Guest post by David Middleton
OCT. 31, 2017 AT 1:14 PM
Trump’s Nominee For NASA Chief Could Remake The Agency
By Rebecca Boyle
Filed under Space
Before Rep. Jim Bridenstine was nominated to lead NASA, he already had unorthodox ideas about what it should do. In 2016, as one of Oklahoma’s congressmen, he proposed the American Space Renaissance Act, which he called a “pioneering doctrine” that would refocus NASA’s mission. The space agency would concentrate on human spaceflight and “permanently secure the United States of America as the preeminent spacefaring nation.” Bridenstine’s vision would eliminate two of NASA’s current stated missions — to pursue aeronautical and space activities for peaceful and scientific purposes, and to expand knowledge of Earth and its atmosphere. (Bridenstine has said that there’s no credible evidence that CO2 affects the global climate.) In their place, his plan would spread human influence throughout the solar system and ensure the U.S. shows up first on alien worlds — and gets them ready for use by humans.
On Wednesday, he’s likely to face tough questions from senators wondering if a 42-year-old former Navy pilot and climate skeptic with an enthusiasm for space but no technical background or formal connection to NASA is really the right man for the job.
The 538 piece is one of many articles questioning Bridenstine’s qualifications to be NASA Administrator. He’s not a scientist, has no technical background (apparently being a Naval Aviator flying E-2C Hawkeyes isn’t “technical” in green circles) or “formal connection to NASA.”
Well, James Webb, namesake of the James Webb Telescope and NASA’s third Administrator had an oddly similar background.
Webb was born in the hamlet of Tally Ho in Granville County, North Carolina. His father was superintendent of the Granville County public schools. He completed his college education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he received an A.B. degree in education in 1928. He was a member of the Acacia Fraternity. Webb became a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps, and he served as a Marine Corps pilot on active duty from 1930 to 1932. Webb then studied law at The George Washington University Law School where he received a J.D. degree in 1936. In the same year, he was admitted to the Bar of the District of Columbia.
Webb spent the next 25 years mostly as a government bureaucrat in various agencies before President Kennedy nominated him to be NASA’s first Administrator in 1961. Webb led NASA from 1961-1968 when NASA’s primary mission was manned spaceflight, with the objective of a manned Moon landing before 1970. NASA accomplished this.
Bridenstine’s background is very similar to Webb’s…
Bridenstine was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan and is a Jenks High School graduate, a graduate of Rice University with majors in Economics, Psychology, and Business, and has an MBA from Cornell University. He is a former executive director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium and is a Naval Aviator in the U.S. Navy Reservewhere he flies the E-2C Hawkeye in Central and South America in support of the War on Drugs.[non-primary source needed] Bridenstine is an Eagle Scout and received several military awards, including the Air Medal. As of 2016, Bridenstine is a State of Oklahoma record holder in the 200M long course freestyle relay.
In 2012, Bridenstine, with Tea Party backing, unseated a 5-term incumbent Republican congressman and has represented Oklahoma’s 1st Congressional District since January 2013. So, Bridenstine is every bit as qualified to run NASA as Webb was.
The other area in which the greenies are objecting is to Bridenstine’s commitment to refocus NASA on space operations and reduce its efforts in earth and environmental sciences – areas which more properly fall under the purview of NOAA, NSF and USGS, not NASA. Oddly enough, a former Apollo astronaut and geologist, Dr. Harrison “Jack” Schmitt has a similar view as to how NASA should refocus its mission:
MAY 25, 2011 BY HARRISON H. SCHMITT
46. SPACE POLICY AND THE CONSTITUTION #4
Former Senator Schmitt Proposes Dismantling of NASA and Creation of a New, National Space Exploration Administration (NSEA)
On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced to a special joint session of Congress the dramatic and ambitious goal of sending an American to the Moon and returning him safely to Earth by the end of that decade. President Kennedy’s confidence that this Cold War goal could be accomplished rested on the post-Sputnik decision by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to form the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and, in January 1960, to direct NASA to begin the development of what became the Saturn V rocket. This release of a collection of essays on Space Policy and the Constitutioncommemorates President Kennedy’s decisive challenge 50 years ago to a generation of young Americans and the remarkable success of those young Americans in meeting that challenge.
Is there a path forward for United States’ space policy? When a new President takes office in 2013, he or she should propose to Congress that we start space policy and its administration from scratch. A new agency, the National Space Exploration Administration (NSEA), should be charged with specifically enabling America’s and its partners’ exploration of deep space, inherently stimulating education, technology, and national focus. The existing component parts of NASA should be spread among other agencies with the only exception being activities related to U.S. obligations to its partners in the International Space Station (ISS).
