Congress, NASA

More Congressional reaction

In a statement in response to the Augustine committee’s final report, Sen. Richard Shelby again emphasized his concerns regarding safety that he mentioned in a Senate floor speech earlier this week:

While I commend the Augustine Commission for their work, I find many of the options proposed in their final report to be unsatisfactory and disappointing.

The Chairman of the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee, Norm Augustine, announced that safety would be paramount. Yet the report does not adequately take into account any safety measures and does not thoroughly examine any of the reliability aspects of the various human space flight vehicle options considered.

The report was also criticized by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who said, “The report suggests a number of significant changes to NASA and the industry, but it doesn’t address what effect they would have on Huntsville’s workforce,” according to the Huntsville Times. The same report also said that Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) complained that “the report provide[s] no safety data that would help the White House or leaders in Congress to guide the future of NASA.” Neither, as of this morning, had posted statements about the reports on their web sites.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) also released a brief statement about the committee’s report:

“America is at a critical point in human spaceflight, because we stand on the brink of losing our 40-year advantage in space,” said Senator Hutchison. “The release of this report today marks the beginning of what must be a crucial discussion about America’s future role in space. Our current programs are simply unsustainable under the NASA budget and could potentially make plans to use the station until 2020 impossible. Failure to act threatens America’s foundation in space. Congress and the President must work together to address these mounting challenges if our nation is to continue its role as a world leader in space.”

14 comments to More Congressional reaction

  • Major Tom

    NASA = North Alabama Space Agency


  • Major Tom

    Sure would be nice if the Alabama delegation or its staffers bothered to read Section 5.3.4 on “Human Rating of Launchers” and Section 5.4.2 “Reliability” in the final Augustine Committee report before making patently false claims and utterly baseless claims that the report “does not thoroughly examine any of the reliability aspects” or that the report “provide[s] no safety data”.

    Is it too much to ask for elected representatives who can read? Maybe even comprehend once in a while?

    Oy vey…

  • common sense

    “Is it too much to ask for elected representatives who can read? Maybe even comprehend once in a while?”

    YES, IT IS. Did you ever doubt this? It is not their job to make sense. It is their job to be re-elected. Do we need more proofs than that? At least in the Space arena… Because if you look at the rest of their community…

  • Interestingly, Augustine does address the workforce issue. See option 4B. Although it is Moon First, it extends the shuttle to 2015 and builds a directly shuttle derived heavy lift vehicle.

    Now, take the 4B architecture and apply it to 5C “Flexible Path” and you have a viable program. The off ramp to the surface of the Moon should be outsourced to ESA and Japan. Add China and Russia if needed.

  • Interested Observer

    The Alabama congresspeople are being fed lies by various interested parties in Huntsville. When the safety presentation was made at the public Augustine meeting Steve Cook would not even use the internal MSFC team but used a contractor who would say what Steve wanted said.

  • xyz

    Someone should call his bluff and do a comprehensive and independent safety study. Oh wait, the range safety org is doing so for Ares I, but not comparative to other existing and new launch systems. Not that I expect Shelby to learn to read it or agree if the conclusion doesn’t match his political objective.

  • eng

    What ’40 year advantage in space’ is Hutchison talking about? Give NASA more money to maintain that phantom ‘advantage in space’, that is the pitch right?

    She’s basically asking for ‘more money’ in her soundbite, aint’ she? Same old, same old… freaking cockroaches infesting the Hill.

  • I lost all care in Sen. Shelby’s opinion when he made it clear that he won’t support private space launch:

    Does he realize that even NASA had to start with suborbital launches, learn along the way, and make mistakes. Oh yeah, Ares is being built in his state, now I got it, there are no real alternatives.

    Ari Litwin

  • Robert Oler

    Paul Spudis (a very bright guy) has a piece up on his review of the Augustine Commission report. It is a thought provoking read and I would urge all to do that…and ponder it.

    there are in my view two interesting pivot points

    “The desire for fundamental change in perspective was behind the program’s specific direction to study and experiment with using the material and energy resources of the Moon. From the moment it was announced, the true purpose of a lunar return was misunderstood, both inadvertently and deliberately. Constellation is a rocket program; the VSE is not.”

    if this is accurate, if Bush and his folks really meant that by their policy statement…then it really illustrates how badly managed by the administration the entire effort was. If accurate what they (the administration) did was allow Mike Griffin to take a major policy change by the administration and turn it into essentially a program.

    And if accurate then space advocates who support such a change (as I did) should have (as I did) oppose it from the start. The structure Griffin put in place, even if we spent a trillion dollars on it, had no more chance of accomplishing that goal the Chalibi had of becoming the leader of Iraq.

    This is also quite interesting:

    “While reading the newly released Augustine report, keep in mind its background and its assumptions. It is based solidly on the traditional models of conducting business in space – design, launch and abandon, along with the accompanying plea for more money to ensure a “robust” program of space exploration.”

    I am not so sure that this is accurate indeed like the first point of the article that I reference, it might all depend on implementation.

    Flexible path is in my view a method of abandoning the current launch and quit mentality. To do so requires some thought and economics in terms of implementation.

    For instance if flexible path is adopted then NASA should in my view revisit the entire concept of Orion. Why does it have to be a capsule concerned with entering and leaving Earth’s environment? Why could it not for instance be redone as a true reusable deep space vehicle that gets its crew from commercial launch and returns its crew that way…and then uses a “ship” that is refurbished for reuse at the space station.

    Likewise the commercial lift to orbit should be structured to “sneak up” on reusability…ie why discard the Dragon’s or whatever Lockmart/Boeing call their vehicle after every flight?

    What I think that the true message should have been about both “the vision” and “the report” is that the devil is in how the concepts are implemented…

    anyway it is a good read.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert Oler

    I actually think that the statement written by Kay Bailey Hutchinson is quite well done. Read it carefully, it is one of the most benign of all the statements coming from the various senators of space states.

    Robert G. Oler

  • […] More Congressional reaction – Space Politics […]

  • David Davenport

    The Ares I-X missile is to be launched later today, weather permitting.

    Prediction: The flight will reveal that that Ares does indeed have thrust oscillations — pogo-ing — of about 10 percent nominal thrust. There is no practical way to fix this thrust oscillation problem.

  • Daniel Carrera

    @Robert Oler:

    “Why could it not for instance be redone as a true reusable deep space vehicle that gets its crew from commercial launch and returns its crew that way…

    Likewise the commercial lift to orbit should be structured to “sneak up” on reusability…ie why discard the Dragon’s or whatever Lockmart/Boeing call their vehicle after every flight?”

    Although I strongly support the flexible path, I must point out that making space vehicles reusable is not automatically going to make them cheaper. Making a ship reusable imposes significant engineering constraints which can easily turn out more expensive than a non reusable system.

    In the case of launchers, a reusable system will be heavier. And in all cases, a reusable system will be more complex to design and operate.

    Pop quiz: what is the most expensive part of the shuttle?

    Is it making new SRBs? Nope. Fuel? Sorry.

    The most expensive part of the shuttle is the salaries of the people needed to design, maintain and operate the system. Making the shuttle reusable was supposed to save money, but the system is so complex that it requires a whole army of very expensive personnel to make the system work.

    It is a false economy to save $5 making a rocket reusable if you then have to spend an extra $7 in design and operations. All in all, one cannot say right off the bat that reusable or non-reusable is better. The problem is more complex than that.

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