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Senate Passes CR, No Government Shutdown

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 09-Dec-2016 (Updated: 09-Dec-2016 11:35 PM)

The Senate just passed the second FY2017 continuing resolution that will keep the government funded through April 28, 2017.  Thus there will be no government shutdown.

The House passed the CR yesterday, but the Senate vote was up in the air because two Democratic Senators wanted a longer-term guarantee of health care benefits for retired coal miners.

After intense negotiations, enough votes were secured to move forward with a vote on the measure, which ultimately passed 63-36.

DOD, NASA and NOAA will be funded at their current FY2016 levels during this period, although there are a number of exceptions ("anomalies') for each of those agencies.  NASA and NOAA, for example, are able to spend money to ensure that the launch dates for NASA's Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) and NOAA's first Joint Polar Satellite System weather satellite (JPSS-1) are not delayed.

The Senate is now turning to another bill, the Water Resources Development Act, which is highly contentious because of a provision added in the House, but once a vote is taken, the Senate is expected to end its business for the year, and for this Congress.

Lightfoot: No Negative Impact for NASA From New CR

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 09-Dec-2016 (Updated: 09-Dec-2016 06:37 PM)

NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot said today that the agency does not expect any negative impact from the second FY2017 Continuing Resolution (CR), which will last through April 28, 2017. The bill has not yet cleared the Senate, but even if Senate Democrats succeed in delaying a vote until Sunday, the NASA provisions will not change.

NASA and most other government agencies are currently funded through a CR that expires at midnight tonight.  A second CR -- the Further Continuing and Security Assistance Appropriations Act, 2017 (H.R. 2028, as amended) -- passed the House yesterday.  It contains a provision extending health benefits for retired coal miners for four months, but two Senate Democrats from coal mining states, Joe Manchin (West Virginia) and Sherrod Brown (Ohio) are fighting to extend that for a year. They are bringing attention to the issue by vowing to delay -- but not block -- Senate passage of the CR through procedural moves.  Negotiations are ongoing and hope remains that a deal can be struck before midnight to avoid a partial government shutdown tomorrow and Sunday.  The procedural delays end on Sunday, so if the CR does not pass earlier, it will pass then.

CRs generally fund agencies at their existing levels and programs cannot be initiated or terminated.  However, exceptions can be made.  Called "anomalies," they permit agencies to spend money in order to achieve a special objective.

This CR grants NASA an anomaly whereby it may spend money on its deep space human exploration program -- Space Launch System, Orion, and Exploration Ground Systems -- at a rate to ensure that the launch date for Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) does not slip.  NASA plans to launch EM-1 no later than November 2018.  It is an uncrewed test of SLS, Orion and their associated ground systems.

Lightfoot said at a Space Transportation Association (STA) luncheon today on Capitol Hill that NASA looked at its budget needs in detail and determined that no other program would be impacted by the extension of current funding through the end of April.  It will have to reassess the situation if a FY2017 appropriations bill is not passed by that time and a third CR is under consideration.

NASA's FY2016 budget was $19.285 billion, so that is roughly how much is available under the CR.  President Obama requested $18.262 billion in appropriated funds for the agency in FY2017, but Congress was poised to increase that to $19.306 billion or $19.508 billion in the Senate and House versions, respectively, of the Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) appropriations bill.  The funds were allocated differently than in FY2016, however.  Some programs, like commercial crew, have passed their peak spending years and were slated to go down, while others need to ramp up.

The CJS bills did not pass, however, and at the end of a Congress, all pending legislation dies.  The process must begin again when the next Congress convenes. The 115th Congress will convene on January 3.  There is no indication as to when the new Trump Administration will submit a FY2018 budget request and Congress will have until April 28 to complete action on FY2017 appropriations bills -- or pass yet another CR.

