China, space junk and more: Senators voice spaceflight concerns

Asia's Tech News Daily

China, space junk and more: Senators voice spaceflight concerns
© Provided by Space Cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky shared this photo of the International Space Station on Twitter on Sept. 29, 2021. He and two colleagues were relocating a Russian Soyuz spacecraft from one port to another at the time.

The risk of collisions in space, the fate of the United States in orbit after the space station retires and continuing debates over NASA’s path back to the moon dominated a two-hour hearing on Thursday (Oct. 21) held by a Senate committee focused on space and science.

The wide-ranging conversation came as the Senate and the House of Representatives attempt to reconcile how they want NASA to move forward. That debate hinges around passing not just an appropriations bill to fund NASA, but an authorization bill that can shape the agency’s activities.

“We need an authorization bill,” Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) said during the hearing as she pushed panelists to speak to the importance of an authorization bill. “We’re not going to continue to have this game where you just get appropriations. It is not going to serve the Artemis program or NASA well.”

Related: Congress to NASA: What comes after the International Space Station?

She had sharp words in particular for the state of the Artemis lunar exploration program; Congress has long pushed NASA for more elaborate — and realistic — timelines and schedules. (Perhaps of note, the program’s 2024 target for a human landing on the moon was established in 2019, two years after the most recent NASA authorization act.)

“Why are we in a situation where the dates that are on a piece of paper right now make no sense?” Cantwell said. “Everybody knows that. So how is that a good strategy?”

But otherwise, the path to the moon made up a surprisingly small portion of the hearing — just a little chatter about how to approach the Human Landing System, which is currently stymied by legal objections from Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, which was not chosen for the program. (NASA went with SpaceX and its Starship transportation system.)

Space station uncertainties 

Instead, NASA’s currently operating human spaceflight program, its participation in the International Space Station (ISS), was a key topic of the hearing.

“NASA has yet to clearly define its needs for services after the ISS ends, nor does it plan to do so for some time,” Mary Lynne Dittmar, an executive vice president at Houston company Axiom Space, said during the hearing. (Axiom intends to fly a private module to the space station in 2024 as the seed of a future free-flying outpost, although Dittmar noted at the beginning of the hearing that her comments reflected her own views, not the company’s.)

Meanwhile, although many hope to see the space station last until 2030, engineering realities may cut that timeline short, increasing the risk of a gap in the U.S.’s ability to support humans in orbit.

“There’s no guarantee we’re going to make it to 2030,” former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said. “We know it can’t last forever. How far can it last? I don’t think we have that answer.”

Bridenstine also cast doubt on how long authorities should expect it to take for another American-led orbiting facility to be available.

“We are not ready for what comes after the International Space Station,” he said. “Building a space station takes a long time, especially when you’re doing it in a way that’s never been done before, which in the future will be commercial.”

Space junk and politics 

A second key topic of the hearing was the intertwined challenges of space junk and space-traffic management as low Earth orbit becomes ever more crowded. Bridenstine was particularly vociferous about the U.S.’s need to act on the situation, as he emphasized that all the statistics about collision rates are estimates — and likely underestimates at that.

“The challenge is much bigger than we know, but we know that we don’t have any idea what that risk is,” he said. A large part of that challenge is posed by communications megaconstellations, of which the most plentiful in orbit is SpaceX’s Starlink. “Yet we’re still launching and licensing these massive constellations without knowing what the risk really is.”

He also noted the U.S.’s poor standing to guide other countries on their use of orbit. “We don’t have the authority as a nation to turn around and tell other countries, ‘You’re not allowed to have your own constellation,’ when we ourselves are licensing exactly the same thing,” Bridenstine said.

Conversations about the number of satellites in orbit intertwine with those about the orbital debris that such satellites can become if they aren’t de-orbited in a controlled fashion, and the potential for resulting collisions. “When I have a nightmare, it’s usually about cybersecurity, but this is now equally imposing onto my sleep patterns,” Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), said of orbital debris.

And here too, Bridenstine offered blunt words. “Everybody claims that they follow the guidelines that NASA creates,” he said. “In practice, do all nations follow those guidelines? Absolutely not. And so that’s a challenge.”

The politics of spaceflight 

The hearing was framed as a discussion of “international collaboration and competition in space,” and plenty of the conversation revolved around how the U.S. spaceflight scene fits into the global picture. Those discussions particularly emphasized China and how the strained relationship between the two countries might play out in space into the future.

