Congress, NASA, White House

Bolden and Obama (and Pelosi, too)

Yesterday’s meeting between NASA administrator Charles Bolden and President Barack Obama didn’t result in any announcements, or, for that matter, any apparent decisions on the future direction of the space agency. “The two spoke about the Administrator’s work at NASA and they also discussed the Augustine Committee’s analysis,” White House spokesman Nicholas Shapiro told Florida Today. “The President confirmed his commitment to human space exploration, and the goal of ensuring that the nation is on a sustainable path to achieving our aspirations in space.”

At the end of yesterday’s White House press briefing (skip ahead to about the 44:10 mark in the 45-minute press conference), press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about the Bolden-Obama meeting, but offered few details, perhaps because the press briefing took place shortly before the meeting was scheduled:

Reporter: The president met with the NASA administrator today to talk about the Constellation program. Are the two in agreement now on about what to do with that program going forward, has a decision…

Gibbs: I have not gotten a readout from the meeting but we’re trying to see what has come of their discussions. I don’t know that we’ll have a ton on this today. Obviously, the budget here is being put together for next year. I know the most previous budget that was passed represented an increase in spending for NASA and the president believes that NASA plays a vital role going forward.

Reporter: Has that decision been reached yet and the two were talking about it? I mean, like, prior to the meeting, has the decision about Constellation…

Gibbs: Let me get a readout from the meeting before I…

Meanwhile, the Orlando Sentinel reported that Sen. Bill Nelson contacted White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel about reprogramming $1 billion in “leftover” stimulus money to NASA. This is only a third of previous requests by members of Congress to redirect stimulus funds to NASA; why Nelson was asking for just $1 billion instead of $3 billion wasn’t mentioned. The Sentinel reported that “no promises were made”, and it’s not clear that the White House has the authority to do any sort of redirection, given that the funds were specifically appropriated to various agencies by Congress.

Another obstacle to any additional NASA funding is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who told reporters Wednesday that she was not a “big fan” of human spaceflight. “I have not been a big fan of manned expeditions to outer space, in terms of safety and cost,” she said. “But people could make the case; technology is always changing.” Any additional spending for NASA, she said, would have to be evaluated against other programs, and “a judgment will be made as to what it does in terms of job creation.” She added that human missions to the Moon “would be fine” but appeared to be more skeptical about “personned” missions to Mars.

14 comments to Bolden and Obama (and Pelosi, too)

  • Ben Russell-Gough

    WRT Senator Nelson’s efforts:

    Not being a US native, perhaps someone could correct me if I’m wrong. However, it is my understanding that a stimulus payment would be a one-off. How much difference would a single payment of $1B, probably in FY2010 or 2011, make to NASA?

  • NASA Fan

    @ Obama :“The President confirmed his commitment to human space exploration, and the goal of ensuring that the nation is on a sustainable path to achieving our aspirations in space.”

    Wrt “Human space exploration: Does not have to be American’s,,,,could be even Chinese . or better yet, paying tourists on Virgin Galactic flights.

    Someone tell me please what are the nations ‘aspirations in space’?

  • Ben Russell-Gough

    @ NASA Fan,

    Probably to build the NX-01 and meet the Klingons :-p

    Seriously, the term ‘aspirations’ has always meant ‘vague’ to me. This is, IMHO, the first step to a speech that will outline a very vague ‘vision’ about what to do in space with little or no clear direction. A call to ‘inspire’ without the funding or leadership to do so, or even a clear indication on how they are meant to ‘inspire’. Meanwhile, priority will be given to “NASA Academies” in deprived districts that will ‘inspire’ with poor wannabe astronauts giving feel-good motivational speeches.

  • CharlesTheSpaceGuy

    Yep, we are heading towards feel good phrases, about inspiring wanna be astronauts to work to be a part of America’s dilapidated space program. Obama seems to value blue collar construction jobs more than engineering jobs – he should have NASA Academies where kids could learn to be carpenters?

  • If all we want to do in space is to allow an elite few to explore the heavens then Pelosi has a point as far as the expense. Its much safer and cheaper to use robots to explore the solar system than to use humans.

