Monday, January 23, 2017

NASA & the Trump Administration
(Graphic Source: NASA)

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

Unlike several other issues in the U.S. Presidential Election Campaign of last year, not much was discussed regarding Science, and more specifically, NASA and Space Exploration. However, the newly-inaugurated Presidential Administration of Donald J. Trump has made a few moves regarding NASA.

Although President Trump's Inaugural Address was rather short, it did include a few sentences referencing Science and Technology and the exploration of Outer Space:

Finally, we must think big and dream even bigger. In America, we understand that a nation is only living as long as it is striving...
We stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space, to free the earth from the miseries of disease and to harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow.”

Last week, NASA confirmed that NASA Associate Administrator David Lightfoot, the agency's top civil servant, will serve as the NASA Acting Administrator, beginning on January 20, when the Trump Administration officially takes the reigns of government. At that time, the previous NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and NASA Deputy Administrator Dava Newman officially leave the agency.

NASA Chief Financial Officer David Radzanowski, who earned his Master's Degree in Public Policy and Management at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University, had been asked to stay-on, at least temporarily, by the Trump Administration's transition team, to provide continuity for the agency, until the Trump Administration appoints new NASA leadership. However, at the last minute it seems the Trump transition staff changed their minds. According to his biography on the NASA Internet web site, Mr. Radzanowski resigned from NASA on January 20, the day President Trump was inaugurated.

In an internal NASA memorandum dated January 20, Mr. Lightfoot announced two new NASA staff members, appointed by the Trump Administration. Greg Autry was appointed to be the White House Liaison to NASA, while Erik Noble will be the White House Senior Advisor to NASA.

Mr. Autry, who has a great interest in commercial space activities, is an Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Southern California. Mr. Noble, who worked as a political data analyst for the Trump Campaign, has a Ph.D. In Environmental Studies from the University of Colorado and worked for seven years on Weather and Climate models for the NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies in New York.

It is unknown how long Mr. Lightfoot will serve as NASA Acting Administrator. Thus far, there has been no word on a nominee for the permanent Administrator position, although there is speculation regarding who President Trump may nominate.

Representative Jim Bridenstein (R-OK) is rumored to be President Trump's top choice for the job of NASA Administrator, although no announcement has yet been made regarding this position. Congressman Bridenstein has just started his third term representing Oklahoma in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Congressman Bridenstein favors expanding the responsibilities of the Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST), beyond its current regulation of launch and re-entry of spacecraft. He believes the agency should also regulate in-space activities, including possible future mining of planets and asteroids.

It is speculated that commercial space-related activities will receive primary attention during the Trump Administration. In this, there may not be much difference from President Barack H. Obama's Administration, which oversaw the beginning of commercial space ventures such as SpaceX, Orbital ATK, Cygnus, and Bigelow Aerospace.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz brought up the issue of commercial space, during confirmation hearings for the upcoming Trump Administration Cabinet officers on January 11. He asked U.S. Secretary of Transportation-Designate Elaine Chao, during her Senate hearing, whether she would favor transferring the Office of Commercial Space Transportation from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) back to the Transportation Secretary's office.

In 1983, U.S. President Ronald Reagan used an Executive Order to assign the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) with the responsibility for facilitating and regulating the commercial space launch industry. Congress passed the Commercial Space Launch Act the next year, which placed the Office of Commercial Space Transportation in the Transportation Secretary's office.

The Office of Commercial Space Transportation was transferred to the FAA in November of 1995. Supporters of commercial space argue that the Office would have greater visibility and resources if it returned to the Transportation Secretary's office.

Ms. Chao, who was not prepared for this particular question, stated that she would seek “getting briefed on the current status of the issue.” Senator Cruz, who favors the proposed transfer, said he would work with her on the issue.

