Today’s Tidbits: March 29, 2018

Today’s Tidbits: March 29, 2018

Here are our tidbits for March 29, 2018:  Trump talks space again; Tiangong-1 reentry countdown; another nugget from NAC.  Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

Trump Talks Space Again

President Trump gestures as he speaks about the landing of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy boosters during a March 29, 2018 speech on infrastructure in Richfield, Ohio. Screengrab.

President Trump gave a speech in Richfield, Ohio today about infrastructure and managed to work in a few references to NASA and commercial space.  He once again gushed over SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy twin rocket landings, although he did not cite the company by name.  He mentioned NASA, but quite incorrectly asserted that it has been “dormant for many years” (and now is back).

C-SPAN broadcast the speech.  Note that C-SPAN provides a transcript, but it missed a few important words, so this is our own.

The context was the fantastic things that America has achieved in the past like building the Panama Canal and skyscrapers and we can do it again to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure.

To rebuild the nation, we must reclaim that proud heritage … And we’re on our way.

We must recapture the excitement of creation, the spirit of innovation, and the spark of invention.  We’re starting.  We saw the rocket the other day.  You see what is going on with cars.  You see what’s going on with so much.

NASA, space agency, all of a sudden it is back.  You notice?  It was dormant for many, many years.  Now it’s back.

And we’re trying to have the private sector invest the money.  Why the hell should we do it, right? Let them invest. If they want to send rocket ships up.  They’re rich.  Let ’em do it.

When I look at the rocket that went up three weeks ago where the tanks came back [the SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch], nobody has ever seen it  —  it looks like Star Wars.  But I looked at it and I heard the costs, and I think they said $85 million.  If the government did that you’re talking about billions of dollars and maybe it wouldn’t work so well.

But I thought it was a fantastic thing.  But we are working with the private sector.  And NASA.  And we’re doing a great job.  We’ve made so much progress in the last year … and other people are putting up a lot of money. They are using our facilities.  I feel like a landlord again.  We’re leasing them facilities. Not so bad   Not a bad idea.  And they’re doing a great job.  America is a nation like you –  of builders,  a nation of pioneers, a nation that accept no limits, no hardship, and never ever gives up.  We don’t  give up. We don’t give up. — President Donald Trump

Tiangong-1 Reentry Countdown

We’ll publish more about Tiangong-1’s reentry tomorrow, but as a quick update, the Aerospace Corporation’s prediction today is that it will reenter on April 1 at 14:00 UTC plus or minus 16 hours.

Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) is UTC-4, so that is 10:00 am EDT April 1 plus or minus 16 hours.  That is a window from March 31 at 6:00 pm EDT through April 2 at 2:00 am EDT.

The European Space Operations Center’s (ESOC’s) prediction is a bit earlier:  from midday March 31 to early afternoon April 1 UTC.

Another Nugget from NAC — the Future of Space Technology

Bill Ballhaus, Jr. Credit: NASA

The NASA Advisory Council (NAC) meeting continued today. Part of the discussion focused on the proposal in the FY2019 budget request to eliminate the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) and merge its remaining programs with technology development to support the human exploration (Moon/Mars) program.

As we reported yesterday, NAC’s Technology, Innovation and Engineering (TI&E) Committee discussed the issue earlier this week.  Today, TI&E chairman Bill Ballhaus briefed NAC on those discussions and presented the committee’s finding.  NAC then discussed the issue and drafted a recommendation to the NASA Administrator, although the precise wording was not finalized at the meeting.  [Note this is Bill Ballhaus Jr., retired President and CEO of The Aerospace Corporation who previously was a high level official at Lockheed Martin and NASA.  His late father and his son are also well known in the aerospace and high tech sectors and named Bill.]

Bottom line: Ballhaus and his committee feel “there is a serious risk” to seed corn and crosscutting technologies unless mechanisms are put in place to protect that funding from being “eaten” by development programs that need more money.  Universities, in particular, would be hurt, and they are the primary source of human capital for future space technologists.  Without that money, technology options for future programs will be narrowed and human capital development for NASA and its contractors adversely affected.

Here are three of our tweets that provide snapshots of the discussion:

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