Today’s Tidbits: December 19, 2017

Today’s Tidbits: December 19, 2017

Here are our tidbits for December 19, 2017:  House passes four science bills; NASA to announce New Frontiers semi-finalists tomorrow; General Hyten to receive 2018 Goddard Trophy; Chris Kraft selected for Space Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award.  Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter for more news and live tweeting of events.

House Passes Four Science Bills

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) chairing a hearing on Advances in the Search for Life, April 26, 2017. Screengrab.

House Science, Space, and Technology Committee chairman Lamar Smith declared yesterday, December 18, as “Science Day in Congress” because the House would take up five bills approved by the committee.  It is taking a bit longer to get them all passed than planned, but today the committee issued a press release [] heralding the passage of four of them.  A vote on the fifth is expected tomorrow.

The four that passed are:

  • H.R. 4375, STEM Research and Education Effectiveness and Transparency Act (Comstock, R-VA)
  • H.R. 4323, Supporting Veterans in STEM Careers Act (Dunn, R-FL)
  • H.R. 4254, Women in Aerospace Education Act (Knight, R-CA)
  • H.R. 4661, United States Fire Administration, AFG, and SAFER Program Reauthorization Act (Comstock, R-VA)

The bill still waiting its turn is H.R. 1159, United States and Israel Space Cooperation Act (Kilmer, D-WA).

New Frontiers Announcement Tomorrow

Pluto (foreground) and its moon Charon in a color enhanced photo taken by the New Horizons spacecraft July 14, 2015. Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI.  New Horizons was the first in the New Frontiers series.

On Wednesday, December 20, at 2:00 pm ET NASA will announce the semi-finalists in the competition to be the fourth mission its New Frontiers series of planetary science spacecraft.  Twelve concepts were submitted earlier this year.  Tomorrow the list will be winnowed down to two or three that will receive funding to continue with concept definition studies.  The final selection of one mission to be built and launched in the mid 2020s is expected in 2019.

Whatever is chosen will be the fourth mission in this series of medium-sized space missions that have a development cost cap of  approximately $1 billion.  The first three are:  the New Horizons mission that flew past Pluto in 2015 and is now on its way to a Kuiper Belt object; the Juno mission currently orbiting Jupiter; and the OSIRIS-REx mission now enroute to the asteroid Bennu, from which it will return a sample to Earth.

NASA determines what solar system destinations may be considered in each round of New Frontiers selections based on recommendations from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Decadal Surveys and other factors.  For this one, New Frontiers 4 (NF-4), the options were:

  • Comet Surface Sample Return
  • Lunar South Pole-Aitken Basin Sample Return
  • Ocean Worlds (Titan and/or Enceladus)
  • Saturn Probe
  • Trojan Tour and Rendezvous
  • Venus In Situ Explorer

The announcement will be made via a media teleconference that will be aired on the NASA Live website [].

General John Hyten Selected as Recipient of 2018 Goddard Trophy

Gen. John Hyten, Commander, U.S. Strategic Command. Photo credit: USSTRATCOM.

The National Space Club and Foundation announced today that Gen. John Hyten, USAF, Commander of U.S. Strategic Command, is the recipient of its prestigious 2018 Goddard Trophy.  It will be presented at the Club’s annunal Robert H. Goddard Memorial Dinner on March 16, 2018 in Washington, DC.

Hyten is being honored for his distinguished military career, particularly his creation of the Space Mission Force and Space Enterprise Vision when he was Commander of Air Force Space Command.  The Club cites him as “one of the nation’s most powerful advocates for space power” noting his “landmark” 2015 interview on the CBS 60 Minutes program that “sent an unmistakable signal to foe and friend alike that the United States is a spacefaring nation, and that we will always defend our abilities to operate to, in, and through space.”  He is praised for following “in the footsteps of trailblazing space leaders like General Bernard Schriever and General Thomas Moorman in his dedication to the active development of the next generation of national security space leaders.”

Chris Kraft to Receive Space Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award

Former NASA Johnson Space Center Director Chris Kraft in 1979. NASA photo.

The Space Foundation has selected former NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) Director Chris Kraft for its 2018 General James E. Hill Lifetime Space Achievement Award.

Kraft is a legend in the human spaceflight field.  He began his career working for NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), at Langley Research Center and was one of the original members of the Project Mercury Space Task Group.  He advanced to become flight director for the Mercury and Gemini missions in the early 1960s and then director of flight operations for the Apollo program. He was named Deputy Director of JSC (then the Manned Spacecraft Center) in 1970, and was Director from 1972 until his retirement in 1982.

He is being recognized in particular for establishing NASA’s Mission Control Center —  “Essentially, he was the creator of the way NASA conducts space missions.”

The award will be presented at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, CO on April 18, 2018.

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