Congress, NASA

Congressional roundup: the song (mostly) remains the same

While the ultimate goal of President Obama’s speech yesterday was to secure support for his new space exploration plan, the short-term reaction from members of Congress is little different than it was prior to speech. Those who opposed the plan continue to oppose it, while those who supported it still do, perhaps with fewer reservations than before.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) said the revised plan addressed some of his concerns and that “the president is moving in the right direction.” However, he said “we’ll change some things” to what the president proposed, perhaps by accelerating a decision on a heavy-lift launcher. “We’re going to keep testing the monster rockets at Kennedy Space Center.”

Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D-FL) also said the changes to the original plan “are steps in the right direction” but added that “there is still room for improvement.” Her released noted the House bill she co-sponsored that would permit an extension of the shuttle (something not mentioned in the president’s speech) and that she wanted “to make sure these ideas are fully explored.”

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), who has backed the plan in congressional hearings, reiterated his support in a release after the president’s speech. “President Obama reiterated the nation’s long-term space goal – America, and American astronauts, exploring the solar system. This remains the right goal,” said Rohrabacher, a long-time advocate for space commercialization. “Getting the private sector more involved in space efforts will free up NASA to explore the solar system and the universe beyond.”

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, gave the revised plan a modest endorsement. “I commend President Obama for strengthening and clarifying his vision for NASA,” he said in a statement. “I am pleased the president’s plan retains its focus on innovation, research and technology development – the drivers of our economy.”s

Those who didn’t like the original plan aren’t fond of the revision. “He has not budged on his plan to retire the shuttle eight months from now and that is deeply disappointing to me but I will continue to press for Shuttle extension,” said Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL). He was skeptical of the jobs numbers touted in the speech. “I wouldn’t feel comfortable taking those job numbers to the bank.”

Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX), the ranking member of the space subcommittee of the House Science and Technology Committee, was also not impressed with the speech. “His announcement today does nothing to solidify that leadership over the long term and continues a flawed hope in what might be instead of what we already have,” he said. Plans to turn Orion into a CRV “downgraded” it, and a decision in 2015 on a heavy-lift vehicle design was too late: “Stating that you may select a heavy lift design in five years is not a bold commitment to exploration.” Olson also complained about the “the Administration’s blatant focus on Florida”, in particular the workforce initiative announced in the speech.

Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), ranking member of the full science committee, was concerned about a loss of national prestige. “The President’s announcement today, unfortunately, still will do nothing to ensure America’s superiority in human space exploration or to decrease our reliance on Russia in the interim. America needs to have a bold presence in space and a proven plan for access to low Earth orbit and beyond. This is essential to our national security, and global predominance.”

Another Texas Republican, Rep. John Culberson, dismissed the president’s speech as “heavy on rhetoric but woefully light on substance”. His statement gave him the opportunity to use another analogy for commercialization of human spaceflight: “This would be akin to privatizing the Navy and simply renting out the U.S.S. Harry S. Truman any time we needed to defend ourselves.”

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, reiterated her concerns about a long gap in human access to LEO. “There are alternatives and a bipartisan group of members of Congress ready to work with the President to preserve our place in space, but his current proposals remain well short of a space policy worthy of a great nation.”

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) dismissed the plan as being built on a “quicksand foundation”. “As a result of the alternative offered by the President today, there is now no hope for a bright future in human space exploration. The President’s new plan continues the destruction of forty years of U.S. space supremacy by pinning our hopes for success on unproven commercial companies.” His colleague, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) said he was “encouraged” that the president felt the need to modify his original plans but that the new version “fails to preserve the United States’ role as the established international leader in space exploration.”

Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT) said the president “is still missing the mark” with the revised plan because it fails to grasp the link Bennett sees between Constellation and missile systems. “Eliminating the Constellation program, and especially the Ares I rocket, will decimate an industrial base that is not only key to maintaining our supremacy in space exploration, but also crucial to maintaining and strengthening our national security efforts.” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) called the revised plan “misguided”. “This is getting silly. The President’s plan wastes billions of dollars and years of valuable time,” said Hatch. “I would say the administration’s plan is laughable, but I can’t find much humor in it when the consequences to space exploration and American workers during tough economic times are so dire.”

In the midst of all this rhetoric, what’s more interesting is who didn’t say anything about the speech, including Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN), chair of the House Science Committee; Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), chair of the science committee’s space subcommittee; and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), chair of the appropriations subcommittee whose jurisdiction includes NASA. In the last case we’ll know soon enough: her subcommittee is holding a hearing on the NASA budget proposal on Thursday the 22nd, a hearing rescheduled from last month.

67 comments to Congressional roundup: the song (mostly) remains the same

  • amightywind

    After you cut through the rhetorical fog you still see that NASA is signed up for nothing. I thought this was supposed to be a town meeting, and not just Obama flapping his gums? Is he afraid of open debate? Astronaut Tom Jones summarizes nicely:

    http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2010/04/16/obamas-hollow-promise-space/

  • Ben Russell-Gough

    The silence of Rep Giffords might be explained by the recent threats of revelations of scandal and conflicts of interest. She’s been warned off by Rahm and the ‘boys’.

  • Vladislaw

    Once again someone at Foxnews never lets facts get in the way of bashing. Jones states:

    “He promised to decide in 2015 on the design for a new heavy lift rocket”

    The president said “we will finalize a rocket design no later than 2015″ not IN 2015. Which could mean anytime up TO that year.

  • The Republicans never, ever would be allowed by their party to support anything Obama proposes so their reaction is irrelevant.

    At least the Democrats are allowed to vote as they wish.

  • Major Tom

    “After you cut through the rhetorical fog you still see that NASA is signed up for nothing.”

    Yeah, a five-year ISS extension, two providers of crew transport by 2016, multi-year HLV acceleration, and BEO missions by 2025 are all a bunch of “nothing”.

