In a joint op-ed in the Orlando Sentinel today, Sens. Bill Nelson and Kay Bailey Hutchison defend their plan for the space agency that’s incorporated into the NASA authorization legislation currently in the Senate. “Working with the White House, Senate colleagues and others, we have developed bipartisan legislation to get NASA on what we believe is the right track,” they write, adding that the House is “preparing a similar plan” (although different in a number of key details, something they don’t mention.) “In a nutshell, President Obama has declared Mars to be an ultimate goal — and, the bills now emerging from Congress provide a blueprint for NASA to lead the way for humans to explore beyond low-Earth orbit.”
What follows is a discussion of the key elements of that blueprint: adding another shuttle mission, extending ISS operations to at least 2020, developing a heavy-lift vehicle, and supporting development of commercial crew and cargo capabilities as well as key technology. They write that “our legislation would reduce the time we would have to depend on Russia for access to the space station by extending the shuttle for another year.” (Actually it would extend it by several months by adding one mission, while still relying on Russia for ISS crew transfers.) The legislation “would make a significantly higher investment in commercial space ventures, specifically by accelerating development of both commercial cargo and crew carriers.” (Although it’s still considerably less than what the administration requested.) Also left unanswered is whether the funding authorized in the bill is sufficient to develop a heavy-lift vehicle by the end of 2016, as the legislation states.
Meanwhile, in a Space News op-ed, Bill Nye, TV’s “The Science Guy” and the incoming executive director of The Planetary Society, finds it hard to believe he is in disagreement with “two of the world’s heroes”, namely former astronauts John Glenn and Neil Armstrong. The two of them strongly disagree with the administration’s NASA plan that Nye and The Planetary Society support. “They, along with a few others, believe that the U.S. is ending its human (manned) space exploration,” he writes. “I cannot help but ask, have these opponents read the same documents that I have? Are we all talking about the same NASA?”
He later notes that he and Armstrong and Glenn probably agree on a number of issues, including that plans to cancel the shuttle were first announced back in 2004, and that Constellation “would not take anyone back to the Moon before 2020, or even 2025″. “Would we agree that the Constellation program somehow got away from its managers? Would we agree that it was not going to accomplish much, while spending a lot of money? Would we agree we need a plan that will work?”