Lightfoot noted that Chris Shank, who is leading the incoming Trump Administration's NASA "landing party," had arrived at NASA on Monday and additional members would be named imminently.  (Shank was in the room, actually, and said their names had just been made public.)  Shank was a high ranking NASA official during Mike Griffin's tenure at NASA (2005-2009) so is very familiar with the agency's programs and operations and has been serving as a staff member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, which oversees NASA, for the past several years.  Many of the new landing party members also have extensive prior experience at the agency.

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden and Deputy Administrator Dava Newman are political appointees and must tender their resignations when Trump takes office on January 20.  Lightfoot is the top ranking civil servant in NASA.  Typically, the person in that position serves as acting administrator until a new administrator is confirmed by the Senate, but whether the Trump team will follow that tradition is unknown.

 

 

Trump Transition Team Adds Six More Members to NASA Landing Party - UPDATE

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 09-Dec-2016 (Updated: 10-Dec-2016 08:38 AM)

The President-Elect Transition Team (PETT) announced six more members of the NASA "landing party" today.  They will join Chris Shank, who arrived at NASA on Monday to begin assessing the status of NASA programs and operations in order to advise the incoming President on what issues require immediate attention.

The six new members are:

Greg Autry, University of Southern California.  Autry is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Entrepreneurship who "researches the role of the government in shaping the environment in which new industries and organizations emerge" according to the university's website, which adds that he is a "serial entrepreneur in video games, computer services, Internet content, enterprise applications, health care IT and material upcycling."


Greg Autry.  Photo credit:  USC website.

Jack Burns, University of Colorado.  Burns is a Professor in the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences at the University of Colorado-Boulder and director of the Lunar University Network for Astrophysics Research (LUNAR), a $6.5 million center of excellence funded by the NASA Lunar Science Institute.  He also is Vice President of the American Astronomical Society and previously chaired the Science Committee of the NASA Advisory Council (NAC).


Jack Burns (with the Moon in the background).  Photo Credit:  CU-Boulder website.

Steve Cook, Dynetics.   Cook is Acting President of Dynetics Technical Services and Vice President, Corporate Development at Dynetics.  He joined Dynetics in 2009 after almost 20 years at NASA where, from 2005-2009, he was Manager of the Ares Projects to build the Ares I and Ares V rockets for the Bush Administration's Constellation Moon/Mars program.


Steve Cook.  Photo credit:  Cook's LinkedIn page.

Rodney Liesveld, NASA (retired).  Liesveld is a former senior policy advisor in the NASA Administrator's office for both Mike Griffin and Charlie Bolden.  Before joining NASA in 2004, he was Senior Manager, Space Systems, at TASC for three years following a long career in ballistic missile defense and national security space, including Deputy Director, Space & Nuclear Deterrence for the Air Force.  He retired from NASA in October 2016.


Rod Liesveld.  Photo credit:  Liesveld's LinkedIn page.

Sandra Magnus, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).  Magnus is Executive Director of AIAA and a former astronaut who flew on two space shuttle missions STS-122 and STS-135 (the final shuttle mission) as well as on STS-125 and STS-119 on the way up to and back from a four-and-half-month stay on the International Space Station (Expedition 18).  Before joining NASA, she was an engineer at McDonnell Douglas.


Sandy Magnus.  Photo credit:  AIAA website.

Jeff Waksman, former research fellow for Rep. David Schweickert, R-Arizona.  Waksman performed his doctoral research on the Madison Symmetric Torus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and then worked at IBM's Thomas Watson Lab for two-and-a-half years before joining Rep. Schweickert's staff in August 2016.


Jeff Waksman.  Photo credit:  Waksman's LinkedIn page.

 

Note:  This article was updated with the information about and photo of Mr. Liesveld.

DOD IG Exonerates DOD in Assertions Made by Former ULA Official

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 08-Dec-2016 (Updated: 09-Dec-2016 12:54 AM)

The Department of Defense (DOD) Inspector General (IG) issued his report on the investigation into assertions by a former United Launch Alliance (ULA) executive that, among other things, implied that DOD had tried to slant an acquisition towards ULA.  The IG concluded there was no wrong doing on the part of DOD. 

