Congress, NASA

Briefs: dueling editorials, Alabama worries, a SOTU request

In an editorial Saturday, the Orlando Sentinel complains that Congress is “making a mess of the U.S. space program.” The editorial complains about the lack of Congressional action to remove a provision from last year’s appropriations bill that now requires NASA to spend money on Constellation programs effectively canceled in the new authorization act, as well as NASA’s concerns that it cannot develop an HLV within the budget and schedule of that act. (On the former issue, the editorial says that Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) has introduced legislation to repeal the appropriations language, although that legislation doesn’t show up in Thomas yet.) The Sentinel suggests that NASA administrator Charles Bolden needs to be “pushing back harder” on what it deems unreasonable requests from Congress, “but little has been seen or heard from him on the issue.”

Florida Today is also worried about a mismatch between the agency and Congress, but puts more emphasis on NASA to change how it works in order to meet Congressional directives, it concludes in an editorial Sunday. “NASA doesn’t seem to understand the game has fundamentally changed and it must change with it or be pushed further aside by private companies eager to fully assume the agency’s traditional rocket development and launch role,” the editorial argues, noting it’s unlikely the agency will get additional funding from a more fiscally conservative Congress. “NASA has to bring its new rocket project to the launch pad on time and within budget – for once.”

Potential across-the-board budget cuts, as the new Republican House leadership have proposed, “is causing headaches for one Alabama lawmaker”, namely Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), because of its potential impact on NASA, the Huntsville Times claimed Sunday. Shelby is also getting flak for the now-infamous provision in the 2010 appropriations bill, but he has his defenders for that language as well: Steve Cook, the former Ares 1 program manager now working for Dynetics, tells the Times that if Shelby hadn’t acted, “NASA wouldn’t be able to spend any money on any rocket program right now.” (The logic of that statement isn’t clear in the article.) Shelby’s staff also claims that work on an HLV isn’t a new start since it was part of the “existing program of record” under Constellation in the form of Ares 5 (a claim that NASA hasn’t argued against, necessarily, only that there are elements of Constellation is much continue work on, like the Ares 1 upper stage, that would not be part of a new HLV program, as the NASA inspector general argued earlier this month.)

By comparison, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), quoted in the same article, has a much more simplistic outlook: since NASA “is one government program that brings real value to the American taxpayer,” he argues, he’s willing to do whatever it takes to help the agency once they give him specific direction. “I am very happy to help carry the water for NASA and to try my best to get the votes to fund these programs that NASA believes it should be doing for the American people,” he said, “but NASA is uniquely situated with its expertise to know what those programs ought to be.”

And with President Obama scheduled to give the State of the Union address tonight, two Florida members of Congress want the president to discuss space policy in his speech, a bit of a long shot given the long list of other policy issues that could be addressed in the speech, Florida Today reports. “I’d like to hear a speech like John Kennedy — a national commitment to human space flight,” Said Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL). “At a critical juncture for NASA, I think the president owes it to the American people to explain how he intends on preserving jobs along the Space Coast,” said Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL).

9 comments to Briefs: dueling editorials, Alabama worries, a SOTU request

  • Robert G. Oler

    What is of note here is that the only people chanting “stay the course” (sorry for the right wing GOP metaphor) are right wing GOPers oh well sorry …are people who have a vested interest that has little to do with human spacefight in the program.

    What the newspapers can see is what should be obvious to everyone…that the Apollo method of running things at NASA HSF has finally run off into the ditch…and it canno longer be the norm for projects.

    All of the stay the course people are looking for a miracle to revive the old cold war confortation days…and its not happening.

    Obama talking about space policy in the state of the Union? LOL. really they should get a better group of drugs.

    Robert G. Oler


    The closest President Obama will come to talking about any ‘space policy’ will be to make a reference to another ‘Sputnik moment’ and the competitive response by the United States initiated by JFK resulting in Apollo and the accompanying boost to several industries, education and business on multiple fronts.

  • amightywind

    Responsibility for the mess that is NASA falls exclusively with Obama. He and his cadre of incompetent Bolsheviks clearly overreached the mandate for ‘change’. Congress is simply trying to cleanup the mess. Any recovery at NASA must await a new President and NASA leadership. Until then, lets enjoy the train wreck. As for the ‘Sputnik moment’ cliche Obama will undoubtedly use, he has no credibility left on spending, as the embers of the cash bonfire that was porkulus still still glow. New spending will certainly not be popular among the Tea Party freshmen congressmen.

  • A few days back, Florida Today solicited letters from its readers about NASA’s future. The first group were published today:’s+future

    Yours truly bats leadoff. :-)

  • Robert G. Oler

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ January 25th, 2011 at 8:52 am

    well done Robert G. Oler

  • Doug Lassiter

    That’s correct, that Obama is rumored to have a reference to a Sputnik moment in his SOTU draft. But it would be erroneous to interpret that as a reference to “space policy”. That Sputnik was a ball in space tossed up with a big rocket is irrelevant to what is meant by a Sputnik moment. There are many arenas in which the battle for technological dominance can be fought. In 1957 it was space and, with the development of ICBMs, the then-frightening ability for someone to launch rockets that could put something over your head or, in principle, in your backyard. Sputnik was a statement that “we can reach you”. Space was the “high ground”. It isn’t anymore.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Doug Lassiter wrote @ January 25th, 2011 at 10:51 am

    The US is kind of at one of those moments in history where what is decided over the next few years will have a large impact on what direction The Republic goes over the next several decades.

    The issue however is primarily in the economics of our country and the politics of our government. Norm A. is up with a piece about America losing its competitive edge, this has been true for sometime but accelerated under Bush the last (and Obama has done little to stop it) as the notions have taken hold that the very agencies and business which are failing the most HAVE to be saved.

    NASA HSF has become a poster child for this. It is hard to argue by any metric that Constellation was a success…but yet folks like Whittington and others are spinning it as some vital necessity and the reasons it is a necessity all are based on rhetoric.

    Bush was very good at using these moments. He used 9/11 to implement both economic and foreign policy views that more or less got us into this mess…while on the other hand Obama has simply been unable to summon similar tide changing ability.

    It will be oh dark thirty where I am when he makes his speech…but I would be surprised if he manages to harness it here.

    Robert G. Oler

  • Robert G. Oler

    “At a critical juncture for NASA, I think the president owes it to the American people to explain how he intends on preserving jobs along the Space Coast,” said Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL). ”

    always delicious when members of the GOP call on government to save their pork.

    good show

    Robert G. Oler

  • What is of note here is that the only people chanting “stay the course” (sorry for the right wing GOP metaphor) are right wing GOPers oh well sorry …are people who have a vested interest that has little to do with human spacefight in the program.

    Bill Nelson is a “right wing GOPer”? Who knew?

    This has nothing to do with “wings.” It’s all about the pork.

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