Congress, NASA, States, White House

Taking the high road, with a little hitchhiking

Yesterday’s successful landing of Atlantis at the Kennedy Space Center marked the end of the 30-year space shuttle program and the beginning of a period of some uncertainty for NASA’s human spaceflight program. That milestone would appear to be another opportunity for critics of the Obama Administration’s space policy in Congress and elsewhere to voice their concerns and complaints. Yet, with a few notable exceptions, most instead used the opportunity to praise the agency and the thousands of people who worked on the shuttle program.

Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL), whose district includes KSC, noted with “great sadness” the final shuttle landing, but also said it was a time to look forward, adding she was “elated” when a Florida organization was selected last week to manage research on the ISS. In a neighboring district, Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) called yesterday a “historic, but bittersweet day”, using his statement to laud the program and those who worked on it. Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX), whose district includes the Johnson Space Center, recognized those who worked on the shuttle program while adding that America “will need your expertise and skills to take us to the next level of human space exploration.” Another Houston-area member, Rep. John Culberson (R-TX), acknowledged the “uncertain future of the program” but said that “Houston is destined to build on its legacy of exploration and discovery.” Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said “Texans should take pride” in their work on the shuttle program; in a longer op-ed in the Houston Chronicle, he does express concern about the NASA and the administration’s slow movement on the Space Launch System, but adds, “Leveraging the potential of the private sector will be a key to closing the new space gap between America and our international rivals.”

Some, were a bit more critical of the administration’s policy. George LeMieux, who spent a year and a half in the Senate serving out the remainder of Mel Martinez’s term and is now seeking the Republican nomination to run against Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), came out against Nelson and the administration Thursday in a speech in Lakeland, Florida, saying he would push for “greater direction and greater emphasis” on space if he returns to the Senate. “There was a mood among my colleagues when I was in the Senate, to do more. I am certain there is wasteful spending where the money could go to the space program instead. Sen. Nelson should have held the president accountable (for continuing a strong space program),” he said, according to a report by the Lakeland Ledger. LeMieux previously claimed that Sen. Nelson “allows 23,000 space jobs to die”.

LeMieux’s comments, though, were mild compared to those made by Texas governor Rick Perry. In a press release from his office, he came out swinging against the White House. “The Obama Administration continues to lead federal agencies and programs astray, this time forcing NASA away from its original purpose of space exploration, and ignoring its groundbreaking past and enormous future potential,” he stated, not mentioning exactly how the administration was redirecting NASA. “Unfortunately, with the final landing of the Shuttle Atlantis and no indication of plans for future missions, this administration has set a significantly different milestone by shutting down our nation’s legacy of leadership in human spaceflight and exploration, leaving American astronauts with no alternative but to hitchhike into space.” Perry doesn’t note that this need to “hitchhike” can be traced back to the original Vision for Space Exploration by President George W. Bush, which directed the shuttle’s retirement by 2010 and a successor vehicle by 2014; the gap was a major issue long before the current administration took office. Perry’s comments carry particular import because, in addition to being governor of a state with a significant NASA presence, he is reportedly considering a run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.

The end of the shuttle program and the expected losses of thousands of jobs came up at Thursday’s White House press briefing. The administration’s NASA policy, press secretary Jay Carney said in response to a question, “means more jobs for the country, more American astronauts in space over the next decade and more investments in innovation relative to the prior administration’s plan,” adding on more than one occasion that this policy has “bipartisan support” in Congress. The president, Carney added, “looks forward to NASA’s future and moving forward with space exploration in the future” and has “tremendous regard for the program and for all the folks at NASA who participated in making it such a tremendous success.”

In an interview Thursday with Bloomberg TV, NASA administrator Charles Bolden also acknowledged the Bush Administration’s space policy. “I really applaud the Bush Administration for the decision to migrate from shuttle, phase it out in an orderly fashion, which is what we just completed today,” he said about five minutes into the interview. “If I had a criticism of them, and the Congress, it would be that together they did not adequately fund the space program to be able to bring about a viable exploration program for beyond low Earth orbit and certainly did almost nothing to help us facilitate the success of commercial entities. That’s an area where President Obama has stepped forward, where no one did that since the beginning of NASA.”

49 comments to Taking the high road, with a little hitchhiking

  • John wells

    I find it Ironic that Bolden is now trying to blame congress for this mess. As I recall, He has failed to this point to answer with any clarity, even the most basic questions. and here we are left with nothing

  • Rhyolite

    “no alternative but to hitchhike into space.”

    If Griffin had put the priority on a crew vehicle rather than reinventing the medium lift wheel, we wouldn’t have this problem.

    Congressional pork mongering is now threatens to keep us “hitchhiking” for much longer than necessary. The gap is a choice.

  • Robert G. Oler

    . “LeMieux previously claimed that Sen. Nelson “allows 23,000 space jobs to die”.

    the hypocrisy of the GOP is simply amazing. On the one hand there is GOP mantra which is end government jobs, shut down the government, as one person said here “drain the swamp”…the uber patriots who want to bring down the federal government…and do it by claiming “its a jobs program”…

    and then there are the same GOP people who love their job programs and if that were not enough then go to inventing statistics to serve their purpose.

