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Pence visits Huntsville to announce 2024 Moon mission

Brandon Moseley



Vice President Mike Pence was in Huntsville Tuesday to address the National Space Council, where he told gathered officials that the U.S. intends to land men on the Moon within the next five years.

The Chinese space program has been focused on the moon for the last several years. Pence said that the U.S. is now in a space race with China and Russia.

“Urgency must be our watchword,” Pence said at the NSC meeting. “The United States must remain first in space in this century as in the last, not just to propel our economy and secure our nation but, above all, because the rules and values of space, like every great frontier, will be written by those who have the courage to get there first and the commitment to stay.”

Pence said that no only with the United States go to the moon, we will establish a permanent base there.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) serves on the National Space Council.

“I appreciate Vice President Mike Pence for choosing the U.S. Space & Rocket Center for today’s meeting of the National Space Council!” Ivey said on social media. “As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, what better place to discuss the future of space exploration than to do it in the #RocketCity🚀. Alabamians have been crucial to building America’s great space heritage, & we’re honored to, once again, be actively engaged in the pursuit to return Americans🇺🇸 to the Moon & beyond. I laud President Donald J. Trump & VP Pence for renewing our nation’s commitment to ensuring American leadership in space.”

Also on Tuesday, Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, testified before the House Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee advocating for robust Space Launch System (SLS) funding. The Tennessee Valley’s Marshall Space Flight Center has developed and built key sections of the Space Launch System. The SLS is the launch vehicle that will be used to carry the moon mission into space.

“As a nation, America must strive to inspire the next generation. The SLS is America’s catalyst that inspires our next generation of engineers and explorers,” Brooks said. “Alabama’s Marshall Space Flight Center has played a vital space role for NASA and America. In a way, America’s space program was born in Alabama. By way of but one example, we designed and engineered the Apollo V rocket that took American astronauts to the moon. Today we play an integral role in the designing, engineering, and testing of SLS.”

“NASA’s and its suppliers’ great work is turning science fiction into reality,” Brooks continued. “The SLS helps ensure America’s continued dominance in space, a dominance that includes returning astronauts to the Moon for long-term exploration and exploration to Mars and beyond. I support NASA’s goals and believe the SLS is integral to achievement of those goals because it is the only vehicle that can generate the thrust and lift necessary to send the Orion spacecraft, astronauts, and a large cargo to the Moon on a single mission.”

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement “Today, I joined leaders from across the country as Vice President Mike Pence chaired the fifth meeting of the National Space Council. Vice President Pence lauded President Donald J. Trump’s bold vision for space exploration and spoke to NASA’s progress on key elements to accomplish the President’s Space Policy Directives.”


“Among the many topics discussed during our meeting at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, was to accelerate our return to the Moon,” Bridenstine said. NASA is charged to get American astronauts to the Moon in the next five years. We are tasked with landing on the Moon’s South Pole by 2024. Stay on schedule for flying Exploration Mission-1 with Orion on the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket next year, and for sending the first crewed mission to the lunar vicinity by 2022. NASA will continue to ‘use all means necessary’ to ensure mission success in moving us forward to the Moon.”

The Moon mission had been scheduled for 2028.

“It is the right time for this challenge, and I assured the Vice President that we, the people of NASA, are up to the challenge,” Bridenstine added. “We will take action in the days and weeks ahead to accomplish these goals. We have laid out a clear plan for NASA’s exploration campaign that cuts across three strategic areas: low-Earth orbit, the Moon, and Mars and deeper into space. I have already directed a new alignment within NASA to ensure we effectively support this effort, which includes establishing a new mission directorate to focus on the formulation and execution of exploration development activities. We are calling it the Moon to Mars Mission Directorate.”

“There’s a lot of excitement about our plans and also a lot of hard work and challenges ahead, but I know the NASA workforce and our partners are up to it,” Bridenstine added. “We are now looking at creative approaches to advance SLS manufacturing and testing to ensure Exploration Mission-1 launches in 2020. We will work to ensure we have a safe and reliable launch system that keeps its promise to the American people.”

