Congress, NASA

So who will support the new NASA exploration plan?

While NASA’s revised human spaceflight plans won’t be released in detail until Monday’s budget announcement, what has been announced has been enough to generate some strong, almost visceral reactions from members of Congress. For example, yesterday afternoon Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D-FL) dismissed what has been revealed about those plans as “simply unacceptable” in a press release:

Though we are still awaiting the full budget details scheduled to be released next week, I am deeply concerned by what Administration officials have said about the President’s proposal for NASA.  I agree with extending use of the International Space Station and I am a strong supporter of commercial spaceflight, but I do not think we can rely on commercial flights alone for access to space and the ISS. If we are not moving forward with a specific vision for a next generation vehicle, then we need to take steps to safely extend the Shuttle program in order to fully support the Space Station.

I also firmly believe that a robust space exploration program is critical for our economy and for inspiring future generations to excel in science and technology for the 21st Century.  The President’s proposal would leave NASA with essentially no program and no timeline for exploration beyond Earth’s orbit. 

The President pledged that he would minimize the spaceflight gap, but without a plan for exploration beyond research and development, he is threatening to turn the gap into an abyss with no end in sight.  The Space Coast and communities across the country have been looking to the President for leadership and a bold vision for the future of space exploration, and after months of delays he seems to be falling short.  It is simply unacceptable and I will fight back, along with my colleagues from both parties, to maintain a robust space program and to preserve as many Space Coast jobs as possible.

The White House isn’t getting much love from Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), who also deems elements of the plan “unacceptable”:

Based on initial reports about the administration’s plan for NASA, they are replacing lost shuttle jobs in Florida too slowly, risking U.S. leadership in space to China and Russia, and relying too heavily on unproven commercial companies.

If the $6 billion in extra funding is for a commercial rocket, then the bigger rocket for human exploration will be delayed well into the next decade. That is unacceptable.

We need a plan that provides America with uninterrupted access to space while also funding exploration to expand the boundaries of our knowledge.

Those members who have taken the time to comment about the plan—only a few, to be certain—have almost uniformly been critical of what is known about the plan, and we have not publicly heard from others who, based on past comments, are likely to be critical of it, like Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL). The closest thing to an endorsement is from Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who told the Cleveland Plain Dealer yesterday that expansion of other aeronautics and space programs would “more than compensate for the loss of Constellation”.

This raises a key question: who will champion the new human spaceflight program in Congress once it’s formally released? The new plan may be Congressional crosshairs as soon as Wednesday, when the House Science and Technology Committee’s space subcommittee holds a hearing on “key issues and challenges” for NASA. Which members of Congress will step forward to support the plan? Without such support, the prospects for this new approach don’t look good.

Update 1 pm: A Floriday Today article also has what appears to be bad news:

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat who heads the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA, said that if reports of Obama’s plans for NASA are true, “I’m troubled.” Mikulski represents NASA’s Goddard Space Center.

The article doesn’t indicate if Mikulski elaborated on what part of the plan that’s been revealed so far she found “troubling”. However, since she chairs the Senate appropriations subcommittee whose jurisdiction includes NASA, she is an important player in the coming debate.

31 comments to So who will support the new NASA exploration plan?

  • Mark R. Whittington

    Considering that the Administration cannot get its greatest priority, health care reform, through the Congress, despite a full court effort, one wonders how much political capital it will be willing to spend pushing this change if it runs into a lot of opposition, which it seems to have already.

    The tragedy is that the commercial space scheme is a very good and innovative change. But the Administration has decided to pit it against the space exploration program, a big mistake IMO. Both may lose out in the end.

  • barsoom

    Change is scary.

    The first mistake are people commenting that the new plan is being exchanged for exploration beyond LEO.

    Sorry folks, but we were not on a plan that was going to give us exploration beyond LEO, at least not in a reasonable time-frame. Constellation, Orion and Ares were great jobs programs. The nation was spending $2 billion annually. That is about 10000 people. Based on the late, great Constellation effort, if we could have increased that spending about 3 fold, then based on the last 5 years we would have had a new LEO capability in place within the decade (but not by much). We might have been able to develop lunar capabilities by 2035 or 2040.