    And the effort quoted above is not “isolated”> Kay Bailey Hutchinson’s main reason for wanting SLS is to protect jobs…what separates her is that at least she comes out and says it…

    But actually it doesnt really play much past the Whittington’s and the Winds. Pete Olson tried some weeks back to talk about those jobs going in Clear Lake as if they were private sector jobs…and he got an earful of people (lead in some respects by yours truly who enjoyed the moment immensely) who reminded old Pete that really these were federally supported jobs and both civil servant and contractor…they were no different then the jobs that Pete wants to get rid of. “We need to reduce the size of the federal government workforce” was the sentence that he had opened with and kind of choked on when it was tossed back to him.

    If the Congress (particularlythe House) does not get its act together shortly the FAA will have to furlough a great many civil servants. Who are these people?

    They are the ones who are pushing free flight as the next gen air navigation system, the folks who are working on GPS precision landing certification, and the people who certify new airplanes.

    There is a lot of “save my pork” in both parties but statements like what I quoted at the top are simply ludicrous and pandering to idiots.

    Robert G. Oler

  • amightywind

    “If I had a criticism of them, and the Congress, it would be that together they did not adequately fund the space program to be able to bring about a viable exploration program

    It’s Bush’s fault America has no space program! ROTFL!

    That’s an area where President Obama has stepped forward, where no one did that since the beginning of NASA

    Meanwhile, 13,000 highly skilled employees lost their jobs at the Cape and JSC because Obama chose to kill Bush’s plan. That’s 13,000 more to add to the number of unemployed that the lame stream media will declare ‘unexpectedly high’ next month. It looks like Bolden and Obama are willing to buy the farm politically. Clinton would have pulled up.

  • Robert G. Oler

    amightywind wrote @ July 22nd, 2011 at 9:25 am

    “Meanwhile, 13,000 highly skilled employees lost their jobs at the Cape and JSC because Obama chose to kill Bush’s plan.”

    so you are a hypocrite as well…you like some government financed jobs but not others? goofy

    Robert G. Oler

  • sc220

    Meanwhile, 13,000 highly skilled employees lost their jobs at the Cape and JSC because Obama chose to kill Bush’s plan.

    As my kids used to say, “too bad, so sad, boo hoo.” We can longer afford to pay a standing army to continue playing Buck Rogers just because it was considered important 50 years ago. I have no issue with people doing things like this on their own, just as I have no problem with people climbing Mt. Everest, as long as it’s on someone else’s nickel. It’s time that the people who have been working human spaceflight wake up and realize that the cold war is over. The days of massively funded human spaceflight justified on the basis of inspiration, satisfaction of visceral urges and beating commies are long gone. The government can’t afford to do this anymore.

  • Rhyolite

    “Meanwhile, 13,000 highly skilled employees lost their jobs at the Cape and JSC because Obama chose to kill Bush’s plan.”

    HSF is never going to go anywhere if it takes 13,000 people to do anything. Getting the numbers down is key to getting the cost down.

  • Coastal Ron

    John wells wrote @ July 22nd, 2011 at 7:43 am

    I find it Ironic that Bolden is now trying to blame congress for this mess [dependent on Russian Soyuz].

    Bush/Griffin knew about this, as did Congress, back in the FY2006 Bush NASA budget. Their intent at that time said:

    A key element in the future of the ISS program is the purchase of alternate cargo and crew transportation services to supplement the Shuttle when it is in service, and to replace it when it retires.

    They got the cargo portion going, but nothing happened with the crew portion. The gap where we are 100% dependent on Russian for space transportation would have been a lot shorter if they had addressed the problem back then, instead of running around like Chicken Little today.

  • Bolden: “If I had a criticism of them, and the Congress, it would be that together they did not adequately fund the space program to be able to bring about a viable exploration program for beyond low Earth orbit and certainly did almost nothing to help us facilitate the success of commercial entities. That’s an area where President Obama has stepped forward, where no one did that since the beginning of NASA.”

    Mr Bolden, head of NASA, does not appear to be aware of COTS, and the quarter billion dollars that was given to SpaceX to pay for the development and testing of the Falcon 9 and Dragon…

    That’s OK. He has a lot on his plate. Minor detail, compared to the biger issues.

  • “I find it Ironic that Bolden is now trying to blame congress for this mess. As I recall, He has failed to this point to answer with any clarity, even the most basic questions. and here we are left with nothing”

    I have to agree. Bolden has major integrity issues. A compromise was reached with Congress that allowed a path forward, but Bolden and the WH have failed to live up to major components of that agreement.

    An SLS design should have been approved and enacted 6 months ago. As it is, his failure to perform his leadership responsibilities has put everthing at risk, including CCDev readiness.

    With all the federal budget issues, indecision and lack of direction is not something that NASA can tolerate.

  • Alan

    amightywind wrote @ July 22nd, 2011 at 9:25 am

    “Meanwhile, 13,000 highly skilled employees lost their jobs at the Cape and JSC because Obama chose to kill Bush’s plan.”

