What’s Happening in Space Policy October 18-24, 2020

What’s Happening in Space Policy October 18-24, 2020

Here is SpacePolicyOnline.com’s list of space policy events for the week of October 18-24, 2020 and any insight we can offer about them. The Senate is in session this week. The House will meet in pro forma sessions only, although members are advised they could be called back with 24 hours notice.

During the Week

Space-wise, everything is pretty quiet on Capitol Hill, which is a good thing since everywhere else it remains really busy. Remember that our home page lists only the next 20 events and there are more than that again this week.  Click on “View All Events” to see everything or look at the list below.

One highlight of the week is OSIRIS-REx’s first attempt to collect a sample from asteroid Bennu for return to Earth.  It’s NASA’s first attempt at an asteroid sample return mission (Japan brought back over 1,000 grains of asteroid Itokawa in 2010 and its Hayabusa2 spacecraft is on its way back to Earth with samples of asteroid Ryugu right now). NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx or O-Rex for short) has been orbiting Bennu since December 2018 and has practiced the “Touch and Go” (TAG) maneuver, but Tuesday will be the first time it goes for the gold. The spacecraft will “kiss” the surface and, hopefully, grab a bit of soil and rock for return to Earth. If it doesn’t work, they can try again twice more.  Among the many events NASA has planned are briefings before (Monday) and after (Wednesday), and on Tuesday, from 5:00-6:30 pm ET, mission Principal Investigator Dante Lauretta and NASA science communicator Michelle Thraller will host live coverage from Lockheed Martin’s mission control center near Denver (Lockheed Martin Space built the spacecraft).

Another highlight is the return of NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and his Soyuz MS-16 crewmates Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner after 6 months aboard the International Space Station (ISS). They will undock at 7:32 pm ET and land on the steppes of Kazakhstan at 10:55 pm ET on Wednesday (which will be Thursday local time at the landing site in Kazakhstan).

Speaking of the ISS, the third and final virtual plenary session of this year’s ISS Research and Development (ISSRDC) conference is on Thursday. It features sessions on Developing and Testing Materials for the Communications Hardware of the Future; Human Health on a Personal Level: Using Space to Address Disease; and 20 Years of STEM Experiments on the ISS.

Yes, 20 years of STEM experiments! The ISS will celebrate 20 years of permanent human occupancy in exactly two weeks. The first crew, NASA’s Bill Shepherd and Roscosmos’s Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko, boarded on November 2, 2000. We haven’t seen a schedule of what celebrations NASA and its ISS partners — Russia, Japan, Canada, and 11 European countries working through ESA — have in store, but it’s sure to be fun.

By the way, Russia’s news agency TASS says the Russian cosmonauts finally located that air leak — using a tea bag — but we haven’t seen anything from NASA yet. The leak earlier was traced to Russia’s Zvezda module, but finding the precise point so they can patch it is a challenge. The leak poses no threat to the crew, but if it is not plugged additional air supplies will have to be delivered by cargo ships to compensate.

This week has the usual dizzying array of committee meetings, webinars and virtual conferences.

Like everything else, SpaceCom is virtual this year, spread out over eight days: four days this week and four days next week, 10:00 am – 3:00 pm ET each day.  (The website says Eastern Standard Time, but we’re sure they mean Eastern Daylight Time. The switch doesn’t happen until November 1.)  The theme is Accelerating the Global Business of Space. Space policy geeks probably will want especially to listen to two of tomorrow’s (Monday’s) sessions: first, NASA’s Mike Gold interviewed by Chris Davenport of the Washington Post; then Mike Beavin from the National Space Council moderating a discussion with two members of the Council’s Users’ Advisory Group (Mandy Vaughn and Tim Ellis). On Tuesday, there’s a panel with Scott Pace, Executive Secretary of the National Space Council, Kevin O’Connell from the Department of Commerce’s Office of Space Commerce, and Greg Autry, whose nomination to be NASA’s CFO is pending in the Senate.  Lots and lots of other great sessions, too.

On Tuesday, Explore Mars has rescheduled that panel discussion that was supposed to take place at the Humans to Mars Summit on August 31 but encountered insurmountable technical hurdles. Still looks terrific. All but one (Pam Melroy) of the original group will be there:  Kathy Lueders, head of human spaceflight at NASA; Mary Lynne Dittmar, President and CEO of the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration; Jim Reuter, head of space technology at NASA; and Jeff Foust from Space News as moderator.

And there are oh so many more — NASA advisory committees (astrophysics, earth science, MEPAG — OK, strictly speaking MEPAG isn’t “advisory”), the National Academies Committee on Solar and Space Physics, an AIAA/ASCENDxSUMMIT on space policy and education, and a WSBR “luncheon” with an expert on China and national security space issues to name just a few.

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, October 18 (continued from October 15)

Monday, October 19

Monday-Tuesday, October 19-20

Monday-Wednesday, October 19-21

Monday-Thursday (October 19-22, continues October 26-29)

Tuesday, October 20

Wednesday, October 21

Thursday, October 22

Thursday-Friday, October 22-23

Friday, October 23

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