What’s Happening in Space Policy January 29-February 2, 2018

What’s Happening in Space Policy January 29-February 2, 2018

Here is our list of space policy events for the week of January 29-February 2, 2018 and any insight we can offer about them.  The Senate is in session this week. The House will be in session only on Monday and Tuesday.

During the Week

Space Shuttle Challenger crew: from left – front row Mike Smith, Dick Scobee, Ron McNair; back row, Ellison Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe, Greg Jarvis, Judy Resnik. Credit: NASA

This is a period of reflection in the space community.  Today is the anniversary of the 1986 space shuttle Challenger tragedy (STS 51-L) that took the lives of five NASA astronauts (Dick Scobee, Mike Smith, Ellison Onizuka, Judy Resnik, and Ron McNair), a payload specialist from Hughes Aircraft (Greg Jarvis) and a New Hampshire schoolteacher flying as a Teacher in Space (Christa McAuliffe).

Yesterday was the anniversary of the Apollo 1 fire that took the lives of Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee. Thursday will be the 15th anniversary of the loss of space shuttle Columbia (STS-107) and her seven-person crew: NASA astronauts Rick Husband, William McCool, Michael Anderson, David Brown, Kalpana Chawla, and Laurel Clark, and Israeli Air Force pilot and NASA payload specialist Ilan Ramon.

NASA’s annual Day of Remembrance that honors them and others who lost their lives in furtherance of space exploration has already taken place, but many in our community will be remembering their sacrifices this week.

Apollo 1 crew (L-R): Gus Grissom, Ed White, Roger Chaffee. Photo credit: NASA
Space Shuttle Columbia crew: from left – David Brown (NASA), Rick Husband (NASA), Laurel Clark (NASA), Kalpana Chawla (NASA), Michael Anderson (NASA), William McCool (NASA), Ilan Ramon (Israeli Air Force) Credit: NASA.










On Tuesday night, President Trump will give his first State of the Union (SOTU) address to a joint session of Congress.  Whether he will mention the astronauts who have given their lives in pursuit of space exploration, or anything at all about the space program, is unknown.

The House will be in session only Monday and Tuesday (the House Republican conference retreat takes place thereafter).  One bill they apparently hope to pass is a stand-alone FY2018 appropriations bill for the Department of Defense (DOD).  As exhaustively recounted in prior articles on this website, Congress has not passed any of the FY2018 appropriations measures.  The government is currently operating under a fourth Continuing Resolution (CR).  DOD officials from Secretary Mattis on down have pleaded with Congress for months not to fund it through CRs, which provides no certainty of future appropriations and negatively impacts military readiness in particular.

The House passed FY2018 defense appropriations bills twice last year, but the Senate never took either of them up.  It seems House Republican leaders are hoping for a different outcome this time so that if there is yet another CR for the rest of the government (which rumors suggest will be the case), at least DOD will have its full year funding. The House Rules Committee will meet to formulate the rule for the bill tomorrow afternoon. It could be voted on by the House anytime that evening or Tuesday.

The Senate Armed Services Committee approved former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin’s nomination to be Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (USD/R&E) last week. No schedule has been announced for a Senate vote, but the USD/R&E position will officially exist beginning Thursday, February 1 (it was created by the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which specified that date) so ideally he would be confirmed by then.  We’ll be keeping an eye out on the Senate schedule to see if they’re going to do that.

Wednesday is the 60th anniversary of the launch of the first U.S. satellite, Explorer 1.  The successful launch on a Jupiter C (or Juno 1) rocket came almost four months after the Soviet Union orbited the world’s first satellite, Sputnik, and just under two months after the dramatic and embarrassing failure of the first U.S. attempt to launch a satellite using the Vanguard rocket.

Explorer 1 carried a cosmic ray detector designed by University of Iowa physicist and National Academy of Sciences (NAS) member James Van Allen. Data from the instrument led to discovery of the Van Allen radiation belts that encircle the Earth.  The NAS will hold a seminar on Wednesday at the NAS building on Constitution Avenue with a star-studded panel from 12:30-5:30 pm ET. Among the iconic experts on the panel are Lou Lanzerotti of the New Jersey Institute of Technology (formerly with Bell Labs) and Lev Zelenyi of the Russian Academy of Sciences, along with Thomas Zurbuchen and Mike Freilich of NASA, and Dan Baker of the University of Colorado-Boulder.  Robyn Millan from Dartmouth, Allison Jaynes of University of Iowa, and Wen Li of Boston University round out the speaker’s list.  The event will be webcast.  The NAS requests that everyone pre-register whether planning to attend in person or watch the webcast (both are free).  NASA and the Air Force will hold a media event at about the same time at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station where Explorer 1 was launched.

The Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation and George Washington University will hold their annual U.S.-Japan Space Forum on Thursday.  The theme this year is Space in the Abe-Trump Era: New Threats, New Actors.  The Aerospace Corporation’s Frank Rose, who served as assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification, and compliance in the Obama Administration, will give a keynote address.

The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), which manages non-NASA use of the U.S. segment of the International Space Station under contract to NASA, will hold a public board meeting on Tuesday.  CASIS was recently criticized by the NASA Inspector General for underperforming “on tasks important to achieving NASA’s goal of building a commercial space economy in low Earth orbit.”  The public meeting will give CASIS a chance to explain the situation from its point of view.  The meeting will be webcast.

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, January 29

Tuesday, January 30

Wednesday, January 31

Thursday, February 1

Thursday-Friday, February 1-2

Thursday, February 1 – Wednesday, February 7

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