    [rolls eyes]

    “I thought this was supposed to be a town meeting”

    Well, you obviously thought wrong.

    Duh…

    “Is he afraid of open debate?”

    Yes, the White House is so afraid of open debate that they held and recorded no less than four discussion sessions after the President’s talk.

    [rolls eyes]

    “Astronaut Tom Jones summarizes nicely”

    No, he doesn’t. Jones pins decisions made six years ago about Shuttle retirement on the current Administration (where was Jones then?) and then offers up one vague recommendation about providing NASA “an ambitious exploration goal and schedule [and] the necessary funding to assure our access to space” to fix the problem.

    Well, no duh…

  • Mark R. Whittington

    Looks like Obama;s desperate scramble to save Obamaspace has failed.

  • ISSvet

    All the Republican responses with the exception of Rohrabacher’s were predetermined by party affiliation. They manage to forget, somehow, that ending the Shuttle program was a Bush decision made years ago.

    They and amightywind also manage to ignore that the new plan gets us back into LEO faster than Constellation, beyond Earth orbit faster than Constellation, a heavy lift launcher faster than Constellation, to a non-Earth destination faster than Constellation, and also supports commercial development of space in the process.

    When I worked at NASA, some of us used to joke that NASA’s motto was, “Don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind’s made up.” It seems that this motto has now spread to all the defenders of the NASA status quo.

  • Major Tom

    The opposition is going to have to decide an internal battle between Shuttle extension (Posey, Hutchison, et al.) and Constellation resurrection (Culberson, Bennet, et al.). It will be hard enough to get one such budget-buster through when the authorization and appropriations chairs support the White House or are remaining silent, but getting both through is a legislative fantasy.

    FWIW…

  • Sergey Kozlovskoy

    Obama IS an asteroid.
    A big and dangerous one.

  • Unless you accept the fantasy that you can “somehow, someday,” run dead-end (because of their cost structure in development and operations) flags and footprints Apollo-style programs _and_ a set of NACA-like projects to bring costs down by “building an industry, not a program,” you have to choose one or the other.

    It’s time to choose the latter, which is also the only way of accomplishing “flags, footprints, and many footprints beyond that.” That’s the choice the proposed budget and programs makes, as do I.

  • amightywind

    ISSvet

    “They manage to forget, somehow, that ending the Shuttle program was a Bush decision made years ago.”

    The GOP was content with the Bush program because beyond shuttle was an exciting new program. The US would proudly access the ISS in a new Orion vehicle while deferred elements of Constellation like Ares V, the Earth Departure Stage and the Altair lander were developed. It was a challenging and concrete plan that attempted to keep our commitments to the ISS. Now Obama has chained the US to ISS using a Russian Soyuz. (Talk about a humiliating ride to space!).

    A large majority of Americans hates Obamaspace just like they hate Obamacare. A few minutes in front of the teleprompter didn’t change that.

  • The Republicans never, ever would be allowed by their party to support anything Obama proposes so their reaction is irrelevant.

    That must be why Dana Rohrabacher, Newt Gingrich and Bob Walker all support the plan.

  • I should add, what do these three have in common? They all understand space policy, and don’t view NASA as a jobs program.

  • common sense

    @ Rand Simberg wrote @ April 16th, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    “I should add, what do these three have in common? They all understand space policy, and don’t view NASA as a jobs program.”

    And possibly are not representative of today’s GOP policy? Just asking…

  • common sense

    Some time I think we should just have let Constellation go as is and I mean go funded as those nice Congress people funded it to. In such a way people would be very happy to see the eventual demise of NASA as a whole, not the HSF only. In the mean time the private sector, I mean the real private sector, not those living on USG cash infusion would have made it to orbit and possibly further and that’d be it.

    But I love NASA too much to support such insanity unlike a lot of the vociferous protesters here that don’t understand any of that.

    The real, REAL, compromise is to let NASA still operate some HSF and get the commercial to go ahead. It could have been commercial ONLY. Just remember that.

    Oh well…

  • Major Tom

    “Looks like Obama;s [sic] desperate scramble to save Obamaspace has failed.”

    Yes, NASA’s FY 2011 budget request has obviously failed as Representative Alan Mollohan, chair of NASA’s House Appopriations Subcommittee opened his NASA hearing by asking whether “the Apollo-like vision of the 1960’s… is that the approach that best serves our national interest?” and then explaining the “contemporary context” that led to the President’s new “focus on government development of new enabling technologies, with the eventual goal of landing astronauts on Mars.”

    Yes, NASA’s FY 2011 budget request has obviously failed as Senator Jay Rockefeller, chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, is “pleased the president’s plan retains its focus on innovation, research and technology development – the drivers of our economy.”

    Yes, NASA’s FY 2011 budget request has obviously failed as both the House and Senate draft NASA authorization bills provide all of the funding in every NASA account requested by the White House and incorporate all the major human space flight elements of the President’s FY 2011 budget request for NASA.

    Yes, NASA’s FY 2011 budget request has obviously failed because Senator Udall “Hails News That NASA Capsule Will Be Built”
    cbs4denver.com/business/Udall.NASA.capsule.2.1630971.html

    Yes, NASA’s FY 2011 budget request has obviously failed because Senator Brown sees that “Glenn Would Gain Jobs, Grow in Stature Under Obama Plan
    cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2010/04/nasa_glenn_would_gain_jobs_gro.html

    Yes, NASA’s FY 2011 budget request has obviously failed now that Senator LeMieux’s attempt to insert Senator Shelby’s Constellation language from last year’s omnibus appropriations into this year’s FAA bill went nowhere.

    [rolls eyes]

    Think before you post.

    Ugh…

  • Major Tom

    “Obama IS an asteroid.
    A big and dangerous one.”

    Now there’s an intelligent and insightful comment.

