Campaign '08, Congress, NASA

McCain, Senators: preserve option to extend shuttle life

Three members of the US Senate, including Republican presidential candidate John Mccain, have asked President Bush not to take any steps that would preclude extending the shuttle’s life beyond 2010. In a letter to the president dated Monday, McCain and Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and David Vitter (R-LA) said uncertainty about US access to the station, given relations with Russia, may mean that the shuttle will be the only near-term option for getting US astronauts to and from the station. The three sounded skeptical that an extension of NASA’s existing waiver in INKSNA would be taken up this year, saying Russia’s incursion into Georgia this month “has raised new questions about the wisdom of providing that exemption.”

That potential deterioration in US-Russia relations, they argue, strikes at one of the foundations of the Vision for Space Exploration: retiring the shuttle in 2010 to free up money for the exploration initiative. “That decision certainly made sense from a fiscal point of view,” they write, “and making use of the Russian Soyuz vehicles as an expansion of the original partnership between the U.S., Russia and our other International partners was also seen to be of value.” But, they argue, “Our concern is that we do not have a guarantee that such cooperative and mutually beneficial activity will continue to be available.”

The senators state that they continue to support acceleration of Ares/Orion as well as development of commercial transportation alternatives, but that “neither of these efforts offers a clear near-term solution” for US access to the station. Thus, “we request that you direct NASA to take no action for at least one year from now that would preclude the extended use of the Space Shuttle beyond 2010. We understand that several such actions are pending in the near future, and believe that allowing them to continue would remove an option for U.S. human spaceflight capability that must not be irretrievably lost at this time.” The letter adds that similar language us contained in the Senate’s version of the NASA authorization act (S.3270), but that it may not be possible to get that bill enacted because of “the limited time available for consideration of legislation this year”.

This is the first time I’m aware of that McCain has openly suggested that the shuttle’s life be extended beyond 2010. His campaign space policy still notes that “Current U.S. space operations policy commits the U.S. to completing the International Space Station (ISS) by 2010 and then terminating the Space Shuttle flights,” although he is vague about what options he would consider to minimize the Shuttle-Constellation gap. The request to “direct NASA to take no action for at least one year” is a little odd, since there will be a new president—McCain or his Democratic opponent, Barack Obama—in less than five months. (Perhaps that’s intended to provide a little insurance during an extended transition period.) However, since Obama’s space policy supports “at least one additional Space Shuttle flight”, there appears to be a growing possibility that the shuttle may not be retired in 2010 after all.

55 comments to McCain, Senators: preserve option to extend shuttle life

  • anonymous.space

    What a total, utter, and complete failure of ESAS and Constellation to get even basic human LEO transportation fielded, tested, or even under substantial development before an excuse for Shuttle workforce representatives in Congress to reverse the VSE presented itself. The slippery slope towards more years unsafe Shuttle operations that lock NASA’s human space flight budget in Earth orbit is becoming very steep very fast. The retreat is almost a rout and it may take a decade or more to recover the lost ground. So very sad and so very avoidable.

    Sigh…

  • anonymous.space

    And Orion PDR slips to the middle of next year (2009). See (add http://)

    rocketsandsuch.blogspot.com/2008/08/did-we-mention-not-soon.html

    Griffin & Co. couldn’t even get a preliminary design for a human capsule completed before the end of the Bush II Administration.

    Unreal…

  • Anon

    Actually it is very real. The world has changed greatly since the optimism of January 14, 2004.

    New Space has failed to hit the home run in orbital access. Yes, Elon is making progress but I expect even the die hards will admit that a manned Dragon before 2012 is impossible and perhaps unlikely before 2014 unless he starts getting rockets into orbit. And none of the other New Space firms are even that close.

    Meanwhile Russia has gone back to being the evil empire, perhaps becoming even worst then the Soviets were.

    And Griffin has steered NASA into the ground with his crazy ESAS architecture using SRBs for Orion. Even if you fired him today and did a crash program for a light weight Orion on an EELV it would take a few years to happen. Say 2013 with good funding and luck.

    So like it or not its flying the Shuttle or turning the fate of the ISS over to the Russians a few years and explaing to taxpayers how you just paid $100 billion to create an orbital spying system for the Russians.

    http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/story.jsp?id=news/OSS08228.xml&headline=Cosmonaut%20Photographed%20South%20Ossetia%20From%20ISS&channel=space

    Personally I think Congress needs to hold some hearings on the mess and how to get out of it. This letter is a good start.

    But it unforunately all very real and a far different world then the CAIB imagined it would be. One the makes retiring the Shuttle impractical from the perspective of international politics.

  • spectator

    Are we ready to admit that Space Policy has become important again after about 30 years of benign neglect? We’ve had this debate about whether Space will arise to Presidential attention. I think debate is over.

    Its obvious that the US will not give up the shuttle in 2010, a perfectly workable space system, given the end of American-Russian entente. Its also obvious that the Shuttle is not a long term option, 5 years is probably too long. The solution that Congress could easily try is the more money option for Nasa, up to around .8% of the federal budget. That should keep shuttle flying till around 2014 while funding Ares at a healthy rate. Congress has supported both programs, so its likely they’ll just double down on both.

    This isn’t so crazy since the sums needed are so small. Don’t forget that Iraq war expenses will start winding down next year til the 2011 end date.

    You guys may not like this solution but given where Congress has been, I think it very likely. If we can close out 2014 with shuttle safely retired, Ares I ready for IOC in 2015, then that is a good outcome. Much worse can be imagined.