    Sure we had the Vision and talk of an Exploration program, but talk is cheap. We were going nowhere anytime soon. The POR architecture was not going to establish exploration. It would only permit rebuilding an Apollo like capability and that would never have been sustainable over the long term.

    Further, at the rate and in the manner that the program was proceeding, no one had any faith that any of the identified schedules or budgets had any realism to them. Even Orion, which was the near term, immediate need, was on a negative return trajectory; they were slipping more than a year for every year invested. Many of us saw this from the outset. The NASA program management was technically bankrupt. Based on Orion performance, where the vehicle had apparently been redesigned 3 or 4 times without getting beyond PDR, the technical people were afraid to speak up. Was the leadership also morally or ethically bankrupt ?

    As Mark Geyer suggests, he was on a path towards a new ISS. A redesign every year or two, just like with ISS, was becoming the norm. He was in no hurry. In a decade, maybe two…..

    Further, I don’t buy the idea that it was all because Bush forgot to support the program or that it was underfunded. First, the Vision gave NASA flexibility and goals. Until the Vision, we could not talk about sending humans to the moon or Mars. NASA failed to come to grips with this. NASA failed to make use of its options and responsibilities. The architecture wasn’t going to get us there, but everyone was afraid to speak up and say anything. So the old NASA wasted the opportunity.

    It is time for a significant change. The existing NASA was not going to get us there. Commercial competition offers the potential to get us beyond government bureaucracy.

    Change and new opportunities are now being offered.

  • CharlesTheSpaceGuy

    Yes, the BIG question is: who is gonna push for spaceflight now?

    We face a crushing Federal deficit – with the pressure to cut it. We can’t cut spending on high speed rail of course, it might come in handy some day! Social Security totters towards failure – are we gonna cut Grandma’s check? There are gonna be lots of things that “need” money, and space can always just be delayed a few years to concentrate on education, right? The President doesn’t even promise a slight increase in the space budget himself, he does it thru his flunkies.

    Commercialization of space has been proceeding fitfully for years, we moved to launch commercial satellites on commercial boosters after the Challenger accident. That did lead to “consolidation” of launch vehicle lines which meant fewer jobs! Now we will plan to launch astronauts on commercial vehicles – and potentially several years from now may have a commercial capsule to fly them in. Yes, Dragon is a nice concept but is even behind orion. Lots of flight experience gives us confidence in Atlas/Delta, while we know that Falcon is going to have the normal growing pains. SpaceX is certainly being very optimistic with their projections.

    So we can probably count on the Texas delegation to support space, and Alabama (Decatur is where the Atlas/Delta assembly lines are now). Also Florida, after they get over this wave of layoffs.

    The President is almost certainly going to lose many of his supporters in this next mid-term election, I just hope that the Congress can work together to pass a budget after that.


  • omi

    But I dont see commercial operators getting us beyond LEO. Leave interplanetry exploration to NASA still and at least let it keep a Heavy Lift of some sort going so progress is not lost setting us backwards. (would also like a “proper shuttle” developed with out other interests screwing it but doubt it now) Is Obama the new Nixon for NASA or can he be worse or better? (and I kinda like Obama too damit) :(.

  • “Without such support, the prospects for this new approach don’t look good.” And what would happen instead? Since the Augustine report has made it clear that the current way leads nowhere (especially not out of LEO anytime soon) and that any significant new steps would require extra $3b p.a. – where, please, are the viable explicit alternatives the Obama critics propose?

    Regarding Monday: Do we know whether the new plan will be rolled out just hidden in the usual mountain of budget papers or will there be actual speeches by high-ranking folks explaining why this may be the only tenable way forward? Since it’s the first major change of direction in 6 years, one should hope so.

  • Makafulez

    I wonder if Sr.OBAMA thought of the lives that were saved in the U.S. and the world at the cost of each step that would give the astronauts on the Moon or Mars, when he decided to cancel CONSTELLATION. It would be desirable.

    Other programs can also create jobs but also to the benefit of the quality of life for all and prepare future generations to take on other programs even more ambitious space exploration. Otherwise there will only be accommodated in the space flight programs of countries uninhabitable as we know them today. Some of these countries are now a reality.

    I am an astronomy enthusiast ever since.