“The SLS will be the most powerful rocket ever built, and the only rocket powerful enough to carry the weight of the Orion spacecraft or the Deep Space Gateway to the Moon, both of which are necessary to accomplish America’s space policy goals,” Brooks told the committee. “It is important that Congress stay the course, support existing law, and provide required funding so that America can once again achieve greatness in space exploration.”

“I know NASA is ready for the challenge of moving forward to the Moon, this time to stay, Bridenstine said.”

(Original reporting by’s Mike Wall contributed to this report.)

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.


Aerospace and Defense

Mark McDaniel reappointed to NASA Human Exploration and Operations Advisory Committee

Brandon Moseley




Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, announced Thursday NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine’s reappointment of Huntsville’s Mark McDaniel to a two-year term on the Human Exploration and Operations Committee of the NASA Advisory Council.

Brooks initially recommended McDaniel in 2018 to Bridenstine. Bridenstine is a personal friend and former House colleague of Brooks. Brooks cited McDaniel’s past record of exemplary service on the NASA Advisory Council. The NAC is NASA’s highest civilian advisory board.

“Mark McDaniel has done an exemplary job advising NASA on its future missions as a member of NASA Advisory Council’s Human Exploration and Operations Committee,” Brooks said, praising the decision. “Mark’s past service and qualifications make him an excellent choice for reappointment to another term on the committee. I congratulate Mark on his reappointment.”

“I greatly appreciate my friend NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine for his thoughtful consideration in reappointing Mark McDaniel,” Brooks continued. “Jim’s leadership at NASA has been exemplary, and I am glad he recognized Mark’s contributions to this important NASA advisory committee.”

“Mark McDaniel has been a dedicated member of the NAC for several years, and we look forward to him continuing to provide his expertise to the Committee,” said Bridenstine. “As we prepare to go forward to the Moon and beyond, it is critical that NASA has top experts like Mark on our team. His wealth of knowledge is a great benefit to the Artemis program, as well as our mission to send human explorers to Mars.”

“Congressman Mo Brooks has provided great leadership to our nation, state and NASA,” McDaniel said. “I thank Congressman Brooks for recommending my reappointment to the NASA Advisory Council- Human Exploration and Operations Committee.”

“I am confident that under the leadership of Administrator Jim Bridenstine and the tremendous team he has put together, our nation will put the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024,” McDaniel added. “Under Administrator Bridenstine’s leadership NASA is setting the stage for human exploration of Mars and the heavens beyond.”

Then-NASA administrator Daniel Goldin appointed McDaniel to the NASA Advisory Council in October 2000, and then-NASA administrator Sean O’Keefe reappointed McDaniel to the council in November 2002 and November 2004. During McDaniel’s tenure on the NAC, President George W. Bush announced the “Moon, Mars, and Beyond Initiative,” which set the nation on a more aggressive pace for space exploration.

On Jan. 26, 2007, McDaniel received the NASA Public Service Medal for his “Leadership and Council to America’s Space Agency, his advocacy of Human Space Flight and Exploration and dedication to the Aerospace Community at large.”

Brooks is in his fifth term representing Alabama’s 5th Congressional District. NASA and its contractors are a major employer in the 5th District.


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Aerospace and Defense

Jones bill aimed at bringing jobs back from China included in Senate NDAA

Brandon Moseley



Sen. Doug Jones speaks on the floor of the U.S. Senate. (CSPAN)

Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, said Tuesday that the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act will include a bipartisan proposal he sponsored last month to incentivize investments in American semiconductor manufacturing businesses instead of Chinese-owned companies.

The provision was approved in the Senate on Tuesday in a 96 to 4 vote as an amendment to the Senate version of the NDAA.

“We all know that China is a bad actor on the world stage, which is why it is so crucial that the United States continues to lead the world in semiconductor technology,” Jones said. “Not only will this provision help bring jobs back from China, it will incentivize investment in Alabama companies and will strengthen our national security by reducing reliance on foreign manufacturing.”

The Alabama Micro/Nano Science and Technology Center at Auburn University is a world leader in microelectrics engineering, and with 15 semiconductor companies in Alabama, the state stands to benefit substantially from increased investment in American semiconductor manufacturing.

