In a letter today to the chairs and ranking members of key House and Senate appropriations and authorization subcommittees, the leadership of The Planetary said it was “concerned about omissions and a lack of coherence” in the NASA-related legislation they have marked up in recent weeks. “[W]e are concerned that the path on which the legislative process is proceeding will lead to an incomplete plan, which would be worse than no plan at all,” states the letter, signed by the organization’s president and vice president as well as the retiring and incoming executive directors.
The letter cites several concerns. One is the lack of “a plan to restore U.S. technical capability to launch astronauts to space once the shuttle is retired”; the society supports commercial crew development, but worries that plans to develop government systems for such access could extend the post-shuttle gap. They also note the lack of specific exploration goals in the legislation and cuts in exploration and technology programs. Also, while supporting the eventual development of a heavy-lift vehicle, they don’t support the Senate’s plan to begin development of such a system immediately, because “premature development through political legislation rather than technological studies could result in huge waste and eventual delays.”
“We ask for your help and leadership, and that of your colleagues on the full Committees” to avoid the incomplete plan they fear, the letter concludes. “This may require stepping back from each of the Congressional bills now passed by Committees and refocusing on the whole. Congress’ interests and the Administration’s interests are more alike than different. We urge your support for a new NASA plan.”