Congress, NASA

Bolden and Hutchison spar over commercial crew, SLS/Orion funding

This morning’s hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee on “Priorities, Plans, and Progress of the Nation’s Space Program” was slow to get started: it took over half an hour before the hearing’s primary witness, NASA administrator Charles Bolden, got to start his opening statement. However, it quickly ratcheted up in intensity as Bolden and committee ranking member Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) got into an extended debate—bordering on a heated argument—about spending on commercial crew versus the Space Launch System (SLS) and the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV).

Hutchison first raised her concerns about proposed spending levels for those programs in her opening statement. “Reviewing that budget… gives me great concern,” she said, citing a reduction in the administration’s FY13 budget proposal of $326 million for SLS and Orion and what she argued was a “corresponding increase of $330 million for commercial crew”. (That amount of increase is apparently with respect to the authorized level of $500 million; commercial crew got $406 million in FY12 and the agency is requesting nearly $830 million in FY13.) “I was frankly floored, as you know from our conversation,” she told Bolden after he completed his opening statement, “that it would be so blatant to take it right out of Orion and SLS and put it into commercial crew, rather than trying to accomplish the joint goals that we have of putting forward both.”

Bolden responded that he had to cut funding from programs across the agency. “We had to make very difficult choices because we were $2 billion below where we thought we would be for a fiscal year ’13 budget” based on authorized levels, he said. The budget, he said, would keep SLS and Orion on track for an initial, uncrewed test flight in 2017 and a crewed mission by 2021, a date which he said was conservative based on the current budget runouts. Accelerating the 2017 date, he said, was not possible even if the program got additional funding.

Hutchison was not satisfied with that answer, though. “You said everybody had to be cut some to make the priorities, but in fact, the commercial crew vehicle approach that you’re taking was not cut, it was plussed up from last year’s spending levels,” she argued. “You are over-prioritizing the commercial and not being as concerned about keeping the people at NASA who would be able to stay involved” for future exploration programs. Bolden countered that “our workforce is stable.”

Hutchison later introduced a proposal that she said would resolve her concerns about funding for SLS/Orion while keeping commercial crew on track. She suggested that NASA downselect now to a smaller number of companies to make better use of funding. “Some of them are not going to be able to function if they don’t have these subsidies once you make a decision about who is going to do the vehicle,” she claimed of the companies that currently have commercial crew awards from NASA. “Isn’t there an overspending at this point in the proliferating of companies that are getting the federal subsidies?” she asked. By reducing the number of companies to perhaps two, and going back to more typical contracts instead of Space Act Agreements (which, she added, would address concerns about companies meeting NASA safety standards), she argued the program would be more efficient and free up money that could support SLS and Orion: “a win on both sides.”

Bolden disagreed, saying that while he was reluctant to switch the acquisition strategy for the latest round of the commercial crew program, from a contract to an SAA, it was recommended to him based on the available funding. He also noted that “requirements and specifications” for safety are available so that companies involved in the program know what they will eventually be required to meet. “There is no problem of safety with Space Act Agreements,” he said. “I am responsible for safety, and as I have said from the day that I became the administrator, I will not jeopardize safety for crews.”

As the back-and-forth continued, both Bolden and Hutchison seemed to harden in their positions, and the language got sharper. Bolden said that the 2017 date for beginning commercial crew transportation services is supported by the budget proposal, but would be if that funding was reduced. “We are not taking money away from SLS/MPCV,” he said.

“But you are!” Hutchison interrupted. “It’s clear, it’s in the numbers, and it’s irrefutable. If you had the passion ands the concern for the SLS and the Orion that you have for protecting whatever number of commercial companies that you want to put out there…”

“Senator, not to get personal,” Bolden interrupted in turn, “but my passion for SLS/MPCV exceeds anybody’s in this room.”

“Well, it’s not shown in the numbers, Mr. Administrator. That’s the problem.”

“Senator, I fight for SLS/MPCV just as much as I do for every other of the three priorities we have agreed to.” [A reference to ISS cargo/crew and JWST.]

Hutchison later said she was simply trying to suggest to Bolden that if he was willing to “cut down the number, but not the amount of emphasis that you have, in the commercial sector, we could do both.”

“If we cut down the number of competitors,” Bolden said, “we will probably drive up the cost” through a change to standard contracts without the cost-sharing that currently exists under SAAs.

Sen. Bill Nelson, chairman of the committee’s space subcommittee, largely stayed on the sidelines during this extended back-and-forth between Bolden and Hutchison. Later, he said he supported increasing commercial crew funding, provided it didn’t come at the expense of SLS and Orion. “With a limited amount of money, we know we’re asking you do an awful lot,” he told Bolden. “What we need to do is work with you at coming up with a number for commercial and not, at the same time, sacrifice anything on the big rocket and Orion.”

It’s notable that this debate was the key issue in the hearing: the rest of the questions focused on issues like spaceport upgrades at the Kennedy Space Center and cybersecurity concerns at NASA. Other than brief mentions in their opening statements, there was no debate about the proposed cuts in planetary science funding, including NASA’s withdrawal from the ExoMars program, that have angered many in the scientific community.

68 comments to Bolden and Hutchison spar over commercial crew, SLS/Orion funding

  • Hutchinson is talking about money for Texas and Bolden is talking about enabling crewed flights. The Senator is doing ill service to NASA and America’s space program.

  • amightywind

    She suggested that NASA downselect now to a smaller number of companies to make better use of funding.

    Now where have we heard this suggestion before? Oh, it was me! LOL! Kinda obvious, one would think. But with this bunch paying off cronies is number one. Bolden is clearly slow walking Ares/SLS. It is painfully obvious.