  • anonymous.space

    “The solution that Congress could easily try is the more money option for Nasa, up to around .8% of the federal budget. That should keep shuttle flying till around 2014 while funding Ares at a healthy rate. Congress has supported both programs, so its likely they’ll just double down on both.”

    Won’t happen. Maintaining Shuttle operations without cutting/eliminating Constellation development and other NASA programs will require a budget increase of $4-5 billion per year to NASA’s topline, plus Shuttle recertification costs, which will run billions more. Through 2014, that’s a bill of $16-20+ billion that would have to be paid after years of historically high deficits and in an era of two wars (Afghanistan is heating up even if Iraq continues to cool down), the largest demographically driven economic shift in U.S. history (baby boomer retirement), and significant strains on the nation’s energy supplies.

    The Bush II White House and Congress abandoned their VSE budget commitments within a couple years of its rollout. Congress has repeatedly failed to pass a lousy $1 billion increase to help pay for the recovery activities associated the Columbia accident and Katrina. Obama promised a one-time, $2 billion increase in the NASA budget. These amounts are off by an order of magnitude for what’s needed to keep Shuttle operating past 2010. In the absence of a human space flight debacle even greater than the Challenger and Columbia accidents or a Cold War-type contest that threatens the nation’s very existence by space technology proxy the way that Russian nuclear-tipped missiles once did, the system ain’t gonna cough up those kinds of dollars.

    Either Shuttle shuts down or Constellation and the rest of NASA end up eating the costs of continued Shuttle operations. There is no free lunch.

  • MarkWhittington

    Actually it looks like, at least under a McCain Administration, a big increase in NASA’s budget to accomplish the closing of the space flight gap is inevitable. (Under Obama, a different story; he would likely bring about the doom and gloom scenarios I see here.) McCain regards dealing with the space flight gap a matter of national security, so we might well see that 4 or so billion dollar increase, starting with an emergency supplemental early next year. Hopefully some of that will go to accelerating and broadening COTS.

  • Chuck2200

    Mark, I disagree with your assessment of Obama’s likely position; it flies in the face of his stated policy. While he and McCain are coming at the space policy debate from different angles, they both are likely to increase NASA funding in light of recent developments. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that warrior and science mentalities are mutually exclusive; they’re not. They share many touch points in common.

    As to the likely effect of this letter? It depends on whether Bush gives a damn or not.
    Assuming he does (which he has shown no indication of), I think the most likely outcome is a crash effort to complete Orion development, minus the Ares-I completely, and fly it on either or both of the EELV heavies. I think Congress is going to direct NASA to delay all Ares-I efforts and divert the funding to Orion and man-ratting both EELV’s in order to eliminate the gap and only then return to development of the VSE launch vehicles. Of course by then, Constellation will be dead and NASA will have a new administrator.

    I don’t think the VSE itself will be dead, only rescheduled and reorganized in order to specifically address the gap as a matter of priority. Constellation and the Ares rockets will be a bad dream, long gone, and a new architecture will rise in its place, one that makes more sense and runs on a more realistic timetable. American access to our own orbital assets will be assured before the moon comes into view again.

  • Al Fansome

    MARK:Actually it looks like, at least under a McCain Administration, a big increase in NASA’s budget to accomplish the closing of the space flight gap is inevitable.

    Mark,

    When do you predict McCain will give his speech in Florida making that commitment? (If he doesn’t give the speech, and get the political benefits of doing so, it probably is not going to happen.)

    CHUCK: I think the most likely outcome is a crash effort to complete Orion development, minus the Ares-I completely, and fly it on either or both of the EELV heavies.

    I agree that this is a more likely outcome.

    FWIW,

    - Al

  • [...] Space Politics » McCain, Senators: preserve option to extend shuttle life [...]

  • MarkWhittington

    Chuck Stated Obama policy this week. Stated Obama policy used to be that we would extend the space flight gap by five years to pay for a PreK education program.

    Chuck and Al What evidence to you see concerning a switch to EELVs. The objections to that option have not changed and one doubts that McCain is going to second guess NASA decisions in that regard.

  • Chuck2200

    Obama’s original policy is no more valid than the original belief that the world was flat. Times have changed and so did Obama’s policy. Obama’s original position was based on him sharing the same point of view as the VAST majority of Americans, that NASA’s budget was somehow huge and available for “skimming”. Well, he took the time to educate himself with reality, and brought some well-informed people onto his staff and got his facts straight. Funny how reality can change one’s point of view. Now, with reality firmly in hand, the official Obama policy is a reflection of reality and space has an honored place on his agenda, with genuine subject matter experts on his policy committee. I wish people would stop returning to the original position as if it were somehow still valid; it’s not. He has personally repudiated it. Please keep up.

    I have no presentable evidence regarding my statements concerning a switch to EELV as a transition CLV to LEO. Notice that I had prefaced my remarks with “I think” and was expressing an opinion. In support of that opinion, all I can say is that I do know that option is being seriously discussed in the Congress at the committee level, in both houses, among other options. But it has a lot of support among the movers and shakers there. It is the option they keep returning to and is rapidly becoming the standard against which other options are measured. Take that for what it’s worth. As important as workforce retention was in the beginning, the growing gap is beginning to eclipse that as the members of Congress become more and more aware of the true nature of the gap and it’s national security implications. A full blown development effort on Orion coupled with man-rating both EELV’s could potentially have Orion operational and flying before the exemption expires in 2011. That’s a very, very attractive incentive to our legislators because it not only shortens the gap, it eliminates it, something which, btw, Dr Griffin testified was impossible to do. Isn’t it amazing what can be accomplished when the blinders and the “my way or no way” attitude are removed?

