Tag Archives: congress

Congress Just Gave NASA A Massive Budget For Next Year

Good news, everyone. NASAs latest budget has just been put forward by Congress and they have allocated the agency $750 million more than they requested. This means the agencys full budget for 2016 is $19.3 billion, which incredibly in an age of cutting costs is almost $1.3 billion more than last year.

The budget increases funding to several key programs at NASA, including its Commercial Crew program, its Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, and the Orion spacecraft. “We are going back into space with Americans on American rockets, and we are going to Mars,” Senator Bill Nelson said yesterday.

Perhaps most interestingly, $175 million of the budget has been set aside for the Europa Multi-Flyby Mission, a spacecraft that will be sent to Europa in the early 2020s, and the budget dictates that NASA must include a lander for the surface of this icy moon of Jupiter. “This mission shall include an orbiter with a lander that will include competitively selected instruments and that funds shall be used to finalize the mission design concept,” it reads, reported Ars Technica.

A landerhas been touted for the upcoming Europa mission before, but NASA has not been keen to firmly commit to anything yet, as there are many unknowns about undertaking such a landing. It remains to be seen how they’ll go forward with this request.

Nonetheless, the large amount of funding essentially allows NASA to meet most of the other goals it has set itself. Crucially, they were given the $1.243 billion of funding for the Commercial Crew program that they have been pushing so hard for. Administrator Charlie Bolden recently told IFLScience that he counted this getting SpaceX and Boeings manned spacecraft up and running as one of the key goals of his time in office.

Wish you were here? Congress has told NASA they must senda lander to the surface of Europa. NASA

Elsewhere, planetary science has received a boost in the form of $1.631 billion $270 million above what the President requested. According to The Planetary Society, this “allows both the MER Opportunity rover and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to continue science operations.” The upcoming Mars 2020 rover, meanwhile, gets a $22 million boost.

The huge SLS, which Congress seems very keen to overfund, has been given $2 billion, $640 million above the $1.36 billion requested by the President. The SLS, if you arent aware, will eventually be used to take humans to Mars with the Orion spacecraft, which has been given an increase to $1.91 billion.

Of the areas to miss out on their requested levels of funding, one is the Earth Science Division, which received$1.921 billion less than the Presidents request but $149 million more than last year. Another is the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), which gets $686 million $39 million less than requested, but $90 million more than last year.

The budget still needs to pass a vote in Congress this week, which seems likely at the moment, although a controversial surveillance bill was snuck in along with it. If it gets bythis test, the White House will almost certainly sign it into law.

Onto Europa, then.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/congress-just-gave-nasa-massive-budget-next-year

Congress Made Great Jokes About the Royal Baby

Royal-baby-crier

As you most certainly know by now, there is a new royal person on the planet. As the Associated Press astutely wrote in 1930, “Royal babies like those of lesser rank, are born when they are born, and not before.”

That truism was once again affirmed Monday when Prince William and Kate Middleton gave birth to a so-far nameless offspring. CNN was really into it. The people on Twitter were, too. And so was Congress, or at least a select few Representatives (and one senator) who decided to weigh in on the royal infant via social media.

Some gave well wishes and congratulations, but many others responded to the news with snark — perhaps, 237 years later, it is still not good for a U.S. politician to be seen condoning the secession of the British Monarchy.

Anyway, here are their jokes. They are not very good.

A bemoaning of gender, of sorts, from the representative from Charlotte, N.C.

Currency jokes!

A chance to remind Americans about the national debt?

Puns!

Sad jokes

Cheesey every-dad-is-a-king jokes

But, at least one influential member of Congress took the sincere route

In a statement, President and Mrs. Obama also took this route:

Michelle and I are so pleased to congratulate the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the joyous occasion of the birth of their first child. We wish them all the happiness and blessings parenthood brings. The child enters the world at a time of promise and opportunity for our two nations. Given the special relationship between us, the American people are pleased to join with the people of the United Kingdom as they celebrate the birth of the young prince.

Image: ANDREW COWIE/AFP/Getty Images

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This article originally published at National Journal
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/07/23/congress-jokes-royal-baby/

Controversial SOPA Author to Lead Congressional Tech Committee

Controversial-sopa-author-to-lead-congressional-tech-committee-94c53380d0

Lamar Smith, the Texas Republican representative who authored the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), was selected Wednesday as the Chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee for the upcoming Congress.

Smith will move to his new role in January when the next Congress begins. The Science committee is charged with overseeing NASA and non-military research and development.

