Houston has a big interest in the fortunes of NASA, given the presence of the Johnson Space Center. The Hampton Roads area of Virginia also has a similar interest because of the Langley Research Center. So it’s not surprising that newspapers in both areas are pleading for more money for NASA—although taking somewhat different angles on the issue.
In Monday’s Houston Chronicle, an editorial claims that it is “unfortunate that our nation’s leaders have allowed a vital program essential to our national security to reach such an impasse”. The Chronicle is not referring to Space Radar or FIA or other milspace programs usually associated with “national security”, but rather NASA’s manned spaceflight capabilities. The Chronicle is concerned about the “humiliating prospect” of purchasing Soyuz rides from Russia as well as the specter of China getting to the Moon before NASA.
“With national resolve, it is possible to prevent an irreversible slide into U.S. space mediocrity,” the editorial offers, saying that COTS could provide a “shortcut” while pressing for more money to accelerate the development of Constellation. “Congress should heed U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and other lawmakers who are pressing for an additional $2 billion to speed up the construction of the Orion vehicle.”
The Hampton Roads Daily Press is also concerned about NASA’s funding, but is concerned about too much of an emphasis on the Vision for Space Exploration, rather than too little. While the editorial does note the “setback in prestige, capacity and security” caused by the impending gap, it complains that NASA’s focus on “manned missions to the moon and Mars” has hurt other NASA programs, like the aeronautics work at Langley, since the Vision’s unveiling in 2004. “The president hasn’t pushed the Mars idea since then, or fully funded it, but billions have been spent. And the initiative may be shunted to the back burner by the next president. Because it is expensive. And it’s not popular with either the public or those scientists who think unmanned exploration makes more sense.”
The editorial leads off with the lament that “Virginia doesn’t have anyone on the House of Representatives subcommittee that oversees funding for NASA” who could champion additional funding for the center. It hopes in conclusion, though, that Virginia’s Congressional delegation can “restore the rationality and the investment in pragmatic goals that the Bush NASA budget lacks.”