    Sigh…

  • Major Tom

    “:The [sic] GOP was content with the Bush program because beyond shuttle was an exciting new program. The US would proudly access the ISS in a new Orion vehicle while deferred elements of Constellation like Ares V, the Earth Departure Stage and the Altair lander were developed.”

    Ares V wasn’t under development. and wouldn’t have been for years. It had been reduced to a $25 million per year study to feed Ares I/Orion. Per the Augustine Committee, Ares V wouldn’t have started launching until 2028 at the earliest and it would have had an empty payload shround because the agency wouldn’t have been able to afford to put anything in Ares V after paying for its enormously expensive development.

    Altair also wasn’t under development and probably never would have been. It was defunded to feed Ares I/Orion. It wouldn’t have started development until after Ares V the 2030s, if ever.

    Don’t make stuff up.

    “Now Obama has chained the US to ISS using a Russian Soyuz. (Talk about a humiliating ride to space!).”

    Under Constellation, U.S. astronauts would likely have taken that “humiliating ride” on Soyuz through 2019. Under NASA’s FY 2011 budget request, there’s a high probability they’ll only have to ride Soyuz until 2016, at the latest.

    Think before you post.

    “A large majority of Americans hates Obamaspace just like they hate Obamacare. A few minutes in front of the teleprompter didn’t change that.”

    You commissioned a poll last night? Please share the numbers.

    [rolls eyes]

    Stop making things up.

    Ugh…

  • My crystal ball says Congress will not go along with the decision to turn access to LEO (for astronauts) over to the commercial guys, so you will see Ares I (under the same name or a different one revived). We will get some type of “COTS on steroids” to appease the political deals cut between the WH and Elon Musk (the guy who used his PayPal background to assist the Obama campaign’s on-line fundraising application), and we will move ahead with the heavy lift option as defined by the President and slightly tweaked by Congress. The increases for Earth Science applications will remain. Obama claims victory and moves on.

  • ISSvet

    Jim D, your crystal ball just played a really dirty trick on you. It might be more useful as a bowling ball. Duckpins, anyone?

  • Vladislaw

    “Bretton Alexander, President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation:

    “The President’s message today was spot-on: the new plan means more jobs, more spacecraft, more new technologies, and more astronaut flights. In fact, a recent independent study by the Tauri Group found that NASA investment in new commercial spaceflight programs will create an average of 11,800 direct jobs per year over the next five years, and that figure does not even include the investments in other NASA programs like technology and heavy-lift.” [For details on the jobs study, please visit http://www.commercialspaceflight.org/?p=1186

  • And possibly are not representative of today’s GOP policy?

    There is no “GOP policy” when it comes to space. Or Dem policy, either. Space policy has been a bipartisan disaster for years, driven mostly by pork considerations. I agree, though, that most GOP opposition to this policy is driven by knee-jerk opposition to Obama policies in general (just as was true of Democrat opposition to Bush’s policies, space or otherwise).

  • Major Tom, what happens if (actually, I should say when) Congress doesn’t do a budget this year (to avoid further retribution at the polls in November), and there’s a continuing resolution. Does Constellation zombie on into 2011?

  • MrEarl

    I wanted to read over the president’s speech and some of the discussions held at KSC before commenting. Nothing really new here so I’m not surprised that the chorus hasn’t changed.
    The president’s proposal does a lot for commercial cargo and crew in the short term. Better funding for commercial crew to LEO will hopefully convince more companies to compete for the opportunity to launch crew to the ISS. NASA’s role is to push the frontiers and frankly to go to LEO is to boldly go where hundreds have gone before. It’s time for US companies to be able to step up and provide total access for cargo and crew to LEO.
    On the other hand, this proposal is devastating for exploration beyond LEO.
    First is the matter of heavy lift. Without any prospects for truly game changing technologies emerging in the next 5 years it’s foolish not to make a decision on heavy lift now. I may be wrong but truly radical technologies like space elevators are at least a decade away if not more. We have a very good understanding of the workings of chemical rockets and there is nothing on the near horizon of 5 years worth waiting for. (Oler, Tom, etc.. instead of asking me to prove a negative I’m asking you to prove there is a technology worth waiting 5 years for.)
    We’ll need that heavy lift for what is truly a game changing and transformative technology, Ion drives. Whether it’s VASIMER or some other form of Ion drives, it is the technology that’s closest to maturity that can transform the way we travel in space. Ion drives can provide an 8 week travel time to Mars. For these drives to work to their potential they’ll need a lot of power, at least 200kW, something that is not practical using solar panels. Nuclear reactors could supply that power but lighter and smaller reactors would need to be developed which would also have immediate uses here on earth. Even so, HLV’s with at least 100mt lifting capacity will be needed.
    Breakthroughs in propulsion and nuclear reactors may take 10 years or more but that’s no reason to delay training and practicing beyond LEO exploration. The moon is only 3 days away using chemical rockets. Using existing spares and odds and ends from the ISS we could construct a modular test bed for these technologies now. Docked at the ISS, it would also provide more flight opportunities for commercial carriers bringing crews to the test bed. Nothing like this is in the president’s proposal.
    This true “space ship”, the first since the LEM, would also provide operations experience to ground controllers. The difference between operating the ISS and an exploration craft is similar to the difference between a hotel and a cruise ship. Using this space ship we’ll relearn the skills required to leave the Earth gravity well and reenter to orbit this time. Again, this capability is missing in the president’s proposal.
    From there we can develop and test the other parts that make exploration possible like landers, ISRU, radiation shielding and construction. Laboratories could be built to handle the samples brought back from NEO’s and Mars to prevent cross contamination. This opens up more opportunities for commercial ventures for things like habitation modules from Bigalow and resupply missions.
    Now when propulsion is ready so is the rest of program. By 2025 NASA will be truly ready for exploration with commercial interests fully capable of supporting the program. The White House proposal, by delaying heavy lift, leaving hardware testing nebulous at best, with no plan to develop and maintain exploratory operations experience, is devastating NASA human space flight and truly delays beyond earth exploration for decades.

