Lightfoot Excited About Implementing New Space Policy, Details to Come in FY2019 Budget

Lightfoot Excited About Implementing New Space Policy, Details to Come in FY2019 Budget

Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot expressed excitement today about implementing the new space policy announced by President Trump yesterday.  It directs NASA to return humans to the Moon for the first time since the Apollo program.  Implementation details will be provided as part of the Trump Administration’s FY2019 budget request, Lightfoot said.

President Trump signed a directive yesterday changing the 2010 National Space Policy so that the Moon, rather than an asteroid, is used as a steppingstone for sending humans to Mars.  The announcement was made on the 45th anniversary of the last time astronauts landed on the Moon — December 11, 1972 when Apollo 17’s Gene Cernan and Harrison “Jack” Schmitt landed there.

Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot. Credit: NASA

Speaking to the Space Transportation Association (STA) on Capitol Hill today, Lightfoot said that is a fundamental change for NASA — a return to the Moon that will be “fun” to execute.  “We’re pretty excited.”

He has been acting Administrator since January 20, 2017 when the Trump Administration took office.  Previously he was NASA’s Associate Administrator — the top civil servant position in the agency — and Director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center before that.

He joked that when he accepted the invitation to speak today he assumed that the new Administrator would be the one to actually give the talk, not him.  Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) has been nominated to be NASA Administrator, but is not yet confirmed by the Senate.

Lightfoot said his goal all these months has been to ensure that the NASA workforce does not become paralyzed waiting for the new Administrator because there is so much work to be done.  “Run it like you own it,” is what a mentor advised him, and that is what he is doing.

He reviewed all that has been accomplished this year and looked forward into 2018, noting that it will be NASA’s 60th birthday.

Details on how to implement the new space policy will come when the President submits his FY2019 budget request, Lightfoot said.  By law, budget requests are supposed to be submitted on the first Monday in February, although delays are not uncommon especially when Congress is late in completing work on the prior year’s budget.  Congress has not yet cleared the FY2018 budget.  NASA and other government agencies are operating under a Continuing Resolution (CR) until December 22 and another CR would not be surprising.

He said that as much as possible, whatever is done on the Moon will be “extensible” to Mars because that remains the horizon goal.   In that way it is different from the Constellation program that was underway during the George W. Bush Administration, which was focused on the Moon itself.  Another difference this time is that “we’ve got more players” with strong interest from international partners and industry.

Separately he said that NASA does not want to launch the Europa spacecraft on the first launch of the Space Launch System with its new Exploration Upper Stage.  The spacecraft, which will study Jupiter’s moon Europa, would be too valuable to risk on that first flight.  He said launching a crew would be permissible because crewed missions have an abort capability, but not launches of robotic spacecraft.

He also said that the International Space Station (ISS) Transition Plan that was due to Congress on December 1 was not submitted on time because NASA wants to write just one report that reflects upcoming decisions from the National Space Council and the FY2019 budget rather than submitting a report that might quickly need updating.  He said Congress was amenable to that approach.  The ISS Transition Plan is required by the 2017 NASA Transition Authorization Act.


User Comments has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.