A few items of interest related to space policy over the last few days, to tide you over the holiday celebrations:
The passing last week of Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI), who chaired the Senate Appropriations Committee, set off a chain reaction of events that led to Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) being selected to replace Inouye as committee chairman. Mikulski has been chairing the committee’s Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) subcommittee, whose oversight includes NASA, and has been influential in space policy, influence that may increase by running the full appropriations committee. A Mikulski spokesperson tells Space News that the senator plans to retain chairmanship of the CJS subcommittee in addition to chairing the full committee; Inouye chaired the defense subcommittee in addition to the full committee.
There remains no signs of progress in averting the “fiscal cliff,” including the automatic across-the-board budget cuts (aka “sequestration”) that would take effect on January 2. Last week NASA administrator Charles Bolden sent a memo to agency employees about what would happen if those cuts take effect. “I do not expect our day-to-day operations to change dramatically” immediately after the cuts take effect, he wrote, including any furloughs of employees. However, he added, “Should we have to operate under reduced funding levels for an extended period of time, we may have to consider furloughs or other actions in the future.”
An effort to rename NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center after the late Neil Armstrong appears to have stalled out in Congress. Last month, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the House Majority Whip, introduced HR 6612, a bill that would rename Dryden as the “Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center” and the Western Aeronautical Test Range as the “Hugh L. Dryden Aeronautical Test Range.” “This bill recognizes the achievements of Neil Armstrong in aerospace travel and space exploration, and highlights his important connection to Kern County,” McCarthy said in a statement when he and several colleagues introduced the bill, referring to Armstrong’s time as a test pilot there before being selected as a NASA astronaut. The bill was scheduled to be considered under suspension of the rules on Tuesday and then Wednesday of last week, but has yet to be taken up by the House.