The IG is appointed by the President of the United States with the advice and consent of the Senate in accordance with the Inspector General Act of 1978.  Glenn Fine is DOD's Acting IG.

In March 2016, Brett Tobey, then ULA's Engineering Vice President, spoke to a group of students at the University of Colorado-Boulder.  He made a number of frank statements about ULA's competition with SpaceX and the competition between Blue Origin and Aerojet Rocketdyne on building an engine for ULA's new Vulcan rocket.  ULA President Tory Bruno disavowed the statements and Tobey resigned. 

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), however, demanded an investigation into whether Tobey's statements had substance.

One statement in particular that raised eyebrows was that the Air Force had tilted a launch service solicitation in ULA's direction and was upset that ULA subsequently decided not to bid on that contract (for a GPS III launch).   The implication was that the government acquisition process was not being followed appropriately.  Other statements concerned the long-running debate over how many Russian RD-180 engines ULA would be allowed to obtain for its Atlas V rockets, a topic on which McCain had strong views.  (It since has been resolved.)

In its December 8 report, the DOD IG concluded there was no wrongdoing on the part of DOD. 

It investigated four of Tobey's assertions:

  • that McCain had said ULA was "hiding five RD-180s" to transfer them from national security space (NSS) to commercial launches to influence legislation;
  • that DOD gave an unfair advantage to ULA in awarding launch service contracts;
  • that the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (USA/ATL), and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Lockheed Martin, had a conversation on how to "silence" McCain on the RD-180 issue; and
  • that DOD was "unhappy" that ULA did not bid on the GPS III launch because it had given ULA an advantage over other contractors.

The IG noted that Tobey "recanted" these assertions during its investigation and "characterized [them] as postulation."   It quotes Tobey as saying "The tone of my presentation was that of more of an op-ed than even a rational argument or article" and that because it was a student audience, he decided to provide "drama" and "got into an excessively casual tone of discussion with them."  He did not know his remarks were being recorded and would "go viral" and be "quoted in sound bites that make them very damaging to ULA.  And for that, I'm very sorry."

After a 7-month investigation, the IG said it found no evidence that ULA improperly transferred rocket engines from NSS to commercial launches, that DOD gave an unfair advantage to ULA over competitors, or that the USD/ATL and the Lockheed Martin CEO had a conversation about silencing McCain.  It also found that DOD awarded contracts to ULA "in accordance with DoD and Federal regulations."

Appropriations Coming Down to the Wire -- Will There Be a Shutdown Tomorrow?

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 08-Dec-2016 (Updated: 08-Dec-2016 11:57 PM)

The House today passed the new FY2017 Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government operating through April 28, 2017, but Senate Democrats are threatening to delay -- but not block - a vote in the Senate.  If the bill is not cleared by Congress and signed by the President before midnight tomorrow, December 9, some parts of the government will have to shut down.

Only one of the 12 regular FY2017 appropriations bills has been signed into law -- the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA) bill.   Funding for all other government operations that are part of discretionary spending -- from DOD to NASA to NOAA to a who's who of other agencies -- ends at midnight tomorrow.   The new CR, H.R. 2028, Further Continuing and Security Assistance Appropriations, as amended, passed the House 326-96 this afternoon.

With the clock running out, expectations initially were that the Senate would approve it even if there were concerns about its provisions and the process itself.  Under Senate procedures, there first must be a vote to allow debate to occur (a cloture vote) after which 30 hours of debate are allowed.  That period can be shortened by unanimous consent.

However, Senate Democrats indicated today that they plan to prevent the abbreviated post-cloture debate by objecting to the unanimous consent request.  They are demanding an extension of health care benefits for coal miners that otherwise will expire in January.  The protest is led by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH). 

H.R. 2028, as passed by the House, includes a four-month extension of the benefits, but Manchin and Brown want a year-long extension.  Though narrowly framed, the debate is more broadly over whether President-elect Donald Trump will honor promises to coal miners during his campaign and how Democrats can exert their influence following the election results.