  • Vladislaw

    “The US would proudly access the ISS in a new Orion vehicle”

    Are you saying the Orion vehicle was going to be a submarine?

    I am confused, under the program of record the ISS was going to be deorbited and crashed into the pacific ocean at the end of 2015 and the Ares I was not going to fly until 2017- 2019. So the orion was going to be a submersable to visit it?

    UNLESS you support Obama and want him to extends it.

  • The really nice thing about the speech is that it opens the door to save an NASA based orbital HSF capability. The requires going from Orion-minus as a CRV to an actual crewed launch vehicle with an EELV as the launcher. Congress can take what Obama offer an make a little change. An this will get us back into business faster than about another other possibility other than extending the Shuttle. Hopefully all of your Congressional staffers will know what to do!

  • Doug Lassiter

    “Dana Rohrabacher, Newt Gingrich and Bob Walker all support the plan.”

    That fact deserves some thought. Why are these Republicans willing to defy their colleagues in Florida, Alabama, Texas, and Utah on the Obama plan? Well, for one thing, none of those three have an abundance of human space flight jobs in their home states. So for them, it’s about space, and not about jobs. Gingrich and Walker aren’t even in Congress anymore, so they don’t have local constituents to defend. For them, it’s a national policy decision, rather than a local district decision. It would be very interesting to hear from GOP members in other states about the new plan.

    For Walker and Roharbacher at least, who have had direct Congressional oversight of NASA for many many years and who even now maintain strong leadership roles on aerospace issues, I actually trust their judgment on national policy matters more than I would from the young ‘uns. Ralph Hall is certainly a graybeard legislator with vast NASA expertise, and his district is pretty far from most of the human space flight action in Texas, so his stance could be considered a little odd. But Texas legislators stick together like glue, so his support for his Gulf Coast colleagues is perhaps not that surprising.

    Gingrich and Walker read the score pretty well. They refer in their Washington Times OpEd to “shrieks you might have heard from a few special interests”. In their view, this is about national policy versus “special interests”.

  • Without any prospects for truly game changing technologies emerging in the next 5 years it’s foolish not to make a decision on heavy lift now.

    The game-changing technologies are almost in hand, and only need orbital demonstrations. They’re called orbital fueling/refueling and depots. They eliminate the need for anything heavier than a growth Atlas or Delta.

  • common sense

    @ Doug Lassiter wrote @ April 16th, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    “Gingrich and Walker aren’t even in Congress anymore, so they don’t have local constituents to defend. ”

    Maybe you have to get out of Congress to finally recover your senses? Your ability to think? I suppose when your main concern no longer is to run for (re)election then it becomes national policy anew.

    What I find sad in the current rethoric though is not that they try to save the jobs and pork, well at least not really. It is that they use idiotic arguments that have been proven wrong times and again to do so. Some are talking about the dumbing down of the political discourse: No better place to see it than in the space discourse arena.

  • MrEarl

    Rand,
    If you use Ion drives you don’t need orbital fueling.
    If orbital fueling is such a sure thing why not develop the Atlas or Delta heavy lift now?

  • If you use Ion drives you don’t need orbital fueling.

    Yes, you do. It’s just a different kind of propellant.

    If orbital fueling is such a sure thing why not develop the Atlas or Delta heavy lift now?

    Because we don’t know that we need even them. The existing vehicles might be sufficient, if we’re sufficiently creative. You can buy a lot of creativity for the billions that a heavy lifter would cost.

  • MrEarl

    We’re getting into a circular argument here. I don’t think that’s why NASA is “studying” heavy lift. I think it’s just a make work program before it dies a quite anonymous death.

  • Major Tom

    “Major Tom, what happens if (actually, I should say when) Congress doesn’t do a budget this year (to avoid further retribution at the polls in November)”

    First, I’m not sure that’s what will happen. If the Democrats in the early fall are seeing inevitable defeat in the late fall, I’d argue that they’re just as likely to rush to get their FY 2011 appropriations bills passed and signed into law before they lose power. They’ll all have earmarks that might help them in the fall, and there will be bigger spending issues that they will want to get passed before they lose their chairmanships.

    We’ll see what Mikulski has to say on the Senate side next week. But on the House side, given what Mollohan has already said this year (and given that he temporarily cut Constellation last year), I’d be surprised to see a House CJS appropriations bill that makes major changes to NASA’s FY 2011 budget request. I’d say that in a normal appropriations cycle. If things get hurried by an impending Democratic defeat in November, I think there’s an even lower chance that major changes are made to NASA’s FY 2011 budget request. The Democratic leadership will shut out the Republicans and suppress debate within their own party, especially on minor issues like NASA, to get the bills (or an omnibus bill) passed.

    “and there’s a continuing resolution. Does Constellation zombie on into 2011?”

    Unfortunately, I don’t have a good answer for you here. It depends on the language in the continuing resolution. There are always exceptions in those resolutions, where funding is decreased or increased (instead of remaining level) for an existing program (e.g., Constellation may get whacked) or where there are changes in program content (e.g., new programs in the NASA’s FY 2011 budget request get started).

    No one is going to shut down the government based on what a continuing resolution does or does not contain regarding NASA. But given that they’ve had to wait through FY 2010, I wouldn’t be surprised if NASA makes OMB’s list of issues that the White House leans on a Democratic Congress to move forward under a continuing resolution.

    Sorry I can’t handicap it any better than that. If someone more informed can chime in, they should.

    My 2 cents… FWIW…

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  • Bennett

    Someone posted on a different thread that all this talk is circular and meaningless.

    I have to respond by saying that I learn something new (usually a lot) every time I read Jeff’s posts and the comments that follow. Knowledge is power.

