Sunday’s Huntsville Times includes a package of stories about the effect last week’s general election—including not just the presidential campaign but changes in Alabama’s Congressional delegation—will have on key issues for the area, principally missile defense and space. Some in the region are concerned that the transition to a Democratic administration, coupled with the retirement of senior lawmaker Rep. Bud Cramer (D-AL), could mean cuts to projects like Ares and Orion.
Cramer’s newly-elected successor, Parker Griffith, also a conservative Democrat, said he will seek a seat on the House Science and Technology Committee, one of three committee posts he’s seeking. (Cramer had served on the Appropriations committee). In an interview with the Times, he described his position on Constellation:
Where do you stand on NASA’s Ares program, designed to take man back to the moon and eventually to Mars?
I am extremely pro-Ares I and Ares V. (A lot of that development work takes place at Marshall Space Flight Center.) I think we need to be especially sure that we accomplish V, which will be our large workhorse for NASA. That is absolutely critical for us to maintain our position as a leader in space exploration.
We will have intense discussion about whether to continue additional shuttle missions, which will involve money. (The shuttle program is set to be shut down in 2010.) We’ll have people on both sides of the aisle wanting to accomplish both things, possibly two more shuttle missions and the completion of Ares I and V.
It’s not clear from the statement whether the two shuttle missions means two on top of the additional shuttle mission for the AMS that Congress ordered this fall in the NASA authorization bill, or if it’s one additional mission plus the AMS one.
Meanwhile, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), who is expected to return to his position as the ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee dealing with NASA, remains hopeful about adding money to NASA’s budget:
“We’ll continue to deal with NASA,” he said, adding that Marshall Space Flight Center is in a key position. “You know, the role that Marshall plays … you can’t go anywhere in space without propulsion.
“We would like to see a larger NASA budget,” Shelby said. “It’s a big fight every year. … I hope to do it but we’re going to have some challenges and some political fights. But I’ll be there working for Marshall.”
Others, though, have mixed expectations for what the new administration will mean to NASA in general and Marshall Space Flight Center in particular. Mark McDaniel, a Huntsville lawyer and former NASA Advisory Committee member who is said in the article to be working with the Obama transition team, said to expect more funding for the sciences and aeronautics. “The vision of the next White House is very much one that would rely on science and technology as a mission for NASA,” he said.
Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute, though, doesn’t think there will be much emphasis for “lunar exploration” in the Obama Administration. “Although Obama has expressed support for human spaceflight later in his campaign, after saying he would shift that money to other programs, I wouldn’t think it will go to pay for lunar exploration,” he said, adding that “unmanned science will probably be the focus” for NASA in the new administration.