Events of Interest: Week of June 18-22, 2012

Events of Interest: Week of June 18-22, 2012

The following events may be of interest in the week ahead.   The House and Senate both are in session this week.

During the Week

On the international front, China’s Shenzhou-9 space station mission undoubtedly will be one focus of attention in the space community.  The three-person crew, including China’s first woman astronaut, was launched on Saturday morning (Eastern Daylight Time) and will dock with China’s Tiangong-1 space station module on Monday.   This will be the first Chinese crew to dock with a space station.  That first docking will be automated, a task demonstrated last year by Shenzhou-8, which did not have a crew.   Later in the mission, the Shenzhou-9 crew will undock and then one of the crew members, Liu Wang, will perform a manual re-docking to show it can be done.   Liu Wang should not be confused with his crew-mate, Liu Yang, who is China’s first woman in space.   The mission’s commander is Jing Haipeng. The mission is expected to last a total of 13 days.  We’ve put together a handy list of all the Chinese missions that have carried crews — this is the fourth.

Here in the Washington, commercial space activities have center stage.   The head of NASA, Charlie Bolden, and the acting head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Michael Huerta, will hold a media teleconference on Monday to talk about commercial space.  It is rather unusual for the head of the FAA to have such a public role in space issues.  The FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) facilitates and regulates commercial launches and reentries and is a significant player on the space policy scene, but it is a comparatively small part of the FAA’s portfolio.  On Tuesday, the House Appropriations Committee will markup the bill that funds the FAA (Transportation-HUD).  On Wednesday, the Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on commercial space where NASA and FAA representatives will testify, but not Bolden or Huerta.  Or, for that matter, George Nield, the head of AST.  Instead, Pam Melroy, a former NASA astronaut who serves as a “senior technical advisor” to Nield, is the FAA’s witness.  (Another former astronaut, Michael Lopez-Alegria, also will testify.  He’s now head of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation.)  Huerta is probably saving himself for his confirmation hearing to become the official FAA administrator instead of acting.  That hearing will be held Thursday by the same committee.  Huerta has been acting FAA administrator since Randy Babbitt had to resign in December after being pulled over by police for driving under the influence.  A judge dismissed those charges last month, but Babbitt told the Associated Press he had no regrets about resigning.

Monday, June 18

Tuesday, June 19

Wednesday, June 20

Thursday, June 21



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