  • First, I’m not sure that’s what will happen. ,/em>

    I had seen rumors that it was their current strategery, but I can’t find it on line.

  • I don’t think that’s why NASA is “studying” heavy lift. I think it’s just a make work program before it dies a quite anonymous death.

    Let’s hope so.

  • Click here for a summary of various articles and press releases about Obama’s KSC visit, as posted on my SpaceKSC.com blog.

    The Washington Post article was interesting, because instead of focusing on the politically polarized arguments, it was more about the challenges of trying to visit an asteroid as proposed by Obama. It left me liking the proposal all the more, because as Obama said it would be more challenging for American technology than simply returning to the Moon.

  • ISSvet

    I don’t think that’s why NASA is “studying” heavy lift. I think it’s just a make work program before it dies a quite anonymous death.

    An alternative possibility is that heavy lift will be studied just long enough to make sure that the Shuttle infrastructure is beyond resurrection, then NASA will select a design from the affordable options, whatever they are at that point. Nothing based on the Shuttle infrastructure can ever be made affordable, so you have to make sure it’s dead.

  • meh

    Vladislaw wrote @ April 16th, 2010 at 12:53 pm
    The president said “we will finalize a rocket design no later than 2015″ not IN 2015. Which could mean anytime up TO that year.

    Well then he better get on that fast, because he is only in office until the end of 2012. He has to get re-elected first.

    The only committed, timed goal that was set was to get a response by August 15th, 2010 re: $40mil to replenish jobs. But was that $40mil for just Florida or all of the Nation?

  • Major Tom

    “Without any prospects for truly game changing technologies emerging in the next 5 years it’s foolish not to make a decision on heavy lift now.”

    “Breakthroughs in propulsion and nuclear reactors may take 10 years or more”

    “By 2025 NASA will be truly ready for exploration”

    Your timelines make no sense. You want build an HLV now, even though the reactors that are your rationale for building the HLV won’t be ready ten or more years, and you’re not anticipating exploration missions for another five years after that.

    If reactors are your long-lead item, then you want to put money into them now and defer HLV investments until you know how big those reactors are going to be, how much lift they’re going to need, and what timeline they’re on. There’s no reason to incur the costs of developing and then keeping a huge HLV infrastructure sitting idle for years as a reactor development program (probably starved for funding by that inactive HLV infrastructure) plays catch up.

    C’mon, this is common sense programmatic scheduling 101.

    “I may be wrong but truly radical technologies like space elevators are at least a decade away if not more.”

    This statement demonstrates complete ignorance of the FY 2011 budget document. No one is talking about space elevators.

    When it comes to lift for human exploration missions, it’s all about propellant, which makes up the vast majority of the mass of these missions. Using today’s technologies for a human Mars mission, we’d have to put as much mass in space as about 12 International Space Stations. That’s entirely unrealistic, even with the largest HLVs. The game-changers are technologies that can greatly reduce the amount of propellant that needs to be lifted from Earth or technologies that make it easier to manage that propellant in space. They include:

    – Aerocapture — Greatly reduces the amount of propellant needed to enter Mars orbit for Mars missions or to enter Earth orbit on the return leg for missions from anywhere. The concept and technology have been around for decades and it’s the single biggest potential mass saver, but it’s never been demonstrated because no operational mission wants to risk loss due to burnup in an atmosphere. Dedicated technology demonstration missions, as proposed in NASA’s FY 2011 budget request, are needed.

    – In-Situ Propellant Production — Being able to produce and store propellant at your target destination before your arrival greatly reduces the amount of propellant that you need to launch from Earth. Simple concepts and small ground demonstrations have been around for decades, but never tested in space. Dedicated robotic precursor and/or technology demonstration missions, as proposed in NASA’s FY 2011 budget request, are needed.

    – Lightweight and Deployable Structures — Depending on where it sits in the system, every less unit of mass that a spacecraft weighs translates into a reduction in the mass of propellant needed by the mission by up to a factor of ten. Some concepts, like inflatable modules, have been tested at the subscale level in space, but require human-scale tests. Others, like ballutes, have never been tested in space at any scale. Dedicated technology demonstration missions, as proposed in NASA’s FY 2011 budget request, are needed.

    – Closed Loop Life Support — Depending on where it sits in the system, every less unit of mass of consumables that a crew takes with them translates into a reduction in the mass of propellant needed by up to a factor of ten. No one has achieved a closed life support system over any substantial period of time. More research, and ideally a demonstration aboard the ISS, as proposed in NASA’s FY 2011 budget request, are needed.

    Advanced In-Space Propulsion and Power — There are electromagnetic and nuclear alternatives to chemical rockets that could reduce propellant needs by enabling more efficient transport for some elements of a mission (e.g., preplacement of slow cargo) or faster transport for other elements (e.g., the crew). They require huge power sources, which carry political (nuclear) or technical (solar) issues of their own and have never been tested in space at the necessary scales. More research and demonstration missions, as proposed in NASA’s FY 2011 budget request, are needed.

    In-Space Cryo Management — Even when you’ve done all of the above, you may still be looking at lifting propellant mass equivalent to a few ISSes. Even with a heavy lifter, that kind of mass is going to have to go up on several launches. You’re going to need to be able to store the propellant in space for long periods of time while waiting for the last launch. You have to be able to store cryogenic propellants without having them boil away. This has been demonstrated for short periods at small scales, but not on the timelines or scales necessary for human exploration missions. A technology demonstration mission, as proposed in NASA’s FY 2011 budget request, is needed. (Some folks, myself included, argue that if this technology is demonstrated, it actually obviates the need for heavy lift. But that’s another discussion.)

    There are others but these are some of the big ones.

