FY05 budget, plan B

While much of the media coverage surrounding NASA administrator Mike Griffin’s appearance before a Senate Appropriations Committee subcommittee Thursday focused on Griffin’s stated desire to reduce or eliminate the “gap” between the shuttle’s retirement and the CEV’s introduction—something Griffin has stated publicly in the recent past, including his confirmation hearing a month ago—another important aspect of the hearing was an announcement of a new fiscal year 2005 operating plan for NASA. Space News/ has some of the details of the operating plan, which Griffin also mentioned in his testimony. They include:

  • Possible delay of the Mars Science Laboratory lander mission from 2009 to 2011;
  • Additional delays for the Space Interferometry Mission (SIM) and Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF);
  • Restructuring Project Prometheus to meet “our highest priorities for near-term needs”, which would indicate further delaying or canceling JIMO;
  • Curtailing research on “efforts to support human space exploration missions farther out into the future” in favor of accelerating the CEV;
  • Cuts in biological and physical science research programs on ISS

I have not had the time to review the full operating plan revision, so there may be some additional details I have missed.

There is one portion of Griffin’s prepared testimony that offers a guide to how he plans to approach these and future changes in the agency:

Given a choice, I generally favor eliminating lower-priority programs rather than reducing all programs in the face of budget difficulties, because this allows for the more efficient execution of the programs which remain. Thus, we must set clear priorities to remain within the budget which has been allocated.

13 comments to FY05 budget, plan B

  • William Berger

    The delay of MSL from 2009 to 2011 should come as no surprise to anybody who has been following that program. Bruce Moomaw has reported that the Mars roadmap committee was discussing recommending a slip to 2011 (and building two MSL’s instead of one). In addition, NASA has had difficulty designing some of the instruments for MSL, which are extremely sophisticated. That alone may require a delay. In fact, there has been some discussion of slipping it from 2009 to 2013, which many people involved in the program believe is a much more doable date. They want to get MSL right the first time.

  • There was no explicit mention of a delay for MSL either in Griffin’s statement or in what he said to the Senate committee yesterday. He seems to be playing for more money by hinting at delays in “some Mars missions” and other projects; expect to see the committee “work with him” to overcome these problems.

  • Griffin so far seems infinitely better than O’Keefe at distinguishing good from bad at NASA. O’Keefe evidently ran NASA without trained experts either on top or on tap. On the other hand, Griffin’s drive to build the CEV seems disingenuous, because he must know that its mandate is illogical.

    Still, if the CEV kills the space shuttle, I will applaud it.

  • William Berger

    Actually, Griffin did mention a possible delay of MSL before the Senate.

    This possibility has been going around the Mars community for many months now. The only real surprise is that it has not broken into the open before. See, for instance, Oliver Morton’s comment here:

    “The only thing I’ll add to the discussion for the time being is that I’m now sure the MSL delay to 2011 is real, but that as yet I’m not quite sure that the doubling up will happen, in that it might be announced but the second one might slip even further.”

    This is really a schedule issue, not a budget one. Even with more money, they probably cannot build the MSL in time for 2009. It is a very sophisticated craft.

    As for the difference between Griffin and O’Keefe, it was very notable during Griffin’s Senate testimony. Griffin actually answered the questions, even admitting that in some cases they do not know the answers yet but are working on them. O’Keefe had a habit of praising the questioner, the question, the great insight of the committee, etc., while never really answering the question.

  • Matthew Brown

    CEV won’t kill the shuttle, as who ever gets it will be one of the partners that operates the shuttle. Although it will give them an edge over the looser, it will still be in the winners best intrest to delay it.

    2010 is a firm date with Bush, but he isn’t going to be the one in office at that time. So the real test if the shuttle will really retire in 2010 will be if t/Space or SpaceDev can demostrate progress september or october of 2008, during the presidential election. An orbit will be nice but unlikely. If they don’t, then who ever is elected in 2008 will be the one to kill the shuttle or not.

    At this time, my gut feeling is 50% shuttle retire in 2010 if republican, 20% if democrat. and 80% if by some miracle independant. Of course in each of those cases there is a chance that CEV will be axed too. (disclaimer: the margin of error is +/- 80% ;) )

  • Matthew, how would another Shuttle accident (the chances of which are far above zero) affect your guesses?

    Also, I blush to admit that the conflict-of-interest between whoever wins CEV and Shuttle operations had not occured to me. Anyone have an opinion on which of the two likely contractor teams would suffer less from this conflict, and therefore should be supported by us?


    — Donald

  • Matthew Brown

    If there was another accident in the next 5 years IMHO the retirement will be dang close to 100% no matter who is elected. The question then becomes the future of US Gov sponsered civil manned spaceflight. I haven’t mulled over that possibility too much to have a gut feeling to the chances I’d give the survival of manned spaceflight from each party.

