What’s Happening in Space Policy November 3-9, 2019

What’s Happening in Space Policy November 3-9, 2019

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of November 3-9, 2019 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House is in recess this week except for pro forma sessions and will return on November 12 (after the Veterans Day holiday). The Senate is in session beginning Tuesday.

During the Week

First things first. For all our U.S. readers, did you remember to change your clocks this morning?  Daylight Saving Time ended at 2:00 am.  We’re back on Standard Time now.

That’s really important because tomorrow (Monday) you won’t want to miss Boeing’s Starliner pad abort test at White Sands, NM.  It’s at 7:00 am local time in New Mexico (9:00 am Eastern Standard Time). Boeing has a 3-hour window to do the test, but it will be quite quick — two minutes — once they get going.  A Starliner capsule will be launched from a test stand to an altitude of about a mile and land about a mile away using parachutes and airbags.  The test is to demonstrate that if anything goes awry during a launch, the capsule can safely return the crew to Earth on its own.  (NASA did a comparable test for the Orion capsule in July.  SpaceX did one for Crew Dragon back in 2015 and is getting ready to do an in-flight abort test very soon.)  The test will be webcast on NASA TV beginning at 8:50 am EST thanks to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine who convinced the company that taxpayers should be able to watch.

The company got the message and it now will be viewable also on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Boeing’s Twitter feed (@BoeingSpace). See our Calendar item for links.

Back in Washington, the House is taking a break this week.  It will return on Tuesday, November 12 (the 11th is a federal holiday) and be in session for only eight days before the Continuing Resolution (CR) expires on November 21. The expectation is that another CR will be needed, the only question is how long it lasts.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell want to get the FY2020 appropriations bills passed by the end of the year, but that will be a challenge.  McConnell could not even get the Senate to agree to proceed to consideration of a package (“minibus”) of bills that includes defense, primarily because of disagreements over funding for the border wall.

There is a bright spot for NASA, NOAA and the FAA’s space office, at least.  A different minibus that includes the Commerce-Justice-Science and Transportation-HUD bills passed the Senate last week.  The House passed all four of those (plus Military Construction-Veterans Affairs) in its “minibus 2” package during the summer.  Conference negotiations can proceed on those four and theoretically they could pass even if the others do not.  From a practical standpoint, however, action may be held up on those as leverage to encourage agreement on the others.  So far the House has passed 10 of the 12 appropriation bills, while the Senate has passed four.

The Senate will be in session for part of the week.  On Tuesday, the space subcommittee of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on NASA’s STEM engagement activities towards “Building the NASA Workforce of the Future.”   Witnesses include Stella Condino, a physics teacher at Oakton High School in Vienna, VA, a Washington, DC suburb. A Google search shows that she previously taught at Presidio High School in Presidio, TX where she was chosen by the National Aviation Hall of Fame to receive the 2011 A. Scott Crossfield Aerospace Education Teacher of the Year Award and the 2012 American Society of Mechanical Engineers Discover “E” Educator Award.  She is the subject of a 2014 CBS Evening News profile that tells her story, including challenges getting her Green Card, but focused on the rocket club she ran at Presidio.  Joining her at the witness table are Jeff Manber, CEO of Nanoracks; John Gladden, Vice Chancellor of Research at the University of Mississippi; and Linda Tarbox Elkins-Tanton from Arizona State University (and principal investigator of NASA’s Psyche mission).  The hearing is at 2:30 pm ET and will be webcast.

On Wednesday, Alan Ladwig will discuss his new book, “See You in Orbit? Our Dream of Spaceflight,” at a NASA History Office brownbag lunch at NASA HQ.  Alan has had a front row seat in efforts to make spaceflight accessible to anyone, starting with managing what most people know as NASA’s Teacher in Space program, although it actually was the Space Flight Participant program with a plan to launch people from many backgrounds. The Challenger tragedy ended that program, but not the dreams of people who want to fly to space.  Alan starts at the beginning of the space age with new insights into early efforts to diversify astronaut ranks to include women and African-Americans, his insider account of the Space Flight Participant program and the heartbreak of Challenger, to everything since then to democratize spaceflight. It’s very timely and a great read. Be sure to RSVP if you plan to attend the brownbag lunch  — seating is limited.

The National Academies’ Space Studies Board (SSB) meets in open session at the Beckman Center in Irvine, CA on Wednesday and Thursday. Lots of interesting discussions on tap, especially on Thursday afternoon Pacific Standard Time (which is early evening EST) on humans and long duration spaceflight.  They will discuss planetary protection with the head of NASA’s planetary protection office, Lisa Pratt, and Alan Stern, who just chaired a study on modernizing international planetary protection guidelines. Those guidelines are promulgated by the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) of the International Council of Science (ICSU).  SSB is the U.S. member of COSPAR and will send forward whatever recommendations emerge from Stern’s report and a review of them by a National Academies’ committee that SSB is currently forming.  In addition, a panel of experts will discuss human health effects of long duration spaceflight and what can be done to mitigate them.  The open sessions will be available remotely via Zoom (instructions are on the agenda.)

Wednesday evening in D.C., POLITICO will host one of its “Women Rule” events in collaboration with the National Air and Space Museum (NASM).  It features Ellen Stofan, NASM Director and former NASA chief scientist, and Kathy Sullivan, former NASA astronaut (first U.S. woman to make a spacewalk) and former Administrator of NOAA. They will be joined by POLITICO’s Anna Palmer, co-author of  POLITICO Playbook and editorial director of Women Rule.  It 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.

Sunday, November 3

Sunday, November 3 – Friday, November 22

Monday, November 4

  • Boeing Starliner Pad Abort Test, White Sands Missile Range, NM, 3-hour window opens 7:00 am Mountain Standard Time (9:00 am Eastern Standard Time), NASA TV coverage begins 8:50 am ET

Monday-Wednesday, November 4-6

Monday-Friday, November 4-8

Monday-Saturday, November 4-9

Tuesday, November 5

Tuesday-Wednesday, November 5-6

Tuesday-Thursday, November 5-7

Wednesday, November 6

Wednesday-Friday, November 6-8

Thursday, November 7

Thursday-Saturday, November 7-9

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