Congress, NASA, White House

An early mark(er) for shuttle life extension

This week the Senate Budget Committee released its “Chairman’s Mark” for the FY2010 budget resolution, which included a few paragraphs about NASA. This passage in particular caught the attention of shuttle advocates, particularly in Florida:

NASA currently intends to retire its Space Shuttles at the end of 2010, after completing the current manifest of flights plus an additional flight to transport scientific payloads to the International Space Station. The criteria for Shuttle retirement, however, remains the completion of scheduled flights, and a fixed retirement date could create dangerous scheduling pressures. Consequently, the Chairman’s Mark recognizes the possibility that currently planned Shuttle missions may continue beyond the end of 2010, and provides $2.5 billion above the President’s request for 2011.

Claiming credit for adding the language was Sen. Bill Nelson, a member of the budget committee and a supporter for keeping the shuttle flying if it does not complete its current manifest of missions by the end of next year. “The Budget Committee’s decision sends a strong signal that the shuttle shouldn’t be retired on a date-certain, but only when all the missions are completed,” he said in a statement.

The signal, though, is largely a symbolic one. Even if the language remains in the final budget resolution this year, appropriators next year won’t be beholden to funding it. It does, though, further suggest that Nelson and the Obama Administration—which stated in its budget outline released last month that it still plans to retire the shuttle in 2010—don’t see eye to eye on space issues.

7 comments to An early mark(er) for shuttle life extension

  • Chuck2200

    “suggest that Nelson and the Obama Administration—which stated in its budget outline released last month that it still plans to retire the shuttle in 2010″

    Not necessarily accurate. Remember, Obama has yet to detail an “official” space policy beyond his position as a candidate, which DOES align with Nelson more closely. The maintainence of the 2010 date is largely a knee-jerk of the OMB from the last throws of the Bush days and do not reflect the Obama non-policy. There isn’t one yet.

  • Major Tom

    “The maintainence of the 2010 date is largely a knee-jerk of the OMB from the last throws of the Bush days and do not reflect the Obama non-policy.”

    The budgets that OMB sends to Congress are reviewed by the White House, all the way up to the President himself. And all the Bush political appointees at OMB resigned effective the day of the inauguration. So unless there was an error (which would have been corrected by now), the 2010 date is the Obama White House policy.

    The latest threat of another 18-month slip/$7 billion overrun on Ares I/Orion may force the Obama Administration to reassess the 2010 retirement date:

    http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2009/03/aresorion-slipping-18-months-shuttle-extension-upper-hand/

    But it’s the policy.

    FWIW…

  • Chuck2200

    There is no “policy” yet.
    You might think of the the WH “review” in a similar vein as a “continuing resolution” while the President concentrates on more weighty matters.

  • Major Tom

    “You might think of the the WH ‘review’”

    Adding quotation marks to “review” doesn’t change the fact that the White House made a budget decision, printed it, and sent it to Congress.

    Sen. Nelson and other may disagree and pass budget resolutions to the contrary, but that doesn’t change the decision that the White House already made.

    “in a similar vein as a ‘continuing resolution’”

    This decision is nothing like a CR. A CR keeps programs funded at their current appropriated levels. This was a decision to end the Shuttle program and stop funding. Very different things.

    FWIW…

  • Doug Lassiter

    It has little to do, in this case, with the Budget Committee making some interpretation of administration non-policy or hold-over policy. The policy is in black and white in the FY10 budget summary submitted by the White House to Congress. To wit …

    “NASA will fly the Space Shuttle to complete the International Space Station and then retire the Shuttle in 2010; an additional flight may be conducted if it can safely and affordably be flown by the end of 2010.”

    That’s about explicit a statement of current WH policy as you’re likely to ever find.

    But the Budget Committee is in no way obligated to rubber stamp that budget proposal. In fact, the Chairman’s Mark supports most, but not all, of the President’s budget proposal.

  • Al Fansome

    I agree with Major Tom and Mr. Lassiter.

    Words have meaning.

    The Obama White House has not written much NASA policy, but the few words it has written are pretty clear policy.

    Now, Chuck2200 and many others may want to change this policy, but that is a different story.

    FWIW,

    - Al

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