Interest: Week of January 24-28, 2011

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 24-Jan-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:18 PM)

UPDATE: NASA's Day of Remembrance has been added for Thursday and for the Challenger commemoration on Friday.

The following events may be of interest in the coming week. For more information, see our calendar on the right menu or click the links below.

Tuesday, January 25

Tuesday-Friday, January 25-28

  • NRC Review of NASA's Techhology Roadmaps. Georgetown Hotel and Conference Center, 3800 Reservoir Road, NW, Washington,DC. The sessions that are open to the public are on Wednesday and Friday mornings
    • Wednesday, 8:00 am - noon EST
    • Friday, 8:00 am - noon EST

Wednesday, January 26

Wednesday-Thursday, January 26-27

Thursday, January 27

  • National Day of Remebrance for the Apollo 204, Challenger and Columbia Crews. A series of wreath-layings will be held at Arlington National Cemetery, Kennedy Space Center, and Johnson Space Center. NASA's press release has more details.

Friday, January 28

Japan's HTV-2 Off the Pad

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 22-Jan-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:14 PM)

Japan launched its HTV cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) at 12:38 am EST Saturday morning (2:38 pm Japan Standard Time).

This is the second launch of the HTV (HTV2). The U.S. space shuttle, Russia's Progress, and Europe's ATV are the other spacecraft that take cargo to the ISS. The space shuttle is the only one that can return cargo to the Earth. Three more space shuttle flights remain. (Russia's Soyuz spacecraft is used to take crews to and from the ISS, but it has extremely limited capability -- about 50 kilograms -- to carry anything other than three crew.)

The HTV is launched on Japan's H2 launch vehicle from Japan's Tanegashima launch facility. It will take eight days for the HTV to rendezvous and berth with the ISS on the nadir side of the Harmony module.

UPDATE: Sen. Reid Lauds JFK's Space Achievements as House RSC Calls for Cuts

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 21-Jan-2011 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:18 PM)

UPDATE: A link to a NASA photo of Bolden and Garver at the event has been added.

Jeff Foust over at points out that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) spoke at a ceremony celebrating the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's inauguration yesterday and had nice words to say about the space program. At the same time, the House Republican Study Committee issued its plan to cut $2.5 trillion in federal spending over the next 10 years by holding agencies like NASA to previous years' funding levels.

Reid's comments are posted on his website, where he notes that Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin was in the audience. The portion about space activities is as follows:

"Before I talk about President Kennedy's tremendous legacy in the area of space exploration and innovation, I want to acknowledge the astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who is here today.

"When he and Neil Armstrong became the first humans to touch the moon, our nation rejoiced not just because we were launching a new era of exploration and technology. We cheered for more than just a stunning success for science.

"When man first set foot on another world, we celebrated the fact that those first men were Americans.

"As Armstrong leaped off that ladder, I remember hearing Walter Cronkite take care to note that the astronaut was a 38-year-old American.' Because he was an American - a boy scout from Ohio and a pilot in our Navy - we all took pride. America was moving mankind forward. We were leaders.

"The story of that journey did not begin when the Eagle landed. It began years before: in the imaginations of Americans everywhere, and in laboratories and hangars in Florida and Texas.

"But it took flight in this building, when President Kennedy asked Congress to commit to sending a man to the moon and returning him safely to Earth. And in a stadium in Houston where he told the world we were accepting this challenge precisely because it was daunting and difficult - because it was an opportunity we could not afford to put off until tomorrow.

"He was right - it would be hard. Not just the technology, but also the politics. Opponents called his vision a boondoggle' and a science-fiction stunt.' But President Kennedy knew from the start what was waiting for America in the stars.

"On his first day as president, he invited the crowd gathered here at the Capitol - and the millions who were watching and listening - to join him in exploring the worlds beyond ours and seizing the wonders of science.

"And throughout the brief time he was our nation's leader, he insisted that our nation lead the sprint to conquer space - and that we finish that race first.

"On his last full day as president, as he dedicated a medical space research center in San Antonio, President Kennedy reaffirmed his commitment to corralling the full promise of the universe. I think the United States should be a leader,' he said. America, he demanded, should be second to none.'

"In the first words of the inaugural address we celebrate today, Kennedy recalled the nation's founding nearly two centuries earlier and observed, The world is very different now.' Half a century later, the world is again very different.

"Solar energy is a reality in states like Nevada and across the country because of the science that started in space.

"The water we drink is cleaner. Our oceans are healthier. We diagnose cancer sooner. All because of the discoveries our space program has made possible.

"Our wounded warriors wear better and stronger artificial limbs. Citizens of the world are safer from land mines. Firefighters can better track forest fires, and are safer when they fight them. Airplanes fly smarter, and even golf balls fly farther. All because when many others pulled back and doubted, President Kennedy kept pushing forward - forward with faith.

"We've all seen the picture that captured Armstrong's small step for man - the imprint of his American boot in the dust of the moon.

"But you don't need to scale the heavens to know the meaning or feel the force of space and science in our lives. Look all around you. That is President John Fitzgerald Kennedy's footprint on our future."

Foust says that NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden and Deputy Administrator Lori Garver also were at the speech. (UPDATE: NASA is distributing a photo of Bolden and Garver at the event together with members of the Kennedy family, astronaut Leland Melvin and former astronaut Scott Altman.)

Senator Reid's enthusiasm for NASA must be welcome news to space advocates at a time when the House Republican Study Committee (RSC) is proposing that NASA and most other agencies be held to their FY2008 spending levels in the next Continuing Resolution (CR). That CR apparently will cover the rest of FY2011. The current CR expires on March 4 so Congress must pass another appropriations act before then or the government will have to shut down.

The RSC's plan to reduce federal spending by $2.5 trillion over the next 10 years calls for non-defense, non-homeland security, non-veterans agencies -- a group that includes NASA -- to be held at their FY2008 levels for FY2011, then drop to their FY2006 spending levels for the rest of the 10-year period. Rumors are that the proposal is not likely to be adopted, at least in its entirety. Some reports say that, in particular, efforts to protect NASA and a few other agencies are in the works.

Events of Interest

Full calendar of future events (with filters)-click here »


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