Congress, NASA

Senate carries out its subpoena threat

For weeks now the Senate Commerce Committee has been threatening to subpoena NASA to obtain documents related to the agency’s exploration plans, citing the frustration in not getting documents from NASA about its plans despite numerous requests. Now, finally, it appears that the Senate reached its breaking point. NASA Watch reports that the committee has issued a subpoena for the documents. There has been no formal announcement, although a committee spokesman confirmed the subpoena to Space News. A NASA spokesperson told both publications what NASA officials, including administrator Charles Bolden, has previously said on this subject: that the selection of the Space Launch System (SLS) is so important that the agency and the administration need to take the time required in order to get it right.

67 comments to Senate carries out its subpoena threat

  • Major Tom

    A Senate committee can subpoena NASA all it wants, but if the White House doesn’t want to make a decision until independent cost evaluations are in, then there will be no Executive Branch (NASA and the White House) decision to announce. Certain Senators and their staff need to bone up on basic civics, especially separation of powers. Per the rules laid out in the constitution by the founding fathers, these senators can’t get what they want unless the White House decides to agree. If certain Senators want the Executive Branch to make a timely decision relative to the Shuttle workforce, then the last thing they should want their staffs to be doing is gumming up the Executive Branch’s decisionmaking process with subpoenas and bad will.

    It’s like threatening to take my wife to court because she’s not ready to announce to the kids whether she wants a Ford or a Chevy. Threatening to take my wife to court is not going to speed up her decisionmaking process. Quite the opposite.

    Moreover, with articles now confirming that SLS/MPCV isn’t going to fly in any useful form until the early 2020s and can only sustain a flight rate of one launch per year at best, it’s pretty clear why the White House wants those independent cost evaluations. If the ICEs confirm these schedules (or, even worse, indicate that these schedules are optimistic), then the White House should tell NASA and Congress “no thanks” and revisit the Senate dictates in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act that are forcing such a fubar SLS program.

    FWIW…

  • Joe

    And now the investigation begins,

  • Egad

    I’m left wondering “So what?” Is there any sort of time limit on NASA for responding? Does the subpoena specify specific documents they want? If not, how are they going to know if they’ve gotten what they want?

    Just a random observation, but the comments of 51D Mascot over on NSF.com about the origin of the Senate’s specifications of SLS look to me as if SLS has friends in NASA who are helping the Senate with various things. In which case the subpoena might indeed name specific documents.

  • How’s about we just eliminate NASA management and let the members of the Senate space subcommittee run NASA directly? That’s what they want, after all.

    More fiddling while Rome burns.

  • Just posturing for their constituents. See we tried to stop the evil anti-SLS faction!

  • Doug Lassiter

    One funny thing about the SLS legislation is that in the FY12 CJS report language, the committee is insistent that NASA pursue a destination-based exploration program, rather than a “capability-based approach”. “Consequently, the Committee urges NASA to adopt a destination-based approach to exploration that would designate a specific target location, such as the Moon, to drive development decisions and timelines going forward.”

    So the SLS is a launcher that CJS desperately wants, with the full understanding by CJS that this launcher has no specific target. It isn’t just that CJS didn’t point at a specific target of their own choosing, but that they fully accept the fact that NASA doesn’t have any such target either.
    Without this specific target location, CJS admits that one can’t really drive development decisions and timelines going further. But here, with this subpoena, CJS is looking to get those development decisions and timelines! Hello? Hello?

    Whether you believe in the importance of a SLS or not, the rationality of the CJS is deeply suspect.

  • Major Tom

    “I’m left wondering ‘So what?’”

    That’s about the right reaction. From a prior thread…

    NASA will have a period of time to respond to the subpoena. If certain Senators or their staff still don’t like NASA’s response, the committee can send a report of contempt to the full Senate. The full Senate would then have to find Bolden (or whomever is named in the report) in contempt. If they do, the matter is then referred to the U.S. Attorney, who then has to impanel a grand jury to determine whether to prosecute. If they prosecute, then there’d finally be a trial in which someone might actually be fined (limited to a whopping $100-1,000) and/or go to jail (limited to 1-12 months). Given the extraordinary length of this process, the large number of gates in the process, the high likelihood that the process will be stopped cold at one of those gates, the relatively light punishments meted out at the end of the process, and the fact that only one person has actually been fined or gone to jail for contempt of congress since 1975, the subpoena is effectively toothless.