  • SpaceColonizer

    How long is Hutchinson going to be in the senate? Do I remember hearing that she’s out after this term or something? She’s an embarrassment to the great state of Texas, to the space program, and quite frankly to the human race.

  • Robert G. Oler

    SpaceColonizer wrote @ March 7th, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    How long is Hutchinson going to be in the senate>

    Jan 2013. RGO

  • I am very much looking forward to January 2013 when Ms. Hutchison is no longer a Senator. Good riddance.

  • byeman

    “Now where have we heard this suggestion before? Oh, it was me!”

    It means two people are wrong.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    Hutchison’s argument is misprioritized and grossly of whack.

    $326 million is only 11% of the $2.8 billion (with a “b”) FY13 budget for MPCV and SLS. Even if Bolden is wrong and that amount does impact the schedule for MPCV and SLS, an 11% cut in one year is only going to defer the first crewed launch by a month or two at most. Given that launch isn’t going to happen until 2021 at the earliest, after ISS is currently scheduled to be decrewed, and given that there are no exploration payloads in the pipeline, the priority is not on MPCV or SLS. It doesn’t matter whether MPCV and SLS launch first in 2021, 2022, or 2030. The MPCV and SLS budget could be cut in half, and nothing would happen to any other NASA program.

    $326 million is a whopping 40% of the $830 million (with an “m”) FY13 budget for commercial cargo and crew. Whether there are two competitors under FAR contracts or four competitors under SAAs, a 40% cut in any one year is going to delay the first crewed launch by at least a year and likely more. And every year that a U.S. domestic human transport capability is not developed is one more year that taxpayer dollars are sent to Russia and that ISS could suffer a catastrophic failure while decrewed if and when Soyuz has a bad day. If budgets are tight, the priority should be commercial cargo and crew.

    Once upon a time, Hutchison strongly supported, even originated, the ISS National Lab. Now she supports sending U.S. taxpayer dollars overseas to the Russian space program and keeping the ISS National Lab hanging by the Soyuz thread as long as possible. Absent Korolev becoming one of Hutchison’s campaign contributors or Hutchison being advised by sheer idiots on her staff, it’s hard to explain such a change in her priorities.

  • amightywind

    ISS National Lab

    National lab? Hardly. ISS has never produced anything of value, unless it was the revenue the Russians received flying tourists. Heck, I can respect that. But don’t insult me by claiming that ‘testing the tensile strength of spider silk in zero G’ is science. ISS is more like a UN facility in the sky. No charter. No mandate. The public is tired of cheery astronauts in track suits mugging for NASA TV. It ain’t worth the money!

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “National lab? Hardly.”

    In actual substance, I don’t disagree. But Hutchison created the ISS National Lab designation in legislation and pushed hard for many years for greater ISS utilization. (See quote and link below.)

    Thus, it’s hypocritical (or just plain dumb) of her to propose budget cuts that would defer commercial transport by a year or more and cut the transport legs out from underneath her precious ISS National Lab. She can’t have it both ways.

    “In 2005, as then-Chairman of the Science and Space Subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee, Sen. Hutchison was the primary author and sponsor of the NASA Authorization Act. That legislation, which provides the current policy and program authority to NASA, included the National Laboratory designation and required NASA to develop a plan for designing and managing the Laboratory’s operations.”

    http://www.setexasrecord.com/news/196369-sen.-hutchison-applauds-nasa-steps-toward-implementing-space-station-as-a-national-laboratory

  • Egad

    Absent Korolev becoming one of Hutchison’s campaign contributors or Hutchison being advised by sheer idiots on her staff, it’s hard to explain such a change in her priorities.

    Which does again bring up the question: “Who’s pulling Hutchison’s strings on this stuff?” It’s no particular insult to her to say that she doesn’t have the background to deal with the specifics herself, so who is telling her what to say? Whoever it is, I don’t think he/she’s an idiot — perhaps a space ideologue, perhaps a tool of industry, perhaps something else. I have a suspicion about one of the staff, but it’s only that.

  • Robert G. Oler

    http://spacenews.com/commentaries/120305-sls-never-back-up-commercial.html

    Brother Muncy’s comments are timely and indeed quite accurate. RGO

  • Mary Hail

    Who’s pulling Hutchison’s strings on this stuff?

    Well gosh, who is the primary senate aide for this committee responsible for NASA oversight, and an ardent supporter of Constellation, SLS and MPCV?

    I think we all already know the answer to that question. Jeez. Just say it!

  • byeman

    “”It ain’t worth the money!” Must be referring to SLS.

  • Coastal Ron

    Hutchinson said:

    You are over-prioritizing the commercial and not being as concerned about keeping the people at NASA who would be able to stay involved” [for future exploration programs]

    Government jobs in her state – that’s all she’s concerned about, not encouraging commercial companies to help expand our efforts in space.

    She is the epitome of a pork-barrel politician. I wonder what her political god (Ronald Reagan) would say if he heard her, especially since he was the father of the ISS and one of his objectives was the encouragement of the private sector in commercial space endeavors? Hutchison appears to be against both now.

  • For those who missed it and have a masochistic desire to torture yourself, I’ve posted today’s hearing with Administrator Bolden on YouTube:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OeQLIFSzYg0

  • amightywind

    In actual substance, I don’t disagree.

    Then is it a habit of yours to parrot stupidity?

  • well

    Hutchinson knows very well that she helped slash the CC budget before and will try to do so again. If she got it down to $1 she’d suggest that a proposed $3 budget was an effort to triple the funding.

  • Hutchison and Nelson called Bolden on it, and caught him with his hand in the cookie jar, stealing money from the SLS in order to fund Commercial Crew! Then Bolden argued that the SLS/MPCV program was still being appropriately funded while contradicting himself when he said that the delay in manned launches for the SLS was due to a lack of sufficient funding.

    Its really sad to see a NASA administrator lie to the Congress this way! The budget numbers don’t lie! SLS/MPCV funding was already tiny at $3 billion a year. Now Obama and Holdren are trying to cut it even further???

    But, of course, Obama and Holdren didn’t want the SLS in the first place. So they’re apparently going to continue to try to delay it as much as possible in order to attempt to kill the program.

    After the election, however, I think it will be time for the Congress to– impose– a practical goal on the SLS program of returning to the Moon to set up a permanent outpost in order to begin exploiting the Moon’s polar ice resources. Then Congress can finally end Obama’s silly and hyper expensive notion of planting a flag on an asteroid– a mission set so far into the future that he wasn’t really serious about anyway!

    Marcel F. Williams

  • @amightywind

    I loved Nelson’s attempt to argue how invaluable the ISS was:-) But there’s no way the tax payers are getting $3 billion a year worth of economic value out of the ISS program. NO WAY!

    However, continuing the $3 billion a year ISS program is an excellent way for the current administration to attempt to kill NASA’s beyond LEO program. I think I might start calling the it, the Death Star:-)

    Marcel F. Williams

  • A M Swallow

    SpaceColonizer wrote @ March 7th, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    How long is Hutchinson going to be in the senate? Do I remember hearing that she’s out after this term or something? She’s an embarrassment to the great state of Texas, to the space program, and quite frankly to the human race.

    Hutchinson a senator for Texas.
    NASA site in Texas is JSC known to the world as Huston – mission control for Apollo.

    Does Hutchinson (or her adviser) think that JSC will act as mission control for SLS flights but not for CCDev missions?

    If so time to supply her with details of transfer vehicles, EML-1/2 spacestations, lunar bases and lunar landers. Launched using existing LV whose missions are controlled from JSC.

  • One fact of note about this hearing …

    This committee has 25 members.

    Only four showed up.

    Senators Nelson (D-FL) and Hutchison (R-TX) were there for the whole hearing, having the most pork in the fire. Senators Udall (D-NM) and Rubio (R-FL) showed up to ask questions but otherwise were absent.

    I have to give Rubio credit in that he didn’t go out on the lunatic fringe like Hutchison did.

  • Martijn Meijering

    It means two people are wrong.

    Yeah, and one of them is on the internet. This is intolerable!

  • Jason

    “I have a suspicion about one of the staff, but it’s only that.”

    I don’t know which staff member to which you are reffering, but they definately are part of the problem. There is one in particular, who has a sort of cult following on another website, who makes the claim that the food fight is because of the Presidents request to increase the Commercial Crew line, without a top level increase. But, by this standard, both Congress, and the President created this situation by insterting the billion dollar plus SLS/MPCV programs without a top level increase. Of course, since he, and his boss support SLS/MPCV, that part is perfectly fine to him.

  • well

    It’s not just Hutchinson. Justifying the kneecapping of the CC budget by suggesting an immediate downselect has been circulating in news stories for a few weeks now. This appears to be the agreed upon strategy to go after it’s proposed budget.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Then is it a habit of yours to parrot stupidity?”

    No, you dumbass. I’m calling Hutchison on her stupidity.

    It doesn’t matter whether I like the ISS National Lab. It matters that Hutchison originated and (at least used to) support the ISS National Lab. It’s therefore stupid (or hypocritical) of her to propose cuts to commercial cargo crew that would disrupt transport for the ISS National Lab.

    Comprende?

    You are one dense, uninformed idiot.

  • DCSCA

    .”..citing a reduction in the administration’s FY13 budget proposal of $326 million for SLS and Orion and what [Hutchinson] argued was a “corresponding increase of $330 million for commercial crew”… (That amount of increase is apparently with respect to the authorized level of $500 million; commercial crew got $406 million in FY12 and the agency is requesting nearly $830 million in FY13.)”

    Funding private enterprised commercial crew firms woth tax dollars is socialism, plain and simple, burdening the taxpayers with the financial risk rejected by private capital markets. This syphons off dwindling resources from the several existing and operating space operations. Worse still, socializing the risk on the many to reward an elite few aiming at LEO operations is a ticket to noplace. Space exploitation, articularly government financed, is not space exploration.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ March 7th, 2012 at 3:55 pm
    “After the election, however, I think it will be time for the Congress to– impose– a practical goal on the SLS program of returning to the Moon to set up a permanent outpost in order to begin exploiting the Moon’s polar ice resources.”

    If Congress believes that such a “practical goal” can be imposed on a heavy-lift launcher program, they’d have to be nuts. It’ll require a lot more than SLS, and vastly more money than SLS is being appropriated. SLS could be a piece of such a program, and quite possibly a small piece of it. This is one of the fantasies of SLS. That all we have to do it build an HLV, and payloads for it will appear out of thin air for free.

    Let’s not confuse sending humans back to the Moon and exploiting polar ice. It should be possible to assess the exploitation potential of polar ice long before humans return. That’s a big job, and SLS won’t contribute much to it.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “The budget numbers don’t lie! SLS/MPCV funding was already tiny at $3 billion a year.”

    No, they’re not. Commercial cargo and crew is only $800 million (with an “m”) or one-quarter of what’s being spent on SLS/MPCV to do fundamentally the same thing (put cargo and people in orbit).

    ” So they’re apparently going to continue to try to delay it as much as possible in order to attempt to kill the program.”

