U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) spoke on the Senate floor today about the future of the nation’s space program and the importance of continuing to invest in new technologies to explore the heavens and one day take humans to Mars. [Read more…] about Sen. Nelson’s remarks on the Senate floor
Dante Lauretta, the principal investigator for NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission, will give a public talk at the University of Central Florida on June 1 about the mission that’s working to recover samples of a nearby asteroid.
Lauretta, a professor of planetary science and cosmochemistry at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, is working with UCF Physics Professor Humberto Campins on the mission.
OSIRIS-REx, which stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer, is NASA’s first mission to return a sample of an asteroid to Earth. A successful mission will provide scientists with enough material from the asteroid’s surface to better understand how planets formed and how life began in the solar system. Data will also help scientists understand the nature of asteroids that could potentially hit Earth.
The free talk begins at 11 a.m. in room 161 of the Physical Sciences Building, located at 4111 Libra Drive on the main campus.
The mission launched aboard an Atlas V 411 rocket in September 2016 from the Kennedy Space Center and is expected to reach the asteroid Bennu in 2018.
That’s when Campins and fellow physics professor Yan Fernandez will really see their workload increase. They will work alongside a team of experts to assist Lauretta by analyzing the data and images taken of Bennu while OSIRIS-REx orbits the asteroid. They then will make a recommendation of the most “promising sample sites” for OSIRIS-REx to collect between two and 70 ounces of surface material with its robotic arm. It will then store the samples in a detachable capsule that is expected to return to Earth in 2023.
Lauretta said he was excited about the mission and the work the team would complete together.
“The team has built an amazing spacecraft, and we are well-equipped to investigate Bennu and return with our scientific treasure,” he said.
Campins has spent his entire career chasing asteroids, comets and other celestial bodies. He conducts research at observatories around the world, including Arizona, Hawaii, Chile, France, Spain and the Vatican. In 2010 he headed the team that discovered water ice and organic molecules on the asteroid 24 Themis and later on 65 Cybele. It’s that expertise that led Lauretta to invite Campins to the OSIRIS-REx team.
Campins earned degrees from the University of Kansas and the University of Arizona. As a graduate student he was named a representative to the Committee for Peaceful Uses of Outer Space of the General Assembly of the United Nations. His research has been funded by multiple agencies in the past 10 years, including NASA, the National Science Foundation, the European Space Agency, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and Florida Space Grant Consortium.
“I’ve always been fascinated by asteroids and to be able to contribute to this mission is a milestone in the search for answers I’ve been looking for my entire career,” Campins said.
The University of Arizona leads the OSIRIS-REx mission, Goddard Space Flight Center will provide overall mission management, systems engineering, and safety and mission assurance. Lockheed Martin Space Systems built the spacecraft. A host of national and international experts from several universities in the U.S., Canada, France, Spain, the U.K. and Japan rounds out the team.
The Senate today, by a vote of 79 – 18, approved a $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund the federal government through September.
The measure includes $19.65 billion for NASA, which is $368 million more than the space agency received last year and $145 million more than Congress had approved for the agency earlier this year.
Today, congressional leaders credited U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) for getting the additional funding included in the bill.
“NASA had actually been targeted for certain cuts … but thanks to the advocacy of Senator Nelson, NASA will get an increase of $368 million,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said on the Senate floor this morning. “There is no one in the Senate who has done more for our [space program] than Bill Nelson.”
Nelson, the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee which oversees NASA, says the additional funding will help expand commercial space activity along Florida’s Space Coast and keep NASA on track to put humans on Mars within the next quarter-century.
“The space program creates thousands and thousands and thousands of jobs for skilled workers to build the machines that help us explore the heavens,” Nelson said on the Senate floor today. “The funding included in this budget deal moves us ever closer to answering that burning question: are we alone in the universe?”
Nelson, who spent six days orbiting the planet aboard the space shuttle Columbia, co-authored the current blueprint from which NASA is operating. That bill – the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 – requires NASA to establish a human settlement on Mars and continue the commercial space industry’s development of a new American-made rocket to once again send American astronauts to and from the International Space Station without having to rely on Russia.
“In this time when we find ourselves far too divided in our politics, the exploration of space continues to be a powerful force that brings us together,” Nelson said today.
Below is a rush transcript of Schumer and Nelson’s remarks on the floor this morning, and video of their remarks is available here.
U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Chuck Schumer
Remarks on the Senate Floor
May 4, 2017
Sen. Schumer: […] One final issue, seeing my friend from Florida about to take the floor, I would like to yield to him for a moment.
But before I do, I want to recognize his outstanding efforts in securing additional funding in the appropriations bill for NASA.
NASA had actually been targeted for certain cuts by the Trump administration in their budget that would have nixed the program to send a mission to a moon of Jupiter, but thanks to the advocacy of Senator Nelson, NASA will get an increase of $368 million, enough to fund the mission.