  • Dave Cadman

    Pay attention to Administrator Bolden’s comments to Israeli press around 8min 30sec into this video:

    on Monday morning Bolden presents the way forward, Tuesday he makes another presentation in Washington; between the two the budget comes down; look for fireworks; as for the politicos mentioned in the article, they have vested interestes in Space; what about the the other few hundred who have not vested interest; I foresee a huge fight coming up; and at this point, like Bolden, I am in no way optimistic as to what the outcome for US Space will be, Commercial or Government; this is turning into more than a change of horses (Launch Vehicles) it is changing the entire philosophy of how the US manages it’s way forward in Technological Accesss and Distrubution, at Home and Abroad; check out what Obama said about ITAR in his SOTU speech; it should scare the cr_p out of the Republicans;
    that’s my 2 pence, take it for what it is, a heads up…

  • Dave Cadman

    Sally Ride has been briefed on the Obama Space Plans

    Sally K. Ride, a former astronaut who served on the blue-ribbon panel, said she was encouraged by the budget increase for NASA in light of the planned freeze on domestic spending over all.

    “They plan to be sending people beyond low-Earth orbit, and they have a good formulation,” Dr. Ride said. “I think the way to evaluate this plan when it’s rolled out is to ask whether the administration has given NASA the funds for what it’s asked to do.”

    “It appears to me the answer is yes,” Dr. Ride said, based on briefings she had received on the plans.

    She said the administration took options the panel presented and “came up with an innovative approach for NASA.”

  • Jeff Foust

    Daniel: There is usually a NASA press conference associated with the release of the budget proposal (major policy change or not). My guess is that there will be one Monday afternoon, featuring the NASA administrator and/or other high-ranking agency officials, although I haven’t seen an announcement for one yet, as of noon EST Friday.

  • Jeff Foust

    Dave: we covered both Administrator Bolden’s comments in Israel and Sally Ride’s comments about the new human spaceflight plan in some previous posts the past couple of days. Thanks for reading (I think).

  • “The President doesn’t even promise a slight increase in the space budget himself, he does it thru his flunkies.”

    His proposal is called a budget. Presidents release them annually and usually announce a date for their release. And prior to that date, they don’t really talk much about the details in it. Why everyone expects Obama to start a line-by-line discussion of a budget he hasn’t released yet is beyond me.

    “Commercialization of space has been proceeding fitfully for years”

    Okay, I’ll grant you Falcon 1 was supposed to be orbital by ’06 and F9 was supposed to be up by ’08. Neither of those targets happened, but that’s not particularly surprising in the launch vehicle realm. But Falcon 1 is flying and Falcon 9 is about to. It’s not really fitful, per se, so much as it is predictable given the history of pretty much every other rocket line ever started.

    “Now we will plan to launch astronauts on commercial vehicles – and potentially several years from now may have a commercial capsule to fly them in. Yes, Dragon is a nice concept but is even behind orion.”

    Forgive me if my math is off, but Musk said 2-3 years for manned Dragon, and that was over half a year ago. Last I checked 2012-2013 is earleir than 2015, and even that more realistically would have been 2017 per Augustine. Even if SpaceX has a hell of a time and has years of setbacks, they’d still beat Ares I/Orion to the pad. They could fall behind schedule by nearly half a decade and still meet the same timeline.

    “Lots of flight experience gives us confidence in Atlas/Delta, while we know that Falcon is going to have the normal growing pains.”

    But here’s the deal. Atlas/Delta have never been designed for man-rating, nor are there any capsules or any other craft for that matter designed for them. The closest thing to completion that could be reworked to fly on Atlas/Delta is Dragon, which would still take the 2-3 years for development and testing of the crew escape system. On top of that, Falcon 9 has been designed fromt he start to meet human rating specs and to fit with Dragon, no re-engineering necessary.

    I’d love to see manned vehicles launching on Atlas/Delta. It made more sense to me than Ares. I’d even love to see a situation like I described above where a company or NASA could pick from a portfolio of capsules and launchers tailored to the mission like they are already starting to see with Cygna and Dragon for cargo. Musk hasn’t ruled out working toward putting Dragon on other launchers and Bigelow has come out of the gates talking about multiple launcher arrangements for Orion Lite.