  • Al Fansome

    Chuck and Al What evidence to you see concerning a switch to EELVs. The objections to that option have not changed and one doubts that McCain is going to second guess NASA decisions in that regard.

    1) McCain is a fiscal conservative.

    2) McCain has officially stated he will try to reduce the budget deficit.

    3) McCain has officially stated that he will put a freeze on discetionary spending.

    4) McCain has officially stated that he wants to eliminate the human spaceflight gap.

    5) McCain has officially stated that he wants to *terminate* Shuttle flights.

    6) Sean O’Keefe and Admiral Craig Steidle are friends of McCain, and they were leaning towards the Capsule+EELV solution before Griffin took over.

    7) A capsule+EELV solution is one alternative that could substantially reduce, if not eliminate, the gap while also helping McCain adhere to his fiscal conservative positions.

    All of these facts, combined, lead me to think that a capsule+EELV solution has a higher probability of taking place.

    I am not saying that “it will” happen. I am just making a prediction, based on the evidence.

    Meanwhile, you appear to be predicting that Sen. McCain, fiscal conservative, is going to change his fiscal conservative stripes in a fiscally distressful time, and give NASA a major budget increase.

    Life will tell us whose prediction is right.

    FWIW,

    - Al

  • Charles in Houston

    Chuck 2200 said: I think the most likely outcome is a crash effort to complete Orion development, minus the Ares-I completely, and fly it on either or both of the EELV heavies. Unfortunately, we have found that the product of a crash effort – is a crash.

    We are being squeezed down a funnel – with the Shuttle limping along and any replacement program fading away. We could hand the Station over to the Russians, so they could use it as an orbiting destination for tourists, but how do we explain to the American public that we spent 100 billion to build them a tourist destination? Especially since they would quickly lock the doors and not allow us up there, at any price. And we do all of the sustaining engineering – would we just stop doing that? Or hand over tons of ITAR technology to our newly angered partners? Would we let the Russians send over hundreds of engineers to operate out of our MCC in Houston??

    With the expenses of Soutwest Asia still to be paid – as things calm down in Iraq they are heating up in Afghanistan. And what about Pakistan? When you chase people over there, they just stay a country ahead of you. We could be back chasing them in Africa next!

    So where are we gonna get the money to fix any of this?

    Look for the politicians to find the cheapest possible solution – probably EELV (where we should have been 20 years ago!).

  • …plus Shuttle recertification costs, which will run billions more…

    Everyone keeps talking about “recertification” and “recertification costs” as though someone, anyone even knows what those words mean in this context. The Shuttle was never certified in the first place, so it makes no sense to talk about “recertifying” it. 2010 wasn’t chosen for retirement because the Shuttle magically becomes defunct in that year–it was chosen because that was the earliest year that the station could be completed. The scrubbing the system went through after Columbia can be considered the “recertification.” They can simply continue to fly, with continued inspections.

    What evidence to you see concerning a switch to EELVs. The objections to that option have not changed and one doubts that McCain is going to second guess NASA decisions in that regard.

    The objections won’t have changed, but the objectors will have. McCain will be happy to change the policy once someone ([presumably his new administrator) explains to him that the objections were always bogus, and never substantiated with actual validated analyses.

  • The objections won’t have changed, but the objectors will have. McCain will be happy to change the policy once someone ([presumably his new administrator) explains to him that the objections were always bogus, and never substantiated with actual validated analyses.

    Unless Griffin is retained as NASA admin.

    Chuck2200 and Al,

    A question – where does that leave shuttle hardware? Is any and all shuttle hardware options (whether it be Direct, or something else) DOA?

  • Chuck2200

    Ferris asked: A question – where does that leave shuttle hardware? Is any and all shuttle hardware options (whether it be Direct, or something else) DOA?

    If Bush orders a suspension of the destruction of MAF and KSC facilities as requested in yesterday’s letter, then the facilities will remain and be available for any future STS-based development, such as DIRECT, or any other similar NLS-derived effort. The workforce issue however is another matter. No matter how good the knowledge base electronic retention is, Tribal Knowledge does not store well. Fired workers will not remain around for very long to be recalled, before they simply move on and find new careers elsewhere, just like post-Saturn. The Congress will need to move on that issue.

    One would hope that the Congress would decide quickly if it intends to continue to pursue an STS-based launch system for the VSE or not, and if so, to begin to fund it reasonably quickly after getting Orion into the air, in conjunction with a new architecture based on justifiable and sustainable recommendations from the new Administrator. Otherwise, that workforce skill base will be gone forever.

    There are many who say “good riddance”, but I would remind folks that the last time we had to do this, it took NASA over 20 years to re-establish that skill base, and to this very day, it has never been completely replaced. There are still things NASA can’t do today that Apollo/Saturn era veterans (such as me) did as a matter of course. Sometimes, it’s just more efficient to do whatever it takes to retain an existing asset, rather than destroy it and try to replace it later. It all comes down to money and schedule and that will depend on whether or not Congress still wants to retain an STS-based VSE or not.

  • Charles in Houston

    As Anonymous said, so correctly:
    What a total, utter, and complete failure of ESAS and Constellation to get even basic human LEO transportation fielded, tested, or even under substantial development before an excuse for Shuttle workforce representatives in Congress to reverse the VSE presented itself.

    What happened is that they had a huge conference and asked people what they wanted – and added it all without question. So naturally we have a program with ballooning costs and slipping availability.