If Democrats hold to their position, the cloture vote would take place on Saturday, and a vote on the bill itself on Sunday.  Assuming it passes, that means a partial shutdown of the government would last for two days or less.

The new CR funds most government discretionary activities at their FY2016 levels until the end of April, although exceptions are made for NASA's deep space human exploration program (Space Launch System, Exploration Ground Systems, and Orion) and NOAA's Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) weather satellites.  In both cases, funds may be spent to ensure that the launch dates for Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) and JPSS-1 do not slip.  H.R. 2028, as amended, also provides NASA with $74.7 million to repair damage from Hurricane Matthew.

Marine, Astronaut, Senator John Glenn Passes Away at 95

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 08-Dec-2016 (Updated: 08-Dec-2016 11:09 PM)

Tributes from around the world are pouring in for John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, who died today at 95.  He is the last of the original "Mercury 7" astronauts to pass away -- the end of an era.  A Marine, a NASA astronaut, and a four-term U.S. Senator, Glenn is being praised as a quintessential America hero and icon.

Glenn's service to the country began as a Marine pilot in World War II and the Korean War.  When the United States began its human spaceflight program, he was one of the "original seven" astronauts chosen for the Mercury program in 1959.  Following two suborbital Mercury flights -- Alan Shepard in April 1961 and Virgil "Gus" Grissom in July 1961 -- Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth on February 20, 1962.   His four-orbit flight was fraught with problems, notably when a sensor indicated that his Friendship 7 spacecraft's heatshield was loose and might not protect him during the heat of reentry.  The sensor was faulty, not the heatshield, and Glenn safely splashed down after 4 hours and 55 minutes in space.


John Glenn, in weightlessness aboard Friendship 7.  Photo credit:  NASA

Glenn's career then turned to politics and he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1974, a position he held until January 1999.  As his Senate career was coming to a close, NASA agreed to fly him into space a second time on a space shuttle mission, STS-95, ostensibly to test how spaceflight conditions affect older individuals.  Launched on October 29, 1998, Glenn set a record for the oldest human to fly into space at the age of 77.  He was in space for 8 days 22 hours on that flight.

As he was about to launch on his 1962 mission, fellow astronaut Scott Carpenter, serving as capsule communicator (CAPCOM), famously said "Godspeed, John Glenn."  That phrase was repeated many times today.

Glenn's death follows that of his six fellow Mercury 7 astronauts:  Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, Grissom, Walter (Wally) Schirra, Alan Shepherd, and Donald (Deke) Slayton.

President Obama said "The last of America's first astronauts has left us, but propelled by their example we know that our future here on Earth compels us to keep reaching for the heavens.  On behalf of a grateful nation, Godspeed, John Glenn."


John Glenn receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2012.  Photo credit: NASA

Many others are paying tribute to Glenn today, including Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), who, himself, flew on a space shuttle mission while he was a member of the House of Representatives in 1986.   He called Glenn "a first class gentleman and an unabashed patriot."

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden (Maj. Gen. USMC, Ret.), said the "entire NASA Family will be forever grateful for his outstanding service, commitment and friendship. Personally, I shall miss him greatly.  As a fellow Marine and aviator, he was a mentor, role model, and most importantly, a dear friend."

Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth, but the first human to orbit the Earth was the Soviet Union's Yuri Gagarin, who made one orbit on April 12, 1961.

New CR Funds Government Through April 28, Protects SLS/Orion and JPSS

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 06-Dec-2016 (Updated: 06-Dec-2016 10:20 PM)

The House Appropriations Committee released the new Continuing Resolution (CR) tonight that will keep the government operating after Friday, when the existing CR expires.  The new CR will fund the government through April 28, 2017.  Generally activities are funded at their current (FY2016) levels, but there are a number of exceptions, including for NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion exploration programs and NOAA's Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS).  Congress must pass and the President must sign the bill before midnight Friday.

Congressional Republicans decided to punt on FY2017 appropriations after the elections gave them control not only of Congress, but the White House as well.  By delaying action, the new Trump Administration will have a say in funding for FY2017 as well as FY2018 and beyond.

