Augustine panel announcement and feedback

On Monday NASA formally announced the members of the Augustine panel, with few, if any, surprises in its membership. Most of the names had been previously reported by the Orlando Sentinel on Thursday (and another, Leroy Chiao, on Friday); the only name missing was Charles Kennel.

Also on Monday, acting administrator Chris Scolese signed the committee’s charter, identifying four key objectives:

1) expediting a new U.S. capability to support utilization of the International Space Station (ISS);
2) supporting missions to the Moon and other destinations beyond low-Earth orbit (LEO);
3) stimulating commercial space flight capability;
4) fitting within the current budget profile for NASA exploration activities.

In addition to those objectives, the panel should, according to the charter, “the review should examine the appropriate amount of research and development and complementary robotic activities needed to make human space flight activities most productive and affordable over the long term, as well as appropriate opportunities for international collaboration. It should also evaluate what capabilities would be enabled by each of the potential architectures considered. It should evaluate options for extending ISS operations beyond 2016.”

One interesting item in the charter: the committee is supposed to issue its final report “within 120 days of the first meeting” of the committee, yet the panel is also supposed to “present its results in time to support an administration decision on the way forward by August 2009″, according to the press release. A quick check of the calendar confirms that the end of August is only about 90 days away, not 120.

In yesterday’s issue of The Space Review, I report on some comments about the Augustine committee and what it should do from the ISDC. Much of it is from comments by now-confirmed panelist Jeff Greason previously reported here, but there are some other comments from the likes of Buzz Aldrin and Robert Zubrin. Both of them would like to see the panel recommend a shift of emphasis from the Moon to Mars.

Finally, committee member Leroy Chiao is openly soliciting ideas to be considered by the panel on his blog.

10 comments to Augustine panel announcement and feedback

  • richardb

    Which current budget profile, the one with the extra 2 billion or the one with the 3 billion cut thru 2013 (

    If its the later, then the Moon or Mars before 2030 is deader than Jimmy Duranty. I’m guessing given the trillions of dollars in unfunded spending Obama wants that we’ll be lucky that its only a 3 billion cut thru 2013 and not something far, far higher. The fact that Sec. Geithner was laughed at in China when he sought to assure his Chinese audience that their dollar accounts were safe suggests we’ll be lucky to keep the cuts at 3 billion.
    Moon, Mars, adios.

  • Yeah, it’s all Obama’s fault that Mike Griffin wasted billions on a new launch vehicle that wasn’t needed instead of actually developing real lunar hardware. I do share your disgust at the trillions of dollars in unfunded spending, but the reality is that NASA’s Human Spaceflight Program is not giving anywhere near the return on investment that it ought to be giving. The fact that for at least once in his presidency, Obama isn’t rewarding failure is to be an improvement.


  • richardb

    Why drag Griffin into this budget knife fight about to take place? Its West Side Story set at Cape Canaveral, FL with an all new cast. I am sympathetic to Obama’s problem with Nasa as we have another NASA boondoogle over the CLV being too expensive 5 years before its first test flight. The tragedy I see is that the fiscal train wreck that Obama is accelerating into will cause deep cuts in many worthy programs, starting next year. Nasa I think will get some very deep cuts, beyond the 3 billion already planned.

  • Richard,
    I wouldn’t be surprised if NASA saw some serious cuts. I’m just saying that if Griffin hadn’t blown our opportunity, NASA would likely be in a much better position budgetarily. Cutting a program that’s on-time, on-budget, and delivering major milestones (like OSP or CEV on an EELV would be doing by now had they not been canceled) is a lot less likely than one that is running behind schedule, plagued with technical problems, and way overbudget.

    NASA is a favorite budgetary whipping boy, but what Griffin did with ESAS made NASA’s plight significantly worse.


  • Major Tom

    “Which current budget profile, the one with the extra 2 billion or the one with the 3 billion cut thru 2013″

    The FY 2010 budget request for NASA is $957 million less than the FY 2009 budget request for NASA in 2012 and 2013. But between the stimulus and accelerated funding in the FY 2010 budget request, 2009, 2010, and 2011 are a combined $2,001 million higher. The net is a $1,044 million increase to NASA’s budget from 2009 through 2013.
    And the additional funding comes earlier, which makes it more valuable. Even if there was a three billion cut to NASA in the outyears, it would probably be a rough wash with the two billion increase in the near-years, due to the time value of money.

    “If its the later, then the Moon or Mars before 2030 is deader than Jimmy Duranty.”

