Congress, Lobbying, NASA

Don’t mess with Texas?

Last week it appeared that Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) had convinced NASA and the White House to shift $100 million in stimulus funds from supporting commercial crew efforts to Constellation. As the Waco Tribune-Herald reports, some members of the Texas Congressional delegation are opposed to the move. Why? SpaceX has its rocket engine testing facilities near Waco, and company officials claim that it could double its workforce there if it’s able to secure development contracts for carrying crew to the ISS. Congressman Chet Edwards (D-TX), whose district includes Waco, said he’s arranged meetings between “congressional leaders” and SpaceX’s Elon Musk, while SpaceX vice president Larry Williams tells the paper that the company has talked with staffers for Sen. Shelby that “could lead to a compromise.” Meanwhile, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) tells the paper that the stimulus funding “will be distributed through the competitive bidding process just like the process for NASA funding each year”, and adds that he hopes Texas will get its fair share.

Meanwhile, the Orlando Sentinel reports today that Sen. Shelby is still trying to drum up support for Constellation over alternative proposals. According to the article, Shelby met with executives of Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and others “to discuss creating a media campaign to counter Ares I critics and alternative ideas.” That plan “never materialized”, and the Sentinel added that the companies are now pitching their own alternatives to Constellation to the Augustine committee.

3 comments to Don’t mess with Texas?

  • sc220

    This is a very positive development. Shelby needs to take a time out, and reassess his position. He’s getting fed a line from MSFC, who stands most to lose from a shift in architectures. Northern Alabama would do well regardless, since the main assembly facility for the Delta and Atlas is in Decatur, just next door to Huntsville.

  • CharlesTheSpaceGuy

    This illustrates a HUGE disadvantage that a government operation has. Instead of distributing work based on technical merits – a governmental operation has to distribute it based on Congressional influence, based on gaining political support, etc. The members of Congress can easily influence decisions on how money is spent and where. And this is in spite of the regulations that the Congress levies that claim to get the government to evaluate proposals based on technical merits.

    If we centralized operations, government launch operations would be far cheaper and safer. If NASA did not have to create far flung Centers based on earmarks, they could save a lot of money.

    The competitive bidding process is compromised by the actions of individual elected officials on a daily basis.

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