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Whether the government shuts down on Friday at midnight is now in the Senate's court. The House just passed the two-week Continuing Resolution (H. J. Res. 44) that would fund the government through March 18. It contains $4 billion in cuts, but none directly affects space activities at NASA, NOAA or DOD.
The White House was hoping to get the bill extended to a 30-day CR instead of two weeks. It is up to the Senate at this point to decide whether to agree with the House or pass a bill with different language.
The House is expected to pass a two-week Continuing Resolution (CR) today that would extend government spending at FY2010 levels for most agencies through March 18. The bill, H. J. Res. 44, contains $4 billion in spending reductions.
The $4 billion reduction is achieved by eliminating earmarks and cutting spending by small amounts in a variety of government agencies. NASA is not affected by those cuts. The bill does not contain language lifting the restriction on terminating the Constellation program that was in the FY2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act.
Under the rule approved by the House Rules Committee yesterday the bill can be debated on the floor for only one hour and no amendments are permitted.
What the Senate will do this week remains unclear. It could agree to the House-passed bill or pass one of its own. Rumors are that the White House wants a 30-day bill instead of a two-week bill. The two chambers have until midnight Friday to reach agreement or force a government shutdown.
What will happen for the rest of FY2011 remains up in the air. It is conceivable that Congress would continue to pass short-term CRs if they cannot reach agreement on a version to last through the end of September. That would pose problems for all the government departments and agencies who would have no certainty about their funding levels. Compared to the deep cuts passed by the House on February 19, however, it might be preferable for some agencies if a series of short-term CRs meant they could retain their FY2010 funding levels. Under the February 19 bill, for example, NASA would lose $601 million compared to its FY2010 level.
Current NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and former NASA Administrator James Beggs will discuss the past 30 years of the space shuttle program and what lies ahead for human spaceflight at the State of the Agency meeting at NASA Headquarters on Friday. The meeting is sponsored by the NASA Alumni League and several other space organizations. Mr. Beggs, who was NASA Administrator from 1981-1986, is chairman of the NASA Alumni League.
Mr. Beggs was the driving force behind what is now known as the International Space Station (ISS) program, convincing President Ronald Reagan to back the program despite a lack of enthusiasm from just about everyone in his Cabinet. President Reagan announced that he was directing NASA to build a space station, and to invite other countries to join us, in his 1984 State of the Union address. The goal was to complete it within a decade. Beggs's next hurdle was to convince Congress, which agreed to authorize the program in NASA's FY1985 authorization act.
The space station program has survived myriad challenges since that time, with construction completed only now -- a decade and a half late. For most people, the space station's travails are just memories, if that. Attention today is consumed by what the future holds for human spaceflight with the shuttle program ending just as the ISS is hitting its stride and the next step in human spaceflight a work in progress.
Administrator Bolden is, of course, a veteran space shuttle pilot and commander, who now is charged with bringing that program to a conclusion and initiating both government and private sector replacements for it in a highly constrained budget environment.
The Bolden-Beggs discussion will cap a day-long event that features NASA associate administrators or their designees discussing the details of the FY2012 budget request. The meeting is open to the public, but an RSVP is required. See the announcement for details.
UPDATE: A link to the agenda for Friday's "State of the Agency" meeting at NASA Headquarters has been added.
The following events may be of interest in the coming week. For more information, check our calendar on the right menu or click the links below. Times, dates and witnesses for congressional hearings are subject to change; check the relevant committee's website for up to date information.
During the Week
Hopefully the House and Senate will reach agreement on at least a short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government operating past midnight on March 4 when the current CR expires. Check back throughout the week for our continuing coverage of this issue, critical to the nation as well as the space program.
Monday-Wednesday, February 28-March 2
Tuesday, March 1
- NASA Advisory Council (NAC) Planetary Science Subcommittee, Virtual (via telephone and WebEx -- see Federal Register notice on how to participate), 1:00 - 3:00 pm EST
Tuesday-Thursday, March 1-3
Wednesday, March 2
- House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing on NASA's FY2012 budget request, 2318 Rayburn House Office Building, 10:00 am EST
- House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee hearing on FY2012 DOD budget request, 2359 Rayburn House Office Building, 10:00 am EST
Wednesday-Friday, March 2-4
- NRC Commiittee on the Origins and Evolution of Life(COEL), Keck Center, Washington, DC. Some sessions are closed; see agenda for details.