    And now we see the compressed development schedule, we will see the test flights being scheduled months before the manned flights!

    And do we think that retiring the Shuttle is “free”?? There are documented costs of hundreds of millions of dollars (you should have seen the first estimate!!) to retire the Shuttle. It will be “cheaper” to keep flying it!

    And as Rand says – the certification costs are: what is on the estimate today. You can estimate the costs of an OMDP, and perhaps a mini-OMDP, but someone could come up with a Nano-OMDP or a Micro-OMDP, depending on what cost we have to get under. If you ask what does it cost to certify the Shuttle, someone will ask how much money you have!

  • spectator

    I honestly don’t see the problem here. We are talking about less than 1% of the federal budget needed to
    1. keep the shuttle flying a few more years
    2. fully fund Ares.
    Congress has thrown alot more money at lesser problems over the decades.

    Congress has supported Shuttle for over 30 years, what is another 5?
    Congress has supported Ares since 2005, why would they stop now unless Nasa coming to them on bended knee saying they screwed up with Ares and it won’t work, can’t be made to work?

    The problem here is for the “space community” to ok shuttle extension while at the same time trashing Ares. That will give Congress the excuse they need to take all Ares funding & VSE funding and use it for Shuttle and tell Nasa to come back in a few years when they know what they are doing. No EELV, no Orion, probably no COTS.

  • For 17 months while running for President, Senator Obama told Americans in Town Hall meetings and in speeches that he was going to cut Constellation by 85% for 5 years in order to pay for his Education program, effectively killing the manned Space program and weakening the Florida, northern Alabama, southern Mississippi, and Houston, Texas economies. That was, until it was clear Senator Obama was going to loose Florida and the Presidency unless he could win the I-4 corridor vote. So Senator Obama does a 180 and changes his tune from saying that NASA has not inspired to NASA is inspiring. I applaud anyone who goes from being a Luddite to enlightened on Space. But what is to keep then-President Obama from compromising yet again and going through with cuts to Constellation?

    And while Senator McCain, along with Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and Vitter, writes the President asking him to keep NASA from destroying Shuttle infrastructure, and KSC jobs, so that America can have manned access to Space independent of Russia, where is Senator Obama? If he cared about our manned Space program, he would be doing the same as McCain. But he is not. Because he does not.

    None of us know what is going to happen when the next NASA Administrator takes office and reassesses Constellation, Orion and Ares I. I’ve gone from hopefully optimistic to very worried. McCain got an ear-full when he met with aerospace workers and executives in Brevard County a couple of weeks ago, none of it rosy. So McCain knows things are not going well with America’s Space program. As to Senator Obama, I can’t say. All I can write is that he seems to have moved on from Space.

  • Al:

    CHUCK: I think the most likely outcome is a crash effort to complete Orion development, minus the Ares-I completely, and fly it on either or both of the EELV heavies.

    I agree that this is a more likely outcome.

    I hope that is the most likely outcome! I believe it would be near-ideal in setting us up for the future. (Although, after Russia’s recent behavior, I doubt an Atlas solution is in the political cars, and we’d need to go with a Delta-IV.

    spectator: I honestly don’t see the problem here . . . Congress has supported Shuttle for over 30 years,

    There are a number of key differences today:

    1). We are at two wars, one of which was optional, and they’re eating our budget for lunch. This is unlikely to change in the near term, since as one war is cooling down the other is hotting up.

    2). The baby boomers are retiring and have been promised huge amounts of money. They vote, and are unlikely to tolerate not getting at least most of what they’ve been promised.

    3). We’ve exported huge numbers of jobs — even most of the comsat and commercial launch vehicle industries; we’re in the slow process of exporting our last major manufacturing industry, airliners; even software is going to India — so we’re getting an ever more expensive unemployable underclass at the same time fewer people are able to pay taxes, either because they are retiring or their job no longer exists.

    4). While our military is second to none (for the moment), we’ve refused to invest in the future — I just had a friend return from a visit to Germany and she said it was like “visiting the future,” while her return flight staged through Philadelphia made her think of the third world. A few years ago, The Economist published a survey of America called “The Old Country;” it’s worth reading again.

    5). Instead of investing in the future, we — not just the government, almost all of us — have leveraged ourselves to hilt and today most of us cannot invest. Many (even most?) people actually have negative equity in their largest investments, their homes. Someday soon, when the rest of the world gets tired of financing our folly, somehow, we will be paying that off, not adventuring into the Solar System.

    I wish none of this we’re true, but we have lived beyond our collective means for decades and it is getting harder and harder to pretend that we have money to invest in spaceflight or anything else. And, there is another side: we are still the most technologically inventive country there is: it’s too bad we no longer really have the money to support it. I suspect our future will look more and more like Britain — tremendously inventive but without the financial wherewithall to actually develop and of what we create into useful products.

    NASA’s budget probably will not be significantly cut in the immediate future, but it won’t be significantly increased, either. I agree with what I believe that Anonymous has said: Dr. Griffin has wasted a unique, and possibly the last, opportunity for this nation to implement the truly visionary VSE. My only hope is that Elon, et al, can get somewhere . . . but I’m having trouble even sustaining that hope.

    – Donald

  • anon

    Al,

    “5) McCain has officially stated that he wants to *terminate* Shuttle flights.”

    Yet he writes this letter to the President calling for the option to extend until a replacement is ready. Sounds like you point is no longer valid.