    This is a process that takes years to carry out. The House found Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, Josh Bolten, and other Bush II Administration officials in contempt back in 2007-8 and those matters are still ongoing in mid-2011. If certain Senators want the Executive Branch to make a timely decision on SLS, then throwing subpoenas around isn’t going to help. It threatens to turn a decision that the White House was likely going to make in the upcoming weeks into a multi-year legal logjam.

    FWIW…

  • The design is already well known in many circles, (NASAspaceflight.com article today) this subpoena is politics. Given probable SLS cancellation at some time in the next 10 or 20 years this is a prelude to another NASA tragedy based upon a underfunded design.

  • And now the investigation begins

    Just what, in your fantasies, do you expect such an “investigation” to show?

  • DCSCA

    Bolden’s done. He’ll be gone by the end of the fiscal year.

  • Alex

    Congress: We demand that you say 2+2 = 5. Oh, and in metric — no, English – no, wait Metric — tonnes.

    NASA: Uh… What?

    Congress: Well, we just passed a law that says you must say that 2+2=5 metric-English tonnes. You have one month to get back to us.

    One month later…

    NASA: 2+2=4.

    Congress: Stop lying! You have another six months to think this over and come to the correct answer.

    Six months later…

    NASA: Well, we found that “2+2…+1 = 5 metric-English tonnes.” But, we’re having another guy look at it, to be sure.

    Congress: Stop lying! Subpoena!

    NASA: ….

  • Egad

    Major Tom responed,

    > the subpoena is effectively toothless.

    Yes, given the processes involved, their timescales and the very low level of overall Congressional concern about NASA, I’d say that’s right. And, as many others have mentioned, the Executive and Legislative branches have much more important problems on their hands.

    People hop up and down and say that SLS is the LAW!!!, but they’re very little connected with reality.

  • Joe

    Major Tom wrote @ July 28th, 2011 at 5:17 pm
    “A Senate committee can subpoena NASA all it wants, but if the White House doesn’t want to make a decision until independent cost evaluations are in, then there will be no Executive Branch (NASA and the White House) decision to announce. Certain Senators and their staff need to bone up on basic civics, especially separation of powers. Per the rules laid out in the constitution by the founding fathers, these senators can’t get what they want unless the White House decides to agree.”

    That’s right, this isn’t a Republic; it is an Empire. There are no coequal branches of government, the Emperor (whoops – I mean President) can do whatever he wants.

    So says the Constitutional Expert Major Tom.

  • Joe

    Rand Simberg wrote @ July 28th, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    “Just what, in your fantasies, do you expect such an “investigation” to show?”

    I have tried to show you some degree of respect, but since you show none (to anyone who dares disagree with you) maybe you should worry more about your own fantasy’s than anyone else’s

  • Egad

    Doug Lassiter said,

    > One funny thing about the SLS legislation

    Yes. Congress first told NASA to build a BFR that NASA didn’t want, at least until for the next five years or so, told NASA what it should look like, mas o menos, and now is telling NASA to figure out missions. Presumably they think the missions should use the BFR, though that’s a bit implicit.

    We await NASA’s response, complete with schedules, manifests and budgets. I suppose “fly a crewed MPCV around the Moon next decade” might count, but beyond that it could get interesting.

  • Mark R. Whittington

    It is remarkable how many people actually find it OK for people to break the law simply because they don’t like Congress’s space polciy. I did not notice this regard for NASA’s expertise in rocket design when the Ares 1/Ares 5 system was still a going concern. It is not a case of Congress demanding that 2 + 2 = 5. It is a case of NASA violating the law by withholding documents. If NASA has nothing to hide, then it should produce the documents. However, since it is probably just playing bureaucratic games to kill SLS and hence space exploration for a generation, I suspect that it has plenty to hide.

    Let the games begin

  • amightywind

    Its about time. I suppose it is too much to ask to clap Garver and Bolden in irons and throw them in jail. But maybe we can find out why it has taken 8 months to make decisions that could have been made in a weekend.

  • maybe you should worry more about your own fantasy’s than anyone else’s

    Funny, first you’re complaining that I’m not talking about it at my blog, and now you’re claiming that I have fantasies about it. Which is it? And why won’t you answer the question? What do you hope/imagine/whatever that the investigation will “uncover”?