    Robert G. Oler replied @ July 22nd, 2011 at 9:55 am

    “so you are a hypocrite as well…you like some government financed jobs but not others? goofy”

    Some of of us on this side of the aisle have been saying to get out of the government-run launch business. I have said it is just about the only thing that Obama is doing right. I am ashamed of some of the people who claim they are fiscal conservatives yet as soon as cuts get near their “pork” they start saying that the Federal Government MUST keep spending on their pork.

    Windy is just a NIMBY Fiscal Conservative, let the cuts occur but Not in My Backyard program!

    It is NOT the Federal Government’s responsibility to provide ANYONE a JOB – go read up on the Constitution.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ July 22nd, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ July 22nd, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    “Mr Bolden, head of NASA, does not appear to be aware of COTS, and the quarter billion dollars that was given to SpaceX to pay for the development and testing of the Falcon 9 and Dragon…”

    I dont get that from the quote you offer nor from the context of his entire statement. At least you got the number right Pete Olson has the number as “billions” (as does Whittington etc).

    I hesitate to speak for Charlie, but what I thought he was saying/implying etc was that the notion of commercial efforts at LEO and on the space station finally “went somewhere” my words under Obama. And there is no real denying that.

    As for SLS. there was no compromise. there was the Senate putting in money for the Senate launch system and some vague language that all the SLS toadies thought would ensure it would be built…and they were stupid and wrong.

    Charlie is slow walking SLS in a fashion time honored in government to kill it. He has to kill it in a way that Congress looks like they did but the trick is to always make the other guy be the heavy in politics.

    Very shortly tthe NASA budget is going to shrink LOTS and if SLS were still alive it would absorb all of it. Better to put the pillow over it slowly so that by the time there is no money, there is no SLS. The shuttle infrastructure is literally having the lights turned out on it now…and before long it will be gone and there wont be an economic way to refind it.

    RGO

  • amightywind

    Windy is just a NIMBY Fiscal Conservative, let the cuts occur but Not in My Backyard program!

    I oppose deep cuts in NASA human spaceflight for the same reason I oppose deep cuts in defense, to do so would be un-American. Both items are high priority spending. Lavish middle class entitlements and a bloated federal bureaucracy are not. Most conservatives are like that. I support dramatic reductions in Social Security and Medicare even though I will be most effected in 20 years, so I am not hypocritical.

  • Alan

    Alan wrote @ July 22nd, 2011 at 1:19 pm
    Windy is just a NIMBY Fiscal Conservative, let the cuts occur but Not in My Backyard program!

    amightywind wrote @ July 22nd, 2011 at 2:09 pm
    I oppose deep cuts in NASA human spaceflight for the same reason I oppose deep cuts in defense, to do so would be un-American. Both items are high priority spending.

    Oh here comes the NASA-as-national-defense argument. NASA is a civil spaceflight agency, the Air Force has its own vehicles for launching military satellites – the Atlas and Delta EELVs.

    The demise of Cx or the Senate Launch System will have NO impact on the defense of the country. If ATK is subsidizing the cost of producing solid rockets for the DoD with a subsidy from NASA, then maybe AeroJet ought to be given a chance to bid on the DoD work and we’ll get it for less.

    So how is is “Un-American” to oppose the pork-filled Senate Launch System? It’s more “American” to support private enterprise building lower-cost methods to get to LEO.

  • Bennett

    “…to do so would be un-American”

    Cutting the bloated defense budget would be un-American?

    Frankly, I think having our government partially owned by the congressional-military-industrial-complex is about as un-American as it gets.

    Spending billions on wars to build “democracies” in countries that are unable to maintain said democracies while our infrastructure collapses is really really un-American.

    Get a grip on reality.

  • amightywind

    The demise of Cx or the Senate Launch System will have NO impact on the defense of the country.

    No, it will impact the standing of this country, and that is nearly as bad. Because of Obama’s NASA policies, America’s standing among the space faring nations has declined. That is indisputable. Many of you cheer our space program’s petty direction. Thankfully most American’s do not.

  • Major Tom

    “America’s standing among the space faring nations has declined. That is indisputable.”

    Based on what? Is there a poll of the heads of foreign space agencies that asks them to rank the relative standing of each country’s civil space program?

    Don’t make stuff up.

    Moreover, does it really matter if someone in the French or Japanese space agency thinks less of NASA just because Shuttle is retired? Since when is this a matter of national import for the United States?

    Get a grip.

  • Major Tom

    “Bolden has major integrity issues… An SLS design should have been approved and enacted 6 months ago.”

    Cripes… take a civics class. The NASA Administrator can’t “enact” laws.

    The SLS design was “enacted” 10 months ago in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act. The problem is that the design doesn’t close with the budget and scheduled that Congress “enacted”.

    “As it is, his failure to perform his leadership responsibilities has put everthing at risk, including CCDev readiness.”

    Even if Bolden were responsible for the Senate-designed Launch System, what do its failures have to do with CCDev?

    Oy vey…

  • Vladislaw

    Nelson Bridwell wrote:

    “certainly did almost nothing to help us facilitate the success of commercial entities. “

    It is obvious Administrator Bolden is refering to the gap. COTS had more than one goal, NOT just cargo.

