Today’s Tidbits: January 30, 2021

Today’s Tidbits: January 30, 2021

Here are’s tidbits for January 30, 2021:  Artemis Accords at UN, Bridenstine’s new job, Space Force ranks. Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

Artemis Accords Sent to the United Nations

Among the many things Jim Bridenstine will be remembered for during his nearly three years as NASA Administrator is his passionate embrace of the daunting challenge to put American astronauts back on the Moon by 2024 — the Artemis program.  The Trump Administration’s mantra was that the seemingly impossible task was achievable by welcoming commercial and international partnerships not only for the 2024 landing, but long-term “sustainable” exploration and utilization of the lunar surface.

The international aspect led to development of the Artemis Accords, a set of principles the United States is asking each international partner to sign if they want to participate.  Seven countries (Australia, Canada, Japan, Italy, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates) joined the United States in signing them in October 2020 and Ukraine did so in November.

The State Department now has sent them to the United Nations asking that they be circulated to all U.N. members.

In Section 13 of the Artemis Accords, the United States committed to share the Accords with all members of the United Nations using a process available at the UN Headquarters in New York.  The Artemis Accords are a multilateral document, and the United States Government and our Artemis partners felt it was important to share this important document with all UN member states.  We decided to share the Accords in the broadest way we could in the interest of transparency and because the Artemis Accords support the implementation of several multilateral treaties negotiated under UN auspices, including the Outer Space Treaty, the Registration Convention, and the Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts.  We hope all UN Member States will examine the principles set out in the Accords and join our efforts to create a peaceful and prosperous future in outer space for all of humanity. — State Department spokesman

Although it says “all” U.N. member states are encouraged to join, NASA is prohibited by law — the “Wolf amendment” — from cooperating with China on a bilateral basis unless it gets advance approval from Congress.

Rumors have been circulating for some time that additional countries are about to sign on, but the State Department spokesman said he had no news on that score.

Mike Gold, who joined NASA to work with Bridenstine on these issues, is considered by many the “father” of the Accords and now has a permanent position at the agency — Associate Administrator for Space Policy and Partnerships.

Bridenstine’s New Job

Meanwhile, Bridenstine lost no time finding a new job, this one back home in Tulsa, OK.  The Monday after the change in administrations, Acorn Growth Companies, a private equity firm investing exclusively in aerospace, defense, and intelligence, announced that Bridenstine is now a Senior Advisor there.

A former Navy pilot, Bridenstine was elected to the U.S. Congress to represent Tulsa in 2012. He was half way through his third term when he was tapped to be NASA Administrator in 2018.  Between the two jobs, he has spent a lot of time away from his family and said he was looking forward to being home more often (although since the pandemic he has been working out of his living room most of the time).

Bridenstine told Aviation Week reporter Irene Klotz that NASA’s ethics office found no violations of NASA’s practice or protocols because Acorn “has no NASA business.”

Space Force Ranks

One question that has lingered since the U.S. Space Force was created on December 20, 2019 is what ranks its officers and enlisted personnel would hold.

The Space Force is part of the Department of the Air Force, but is trying to create its own identity and culture. Thanks to many science fiction stories, the public is accustomed to spaceship Captains, not Colonels, and Admirals, not Generals. Many pointed to the Marine Corps, which is part of the Department of the Navy, as having a completely different set of ranks from its parent organization as an example of how the Space Force could use Navy instead of Air Force ranks.  Rep. David Crenshaw (R-TX), a former Navy SEAL, even added an amendment to the House version of the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) requiring just that.

Actor William Shatner, who portrayed Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek and is an avid space supporter, added his voice to the call for using Navy ranks.

Alas, the Crenhaw provision did not survive in the final NDAA and whoever made the decision about Space Force ranks was not persuaded by Captain Kirk.

Yesterday, the Space Force announced that most of its ranks will be the same as the Air Force’s.  The only exception is that some of the enlisted ranks will use an Army designation to make them gender-neutral.  Instead of “airmen” they will be “specialists.”

The move follows the somewhat controversial decision to refer to Space Force personnel as “Guardians.”  The Army has soldiers, the Navy has sailors, the Air Force has airmen.  The Marines are the Marines.  Now the Space Force has Guardians, which provoked a lot of good-natured ribbing from Guardians of the Galaxy fans.


Note:  This article has been updated to omit language that said the Artemis Accords were signed on a bilateral basis.  Although NASA initially said that was the plan, ultimately they all signed the same document.

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