Today’s Tidbits: November 13, 2017

Today’s Tidbits: November 13, 2017

Here are our tidbits for November 13, 2017: Barry Myers doesn’t mention satellites in his statement for the Senate Commerce Committee; Scott Kelly reveals Russian spacewalk mishap.  Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

No Mention of Satellites in NOAA Administrator-Nominee Myers’ Written Statement

Barry Myers, AccuWeather CEO and President Trump’s Nominee to be NOAA Administrator.

President Trump has nominated AccuWeather CEO Barry Myers to be Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Administrator of NOAA. His nomination must be approved by the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee before going to the full Senate for a vote.

In written answers to questions posed by the committee prior to his confirmation hearing (and posted on its website), Myers does not mention NOAA’s satellite programs at all although they consume a significant fraction of the agency’s budget.

Asked to list the top three challenges facing NOAA, he replied:

  • Addressing Fisheries Trade Imbalance
  • American Weather Model Superiority
  • Carrying out the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act (P.L. 115-25).  He noted elsewhere in the document that he met with Senators and Congressman and testified in support of the passage of that law.

His nomination has met with resistance because he is lawyer and businessman, not a scientist, and reportedly sought to limit information that the National Weather Service (NWS) posted on the Internet, presumably because it competes with his company’s offerings.  The NWS is part of NOAA.

Asked what his qualifications are for the job, Myers wrote (in part): “I come with a deep immersion in science, although I am not a scientist. I am one of the few, and possibly the only, non-scientist to be made a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society (AMS).  And I have been honored by the AMS separately for ‘outstanding, highly principled leadership of the American weather industry over five decades and fostering strong cooperation between private sector and government weather services.’ (emphasis added).”

Scott Kelly Reveals Russian Spacewalk Mishap

In his book “Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery,” former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly tells the story of a Russian spacewalk that could have ended very badly.  The incident does not appear to have been publicly disclosed previously.

Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, Sept. 22, 2014, during a training session at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
Credit: NASA/Lauren Harnett

Kelly spent 340 days aboard the International Space Station (ISS) from 2015-2016 on a so-called “year-in-space” mission.  It was his second long duration stint aboard ISS, having spent about four months there in 2010-2011 as commander of Expedition 25.

He writes that during Expedition 25, two Russian cosmonauts, Oleg Skripochka and Fyodor Yurchikhin, conducted a spacewalk and returned looking “shaken, Oleg especially.”  He did not learn what had happened until his year-in-space mission.

According to Kelly (p.276):  “Oleg had become untethered from the station and started to float away.  The only thing that saved him was hitting an antenna, sending him tumbling back toward the station close enough to grab onto a handrail, saving his life.”

He goes on to muse about what the other ISS crew members would have done if Skripochka had, indeed, floated away.

U.S. spacesuits have SAFER backpacks — small propulsive jets that theoretically could be used to move an astronaut back to safety in a similar situation.  Kelly says, however, that “we would not want to rely on them or, truth be told, try them out at all.”

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