    As for funding NASA more. Really, the amount needed to keep Shuttle going until a replacement is found is a nickle and dime amount compared to the 2.5 trillion plus federal budget as a whole. The key is if there is a national security justification to do so. And now with Russia backsliding to evil empire there is a huge one.

  • Jim,

    I have to say, I am impressed how you take a few selected facts, and twist them into “OBAMA HATES SPACE” Its a mem that I know that certain Rs on this board love to perpetuate, but it has no basis in fact.

    Yes, Obama has changed his position, but contrary to what you wrote, rather than over and over he was “effectively killing the manned space program”, the one consistent was that he wanted a NASA vision that could inspire, and a coherent space policy. Jeff’s recent article in the Space Review paints a much more accurate picture, one of evolution, rather than your claimed overnight electoral conversion.

  • anon

    Ferris,

    When McCain takes office you could basically count on Adm. Steidle or Pete Worden as the new Administrator. McCain has little patience for fools like Griffin.

  • Although, after Russia’s recent behavior, I doubt an Atlas solution is in the political cars

    It would be cheaper to fund P&W to start manufacturing RD-180s on shore than to modify the Delta upper stage to make it suitable for crewed flights. ULA has a three-year supply of engines on hand, which would give them time to set up a production line.

  • anon,
    is that why his only comment about how many houses he owns is “I was a POW”?

  • Al Fansome

    FANSOME: “5) McCain has officially stated that he wants to *terminate* Shuttle flights.”

    ANON: Yet he writes this letter to the President calling for the option to extend until a replacement is ready. Sounds like you point is no longer valid.

    It is clear that McCain is re-evaluating his position on terminating the Shuttle. However:

    1) He has not decided yet, nor does he need to decided until after he becomes President. He is just asking Pres. Bush to keep the option open.

    2) It costs very little to “keep the options open”.

    3) It almost certain that Senators Hutchison and Vitter did not have a long discussion of the implications of this letter. McCain is in the middle of campaign for President. This mean they almost certainly did not inform Sen. McCain of the implications of “continuing the Shuttle” while also continuing the Ares 1 and Orion programs at the current planned level of effort.

    We know this means a $3-5 billion per year increase in NASA’s budget between 2011-2015. That is a $15-25 billion decision.

    You may think that $15-25 billion is a “nickle and dime amount”, but Senator McCain will not.

    If & when he becomes President, and learns that the cost of “doing all of the above” is in the tens-of-billions-of-dollars range, he almost certainly will choose a more fiscally conservative option. There are options that address the problem within the current budget, and others that can solve it at an order of magnitude less cost ($1-2 Billion total cost).

    But, as I said before, McCain does not need to make that decision right now. He can wait until he becomes President.

    FWIW,

    - Al

    “Politics is not rocket science, which is why rocket scientists do not understand politics.”

  • Al Fansome

    RAND: It would be cheaper to fund P&W to start manufacturing RD-180s on shore than to modify the Delta upper stage to make it suitable for crewed flights. ULA has a three-year supply of engines on hand, which would give them time to set up a production line.

    Rand,

    More specifically, the U.S. Air Force is already funding an all-U.S. alternative to the RD-180. If anything, they just need to accelerate this program.

    This may already be happening as one result of the conflict in Georgia.

    - Al

  • Also, as I noted at my blog, extending Shuttle provides us with continuing access to ISS, but it doesn’t allow us to maintain crew there. Without Soyuz, for the US, it will be only man-tended while Shuttle is docked.

  • Joe Smith

    When I read statements like this:

    “The solution that Congress could easily try is the more money option for Nasa, up to around .8% of the federal budget… This isn’t so crazy since the sums needed are so small.”

    “Actually it looks like, at least under a McCain Administration, a big increase in NASA’s budget to accomplish the closing of the space flight gap is inevitable.”

    “I honestly don’t see the problem here. We are talking about less than 1% of the federal budget…”

    it’s clear to me just how out of touch the so-called “space community” is with policy and politics. If you’re really going to win more funding for NASA (which, remember, has actually done pretty well the last several years vis a vis other agencies), you’re going to have to come up with better arguments than that it only costs a small fraction of the federal budget. Lots of things cost only a small fraction of the federal budget; why should space be special?

    Space may be a vacuum, but space policy is not created in one.

  • Anon

    Joe,

    Space may be a vacuum, but space policy is not created in one.

    Exactly!

    Your forget that NASA was created as a result of the Cold War and had its best budget years as a tool of American policy against Russia. What do think Apollo, the Shuttle and Space Station Freedom were all about? Science and engineering?

    Ensuring U.S. access to ISS fits in with that funding history. Increasing NASA budget 2-3 billion a year for science is a non-starter. Raising it 2-3 billion to send Russia a message is very doable. The key is if commercial space will get to tag along with a COTS-D. The fact that its mentioned in the letter is very encouraging.

  • Anon

    Ferris,

    anon,
    is that why his only comment about how many houses he owns is “I was a POW”?

    And that has what to do with space policy? Please try to stay on topic…

  • gm

    THREE YEARS AGO I’ve suggested to SAVE the Space Shuttle and modify it to fly CREWLESS for (at least) FIVE more years beyond 2010, in this article:
    gaetanomarano
    .it/spaceShuttle
    /spaceshuttle
    .html
    then, in the days, weeks, months and years after my september 15, 2005 article, I’ve posted and open threads about my idea on several space forums and blogs just to receive LOTS, TONS, PLENTY of critics and insults from the (self calling) “experts” that post there…
    and now (just three years later…) many of the “experts” that wrote lots of critics and insults against me, some US Senators and the US presidential candidate McCain (!!!) finally agree with me about my proposal… :)

  • spectator

    Anon, lets not get dreamy eyed about the holiness of the federal budget. Congress and the Executive all spend gigantic sums on programs that someone considers vital and at the same time someone else considers a waste of money. I think about 30-40% of everyone taxes is wasted, looted or unwisely spent. But that is just me.