Semiconductors are used in a large variety of electronic devices including smartphones, digital cameras, televisions and some computers. While the U.S. revolutionized the microelectronic industry and invented nearly all the key technology used to this day, competitors in China have made huge investments into their microelectronics industries in recent years to challenge and undercut U.S. leadership.

By 2030, Asia is projected to control 83 percent of the global semiconductor manufacturing supply while domestic production could be less than 10 percent. Jones said that if this were to happen, it would make the U.S. reliant on foreign-made microelectronics and would potentially pose huge risks to U.S. national and economic security.

The Jones amendment would direct the secretary of commerce to create a grant program for constructing, expanding or modernizing commercial semiconductor fabrication, assembly, testing, packaging and advanced R&D facilities in the U.S.

It would also direct the secretary of defense to create a partnership program with the private sector to encourage the development of advanced, measurably secure microelectronics for use by the Department of Defense, Intelligence Community, critical infrastructure and other national-security applications.

The amendment also requires the secretary of commerce to commence a review within 120 days assessing the state of the U.S. semiconductor industrial base. It establishes a Multilateral Microelectronics Security Fund, with which the U.S., its allies and partners will work to reach agreements promoting consistency in their policies related to microelectronics, greater transparency including supply chains and greater alignment in export control and foreign direct investment policies.

The amendment would direct the president to establish a subcommittee on semiconductor technology and innovation within the National Science and Technology Council and directs the secretary of commerce to establish a national semiconductor technology center to conduct research, fund semiconductor startups and a Manufacturing USA Institute.


Finally, the amendment creates a National Advance Packaging Manufacturing Program, and encourages the secretary of labor to work with the private sector on workforce training and apprenticeships in semiconductor manufacturing.

The House passed its own version of the NDAA on Tuesday. The Senate is expected to pass their version of the NDAA in the next few days. A conference committee will then be formed to address differences between the two bills in hopes of reaching a compromise version that will pass both chambers of Congress.

Jones faces former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville in the Nov. 3 general election.

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Aerospace and Defense

Byrne praises House passage of NDAA authorizing additional Austal ship

Brandon Moseley



Rep. Bradley Byrne speaks on the floor of the U.S. House. (CSPAN)

The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday passed the William “Mac” Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 by a vote of 295 to 125. Congressman Bradley Byrne is a member of the House Armed Services Committee, which passed an earlier version of the NDAA on July 1, 2020, by a vote of 56 to 0.

The bill includes an amendment authored by Byrne authorizing $260 million to construct an additional Expeditionary Fast Transport vessel at Austal Mobile. This year’s NDAA is named for Ranking Member Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, who chaired the committee during the 114th and 115th Congresses.

“The men and women of our Armed Services deserve our complete support, and I’m pleased that the House came together in a largely bipartisan manner to give our warfighters the resources necessary to protect us,” Byrne said. “Both in committee and on the House floor, all Members provided input to strengthen this bill, a practice that occurs far too little in today’s House. While I do not agree with everything in the bill, it remains worthy of support, and I’m hopeful that some of the partisan provisions added on the House floor will be removed through compromise with the Senate.”

Byrne said the additional Austal ship is important for Southwest Alabama.

“Importantly for Southwest Alabama, this bill passed with my amendment to authorize the construction of an additional EPF at the Austal shipyard in Mobile,” Byrne said. “I appreciate my Congressional colleagues for acknowledging Austal and the EPF’s importance to our national defense and for their support of the work performed by the 4,000 skilled men and women at Austal Mobile. Construction of this world-class vessel will move us even closer to the Navy’s goal of a 355-ship fleet.”

The NDAA sets policy and authorizes funding for the entire United States military and has been passed by the House each year for the previous 59 years. The Senate is currently considering its own version of the NDAA.

Byrne pointed out several highlights from this year’s NDAA including that it adheres to last year’s bipartisan budget agreement and fully funds the Trump administration’s request.

The bill includes $740.5 billion total for National Defense Discretionary programs, including $130.6 billion for procurement of advanced weapons systems and $106.2 billion for Research Development Test and Evaluation. The bill also funds a vital nuclear modernization programs to ensure that nuclear deterrent is safe and reliable. It fully funds the B-21 bomber, a new Columbia Class submarine along with an additional attack submarine, and begins work on the W93 warhead that will be critical to meet STRATCOM Commander requirements for the sea-based deterrent.