    “In November 2005, Dr. Griffin articulated that:

    With the advent of the ISS, there will exist for the first time a strong, identifiable market for “routine” transportation service to and from LEO, and that this will be only the first step in what will be a huge opportunity for truly commercial space enterprise. We believe that when we engage the engine of competition, these services will be provided in a more cost-effective fashion than when the government has to do it.”

    The commercial spaceflight vendors were supposed to be competing for four specific service areas:

    Capability level A: External unpressurized cargo delivery and disposal

    Capability level B: Internal pressurized cargo delivery and disposal

    Capability level C: Internal pressurized cargo delivery, return and recovery

    Capability level D: Crew Transportation.

    When Constellation blew a hole in the budget Griffin and Congress decided not to fund COTS-D and instead more money was shoveled into that project, Major Tom has listed before where money was moved to Constellation.

    COTS-D was supposed to start receiving funds in late 2006 to start the crew transportation process but special interests in congress, like Shelby, made it abundantly clear that NASA should not be funding “hobby rockets” over a true pork project like Constellation.

    (The truth was Shelby and others did not want the American Public to realize just how bad the taxpayers were getting screwed by the outragous cost plus contracting going on to put a gold plated capsule into LEO with the ARES I )

    Nelson, have you actually ever read the Vision for Space Exploration?

    It specifically states NASA was not supposed to be building any new rockets.

    It clearly states commercial crew and cargo for the ISS.

    It clearly states that NASA has to go in a new direction and develope systems that require an order of magnitude of reduced ground troops.

    It clearly states fuel depots and in-space assembly for beyond LEO.

    Where the hell did all that go? Certain members in congress did not want a down-sized NASA and all that good stuff in the VSE when out the window.

    So to play your game that Congress/President Bush/Griffin are not to blame for the fubar we in is disingenuous at best and out right lying at worst.

  • Vladislaw

    Nelson, from the VSE:

    C. Space Transportation Capabilities Supporting Exploration

    « Acquire cargo transportation as soon as practical and affordable to support missions to and from the International Space Station; and

    « Acquire crew transportation to and from the International Space Station, as required, after the Space Shuttle is retired from service.”

    Also:

    “This plan provides the framework for fulfilling the President’s direction, guided by the principles on the facing page. It is responsive to recent science findings, the NASA Strategic Plan, the report of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, and the new space exploration policy. It seeks to establish a sustainable and flexible approach to exploration by pursuing compelling questions, developing breakthrough technologies, leveraging space resources, and making smart decisions about ongoing programs.”

    And this:

    “For cargo transport to the Space Station after 2010, NASA will rely on existing or new commercial cargo transport systems, as well as international partner cargo transport systems. NASA does not plan to develop new launch vehicle capabilities”

    Look at President Obama’s 2010 budget and this from the VSE:

    “In the days of the Apollo program, human exploration systems employed expendable, single-use vehicles requiring large ground crews and careful monitoring. For future, sustainable exploration programs, NASA requires cost-effective vehicles that may be reused, have systems that could be applied to more than one destination, and are highly reliable and need only small ground crews. NASA plans to invest in a number of new approaches to exploration, such as robotic networks, modular systems, pre-positioned propellants, advanced power and propulsion, and in-space assembly, that could enable these kinds of vehicles. These technologies will be demonstrated on the ground, at the Space Station and other locations in Earth orbit, and on the Moon starting this decade and into the next. Other breakthrough technologies, such as nuclear power and propulsion, optical communications, and potential use of space resources, will be demonstrated as part of robotic exploration missions.”

    President Obama’s budget was going to be funding a lot those technologies and give NASA a lot of great tools to add to the toolbelt for the way forward into the solar system.

  • amightywind

    Don’t make stuff up.

    I don’t. Russia is now crowing. At the demise of our program. That a technological backwater like Russia can claim parity in space technology with the United States should be hateful to real Americans.

    The NASA Administrator can’t “enact” laws.

    Congress should demand his resignation for failing to enact them.

  • Coastal Ron

    Vladislaw wrote @ July 22nd, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    Nelson, have you actually ever read the Vision for Space Exploration?

    Nelson and other “Moon First” types have a reading comprehension problem, and think all the VSE says is “A human return to the Moon by the year 2020″.

  • E.P. Grondine

    The accusation that Bolden has “integrity” problems is without foundation.

    The fundamental communication problem is that President Obama announced a manned mission to an asteroid, which is something that many “Mars enthusiasts” do not want to hear.

    NASA PAO did not adequately explain the origin of that goal, nor how it connects with NASA’s immediate and long range goals. The space press in general has too little investigative skills to discover this on its own.

    As far as the “confusion” and gap go, both are the direct result of ATK’s blockage, delaying tactics, and PR spin. First they blocked DIRECT; they tried to block commercial manned launch; then they insisted that work continue on their ARES launcher, which could not perform in a timely manner at a feasable price.

    RGO, neither Obama nor Bolden nor the nation can afford to have NASA tied up by ATK “amendments” attached to legislation coming out of the current budget negotiations. No slow walk is involved.