    Per Bolden’s testimony, there’s no delay to MPCV/SLS from this budget. The first unmanned test flight is still scheduled for 2017.

    It’s going to slip for other reasons (Europeans refusing to participate in MPCV, flat budget profile for a development activity, inexperience with new human space flight systems development in the NASA management ranks, political demands to spread the work around inefficiently, etc.) but not because of this budget.

    “After the election, however, I think it will be time for the Congress to– impose– a practical goal on the SLS program of returning to the Moon to set up a permanent outpost in order to begin exploiting the Moon’s polar ice resources. Then Congress can finally end Obama’s silly and hyper expensive notion of planting a flag on an asteroid”

    A one-time asteroid mission is going to cost an order of magnitude less (at least) than a decade or more spent establishing and supporting a lunar base.

    “However, continuing the $3 billion a year ISS program is an excellent way for the current administration to attempt to kill NASA’s beyond LEO program.”

    You just stated in your prior post that MPCV/SLS is also getting $3 billion a year. The Administration is not going to “kill NASA’s beyond LEO program” by spending $3 billion per year on it.

  • DCSCA

    @Stephen C. Smith wrote @ March 7th, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    “One fact of note about this hearing …This committee has 25 members.
    Only four showed up.”

    And that is probably the most astute observation of them all.

  • Ben Russell-Gough

    What really saddened me was how badly briefed Nelson was. He clearly thought that the Orion uncrewed test would be launched by SLS when elementary research by his staffers – hell NASA have produced a CGI of the mission! – would show it’s going to be launched by a Delta-IV Heavy! How are they supposed to keep NASA accountable when they clearly don’t know what is actually going on?

    I’m no great fan of Charles Bolden but, frankly, he was coming out as more reasonable and better-prepared than the politicians which, for him, is quite an achievement.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Well gosh, who is the primary senate aide for this committee responsible for NASA oversight, and an ardent supporter of Constellation, SLS and MPCV?

    I think we all already know the answer to that question. Jeez. Just say it!”

    Jeff Bingham. A long time ago, he worked for Senator Jake Garn, hence his handle on nasaspaceflight.com (51D Mascot, which was Garn’s Shuttle mission). After that, he was a staffer working legislative affairs at JSC and at NASA HQ. He jumped ship in recent years to work again in the Senate.

    He knows a lot about how the Senate runs and about Shuttle/ISS. But I would argue (my opinion) that he lacks significant, broad, or deep background or understanding of aerospace engineering trades, costs, management, and operations or much knowledge of human space flight options outside Shuttle/ISS systems. I think he also lacks an understanding of how the White House and OMB work that causes him and the Senators he works for to make nonsensical accusations.

    His long-time association with Garn and JSC shows up in his strong, almost religious, bias towards Shuttle, its workforce, and its systems, despite their enormous costs, proven alternatives, and studies to the contrary.

    Jeff is a likable and probably well-intentioned guy, but the Senate is in needs of staffers with greater breadth and critical thinking. It wouldn’t change the perverse political incentives surrounding MPCV and SLS and the ex-Shuttle workforce, but at least other options would get a hearing at the staff level.

  • Coastal Ron

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ March 7th, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    However, continuing the $3 billion a year ISS program is an excellent way for the current administration to attempt to kill NASA’s beyond LEO program.

    NASA doesn’t have a “beyond LEO program”.

    If you can find one, tell us where it is in either the proposed NASA budget or the existing NASA Appropriations Bill.

    And no, an empty SLS is not proof of anything beyond the desire of some in Congress to build unneeded hardware.

    I won’t hold my breath waiting for your proof – you haven’t been able to provide any in the past, and I don’t expect that to change…

  • Mary Hail

    I don’t know which staff member to which you are referring

    The senate staffer who thinks he’s NASA administrator and a rocket scientist?

    Oh … that senate staffer!

  • “Now where have we heard this suggestion before? Oh, it was me! ”

    Which makes neither of you any less wrong. Irrationality may or may not prevail, but having numbers on your side doesn’t make it any less irrational.

    “LOL! Kinda obvious, one would think. But with this bunch paying off cronies is number one. Bolden is clearly slow walking Ares/SLS. It is painfully obvious.”

    The only obvious thing here is that Hutchinson would like to see Commercial Crew and SLS/Orion reduced by the same dollar amount, (instead of by the same *percentage*) which the latter can afford and still have some kind of viable program, while the former cannot.

    They seem also to share your apparent fear of…competition.

  • DCSCA

    “Now [Hutchinson] supports sending U.S. taxpayer dollars overseas to the Russian space program and keeping the ISS National Lab hanging by the Soyuz thread as long as possible…”

    It’s more a matter of cutting your losses along the track of phasing out a useless, aerospace WPA program– as Deke Slayton called it shortly before his passing- left over from the Reagan days. And, of course, w/o the ISS as a faux “destination,” commercial LEO HSF and cargo operation development has no real purpose– it is dead. Every dollar spent on the ISS– 43 cents of which is borrowed– syphons off dwindling resources for fresher, more prudent BEO projects and planning in sync w/t Age of Austerity. After a decade on orbit, the ISS has yet to validate itself w/any “research” given the billions wasted on it. THe United States is simply throwing good money after bad and keeping contractual obligations w/minimal crew visits via Soyuz is smart as the program winds down. (REcall NASA had plans to splas the ISS in mid-decade just two or three yers ago.) . If it had been anchored to the floor of the Ocran of Storms as a ‘research station’ w/regular servicing by GP cislunar space vehicles, it at least would have been an integral element of a developing and progressive space program for decades to come. Instead, it is doomed to a watery grave in the Pacific. But hey, it kept aerospace engineers and lobbyists employed.