“As Chairman of the Science Committee, I will be an advocate for America’s innovators by promoting legislation that encourages scientific discoveries, space exploration and the application of new technologies to expand our economy and create jobs for American workers,” Smith said in a statement.

Smith is well-known in the technology community, but perhaps for all the wrong reasons. SOPA, intended to address the problem of content pirating on the web, was widely assailed as a threat to the free and open nature of the Internet. Millions of Internet users signed a Google-sponsored petition against the bill urging Congress to vote down the legislation. Enough public pressure mounted that Smith chose to withdraw the bill.

Smith is also the author of the STEM Jobs Act, an immigration reform package that provides more visas to foreign students receiving degrees in advanced subjects. The bill would also allow for spouses and children of legal permanent residents to live in the U.S. while awaiting a green card. Additionally, it drastically changes the way the U.S. assigns visas, a process currently based on a lottery and quota system.

Many in the technology community have long called for some type of STEM visa. However, some of this bill’s naysayers argue that the proposed visa reform would reduce the number of immigrants granted visas from particular parts of the world, particularly Africa. The Obama administration also opposes the bill, saying it doesn’t mesh with the administration’s immigration policy.

The STEM Jobs Act was first voted upon earlier this year under suspension of the rules, wherein a bill needs two-thirds of the House’s approval to pass that chamber. It failed to pass that threshold, but has now been re-introduced.

Photo via Brendan Smialowski/Stringer/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/11/29/lamar-smith-technology-committee/

Space Program Should Aim for Mars, Says New Report

Iss-spacewalk

Expedition 35 Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy completed a five and a half hour spacewalk on May 11, 2013 to inspect and replace a pump controller box on the International Space Station, which was leaking ammonia coolant.

After weighing the costs and dangers of human spaceflight against concerns such as national security and “the eventual survival of the human species through off-Earth settlement,” a congressionally mandated report concludes the United States should go for it — but only under certain conditions.

NASA’s human spaceflight program must take a disciplined and incremental approach toward the “horizon goal” of putting humans on Mars, the National Research Council’s Human Space Flight Committee said in a congressionally mandated report released Wednesday.

This “pathway” approach would involve specific intermediate accomplishments and destinations — likely to include the moon, an asteroid and perhaps Martian moons — with a clear eye toward the surface of Mars itself.

“Among this small set of plausible goals, the most distant and difficult is putting human boots on the surface of Mars, thus that is the horizon goal for human space exploration,” said Jonathan Lunine, director of the Center for Radiophysics and Space Research at Cornell University and co-chair of the committee that wrote the report. “All long-range space programs by our potential partners converge on this goal.”

Indeed, the program’s success will require international cooperation — almost certainly including with China. “Current federal law preventing NASA from participating in bilateral activities with the Chinese serves only to hinder U.S. ability to bring China into its sphere of international partnerships and reduces substantially the potential international capability that might be pooled to reach Mars,” the report said.

The program will also require a more reliable stream of greater amounts of money. “A program of human space exploration beyond low Earth orbit that satisfies the pathway principles . . . is not sustainable with a budget that increases only enough to keep pace with inflation,” the report said.

Howard McCurdy, an American University professor with expertise in space policy who did not help author the report, said money has been a missing element in recent human spaceflight programs. “I’m glad they’re focusing on the financing,” he said. “NASA can’t do this within it’s current tax-financed discretionary budget profile, but that doesn’t mean it’s not another alternative — there are other alternatives.”

McCurdy offered the possibility of private-sector funding or participation, as well as international cooperation: “The big issue is the heavy-lift launch vehicle: who can do that cheaper?”

NASA’s human spaceflight program has in the last decade been at the whim of sharp policy shifts and funding constraints. The agency’s science programs at least have the continuity of decadal studies, with recommended priorities coming from the scientific community. In the absence of a clear path toward a long-term goal, NASA retired its space shuttle program in 2011 without an immediate successor. U.S. astronauts now rely on Russian rides to the International Space Station — a taxi service the private-sector is looking to take over. “A national consensus on the long-term future of human spaceflight beyond our commitment to the ISS remains elusive,” the report noted.

NASA itself appeared more sure of its human spaceflight future, welcoming the report as validation of the plan the agency said it has been implementing since 2010 — when the study was requested. “There is a consensus that our horizon goal should be a human mission to Mars and the stepping stone and pathways thrust of the NRC report complements NASA’s ongoing approach,” the agency said in a statement responding to the report. “NASA has made significant progress on many key elements that will be needed to reach Mars, and we continue on this path in collaboration with industry and other nations.”