    The harsh reality is that unless you just want to get stuck repeating Apollo at the Moon, the masses involved in human missions to more distant locations or in much more ambitious human lunar missions require these kinds of demonstrations and technical breakthroughs. Decisions on what kind and how big of an HLV to build shouldn’t be made until you have at least some of these technology drivers pounded out. Spending big bucks building and maintaining an under- or over-sized HLV, a demonstrated technology, before you have some of these undemonstrated but still critical technologies in hand, is the most stupid kind of cart-before-the-horse strategy.

    “We’ll need that heavy lift for what is truly a game changing and transformative technology, Ion drives. Whether it’s VASIMER…”

    VASIMIR is one candidate technology in the ion drive family, which in turn is one set of technologies in the electromagnetic propulsion family, for which there are chemical, nuclear, and other alternatives. It’s promising in some ways, but has huge potential drawbacks in others. No propulsion system is perfect and picking the best one is going to require some level of demonstration of alternatives. I wouldn’t bet the farm on any one propulsion system yet.

    “Using existing spares and odds and ends from the ISS we could construct a modular test bed for these technologies now. Docked at the ISS… Nothing like this is in the president’s proposal.”

    Actually, if you bother to read the ESMD section in NASA’s FY 2011 budget request, it talks about flagship technology demonstration missions, some of which would take place at the ISS.

    “The White House proposal, by delaying heavy lift”

    From an engineering perspective, you want to delay heavy lift until other systems are proven out so you don’t make uninformed and expensive bad decisions.

    “leaving hardware testing nebulous at best”

    How are any of the technologies and demonstrations described above, all of which are in NASA’s FY 2011 budget request, “nebulous”?

    “with no plan to develop and maintain exploratory operations experience”

    Besides the ISS.

    Duh…

    “is devastating NASA human space flight and truly delays beyond earth exploration for decades.”

    Based on your conflicted and amateurish attempt at programmatic scheduling?

    Please…

  • common sense

    @Major Tom: Re: Ballutes

    Some have been tested.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6714639

  • Robert G. Oler

    MrEarl wrote @ April 16th, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    We’re getting into a circular argument here. I don’t think that’s why NASA is “studying” heavy lift. I think it’s just a make work program before it dies a quite anonymous death….

    NASA is studying heavy lift because it has to kill off the last of the shuttle program and that includes all elements of the shuttle program…

    The problem with most space activist (not you) is that they dont look at the bigger picture. They are so hung up on their pet effort that they dont see where the currents in both national politics and everything that actually does things in space (ie the military and commercial) are moving to.

    Everything shuttle derived is like the knock off of the B-36 that emerged …it was big, could carry (for that day) large amounts of troops and yet…Convair made the mistake of assuming that the same large structure cost that were sustained in the 36 because of the strategic role, could be sustained in the troop transport role…they couldnt…hence there were I think two of the prototypes made.

    The shuttle is the same way. The only reason it flew as long as it did was that first it was the only thing we had and then everything else was designed to sustain shuttle ops, because to quote one NASA administrator “we already have it”.

    The real mover and shaker in lift in this country is not NASA nor is it commercial (sadly) it really is the military and other “non civilian” apps. The EELV’s even subsidized are far cheaper then the shuttle was ever going to be.

    What everyone (but the DIRECT folks, the right wing nuts in the GOP and others) wants is something with near (or lower) EELV cost but a tad more lift. The more these things fly the cheaper they get…urgo thats where things are going.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Rand Simberg wrote @ April 16th, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    The game-changing technologies are almost in hand, and only need orbital demonstrations. They’re called orbital fueling/refueling and depots. They eliminate the need for anything heavier than a growth Atlas or Delta…

    exactly. Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ April 16th, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    Looks like Obama;s desperate scramble to save Obamaspace has failed..,.

    only in the mind of someone who thinks that the WMD Went to Syria and that Constellation was actually going to the Moon…oh thats you!

    Robert G. Oler

  • Major Tom

    “@Major Tom: Re: Ballutes

    Some have been tested”

    Natch. Thanks for the correct, CS.

  • Robert G. Oler

    MrEarl wrote @ April 16th, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    On the other hand, this proposal is devastating for exploration beyond LEO…

    there are at least three problems with that statement.

    First there was no exploration beyond LEO under the POR. there were a lot of viewgraphs and such but there was no REAL exploration beyond LEO with Constellation.

    Second. What makes heavy lift affordable is a lot of things…I’ll name two. The first is sizing it appropriately. My view (see the other post on the B36 comparison) is that it is somewhere about 25-30 percent above what the Delta/Atlas Heavies can lift. The second is doing a “Musk” and figure out what technologies appropriate levels of automation etc make it affordable. Affordable is defined as something that has commercial interest. There needs to be some serious study on this. The DIRECT people babble on about “cost per pound” but thats not it.

    Third…until some new technologies are in hand (in space refueling, some space unique vehicles) aand a commercial space industry are in hand…there is no use using chemical rockets and scrapped together parts to go to the Moon.

    This is the part I really dont understand (perhaps you can help me)…what does it matter if we go to the Moon in 10 or 30 years if we do it only as a government effort that has nothing commercial about it.

    I dont get it.

    (much as I did not get ISS)

    Robert G. Oler

  • Major Tom

    “(Oler, Tom, etc.. instead of asking me to prove a negative I’m asking you to prove there is a technology worth waiting 5 years for.)”

    On top of all the human exploration mission technologies in my prior post, I’d also point to Jon Goffs post’s in this thread over at nasaspaceflight.com:

    forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=21277.0;all

    He does a good job explaining what improvements could be and would need to be made to have an efficient, U.S. version of the RD-180 — the focus of NASA’s HLV development until the 2015 or earlier decision. From backing off the Russians’ pressure levels, to thrust-augmented nozzles, to applications beyond HLVs, to HLV timing, just reading his posts does a good job at covering a lot of bases.

    FWIW…

  • I assume you mean this specific comment?

    We (Jeff, John and I) discussed that at the hospitality suite at Space Access last week.

