Sessions Weighs in on NASA Transition, Astronauts Float Doug Cooke for Administrator

Doug Cooke
Doug Cooke, former associate administrator of NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, has the backing of a handful of former astronauts to serve as NASA administrator in the Trump administration. (Image credit: U.S. House Science Democrats photo)

President-elect Trump's choice for attorney general is also weighing in on space policy.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) has reportedly "heavily influenced" the makeup of the NASA transition team, seeking to secure support for existing NASA exploration programs like the Space Launch System, being developed in Sessions' home state.

In addition, three former astronauts wrote a letter to Sessions, seeking his endorsement of former NASA official Doug Cooke to be the agency's next administrator. [Wall Street Journal]

More News

NASA has postponed a Cygnus launch scheduled for this morning because of a software issue. The agency said late Tuesday night that the launch of eight CYGNSS hurricane forecasting satellite on a Pegasus XL rocket was being delayed because of "an issue with flight parameter data" used by the spacecraft's software. A new launch date will be announced after the issue is fixed. Launch controllers scrubbed a Monday launch attempt because of a problem with a hydraulic pump on the L-1011 aircraft that serves as the Pegasus launch platform. That problem has since been corrected. [NASA]

The future of military satellite communications will involve more international and commercial partnerships, a Pentagon official said Tuesday. Winston Beauchamp, the U.S. Air Force deputy undersecretary for space, said greater use of commercial services, as well as interoperability built into ground equipment, will make it harder for future adversaries to attempt to disrupt communications. The Air Force has been taking steps towards greater use of commercial capabilities through a series of "Pathfinder" programs, but they have encountered some legal obstacles. [SpaceNews]

NASA is still working to resolve an issue with the drill on the Curiosity Mars rover. Spacecraft controllers first noticed the problem with the drill about a week ago and thought they had resolved it, but the problem has reappeared, preventing the drill from operating. The rover has remained stationary since the problem was discovered while engineers work on a solution. [Reuters]

Curiosity, though, continues to make discoveries about the potential past habitability of Mars. Scientists said Tuesday they have have discovered boron in rocks there for the first time, an element that serves as evidence of past complex chemical activity in the region that was, early in the planet's history, likely a lakebed. Those findings are further evidence that early Mars may have been able to support life. [Ars Technica]

A proposed NASA mission to collide a spacecraft with a small asteroid remains on track despite Europe’s decision not to fund a companion mission. Scientists involved with the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, a NASA-funded concept in the middle of a Phase A study, said this week that their work is not affected by ESA's decision at this month’s ministerial meeting to not fund the Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM). DART would collide with a moonlet of a near Earth asteroid, Didymos, with the collision being observed by AIM. While ESA works to try and restore AIM, those involved with DART said their work is continuing, and that DART can still fly even if AIM does not. [SpaceNews]

Boeing is moving the headquarters of its Defense, Space and Security business unit to Washington. The company said Tuesday about a dozen executives, including the division's chief executive, Leanne Caret, will move from St. Louis to the Washington area by early next month. About 50 additional support staff positions will also move to Washington over the next two years. The move was in the works for several months, the company said, and not linked to the election of President-elect Trump. [Washington Business Journal]

As Turkey seeks to expand its satellite fleet, the country is struggling to establish a civil space agency. The Space Agency of Turkey is intended to be a civilian space agency modeled after those in many other nations, but legislation establishing it has stalled because of disputes about how the military and civilian government will share responsibilities. The country's newest satellite, the Göktürk-1 imaging satellite, launched last week, and the country has plans for additional communications and Earth observation satellites. Turkey, though, is also facing workforce issues, exacerbated by July's coup attempt and subsequent dismissal of many Air Force officers, including some with space experience. [Spacewatch Middle East]

Chinese volunteers have completed a six-month stint in a simulated spacecraft. The group spent 180 days in a "sealed space capsule" to test life support technologies and other techniques for long-duration spaceflight. Both Chinese and foreign institutions were involved in the test, including Harvard University and the German Aerospace Center. [CCTV]

Declassified spysat images from the Cold War era are helping scientists monitor changes in the Himalayas. Earth scientists used images collected by the now-declassified HEXAGON program in the 1970s and 1980s to study the retreat of glaciers in the Himalayas, comparing those images with more recent images by Earth science missions. Access to those historical images, scientists said, has allowed them to better quantify the rate at which the glaciers are melting. [BBC]

This story was provided by SpaceNews, dedicated to covering all aspects of the space industry.

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Jeff Foust
SpaceNews Senior Staff Writer

Jeff Foust is a Senior Staff Writer at SpaceNews, a space industry news magazine and website, where he writes about space policy, commercial spaceflight and other aerospace industry topics. Jeff has a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and earned a bachelor's degree in geophysics and planetary science from the California Institute of Technology. You can see Jeff's latest projects by following him on Twitter.