The report was required by the 2010 NASA Authorization Act to review “the goals, core capabilities and direction of human spaceflight.” In addition to the usual lot of astrophysicists and engineers, the committee also sought perspectives from sociologists, historians and a scholar of African American studies on the rationale behind human space flight and the public good it might provide.

While NASA has been justifying space exploration for decades, the arguments that held in the early days aren’t necessarily relevant in 2014. Competition with the Soviet Union fueled the Apollo program, which put men on the moon in 1969. “The arguments that triggered the Apollo investments, national defense and prestige, seem to have especially limited public salience in today’s post-Cold War America,” the report said.

The committee considered a handful of other rationales, including practical benefits, such as the inspiration human spaceflight would provide U.S. students and the economic benefits of earthly applications of scientific advances.

Then there were the aspirational considerations about species survival and the human need to explore: “It is not possible to say whether off-Earth settlements could eventually be developed that would outlive human presence on Earth and lengthen the survival of our species. This is a question that can only be settled by pushing the human frontier in space,” the report said.

The committee concluded that while no one argument justified the expense and health risks of human spaceflight, the aspirational rationales coupled with the practical benefits the program could provide do ultimately make it worthwhile.

“Some say it is human destiny to continue to explore space. While not all share this view, for those who do, it is an important reason to engage in human spaceflight,” the report said.

After weighing the costs and dangers of human spaceflight against concerns such as national security and “the eventual survival of the human species through off-Earth settlement,” a congressionally mandated report concludes the United States should go for it — but only under certain conditions.

NASA’s human spaceflight program must take a disciplined and incremental approach toward the “horizon goal” of putting humans on Mars, the National Research Council’s Human Space Flight Committee said in a congressionally mandated report released Wednesday.

This  “pathway” approach would involve specific intermediate accomplishments and destinations — likely to include the moon, an asteroid and perhaps Martian moons — with a clear eye toward the surface of Mars itself.

“Among this small set of plausible goals, the most distant and difficult is putting human boots on the surface of Mars, thus that is the horizon goal for human space exploration,” said Jonathan Lunine, director of the Center for Radiophysics and Space Research at Cornell University and co-chair of the committee that wrote the report. “All long-range space programs by our potential partners converge on this goal.”

Indeed, the program’s success will require international cooperation — almost certainly including with China. “Current federal law preventing NASA from participating in bilateral activities with the Chinese serves only to hinder U.S. ability to bring China into its sphere of international partnerships and reduces substantially the potential international capability that might be pooled to reach Mars,” the report said.

The program also will require a more reliable stream of greater amounts of money. “A program of human space exploration beyond low Earth orbit that satisfies the pathway principles . . . is not sustainable with a budget that increases only enough to keep pace with inflation,” the report said.

Howard McCurdy, an American University professor with expertise in space policy who did not help author the report, said money has been a missing element in recent human spaceflight programs. “I’m glad they’re focusing on the financing,” he said. “NASA can’t do this within it’s current tax-financed discretionary budget profile, but that doesn’t mean it’s not another alternative — there are other alternatives.”

McCurdy offered the possibility of private-sector funding or participation, as well as international cooperation: “The big issue is the heavy-lift launch vehicle: who can do that cheaper?”

NASA’s human spaceflight program has in the last decade been at the whim of sharp policy shifts and funding constraints. The agency’s science programs at least have the continuity of decadal studies, with recommended priorities coming from the scientific community. In the absence of a clear path toward a long-term goal, NASA retired its space shuttle program in 2011 without an immediate successor. U.S. astronauts now rely on Russian rides to the International Space Station — a taxi service the private-sector is looking to take over. “A national consensus on the long-term future of human spaceflight beyond our commitment to the ISS remains elusive,” the report noted.

NASA itself appeared more sure of its human spaceflight future, welcoming the report as validation of the plan the agency said it has been implementing since 2010 — when the study was requested. “There is a consensus that our horizon goal should be a human mission to Mars and the stepping stone and pathways thrust of the NRC report complements NASA’s ongoing approach,” the agency said in a statement responding to the report. “NASA has made significant progress on many key elements that will be needed to reach Mars, and we continue on this path in collaboration with industry and other nations.”

The report was required by the 2010 NASA Authorization Act to review “the goals, core capabilities and direction of human spaceflight.” In addition to the usual lot of astrophysicists and engineers, the committee also sought perspectives from sociologists, historians and a scholar of African American studies on the rationale behind human space flight and the public good it might provide.