    If Congress and the Executive wrap “vital national interest” around something, guess what? It gets funded double.

    It is a fact that America’s presence in space has been considered a “vital national interest” in the past. It might yet be again. The arguments for increased funding will be made, and if Congress agrees, then clearly its not a major funding issue to enable Shuttle to fly 5 more years and speed Ares along. Spending another 15 billion on Nasa over the next 5 years is chump change in the Federal treasury.

  • Anon

    Spectator,

    Exactly. If its a national security issue both will be funded. Now the question is if New Space will be nimble enough to tag along by arguing a national security basis for COTS-D.

  • Me

    gm, get over yourself and stop lying.

    some US Senators and the US presidential candidate McCain (!!!) DO NOT agree with your proposal…”

    They propose to keep the shuttle flying but manned not like your proposal

  • Many people have proposed flying the Shuttle without crew over the years. The notion doesn’t become less ignorant with repetition.

  • anonymous.space

    “Actually it looks like, at least under a McCain Administration, a big increase in NASA’s budget to accomplish the closing of the space flight gap is inevitable… so we might well see that 4 or so billion dollar increase, starting with an emergency supplemental early next year.”

    Based on what?

    The McCain/Hutchison/Vitter letter in Mr. Foust’s original post does not request or make any promise of additional funding.

    McCain himself has opposed the one-time, $1 billion Mikulski “miracle” in the past (forget $4-5 billion annually). See (add http://www):

    .space.com/spacenews/archive06/Editorial_071706.html

    And if elected President, McCain has promised to freeze the discretionary budget (the part of the federal budget that NASA resides in) and subject all discretionary programs to review in FY 2010. See (add http://):

    firstread.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2008/04/15/893281.asp

    There’s no evidence that McCain (or Obama or anyone else) is proposing or plans to propose a $4 billion increase in NASA’s budget (for Shuttle or anything else). And McCain himself has a record of strong fiscal responsibility and opposition to large NASA budget increases in particular.

    “Under Obama, a different story; he would likely bring about the doom and gloom scenarios I see here.”

    Again, based on what?

    Obama has promised to add $2 billion to NASA’s budget. See (add http://www):

    .washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/18/AR2008081802171_pf.html

    I don’t agree with where Obama is going to spend that $2 billion and that amount still falls an order of magnitude short of the funding needed to keep Shuttle operating through the gap, but the fact Obama is proposing to increase (not freeze or decrease) the NASA budget remains.

    “McCain regards dealing with the space flight gap a matter of national security”

    Yet again, there’s no evidence for this. McCain’s own revised space policy statement talks about NASA’s human space flight program in terms of national pride domestically and national image abroad, not in terms of national security. And even then, the policy argues that with the end of the Cold War and the proliferation of civil space programs around the globe, the profile of human space flight has been reduced. See (add http://www):

    .johnmccain.com/informing/issues/7366faf9-d504-4abc-a889-9c08d601d8ee.htm

    “so we might well see that 4 or so billion dollar increase, starting with an emergency supplemental early next year.”

    I’m not trying to be mean, but you’re just making this up. There’s no evidence that anyone in power has proposed or is planning to propose a multi-billion dollar emergency supplemental for NASA. Period.

    FWIW…

  • [...] America’s next generation of space flight.” Shelby and Jeff Sessions were responding to a letter earlier this week by Sens. John McCain, Kay Bailey Hutchison, and David Vitter, asking the president to direct NASA [...]

  • Chuck2200

    Opinion:
    IF (big if) Shuttle gets extended, it will spell the end of the Ares launch vehicle, but not of Orion. All the funding that was to go into Ares will be diverted to getting Orion flying on an EELV. VSE (which is still the law of the land) will be temporally suspended and Constellation (which is not the law of the land) will be killed outright. Orion will be recast as a LEO personnel transport, upgradeable to a Block-II spacecraft at a later date. Congress will pay what it must for 3 years to make Orion-EELV happen, specifically to ensure US access to American orbital assets, including ISS, and then retire the Shuttle. The goal will be to have Orion-EELV operational before the exemption expires in 2011, or within no more than 6 months of that, so that an American can remain aboard ISS. The driving issue will be eliminating the gap as a matter of national security. While Constellation will be dead, the VSE will still exist. NASA will have a new Administrator, who will be directed by the Congress, once LEO access is ensured, to recommend a new architecture to implement the VSE. The result will not look anything like Constellation and the schedule will be reconfigured to fit new political realities.

    FWIW

  • gm

    @Rand and Clark/Me/Jim/Charlie/etc.
    my suggestion was to fly them crewless due to astronauts’ safety concerns, but, 15 months later, I’ve suggested to modify the Shuttles to be SAFER also for MANNED flights:
    gaetanomarano
    .it/articles/
    015safeShuttle
    .html

  • my suggestion was to fly them crewless due to astronauts’ safety concerns, but, 15 months later, I’ve suggested to modify the Shuttles to be SAFER also for MANNED flights:

    Yes, as I said, many have made such idiotic suggestions in the past. The Shuttle has been made as safe as it can be, and astronauts are willing to continue to fly it as is. It is pointless to fly it without them, because sending astronauts to space is one of its primary functions.