    But really, I think with the money they’re saving in canning Ares, and the potential for 1.3 billion a year additional, they could likely afford to refit Orion and fund or at least subsidize a few additional programs on the side. Perhaps we could finally have the funds distributed in such a way that we stop debating which one program will work and start talking about what mix of options would best fit our needs.

    Once we have a competitive arrangement of methods to get to ISS we can start talking about how to adapt those arrangements to support lunar missions. Falcon 9 Heavy is spec’d to do TLI trajectories for a manned capsule and given the similar capabilties, Atlas V could likely also be a provider.

  • wow, I stand by the points in my last post, but I apologize for the tone. Sorry, Charles, I got a little wound up over it.

  • Dave Cadman

    @ Jeff F.

    sorry, did miss that blog about the Israeli press conference; went and recorded it; at 8:30-41 into his presentation, he equates the Space Shuttle to a COMMERCIAL VEHICLE, with all the emphasis on commerical now, I am reading that, as equating any LV that is developed in the future, whether for LEO or BEO, will be commercial, in that NASA will buy a LV, not develop it themselves; just as they bought the Shuttle; the comparison would be with you buying a truck or car, you don’t buy the design, you buy the vehicle; the Market dictates the design; so if NASA says it wants a LV/Space craft to do X, then lets see the options; and the mention of ITAR, restrictions being changed (lowered) watch for international participation and export to grow FAST, should that become a reality; this is not just a small change, this is a historic change for America;

  • Ferris Valyn

    CharlestheSpaceGuy – huh? Dragon is behind Orion? I won’t say that I think Musk can deliever by 2012, but I do believe that it will deliver well before Orion would’ve arived. And I do think that an Orion lite (or something like that, but is all commercial, and FWIW, orion-lite is not Orion-like).

    omi – I tend to agree, that, by themselves, the commercial operators are unlikely to get us beyond LEO. HOWEVER, I do believe that they can provide the savings, to get us to LEO, and the justifications, that we so desperately need, so that NASA can do the beyond LEO stuff. And in particular, they can push towards infrastructure development, rather than doing one off big missions (which means no need for heavy lift – or rather, super-heavy lift)

    aremisasling – I do believe that, when a commercial crew contract is offered, you’ll se more than one option selected, and there will be something that is flying on either an Atlas or a Delta (Atlas much more likely)

  • Tom D

    Ferris, I will be surprised if a commercial company doesn’t try a repeat of Apollo 8 (or at least the Soviet Zond) in the next 10 years. Landing will be tougher with the need for a lander, spacesuits, etc., but lunar circumnavigation looks quite do-able. However, I do agree that NASA could usefully lead the way out of LEO, particularly if they develop a reasonable transportation infrastructure on the way (prop depots mostly) that could be used by commercial operators.

    aremisasling, you are massively overestimating the difficulty of man-rating Atlas V and Delta IV. The hard part, making them reliable, has already been done. Moving Orion off of Ares I to Delta IV Heavy would be a big improvement for the Orion program if only for the lower vibration loads and the higher payload capacity.

  • CharlesTheSpaceGuy

    Disclaimer: I do not know the details of Dragon. Other Disclaimer: I am quite eager to see Dragon and Falcon 9 proceed. Still Another Disclaimer: Why did Elon Musk decide to ship all of his logistics out to Kwaj again – why not fly out of Cape Cananeral or even Wallops?? Decisions like that make you wonder…

    And I have thick skin and do not take offense easily. Fortunately! I am a veteran of Usenet and that made you tough.

    For a gov’t design, orion hardware is pretty far along. Of course they did have to start with six people, cut it back to four, and maybe even drop one more… Perhaps Dragon could fly before orion but could it have certified approach and capture like orion will have? One thing that orion has going for it is that it has the benefit of all the approach, etc experience of the team. The orion has all of the gov’t testing facilities at its disposal, etc. I hope that crewed Falcon/Dragon get the benefit of the experience of the cargo version and have some of the certifications approved based on that.

    The mention of the flunkies promising more budget refers to how Sen Nelson wanted President Obama to mention space in the SOTU, but the President did not. He delegated the news about maybe thinking about asking for an additional 1.3 billion (one time bump or year over year?) to Sally Ride. They wanted to take the sting out of the cancellation of Ares 1 and “balance” the bad news with good news. Even that is a weak statement – the Pres can ask for budget but the Congress appropriates.