While NASA has been justifying space exploration for decades, the arguments that held in the early days aren’t necessarily relevant in 2014. Competition with the Soviet Union fueled the Apollo program, which put men on the moon in 1969. “The arguments that triggered the Apollo investments, national defense and prestige, seem to have especially limited public salience in today’s post-Cold War America,” the report said.

The committee considered a handful of other rationales, including practical benefits, such as the inspiration human spaceflight would provide U.S. students and the economic benefits of earthly applications of scientific advances.

Then there were the aspirational considerations about species survival and the human need to explore: “It is not possible to say whether off-Earth settlements could eventually be developed that would outlive human presence on Earth and lengthen the survival of our species. This is a question that can only be settled by pushing the human frontier in space,” the report said.

The committee concluded that while no one argument justified the expense and health risks of human spaceflight, the aspirational rationales coupled with the practical benefits the program could provide do ultimately make it worthwhile.

“Some say it is human destiny to continue to explore space. While not all share this view, for those who do, it is an important reason to engage in human spaceflight,” the report said.

This article originally published at Nextgov
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2014/06/05/human-spaceflight-mars/

Congress Considers Nixing NASA Asteroid Mission

Nasa-asteroid

A draft authorization bill from the House Science space subcommittee would cap NASA spending at about $16.87 billion for the next two years, prohibit a proposed asteroid retrieval mission, overhaul the agency’s management structure and raise the spending cap for Commercial Crew activities while increasing congressional oversight of the program.

The bill, as Republican lawmakers have been hinting during House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearings all year, also aims to steer the nation’s human spaceflight program back to the moon and provide more money for robotic exploration of the solar system at the expense of NASA’s Earth observation program.

These and other changes were detailed in a copy of the bill, the NASA Authorization Act of 2013, obtained by SpaceNews on June 14. The bill holds NASA to spending levels established by the Budget Control Act of 2011, rather than assuming that Congress and the White House will eliminate sequestration’s across-the-board spending cuts any time soon.

The House Science space subcommittee will discuss the bill in a hearing on June 19. The Senate Commerce Committee, meanwhile, is “not too far behind” its House counterpart in finishing its own version of the next NASA Authorization bill, Ann Zulkowsky, a senior aide in the Democrat-controlled Senate, said June 14 at the Aerospace 2013 conference in Arlington, Va., organized by Women in Aerospace.

Industry sources said the Senate version of the bill does not hold NASA to the sequestered spending limits. One of these sources said the Senate was expected to unveil its authorization bill, which sets policy and spending guidelines for five years rather than two, this week.

Moon Versus Asteroid

The House Science space subcommittee’s bill includes many prescriptions for NASA’s human spaceflight program and would codify that Mars, by way of the lunar surface, is a priority destination for human explorers.

“It is the policy of the United States that the development of capabilities and technologies necessary for human missions to lunar orbit, the surface of the moon, the surface of Mars and beyond shall be the goals of the Administration’s human spaceflight program,” the bill states.

An asteroid retrieval mission, proposed by NASA in April as part of the White House’s 2014 budget request, has no place in that framework, according to the draft bill.

“The Administrator shall not fund the development of an asteroid retrieval mission to send a robotic spacecraft to a near-Earth asteroid for rendezvous, retrieval and redirection of that asteroid to lunar orbit for exploration by astronauts,” the bill states.

There has been a notable lack of enthusiasm for the asteroid mission among some of the Republicans who hold key NASA oversight roles in the House — including House Science Committee Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) — since the mission was proposed.

The mission would require development of a robotic spacecraft with solar-electric propulsion, and the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket NASA is developing.

There is no funding authorized for a crewed planetary lander or deep-space astronaut habitat in the bill.

Another provision of the draft authorization bill that originated with House Republicans is an overhaul of NASA’s leadership structure. The proposed changes would give Congress greater influence over the selection of the NASA administrator, and give the administrator a six-year term. The NASA administrator is currently a political appointee who serves at the president’s pleasure.

House Republicans led by Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) included these changes in their Space Leadership Preservation Act (H.R. 823), which was introduced in February and has lingered in committee ever since. That bill was itself a rehash of a similar proposal introduced back in September 2012.

Funding for private spaceships

Also on the human spaceflight front, the draft authorization act the House Science Committee has produced authorizes up to $700 million a year for the Commercial Crew Program, which under the 2010 NASA Authorization Act was cleared for up to $500 million in annual funding.

A signature Obama administration effort, the Commercial Crew Program seeks to get at least one privately developed crew transportation system ready to launch astronauts to the International Space Station by the end of 2017.

