Congress, White House

Spending political capital on NASA

Shortly after winning reelection, President Bush said, “I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it.” Most of the focus on where he plans to spend that capital has been on issues like Social Security and tax reform. However, in an Orlando Sentinel article Monday Bush indicated that NASA may also get an investment:

“The space vision met some resistance by some, but we got it fully funded,” said Bush, adding that he likes the idea of going back to the moon, using it as a testing ground and then going beyond.

“I spent capital before,” he said. “I’ll spend it again on NASA.”

The article also notes, however, that despite effectively full funding for NASA in FY05, the exploration vision, and the agency in general, still face challenges in Congress. Consider this comment from Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), chairman of the House Science Committee:

Voting on the [budget] did not constitute the endorsement of Congress of any single program… What it did reflect is the considerable influence of the majority leader, and it did reflect the interest of the leadership in providing adequate funding for NASA. But it did not constitute an out-and-out endorsement of any one program.

Boehlert added that he “plans to take up formal legislation dealing with” the exploration vision this spring; the article doesn’t mention what this legislation would be, although it sounds like a long-awaited NASA authorization bill.

14 comments to Spending political capital on NASA

  • TORO

    Like any other issue that involves high stakes ethics, the appropriate House and Senate committees need to debate the ethics issues to avoid dictation. One the one hand, it is cool science and human can do in space attitude to repair a Hubble in trouble and return to flight. On the other hand, why are we sardening humans with lives worth living back into the museum bound jack of all trade attempt jalopies. This right stuff era non-(ethics)-sense will not end until the last shuttle is junked. Whereas automakers ethically stepped forward from the ’60’s with seat belts, air bags, soft dashes, crash dummy tests, NASA stepped backwards – no crash dummy test, no realistic crew escape. Crazy Ivan and the growing Sinosaurus have a safer (more ethical) vehicle than the USA. Where is the ethics of this nation, to sandwich America’s finest back into that disco era ought to be extinct Doo Doo bird to an Albatross? If it wasn’t an ethics issue in the ’60’s, it is now. Ethically comparing, it is junk. Pure junk. Garbage. Trash. But just like in to kill a mockingbird, trash often prevails.

  • I am willing to go up in a rickety shuttle. I’d take a 50-50 shot at getting to Mars. Am I wrong, or isn’t NASA staffed by volunteers?

  • TORO

    Astronauts and submariners are employed by we the folks. Of course the Austin Powers movie scenes referring to the shape of a rocket was perhaps funny, but as “Free Porn Trials” makes the point, ethics issues are related to each other. Attitudes to suicide and euthanasia, or capital punishment and war, cannot rationally be kept totally separate. In Texas, lobbyists pulled off motocyclists not needing a helmet, but in your car wear your seat belt or else!

    The British and Americans had some ugly Sub losses in the ’50’s and ’60’s. One Brit sub sank in shallow water with the aft completely out of the water, but most all the crew perished. Multiple escape hatches were added, but then submariners who escapes chilled to death in the water. Then came the Steinke suit and hood, the exosuit, etc.

    Following the Kursk tragedy, America sent its entire Pacific fleet on maneuvers to test the sub survival escape and rescue systems…but we did nothing for the American Astronaut. Seems we have the “white” American submarine and the “colored” American Space Shuttle for Americans “equally” at duty to this nation.

    I am not say there is a right or wrong regarding Americans in a space shuttle, but somehow as the automakers and sub builders stepped forward, somehow, with the right stuff failure is no option mentality, the American space program took an ethics step backwards…like going back to white and colored bathrooms. The shuttle is less safe than Apollo was. Not going forward is also known as a lack of leadership.

  • Ummm…”Free pron trials” isn’t making any point, other than that he wants to increase his google ranking by spamming this web site.

  • John Malkin

    Is space on the presidentís agenda for his European trip? Expanding Europeís evolvement in the American space program could help mend relationships. ESA and Russia have signed an agreement to work closer together.

  • Is space on the presidentís agenda for his European trip?

    Let us hope not.

    Expanding Europeís evolvement in the American space program could help mend relationships.

    Maybe, maybe not, but ISS has proven to be a disaster due to attitudes like this. We need a space program whose primary focus is space accomplishments, not “mending relationships” with corrupt anti-American EUreaucrats.

