Pence Sticks With the Plan — Moon in 2024, Then Mars

Pence Sticks With the Plan — Moon in 2024, Then Mars

Vice President Mike Pence celebrated the Apollo 11 50th anniversary at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) today. While President Trump gives the appearance of wavering on the need to return to the Moon before going to Mars, Pence exhibits no such doubts. He again said American astronauts will walk on the Moon in 2024, what is now called the Artemis program.  As he spoke, three new crew members were on their way to the International Space Station (ISS) where they will dock this evening.  Knowing they were launching on this historic day, they designed their mission patch to commemorate Apollo 11 and tie it to the present (ISS) and future (Artemis).

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Today’s Tidbits: July 19, 2019

Today’s Tidbits: July 19, 2019

Here are SpacePolicyOnline.com’s tidbits for July 19, 2019. It’s a long list this time because space policy has been incredibly busy lately.  There is a lot to catch up on: DOD nominations, legislation, Japan snags another asteroid sample, China deep sixes a space station, Israel’s lunar lander wins another chance, Kathy Warden gets new responsibilities and Mike French has a new job.  Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

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Trump Bores In On Whether the Moon Is Really Needed Before Mars

Trump Bores In On Whether the Moon Is Really Needed Before Mars

Flanked by Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins, President Trump pressed NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on why going back to the Moon is a necessary precursor for sending humans to Mars.  Aldrin and Collins are both Mars advocates who see no need to return to the Moon.  They and Neil Armstrong’s two sons were among those at the White House today to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, the first human landing on the Moon.

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Senators Press NASA on Green Run Test, Artemis Cost Estimate

Senators Press NASA on Green Run Test, Artemis Cost Estimate

During a hearing on NASA’s Moon/Mars plans today, Senators pressed NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on whether or not the Space Launch System (SLS) will undergo a Green Run test and the need for Congress to have a cost estimate for the entire Artemis program, not just the first year. Bridenstine demurred on both questions while warning that any delay in receiving the funds requested for FY2020 would be “devastating” to the program.

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Apollo 50 Revs Into High Gear as NASA, White House and Congress Talk Moon Then Mars

Apollo 50 Revs Into High Gear as NASA, White House and Congress Talk Moon Then Mars

The celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission kicked into high gear today.  It was exactly 50 years ago, at 9:32 am EDT, that Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Mike Collins lifted off atop a Saturn V rocket from Launch Complex 39-A at Kennedy Space Center, FL. Four days later, on July 20, 1969, Armstrong and Aldrin became the first humans to set foot on another world.  The three men returned to Earth and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on July 24. While heralding these historic events, NASA, the White House and Congress are looking to the future and getting astronauts on the lunar surface again and eventually to Mars.

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Check Valve Failure Caused SpaceX Anomaly

Check Valve Failure Caused SpaceX Anomaly

SpaceX provided an update today on its investigation into the cause of the “anomaly” during a static fire test of its Crew Dragon In-Flight Abort system in April that destroyed the spacecraft.  A leak allowed liquid oxidizer to enter high-pressure helium tubes during ground processing.  Milliseconds before the eight SuperDraco engines were to be fired, a slug of the oxidizer was driven through a check valve, causing the valve to ignite and cause an explosion.  The company still has work to do and could not project a revised schedule for the In-Flight Abort test, a prerequisite for launching astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).

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What’s Happening in Space Policy July 14-20, 2019

What’s Happening in Space Policy July 14-20, 2019

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of July 14-20, 2019 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in session this week.

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Bridenstine: Concern about Cost & Schedule Realism Led to Gerstenmaier and Hill Reassignments

Bridenstine: Concern about Cost & Schedule Realism Led to Gerstenmaier and Hill Reassignments

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in an interview today that his decision to reassign Bill Gerstenmaier and Bill Hill was not abrupt, but reflected a growing concern that cost and schedule estimates for the systems needed for the Artemis program are unrealistic. Repeatedly underscoring the need to meet the White House’s goal of returning astronauts to the Moon by 2024, what counts now is “realism” and he believes new leadership is required to reassess the programs and establish new baselines if necessary.

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Top House Committee Democrats Seek Details of Sudden Dismissal of Gerstenmaier and Hill

Top House Committee Democrats Seek Details of Sudden Dismissal of Gerstenmaier and Hill

The two top Democrats on the House Science, Space, and Technology (SS&T) Committee that oversee NASA expressed surprise at yesterday’s sudden dismissal of two NASA officials leading the Artemis program to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024, Bill Gerstenmaier and Bill Hill.  Expressing concern about the impact on the human spaceflight program of losing its engineering leadership at a critical time, they called on NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine to further explain his decision. Meanwhile, Bridenstine announced a nationwide search today to find their permanent replacements.

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Bridenstine Opens Search for Gerstenmaier, Hill Successors

Bridenstine Opens Search for Gerstenmaier, Hill Successors

A day after abruptly reassigning them to “special advisor” roles in the agency, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced the opening of a nationwide search for successors to Bill Gerstenmaier and Bill Hill.  Gerstenmaier had been the long-time head of NASA’s human spaceflight program.  Hill headed the effort to build a new big rocket, the Space Launch System, and Orion crew spacecraft to send astronauts back to the Moon and on to Mars.  Bridenstine’s memo announcing the job search is posted below.

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