“China is playing the long game, make no mistake, bolstering their space capabilities through military-civil fusion and through the exploitation of weaknesses in the U.S. space industrial base and our glacial pace of acquisition and procurement,” Dittmar said.

“We face a formidable competitor,” Dittmar said. “American companies have admitted to losing customers to China as it employs strategies to undercut the U.S. commercial space sector through mechanisms such as state-backed financing that market-driven companies in the U.S. cannot compete with.”

China’s launch this year of the first module of its new space station raises the stakes of the continuing concern that the U.S. won’t have a new orbital facility in place before the International Space Station ends, she noted.

Throughout the hearing, speakers touched on larger existential questions about how space fits into the U.S.’s agenda and image, both at home and abroad.

Internationally, spaceflight is a powerful marker. “Space is a tool of diplomacy for this country,” Bridenstine said. “It’s something that every country wants, and we can help provide it.”

And while NASA has focused on its partnerships with the private sector, Cantwell raised concerns about how that might shape the agency’s image. “Frankly, it’s frustrating to me to see the spirit of NASA turned into the cheering of billionaires or competition with each other, because I’m pretty sure that that’s not what our mission of Artemis is about,” Cantwell said.

But what’s clear is that when it comes to the Artemis program, NASA is carrying the burden of history. Multiple speakers referenced the challenge that the string of failed proposals to send humans to the moon over the past few decades poses.

“There is great skepticism among both partner and rival nations relative to NASA’s ability to sustain a program to return astronauts to the surface of the moon,” Mike Gold, an executive vice president at space manufacturing company Redwire Space, said during the hearing.

And that skepticism points straight back to the role the legislative branch may look to play. “Without robust and ongoing bipartisan support, we will not be able to lead a global coalition to the moon, Mars or any other destination,” Gold said. “We cannot unite the world if we cannot first unite here in Congress.”

Email Meghan Bartels at or follow her on Twitter @meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

Internet Explorer Channel Network
Asia's Tech News Daily
News Related


Katherine Heigl shares heartwarming photo of kids in celebration of National Adoption Month

Katherine Heigl returned $3.50 per dollar paid. She was tipped as the next big romcom star but her last three films have performed badly. (Getty Images) Katherine Heigl has shared ... Read more »

What's the status of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate in the US?

The Associated PressWhat’s the status of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate in the US? (AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin) What’s the status of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate in the U.S.? It’s on hold ... Read more »

Sandra Bullock opens up about how 2014 home invasion left her with PTSD: ‘I was unraveling'

Sandra Bullock has recalled how a home invasion in 2014 changed her. During an appearance on Jada Pinkett Smith’s Facebook Watch series Red Table Talk on Wednesday (1 December), the ... Read more »

Christmas tree buyers face reduced supplies, higher prices

1 / 7Christmas Tree ShortageChris Courchaine carries a Christmas tree he bought at Crystal River Christmas Trees in Alameda, Calif. on Nov. 26, 2021. Even Christmas trees aren’t immune to ... Read more »

Beijing warns China-linked US businesses: you cannot ‘make a fortune in silence'

Photograph: VCG/Getty Images Vice-foreign minister Xie Feng tells industry figures to push US government toward a ‘rational’ China policy and end ‘ideological’ conflicts Beijing has urged US business groups with ... Read more »

Virginia House control in balance as vote recount begins

FILE – Del. Martha Mugler, D-Hampton, second from right, and Del. Danica Roem, D-Prince William, right, walk past a group of demonstrators as they head to the House of Delegates ... Read more »

Premier League hits and misses: Chelsea fortunate at Watford, Diogo Jota shines again for Liverpool, Leeds enjoy home win

It's another bad Premier League experience for Saul Niguez as Chelsea squeeze past Watford; Diogo Jota helps Liverpool add to Everton's problems; Leeds celebrate at home, while Wolves and Newcastle are frustrated; Leicester stutter again; Neal Maupay scores the hard ones... Read more »

World Aids Day: UN urges 'bold global action' to end deadly disease

HIV infections are not slowing fast enough to reach the goal of eradicating Aids by 2030, a report by the United Nations warned ahead of World Aids Day Wednesday. Despite ... Read more »