    The safety review mechanism for manned commerical will be revised to work with the existing developed state of the systems.

    I’ve tried to explain the immediate need for a heavy to some of you here for quite a while. While it is difficult for me to type, some of you peoples’ intentional blindness motivates me to do it.

  • Russia is now crowing. At the demise of our program.

    They are crowing about the venal stupidity of the few members of Congress who care about space (only because it funds jobs in their states and districts) refusing to adequately fund and accelerate the only thing that has any near-term prospects of replacing them — commercial crew.

  • Googaw

    Well said, sc220. It’s time for the astronaut fans to stop forcing the rest of us to fund their economic fantasies. Get these NASA contractors, whether traditional or pseudo-”commercial”, off the NASA crack pipe, so that they can come down from their high and focus on doing useful things like building and launching satellites that people are actually willing to pay for with their own money. Here’s an idea: instead of selling our children into debt slavery by _borrowing_ from foreigners to pay for the fantasies of teenage-brained “men”, why don’t we actually try _selling_ useful things to foreigners and start to pay off that debt?

  • “Congress should demand his resignation for failing to enact them.”
    Evidently ablastofhotair does not understand the definition of the word “enact” or he would understand why it is legally impossible for Bolden or any other administrator to enact a law.

    His ignorance and stupidity know no bounds.

  • vulture4

    “Meanwhile, 13,000 highly skilled employees lost their jobs at the Cape and JSC because Obama chose to kill Bush’s plan.”

    No, Constellation is still funded, just rebranded. Almost none of its jobs are here, nor does it employ workers who repair and maintain spacecraft. Those workers, some of them my friends, are losing their jobs because Bush canceled not just Shuttle but ALL NASA work on reusable launch systems, and indeed on any sustainable form of spaceflight.

    Unfortunately many at NASA see the question in purely political terms. NASA is suffering only because “Obama and the unions” are stealing all its money “to give to SpaceX”. “Obama knows most people at [name withheld] are of a particular political party and don’t support him. So he is doing this because he wants to destroy the space program.”

    Of course I don’t think everyone is so politicized, but there are many educate professionals in positions of influence within NASA who are. Philosophically I consider it a form of “magical realism”. The world is reduced to a conflict between forces of good and evil, and everything must be explained in those terms. Obama is evil, so even if he does something that might superficially appear to follow conservative precepts, like promoting private industry, it must be part of a hidden conspiracy.

    I was quite astounded to discover how pervasive this view is. I can only hope my friends on the other side of the aisle will openly discuss their views with us (as our colleague amightywind has been kind enough to do). Let ideas compete openly and we can hopefully become more objective and begin, eventually, to build a consensus.

  • DCSCA

    “Perry’s comments carry particular import because, in addition to being governor of a state with a significant NASA presence, he is reportedly considering a run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.”

    Rick Perry??? Conservative Republican and famed secessionist Rick Perry?Rick Perry wants government spending on a government space programs? Which government? The Confederate States of America?? The same Rick Perry begging for government handouts for disaster relief from his arch enemy, the US of A?

    Y’all best pull yourself up by your bootstraps, there, Ricky boy, and sober up. While you’re at it, pray for guidance at your breakfast ’cause the party, whose nomination you seek, don’t take kindly to big government programs and runs candidates for President of the USA, not the CSA.

  • DCSCA

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ July 22nd, 2011 at 2:08 pm
    I hesitate to speak for Charlie…

    Oh, for God’s sake, go ahead. He’s irrelevant now so you’ll not be speaking out of turn.

  • Donald Ernst

    I was first attracted to Space Politics because I thought it was a fourm where people interrested in space could talk about space politics not anti-space politcs. I conceed that the owner of the site has the right to allow anyone with any veiw to post on it. But I do not enjoy it and should I ever start my own site , I won’t permit it on mine. That said I would like to point out that as a fiscal conservative I oppose wasteful federal spending and the jobs that accompany it. I don’t consider something as important to mankinds future as moving out into space as wasteful.

  • Donald Ernst

    As a follow up to my last message I would like to state that while federal spending may be needed to advance space exploration to the moon and Mars , I think the time has come to develop true commerical space flight to LEO , something I believe NASA can not do. When Obama is replaced and the unemployment levels will see to it , we have a oppourtunity to set a new direction. NASA can keep buying seats on Soyuz if ISS is terminated in 2020 as currently planned. Why bother with Musk’s expendable rocket and limited Dragon vehicle. We need to remove the barriers to invesetors. Declassify black projects technology , end ITAR , suspend anti-trust laws for commerical space flight firms. I support tax write offs for the these firms as well and Forgien companies should be allowed to invest as well as other goverments and NGO’s.

  • vulture4 wrote:

    Of course I don’t think everyone is so politicized, but there are many educate professionals in positions of influence within NASA who are.

    At work today I heard one of those “professionals” utter a racist epithet about Obama. I got up and walked out. This individual reinforced the impression that for some of these people it’s all about race.

