Lightning hearing

You know how some of those old game shows would have a “lightning round” where contestants would have to answer as many questions as they could in a minute or so? Yesterday’s Senate hearing on the shuttle and the future of human spaceflight was something along those lines. The hearing started about 15 minutes late because of a previous Commerce Committee confirmation hearing, and had to end at 11:30 am—just 45 minutes after it started—because of some Senate rule. So, instead of trimming some portions of the hearing, like the second panel of witnesses, or simply postponing the hearing to a future date, the subcommittee managed to squeeze in the entire hearing in 45 minutes. Time was so short that the second panel was asked to condense their opening remarks to two minutes instead of the customary five.

Because the hearing was so brief, there wasn’t a lot of consequence said during it. There was some gentle verbal sparring between Griffin and the two senators in attendance, Hutchison and Nelson, about how changes to the ISS assembly schedule might impact research on the station; Hutchison in particular is concerned that there may be less of an emphasis on ISS research, making it difficult to, for example, find a cure for breast cancer.

On a related note, Griffin spoke later in the day at the Space at the Crossroads conference in Washington. I wasn’t there, but one person who was—Robert Zubrin, who gave his standard spiel Wednesday night at the Ethics and Public Policy Center—said that Griffin stated that he plans to make a decision on development of a heavy-lift launch vehicle (HLLV) by some time next year. Given Griffin’s past statements, he would likely lean in favor of a shuttle-derived system. Left unsaid, though, is the provision of the new US Space Transportation Policy that requires NASA to coordinate with the Defense Department on HLLV requirements; DOD will likely have a preference for an EELV-derived system.

9 comments to Lightning hearing

  • Also, the policy stipulates that the president be the ultimate arbiter of the decision.

  • Hutchison’s understanding of science must have ended in the 8th grade if she still thinks that the space station will cure cancer.

  • Cecil Trotter

    “Hutchison’s understanding of science must have ended in the 8th grade if she still thinks that the space station will cure cancer.”

    I think Dan Golden used to make that claim as well.

  • “A space station will permit quantum leaps in our research in science, communications, and in metals and lifesaving medicines which could be manufactured only in space.” – Ronald Reagan, 1984 State of the Union Address

  • Many thanks for the pointer to Zubrin’s article in The New Atlantis. Once past the NASA rant, Zubrin makes a lot of powerful points, especially in the last section ‘Why Now? Why Us?’ He’s got enough energy there to power himself to Mars :>

    For those keen on reading, the article is here

  • Cecil Trotter

    Yes, RWR said those words before congress…. so? You go back far enough and I’ll bet you can find that someone said the same of Skylab.

    But, it is now my turn to ask you “what is your point?” Is the RWR quote supposed to be proof of a right wing conspiracy or something?

  • changehappens

    The Space Station today is what it has always been. An industrial policy by the US government with heavy political purposes. Bill Clinton sold it to a skeptical Congress on the grounds it employed Soviet scientists in peaceful pursuits. I guess the thousands that have worked in Iran never got that message. Anyway, now that the original policy is obsolete, ie Iran is close to having the Bomb, the Space Station is obviously superflous. If the US was interested in a real space station, they would have used the Moon instead. Never have to worry about CMG’s breaking. Never have to reboost its orbit. Of course many other things have to be done, but thats where “E” for exploration comes in.

    Another purpose of the ISS is to give purpose to the Space Shuttle. Anyone with an ounce of common sense knew all along that the Shuttle was doomed to have another disaster sometime during ISS construction. The question was when and unfortunatley it did happen in the middle of construction. Now the only thing left is to kill the Shuttle and ISS as gracefully and responsible as possible. Give credit to Griffin and Bush for recognizing the obvious and coming up with a brilliant plan to recover from the last 20 years of NASA and US government disinterest in space exploration.

  • Brian Campbell

    I think another thing to remember about when RWR said all that, was that the space station envisioned was much larger in terms of both living space and capability, then what it is now — so there was at least the potential for some of those claims to be realized.

    But courtesy of bugetary nickle & diming, and political compromises (both of which resulted in a nearly-perpetual redesign exercise), what we have now is a smaller, less application-friendly station. Ironically, it seems that all these efforts may have contributed to a far larger bill, than if they simply left well enough alone. (Actually, this parallels the fate of a lot of space (& some military) programs — like the shuttle!)

  • Brent

    We can’t throw up our hands and say space stations are worthless because we built one that can only hold enough people to keep it functioning.

    If everyone in a society needs to be farmers to keep themselves fed, there’s no time for anyone to learn metal smithing. Similarly, if every waking minute of ISS crew time is spent on maintenance, no science will get done.

    When we have a station where 5 people turn wrenches and the other 50 can do absoultely nothing all day and the station still provide life support, then we have the leisure time to have a bunch of dedicated scientists and engineers get some real work done.