Latest News

Obama Meeting with Potential New NASA Administrator Postponed to May 19

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 19-May-2009 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:16 PM)

According to reports from AFP and the Associated Press, the meeting between President Obama and Charles Bolden, rumored to be his choice for NASA Administrator, was postponed from May 18 to May 19.

AP Reports Obama Met with Bolden But No Announcement "Immediately"

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 19-May-2009 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:12 PM)

The Associated Press reports that President Obama met with Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden (Ret.), rumored to be his choice to become the new NASA administrator, but that "the administration isn't expected to announce a new NASA chief immediately."

House Armed Services Schedules Hearing on Space and Missile Defense Programs, May 21

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 17-May-2009 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:14 PM)

Five congressional hearings on civil and military space are now scheduled for the week of May 18, 2009. In addition to the four announced earlier, the House Armed Services Committee's Strategic Forces Subcommittee has added a hearing on the FY2010 budget request for National Security Space and Missile Defense Programs.

Witnesses will be Gen. Robert Kehler, Commander, Air Force Space Command, and Lt. Gen. Patrick Reilly, director of the Missile Defense Agency. The hearing will be May 21 at 2:00 pm in Room 2118 Rayburn House Office Building. Times and witnesses for congressional hearings are subject to change. Check with the committee for the most up-to-date information:

To recap the hearings for this week (check our calendar for more details):

NASA Budget

May 19, 2:00 pm, 2318 Rayburn, House Science and Technology Committee

May 21, 11:00 am, 192 Dirksen, Senate Appropriations CJS Subcommittee

May 21, 2:30 pm, 253 Russell, Senate Commerce Science and Space Subcommittee

Military Space Budget

May 20, 2:00 pm, 232-A Russell, Senate Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee

May 21, 2:00 pm, 2118 Rayburn, House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee

White House Confirms President will Meet with Potential New NASA Administrator on Monday

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 16-May-2009 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:18 PM)

On Friday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs confirmed that the President would meet on Monday with the person he hopes will accept the job as NASA Administrator, but Charlie Bolden was quoted by as saying that he has not been asked to meet with the President.

May 15 White House Press Briefing

Q And on Monday, Robert, will there be a NASA administrator announcement?

MR. GIBBS: I think you know that the President will meet with somebody that he hopes will -- wants to meet with somebody about filling the important role of future NASA administrator.

Q Charles Bolden?

MR. GIBBS: He will meet with him on Monday, and we'll see how that goes.

"I am hearing the rumors, and as far as I know there is no truth in the rumors," Bolden said. "You can't say 'yes' or 'no' when you haven't had a conversation. I haven't had that conversation and I don't have one scheduled."

Senate Appropriations Hearing on May 21 to Include Live Videoconference with Hubble Crew

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 16-May-2009 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:16 PM)

The Senate Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science will hold a hearing on NASA's FY2010 budget request on May 21 at 11:00 am in Room 192 Dirksen Senate Office Building. According to the committee's website, as part of the hearing a live videoconference will be held with the STS-125 crew that is in orbit repairing the Hubble Space Telescope. The videoconference will take place at approximately 12:30 pm.

Congressional Hearings, Week of May 18, 2009

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 15-May-2009 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:13 PM)

Three NASA budget hearings and one on the military space budget are currently scheduled for the week of May 18, 2009 as listed below. Times and witnesses for congressional hearings are subject to change. Check with the committee for the most up-to-date information.

NASA Budget

May 19 House Science and Technology Committee

2:00 pm 2318 Rayburn House Office Building

Witness: NASA Acting Administrator Christopher Scolese

May 21 Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science

11:00 am 192 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Witness: NASA Acting Administrator Christopher Scolese. A videoconference with the crew of STS-125 which is in orbit repairing the Hubble Space Telescope is scheduled for approximately 12:30 pm.

May 21 Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Subcommittee on Science and Space

2:30 pm 253 Russell Senate Office Building

Witness: NASA Acting Administrator Christopher Scolese

Military Space Budget

May 20 Senate Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Strategic Forces

2:00 pm 232-A Russell Senate Office Building

Witnesses: Gary Payton, Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force For Space Programs; General C. Robert Kehler, Commander, Air Force Space Command; Lt. Gen. Larry James, Commander, 14th Air Force, Air Force Space Command and Commander, Joint Functional Component Command for Space, U.S. Strategic Command; Vice Adm. Harry B. Harris, Jr., Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Communications Networks; and Cristina Chaplain, GAO

Charlie Bolden Rumored to be White House Pick to Run NASA

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 15-May-2009 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:12 PM)

MSNBC reported that Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden (USMC, Ret.) is President Obama's choice to head NASA. Gen. Bolden is a highly respected former NASA astronaut and marine aviator. He currently serves on NASA's Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel and on the National Research Council's Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board.

His name surfaced early after the election along with several others as a possible successor to then-NASA Administrator Michael Griffin. Many news stories have credited Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) as the major backer of Bolden for the position. The two flew together on the space shuttle in 1986 on the STS-61C flight just before the Challenger tragedy. Bolden's nomination would have to be approved by the Senate. Senator Nelson chairs the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation's Subcomittee on Science and Space that would recommend approval of the nomination to the Senate.

The MSNBC report was based on information from an anonymous Obama administration source so may or may not be accurate. NASA supporters have been waiting patiently since the inauguration for someone to be named to lead the agency on a permanent basis. Christopher Scolese is serving as Acting Administrator.

Tom Young Calls for White House Leadership on NPOESS

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 14-May-2009 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:17 PM)

Tom Young, vice-chair of the NRC's Space Studies Board and chair of an independent review team for the DOD-NOAA-NASA National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS), called on the White House to step in to resolve the future of that troubled program.