Ms. Chao served in various capacities during previous Republican Administrations, including as Labor Secretary during the George W. Bush Administration. During part of the George H.W. Bush Administration, Ms. Chao was Deputy Secretary of Transportation. She is married to Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader (R-KY), who, along with Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, introduced her at the hearing.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who sought the Republican Presidential Nomination in 2016, is Chairman of the Senate's Space, Science and Competitiveness Sub-Committee. In the last Congress, he helped pass the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (CSLCA), which proposes the move of the Office of Commercial Space Transportation from the FAA to the DOT.

Senator Cruz was the only Senator to ask any questions regarding Outer Space policy. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) did not ask any space-related questions, although he did mention that he was an author of the 1984 commercial space legislation when he served in the House of Representatives.

Another Space issue that will need attention by the new Administration will be the future of NASA's Earth Science program. Some members of Congress, including Senator Cruz, believe the functions of this program would be better in another agency, such as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the U.S. Department of Commerce. However, NASA officials continue emphasizing that Earth Science is an important part of NASA's mission.

It is reported that the Trump Administration may reinstate the National Space Council, which is an advisory body within the Executive Office, to recommend Space policies to the President. A National Space Council, which would likely be chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, was last in use during the George H.W. Bush Administration from 1988 to 1993.

Some issues a future National Space Council may consider include proposed crewed missions to the Moon, Mars, and to an asteroid. As of now, NASA is committed to maintaining the International Space Station (ISS), at least, through 2024. Although, NASA officials have expressed hope that private industry may play a larger role in maintaining ISS, as well as in other low-Earth orbit activities, in the future.

Another position that has not yet been filled by the incoming Administration is that of head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. More informally known as the White House Science Advisor, this person helps set Science and Technology policy for an Administration, as well as helping to explain complex Science and Technology issues to Presidents, who often come into office with minimal knowledge of such issues. However, it is reported that there are rumors that President Trump may leave this position vacant.

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

Foust, Jeff. "Trump administration assigns first political appointees to NASA." 2017 Jan. 22.
Link >>>

Jeff Foust
"President Trump's Inaugural Address, Annotated." Public Address.
National Public Radio 2017 January 20.
Link >>>

Cofield, Calla. "6 Things to Know About Trump and NASA." 2017 Jan. 20.
Link >>>

Foust, Jeff. "NASA's top civil servant will lead the agency temporarily." 2017 Jan. 13.
Link >>>
Jeff Foust

Smith, Marcia S."Chao Punts on Whether Commerical Space Should be Restored to DOT Secretary's Office." 2017 Jan. 12.
Link >>>

Related Blog Posts ---

"U.S. Space Program: Views of Presidential Candidates." 2016 Nov. 6.

Link >>>


"White House Science Frontiers Conference & Astronomy Night in Pittsburgh." 2016 Oct. 14.

Link >>>


"U.S. Presidential Candidates Answer Science Questions." 2016 Sept. 18.

Link >>>

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
             2017 January 23.

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  1. I presume that the era of NASA's Main Mission being Muslim Outreach is over. :-)

  2. يمكنك الآن التواصل مع شركة تنظيف خزانات بمكة المتخصصة التي تقدمها شركة العنود حتى تتمكن من الحصول على جميع خدمات تنظيف خزانات بمكة و بالمملكة العربية السعودية

  3. احصل الآن على كافة خدمات صيانة الكتروستار المتكاملة التي تحتاجها لاجهزتك عن طريق التواصل مع الشركة العالمية المتخصصة في خدمات صيانة الاجهزة الكهربائية

  4. يمكنك الآن الحصول على كافة خدمات مكافحة البق بأقل الاسعار في مصر ، و ذلك عن طريق التواصل مع شركة مكافحة الصراصير و الحشرات المتخصصة التي تقدمها الشركة الفرنسية ذات الخبرة في خدمات ابادة النمل و جميع خدمات ابادة الحشرات الاخرى

  5. خدمات متنوعه من شركة تنظيف بالدمام لنظافة دائمة للمنزلو جميع ملحقاته من اسطح و سلالم و حدائق و يوجد خدمات صيانة منزلية من شركة تسليك مجاري بالدمام و غيرها الكثي رمن شركة ابراج دبي