  • DCSCA

    amightywind wrote @ July 28th, 2011 at 8:25 pm

    Bolden’s finished. Garver will be w/a contractor or lobbying firm soon enough and the ISS has been targeted for splash by the Russians in 2020. SLS and getting Orion up and flying may be all the future there is. Commerical HSF’s future is w/Branson. The rest of these hobbyists will be hard pressed to get backing from private capital markets now that Garver’s coddled, 20 year aerospace works program of a space station is doomed to a Pacific grave… and after a decade, has produced nothing. That $100+ billion research platform should have been firmly anchored to the Ocean of Storms– not splashing into the Pacific in 2020. Time to clean house at NASA PDQ.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ July 28th, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    ” However, since it is probably just playing bureaucratic games to kill SLS and hence space exploration for a generation, I suspect that it has plenty to hide.”

    those are two remarkable statements particularly since you link the validity of the last statement with the reality of the first. There is no such linkage.

    You have obviously never been part of a legal proceeding or been subpoenaed. If you had and when you are you will learn that “going slow” has nothing to do with having anything to hide, it has everything to do with the attributes of going slow.

    Which in this case even the thunderheads at NASAspaceflight.com understand…it is part of the kill SLS effort…and its working.

    What is amazing to me is how dull the SLS supporters are. If Congress (or 51D more accurately) had wanted to keep SLS they woudl have written the funding to make sure that the vehicle is built and is shuttle derived. You know, since you have met I have a classmate who was the Chief of Staff for a Texas Senator…and my friend is amazed at the incompetence of Jeff Bingham who he knows.

    Most likely Bingham is just playing for the home team…as it is prety clear that neither Olson or Hutchinson really want to go to the mat to get serious funding for SLS… If so it is cynical…and amazing that you have not seen through the effort. sigh RGO

  • Joe

    Rand Simberg wrote @ July 28th, 2011 at 8:33 pm
    “What do you hope/imagine/whatever that the investigation will “uncover”?’

    Careful with your quotation marks, I never used the word uncover.

    I will leave it to the Senate to delineate what is to be uncovered.

    But since you like asking questions:
    Why are you so agitated?
    What are you afraid the investigation will uncover?

  • amightywind

    Commerical HSF’s future is w/Branson.

    Branson could make a lot of money flying the thrill seeking rich on his ‘vomit comet’. The question is will it lead to reinvestment in an orbital Spaceship 3. I am more interested in the economics of Bigelow/Boeing CST-100. My guess is the business case is marginal.

    That $100+ billion research platform should have been firmly anchored to the Ocean of Storms– not splashing into the Pacific in 2020.

    I would rather see a network of ‘shacks’ strewn over the moon surface. In exploration think Bedoin, not McMurdo. Think alpine style climbing, not porters and yaks.

  • ” However, since it is probably just playing bureaucratic games to kill SLS and hence space exploration for a generation, I suspect that it has plenty to hide.”

    Killing SLS will kill space exploration for a generation? That is the ultimate oxymoron. I can think of nothing that would guarantee no BEO travel for the foreseeable future more than SLS. If you want a practical vehicle get one designed by rocket scientists, not Senators.

  • “But since you like asking questions:
    Why are you so agitated?
    What are you afraid the investigation will uncover?”

    If he’s like me, he’s probably not agitated, but dumbfounded by your apparent belief that this silly subpeona is going somewhere and curious as hell as to what kind of strange mental process got you to that point.

  • Bennett

    Alex wrote @ July 28th, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    Ha! That was good. Thanks for the laugh.

    Bennett

  • Beancounter from Downunder

    Friendly advice to Joe and Mark, check your civics info’ as MT suggested, he’s right and you’re wrong. It didn’t take me long, here on the other side of the globe, to find that out.
    Hi DCSCA. Still wishing Branson would take an interest in orbital? Stuck out so far, and I thought you knew that Bolden is appointed by the WH and answers to the President. Seems he’s doing a good job in line with their program. He’ll go only when the WH decides he should. Gavin’s a survivor, that says it all there.
    Good luck with the debt issue. I really mean that. The rest of the world is relying on you guys to get your house in order. Europe is, Australasia does, so, come on!!
    Cheers all.

  • Coastal Ron

    Joe wrote @ July 28th, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    What are you afraid the investigation will uncover?

    Since we have a presumption of innocence here in the U.S., it’s you that is assuming things (i.e. that anyone should be afraid).

    And since you’re the one who appears to relish an investigation, you must have a reason. Axe to grind? Job to save? Just plain ornery? ;-)

  • Obama administration does not want to develop an HLV– especially a man-rated HLV. They want NASA out of the manned spaceflight business so it can be turned over to Obama’s buddy Elon and others. Plus he wants to use tax payer dollars to subsidize and provide R&D for the private commercial space companies through NASA.

