What’s Happening in Space Policy March 21-27, 2021

What’s Happening in Space Policy March 21-27, 2021

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of March 21-27, 2021 and any insight we can offer about them. The Senate is in session this week. The House will meet only in pro forma sessions, but is having a “committee work week” where committees are holding (mostly virtual) hearings.

During the Week

This week is comparatively tame after last week’s successful SLS hot fire test and the White House announcement that Biden will nominate Bill Nelson to be the next NASA Administrator.

Still, space policy is plenty busy, except on Capitol Hill. Lots and lots of hearings on many topics, but not space, although the Space and Aeronautics subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee has a hearing Wednesday on sustainable aviation for anyone who may be interested.

The Space Studies Board (SSB) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine will hold its annual Space Science Week virtually Tuesday-Thursday.  On Tuesday, the SSB and the six standing committees under its aegis (some that involve other Boards as well) will meet in plenary session followed by a public lecture. Then the six committees meet individually for one or two days with some open sessions and some closed.  Each is doing its own thing, so we have listed them separately on our calendar, but generally speaking here’s the plan for this feast of U.S. and international space science happenings.

  • Tuesday plenary session (11:00-5:00 pm ET, livestreamed.). 
    • NASA Science Mission Directorate head Thomas Zurbuchen and all five of his Division Directors (astrophysics, biological and physical sciences, earth science, heliophysics, planetary science)
    • Acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk;
    • the prestigious team of Norm Augustine and Neal Lane talking about their new report from the American Academy of Arts & Sciences on “The Perils of Complacency: America at a Tipping Point in Science and Engineering”; and
    • a two-hour international session with officials from ESA, JAXA, Russia’s Space Research Institute (IKI), and China’s National Space Science Center.
  • Tuesday public lecture (5:30 pm ET, livestreamed at the same link): Gavin Schmidt, Director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies and Acting Senior Climate Advisor at NASA HQ speaking on “Climate Change as Seen from Space.”
  • Wednesday-Thursday, various times (links for public sessions on each committee’s agenda):
    • Wednesday only
      • Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Sciences (CAPS)
      • Committee on Earth Science and Applications from Space (CESAS)
    • Both Days
      • Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics (CAA)
      • Committee on Biological and Physical Sciences in Space (CBPSS)
      • Committee on Planetary Protection (CoPP)
      • Committee on Solar and Space Physics (CSSP)

NASA has scheduled a media briefing about the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter at 1:30 pm ET Tuesday right in the middle of the plenary session when Jurczyk and Augustine/Lane are speaking. And there’s a NASA industry briefing on commercial LEO destinations later in the day.  Choices, choices.

Not to mention the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) is meeting on Tuesday as well. The first hour (9:30-10:30 am ET) is for remarks from new Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk, officials from the Department of State Space Office (OES), FAA Administrator Steve Dickson, and FAA/AST head Wayne Monteith. The rest of the day is devoted to reports from COMSTAC’s chair and vice chair (Charity Weeden and Karina Drees) and various COMSTAC working groups.

Competing for attention with the SSB’s Tuesday public lecture on climate change is a very interesting roundtable discussion on a new book “War and Peace in Outer Space: Law, Policy and Ethics” co-edited by Cassandra Steer of Australian National University and Matthew Hersch of Harvard.  Joining them are Air Commodore Philip Gordon from the Royal Australian Air Force and Victoria Samson from the Secure World Foundation (SWF). They picked a time amenable to all of the speakers across those many time zones, which turns out to be 6:00 pm EDT. Looks really good.

Lots more of interest later in the week, including a Thursday meeting of the steering committee for the Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey that focuses on the Mars sample return mission.

All the 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.

Tuesday, March 23

Wednesday, March 24

Wednesday-Thursday, March 24-25

Thursday, March 25

Friday, March 26

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