I know this is dear to his heart. He was the first member of the thousands to serve on a NASA mission aboard the space shuttle Columbia. He has a passion for and deep knowledge of our space program. There is no one in the Senate who has done more for it than Bill Nelson. He’s worked hard ever since he’s gotten to the Senate and has had great, great success.
Once again he’s had a success here today. His constituents in Florida and all Americans should be grateful that Bill is a real leader on both these issues, in our caucus and in the whole Senate.
With that I yield to my friend, the senator from Florida.
Sen. Nelson: Many, many thanks to the leader for his kind remarks, but also since the final bill was negotiated by the big four, the two leaders in the Senate and the two leaders in the House, and it wasn’t going to happen this way unless the leaders all agreed so my thanks, my profound thanks on behalf of the explorers and the adventurers of the United States, the can-do little agency NASA that is now on the way to Mars on behalf of all of that NASA family, I want to thank the leaders and especially the Democratic leader and thanks personally for his very kind comments.
Now, I want to say that we have approached the NASA bill in a bipartisan way. As a matter of fact, I give great credit to both the chairs and the ranking members in the House Science Committee as well as the subcommittee in appropriations in the House that handles NASA appropriations.
All of those leaders were absolutely key, and of course the same thing is true here in the Senate. I have the privilege of sharing the leadership as the ranking member with our chairman John Thune of the commerce committee. It was the subcommittee of which that subcommittee chairman and ranking member as well as the subcommittee in the appropriations committee, the chairman and the ranking who we will hear from momentarily. And all of them, I am very grateful.
And what it says is that NASA, America’s civilian space program, should not be a partisan subject. What it says is that the leaders of NASA should not be partisans. As a matter of fact, they should even be more than bipartisan. They should be nonpartisans. And that has been their tradition of NASA, so like the secretary of defense, you consider that appointment a nonpartisan. So, too, we consider the administrator of NASA a nonpartisan.
I think in this interim with the acting administrator of NASA, that they’re conducting themselves in a very significant way keeping all of the advancements that they have done now to be accelerated with this appropriations bill.
I want to congratulate the whole NASA team. And it has been my argument to the vice president and to the president that in the selection of the next leader of NASA, that they need to again do it in a nonpartisan way so that we can keep us going for this human mission that is going to the planet Mars in the decade of the 2030’s.
Now, with the increase in NASA funding, we now stand on the precipice of a new golden age of exploration and discovery.
In March of this year, several of us were at the White House when the president signed the NASA reauthorization bill. And what we had worked on for the better part of two years keeps NASA on a steady course with a balanced and ambitious mix of science, technology, and exploration initiatives and let’s don’t forget that the first “A” in NASA is aeronautics. It keeps all of that moving forward.
So this additional $368 million of funding for NASA gives that little agency the ability to build off of the momentum that is already there.
So, for example, one of the things in the White House, and I have commended him both privately and publicly, the vice president, he is bringing about the reestablishment of the National Space Council. I shared with him that all of us look forward to working with him and the Council to develop and carry out the ambitious civil, commercial and national security space agenda for this country.
So the $19.65 billion appropriation for NASA coupled with the NASA authorization bill that we already passed a month or two ago demonstrates our firm commitment to one day putting humans on Mars and permanently expanding our civilization out into the cosmos.
We will soon have a regular cadence of missions that are launching to deep space using the Space Launch System, the largest rocket ever, a third more powerful than the Saturn V rocket that took us to the moon. Its spacecraft, Orion, and other systems that will be assembled and launched and a lot of that being done at Florida’s Space Coast.
The first rockets and spacecraft that will start the journey are being assembled right now at various sites across the country. And right now the Space Launch System, the SLS rocket, the Orion spacecraft that sits on top of it, and the launch infrastructure at Cape Canaveral or more specifically the Kennedy Space Center are all in the most challenging stage of their development. These complex systems are all very intertwined and it’s vital that we make sure that NASA has the funding flexibility it needs to address issues as they come up so they can bring about these systems together for the launch in early 2019 of the largest rocket ever.
We’ve asked NASA to look for new ways to expand commercial space activities in earth orbit, and we’re providing NASA the tools and direction it needs to expand our commercial space activity. And we’re on a track to begin launching astronauts to the International Space Station on American rockets commercially made and that’s going to start next year. People don’t realize they thought the space shuttle was being shut down in 2011. They thought that was the end of the space program. No, no. All of is being developed aside from the robotic missions that have been “gee whiz,” the rovers on Mars, all the pictures of the cosmos, I mean, it’s just unbelievable.
Next year we’re going to launch the Hubble to replace the Hubble space telescope which has peered back into the beginning of time. We are going to look back almost to the beginning of time with the James Webb telescope, and all of this is strengthening a flourishing U.S. space industry, especially in the areas where NASA centers are located around the country.