Williams herrliche Marotte treibt Kate zur Weissglut

© Samir Hussein/WireImage Muss einige Macken und Marotten ihres Partner hinnehmen: Herzogin Kate mit Ehemann Prinz William. Oftmals hinterlassen sie einen richtig perfekten Eindruck. Doch auch Prinz William und Herzogin ... Read more »

India's gaming market to hit $7bn as in-app purchases grow

© Steve Marcus Real-money games are the largest source of revenue for India’s gaming market, accounting for 53 per cent. AP India’s gaming market is projected to be valued at ... Read more »

Food trend: why nut-free sunflower seeds deserve your attention

© Provided by The National Sunflower seed crackers with avocado, beetroot and feta. Photo: Scott Price It was only a few months ago that videos of adventurous eaters chomping away ... Read more »

Kemenangan bermakna buat keluarga Sinar Harian

SHAH ALAM – Pengerusi dan Penerbit Sinar Harian, Datuk Hussamuddin Yaacub berkata, Anugerah Kajai yang diraih wartawan Sinar Harian pada Malam Wartawan Malaysia adalah kemenangan kedua bagi syarikatnya. Anugerah Kajai ... Read more »

Temple gives Wesak Day funds to 10 charities

© Provided by The Star Online Sian Chye Tong Temple chief Eddie Khoo (third left, in front) and Loh (red T-shirt) with the recipients at the temple in Ayer Itam. ... Read more »

Sisodia visits 2 Punjab govt schools, says state govt messing with future of children

© Provided by The Statesman Sisodia visits 2 Punjab govt schools, says state govt messing with future of children Amid war of words between leaders of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) ... Read more »

Harimau Malaya sudah bersedia harungi cabaran

© Provided by Sinar Harian PENGENDALI Harimau Malaya, Tan Cheng Hoe menyifatkan barisan pemain yang dipanggil kem latihan pusat skuad kebangsaan ketika ini sudah mencukupi bagi membawa cabaran negara dalam ... Read more »

Grab this adorable Mars rover, rocket and space station circuit-building kit from Educational Insights on sale now!

© Provided by Space Educational Insights Mars rover circuit kit Some of the best Christmas and holiday gifts for the kids in your life are those that provide endless fun, ... Read more »

Coronavirus news live: South Korea reports daily Covid case record as Omicron variant hits

© Photograph: Heo Ran/Reuters Women wearing masks walk in a shopping district in Seoul, South Korea, on 29 November, as the nation reports a daily Covid case record. LIVE – ... Read more »

Open Thread: December 2, 2021

© Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images The Open Thread/Daily Merengue is a place where you can discuss anything and everything related to football. Feel free to discuss the ... Read more »

US Army keen to expand Southeast Asia access amid China worries

© Provided by BusinessWorld WASHINGTON — The US Army is keen to expand its access and basing arrangements in Southeast Asia as part of a strategy to deter China, the ... Read more »

Two arrested for beating woman with sticks in Delhi: Police

© Provided by The Statesman Two arrested for beating woman with sticks in Delhi: Police A group of four persons, including two women, allegedly attacked a woman and her daughter ... Read more »

AIIMS-Bhubaneswar first govt hospital on eastern coast to have PET-CT equipment

© Provided by The Statesman AIIMS-Bhubaneswar first govt hospital on eastern coast to have PET-CT equipment With the Department of Nuclear Medicine launching PET-CT services, cancer patients will now receive ... Read more »

Jagran Explainer: When and how MPs are suspended from Parliament

© Provided by Jagran English New Delhi | Jagran Politics Desk: The suspension of 12 Rajya Sabha MPs has caused an uproar in the Parliament with the opposition demanding that ... Read more »

Omicron: Maharashtra May Revise Travel Guidelines After Centre's Memo on 'Divergent' Quarantine Rules​

© Provided by News18 Omicron: Maharashtra May Revise Travel Guidelines After Centre’s Memo on ‘Divergent’ Quarantine Rules​ The Maharashtra government is likely to revise its guidelines for international travellers after ... Read more »

NHAI plants 2.23 crore plants to compensate ecological loss due to road building

© Provided by The Statesman NHAI plants 2.23 crore plants to compensate ecological loss due to road building In order to compensate for the ecological loss due to the felling ... Read more »

Mamata Banerjee Sets Eyes on Goa Gamble, to Visit State Again on Dec 13 With Nephew Abhishek

