Today’s Tidbits: September 30, 2017

Today’s Tidbits: September 30, 2017

Here are our tidits for today, September 30, 2017 — USRA starts a GoFundMe camapaign to help Arecibo staff, Trump sends up another nomination for NOAA, and VP Pence visits NRO.  Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live-tweeting of events.

USRA Starts GoFundMe Campaign for Arecibo Staff

Arecibo radio observatory, Puerto Rico, in better times. Photo credit: USRA website.

The effect of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico is overwhelming.  Among the victims are the on-site staff who operate the Arecibo Observatory, which is managed by the Universities Space Research Association (USRA).

As we reported earlier, the radio telescope itself sustained damage (though not as much as originally feared) from the 155 mile per hour winds.  The staff are OK, but their homes and lives — well, you can imagine.

USRA has started a GoFundMe campaign with a goal of raising $25,000 []. “All funds received will be provided entirely to affected staff and their families. … USRA’s establishment of this fund and distribution of donations are independent activities. U.S. Government endorsement or support should not be inferred.”  Started on September 25, it was almost half way to its goal as of Saturday afternoon.  USRA is a 501(c)(3) tax deductible organization.

Another NOAA Nomination, But Not for Administrator

Neil Jacobs testifying to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee’s Environment Subcommittee hearing on “Leading the Way: Examining Advances in Environmental Technologies,” June 21, 2017. Screengrab.

Yesterday, President Trump nominated Neil Jacobs to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Environmental Observation and Prediction.  The post would also put him in the second tier of NOAA’s leadership reporting directly to the Administrator.  Steve Volz, Assistant Administrator for NOAA Satellite and Information Services, is currently filling that spot on an acting basis.

Jacobs is the Chief Atmospheric Scientist at Panasonic Avionics Corporation.  The White House statement explains that he directs R&D for the aviation weather observing program and numerical weather forecasts, and chairs the American Meteorological Society’s Forecast Improvement Group. He has dual B.S. degrees in mathematics and physics from the University of South Carolina, and an M.S. in air-sea interaction and a Ph.D. in numerical modeling from North Carolina State University. He has testified to Congress several times.

The Trump Administration has yet to nominate anyone to be Administrator of NOAA (dual-hatted as Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere), but has nominated RDML Timothy Gallaudet (Ret.) to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Deputy Administrator of NOAA.   The Senate Commerce Committee will vote on his nomination on Wednesday, then it must be voted on by the full Senate.

Pence Visits NRO

Vice President Mike Pence has made headlines visiting three of NASA’s field centers in the past several months (Johnson, Kennedy and Marshall), but the National Space Council he chairs is responsible for the entire U.S. space program — civil, commercial, and national security.   The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) designs, builds and operates the nation’s spy satellites.  He paid them a visit at their Chantilly, VA headquarters yesterday.

He’s in the center of the photo, with NRO Director Betty Sapp to his left (our right). Pence will chair the first Space Council meeting on Thursday (October 5) at another location in Chantilly — the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center, which overlooks Dulles Airport.

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Neil Jacobs’ Ph.D. was from the University of North Carolina, but it is from North Carolina State University.

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