CRs typically fund activities at their existing levels, but exceptions can be made for ongoing or new programs.   In this case, among the new activities are additional funding for the military to fight foreign wars ("Overseas Contingency Operations"), natural disaster relief, funds for communities affected by contaminated drinking water, and funding for the 21st Century CURES Act (medical research and associated activities).

Fourteen ongoing programs were singled out for special treatment ranging from the Ohio Class Submarine Replacement program to the continuation of FAA air travel operations and safety activities to health care benefits for miners. 

Included in the 14 is NASA's deep space human exploration program -- SLS, Orion, and associated ground systems.  A committee press release says the action was taken "to avoid delays that would increase long-term costs."  The bill states that funds for NASA's exploration account "may be apportioned up to the rate of operations necessary to maintain the planned launch capability schedules" for SLS, Exploration Ground Systems, and Orion. The first SLS/Orion launch -- without a crew -- is currently scheduled for no later than November 2018.

Another exception is NOAA's JPSS.  That was made to ensure "the continuation of data for weather warnings, including forecasts of extreme weather events."  The bill allows that funds for JPSS "may be apportioned up to the rate for operations necessary to maintain the planned launch schedules" for JPSS.   Until recently, the launch of JPSS-1 was expected in March 2017, but NOAA's website now states that it will be in the 4th quarter of FY2017. 

The House is using the Senate amendment to H.R. 2028, the FY2016 (yes, FY2016) Energy and Water Appropriations Act, as the legislative vehicle for this CR -- formally the Further Continuing and Security Assistance Appropriations Act.

House Appropriations Committee chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY), who has long (and fruitlessly) advocated for a return to "regular order" where each of the 12 regular appropriations bills is passed individually in time for the beginning of each new fiscal year, called the new CR "a band aid, but a critical one" that will give the next Congress time to complete the annual appropriations process.  This is his last year as chairman of the committee because of a 6-year term limit applied to such positions.  Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) will chair the committee in the next Congress.  Rogers reportedly is hoping to be appointed chairman of the Appropriations Defense Subcommittee.

The House Rules Committee will meet tomorrow afternoon at 3:00 pm ET to write the rule for consideration of this bill on the House floor.  It could be brought to the floor for a vote anytime thereafter.  It then must pass the Senate and be signed into law by President Obama.

AIA Wants More Aerospace Exports, Ex-Im Bank Solution, End to Sequester Threat

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 06-Dec-2016 (Updated: 06-Dec-2016 07:14 PM)

Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) President David Melcher laid out his organization's priorities for next year at a luncheon today.  Among his top 10 priorities are clearing the way for aerospace and defense exports, resolving the quorum issue at the Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank, and repealing the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) and its sequester provisions.

Lt. Gen. Melcher (Ret.) took the reins of AIA after a 32-year career in the Army and 7 years in industry.  After leaving the Army in 2008, he joined ITT Corporation and became the first chief executive of Excelis after it was spun off from ITT in 2011.  He remained there through its acquisition by Harris Corporation in May 2015.  A month later he became President and CEO of AIA, succeeding Marion Blakey, who is now head of Rolls Royce North America.  

Melcher said that he met with Donald Trump during the campaign to discuss AIA's position papers on key issues for the next President (as well as with senior advisers to the Clinton campaign).  He said the President-elect "listened carefully to our views on the need to beef up investments in defense capabilities and to spur high tech innovation."  Melcher praised Trump's pick of Gen. James Mattis (Ret.) as his nominee for Secretary of Defense: "I count General Mattis as a friend and I think he's an outstanding choice."

The bulk of Melcher's comments were directed toward the aerospace and defense industries broadly, rather than specific agencies or programs.  Exports were a major theme. 

AIA is seeking a resolution to the stalemate over the Export-Import Bank.  AIA was one of the leaders in getting Congress to reauthorize the bank, but has been unable to convince the Senate to confirm new members of its Board.  The Bank should have five Board members and three are required as a quorum to approve loans of more than $10 million.  There are only two Board members now.  Senators who oppose the Bank are blocking new nominees, hamstringing what it can do.