The easiest change to make would be to move NASA Space Science activities into the National Science Foundation (NSF), exclusive of lunar and planetary exploration science but including space-based astronomical observatories. At the NSF, those activities can compete for support and funding with other science programs that are in the national interest to pursue. Spacecraft launch services can be procured from commercial, other government agencies, or international sources through case-by-case arrangements. With this transfer, the NSF would assume responsibility for the space science activities of the Goddard Space Flight Center and for the contract with Caltech to run the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Also, in a similarly logical and straightforward way, NASA’s climate and other earth science research could become part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA could make cooperative arrangements with the NSF for use of the facilities and capabilities of the Goddard Space Flight Center related to development and operation of weather and other remote sensing satellites.
Next, NASA aeronautical research and technology activities should be placed in a re-creation of NASA’s highly successful precursor, the NACA. Within this new-old agency, the Langley Research Center, Glenn Research Center, and Dryden Flight Research Center could be reconstituted as pure aeronautical research and technology laboratories as they were originally. The sadly, now largely redundant Ames Research Center should be auctioned to the highest domestic bidder as its land and facilities have significant value to nearby commercial enterprises. These actions would force, once again, consideration of aeronautical research and technology development as a critical but independent national objective of great economic and strategic importance.
NASA itself would be downsized to accommodate these changes. It should sunset as an agency once the useful life of the International Space Station (ISS) has been reached. De-orbiting of the ISS will be necessary within the next 10 to 15 years due to escalating maintenance overhead, diminished research value, sustaining cost escalation, and potential Russian blackmail through escalating costs for U.S. access to space after retirement of the Space Shuttles. NASA itself should sunset two years after de-orbiting, leaving time to properly transfer responsibility for its archival scientific databases to the NSF, its engineering archives to the new exploration agency, and its remaining space artifacts to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
Finally, with the recognition that a second Cold War exists, this time with China and its surrogates, the President and Congress elected in 2012 should create a new National Space Exploration Administration (NSEA). NSEA would be charged solely with the human exploration of deep space and the re-establishment and maintenance of American dominance as a space-faring nation. The new Agency’s responsibilities should include robotic exploration necessary to support its primary mission. As did the Apollo Program, NSEA should include lunar and planetary science and resource identification as a major component of its human space exploration and development initiatives.
So… If President Trump had nominated Jack Schmitt to be NASA Administrator, they would be hunky-dory with it… Right? Schmitt clearly has a “technical background” and has had a “formal connection to NASA”…
Born in Santa Rita, New Mexico, Schmitt grew up in nearby Silver City, and he is a graduate of the Western High School (class of 1953). He received a B.S. degree in geology from the California Institute of Technology in 1957 and then spent a year studying geology at the University of Oslo in Norway. He received a Ph.D. in geology from Harvard University in 1964, based on his geological field studies in Norway.
Before joining NASA as a member of the first group of scientist-astronauts in June 1965, he worked at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Astrogeology Center at Flagstaff, Arizona, developing geological field techniques that would be used by the Apollo crews. Following his selection, Schmitt spent his first year at Air ForceUPT learning to become a jet pilot. Upon his return to the astronaut corps in Houston, he played a key role in training Apollo crews to be geologic observers when they were in lunar orbit and competent geologic field workers when they were on the lunar surface. After each of the landing missions, he participated in the examination and evaluation of the returned lunar samples and helped the crews with the scientific aspects of their mission reports.
Schmitt spent considerable time becoming proficient in the CSM and LM systems. In March 1970 he became the first of the scientist-astronauts to be assigned to space flight, joining Richard F. Gordon, Jr. (Commander) and Vance Brand (Command Module Pilot) on the Apollo 15 backup crew. The flight rotation put these three in line to fly as prime crew on the third following mission, Apollo 18. When Apollo flights 18 and 19 were cancelled in September 1970, the community of lunar geologists supporting Apollo felt so strongly about the need to land a professional geologist on the Moon, that they pressured NASA to reassign Schmitt to a remaining flight. As a result, Schmitt was assigned in August 1971 to fly on the last mission, Apollo 17, replacing Joe Engle as Lunar Module Pilot. Schmitt landed on the Moon with commander Gene Cernan in December 1972.
Schmitt claims to have taken the photograph of the Earth known as The Blue Marble, one of the most widely distributed photographic images in existence. (NASA officially credits the image to the entire Apollo 17 crew.)
While on the Moon’s surface, Schmitt — the only geologist in the astronaut corps — collected the rock sample designated Troctolite 76535, which has been called “without doubt the most interesting sample returned from the Moon”. Among other distinctions, it is the central piece of evidence suggesting that the Moon once possessed an active magnetic field.
As he returned to the Lunar Module before Cernan, Schmitt is the next-to-last person to have walked on the Moon’s surface.
After the completion of Apollo 17, Schmitt played an active role in documenting the Apollo geologic results and also took on the task of organizing NASA’s Energy Program Office.
Clearly, someone like Jack Schmitt has the qualifications that both James Webb and Jim Bridenstine were/are lacking in. So, obviously he would be warmly embraced as NASA Administrator. The facts that he would refocus NASA on space operations and and is an AGW skeptic, certainly wouldn’t trump his technical qualifications in the eyes of the greenies… Right?
