Literally on the same page. The two co-authored an op-ed that appeared Monday in a few different publications, ranging from the Sacramento Bee to the Bangor Daily News. The essay gives them the opportunity to restate their vision for NASA, including the agreement Congress and the White House reached last year that identified development of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion, commercial cargo and crew to support the ISS, and completion of the James Webb Space Telescope as the agency’s top three priorities.
The essay covers familiar ground, although one noteworthy passage comes at the end when discussing commercial crew. They argue that we must avoid “a false competition” between commercial providers and government exploration programs. However, the essay goes on to note that in order to get the most out of NASA’s budget, “NASA needs to focus its investment on only those providers that are likely to be able to provide crew transportation services by 2017.” The space agency, they add, “should consider identifying the strongest private firms at the earliest opportunity such that NASA’s precious resources are focused on ending our reliance on the Russians for transportation to the space station as quickly as possible. The cost would be less and the returns greater.”
That language is similar to what Hutchison has said in past hearings on the NASA budget proposal, where she called on NASA to limit new rounds of the commercial crew program to no more than a couple companies, not the four that currently have funded Space Act Agreements. Nelson, though, has not been as outspoken on this. At a hearing last month he said he supported increased commercial crew funding provided it did not come at the expense of SLS and Orion. In February he said he said he would fight to increase commercial crew funding. The essay’s language suggests he may be willing to support a lower level of commercial crew funding than the administration’s request of nearly $830 million.