He also called on the government to ease barriers to exports of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) created by the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).  He asserts that  the United States could lose its leadership "in a potential $80 billion market."

A "21st Century Commercial Space Competitiveness Strategy" that encourages "commercial space export opportunities" that will "ensure we have a healthy space industrial base" is also needed, he said.

Getting rid of the 2011 BCA and its spending caps is another priority.   "BCA has set a spending level far below what's required to secure our nation and our allies.... Let's fund our military based on clear eyed assessments of where power and presence are necessary, and not tie this to arbitrary limits."

Melcher laid out four "megatrends" identified by senior representatives of AIA member companies -- a veritable who's who of the U.S. aerospace industry ranging from Aerojet Rocketdyne to Virgin Galactic (but with notable exceptions like SpaceX and Blue Origin).   These megatrends are "strong headwinds that affect policy making in Washington" and need attention:  the state of deficit politics, smart regulations, U.S. leadership in a global economy, and transition to a digital global economy.

The United States needs to "make a conscious decision to invest in national security, civil space, aeronautics and 21st century air transportation systems" if it wants to be innovative, job-creating, and inspirational.

What's Happening in Space Policy December 5-9, 2016

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 04-Dec-2016 (Updated: 04-Dec-2016 11:35 AM)

Here is our list of space policy events for the week of December 5-9, 2016 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

This is make or break time for Congress to pass an appropriations bill or bills to keep the government operating past Friday.  The existing Continuing Resolution (CR), which funds agencies at their current (FY2016) levels, expires at midnight December 9. The House has no votes scheduled for Friday, so it apparently expects to complete action earlier in the week. The Senate schedule has not been announced.

The election put Republicans in control of both chambers of Congress and the White House so congressional leaders have decided to wait until the Trump Administration is in place to make final FY2017 appropriations decisions.  However, some key Republicans are insisting that Congress pass a full-year appropriations bill for DOD to match the funding levels recommended in the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  That bill just passed the House on Friday and is expected to pass the Senate early this coming week. Congress can pass a full-year FY2017 appropriations bill for DOD and an extension of the CR for other agencies or any other combination it chooses, but it must do something by Friday or some parts of the government will have to close down. The existing CR provided full-year funding for activities in the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA) bill, so perhaps Congress will do the same for defense.  It really is up in the air at this moment.   All the other agencies, including NASA and NOAA, likely will end up with another CR.  There is some debate as to whether to extend it through either March or April, with the later date advocated by the Senate which expects to be busy holding hearings and votes on Trump cabinet nominees in the early months of next year.

Congress might also pass a new authorization bill for NASA this week. The 2016 NASA Transition Authorization Act was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee in September and negotiations are ongoing with the House on a final bill.  The latest rumors are that it could reach the Senate floor for consideration early this week, but it still would have to pass the House and time is getting short.  Nonetheless, it is quite common for Congress to pass a flurry of legislation in its closing days.  Congresses last for 2 years and at the end all pending legislation is dead.  The next Congress must begin again, with its new set of Members, so there is an advantage to completing work before the 114th Congress ends and the 115th begins.

One bill that made it through the Senate last week and might be voted on in the House this week -- although it is not on the schedule yet -- is the Weather Forecasting and Research Innovation Act.  The version that passed the Senate is a compromise with the House and incorporates provisions of H.R. 1561, which passed the House in 2015, S. 1331, which cleared the Senate Commerce Committee in 2015, and two other bills (S. 1573 and H.R. 34).  Among many other things, it reforms NOAA's satellite procurement efforts.

The House is scheduled to consider the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 2726, as amended) tomorrow under suspension of the rules. The Apollo 1 Memorial Act is not on the list as of today, but the schedule notes that additional bills will be added to the suspension calendar (which is used for relatively non-controversial bills that are expected to easily win two-thirds of the votes and therefore get expedited consideration). 