    But you know what? It doesn’t really matter. These bigoted “professionals” along with the space worker unions are politically irrelevant. Commercial space is the future. SpaceX informally has the green light to dock at ISS in December. All the racist epithets and demands for government pork are being ignored, except by a few politicians of both parties who represent their districts. The fact that the House Appropriations Committee just took a 10% whack at the FY12 NASA budget and killed the Webb telescope shows that they are politically irrelevant.

    99% of the public I talk to is very enthusiastic about commercial space once it’s explained to them. They like the idea of fostering innovation and lowering the burden on the taxpayers. Some ask about the jobs lost, but when I explain this was decided seven years ago and most of these people are contractors who’ve made many years of warning, very few taxpayers have any sympathy for them.

    I wonder if there was any sympathy for stagecoach drivers when the horseless carriage came along.

  • Coastal Ron

    Donald Ernst wrote @ July 22nd, 2011

    I was first attracted to Space Politics because I thought it was a fourm where people interrested in space could talk about space politics not anti-space politcs.

    Just from my perspective, most people commenting on this blog view themselves as pro-space, myself included. Where we differ most of the time is in just about everything related to that.

    There are a few I suspect of being anti-space, but their comments tend to sound like 2-year olds saying “No” (i.e. lacking any substance), so your comments and observations should be quite welcome in comparison.

    But on to more meaty discussion.

    We need to remove the barriers to invesetors.

    What barriers are those? Investors have no problems investing, if there is something worth investing in. Depending on the type of investor (VC, Angel, institutional, common stockholder, etc.), they are all looking for an investment that will meet their ROI with acceptable risk.

    Let’s look at a need that NASA has – getting NASA personnel to/from the ISS. NASA has a known amount of demand, and everyone already knows what NASA is willing to pay ($63M/seat to Russia in 2016). The big question is how much investment it will take to produce a transportation system that NASA would buy.

    But there are a number of unknowns that are holding things back, like:

    1. The government requirements for such a transportation system are not complete, and it is known when they will be.

    2. No commercial company has had to meet the human-ratings requirement before, so no one knows how easy or hard the process will be.

    3. No one knows how many service providers NASA will want, so if you’re clearly not in the lead to be first, what is your incentive?

    4. So far the only customer for crew services to LEO is NASA, and NASA wants it done a certain way, so there is no incentive to build a system without NASA’s co-investment.

    Number 4 is really what is holding up an American alternative to the Soyuz, and Congress is the one that is holding the purse strings, not NASA. So the only investor that is holding things up right now is Congress.

    And as far as “investors” needing to be involved with the companies themselves, I don’t see that as a barrier. For the CCDev participants, Boeing doesn’t need new investors ($3.3B in profit last year), Blue Origin is owned by someone worth $18B, SNC is privately held, and SpaceX is also privately held.

    Looks like we need to work on Congress first.

  • common sense

    @ Donald Ernst wrote @ July 22nd, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    “Declassify black projects technology , end ITAR , suspend anti-trust laws for commerical space flight firms. ”

    I know it’s a blog and sometime quite difficult to express one’s opinion. But I think this kind of comment is almost as bad to the commercial space than those of amightywind or Googaw. Come on “declassify black projects technology”? Are you serious? And why would that benefit space exploration? Because we have some alien technology at Area 51?

    Are you really seriously thinking that the person who succeeds the current President will do all that you wish? Do you realize how superficial your thinking really is? Now don’t get me wrong the SLS/MPCV/DIRECT groupies who think that if some right wing nut gets elected then we will settle the Moon or Mars are probably worse.

    People don’t seem to understand this. The budget will most likely get cut, axed. It will not be replaced. Those others who think we will redirect the money from the wars, whenever they end, to space exploration must be smoking or eating/drinking something really special if they believe it.

    I guess space is all about Sci-Fi for a lot of our space fan friends. Reality unfortunately will soon most likely strike. No more Sci and a lot more of Fi.

    Sorry Donald to pick on your post but the “declassify” thing got me started…

    Oh well…

  • Robert G. Oler

    vulture4 wrote @ July 22nd, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    “Of course I don’t think everyone is so politicized, but there are many educate professionals in positions of influence within NASA who are. ”

    it is a good chunk of them, at least in the kaneck of the deck where I live (or have a house, we mostly now live in Santa Fe TX)…I was a minor political figure in the Clear Lake area…and know a reasonable number of people a lot of which work or did work at NASA in some form or fashion.

    McCain carried the four voting areas around JSC and in Clear Lake but not by much and he lost (if the Uof H exit polls are to be believed) the female vote…but won heavily the NASA or NASA contractor vote. Obama more or less broke even in the non NASA but college degree segment.

    NASA and its contractors think that they are special, they think that what they do is more important then anything else in The Republic. this attitude is pervasive. An Astronaut, who will remain nameless set the tone for it when discussing the ACRV situation on the station and the requirement that a strow be back on earth in 24 hours or less in some requirements had it pointed out to him/her that some water tower painters were stuck (in some peril actually) in the water tower on El Dorado for the better part of a day said “no one knows their name”.

    Most of the folks whose salary comes from the government see a bright line between how they are paid and for instance people who control traffic at Houston Center or even who get unemployment (although I bet thats less now).

    Management encourages this well past the notions of group spirit.

