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).