  • Then is it a habit of yours to parrot stupidity?

    No, that would seem to be your expertise. Though to give credit where it’s due, I will confess that you seem to be talented at originating it.

  • amightywind

    They seem also to share your apparent fear of…competition.

    With every competition one must eventually tally the score and choose winners and losers, which is all we ask in CCDev2. Stringing four companies along is moronic, as the good Senator made clear.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Dark Blue Nine wrote @ March 7th, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    Jeff Bingham. A long time ago, he worked for Senator Jake Garn, hence his handle on nasaspaceflight.com (51D Mascot, which was Garn’s Shuttle mission). After that, he was a staffer working legislative affairs at JSC and at NASA HQ. He jumped ship in recent years to work again in the Senate. ”

    one of the joys on my facebook page is to mock “51D” and his goofy space policy (and by extension KBH).

    What Bingham is adept at doing is to take a pork project and project some faux need for it (he learned this with Garn) and of course his role of Nasaspaceflight.com is to act as a psuedo expert impressing the “illuminatee” there who are “low knowledge” people. Our good friend Marcel is about on speed with what the depth of real thought is on that blog.

    BUT there is something afoot I think.

    It is working out that Texas might actually mean something in the GOP political process. While I am betraying my class (the over 100K people are turning out for Willard whose motto is becoming “vote for me save the 1 percent”…) I will vote for Ricky …but there is a good block at the voting areas of Clear Lake that while goofy in their voting patterns (ie would normally vote for Rick)…I think that they are working on some Willard annoncement to be made at the JSC to try and grab that block…And I think KBH is teeing up the ball for that with her diatribe.

    Kay hasnt a clue about SLS. I’ve asked her both in open forum and in little “group talks” about SLS and she vaps almost immediately into “American values” kind of babble…ask her what a payload for SLS is and she can only speak in general terms.

    but on general terms. Bingham is about as uninformed as one could be. he simply has no clue. RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Marcel F. Williams wrote @ March 7th, 2012 at 3:55 pm
    “After the election, however, I think it will be time for the Congress to– impose– a practical goal on the SLS program of returning to the Moon to set up a permanent outpost in order to begin exploiting the Moon’s polar ice resources.”
    |

    LOL ) there is not a chance of that happening. RGO

  • GClark

    I don’t know about anyone else here, but the notion that $3 BILLION is not a lot of money is somehow affensive to me.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    Excerpts from a relevant editorial by Doug Messier:

    “NASA Administrator Charles Bolden was up on the Hill today for back to back meetings of House and Senate committees that oversee his budget. Based on the (predictable and utterly depressing) feedback he received, its clear that key members of Congress failed Math 101 (and a few other courses) in college. It’s the only real explanation for many of their inane utterances.

    The Great Budget Raid That Wasn’t (So Big): Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison kept complaining that the proposed budget cuts spending on the Space Launch System and Orion by $300 million in favor of funding commercial crew. In fact, the cut to the combined programs is roughly half that amount. The confusion apparently results from a new accounting arrangement that separates the ground infrastructure costs from vehicle development. (This arrangement was demanded by Congress in the last budget.)

    NASA has shifted more money to ground infrastructure to prepare for unmanned tests in 2014 and 2017 and slowed down development of Orion to match the slower pace of SLS. But, the cut is not nearly as bad as Hutchison is alleging. And we’re in a tight fiscal environment.

    The math here is as simple as it is compelling: NASA has to pay more money to the Russians for crew transport for each year the program slips. So, Congress either pays up now to fund American companies or funnels money to Russia later. Which do you think would be more popular with taxpayers? Which is the most effective for the nation?

    Instead of the right thing, our esteemed representatives are insistent upon raiding commercial crew to pay for vehicles that can’t fly with astronauts for nearly a decade.

    “I don’t know where you get your delusions, laser brain.” Aside from Hutchison’s multiple failures at basic math, she also believes that the Orion and SLS vehicles could serve as a backup to commercial crew even though they won’t be ready to fly until 2021. As long as Orion is tied to the heavy-lift vehicle, there’s no chance in hell of it being an effective backup.

    You could always decouple Orion from SLS and launch crews on Delta IVs with the vehicles fueling up for beyond Earth orbit flights at orbital fuel depots, then why do you need the SLS in the first place?

    Hutchison is retiring from the Senate in January. It can’t come soon enough.

    Monopolies are Cost Effective. There’s a lot of pressure from Congress for NASA to select one commercial crew provider now. Aside from destroying the entire purpose of the competition and eliminating the goal of redundant access to space, this would in all likelihood significantly drive up costs by creating a monopoly.

    The oddest thing is that free-market Republicans seem to have the greatest difficulty grasping these essential facts. These are the guys who love competition and want to privatize as much of the government as possible.

    http://www.parabolicarc.com/2012/03/07/congress-flunk-math-101-update-no-2703843/

  • Philip Horzempa

    Don’t forget that the Budget Control Act of 2011 is now the law of the land. NASA’s budget will be decreased by 9%, unless the Congress amends or repeals the law. The President, as I recall, has indicated that he would veto any attempt to overturn that law. This makes it even more likely that NASA’s budget will be decreased to $16 Billion. This will cause a whole new food fight between SLS and Commercial manned spaceflight, as the pie suddenly gets substantially smaller.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ March 7th, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    “One fact of note about this hearing … This committee has 25 members. Only four showed up.”