    When Columbia went bang there was of course a pretty sad feeling in the community, but about the same time, in fact the same week that the services were being held for the dead strows…a “child” who was a Marine an ex of Clear Creek high school came home from Iraq in a bag…and when his body came from Ellington really quite amazing Dixie Farm Road and I-45S were lined with people who stopped their cars and stood to as the motorcade went by. As one astronaut put it “who was he”.

    I realize that a good chunk of this is lashing out by people who are seeing the trains stop, but ask most of them if the ATC system should be privatized or medicare or whatever and you will get a resounding yes. Ask about spaceflight…well as good old Pete Olson said at one town hall “its hard”..

    Sure

    Robert G. Oler

  • ok then

    When Rick Perry issued his day of prayer for rain only 10% of Texas was suffering from the worst category of drought. Today it’s 70%. Whatever happens, please, Rick Perry, do not pray for the space program. Wave off Rick, wave off.

  • Michael from Iowa

    @Stephen
    The 10% general cut proposed by the HAC budget isn’t the worst part, nor is the cancellation of the JWST… the most disgusting aspect of the proposed budget cuts is a nearly 70% cut to NASA’s tech division.

  • pathfinder_01

    In the case of stage coach drives the change wasn’t so fast and extreme. This is more like the Detroit automakers in the 70ies/80ies and early 2000’s. They had basically a monopoly on US auto production till the 60ies (when small almost unnoticeable cracks appear) and then boom comes the 70ies and the small cracks grow large. Foreign automakers had more fuel efficient cars, safer cars, and small cars that were more desirable. Then comes the 80ies when foreign automakers start eating Detroit’s’ main stay (the mid sized and large cars) and produced more reliable ones. The SUV held them up in the 90ies, but the new century dawned with old problems not solved(for GM too many factories, too many models, too many dealers, too many workers, and desirability problems with cars).

    The shuttle’s monopoly on human spaceflight keep needed changes from happing sooner. It may have been a wonderful vehicle but aviation would not have advanced much if people did not produce new models of aircraft esp. early on.

    It isn’t about race it is about what happens when change is delayed to the point where things become critical. It gets very ugly. In no sane world would 10,000 people be needed for HSF when it could be done with 3,000 or less. It isn’t cost effective or a good use of people’s skills.

  • DCSCA

    @amightywind wrote @ July 22nd, 2011 at 9:25 am
    “It’s Bush’s fault America has no space program!”

    Yes. GHW and GW both. Failure to secure proper funding and leave messes of others to clean up runs in their family, Windy.

  • Vladislaw

    Donald Ernst wrote:

    “Why bother with Musk’s expendable rocket and limited Dragon vehicle.”

    Because it will be three times cheaper than using the soyuz.

    “We need to remove the barriers to invesetors.”

    What barriers are stopping people from buying stock and investing in publically traded spaceflight companies like Boeing?

    “Declassify black projects technology ,”

    Which technology are you talking about?

    suspend anti-trust laws for commerical space flight firms.”

    Anti-trust laws are to protect consumers from a monopoly firm’s over pricing, why would you want to allow a space access company to become a monopoly? We have had that with NASA for fifty years, do we really want another one?

  • Major Tom

    “Russia is now crowing. At the demise of our program.”

    And again, we should care why…? This is a matter of national importance because…?

    “That a technological backwater like Russia can claim parity in space technology with the United States should be hateful to real Americans.”

    Russia or any other country can claim anything they want. That doesn’t mean it’s true or that anyone else believes them. We’re talking about a space program can’t even sustain their own global positioning system, nevertheless develop a new crew transport.

    Again, get a grip.

  • vulture4

    @ Donald Ernst wrote @ July 22nd, 2011 at 7:27 pm
    “Declassify black projects technology”

    Obviously we don’t have any flying saucers, but there are two “black” programs that are critical to NASA, the X-37 orbiter and the LOX/RP-1 winged flyback booster. Yes, they are unmanned and have a long way to go, but they are on the “critical path” to practical spaceflight, while MPCV/STS is an expensive childish fantasy leading to the same end as Apollo, i.e. cancellation.

    Moreover DOD is likely to drop RLVs once it is under budget pressure. NASA should beg, borrow or steal its way back into this program and trade as much funding it can spare (after jettisoning the remains of Constellation) for the possibility of declassification.

  • “So to play your game that Congress/President Bush/Griffin are not to blame for the fubar we in is disingenuous at best and out right lying at worst.”

    So, Vlad, did you actually read what I wrote?

    As my HS physics teacher used to notate on homework, RTGDP! (Read the Gosh Darn Problem).

  • “I hesitate to speak for Charlie, but what I thought he was saying/implying etc was that the notion of commercial efforts at LEO and on the space station finally “went somewhere” my words under Obama. And there is no real denying that.

    As for SLS. there was no compromise. there was the Senate putting in money for the Senate launch system and some vague language that all the SLS toadies thought would ensure it would be built…and they were stupid and wrong.”

