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Defense Authorization Blll Hits Roadblock in Senate

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 06-Aug-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:13 PM)

Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) chairman Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) wants to bring the Department of Defense (DOD) authorization bill to the floor of the Senate when the Senate returns from its August break, but SASC ranking member Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) strenuously objected yesterday.

Sen. Levin was attempting to get a unanimous consent (UC) agreement to bring the bill to the floor in September, but Sen. McCain blocked the UC because he opposes some of the bill's provisions, especially repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays in the military. Sen. McCain wants to wait on that issue until a promised survey is done of the morale of men and women in the military on that issue. He argues that the Democrats are trying to push a "social agenda on legislation ... intended to ensure the nation's security." Sen. Levin replied that the issue should be debated on the Senate floor and the committee's bill requires that the survey be done.

The video of the exchange is available on YouTube.

The Senate has a full agenda when it returns in September and is expected to be in session for only three weeks before adjourning again so Senators can prepare for the mid-term elections.

Will the House Reconvene - Briefly - Next Week?

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 04-Aug-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:18 PM)

The Hill newspaper reports that the House may interrupt its summer recess and reconvene briefly, perhaps early next week, to pass a bill that would provide funds to states to avoid teacher layoffs.

With schools around the nation set to begin classes before the House is currently scheduled to return on September 14, there is pressure for the House to come back into session to deal with this issue. The Senate is expected to pass the bill this week, having succeeded in voting to end debate earlier today according to The Hill. The bill gives states $10 billion for teachers as well as $16 billion in Medicaid funding.

Previous efforts to pass it as part of larger measures have failed because of opposition to legislation that would increase the deficit. The Hill quotes an aide to House Minority Leader John Boehner as opposing the bill and the idea of the House returning to pass it, saying that Democrats should listen to their constitutents' concerns about jobs and not "vote for more tax hikes and special-interest bailouts." The vote in the Senate to end debate was 61-38, with all Democrats and two Republicans (Maine's Sen. Olympia Snowe and Sen. Susan Collins) voting in favor. The Hill reports that the two Republican votes were secured after the bill's sponsors found offsets for the full cost of the bill.

Congress Daily (subscription required) reports that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced via Twitter that she will indeed call the House back into session next week "to save teachers' jobs and help seniors and children."

Editor's Note: This story is not directly related to space policy, but we thought you would be interested to know about this breaking development anyway.

Applying Lessons Learned from the U.S.-Canadian NORAD to Multinational Space Situational Awareness

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 04-Aug-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:12 PM)

A new report sponsored by the Secure World Foundation (SWF) and published by George Washington University's Space Policy Institute provides an interesting comparison of the formation and operation of the U.S.-Canadian North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and today's need for multinational Space Situational Awareness (SSA).

The similarities and differences between the motivation behind NORAD at the beginning of the missile age and for SSA in this maturing space age were drawn from interviews with U.S. and Canadian military pesonnel who served in NORAD as well as a literature search. The report offers the following insights:

"Although the study found many areas of commonality, there are three critical differences between the NORAD experience and SSA data sharing which should also be kept in mind. The first, and most significant, is that the rationale behind the formation of NORAD was the specter of nuclear war, as powerful a driving force as any in the history of humanity. No motivation of that magnitude is currently foreseen for SSA. The second major difference is that NORAD involved cooperation between two States that had a lengthy (albeit not always peaceful) history. Unlike NORAD, SSA data sharing is very likely to involve a large number of States, some of whom may not have any past experience in sharing data of a security nature or cooperating in general. The third difference is that NORAD is a military organization performing a military mission. Future SSA data sharing and warning efforts are likely to contain a mix of military and non-military organizations and provide data in support of both civil and military missions."

The report's author, James C. Bennett, offers a series of observations and conclusions that are captured in the report's Executive Summary. Of particular note is his conclusion that: "The vast majority of political controversy and tension is likely to arise over decisions based on analyzed data; thus, data sharing agreements should focus on data collection and analysis and leave decision making and responses to the individual participating States."

NASA to Host Workshop On "Objectives" for Exploration NEO Missions, August 10-11, 2010

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 03-Aug-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)

NASA announced yesterday that it will host a workshop in Washington, DC next week to "identify objectives for exploration missions to near-Earth objects." The workshop is August 10-11 at the Renaissance Mayflower hotel.