    But if we want to enhance the survival of our species by expanding our civilization beyond the Earth while also making some money while we’re there, then manned space travel is essential!

    Once NASA finally articulates to the public that its primary goal is to help expand human civilization beyond this extremely fragile ball that we live on then they will be showered with money and support from the public and the politicians.

    Why? Because in the 2.5 million years of the genus Homo, that’s all we’ve ever done. Its part of our natural instinct to expand and colonize new regions– even in hostile and periodically frigid areas like Europe and North America!

  • NASA Fan


    I assume by your ‘expand human civilization beyond this extremely fragile ball’ statement, you are pointing to the need for humanity to survive.

    One way to ensure humanities survival is to ensure we take good care of this planet; we learn from our Earth Science endeavors what the heck humans are doing to the planet, and we elect brave and bold politicians (does such a creature exist? – but I digress) to implement policy that ensures a healthy planet that includes human activities.

    Obama will surprise us I suspect; and his statement , in my above post, looks like we’re going to end Bush II exploration initiative in much the same way Bush I exploration initiative was ended, and we once again have ‘father like son’ phenomena.

    What replaces Bush II remains to be seen…but it does look squishy.

    Heading off world so we can ensure the survival of humanity will not resonate with the American public.

  • Doug Lassiter

    “Once NASA finally articulates to the public that its primary goal is to help expand human civilization beyond this extremely fragile ball that we live on …”

    Huh? Huuuh? NASA’s primary goal is to help expand human civilization?? You won’t find those words (or anything like them) in the Space Act (which define the purpose and goals of the agency) or even in the new National Space Policy, which defines national goals in space.

    This goal may well be an important one, and you’re entitled to your opinion about that, but it is positively delusional to think that this goal is the primary one for NASA or any goal at all for the nation.

    In fact, the only “expansion” referred to in the Space Act is “the expansion of human knowledge of the Earth and of phenomena in the atmosphere and space”.

    Look, if it’s part of our natural instinct to expand and colonize new regions (and no, I don’t really think it is, nor do modern historians and anthropologists), then I can point you to some pretty unpleasant parts of our world that don’t have any human footprints on them.

    It’s clueless comments like this that probably encourage Pelosi to thumb her nose at human space flight advocates.

    Mind boggling.

  • Anon2

    Education is not mentioned anywhere is the Space Act yet Bolden appeared to indicate Obama sees STEM as a major function for the agency….

    Perhaps the rebuilding of NASA and the American space program needs to start with revisiting the Space Act that created NASA and revising it to fit the new world of the 21st Century. Perhaps once NASA’s justification for existence is in line with what the Congress and President see today as justification for its existence it will find more budget support.

  • NASA Fan

    Lets revise the Space Act, so it allows NASA to send an engineer into every class room! Egad.

  • NASA manned (human) space program climaxed on December 17 1972 as Cernan took his final step off the surface of the moon. What has prevailed since has been an ongoing facade designed to ensure survival of Apollo/Shuttle era HSP based pork programs. Griffin doomed the Constellation program with ill fated management and hardware choices. Obama will give lip service to the HSP program while his Augustine panel’s goalless Flex Path allows it to die a long quiet slow death. If we wanted to invigorate our human space program (HSP) we would adopt the concept put forth by United Launch Alliance (ULA). Failure to acknowledge the ULA plan proves that the predominate interest in HSP is based on political and financial gain. So we are faced with the status quo.

    .ULA lays out a logical, affordable plan to put humans back on the moon by 2018. It’s based on existing boosters and includes commercial involvement establishing sustainable bases, infrastructure and architecture along the way.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Doug wrote @ December 17th, 2009 at 7:09 pm

    you wonder where we would be with 9 billion having been spent on that program?

    the world is all about choices and for the last lots we as a nation have just made a lot of really bad ones. spend your money take your choice!

    Robert G. Oler

  • […] Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi suggested that she wasn’t a “big fan” of human spaceflight and that any additional spending proposed for NASA would have to be compared to alternative […]

  • […] Bolden and Obama (and Pelosi, too) – Space Politics […]

  • […] as you may recall, was critical of human spaceflight in comments last month (not last week), but did not speak about other spaceflight issues like […]

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