  • Sorry, that was Jon, not “John.”

  • Doug Lassiter

    “Maybe you have to get out of Congress to finally recover your senses? Your ability to think? I suppose when your main concern no longer is to run for (re)election then it becomes national policy anew.”

    Yes, unfortunately that seems to be the lesson here. Democracy in action. Congress works for constituents, not for the greater good. The assumption is that what’s good for the greatest number of constituents (as largely defined by dollars in their pockets) is what defines the greater good. That’s actually probably correct, both democratically and capitalistically, but it also means that if I do something for your constituents, and you do something for mine, we can pretend that both of those things are in the national interest.

    Thank goodness for trias politica. Can you imagine the state of our space program if Congress were wholly responsible for it?

  • common sense

    @Doug Lassiter wrote @ April 16th, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    “if I do something for your constituents, and you do something for mine, we can pretend that both of those things are in the national interest.”

    Hmmm are you saying that people could, should?, actually reciprocate “favors” so to speak. That all the cash should not only go to certain “space” districts? Ah come on! Be serious! At this rate you might say that having a national single health care program is a good thing!

    “Can you imagine the state of our space program if Congress were wholly responsible for it?”

    Aaargghh!!! It’s not? I thought people said Congress was going to stop all this nonsensical plan from the WH?!?! What are you talking about? Where is MY piece of the bailout?

  • common sense

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ April 16th, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    “This is the part I really dont understand (perhaps you can help me)…what does it matter if we go to the Moon in 10 or 30 years if we do it only as a government effort that has nothing commercial about it.”

    Hmm well. It will show how great the USA really is, and how powerful we are. Of course we have one of the largest infant mortality rate in the world but no big deal. Some people don’t even have good drinking water but they can always well hmm buy it at their nearest grocery strore. More important to have a select few walikng on the Moon wondering what to do there. Oh wait up! There’ll be mining of He3, of course if the Chinese don’t take it all. Now of course there is the tiny detail that there is nothing to use He3 but so what? At least we would be walking on the Moon. I think Alan Shephard showed us the best use of the Moon with Apollo and that at least would have been transferable to ESAS/Constellation. Now if you could only repeat it on Mars… But it’s another debate altogether.

    At least it’s the weekend.

  • Democracy in action. Congress works for constituents, not for the greater good. The assumption is that what’s good for the greatest number of constituents (as largely defined by dollars in their pockets) is what defines the greater good. That’s actually probably correct, both democratically and capitalistically, but it also means that if I do something for your constituents, and you do something for mine, we can pretend that both of those things are in the national interest.

    Here’s a bit of a piece I just wrote for National Review (though I’m not sure it they’ll run it yet).

    The so-called conservative opposition to this new direction in space policy seems (at least to me) to come from three motivations: a visceral and intrinsic (and understandable) distaste for any policy that emanates from this White House; a nostalgia for the good old days, when we had a goal and a date and a really big rocket and an unlimited budget (or what I’ve described as the “Apollo cargo cult“); and in the case of people like Senators Shelby, Hutchison, Hatch et al, pure rent seeking for their states. And of course, none of these are mutually exclusive; for some, all three apply. But none of them address the problems with the status quo, or the wisdom of the actual new policy.

    It’s very frustrating.

  • Of course we have one of the largest infant mortality rate in the world but no big deal.

    This is OT, but if we have the highest infant mortality rate, it’s because we keep the books differently — we try to save a lot of babies in pre-natal care that most countries give up on and don’t count in their statistics, so it’s not surprising that we have more failures.

    But don’t let reality get in the way of bashing your own country.

  • Sorry, that was Jon, not “John.”

    And now that I think about it, we probably actually discussed this issue on a panel on Thursday night…

  • Major Tom

    “I assume you mean this specific comment?”

    That post, but others belonging to Mr. Goff in that thread.

    “We (Jeff, John and I) discussed that at the hospitality suite at Space Access last week.”

    Too bad I couldn’t be there.

    FWIW…

  • Rhyolite

    “I don’t think that’s why NASA is “studying” heavy lift. I think it’s just a make work program before it dies a quite anonymous death.”

    The same argument works against Ares V, which is supposed to be under study for two or three more years than the proposed new HLV before beginning full development.

  • Sam Dinkin

    Another Texas Republican, Rep. John Culberson, dismissed the president’s speech as “heavy on rhetoric but woefully light on substance”. His statement gave him the opportunity to use another analogy for commercialization of human spaceflight: “This would be akin to privatizing the Navy and simply renting out the U.S.S. Harry S. Truman any time we needed to defend ourselves.”

    This is funny. The DoD has done a number of sale/lease back deals. Transports come to mind. Reminds me of Griffin’s, “You can’t cancel the Navy.” comment.

  • amightywind

    Sam Dinkin wrote:

    “Reminds me of Griffin’s, “You can’t cancel the Navy.” comment.”

    What’s wrong with that comment? Griffin was lamenting the fact that NASA gets turned inside out every time a new democrat President forms an Augustine committee. Much as Obama hates the US military he can’t do anything to change its mission. The GOP has done so much to successfully paint the democrats as the anti-military party that they are afraid even to make one of their own the defense secretary! Would that it were the same for NASA.

  • Vladislaw

    “This would be akin to privatizing the Navy and simply renting out the U.S.S. Harry S. Truman any time we needed to defend ourselves.”

    I would have asked him, “Senator, are we fighting aliens in space?”

    He keeps equating NASA space craft to war vessels. The ISS is a national lab, it would be better to say when astronauts go from one terrestrial NASA lab to another do they take commercial flights, if so then this is no different.

  • Will

    amightywind wrote @ April 17th, 2010 at 11:01 am

    “The GOP has done so much to successfully paint the democrats as the anti-military party that they are afraid even to make one of their own the defense secretary! Would that it were the same for NASA.”