© Provided by News18 Mamata Banerjee Sets Eyes on Goa Gamble, to Visit State Again on Dec 13 With Nephew Abhishek West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has her eyes ... Read more »

Country diary: 'Tis the season to spot the bramblings

It’s the hour before sunset and the last chance to feed before the cold night ahead. There are hundreds of small birds in the field, attracted by a mix of ... Read more »

Kamala Harris's top adviser to leave office after talk of White House rift

© YouTube/ MSNBC Symone Sanders, the chief spokesperson and senior adviser to vice president Kamala Harris – YouTube/ MSNBC Symone Sanders, the chief spokesperson and senior adviser to vice president ... Read more »

The baby 'It kit' that stylish parents want in their nurseries right now'

From supermodel Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence, to the York princesses and Carrie Johnson, there is something of an A-list baby boom happening this winter. © Provided by ... Read more »

Indonesia tightens travel curbs as it braces for Omicron arrival

1 / 2Indonesia tightens travel curbs as it braces for Omicron arrivalCOVID-19 protocols tightened to curb the spread of Omnicron variant of the coronavirus in Tangerang JAKARTA (Reuters) – Authorities ... Read more »

White House: We're exhausted from the coronavirus too

WASHINGTON — “We are all sick and tired of this virus,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Wednesday, just minutes after the first U.S. case of the new ... Read more »

Love Actually's Keira Knightley Knows Who Her Character Chose In Festive Film's Most Divisive Scene

Love Actually season is upon us once again and Keira Knightleystill hasn’t rewatched the festive romcom since starring as Juliet in the 2003 film. The British actor previously admitted there ... Read more »

Nongshim challenging Paldo with winter 'bibimmyeon'

By Kim Bo-eun Nongshim’s winter edition of “Baehongdong Bibimmyeon” / Courtesy of Nongshim Nongshim said Thursday that it had launched a winter edition of its cold spicy noodle product, “Baehongdong ... Read more »

Korea to foster 89,000 more software talents by 2025

An official at the 2021 Korea Intellectual Property shows a virtual fitting system application based on augmented reality technology at Coex in Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)South Korea will foster 89,000 ... Read more »

24 pelajar Politeknik Sandakan disahkan positif Covid-19

© Provided by MalaysiaNow 24 orang pelajar Politeknik Sandakan disahkan positif Covid-19 sekali gus mencetus kluster Sungai Batang, Sandakan. Menteri Kerajaan Tempatan dan Perumahan Sabah, Masidi Manjun berkata, kes indeks ... Read more »

Royalti minyak bakal ubah politik Pantai Timur?

© Provided by Free Malaysia Today © Provided by Free Malaysia Today Saya amat bersetuju dengan apa yang diketengahkan oleh Zaid Ibrahim (FMT 30 Nov 21) tentang isu royalti minyak ... Read more »

Penganggur dijel 20 tahun kerana rogol, liwat wanita

© Provided by Sinar Harian KEMAMAN – Seorang penganggur dijatuhi hukuman penjara 12 tahun dan 12 sebatan selepas mengaku bersalah di Mahkamah Sesyen di sini, pada Rabu atas kesalahan merogol ... Read more »

‘Orang muda perlu popular kalau mahu pegang jawatan tinggi'

© Provided by Sinar Harian SHAH ALAM – Generasi muda perlu lebih kompetitif dan mempunyai idea yang boleh diterima setiap ahli sekiranya mahu diangkat memegang jawatan tinggi dalam sesebuah parti ... Read more »

Celcom ambil alih Bridgenet

© Provided by Sinar Harian SHAH ALAM – Celcom Axiata Berhad (Celcom) terus memperkukuh kedudukannya dalam industri teknologi, komunikasi dan maklumat (ICT) dan keselamatan siber melalui pengambilalihan Bridgenet Solutions Sdn ... Read more »

U.S. defense secretary eyes international response to Russia on Ukraine

© Reuters/POOL U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin visits in Seoul By Phil Stewart and Hyonhee Shin SEOUL (Reuters) – U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday suggested any U.S. ... Read more »

Prince Kaybee No Longer Relevant?

In the past few months, social media has witnessed Prince Kaybee have his music put on the spotlight for reasons that are simply beyond the deejay. Not too long ago, ... Read more »
On you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic