In a letter this week to President Obama, the mayors of Houston and Huntsville ask for immediate action on contracts related to the Space Launch System (SLS) and Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) programs. Specifically, they ask that NASA “move forward as expeditiously as possible” on converting contracts for the Constellation program to SLS and MPCV. “Speed is imperative to protect the workforce and to ensure our nation’s global leadership in spaceand in technological advancement,” Houston mayor Annise Parker and Huntsville mayor Tommy Battle write.
They add that those programs are at least as important, if not more so, than commercial crew development efforts at the agency. “While we all agree that commercial space ventures are critical to the future of human space flight, they cannot come at the expense of NASA’s role in ensuring access to space. They cannot come at the expense of seeing all the amazing, cutting edge expertise gathered together at MSFC and JSC being dispersed around the world – lost to this country and our own space efforts.”
Meanwhile, Mars Society president Robert Zubrin raised alarm bells when he claimed in an op-ed published Thursday in the Washington Times that the White House was planning to “terminate” NASA’s planetary science program in its FY2013 budget proposal. After the 2013 launch of the MAVEN Mars orbiter, he said, “No further missions to anywhere are planned.”
There’s one problem with his piece, though: that fantastic claim appears to be incorrect. “It is not true the planetary program is being killed,” Jim Green, head of NASA’s planetary science program, told the NASA Advisory Council Thursday during a telecon, Space News reported. The planetary program does face some problems with funding in future years, he acknowledged, but termination is not in the cards. “I’m here to say the future doesn’t look as healthy as it has been, but it is still the best program in the world,” Green said, SpacePolicyOnline.com reported.
Zubrin, incidentally, will be appearing at a Capitol Hill forum next Thursday jointly organized by The Planetary Society and The Mars Society, titled, “NASA at a Turning Point: Vibrant Future or Close Shop”.