NASA Refocused?

You may not realize that US$1.9 billion of NASA’s 2016 budget (US19+ billion) was going to climate study. If my sources can be believed. The 2017 NASA Transition Authorization Act (S. 442 – link) supposedly reallocates the funding. Figuring out exactly how is unclear, at least to me. But, the words ‘climate’ and ‘weather’ do not appear in the text of the bill. Nor are all dollars assigned a place other than NASA.

Following this bill gets bit confusing. Sen. Ted Cruz introduced a bill prepared in the Obama days: S.3346 – National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2016. It got tabled as the 114th session of Congress (2015-16) ran out of time.

It gets a bit confusing as to what will happen with NASA. Pres. Trump assigned Robert Lightfoot to formally take over as acting administrator of NASA (Jan. 20). Later a formal appointment of a director will be made, which gets run through the Congressional Advice & Consent process. There are 3 positions at NASA that pass through that process; director, assistant director, and chief financial officer. These are all up in the air. Plus, with the Democrats delaying Congressional approval wherever they can, we have no idea when the positions will be filled.

The administration has what they call a landing team, which will liaison with NASA. The team is led by Chris Shank. Former NASA astronaut Sandra Magnus is on the team. Also, Steve Cook who formerly ran the and Ares 1 & 5 development programs at NASA.

The most climate study is likely going to be funded for NOAA, but their budget is being cut. With their recent scandal, we have no idea how that will shake down. NOAA is within the purview of the Commerce Secretary, who will probably be Wilbur Ross.

S.442 (115th session) is a compromise between the House and Senate, a modification of S.3346 Obama era bill. The Senate has passed S.442 (2/17), unanimous consent. So, it will likely pass the House and go to the President.

Reading the bill, I see no part that would prevent the Trump administration from altering the direction of NASA. For now, NASA is headed toward Mars and building the ships to get there. There is debate about whether that is the best direction. There is discussion about a moon base, asteroid redirection technology, and other tech that may be of more immediate use.

However, the moon and asteroid projects may best be left to private enterprise, which makes for an interesting debate.

As the director of NASA answers directly to the President, NASA’s direction can be easily changed. Congress can increase or reduce funding to the agency. Unless they specify how the money is to be spent by NASA, it is at the President’s discretion, moon base or Mars. With his landing team reviewing NASA, we have little idea how this will all come down.

4 thoughts on “NASA Refocused?

  1. NASA being the one to study the climate is pretty obvious when you think about it. If NOAA does it the people involved and such would have to be transferred. While they both have concerns about the planet it is not a total overlap of capabilities (personnel in the field, satellites, etc) so that would need to be built up at NOAA. If Donny wants to decrease the NOAA budget you do not have them ramp up a major task at the same time.

    • The Trump admin is NOT going to ramp up climate studies at either NASA or NOAA.

      Expect to the scandal at NOAA investigated and the investigation spread to NASA.

      • Exactly, which is the problem if he moves it. He would need to spend more money on it that he does not want to do.

        • Or he could move it, lay off people, and cut the budget. This appears to be what the supposed in-the-know people are predicting.

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