  • John Malkin

    Actually there wouldn’t be a space station without Europeís help. Half of the American part of ISS was built in Europe and of course the Russian side completely built in Russia. All the supply modules used in the shuttle were built in Italy. The Cupola and automated transfer vehicle are examples of elements the U.S. was building but congress canceled it. So we bartered with ESA to build them. It was the internationalization of the station that saved it from doom when the congress realized how much it would really cost. The U.S. needs to have its own capabilities but we cannot become a space faring on our own. Look who is going to the first commercial spaceline company. Is it an American firm? No, itís a British Entrepreneur.

    Iím hoping that Congress has learned to consistently fund NASA and to give clear goals but so far that is not the case. They may have fully funded NASA but they gave them mixed signals because of politics.

  • Actually there wouldn’t be a space station without Europeís help.

    So? That was our choice, not necessity.

    The U.S. needs to have its own capabilities but we cannot become a space faring on our own.

    This is utter nonsense. Of course we can. We simply choose not to.

  • John Malkin

    Yes, our congress choice rather than spending the money for us to do it.

    I’m being realistic. It’s apparent that congress will never fund NASA or private industry to the level necessary for the U.S. to do it on its own. Why should we bare all the costs?

  • Dogsbd

    >>> Actually there wouldn’t be a space station without Europeís help.

    While it is true that Europe built parts of the ISS, logic does not dictate that those parts would not or could not have been built without Europes doing so. It is also true that Congress may have killed ISS long ago without international participation to “save money”, but that would not have been a bad thing as it turns out. ISS in it’s present form is not worth the money that has been and will be spent on it.

    I firmly believe that had the US went ahead with Space Station Freedom as a primarily US built endeavour we COULD have done so cheaper than has been the case with ISS.

    In short, international particpation as practiced in the case of ISS has cost the American tax payer, not saved. That is what happens when politics rather than engineering drives any such project.

  • It’s apparent that congress will never fund NASA or private industry to the level necessary for the U.S. to do it on its own.

    That’s not apparent at all. It’s apparent that the (Democrat) Congress we had in 1993 wouldn’t do so, but it’s even more apparent that the Congress we had in late 2004 would, since they approved full funding of the president’s Vision for Space Exploration sans “international cooperation.”

    You’re living in the past, and the fact that it’s past should be unlamented.

  • John Malkin

    Didn’t congress task NASA to seek out international involvement as part of VSE in the FY05 budget? Itís true the past isnít forecast of the future but I think itís less about money and more about vision. Does congress as a whole have the will to choose an aggressive space policy? I think maybe since I feel Bush understands the need to have a focus vision weather some here agree with it or not. The Science committee understands as well from the notes and highlights for FY05 budget. Iím worried the democrats will continue to use NASA budget as a pawn. I think we will know more when the hearings start. On the good side is second term presidents are more aggressive but the Republican Party will want Bush to not adversely affect the next presidential election.

    The new NASA administrator will need to be able to communicate clearly and accurately VSE plans during public hearings and private meetings with congress. This year will be true test VSE and whether the past will be the future or something new will be born.

    I hope to see more private companies like Space-X continue forge new ground and hopefully lead the way. There announcement today to take over Cape’s pad 36 is great.

  • TORO

    I still say the real ethics debate is whether or not it is moral in the year 2005 to still put humans back into the ’70’s gas guuzler low quality American made product era low quality piece of junk space shuttle. In the ’60s I was a kid and we never bucked up. Now my five year old won’t let me move the car until her buckle is fastened – and the car has an airbag. The Apollo crew escape was crash dummy tested in ’63, but the shuttle has no such seat belt equivalent. I doubt there is a congressman or woman in office who would allow their child or grandchild into a car without seat belts, but go ahead and stick America’s finest into the Albatross bound Doo Doo bird.

    Return to flight is not progress – it is moral human transportation regression.

  • Dogsbd,

    you said: “That is what happens when politics rather than engineering drives any such project”.

    HELLO. When space cadets ask the President and Congress to fund a space project, they are spending public monies. That means the project is subject to the same processes and influences that shape every other expenditure of public $. To wit: POLITICS.

    Spaceflight requires engineering. But space policy is just that, POLICY. Engineering is just one consideration.

    BTW, for the record the roots of international cooperation in ISS go way back to the beginning of the program in 1984, when NASA Administrator James Beggs took a road trip to Europe to convince the members of the European Space Agency to come in as partners in what became known as Space Station Freedom. Japan joined as well. Then during Bush 41 and Clinton, both NASA and politicians brought Russia into the program.

    One huge improvement of the VSE is that it doesn’t call for a multi-governmental project. It calls for an broader human enterprise with the U.S. funding major systems that can include industrial participation from many nations.

    – Jim