Help Support Space with the 2016 February Blitz and March Storm

By Dale Skran, Chair, NSS Policy Committee

February 21-23, 2016 SEA Blitz

NSS will be participating in the Space Exploration Alliance (SEA) 2016 legislative Blitz.  During the SEA Blitz teams of up to four space advocates from various organizations visit Congressional offices in Washington, DC. NSS encourages all members to sign up for and participate in the SEA Blitz as described at www.spaceexplorationalliance.org/blitz.

We are currently planning on holding a special dinner for NSS members only on the evening of Sunday, February 21st, following the SEA training session. Dale Skran, Chair of the NSS Policy Committee will be coordinating NSS members. Please send him a short email message at dale.skran@nss.org indicating you plan to participate in the Blitz and whether you will be attending the Sunday evening NSS dinner.

Also, when registering for the SEA Blitz we request that you answer the last question by saying that you will represent NSS. SEA includes groups ranging from NSS and Explore Mars to AIAA, the Moon Society, the Mars Society, the Planetary Society, the National Society of Black Engineers, SEDS, and Buzz Aldrin’s ShareSpace Foundation.  The major goal of the SEA Blitz from an NSS perspective is to provide as much support for the NASA budget as possible during these difficult budgetary times. Now is the time to stand up for space and be counted. I look forward to seeing you in Washington, DC, February 21-23, 2016.

March 13-17, 2016 SFF/NSS/ASD March Storm   

If February in Washington DC is too cold for you, consider joining the MARCH STORM Congressional action event sponsored by the Space Frontier Foundation, NSS, and the Alliance for Space Development (ASD) from March 13-17, 2016. ASD includes groups like the Space Frontier Foundation, NSS, the Lifeboat Foundation, The Mars Foundation, The Mars Society, the Space Development Foundation, the Space Development Steering Committee, the Space Tourism Society, Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, Students on Capitol Hill, the Tea Party in Space, and the Texas Space Alliance. You can find out more about ASD at www.allianceforspacedevelopment.org.

MARCH STORM is more focused on commerce and development than the SEA Blitz, and is an integrated part of a year-long legislative campaign managed by ASD that is designed for maximum legislative effectiveness. You can expect topics being pushed to include items like a Low Cost Access to Space Prize, full funding for Commercial Crew, and supporting a gapless transition from the ISS to commercial space stations.  The basic commitment is to a training session on Sunday, March 13, and to one day on the Hill on March 14th. Supporters with more time can join additional Congressional visits on March 15/16/17. If you are interested, register at www.marchstorm.com. I plan on joining the MARCH STORM, and look forward to seeing you there.

March 21-25, 2016 SFF/NSS/ASD 2016 March Storm Home District Blitz

This year we are also organizing the 2016 March Storm Home District Blitz for those who can’t make it to DC. Using the same materials as the DC March Storm, local groups will arrange to visit their Congressperson’s home district offices during the March 21-25 recess, just like the NSS/SFF 2015 August Home District Blitz. Signup is via www.marchstorm.com. Since I am organizing this effort, you will hear from me with more details after you sign up.

National Space Society Urges Presidential Signing of the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act

On November 10, 2015, the Senate passed H.R. 2262, the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (CSLCA). The House responded on November 16, 2015 by passing the final version as well. NSS congratulates both the Senate and House leadership for their hard work in hammering out a compromise between the previously passed House and Senate versions. “The CSLCA is a large and important pro-space bill that contains some vitally important steps toward space development and settlement,” said Dale Skran, NSS Executive Vice President. “NSS has been campaigning for the extension of the International Space Station, and NSS is delighted to see that the CSLCA formally extends the ISS to 2024.”

Other provisions in the CSLCA extend the so-called “learning period” for commercial human space flight by seven years, allowing the nascent space tourism industry to get a running start before full-on FAA regulations are put in place. Additionally, commercial space operators are allowed to both operate experimental and operational spacecraft at the same time, which was previously prohibited by law. “NSS has been working hard for both of these changes over the last year,” said Mark Hopkins, Chair of the NSS Executive Committee. “NSS believes that space tourism, including sub-orbital tourism, is one of the best routes to creating a low-cost road to the high frontier of space.”

