What’s Happening in Space Policy December 20-December 31, 2020 – UPDATE

What’s Happening in Space Policy December 20-December 31, 2020 – UPDATE

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the next week-and-a-half, from December 20 through the end of 2020, and any insight we can offer about them.  The congressional schedule is in flux.

During the Week

Note that Congress is busy at work today, Sunday, December 20, and we could finally get to know how much money NASA and other space programs will get for FY2021, so stay tuned for news that may be coming.  

UPDATE:  Congress passed and the President signed into law a one-day Continuing Resolution late Sunday night to keep the government open another day to give Congress a chance to pass the FY2021 appropriations/COVID relief bill.

Let’s begin this issue of What’s Happening by wishing a Happy Birthday to the U.S. Space Force, which turns 1 today. President Trump issued a press release this morning expressing his best wishes and there were several celebratory events over the past week including one at the White House on Friday where Vice President Pence announced that military members of the Space Force will be called “Guardians.”  We haven’t heard of any public events today, but if we do, we’ll add it/them to our Calendar.

Before we get into what’s coming up, a note about something that happened yesterday you may have missed, since it was the Saturday before Christmas after all, but the Senate passed the House-passed version of S. 1694 by voice vote.  That’s the One Small Step to Protect Human Heritage in Space Act to protect heritage sites on the Moon like the Apollo 11 landing site. The bill passed the Senate initially in July 2019. The House passed it on Monday, but made some changes so it had to go back to the Senate, which agreed with the House version yesterday.  Now it can go to the President for signature.

As you can tell, Congress is busy at work this weekend trying to close out the business of the 116th Congress, or at least as much as they can while waiting to see if President Trump follows through on his many threats to veto the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). He has until Wednesday (December 23) to decide whether to sign, veto, or do nothing.  In the latter case, it would become law.  The President has 10 days, excluding Sundays, to sign a bill into law. If he does not sign or veto the bill, it automatically becomes law unless Congress has been in adjournment for those 10 days in which case it becomes a “pocket veto.” But Congress is very much in session, so it would become law if he took no action.  If he vetoes it as expected, Congress plans to try to override the veto, which means they would have to return to Washington after Christmas to deal with it.  But that’s next week’s chapter.

Today, Sunday, Congress is “just” trying to finalize funding for FY2021 and another COVID-relief package, which they have tied together.

Yes, we are back on the brink of a government shutdown yet again.  On Friday, a third FY2021 Continuing Resolution (CR) was enacted, but for just two days. It expires at midnight tonight.  At this hour (just before noon, Sunday), a deal appears close, but a deal isn’t a deal until the President signs it into law.  It is extremely unlikely there will be a shutdown, but we can’t rule out the possibility of a fourth CR if anyone decides to raise an objection.  Hang on to your hats!

The drama on Capitol Hill is about all that’s going during this final sprint to the welcome end of 2020.  Sadly, it’s not as though COVID-19 will disappear as we turn the page into 2021, but the newly approved vaccines are at least a ray of hope.

We’ll be writing more about what to expect in space policy in the New Year after we know how this one’s going to end. We still don’t know how much money NASA or NOAA or DOD or FAA or Department of Commerce’s Office of Space Commerce will get, which will set the stage for next year’s debates.

Meanwhile, the only event we’re going to highlight today is one that should be great fun — tomorrow night (December 21) Jupiter and Saturn will appear so close together in the southwest sky that they will appear to be one star.  NASA and the Planetary Society have excellent webpages describing the where, what, when and how of it, but if the sky is clear wherever you are, it’s a not-to-miss event.  It’s been 400 years since they were this close together and it’ll be another 60 years before they are again.

For now, here is the list of the few events we know about for the rest of the year.  Check back throughout the days ahead for others we learn about later and add to our Calendar.

Monday, December 21

Thursday-Friday, December 24-25

Thursday, December 31


User Comments

SpacePolicyOnline.com has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.