    Bolden (probably unintentionally) overstepped the truth when he said that the previous NASA administration did practically nothing for commercial space. If you were to ask him if he considers the Falcon 9 + Dragon to be practically nothing, I suspect that he would have decided to reword it to something more like “did significantly less than it could have, for commercial space”.

    As for the 2011 NASA budget, it is considered by just about everyone to be a COMPROMISE:

    http://www.space.com/11374-nasa-budget-2011-congress-compromise.html

    Congress was willing to terminate the Ares I and shift the primary destination from the Moon to an asteroid, and permit/fund commercial crew in exchange for an aggressive fast-track development of a human-rated NASA HLV for BEO missions, as well as for forbidding shared space technology ventures/exchanges with China.

    If Bolden and the WH lived up to the agreement, which Obama signed into law, Congress would be more willing to increase funding for commercial space, particulary if SpaceX and others manage to avoid any major disasters.

    Instead, Congress is taking steps to cut the budget for OMB in half in response to it’s refusals to conform to China restrictions. I would not be surprise if they decide to adopt an earlier House proposal to replace billions in CCDev free grant money with loans that those businesses would need to repay. That would probably wipe out the LEO crew business case for the small guys, and perhaps even Boeing.

  • Vladislaw

    Here is what you wrote.

    Nelson Bridwell wrote:

    “Bolden: “If I had a criticism of them, and the Congress, it would be that together they did not adequately fund the space program to be able to bring about a viable exploration program for beyond low Earth orbit and certainly did almost nothing to help us facilitate the success of commercial entities. That’s an area where President Obama has stepped forward, where no one did that since the beginning of NASA.”

    NB – “Mr Bolden, head of NASA, does not appear to be aware of COTS, and the quarter billion dollars that was given to SpaceX to pay for the development and testing of the Falcon 9 and Dragon…” “

    First, to imply that Bolden doesn’t know about COTS is silly as he has mentioned it repeatedly at committee meetings.

    COTS is on track to start delivering next year and with the space shuttle’s last cargo to the ISS they are good for a year. So that is not a problem for NASA right now, the gap is. The President has called for higher levels of funding for commercial crew to close the gap but congress has lowered it in each case. It should be obvious to anyone that Administrator Bolden is refering to CCDEV because COTS was already funded and only commercial crew has been short changed.

    So yes, I read what you wrote and, as I point out, taking a shot at Bolden that he doesn’t know about COTS is just a dumb point to try and make when it is wrong to begin with.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Nelson Bridwell wrote @ July 23rd, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    “If Bolden and the WH lived up to the agreement, which Obama signed into law, Congress would be more willing to increase funding for commercial space, particulary if SpaceX and others manage to avoid any major disasters.”

    there is no data to suggest that….what do you base it on? RGO

  • common sense

    @ vulture4 wrote @ July 23rd, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    “Obviously we don’t have any flying saucers, but there are two “black” programs that are critical to NASA, the X-37 orbiter and the LOX/RP-1 winged flyback booster. Yes, they are unmanned and have a long way to go, but they are on the “critical path” to practical spaceflight, while MPCV/STS is an expensive childish fantasy leading to the same end as Apollo, i.e. cancellation.”

    Yes and no. X-37 may be classified but is in no way obstructing HSF at NASA. Same for the winged fly back booster. NASA does not need DoD to fund either if needed, and NASA just gave money to DreamChaser. Nothing here to see. Sorry.

    “Moreover DOD is likely to drop RLVs once it is under budget pressure. NASA should beg, borrow or steal its way back into this program and trade as much funding it can spare (after jettisoning the remains of Constellation) for the possibility of declassification.”

    NASA right now is most likely trying to get out the mess our dear Congress put them in. They had aplan but Congress pushed SLS/MPCV down their throat. So there won’t be any RLV for years to come unless and until we clean up the mess.

    HSF at NASA does not need an RLV. Not now. Not as a national commitment.

  • Dennis Berube

    Lets just keep on paying the Russians, if their deals are so great! As partners, I think they are charging way to much. Even China said they couldnt beat SpaceX prices. Would SpaceX still be in business without NASA? I dont think so! With all these commercial crew vehicles coming on line, which one will be favored by NASA? Will the others survive NASAs favoritism? What middle class person will be able to afford a ticket aboard an Atlas 5?

  • Coastal Ron

    Dennis Berube wrote @ July 26th, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    Lets just keep on paying the Russians, if their deals are so great!

    They are a monopoly, and a sole source supplier. Neither is good.

    And just so you know, I advocate for two or more commercial crew suppliers so we can avoid an American monopoly too. In fact the Shuttle was even worse, since it was a government subsidized monopoly, which is one of the reasons why you didn’t see any commercial crew services starting up previously.

    Would SpaceX still be in business without NASA? I dont think so!

    Yes they would. Go look at their manifest:

    http://www.spacex.com/launch_manifest.php

    They just wouldn’t be growing as quickly, but what they have proven is that there is a market for lower cost launches.

    What middle class person will be able to afford a ticket aboard an Atlas 5?

    This is a silly comparison. What middle class person can afford to fly on a Gulfstream G650?

    Space travel for the foreseeable future is going to be limited to governments, corporations and the rich. That’s no different than how the private jet market works.

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>