The CSLCA calls for the establishment of a legal right for U.S. citizens to mine asteroids in a fashion consistent with international law, including the Outer Space Treaty. Milestone 18 of the NSS Space Settlement Roadmap calls for the exploration, utilization, and settlement of the asteroids (www.nss.org/settlement/roadmap/RoadmapPart6.html). “The establishment of the right to mine asteroids and profit from the results is an event of historic importance,” said Bruce Pittman, NSS Senior Vice President.

The CSLCA contains a large number of additional provisions, each important in some fashion to advancing the development of space resources. “Of particular interest are the provisions encouraging U.S. leadership in space commerce, including remote sensing,” said Stan Rosen, a member of the NSS Policy Committee. “When combined with initiatives related to space traffic management, orbital debris and others, they make the CSLCA the most important space legislation in many years.”

One hurdle remains for the CSLCA – signing by President Obama. “This legislation is critical for our future in space. NSS urges that the President sign the CSLCA,” said Dale Skran.

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin talks to “Face the Nation” about Mars this Sunday September 6th

In CBS’ first interview with the Apollo 11 astronauts on Face the Nation in 1969 (5-minute segment shown below), Buzz Aldrin discussed future goals for space exploration. Aldrin will be back on Face the Nation this Sunday September 6, 46 years later, to talk about his vision for Mars. Check local listings for times.

NSS/SFF August 2015 Home District Legislative Blitz – Sign Up Now!

The National Space Society (NSS) is organizing jointly with the Space Frontier Foundation (SFF) a “home district” blitz during August when Congress is in recess and members of Congress are most probably in their home districts. The themes for the blitz include supporting Commercial Crew, advocating for a gapless transition from the ISS to commercial space stations, supporting the “Space Exploration, Development, and Settlement Act” (SEDS Act) and protecting the Earth against asteroids and comets. Three of these four items are in support of the 2015 Campaign of the Alliance for Space Development.

Signup to the August Blitz this year is via google forms. Signup is open to anyone who wants to join, as this is a joint NSS/SFF activity. In other words, you do not need to be an NSS or SFF member to participate. However, you MUST fill out the google form. Please distribute this link to the google form to anyone you know who you think might be interested. Send email to dale.skran@nss.org with any questions.

The materials for the August Blitz are now available. They include:

It is planned to set up Contact team leaders on August 1st. The exact date of Congressional recess is still unclear, but is at least one or two weeks in the future from July 29, 2015.

You should read the first three bulleted items above as soon as you can. Please send any questions to dale.skran@nss.org and answers will be circulated to all participants. Please circulate the Blitz FAQ to anyone who may be interested in signing up. Remind them to fill out the google form if they have not yet done so.

Thanks to all who are helping,

Dale Skran
Chair, NSS Policy Committee
Chair, NSS/SFF August Home District Blitz

NASA-Funded Study Reduces Cost of Human Missions to Moon and Mars by Factor of Ten

Video of press conference below.

The National Space Society (NSS) and Space Frontier Foundation (SFF) today announced their support for NASA’s funding of the newly released NexGen Space study, illustrating how to cut the cost of human space exploration by a factor of 10. The study, “Economic Assessment and Systems Analysis of an Evolvable Lunar Architecture that Leverages Commercial Space Capabilities and Public – Private – Partnerships,” finds public-private partnerships are able to return humans to the Moon for approximately 90% less than the previously estimated $100 billion, allowing the United States to ensure national security in a new space age.

“The Space Frontier Foundation supports and recommends public-private partnerships in all proposed human spaceflight programs in order to reduce costs and enable these missions that were previously unaffordable,” said the Space Frontier Foundation’s Chairman of the Board, Jeff Feige. “This is the way that America will settle the final frontier, save taxpayers money and usher in a new era of economic growth and STEM innovation.”