    I guess some of the Tea Party libertarians here just love the idea of turning over the New Frontier solely to the corporations who, of course, have our best interest at heart– rather than their own:-)

  • Major Tom

    “That’s right, this isn’t a Republic; it is an Empire. There are no coequal branches of government,”

    No, it is a Republic with three separate branches of government sharing power.

    “the Emperor (whoops – I mean President) can do whatever he wants.”

    That’s right. The President _cannot_ do whatever he wants. But if the President can stop a group of Senators from doing whatever they want (like dictate bad design decisions that have multi-ten-billion dollar implications for the nation’s space program). It’s not an empire, and it’s not an oligarchy, either.

    You’re confusing checks and balances with absolute power. They’re not the same thing.

    “So says the Constitutional Expert Major Tom.”

    This is middle school civics. You don’t have to be a constitutional lawyer to know that the founding fathers set up our system of government such that the Congress and the President have to reach agreement to get anything of significance done at the federal level.

    Heck, forget middle school. If you just bothered to read the newspaper on the current debt limit debate you’d know this.

    Sigh…

  • Matt Wiser

    Mark: I share your disbelief in certain parties…..NASA is beholden to Congress, and once that 2010 NASA Authorization Act was signed into law, they have no choice but to follow it. No ifs, ands, or buts.

    Beancounter: We’ll get it done. It’ll be down to the wire, but there is one D.C. Adage that is working to perfection in this case: nothing critical gets done in Congress unless there is a LOT of pressure and a deadline. Want to bet all the Wall Street lobbyists are pushing hard for a deal? The big problem here is the GOP Freshman class: a lot of them are of the “my way or the highway” attitude, and they’re learning that when political reality clashes with their ideals, reality wins.

  • Major Tom

    “It is remarkable how many people actually find it OK for people to break the law simply because they don’t like Congress’s space polciy [sic].”

    No one has broken any law. If they had, there would be a conviction against someone in a court of law.

    No one has been formally accused of breaking a law. If they had, then someone would be going to trial.

    One Senate committee is subpoening documents. That’s it.

    If you don’t understand the difference, then you’re too ignorant about the U.S. system of government to be commenting on any of this.

    “I did not notice this regard for NASA’s expertise in rocket design when the Ares 1/Ares 5 system was still a going concern.”

    Then you must not have been paying attention. There were repeated cries of foul, many from inside NASA, regarding bad data, assumptions, and analysis in ESAS. It was a rushed, 60-day study that failed to leverage much of NASA’s expertise.

    “It is not a case of Congress demanding that 2 + 2 = 5.”

    It is a case of some Senate staff dictating SLS payload requirements, contracts, workforce, schedule, and budget without any hard, independent analysis of whether those requirements are valid, whether those requirements, contracts, and workforce fit within that schedule and budget, and whether there are lower-cost and faster alternatives. And since those parameters were set, the budget has been cut by nearly one-quarter and additional requirements with regards to additional booster engines have been set by other Senate staff.

    “If NASA has nothing to hide, then it should produce the documents.”

    Per Bolden correspondence to Hutchison, NASA has provided hundreds of documents:

    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=37556

    Don’t make stuff up.

  • Major Tom

    “Bolden’s finished. Garver will be w/a contractor or lobbying firm soon enough”

    Both serve at the pleasure of the President, not Congress. The Senate confirms their positions, but it’s the White House that nominates and fires them. If you have any doubt, read Griffin’s resignation letter.

  • Michael from Iowa

    The future of commercial spaceflight isn’t with Virgin Galactic, it’s with companies like SpaceX, OSC, ULA, Bigelow, etc.

    Incidentally, SpaceX and NASA just officially annouced what we’ve long suspected would happen – COTS flights II and III have been combined, this December SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft will dock with the ISS.

  • What are you afraid the investigation will uncover?

    Apparently you’re having fantasies again, since I have no fears whatsoever about the “investigation.” I am in fact amused by people who think that anything whatsoever will come of it.

  • DCSCA

    @Beancounter from Downunder wrote @ July 28th, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    “I thought you knew that Bolden is appointed by the WH and answers to the President.” =yawn= Thought you knew it’s not a position of servitude and slavery was abolished here 150 years ago hence it doesn’t mean he can’t leave on his own accord (he turns 65 in August so pension eligibility kcks in) or be ‘kicked upstairs’ to some yet-to-be-named committee. He’s not going to preside over the systematic dissolution of NASA- which is where these Tea Party fanatics have the whole country headed.

  • The “Russians will splash ISS in 2020″ claim has been debunked:

    “Sink the Space Station? Not So Fast”

    Turns out the quote was taken out of context. Alan Boyle got the entire transcript and found out they were discussing current policy pending the ISS extension to 2028. They were two separate issues — when is ISS currently scheduled to terminate, and whenever that happens how will it be brought down.