  • Me

    gm,

    All your shuttle ‘improvements” are not workable, just as all other ideas. Your ‘ideas’ would make the shuttle too heavy to carry any payloads and too nose heavy to glide.

  • gm

    @Rand
    no true experts can say what you’re claiming in your post!
    after the Shuttle retirement (both) NASA and USA (and military too) will face TWO orders of six+ years GAPs:
    a) an independent manned/assembly/repair flights gap (that’s why NASA/USA will need to buy lots of Soyuz seats!) and…
    b) an independent big-cargo/cargo-return flights gap (that’s why NASA/USA will need to buy lots of Progress, ATV, HTV and COTS cargo veicles!)
    EACH crewless Shuttle could be able to carry up to 33 mT of (“SMART”) cargo and (as explained in my article) may allow (like today) every kind of assembly, repair, maintenance, cargo-return jobs with the ISS hardware and crews (send with Soyuz)
    WITHOUT the Shuttles, the first REAL rocket able to carry 30 mT of DUMB cargo to LEO will be the Ares-1 (assuming it works…) after 2016 (or LATER if the early rocket will be used to launch the Orion) while, the first rocket able to carry over 130 mT of DUMB cargo will be the Ares-5 (assuming it will born… and work…) after 2022 (or LATER if the early Ares-5 will be used for lunar missions)
    then, MY “crewless” Space Shuttle (suggested in my first article) may FILL the six+ years SMART “cargo-gap”, while, a SAFER Space Shuttle (suggested in my second article) can FILL (both) six+ years cargo AND crew launch GAPs WITHOUT any risk to LOSE three more crews (20+ astronauts) if something goes wrong!
    about “smart” and “dumb” cargo: the first is an ATV/HTV/Shuttle cargo that can be moved from orbit to orbit, docked to the ISS, used to reboost the space station, undock, reentry (or burn in the atmosphere) while a “dumb” cargo is a payload that remains in its parking orbit (like a satellite) and is unable to do anything without an (unexisting) “space-tug” or an (existing) Space Shuttle… :)

  • gm

    Rand said… “The Shuttle has been made as safe as it can be, and astronauts are willing to continue to fly it as is.”

    no, the Shuttle is safe as it WAS acceptable and accepted when it was designed (in the early, risky, years of spaceflights) but, now (especially after the Challenger and Columbia accidents) this kind of safety standards are no more acceptable nor accepted by politics and public opinion, the, the astronauts may still risk their lives (if the want) but, if the Shuttle will be used to fly crewed 5-10 more years, it MUST be modified to be SAFER (or, just to fly CREWLESS to fill only the six+ years big-SMART-cargo-GAP)

  • gm

    “Me” said… “too heavy to carry any payloads”

    no, without the astronauts, life support, etc. each Shuttle can carry its full 28.5 mT payload (reduced to 24 mT max after the Challenger accident, olnly for “safety reasons”) PLUS 3-5 extra-mT (the weight of the astronauts, life support and all other things useless in a cargo-only flight)

    “too nose heavy to glide”

    wrong!
    without the astronauts, life support, etc. it has LESS weight at reentry!
    however, the problem is easy to solve moving the mass inside the cargo-bay to balance the CG

  • gm

    post edit: …it has LESS “nose” weight…

  • Anon

    Anonymous Space,

    If this was a history debate then the level of evidence YOU need to be convinced would be possible. But in the real world such a level of information is a luxury. Instead you need to analyze what little data is available within the context of relevant historical behavior and the current environment when determining the likely space policy of a candidate or party. That is where a good analysis earns their money.

    For example, the mostly likely running mate that McCain is going to announce will be Rep. Deborah Pryce, who is strong leader in Congress and the ranking Republican on the Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Insurance, and Government Sponsored Enterprises of the Financial Services Committee, a choice that explains the current information available to the public on his selection and his campaign strategy.

    But you won’t find the level of evidence you require to determine that. That requires looking beyond the data.

  • Me

    Clueless gm,

    My comments were about your “safer” shuttle (which is not workable). The unmanned shuttle is not feasible also. The whole shuttle was designed around having crew intervention. Modifications would be too intensive to make it unmanned

  • anonymous.space

    “If this was a history debate then the level of evidence YOU need to be convinced would be possible.”

    Convinced of what? This sentence makes no sense.

    “Instead you need to analyze what little data is available within the context of relevant historical behavior and the current environment when determining the likely space policy of a candidate or party.”

    We don’t have to determine the “likely space policy” of either remaining Presidential candidate, on the basis of a “little data”, “relevant historical behavior”, and/or the “current environment”. Each candidate has published his _actual_ space policy on his campaign’s website.

    “For example, the mostly likely running mate that McCain is going to announce will be Rep. Deborah Pryce, who is strong leader in Congress and the ranking Republican on the Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Insurance, and Government Sponsored Enterprises of the Financial Services Committee, a choice that explains the current information available to the public on his selection and his campaign strategy.”

    This is a total non-sequitor.

    What the heck does your (or anyone else’s) guess about Vice Presidential candidates have to do with whether or not the next White House and Congress will cough up the multi-ten gigabucks required to maintain Shuttle operations for another half-decade?

    “But you won’t find the level of evidence you require to determine that.”

    Where did I say that I was trying to “determine” (predict?) McCain’s Veep selection?

    You’re the one who wants to discuss Veep picks on a space policy website, not me. Don’t drag me into your off-topic discussion.

    “That requires looking beyond the data.”