    To take pride in the ‘painting’ you describe above and the conclusions you draw from it worry me. America is much better than that. It’s based on people coming from all over the world and living together in the USA to make the most of it. Do you know where the U in USA stands for?

  • Obama’s plan totally stinks!!! He did exactly what I knew he was going to do: big, blustery rhetoric about going to asteroids & Mars, and then ignoring the Moon completely as a destination. What the freak is all this?!?! The Moon IS a fully viable destination & training ground for all far-deep space concepts. There are natural resources there just waiting to be tapped into. Bases, like those in Antarctica could be up and running within the first few years. Since being on the Lunar surface resembles being in interplanetary space, NASA would get all the proving ground testing that it needs for base modules, when the time later comes for a Mars expedition. And NASA would be routinely leaving low earth orbit far behind! The Constellation plan turns LEO into a mere parking stop! Under Flexible Path we will futz around in LEO for the next 15 or 20 years, and nothing more; while China will finally wise-up about copying the ISS, and instead turn its spacecraft Moonward, for its own awe-inspiring Lunar venture—which will be one for the history books—by say 2025. THE MOON IS A VASTLY BETTER DESTINATION THAN AN ASTEROID!!! Let’s do the Moon first!! We’d already get a heavy-lift rocket under Constellation: it was called the Aries 5. (Aries 1 was to lift separately the crew and the Orion capsule, as a safety measure; for an earth orbit rendezvous phase of the Lunar trip; so it was needed as well, this smaller rocket.) Aries 5 would instantly have major interplanetary transport capabilities! The U.S. does NOT have to wait until 2015 (when Obama should well be out of office), for NASA to START choosing a design for a heavy-lift rocket!! That would be a wholesale farce!! Why wrecking ball things at all & start over, when we ALREADY have a viable heavy-lift launcher design?? It appears clear to me, that the people who want Constellation killed are only the “Anywhere-but-the-Moon” fanatics. They simply hated the initial destination so much, that they actually prefered having our astronauts doing nothing but circles in LEO for the next decade & a half or more—just so nobody ever dares return to Luna again! This gross prejudice against the Moon is exactly what brought on Flexible Path in the first place! Please, fans of the space program: see through this bright shining lie! The Moon is where we should be going, NOT asteroids! Trading the Moon for a giant, oversized pebble is NOT the way to go!!

  • googaw

    THE MOON IS A VASTLY BETTER DESTINATION THAN AN ASTEROID!!!

    YOUR ALL CAPS HAVE CONVINCED ME, I BELIEVE YOU!

  • eh

    Congressional reaction reminds me of this:

    “”the people of Nebraska are for free silver, so I am for free silver. I will look up the arguments later.” –William Jennings Bryan

  • red

    Jeff on Rep. Pete Olson – “Plans to turn Orion into a CRV “downgraded” it”

    That may be true, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea. Here are some interesting statements on Orion by Ed Crawley and David Mindell in “U.S. Human Spaceflight: The FY11 Budget and the Flexible Path”. Ed Crawley was on the Augustine Committee.

    http://web.mit.edu/press/images/reports/space-report.pdf

    “Yet in view of planned technology investments, should the United States pursue the development of the Orion capsule, which is based on earlier technologies and will not be needed for at least 10 years? One could construct alternatives for Orion besides cancelation: a “lite” version as an option for commercial crew or a “very lite” version for NASA-supplied crew rescue from the ISS.”

    Here’s some more from the document for those that say the FY2011 budget strays so far from the Augustine Committee options:

    “The decisions signaled by the proposed FY 11 budget are within the range of options identified by the Augustine committee: 1) extending the Shuttle until FY 11, 2) extending the ISS until 2020, 3) choosing a new, probably liquid booster for super heavy lift, 4) relying on crew transport to the ISS supplied by a hybrid-commercial model with significant government incentives, and 5) pursuing a Flexible Path strategy for exploration. The choices made by the administration most resemble “Integrated Option 5B: Flexible Path – EELV Heritage super heavy launch vehicle” of the Augustine report.”

    There’s more:

    “In the interest of long-term stability and efficacy of the United States human spaceflight program, we recommend that in the current budget cycle, NASA should not attempt to define dates certain and destinations certain. To do so would be to again set up the circumstances that led to the most fundamental observation of the Augustine report, that NASA is “perpetuating the perilous practice of pursuing goals that do not match allocated resources,” leading to an “unsustainable trajectory” for the NASA’s human spaceflight program overall.”

    There’s a lot more in the document. I do have a comment on the following 2 excerpts:

    “The Augustine report envisioned initial test flights within the Earth-Moon system and then operational flights that include visits to “near earth objects” (NEOs, asteroids and spent comets), Mars flybys, Mars orbital flights and eventually exploration of the lunar and Mars surface.”

    and

    “Destinations in the Flexible Path have a logical progression. The Augustine report suggested that astronauts might first test the new systems in Earth–Moon space by traveling to lunar orbit and to the Earth-Moon Lagrange points (where the Earth and Moon’s gravity balance each other). Astronauts will then visit Earth-Sun Lagrange points, NEOs, Mars orbit and that of its moons, demonstrating new capabilities for servicing, repair, and construction along the way.”

    My comment is that the early destinations in Earth-Moon space (lunar orbit, Earth-Moon Lagrange points, and geosynchronous Earth orbit, which their document adds as a Flexible Path destination) should not be considered just “test” destinations. There is a tremendous amount of work that can be done there to deliver security, science, economic, and other benefits, as well as to develop infrastructure and prepare for more ambitious exploration. I’m almost tempted to consider these earlier destinations to be more like “vegetables” and the deep space destinations like asteroids and Mars as “dessert”, at least for the decades that we’re concerned with.

  • [...] single best thing the Administration has done thus far. They have a tough fight ahead with the few members of Congress who actually care about this—who just so happen to be the ones whose districts will face job cuts [...]

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