What’s Happening in Space Policy July 12-18, 2020

What’s Happening in Space Policy July 12-18, 2020

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of July 12-18, 2020 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in recess until July 20 except for pro forma sessions, although House committees will meet throughout the week.

During the Week

Mars Madness begins this week!  The first of three spacecraft headed to the Red Planet will be launched on Tuesday Eastern Daylight Time (Wednesday local time at the launch site).  Called Hope, it is the first planetary spacecraft for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and will arrive at Mars next year to coincide with the country’s 50th anniversary.  The spacecraft was built here in the United States by the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado Boulder and is being launched by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) from Tanegashima, Japan, but it is the work of, owned, managed and will be operated by the UAE.   Eliazabeth Gibney has an excellent article in Nature about the UAE’s interest in space, why they named this mission Hope, how they leveraged international partnerships to build it, and the significant role of Emirati women in building it (they comprise 34 percent of the mission team and 80 percent of the science team).  The launch will be livestreamed.

Also awaiting launch in the next couple of weeks are China’s Tianwen-1 and NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover with its Ingenuity helicopter.  China has not announced the specific launch date for Tianwen-1, an orbiter/lander/rover, but it could be July 23 according to a tweet from China space expert Andrew Jones (@AJ_FL). It will be China’s first solo attempt to send a probe to Mars (it had a small spacecraft, Yinghuo-1, aboard Russia’s 2011 failed Phobos-Grunt mission).  Mars Perseverance is currently scheduled to launch on July 30.  A joint European/Russian probe, ExoMars, also was supposed to launch this year, but had to be delayed to 2022, the next time Earth and Mars are in alignment.

The fate of FY2021 budgets for NASA, NOAA, DOD, and the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation will take another step forward this week.  On Tuesday, the full House Appropriations Committee will markup the three appropriations bills that fund those agencies:  Commerce-Justice-Science (NASA, NOAA), Defense (DOD), and Transportation-HUD (FAA).

Subcommittee markups were last week where the big news was that House appropriators want to hold NASA to its current funding level instead of providing the 12 percent boost requested by the Trump Administration to pay for the Artemis program to return humans to the Moon by 2024.  They did not reject the idea of going back to the Moon, but their spending priorities favored other agencies. In fact, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine praised the bill’s inclusion of $628 million for Human Landing Systems for Artemis as an indication of strong bipartisan support.  The problem is that the request was $3.4 billion (of a total request of $25.2 billion). He is optimistic the Senate will provide more and NASA will get something close to the request when all is said and done, but that’s quite a gap.  Many are skeptical about the feasibility of getting “the first woman and the next man” on the lunar surface just four years from now in any case, but a shortfall in funding now, never mind in future years, would surely delay it.

Despite Bridenstine’s comments about bipartisanship, some House Republicans are characterizing it as a partisan issue and criticizing Democrats. They may offer amendments during full committee markup.  It seems unlikely much will change in committee, but these are just the first steps in a long process.

Wednesday through Friday, the American Astronautical Society (AAS) will hold its second John Glenn Memorial Symposium virtually instead of in Ohio — Glenn’s home state — as planned. The conference has a strong focus on activities at Glenn Research Center (GRC) and its Director, Marla Pérez-Davis, will provide remarks.  Also on the agenda are Bridenstine; Kathy Lueders, NASA’s new head of human spaceflight; Janet Karika, Principal Adviser to Bridenstine for Space Transportation; and panel sessions on topics ranging from Artemis to space power and propulsion systems to aircraft propulsion to aerospace communications to GRC’s role in the International Space Station, and workforce issues.  Your SpacePolicyOnline.com editor has the pleasure of moderating a policy session on Thursday with two speakers from Ohio (Rep. Adam Holmes of the Ohio House of Representatives and Col. Joseph Heiss, a space and defense advisor to Governor Mike DeWine) and two from Capitol Hill (Pam Whitney from the House Science, Space and Technology Committee and Joel Graham from the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee).

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

Monday, July 13

Tuesday, July 14

Wednesday, July 15

Wednesday-Friday, July 15-17

Thursday, July 16

Friday, July 17


This article has been updated





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