Today’s Tidbits: December 6, 2017

Today’s Tidbits: December 6, 2017

Here are our tidbits for December 6:  shutdown update; JAXA and ISRO plan joint robotic lunar polar mission; AIA calls for budget stability and BCA repeal. Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter for more news and live tweeting of events.

Shutdown Update – “It Could Happen”

The budget brinkmanship continues.  Regarding the possibility of a government shutdown this weekend, President Trump said today “it could happen” because of Democratic demands on immigration.  Democrats are seeking to get relief for “Dreamers” — illegal immigrants who came to this country as children and covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy established by the Obama Administration, but rescinded by Trump.

However, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi responded that Trump is the only person in Washington talking about a shutdown.

An existing Continuing Resolution (CR) funds the government at last year’s spending levels through Friday (December 8) at midnight. A new CR must be enacted by then to keep the government operating thereafter.

A new CR has been introduced to extend the deadline until December 22.  House Republican leaders reportedly have promised the most conservative wing of their party that they will not make any deals with Democrats in order to pass it.  A vote is expected tomorrow (Thursday).

The House can pass legislation without any Democratic votes as long as 218 of the 240 Republicans vote in favor of it. Some House Republicans also are now suggesting that the CR go a big step further — attaching the full-year appropriations bill for defense. That would mean defense would be funded through the end of the fiscal year (September 30, 2018), while all the other agencies would be funded only until December 22.

Such a plan is likely to be opposed by Democrats in the Senate. Under current Senate rules, 60 votes are needed to pass an appropriations measure, so at least eight Democrats/Independents would have to be persuaded to vote in favor of it, a substantial hurdle. (The Senate is currently composed of 52 Republicans, 46 Democrats, and 2 Independents, Bernie Sanders and Angus King, who often vote with Democrats.)

These are all additional complications in getting the new CR passed by both chambers of Congress and signed by the President by Friday. If that does not happen, much of the government would have to shut down, as happened in the Clinton and Obama Administrations.

It is conceivable that agreement might be reached on a “clean” CR — simply extending the deadline to December 22 without any other provisions — but that will just delay the debate by two weeks and threaten a shutdown three days before Christmas.

This brinkmanship has become rather common in recent years, so it is still too early to panic. Usually a deal is made. Usually.

JAXA and ISRO Take Next Step in Potential Joint Robotic Lunar Exploration

Artist’s illustration of a conceptual JAXA-ISRO lunar lander. Credit: JAXA

The Japanese and Indian space agencies,  the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), signed an “implementation arrangement” today as the next step in a joint study of sending a probe to explore the Moon’s polar regions.  The two agencies signed a Memorandum of Understanding last year to study potential cooperation.  Under the new arrangement, they will jointly conduct a feasibility study and develop a draft plan for Joint Lunar Polar Exploration.

Japan  and India each have sent robotic probes to the Moon already, but have not soft-landed there.  Hiten (MUSES-A) was the first Japanese probe to orbit the Moon (1992-1993) and was commanded to impact the surface at the end of its mission.  Japan’s second lunar orbiter, SELENE (Kaguya), mapped the lunar surface from 2007-2009 and deployed two subsatellites (Okina and Ouna).  Like Hiten, SELENE was commanded to impact the surface at the end of its operational lifetime.  Japan also is planning another lunar mission — the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) — for launch in 2021.

India’s Chandrayaan-1 orbited the Moon from 2008-2009.  Two U.S.-provided instruments mapped the lunar surface (the Moon Minerology Mapper) and located craters at the north pole that contain water ice (Mini-SAR).   The mission was only a partial success, however, ending early when communications were lost.

Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) Wants Budget Stability and BCA Repeal

AIA, which represents 340 U.S. aerospace and defense companies, sent a letter to Congress calling for budget stability and a repeal of the budget caps established in the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA).  Under the BCA, if Congress appropriates more money than allowed by the caps, automatic across-the-board cuts called sequestration go into effect.

AIA President David Melcher and the heads of more than 40 AIA member companies signed the letter to House and Senate Republican and Democratic leaders.  The letter quotes Secretary of Defense Mattis who wrote to Congress earlier that “No enemy in the field has done more to harm the warfighting readiness of our military than sequestration.”

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