    No one ever said Russia intends to splash the ISS in 2020.

  • Joe

    Rand Simberg wrote @ July 29th, 2011 at 2:44 am
    “Apparently you’re having fantasies again”

    Question: Is anybody/everybody who dares to disagree with you about anything having “fantasies”?

    “I am in fact amused by people who think that anything whatsoever will come of it.”

    If that were true you would just ignore us.

  • Joe

    Joe wrote @ July 28th, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    Since we have a presumption of innocence here in the U.S., it’s you that is assuming things (i.e. that anyone should be afraid).”

    So no investigation should ver be run on any president on any policy, right?

    “And since you’re the one who appears to relish an investigation, you must have a reason. Axe to grind? Job to save? Just plain ornery?”

    As usual, you managed to leave out the two real reasons:
    - Wants to have a real space program
    - Wants to see the law folllowed

  • @Joe
    If you want SLS, then this statement you made is an oxymoron,
    “- Wants to have a real space program”

    Because Congress is not going to raise the budget enough to give it to you. In fact, given the current fiscal climate, at best there is going to be a massive cut. Get real.

  • @Joe
    “If that were true you would just ignore us.”
    Not true, while it is true that you have a certain entertainment value, you are, in you oblivious well intentioned naivete, also spreading disinformation. Whether well intentioned or not. Disinformation uncountered can go viral.

  • chance

    While I think the SLS is a very, very bad idea, I like the idea of executive agencies essentially thumbing their noses at the Congress much, much less.

  • Joe

    Rick Boozer wrote @ July 29th, 2011 at 9:13 am
    “Because Congress is not going to raise the budget enough to give it to you. In fact, given the current fiscal climate, at best there is going to be a massive cut. Get real.”

    Thanks for telling me what is going to happen. But if we were too actually “get real” it would have to be noted that for FY 2011 Congress has appropriated more for both SLS/MPCV than the Administration is allowing to be spent. At the recent House hearings Administrator Bolden was asked multiple times where the money not being spent on SLS/MPCV was and each time responded with words to the effect – He did not know and would have to get back to them.

    Rick Boozer wrote @ July 29th, 2011 at 9:19 am
    “Not true, while it is true that you have a certain entertainment value, you are, in you oblivious well intentioned naivete, also spreading disinformation. Whether well intentioned or not. Disinformation uncountered can go viral.”

    OK, “oblivious well intentioned naivete”. Around this place that virtually counts as a complement.

    So what “disinformation” have I supposedly spread this time? That the Senate has issued a subpoena? Numerous news services are reporting that.

  • Major Tom

    “But if we were too actually ‘get real’ it would have to be noted that for FY 2011 Congress has appropriated more for both SLS/MPCV than the Administration is allowing to be spent.”

    It is true that the FY11 appropriations for SLS/MPCV were slightly higher than what the FY10 NASA Authorization Act allocated to those projects.

    But in FY12, the House appropriations committee has slashed SLS/MPCV by more than $1 billion or 24%.

    Mr. Boozer ‘sprediction appears to be the correct one — in this fiscal environment, Congress is not going to raise the budget to adequately fund SLS/MPCV. In fact, they’re already cutting it by nearly one-quarter.

    FWIW…

  • Question: Is anybody/everybody who dares to disagree with you about anything having “fantasies”?

    No, people who ask complex questions about my mental state that don’t correspond to its reality are having fantasies.

  • @Joe
    You keep changing the subject without giving a straight answer. Rand asked you what you expected the investigation to show. You just posed another question instead of giving a substantive answer. A classic tactic of the troll.

    Again in answer to my comment you pose another question, without answering Rand’s initial question; but I will answer your question anyway.
    Your disinformation is that the SLS will “give us a real space program”. Even if the 2011 increase holds (which it may not in this economic environment) a much bigger increase would be needed in future years to make significant progress on SLS in a timely manner.

    And I am sure in your next comment to me you will try to change the subject in yet another direction again with yet another question, hoping that you can muddy up the waters enough to where people will forget about the fact that you never answered the original question. But now that I have shown that you are just a subject changing troll with a passionately held agenda, people will know not to take seriously later comments in this thread from you, which means I won’t need to give you any further responses to those later comments. But go ahead, have the last word, since the adrenal kick from that also seems to be one of your prime motivators.

  • Coastal Ron

    Joe wrote @ July 29th, 2011 at 8:55 am

    Wants to see the law followed

    What part of the law isn’t being followed?