NSS and SFF call attention to these conclusions from the study:

  • Enabled by public-private partnerships, NASA’s current human spaceflight budget is sufficient to return humans to the surface of the Moon and develop a permanent lunar base.
  • Mining fuel from lunar poles and transporting it to lunar orbit for use by other spacecraft reduces the cost of sending humans to Mars and other locations beyond low Earth orbit. These commercial fuel depots in lunar orbit have the potential to cut the cost of sending humans to Mars by more than $10 billion per year.

“NSS congratulates NASA for funding the team at NexGen that discovered how such cost reductions are possible,” said NSS Executive Committee Chair, Mark Hopkins. “A factor of ten reduction in cost changes everything.”

NSS and SFF add that any space programs able to establish viable commercial partnerships can potentially achieve similar cost reductions.

Video of one-hour press conference:

NSS/SFF August 2015 Home District Legislative Blitz – Sign Up Now!

The National Space Society is organizing jointly with the Space Frontier Foundation (SFF) a “home district” blitz during August when Congress is in recess and members of Congress are most probably in their home districts. The currently expected themes for the blitz include supporting Commercial Crew, advocating for ISS extension and utilization, supporting the Space Exploration, Development, and Settlement Act (SEDS Act), and protecting the Earth against asteroids and comets. Signup to the August Blitz this year will be via a Google form. Signup is open to anyone who wants to join, as this is a joint NSS/SFF activity. In other words, you do not need to be an NSS member to participate. However, you MUST fill out the Google form. A few of you filled out an earlier test form; please fill out the form again as it is somewhat different than the test version.

Please distribute this link to the Google form to anyone you know who you think might be interested. Send email to me at dale.skran@nss.org with any questions.

The link is: http://goo.gl/forms/RfTEFF9XWC

2015 Training materials and talking points will be emailed to those who fill out the Google form.

Thanks in advance,

Dale Skran
Chair, NSS Policy Committee

Buzz Aldrin: SpaceX Failure Shows We Need More Commercial Space Travel—Not Less

Buzz AldrinBuzz Aldrin, second man on the Moon and member of the National Space Society Board of Governors, has a fine op-ed piece for Time magazine which we recommend:

http://time.com/3945033/buzz-aldrin-spacex-commercial-space-travel/

National Space Society Urges NASA and SpaceX to Continue Developing Innovative Rocket Reuse Technology

The loss of NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 7 (CRS-7) mission on June 28th demonstrates, in the view of the National Space Society (NSS), the wisdom of NASA’s policy of maintaining technologically different competitive CRS providers. This was the seventh of 12 contracted flights to the International Space Station (ISS) by SpaceX. All 18 previous flights of the Falcon 9 (including five v1.0 flights and thirteen v1.1 flights) have been successful in meeting their primary objectives. CRS-7 was to have launched a new docking ring to the ISS for future use by NASA Commercial Crew flights and would have made another first stage recovery attempt.

NSS would like to express continued support for SpaceX and NASA as they analyze and test to understand and recover from Sunday’s launch failure.  “Spacecraft engineering is a very challenging profession and failure is always one possible outcome but we learn, implement and move forward,” said Bruce Pittman, NSS Senior Operating Officer. “NASA and the US government should continue to support the ISS, including the commercial cargo and crew programs.”

Paul Werbos, member of the NSS Board of Directors, said, “In a free market world, the government is supposed to be taking on the burden of the most advanced, highest risk challenges, in an open competitive way. NASA has been doing this by supporting SpaceX via the Commercial Resupply Services program as SpaceX develops the technology to reuse launch vehicles.”

NSS fully supports Space X’s efforts to upgrade its Falcon 9 rocket, especially its efforts to make it reusable.   As SpaceX said recently, “A jumbo jet costs about the same as one of our Falcon 9 rockets, but airlines don’t junk a plane after a one-way trip from LA to New York. Yet when it comes to space travel, rockets fly only once-even though the rocket itself represents the majority of launch cost (www.spacex.com/news/2015/06/24/why-and-how-landing-rockets).” NSS believes reusable rockets, once perfected, will be inherently more reliable than expendable vehicles, as well as less costly.