    And numerous people have pointed out that “man rated” is not an exact definition. You could argue that the Shuttle is not man rated.

    And are people saying that manned Dragon would beat orion to the pad? Both are ways off and I am not sure who I would put my money on, right now. Predicting out to 2018 or so is an inexact science. But could SpaceX go from never having flown Falcon9 plus manned (or unmanned) Dragon to manned-Dragon in a couple of years? If so, those guys are real rocket scientists!!

    And there has never been any “tin bent” but I have seen several proposed manned winged vehicles to go on Atlas. I am still quite skeptical of winged vehicles for several reasons, and only unmanned ones have flown on Atlas. But we have flown (not recently) capsules on Atlas before!

    The fitful process of generating commercial space efforts goes back to when Ariane first flew (in my opinion). I recall tracking that when I was in the Air Force. US payloads eventually went on commercial boosters, then after the Challenger accident that decision was finally made permanent. Now we will see a commercial booster carry US astronauts into orbit (unless the budget is cut again!!) and hopefully one day an entirely commercial system will put astronauts into orbit. It might even be Virgin Galactic that does it first.

    One big question is: how much effort the Obama Administration will put into making their vision (if they actually have one) of space succeed? Very little effort probably, certainly far less than Obama committed to passing health care reform. And we can see how far that went.

    These replies get way too long.

  • common sense

    “Still Another Disclaimer: Why did Elon Musk decide to ship all of his logistics out to Kwaj again – why not fly out of Cape Cananeral or even Wallops?? Decisions like that make you wonder…”

    You’re right they make one wonder if you know what you’re talking about and still have to read your posts… Now of course the Cape may have moved to the South Pacific. You can never know for sure.

    “The SpaceX team kicked off 2010 with the successful full duration orbit insertion firing of the Falcon 9 second stage at our Texas test site (details below). This was the final stage firing required for launch, so the second stage will soon be packaged for shipment and should arrive at Cape Canaveral by end of month. Depending on how well full vehicle integration goes, launch should occur one to three months later.”

  • Sheridan

    The general press does not yet have the full picture. Why? Because NASA hasn’t announced it all yet. There is more to this. The plan has been fairly well thought out and does address all of the concerns which people are expressing.

    The problem is that the full story has not yet been revealed and people are wondering what they are missing out on.

    These discussions are all based on leaks of just one part of the story.

    When the whole map is finally revealed people will understand.

  • common sense

    ” If so, those guys are real rocket scientists!!”

    No they really are not. Just a bunch of kids out of school bending metal for fun in Hawthorne. They hired this guy Bowersox who was a Shuttle astronaut one day maybe when he wasn’t looking. Now he probably has to make up all the stuff about Dragon, astronauts and the likes because he’s under contract.

  • richardb

    This new Nasa smells like “not Bush” to me. If funding was the main problem with Constellation, and the Augustine report said it was a technically sound program, then should we believe Obama will fund his new “not Bush” program any better than Bush funded Constellation?

    Why would Congress fund a new plan after budgeting some 9 billion on Constellation, a program that had bipartisan support for 5 years and was progressing well as the Augustine team testified to Congress, again costly and underfunded that it was. But Congress knew the costs and didn’t flinch.

    Can the “not Bush” people ever convince Congress and the America people that their plan is any better than the last cancelled plan?

    If Obama’s plan doesn’t utilize all the NASA centers, can it be cheaper than the Bush plan?

    If it doesn’t utilize all the NASA centers, can the new program get enough Congressional support to survive in tough federal budget times?

    If the “not Bush” people pitch a grand plan to develop the technology to tour the inner solar system with privately developed rockets and high tech new stuff, whats to stop Congress from saying they’ve already spent 9 billion for Ares I and V that will do all of that?

    Can the “not Bush” people persuade Congress that their plan will recoup that 9 billion and be cheaper in the long run while equaling or exceeding the VSE’s goals?