    That’s actually not unusual at NASA authorization committee hearings in both houses. Also, there were five Senate full committee hearings going on at the same time, including Appropriations, Finance, Judiciary, and Vet Affairs. It was a busy morning. Most of the Commerce subcommittee members are members of those other committees as well and, frankly, NASA posture for authorization doesn’t mean a helluva lot compared to those others if there isn’t a NASA center in your state. One has to wonder if Commerce staff held the hearing at that time in order not to have random committee members diluting Nelson’s remarks.

  • Doug Lassiter

    P.S. It was a subcommittee hearing (which is why Nelson chaired it) and there are only 11 members.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Jeff F has an excellent article in Space Quarterly. if you dont subscribe you can read part of it through NASA Watch…but you should subscribe. Its a good solid Read RGO

  • josh

    hutchison can barely be bothered to cover up her corruption anymore. it’s obvious. glad she will be out next year. can’t wait for sls to die.

  • I’ve posted on YouTube yesterday’s House committee hearing too:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUlxRRNNark

    I can’t help but feel sorry for Charlie Bolden to have to put up with all these idiots. One kept ranting about Americans having to fly on Chinese rockets. It wasn’t Sandy Adams, who’s made that claim in the past. This time it was Mo Brooks. You really have to wonder who’s writing these questions for them. Brooks was parroting word-for-word inanities spewed by Adams last year. Adams, as usual, was reading questions written for her; she’s incapable of speaking off the top of her head. Thank goodness she’s being redistricted and won’t represent Brevard County after this year.

  • DCSCA

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ March 7th, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    “I will vote for Ricky …”

    The atmosphere of Jupiter is dense. So too, it appears, are layers of the Texas electorate. The GOP, poisoned with conservatism mutating almost weekly, has never been nor will ever be strong advocates for America’s civilian space program.

  • Doug Lassiter wrote:

    One has to wonder if Commerce staff held the hearing at that time in order not to have random committee members diluting Nelson’s remarks.

    Well, that was certainly my impression. Nelson and Hutchison in the middle, holding court. In fact, Charlie had to remind Nelson that Sen. Udall was sitting to the side waiting to make his introductory remarks. Rubio came in later, and Sen. Boozman came in at the end as Neil deGrasse Tyson began.

    It’s very clear that Hutchison doesn’t like Bolden, and it appears the feeling is mutual. Last year at the SLS design unveiling he called her the “queen bee” and she nearly exploded. Well, she acts like the queen bee and that was evident for all to see yesterday. She all but called the man a liar.

  • Dark Blue Nine wrote:

    Aside from Hutchison’s multiple failures at basic math, she also believes that the Orion and SLS vehicles could serve as a backup to commercial crew even though they won’t be ready to fly until 2021. As long as Orion is tied to the heavy-lift vehicle, there’s no chance in hell of it being an effective backup.

    In fact, NASA exec Bill Gerstenmaier recently said that Orion is not being designed to dock with the ISS. It’s physically impossible — unless you throw out a hook with a line, I guess.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “With every competition one must eventually tally the score and choose winners and losers, which is all we ask in CCDev2. Stringing four companies along is moronic, as the good Senator made clear.”

    It’s moronic to downselect before the existing CCDev2 milestones are complete and partner performance is known. It’s moronic to disrupt ongoing procurements and downselect before proposals for the next stage of competition in CCiCap are in and evaluated. The program has a process in place to winnow down to the best performers.

    Maybe if certain morons bothered to learn something about these programs before they open their mouths, they wouldn’t sound so, well, moronic.

  • Robert G. Oler

    DCSCA wrote @ March 8th, 2012 at 6:30 am

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ March 7th, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    “I will vote for Ricky …”

    you replied:

    The atmosphere of Jupiter is dense. So too, it appears, are layers of the Texas electorate. The GOP, poisoned with conservatism mutating almost weekly, has never been nor will ever be strong advocates for America’s civilian space program.”

    the subtitles of politics frequently escapes some. A vote for Rick S in the Texas Primary is in my view a vote to Reelect The President RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ March 8th, 2012 at 6:31 am

    It’s very clear that Hutchison doesn’t like Bolden, and it appears the feeling is mutual. >

    I Know “Charlie” (General Bolden) and my parents run in the social circles in Big D with KBH…but just on general information.

    KBH is still smarting from her loss (which surprised me) in the Texas Primary as she ran for Gov…I voted for her and was looking forward to a good battle between she and Bill White (the former Houston Mayor)…but she got caught up in Perryism and the stupid Tea Party movement which Perry quickly morphed to…and I am told (and pundits in the state say) that she is upset or smarting is a better word from those dynamics.

    For all the time I rail at her Kay is at least an adult in politics. Under normal times she would be one of those people who could work with the administration of any party and sort of deal “nicely” with the opposition in The Senate. One would wish she still had the courage to do that…but in reality good people get swept up in currents. YOu can see Willard being part of the flotsam here as well.

    Charlie is doing what he is paid for…and in my view doing it well. He is navigating the currents of a difficult political environment and getting the best deals he thinks he can get…as the currents of events (the Budget recession etc) take us to some eventual climax parts.

    I dont know what opin General Bolden has of Hutchinson, I would not say if I did…but my guess is that being more adept at politics then I am…Bolden thinks along the lines I mentioned.

    The gift of the GOP the last 15 years has been lying in politics. There was always some “exaggeration” this has been true since the start of The Republic…but today the actual lying has just gotten out of hand. A good example of that is Romney…he just is telling one outright lie about his policies…after another. RGO

  • Jim Muncy

    Folks,

    I may not agree with Sen. Hutchison’s priorities, but she’s not corrupt and her professional staffer Jeff Bingham has forgotten more about space policy than most of us will ever know.

