Congress, NASA

It’s all your fault, Bill

The shuttle is still scheduled to retire in 2010, with a several-year gap to follow until Ares 1 and Orion are ready to enter service. As a result, thousands, if not tens of thousands, of jobs at the Kennedy Space Center and the surrounding Space Coast region are in jeopardy during one of the worst periods for the national economy since the Great Depression. And it’s all your fault, Sen. Bill Nelson.

Well, not really, but it’s not difficult to get that impression from an Orlando Sentinel article today that some in the industry, as well as a former Congressman, had pinned their hopes on Nelson as an “angel” to watch over those interests, only to have apparently failed them. Nelson is criticized for not winning more for spaceflight programs in the stimulus bill (one “space-industry executive” called Nelson’s approach to winning support for NASA funding in the legislation “pathetic”, according to the article) as well as not convincing the Obama Administration to extend the shuttle’s life beyond 2010. Retired Congressman Dave Weldon said he was “disappointed” with what Nelson has accomplished on the issue, but added that “I know that he has tried.”

So does Nelson deserve all this blame? The article doesn’t note that the $400 million set aside for “exploration” in the stimulus bill—the part most likely to directly benefit KSC—was $400 million more than what was in the House version of the bill; the Senate version of the stimulus bill, supported by Nelson, had $500 million for exploration. And while Nelson boasts of his influence on Obama’s shift on space policy during the campaign—he tells the Sentinel “I took it upon myself to counsel with candidate Obama” on space—how much influence he really had then, or has now, is less certain.

The article correctly explains that Nelson’s influence in the Senate is limited because he is not an appropriator, and thus he (and his Space Coast constituents) are at a disadvantage compared to Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Richard Shelby, the chair and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate appropriations subcommittee with oversight of the NASA budget. However, while the Sentinel quotes Weldon about his disappointment with Nelson, it only mentions in passing that, for his last several years in Congress, Weldon was an appropriator himself, including a stint as vice-chair of the House subcommittee with NASA oversight—and even he wasn’t able to prevent or mitigate this situation.

If Floridians are really concerned about the economic fallout from the shuttle’s retirement, they may want to cultivate some more “angels” in Congress rather than rely on a single individual, especially one with limited access to the federal purse strings.

4 comments to It’s all your fault, Bill

  • Ultimately, NASA funcing is a pretty hard sell for anyone not directly interested in it. And given the basic facts of the shuttle, it’s far from surprising that there aren’t many championing post-2010 flights on anything other than a special interest level. It’s just not a national priority at the moment, though I agree that the jobs on the space coast demonstrate that maybe it should be.

    Lets just hope that if we simply continue to march step by step into a shuttle-less 2011 that all those talented minds on the space coast find their way into either other NASA projects or into the private space industry. In fact,having some insiders working for the COTS folks could prove to be a bureaucratic boon to teams like SpaceX who’ve set their sights on D capabilities.

  • pr

    The mere fact that anyone could make the statement that “… tens of thousands of jobs at the Kennedy Space Center … are in jeopardy” says a whole lot about the Space Shuttle program. It takes that many people to get next to nothing accomplished in space. It also says that a lot of people understand the most significant thing the Space Shuttle does: provide barrels of lard to be spread out by pols who claim that they are “creating jobs.” Never mind the jobs that got destroyed by the taxation to pay for it. It’s the modern version of bread and circuses to distract the peasant class.

    If those 10,000 Space Shuttle workers are worth anything they will find something more productive to do pretty quickly, so the sooner they are dropped off the Shuttle payroll the better. If they aren’t, same thing. If Florida wants to pay to keep that worthless enterprise afloat, let them have at it, but Wyoming shouldn’t be compelled to.

  • John Malkin

    I agree I don’t see why they want to keep 10,000 workers around for Ares I and V. I hope far less are required but they may want to keep some key people around for Ares V but not 10,000. Oh I know why, I just haven’t heard any good justification.

    The blame goes on past Presidents and Congress since not until VSE did we have a firm goal for access to space. None of the attempts at manned spacecraft have had full Presidential and Congressional support as a real end goal since Shuttle. NASA was left to determine their own goals. This is not the job of an agency or department. It’s the job of Congress. It’s not to say that the NASA administrators are without blame but they don’t have the real power and they change ever 4 to 8 years. VSE was based on recommendations from CAIB which is sad that vision has to come from such tragedy. It also recommended that the vision exist beyond a single administration.

  • SpaceMan

    Looks like this post was excellent ignorant troll bait. Three responses and not a bit of knowledge of reality. Such is the Reagan Spell delusions.

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