In a followup to the reaction to last week’s SLS announcement, four members of Houston’s congressional delegation portrayed the decision as a “new era of space exploration” in an op-ed Tuesday in the Houston Chronicle. (As of this writing, the op-ed is illustrated with a photo of Paul Krugman. Go figure.) The members, Democrats Al Green and Gene Green and Republicans John Culberson and Pete Olson, claim credit for proposing a compromise last year that they say has now been adopted with the release of the SLS design. However, they’re looking for more, including goals that are “beyond vague statements about missions to asteroids and Mars in time frames that are too distant or undefined” and, not surprisingly, the use of “the talent, resources and facilities that we have in Houston instead of reinventing the wheel in some other area.”
An editorial by the Orlando Sentinel over the weekend, though, is less celebratory and more cautionary, comparing the SLS to the “Hail Mary pass in football — a last-chance bid for success.” The editorial is concerned that funding will not be available for the SLS at projected levels given the current zeal to cut federal spending, and that even if the money is available, the program won’t be able to stay on budget. “[I]f the space agency’s new program runs into the kind of problems that doomed Constellation, the nation might have no choice but to turn to the private sector. This could be NASA’s last chance.”
Speaking of the private sector, commercial human spaceflight got an endorsement of sorts from retired Utah senator Jake Garn in a speech at Utah State University, according to a report in the university newspaper. “It’s not going to be economically feasible for several years at a minimum. But it will become so,” he said of commercial spaceflight, adding that he believes that “the government and NASA” will help support its development. He added that he was opposed to ending the Space Shuttle program before a replacement vehicle was ready.