NASA’s will get $20.7 billion — $1.1 billion more than 2017 funding and $1.6 billion above the White House request — under a spending bill that cleared Congress this week and was signed by President Trump on Friday.
A big beneficiary will be the planned rocket to take astronauts into deep space and onto Mars, the Space Launch System (SLS), which will get $2.15 billion, and the Orion crew capsule, which will launch on top of the SLS, will get $1.35 billion, AL.com reported.
According to a report spaceflightnow.com, the NASA funding was part of a $1.3 trillion federal spending package that keeps the government running through the end of fiscal year 2018 — September 30 — after multiple stopgap budgets in recent months.
The budget provides $350 million for construction of a second SLS mobile launch platform, a project which, NASA believes, could shorten the gap between the first and second Space Launch System flights. Funding for a second SLS launch platform was not included in the White House’s fiscal year 2019 budget proposal.
Robert Lightfoot, NASA’s outgoing acting administrator set to retire at the end of April, told a House subcommittee on March 7 that there was insufficient money in the agency’s budget to build a second SLS platform without delaying or canceling other projects.
While responding to a question during the hearing, Lightfoot said that a second SLS mobile launch platform would be better for the program in an “ideal world.” “I could fly humans quicker, probably in the 2022 timeframe,” with a second mobile launch platform, Lightfoot said. IANS
The White House has announced that a second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will be held at the end of February, at a place to be announced “at a later date.”
The announcement was made after Trump met Friday with Kim Yong Chol, North Korea’s top nuclear envoy in the Oval Office, which the White House said was to “discuss efforts to get Pyongyang to give up its nuclear program.”
Trump’s meeting with the former North Korean spymaster, who often is referred to as Kim Jong Un’s right-hand man, lasted 90 minutes.
After the meeting, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters the administration is continuing “to make progress” on this front.
“The United States is going to continue to keep pressure and sanctions on North Korea until we see full and verified denuclearization,” Sanders said, adding they have seen “good faith from the North Koreans in releasing the hostages and other moves.”
Earlier on Friday, Kim Yong Chol met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a Washington hotel. The meeting’s aim was to revive nuclear negotiations, which have been postponed for months over what U.S. officials say is Pyongyang’s refusal to meet Washington’s demand for a detailed inventory of its nuclear and missile programs.
The latest announcement is being met with some skepticism by analysts about whether enough progress has been achieved in the negotiations to justify a second summit.
There is a “missing ingredient,” said Scott Snyder, senior fellow for Korea Studies at the Council for Foreign Relations. “Is there some kind of understanding behind the scenes, even at the framework level, that provides a basis or justification for going forward that simply can’t be seen based on public evidence today?”
Snyder said that from Trump’s perspective, a second summit is to be expected because the first summit generated “good ratings.” He noted, however, that in order for a second summit to be successful, “the bar will be higher.”
On several occasions Trump has expressed his confidence about North Korean denuclearization.
“With North Korea, we have a very good dialogue,” the president said Jan. 6, adding that it’s “very special” and that with “anybody else but me, you’d be in war right now.”
But critics point out that Pyongyang has not taken measurable steps toward disarmament since the first Trump-Kim historic summit in Singapore last June.
At the United Nations on Friday, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres encouraged both countries to continue talks.
“We believe it’s high time to make sure the negotiations between the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea start again seriously and that a road map is clearly defined for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” Guterres told reporters. “We won’t advocate for any anticipation of other measures before a clear negotiation is put in place, aiming at denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula with a road map.”
The White House has not confirmed the location of the next Trump-Kim summit, but American media reports have quoted sources as saying that Danang, Vietnam, is being discussed as one of the likely venues. (VOA)