Besides the news that NASA was transferring Constellation program manager Jeff Hanley to a different position at JSC, a few other items of note from the hearing:
- At the hearing NASA administrator Charles Bolden revealed the estimated cost of developing Orion as a crew return vehicle only: $4.5 billion over five years. Where the money will come from hasn’t been determined yet, but a spokesperson told the New York Times it won’t come from the $6 billion for commercial crew over the same time span in the existing budget proposal, but from “elsewhere in the human spaceflight program.”
- Bolden did not get much of a warm reception from members of the committee. As Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) put it late in Bolden’s panel, “By now you have probably figured out that this committee is not with you.” But that opposition wasn’t unanimous. Shortly before Garamendi spoke, Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (D-PA) praised plans in the proposal to mount a human mission to a near Earth asteroid by 2025. “That captures my imagination, actually,” she said.
- Late in the second panel, which featured Neil Armstrong, Gene Cernan, and Tom Young, all critical of the budget proposal (in particular its emphasis on commercial crew), Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) expressed his frustration with what to him appeared to be a one-sided hearing. “It has not been a balanced hearing,” he told committee chairman Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN). “We have not received both sides of this issue at all from this presentation.” Rohrabacher added that before the committee takes up a NASA authorization bill “we would have a panel presented to us that could give both sides of the issue.” Gordon defended the makeup of the hearing, noting that Bolden testified for two hours and that presidential science advisor John Holdren was invited but could not attend. “You can be well assured that we are not one hearing away from an authorization,” Gordon said, adding that he had talked yesterday with Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, an advocate of commercial spaceflight, who was interested in testifying.
- The quote of the hearing, though, goes to Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), who sought to compare the capabilities of NASA versus the commercial sector when it comes to responding to a spaceflight crisis like Apollo 13. “I told the NASA administrator recently that my sense is that if a commercial enterprise had been running the space program at the time of Apollo 13, then all of those hundreds of engineers, mechanics, and other astronauts who worked so hard to make sure that the three men returned to Earth safely would have been replaced by one 20-year-old in a Grateful Dead t-shirt working on a laptop.”