And what’s happening at the Kennedy Space Center is it’s being transformed into a commercial as well as government space port into a busy, busy civil, military, and commercial space port.
So this appropriations budget allows us to continue all of this going on at the same time. We’re going to put up “gee whiz” things like the Wide Field Infrared Survey telescope and also additional Mars rovers, the rovers that are up there show that Mars at one point was warm and wet, and we’re going to find out was there life there and if it was, was it developed and if it was, was it civilized, and if it was, what happened. These are lingering questions as we peer up into the night sky that we wonder.
The funding included in this budget deal moves us ever closer to answering that burning question: are we alone in the universe? And this budget better helps us understand our own planet by funding NASA’s Earth science program as well as funding aeronautics and education programs for our youth. And so the investments that we as a country make in our space program pay immediate dividends in our quality of life right here on earth.
And, of course, the space program creates thousands and thousands and thousands of jobs for skilled workers to build the machines that help us explore the heavens. And jobs for the researchers to understand and interpret what we discover, and jobs for the engineers and the entrepreneurs to develop the new technologies so these public investments also stimulate complimentary investments of private capital and the thousands of jobs that follow from that. And those are companies that will partner with NASA.
So, again, I want to thank our colleagues in both the House and the Senate for their continued support of our space program. In this time when we find ourselves far too divided in our politics, the exploration of space continues to be a powerful force that brings us together into our search as we explore the universe.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
A NASA instrument that will study the upper atmosphere and the impact of space weather on Earth is a step closer on its journey into space.
The Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk (GOLD) mission, led by University of Central Florida (UCF) scientist Richard Eastes, is scheduled to launch in late 2017 from Florida. Earlier this month the instrument, built by the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colo., was shipped to Airbus Defence and Space in Toulouse, France, for integration on the SES-14 communications satellite, on which it will be launched into space.
“I am excited to see GOLD take the next critical step in its journey toward providing scientists around the world with an unprecedented view of the Earth’s upper atmosphere, which will advance research for understanding space weather,” said Eastes, who is based at the Florida Space Institute at UCF.
Space weather can adversely affect technology and human activity in space, from disrupting communications systems to exposing astronauts to serious health risks.
“Space weather affects the satellites that we depend on for things like GPS and satellite TV; it affects the satellites themselves, as well as the signals they transmit,” Eastes said. “What we learn from GOLD’s images will help us understand how space weather changes during geomagnetic storms and how to avoid the problems that they cause.”
Joyce King is the mission manager for GOLD at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
“GOLD is one of several missions that is managed by the Explorers Program for NASA’s Heliophysics Division,” King said. “As NASA explores farther and farther from home, sending astronauts and spacecraft to distant places, we need better situational awareness about the space we’re traveling through. NASA studies the space environment around the sun, around planets, far into the solar system — and around Earth. GOLD focuses on the part near Earth.”
LASP, which has a seventy-year long history of providing instruments for NASA missions, built the GOLD instrument in collaboration with UCF. While weather satellites view clouds from geostationary orbit (an altitude of approximately 22,370 miles), GOLD will view a higher region of Earth’s upper atmosphere known as the thermosphere. This is a region (extending from approximately 55 to 500 miles altitude) where most satellites fly and through which the signals from all satellites pass.
Bill McClintock is a planetary scientist at LASP and GOLD deputy principal investigator.
“Today, NASA studies the thermosphere using spacecraft that give scientists intermittent views of the thermosphere. From those spacecraft it takes a day or more to build a global-scale image,” said McClintock. “The communication satellite carrying GOLD will be in geostationary orbit, meaning it will be fixed at one location above the Earth’s surface. This orbit enables GOLD to view nearly an entire hemisphere all the time. If a geomagnetic storm dumps energy into the thermosphere, we can watch the global-scale response on timescales of hours, rather than days. It’s a whole new way of looking at the dynamic behavior of the thermosphere.”
GOLD is a pathfinder for NASA’s use of commercial spacecraft for science missions. UCF and LASP partnered with SES Government Solutions (SES GS), based in Reston, Va., to provide GOLD with its ride into geostationary orbit on the SES-14 satellite that is owned and operated by SES, the parent company of SES GS.
Todd Gossett is the SES GS project manager for hosting GOLD on the SES-14 satellite.
“SES is honored to be a contributing member of the GOLD team. NASA’s concept to have missions such as GOLD hosted on commercially owned and operated satellites is a definite win, for not only the American taxpayer, but also for the science community,” Gossett said.
Rory Barrett is an engineer at LASP and the project manager for GOLD.
“We have assembled a world-class team to execute the GOLD mission. LASP has built and delivered one of its best performing science instruments, ever,” said Barrett. “Our strong partnership with SES GS and Airbus will enable a low-cost GOLD mission.”
Other members of the GOLD team include scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the University of California at Berkeley, Computational Physics Inc., and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.