    The budget is not the problem. The problem is that Constellation’s costs have almost doubled and are continuing to rise. NASA’s own projected costs for Constellation through first lunar landing have risen from $57 billion to $92 billion. Based on past cost growth, CBO estimates that this figure will top $110 billion before it’s all over. See pages 16-17 in this recent report:

    A $3 billion cut would pale in comparison to the $35-43 billion increase in Constellation costs through first lunar landing (more than a factor of ten difference). That’s crazy cost growth that busts the original VSE budget and is not sustainable. Part of the Augustine panel’s job is to get those costs back in the box.

    “I’m guessing given the trillions of dollars in unfunded spending Obama wants that we’ll be lucky that its only a 3 billion cut thru 2013 and not something far, far higher. The fact that Sec. Geithner was laughed at in China when he sought to assure his Chinese audience that their dollar accounts were safe suggests we’ll be lucky to keep the cuts at 3 billion.”

    I’m no fan of most of the stimulus bill, but it’s a small piece of the deficit/debt compared to what’s coming in medicare and social security. The demographics and political decisions that will drive medicare and social security costs in the next few years were put in place years and decades ago. Although it falls on the Obama Administration’s watch to fix these costs (and it’s unclear whether they can given their spending so far), this White House is actually not to blame for the primary drivers of the massive deficits projected for the coming years.


  • richardb

    From the link I included here is their claim
    “But the administration’s predicted budgets through 2013 show an overall cut of $3.1 billion for the exploration systems directorate in charge of Constellation, cuts that have sent shock waves through the NASA community.

    “That’s the real story,” a senior space manager, who asked not to be named, said of NASA’s Thursday budget briefing. “It’s like that Sherlock Holmes thing, the real story is the dog that didn’t bark in the night. … If the three-plus billion dollars in the out years, if that cut stands, then there’s no moon by 2020 and maybe none at all.”

    The USG is broke guys, and is surviving now by printing money Argentina circa 1999 style. Federal spending under the Obama administration is unsustainable probably just 1 year from now and Nasa, along with many other agencies, will see deep cuts regardless of the cause. I think California is a good analogy to what will happen at the federal level. Just as the powers that be in CA have known for at least a decade that their spending was far above revenues, so have the Democrats and Republicans in DC known that the baby boom retirement would put unsustainable fiscal demands upon Medicare and Social Security. Warnings have been sounded since Reagan’s era. Always, and I mean without exception, Congress has dawdled under both parties control. Now with the Obama budget bomb exploding now and years before the Medicare and SSN bombs, a true crisis is at hand.

    The end result is worthy programs all across the federal budget will get butchered as soon as next year IMHO. Even if VSE had been executed perfectly, a first in aerospace, under the current conditions it would still be cut back.

  • common sense


    To your point. The political discourse in the US has become so pathetically inept that the result is what we get. This discourse has mainly focused on irreconcilable differences (e.g. abortion, religion, gay mariage to name a few) making anything else (e.g. Social Security, Medicare, Healthcare, etc) go down the tube. And finger pointing is the rule. Total abdication of the mainstream media to so called free market forces and sensationalism derived from the differences above put us where we are. Who said “you have the democracy you deserve”?

    This WH is not especially responsible for it – some of its members may be though. Those now have the interesting task of undoing all the neglect and negligence of past WHs and Congress. The stimulus is a monster. Our children may dearly pay for this and it is not fair. Who cares about the space program? And, lest we forget, the government used to provide what the public demanded: Easy purchasing power, regardless of consequences aka immediate gratification. The public never demanded easy access to space.

    NASA should be happy to have the budget they have and even though I’d love to see it higher it might as well be much lower. I hope the Augustine Panel will come up with innovative and smart ways to go forward or NASA Exploration will have to sharpen its PowerPoint-pencils for the foreseeable future whether we like it or not.

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  • Dr.L.H. Meredith

    The study’s objectives seem selfserving at best and seem to assume a manned program is still needed. Space is no longer a new frontier but a field well explored and used and the study should focus on what NASA’s scientific and applications objectives should be and then determine the best way to accomplish such objectives, whether manned or unmanned, and then cost, schedule, and risk. If this is too big a job in the time allowed then at a minimum the study should include a study for each manned program of the costs and shedule for meeting the program objectives by unmanned missions.

  • As a Floridan and the best unpaid space expert in the State I have to say I’m a little embarrassed by the morning testimony at KSC by people who want to turn NASA from a space program into a jobs program. I have already predicted that NASA workers are trying to stretch out launches in hopes of keeping jobs for as many days as it takes to launch the last flight, and these cost over-runs will indeed delay the next generation, safer manned space program – whatever it will be. Flying the Shuttles past 2010 safely is an oxymoron anyway, and those 3 birds are already showing their age in an extremely maintenance-taxing manner. I say that if this “skilled workforce” of tens of thousands of American aerospace workers are that good, then turn them over to the private sector for commercial manned spaceflight operations, and NASA should simply change its many restrictions on private industry and just get the hell out of the way – concentrating on going out of orbit only.

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