What’s Happening in Space Policy January 16-22, 2022

What’s Happening in Space Policy January 16-22, 2022

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of January 16-22, 2022 and any insight we can offer about them. The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

Yes, the House AND Senate are in session this week. The Senate was supposed to take the week off, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer changed the schedule and it will take next week off instead.

It all has to do with voting rights legislation, which is beyond the purview of this space policy website. We will note, however, for those who may have missed it that the bill number being used for the voting rights legislation used to be assigned to the NASA Enhanced Use Leasing Extension Act (H.R. 5746). For legislative procedural reasons the House took that bill, which had already passed the House and Senate in different forms, and amended it by removing all the original text and replacing it with the text of two voting rights bills that had already passed the House. It then passed the amended version and sent the bill back the Senate. Because a bill with that number, albeit different text, had already passed the Senate, it can be brought up without going through the cloture process where 60 votes are needed just to begin debate. It still needs 60 votes to pass unless the filibuster rule is changed and two Democratic Senators made it clear they won’t go along with that, so it appears extremely unlikely it will pass. But at least it will be debated.

Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX), Ranking Member, Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee, House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.

What matters from a space policy standpoint is what happens to the effort to extend NASA’s authority to enter into enhanced use leasing (EUL) arrangements. As we’ve explained, the authority lapsed on December 31 because the House and Senate had not agreed on how long to extend it. Then all this happened. Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX), who co-sponsored the original bill but is strongly opposed to the voting rights legislation, is upset that the bipartisan EUL bill was “hijacked.”  We’ll see if a new bill is introduced or if they decide to use the bill that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced (S. 3303) or whatever. In the meantime, if you’ve been keeping track of H.R. 5746 because it was related to NASA, well, never mind.

The week begins tomorrow (Monday) with a federal holiday in recognition of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday (that milestone is why Schumer is intent on debating the voting rights bill this week), so the federal government (including the House and Senate) will be closed. Turns out that’s a really good thing because we are having a snow/ice storm here and the roads will be a nightmare tomorrow. Been there, done that, far too recently.

Beginning Tuesday, we’ll get to hear a lot about Artemis. For the first time in just over a year, the NASA Advisory Council’s Human Exploration and Operations Committee is meeting Tuesday-Wednesday (virtually). Kathy Lueders had been head of the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD) before it was split into the Space Operations Mission Directorate (SOMD) and Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate (ESDMD). She now heads SOMD and Jim Free runs ESDMD. They both will speak to NAC/HEO on Tuesday. Others from their organizations are on the agenda over the two days to talk about Artemis and other activities in the two Mission Directorates. NASA issued new WebEx links for listening to the meeting. They are on the final agenda. Don’t use the ones in the Federal Register notice.

Wayne Hale still chairs NAC/HEO. He tells us Lynn Cline and Kwatsi Alibaruho have joined the committee, while Ruth Gardner passed away. Otherwise the membership remains the same and they are waiting for a couple more people to get through the approval process.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) at a 2018 hearing with his Mars 2033 bumper sticker. Screengrab.

Then on Thursday, the space subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology committee will hold a virtual hearing on “Keeping Our Sights on Mars Part 3: A Status Update and Review of NASA’s Artemis Initiative.” The witnesses have not been announced yet, but it is interesting that the committee wants to keep the focus on the horizon goal of getting to Mars, not just the Moon.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter, renowned for showing up at these hearings with his “Mars 2033” bumper sticker, just announced he will not run for reelection. We expect he’ll be there with it on Thursday, but we  wonder if any other committee member picks up the gauntlet once he’s gone. He’s certainly not the only member who wants to see people on Mars, but not many think it can happen in the next 11 years. Not with any reasonable amount of safety anyway.

Also noteworthy is that the committee calls it calls it the Artemis “initiative,” not program. The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel report last week made a major point about how Artemis is NOT a program, but a set of programs each with their own directors instead of an integrated effort. Perhaps that will be one of the topics that comes up.

If you’re wondering, Part 2 of this “Keeping Our Sights on Mars” series of hearings was more than two years ago, in November 2019 just before the COVID pandemic began disrupting everything. Part 1 was way back in May 2019, soon after Vice President Pence surprised everyone by giving NASA only 5 years, until 2024, to get people back on the Moon. It wasn’t until two months ago that NASA Administrator Bill Nelson conceded they can’t do it by then. There’ll be lots to talk about at the hearing.

Last week we brought up the chilly geopolitical relationship between the United States and Russia over Ukraine, which seems to be getting more fraught by the moment. The ISS continues to be a haven of cooperation, though. The two Russian cosmonauts who are aboard, Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov, will make a spacewalk on Wednesday and NASA TV will broadcast it. NASA Administrator Nelson also said at a media teleconference last week that he is looking forward to meeting his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Rogozin, in person in Moscow as soon as COVID allows and in the meantime they are talking by phone. Rogozin recently said discussions are underway about extending the ISS to 2030 now that the Biden-Harris Administration officially announced it wants to keep it going till then.

Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, Chief of Space Operatios, U.S. Space Force.

On the national security space front, Gen. Jay Raymond, Chief of Space Operations for the U.S. Space Force, will talk with CSIS’s Todd Harrison on Wednesday about how things are going and what’s coming up as the service celebrates its second birthday. Raymond is also on tap to talk to the Mitchell Institute’s Schriever Spacepower Forum the day before.

The Space Force was created as a military service within the Department of the Air Force, not as a separate department as President Trump wanted. So the DEPARTMENT of the Air Force, headed by the Secretary of the Air Force (SecAF), is composed of two military services, the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Space Force, just as the Department of the Navy is composed of the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps. The future of the Department of the Air Force thus includes the future of the Space Force and SecAF Frank Kendall will talk about that future Wednesday during a “fireside chat” with Stacie Pettyjohn, Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security.

As usual, lots of other interesting events too numerous to highlight here are also scheduled. We will just mention that the National Academies’ Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics will hear from NASA Astrophysics Division Director Paul Hertz on Tuesday. Hertz announced plans to retire last year and at a meeting last week pointed out that the posting for his position is now on USA Jobs. The application period is open until March 21. The really good news is that although he’s stepping aside as division director to let a new person guide the division as it takes on the recommendations of the new Decadal Survey on astronomy and astrophysics, Hertz is not leaving the agency. Instead he is moving up to the Science Mission Directorate front office.

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 or changes to these.

Monday, January 17

Tuesday, January 18

Tuesday-Wednesday, January 18-19

Wednesday, January 19

Thursday, January 20

Friday-Sunday, January 21-23

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