    As I said in my SpaceNews oped this week, Senator Hutchison tried to do the right thing in mandating MPCV/SLS, but there just isn’t the money in NASA’s top line to do what she wants. ISS needs commercial crew, and ISS is a big part of her legislative record. Ironically, trying to do exploration with SLS actually hurts JSC… which is why JSC is looking at exploration using existing launch vehicles.

    Instead of bashing her, why not write a thoughtful but respectful letter explaining why you folks want her to change her priorities?

    – Jim

  • “With every competition one must eventually tally the score and choose winners and losers, which is all we ask in CCDev2. Stringing four companies along is moronic, as the good Senator made clear.’

    And your idea of selecting the winner of a horse race is calling it at the far turn…

    Everyone is meeting their agreed upon milestones, and getting agreed-upon payment as they do. That’s the definition of ‘winning’ here. Failure to do so means they have none but themselves to blame, and the natural selection of competition works as it should.

    And all four in a dead heat would be fine with me.

    Meanwhile, Orion (which I’d prefer to see continue in spite of itself) and Ares/SLS (which I wouldn’t) are meeting what developmental schedules for how much money, over how much time? Is there a definition of losing, for those contractors?

    And before some variation of the ‘crony’ word re-appears, it would be interesting to know what those who would benefit from continued Orion/SLS development are thinking about all this? Remember, Congress wrote the rules such that only the usual suspects could meet them. It wasn’t just; “Hey, we want an HLV of X minimum payload to LEO of Y minimum launcher diameter, achieved no later than Z date, and we don’t care how you go about it.” No, it must also be done *this particular way* that only ATK and others formerly involved in the Shuttle could possibly meet…

    To continue the earlier analogy, If I specify that only my horse of a different color can be in the race, then I guess that only it can win…

  • Robert G. Oler

    Jim Muncy wrote @ March 8th, 2012 at 11:47 am

    Folks,

    I may not agree with Sen. Hutchison’s priorities, but she’s not corrupt and her professional staffer Jeff Bingham has forgotten more about space policy than most of us will ever know.
    ………………
    Instead of bashing her, why not write a thoughtful but respectful letter explaining why you folks want her to change her priorities? …..”

    Jim…I have the highest respect for you and you are in my view generally correct in the tone of your post…we need civil discourse in our politics and as much as I can sort it out particularly on this subject I have tried to go along that way.

    Having said that Kay is not interested in coherent arguments about her policy or politics concerning human spaceflight…and in large measure is responsible for the sloth and other problems that are affecting NASA HSF today.

    A pivot point in modern (ie today) politics is to recognize that what has worked for the last 50 or so years in almost all aspects of the federal government; and in particular for the last 40 years is no longer operative.

    There IS NO SUPPORT for a human exploration program/project for any real goal in space…no matter if it is the Moon, Mars, libration point, piece of space rock floating around…

    Newts efforts on trying to have a coherent discussion along those lines should be a wakeup call for anyone who is still convinced that a human exploration “program” to do anything or go anywhere is a non starter. Newt might have put the face on it; but this political reality has been obvious for quite sometime.

    “Jeff” if at least his public utterances on the other forum seems to be tone deaf to that reality as well. In addition he has embraced some quite nutty ideas about the relationship of NASA and National security…things the Senator babbles on at least at the two social gathers I have attended recently here in South Houston.

    “forgetting more” about space politics then most have known is a neat phrase but almost useless. What worked in the past needs to be forgotten because it no longer works today.

    Kay is what is wrong with making policy. She cannot explain for the life of her “why” SLS should be built. Nor can “51D”. I’ve watched them try.

    RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Philip Horzempa wrote @ March 7th, 2012 at 11:22 pm

    Don’t forget that the Budget Control Act of 2011 is now the law of the land. ”

    Yes this is the 500 lb gorilla that is to me enjoyable…the GOP hoisted themselves on that petard…its one of those Kodiak (or Kodak) moments RGO

  • Jim Muncy

    Robert,

    I agree that SLS is wrongheaded. But if I let people attack Hutchison then I can’t complain when they attack other space leaders I happen to like.

    Forgive my intellectual consistency… I know it’s out of fashion.

    – Jim

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “I may not agree with Sen. Hutchison’s priorities, but she’s not corrupt”

    I have no insight on whether Hutchison is corrupt or not. (I, for one, did not state such above.)

    But her positions on the ISS National Lab and on commercial cargo/crew are incongruent and highly inconsistent. The former relies heavily on the latter.

    That means that she’s either blatantly hypocritical or shocking stupid on this issue. Neither qualifies her for membership on any committee overseeing NASA.

    “and her professional staffer Jeff Bingham has forgotten more about space policy than most of us will ever know.

    As I said in my SpaceNews oped this week, Senator Hutchison tried to do the right thing in mandating MPCV/SLS, but there just isn’t the money in NASA’s top line to do what she wants.”

    The fact that civil space spending is not a federal budget priority is _the_ central and primary lesson of U.S. civil space policy ever since the Apollo peak. Since it’s been 45 years and Bingham has still not learned this fundamental lesson, it appears that he retains little knowledge or wisdom with respect to space policy. He may know the Senate and he may be a great Shuttle mascot, but he’s also arguably the staffer last year who is most responsible for shackling the agency to very costly Shuttle systems, infrastructure, and workforce for years to come in the absence of a budget to afford them. Despite yet another blue-ribbon expert committee strongly advising the nation’s leadership not to do so.

    It’s not just Bingham, but the NASA committees in the Senate and House are in dire need of better staff and guidance.

    “Instead of bashing her, why not write a thoughtful but respectful letter explaining why you folks want her to change her priorities?”