    If Manned space flight is canceled, the military will pursue its own program. And Civil spaceflight will lag behind that.

    I’m humbled you asked my opinion Donald so I want to make sure things are clarified. I’m by no means an expert in the field nor a professional. I consider myself more of a Knowledable and Passionate Observer. I use my gut for alot of these things. Which I consider my subconscious mulling over alot of different facts I’ve absorbed. However I do the same thing for risk management in my professional job, as a Systems Engineer and Adminstraror for an ISP. I then verify my gut wih statistics and past experience. My gut is ocasionally wrong and I do head off in wrong directions at times. But my gut is correct 90% of the time for my job. THis verifcation for Space related stuff i do not have time for it most of the time. Though i do try to verify the closest steps. (there is alot of thing i don’t post cause i look things up and prove myself wrong quickly)

  • Thanks for the “truth in lending” your opinion notice, but I suspect that many of the people posting to this site, including myself, are in similar roles. Some people just don’t care to admit it.

    Which does not mean that I don’t want to hear as wide as possible a range of opinions. I try to read at least some conservative press, as well as the liberal press, keep away from the extremes of both sides (though I’m sure many here would differ with me on what is “extreme” on the left), and make up my own mind on each issues merits, often somewhere to the left of the middle. I like to do the same in spaceflight, e.g., in the human versus automated spaceflight battles, where I decidedly land in the human camp but am prepared to listen to the other side.

    Now my unsupported opinion: I think human spaceflight is unlikely to completely disappear in this country no matter what happens, especially post X-prize. There may be huge setbacks — if the government left the business, I don’t think commercial human spaceflight would take off anywhere nearly as quickly as some anti-government ideologues hope. However, the idea of a frontier is simply too ideologically important to Americans (including this one), and even to the species that exploaded out of Africa and colonized the entire world in a few tens of thousands of years.

    Even though I am opposed to most of President Bush’s non-spaceflight policies, and I think that space politics realistically had little direct impact on the election, I do believe that the rise of the right in this country has more than a little to do with the apparent “anti-frontier” attitude of those in power on the pollitical left. It goes against the country’s instinctive ideology, and, if the political left is to have a future, it must learn to adapt to that ideology — far more than the current and largely absurd attempts by the Democratic Party to adapt itself to the Religious Right.

    In short, I think human spaceflight has a future in this country, and, if it is to survive, the Democratic Party must be part of that future — as it once was.

    — Donald

  • While I definately hate to see JPL programs get cut, I think it may be worth while in the long run. I think Griffen has been making some good choices given the akward position the last adminstrator left him in.

  • billg

    Donald, I’ll take your assertion one step farther.

    I think human spaceflight not only has a future in this country, it is very probably t-h-e future of the country.

    I’m a lifelong yellow dog Democrat. But, I’m not an idiot. I vehemently oppose Bush’s domestic agenda. I usually agree with his foreign policy agenda (it is an ugly world out there), although I think he implements it with the finesse and skill of jackhammer operator.

    But, in his apparently sincere desire to move this country into space, he is absolutely correct. Space travel will be as transformative as the Renaissance and the European discovery and exploitation of the Western Hemisphere. We need to ensure the right people do it.

  • David Hinkley

    The new NASA administrator appears to be well grounded. However, instead of cuts to NASA to accelerate the Shuttle follow on, I recommend added budget. I am not an expert but I believe that a country able to afford the war it is currently fighting, can afford to keep one of its best inventions, NASA, completely funded. Technical jobs, challenging goals and inspiring leadership are necessary to propel next generation of engineers into the workforce. NASA has its problems, as do all large and long-lasting organizations whose prime directive has passed or has become too diverse. But the engineers and scientists at NASA who strive to imagine and build, need to be protected.

  • “But, in his apparently sincere desire to move this country into space, he is absolutely correct. Space travel will be as transformative as the Renaissance and the European discovery and exploitation of the Western Hemisphere. We need to ensure the right people do it.”

    billg, I fully agree, at least on space (I split courses on overseas policy when the Administration went beyond invading Afghanistan). I think the Bush Administration hit space policy right on the nail. They came as close as we can get to a politically realistic route from here to there (Mars, et al). I’m dying to know how this disaster of an administration managed to get this one thing right. . . .

    Unfortunately, the post-proposal implementation has also had “the finesse and skill of jackhammer operator,” e.g., the way the HST decision was handled (not the decision itself which is at least supportable).

    — Donald

  • billg

    Donald, to digress a bit, I often find myself agreeing with Bush’s expressed foreign policy objectives (fight terrorism, spread democracy, stop nuclear proliferation, etc.) but equally often cannot fathom the implementation of those policies. Even with Saddam, I can’t argue against his removal from power. But I certainly can argue with how, and when and by whom, that was accomplished.