So it will be a very busy week just with congressional activity, but there are many other interesting events, too.  For brevity's sake, we will mention only one -- Wednesday's Eilene M. Galloway Symposium on Critical Issues in Space Law in Washington, DC.   This is the 11th Galloway symposium and they just keep getting better every year.  It's free, but seating is limited so pre-registration is REQUIRED.   Bob Walker, a former congressman who was a space policy adviser to the Trump campaign and presumably is still advising the transition effort (though not officially part of the "landing party" at NASA), and Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), are both on the agenda, plus panels on topical space law issues and a luncheon speech on the "Next 50 Years of the Outer Space Treaty," which turns 50 next year.

Those and other events we know about as of Sunday morning are shown below.  Check back throughout the week for additions that we learn about later and add to our Events of Interest list.

Monday-Tuesday, December 5-6

Tuesday, December 6

Tuesday-Wednesday, December 6-7

Wednesday, December 7

Wednesday-Thursday, December 7-8

Wednesday-Friday, December 7-9

Friday, December 9

House Members Seek Apollo 1 Memorial at Arlington Cemetery

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 01-Dec-2016 (Updated: 01-Dec-2016 07:20 PM)

Next month, the United States will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the loss of the Apollo 1 crew when fire erupted in their Apollo capsule during a pre-launch test.  More than a dozen House members led by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) want to pass legislation before Congress adjourns to establish a memorial to the crew at Arlington National Cemetery.  Memorials already exist for the space shuttle Challenger and Columbia crews who perished in 1986 and 2003, but not for Apollo 1. The Apollo 1 Memorial Act would fix that.

In a "dear colleague" letter yesterday, Johnson, the top Democrat on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, and Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), chair of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, urged colleagues to join in co-sponsoring the bill, H.R. 6147.  It currently has 14 (11 Democrats, 3 Republicans) co-sponsors.

On January 27, 1967, the United States suffered its first space tragedy when Lt. Col. Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Lt. Col. Ed White, and Roger Chaffee died of asphyxiation after fire broke out in their Apollo Command Module during a test prior to a planned February 21 launch.  The capsule was filled with 100 percent oxygen at 16.7 pounds per square inch (psi) pressure. The cause of the fire is thought to have been a spark from an electrical wire although the investigation could not conclusively identify the ignition source.   The capsule had been designed for the hatch to swing inward.  With the pressure inside the capsule greater than that outside, it was impossible for the crew to open it quickly and with fire spreading explosively in 100 percent oxygen, there was little time.  Many changes were made to the design of the Apollo capsule and to test procedures afterwards. 


Apollo 1 Crew:  Gus Grissom, Ed White, Roger Chaffee.  Photo Credit:  NASA

The mission was designated Apollo 204 or Apollo-Saturn 204 (AS-204), but since Grissom, White and Chaffee would have been the first Apollo crew, it was redesignated Apollo 1 in their honor.

All three men were posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.  Grissom and Chaffee are buried at Arlington Cemetery; White is buried at West Point Cemetery.

H.R. 6147 directs the Secretary of the Army to construct a memorial marker to the Apollo 1 crew at an "appropriate place" in the cemetery and allocates $500,000 of money appropriated to the Army for operations and maintenance in FY2017 for that purpose.  It also allows the Administrator of NASA to accept donations for the memorial and transfer the money to the Army.  The Army oversees Arlington Cemetery.

Time is running short for the 114th Congress to pass any legislation, but Johnson and Miller hope it can be accomplished nonetheless, saying "it is surprising that we do not have a memorial at Arlington Cemetery to honor the lives of the crew of Apollo 1 as was done for the Space Shuttle Challenger and Columbia crews.  H.R. 6147 ... would redress that unfortunate omission."


Space Shuttle Challenger Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.  Photo Credit:  Arlington National Cemetery website.

 

 
Space Shuttle Columbia Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.  Photo Credit:  Arlington National Cemetery website.

 

Events of Interest


 

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