NSS Executive Vice President Dale Skran said: “After a failure like this, voices will be heard calling into question NASA’s use of commercial launch service providers. We need to recall that in spite of the best efforts of NASA and the expenditure of many billions of dollars, NASA lost two space shuttles with their entire crews. Eventual success is built on lessons learned from failures. We are confident that SpaceX will learn from the loss and rapidly return to service.”

National Space Society Opposes Senate Gutting of Commercial Crew Program

The National Space Society (NSS) strongly opposes the Senate Appropriations Committee’s $344 million (27%) cut of the 2015 Commercial Crew budget requested by the Administration. The Senate cuts were $100 million more than those recently passed by the House.

NSS stands with NASA administrator Charles Bolden when he said “By gutting this program and turning our backs on U.S. industry, NASA will be forced to continue to rely on Russia to get its astronauts into space – and to continue to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into the Russian economy rather than our own.”  The two winners of the Commercial Crew competition, Boeing and SpaceX, have been making excellent progress, exemplified by the May 6th successful pad abort test of the SpaceX Dragon 2 crew escape system. Both are on track to fly astronauts in 2017 assuming funding is provided.

Until Commercial Crew vehicles are flying, the only way for anyone to get to the ISS is the Russian Soyuz. Unfortunately, the Russian space program has recently displayed a worrisome lack of reliability. On May 16th the failure of the third stage of the Russian Proton resulted in the loss of the MexSat-1 communications satellite. During April, a Russian Progress M-27M carrying cargo to the ISS went out of control and was lost with all its contents. More recently, the unexpected firing of the engine of a Soyuz spacecraft attached to the ISS shifted its orbital position. Congress, which has underfunded and thus delayed Commercial Crew consistently, will bear a significant share of the responsibility if the next Russian accident results in injuries to astronauts or the abandonment of the ISS.

Some have advocated reducing the Commercial Crew program to a single vehicle, reducing current costs and eliminating competition. NSS has long supported competition in the Commercial Crew program (see the 2014 NSS position paper on the NASA Commercial Crew Program). The failure of the Orbital ATK Antares cargo rocket during a launch attempt to the ISS last year demonstrated the value of redundant systems, underscoring the vital importance of having multiple Commercial Crew providers.

It is imperative that Congress provide full funding to Commercial Crew so that both Boeing and SpaceX reach operational status. The Commercial Crew program has been one of NASA’s biggest success stories, generating large amounts of real product innovation while reducing costs to the government. Any expansive future in space, such as that envisioned in the NSS Roadmap to Space Settlement (www.nss.org/settlement/roadmap) requires lower cost specialized systems such as those being created by Commercial Crew and Commercial Resupply Services (CRS).

“NSS urges the Senate to pass a clean amendment restoring full funding of $1.244 billion to Commercial Crew when this Bill comes to the Senate floor for final passage,” said NSS Executive VP Dale Skran. “We are extremely concerned with the increasing difficulties in the Russian space program and suggest NASA immediately develop a contingency plan for Russian withdrawal other than evacuating the ISS.”

NASA Administrator Statement on Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Vote on Commercial Crew Budget

The following is a statement from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee vote Wednesday on NASA’s Fiscal Year 2016 commercial crew budget:

Charles F. Bolden
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden

“I am deeply disappointed that the Senate Appropriations subcommittee does not fully support NASA’s plan to once again launch American astronauts from U.S. soil as soon as possible, and instead favors continuing to write checks to Russia.

“Remarkably, the Senate reduces funding for our Commercial Crew Program further than the House already does compared to the President’s Budget.

“By gutting this program and turning our backs on U.S. industry, NASA will be forced to continue to rely on Russia to get its astronauts to space – and continue to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into the Russian economy rather than our own.

“I support investing in America so that we can once again launch our astronauts on American vehicles.”