Search Results for: bridenstine

Factional bickering dominates nomination hearing for NASA administrator

Quite boring. Factional bickering yesterday between Democrats and Republicans dominated the nomination hearing of Congressman Jim Bridenstine (R-Oklahoma) for NASA administrator.

Today’s contentious nomination hearing for Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to be NASA Administrator was split along partisan lines. Democratic Senators questioned his credentials and viewpoints about climate change, sexual harassment and other issues that could affect how he runs the agency and its personnel. Republicans defended him and chafed at the tenor of the hearing. The committee could vote as early as next week on whether to send the nomination to the full Senate.

I did not watch the hearing because I knew this would be what I’d see and I didn’t want to be bored for two hours. It ain’t news anymore to find Democrats opposing anything proposed by the Republicans. Furthermore, it doesn’t matter. Bridenstine will almost certainly be approved along partisan lines in the Senate, and nothing I have read about him suggests he is going to do anything significant or radical. He has made it clear, both in recent interviews and articles as well as his testimony yesterday as reported by numerous articles that he does not wish to rock the boat. He supports all of NASA’s current programs, commercial space, SLS/Orion, climate research, everything. I do not expect him to make any radical changes in the direction NASA is going.

In fact, the people who will change NASA are not even in the government. I expect the actions of Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos to have far greater impact in the coming years, with politicians and bureaucrats in NASA forced to follow them, as they have been forced to follow Musk during the past half decade.

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The first meeting of the National Space Council

The first meeting of the National Space Council just wrapped up. You can see highlights here. I have several thoughts.

The entire event was very carefully staged, with the planned outcomes determined beforehand. The three panels of speakers were organized to match up with the three main actions the council intended to pursue, with the questions from the various high level Trump cabinet members clearly arranged to line up with each panel. Moreover, the fact that all these panel members were there and participating in this staged event suggests that Trump himself is directly interested, and insisted they do so.

The first action was a decision to rework the country’s overall space policy, including its future goals for exploring the solar system. This action item was linked with statements by officials from Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Orbital ATK, and was clearly intended to placate their desire to keep what they all called “sustained” and “reliable” funding. It was also clearly linked to Pence’s opening remarks, which insisted that the U.S. should return to the Moon, permanently, and use that as a jumping off point for exploring Mars and the rest of the solar system.

The second action was a commitment to review, in the next 45 days, the entire regulatory bureaucracy that private companies must face. This was linked to the testimony from officials from SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Sierra Nevada.

The third action was a focus on the military and national security aspects of space, focused on the development of a “space strategic framework” that will apparently link the military needs with the growing commercial space industry. This framework has been under development for several months. The council actually spent the most time questioning the national security witnesses on this issue. This focus also aligns with the main interest in space held by Trump’s nominee for NASA administrator, Congressman Jim Bridenstine (R-Oklahoma). Interestingly, Bridenstine was in the audience, but was given no speaking opportunity, unlike the NASA acting administrator, Robert Lightfoot, who Pence specifically provided a moment to speak.

Overall, this meeting indicates that the Trump administration is likely not going to do much to drain the swamp that presently dominates our space effort. Trump’s interest in reducing regulation remains strong, but it also appears he and his administration is also strongly committed to continuing the crony capitalism that is wasting literally billions of dollars in space and helping to put the nation into unrecoverable debt.

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Trump nominates James Bridenstine as NASA administrator

As expected for months, Trump late yesterday nominated Congressman James Bridenstine (R-Oklahoma) as the new administrator of NASA.

He will still have to be confirmed by the Senate. Interestingly, both Florida senators, a Democrat and a Republican, have announced their opposition to the nomination.

Bridenstine is somewhat in favor of private space, but previous analysis of his past proposals by myself and others has not been encouraging. What he will do as head of NASA however remains unknown. Based on his past statements, I would be surprised if he cut back on either commercial space or SLS.

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Congressman proposes new legislation to better regulate commercial space

We’re here to help you! In an effort to guarantee that the United States remains compliant with the UN Outer Space Treaty when its private citizens begin flying commercial operations in space, Congressman Bridenstine (R-Oklahoma) is proposing new legislation that would better supervise and regulate the emerging commercial space industry.

Bridenstine explained that his top concern is that a U.S. company will proceed with a plan to put a spacecraft on the Moon or conduct on-orbit servicing or some other new type of activity only to have a “near-peer” country like Russia or China complain at the last minute that the United States is violating the OST. That would put the United States “in a difficult position,” he argues. Therefore he sees the need for “airtight” legislation that sets up a process by which the government authorizes and supervises these private companies. Once a company has gone through the process, the United States can unequivocally demonstrate to the international community that it has, in fact, complied with the treaty.

The Obama Administration has been open to working with these new companies, but he wonders if that will remain true over the long term future. He insisted that Congress “needs to exert its authority and power so that whatever administration comes next or is in place 50 years from now, the process exists” and is not subject to a new administration’s “whims.” He also worried that without a legislative solution, it could become a matter of “executive branch regulation by default.” That opens the possibility of some agency saying no, with no recourse for the private sector.

Read the whole report at the link. If you believe in freedom, competition, and private enterprise, it will chill your bones. At no time does anyone suggest that maybe the United States should simply get out of the Outer Space Treaty, as we are legally allowed to do according to the treaty’s own language. The treaty itself is a very bad law, as it makes it impossible for any private citizen or company in space to be protected under U.S. law, leaving everything instead in the control of United Nations bureaucrats and the polyglot of nations, many quite tyrannical, that dictate UN policy. Bridenstine’s proposals will only make this situation worse, as it will not only keep all control in the hands of the UN, but it will saddle American citizens with further regulations imposed by our own government.

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Congressman proposes major changes to regulation of commercial space

Doug Messier has posted a detailed analysis of Congressman Jim Bridenstine’s (R-Oklahoma) proposed American Space Renaissance Act (ASRA) that is definitely worth reading.

Most of the changes appear aimed at organizing the regulation process of commercial space more completely under FAA control, rather than the hodge-podge of agencies that presently have responsibility. The bill also encourages NOAA and NASA to increase their use of commercial data for weather and Earth remote sensing.

At first glance, the bill looks good, but it also is not likely to be passed as written. Moreover, not surprisingly it calls for a hefty increase in funding for the FAA agencies being given more responsibilities, but I wonder if Congress will comparably reduce the funding of those agencies it takes responsibility from. My instinct tells me no, which means of course that the government and bureaucracy grows again.

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