What’s Happening in Space Policy November 25-December 1, 2018

What’s Happening in Space Policy November 25-December 1, 2018

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of November 25-December 1, 2018 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate are in session this week.

During the Week

The big event this week is the landing of NASA’s newest Mars probe tomorrow (Monday).  The Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander will use two instruments to study the interior of Mars for the first time.  Traveling along with InSight are two cubesats, Mars Cube One (MarCO), the first spacecraft of their kind to travel into deep space.  At they fly past Mars, they will relay data back to Earth while InSight goes through entry, descent and landing (EDL).

NASA will hold a final pre-landing briefing today (Sunday) at 1:00 pm ET.  The landing is around 3:00 pm ET tomorrow. NASA explains that spacecraft operators at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) may know immediately, or not for several hours, whether the landing was successful depending on whether the MarCOs operate correctly.  If for whatever reason they do not, NASA will have to wait until two of its other spacecraft — Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and Mars Odyssey — that are in orbit around Mars are in the correct position to communicate with Earth.  NASA also will be listening with Earth-based radio telescopes. NASA will livestream landing events beginning at 2:00 pm ET and about 80 organizations around the world are having InSight landing parties.  NASA plans a post-landing news conference no earlier than 5:00 pm ET that will be webcast.

Back here on Earth, Congress gets back to work after the Thanksgiving break with its countdown clock ticking toward December 7 when the Continuing Resolution (CR) funding NASA and many other government agencies will expire.  Five of the 12 appropriations bills have already been enacted, including defense.  Four others are in conference, and the remaining three have not yet been considered by either the House or Senate.  That includes the Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) bill that funds NASA and NSF in addition to the Departments of Commerce (including NOAA) and Justice.  Another of the bills that has not passed either chamber is the Homeland Security bill, which includes funding for President Trump’s border wall.  The President wants much more money than Congress currently plans to provide and has threatened to shut down the parts of the government funded by the CR if he does not get what he wants.

He has said in the past he would shut down the government, but never did.  Most congressional Republicans and Democrats do not want a shutdown. Some pundits are saying it is unlikely a Republican President would allow a shutdown when Republicans control both chambers of Congress and he could just wait until next year to fight that battle when Democrats will control the House and they could be blamed instead.  Others point out that since most of the government, especially defense, is already funded for all of FY2019, there is much less to lose by shuttering the remaining agencies like NASA, even though Homeland Security itself is also in the CR.  Is difficult to gauge what will happen over the next two weeks.

The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) will hold a hearing on Tuesday to hear from the co-chairs of the Commission on the National Defense Strategy.  The report was required by the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  It weighs in on space and on space-based assets for missile defense along with other national defense issues.  With all the focus on Trump’s Space Force proposal, it would be surprising if it didn’t come up.

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, November 25

Monday, November 26

  • Mars InSight Landing
    • NASA webcast begins 2:00 pm ET
    • Landing at about 3:00 pm ET
    • Post-landing press conference no earlier than 5:00 pm ET
  • STA InSight Landing Event, 385 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, DC, 2:00-4:00 pm ET (invitation only)

Tuesday, November 27

Tuesday-Wednesday, November 27-28

Wednesday, November 28

Friday, November 30

Friday-Saturday, November 30 – December 1



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