Congress, Lobbying, NASA

Brief pre-Augustine notes

  • An op-ed in the Washington Examiner by three Republican House freshman, including Pete Olson of Texas and Bill Posey of Florida, stresses the importance of properly funding NASA and increasing its budget even though it might seem at odds with their philosophy of limited government. “We do not take spending $3 billion lightly, but it is our strong belief that the failure to do so will be even more costly in the long run,” they write. (Part of their argument is that NASA’s share of the federal budget has dropped by 20% since 2007, although that is primarily because of increased spending elsewhere instead of a absolute decline in NASA spending.)
  • Mixed messages? NASA administrator Charles Bolden told an audience in Huntsville Wednesday that the future of the Ares program is “not tentative at all”, which would appear to be a sign of support for the current program. However, reports that Bolden has directed NASA Marshall to study heavy-lift alternatives to the Ares 5, including shuttle-derived sidemount concepts and the Jupiter vehicle from the DIRECT concept. The same report also claims that work on the Altair lunar lander has been “defunded”, although that work was in its very earliest stages.
  • Bolden did say he was happy with the Augustine report: “If you don’t say anything, then you have to live with what you get. I didn’t say anything, and I’m happy with what I’ve got.” Bolden also said he would meet with President Obama “before the end of the year” to present NASA’s take on the report and its suggestions. (Presumably it will be sooner than the end of the year in order to fit into the FY11 budget proposal process.)
  • Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin endorses the “flexible path” option in the Augustine committee report in an essay published by The Huffington Post, complete with a call for action at the end: “America, will you urge the president to pick a bold new mission for our nation in space?… In Twitter-friendly style, ask him this simple but profound question: Mr. President, will you lead us to greatness in space?”

7 comments to Brief pre-Augustine notes

  • If a program is dead, there’s nothing “tentative” about it…

  • No matter where we stand on this issue, we appreciate the coverage, because we are standing at an important crossroad along the path into our future.

    Thanks for the great coverage!


  • SpaceMan

    Rand nails it.

  • common sense

    Dr. Aldrin if you read this: You are making the right choice! And I am really glad you actually support this more realistic option. We need voice like yours in this business! Thanks.

    As of Charles Bolden. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place! He must be careful not to upset too many people within NASA’s ranks AND inside the WH and yet he will have to carry forward the final decision. Of course we’re all proud of the rocket, as a symbol. And it looks like he is taking the right approach about Ares I-X but I fear “too little too late”. Yes it is a test and yes we must make the most of it. It would have been nice a real LAS was on top and we would fire it. That would have been extremly high added value. Oh well. You do what you can with what you have.

  • OV-106

    With regards to the Ares Project “not being tentative”, this could very well be true. Ares 1-X is going to launch, it would cost more to do otherwise now and it’s being called an important development test…for something. Also, and maybe most importantly, the name Ares will probably carry on and therefore so will the Ares Project. It just may not be Ares 1 and Ares 5 as we currently know them.

  • Well my first criticism is that the commission distorted the Sidemount and DIRECT lunar capabilities. To quote the report:

    “For example, in a year of planned Constellation lunar operations in the mid-2020s, there would be three Shuttle-derived vehicle launches for
    each mission to the Moon, which would deliver a mass comparable to that of two Ares V-class launchers.”

    The Sidemount requires only only two launches per mission: one launch of the Orion to lunar orbit and another launch of an Altair vehicle to lunar orbit weighing up to nearly 48 tonnes. Even the Altair vehicle for the Ares V is designed to weigh only 45 tonnes. The committee must have read Shannon’s first report on the Sidemount where only 39 tonnes of net payload could be transported into low lunar orbit but did not read the subsequent reports that showed that an EDS stage could transport up to 47 tonnes of net payload into low lunar orbit.

    So you only need two launches– per mission– not three! A huge and critical misrepresentation of the Sidemount and DIRECT concepts, IMO.

    But to quote again from the Augustine report:

    “With two crew and two cargo missions per year, this would require eight to ten launches of the Shuttle-derived launcher, each with three or four SSMEs or derivatives, for a total of 24 to 40 of the Shuttle engines being used, with a resulting high recurring cost.”

    Two SD-HLV crew launches (Orion plus Altair) plus two cargo missions would require only 6 launches per year. And so what if a lot of SSME are thrown away. Mass production of the SSME should gradually bring down the cost of the SSMEs over the years which should gradually reduce the cost of the SD-HLV launches. Its called economies of mass production.

    And I see nothing wrong with launching 10 to 12 SD-HLV vehicles a year to build a continuously growing lunar settlement plus maybe one lunar sortie mission per year and one mission to the ISS per year. If we’re going to spend tens of billions of dollars building this new space transportation system, we might as well utilize it to its fullest extent once its built!

  • donnie

    “And I see nothing wrong with launching 10 to 12 SD-HLV vehicles a year”

    LOL and that is why we are here today. because people like you don’t know the value of a dollar.

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