    Call me skeptical.
    One thing I do know is if Obama kills Constellation, Congress won’t override his veto should that be necessary. I also don’t think he’ll have a prayer of getting his new plan funded by Congress. Especially once the new Congress is seated one year from now. When Federal spending will be an election issue and probably a reason for the defeat of many incumbents, any spending that smacks of waste better have wide Congressional support, otherwise its dead. Constellation clearly has that kind of support whereas a new program won’t. Especially if many of its sponsors won’t be seated in the new Congress.

  • Augustine never said that Constellation was “progressing well.”

  • Robert G. Oler

    We should of course wait until the entire package is out…but it will not be that hard to sell..

    Actually it will go pretty easy.

    1. Whittington’s comparison is nonsense.

    Health care (or the Obama/Dem version of it) is floundering because it is unpopular. It is a lot of bureaucracy little defined “cost” and almost no benefits that have salable value.

    Wow what does that sound like? The Bush “go back to the Moon program”.

    Going back to the Moon is UNPOPULAR (see the latest Rasmussen poll) There is no appetite for it in The Republic (outside of pork ville) and that is going to be its prime undoing.

    2. Despite the frantic gestures of its supporters Ares/Constellation etc is not going well. At best it needs massive infusions of more money…about 3 billion a year…and that is not happening.

    As the facts role out either more money and the thing barely creeps along to a 17 flight (and that is not back to the Moon) OR no more money and the schedule keeps flailing behind on a day to day basis…well thats it.

    the money is where it is going to die.

    3. Obama is out manuevering the GOP. His SOTU was a bust, but he has seized on what I think are some pretty good issues in terms of painting the GOP as the party of “no”…and in this case the party of “pork”… The GOP is going to respond by latching onto this “freeze” and that runs into #2.

    4. Shortly NASA corporate is going to be all for commercial lift to space and whatever else Bolden has holding up his sleeve…hence the various studies NASA is going to do.

    The Ares tree huggers need to start getting out their versions of “death panels”…Ares is having the plug pulled just as they watch.

    fun day flying…now working on Software…not so fun

    Robert G. Oler

  • richardb

    Simberg, yes its true, Augustine never used my words “progessing well”.

    Augustine did in fact say this about Ares I and Orion …”We found those programs to be reasonably well managed,…” He further said ” ..we think the program within itself has a very good likelihood of succeeding”.

    So yes my words “Progressing well” fairly describe what he said.

    Full quote:

    “We’ve reviewed the Ares I and Orion elements of that program, which are the two parts that are principally underway,” Augustine said Thursday. “We found those programs to be reasonably well managed, we found them to have technical problems of a nature that’s probably not uncommon for complex undertakings of this type.

    “It’s our belief that given ample time and funds, the engineers at NASA and their contractors are certainly capable of solving those problems. So we think the program within itself has a very good likelihood of succeeding. The issue that comes up under Ares I is whether the program is useful when it has succeeded because of a mismatch of the time schedules and the costs with what will be needed for it to do.”

  • Robert G. Oler

    richardb wrote @ January 29th, 2010 at 7:35 pm

    Simberg, yes its true, Augustine never used my words “progessing well”.

    Augustine did in fact say this about Ares I and Orion …”We found those programs to be reasonably well managed,…” He further said ” ..we think the program within itself has a very good likelihood of succeeding”. …

    the key phrase here is “ample time and funds” which is government speak for “throw enough money at it and not care about when the thing actually flies and you can succeed”

    Robert G. Oler

  • sc220

    Robert, I generally agree with everything you said. However, I don’t think Obama’s SOTU speech was a bust. If anything it showed a new, more aggressive direction on the part of the President. As we saw 15 years ago, health care is a highly contentious issue in this country, and this Administration made the mistake of making it its’ highest priority out of the gate. In retrospect, they should have gone after the long-hanging fruit first and then chase health care later.

  • Robert G. Oler

    sc220 wrote @ January 29th, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    I would love to be incorrect, because around me more and more of my friends are losing their jobs…and it is far Ronaldus the great was having similar problems politically although his economic problems were far easier.

    In my view the SOTU was a bust because it did not change the political dynamics of Obama’s Presidency. But I suspect that the reaction by the GOP has helped him along.

    I have never watched a more stupid group of politicians then the ones that engaged Obama in Baltimore this afternoon (Friday)…it was as if they were simply setting up Obama to hit pitches out of the park, capped of by Hensarling of TX (what a dolt).