First of Two Spacewalks Set for Friday to Fix ISS Cooling Loop

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 03-Aug-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:13 PM)
NASA has set Friday, August 6, as the day for the first of two spacewalks to fix a broken ammonia pump for one of the two International Space Station's cooling loops. As reported earlier, the pump blew a circuit breaker on the station Saturday night and it could not be reset. Doug Wheelock and Tracy Caldwell Dyson were preparing for a spacewalk on Thursday already for an unrelated task and now will shift their attention to solving this problem instead.

A second spacewalk will take place on Monday, August 9, to complete the repairs. The pump is located on the exterior of the space station, on the S1 truss, and spare pumps are stored there. NASA stresses that space station systems are stable and the crew is in no danger.

NASA TV will broadcast the spacewalks. They both are scheduled to begin at 5:55 am Central Time (6:55 am EDT). Press briefings are scheduled for approximately two hours after the end of each spacewalk.

Correction: An earlier posting of this article misspelled astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson's name.

NASA To Hold Press Conference Monday To Outline Plans to Fix Failed ISS Cooling Loop

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 02-Aug-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)
NASA will hold a press conference tomorrow, August 2, at 4:00 pm EDT from Johnson Space Center to discuss plans for two spacewalks to fix a cooling pump that failed on Saturday. A circuit breaker tripped Saturday night resulting in "the failure of the Pump Module for [cooling] loop A that feeds ammonia to maintain the proper cooling for systems and avionics," according to NASA's ISS website. NASA says the crew is not in danger and the ISS is in a "stable configuration."

Astronauts Doug Wheelock and Tracy Caldwell Dyson were already preparing for a spacewalk on Thursday. Their task will now change to replace the failed pump, which is on the exterior of the station -- on the S1 truss. Two spare pumps are stowed on the truss.

Correction: An earlier posting of this article misspelled astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson's name.

Events of Interest: Week of August 2-6, 2010

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 02-Aug-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:13 PM)

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. Congressional hearings are subject to change; check the committee's website for up to date information.

The House is in recess for the next 6 weeks, returning on September 14. The Senate is in session this week, and then will have its own 5 week recess.

Note: In the listings below, NAC is the NASA Advisory Council.

Tuesday, August 3

Tuesday - Wednesday, August 3-4

Wednesday-Thursday, August 4-5

Thursday-Friday, August 5-6

  • NAC, JPL, Pasadena, CA

Astro2010 Decadal Survey To Be Released Soon

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 01-Aug-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:12 PM)

The Astro2010 astronomy and astrophysics Decadal Survey will be released on August 13, 2010 according to the National Research Council (NRC). Astro2010 is a joint effort of the NRC's Board on Physics and Astronomy and Space Studies Board. It prioritizes ground- and space-based astronomy and astrophysics missions for the next 10 years.

NASA Plutonium Supplies Still in Jeopardy

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 30-Jul-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:15 PM)

The urgent need for the Department of Energy (DOE) to restart production of plutonium-238 (Pu-238) to fuel some of NASA's planetary spacecraft missions was detailed in a 2009 report from the National Research Council. Congress, however, remains unconvinced, at least as to why DOE should pay for it.

Under the Atomic Energy Act, DOE is responsible for the nation's nuclear materials and facilities, so last year the full request of $30 million to restart Pu-238 production was included in the DOE budget request. Congress declined to provide the funding because the Administration had not demonstrated why DOE should pay for it instead of NASA.

For the FY2011 request, the Administration split the costs between the two agencies, but the Senate Appropriations Committee still is not convinced as to why DOE should have to pay any of the costs. In its report on the FY2011 Energy-Water appropriations bill (S. 3635, S. Rept. 111-228, pp. 92-93), the committee says the following:

"The Committee understands that the United States no longer has the capability to produce plutonium-238, which is a critical source of power for NASA space missions, and that a shortage of this radioisotope may affect future NASA missions. However, Pu-238 is not needed for any DOE or [National Nuclear Security Administration] missions, including national security applications. As NASA will be the only user of Pu-238, the Committee believes NASA should pay for the entire service through a similar work for others arrangement that DOE has with the Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies."

The NASA funding appears to be intact in the Senate committee's Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) appropriations bill (H.R. 3636, S. Rept. 111-229). The House Appropriations Energy-Water subcommittee and CJS subcommittee have marked up their versions of the bill, but they have not cleared full committee and the details are not known yet.

Stephen Colbert and Elon Musk

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 29-Jul-2010 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:17 PM)

In case you missed it, here's a link to the funny and delightful interview of Elon Musk by comedian Stephen Colbert.

Events of Interest   

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


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