Today’s Tidbits: April 12, 2018

Today’s Tidbits: April 12, 2018

Here are our tidbits for April 12, 2018:  House CJS subcommittee kicks off FY2019 NASA budget debate; Zurbuchen agnostic on astrophysics Decadal Survey timing; Gale Allen’s 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.

House CJS Subcomittee Kicks Off FY2019 Budget Debate

The House Appropriations Committee’s Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee held the year’s first hearing on NASA’s FY2019 budget request today.

It was a very friendly hearing chaired by Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas), one of NASA’s strongest supporters in the House.  While several subcommittee members took issue with aspects of President Trump’s request — especially the proposed termination of the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) — the complaints clearly were not aimed at the witness, Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot.  Lightfoot is retiring from NASA at the end of the month and each member praised Lightfoot’s service.

We live-tweeted the hearing.  Check our Twitter feed (@SpcPlcyOnline) for a real-time account.  Here are a few key moments (please pardon typos).

Zurbuchen Agnostic on Astrophysics Decadal Survey Timing

Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate. Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

NASA’s Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, Thomas Zurbuchen, said today that he “could come up with arguments on both sides” of the question of whether to delay the next astrophysics Decadal Survey or keep the current schedule.  What is important is to have a conversation about it within the astrophysics community to determine the best course of action because the Decadal “will affect our lives a lot.”

Decadal Surveys are conducted every 10 years (a decade) by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to identify key science questions and propose missions to answer them for NASA’s science programs.  The next astrophysics Decadal Survey is scheduled to begin soon and be completed in 2020.  However, the recent delays of the launch the James Webb Space Telescope and the Trump Administration’s proposed cancellation of the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) make this an uncertain time for the astrophysics community.  Hence Zurbuchen proposed a two-year delay, but today he said he was not going to “put my foot down, but I want to put the word out that this discussion is really important.”

Zurbuchen’s comments were part of a question-and-answer session with NASA’s Astrophysics Advisory Committee (APAC).  NASA’s Astrophysics Division Director, Paul Hertz, spoke to APAC yesterday.

Gale Allen’s New Job

Gale Allen, NASA Acting Chief Scientist. Credit: NASA

NASA’s Acting Chief Scientist Gale Allen is retiring at the end of the month after 34 years of government service, but she will still be closely involved in space activities.  The American Society of Gravitational and Space Research (ASGSR) has announced that Allen will be its new Executive Director.

Allen was Deputy Chief Scientist from 2011-2016.  She became Acting when then-NASA Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan left in 2016.

Allen has a B.S. and M.S. in chemistry, an MBA, and a doctorate in business administration with an emphasis on high technology partnerships.  She began her NASA career at Kennedy Space Center as Chief of the Materials and Energy Branch and served as NASA Associate Director of Technology Programs and Commercialization.  At NASA HQ she managed the Bioastronautics Research Program, served as deputy for the Human Systems Research and Technology Program, and Director of the Strategic Integration and Management Division before moving to the Chief Scientist’s office.

Allen will begin her new duties on May 1.  Read more at: [].

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