Of course not.
More than 40 Florida scientists oppose Trump’s NASA nominee
By SERGIO BUSTOS 10/06/2017 03:40 PM EDT
MIAMI — More than 40 Florida scientists oppose President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead NASA, saying Oklahoma Rep. Jim Bridenstine is unqualified for the job and that they are troubled by his denial of climate change.
“He has no scientific training and little administrative experience and he is not qualified to lead this prestigious agency,” the scientists wrote in a letter Friday to Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). “At this critical time, we can ill afford to allow this vital agency be subject to political whims. There is too much at stake.”
Are “Florida scientists” those who specialize in Florida? Or just scientists who live in Florida?
Do these “journalists” and Florida Senators strive for ignorance? It sure seems that way.
WHY DONALD TRUMP’S NASA CHIEF PICK IS A CONTROVERSIAL CHOICE
BY SOFIA LOTTO PERSIO ON 9/2/17
The White House announced President Donald Trump’s preferred pick to head NASA on Friday night, but the choice is already proving unpopular, with Florida senators criticizing Trump’s choice.
Bridenstine did serve as a pilot in the U.S. Navy Reserve for nine years and is a former executive director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum and Planetarium between December 2008 and August 2010.
But unlike previous NASA administrators, the 42-year-old Michigan native does not have any formal qualifications in science or engineering…
Hello? Ms. Lotto, Senators Nelson & Rubio… Can you say, “James Webb”?
On the flip side, Jim Bridenstine has the endorsement of former NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe…
Jim Bridenstine is the leader NASA needs
BY SEAN O’KEEFE, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR — 09/26/17
Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), the president’s nominee for NASA administrator, is facing criticism regarding his qualifications for the job. These concerns seem to be rooted in a clear preference instead for a nominee possessing skills or experience as a scientist, engineer or technologist. Perhaps most critically, some have dismissed Bridenstine’s experience as inadequate given that he is an elected politician.
But if history is any guide, technical skills are not necessarily requisites for success leading this storied agency. While several previous NASA leaders were credentialed or experienced in such disciplines, this was not a clear determinant for success. And contrary to the critical view, Bridenstine arguably has the best qualifications for success given the challenges ahead.
Of the dozen previous NASA administrators, perhaps the most extraordinary and historically noteworthy of them served during the Apollo era. James Webb possessed a diverse base of experience, but none of the technical skills extolled in some of the current dialogue. Webb earned an undergraduate degree in Education, served in the Marine Corps, earned a law degree and served as a congressional staffer before a brief time in industry.
Webb’s contribution was not his scientific or engineering know how. But he did have a wide breath of experience in finance, business management, the art of negotiating outcomes and making decisions in the very emotionally charged public policy arena.
In short, Webb was, by any standard, a politician and an awfully good one.
He successfully marshaled an exceptional team of engineers and scientists, none of which suffered low self-esteem. Choosing among a multitude of diametrically opposite “right answers” advanced by those with technical expertise, it was up to Webb to achieve consensus among them to forge a path forward.
He also needed to secure the president’s support for a strategy, devise management plans to achieve the outcomes and somehow convince Congress to appropriate funds to finance the endeavor. To do so required exceptional leadership, management and political skills drawn from an array of experiences and professional training to yield the heralded achievements of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs.
He was a most remarkable public servant. But to listen to the critics today, it seems some might consider Webb to be a marginally qualified nominee.
It is impossible to tell if Jim Bridenstine will have the kind of success that Webb achieved. But in pursuit of this parallel prospect, it’s altogether possible he has exactly the skills and experience to position the agency to make that possible. His policy views, voting record and insights on how he may choose to use skills honed as a politician and elsewhere will surely be revealed in the upcoming confirmation hearing. But if past is prologue, he’s qualified to clear the hurdles for Senate confirmation. And I’m willing to bet he’ll prove to be a fine choice as the 13th NASA administrator.
Sean O’Keefe served as the 10th NASA administrator in the George W. Bush administration, 2001-2005, and is presently a professor of public administration at the Syracuse University Maxwell School.
Jim Bridenstine could even be good news for Elon Musk…
Earlier this year, Musk announced that SpaceX would fly two private citizens in a trip around the moon by late next year. And he hinted at the moon base during a conference in July.
“If you want to get the public really fired up, I think we’ve got to have a base on the moon. That’d be pretty cool. And then going beyond there and getting people to Mars,” he said. “That’s the continuance of the dream of Apollo that I think people are really looking for.”
It also could be a good business move. Jim Bridenstine, the Trump administration’s nominee for NASA administrator, has advocated a return to the moon, writing in a blog post last year that “from the discovery of water ice on the moon until this day, the American objective should have been a permanent outpost of rovers and machines, with occasional manned missions for science and maintenance.”
NASA is poised to ask the private sector for proposals to develop a lunar lander that could take experiments and cargo to the moon’s surface, with flights starting as early as 2018.
Wow! I mentioned Elon Musk without saying anything negative about Tesla!