    I think that Obama has made some serious errors in what he engaged in (health care) and how he did some of the things he did engage in (the stimulus) BUT it seems today at least that he might be successful in painting the GOP as obstructionist because in many respects they are.

    They have few alternate ideas, they are stuck with their ideological babble which is mostly useless (or got us into this problem)…and seem unable to present fresh new ideas.

    And that is accurate on space policy.

    If I were in Olsens seat in 22 right this instant and for sometime now I would have been working with Bolden and Garver and have formed a sort of coalition of the “space pork club” to try and move the debate from Ares to something reasonable in terms of what NASA does after (as expected) it loses human lift to orbit toward the space station.

    My read is that there is going to be a billion or two maybe pot to do things …and the trick is to try and do things that have value. But no the best Olsen can do is babble on about keeping the shuttle or Ares…and that is not going to happen.

    Say what one wants for rhetoric…but in the end when one closes the oak paneled doors one has to figure out “how do I move this thing to my and the districts advantage based on what IS going to happen”.

    The GOP right now is just tone deaf

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    The folks who want to hang on to Ares/Constellation are folks who simply cannot see reality.

    1. The darn program doesnt work. No matter how many times someone quotes out of context the AC…the reality is that Ares has had 9 billion dollars and done nothing. Musk has “blown up” more rockets then Ares has flown and yet his development cost are under 1 billion…

    2. The program wont get us to the Moon in a foreseable future…and the cost are bound to balloon. they always do on a NASA hsf program… See More

    3. It is an act of good governance to kill malfunctioning programs. the Ares huggers use words like “rounding” error to describe the cost of Ares…and yet the cost are substantial part of the HSF budget. It will be stunning as to how much is freed up when that program goes away.

    4. Worse it is the wrong kind of program. Musk is going to launch PEOPLE with a control center of under 50 people.

    5. it opens up the future to a wide group of possibilities. It is hard to imagine what is possible if the Ares/Constellation program dies. Because a robust LEO/GEO human spaceflight commercial effort is just what we need to push out into space.

    6. The reasons for Ares/Constellation are nutty. Racing the Chinese…comeon.

    This is a good move. It will change, for the better the course of human spaceflight, and I predict help put America on the road to a strong economy and to the stars.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Major Tom

    “This raises a key question: who will champion the new human spaceflight program in Congress once it’s formally released?”

    In short, in the weeks and months to come, whoever in Congress benefits.

    According to multiple reports, there will be a boost for Earth Science in the White House’s 2011 budget request. That benefits GSFC, which benefits NASA employees and voters in Maryland, which benefits Mikulski. (Same goes for exploration technology work and APL.) At the end of the day, it’s unlikely that the NASA marks in the bill coming out of the Senate’s Commerce, Science, Justice, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee that Mikulski chairs will deviate substantially from the White House 2011 budget request.

    According to multiple reports, there will also be HLV work in the White House’s 2011 budget request. That benefits MSFC, which benefits NASA employees and voters in Alabama, which benefits Shelby. (Same goes for commercial crew, EELV, and Decatur. And for exploration technology work and MSFC.) At the end of the day, it’s unlikely that Shelby, as the ranking member of the Senate’s Commerce, Science, Justice, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, will oppose Mikulski and seek NASA marks that deviate substantially from the White House 2011 budget request.

    Those are appropriators with real budget power.

    Authorizers like Nelson and Kosmas matter only if they get an authorization bill passed into law (for which there is an irregular and checkered history). And their authorization bill will only tie the appropriators’ hands if they authorize fewer dollars than what the White House is requesting. And at the end of the day, they are unlikely to do that, because it would put them on the record as opposed to NASA spending with their NASA employees and voters (and political opponents) back home.

    And even then, there are reports that there will be funding in the White House’s 2011 budget request to deal with the KSC workforce after Shuttle retirement. That benefits NASA employees and voters in Florida, which benefits Nelson and Kosmas. (Same goes for commercial crew, EELV, HLV, and exploration technology.) At the end of the day, it’s unlikely that Nelson or Kosmas are going to vote for authorization bills with NASA marks that are substantially lower than the White House 2011 budget request.