During a discussion with Chris Scolese, Acting Administrator of NASA, at the May 13, 2009 SSB meeting, Mr. Young emphasized that the Air Force and NOAA have sharply divergent views on the future of NPOESS that cannot be resolved by those parties. "This program has zero chance unless the White House steps in. I don't see how these partners can ever reach agreement."

NPOESS is funded equally by the Air Force and NOAA, with NASA participating in technology development. Its goal is to combine the military and civilian weather satellite programs into a single system, but cost growth and schedule slippage have plagued the program. A decision on whether a single agency should take charge, and if so, which one, is being debated. Mr. Young is a retired Lockheed Martin executive who is often brought in to diagnose troubled space programs and recommend corrective actions.

Augustine Panel Mandate Unclear

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 14-May-2009 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:12 PM)

Differing views on the mandate for and potential impact of the "Augustine panel" on future U.S. human space flight activities were aired during a joint meeting of the NRC's Space Studies Board (SSB) and Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board (ASEB) on May 13, 2009.

The panel is being created at White House direction and will be chaired by former Lockheed Martin executive Norman Augustine. Today NASA is proceeding with Project Constellation to return humans to the Moon by 2020 and someday send them to Mars as directed by President George W. Bush in 2004. The question is whether the new Obama Administration wants to continue on that course. The panel's report is due in August 2009.

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy's (OSTP's) May 7, 2009 press release lays out the Augustine panel's mandate to -

"examine ongoing and planned [NASA] development activities, as well as potential alternatives, and present options for advancing a safe, innovative, affordable, and sustainable human space flight program in the years following Space Shuttle retirement." It goes on to say that the panel "will assess a number of architecture options, taking into account such objectives as:

  1. expediting a new U.S. capability to support use of the International Space


  1. supporting missions to the Moon and other destinations beyond low Earth orbit;
  1. stimulating commercial space flight capabilities; and
  1. fitting within the current budget profile for NASA exploration activities.

"Among the parameters to be considered in the course of its review are crew and mission safety, life-cycle costs, development time, national space industrial base impacts, potential to spur innovation and encourage competition, and the implications and impacts of transitioning from current human space flight systems. The review will consider the appropriate amounts of R&D and complementary robotic activity necessary to support various human space flight activities, as well as the capabilities that are likely to be enabled by each of the potential architectures under consideration. It will also explore options for extending International Space Station operations beyond 2016."

During the day-long SSB/ASEB meeting, NASA officials and White House and congressional staff discussed their views on the panel's task. Acting NASA Administrator Christopher Scolese presented a chart laying out the OSTP terms of reference and adding two more: "determine appropriate opportunities for international collaboration," and look at the "Potential for inspiring the nation, and motivating young people to pursue careers in STEM subjects." The NASA chart also states that the panel will "determine" rather than "consider" the appropriate amount of R&D and complementary robotic activity necessary to support various human space flight activities. In addition to answering questions about the future of Project Constellation, Mr. Scolese appeared to be pinning his hopes on the Augustine panel to decide the fate of the International Space Station (ISS). Current U.S. planning is to discontinue U.S. involvement in the ISS in the 2015-2016 time period even though construction is only now being completed, giving it a very short operational lifetime.

OSTP and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) staff , however, emphasized that the Augustine panel is to provide only options and pros and cons. "We haven't asked them to make any decisions, but to give options," according to an OMB staffer. Another added that the idea is the panel's report will get White House attention, spurring the White House to make decisions.

SSB and ASEB members sharply questioned the requirement that the panel's review "fit within the current budget profile for NASA Human Space Flight activities." SSB vice-chair A. Thomas Young asserted that the requirement invalidates the study, and instead the directive should have been to "assess" the current budget. Many consider the current budget to be inadequate for any effort to expand human presence beyond low Earth orbit in the next decade. Other Board members questioned how the panel could fulfill its mandate in just three months.

Staff from the congressional committees that authorize NASA funding held other views. One commented that he doubted that the members of his committee would be willing to cede their obligation to guide the future of the U.S. space program to "an unelected committee." Another pointed out that Congress has twice endorsed the current plan to return humans to the Moon by 2020 - once when the Republicans controlled Congress in 2005 and again when Democrats controlled Congress in 2008 - with the idea that no matter who won the White House, Congress supported the goals enunciated in 2004. Another staffer argued that there should be no constraints on what the panel considers -- such as "fit within the current budget profile" -- other than the fact that "we are where we are."

ASEB member David Goldston observed that the White House and Congress have opposite views on what the Augustine panel will do: "The White House wants them to say how to stay within the existing box, and the Hill wants them to take the box apart."

NRC Updates Planetary Protection Guidelines for Mars Sample Return

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 13-May-2009 (Updated: 05-Dec-2011 06:16 PM)

The Space Studies Board (SSB) of the National Research Council released a new report on May 13 updating planetary protection guidelines for samples that someday may be returned to Earth from Mars. Assessment of Planetary Protection Requirements for Mars Sample Return updates a 1997 SSB report.

The report found that discoveries about Mars since 1997 enhance the possibility that habitable environments once were widespread on Mars and could exist today. At the same time, our understanding of life on Earth in extreme environments has grown.

"A substantial and growing body of evidence shows that life not only is present but also frequently thrives under extreme environmental conditions."

The report recommends that "samples returned from Mars by spacecraft should be contained and treated as though potentially hazardous until proven otherwise. No uncontained Martian material, including spacecraft surfaces that have been exposed to the martian environment, should be returned to Earth unless sterilized."

The report makes a number of other findings and recommendations, including that "the public should be informed about all aspects of Mars sample return...."

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