More good news and bad news for the NASA budget

The good news: the Senate finally passed the Commerce, Justice, and Science FY08 appropriations bill Tuesday after defeating an effort to transfer some money from the space agency. As the Houston Chronicle reports, Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) introduced an amendment that would have transferred $150 million from NASA’s science, aeronautics, and exploration account to the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, which reimburses states for jailing illegal immigrants (not space aliens, Rudy.) The amendment was defeated on a 68-25 vote (although the Chronicle reports the vote as 70-23). Opponents of the amendment, like Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, argued that anything that stripped money from NASA would extend the “gap” between the shuttle and Orion, creating, as she put it, “a security risk for the United States” (a belief that isn’t exactly universally shared).

The bad news: the bill still has to be reconciled with the House version that doesn’t have the extra $1 billion the Senate approved earlier this month. The overall appropriations bill still faces a threatened presidential veto. According to a report by the AP, Congress plans this appropriations bill to be one of the first to be sent to the president “to test the strength of his veto”.

6 comments to More good news and bad news for the NASA budget

  • D. Messier

    I don’t know about it being a “national security risk,” but we might end up spending years dependent upon an increasingly authoritarian Russian government for access to a space station in which we contributed the lion’s share of funding. We will likely be dealing with a continuation of the Putin Administration (with a front-man as president). His actions have been increasingly troubling, both in terms of internal democracy and his foreign policy.

    Despite this, the Bush Administration and some of its supporters (I’m looking at you, Lou) have been rather blithe about being that dependent on Russia. The administration doesn’t seem to have a contingency plan, either. Of course, by the time shuttle is retired, Bush will be back on the ranch, cutting brush, overseeing his “fantastic freedom institute” (his words, not mine), and making speeches blaming his predecessor (Clinton) and successor (maybe Clinton as well) at $250,000 a pop.

    Speaking of which, Bush was on the TV today warning the planet and Putin about World War III as it relates to nuclear (sorry, nukular) weapons and Iraq. What if we end up in a shooting war with Iraq and because of this, our relations with Russia slip back into Cold War territory? ISS will be the least of anyone’s worries, I suppose.

  • richardb

    I expect Russia will inflict petty humiliations upon us once we become 100% dependent upon them for accessing the ISS. After all, they will have a monopoly, nothwithstanding COTS, from 2010 till 2015 when the CEV is scheduled to fly. Of course the US has put all the partners on notice that we aren’t funding it past 2016. Russia ignores our interests at its peril of a true 2016 shutdown.

  • richardb: expect Russia will inflict petty humiliations upon us.

    Why shouldn’t they? Let’s not forget all the petty humiliations we inflicted on them (remember fighting tourism, what has turned out in retrospect to be the Space Station’s single most important achievment second to the building of it itself) early in the program.

    As for the budget, ESAS may be a waste of money, but it can’t hold a candle to the waste involved in spending vast sums failing to keep the people who do our work for us out of the country.

    — Donald


    “ESAS may be a waste of money”

    I apologize for going off-topic and referencing anonymous sources, but I got some rather shocking news this morning that Orion is overweight (or Ares I is underpowered), not only for the lunar architecture, but for the ISS architecture as well, to the tune of almost 3,000 kg. I also discovered this insider’s blog, which started just last month:

    Although he/she unnecessarily refers to Griffin as “Emperor”, the analysis in almost every entry is worth reading. The September 22 entry also claims that Orion is overweight to the tune of 6,000 lbs., consistent with the figure from my source. And the technical issue on Ares I in the September 15 entry — the tendency of an SRB stack to come apart at its interfaces without the stiffness provided by an entire STS stack — is very disturbing and an issue that I was unaware of.

    Again, I apologize for going off-topic and the anonymous sources, but these allegations would appear to make Ares I/Orion unflyable in any architecture. It will be interesting to see if these allegations — like the inability of the Ares I/Orion lunar architecture to close and drastic cuts being made to Orion as a result — are confirmed in press articles or document leaks in the weeks and months ahead.


  • RichardB,

    What do you mean Russia will have an ISS transport monopoly, notwithstanding COTS, through 2015 when Orion arrives? Are you saying that COTS won’t work at all?

    – Jim

  • D. Messier

    Yup. I heard that Ares/Orion was negative mass to orbit some months ago. I also heard at the time that the administration had pretty much canceled the lunar lander for budget reasons but that the money had been put back. The SRB-derived booster is seen by at least some experts as a collossal mistake by Mike Griffin. There’s a sense they’ll be lucky to get it into orbit and that lunar flights could be very difficult.

    It’s surprising this is being discussed more broadly.

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