    And even if there’s not something in the White House 2011 budget request for a particular NASA congressman — even if the number of NASA employees and voters in their district or state is suppossed to go down — they’re unlikely to cut off their nose to spite their face. There are relatively few NASA supporters in Congress, and appropriations subcommittees only have so much money to work with. If a NASA congressman tries to sink the White House’s budget request, then they run a high risk of losing NASA funding to competing appropriations subcommittee or committee interests and driving the number of NASA employees and voters in their district or state even lower than what the White House proposed.

    Historically, as long as the White House request involves substantial funding (and not marginal study money as happened with SEI), the Congress follows the White House’s lead on major changes in the direction of NASA’s human space flight program. This history has played out time and again with Apollo, Shuttle, Freedom, ISS, and the VSE.

    The real threat to the White House’s budget request is not among congressmen representing NASA districts and states. The real threat is with appropriations committee and subcommittee chairs with limited or no stake in NASA. We saw that last year with Alan Mollohan, who cut Constellation by over a half billion dollars in the relevant House appropriations bills. Same goes of Dave Obey in prior years. If the White House loses its bid to boost NASA’s budget by $1.3 billion, that’s likely where it will be lost.

    Congressmen with lots of NASA employees and voters in their states and districts have a choice — they either hang together behind the White House budget request or they risk losing that budget to other congressmen with other priorities. They’ll almost always choose the former. That will be even more true this year thanks to the historically high deficit driving a highly competitive budget environment.


  • red

    “According to multiple reports, there will be a boost for Earth Science in the White House’s 2011 budget request. That benefits GSFC, which benefits NASA employees and voters in Maryland, which benefits Mikulski. (Same goes for exploration technology work and APL.)”

    Constellation budget overruns are also a long-term threat to the sorts of Earth observation and other robotic missions that GSFC is known for. The case is similar for NASA robotics and technology development from the Applied Physics Lab. Removing that threat is a big win for MD.

    Some reports and rumors have NASA switching some of its focus to satellite/observatory assembly and servicing. This could benefit GSFC and the Hubble Telescope Institute (eg: if it means more astronomy, heliophysics, and Earth observation missions and/or data to process).

    Orbital has some facilities in/near Maryland, and its COTS effort could benefit from a longer ISS life and greater use of the ISS, which isn’t possible with Constellation.

    There are various other space businesses in the DC Beltway area (in MD or within commute distance from MD) that are liable to benefit from a less-threatened NASA robotic mission suite, technology development, better prospects for Wallops launches, possibility of lower-cost commercial rockets for payloads MD businesses develop or use, etc.

    Overall, it seems like the rumored changes would be a huge win for Mikulsky and Maryland.

    The changes also sound like they’d be good for California (Ames, SpaceX, Mojave, JPL, etc), Ohio (see above), Nevada (Bigelow), Virginia (DC Beltway, Langley, Wallops), Colorado (satellites, etc), and others. There would be changes for places like Florida and Alabama, but it’s not clear they’d be bad overall for them. As Major Tom mentions, these states could still end up with HLV work, and could also get more commercial work (more EELV work in Alabama and Florida, more SpaceX work in Florida). Getting rid of Ares 1 with all of its schedule, budget, political, and technical problems, and replacing Ares V and its similar problems with an HLV that has a more realistic schedule, budget, and technology, should be a long-term win for them (even though an HLV may still threaten the budgets of MD, etc).

    There are more winners than with the POR simply because the dollars are leveraged better with the commercial focus, which comes with commercial money pitched in to add to the government investment, and because of the potential for new non-NASA business with the commercial approach. Technology development also comes with the prospects of new non-NASA business when the technology can result in spin-offs for non-space business or applications in non-NASA space missions.

    The various Congressional interests without many space constituents at all will probably be indifferent. However, their constituents are well-served by the rumored changes, with their greater potential for general economic, security, science, environment, and similar national benefits than the HSF POR.

  • Major Tom

    “it seems like the rumored changes would be a huge win for Mikulski and Maryland”

    Good points about OSC COTS launching from Wallops and satellite servicing, Red. I missed those.


  • Major Tom & Red
    Thank you for the analysis! Makes sense to me… but then I make very little sense out of American Politics!

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