Thursday, March 3
- House Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee hearing on NASA's FY2012 budget request, 2362A Rayburn House Office Building, 10:00 am EST
Thursday-Friday, March 3-4
- NAC Science Committee, NASA Headquarters, Washington DC
- Thursday, March 3, 8:30 am - 5:00 pm EST, room 9H40
- Friday, March 4, 8:30 am - 2:00 pm EST, room 3H46
Friday, March 4
The National Research Council's (NRC's) Decadal Survey for planetary science will be released on March 7, 2011. The study was conducted under the auspices of the Space Studies Board.
Decadal Surveys are studies conducted by the NRC on behalf of NASA and other space science agencies. The NRC committees that write the reports use a consensus-based approach to determinig priorities for scientific research in various disciplines. The surveys are conducted about every 10 years -- a decade -- looking forward to the next decadal of research, hence their name. The most recent Decadal Survey for astronomy and astrophysics was released last year. The NRC is currently conducting another one for the field of solar and space physics (heliophysics).
The agencies that sponsor the Decadal Survey, in this case NASA and the National Science Foundation, typically tell the NRC's study committee how much money they expect to be able to devote to new missions and research in the upcoming decade. The Decadal Survey committee then is asked to create and prioritize a list of research missions that need to be undertaken to answer the most compelling scientific questions in that discipline.
Prognosticating future budgets is always problematical, especially so today. The planetary science community has been expectantly awaiting the release of the Decadal to see what their community has determined to be the most compelling research priorities. The report will be released in conjunction with the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference being held in The Woodlands, TX, outside Houston, from March 7-11.
UPDATE: The launch has been rescheduled for March 4.
ORIGINAL STORY: The launch of NASA's Glory earth observation satellite has been postponed again, this time until March. Engineers still have not determined why the Vehicle Interface Control Console (VICC) sent a "hold-fire" command to the Taurus XL rocket 15 minutes before its intended launch early yesterday morning.
NASA reports that the VICC is located in a mobile launch support van a few miles from the launch pad. More time is needed to determine the cause of and remedy the problem. NASA now is looking at launch dates in early to mid-March.
Space Shuttle Discovery is in its final planned hold waiting to pick up the count at T-9 minutes (9 minutes before launch). Everything was going well until moments ago when the range went red because of a problem with the range safety command system.
That's a computer, and what all this means is the subject of considerable discussion to which one can listen on NASA TV or Spaceflightnow.com. The NASA launch director, Mike Leinbach, has decided to take the countdown all the way down to T-5 (5 minutes before launch) before deciding whether to launch today. So apparently they will pick up the count at T-9 hoping that the problem can resolved quickly.
The countdown for STS-133 is down to the T-5 minute mark and holding. Minutes ago a problem developed with the Air Force's range safety computer system display. There is very little flexibility in the launch window today, but everyone has their fingers crossed it can be resolved in time.
The Air Force resolved their computer problem and the countdown has resumed. T-4 minutes and counting.
Events of Interest
- HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all of our U.S. readers, November 26, 2015
- NEW NASA Media Event re ESA's Orion Service Module, November 30, 2015, NASA Plum Brook Facility, Ohio, 12:30 pm ET (watch on NASA TV)
- RAeS Event on UK Human Spaceflight Strategy, December 1, 2015, London, England, 09:00-17:00 local time
- Space Policy & History Forum Featuring NASA's Michael Meyer, December 1, 2015, Johns Hopkins Univ Applied Physics Lab, Laurel, MD, 4:00-5:00 pm ET
- NASA Advisory Council, December 1-3, 2015, NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX
- SecAf Deborah Lee James at National Press Club, December 2, 2015, National Press Club, Washington, DC, remarks begin at 1:00 pm ET
- Orbital ATK OA-4 Launch to ISS, December 3, 2015, Cape Canaveral, FL, 30 minute launch window opens at 5:55 pm ET
- Dupont Summit on Science, Tech and Environmental Policy, December 4, 2015, Historic Wittemore House, Washington, DC, 9:00 am - 4:20 pm ET
Full calendar of future events (with filters)-click here »
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