What’s Happening in Space Policy August 30-September 5, 2020

What’s Happening in Space Policy August 30-September 5, 2020

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of August 30-September 5, 2020 and any insight we can offer about them. The Senate is in recess except for pro forma sessions until September 8. The House has only pro forma sessions scheduled through September 14, but committees may meet between now and then.

During the Week

Another busy week. Thank goodness Congress is more-or-less in recess. There’s enough going on elsewhere!

The annual Humans to Mars (H2M) conference takes place virtually tomorrow (Monday) through Thursday with morning and afternoon sessions each day plus an evening session tomorrow. NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard kicks it off tomorrow morning. His talk is followed by a panel featuring NASA’s Kathy Lueders and Jim Reuter along with Mary Lynne Dittmar from CDSE and former astronaut Pam Melroy, moderated by Jeff Foust of Space News. The other days are filled with government and industry VIPs from the United States and other countries talking about both robotic and human exploration of not only Mars, but the Moon.  The penultimate session on Thursday is about maintaining political momentum moderated by Mike French of AIA, with Pam Whitney, Staff Director of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee’s space subcommittee; Jared Stout, formerly with the White House National Space Council (listed on the program as with Meeks BI though his LinkedIn profile still says he’s with Venable), and your faithful SpacePolicyOnline.com editor — me.

Also related to Moon/Mars exploration, Northrop Grumman will fire a “flight support booster” on Wednesday at its facility in Promontory, Utah. The test will evaluate improvements and new materials for future solid rocket boosters for the Space Launch System (SLS) that NASA will use for the Artemis program. NASA will broadcast the test and hold a media telecon about 90 minutes later.

The first meeting of a new committee of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine takes place on Friday. Organized under the aegis of the Space Studies Board (SSB), the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board (ASEB), and the Board on Life Sciences, the Committee on Planetary Protection (CoPP) is chaired by Joe Alexander. He spent many years working at the SSB, including seven as Director, after a long career at NASA in what is currently the Science Mission Directorate. Now “retired,” he chaired two recent Academies studies, in 2018 and 2019, on planetary protection as NASA and the international space science community reassess requirements to protect other solar system bodies from contamination by spacecraft arriving from Earth (forward contamination) and to protect Earth from microbes that might be brought back here (back contamination).

CoPP’s mandate is to monitor progress in implementing planetary protection guidelines and “serve as a source of advice on measures undertaken to protect the biological and environmental integrity of extraterrestrial bodies and to preserve the integrity of Earth’s biosphere.” Its first task is to write a quick-turnaround short report on the impact of human activities on lunar polar volatiles and the scientific value of protecting the surface and subsurface regions of the Moon from organic and biological contamination. Friday’s meeting is the first in a series of five taking place through October 2 with a goal of completing the report by October 9 and getting it through the Academies’ exhaustive review process and to NASA by December 11.  Some sessions are open and some are closed. Open sessions on Friday include talks by NASA’s Planetary Protection Officer, Lisa Pratt, and two speakers from JHU’s Applied Physics Lab on lunar polar volatiles.

NASA’s Outer Planets Assessment Group (OPAG) meets virtually Tuesday-Thursday.  Note that the times on the agenda for individual talks are in Pacific Daylight Time (PDT) although the title of each session shows both PDT and Eastern Daylight Time (EDT). Curt Niebur will give a Planetary Sciences Division update on Tuesday at 9:10 am PDT/12:10 pm EDT. Much of the discussion throughout the meeting is about the planetary science and astrobiology Decadal Survey getting underway at the National Academies, though there also are updates on existing missions (New Horizons, Europa Clipper, Dragonfly and Juno) and the Europa Lander mission Congress has directed NASA to build though the agency has not committed to doing so.

That’s just a taste of all that’s going on this week.  Enjoy!

Those and other events we know about as of Sunday morning are shown below.  Check back throughout the week for others we learn about later and add to our Calendar.

Monday-Thursday, August 31 – September 3

Tuesday, September 1

Tuesday-Thursday, September 1-3

Wednesday, September 2

Thursday, September 3

Thursday-Friday, September 3-4

Friday, September 4

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