Status Report

NSS Online Report Issue #9 / December 2000

By SpaceRef Editor
December 12, 2000
Filed under ,

Inside this issue:

  • Leadership Changes, Early Inattention to Space Likely for New Congress

  • NSS Issues Statement Concerning NASA’s Mars Plan

  • ISDC 2001 Program Continues to Expand

  • Recommended Browsing: Origins

  • Chapter Reports Due

Leadership Changes, Early Inattention to Space Likely for New Congress

Ad Astra editor Frank Sietzen talked with Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY)
during a meeting of the Republican Mainstreet Partnership on Capitol Hill
on 10 November. Due to self-imposed term limits on committee chairs, all
committees of the U.S. House of Representatives will see new leaders when
the first session of the 107th Congress gets underway on 6 January.
Strong space supporter R. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), chair of the House
Science Committee, is expected to move to the Judiciary Committee and be
replaced by Boehlert. Space Subcommittee chair Rep. Dana Rohrabacher
(R-CA) is expected to remain.

Boehlert indicated that he would make advanced transportation
technologies one of his priorities and also would put greater emphasis on
commercial space and space applications. Boehlert said that early
hearings on space science and earth science funding are a possibility, as
well as hearings on commercialization plans for the International Space
Station. While a space supporter, Boehlert’s ascendancy to the
chairmanship of the House Science Committee might mean a de-emphasis on
space issues within the Committee in 2001. Rohrabacher may also have
more of a hand in the shaping of priorities for space issues in Congress.

It is the view of most space policy observers that space will not get
much attention in the first Congressional session, with such issues as
tax cuts and prescription drug benefits taking center stage. Space, an
area of relative agreement between the two major parties, might serve as
a ‘bridge issue’–one of the few over which Democrats and Republicans may
have common ground.

The Senate, with no term limits on its chairs, will likely see no major
committee changes except for a more equitable allocation of members. A
50-50 deadlock is likely, meaning that the Vice President’s vote would be
needed to allocate committee structures and pass legislation. There has
never been a 50-50 division of the Senate in all of U.S. political


Following a policy review instigated after the two Mars
mission failures in 1999, NASA announced a new plan in October for
exploring the Red Planet over the next several years. While packed with
scientific and technological objectives, the new mission queue is
noticeably void of experiments that will directly help prepare for the
long-range needs of human missions to Mars.

On 20 November, the senior leadership of NSS released the following
statement expressing its disappointment in the plan:

‘The National Space Society, which advocates space development for
creation of a spacefaring civilization with people living and working
beyond the Earth, has reviewed the recent Mars exploration plan released
by NASA. While we understand that this is a plan for the robotic
scientific exploration of Mars, the Society is disappointed that the
long-range needs for human missions to Mars do not play a major role in
the planning of these robotic missions. While the space agency has
expressed the intent that these exploratory missions will be needed
should the nation choose to send humans beyond Earth orbit in the next
decades, specific technologies that will be needed to support human
exploration do not seem to be a priority in NASA budget planning.’

‘We believe this process is shortsighted. U.S. space
policy should not preclude NASA from consideration of future, currently
unapproved missions in the formulation of their long-range plans. The
technology that will be needed to support human expeditions should not be
overlooked, and a detailed, long-range development plan for blending
robotic and human Mars exploration should be a priority with the next
administration and NASA administrator. The National Space Society urges
those who will be chosen to lead NASA in the next administration not to
overlook these long range needs for future human spaceflight goals.’


More than 110 speakers have now committed to appearances
at NSS’s International Space Development Conference (ISDC), to be held
from 24-28 May 2001 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. ISDC conferees will hear
the international perspectives of experts from the United States, Japan,
Russia, the United Kingdom, Germany, Iran, France, the Netherlands,
Australia, and Malaysia. The experts will represent NASA centers, the
European Space Agency, aerospace contractors, the U.S. Air Force,
national laboratories, and several university research departments. A
full list of speakers is available at the ISDC 2001 web site:

A program of tours covering a wide range of interests has
also been planned. Among the locations that ISDC attendees can visit are
the Space Hall of Fame, White Sands Missile Range, Very Large Array Radio
Telescope, Air Force Satellite Control Facility, National Atomic Museum,
Institute of Meteoritics Meteorite Museum, and Starfire Optical Range.
The size of many of these tour groups is limited, so early registration
is advised. The primary registration form is available at the ISDC web
site. This form is for general conference registration. Those who sign
up will receive a secondary, banquet and tour registration form in
January. At that point, the banquets and tours will be filled on a first
come, first served basis. Register now for the conference to choose from
the whole list of special events in January!


One of the most exciting aspects of space exploration is
the possibility that life, or evidence that it once existed, will be
found beyond the Earth. The discovery of past or present life beyond the
Earth would be grounds for a convincing argument that life is a common
occurrence. Recently, much attention has been focused on the possibility
that evidence of life will be discovered in our Solar System on Mars or
the Jovian moon Europa. While NASA has planned missions to explore these
relatively nearby oases, it has also created a more ambitious program to
search for life among the stars. That program, called Origins, will be
built upon observations from Earth and space-based sensors and might
culminate in the imaging of an Earth-like planet around another star.

The Origins web site ( is an
ambitious undertaking. Visitors are immediately presented with the
latest news regarding NASA’s search for extrasolar life. Easily
navigable links from the main page yield information on the nature of the
Origins program, its six space missions (divided into three generations),
and three ground-based observatories which will aid in the search for
extrasolar life. Another section of the web site describes enabling
technologies–lightweight telescopes, interferometry, and formation
flying–that will be perfected during spacecraft development. Another
page describes the field of Astrobiology and discusses areas of research
that will be critical to interpreting Origins data.

The Origins web site also contains a library of materials
ranging from NASA studies and technical reports to fact sheets and online
tutorials that can help NSS members share the excitement of the search
for life with the general public. Space enthusiasts will be intrigued by
the long-term plan and goals of Origins, and space activists are sure to
find some interesting materials for their next chapter meeting or public

The Origins web page ( is maintained
by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Space Telescope Science
Institute. It contains copyrighted material, but information on reusing
this material can be obtained by sending email to [email protected]


It’s that time of year again! Report packages were mailed
out to every NSS chapter in late November. In order to meet our IRS
reporting schedule on activities in 2000, we need to get the completed
reports from you by 15 February 2001. Need help? Call one of the
chapter coordinators listed in Ad Astra or contact Sherry Wilson at NSS
Headquarters at [email protected] or 202-543-1900.


NSS Online Report

Issue #9 / December 2000

Editor: Joshua Powers ([email protected])

National Space Society

600 Pennsylvania Avenue, S.E. — Suite 201 — Washington, DC 20003

(202) 543-1900 — — [email protected]

SpaceRef staff editor.