What’s Happening in Space Policy October 13-19, 2019

What’s Happening in Space Policy October 13-19, 2019

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of October 13-19, 2019 and any insight we can offer about them.  The House and Senate will be in session starting Tuesday.

During the Week

This week begins with a federal holiday, Columbus Day, and government offices (including Congress) will be closed.

We’re gonna need the rest!  This is quite an eventful week by itself and keeps right on going through the weekend into next week when the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) will take place here in D.C.  Since the list on our home page only shows the next 20 events and there are more than that this week alone, be sure to click on “View All Events” at the bottom of that list to see all of them, or keep reading.

The House and Senate return to work after a two-week recess on Tuesday.  One of the first items on the Senate’s agenda is a procedural vote — cloture — on the nomination of Barbara Barrett to be Secretary of the Air Force (SecAF).  Assuming it gets the required 60 votes to end debate, the nomination itself can then proceed to a vote. These nominations often provide an opportunity for Senators to voice concerns about related issues, in this case, for example, shifting money from military construction to the border wall or Air Force personnel on international layovers staying at hotels owned by the President.  The cloture vote is scheduled for 5:30 pm ET on Tuesday. No announcement has been made about when the final vote will occur.  Her nomination hearing was in September.

Across the Hill on Wednesday morning, the Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing on the Trump Administration’s proposal to accelerate by four years — from 2028 to 2024 — when astronauts will return to the lunar surface.  The original FY2020 budget request submitted to Congress on March 11 was based on the 2028 date.  Two weeks later, Vice President Pence suddenly announced the plan to move that up to 2024, just five years from now — the Artemis program. A supplemental budget request for $1.6 billion for FY2020 was submitted on May 13, four days before the CJS subcommittee marked up its bill.  It is only for FY2020.  The Administration has not said how much Artemis will cost for the remaining four years. The CJS subcommittee, the full committee, and the full House ignored the supplemental request.  Subcommittee chairman José Serrano (D-NY) said at a July hearing with OSTP Director Kelvin Droegemeier that he wants to return astronauts to the Moon, but is not convinced of the need to get there in 2024 and questioned whether it even is feasible.  On Wednesday, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and acting head of human spaceflight Ken Bowersox will have a chance to make their case to Serrano, Ranking Member Robert Aderholt (R-AL, who represents a district near Marshall Space Flight Center, which manages the SLS and Human Landing Systems programs), and other subcommittee members.  Congress is very far along in its deliberations on NASA’s FY2020 budget (FY2020 began two weeks ago), but it’s not over till it’s over.

Speaking of Artemis, on Tuesday NASA will showcase its work on spacesuits for lunar trips — both in Orion and on the surface — at an event at NASA HQ.  Bridenstine and spacesuit engineers will demonstrate the Orion Crew Survival System and the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU) to local middle and high school students and the media at 2:00 pm ET (watch on NASA TV) followed by a telecon Q&A with media at 3:45 pm ET (listen on NASA Live).

Public interest in the status of NASA’s spacesuits escalated last March when the first spacewalk with two female astronauts had to be shelved because it would have taken too long to reconfigure the ISS spacesuits for two medium-sized women. The spacesuit parts can be mixed and matched depending on who’s wearing them, but it is time consuming. In a series of three spacewalks, Anne McClain was supposed to conduct two and Christina Koch one. McClain thought she could wear a large suit, but after her first spacewalk (with Nick Hague) wearing medium, determined it would be better for her to stick with that size. Rather than waste time converting Hague’s large to a medium, she recommended that Hague do the second spacewalk with Koch instead of her.  She then did the third spacewalk, with Canada’s David Saint-Jacques wearing the large suit.

So McClain and Koch each did the number of spacewalks intended, just not together.  It really wasn’t a big deal, but NASA had publicized the all-female outing as a milestone — during Women’s History month — so eyebrows were raised when it had to be scrubbed because NASA didn’t have properly sized suits for two women.  And then the very next day was when Pence announced the plan to move up the Moon landing to 2024. He went out of his way to say it would put the “first woman and the next man” on the Moon.  NASA is making sure it has the right size spacesuits whoever makes the trip (Bridenstine said it might even be two women).  It is also offering reassurances that some sort of lunar surface spacesuit can be ready by 2024 instead of 2028 as previously planned.  The lunar environment is completely different from Earth orbit (think dust) so they can’t just take the ISS spacesuits — which are quite old anyway — and use them there. NASA’s Johnson Space Center has been working on new spacesuits for a couple of years, but at a modest pace and some are skeptical new suits can be built and tested in time for a 2024 landing.  We’ll find out more on Tuesday.

By the way, an all-female spacewalk is now scheduled for next Monday, October 21, with Koch and Jessica Meir (McClain returned to Earth in June).  More on that in next week’s edition of What’s Happening.

The Regulatory and Policy Committee of the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) meets on Wednesday to finalize recommendations to the full NAC (which meets at the end of the month) on the extraction and utilization of lunar resources.  Composed almost entirely of industry representatives, the committee drafted a recommendation at its last meeting (September 5) that NASA, in coordination with the Departments of State and Commerce and the National Space Council, adopt a set of principles about that topic.  Like all FACA meetings, Wednesday’s is open to the public up to the capacity of the meeting room. It also is available remotely by WebEx/telecon.

Two special awards dinners are taking place Thursday night.  The annual Women in Aerospace Awards dinner is at the Ritz-Carlton in Pentagon City as usual.  Awardees are:

  • Ronna Kirchoff, Outstanding Achievement Award
  • Cori Lupton, Aerospace Awareness Award
  • Seetha Raghavan, Aerospace Educator Award
  • Wendy Okolo, Initiative, Inspiration, Impact Award
  • Stephanie Murphy, Leadership Award, and
  • Betty Sapp, Lifetime Achievement Award

At the same time, the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation will hold its “Unleash Imagination, Shape the Future” awards dinner in D.C.  After an “intergenerational forum” on Reimagining Climate Change and the Future of Earthlings, three awards will be presented.

  • Innovation Award presented to Brian Lamb, Founder of C-SPAN,
    Interviewed by Robert Costa, The Washington Post and PBS’s “Washington Week”
  • Lifetime Achievement Award presented to Lord Martin Rees, Cosmologist, Astrophysicist & Astronomer Royal
    Remarks on the Future of Humanity
  • Imagination Award presented to George R.R. Martin, Author/Producer, Game of Thrones,
    Interviewed by Alyssa Rosenberg, The Washington Post

As usual, there are many more events taking place then we can highlight here including a Potomac Institute for Policy Studies panel discussion on Wednesday on the Future of Deep Space Exploration; an LBJ School of Public Affairs event on Nuclear Energy in Space: Nonproliferation Risks and Solutions on Thursday; and the University of Nebraska’s annual space law conference on Friday.  All those are here in D.C. The International Mars Society Convention begins Thursday in Los Angeles.  And there are so many more.

The end of this week also is the unofficial beginning of the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) with pre-conference meetings of many sorts.  The IAC officially kicks off next Monday at the D.C. Convention Center with Vice President Pence giving opening remarks.  More about that in next week’s edition.

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.

Monday, October 14

Monday-Wednesday, October 14-16

Monday-Friday, October 14-18

Tuesday, October 15

Tuesday-Wednesday, October 15-16

Wednesday, October 16

Thursday, October 17

Thursday-Sunday, October 17-20

Friday, October 18

Friday-Sunday, October 18-20

Saturday, October 19

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