    If you think that NASA has been given a date that they must decide on the final SLS architecture, then by all means point us to that part of the law.

  • Coastal Ron

    Mark R. Whittington wrote @ July 28th, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    However, since it is probably just playing bureaucratic games to kill SLS and hence space exploration for a generation…

    Out of curiosity, are you saying that since the Shuttle was not the SLS, that the Shuttle killed our space exploration for 30 years? That really we haven’t had any exploration (any at all), since Apollo?

    I’m trying to find out if space exploration to you means exploring all aspects of space, near and far, manned and unmanned, or if what you’re really saying is “returning to the Moon with people” is space exploration.

    What defines “space exploration”?

  • Joe

    Major Tom wrote @ July 29th, 2011 at 10:59 am
    “It is true that the FY11 appropriations for SLS/MPCV were slightly higher than what the FY10 NASA Authorization Act allocated to those projects.”

    I am talking about the difference in what was appropriated in FY 2011 and what NASA is spending in FY 2011; they are significantly under running the budgets for SLS and MPCV. That is why the questions from congress about where that money is actually going.

    “But in FY12, the House appropriations committee has slashed SLS/MPCV by more than $1 billion or 24%.”

    As I seem to remember you reminding others under similar circumstances, that is a draft of a House Bill. It has not even been reviewed by the Sub Committees in the House yet, much less been reconciled with whatever the Senate Bill may be.

  • Coastal Ron

    Joe wrote @ July 29th, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    As I seem to remember you reminding others under similar circumstances, that is a draft of a House Bill.

    True, but it does show the desire of some Republican leaders in the House to reduce the amount of funding for the SLS and MPCV. Not exactly a rousing show of support.

    Personally I don’t think the Republicans that proposed the reduction are necessarily anti-space, I think it reflects their philosophy of reducing spending overall.

    But what it does portend is likely the end of huge programs stretched out over long periods of time, since if you can’t get it done quickly it’s more likely to go on the chopping block if it goes over budget significantly. Constellation was an example of that, and the SLS is big enough to fit in that category too.

    If true, then a capability-based exploration program may do better over time than a goal-oriented one, since capabilities can be put in place and used much better than waiting for an ultimate goal to be accomplished.

  • Major Tom

    “As I seem to remember you reminding others under similar circumstances, that is a draft of a House Bill. It has not even been reviewed by the Sub Committees in the House yet,”

    False statement. The bill has been through both subcommittee and full committee. Unless some radical stand is made on the House floor that the Republican majority agrees with (very unlikely), the $1B/24% SLS/MPCV cut will stand.

    In theory, the Democrat-controlled Senate could restore that cut in their version of the bill. But Mikulski chairs the relevant subcommittee and given that she’ll prioritize restoring JWST over SLS/MPCV, it’s unlikely. The Senate is probably more likely to cut SLS/MPCV further given Mikulski’s priorities.

    And even in the unlikely event that the Senate did restore the House cut, the two chambers typically meet each other halfway in conference. That would result in a ~$500M cut.

  • Joe

    Major Tom wrote @ July 29th, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    I am not going to waste time arguing about whether the draft legislation has gone through Sub-Committee review (it has not).

    As for the rest, I admire your ability to predict the future.

    For any neutral observers interested in this, you might want to note that Senator Mikulski is a part of the bi-partisan coalition supporting SLS/MPCV. So you might want to wait and see what the final outcome of her priorities are.

  • VirgilSamms

    “returning to the Moon with people” is space exploration.”

    That is correct. The Moon is the launching point for any human missions to the outer solar system.

    LEO is has been explored. It is just going around in circles.
    LEO is not friendly to things nuclear and nuclear propulsion is required for any BEO human missions beyond the Moon.

    The Moon and lunar orbit is where any nuclear propulsion system will be launched from. Lunar water is also the source for the hundreds of tons of radiation shielding necessary for long duration human missions.

    A HLV is required to launch fissionables on a direct lunar trajectory as safely as possible and as infrequently as possible.

    The entire private space agenda is worthless in regards to fuel depot and transfer and BEO human space flight.

    Does that clear everything up for you Ron?

  • Coastal Ron

    VirgilSamms wrote @ July 29th, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    Does that clear everything up for you Ron?

    Some, but not all.

    It does clarify that you think we need the SLS mainly for a nuclear propulsion program, but a careful read of the current and proposed NASA budgets will show that no such operational program is planned to be funded. Still no mission for the SLS…

    LEO is has been explored.