NASA in August split $1.1 billion among Boeing Space Exploration of Houston, Sierra Nevada Space Systems of Louisville, Colo., and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, Calif., to mature competing designs. NASA expects a follow-on award next summer after another funding competition now scheduled to begin around July.

The White House has consistently sought more funding for the Commercial Crew Program than Congress has been willing to give. In 2013, the administration asked for more than $800 million and wound up with $525 million. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has said repeatedly that Congress must meet the request, or the 2017 flight date will slip.

The House Science Committee’s draft bill calls on NASA to make sure that does not happen. The bill would require the space agency to evaluate the Commercial Crew Program’s prospects for making the 2017 deadline under annual funding levels ranging from $500 million to $800 million. The bill also establishes strict reporting requirements for the Commercial Crew Program, requiring NASA to brief Congress on the effort every 90 days, beginning 180 days after the bill becomes law.

In a related provision, the bill places a $50 million cap — to be exceeded only with permission from Congress — on Space Act Agreements, an alternative procurement mechanism NASA uses routinely. The current round of the Commercial Crew Program is funded with $1.1 billion worth of Space Act Agreements. However, NASA has already said it does not plan to use Space Act Agreements for the program’s next development phase.

An administration official panned the House proposal, calling it a “non-starter.” The official asked for anonymity to speak candidly. Particularly objectionable, this person said, was the proposal to cut Earth Science and kill the asteroid retrieval mission.

The House subcommittee’s bill would authorize about $1.2 billion for Earth Science in 2014 and 2015 — about 30% less than the division’s budget in 2013 and 2012. The main beneficiary from this rebalancing would be the Planetary Science Division, which runs NASA’s robotic solar system exploration program.

Conversely, the bill would authorize planetary science for $1.5 billion in funding in 2014 and 2015, the same level the division received for 2012. NASA has proposed reducing planetary science spending for 2013, funding it at about $1.2 billion even though Congress provided a larger appropriation in the The Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2013 (H.R. 933), which became law March 26.

Budget Proposal Rundown

Rounded to the nearest million, authorized spending levels for major NASA spending accounts in 2014 and 2015 under the House Science space subcommittee’s proposal are:

  • Top Line: $16.865 billion, about even with NASA’s 2013 appropriation and roughly 5.1% less than what NASA got in 2012 in its last unsequestered spending bill.
  • Exploration Systems: $4.007 billion, 8.9% more than what NASA has proposed spending in 2013 under an operating plan it delivered to Congress in May and 8.1% more than in 2012.
  • Space Operations: $3.818 billion, 2.5% more than the NASA-adjusted level for 2013 and 8.8% less than in 2012.
  • Science Mission Directorate: $4.627 billion, 3.2% more than in 2013 and 8.8% less than in 2012.
  • Cross-Agency Support: $2.6 billion, 4.1% less than 2013 and 13.2% lower than in 2012.
  • Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate: $566 million, 6.8% more than in 2013 and 0.6% less than 2012.
  • Space Technology Mission Directorate: $500 million, 21.9% lower than in 2013 and 12.9% lower than in 2012. The bill would transfer some of the human spaceflight research and development funding now managed by this directorate back to the Exploration Systems account.
  • Education Mission Directorate: $125 million, 7.8% more than in 2013 and 8.2% less than in 2012.
  • Construction and Environmental Compliance and Restoration: $587 million, 9.3% less than 2013 appropriation and 18.7% more than in 2012.
  • Inspector General: $35 million, about flat compared with 2013 and 8.6% lower than 2012.

Visions of the Future of Human Spaceflight

Proposed authorized funding for SLS and Orion in 2014 and 2015 under the House subcommittee’s bill are:

  • SLS: $1.772 billion, of which $1.454 billion would be for rocket development and support work, and $318 million would be for SLS ground systems. That puts vehicle development and support about 6.1% higher than in the 2013 operating plan and 2.9% lower than in 2012. Ground systems, meanwhile, would be authorized for 15.2% less than in 2013 and 4.4% more than in 2012.
  • Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle: $1.2 billion, 7.7% more than in 2013 and even with 2012.
  • The James Webb Space Telescope, meanwhile, would be authorized for $658 million in funding in 2014 and 2015, which are peak development years for the long-delayed, overbudget astrophysics flagship. The proposed authorized level is 4.9% more than 2013 and 26.9% more than in 2012.

This story was provided by Space News, dedicated to covering all aspects of the space industry. Article on SPACE.com.

This article originally published at Space.com
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/06/20/congress-asteroid-mission/