What’s Happening in Space Policy October 10-17, 2021

What’s Happening in Space Policy October 10-17, 2021

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week plus a day of October 10-17, 2021 and any insight we can offer about them. The House will be in session for at least one day, Tuesday, and committees are meeting virtually. The Senate is in recess except for pro forma sessions.

During the Week

Tomorrow (Monday) is a federal holiday, Columbus Day, and government offices will be closed, although many companies do not observe this one. We know there is an ongoing effort to rename this Indigenous Peoples’ Day, but the official name per the Office of Personnel Management has not changed.

On Tuesday, the House will be back in session for what is planned for just one day in order to vote on the revised debt limit bill that cleared the Senate last week. The House was supposed to be in a “committee work week” where committees hold mostly virtual hearings, but the House itself meets only in pro forma sessions. But the Senate amended the debt limit bill that passed the House earlier, so a new vote is required and before October 19 when the House was scheduled to return for legislative business. Bills can pass by unanimous consent in a pro forma session, but recorded votes are not permitted. It is clear such a contentious bill will not pass by UC, so everyone has to come back to town. A reminder: the Senate-passed bill simply raises the debt limit by a fixed amount that is expected to be reached in early December. At that point, we will have to go through this yet again.

The space program is full of interesting things this week to keep our minds off all that dysfunction. From 90-year-old William Shatner, Star Trek’s original Captain Kirk, launching to space on New Shepard on Wednesday (a one-day slip due to weather) to the launch of the Lucy mission to the Trojan asteroids on Saturday, and the return of Soyuz MS-18 from the International Space Station Saturday night into Sunday, there’s lots going on.

William Shatner, second from left, with NS-18 crew mates Chris Boshuizen, Audrey Powers, and Glen de Vries. Credit: Blue Origin

If you haven’t seen Anderson Cooper’s interview with Shatner, it’s hilarious. And at almost 20 minutes, longer than the flight will be (it’s 10-11 minutes from liftoff to landing).

Russian film director Klim Shipenko arriving on the ISS, October 5, 2021. Screengrab.
Russian actress Yulia Peresild arriving on the ISS, October 5, 2021. Sceengrab.

And of course we’re all interested in how film director Klim Shipenko and actress Yulia Peresild will be feeling when they climb out of the Soyuz MS-18 capsule at 12:36 am Sunday morning EDT after 12 days in space. They certainly looked happy when they arrived on the ISS last Tuesday. They are returning with Oleg Novitsky, a professional cosmonaut who has been on ISS since April. Peresild portrays a surgeon who must fly to the space station to tend to an ill cosmonaut. Novitsky plays the patient. Should be a fun film.

The Lucy mission launches on a 12-year mission from Cape Canaveral early Saturday morning (5:34 am EDT), preceded by a series of briefings on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. It’s quite a fascinating mission not just scientifically, but the trajectory it will follow to study seven of the Trojan asteroids that are at the widely-separately L4 and L5 Sun-Jupiter Lagrange points. Unlike many NASA missions, “Lucy” is not an acronym. The spacecraft is named after the fossilized human ancestor found in 1974 in Ethiopia and given that name.

Lucy’s trajectory. Credit: SWRI

The week also has some excellent conferences.

Among them is the American Astronautical Society’s annual Von Braun symposium, taking place in-person at its usual venue in Huntsville, AL and virtually. This will be the first public talk by Jim Free in his new role as NASA’s Associate Administrator (AA) for Exploration Systems Development. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson split the Human Exploration and Operations Missions Directorate (HEOMD) in two on September 21. Now they are the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate (ESDMD) and the Space Operations Mission Directorate (SOMD). Kathy Lueders, who was the AA for HEOMD, is now AA for SOMD.  She speaks on Tuesday, as does Space Technology Mission Directorate AA Jim Reuter. Associate Administrator Bob Cabana (the top civil servant in the agency) is the luncheon speaker on Wednesday, and Free is the luncheon speaker on Thursday. [UPDATE, OCT 11: AAS just sent an email saying that Cabana and Free have swapped places, so Free is on Wednesday and Cabana on Thursday.] Just before Wednesday’s luncheon is a panel of five NASA Center Directors that illlustrate the agency’s diversity efforts. Four are women: Janet Petro (Kennedy), Marla Pérez-Davis (Glenn), Jody Singer (Marshall), and Vanessa Wyche (Johnson). Two are African-American: Wyche and Langley’s Clayton Turner, the panel’s moderator. Pérez-Davis is Hispanic.

The Mars Society’s annual symposium runs Thursday through Sunday. Each morning Pacific Daylight Time (add 3 for EDT) is full of plenary sessions, including a talk by NASA Chief Scientist Jim Green on Friday and  NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy on Saturday. The afternoons are technical sessions. The whole event looks terrific.

There are a bunch of committee meetings and other great events, too many to summarize here.

China’s Shenzhou-13 launch, which we mentioned last week, could take place Friday or Saturday EDT. China still is not saying anything officially. but rumors are the three-person crew will launch on October 16 Beijing Time, which could be October 15 EDT depending on the time of day (EDT is 12 hours behind Beijing time). We will post whatever we learn when we learn it on our Calendar entry for this event.

Those events and others 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, or changes to these.

Monday, October 11

Monday-Thursday, October 11-14

Monday-Friday, October 11-15

Tuesday, October 12

Tuesday-Wednesday, October 12-13

Tuesday-Thursday, October 12-14

Wednesday, October 13

Wednesday-Thursday, October 13-14

Thursday, October 14

Thursday-Friday, October 14-15

Thursday-Sunday, October 14-17

Friday, October 15

Saturday, October 16

Saturday-Sunday, October 16-17

  • Return of Soyuz MS-18
    • Hatch closing: ~4:35 pm ET, October 16 (NASA TV begins 4:15 pm ET)
    • Undocking: 9:13 pm ET, October 16 (NASA TV begins 9:00 pm ET)
    • Landing: 12:36 am ET, October 17 (NASA TV begins 11:15 pm ET October 16)

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