    Sounds like a lame excuse for not doing one’s homework and making wild guesses instead of researching and synthesizing evidence from actual sources.

    FWIW…

  • anonymous.space

    And Griffin, and possibly the White House, have apparently given in. See (add http://):

    blogs.orlandosentinel.com/news_space_thewritestuff/

    If the results of this study become the new plan, then the core of the VSE strategy — finish ISS and get off Shuttle ASAP so the next system can be developed — is dead. Even if we ignore the $4 billion per year (as quoted by Griffin in the article, or $20 billion total through 2015) necessary to keep the Shuttle operational and assume that the Constellation budget is not wiped out to pay for it (one helluva an assumption), Ares I/Orion shares a huge amount of infrastructure in common with the Shuttle, as noted in the leaked email. How the heck is Ares I/Orion development suppossed to proceed if Constellation can’t modify the pads, the mobile launcher platform, or the crawler? Or if Shuttle and the Ares I U/S are competing for engine test stands at Stennis?

    The Senators who sent the request to the White House, as well as Griffin and the White House itself, need to be asked some very hard questions.

    Do they support the additional $4 billion per year necessary to extend Shuttle operations and keep Ares I/Orion (or whatever replaces it) development on track? Are they sure that the rest of Congress and the next White House will agree to a 20-percent plus increase in NASA’s $17 billion budget when other discretionary departments and agencies enjoy inflationary budget increases, at best? When Congress can’t even pass a one-time, $1 billion increase in NASA’s budget (Mikulski miracle) to pay for the costs of Columbia recovery and Katrina damage at NASA centers? When the Presidential candidates are only jousting over a one-time, $2 billion increase in NASA’s budget?

    If they don’t support such an increase or are unsure whether they or the system can cough another $4 billion, then what offsets in the rest of the NASA budget do they propose? Would they cancel Constellation? Or wipe out the science budget? Or would they BRAC NASA’s field center structure and rationalize NASA’s workforce? Those are really the only three offsets left in the NASA budget that are big enough to absorb Shuttle extension.

    And setting budgets aside, what alternative do they propose to Ares I/Orion to replace the Shuttle since that program will be unable to modify the Shuttle infrastructure it needs if Shuttle is extended? Do they propose using USAF EELVs? An enhanced COTS program? Or something else? Since they’ve been uncomfortable with the workforce implications of a non-Shuttle-derived successor, are they comfortable with those implications now?

    And are they comfortable with the safety implications of flying the Shuttle past 2010? Barring a multi-billion recertification as recommended by the CAIB, this is a 30-year old system with miles of wiring and scores of equipment that hasn’t been touched in that entire timeframe, even during OMDPs. It’s also a system that’s broken up on reentry and scattered debris over a handful of U.S. states.

    NASA’s human space flight program is threatening to embark upon a very poorly thought out course (after embarking on a poorly thought out and failed course arising from ESAS). A lot more than just what the new Shuttle manifest would look like needs to be carefully examined here.

    Sigh…

  • A lot more than just what the new Shuttle manifest would look like needs to be carefully examined here.

    Yes, but admittedly, a new manifest is a first step. It sets the requirements.

  • Chuck2200

    anonymous: “Ares I/Orion shares a huge amount of infrastructure in common with the Shuttle, as noted in the leaked email. How the heck is Ares I/Orion development supposed to proceed if Constellation can’t modify the pads, the mobile launcher platform, or the crawler? Or if Shuttle and the Ares I U/S are competing for engine test stands at Stennis?”

    You make the mistake of linking Orion with Ares. The answer is easy; separate them. Cancel Ares, and pour that funding into Orion and mate it to a man-rated EELV. That can potentially completely eliminate the gap altogether. Then Congress can direct the new administrator to suggest a new architecture to implement the VSE; one based on real facts, not someone’s pet idea. Done that way, I wouldn’t be surprised if we still made the 2020 lunar landing deadline, only with a launch vehicle family firmly grounded in reality.

  • Al Fansome

    Yes, NASA has started a **study** of what it would take to extend the Shuttle.

    Please note that a classic bureaucratic play, when you don’t want to fight somebody head on, but you still want to kill it is to “do a study” and defer the decision to a later date.

    Now, there is no way for me to know if this is what is happening, but knowing Griffin’s opposition to extending the Shuttle program (he actually wanted to terminate it much earlier), this is what I suspect is happening.

    FWIW,

    - Al

  • me

    Al,

    It isn’t as you state it. It is a legitimate study to find what it would take.

  • Al Fansome

    ME: It isn’t as you state it. It is a legitimate study to find what it would take.

    Me,

    Unless you are Mike Griffin, it is hard to read what is in the mind of Mike Griffin know what how he intends to use the study as part of his strategy to implement his top priority — Constellation. Now maybe you work for him, and have better data that I do. I can only make a guess based on what I know about him.

    Since you are speaking as if you are an expert in this area, and maybe you are, I have some questions for you.

    1) What is the SOW of this study? When will it be finished?

    2) Who is leading it? (Mike Hawes as the new head of PA&E?)

    3) Is this study being done with the support of, or at the direction of, the White House?

    4) If not, why is NASA doing a study that contradicts explicit Administration policy?

    5) If not, has the White House inquired about what NASA is doing, and what has NASA’s response been to the White House?

    6) Assuming Mike Griffin supports this direction, how does he reconcile keeping the Shuttle going, while also keeping Constellation on schedule for an Ares 1/Orion launch in 2015 (given he needs Shuttle people, infrastructure and money for the Constellation program).

    FWIW,

    - Al

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>