    Comments like that would seem to have the earth-bound analogy of saying “Hawaii has been explored, we should move on.” But yet we find that Hawaii has intrinsic value of being a stopover on the way to further destinations, and it has developed into a destination itself. LEO will be the same.

    I guess your view is that once we’ve visited somewhere, that we should abandon it and move on. Mark it as “No Trespass”, and forbid others to find value in what we have discarded. Is that accurate?

  • Major Tom

    “I am not going to waste time arguing about whether the draft legislation has gone through Sub-Committee [sic] review (it has not).”

    Patently wrong.

    Not only has NASA’s FY12 appropriations bill been through the Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee, it’s been passed by the full House Appropriations Committee:

    http://appropriations.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=251676

    Both versions of the bill cut SLS and MPCV by over $1 billion or 24%.

    “For any neutral observers interested in this, you might want to note that Senator Mikulski is a part of the bi-partisan coalition supporting SLS/MPCV.”

    Mikulski is one of two Maryland Senators. Goddard Space Flight Center and the Hubble Space Telescope Science Institute, the JWST developer and operator, respectively, reside in Maryland. You don’t have to be a political genius to figure out where Mikulski’s loyalties lie relative to JWST versus SLS/MPCV.

  • Major Tom

    “LEO is not friendly to things nuclear”

    It’s as “friendly” as any other location in the solar system. Nuclear forces don’t stop working in Earth orbit.

    “The Moon and lunar orbit is where any nuclear propulsion system will be launched from.”

    Nuclear systems, even reactors, have been launched from, or even operated in, Earth orbit. See the SNAP-10A reactor (still in orbit), the 31 RORSAT reactors, and the TOPAZ-1 reactor in the article below:

    http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf82.html

    “A HLV is required to launch fissionables”

    Utterly false. All the reactors noted above launched without an HLV.

    Don’t make stuff up.

  • Martijn Meijering

    A HLV is required to launch fissionables on a direct lunar trajectory as safely as possible and as infrequently as possible.

    Nope, the nuclear fuel is only a small fraction of the total dry mass of the reactor, most of which is shielding. Nice try, but no cigar.

  • DCSCA

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ July 29th, 2011 at 7:12 am
    The “Russians will splash ISS in 2020″ claim has been debunked:

    Nonsense. As usual. Tey’re going to pay for it– and rightly so. It’s got a date with Davy Jones in 2020, fella, especially if it doen’t start delivering results for the $100 billion investment. So far, after a decade of being manned, it has produced nothing.

  • common sense

    “As for the rest, I admire your ability to predict the future.”

    I wonder what happened to the sidemount…. I wonder what some think when Coats says there is no budget for SLS/MPCV… I don’t know. Is Coats also against SLS/MPCV? Or is it the foolish nonsense of the pro-commercial cheerleaders? Just askin’

    Whatever…

  • Coastal Ron

    DCSCA wrote @ July 29th, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    It’s got a date with Davy Jones in 2020

    I’ve pointed this out before, but notice how the things you predict don’t seem to happen?

    Since the Russians have a significant amount invested in the ISS, and nothing to follow it, they stand to lose as much, if not more, with a 2020 end date for the ISS. They don’t have a manned space program without the ISS, and Bigelow won’t depend solely on them for their business, so the likelihood of them voting to end their participation in the ISS is pretty low.

  • VirgilSamms

    “Nope, the nuclear fuel is only a small fraction of the total dry mass of the reactor, most of which is shielding. Nice try, but no cigar.”

    There is no reactor in the Nuclear Propulsion System I am talking about.

    “Utterly false. All the reactors noted above launched without an HLV.
    Don’t make stuff up.”

    I did not say anything about reactors. You did.
    I said fissionables. And the fewer launches of plutonium or enriched uranium the better. The larger the vehicle the more safety measures can be incorporated.

    “It’s as “friendly” as any other location in the solar system.”

    Sure, just like Japan’s reactors were all safe designs in an earthquake zone.

    “Hawaii has been explored, we should move on.”

    Obviously LEO is not Hawaii. Puh-lease.

    And as for the SLS having no destination, the destination is the Moon.
    You just do not like it.

    Dogpile me all you want. The foolish remarks and lack of critical thinking is exposing the real agenda here.

  • Martijn Meijering

    There is no reactor in the Nuclear Propulsion System I am talking about.

    So what kind of nuclear propulsion are you talking about then? A nuclear salt-water rocket?

  • Coastal Ron

    VirgilSamms wrote @ July 30th, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    The larger the vehicle the more safety measures can be incorporated.

