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The Senate finally confirmed Erin Conaton as the new Air Force Under Secretary. Her nomination and those of other Pentagon nominees had been blocked by Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) because of the aerial refueling tanker controversy according to Congress Daily (subscription required). Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) threatened a procedural move that would have required Senator Shelby and other Senators blocking Pentagon nominations to explain their "holds" on the Senate floor so the holds were released, Congress Daily reported. Conaton's was one of several Pentagon nominations approved tonight.
In a statement released late Thursday, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden reaffirmed his commitment to the President's FY2011 budget request following a Wall Street Journal article that publicized an internal NASA email that suggested NASA was developing a "Plan B."
Dennis Hightower, Deputy Secretary of Commerce, said on the last day of the International Commercial Remote Sensing Symposium (ICRSS) that the remote sensing industry "is on the cusp" of making a breakthrough. Sales are expected to grow by 15% every year, he added, taking note of the "vast economic potential" of this "high-tech, high-growth industry."
Mr. Hightower underlined the Obama Administration's commitment to promote growth in this industry, balancing industry needs and national security concerns through "smart, calibrated regulations that keep us safe and enable competition." He outlined the Obama Administration's efforts to tackle what he called the "innovation deficit," including measures at the Department of Commerce to create a new "innovation pipeline." Mr. Hightower ended his remarks by saying that success for the commercial remote sensing industry "will require open dialogue between industry and government."
UPDATE: NBC correspondent Jay Barbree was on MSNBC earlier today talking about why he feels a Plan B is needed. Click here to view the segment.
Citing an internal NASA email, the Wall Street Journal reports today that NASA is working on "Plan B" in case Congress does not agree to cancel the Constellation program. The newspaper said that it had seen an email from NASA Johnson Space Center Director Michael Coats to other NASA centers and program offices saying that NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden had "agreed to let us set up a 'Plan B' Team" to "flesh out" alternatives. The newspaper asserted that "The move to draft a compromise highlights behind-the-scenes maneuvering by NASA officials to save big chunks of existing programs now in jeopardy," but quoted an unnamed NASA spokesman as saying that Gen. Bolden and NASA "are fully committed to the President's budget."
Speaking at a heavily attended breakfast meeting of Women in Aerospace, NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver projected confidence that as NASA continues to communicate with Congress about the change proposed in the FY2011 budget request they will see that it is "a good plan."
"The President took on the status quo with his eyes wide open," knowing that change always is difficult. He was willing to do that, she said, because of the importance he ascribes to NASA and the need for a "sustainable and affordable" way for the space program to move forward. Noting that the 5-year budget allocates $100 billion for NASA, she said President Obama "feels we can do better" and NASA is important enough to fight the battle. She stressed that the country's elected leaders are making the decisions, starting with the President, and now Congress will evaluate his proposal.
Mary Glackin, Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) told the 2010 International Commercial Remote Sensing Symposium (ICRSS) on Wednesday that commercial remote sensing policy was an important aspect of the ongoing review of U.S. national space policy. Ms. Glackin spoke of the increasing demand for commercial data and referred to the guiding principles of remote sensing policy in the 2006 National Space Policy. She said that while it is too early to provide details of the new Obama space policy, in time the industry would see that they would provide support.
In addition to data obtained through international partnerships -- including synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data from Canada -- NOAA relies on data procured commercially from U.S. companies. "We need this commercial sector with us," said Glackin.
The 2007 editions of the Journal of Space Law are now available for free online. Journal editor Joanne Gabrynowicz notes that online access to the Journal is free for issues more than three years old and the collection dates back to 1973 when the journal started. More recent editions are available by subscription.
A NASA radar that orbited the Moon on India's Chandrayaan-1 lunar probe has provided more evidence that there is water at the lunar poles. NASA's Mini-SAR instrument (also known as Mini-RF), a lighweight synthetic aperture radar, found more than 40 small craters at the Moon's north pole that have water ice, according to NASA.
The data are in addition to readings made at the Moon's south pole in 2009 by NASA's LCROSS probe, and data from another NASA instrument on Chandrayaan-1, the Moon Mineraology Mapper, that showed that there are trace amounts of water all over the lunar surface.
A SpacePolicyOnline.com summary of the Feb. 25, 2010 House Science and Technology Committee's hearing on the NASA's FY2011 budget request is now available. Find it on our left menu under "Our Hearing Summaries" or simply click here.
Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) relented late on Tuesday and allowed the Senate to proceed to vote on legislation that would extend until the end of this month a number of expiring laws that affected everything from unemployment benefits to satellite television signals. The Senate voted 78-19 to pass the bill (H.R. 4691). The House already has passed it and the President is expected to sign it quickly. The Senate still must deal with longer term extensions of each of those laws or a similar situation could arise as March 31 approaches.
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