Byrne says the NDAA also takes a tough stance on China by laying the foundation for an Indo-Pacific Deterrence Initiative to deter China, modeled on the European Deterrence Initiative. The NDAA increases funding in emergent technologies, such as AI, to maintain a technical edge against China, and starts taking financial actions to pursue China’s graduation from the World Bank and greater transparency with China’s debt.

Byrne said that the NDAA provides support for troops and families, including a 3 percent pay raise.


Byrne said that the bill also deals with the COVID-19 response. It ensures that the Department of Defense has the diagnostic equipment, testing capabilities, and personal protective equipment necessary to protect our Armed Forces. It requires the National Security Strategy to address the provision of drugs, biologics, vaccines and other critical medical equipment to ensure combat readiness and force health protection.

Byrne said that the NDAA includes almost $600 million above the President’s Budget Request for science and technology and investments in critical emerging technology areas including artificial intelligence, autonomous systems and biotechnology.

The bill changed considerably on the floor of the House. Some GOP Congressmen including Mo Brooks, R-Alabama, voted for the bill in committee and against the bill on the House floor because of some of those changes. President Donald Trump has threatened to veto the bill unless changes to the bill are made before it reaches his desk.

The Senate and House versions will go to a conference committee where a compromise version will be drafted that can pass both Houses.

Byrne represents Alabama’s 1st Congressional District. He is leaving Congress at the end of the year.

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Aerospace and Defense

Aderholt critical of Democrats’ NASA budget proposal

Brandon Moseley




Congressman Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, was critical of a Democratic-sponsored spending bill that level funds NASA at 2020 levels for Fiscal Year 2021.

“One of my greatest duties in Congress is serving as a member on the House Committee on Appropriations and as Ranking Member on the Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee,” Aderholt said in a statement to constituents. “As a member of these two bodies, it is my responsibility to diligently review the upcoming fiscal year spending bill. This year, NASA has been a huge topic, especially with the Artemis missions and President Trump’s request for an increase in the space programs budget.”

Aderholt said he thought it was a “mistake” to not give NASA more money this year.

“Space exploration and carrying Moon missions as well as planning for Mars missions spurs amazing innovations in the private sector,” Aderholt said. “Maintaining our leadership in space is also a national security issue. Overall, we are able to partner with other nations, but we must never be in a position of not controlling our own fate in space. That’s why I criticized the Democrats spending plan during a subcommittee bill markup this week and advocated for President Trump’s increased budget request for NASA. There is much our two parties can agree on with regards to the space program, and I look forward to continuing working on the space budget as this year’s legislative process continues.”

President Donald Trump had requested a 12 percent increase to the NASA budget. Much of that money would have gone to funding the Space Launch System and the Artemis mission to the Moon. House Democrats have proposed a zero percent increase.

“The flat NASA allocation reveals a determination to rebuke America’s moon-to-Mars Artemis initiative,” said Aderholt, the ranking member of the CJS subcommittee. “President Trump rightly wants more funding to reenergize America’s leadership in space, so much so he’s willing to pay for it within an overall austere budget request, and we should follow that lead.”

NASA is targeting 6:50 a.m. CST Thursday, July 30, for the launch of its Mars 2020 Perseverance rover on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The mission is designed to better understand the geology and climate of Mars and seek signs of ancient life on the Red Planet using the robotic scientist, which weighs just under 2,300 pounds (1,043 kilograms) and is the size of a small car.

The rover will collect and store a set of rock and soil samples that could be returned to Earth by future Mars sample return missions. It also will test new technologies to benefit future robotic and human exploration of Mars. Perseverance is part of America’s larger Moon to Mars exploration approach that includes missions to the Moon as a way to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.

NASA hopes to send the first woman and next man to the Moon by 2024 and establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028 through the Artemis program.

Aderholt is in his 12th term representing Alabama’s 4th Congressional District. He faces Rick Neighbors in the Nov. 3 general election.


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