    Why not just stick the fissionables in a crew vehicle? If the rocket blows up, the crew vehicle returns to Earth and lands safely. No need for a BFR, just an off-the-shelf safe crew system. No need to over-engineer a solution.

    Now if you disagree, please tell us what “more safety measures can be incorporated” in an HLV that can’t in a medium-heavy rocket like Atlas V or Falcon 9 with crew capsules?

    And as for the SLS having no destination, the destination is the Moon.
    You just do not like it.

    Gary/Virgil, you could say Pluto is the destination and my reaction would be the same – where is the money from Congress? You hope & dream there will be a funded missions some day, but as of now the SLS does not have any funded missions to anywhere.

    The foolish remarks and lack of critical thinking is exposing the real agenda here.

    If you think that pointing out facts is foolish, then we as a civilization are not going anywhere. Hiding your head in the sand is not a solution. Ignoring reality is not a solution.

    Your theories about the need for nuclear propulsion and the maximum number of rocket engines on a rocket are just that, theories. People disagree with you, including people that are real rocket scientists building real rockets, so who do we believe?

    Critical thinking, in general, refers to higher-order thinking that questions assumptions. If you can’t stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen.

  • VirgilSamms

    “So what kind of nuclear propulsion are you talking about then? A nuclear salt-water rocket?”

    Atomic bomb propulsion Martijn.

    Which is why it is not friendly to LEO. It might be possible to detonate pulse units in an eccentric hi polar orbit and avoid fallout getting sucked into the magnetosphere and then into the atmosphere- but doing from the Moon is a better way to go considering the water is there for cosmic ray shielding.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Atomic bomb propulsion could also be done with EELV class launchers. The bombs are still a small fraction of total mass.

    I don’t know why you keep mentioning lunar water, since there is nothing special about it and if you are going to use lunar water you have even less to do with an HLV. Water lifted from the moon is water not lifted from Earth and propellant, water and other bulk materials are about the only affordable payloads that could be launched in the quantitites needed to keep an HLV occupied.

    Either you believe you need an HLV to go to the moon, in which case you are ignorant, especially since people have pointed this out to you many times, or you are trying to fool people into believing that, in which case you are being dishonest.

    And as an aside: Lagrange points are superior to lunar orbit as staging points and only slightly more expensive to reach from the moon.

  • Das Boese

    VirgilSamms wrote @ July 30th, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    And the fewer launches of plutonium or enriched uranium the better.

    Better for what? Politics, maybe. From a safety standpoint, the goal is to release as little radioactive material as possible in case of an accident, as such more launches with small amounts of fissile material are more desirable than fewer launches with larger payloads.

    The larger the vehicle the more safety measures can be incorporated.

    Non sequitur.

    Sure, just like Japan’s reactors were all safe designs in an earthquake zone.

    The catastrophic events in Japan were not a result of earthquake damage.
    Not that that is even relevant, but bringing that up exposes you as kind of a dick.

    And as for the SLS having no destination, the destination is the Moon.
    You just do not like it.

    Is it? Lunar orbit, maybe, which doesn’t really require a HLV of that class however. It can’t be the moon’s surface, since there is no funded project for a lander or surface hardware.

    Dogpile me all you want. The foolish remarks and lack of critical thinking is exposing the real agenda here.

    You had me ROTFL at “lack of critical thinking”.

    The only agenda I’ve seen the folks here promote is that they want a US space program that works in the real world and leads to actual progress.

    Since I think a robust US space program would be of benefit to humanity, I tend to agree with them, despite not being a US citizen.

  • Jim Hillhouse

    Rand, if you had contact with the Commerce Committee, you’d know that this subpoena is part of an ongoing investigation involving a lot more than whether or not NASA’s leadership has been slow-rolling SLS and Orion, which they have. This investigation is about why and how NASA’s leadership has done that.

    This investigation began three months ago, the March 18 demand letter was carefully written with a purpose in mind, and no, NASA will not have long to respond since the Agency has well understood since March 18th what it needs to do.

  • Coastal Ron

    Jim Hillhouse wrote @ August 3rd, 2011 at 12:23 am

    This investigation began three months ago, the March 18 demand letter was carefully written with a purpose in mind…

    Duh. Build the biggest rocket in the world to keep constituents in certain states working, and build it with with ATK solid fueled boosters for the Utah delegation. No where in that spec does it say to spend the taxpayers money wisely, which is what NASA is trying to do.

    You’ll notice that Congress doesn’t have the same goals, thus the “investigation”, which is really political theater of the absurd…

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