Science, the Vision, and smallsats

The keynote speaker Monday at the AIAA/Utah State Conference on Small Satellites was Orlando Figueroa, the deupty associate administrator for programs in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. Figueroa told the audience that the role small satellites will play in implementing the Vision for Space Exploration “has not diminished; they still play a big role.” It should [...]

Congress and the shuttle

As the STS-114 mission winds down, some members of Congress have been talking about the mission, or even talking to members of the crew. SPACE.com reported that Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) visited JSC on Friday and took a few minutes to talk to the crew. DeLay in particular, SPACE.com reported, “noted the flight is the beginning of ‘the fulfillment of the president’s vision’ to return to the Moon by 2020 and travel on to Mars.” He also “made a point of pointing out the mission demonstrated what could be done by United States in space ‘with our international partners.’” The visit also gave Sen. Hutchison a chance to talk about NASA administrator Michael Griffin:

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison said Griffin’s directness and honesty are what she likes about him — and what she dislikes.

“He is looking at it as a scientist-engineer, so he is telling us every little thing,” the Republican senator from Texas said Friday during a Johnson Space Center tour with the NASA administrator.

The Riverside (Calif.) Press-Enterprise published an interview Saturday with Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA), chair of the space subcommittee of the House Science Committee. Calvert said that he was “disappointed” about the foam shedding problem and resulting decision to ground the shuttle, but insisted that the shuttle would continue flying:

Let’s not be pessimistic. It’s too early to do that. The shuttle is going to be retired in 2010. We’re trying to get 20 more missions out of them. We have one of the missions dedicated to fixing the Hubble. Without the shuttle, you can’t fix the Hubble. The rest of the missions are to finish the international space station.

Rolling out the new architecture

Now that the STS-114 mission is nearly complete (and will hopefully conclude with a safe landing Monday) all eyes now turn to the long-awaited (well, a couple-of-months-awaited) new exploration architecture that NASA administrator Michael Griffin and his team have been developing. SpaceRef, citing unnamed “senior NASA sources”, reported Saturday that the agency will start rolling [...]

Yet more Bush and space

During a brief joint press availability featuring President Bush and Colombian president Álvaro Uribe Vélez a reporter asked Bush if he felt that the shuttle’s return to flight was premature. His extended response:

First of all, I had the honor of speaking to the — the folks of — that are on that mission. And it was a great experience to be talking to bold explorers. And, secondly, like a lot of Americans, I was amazed at the procedures that took place to repair the craft. It’s pretty remarkable. I believe that — I believe that the mission is important, and I know that the mission directors will make the right decision about how to proceed.

Ours is a country that values the safety of our citizens, particularly those we ask to take risk in space. And there will be a lot of deliberation, a lot of thought that goes into the decision as to whether or not those brave souls can — should return on that vehicle. And I know that NASA has been very closely in touch with the White House. Andy Card has been in touch with the Administrator on a regular basis. But I’ve got the confidence — all the confidence that they will make the right decision.

Let me also say that it is important for our fellow citizens to understand that we’re going to take the NASA mission beyond the current mission, that we’ll be using — we want — the plan right now is to phase out the shuttle by 2010, and then begin to put a strategy in place that will use the moon as a launching spot for further exploration.

I know the — at least the people I’ve talked to inside NASA are excited about the mission, the reinvigoration of the vision of exploration. And I appreciate the Administrator working on getting that strategy in place, so that when the decision is made to finally get rid of this phase of exploration, we’ll be ready to take on the new phase. And that’s important for the American people to understand, that, one, exploration is important; two, there will be some good coming out of exploration; and, three, that we’ve got a new vision embraced by NASA and its pioneers.

There’s not anything necessarily new in those comments, which summarize what he has said in recent days either in his comments to the shuttle crew or in his interview Monday with Texas newspaper reporters. (I’m sure some will note that he again emphasized the idea of developing a lunar base as “a launching spot for further exploration”; the question, of course, if that is a literal or figurative launching spot.) At this point, it doesn’t seem that asking the President more questions will reveal that many more insights about his space policy philosophy.

Polls on shuttle and exploration

A CBS News poll released yesterday suggests that the public is more skeptical about the future of the shuttle program than ever before. The poll of 1,222 adults, conducted from July 29 to August 2, found than 59% thought the shuttle is worth continuing, down from 75% just after the Columbia accident; support was also [...]

More Bush and space

The Washington Post has published the complete transcript of President Bush’s interview with Texas newspaper reporters on Monday. Most of what Bush said about space policy was already captured in the quotes included in the Houston Chronicle and Dallas Morning News. One additional note: Bush said that Andrew Card, his chief of staff, “has been [...]

Bush talks space

Since his speech at NASA Headquarters just over 18 months ago unveiling the Vision for Space Exploration, President Bush has been quiet in public about the VSE and NASA in general, causing some people to question his commitment to the effort. However, in an interview yesterday with reporters from several Texas newspapers, he did address [...]