What’s Happening in Space Policy July 21-27, 2019

What’s Happening in Space Policy July 21-27, 2019

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of July 21-27, 2019 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

Yes, there’s never a dull moment in the space business, but after the fantastic Apollo 11 50th anniversary events over the last week, the next 7 days certainly seem anticlimactic (even though there are more to come).

Congratulations to all the government and non-profit organizations and private sector companies that sponsored such a rich array of discussions and activities about the past, present, and future of space.  Your SpacePolicyOnline.com editor’s favorite, hands down, is the National Air and Space Museum’s “Apollo at 50: Go for the Moon” Augmented Reality show on the National Mall.  The Saturn V rocket projected onto the Washington Monument was fantastic, but only one part of an amazing 17-minute show.  There aren’t enough superlatives to do it justice.  Many kudos to NASM Director Ellen Stofan and her team, the Department of the Interior (DOI, which runs the National Park Service, which is in charge of the Mall), the folks at 59 Productions who created it, and sponsors Boeing and Raytheon.  Can’t help but imagine that getting legislation (H. J. Res 60, P.L. 116-29) passed by Congress in a timely manner to authorize the DOI to allow NASM to use the Mall in this manner was the hardest part!

Thousands and thousands of people (we haven’t seen a count, but it was packed when we were there last night) saw the event live, but we were hoping someone recorded it and posted it on YouTube.  Sure enough, we found this from Fox News.  Fast forward to 7:54 when the show begins.  Turn up the speakers, sit back and enjoy!

Now, onto what’s happening THIS week.

First up is India’s second attempt to launch its Chandrayaan-2 lunar orbiter/lander/rover.  It was supposed to go last week, but experienced a “technical snag.” Launch now is scheduled for tomorrow (Monday) morning at 5:13 am ET.  The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will livestream it on Facebook.

The world’s top Mars experts will meet in Pasadena, CA Monday-Thursday to discuss what we’ve learned about the Red Planet so far and the top questions that remain.  This 9th International Conference on Mars will take place at Caltech and be followed by a meeting on Friday of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG).  Steve Squyres, “father” of those plucky Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity, will give a public lecture on Wednesday evening.  Mars is back in the news, of course, with President Trump anxious to get humans there.  Not sure if that’s good or bad news for science.   Squyres often says he can’t wait to get human scientists there since they can do so much more than robotic rovers, but others worry humans will contaminate the environment. Perhaps that will be one of the topics they discuss.

Up the coast at Ames Research Center, NASA will hold its 6th Exploration Science Forum Tuesday-Thursday to talk about science on the Moon rather than Mars.  The Trump Administration’s current plan is to send people back to the Moon before going to Mars.  Conducting science there is one of the rationales. On Wednesday afternoon, the anniversary of the Apollo 11 splashdown, attendees will visit the U.S.S. Hornet, the ship that recovered Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins.  It is now a museum ship in Alameda, CA.  On the schedule is a retrospective from the Hornet’s crew, a panel on lunar geology, and a talk by “NASA leadership” on “Returning to the Moon.”  The event is sponsored by the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) so hopefully it all will be webcast, though we could not find a link. If we do, we will add it to our Calendar item.

For the present, the International Space Station (ISS) is the focus of human spaceflight.  Three new crew members arrived last night.  SpaceX was planning to launch its 18th cargo resupply mission today, but that was postponed to Wednesday.  A pre-launch press conference is at 10:00 am ET; launch is at 6:24 pm ET.  NASA’s ISS Advisory Committee meets on Friday at NASA HQ here in D.C.  Its one-hour public session (10:00-11:00 am ET) is available remotely,  BUT ONE MUST REQUEST THE DIAL-IN INFO FROM NASA BY TOMORROW — MONDAY — JULY 22.  See our Calendar entry for more info.

Also happening in D.C. is a House hearing on the “commercial space landscape.”  That’s on Thursday.  Witnesses are Bhavya Lal from IDA’s Science and Technology Policy Institute (STPI), Eric Stallmer from the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, Carissa Christensen from Bryce Space and Technology, and Mike French from the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA).  French just joined AIA as its Vice President-Space Systems.  He had been Senior Vice President-Commercial Space at Bryce, so it is a close knit group.  Before Bryce, French was Deputy Chief of Staff and then Chief of Staff to former NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, so is very well known in the space policy community more broadly.

On the military space front, the Senate is scheduled to vote tomorrow at 5:30 pm ET on a procedural motion (cloture) to move along Mark Esper’s nomination to be Secretary of Defense (SecDef).  Assuming it gets through that hurdle, the vote on the nomination itself is Tuesday at noon.

Many are anxious to get that position filled with a permanent successor to James Mattis, who left at the beginning of the year.  Patrick Shanahan was Acting SecDef until June 18 when he withdrew from consideration for the SecDef job and left DOD. Esper, who is Secretary of the Army, took over as Acting SecDef and then was nominated for the position. He had to step down as Acting SecDef while his nomination is going through the Senate so there is yet another Acting SecDef at the moment — Navy Secretary Richard Spencer.  The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) is eager to end these musical chairs and waived its committee rules to wait at least 7 days before voting on a nomination.  It officially got Esper’s nomination on Monday, held a hearing Tuesday, and approved him on Thursday and now the Senate will vote this coming week.  Very fast track.

The Deputy SecDef position also has been filled on Acting basis since Mattis left.  DOD Comptroller David Norquist took on the additional duties of Deputy SecDef when Shanahan moved up to Acting SecDef.  Norquist is being nominated for the job and SASC will hold a hearing on it Wednesday.  As with Esper, the committee is waiving its 7-day rule.   SASC also has approved Gen. Mark Milley, current Army Chief of Staff, to be the new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  The Senate could vote on that as soon as this week, too.

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.

Sunday, July 21 (continued from July 19-20)

  • Summer Moon Festival (in partnership with NASA as part of Apollo 11 50th Anniversary celebrations), Wapakoneta, Ohio

Monday, July 22

Monday-Wednesday, July 22-24

Monday-Friday, July 22-26

Tuesday, July 23

Tuesday-Thursday, July 23-25

Wednesday, July 24

Wednesday-Thursday, July 24-25

Thursday, July 25

Friday, July 26

  • NASA ISS Advisory Committee, NASA HQ, Washington, DC, 10:00-11:00 am ET (available remotely, but one must request dial-in info from NASA by July 22)

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