    I don’t want to dissuade anyone from exercising their constitutional rights. But given that the FY13 budget almost certainly won’t be decided until after the election and Hutchison’s retirement from Congress, it’s probably a waste of time to contact her instead of other members.

    I’d also argue that congressmen and staff that have spent years and decades on NASA but remain so ignorant that they repeat the Velcro myth in committee meetings are probably not going to change their minds no matter how much information and logic is thrown at them.

    http://nasawatch.com/archives/2012/03/velcro-and-nasa.html

  • Robert G. Oler

    Jim Muncy wrote @ March 8th, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    Robert,

    I agree that SLS is wrongheaded. But if I let people attack Hutchison then I can’t complain when they attack other space leaders I happen to like.

    Forgive my intellectual consistency… I know it’s out of fashion.

    – Jim>>

    Jim…I hope that you were not taking my comments as criticism of you. You are a true believer (in all that phrase entails) and buckets smart in terms of politics…

    Calling KBH “corrupt” and other phrases which demean or slander her with no proof (and substantial proof should be offered) is one of the things that is wrong with her politics.

    I was trying to make a policy point, which I htink you got…anyway…I have the highest respect for you and appreciation for your endeavors …and intellectual consistency. (gin)…the later is what I admire most.

    Robert

  • DCSCA

    @Robert G. Oler wrote @ March 8th, 2012 at 10:58 am

    “….the subtitles of politics frequently escapes some.”

    Indeed, and you’re clearly one of the some. A vote for Ricky is a vote for Ricky. You might as well vote for Newt or Mitt – or not vote for any of them– if your intent is to re-elect President Obama. Any support for Santorum only reinforced his ‘faith’ in himself as the ordained and inevitable conservative savior of the Western World. Good grief.

  • HYRRP

    I don’t think I’ve ever read so much blind hate and pathetic nonsense as I have on this comment section. Robert G. Oler is clearly the main clown in this uninformed and poorly educated collection of comments, but this small group of 15 or so people are only preaching to each other so at least that is a comfort.

  • Jim Muncy wrote:

    Instead of bashing her, why not write a thoughtful but respectful letter explaining why you folks want her to change her priorities?

    Why not write her a respectful letter?

    Because she has no reason to listen.

    First, she’s a lame duck. She’s announced her retirement at session’s end.

    Second, I don’t live in Texas. I don’t represent her constituency.

    Third … Quite frankly, she’s shown she doesn’t listen to reason. For reasons known only to her, she’s obsessed with SLS. Unlike her, who chose to all but call Mr. Bolden a liar, I won’t go for the personal attack. But I will presume that her motivation is pork for Texas.

    As big $$$ campaign money has an increasingly larger role in politics, our humble single letters matter less and less.

    I live in Brevard County, Florida, in Sandy Adams’ district. I’ve written her several times, and received one form letter that really didn’t address my concerns. I’ve written Senators Nelson and Rubio several times. Nelson’s staffed replied with one form letter. I got nothing from Rubio.

    My opinion is that we need to divorce space exploration from the government as quickly as possible. I think these Congresscritters are slowly waking up to the reality that commercial crew means an end to their pork gravy train, which is why they’re fighting it. Several of them yesterday insisted that NASA force the CCDev participants into contracts. Why? Because then these Congresscritters can do what they always do — lobby behind the scenes for the contractors pouring money into their campaign coffers. CCDev doesn’t work that way, so they can’t figure out how to get campaign money out of the participants.

    I hope that SpaceX, Boeing, Bigelow and the rest are willing to put up enough money to make up what Congress won’t, divorce space from Congress, and let’s move forward into the future. Because it sure won’t happen with SLS.

  • Robert G. Oler

    HYRRP wrote @ March 8th, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    I don’t think I’ve ever read so much blind hate and pathetic nonsense as I have on this comment section. Robert G. Oler is clearly the main clown in this uninformed and poorly educated collection of comments,>>

    yes compared to the well reasoned non personal attack post that you have the courage to sign your name to…. doubtless I have a lot to learn

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmW-ScmGRMA&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    RGO

  • Coastal Ron

    Just as an outside viewpoint for what NASA’s real priorities are, the FISO group just posted their latest presentation called “NASA Space Technology Roadmaps and Priorities“.

    What was their top priority for extending and sustaining human activities beyond LEO?

    A1 – Improved Access to Space: Dramatically reduce the total cost and increase reliability and safety of access to space

    Not “increase the amount of mass we can launch to space on one rocket”.

    Will the politicians pushing the SLS ever ask NASA what is really needed? Not likely.

  • Vladislaw

    Thanks for the link Ron, that reports lays out exactly where money should be going for technology investments that will help open up both NASA exploration and increase commercial space.

    TA01: Launch Propulsion Systems
    TA02: In-Space Propulsion Systems
    TA03: Space Power and Energy Storage Systems

    The top three get my vote.

  • DCSCA

    @HYRRP wrote @ March 8th, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    So what’s your point. America’s space program is in ‘free drift”; free marketers denied capital investment in the private secotr by wary investors want to pick the carcass and tap the Treasury of dwinding resources needed for existing government space programs, civil & DoD, faking their ‘free enterprising’ street cred by socializing the risk on the many to benefit a few– using tax monies, and 43 cents of every dollar is borrowed.

  • DCSCA

    There IS NO SUPPORT for a human exploration program/project for any real goal in space…no matter if it is the Moon, Mars, libration point, piece of space rock floating around…

    Of course there is. Just not in your neighborhood in Texas– or in the halls of American government. You shoul have learned by now that U.S. space efforts are always reactive, nto proactive. Butt’s a big planet with lots of aspiring nations. The Russians have never lost their interest in human exploration in space– and the PRC has whetted an appetite for same.

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